How to Involve Your Loved Ones in Your Elopement
Traditionally, elopements are private affairs. They are held in small, sometimes remote locations where space is at a premium and/or inaccessible to guests. Therefore, many couples deciding on whether or not to elope find themselves struggling with a difficult decision: can we deal with the fact that our loved ones won’t be at our wedding?
This is a very understandable struggle; a wedding is a huge, important milestone in your life together, and so it can be difficult to imagine experiencing it without your friends and family surrounding you. However, the good news is that you don’t HAVE to choose one or the other. While inviting a large amount of guests defeats the purpose of an elopement, you CAN compromise and invite a few people without whom you can’t imagine the day taking place. Below are a few ways you can involve your friends and family in your elopement ceremony.
If you’re considering inviting guests to your elopement, there are a few things to account for first.
1. Does the space limit the number of guests?
Some courthouses place limits on the amount of people that can be present during your ceremony. Make sure to check into this so no one gets “locked out” of your big day.
2. Is the location accessible?
If you are getting married on a mountain top, you may have to exclude any potential guests who are physically incapable of accessing that location.
3. Are travel costs an issue?
If you are planning on travelling for your ceremony, consider whether your potential guests can also afford to spend the money to join you.
Once you’ve gone through this list and discerned the logistics behind your potential invitees, you can go on to consider ways to involve them:
Ask Them to Officiate
Many states require that a licensed officiant be present for your marriage to be legal. If you are planning on holding a religious ceremony, you may need to search within your faith group. However, in most states, anyone can become licensed as an officiant. If you have a friend or family member without whom you cannot see getting married, but you don’t want any additional eyes present at the ceremony, consider asking them to get licensed and marry you. It gives them a job AND allows them to be present for your big day.
Ask Them to Witness
In addition to an officiant, some states may require you to have a minimum number of witnesses present to ratify your wedding. While this might seem like a strain for anyone looking for a truly private ceremony, it is great news for anyone looking to elope with loved ones present. Choose from a short list of trusted individuals, and remember that their names will be on your wedding certificate forever. Having them with you allows for you to keep them close for comfort, allows them the opportunity to see you wed, and takes care of a legal requirement. Win-win-win.
Invite Them as Guests
This is starting to cross the line into “traditional” wedding territory, but you CAN invite guests to elopement ceremonies (remember, the beautiful thing about elopements is that you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT). If you do decide to invite a few guests to your ceremony, it’s still recommended to keep the list small. Typically, elopements have just a handful of guests (less than 10). After that, you’re more likely to begin planning a “wedding” as opposed to an “elopement,” which comes with its own set of considerations.
Use Their Talents
Even if you’re dead-set against having anyone at your ceremony, it’s still possible to involve your loved ones in your big day. I already suggested that you can use your “guests” as officiants or witnesses, but there are other ways to involve them as well. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who is a professional photographer, you can involve them by hiring them to take your wedding pictures. If you know a wedding planner, you can involve that person in the planning process, which would also serve to take some stress off of you as a couple. Whatever the talents of your friends and family, try involving them in whatever way you can. This helps both them and you feel close to them on your wedding day.
Throw an After-Party
If you don’t want a wedding, but DO want to celebrate your marriage with your friends and family, consider hosting a post-wedding party sometime following your ceremony. It doesn’t have to take place directly after, as is typical of traditional weddings, but hosting a “reception” allows your loved ones to celebrate with you. You can have this party be a low-key affair, such as an intimate dinner at your favorite restaurant, or you can go all-out and throw a big party at a rented location. Whatever you decide, this option allows you to maintain privacy at your wedding while also allowing you to party with your friends and family.
The truly wonderful thing about elopements is that there are very few hard-and-fast rules. With their popularity increasing, more and more couples are defining what “elope” means for THEM, not what the word might mean for someone else. You, as a couple, get to decide what feels right for YOU. If that is a self-solemnizing, 100% private ceremony, so be it. If it involves inviting a handful of your closest friends and family, that’s great too. It truly is up to you how you want to involve your loved ones, if at all, and that freedom of choice is a wonderfully liberating feeling.