How to Plan An Epic Post-Elopement Reception

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If you’ve decided to elope over having a traditional wedding, chances are you spent a WHILE coming to that decision. It can be tough enough to plan a regular wedding, but having to decide between tradition/what’s “expected” of you and the opportunity to create a completely unique day is a whole other level. What will you tell your friends and family? Should you invite anyone, or have a private ceremony? Are you going to be judged? Is there such thing as an elopement reception just like there is wedding receptions?

That last one is a question I often get asked by couples who have decided they want to elope in private, but are wondering if there’s any way to still celebrate with the people they love. And the answer to that is abso-freaking-lutely there is! You can 100% have a private, meaningful elopement with just your partner, and then gather with your loved ones at a later point to celebrate. Who would want the best of both worlds? (cue the Hannah Montana theme song 🎵)

If that sounds like what you and your partner are envisioning for your big day, then you’re in luck! Today, we’re talking alllll things elopement receptions, my friend. What are they? How do you plan one? What should you include? Who do you invite? I’m answering all your biggest questions + giving you 3 different ways to have a rad party after your elopement with the people you love.

Elopement Reception 101

Let’s start off with the basics – and there’s no such thing as a dumb question here!

Can you have a reception if you elope?

Absolutely! I am so thrilled about how popular elopements have become in recent years (especially since COVID), but what I’m not a fan of is all the labels/categories that get thrown around. I constantly see couples asking for a label that fits the day they’re envisioning, or wondering what category that their celebration fits into – e.g. an elopement, small wedding, intimate wedding, microwedding, big wedding, traditional wedding, etc. And while this is totally fine in theory, it often causes couples to limit themselves or feel like they have to fit into a certain box when planning their day.

All that to say: there are simply no rules. If you wanna have an elopement in private but still follow certain wedding traditions, go for it. Want to have a two-day celebration with one day for just the two of you, and one to spend with family? Be my guest! And if you wanna throw an epic reception to party with your best friends after your private elopement, do it! Who cares what the “right” label is as long as you’re having the time of your life with the people you adore?

What do you call a party after an elopement?

I’ve seen it called a reception, a post-elopement party, an evening celebration, and recently, a Happily Ever Afterparty… whatever floats your boat! There’s no right or wrong here.

When should you have a post-elopement party or reception?

This one’s completely up to you; you could have your party right after your ceremony, later into the evening, the next day, the next week, or heck, have it on your one-year anniversary! Pick a time that works for you and your partner’s schedule, as well as your budget – some couples may not want to spend another chunk of cash immediately after paying all of their elopement vendors. Keep in mind that you’ll have to plan it, too, and whether or not you’re okay with planning pretty much two separate events at once if you have them the same day. You know yourselves and your time, energy, and money limits!

Who do you invite to an elopement reception?

Anybody you want! Invite the people you’re closest to and who you know will support + love on you the entire time; who will celebrate you and your partner without fail. This could be a couple of your closest friends, your immediate family, or your whole-ass extended family with every cousin on the family tree. Consider what your budget is, too, and how many mouths you’ll have to feed if you’re having a meal/snacks/drinks/etc.

On the other side of things – avoid inviting anybody who could potentially cause you stress, or bring any negative feelings that you don’t necessarily want to deal with when you’re celebrating a joyful time. Your elopement reception should be drama-free and should allow you to fully be present + enjoy every moment without worrying about what so-and-so is saying, or having to get in the middle of family arguments all day!

If you’re leaning toward inviting guests to your entire adventure wedding, rather than just your reception, check out this blog post to hear my top tips for creating a stress-free day with the people you love!

How do you invite people to a reception after an elopement?

Just the same as you would invite them to your actual elopement! Don’t overthink it; this could be as simple as a text to your family group chat or as intricate as a full-fledged, handcrafted invitation suite. If you want to create pretty invitations without hiring a full-on calligrapher or designer, there are tons of programs out there that make it easy to DIY, like Canva, or actual wedding websites such as Zola.

What do you do at an elopement reception?

You do whatever the heck you want! I’ll be going through some of my personal favorite ideas in the next section of this guide, but here’s the gist: do whatever will bring you joy, add meaning to your celebration, and make for a meaningful + memorable time with your loved ones. Your elopement reception could be fancy as hell, set in a luxurious hotel venue with an elegant dinner and a delicious dessert table, or it could have all the rustic vibes at a cozy cabin in the woods, with hot dogs & s’mores cooked over a campfire for dinner. You could play games, cook, hike, soak in a hot tub, make custom cocktails. . . the sky’s the limit; all that matters is that you and your partner get to spend quality time with the people you love!

3 Ways to Have an Epic Post-Elopement Reception

While there are literally endless ways to have an elopement reception, I wanted to give you 3 of my personal favorites that I’ve seen couples LOVE after having a private ceremony. Hopefully these will get the ideas flowin’ and help you figure out what might be the best option for you!

1. Have an intimate dinner with your guests

If you’re having guests attend your elopement, continue the celebration and have an intimate dinner with them afterward! This is probably what I see couples do most often when they have friends and family at their elopement, because the transition from your ceremony to an evening celebration is super easy. Nobody else has to travel in for a separate event later on, and you don’t have to plan anything ellse – it all happens in one day.

