what is an elopement?

You wake up and it’s the day you get to marry the love of your life. A gorgeous sunrise is peeking through the windows (or through your tent), you wake up at your own pace, and you get ready with full excitement to have the best day ever.

Fast forward to you tightly holding hands with your favorite person. Sure, maybe their hands are still a little sweaty with nerves, but you’re both calm. You’re standing on top of a rocky peak surrounded by gorgeous views and alpine air. Your toes are buried in the sand and you can feel the seabreeze on your face. Or maybe you are bundled in winter gear because you’re sharing a secluded Alaska glacier all to yourselves. The air is fresh, and what’s most important is that you are filled with joy, and your day is practically stress free.

You intentionally created a day (with our help) that only includes aspects that are important to you as a couple. You didn’t have to stress over seating charts or who to include in your bridal party. Both you and your partner are an even mixure of calm and stoked. That’s an elopement.

Elopements have very little rules. If you want your elopement to last three days, cool. If you want to kayak to your ceremony site, awesome. Maybe you want to start the day with a breakfast picnic or add a helicopter tour. These options are all on the table. Your day can have as much or as little adventure as you want, and you can even include family members if you want to. The purpose of elopements is to hang up the stress of a traditional wedding and trade it for an intentional, memorable, epic experience that is actually about YOU.

We do still have to follow local laws and regulations, and some elopement locations require permits, but other than that your day is a blank slate to tell your love story. You can start with your ceremony, celebrate it in the middle, or wrap up the day with your vows. It’s all up to you! Your actual ceremony also has the same innate customizable vibe. So, when the options are endless, what should you do during your elopement ceremony? Read on for more elopement ceremony ideas.

elopement ceremonies aren’t that different from traditional wedding ceremonies unless you want them to be

If you want to include a bit of tradition into your day and keep the ceremony standard, you totally can. You can still walk down the aisle, read scripture, include a unity element, and keep the traditional form when you say your vows. What you do should fit right in with your comfort level and what’s important to you as a couple. You can include or omit music. You can have a first look or see each other for the first time during your ceremony. It all comes down to what experience you want to have.

How long or short your ceremony is is totally up to you. There are also no “rules” for religious, cultural, or traditional aspects that you want to include or omit. Again, we can’t break the law, but apart from that you have a blank canvas to create something really beautiful. There are thousands of elopement locations like mountain tops, beaches, waterfalls, cabins, lakes, fire lookouts, glaciers, and SO MUCH MORE. There are endless ideas to make your elopement ceremony unique and special. At the end of the day what you do, who is there, and where you are should all just be intentionally selected to elevate your day.

you don’t always have to have an officiant

There is a beauitiful thing called “self-solemnization”. This is legal in a handful of states, and it means that you don’t have to have an officiant present during your ceremony to legally get married. Self-solemniztion makes backcountry elopements very easy and adds a super intimate element. You are guiding each other through your ceremony, which is really special.

Some states still require witnesses, and some require no one to be present. We can help you navigate the legality of your day so you can focus on loving each other. If you’re interested in self-solemnization, you can find it in these states:

  • Colorado
  • California
  • Maine*
  • DC
  • Wisconsin*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • Kansas
  • Illinois

A few of these states have specific stipulations or caveats.

Some of these states still require a witness, but others, like Colorado do not and you can have your dog be your witness! This is what we did, and now Tekka’s paw print is on our marriage license.

If you don’t want an officiant but are eloping in a different state, you still have options. You can take care of all of the legal aspects before or after your elopement ceremony. This is what we highly recommend for international elopements so you don’t have so many hoops to jump through. As another option, you can have a loved one get ordained! We got married in Colorado where you don’t need an officiant, but Michael’s dad still became ordained to lead us through our ceremony. It was so special to have someone we love so much officiate our wedding. Definitely recommend!

16 elopement ceremony ideas to include when you say, “i do”

Say Your Vows In A Canoe

In a canoe, or anywhere else awesome like a glacier, underwater, on top of a mountain, or in a secluded A-frame cabin. Your vows are awesome no matter where you say them. This is the most important part of your day as it’s the moment that ties you two together. It would still be special even if you said them on the couch in your PJs. If you want to add a unique factor to your day, move the ceremony to somewhere out of the box.

