How to Plan an Elopement Ceremony

Your ceremony is an intimate and meaningful way to celebrate your love and should definitely not be overlooked. But planning an elopement ceremony is a little different from a traditional wedding. You can hire a professional officiant to walk you through the steps, or perhaps you decide to have a friend or family member marry you. But what if you really just want your elopement day to be the two of you (and your photographer) and no one else?

No matter which path you take in how your elopement ceremony looks, here are some things to think about to bring it all together:


The rules are different in each state, so be sure you check what the requirements are in the location you're planning your elopement. Some states require witnesses while others allow self-solemnizing ceremonies. Others, like Colorado and Hawaii, even allow your dog to sign your marriage license!

A self-solemnizing ceremony is a type of ceremony where you officiate your own wedding without the need for a third-party celebrant or religious representative. This is a unique and personal way to celebrate your love and commitment to each other. It can be a beautiful and meaningful experience for you and your partner, as well as your loved ones.


This is probably the most meaningful part of your elopement ceremony. In fact, it's becoming widely popular for all wedding ceremonies. Writing your own vows should not be something you quickly jot down the night before your elopement. If you can, give yourself a few months to come up with all the touch points you want to include. Take note of the things you love about your partner, the challenges you have overcome, your conversations about the future. Draft your vows and then go back and edit them after you've let them sit for a few days. And then edit them again. And again. The more tie you take to write your vows, the better they'll be.

Feeling stuck writing your own vows? There's nothing wrong with doing a little bit of research. Pop online to get some inspiration. Talk with friends and family about the special qualities that they see in your partner. Their answers will likely spark something for you to include in your vows.


Hire a Professional

Whether it's someone you know personally or someone you've been referred to, hiring a professional officiant may be right for you. First of all, it takes a lot of stress off your back. Let them take the reins and build out the ceremony so that you don't lose sleep over it.

My biggest tip here is to make sure you have a consult call with your officiant. You want to make sure that it is someone you vibe with and who understands your vision for your ceremony. He/she will likely ask you a few questions about your relationship, what you most look forward to in a life together, and if there are any specific you'd like noted in the ceremony.

Ceremony Officiated by Friend or Family

In many states, you can have a friend or family officiate your wedding. The process of getting ordained is really quite simple. I myself am ordained through The Universal Life Church. Just be sure to confirm with the town issuing the license that your certificate is valid to legalize the marriage.


Self-Lead Ceremony

If you choose not to have an officiant, you'll be leading your own ceremony. This can be a very meaningful and personal way to exchange your vows and make your commitment to each other.

When writing your own vows, decide on the tone you want to set. Do you want it to be lighthearted and funny or serious and emotional? Reflect on your relationship and what you love most about your partner. Take note of the value that you share and how they've helped to build your relationship. Make a list of the promises and commitments you want to make (and not make) in your future together. And when you think you have it all written out... let it sit for a few days and then go back and refine it.

Don't forget to practice reading it out loud so you have an understanding for the delivery of your words. And if you don't want your partner to read your vows beforehand, it's never a bad idea for both of you to share your vows with a friend or family member to read through to make sure that they are of similar length.


Are you torn between having a private ceremony and one that includes your guests? DO BOTH! Reading your vows alone together can be extremely powerful. Not only do you eliminate the distraction of eyes on you, but you can also easily reference truly personal topics freely. I know for my own wedding, I was nervous about reading vows in front of a crowd. I felt like my vows would have maybe been a little more personal had I not had an audience listening intently.

Take advantage of the truly private moments you have together on your elopement day. And then, when you're in front of friends and family, pull out the abridged version of your vows (or you can of course choose to re-read your private vows).


Whether it's just the two of you or if you're with a small gathering, there are several traditions that you can include in your elopement day that go beyond exchanging vows and rings and sharing a kiss.

Many ceremonies include readings that either you and your partner or a friend or family member may choose to share. This could be from a favorite book or poem and often with the theme of love, loyalty and togetherness. You can light a candle as a symbol of the spirit of those who cannot be with you on this day. Some couples choose to plant a tree to commemorate their everlasting love while other ceremonies involve a handfasting ritual where the couples hands are bound together with a piece of ribbon to symbolize the joining of two lives.


You've said your vows and sealed them with a big wet kiss, now what? With no aisle to walk down, and perhaps no crowd of cheering friends and family, many couples are unsure of what to do after their ceremony.

I always prep my couples for this moment and suggest a great big hug followed by a moment to let it soak in. Turn towards the view as you hold each other close, take a short walk together, let each moment from your ceremony really solidify in your memory. Maybe you take a few moments after your ceremony to FaceTime friends or family. Why not celebrate by popping some champagne?! And when you're ready, we'll move on to the next part of day.


When it comes to planning your elopement ceremony, the golden rule is to keep it simple. Remember that the beauty of an elopement ceremony is in its simplicity so that you can focus on the love and commitment you have for each other.

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me, Kate Seymour

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Adventure Elopements + Intimate Weddings

vermont, new england and the wild west