What to Do at Your Elopement Ceremony — Ideas, Traditions, Vows, & More

So you know you want to elope — congrats on taking the first huge planning step on the journey to getting married! Choosing an elopement is no small thing. One of the things I love most about them is the opportunity to strike out on a more personal path and forge new, important traditions with your partner that you can revisit throughout married life. A lot of those traditions may play out during your elopement ceremony.

Your ceremony does not need to feel like a wedding! Though, of course, you can still incorporate some more “traditional” rituals. But, chances are, you’re hoping for some personal touches during the ceremony, too. 

Whether you’re looking for help on writing your vows, aren’t sure if you should hire an officiant, or are just looking to get inspired with some elopement ceremony ideas, I’ve got you covered. We’ll go over all of these things to help you plan the elopement ceremony that feels right for you. 

How to Write Vows for Your Elopement Ceremony

Writing personal elopement vows is intimidating! Even if you’re already a creatively-inclined person, it can feel impossible to sum up all the love you have for your partner into one page. And since elopements are already more intimate and personal than a traditional wedding, it would make sense for you to want to write vows instead of following a script. 

If you think some vow-writing workshops might help you get your thoughts onto paper, Rooted and Wild has some great workshop options in group or private sessions. These workshops will give you writing prompts, invite you to share stories, and provide templates to help get the juices flowing. 

If a workshop isn’t something you think would help you, don’t worry! Here’s a few tips that may also help you write vows for your elopement ceremony:

  1. Don’t forget to say “I love you!” This is actually surprisingly easy to forget — so many people get narrowed in on saying super special, personal things that simply affirming the love they feel easily slips through the cracks.
  2. Include the promises you want to make to your partner! After all, these are your vows. What are you committing to? What will you do for your partner and for your relationship? What will you remember to cherish?
  3. Take a walk down memory lane. Look back at your relationship for inspiration. Start at the beginning, share a funny story, or a meaningful moment. Your first meeting, your first date, the first time you realized you were going to marry them. swiping right but then almost ghosting them (lol). Whatever makes you, you — this is the perfect thing to include.
  4. Be personal and heartfelt. Your vows do not have to include super poetic language or be dressed up in metaphors and pretty imagery. If that doesn’t suit your personality, or the type of relationship you share with your partner, it will make vow writing more difficult. Speak from your heart, and stay genuine and honest.
  5. Give your vows some space. This may feel like a homework assignment, but going through a few drafts of your vows isn’t going to hurt. Maybe you start with a bulleted list of things you might want to include. A few days later, revisit and add or remove items. Another few days later, flesh it out into a draft. Repeat a few times to really get your vows where you want them. Writing them at the last minute will leave you feeling scatter-brained and rushed, and that’s not an enjoyable feeling!
A bride holds a vow book during her elopement ceremony

Vendors I Recommend to Officiate Your Elopement Ceremony

Another big question about your elopement ceremony you might have is about who will be your officiant! I always recommend hiring a professional for this job. Standing next to someone who will lead you through the ceremony really helps make everything feel official and surreal. They’re also really good at their jobs, and can have you laughing, crying, or overwhelmed with joy!

As an elopement photographer for quite a few years now, I have a few favorite officiants who always provide excellent service and create heartfelt ceremonies. 

Another One Ties the Knot

Cherise from Another One Ties the Knot officiated my own elopement and is absolutely one of the best officiants in the game. Her ceremony was beautiful and perfectly suited for us, the planning experience was easy and fun, and I felt supported by a true professional!

A small wedding party stands on a round platform for an elopement ceremony, with a dramatic, glacially-carved landscape behind them
Cherise officiating our ceremony as captured by The Foxes

Officiant Grace

Grace is an ordained non-denominational minister and ceremony celebrant that is particularly called to conscious couples. She is a wonderfully passionate individual that is well-aligned with environmental & mindful couples! If your elopement has any guests, she’s also quite personable and engaging and will help them feel part of your ceremony.

Leslie’s Elopement Officiating

Leslie hiked a trail at Mt. Rainier with Sarah, Muneer and I, and gave one of the most beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever heard. It was so personal to the couple. She’s typically only available during the summer months, but makes a wonderful addition to your adventure elopement!