One way to do this is to have your intimate dinner at a nearby restaurant! Depending on how large your group is, you’ll probably want to make a reservation, or see if you can even rent out a private room to have all to yourselves. 

Now if you’re eloping somewhere a little more out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere where there aren’t really any nice restaurants around (like a national park), consider hiring a private chef to cook for you instead! It’s become increasingly popular to have your ceremony at a beautiful location out in nature, and then head back to your Airbnb for an intimate dinner cooked by a chef. If you’re not into the whole private chef idea, you could have an elevated picnic with charcuterie boards created by a professional, or you could hire food trucks to come serve ya some delish bites.

For more creative meal & drink ideas, check out my blog post about What to Eat At Your Elopement!

If you choose to go with the Airbnb option (no matter who cooks your food), you can either find an Airbnb that has space for you + all of your guests to stay the night, or make sure there are other accommodations closeby for your guests once it’s time to hit the hay. I recommend renting an Airbnb that has both indoor & outdoor spaces so that you can move around throughout the night; e.g. have a cozy dinner under the stars out on the lawn, with twinkle lights & candles galore, then head inside for some games and late-night hangs once it gets chilly outside!

Bonus points if you hire a planner or stylist who sets up a beautiful tablescape for you to eat at – having a professional take care of this will elevate the evening SO much more than you know, and will take a whole lotta weight off you shoulders!

One of my favorite examples of this option is what we did for Daniel & Daniella at this styled Kingston House Wedding: they held an intimate ceremony and cocktail hour, then had their closest friends stay afterwards for a cozy, refined candlelit dinner at their gorgeous venue. 

If you’re trying to find the perfect spot to host your intimate dinner, here are some of my favorite Washington Airbnb Rentals for elopements!

2. Celebrate with friends & family who weren’t there

If you’re not having any guests at your elopement, or you’re only having a few and still would like to celebrate with other loved ones at some point, have another party with everyone later on! While you can really have this whenever you want, there are two ways I commonly see couples do it:

  1. Have a private ceremony, then meet up with loved ones later in the day for a dinner/evening celebration

This is an especially great option if you’ll be hiking to a ceremony location that wouldn’t be accessible for all of your guests, or you’d just rather say your vows in private. Meet up with everyone later in the day back at your Airbnb, a restaurant, or a microvenue afterward and celebrate the night away with ‘em! 

  1. Have a two-day elopement; one day for the two of you, and one day for you and all your guests

I’m obsessed with multi-day elopements lately, because they just allow you SO much time to make all of your dreams come true. Want to spend one day hiking to the top of a mountain at sunrise and one day lounging around by the lake with your fam? Maybe you want one day to be more casual & chill, and the next to

be a lil’ more bougie & luxe? Multi-day elopements are where it’s at, baby! Spend one day just enjoying each other’s presence without the noise of other people around, and then dedicate the other to spending quality time with the people you love who have traveled in to support you. 

P.S. the limit isn’t just two days here – you could have a three-day elopement or a celebrate with a week-long party if that’s what calling to you!

Rachel & Riley’s Snoqualmie Wedding Weekend is the perfect example of the magic of multi-day weddings; they spent their first day tying the knot at an enchanting theater in the woods, surrounded by their guests, and their second day exploring Snoqualmie Falls + getting back into their wedding attire for portraits. I loooved that they made time for everything that was important to them, and didn’t have to rush anything!

3. Have a full-blown reception later on

Lastly, you could go alllll out and have a full-blown reception later on, just as you would on a traditional wedding day. Rent a venue you love, hire a DJ to mix some rockin’ tunes, and let’s partyyyy! 

It’s fully up to you how hard you go with this: you could hire a caterer to serve up a menu you love, a bartender to mix custom cocktails or hand your guests beers all night long, or even hire food trucks to bring you late night snacks. You could have a whole dessert table for everyone to enjoy or a simple cake + a gazillion cupcakes for the rest of the party. Have first dances, don’t have first dances; make your reception completely customized to you, rather than a simple copy & paste of a traditional wedding reception!

If you go with this option, I recommend planning your reception for a later date so that you’re not stressing about planning two events at once. Plus, if you wait a little while, you might have pictures or even a video back from your photographer/videographer to show to your guests who weren’t there! I know it can be difficult to elope without family (for both you and for them), so watching a video or photo slideshow together would be such a special way to invite them to experience the magic of your day.

And I’ve got one final bonus tip for you before you go: make sure you hire a kickass photographer to document it all 😉 No matter how you choose to plan your elopement reception or post-elopement party, it absolutely deserves to be captured just as much as your ceremony does! I have an insane amount of experience not only photographing elopement receptions for my incredible couples, but also helping them brainstorm ideas & come up with the perfect celebration for them. 

With that said, I’d love to be a part of both your elopement and your reception – you can learn more about me & my approach on my website, and then fill out my contact form to get in touch! And then take a deep breath, because I’ll help guide you through this whole process 🙂

On the hunt for more helpful elopement resources like this? I’ve linked some of my clients’ favorite guides below!

How to Embrace “Bad” Weather On Your Elopement Day

Unique Elopement Ideas for Couples Who Want Something Different

How to Include Your Dogs in Your Wedding or Elopement


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