Depending on how well you know the history of elopements, this may or may not seem like a weird topic to even discuss. Typically speaking, an elopement was not for guests. In fact, no one even knew you were eloping. Usually someone eloping was running away to do it because it went against family wishes.
However, welcome to 2023, things are a little different, and personally, I think for the better. Eloping in 2023 can in fact be similar to what I just described, but what is more commonly meant is a smaller, more intimate wedding, usually with less than 15 guests. They tend not to follow any strict structure, often don’t have a formal reception, and usually do not occur at traditional venues (often opting for an all natural outdoors elopement, or a private property elopement).
So how can you include guests in your elopement? If there is no reception, no formalities, what can you do? I’m going to discuss a few options to get you thinking, but the possibilities are limitless, you can include guests in your elopement in any way you want, it’s just a matter of thinking about what is important to you. Let’s do this.
Exchange private vows first
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A lot of people opt to elope because they’re more private people. They want the elopement to be more intimate than a large wedding. Often, they don’t want to exchange their intimate and vulnerable vows in front of friends and family. That is totally ok of course. But if you want to do this, how do you include guests in your elopement?
There are 2 ways. The first way is to exchange your vows first in private. I like to take my couples out to somewhere private, and leave them to say what they need to say. Don’t worry, I’ll get the shots, I’ll just go a longer lens so I’m not in your space, ruining that intimate vibe. After your done with these vows, you would go to your next destination which may be back to a private property, or might be back to where your guests are set up, and enjoy some drinks and food with them. Think of this as the ‘canapés hour’ or ‘cocktail hour’ we would all be familiar with from weddings.
The second option is to do the above, but when you return for your guests (or you can bring them out to where you are if the location is awesome), you can then say a set of ‘secondary’ vows in front of them. These vows might be similar, but might leave out key details, key moments, things that you want to just keep personal between you two. This way your guests get to feel as though they heard your vows and were a real part of your ceremony, but you didn’t have to say everything in front of them…win win.
Do it the night before!
This is kind of like, the best of both worlds. A lot of people who want to include guests in their day, but also want to elope seem to struggle with the balance. But what if you could have that private, intimate ceremony, and take your time with your portraits, and still have all your friends and family celebrate with you?
The cool thing is, you can! But it comes at a price…a literal price. I’ve done this with a few of my elopement clients. Basically, you do your elopement ceremony the evening before, as well as your portraits. Then the next day, you do a ‘faux’ ceremony (you don’t need a celebrant for this since it’s all already legally done), and invite your friends and family to that. As above, you could simply have the same vows as you did for your intimate ceremony the evening prior, or you could write a whole new set of vows, for your guests to be a part of.
Give guests specific jobs
If you’re looking for a fun way to get your guests involved, you can give them jobs on the day. And no, I don’t mean get your dad to wash your car, and your sister to do your taxes…I mean fun jobs.
For example, I did an elopement in Melbourne recently. The couple invited both sets of parents, siblings, and 4 or 5 really close mates, I think it was about 14 people all up. The brides brother played role of ‘celebrant’ by officiating their ceremony (the couple got legally married the morning of by a registered celebrant in their airbnb), the 2 mothers did the florals and some styling for the ceremony site, and both dads were responsible for setting up the tables and chairs for the ‘reception’.
There is more you can do obviously, but the idea is there, get your guests directly involved in helping the day go off without a hitch.
What if guests can’t come?
Sometimes guests just can’t come. Maybe it’s a mobility thing? Maybe it’s a geography thing and the guest simply cannot travel to be with you. There are a host of reasons why a guest, or set of guests can’t be with you on the day.
This isn’t to say though, that you don’t want to include them. So how can you do it? How can you include guests on your day if they cannot be present. I’m going to list a few ways below. You can choose to do one of these, some of these, all of these, or even none of these. This list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just things I have seen done, or have considered as a good option.
- Get your guests to write something for you to read out at your ceremony – maybe a promise they make to you, or something they love about you two as a couple.
- Get your guests to record a video for you to play to each other at your ceremony. This could also be done after the ceremony, Maybe while you’re having dinner, or a picnic, you could watch these videos from your guests.
- Call or FaceTime your guests during the ceremony, or even afterwards.
- If the guest is no longer alive, you could bring something of theirs, maybe some jewellery, a watch, a piece of clothing.
So let’s do it, get your guests involved!
Elopements don’t have to be just for 2 people, and now you know this. So no matter what way you plan to include your guests, whether it be in person or virtually, let’s do it! All it takes is a little bit of planning and forethought to make it happen. You will hear a lot of people talk about elopements being a spur of the moment thing, and that can be true in some cases, but if you want guests, you will have to do a bit of groundwork to make it work. But don’t worry, I have your back, I have a whole system for my couples to not only plan out how to involved their guests, but also how to explain to them what their plans are, so if you love these ideas and want to get started, simply contact me here and I’ll get the ball rolling.