A groom sitting on the floor, with the bride sitting on his lap

Can I Include Guests At An Elopement?

Wondering how to include guests when you elope? Here's a guide based on more than 10 years as an elopement photographer.
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.

Planning an Elopement?

Get my step-by-step guide and plan your dream elopement!

The typical wedding imagery that we’re used to, thanks to TV, movies and glossy celebrity magazines filled with huge fairytale ceremonies, is a wedding day surrounded by hundreds of guests. These include friends, family, co-workers, distant relatives you only see once per year, and everyone’s plus ones.

But what about couples who elope? One major attraction of an elopement is having a smaller, more intimate day that is all about the couple rather than entertaining hundreds of guests, or trying to outdo others with a bigger, grander ceremony. Eloping puts the focus back where it belongs: on two people celebrating their love for one another.

So can you include other people in your elopement? Well, read on and we’ll take a deep dive into what your options are.

Why Include Guests At Your Elopement

You need to be aware that you may actually be legally required to include others at your ceremony, depending on which state you elope to. Unless you’re in a self-solemnization state, you’ll need to at least have an officiant and some states may require witnesses too.

They don’t need to be “official” guests, because in most states you can find officiants for hire. Or you could ask your photographer: I’m an ordained minister and can act as an officiant for weddings, which means you don’t need an extra person at your ceremony to perform the marriage.

However, having some select family and friends with you is a great choice. Including guests in your elopement can enhance the celebration and create lasting memories for everyone involved. It allows you to share your special day with your loved ones, making them feel more connected and involved in your journey. With a smaller guest list than a traditional wedding, it means the invitees may be a handpicked few. Perhaps those who have known you the longest, or been most involved in your journey as a couple.

Having your closest friends and family present can also provide emotional support. There is a lot to plan, prepare and get done for an elopement, including travelling to your destination. Having a support network can be very helpful on your special day when you want to make sure that everything goes to plan. Including guests in this way can strengthen your relationships and create cherished memories with them, as well as reinforcing to them that they hold a special place in your life.

But despite that, it isn’t always possible to include everyone. How should you go about choosing your guest list?

How To Choose Your Guests

Having decided to include some guests at your ceremony, you’ll want to think about who they’ll be. Be mindful of the fact that there will be a significant commitment from them, both in their time and money, due to the travel involved. While it is an honor to be included in your special day, you wouldn’t want to impose unfair expectations on your guests.

Another point to consider, is that not everyone is supportive of eloping. Some people carry older stigmas that eloping is somehow shameful, or for people who have something to hide. This is absolutely not true today, but you may not want to use your energy educating people.

The bottom line is this: make sure that whoever you invite is supportive of your decision and will enhance your day.

You’ll also want to think about your family and friendship network and their connection to each other. If you have a tight knit group of friends, will some feel upset if they’re not invited? Likewise, if you have a few siblings can you include all of them? These things are worth thinking about in advance.

My biggest piece of advice here is that you should decide on what YOU want to do first. Then think about how many guests you can include without changing the vibe of your day. Once you have this in place, it can be easier to explain to a relative or friend the reasons why your guest list was tightly controlled.

Ideas For Including Guests At Your Elopement

Now here’s where the fun starts. Having total freedom over your day lets you choose the exact ways you want to celebrate, and this includes with your guests as well as your significant other. Planning ways that you can include guests and getting them to actively engage with your day is yet another benefit of an elopement over a traditional grand wedding.

The only limitation for activities is your imagination, but here are a few ideas I’ve witnessed while I’ve photographed elopements.

Before The Ceremony

Remember, it’s your wedding day, not just the ceremony. Your inclusion of guests can begin from the moment you wake up (or even earlier, if you’ve had a multi-day elopement).

  • Ask guests to be “second photographers” can capture intimate moments with their phone
  • Eat breakfast together
  • Have someone help with your make-up and jewelry
  • Take part in the first look.

During The Ceremony

The ceremony itself is the most important part of the day. Having a special role for your guests will not only make them feel valued and included, it can create special memories and make some of the administrative requirements, such as completing the marriage license, a more cherished part of the day.

  • Have guests be your witness and sign the marriage license; a special honor
  • Have guests be the ring-bearer
  • Have one of them FaceTime the ceremony back those who couldn’t make it
  • Have a guest as your officiant.

After The Ceremony

Choosing to celebrate the newlyweds is super exciting for both you and your guests. You may choose to hold a reception, but just like with everything else elopement, it’s entirely up to you. Some cool ideas are:

  • Playing garden games outside
  • DIY cocktail stations, where guests create their own drinks
  • Photo booth for guests to take fun pictures with props
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Guests sharing special stories or memories
  • Giving gifts to your guests to show how much they mean to you, especially something local to your destination such as wine from a vineyard or a photograph of the area.

What Next?

I hope this has helped you decide whether you should include guests at your elopement, and how to plan for their involvement in your big day. Speaking of planning, now’s a great time to grab my free guide on planning your perfect elopement which will help you to cover all bases for your ceremony. You’ll see the link below.

Once you’ve read it, if you still have questions then you should absolutely make contact with me by clicking here. I’m always happy to help couples make their day be the best it can be.

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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