Etiquette of Eloping

Bride and groom eloping

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Are you overwhelmed by all the details of wedding planning? Is the cost of your wedding starting to spiral out of control? Have you and your intended considered running off and getting hitched without all the fanfare?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but there are some important things you need to consider. You might think that eloping comes without any of the stress of a big wedding, but that's not the case. You'll discover a different set of issues that need to be addressed.

Any kind of wedding can be romantic—even eloping. Often a decision based on emotion or frustration with all the overwhelming details from planning a big wedding, you and your sweetheart are in on something that can tighten the bond even more. However, this doesn't mean you're off the hook with the responsibility to friends and family, and of course, good manners.

Before you decide to elope, make sure you're doing it for the right reason. If your intention is strictly to shock people or get attention, think long and hard before going through with it. You don't want to be stuck with a decision you'll regret after the shock wears off.

If you're sure you want to be with this person for the rest of your life, but you don't want the hassles of the traditional wedding, by all means, elope. There are still some etiquette issues you need to take care of. Not doing so can damage relationships, and it's never easy to turn that around later.

Important Preliminary Details

Before eloping, make sure you know what is required to be legally married at your destination, or you might discover some unpleasant surprises when you arrive. Each state and country can vary.

Here are some details to check out:

  • Do you need a physical or blood test?
  • Is there a waiting period after your marriage license application?
  • What documentation is required (drivers license, birth certificate, divorce decree from a former marriage, etc.)?
  • Is a witness required? If so, is there someone at the destination who can stand up for you if you don't bring your own?
  • How much is a marriage license?
  • How much does the pastor or judge charge to perform the ceremony?
  • How much does it cost to hold the wedding at the venue of your choice?

Informing Family

After you tie the knot, you should let both families know as soon as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of hurting their feelings beyond repair. Once your parents and siblings know, contact your closest friends. It's not a good idea to do this through a mass email or via social media. It's much more personal to call and talk about it.

Something you might want to consider is asking the parents if they'd like to participate in your elopement. This can help prevent hurting their feelings and give them the feeling that you trust them with this big secret. If you choose to include them, make sure they understand that no one else is to know and you're limiting the guest list to you, your sweetheart, and the parents, with no exceptions.


Since you've decided to have a more intimate setting for your wedding with only the two of you or perhaps with your best man, maid of honor, and your parents, you can go anywhere without worrying about whether or not everyone will be comfortable. Some popular elopement destinations include Las Vegas, a ski lodge, the beach, a theme park such as Disney World, or a cruise ship.

What to Wear

Another benefit of eloping is that you can wear anything you want without having to worry about showing off, offending someone, or making others swoon. Sure, you can still wear a formal wedding gown, but how practical is that? A comfortable skirt or pair of slacks with a dressy top is ideal. Or if you're the more rugged type, go casual in a pair of jeans.

Marriage Announcements

As soon as you return from your honeymoon, send announcements to all your family and friends. Keep the wording short and simple. 

Here is an example of an announcement of elopement:

John Green and Mary Brown are delighted to announce their private wedding on January 5, 2019.

After you give them a few days to receive the mail, send an email with photos of the two of you enjoying your private wedding. This will give your family and friends the feeling of involvement.

Wedding Reception

Just because you decided to elope, you don't have to forego the wedding reception. Have your after-wedding party, but do it as soon after the ceremony as possible. Your friends will enjoy hearing about your adventure, so be prepared to tell the story of why you decided to elope and how much fun you had. An after-elopement wedding reception is likely to be less stressful because you won't have to worry about everything going just right at the ceremony.

Wedding Gifts

Even though you eloped, you can still graciously receive wedding gifts. The same etiquette rules apply. Always send a thank you note as soon as possible after the honeymoon is over.