Updated July 13th, 2023
Eloping is the Best Way to Get Married!
Here’s a post with lots of elopement ceremony ideas. Eloping seriously is the best way to get married! You get to marry the love of your life and the day can be anything you want! There are no table plans to stress over, no family agendas to contend with, and there is no pressure to perform. If you want an authentic, meaningful wedding that represents your relationship, then eloping is the way to go! Here are some elopement ideas to help you have the most amazing elopement ceremony!
What is an Elopement Ceremony?
An elopement ceremony is two people getting married in a much smaller way than a typical traditional wedding. Elopement ceremonies can involve just the couple or a small number of guests, usually less than 10, sometimes up to 20. Elopement ceremonies tend to be more heartfelt, with personal vows and other deeply symbolic moments. Couples often want to get married without being the center of attention in a big event but in a more meaningful, intimate way. Elopement ceremonies can happen anywhere; most of them happen in the great outdoors, usually somewhere very beautiful.
What Should You Do at an Elopement Ceremony to Make It Special?
One of the most amazing things about eloping is your ceremony! You get to do you! A personalized ceremony fully focused on your love for one another. You aren’t restricted in timings, locations, or format. Your dream ceremony really can happen.
How to Have the Best Elopement Ceremony – 10 Elopement Ceremony Ideas
As an adventure elopement photographer with 15 years of experience, I specialize in helping my couples have the most awesome elopement experiences. I’ve witnessed a lot of incredible ceremonies, and these ideas will help you craft your perfect ceremony.
- Pick Your Ultimate Location.
- Write Your Own Vows.
- Time Your Ceremony Right!
- Include Your Guests in Your Ceremony.
- Include Loved Ones Who Can’t Be There With You on Your Elopement Day.
- Exchange Rings.
- Have an EPIC First Kiss!!!
- Quaich – Celtic Whiskey Sharing Ritual.
- Celebrate by Popping Champagne!!!
1. Pick Your Ultimate Location.
You get to take a look at planet Earth and choose your favorite spot! This has got to be one of the main reasons that eloping is the best! Do you want to get married at the top of a mountain in the Alps, in front of an ancient Irish castle, in the Sahara desert, or on a black sand beach in Iceland? You get to choose!
I’ve found that 99.99% of couples that elope have serious wanderlust, they love exploring and seeing new places. This is why eloping is such a natural decision for them. Surely the most important day of their lives should include their passion for travel.
So it’s up to you! Where will you elope to? If you want some inspiration, I think Northern Ireland is the best place to elope in the world, you can click HERE to see why.
2. Write Your Own Vows.
There really is nothing quite like handwritten vows from the heart. Words are powerful! When the person that you love most in the world hears your raw declaration of undying love for them, it will be a moment they never forget. Speaking words of commitment to one another and making lifelong promises from your hearts, surely nothing can compare to that!
Having shot hundreds of traditional weddings before I became a full-time elopement photographer, I witnessed quite a few dry ceremonies. Sometimes it felt like the person running the ceremony was just inserting the couple’s names into lines they had read many times before. I’ve never experienced an elopement ceremony that wasn’t super emotional and full of precious moments. I recommend that all my couples hand-write their own vows on the morning of their elopement day. Most couples have a rough draft and just copy them into their special vow book. This just looks amazing in your getting-ready photos and really adds to the story of your day. Even if you think you’re not a great writer, telling your new husband or wife just how much they mean to you will be so special for both of you.
3. Time Your Ceremony Right!
If you’re traveling across the world to elope in a beautiful place, you definitely want to time your ceremony when the light is best. There’s a reason that people go to gorgeous viewpoints at sunset because it’s the optimum time to see that vista and the beauty of the surroundings will be amplified by the pretty light. It will be like you’re saying your vows in an actual dream!
4. Include Your Guests in Your Ceremony.
Around 30% of the elopements I’ve shot have a handful of guests that attended. Some couples just wouldn’t want to say “I do” without their parents/siblings/BFF in attendance, and that is totally cool. I encourage my couples to create their dream elopement day and if that involves a few of your must-have people, that’s awesome. What has been so special to see has been when these special guests have been involved in the ceremony. I’ve seen fathers and brothers conduct ceremonies, sisters pray over the couple, and best friends do a reading. However, if you want to include them, it will make your small wedding ceremony even more precious. Every single time a friend or a family member has been a part of the ceremony, it has been super emotional. When the people who love you the most are a part of you two declaring your love, the atmosphere is just electric!
This is one of my favorite elements of an elopement ceremony here in Northern Ireland. The act of hand-fasting is an ancient Irish tradition, where the couple’s hands are tied together as a symbol of their union. It’s actually where the phrase “tying the knot” comes from. You don’t have to elope in Ireland to incorporate this in your elopement ceremony (though eloping in Ireland is a very good idea!). The celebrant ties the couple’s hands together, usually with several ribbons or cords, each one symbolizing something like passion or strength.
Once the cords are tied, the celebrant asks the couple to look into each other’s eyes, and they read this poem to them:
Blessing of the Hands by Rev. Daniel L. Harris
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that, even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
It really is a powerful moment and all the couples that I’ve worked with have really loved including hand-fasting in their ceremony.