Include Your Loved Ones – Even If They Aren’t There

You can include your loved ones whether they tag along to your elopement or not. Family and friends are important, and you might want them to play a part in your day while still keeping your elopement fully “you focused”. There is no right or wrong way to include or omit loved ones. At the end of the day it’s all about the experience that you want to have.

when they aren’t there

  • Have your loved ones write letters for you to open during your ceremony (or at other times throughout the day).
  • Live stream your ceremony to them.
  • Have video chats in the morning.
  • Include them in the planning and prep like shopping for attire or picking flowers.
  • Allow them to buy gifts for you to open during your ceremony.
  • Borrow a sentimental item to wear during your ceremony.
  • Have a private viewing party of your photos and videos before you share them with everyone else.

when loved ones tag along

  • Have an important loved one officiate your ceremony.
  • Have a loved one walk you down the aisle.
  • Involve them in prayers, readings, or unity ceremonies included in your day.
  • Create an “exit” where they throw leaves or local flower petals (or another sustainable options), blow bubbles, or twirl ribbons. They can also do this during your first kiss!
  • Have your loved ones write letters that they read to you during your ceremony.

Have A Multi-Location Ceremony

This is one of our favorite elopement ceremony ideas. How do you do this? Well, if you want to really commit, you elope in Iceland. Then you turn your ceremony into a tour of the most epic and beautiful locations. You say your vows at one, exchange rings at another, hand fast at the next, and kiss at your final destination! You can extend this idea to the rest of your day by cutting cake or sharing donuts at another location, having a picnic at the next spot, and so on. Iceland makes it easy to hit all of these locations in one day, but you can do the same thing in many areas domestically. This requires some logistical planning, which is our forte! We will work out the details so you get to show up and soak up the sights.

Have Your Dog Be Your Ring Bearer

We looovvveeee when puppers come along to your elopement day! If your dog won’t run away, you can give them a job during the ceremony like carrying the rings! Some locations (like national parks) have stipulations on dogs, so be sure to be mindful when picking your ceremony location if you want your dog there to witness the love. You can check sites like Etsy to find really cute personalized wedding gear for dogs!

Start With A Prayer Or Meditation

This is a great way to center yourselves and get your heads set for one of the biggest moments of your lives. During your ceremony, you are expsosing and sharing your raw soul to another, all guards down. You are both then accepting that raw soul for everything that it is. This is a HUGE deal. It’s important to take the time to set your headspace. If you don’t want to see each other before your ceremony, we can help you pray or meditate back to back.

Include Your Kids

If you have kids, they are likely just as important to you as your spouse. You are symbolizing the official unity of your family with a ceremony, which means the kids are included in this union. For ideas for your elopement ceremony, your kids can stand next to you during your ceremony or you can give them a job. Either way, it’s really special to include them in your day.

Have An Epic Closeout

For the extreme adventurers, you can end your ceremony on a bang! Share your first kiss and then jump off of a cliff (although we don’t recommend this in a dress, you might want a removable skirt), take off on a paraglide, or slide down a waterfall (that’s intended for sliding, of course). You will be on a high after your ceremony, and this is a great way to take it to the next level!

Adventure To Your Ceremony Site

There is a sense of accomplishment, exitement, and memory making when you choose a ceremony site that requires some adventuring. You can hike to a fire lookout, take a helicopter to a glacier, or ride a sail boat to a secluded island. Adding this preliminary adventure helps build up even more excitement for your ceremony.

Include A Unity Ceremony

This is a major way to add a unique, personal flair to your ceremony. There are traditional unity ceremonies like candle lighting, rope tying, or combining something like sand or whiskey. You can also create your own unity ceremony with activities like making an art project together (remember your ceremony has no time limit). Unity ceremonies are also a way to intertwine religious, cultural, or traditional elements into your day.


It’s so common, almost expected, to stand during your ceremony. Sometimes standing can increase your nerves or make things feel unnatural (not always the case). If you are a really laid back couple, you might be more comfortable sitting together as you complete your elopement ceremony. This is especially a good idea if you tend to lock your knees when you’re nervous.

