Elopement Ceremonies

Elopement ceremonies seem to be one of the biggest mysteries surrounding elopements in general. What happens? How does that even work? Are they legal? What are you supposed to do?

I’m answering all your questions, my darlings, as well as giving you some ideas for what to do during your elopement ceremony to make it yours.

Table of Contents

  1. What is an elopement ceremony?
  2. Popular elopement ceremonies
  3. Elopement ceremony rituals
  4. How long is an elopement ceremony?
  5. Are elopement ceremonies legal?
  6. How to plan your own elopement ceremony

What is an Elopement Ceremony?

An elopement ceremony is a marriage ceremony on a smaller scale than most of us are used to.

I’ve noticed a lot of confusion around this, hence the existence of this article. Whatever you can do in a ceremony at a big wedding, you can do at an elopement!

Admittedly, a lot of the flexibility I’m about to cover can apply to big wedding ceremonies too, but I’ve found that eloping couples are more likely to sidestep tradition. So whichever kind of wedding you’re having, let’s talk ceremony options.

Disclaimer: when I say “popular,” I’m speaking from the perspective of the western world, as most of the people who read my articles are from the U.S.

You probably already know what the popular ceremony traditions are: an exchange of vows and rings, and a first kiss.

And they’re lovely traditions! I’m not at all suggesting they’re boring. You can totally do all of these things during your elopement ceremony; almost all of my couples do.

If you find yourself getting stuck or indecisive when writing your vows, I’ve got you covered: there’s an article all about writing your own elopement vows right here.

From what I can tell, ancient Egypt was the first known culture where ring exchanges took place. The types of rings, the finger upon which we place them, and the meanings of the exchanges have evolved over time into what we’re familiar with today. You can make it whatever you want.

Elopement Ceremony Rituals

If you’re looking for something a little different, here are some other rituals for your elopement ceremony:

  1. Memory jars or boxes: seal some special items or notes into a jar or box during your ceremony, to either keep sealed or to open at a later date to reminisce.
  2. Candle lighting: together, light one candle from the flames of two smaller candles. This is a unity ceremony.
  3. Salt pouring: another unity ceremony, this ritual involves the combining of salt from two different vessels into one, which can be either sealed or used.
  4. Ring or rope warming: either the wedding rings or several strands of rope are passed around the guests at your ceremony, to hold and “warm” or bless with their good wishes. The rope strands are then braided together by the couple or used in a handfasting ritual.
  5. Handfasting: a Celtic tradition involving binding the hands of the couple with ropes or ribbons. For more on Celtic wedding traditions, check out the Ireland elopement guide!
  6. Wine box: seal a special bottle of wine (or whatever strikes your fancy) into a box during your ceremony, to be opened on an anniversary or other special date.
  7. Love letters: write love letters to each other, then seal them away to be opened at a later date.

How Long is an Elopement Ceremony?

The Internet says that elopement ceremonies are “short.”

I say your ceremony should be as long or as short as you want it to be. 5 minutes, 10, 45…whatever works for you!

My recommendation is that you determine which elements you want in your ceremony, and then see how much time you need. Rather than trying to fill some arbitrary amount of time, or trying to cut things down to meet an arbitrary limit.

You should also talk to your officiant! Let them know what you’d like to do and what their suggestions are.

Are Elopement Ceremonies Legal?

Elopement ceremonies are just as legal as big wedding ceremonies. The details vary from state to state, so make sure to check the specifics for your wedding location. Here in Washington, you need an officiant and two witnesses in order for your ceremony to be legally accepted by the government.

In most states, you don’t need to be in a specific location—you can get married wherever you want, provided you fulfil the officiant/witness requirements.

If you’re eloping abroad (especially if you’re going somewhere like Ireland, with more restrictions), or you want a fully private ceremony with no officiant and no witnesses, or…whatever reason, you can do the paperwork on a different day!

Fill out the paperwork at your local courthouse one day, and have your elopement on a different day. I offer special courthouse deals for folks who book me for their elopement. Read all about courthouse weddings here, and check out my Washington elopement packages. I’m happy to talk logistics if you have questions!

How to Plan Your Own Elopement Ceremony

When planning your own elopement ceremony, give it as much or a little importance as you see fit. Your ceremony is an important, emotional part of your wedding day, but it can be as elaborate or low-key as you want. Whatever feels right!

Whatever traditions or rituals speak to you, feel free to make them yours. You don’t need to have Irish heritage to perform a handfasting ceremony. If there are any longstanding traditions in your family or religion that you’d like to incorporate, do that!

Small ceremonies don’t have to be “less than” big ceremonies. It’s your wedding day. Make it yours.

And if you’re truly lost and need some help, definitely talk to your officiant. They’re excellent resources.

To get started planning your elopement, you can reach out to me right here, or schedule a free vibe check to see if we’re a good fit!

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