| March 4, 2019

Eloping With Family — Including Your Loved Ones in Your Intimate Wedding

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Eloping With Family — Including Your Loved Ones in Your Intimate Wedding  

When you consider the idea of an adventure elopement, you can practically hear angels singing.

It’s perfect for you. Almost like the idea itself was invented specifically to check off every box in your head that defines the ideal way to pledge yourself to your person.

  • An incredible adventure for you to kick off the actual biggest adventure of your life? Check.
  • The opportunity for a stunning backdrop for the romantic moment when you and your soon-to-be spouse commit your lives to each other? Check.  
  • An experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life that was truly all about what the two of you wanted? Check.

It practically encompasses your list for the perfect day for you and your soon-to-be partner for life.

There’s just one problem.

No matter how perfect the elopement destination, no matter how much you crave the idea of an adventure just for the two of you, no matter how ready you are to climb a mountain, trek across a glacier, kayak in an alpine lake, run through a wildflower meadow (whatever you choose), you simply cannot imagine getting married without your family there with you.

We’ve got good news for you.

You can still have a wild adventure elopement and include your family, too.

That’s right, we said it, and we meant it.

A bride and groom smile at each other while embracing their two kids in the mountains.

An elopement can absolutely include your family, your friends, or the people who are closest to you and still be considered an epic elopement.

In fact, over the past few years that we’ve been capturing couples’ special moments on their unique elopement days, about half of the them have included other people besides just the couple getting married.

Some of the most beautiful elopements I have ever been a part of had anywhere from 10-15 people there.

Often, when people consider the word elopement, their minds immediately snap to the image of a couple running away together to get married and not involving their families at all.

To us, that’s not the case at all. We think eloping takes on a totally different definition.

In our terms, an elopement is an intimate, unique wedding day where the focus is entirely on the couple.

What really matters with an elopement is that the decisions and choices are yours and yours alone.

There’s no pressure to meet any expectations, opinions, or obligations. It’s the two of you, taking the step together toward the ultimate adventure exactly the way you want to.

That means that as long as you two are embarking on your elopement adventure your way, your family can absolutely be a part of your day in any unique way you choose.

If you find yourself thinking something along the lines of, “Okay, I love that idea, but how is that even possible? What would that kind of day even look like?” we have even more good news.

We’ve taken our years of adventure elopement photography experience and compiled some of the unique, meaningful ways that couples have incorporated their family into their special day.

If you’re planning on eloping with family, we hope these tips and ideas inspire you to come up with an intimate and sentimental way to integrate them into your ideal day.

A bride and groom walk down the aisle while friends and family look on.

Eloping with Family: How You Can Include Your Family in Your Private Elopement

There are thousands of ways to meaningfully include your family in your elopement day.

Whether you choose to have them literally stand next to you during your ceremony or support you from afar, there are plenty of ways to go about eloping with family.

Truthfully, there’s really no right or wrong way to include your family in your elopement wedding as long as you’re following your heart.

Don’t compromise. Don’t fall victim to expectations.

Don’t let anyone else tell you how to have your day (that’s what big weddings are for).

Have One, Intimate Ceremony

For couples who want their families or close friends right there when they’re getting married, it’s always a beautiful idea to have a single, meaningful ceremony.

There’s something so beautiful and emotional about having the people closest to you standing there as you and your partner decide to leap into an entirely new and exciting life together.

Several of the elopement weddings we’ve been lucky enough to capture have included a small group of people closest to the couple, and from our experience, there’s rarely a dry eye on the mountain (or at the trail head, or by the lake — wherever that couple chooses to elope).

Including your family in the entire day — the getting ready, the ceremony, the reception after eloping — is always an option, and I’ve certainly seen couples do this.

The only caveat is this — you might have to consider making compromises about the location and how you want your elopement to go down.

Planning a single ceremony to include your family in your elopement is always beautiful and can be as meaningful as you’ve always wanted, but based on the age and ability of your guests, you might have to reconsider some of your plans.

We want to be really clear — we don’t mean that you should ever give up your vision of your ideal elopement. But if you really want your family members there with you while you say your vows, you might have to consider trading out that 10-mile hike to the top of a mountain for a ceremony at the trailhead.

For couples that don’t want to compromise the exact adventure plans they have but still want to include their family in their ceremony, know that there are plenty of ways to do so.

A bride and groom finish their wedding ceremony while family cheer them on in the mountains.
A bride and groom have their wedding ceremony with their loved ones standing by their side.

Split Up the Day

This is one of the best ways to get everything you could possibly want out of your elopement if you’re planning to include family.

