How to tell family you’re eloping [without offending anyone]

This is probably the bit people enjoy the least about choosing to elope. How to announce an elopement without offending anyone. And to be fair, I don’t blame them. How to tell family you’re eloping can be a bit of a struggle, especially if you have a big family, or a close family. You don’t want to feel like you’ve let them down, but you also don’t want to compromise on what you actually want.

I want to preface this upfront though, it’s like ripping off a band aid, far less painful than you assume, and in 95% of cases, completely painless. In my experience, I’ve never had a couple receive any significant backlash from anyone important to them. Most people find they’re met with excited enthusiasm, and even a bit of curiosity and intrigue. But being prepared for potential backlash is well advised regardless of how you think the announcement will go down.

In this article I’m going to run through a few major tips for how to tell your family you’re eloping. I’ll also touch on how to tell your parents you eloped (if you’ve already done it). I will break down when and how to tell them, potential backlash you may receive, and how to handle it. By the end of this post you’ll feel confident to announce your elopement to your friends and family, so let’s go!

How to tell family you’re eloping | Should you tell anyone?

So one of the first things to consider when eloping is whether or not you plan to tell anyone. I won’t go into the origins of eloping, and why it is historically done in secret (if you want to know more about elopement myths, what’s real and fake click here), but to this day, people still occasionally opt to elope without telling anyone. This is a personal decision, and something you will need to decide as a couple. I personally think it’s a nice thing to tell important people before you elope, but then again I’m a dad, so I’m definitely approaching that through the lens of a father.

The thing is, this only covers half of it. You will eventually have to tell people you got married. So you’ll either have to tell your family and friends you eloped before you do it, or afterwards. Let’s run through the options you have, and which is best.

How to announce an elopement | When is the best time?

As I mentioned above, you have two options when telling your friends and family that you’re eloping (or have eloped). You can either tell them as soon as you decide to elope (before the day), or tell them after you eloped. Both have pros, and both have cons, as with any decision in life. I personally have a favourite, and I will share that with you after we run through both of them.

Bride and groom eloping at sunset down at Moke Lake just outside of Queenstown as their family and friends watch on. How to tell your family you're eloping so that they can make it to your ceremony.

Telling your family you’re eloping before you elope [Ask for permission]

This is the most common choice people make when telling friends and family they’re eloping. In my experience, about 75% of my elopements have had guests present, so for obvious reasons, the couple had to tell people beforehand. It also poses less risk of any backlash. The announcement that you’re eloping will come as a surprise to most people, especially parents. But if you tell them before it has happened, it will give them time (if they need it) to understand your decision, and fully support you. Telling your parents after you eloped can feel like you’re sucker punching them. This will also allow you to have them involved in the day, or the planning (if they aren’t going to be present at the elopement), so they don’t feel like they’ve missed out. Personally, this is the choice I opt for, whether you’re having guests or not.

Bride and Groom travelled all the way from America to Queenstown in New Zealand for an elopement ceremony under the mountains in the rain. When it comes to how to tell your family you're eloping, these two opted against it, preferring to elope in secret

Telling your family you’re eloping after you elope [Beg for forgiveness]

Some people prefer to do what they want, and then seek forgiveness after it’s done, and I love that. Maybe you don’t want to deal with the fallout from your family which you know would be bad. You don’t want their behaviour and reactions to taint your decision and make you feel bad about your choice. And that is ok, this is the one day to prioritise yourselves, and only yourselves. So when it comes down to how to tell your family you’re eloping, in this case, you would tell them after you’re officially married. I’ll give you some ideas how to do this below.

How to tell family & friends you’re eloping

Below I am going to run through the various ways in which I recommend people tell their friends and family they’re eloping. There is no right and wrong, only what is right for you as a couple about to embark on the biggest and baddest adventure yet. So have a look, have a think, and see which approach suits you best.