Play Music

If you are musically inclined, you can even write a song together to play during your ceremony! Otherwise, it’s a great time to have a jam sesh. When it comes to elopement ceremony ideas, playing music is a great way to tie your senses into the experience. Bring your guitar, banjo, harmonica, or your voice and play some sweet tunes while you tie the knot.

Surprise Each Other

Many couples will surprise each other with gifts while getting ready, but the ceremony is also a great time to do this! You can make it practical, sentimental, funny, or a combination of all three! This is a huge moment in your lives, why not spoil each other?

Write Personal Vows

This is one of our favorite items on the list. It’s normal to feel a little nervous about writing vows. They are some of the most important words you will say to another person. Because you don’t have a crowd, sometimes eloping can give you the courage or boost you need to feel comfortable being totally vulnerable.

As we mentioned earlier, this is when your soul bares it all. It’s when you accepting another person for everything they are, and them you. Because of that, personal vows are a really special thing. They tell your soul’s story, and they tell the story of why you love the other person. It’s meaningful and beautiful and messy and everything in between! Your elopement is just the two of you, so you can fumble and start over, and that’s okay! It’s the truth of your day and it’s perfect however it lands. We love personal vows and recommend writing them to all of our couples.

Travel To A Dream Destination

If you’re going to go all out on a vacation, what better time than your elopement? Have you always been dreaming of seeing the Swiss Alps? Immersing yourself in the culture of Thailand? Sailing around the Great Barrier Reef? If you have a dream destination that you both have always wanted to visit, this is a great time to make it happen. It also makes your day that much more exciting that everything is a new experience and a new adventure! This takes the experience beyond ideas for your elopement ceremony and transforms it to a full day memorable opportunity!

Get New Rings

Okay, time to be real. When Michael and I got engaged, we were broke. The ring he got me (although beautiful) was a fake ring. I loved it, but he still wanted to get me my “dream ring”. As we were getting ready, I got a surprise gift, which was the wedding ring that was all over my Pinterest board and Instagram saves (I’m feeling a little materialistic sharing this, don’t judge me please).

Of course I love him without that ring, but it was such a big surprise on our wedding day, and seeing it reminds me so much of our actual wedding. You may already have the main ring that you love, but an during your ceremony you could surprise each other with additional rings or different rings, because who doesn’t like a little variety? It’s also fun to get your rings or other jewelry engraved with your date, initials, or elopement location coordinates.

Elope At Sunrise or Sunset

Fellow morning birds, where ya at? Michael and I are polar opposites because I am a morning bird and he is a night owl– but let me tell you, it is worth the work for a sunrise ceremony! The lighting conditions surrounding sunrise and sunset are elite. This is the best time for ceremonies and adventure portraits. In addition to superior lighting, sunrise and sunset are just beautiful times of day. Everything is still, the alpinglow is STUNNING, and the sun paints the sky some really incredible colors. You also have an increased chance of catching some wildlife around these times. Sunrises and sunsets deliver, and you should definitely think about working your day around them while you’re pondering elopement ceremony ideas.

beyond elopement ceremony ideas – make your whole day special

Remeber, your elopement can be a full day experience. We’ve covered how you can make the ceremony special, but you can also intentionally plan the entire day! Some couples like to get ready together or do hobbies together like painting or reading. You can elevate your experience with a luxury chef, an activity excursion, or by backpacking to a really cool location. Your ENTIRE day is important and deserves thoughtful, intentional, fun-filled planning. Don’t worry, we can help with all of that. In the meantime, follow our link below to learn more about how to elope, or reach out to start planning your epic day.

let’s hang out

We would love to go on an adventure with you! Michael and I are a traveling adventure elopement photo, video, + planning team. We chase loving souls and deep emotion, and we go wherever the wind takes us. Check out our blogs below for recent work, or reach out to plan your epic day. We can’t wait to get you in front of our lens!

Home » Blog » 16 Elopement Ceremony Ideas To Take Your Adventure Elopement To The Next Level

Destination Elopements, Elopement Planning, Elopements




16 Elopement Ceremony Ideas To Take Your Adventure Elopement To The Next Level

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