When you decide to elope you have to make the decision between eloping just the two of you or inviting your closest friends and family members along for the adventure. For some, this decision is a no-brainer! But for a lot of people, it can be difficult to choose between the two.

Enchanted Rock Elopement Ceremony

Eloping with friends and family right by your side can be the most incredible experience. But it will have a direct impact on your planning, flexibility and overall experience in many ways. There is a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to bring people along for your elopement day. My goal is to equip you with everything you need to know so you can confidently make your decision and move forward with planning in a fun, stress-free way! Because I believe planning your elopement should be just as much fun as your elopement itself.

Bride and groom hike with their guests during their Enchanted Rock elopement

First: Know WHY you are eloping

Really dig into why you are making the decision to elope rather than have a big traditional wedding. What are your values? Are you choosing to elope so you can spend more quality time together? Do you value experience over things? Are you trying to avoid family drama? Remember what made you want to elope in the first place and always refer back to it. Make sure the decisions you make throughout your planning align with your values. Don’t let expectations or outside pressure make you compromise. This will help you in deciding whether or not you want to elope with family by your side.

Elopement ceremony at Mack Dick Pavilion in Palo Duro Canyon

Brainstorm what your day will be like if you choose to elope just the two of you vs if you choose to elope with family

Close your eyes and picture your elopement day, what is it like? Are you accompanied by specific people? Is your dog by your side? What kind of landscape are you in? Are you hiking a lot or is it more accessible?

Sitting down and dreaming over what you want your elopement day to look and feel like is the first step. During this process, you may find right away that you don’t want any guests at all or you may realize there are people you couldn’t imagine this experience without.

Family sitting in front of see mystery lights sign during their Marfa Texas elopement

Questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to elope with family

Think about the people you are considering inviting to your elopement and be really honest with yourselves. Will they be just as excited as you and be fully on board for the ways you are going against the grain of tradition? Will they try to take over control, make you nervous or stress you out?

How accessible do you think your ceremony location will be? Will everyone be able to physically make it to this kind of location?

Will inviting a few people turn into feeling pressured to invite more or will it be easy to keep the list short?

Consider transportation and lodging. Is it possible for them to easily travel to and from your desired locations and will they have lodging to stay in nearby?

Keep in mind that having a larger group of people is not sustainable for a lot of the hikes throughout state and national parks, so the more people you choose to have by your side will limit the locations you are able to choose from.

Bride and Groom look at each other while their kids run around in front of the see mystery lights sign in Marfa Texas during their Marfa Texas Elopement

Different ways you can involve family on your elopement day

One Ceremony

Including friends and family in a single elopement ceremony can be a beautiful way to start your life together. With their support, warmth and love right beside you sharing this once in a lifetime experience. I love watching couples gift such incredible experiences to the people they love. 

If you do go with just one ceremony with friends and family then you will likely spend less time together just the two of you on your elopement day. And your ceremony location options will be limited to what everyone’s physical capabilities are as well as how sustainable it would be for a group to be in a specific area. Parks and hiking trails are not made to sustain larger groups. You also have to consider whether or not you will have access to parking and restrooms.

Split the day up

Another way to include family in your ceremony is to have two different types of ceremonies. You could have a private ceremony with just the two of you and have a larger family ceremony with your family during another part of the day. This way your intimate ceremony location won’t be limited and you can share vows in a more intimate and private setting. If you do split your day up you will likely need to book more time with your vendors.

Opt for a two-day elopement

Split elopement days can make for long days! If you like the idea of having two ceremonies but don’t want to try squeezing it all into one day you can spread it out over two days. Have an incredible experience with just the two of you on one day then invite your friends and family into your adventure for day two.

Include them in other ways

If you want to keep your ceremony an intimate experience between just the two of you you can still include your family in other ways. You can invite them for a dinner after ceremony, for a family hike together or to help you get ready before ceremony.

Bride looks back at her guests during her elopement ceremony at Enchanted Rock

Making Sure Your Family Prepares For Your Elopement

Elopements are the combination of two worlds really. The wedding world and the outdoor recreation world. Preparing for an adventurous elopement has different requirements from a traditional wedding and you will want to make sure your guests know to show up prepared! Your guests being well prepared can save you a lot of headache when you decide to elope with family.

You’ll need to consider what kind of gear they may need to bring along. Practical shoes, extra layers, water, food, headlamps or other gear. They will also need to be able to navigate the area well, will there be cell reception so they can easily use their phone as a GPS or will they need to rely on downloaded maps? Are your guests aware of Leave No Trace principles or your location’s rules and regulations? You also need to be realistic about your timeline, if you have to wait around for late guests you may end up missing sunrise or sunset.

