How to have an elopement ceremony

January 30, 2024

How to create an elopement ceremony that’s meaningful, not awkward, and still feels personal.

Planning a ceremony for an elopement or untraditional wedding might seem a bit daunting. The ceremony is such a big part of the day, its the actual marriage part after all! Its important that you love your ceremony as much as every other aspect of the day, but what does an elopement ceremony look like? What do you do when you have no guests? Do you need an officiant? How do you know what to say? Like with most parts of planning an elopement, the options are so many and can be totally customized to what you want. But don’t worry! Here are a few things to think about and a couple steps to take to plan your perfect elopement ceremony.

How do you set up an elopement ceremony?

Since elopements don’t take place in a traditional venue, setting up a ceremony looks a bit different. First and foremost, its important to follow the 7 Leave no Trace principles. This means not interfering with the natural environment around you- no scattering flower petals, rice, bird seed etc as well as being mindful of any fragile terrain. That doesn’t mean your elopement ceremony can’t be beautiful! Having silk flowers or wooden arches (if allowed) are a great way to include decor at your ceremony spot. You also don’t have to set anything up, just choose a spot once you arrive at your location and let nature speak for itself!

Do you walk down the aisle at an elopement?

Some couples, whether or not they choose to include a small number of guests, want to have the walking down the aisle moment. This isn’t something you have to miss out on because you’re eloping! Its still totally possible to do, even if the actual aisle looks a bit different than at a traditional wedding. You can walk yourself or have a loved one walk you! If this isn’t a tradition you love, feel free to skip it- there’s no pressure to do things you don’t want on your elopement day.

How does an elopement ceremony start?

Before you even get to your elopement day, your photographer should help you design a day of timeline which will help visualize how the day will flow. You’ll know around what time the ceremony is supposed to be and what parts of the day are happening just before it. When it comes time to start the ceremony, you can play a song to help transition or set the mood or simply just take a deep breathe together and then begin.

What do you do during an elopement ceremony?

This is probably the part that varies the most, because its so personal. A ceremony can be super structured with an official officiant or as simple as reading words you’ve written for each other. Many couples choose to write their own vows, it feels special and more personal than a script found on the internet and elicits so many more real emotions. If your on the fence on whether to write your own vows, 100% recommend- you won’t regret it!

Other couple’s prefer a bit more guidance during their ceremony and opt to have an officiant. Now, in Colorado, you’re not required to have an officiant so anyone from a friend or family member to an actual hired officiant can fill this role. The officiant will perform the ceremony and say a few words. This can still be personalized to the two of you and you can still choose to exchange personal vows, or just go with the vows the officiant has prepared. Having someone close to the two of you officiate is often really special as they help you two enter this next chapter of your relationship.

Typically the structure of a ceremony follows the normal exchange vows, exchange rings, first kiss format, but again, this can be updated to fit what you want. Some couple prefer to go vow, ring, vow, ring, kiss. Some couples prefer to rehearse their ceremony, combining words they’ve found online or in books with their own vows and go back and forth with reading, almost as thought they are their own officiants. You truly can’t go wrong with any option!

What do you say in vows at an elopement?

A great place to start is reflecting on your relationship so far. How did you meet, how has the person shaped your life, what are some of the things you love about them? From there you can move on to what excites you about your future together, and if there are any promises you want to make (ie vows) you can finish with those.

Are there photos during an elopement ceremony?

Typically yes! Photos during the ceremony help tell the story of your day and allow you to look back and relive those moments. Every photographer has a different approach to ceremonies, some will stand farther back with long lenses that let them look like they’re up close, others will get their detail shots by getting close to you. Make sure you talk about this ahead of time so your ceremony is photographed at your comfort level!

How do you end an elopement ceremony?

Usually a first kiss is the culmination of an elopement ceremony. If its just the two of you, take a few minutes and really live in the moment and let everything soak in. If you have guests take this moment with them. There’s no pressure to move on quickly to the next thing!

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