From this post, you will get a variety of ways to make your ceremony special. Every couple and their relationship is unique, so why should you have to follow normal traditions if you don’t want to? Let’s make it unique to you.

Planning a traditional wedding comes with a lot of expected traditions and a general order of events. But when you’re planning an elopement there’s not really any specific guidelines on how to do it. While having so many options can be difficult in the planning process, it really is an incredible thing to have SO much freedom to design a ceremony (and day) uniquely tailored to you and your partner! You have the opportunity to create an experience that isn’t bound by other people’s opinions or expectations. 

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to make your elopement ceremony special here’s a few ideas to get you started!

How to decide on how to make your ceremony special

I guess before I get into some ideas, I want to challenge you to come up with your own first. Below are some prompts and questions to ask yourselves that may help you think of different ways. Of course if you need some ideas to get the brain flowing, then keep on reading below!

  1. Is there someone that you both (or one of you) is extremely close to?
  2. If so, do you want to involve them in some way?
  3. Do you want to celebrate the memory of those who are passed during your ceremony?
  4. Are loved ones are included in your day? Do they have any talents that you'd love to have them use during your ceremony? If so, brainstorm some ways they could use them during your ceremony.
  5. If loved ones are not included in your day, do you want them to be involved in someway at the ceremony? Brainstorm some ways you could have them involved even if they aren't there.
  6. Are there any traditions in either of your families you want to include?
  7. Do you have any cultural traditions you want to do? Just because you're having an elopement doesn't mean you can't do them!
  8. What type of location do you feel you want to be in during your ceremony? What will make you feel most happy?

How to make your marriage official

Getting married is more than just saying “I do.” There’s lots of ways to signify the process of pledging your lives to one another! Remember that aside from signing the paperwork of a marriage certificate, your elopement/wedding ceremony can be anything you and your partner want it to be! Here’s a few ideas on how to make it official. 

How to make your elopement ceremony special
Stunning adventure mountain elopement on the top of Mount Crawford in Crawford Notch State Park in New Hampshire

1. Hire an officiant

There are lots of ordained officiants that can help you say your “ I do’s.” Many of them have wonderful experience helping couples structure their ceremony and can have good ideas if you’re not sure what to say or how to say it! They can get to know you two better so they can make it more personalized and bring up special memories. It can be a good idea to hire someone who has done this plenty of times before so the ceremony runs smoothly and you can be confident that it will be performed well.

2. Run the ceremony yourself with vows only

If you’re not keen on having a long ceremony, or don’t feel the need to have a person marry you, then skip an officiant. Well, you actually still need an ordained officiant to sign your papers (in most states!). However, you can still say your vows, then hand off the marriage license to your photographer (oh hey!) and if they are ordained, they can sign off for you. You can choose to just say your personal vows to one another, which is a super intimate way to marry one another.

3. Self solemnize (Colorado)

In Colorado, you can self solemnize, which means no officiant required! Just fill out the paperwork, say your I do’s and you’re married! What’s cool is you could even have your kid, a dog, or anything really you want to sign your marriage license. That is such a fun way to get married and make it simple! Oh, and it is a bit less expensive so you don’t have to pay for an officiant either.

4. Have a close friend/family member marry you

This is probably my second favorite way of getting married after doing vows only. I feel like this allows you to include a loved one in the elopement! There are lots of easy online options for getting ordained nowadays, or if your photographer is ordained, just have them sign off on your marriage license. Have your personal friend or family member bring thoughtful details and stories into the ceremony. It’s truly the best way.

 How to make your ceremony special

This is where things get really fun! At an elopement you get the chance to customize and create a ceremony that is perfect for you two. Think about what makes your relationship unique and use that to inspire your ceremony! List all of the things that are important to you two and what you want to include in your marriage ceremony; from faith and family to flowers and food! If you’re looking for inspiration on creative elopement ceremonies check out my Pinterest for some ideas or browse more of my elopement resources on the blog!

Ways to make your elopement ceremony special
Religious traditions 
  • Jewish, have a Chuppa and break glass, etc.
  • Christian, have communion, wash each others feet
Have a pretty ceremony set up
  • Customize an arch/arbor 
  • Go wild with florals!
  • Find a natural arch in nature
  • Be simple with a rug and have the backdrop as your beautiful space
Write your own vows
  • Include special stories or memories
  • Write a song and sing it (if you're a singer!)

Check out my blog post on how to write your vows!

Include ancestral/cultural traditions
  • Exchanging garland/lei
  • Celtic oathing stone
Make something as a symbol of unity (aka unity ceremonies)
  • Tie a knot
  • Paint together
  • Mix sands
  • Light a candle together
Include your family/close friends
  • If they are present
    • Use their talents, sing a song, play an instrument, 
    • have them do a reading/pray
    • Have one of them as your officiant
  • If they are not present. 
    • Have them do a recording beforehand
    • Write letters/notes to read
    • Include them in a Live video
    • Wear something special from a loved one (locket, jewelry, etc)
    • Light a candle in their memory if they have passed on
Light a candle in memory of your loved one at your wedding ceremony
Pat lit a candle for his twin brother who passed when they were younger.

How to choose a location 

This is a huge step in the elopement planning process, and is often one of the first things to think about when considering how to make your elopement special. While the photos itself can be a main motivator in choosing a specific spot for your ceremony, there are a couple other factors to consider!

Stunning Oregon Coast elopement in Brookings Oregon

1. Bucket list locations

I love it when couples choose their elopement location that’s been on their list of places to see together! How fun to start your marriage adventure together in a new place! I’d recommend looking into the ease of getting married in each “bucket list” location. Some people decide to sign their papers in their home state to make it easy, then do their vows and elopement adventure at their destination. But if you want to make it official at the location, then your photographer or planner can help you with all the logistics.

2. Personally sentimental locations

Is there a place that is special to you two? Like this Bear Brook State Park elopement - choosing a place that is significant to you and your relationship can be a really rad way to make your elopement more intimate. Think of places you either always go, or where your first date was, or your very first trip together. Here are some great examples:

  • D & R chose their location because it is their favorite mountain biking spot where they often enjoy their lunch.
  • S & N chose their location because they love being in the mountains. It's where they feel their happiest.
  • E & M chose their location because they love national parks and what better to get married one right in New England?

3. Somewhere your photographer recommends!

Catskills elopement in the Fall, elopement photographer
Kristin + Bobby let me give them three options to choose from. They chose the privacy of the Catskills. Click here for more of their intimate all day elopement.

Okay this is something I love about planning elopements. I have a list of epic elopement locations, near and far, that I’m more than happy to share with my clients! We can totally work together on finding a place that’s perfect for your day, whether that’s in New Hampshire or New Zealand!

Adventure elopement photographer team

A New Hampshire + Vermont based adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer team for the adventurous souls. We specialize in New England and destinations worldwide, empowering you to create the most beautiful, adventurous day and give you the memories you'll be able to look back on for all the years to come.


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