Bride and groom kiss as they exit their ceremony at Mack Dick Pavilion in Palo Duro Canyon

Example of a split-day elopement

Meredith and Tom chose to have a ceremony with just the two of them at sunrise then have a larger family ceremony later in the day. They woke up and hiked together as the sun started to rise, had some coffee and wrote their vows together as Palo Duro Canyon lit up in golden pink alpenglow.  When I asked them later what their favorite part of the day was they said this was it.

After writing their vows they got dressed in their wedding attire and had a first look at the edge of the canyon. It was absolutely stunning!

They exchanged personal gifts after their first look and prayed together before exchanging vows. No rushing, stress or other people around. Just the two of them. They exchanged vows, sealed it with a kiss and celebrated by eating cereal straight out of the box! They took their time and didn’t have to worry about a thing.

After their intimate morning adventure, we headed to their Airbnb, where their friends and families were all getting ready. They got to shower, eat some food and get ready with their favorite people by their side.

They rented out a pavilion within the park for their family ceremony. There was ample parking, accessibility, restrooms, and air conditioning. It was a sustainable way to host a larger group of people.

They had another ceremony in front of their friends and family where they read different vows followed by family portraits, coffee, smashing cake in each other’s faces and a bubble exit!!

After their family ceremony, they wanted to spend more time alone in the park so we drove around and found a few really cool places to explore together, we ended their elopement day with their first dance as husband and wife.

Here’s what their split-day timeline looked like;

7:00am Enter the park

7:10 Arrive at Trailhead

7:50 Get to the first look/ceremony location | Have coffee and finish writing your vows together

8:30 First Look, exchanging gifts and reading vows

9:30 Portraits

9:45 Eating cereal and enjoying the ceremony location/park together.

9:45 – 10:45 Hike back to cars

10:45am – 11:00am Drive back to Airbnb

11:00am – 12:00 Meet up with family & get ready for ceremony with family

11:45 – 12:00pm Meredith first look with Dad at Airbnb

12:00 – 12:30 Meredith and Tom final touches before driving to Pavillion

12:30 – 1:00 Drive to Mack Dick Pavillion

1:00 – Guests Arrive

1:15 – Everyone in place for ceremony

1:30 – 2:00 Ceremony

2:00 – 2:30 Family photos and portraits after ceremony

2:45 – 4:00 Cake and coffee time!

3:30 – 4:00
Say hello/thank you/goodbye to your guests!

4:00  Bubble exit!

4:00 – 5:00 Explore other parts of the park just the two of you!

Example of one intimate ceremony

Lauren and Kailen included their friends and family for the entirety of their elopement day. They chose to plan around sunset so we started their day in the early afternoon. They began by getting ready in their Airbnb with their friends and family members by their side. 

Lauren’s Mom helped her into her wedding dress before having a first look with Kailen inside the Airbnb. After their first look everyone loaded into their cars and headed to Enchanted Rock.

We chose a ceremony location closer to the bottom of Enchanted Rock so it would be more accessible for their guests from the parking lot. For Enchanted Rock you just have to be careful and stay on the granite as much as possible, the granite is much more sustainable than the patches of grass and vernal pools higher up on the rock.

We all hiked together as a group and got in position for their ceremony! Their officiant led the ceremony, they said their vows and became husband and wife with all of their favorite people there to witness it all.

After ceremony we took family as well as wedding party photos then everyone else left to head back to the Airbnb while Lauren, Kailen and myself stuck around for some couples portraits and watching sunset from the top of Enchanted Rock.

Here’s what their timeline looked like with one ceremony;

12:30pm Coverage Starts

12:30 – 1:00 Detail photos
1:00 – 1:30 Kailen Getting Ready with groomsmen

1:30 – 2:00 Lauren gets into dress

2:00 First look

2:30 – 3:00 Drive to Enchanted Rock

3:00 – 3:30 Meet up with officiant, guests and family in the parking lot

3:30 – 4:00 Hike as a group to the ceremony location

4:00 – 4:15 Ceremony

4:15 – 4:45 Group Photos

4:45 – 5:30 Lauren and Kailen couples photos and hiking around Enchanted Rock
5:30 – 6:00 Watch sunset from the top of Enchanted Rock

6:00 – 6:20 Hike back down. There should still be some twilight but we may need headlamps!

6:20 – 6:50 Drive back to Airbnb

7:00 – 8:00 Dinner, cake and toasts!

8:00 Coverage Ends

For more timeline tips and examples, you can head on over to my Elopement Timeline Blog!

At the end of the day, this is YOUR elopement day and you should plan it to be the best day ever for the two of you. If choosing to elope with family and friends will only improve the day then by all means bring them along! But if inviting people to your elopement day will cause stress and anxiety then don’t be afraid to stick to your guns and elope just the two of you.

Other Elopement Planning Resources:

Are you ready to start planning your own adventurous elopement?? Contact me to get started!

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