A bride, groom, and officiant stand at an elopement ceremony, with a giant Mt. Rainier looming in the background.
Leslie at Mt. Rainier

A Friend or Family Member

Of course, maybe having a family member or close friend as officiant for your elopement ceremony can be incredibly special, too. Universal Life Church has the easiest ordination process that I know of, and is where I became Reverend Marla. But getting ordained isn’t the end of it! I also highly suggest that your officiant take a class or workshop on how to lead a wonderful ceremony for you and your partner! There are wonderful workshops through Another One Ties the Knot, and Rooted and Wild.  

Traditions to Consider During Your Elopement Ceremony

Finding ideas for rituals or traditions to include in your elopement ceremony is the last big hurdle to creating an elopement that’s perfect for you. Choosing elements of traditional weddings isn’t bad! But I also love the opportunity to create something new and memorable, too. 

Traditional Rituals to Include

The most classic traditions to include in your elopement ceremony are, of course, the vows, exchanging rings, and having a first kiss once the officiant has declared you married. 

These can be great touchstones to ground your elopement ceremony and provide some structure. However, don’t be afraid to forgo any or all of these! If they don’t speak to you or feel natural to you and your partner, there’s no harm in eliminating them completely.

A bride crouches down to water the tree she and her new husband are planting during their elopement ceremony

Non-Traditional Options 

Alongside some traditional elements, or maybe in place of them completely, there are so many non-traditional rituals you can include in your elopement ceremony! Whether simple or complex, catering your ceremony to you and your partner makes it so much more special and memorable. Here’s a couple ideas:

  • Handfasting
  • Planting a tree
  • Sage smudging (make sure you source your sage ethically!)
  • Lighting a unity candle
  • Mixing two colors of sand or glass into a jar/vase
  • Singing a song (just the two of you, or with any guests you have)
  • Honoring those who have passed or can’t be there with you
  • Exchanging letters 
  • Reading letters from loved ones
  • Popping champagne!
  • Throwing confetti — the native kind, gathered from fallen leaves at your elopement location (remember to Leave No Trace)
  • Sipping whiskey (or taking any other shot of choice)
  • Having your guests bless your rings
  • Hiring a live musician to serenade you
  • Reading an excerpt from a favorite song, book, movie, or poem
  • Wishing stones
  • Washing of the hands, feet, or rings
An elopement ceremony idea; lighting unity candles at your ceremony officiated by your best friend

Religious Rituals

There are also special cultural or religious traditions that you may want to include in your elopement ceremony. If it’s important to you, then it’s probably the perfect thing to include as you kick off the next chapter with your partner. Some examples include:

  • Standing under a chuppah, mandap, or other significant structure
  • Stomping on glass
  • Signing a ketubah
  • Reciting special prayers
  • Mehndi ceremonies the night before
  • Singing psalms or blessings
  • Marriage coins
  • Wedding lasso
  • Exchange of floral garlands, jewelry, etc.
  • Garment tying

There are so many other special religious traditions you may want to include — these are definitely just the tip of the iceberg! But I hope all these ideas, traditional, religious, or otherwise, inspire you to create an elopement ceremony that is special, personal, and intimate. 

A bride and groom read their vows to each other standing in front of Lake Quinault, a giant, reflective pool of water in the background mirroring the blue mountains and white, cloudy sky

For more unique elopement ideas, check out my guide for how to include dogs in your elopement here! I also have a guide for planning a hiking elopement here, as well as some 4/20-friendly inspiration here. Lastly, be sure to browse my guide for how to incorporate sustainability into your celebration. 

Once you’re ready to hire your adventure elopement photographer and dig into the finer details, contact me here! I can’t wait to hear all about your plans for your elopement ceremony, and all the other exciting pieces of your experience.


Get In Touch


Follow Me

Small photos of various couples representing the instagram feed of a Washington elopement photographer


Ready to jump straight to my inbox? Whether you're interested in more information, have a couple of questions, or are ready to book with me, getting in touch is the first step!

about me

planning resources

contact me

pricing and info