Should You Invite People to Your Elopement?

A bride and groom holding their hands up in the air after they're officially married, with guests in the background clapping.

Not everyone dreams of a big wedding. Whether it’s avoiding the ever-growing cost of hosting a wedding or preferring a no-pressure ceremony, some couples would rather go the elopement route. For some, an intimate ceremony officiated by a justice of the peace at the courthouse (or maybe a quickie wedding in Vegas with an Elvis impersonator) is simply enough. One of the joys of having a larger ceremony, however, is inviting all of your friends and family to join in on the celebration. So if you choose to elope, does it really mean that you can’t invite anyone? If you’re thinking about an elopement, here are a few things to consider before you start doling out invitations.

Keep the Guest List Small

A couple at a dinner table with friends after their elopement.

Although the old-school way to elope is to head off somewhere in secrecy and roll back into town sporting a wedding ring, many modern couples who elope will invite a few friends or their parents and siblings to come to the ceremony. It’s absolutely okay if you want to invite a select crowd to attend your wedding—especially if you’re choosing to get married in a tropical location or another beautiful destination that you’d like to share with your closest friends and family. In fact, many couples will elect to have their wedding be the kick-off to a vacation with the whole crew. However, if you do decide to invite people to your wedding, it’s best to keep it small. Remember the reason why you are likely choosing to elope: you want the ceremony to be more about the two of you and less about the big hoopla of a modern wedding.

Know That You Have to Draw the Line Somewhere

The difficult thing about inviting guests to your elopement is that you have to pick and choose who is invited—and who is not. How exactly do you draw the line? Do you choose to invite the friends whom you know the best? Or do you elect to invite your childhood friends who have seen you through everything? Or do you maybe just stick to inviting close family?

There aren’t any hard or fast rules for inviting people to your elopement, but a general rule of thumb is to keep it at 12 guests or less. Any more than 12 and you’re getting into the territory of a bigger ceremony—which is what you didn’t want in the first place. As you’re deciding who to invite, go through your list together. If the two of you are on the fence about someone, it’s best to nix them from the list. It may be brutal, but you’ll end up having more guests than what you originally planned if you have a whole pile of “maybes.”

There Might Be Some Hurt Feelings

When there is a ring and a date involved, some relatives and friends may just assume that there will be an invitation arriving to their doorstep about three months before the big day. Unless you go the traditional route of eloping without telling anyone, some will be slightly taken aback by your decision to only invite a select few people rather than have a big ceremony. Unfortunately, that is just going to be one of the huge downsides of opting for a smaller wedding.

The best way to combat this up front is to be honest with your friends and family. Explain how important it is that they are involved in your lives, but let them know you’ve chosen to have a more intimate ceremony instead of a large wedding. If you are planning on hiring a photographer, be sure to send friends and family a copy of your wedding ceremony photographs and maybe even a video of the two of you exchanging vows. Whatever you do, don’t send out a registry list to those friends and family members who were not invited to the ceremony. This is not a great look and won’t win you any favors.

Plan a Reception Later On
A table set for a small wedding reception outside on a deck.

Whatever the reason you have for eloping—money, timing, etc.—there’s no reason why you can’t have the best of both worlds: a small, intimate ceremony and a big wedding reception. Many couples who elope choose to have a low-key party with all their friends and family after their wedding in order to make their loved ones feel a part of the celebration.

With a reception after-the-fact, you don’t have to worry about hiring a DJ (just hook up a speaker with a playlist of Spotify tunes) and you don’t have to worry about ordering a wedding cake (potluck dessert table anyone?). All you have to do is be present with all your loved ones and enjoy celebrating this really momentous occasion. Plus, there aren’t any rules that say couples who elope have to skip the cocktail party.

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