a newlywed couple share a kiss

Elopement Reception Planning

If you need ideas for planning an elopement reception, I've got you covered. Check out some of these top elopement party tips.
Rachel Sue Boehm, 5 star rated wedding and elopement photographer, holding a camera and posing under a tree.

I’m a wedding photographer with over 10 years experience. Based in Wisconsin, I specialize in elopements across the USA and worldwide.

As a certified drone pilot, I can offer aerial photography for a unique views of your wedding.

I’m also ordained through the Universal Life Church meaning that I can be your officiant and your photographer!

Get in touch with me to discuss your wedding or elopement photography.

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How to Plan an Amazing Elopement After Party

Elopements are usually a very low-key, private way to get married. So it’s natural that many couples I speak to ask, “can I still celebrate with my family and friends afterwards?” Luckily, the answer is a resounding YES!

Let’s look at some fun and creative (but also practical) ways that you can include a reception in your elopement.

1 – Decide on a Date

So this may seem very obvious, but you need to choose when you hold your elopement reception. Traditionally, when you have a big venue wedding, you’ll hold the reception on the same evening. If you’ve chosen to elope, you have a lot more options for when to celebrate your marriage.

If you’ve chosen to travel to another state, you may have a very small number of guests. It could even be just the two of you. In these situations, you might want to hold the reception at a later date when you’re back home. This will allow you to invite more of your family and friends and celebrate your marriage with those nearest and dearest to you!

Of course, you don’t have to do it that way if it’s not for you. That’s the beauty of eloping: total freedom! You could also hold your elopement reception straight after your ceremony if you’d rather. Whichever method you choose, just be sure to give your attendees plenty of notice so that they can plan for the event, whether they have to travel with you or not.

Tip: For a super fun and romantic way to announce your elopement, you could have some amazing engagement photographs taken, and use them for a save-the-date or elopement announcement.

2 – Decide on Your Location

One of the best things about an elopement is doing things your own way. So it’s not expected that you’ll host a large, sit-down meal like a traditional wedding. Instead, you get to choose to do whatever suits you and your partner. And yes, this still includes hosting a large dinner if you want!

Perhaps you’ll stick around somewhere close to your elopement location, and hold a small gathering. Alternatively, you could travel to another location entirely. This is common when couples elope to a national park, or go on a mountain walk, and need to find somewehere else to hold their wedding reception.

Whichever option you go for, be sure to factor it into your wedding day planning. If you need to include travel to another destination, you’ll have to make sure you don’t plan any other activities during that time. Whereas if your wedding after party is somewhere close by, you’ll have more time for other things like photographs.

3 – Holding a Second Ceremony

When it comes to eloping, there will quite often be guests who couldn’t make it to the ceremony. It can be a nice idea to hold another ceremony. This gives those who missed out the chance to celebrate your love, make a speech or capture photographs of you and your partner.

Second ceremonies are very common when a couple has to meet certain obligations to make their marriage legally recognized. Sometimes, a couple will complete the legalities of their marriage more privately, and then hold the ceremony that they wanted to afterwards.

Tip: If you’re eloping, or even holding a traditional wedding, and want to know the legal requirements you can read through my state guides that tell you everything you need to know!

4 – Decide What To Do

And now the fun part, deciding on what you actually want to do! The great thing about elopement receptions is that they can be as formal or informal as you like…sitting down for a large meal while wearing a wedding dress and suit isn’t everyone’s idea of fun.

Here are some ideas that I’ve seen from other couples during their elopement receptions. There is a nice mix of fun, creative and romantic so there’s ideas for everyone.

Show Your Photographs and Videos

If you’re holding a reception after the wedding, this is an excellent opportunity to share the amazing photographs and maybe even videos that your photographer took during the ceremony. You wouldn’t normally be able to show guests the photographs when you hold your reception straight after the wedding, so this can be a very special way to share your memories with your guests who couldn’t take part on the day.

A projector can be hired for around $100 – $600 for wedding receptions, with screens included. Many venues already have projectors and screens included, particularly high end hotels which host conferences, so it will be worth asking before you hire anything out for the day.

a wedding photograph displayed on a large screen by a projector

Include Some Traditions

One thing that eloping couples often worry about is that they may be missing out on some of the wedding traditions that they enjoy. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I always talk about having total freedom at an elopement to do whatever you want.

Your elopement reception is an opportuinty to take part in some of those traditions with loved ones, such as the first dance, cake cutting and the bouquet toss. I absolutely love it when couples include some of these in their party because you can see how much it means to the guests that they get to be included.

Play Games

Whoever said that a wedding after party had to be all romance and gushing speeches? I mean don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely, but many couples also want to have FUN!

If you want to do something a little different and make sure that everyone has lots of laughs, you could organize a games night. If you want to go one step further, you could even make them wedding themed. Some great ideas include:

  • A game of Mr and Mrs
  • Bride’s Guests vs Groom’s Guests beer pong
  • Guess Who….with your guests as the characters
  • Giant Garden Games
Hiring garden games, such as bean bag tossing and mini golf, made for a really fun afternoon at this elopement reception in Wisconsin

Host a BBQ

A really nice option for those with a smaller guest list, or the space to hold everyone, is hosting an intimate barbecue. Many people really enjoy the more laid-back vibe of an outdoor BBQ for their wedding reception, plus everyone can eat as much or as little as they want without feeling the pressure to finish an expensive 3 course dinner. Because let’s face it, it’s much easier to get up and have a drink and a dance when your stomach isn’t about to explode.

Create a Special Playlist

Create your own playlist to share special memories with family and friends. Maybe you and your best friend spent the entire Summer of 2010 singing along to Usher’s OMG, or you know that your Aunt and Uncle can’t resist the Cha Cha Slide…well, you can take total control and create a playlist that you know everyone will love.


So, not only is it perfectly possible to host a reception when you choose to elope, it can also be a super fun and creative way to celebrate with your family and friends outside of the constraints of traditions.

If you want more ideas, or to chat about your upcoming elopement, get in touch.

Need Some Help With Planning?

Planning an elopement isn’t easy. If you want help from someone with experience, fill out the survey below and I’ll be glad to help you out. I have over 10 years of experience in photographing elopements, and I’ve helped countless couples to plan the day of their dreams!

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