Yay, you're getting married! Let me guess, you're giddy with excitement about starting your marriage off in a place that screams adventure and joy? Whether that's popping your celebratory champagne on a gondola in Venice, having your first dance under the starry Saharan sky, sharing your first kiss as a married couple in a lush monkey forest in Bali, or exchanging your vows next to the pyramids of Egypt, your elopement is whatever you dream of it to be. Marriage is an adventure as it is, so many couples make the decision to make the first step of marriage an adventure, too!

Elopements are exquisitely intentional. No fluff. It's you two kicking off the rest of your big, beautiful life together with your love being the center of the day. Although you're excited about tying the knot in a dreamy location, you may be still asking yourself, "Can I still include my family and friends in my elopement?" To which my answer is: your elopement is whatever you want it to be. :)

Keep reading for 10 ways you can incorporate your family and friends into your elopement day abroad - before, after, and during the wedding.

Let's gooo!

Heidelberg Wedding Photography at Schloss Schwetzingen by Johanna Patton Photography

All Photos by Europe Elopement Photographer Johanna Patton

1. Invite your family or friends to your elopement abroad!

Yes, it can be done! Although many couples may choose to spend their elopement day just as a couple, it's not the only option. There are no fixed set of rules, so if you can't imagine getting married without family or friends standing by your side as you're saying "I do", then have them join you. There will always be additional factors that come into play when inviting family/friends to take part in your elopement, such as location, accessibility, what you'll be able to do/eat, etc. so just keep that in mind. Elopements include about 10 people before they are considered an intimate wedding.

If you still can't decide, try doing this 3 minute practice: Close your eyes and try to imagine yourself on your dream-elopement day. Imagine waking up, and getting excited for the magical day about to unfold. Visualize getting ready. Is there someone helping you put on your dress, or cracking a joke with you as you put on your tux? Is it your partner, or is it a parent, sibling, or friend? Fast-forward to your ceremony. Feel the breeze on your face, the smell of the ocean, or whatever is unique to your own elopement location. Imagine saying your vows. Now, look around. Do you see other faces of people you love, or is it you and your spouse-to-be? Keep doing this practice with different elements of your day.

Remember: you can still have an intimate experience that's centered around you and your love even if you invite others to come to join, so make sure you're doing what feels right to you both

Venice, Italy Elopement Photography - Destination Weddings in Venice by Johanna Patton Photography

2. Have an engagement party or a send-off dinner before your wedding

Because you're having a non-traditional wedding, it gives you even more of a reason to gather your family and friends in different ways. Hosting engagement party or send-off party are two ways you can do this! It's such a fun way to bring everyone together to announce your elopement in a special way, or get excited about heading off into your adventure!

Cima Rosa B&B Venice, Italy Wedding Photography by Johanna Patton Photography

3. Have a post-elopement celebration

Want the best of both worlds? It's possible. If one partner is super into having an elopement and the other is not, opt for a post-elopement celebration. You can have a small, private ceremony with just you both, and at a later time have celebration with friends and family.

Post-Elopement celebrations are a perfect way to celebrate your love once you get back home. Find a way to celebrate that feels authentic to you, whether that's a dinner party in your backyard, renting out a taco truck for a gathering at the park, or spending the evening at your favorite local venue or winery. It gives you another reason to get dolled up in your wedding clothes, hug all your friends, get pictures taken with your guests, and receive their well-wishes once you're back home! 

Cima Rosa B&B in Venice, Italy Wedding Photography by Johanna Patton Photography

4. Include them in your wedding details

Nowadays elopements aren't about secretly heading out west to get married by an Elvis impersonator. It's you two making the intentional decision of creating a wedding that speaks to you as a couple. You can look at the people you love knowing you're confident in the decision you're making to elope, while also saying you would love to include them in different aspects of your day. That way they're still there with you, even if they're not physically standing with you when you're exchanging your vows.

