Shakori Hills Styled Shoot – Photo Credit: The Wild Bloom Co

While some couples want to be surrounded by as many friends and family as possible to celebrate their marriage, some would really prefer a quiet and intimate day to reflect on their love story. 

The moment you got engaged, people probably started asking about your wedding, and you might have been fully on board with all the excitement surrounding planning a big wedding! But somewhere in the pit of your stomach, something hasn’t been sitting quite right. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the idea of spending so much money or being the center of attention for a whole day. Maybe you’re worried about family drama or the health and safety risks that come with social gatherings. 

Maybe you want your first day as life partners to be fully focused on you and your relationship

If you and your partner have considered eloping, you may wonder how your family will feel when they find out they aren’t invited. It can get a little awkward when a cousin sees your engagement ring and asks what weekend she should mark in her calendar… 

As you decide if eloping is the right choice for you, think about who you absolutely want to be there and how you’ll tell those who aren’t on the shortlist. Since elopements have no set rules, you might want to run off in secret and get married without a single soul knowing, or everyone might already know you’re planning to be married but you’ve decided to shrink the wedding. Whether you’re telling folks before or after the elopement, here are our tips. 

Dakota & Andrew’s Mountaintop Wedding – Photo Credit: Siobhan Lorraine Photography

Inviting people to your intimate elopement


If you’re opting for an elopement with a few guests in attendance, think about why you want to keep your wedding day intimate, and why you’re choosing to include those few special people who will be joining.

Whether your intimate list is 2 witnesses or a gathering of 20, you’ll want to provide as much information as you can when you share your plans with them. Beyond just the date, they’ll be curious about location, if they’ll need lodging, what they’ll wear, how they’ll be involved in the day, if they need to help with anything, and why you decided to elope. 

You’ll also want to let them know who else is involved, so they’re aware of your level of secrecy. It could be easy for your best friend to assume that your friend group will all be there and could accidentally mention the plans to someone who isn’t invited! To avoid uncomfortable situations, think through who might get hurt by missing out, and consider talking to them beforehand, or finding a special way to tell them afterward. 

The actual invitations can be as simple or extravagant as you want, ranging from a conversation to custom invites and gifts. Similar to how you might leave welcome bags in hotel rooms for guests who traveled or “propose” to your wedding party with a bottle of wine and a handwritten note, you can make each invitation experience special when you have an intimate list. 

Who should we tell first?


After you’ve decided if you’ll invite anyone (and who that will be), consider who your inner circle is – those close family members and friends – and how they’ll feel about the knowledge that you got married without them. Above all else, think through why you chose an elopement – with clear thoughts in mind, you’ll feel more composed when you tell your close friends and family who won’t be with you to share the day.

If an elopement wasn’t your first thought, your new plans might surprise those closest to you. Whether you have already sealed the deal or are still making plans, it’s important to think about not only who to tell – the when, where, and why can also make a huge difference. 

To make sure no one is hurt or offended by your exciting news, don’t post on social media before telling your inner circle. Even if you don’t have a close relationship with your family, you’ll want to share the news with them earlier rather than later, on your own terms, so that you can go into the conversation with confidence.

Zack & Tina’s Colorful COVID Elopement – Photo Credit: Windsor Grey Photography

Time it right


Timing is everything, but the timing is different for every couple and situation. Our main advice is to have a plan before you say your vows regarding when you’ll tell everyone you’re married! 

Some couples don’t want to keep it a secret and will happily tell anyone that they plan to elope in a few months. Those who planned to have a wedding but changed plans might choose to let folks know they plan to elope when sharing that they’re canceling or postponing their big wedding, while others want to wait to share the news. And of course, the traditional elopement includes getting married in secret, so you may choose to wait until you’re official before telling another soul.


Brace yourself for a bit of backlash


When you start telling people about your elopement, it’s important to recognize that those who love you will be excited that you’re married but not sure how to feel about missing the experience. It’s best to have this conversation face to face (video chat counts) because even if they’re disappointed, they’ll start to understand when they see how happy you are.

If you’re nervous about telling friends and family, test out the waters and start dropping hints about eloping to see how they respond. Remember that, no matter how others respond, you made a choice to celebrate your love with your partner in an authentic way, and you should feel great about that decision. However you tell them, there are some simple ways to ease into the conversation and help them understand and feel happy about your less-than-traditional wedding experience. 


Help your closest people feel involved


One of the main reasons people get upset about elopements is because they had certain expectations about how they would’ve been included. If you haven’t eloped yet, there are plenty of ways to help them to feel involved, so share as many details as you can and ask if there’s anything they’d like to help with. Make a big deal out of picking out your dress with your friends, bring the family to vendor meetings, visit grandma after your hair and makeup trial… anything that could be celebrated as small wins towards your elopement. 

And just because you’re eloping, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a party! Whether it’s before or after the elopement, you can go big with engagement and bachelorx parties, have a bon voyage party before your honeymoon, and you can always have a vow renewal and reception later. If you already know you want to celebrate, share those plans with friends and family as you tell the exciting news of your elopement. 

If you’ve already eloped, bring some photos when you tell them the news! Your photos and stories about the day will help them feel like they were there. The second they see the love in your eyes and the incredible experience you had because you eloped, they’ll start to understand how beautiful and magical your day was.

After your close friends and family know about your elopement, you can officially let the secret out! Send announcement cards, share photos on social media, whatever makes sense to you. Because after all, it’s your love story, and you’re the one who gets to tell it.