Discover how to host an elopement party the simple and easy way. Using these tips, you can spend less time worrying and more time celebrating.
Elopements are the easy way out. All you do is go on a fun trip and just get married and do whatever you want.
Yes, I can honestly say this is what most people think of when they hear about an elopement. However, most of us who actually have eloped know that’s not the whole story.
Eloping is a deeply personal decision and although elopement ceremonies tend to be simpler than traditional weddings, there is still a lot of planning involved, usually without much help. My husband and I eloped last March, and although it was a bit stressful to plan, it turned out just how we envisioned.
We realized as the wedding day approached, we still wanted a micro celebration with immediate family. That’s when I decided to host an intimate elopement party…
Why we hosted our elopement party
You heard that right: We hosted our own elopement party, without help planning or paying for it.
Now, the first thing people would argue is that it’s tacky to host your own party. The reason people think this is because these types of events tend to be an avenue of acquiring gifts. We personally requested no gifts on the invites for our elopement party, so I sure as heck did not feel guilty for hosting my own event.
I love planning parties and have been known to host similar events for family and friends, so why wouldn’t I plan my own? We just wanted things to turn out exactly how we wanted. I will never be ashamed of this. I enjoy all the little details of planning events and getting to make all the decisions. I’m a Type A gal with excellent taste, so why let it go to waste?
People host their own dinner parties all the time, and this event wasn’t much different: small, a little sophisticated (but overall no-fuss) and with our closest relatives.
We also didn’t feel comfortable having others pay for this event because I like to splurge on some items, and I’d feel guilty having someone else pay for high quality decor/food that I like. It only made sense to just throw it ourselves and tell guests not to worry about gifts. We basically said, “Hey, just come celebrate with us.”
I mean, we’d already established ourselves in a home we’d been living in together for nearly a year. By the time we hosted our elopement party, it’s not like we needed a whole lot anyway. We really just wanted the presence of our close family members. Something low-key with cute decorations, good old-fashioned conversation, and hors d’oeuvres.
That’s exactly what we received. We are still happy with this decision to this day.
How to Host an Elopement Party
For our elopement party, we wanted to have people at our home because it would be more comfortable and laid back. We wouldn’t have to stick to rigid hours or clean up by a certain time. Plus, we wouldn’t have to worry about traveling with food and everyone already knew where we live. It felt cozy and familiar. It was thankfully pretty nice outside on this cool April day, so we had our patio open to anyone wanting to relax out there. Of course, others were in the kitchen and living room where we could all chat and nosh on delicious food.
I would suggest sticking with a location that fits your budget. There is no shame in hosting it in your own home or backyard. If you have a larger crowd to accommodate, search for something close by that offers both an indoor and outdoor area for guests to mingle. This is especially good for small children who will get bored in one spot quickly.
We served all finger foods at our elopement party. I knew it would be easier to eat this way, with finger foods being more convenient and not having table space for everyone. We settled on an array of some favorites, starting with the deviled eggs that my family is obsessed with.
We also bought those tiny frozen quiche that can be heated in the oven and eaten by hand. Then, I made little tea sandwiches consisting of cucumber and cream cheese with the crusts cut off. We had a large cutting board full of freshly cut veggies with hummus and a greek yogurt dip. Nearby, another tray of various crackers and cheeses were laid out, waiting to be nibbled on.
A plate of red grapes added a bit more color to the table. Last, sitting next to these were a cake stand full of vanilla cake pops drizzled with vanilla icing and sparkly sprinkles. It was a sight to be seen, that’s for sure.
A tip on serving food
When you host an elopement party, go for a wide variety of foods that vary in color and shape. Serve a well-rounded “meal” even if they are all just finger foods. Varying the nutritional content will help guests fill up (incorporating fats, carbs, protein, fiber) and leave them satisfied.
For a special touch, serve everything on real plates and platters, not those cheap plastic ones. This will impress guests with your presentation skills and make it feel like a special event. I found plenty of wood trays and cutting boards, plates, and platters at Target for reasonable prices. Keep them to reuse in the future for all the other special get togethers you host.
We offered beer and wine at our party because we wanted to keep alcohol simple. Most of our guests weren’t drinkers, so it made sense to save money by not buying liquor. Especially with ⅓ of our guest list consisting of kids.
