Many of our couples dream of eloping and designing a wedding day that is much different than a traditional, bigger wedding. However, we frequently hear that while our couples wish to elope, they can’t imagine their wedding day without their families. We totally get it! Ryan and I had many of the same feelings when planning our own wedding. We always encourage our couples to dive deep into what they truly desire for their wedding day — whether that’s eloping just the two of them or including their family. If our couples want to include their family in their elopement, we always look for intentional ways to create space and ample time for their family and close friends to be an intricate part of their day. Here are some of our favorite tips for ways to include your family even if you decide to elope.
1. Rent an Airbnb for the whole family
I love the idea of renting an Airbnb for your family to stay in for your elopement. It’s nice to have one large space where you can gather, play games, have dinner together, and share moments leading up to your wedding day. When Ryan and I got married on the Big Island, both of our families rented Airbnbs and we absolutely loved being able to see all of our family members at once. Ryan’s parents even hosted a rehearsal dinner at their families’ Airbnb. It created such a relaxing atmosphere and made the entire experience feel casual and comfortable.
Madison and Michael decided to rent an Airbnb that was five minutes away from their ceremony location in Kauai. Most of their family members stayed inside of the Airbnb, and it was the perfect place for everyone to gather for their Hawaii vacation. This Airbnb also allowed all of the girls to get ready before the elopement ceremony. It was the best of both worlds!
When considering an Airbnb to rent for your elopement day in Hawaii, make sure to find a house that has big windows for a lot of natural light. This makes for gorgeous getting ready photos. Another benefit of renting an Airbnb is that you can be getting ready in one room while the elopement photographer can take photos of details in different rooms and capture candid moments of your family throughout the day. Some of Madison’s family members were able to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful Hawaii weather while the girls got ready in the house.
2. Plan a first look moment with your father
Another moment that is really special to capture when thinking about how to include your family on your elopement day is the first look with your dad. I never did this for my wedding, and to this day, I wish I had! This is such a sweet moment to capture, and I love that it highlights the love and relationship between a father and daughter. With the business of a wedding day, this is a great way to slow down, relax, and feel less anxious before your ceremony. It’s also a great way to make sure your dad is included as a part of your day before the ceremony. The Airbnb that Madison’s family rented had a beautiful backyard where we could capture this first look.
3. Choose a location for your ceremony based on your guests
If you are inviting fewer people to your wedding, you can really be creative with where you have your ceremony.
Option #1: Choosing a location that is easy to access for your guests
Madison and Michael chose to have their ceremony on a beach where their guests stood beside them. This option was only a five-minute walk from the parking lot, and it made it really easy for everyone to get to the ceremony location on time. Because there were only seven guests total, Madison and Michael had their guests stand next to them during their ceremony. When having a ceremony on the beach, you can have your guests sit or stand wherever you wish. If you want your guests to be able to sit during your ceremony, you will need to book through a venue. Otherwise, you can have up to 25 people standing or sitting during your beach ceremony in Hawaii.
Option #2: Find the perfect wedding venue for your ceremony
Another option to consider when eloping with your family is finding a venue that hosts fewer guests. We have had couples who choose to elope, but they decide on a venue so that their family and friends can have seating during their ceremony. Check out this wedding for an example of a small elopement at a venue on the Big Island.
Option #3: Take your family on an adventure
If you have your heart set on a particular adventurous location for your ceremony, you could always plan for your family and friends to join you on a hike to get there. We don’t recommend this if you have older guests that may have trouble navigating unstable ground. However, if your family members are in good health and in great physical shape for hiking in the Hawaii sun, this is an awesome option!
4. Get creative with where you have your reception
Since you don’t have to seat or host 150+ guests, you can choose the exact vibe you are looking for when considering your reception location. Some venues will still require that you pay a fee to have your reception there even if it is with fewer guests. Here are some unique ideas to think about when hosting your reception.
Option #1: Have dinner at your favorite restaurant on the island
We love the idea of having dinner at a restaurant you like if you only have a few guests. One suggestion we recommend when thinking about having a photographer capture your reception is calling to confirm with the restaurant that you will be having an outside photographer capturing your dinner. Restaurants may have an additional fee for brides and grooms who bring their photographer to capture a wedding reception dinner at a restaurant.
Option #2: Have a catered dinner in the backyard of your Airbnb
Many of our brides and grooms have gone with this option, which we absolutely love! This allows you to have an intimate dining experience with your family and close friends. You most likely won’t have to pay any extra fee because it will be such a small group gathering. Check out Grace and Zach’s wedding here for more inspiration on an intentional and well-thought-out catered dinner for their small groups of family and friends.
Option #3: Have a private dinner set up by the hotel you’re staying at during your time in Hawai’i
This is another great option for brides and grooms who want a very intimate and catered elopement experience. Check out this Fairmont Orchid elopement where Lani and Myles enjoyed a candlelight dinner under the stars. This is a great option if you are staying at a high-end resort during your time in Hawai’i.
5. Organize fun and personalized exit from your reception
Madison and Michael still wanted an exit as they left their reception, so they had each member of their family hold white tassels as they left the restaurant. The best part about this exit is that it didn’t leave any trace after Madison and Michael exited. Another mess-free option a bride and groom had at their elopement was having their family and friends blow bubbles as they left. Both of these options give your guests a fun way to send you off after your elopement day. You can get creative as you want for this!
6. Plan an adventure session the day after your wedding
One of my favorite parts about Madison and Michael’s elopement experience was being able to hang out with them 1-on-1 the next day during their adventure session. Madison and Michael had us capture their full elopement experience so that they could be fully present with their guests on their wedding day. However, they still wanted to make sure they could have an adventurous experience, too. So, the following day, Madison and Michael made sure their family was set up for a day full of lounging by the beach and activities and they met up with us for an adventure session! This session not only allowed Madison and Michael to have those epic adventure shots, but it gave them the opportunity to really be present and intimate with each other — to really soak up this incredible union they just stepped into. They got to let go of any of the pressures from their elopement day and simply have fun with each other. We love this idea for our brides and grooms who want to include their family on their elopement day but are still up for an adventure!