In person before the elopement

Like I said above, this is the easiest way to go about it in terms of avoiding backlash. By telling people individually before the event, you’re ensuring that those people will feel special and included. You don’t have to do this for every single friend you have, only those friends and family you feel close with and want to tell. When it comes to telling people about your choice to elope, this won’t be the fastest method. In fact, it might take quite some time, but just remember this. How important do you feel when you get a group text, versus a text directly written for and to you?

So how do you tell them? Don’t make a big thing out of it, just keep it casual. Take them to lunch, or dinner. Take your dogs for a walk. Head down to the beach. Go shopping. Do whatever makes sense to you and tell them in person. This will also give you the opportunity to deal with any objections one on one, which is much easier.

In person after the elopement

Conversely, you can do the exact same thing, but do it after you’ve eloped. The downside of this, is that your friends, and family (especially parents) will feel like your blindsiding them, and they may react negatively. Not only did you elope without them present, you didn’t even tell them beforehand that you were doing it. So keep that in mind. But, and it’s a big but, you should have some photos (if not your entire gallery) and a video to show them to ease the blow. If you are wanting to have these photos or videos to show people, obviously you wouldn’t be able to tell people straight away, which trust me, can be really difficult.

When it comes to how to announce an elopement, this is probably the most difficult, and generally, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re set on eloping in secret (in which case, you know what you have to do). Either way, I am here for you, working together to make the most epic experience imaginable.

Hold an ‘engagement party’ before the elopement

I love this idea, because even though none of your friends and family (or at the most only a select few) will be in attendance at your elopement, you do get a chance to celebrate your love with them. It’s the best of both worlds. Usually there is a speeches section of the night, and it is at this point that you would mention, to everyone, that your plan is to elope, and that there wouldn’t be a traditional wedding. My recommendation is to combine this with ‘telling them in person’, that way the most important friends and family already know, almost like VIPs. You’ll get less (potentially none) backlash this way, it’ll add an exciting element to your night, and it’s done in one big hit.

Hold an ‘engagement party’ after the elopement

Same as above, this is just the reverse of the ‘before your elopement engagement party’. Here, you would elope, officially be married, and then you would host an ‘engagement party’. This is how to announce an elopement after the fact, in the best way possible. Ideally you would have already spoken in person to the special people in your life. That way, they know what you’re about to tell them. Then during the speeches section of the night, you could tell people you have a surprise and play a slideshow of your images, or even your elopement film. Then it becomes a huge celebration, almost like a wedding reception. This, for me, is how to tell family you’re eloping.

Have an intimate get together for friends and family

This option will work really well if you’re a bit time poor, or if you’re family and friends are not easy to get together with. Basically here, you might have an intimate dinner, or at home get together just with the people who you want to know about your plans. At this gathering, you would do the same thing you would have done at an ‘engagement party’, you just tell everyone at the same time about your plans to elope. If you’re planning to invite these people, let them know. If not, explain to them about your desire to elope in private. Being that this group are your close family and friends, they may feel more inclined to share their frustrations, so be ready for that.

One tip I want to give here so as to avoid confusion, is to tell these people you’re having this intimate gathering in place of an engagement party. If you make the mistake of telling them, it’s just a BBQ or a lunch, people might not make it a huge priority. If you tell them it’s an important gathering and you have some amazing news to share with them, they’ll likely think you’re pregnant. Both of these we want to avoid. Just be up front and let people know your plans, and how they fit in with them. You can always then have the ‘engagement party’ to let everyone else know at a later date.

Call your friends and family from your elopement

Talk about the surprise of your life if you get this call! I would say in my career, I’ve probably had 5 or 6 couples do this and I’m yet to hear anything bar tears and happiness. Now obviously when it comes to making video calls on your elopement day there are a few things to consider. First thing is that you only have so much time. You probably can’t go calling 100 people. So pick your absolute favourites, parents, grandparents, siblings, best friends.

