Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther
North Cascades Elopement with Family
Want to plan an elopement with your family but not sure where to start? You’re in the right place! My favorite thing about being an adventure elopement photographer is that no two elopements are the same. I get to work with every couple to envision their own perfect day. For some of my couples that means bringing family and friends along for their elopement or adventure wedding, and I am so here for it! Your day is your day — it’s totally acceptable to make up your own rules about what your elopement should be. And that’s why I’m so excited to share Vanessa and Sierra’s North Cascades small family elopement. Keep scrolling to learn how to plan your own dream elopement with family, including my top five tips to plan your own family elopement, gorgeous photos (duh) and more!
Meet Sierra and Vanessa: the couple of this North Cascades elopement with family
This is Vanessa and Sierra, the gorgeous couple featured in this North Cascades elopement with family. Vanessa and Sierra live in Arizona, but absolutely love Washington because it’s so mountainous, lush, and green. They knew Washington was where they wanted to become wife and wife, and after a quick call we all decided that the North Cascades was the perfect place for them to elope (I’m not shy about how much I LOVE the North Cascades!). In their own words “adventure has always been the foundation of our relationship so we knew it had to be a part of our ceremony.” At first when planning their elopement, Vanessa and Sierra weren’t sure how they could include friends and family to be part of their big day. But after a little bit of thinking, a touch of creativity, and some support from your fav hype gal (that’s me! hype gal Mollie at your service!) and their incredible elopement planner, Vanessa and Sierra found so many ways to make their small family elopement a day they won’t ever forget.
To start, Vanessa and Sierra knew they didn’t want to compromise on including adventure in their elopement to the tune of a fairly strenuous seven mile hike in North Cascades National Park. So, instead of compromising there, they invited their family to participate in their elopement in a few different ways.
First off, all family members were invited to join on the elopement and hike. About half of their family and friends who attended the elopement said “heck yes, we’ll join” and did just that! It was so special to get to know Sierra and Vanessa through their families’ eyes and capture them all hiking up to their non-traditional wedding venue on a mountaintop in the North Cascades together.
Second, Sierra and Vanessa came up with a few ways to include family members who couldn’t join for the mountaintop elopement. They rented a super rad log cabin (swoon!) in the North Cascades to serve as their home base, and the rest of their family hung back there while we hiked. One thing they realized was, in their words, “who completes an outdoor adventure and doesn’t work up an appetite?! So we thought we could include the rest of our guests with a huge feast afterwards.” And they did just that! You know your girl (me!) is a huge fan of food so I was entirely onboard with making this part of their elopement with family a success. They hired a caterer for an epic post-elopement dinner celebration (and cake!!! of course cake! You know I’m going to talk that up). During the cabin reception, they also held a short candle lighting unification ceremony and signed their marriage certificate in front of their whole family so that the guests that weren’t able to hike with us could still be a part of a more official-feeling ceremony. They ended their elopement day popping champagne, surrounded by family at a gorgeous cabin in the North Cascades.
It was so cool to see all the ways Sierra and Vanessa invited their family to participate in their elopement, while still staying true to their initial vision for their big day. Again, in their words: “ In the end, we broke all the rules [of an elopement] but wouldn’t change a thing.”
Keep reading for more ideas about how you can plan your own North Cascades elopement with family while still saying true to everything you want for your big day.
Inviting family to your elopement: creative ways to get your family involved in your elopement!
Even though elopements are traditionally intimate and focused on the couple, it doesn’t mean you can’t invite your family to your elopement! I’ve been so honored to see lots of different creative ways my couples have included their families in their elopement day.
Here are just some of the many ways you can invite your family to participate in your elopement day:
Invite family on the adventure with you
Have your family help you get ready
Wear family heirlooms
Have family write letters and read them during your ceremony — this is something a lot of my couples have done!
Have a post-elopement celebration where all family can join — this could be the same day like Vanessa and Sierra did or even a week later at a brewery or in someone’s backyard. There are so many ways to get creative here and there’s no one right answer!
Hire a rad elopement photographer that will take good photos so people can see exactly what it was like (oh hey, I know one lol!)**
Hire a videographer so you have video footage of the day
** I’m an elopement photographer so this may seem like a silly thing to include on this list. But, let me explain why I think it’s a good way to get family involved in your elopement! I always send sneak peek photos to all of my clients the following day. So, less than 24 hours after you and your love tie the knot in an epic adventure elopement, you could share beautiful photos from your day with your friends and family. This is a great way to share the beauty of your day with those who were not there for it. To learn more about what else I offer my elopement clients, click here!
Those are just a few ideas for creative ways that family can be involved in your elopement day. You can do some of them, all of them, or think of your own ways to invite your family to be part of your elopement. Have other ideas for ways to get your family and friends involved in your elopement?! Heck yes! I’m so stoked to make it happen!
How to plan a small family elopement: Mollie’s top five tips
Hire an elopement planner
Figure out what you want on your day and set boundaries
Book an airbnb that can accommodate your family for the reception
Invite your family to your elopement, and have a plan when sharing the big news
Give family multiple ways to be part of your elopement
Hire an elopement planner
Oftentimes when family is involved in your elopement, your day becomes more of an adventure wedding than an intimate elopement (which I’m ALL for!). But it does mean that when you have more people joining you, there are more things to plan. Where will everyone stay? What will you be eating (and where and when and can I join lol)? That’s why I always encourage my couples who want to include family in their elopement to hire a planner. Vanessa and Sierra worked with one of my favorite planners for their small family elopement (Erika and her team at The Greatest Adventure Weddings). Your planner can help you figure out these oh-so-important logistics so that when you invite your family to your elopement, their reaction is one of pure stoke and excitement to attend your day!
