- Elopement Planning Guides -
Updated: 18th August, 2022
What’s an Elopement Ceremony?
Elopement ceremonies are typically smaller and more intimate than traditional wedding ceremonies. I’m guessing you’re eloping because you don’t want the pressure of a traditional wedding, right? Eloping means you can fully express your emotions during your ceremony (without the watchful gaze of hundreds of people) and embrace an experience that feels right for you. Below are 10 elopement ceremony ideas to spark your imagination.
What’s the Difference Between an Elopement Ceremony and a Wedding Ceremony?
The main difference between an elopement ceremony and a wedding ceremony is the intention behind it. Wedding ceremonies typically conform to ‘tradition’ with the expectation that couples follow a structured format. Elopement ceremonies can be custom-built to suit each couple in a unique way. If you’re not a fan of tradition, then ditch it and do something wild and true to you!
Because elopement ceremonies generally don’t have guests, or very few guests, couples feel more relaxed and able to be themselves. If you’re dreading the thought of reading your vows in front of a crowd, eloping means you’re free to be you in a safe space.
10 Elopement Ceremony Ideas
1. Choose an epic location
If you close your eyes, imagine yourselves in the most incredibly beautiful location, where is it? What do you see and hear? I often tell couples to imagine a day without limits and work towards it. Fancy climbing a mountain and reading your vows as the morning light hits the peaks? Perhaps you’d love to take an evening stroll along the beach with the soothing sounds of the waves. Whatever you choose, you CAN have the most AMAZING elopement ceremony ever!
If you’re eloping in Scotland and looking for some inspiration, check out my guide on ‘How to Elope in Scotland’ here.
Equally, if you’d love some help choosing your location, just drop me a message here. I’d love to help.
2. Choose the right officiant/celebrant for you
What do you want your elopement ceremony to feel like?
Choosing the right officiant is so important. Each of them bring their own personality and feeling to your ceremony. If you’re after a fun, relaxing ceremony full of laughter, there’ll be an officiant out there for that. If you’d love a beautifully poetic ceremony, there’ll be one for that too.
My advice to you is to get in touch with lots of different celebrants and see what feels right. If you’re eloping in Scotland, you can find an extensive list of humanist celebrants here. I’m also happy to recommend some to you.
3. Include your friends and family
Whilst lots of couples elope by themselves, it’s possible to invite your closest friends and/or family to your elopement ceremony. I always encourage my couples to embrace what they want – if that means your small elopement ceremony has guests, then that’s cool! Do what feels right.
If you have guests, they can be involved in your ceremony by doing a reading, providing emotional support, or even conducting the ceremony itself! There are loads of ways to include your friends and family in your elopement ceremony.
But how do you include them if they aren’t there, I hear you ask! A great way to do this is to have your closest family and friends write letters or record video messages. You can open these and read them during your elopement ceremony or on the morning of your elopement to shower you with support and love before your adventure begins.
4. Have a first look
A first look is a great way to set the scene for your elopement, and they’re not just for traditional weddings either. If you’re able to get ready separately, then I’d definitely encourage it! Imagine seeing your partner for the first time all dressed up in an incredible location. You can slow things down and and take a private moment together in an awe-inspiring landscape before your elopement ceremony begins.
First looks offer an amazing opportunity to be with each other, take in the gravity of the moment together, and reflect on the amazing journey you’re both about to embark upon.
5. Write personalised wedding vows
Getting married is such a soulful experience and you’ve undoubtedly been to weddings where couples read a ready-made script which can feel mechanical. Taking the time to write your own vows is an incredible opportunity for you to put into words exactly WHY you want to marry the person standing in front of you. Life can travel at a pretty hectic pace, but your elopement is your time away from that to be in a world of your own.
Your weddings vows don’t need to be super long. Also, don’t overthink it – it’s not about writing a masterpiece. It’s about conveying in a few words how much you love the person in front of you, the journey you’ve been on together to get to this point, and what makes you excited about that journey going forward.
If you’re struggling to get the ball rolling, my Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide has a dedicated section to help you start writing your vows. You can download it here.
6. Walk down the aisle
Who said you can’t have tradition at elopements? If the idea of eloping makes you feel like you’re going to have to give up some of the moments of a traditional wedding day, that’s not the case. You can easily incorporate the aspects of a wedding day you love the idea of, and walking down the aisle could be one of them.
But, instead of walking down an aisle with hundreds of eyes on you (which would fill anyone with anxiety), imagine walking towards your partner surrounded by wild flowers, impossibly tall mountains, and the sounds of nature. I take a bluetooth speaker with me to elopements, so you could even have your favourite song!
Another twist on this is walking down the aisle together! I’ve had couples who have enjoyed a relaxing walk to their ceremony location together, holding hands. There really aren’t any limits to what you could do and that’s what makes eloping the BEST way to get married.
7. Incorporate hand-fasting or other traditions
Hand-fasting is an old Celtic ritual where the hands are tied together to symbolise the binding of two lives. It’s where the phrase “tying the knot” comes from and dates back as far as 7000 B.C. Most of my couples who elope here in Scotland choose to have a hand-fasting ceremony and absolutely love doing it.
You can choose any kind of material as well. Perhaps you’d love to have some traditional Scottish tartan, natural garland or vines, or ribbons. You also don’t need to have a specific colour – so you can choose something that fits the vibe of your elopement day.
Ideas for other elopement ceremony traditions include:
- The Oathing Stone – This is an old Scottish tradition and comes from the act of ‘setting an oath in stone’. Both partners place their hand on the stone as they read their vows/oaths to one another.
- The Quaich – In Celtic tradition, sharing a drink from a cup was seen as a sign of trust between two people/families. It’s usually filled with whisky but can be filled with a drink of your choice. Each person holds the quaich with one hand and offers a drink to the other.
8. Exchange rings
Exchanging rings is an ancient tradition very popular in modern weddings. Although it’s not a requirement, most couples who elope exchange rings as a symbolic way of letting the world know they’ve committed themselves to someone. Wearing a ring is a great way to honour your love for each other and serves as a continuous reminder of each other wherever you go.
9. Celebrate by popping champagne
Popping champagne at a traditional wedding would go down like a lead balloon at most venues. But not at an elopement! In fact, I’d encourage it! Popping champagne is a really fun way of celebrating after your elopement ceremony. You can both sit down and relax with a glass of champagne without a care in the world, nowhere to be and nobody to see, before embarking on the rest of your adventure.
10. Have a first dance
Having a first dance is a great way to relax after your ceremony and spend a few intimate moments with each other. I carry a bluetooth speaker to elopements and I’m more than happy to play your favourite song as you dance. These moments create such beautiful images as couples embrace each other on the side of a mountain, by a secluded loch, or surrounded by a beautiful ancient forest.
What do we do after our elopement ceremony?
Pretty much anything you want! Most of my couples opt to explore a few beautiful locations for their portraits. These could involve a hike to an epic viewpoint or a gentle stroll somewhere. You can be as adventurous as you like! Another great idea is to enjoy a picnic for two – there are so many amazing suppliers who offer this in Scotland. If the weather’s coming in then why not escape to a cosy pub for a pint and a bite to eat whilst we wait for it to clear? The options are endless.
Are you thinking about eloping and need help?
I’m a Scotland and Destination Elopement Photographer and love to help my couples craft their elopement timeline and part of that includes ideas for the ceremony. The 10 ideas above give you a good starting point, but there’re so many other ways to create a unique and personalised ceremony.
I’d love to chance to speak to you about your elopement and answer any questions you’ve got. If you’re looking for more ideas for your elopement, check out my other Elopement Guides.