One trick I recommend is trying to coordinate getting multiple people on one call. better yet, tell people to expect a call. Organise a time with your photographer that you’ll be placing the calls, that way they can capture it. Let everyone know you will be calling them with important news (and to get together if possible). Then hit them with it. In your full wedding attire. What an epic way to announce an elopement, and surefire way to get some tears!

Send an album of your elopement after the fact

This is going to take some extreme patience on your part. But another really nice way to let people know you eloped, is to send them an album. Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. Albums are not cheap. They also take a bit of time to design. These are points you will need to consider before deciding this path.

So who are you sending the album to? Just parents? Friends as well? Here’s my suggestion. Create an album, and get it sent to you, not to them. Then, organise a time to meet up. Maybe this is on a individual basis. Perhaps you do a family lunch, and a friends lunch. However you do it, you tell them you want to celebrate your engagement in a lowkey way. Then when you arrive, you tell them you have news. Place the album in the centre of the table. Let them know you eloped and invite them to look through your best photos. If this is the way you want to go, tell me in advance, I will ensure I get your gallery edited within the week. This way we can get right onto the album!

How to tell your family you’re eloping and deal with the backlash

This is the bit that gets people worried. The backlash they expect from friends and family when contemplating how to announce an elopement plan of theirs. Again, I want to reiterate, in my career, I’ve not personally heard of any family members or friends being negative at all when being told about my couples plans to elope. I’ve heard of parents needing time to digest the information before being happy with it. I’ve heard of grandparents not fully understanding what an elopement is, or why you would do one. But never had a family member or friend be actually upset.

So just know that. People will try to scare you into thinking your parents will disown you, or something terrible like that. That is wrong, and just a scare tactic, often designed to get you to have a standard wedding, liker everyone else. There are a bunch of elopement myths floating about, I have a whole post about them, so check that out.

So let’s start looking at ways in which you can handle the potential backlash, regardless of the way you go about telling your friends and family about your elopement.

Share your why

One of the quickest ways to get your friends and family to understand why you’re eloping, is to tell them. Why is this so important to you? Explain why you don’t feel as though a traditional wedding would best reflect your relationship. Only you know what your ‘why’ is, so tap into this and let people know. The thing about people is that until you explain your why, they will project their own beliefs onto the situation. So for example, if they think people only elope because they’re poor, they will assume this is your ‘why’. This may lead to them explaining that they will help pay for your wedding and leads to more confusion. So when it comes to the age old question of how to tell your family you’re eloping, just tell them why this feels right to you.

Show your passion for your decision

One of the most common things I have noticed is that a lot of people you tell will assume you’re eloping ‘because it’s trendy’ in 2023. And yes, elopements are on the rise, but they still account for a miniscule portion of all weddings. Eloping is still definitely counter-culture. But none of that matters. Like I said above, unless you share your ‘why’ people will project their own thoughts onto your decision. So while it’s a great idea to share your why, I recommend sharing it in a way that shows your passion. No you don’t have to do some weird Tik Tok dance or skit. Just talk with passion. Let people know that this is exciting to you and why. Let people know you’ve given this a lot of thought. This isn’t something you decided to do after seeing a cool Instagram post, or epic Pinterest board.

Get them involved?

The best, and easiest way to alleviate any backlash you may get when announcing your elopement to your friends and family, is to include them. Now, if you don’t want guests at all, check out my guide on how to elopement without guests, and skip this section. But, if you are wanting to include people, and wondering how to involve guests in your elopement, this is the guide for you.

There are many ways you can get family involved on your elopement. You can task family members with specific jobs for the elopement, allowing them to actually be a part of it, as opposed to a guest. They could write or record something if they won’t be present for you to read or play at your ceremony. You could even compromise and do your private vows beforehand, and then do a ceremony for them to be a part of. There are many different ways to include friends and family, beyond just having them present as guests.

Educate them based on their concerns

When it comes to announcing an elopement, most backlash simply comes down to the fact that the majority of people do not know what an elopement is. They also don’t truly understand the reasons why people opt to elope. So when someone objects, the easiest thing to do is to educate them (even if you might want to bite back at them).

