How to Elope Without Freaking Your Family Out (Or Feeling Guilty)


If you haven’t noticed by now, elopements tend to bring up a lot of emotions in people. From family members to friends, your decision to elope will most likely cause a sideways glance or two. So how do you elope without causing a riff between you and your loved ones? 

First, let’s get into the basics. What does elope mean?

Elope used to mean to “run away secretly with the intention of getting married, usually without parental consent.” However, the meaning of eloping has evolved over time and now also refers to a small, intimate wedding ceremony that is often held in a unique or remote location. It can sometimes include telling family/friends ahead of time (and even inviting a few).

If eloping sounds right for you, there are a few things you should consider first. While you can just pick up and drive to Vegas, it helps to be prepared with the more technical and emotional aspects. You should weigh the pros and cons of eloping. Then, if you still think it’s right for you, keep these four things in mind.

1. It’s your choice, but respect other people’s opinions

Even though eloping is becoming more and more common as wedding costs rise, it’s still considered an untraditional route to go. Which means that even if you are comfortable taking the road less traveled, it doesn’t mean you should knock those that aren’t fully on board. This applies to two different groups of people: Those who might be hurt that you personally have chosen to elope, and those that are choosing to have their own wedding. I bring this up because I came across an article on Slate in which the author talked about why she eloped, and why “you should, too.” She mentioned how she didn’t want a large wedding because she wanted the wedding day to be about the “marriage” (somehow alluding to how other weddings aren’t). She also relayed “frantic” stories of how stressed-out her friends were who had planned a larger wedding, while she, of course, wasn’t. She added:

“Inevitably, something will go wrong at a wedding, and until science can erase bad memories, most people will always look back on the drunken fight or collapsed cake. And the more people in attendance, the better the chance that disaster—minor or major—will strike…Instead, I remember an utterly calm, peaceful day.”

As someone who planned and had a wedding of 125, I too remember a peaceful, calm, and FUN day. I remember walking arm-in-arm with my parents down the aisle, laughing with my now husband after our “first kiss,” dancing to “Fly Me to the Moon” with my dad, dancing AGAIN until my feet hurt, being way too embarrassed by my friends speeches, and collapsing into bed at the end of the night feeling like I just experienced one of the best times of my life. I look back at our wedding photos and wish I could transport myself back to the day where I remember NOTHING going wrong. Not because everything was perfect, but because I was having too much fun to care.

I eloped with my husband at the courthouse but we are now having a “wedding” next year on a Disney cruise with both our families, I’m secretly relieved we are doing another “event” because I was a bit bummed I never got the big wedding dress + bouquet, first dance, cake cutting, etc.
If someone wants to elope, awesome! Wonderful! Happy for them! If they want it but need encouragement to go for it? Also cool. I WANTED a big wedding. And if I could go back? Id still do it all over again.

My choice to have a larger wedding was just that…my choice. And choosing to elope is YOUR choice. And BOTH should be based on what you want to do, rather than some manufactured idea of what’s right and wrong with the other. You might not agree with someone’s choice, but as the old saying goes…you should defend everybody else’s right to say (or in this case, do) it. And I believe this to be true not only for the family and friends of a couple who has decided to elope, but the eloping couple themselves.

2. Tell your parents, closest family members, and friends BEFORE the wedding

While the word “elope” technically means “without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents,” things have changed. While you might prefer the original definition and choose to surprise everybody with the good news AFTER your elopement, it’s always a good idea to let those you love (especially your parents, if you’re close to them) know about your plans BEFOREHAND so they can feel as much a part of it as possible. They might not be able to be there, but knowing it’s happening might be good enough to keep them (and you!) happy. This is of course your choice and you can choose to tell people you love or not.

We decided to tell our families. While the idea of secretly eloping was very fun, we figured we should at least tell our parents and siblings.
I’m of the belief that eloping is done in secret. Anything else is a small/microwedding or private ceremony. Don’t tell them beforehand!

3. Send a wedding announcement

Truthfully, I’m a little bit on the fence about this. Sending announcements to me feels like you’re asking for gifts, which doesn’t feel appropriate given the fact nobody was invited to the wedding. However, etiquette experts agree that sending wedding announcements to friends and family not invited to a wedding (and an elopement) is totally kosher. You are supposed to send the announcement immediately (or up to several months) after the nuptials, and traditionally the wedding announcement wording is supposed to come from the bride’s parents: According to expert Emily Post, it would read:

Mr. and Mrs. James Welch

have the honor of

announcing the marriage of their daughter

Amy Sue

to Mr. Jonathan Jamison

Saturday, the twelfth of June

two thousand and one

Mansfield, Pennsylvania.

