| September 14, 2020

Eloping Etiquette

An Open Letter to Your Family About Your Elopement

There is a straight-forward and widely accepted etiquette to announcing a wedding–first you send a “save the date”, then a formal invitation. There are hundreds of templates saying the same basic things in each, which include a location of the event with the presumption that the person receiving such an announcement might attend. But, what do you say if you’re planning to elope? A common question that comes up amongst eloping couples is how to announce their intentions–is it polite to send an elopement announcement to those who won’t be joining you on your “just us” day? What is the proper eloping etiquette for announcing a wedding celebration that won’t include guests? Can you still have a registry, engagement party, or reception?

A bride pops a bottle of champagne while the groom holds her bouquet and looks on smiling.

There isn’t a set eloping etiquette. The fact is there are NO RULES when it comes to elopements! You could follow all the guidelines of a traditional wedding timeline, or craft your own. You could throw a party and ask for gifts (you’re still entering marriage & you still need kitchen appliances), or you can ask for donations to a non-profit in lieu of pots and pans. You could tell people before you elope, or you could announce it afterward while inviting loved ones to a celebratory reception. Whatever you do, make sure each choice feels right and makes you happy, every step of the way!

Eloping Etiquette: How Do You Announce An Elopement?

Tell people, or don’t tell people–how you handle any family discourse about your marriage is 100% up to you. Do whatever makes you happy! We’ll never say you should tell your family that you’ve decided to elope (or anything, really), but it is our hope that you feel empowered to speak your truth. If you want to tell your family that you’ve decided to elope, we want to help give you the tools to do that! There really isn’t any formal social guideline for eloping etiquette, so we’ve crafted an open letter that you can personalize to suit your circumstance–if you’re at a loss for how to start the conversation, hopefully this guide can help.

Depending on the kind of elopement you are planning, you might actually intend to invite a small number of close friends and family. In that case, sending an invitation makes sense, though traditional wedding templates still don’t quite sound right. For you, we’ve added a bonus elopement invitation open letter as well!

An older couple are celebrating their elopement in Oregon and popping a bottle of champagne.

Elopement Announcement Template

“Dear [INSERT FAMILY MEMBER’S NAME],

I am writing to share with you some very exciting news! [INSERT YOUR PARTNER’S NAME] & I have decided to get married–we hope you are as excited about this as we are, & we would love to share this excitement with you as we build this future together. The reason you’re getting this message instead of a traditional “Save the Date” card is because we have decided to elope!

The more we discussed it, a traditional wedding just didn’t feel like the right kind of celebration for us. [INSERT YOUR MAIN REASON FOR CHOOSING TO ELOPE] For many reasons, a smaller wedding suits our vision & I hope you understand–we aren’t doing this to leave anyone out, though I worry that might be the misconception. I’m aware the term “elope” has some negative connotations. This celebration, while small, will be just as intentional and true-to-us as a big wedding would be for someone who wants that! We will be eloping at [INSERT ELOPEMENT LOCATION] and I really look forward to a stress-free day where we can celebrate our decision to get married. It will be just us & [INSERT OFFICIANT/ PHOTOGRAPHER/ PARENTS/ ETC.] When we discussed eloping, what really convinced us to go this route was the desire to be present together without distractions, which will give us the chance to focus on this major step we are taking. Getting married is so important that we felt we’d be stretched too thin trying to host a big wedding, when we really just want to spend our day together in a place that we love. I hope some time through the planning process, or after the elopement, that we can all get together and celebrate our union! You, our friends & family, mean a lot to us–we’re so excited to be taking this step & look forward to sharing this joy with you soon!

Best Wishes, 

[INSERT YOUR NAME] 

A bride and groom say a toast on the cliffs in Yosemite after their elopement.

Elopement Invitation Template

Dear [INSERT FAMILY OR FRIEND’S NAME], 

[INSERT PARTNER’S NAME] & I have decided to elope! We are going to tie the knot at [INSERT LOCATION] on [INSERT DATE] with only a small group of family & friends–would you join us?

It would make us so happy to share this special moment with our loved ones, though we understand our decision to elope is a bit untraditional. A big wedding just didn’t feel like “us,” but a smaller party in one of our favorite places sounds like a dream! We hope you’ll join us as we share our vows in [INSERT LOCATION]. 

We want you to enjoy the day & feel prepared for our outdoor celebration, so here’s some details about the location you’ll want to keep in mind: [INSERT LOCATION DETAILS: LENGTH OF HIKE, WEATHER, TEMPERATURE, PREFERED CLOTHING/GEAR, ETC].

Please let us know by [INSERT DATE] if you’ll be available–feel free to reach out and ask me ANYTHING about our elopement! 

Talk soon xx

[INSERT YOUR NAME]

Craft Your Own “We’re Eloping” Announcement 

Did the above templates not feel exactly right for you, your relationship, or your family? That’s okay! Everyone has their own family dynamic and whatever method/language you want to use to announce your elopement should feel authentic to you. If you want a more open guideline to announcing your elopement to your family, follow these steps:

  1. Write an excited “subject!” Even though you might be worried about objections to your elopement, you shouldn’t feel guilt over this decision. Avoid saying “unfortunately,” because it sets the tone that something about your decision is unfortunate, which really opens the door for objections. If you remain positive throughout your message, it’s harder for someone to object. (Gotta love psychology!)

Examples: “Hi! We’re Eloping!” // “We Have An Exciting Announcement…” // “We’re Getting Married…In The Mountains!”

  1. Share what you are MOST excited for. Invite the reader in to be equally excited about what made you want to elope in the first place. It’s possible your family member hasn’t thought much about how fast-paced or stressful a wedding can be, or maybe they didn’t think about the associations you have with a church wedding, an indoor ceremony, or any other tradition. Paint the picture that eloping is the way to your dream wedding, rather than a deviation from the wedding they’d always dreamed for you.
  1. Define what “eloping” means to you. Acknowledge any generational differences in definition, and acknowledge the misconceptions by debunking them. One of the most common elopement myths is that the union is hasty, unplanned, or due to outside pressures. By explaining that this is what you really want, you’re busting those myths!
  1. Empathetically acknowledge that “it’s not you, it’s me,” to alleviate the sense of loss someone might feel for missing your ceremony. Compassionately explain that YOU are the ones eloping, and it’s ultimately your choice how you get married–those who love you and support you shouldn’t let their ego make this about them.
  1. Invite them in, as much as you want. If you want to include your family and friends in the planning process, or celebrate with them at a post-elopement reception, focus on that! The fear of missing out will be significantly reduced when your family realizes you do want them involved in some way. End your letter on the same positive note you began with–this is your marriage celebration, get excited!

The first step is the scariest part! If you’re worried about what your family will think about your decision to elope, you’ll never know their reaction until you tell them. If they do object, whether it’s because they disagree or simply don’t understand, respond with empathy. But don’t let your family make you feel guilt over your decision to elope–an elopement is a perfectly acceptable form of marriage celebration and nothing to be ashamed of! By choosing an authentic true-to-you kind of wedding, you’re cutting out distractions to focus on what really matters. Your relationship deserves your full attention on the day you commit your life to your partner! 

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