For example, if someone says “you’re only eloping because you don’t want to spend money on guests”, educate them. Let them know that your decision to elope is less about money, and more about intimacy. You want to share the day with each other, not walking around saying hello to people at tables.

The worst thing you could do here is snap at someone, or yell at them. Educate them kindly, and trust me, they will come across to your side.

Telling your parents you already eloped

How to announce an elopement, to your parents, after you have already eloped? Let me recap the various methods I mentioned above. Firstly, you could call them on the day of your elopement and tell them first hand that you just eloped. Let them celebrate with you in the actual moment. Secondly, you could meet up with them when you return from your elopement or honeymoon. Show them some photos, tell them about the day. However you go about it, be delicate, and don’t be surprised or angry if you don’t get the response you wanted. It may take some time for them to come round, but when they do, they’ll want to hear all about it.

Stand your ground

This is something you will have to do regardless of what happens. In the likely event you don’t get any backlash when announcing your desire to elope, you will likely get questions. People will be curious, and they may even come across a little judgemental. Remember, you’re not doing the normal thing here. It’s important to stand your ground, which stems from knowing your ‘why. Once you know why you’re doing this, and you’re in it as a team, you’ll have no issues dealing with any backlash or criticisms. Remember, this is your day, and you need to do it your way.

The most common objections you might receive

Here is a list of the most common objections you might get from people when you announce your elopement.

  1. Are elopements even legal?
    Yes, they are. They are just a type of wedding. As long as you follow the rules on how to elope in NSW for example, you’ll be legally married.
  2. Why not have a traditional wedding?
    This is where you share your ‘why’ and let them know that you are prioritising yourselves on thhis day.
  3. “You owe us, we’re your family. We deserve to be there”
    Yes, they may be your family, but you don’t owe them anything when it comes to your elopement. You can choose to do as much or as little for them as you like, and the same would be true if you were having a wedding. If they take this stance,, stand firm and let them know you are prioritising yourselves.
  4. “It’ll crush [insert family member]”
    Again, do not let someone guilt trip you into compromising on your elopement. Explain to them your ‘why’ and ask why it would upset the person in question so much. Then educate that person on their concerns.
  5. “Eloping is selfish”
    Simple, refer them to my article busting myths about eloping and they will soon realise it’s the least selfish thing you can do.
  6. “If it’s about money we can lend you money”
    This is just someone trying to help. They probably assume you’re eloping to save money and want to help you have your dream wedding. Explain to them that this is not the case, share your ‘why’ and thank them for offering to help.

FAQ’s about how to announce an elopement

  1. How do you tell family you’re eloping?
    I put a lot of info in this post, but if I had to do it, this is how I would go about it. I would gather my close friends and family (about 14 people) for a BBQ at my house telling them I wanted to celebrate our engagement privately with them. At that BBQ I would announce to them our plans to elope. I would then have my elopement, personally choosing to include them as guests. After the fact, I would announce my elopement to my broader friends and family at an ‘engagement party’ by showcasing our film & photos.
  2. What if my family don’t approve?
    Well that is their problem isn’t it? Why should you burden yourself with other peoples opinions? If your family said they didn’t like your partner, would you break up with them? No, so either they will come around (almost 100% of the time they do), or they can be left out. Sounds harsh, but life is harsh.
  3. What if people still want to attend or be involved after I said no one will be attending?
    First of all, take it as a compliment. They cherish you enough to want to be there for you. Perhaps they didn’t really understand what you meant when you announced your elopement, so remind them what your plans are. Thank them for offering to help, and let them know you’ve got things covered.
  4. How to announce an elopement on social media?
    Assuming you have already eloped and want to announce this to the world, simply share your film. I offer my couples an Instagram reel film which is in the vertical format, and is only 90 seconds. It doesn’t have their vows, which they may wish to keep private. This is what they usually share with social media to announce their elopement.

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