If you’re like me and not totally comfortable sending an official wedding announcement, I would think about combining a holiday card with mention of your elopement…something funny/cute along the lines of…

Happy holidays from The Smiths

P.S. Yes, we eloped!

P.P.S. Surprise!

and then expect the calls to come flooding in. You can also choose NOT to send a wedding announcement, and instead take the time to personally tell family and friends via phone, e-mail, or in person.

We’re eloping in September. Our immediate families know. My closest friends and their partners know. I don’t intend to make a social media announcement or mail announcement cards.

4. Consider an intimate brunch, cocktail, or dinner party to celebrate

I know a lot of brides eloping who might think it’s silly to throw a wedding party when they eloped to avoid one, but if you have friends and family who would love to see you and congratulate you (and it’s easier to do this with everybody all in one place), then consider participating in or throwing a casual (or fancy) get-together. It could be a potluck at your Uncle’s, or a dinner party thrown at your friends house, or a brunch made by your mother who can’t wait to invite her friends to share the good news. Or it could be all three. Nothing stressful. Nothing over-the-top. Just a chance to get together after the fact and toast your nuptials.

We did a dinner/drinks thing for family after and I wish we hadn’t. It was expensive and I didn’t really want one, I don’t feel we would have missed out without one.
We eloped a few weeks ago and are also moving at the end of the month, so we’re to have a housewarming party that doubles as a casual “reception”. We wanted to celebrate with family and friends without all the attention of a traditional wedding, and it helped soften the blow for folks not being invited to our ceremony!

Whether you’re planning to elope or planning a big wedding, getting married should be as stressless as possible for EVERYBODY involved, especially you!

If you’re planning to elope we’d love to know what tips you might have not only for couples in a similar situation, but also for their friends and families. What’s been helpful for you?

All products featured on Woman Getting Married are independently selected by our editors. However, we may earn affiliate revenue on this article and commission when you buy something. Learn more.

Join the Conversation


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. So nice story… I feel the same… we are planning to elope, but my family wants us to celebrate at home…. after long discussion with my partner, we decided to elope as it is our day!

  2. says: Beth

    We are planning to elope in a tropical destination next year, and the backlash has been weighing on my mind, but I have decided not to tell my family before. The reason is that if my family get upset beforehand, I wont be able to enjoy the day or stop thinking about it. Telling them after means a carefree wedding and no matter the result afterwards I will have peaceful and romantic memories instead of troubled ones.

  3. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for writing in. I think wanting to elope is a completely personal thing, but people that elope also have to understand that not everybody planning a wedding views it as a headache. Nor should they insist, like that Slate writer did, that people do it instead. We wouldn’t dream writing about how everybody should have a wedding and NOT elope, nor would we say everybody should just elope because weddings are a giant pain, which the writer of that Slate piece essentially was. Not everybody has opinions coming in from all sides, or consider planning a giant burden. Most brides I talk to actually find the opposite. But it’s different for everybody, and this piece is for those who really like the idea of eloping, and hopefully gives them some insight into how to do it, from our point of view. 🙂

  4. says: Laura

    I read your article and I’m sorry to say I think you are wrong on several points: 1. You practically scolded the bride for not wanting the headache that usually comes from planning a large wedding. Let’s face it, a wedding reception is the biggest party most people will plan in their lifetimes, and most people are not good at party planning. The headache comes from multiple opinions and too many details, and a growing guest list. Of course that’s what wedding planners are for if you can afford one. 2. The only people that should be notified are the parents, but not if you are older and paying for things yourself, the blessing is not required but is a nice show of respect. 3. An announcement is a totally proper way to let the world know you’re married, while adding a line “no gifts please”, since you didn’t have the big wedding. I think most brides know that is the big trade off, “no public ceremony, no gifts.” But I love the idea of the brunch or dinner party afterwards to tell everyone how everything played out for their elopement.

    The only reason I can these things, I was 40 at the time, first marriage, and I’m 18 years in on my Destination Elopement, and I wouldn’t trade planning every detail over the phone and how simple and easy it was for the world. I had every intention of planning a fairly medium size wedding and was well on my way, but met resistance from family on both sides with their ideas of what I should do and neither side wanted the same thing…and my mother who was going to sew bridesmaids dresses, became ill. Problem solved – get married where we were going to honeymoon. I have a wonderful story to tell and everyone gets a kick out of the details including the cake that made the trip on top of our clothes because I couldn’t get my deposit back. It was the most relaxed, beautiful, happy day, and the only person I had to entertain was my husband. That was a win win in my eyes.