Consider splitting up your elopement day to avoid making compromises while incorporating your family in your elopement plans.

One of the most common ways we’ve seen couples integrate this plan is by having a special, intimate ceremony — just the two of them — during a sunrise or a sunset hike. We’ve had couples who hike all alone so that they can have a stunning location where they can say their vows and have an elopement ceremony all for themselves. Then, they’ll hike back down, meet up with their families, and have another ceremony, take photos all together, have a unique reception, or some combination of all those things.

We always like to remind mind couples who plan on eloping with family that if they’re splitting up their day or wanting separate ceremonies, this process can happen in any way they want.

If a couple wants to have a private ceremony, then come back and do the exact same thing over again, that’s entirely meaningful. We’ve seen couples have their own private ceremonies with tearful, beautiful vows, then do the exact same thing in front of their families and it’s just as tearful and beautiful as the first time.

We’ve also seen couples keep private vows that they say during their elopement ceremony that’s just the two of them and then take a different route for the vows they say in front of their families.

By splitting up the day, you’re giving yourselves the chance to have those quiet, intimate moments where’s it’s truly just about the two of you. Standing there in an unbelievable place doing this remarkable thing, you’re embarking on an incredible experience together.

Then, you’re able to meet up with the people who mean the most to you and celebrate this remarkable thing together in any way you want.

No compromises. No obligations. No missing out on having your loved ones involved.

All the adventure without any of the sacrifice.  

A bride and groom yell in the mountains while a woman and man stand by their side in the mountains.

Spread it Over Two Days

We love the idea of splitting up the day to include your family while still having private moments for just the two of you, but we have to admit — it makes for a very long day.

If that works for you, that’s perfect.

But, if you’d rather slow the day down, take your time, and really savor every single moment (while still including your family for some parts of your elopement), there’s always the option to spread your elopement over two days.

This, like everything about your elopement, can happen any way you want it to.  

Maybe you include your family on the first day, have a small ceremony in a gorgeous location, say your vows, and have the reception of your dreams. Then, you wake up the next day, just you and your love, and go to an entirely new, entirely beautiful location all by yourselves to say your own private vows.

Perhaps you structure it where you and your partner take the first day to have a private elopement ceremony all your own — maybe you hike somewhere special, maybe you jump into a helicopter, maybe you take a 4×4 road to a secluded location for a ceremony. Then, the next day, you include your family.

Maybe you do another ceremony entirely. Maybe you re-read the exact vows you read to each other the day before. Maybe you include an officiant.

No matter how you choose to do it, spreading your elopement over two days can really help you soak in every single moment of your remarkable just us day.

A bride and groom have a wedding ceremony in the snowy mountains with family and friends standing by their side.

Include Them in Other Intimate Moments

You don’t necessarily need to have your family at your actual elopement ceremony to include them in your day. They can be a part of your ceremony, or, they don’t have to be included in this special part of your day at all — it’s entirely up to you.

We’ve had couples who invite their family into their elopement preparations on the day of their ceremony — the getting ready, the putting the dress on, the first look, etc. — before sending them off to have a beautiful, and entirely private, elopement ceremony exactly when and where they want to.

Remember, this is your day, so if you want to include your family in your elopement, but also want to have an intimate and private ceremony with just your partner, including them in other parts of the day (like the first look, getting ready, the reception after, and more) can be a really beautiful and meaningful alternative.

A bride sits in a chair while three women help with pin up her hair.
A bride stands on a balcony while a woman helps put on her wedding veil.
A groom smiles while a woman helps him pin a boutonnière on his jacket in a cabin.

Facetime or Skype

Your family and friends don’t have to be physically there to be a part of your big day.

If you want to include your loved ones in your elopement, but for some reason (preference or feasibility) they’re not physically with your on your day, Skype or FaceTime can be a beautiful way to include them.

We’ve seen countless couples elope entirely on their own but choose to have those intimate, meaningful moments with those who matter to them over live video.

Whether it’s putting on the wedding dress or waving goodbye before you and your partner head out to pledge your lives to each other, using live video to incorporate your family is a great way to ensure you’re not compromising on any part of your elopement day.  

Two brides smile while looking at a computer on a picnic blanket.
A bride smiles at her phone while getting ready.

Letters and Recorded Videos

This is also a great choice for couples who want to physically be alone during their elopement day but want to somehow include their family in their elopement.

We’ve had so many people surprise their soon-to-be-spouses with letters or recorded videos from family and friends who love and support them.

Whether it’s a letter wishing the newly-wed couple a lifetime of happiness or a compiled video of family members toasting them, this type of family inclusion always makes for meaningful, beautiful moments.