Take a moment to think about all the moments and traditions leading up to the wedding and decide which elements you would like to share with your loved ones. You can include them in a fun day of dress shopping, have them help pick out a few details of your elopement, and get input from them on the elopement day style, such as flowers, colors, announcements, and so forth! Being included in these processes also helps make everything feel real for your family and friends. 

Freiburg Wedding Photographer - Freiburg Elopement Photography by Johanna Patton Photography

5. Invite your family & friends to write letters

One way to feel like your family is right there with you is to take time before or after your ceremony to read letters from your loved ones. The notes can be broad or specific, such as a letter of congratulations, tips they have walking into marriage, or fun stories they want to share. The beautiful thing about having hand-written letters is it will give you something special to do during your day, as well become a sentimental keepsake you'll cherish for years to come.

Freiburg Germany Wedding Photography - Intimate Wedding Photography in Freiburg by Johanna Patton Photography

6. Video toast during your elopement

Popping some champagne to celebrate? Use it as a time to call home and toast with your loved ones! They can give a toast and see you on your elopement day, even if you're a continent away! 

On a different note, you could ask your photographer or videographer to record you & your partner giving a toast to your family, instead!

Venice, Italy Elopement Photographer - Destination Wedding Photography in Venice by Johanna Patton

7. Incorporate meaningful details

There are so many different ways you can incorporate your family on your elopement day! Adding family heirlooms and details is a beautiful way to include your family even if they aren't physically with you. Maybe you want to wear the same earrings your grandmother and mother wore on their wedding day, or the cuff-links your grandfather wore. The possibilities are truly endless.

These details can also be culture specific. Do you have special traditions you would like to incorporate to honor your heritage? Just be sure to let me know about these special details so I can photograph it all for you! 

Piazza San Marco, Venice Italy, Engagement Photoshoot - Romantic Elopement Photoshoot by Johanna Patton Photography

8. Send out 'we're eloping!' cards

This is a sweet lil twist on the traditional "we're getting married" announcement! Send out "we're eloping!" cards instead!

San Gimignano Tuscany Elopement Photography - Destination Weddings in Tuscany by Johanna Patton Photography

9. Bring your loved ones back a gift from abroad

Who doesn't love something thoughtful from a trip away? This is a spin on the traditional wedding favors, except the difference is that it can be something super unique to the location of your epic elopement adventure! Maybe you and your partner decided to elope in Italy, France, or Spain, so you bring back home a traditional wine. Or perhaps you go to Costa Rica and you learn about their special blends of coffee. Bring a few packs back home for the coffee-lovers in your family and friend group! 

Destination Wedding and Europe Elopement Photographer Johanna Patton Photography

10. Hire me as your destintation elopement photographer!

My own grandmother eloped in Hawaii and has a photo album sitting in one of the most important places of her home. Since no other family members joined her, I cherish going through these photos year after year, getting a sneak peek into her elopement day. Hiring a photographer is a super important way to reflect back on your day regardless, and even moreso when you elope! It gives you a way to share it with the people you love most, as well as the generations that come after you! You can even take this a step further by making your closest family members an album of the photos so they can keep, too.

At the end of the day, supporting someone getting married is so much more than being physically present on a wedding day. I hope through reading this, your stresses have eased knowing there are tons of ways to include your family and friends into your wedding day, even if they aren't standing with you when you say "I do". Above all, I want to encourage you to make decisions that feel right to you as a couple! So take some time and go on a date to talk it all out, and make it fun!

Did I miss anything? Send me a message below and I'll add your ideas to the blog on how you incorporated your family and friends in your elopement!

Big hugs!


Are you searching for a photographer for your wedding or elopement in Europe? As a Mexican-American Photographer living in Germany and Italy (with experience traveling to 20+ countries), it's a joy to photograph weddings for residents of EU and those of you traveling across the pond to celebrate your special day. :)

If so, you can find out more about the experience by clicking here, and then fill out the contact form to get a full price guide within 24 hours.

Europe Elopement Photographer

Johanna Patton is a Mexican-American adventure-inspired photographer serving kind-hearted, down-to-hearth couples worldwide. You can find her photographing couples & ethical initiatives making a positive impact on the world.