6. Include Loved Ones Who Can’t Be There With You on Your Elopement Day.
The majority of couples that I work with elope by themselves; it just works best for them that way. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about their closest friends and family, quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just for them to have a meaningful wedding day; it needs to be just the two of them. It’s so nice to see how couples choosing to elope alone include their loved ones in the ceremony. Sometimes the couple will read letters to one another that have been sent by their mother or father, this is always super emotional. Other couples have pre-recorded video messages from loved ones that they play just after the ceremony. A lot of couples like to Facetime family at some point after the vows are over. Some couples like to soak in the moment, so wait an hour or two after the ceremony to make contact with loved ones. There really are no rules you have to follow, the most important thing is that you have an elopement day that is meaningful for the two of you.
7. Exchange Rings.
One of the traditional wedding ceremony moments and something that most eloping couples include in their ceremony is an exchange of rings. The rings are a symbol of couples’ love and marriage and just because couples don’t want to have a big traditional wedding, they still want to let the world know that they are married. After a couple has exchanged vows to one another is usually when they would give each other a ring. This is by no means a requirement for your elopement ceremony but most couples love to exchange rings and embrace this ancient tradition.
8. Have an EPIC First Kiss!!!
Is there a better way to wrap up the most incredible elopement ceremony than by giving your new husband or wife the best kiss you’ve ever given them??? It’s time to “go big or go home” here! I’ve been shooting elopements since 2008, and EVERY couple includes the first kiss in their elopement ceremony. It may be a tradition, but who cares, you know you want to include this in your ceremony!
9. Quaich – Celtic Whiskey Sharing Ritual.
Incorporating this ancient Celtic tradition into your ceremony is a must for any whiskey fans out there. It’s pronounced “quake,” and it’s where the couple getting married shares their first drink of whiskey from the same cup. The cup is double-handled, and the couple is required to hold the handles throughout the ritual. Traditionally the bride takes the first sip, and then the groom is required to finish the rest.
You can pick up your Quaich cup from Amazon for around $50, here’s a link. Most of the couples that I help to elope from the USA love to pick up a super special local whiskey when they arrive in Ireland. You can even get a personalized bottle from the Bushmills Distillery with your names and elopement date. You can order your bottle online with this link.
10. Celebrate by Popping Champagne!!!
One thing you 1000% wouldn’t be allowed to do in a traditional wedding ceremony would be to pop the champagne and spray it everywhere! Thank goodness you’re eloping, and you can do whatever you want!!!! How good will the photos be when you guys do the most fantastic champagne spray of all time?
Here’s my top tip for getting the champagne spray to be huge. Gently remove the cork in your hand, then cover the bottle with your thumb. Now shake it with all your might and see how high you can get it to spray!
How Long is an Elopement Ceremony?
Your elopement ceremony can be as long or short as you choose. Most of the elopement ceremonies that I’ve photographed have lasted between 10 and 30 minutes. The shorter ones tend not to have a celebrant. The ones that last longer often have a celebrant or a handful of guests in attendance. I’ve shot a couple that was closer to an hour, and they had more elements included in the ceremony, such as handfasting, guests doing readings, prayers, etc.
How Do I Personalize My Elopement?
The thing a lot of couples don’t realize is that they can do whatever they want! So many think they have to follow some unwritten code because that’s what happens during big weddings. Not so with elopements! This is your opportunity to create a day or even a multi-day experience that the two of you will love. What would you like to do? Swim in the ocean together before you get ready? Have a picnic in the mountains together for dinner? Hire a helicopter to reach some remote location? Explore ancient castle ruins in Ireland? Really the world is your oyster at this stage! It’s time to dream together to craft an experience you both will cherish forever!
What Do You Do After an Elopement Ceremony?
You can do whatever you want after your ceremony. Most couples like to explore the amazing location that they’ve chosen to get some epic portraits. You could head out for a picnic or if you have guests, you could head to a great restaurant. If you’re eloping in Ireland, you could head to an old Irish pub for pints of Guinness and dance the night away with the locals.
Crafting Your Perfect Elopement Ceremony
Those were my ten elopement ceremony ideas. Could you imagine how special your elopement would be if you did them? There are so many other great things you could do, but the most important thing is that you do whatever will make it perfect for you. Many people elope because they don’t want to have to stick to traditions; I love that. Find a way to declare your love for one another and commit your lives to each other in a way that makes you both smile from ear to ear. That’s the great thing about adventure elopements, you really can do whatever you want!
Elopement Planning Resources
I love helping couples plan their perfect elopement experience. It’s such an exciting time in a couple’s life. I’ve made a few other resources for anyone planning to elope, there will be links at the bottom of this page for the BEST elopement ideas! Also, make sure to check out some of the real elopements I’ve posted on my blog; there’s nothing like a real elopement to inspire you! So stick around and start dreaming about your own amazing elopement day! I hope it’s helpful.
For more information on my elopement packages, just click HERE. I have everything you could need to create your dream elopement experience.
Book Me to be Your Elopement Photographer & Guide
If you’re thinking of eloping in Northern Ireland or Europe, I’d LOVE to hear from you. You can click HERE to inquire with me; you should have a reply from me within 24 hours.
If you’d like to keep up to date with my latest elopements and adventure sessions, make sure to check out my Instagram. You can click HERE to check out my feed.