A bride and groom smile as they open a folder of letters from family and friends.

The point of all of this? The options are absolutely endless. There are infinite ways to incorporate your family into your special day without sacrificing even a drop of what you and your partner want for your perfect elopement day.

We’d be honored to help you plan the elopement of your dreams —whether you want to have a day all to yourselves or you plan on eloping with family.

Things to Consider When Eloping With Family

If you plan to include your family in your elopement — whether it’s just the reception, the getting ready, or the actual ceremony — there are going to be a few additional logistics you’ll need to consider.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will require a little extra thought and planning.   

  • Consider the accessibility of your ceremony location. Can everyone physically make it to your spot? Does that matter to you? If not everyone is able to make it to the top of a mountain, consider the trail head or an easier location. Or, be totally willing to do your own thing like a couple whose elopement we captured who wanted to do a 10-mile hike and include family. They took on a “see you at the top if you make it, if not, we’ll celebrate at the trail head when we’re done” attitude. That worked out great for everyone because that couple did exactly what they wanted and everyone was on board.
  • If you’re going to have a group involved in your elopement, make sure their basic needs are covered. You’d be surprised how far food and water can go in boosting the morale of a group.
  • Don’t forget about transportation. Try to figure out how everyone is getting to and from your locations.
  • Consider the actual terrain of where your ceremony is. Is there room for everyone to stand? Is it rocky? Is it slippery? If you want to include a group, try to find a location where everyone fits. Also, make sure your guests are prepared for the terrain and the activity you have planned. Trust us — heels on a mountain are never a good mix.
  • Are you being entirely clear about what you and your partner want for your day? This is one of the biggest elements to consider. There are so many beautiful pros that go hand-in-hand with including your family, but realistically, there are a few cons you’ll need to watch out for, too. Make sure you’re defining what you and your partner want. Make it clear what you need help with and what you don’t. Above all, don’t let anyone try to shift the focus away from your elopement. After all, the point of your day is to elope exactly the way you want to. Never let anyone take that from you.
Two grooms smile at their family and friends who are reading from papers during their wedding ceremony.

Some Extra Tips for Eloping with Family (While Keeping the Day All About You)

Remember, when eloping with your family, there are likely going to be a few adjustments to your plan.

Even though the day is purely about the two of you, you’re taking the step to involve other people, so there are always going to be complications with that.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something to be aware of.

The really important thing to remember when including family is this:

This is still your day. This is still your elopement.

Eloping with family can be epic and wonderful, but it can also easily shift to not being focused on the two of you. That’s where these tips can help.

  • Understand that eloping with family will change the nature of your elopement. There might have to be some small compromises if you’re dead-set on having your family there. Recognize this and try to come up with creative solutions so that you’re never truly compromising what you want.
  • Never let it snowball out of your control. Once an elopement day stops being about the two of you and the way you imagined committing your lives to each other and starts becoming about pleasing everyone else, that’s when it drifts into becoming a wedding, not an elopement.  Ask yourself — is the focus of this actually on us as a couple, or is the focus on the guests we’re including and their needs? That’s the main difference. It’s no fault of the couple, but this can easily snowball. If you truly want an elopement but want to include your family, do your best to keep control of this.
  • Always be upfront. We understand that when it comes to the people you love, it can be hard to set boundaries. But, if your idea of the perfect elopement to your partner is through a specific vision, you need to relay that firmly. Be direct. You want to create a day that’s truly about the two of you but you still want your loved ones there with you — can they keep the focus on you and your relationship? Can they get on board with the clear-cut decisions you’ve made and the boundaries you’ve set?
A bride and groom look at their loved ones while holding umbrellas during their wedding ceremony.

Eloping with family can be so beautiful, especially if you’re close with them and want to have a memorable day where you can spend intentional time with them.

There are endless ways to include family, friends, or meaningful people in your lives in your elopement. The only wrong way to do this is to sacrifice what you and your partner truly want to please others.

Remember, this is your day. This is your adventure you’re choosing to take together — it should never look like anything less than the vision you both have in your heads and your hearts.

Don’t let your elopement get bogged down in expectations, obligations, or opinions — have a wildly different wedding experience that’s entirely unique and meaningful to you!

Hi there! We’re Maddie Mae, Amber, & Tori. We’re adventure elopement photographers and guides (and even legal officiants!) who are based in Colorado and Seattle. As experienced elopement photographers and outdoor guides, we can promise you a creative, unique way to fully document your dream elopement experience. Whether you need help finding vendors or picking an elopement location, we’re happy to help you start planning your special just us day.

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Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

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Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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