So... you've officially decided on eloping vs a big wedding and your heart is telling you to include your family. I am here to tell you, it's 100% okay to include your family in your elopement day, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! Including your family on your elopement day adds such a unique feeling and feels like a warm hug. Not only are you choosing you and your partner, but you're allowing your family to feel included on one of the most important days of your life. I often get asked how couples can include their family (whether present or from far away) and I am happy to share some of my favorite ways and ideas that including family has worked for couples.

What Elopement Means

Let's start with the complete definition of elopement; elope; eloping, to cure the curiosity roaming around.

eloped; eloping

  1. a : to run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent

We're busting the myth that you can't involve your family. The "usually" is now becoming a common thing and most couples actually inform their family that they are eloping. It's actually quite common for couples to plan out their elopement up to a year or more in advance. It's 2023 for petes sake, we are planning our out-of-state elopement and taking some time off while we're doing it! So don't feel guilty if you tell your mom, dad, and bestie that you plan to escape to Montana and elope... just make sure you contact me so you have a rad photographer to capture the whole thing ;-)!

Now that the cat is out of the bag, let's talk about some ways to include your family and closest friends, whether they are with you in person, or at home waiting to celebrate when you get back!

Couple standing alone on shore of lake, eloping with an officiant in Montana
Married couple taking photo with family in attendance at their elopement

Family Elopement | The stats!

Just how many elopement couples bring their family with them on their elopement day? Of my 2022 elopement couples, 64% of them included their family to be present on the day they eloped. Surprised much?

Another fun fact, 82% of my 2022 elopement couples lived outside of Montana State and traveled here to elope. Bringing your family along for your special day requires a bit more planning (where will everyone stay? what will they do while they are in town? where can we elope that allows that many people? will I need additional permits? and so much more.) I am always happy to help where I can with this element to ease some stress.

Elopement Ideas with Family

Having family/friends present during your elopement day is such a memorable and unique way to elope. Since it's your day, choosing to include them is something you won't regret. Not sure how to include them? Below are some of my favorite ways and ideas that allow you to include your family/friends who are physically present during your elopement day. This list isn't ALL the ways you can include them, but just some of the ways. I recommend picking a couple of options and discussing them with your partner. See if some of these ideas are right for you.

  • Stand with You

If you have a Best Man or Maid of Honor present for your elopement ceremony, you can ask them to stand next to you during the ceremony. They can hold the rings/bouquet during the ceremony.

  • Officiate

Ask a special family member to officiate your ceremony for you. Practically anyone can get ordained online these days, simply have them go here to check it out. There's nothing more intimate and meaningful than having a loved one marry you and your partner.

  • Letters

Ask some of your closest family members to write a special letter and they (or you) can read it during the ceremony. Not only will they feel included, but they will be a part of the ceremony in such a sweet way.

  • Sing/Music during the ceremony

If you have a music-inclined family member that wants to sing or even play the guitar for you and your partner during the ceremony, this is such a unique addition to an elopement ceremony.

  • Take a shot with them during your day

A popular favorite from this past elopement season, take a shot of alcohol during your ceremony (or sometime during your elopement day). Choose from your favorite spirit and seal the deal with a shot!

  • First Look

Do a first look with a special family member after you get ready. Just cause you're not doing a traditional big wedding, doesn't mean you still can incorporate this into your elopement day.

  • Celebration Dinner

Host a celebration dinner with your family and friends in attendance the night of your elopement or the day after if you end up doing photos later in the evening. You can either make reservations at a local restaurant or have a private chef come and cook for your family. You can check out a local private chef, Farmer Meets Foodie... they make the BEST food!

  • Assist During Photos

If you have a close friend or sibling that really wants to be involved more, if its okay with your photographer, have them join you for those intimate elopement couples photos before or after the ceremony. Often times having an extra set of hands to fluff the dress or hold items like car keys is a huge help! They also get to spend a little extra one-on-one time with the couple.

  • Have family sign as your witnesses

In Montana, you can have two witnesses sign on your marriage license. If you have your family/friends present, you can ask them to sign the marriage license as a witness.

  • Multi-Day Elopement

If you have activities you want to plan with your family, like a picnic or white water rafting, you can plan for a multi-day elopement! Your photographer might offer multi-day elopement services to cover these special events.

Perks of Including your Family

  1. You can still have flower girls/ring bearers
  2. You can have your dad/special person walk you down the aisle
  3. Family can help with setup/take down
  4. Family can help you get ready for your day

Feeling Included From a Distance

Family and friends cant always be present during elopement days. Whether it's due to the distance from home or lack of time off, there are still ways you can include them on your elopement day without their actual presence. See my favorite ideas below:

  • Zoom or Facetime

Invite your family to a zoom link or Facetime if you have cell service or video the ceremony for the family to watch later that day. Better yet, hire a videographer to capture the cinematic moments of your elopement day.

  • Write letters

If your family knows about your elopement ahead of time, invite them to write you both letters that you can read on your elopement day alone or during your ceremony.

  • Send a "First Kiss" selfie to your family

Nothing is cuter than sending a first kiss selfie to your family and friends, especially if it is a surprise!

  • Send out announcements "We Eloped!"

A popular option, you can send out We Eloped announcements after you return home. You can order them custom from a business that offers custom letterpress or choose a site like Minted.

  • Have a celebration when you return home

If family/friends cannot be present during your actual elopement day, you can always plan a post-elopement reception after you return home!

Perks of Eloping Alone

  1. It's just you two!
  2. Less planning
  3. Very Intimate

So bring them, or DON'T. You choose!

Now that we've covered most of the ways you can include your family/friends in your elopement day from near and far, the final part is making the decision to do so, or not. This is completely up to the couple and you shouldn't let someone persuade you otherwise. If you do bring them, Great! If you don't, Awesome. As your photographer, I am happy either way and support you through this memorable and special day.

If you're still looking for your elopement day photographer and are planning on eloping in Montana, don't hesitate to contact me to hear about my current rates and packages. Eloping should be a fun experience and I am here to bring that to you!

See a few elopements from 2022 below:

Abby & Caleb Fire Lookout "I do's"

Amanda & Kevins Fairytail Rainy Day Elopement

Caitlin & Kevins Glacier National Park Elopement

Man playing guitar during a wedding ceremony
View of family during a wedding ceremony
bride doing a first look with her dad before her elopement
bride and groom doing portraits at glacier national park. Groom is holding bride is his arms
mom and sister walking a bride down the aisle
couple posing together on rock in glacier national park
details of elopement day, memories of late mother
family hugging post elopement ceremony
group family photo after an elopement ceremony in glacier national park
Memory charms tied onto a bridal bouquet
Couple giving a thank you speech at their elopement
little girl holding a bridal bouquet
mom pinning on a boutonnière to her sons vest
Family member reading a letter to a couple during a ceremony
wedding couple holding hands and walking in front of the glacier national park sign