Chat with your partner and figure out your non-negotiables
It’s really important that before you invite family to your elopement, you and your partner sit down together and figure out what you don’t want to compromise on for your elopement day. Essentially, this should be a list of non-negotiables (aka things you absolutely want to include in your day). For some couples this might be a sunrise fire lookout hike. For Vanessa and Sierra, it was their adventurous hike to their dream mountain top elopement location. Maybe you want your vows to be completely private. It’s important to list out your dreams for your day and then find the places your family can make your day even better.
Book an airbnb that can accommodate your family for the reception
I absolutely love when my couples include a cozy airbnb cabin in their big day. (Like, seriously, I don’t think I know of anyone who is a bigger fan of sweet a-frame airbnbs in the woods than me!) But if you are going to use an airbnb for your post-elopement reception or ceremony, you’ll want to confirm a few things.
First, make sure that the airbnb host or venue owner knows that you’ll be hosting an event there. Especially if they have other guests staying at the property, they might need to make special plans to close off certain areas during your reception or celebration. Your planner can also handle this for you! (aka another reason why I highly recommend a planner).
Second, make sure that the airbnb can accommodate your whole group. For example, I’ve had couples who want to elope at these really cute tiny a-frames (did I mention how much I love a-frames!?!). While at the same time they also want to include 20 people in their reception. Both are such great ideas and I’m here for it! But if the a-frame only has one bedroom and one bathroom, you may need to brainstorm alternative solutions. Here are some of the questions you should consider: Is there capacity for my whole group? Where will everyone sleep? What’s the bathroom situation? (and if there aren’t enough bathrooms is the host okay with us bringing in something like extra portapotties?). This is all covered (and more!) in my full guide to planning an airbnb wedding.
Make sure you have a set plan when inviting family to your elopement
When people hear the word “elopement,” they may have a million and one ideas about what that means. A lot of times when my couples mention the word elopement to family it can even bring a negative connotation. And that’s because the definition of the word elopement hasn’t caught up with the times yet (see this blog post for more of my thoughts on that).
If you’re reading this, you’re not looking to run off to get married secretly in spite of your family! You’re looking for an intimate, adventurous, completely customizable wedding. Maybe you want to hike to the most incredible mountain pass and share your vows in the morning, followed by a celebration with your closest friends and family (like Sierra and Vanessa did!). Or maybe you’d rather catch an early morning ferry to a tiny, remote, lakefront mountain town, with absolutely no cell phone service and spend the day kayaking on the lake, or hiking or horseback riding through the beautiful trails as a couple, then join your family for a home cooked dinner at a gorgeous lakefront lodge followed by s’mores and champagne around the campfire. (Yes this is a real place! And you really could do this! If you’re intrigued, go check out my full guide to the North Cascades National Park for more details about this magical hidden gem!)
When you invite your family to join your elopement, keep your conversation honest and open. It’s also a good idea to share details about what your big day will look like. Include specifics like dates, where you’ll be going, where they can stay, and all the fun, creative ways that they can get involved. You may also want to explain how elopements are different than traditional weddings, as Vanessa and Sierra did: “We shared the details of our elopement with friends and family and were sure to not leave out the strenuous physical details involved in completing the hike and being able to watch our elopement. We also informed guests of the non-traditional ways of an elopement versus a wedding. Warning them that the focus is on us and guests aren’t really a part of the whole process. For example, no maid of honors, no bridesmaids, no walking down the aisle, etc. We were sure to be very transparent about the whole elopement process.” The main goal of your conversation should be to help your family and friends understand that elopements are definitely not negative or scandalous. And, even more special, that you want to include them in your elopement day!
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to explain elopements to your family, you’re not alone! Fear of a negative family elopement reaction is a particularly challenging struggle for many of my couples! That’s why I wrote my full guide how to explain your adventurous wedding (aka elopement).
Give family ideas about how they can be involved in your elopement
As I hinted at above, family may feel excluded when they hear you’re wanting to elope. So, when you share the news with your family that you and your love will be eloping, it’s a great idea to have a list of different ways they can be involved both if they can join in person or if they cannot be there physically. There are so many great ways to get family involved in your elopement! For example if they’re joining in person: they can go on the hike with you, they can help you get ready, they can be part of the reception and candle lighting unification ceremony (like Vanessa and Sierra!). Or, if you can’t make it: they can write you letters to read during the elopement, they can contribute towards or pay for your photographer or videographer, or they can even contribute to adventurous experiences during your elopement day or honeymoon (think: a horseback riding tour, renting kayaks, rock climbing guide, a sweet VW campervan or overlanding adventure vehicle rental, there seriously is no limit other than your imagination!!.. ). Giving your friends and family creative ways to get involved in the day helps let them know they are still important in your day and your life.
Are you ready to start planning your elopement with family? Let’s do it! Reach out and let’s start planning your greatest adventure yet.
Ready to explore more elopements, weddings and adventures? Wander away below!
Between the Pine is an adventure elopement and wedding photography brand created by Mollie Adams. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mollie travels with her camera in hand to document “I dos” in epic landscapes including Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii.