20 Elopement Ceremony Ideas

Best Elopement Ceremony Ideas

This is part 3 in my series of elopement planning guides, now with the best 20 elopement ceremony ideas! For many folks, planning an elopement is a totally unknown arena. Most couples who are planning an elopement have never been to one. And there’s so much media surrounding “weddings” that we are all familiar with. But, there’s so much less guidance when it comes to elopements. It can be hard to imagine what an elopement ceremony would be like. Basically, you can and should do whatever moves you! The more unique, the better! So, let’s dive in.

20+ Elopement Ceremony Ideas

Every elopement ceremony should be as unique as the couple themselves. You can put almost anything in your ceremony. Whether it’s been done before or not! Here are 20 unique Elopement ceremony ideas. Include as many as you like!

  • Have a moment of silence or solemnity to remember others
  • Make a pinky promise
  • Close your eyes together for a full minute
  • Say a prayer for each other
  • Listen to music (bonus points if you use headphones like Pam & Jim)
  • Exchange gifts, talismans or crystals
  • Create a secret handshake
  • Read letters from loved ones to each other
  • Participate in a handfasting
  • Share what you wrote in a journal or told a friend when you first met
  • Feed each other your favorite foods
  • Exchange wedding rings
  • Sign your marriage license together
  • Your dog can even sign the back of hte license with an ink pad!
  • Read quotes to each other from your favorite shows
  • Make a blood oath
  • ICE each other or take a shot
  • Blow a conch shell
  • Fling blessed water of each other
  • Circle a fire or dance around it
  • Kiss as many times as you want!
  • Jump into a lake or waterfall at the end!

What does an elopement ceremony look like?

There are a few key elements that go into how to plan an elopement ceremony. Whether you “walk in” down an imaginary “aisle” is an optional way to start. Then, you should always stand close enough to hold hands. And you should be in a place that won’t easily be disturbed by others. You should take a deep breath and exchange vows and rings. Include any of the optional ceremony ideas above. Kiss as often and as much as you want to – there are no rules!

The #1 elopement ceremony activity is..

The #1 thing you should do when planning your elopement ceremony is to write your own vows! I wrote a whole article on this subject alone. It’s packed with ideas and prompts to make vow writing easy. If you do nothing else, do THIS.

How to Use Traditional Ceremony Ideas at your elopement

You may choose to incorporate any traditional ceremony elements that have significance for you! The Jewish faith has a ton of traditions to pull from, such as circling each other and signing a ketubah. You could choose to have a foot-washing ceremony. Circling a fire, giving and receiving of Jai Mala, and rice offerings are hallmarks of Hindu ceremonies and can be done while eloping. Share honey and dates to honor your Persian roots. A Handfasting is another common tradition coming from the Celtic / Pagan tradition. Exchanging Lei’s and blowing the conch shell are Hawaiian traditions that are oh-so-adorable.

Unity Ceremony Elopement Ideas

A unity ceremony is when the two partners combine something together into one. This started with unity candles and colored sand vases. More recently, I’ve seen a ton of different kinds of unity ceremonies. While this tradition may seem stuffy to some, there are ways to liven it up and make it your own. You could:

  • Light a unity sparkler
  • combine colored flame packs in a campfire
  • Plant a tree together
  • Build a unity sandcastle
  • Eat unity chocolates
  • Mix a unity cocktail
  • Make a unity snowman
  • Eat unity hot cocoa, smores, or ice cream cookie sandwiches

What’s required to plan an Elopement ceremony?

While specific requirements may vary by state and country, most marriages require just 3 things to be legal. Your marriage license, an officiant, and consent. (Woohoo, we love consent!) Consent is the part where you say, “I do.” or “yes”. In addition, some states require witnesses, but you don’t have to know them personally. Passing hikers, tour guides, and anyone else you meet during your day can sign as witnesses.

PLANNING TIP: Always look up the requirements at your elopement location, NOT where you live.
Your marriage license must be obtained from the state you’re marrying in.

What states require witnesses to elope?

  • Colorado: Does not require witnesses at all
  • California: Requires 1 witness
  • Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, Utah, Washington and Wyoming: 2 witnesses required

Do I need to have an officiant to elope?

In most states, yes, an ordained officiant must be present. You can choose between hiring a professional elopement officiant, nominating a friend or family member to get ordained online, or using your elopement photographer if they are already ordained. In this scenario, you would marry each other however you like. Afterwards, I would sign on the line of your officiant. Boom! You’re married! The best sites to get ordained online are:
American Marriage Ministries
Universal Life Church

About me – Elopement Photographer, Planner and Ordained Officiant

I’m a colorful elopement photographer with a passion for planning unique elopement ceremonies unlike any others. I’ve been an ordained elopement officiant since 2021, and I enjoy passing this complimentary service on to my elopement clients. Mustache-wearing is optional.

What is self-solemnization? Can I self solemnize my elopement?

Seven US states waive the requirement to have a officiant at your ceremony to marry you. Instead, you marry yourselves, called self-solemnization. This means, the state acknowledges that within you, you have the authority to declare yourself married. You still need a marriage license from these states to make it legal.

What are the self solemnization states?

The self solemnization states are:
– Colorado
– California (Requires a separate application and 2 witnesses)
– Wisconsin (1 additional form to be signed)
– Nevada (If you apply as if you are a Quaker)
– Kansas (If you apply as a Quaker)
– Maine (If you apply as a Quaker)
– Illinois and Pennsylvania (It’s complicated)

Ceremony with Officiant

  • You must pay an officiant
  • Your officiant may write and share a story about you
  • Officiant will return the marriage license for you
  • Ceremony location must be planned in advance
  • A bit less private

Self Solemnizing Ceremony

  • It’s free to Self Solemnize
  • You will be the only 2 people to hear your vows
  • Your photographer may have to be ordained
  • You must fill out your marriage license yourself (easy)
  • You will have more flexibility in your ceremony location

When asked what their favorite part of their elopement was, most couples say:
“our ceremony.”

Elopement ceremony script

If you’ve invited a few friends or family to witness your ceremony, your celebrant should start by thanking people for coming, especially if they have traveled. Then your officiant, if you have one, may provide a reading about your love story that serves as a backdrop for the vows you are about to exchange. You’ll take turns putting rings on each other’s fingers. By the power vested in me… you’re married!

Getting a Marriage License for your elopement

Obtain a marriage license by making an appointment at a county courthouse prior to your elopement. In most states, any courthouse of that state is fine, but in some states you also need to obtain the marriage license from the county that you will marry in.
Exception: If you live in Texas, your Texas marriage license can travel with you to any other state.

Plan a destination elopement ceremony outside the us

If you are having a destination elopement outside of the US, you may complete legal paperwork before or after leaving the US. For example, some countries, like Indonesia, French Polynesia and Costa Rica have complicated and sometimes religious requirements that may not work for everyone. In these cases, I recommend filling out the legal paperwork before traveling for your elopement. Your elopement ceremony in a foreign country will then be a Symbolic Ceremony.

Why planning your elopement ceremony is important

Sure, an elopement could be a quick, two minute ceremony at a courthouse or a backyard. I’m a big proponent of couples marrying exactly the way they want to. But, as this is my soap box moment: Your ceremony is SO IMPORTANT. If eloping was a plate of nachos, the ceremony is the cheesy nucleus. This is the cheese that makes nachos worth eating. Also, without cheese, nachos would just be chips. I want you to feel your partner’s love for you through their hands as you hold them. Hear it in their voice when they speak to you. I want you to remember what your ceremony felt like. And I want to have more than 2 minutes to photograph all of that! Because capturing the way you look at each other is the WHOLE POINT.

Plan your Elopement Ceremony Guide

I hope this guide on how to plan your elopement ceremony has been useful and inspiring! I’m stoked about any unique ideas you may have to make your elopement your own. If you’re planning something off the wall, I want to know about it! Don’t hesitate to reach out to inquire about your desired elopement date and get some epic elopement photography to boot!

More elopement planning guides

1. – How to plan an elopement
2. – What to do during your elopement
3. – How to plan an elopement ceremony – You are here!
4. – Here’s how to write elopement vows
5. – What to wear to your elopement
6. – Including Family in your elopement
7. – How to include your cat in your elopement
8. – How to save money on your elopement

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