Are you exchanging the months of wedding planning for an intimate elopement? Congratulations! But if you're saddened at the thought of missing out on exchanging vows and walking down the aisle, we've got news for you: Just because you’re skipping the big ceremony and huge reception doesn’t mean you can’t include those classic wedding traditions in your elopement if that’s what you envision.
Meet the Expert
Janessa White is the co-founder of elopement planning company Simply Eloped.
Janessa White, co-founder of elopement planning company Simply Eloped, says that 70 percent of her couples ask to include some sort of tradition into their elopement, even if it’s as simple as traditional vows or a white wedding dress. “Sometimes the reason why a couple chooses to elope is because they don’t want to feel required to do ‘traditional’ at a large scale,” White explains. “The beauty of an elopement is being able to do whatever you want. We always encourage couples to embrace that.”
If you’re thinking of or actively planning an elopement, here are seven ways you can work classic wedding traditions into your nuptials.
One of the most popular wedding traditions that couples include in their elopements are vows. Couples will pull from religious institutions and civil ceremony playbooks to craft their vows. Many hire a traditional officiant, too. “Use elements in your wedding that reflect the things that make your relationship wonderful and unique, including what you say to each other,” White says. “Sometimes that’s as simple as working with your officiant to incorporate traditional wedding vows.” This goes for courthouse and city hall weddings, too. At city hall, the judge will lead you through a standard set of vows to legalize your union. Feel free to run with them instead of writing your own.
2. A Wedding Party
Want a wedding party at your elopement? Why not? Cue the squad—having your extra-special friends and family stand by you is a thoughtful touch, with or without the additional wedding fanfare. If you’re going to designate a wedding party, just be sure it’s not the entire guest list. Keep the bridesmaids and groomsmen to a few people if your guest count is extremely intimate. Plus, ensure your location is large enough to accommodate your crew standing with you as you exchange vows.
3. The Walk Down The Aisle
Why not make a grand entrance? While not all elopements have aisles, there’s no reason you cannot arrive to your all-time favorite song or walk down a designated aisle. White has created an aisle out of flower petals on the beach and had brides walk down a mountain trail to their partner. “Figuring out how to use an untraditional space is part of the fun,” White says. That goes for an escort, too. Dad, or another close family member or friend, can still take your arm as you walk toward the altar. After the ceremony, you can join hands with your new spouse and exit to a memorable song, too!
4. A First Look
First looks are a relatively new tradition on the wedding timeline, and they are finding their way into elopements as well. Many couples who elope also hire a photographer to capture the day and make a first look part of the itinerary. Like a traditional wedding, couples collaborate with the photographer to find a photogenic location for their initial meeting on the big day. For elopements, this can be rather dramatic given such destinations as national parks, cliffsides, and beaches that are a better fit for a small group than a classic wedding.
5. Religious Traditions
White often has couples who want to include a certain religious tradition or combine religions into their elopement ceremony, whether it’s pulling from sacred readings, blessing the rings, or breaking the glass. “The ease of being able to incorporate beliefs in your own way is totally an elopement perk,” she says. Think about what traditions are most important to you and find a way to work them into your day. Sometimes these traditions, like passing around the rings to receive blessings from each guest, work best with small groups. It’s a breeze for intimate nuptials.
6. A Champagne Toast
Cheers to your status as newlyweds—you did it!—with a bottle of bubbly. Bring along a special bottle of vintage Champagne or your favorite go-to Prosecco to get the party started, even if you’re keeping the celebration private. White advises to check the restrictions on alcohol though. “If the venue doesn’t allow glass or alcohol, such as certain beaches and parks, the couple can go to a nearby bar or restaurant for the toast,” she adds. Have a plan in place ahead of time, so you can remain carefree and enjoy the experience on the day-of.
7. The First Dance
Having a first dance at your elopement can be just as impactful as it is in front of 300 guests. Even if it’s just the two of you, find a place near your ceremony location that has a relatively flat surface. Play your favorite song—as simply as pumping the tunes through your iPhone speaker—and embrace as newlyweds. Twirl with your dress if you so desire. White says she’s also helped couples hire a live musician, typically a guitarist or violinist, to play during the sweet moment. “Don’t be afraid to get creative and don’t be afraid to splurge,” urges White. “Just because you are not having a big, traditional wedding doesn’t mean you can’t go big with some things.”