I also made homemade lemonade for the kids and those who didn’t want to drink alcohol. I sliced lemons and limes up for garnishing and adding to water for those who wanted to keep their drink light and refreshing. Small touches like this can really go a long way.
I let my husband be in charge of the music playlist. He claims I told him all these random songs I barely even know and says I told him to add them on. Ha!
We both picked songs, but it was mainly his job to organize the music playlist. We mainly chose feel-good songs that were classics, nothing too sappy or intense. There were a few classic love songs, though… I’m pretty sure Journey and REO Speedwagon had a few songs that were included.
I’d recommend picking songs that are upbeat, with nothing heavy or offensive (no bold language or violence; you’d be surprised how many don’t follow this etiquette). Also include a few love songs, but don’t play only love songs or your guests will be snoozing in no time.
Remember: Yes, it’s a wedding celebration. But it’s also a family get together, so you want to keep things light and fun for guests.
We decided that since we were in the midst of a pandemic, we should be considerate and shouldn’t have people travel to attend our elopement party. We also didn’t want to spend a ton of money, so keeping it tiny was necessary in our minds. The money we saved was instead spent on our ongoing renovation projects for our old house we purchased in June of 2020. This was practical to us.
To keep it tiny, we both agreed to invite immediate family only. This included our parents, my grandparents who live in town, and our brothers and sisters along with their partners and children.
Obviously you can adjust your guest list to fit however large of a party you’re throwing. If you have a large space and money isn’t an issue, by all means, invite whoever you want. But part of the reason we eloped was because we also didn’t want a huge amount of attention. It just made sense to keep it on the smaller side.
One last thing to remember… Be fair about how many guests are attending for each side, if possible.
I had the grand idea of making my own decorations and creating a beautiful tablescape that I knew would be perfect for an elopement party. It had the formal wedding vibes (no paper decor from Party City, thanks), but was still simple.
We had a rustic theme, nothing too specific, since we were married in the snowy mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park. I bought square bamboo disposable plates and made-to-order napkins with forest pine trees and our initials.
All of the food was served on porcelain and wood platters and tiered trays. I used an antique, handmade lace table runner underneath the appetizers. A cake stand displayed the cake pops I’d made.
The table was decorated with light pink and white satin + burlap flower petals sprinkled about. There was a porcelain pitcher filled with eucalyptus and pink peonies in the center. This alone was so breathtaking. Near this sat 3 tiered candlestick holders that held beeswax candlesticks. We even arranged some eucalyptus around the dining table chandelier that hung above us.
Then there were the flower seed party favors. I pinned these to a wooden wreath crate using clothespins for guests to take as they left. Additionally, we had a sign made that we put on our front porch to welcome guests as they arrived. It had eucalyptus leaves designed on it with our wedding date on it, too. We framed this and placed it on a large easel which provided a lovely display.
I also created a makeshift lace doily “rug” with paper doilies of various sizes. I added more satin and burlap flower petals along this. We even had a little wooden sign that my nephew wore that said, “If you think I’m cute, wait until you see my auntie.” It was so adorable on him.
Finally, I placed a rustic vase of baby’s breath in the living room for a simple statement. Fresh, simple flowers just bring a room alive, giving it a bit more elegance without going overboard.
A tip on decorating
Whatever decorations you choose when hosting an elopement party, even if you don’t want to make them yourself, put a little thought into them.
I personally really dislike cheesy decor that can be bought down the street at a party store. I wanted hand-crafted, natural, one-of-a-kind decorations that were understated and blended well with my everyday decor.
Incorporate neutral and pastel colors that blend well with the season you’re celebrating in. Select items that have special meaning to you, not just your typical wedding ornaments. Put your own spin on things that make your wedding memorable. That’s the only way to stand out—stay original and true to your character.
If I had to narrow it down to two things to really invest in: flowers and food. Gorgeous flowers and beautiful food make unforgettable table presentations and should be the center of any dinner or elopement party.
I knew that these invites would require special wording. I was very careful in selecting the right words for these. We wanted people to realize it wasn’t a fancy or large party, but we also wanted them to realize it was still a very special day for us.
We did not want people showing up in their PJ’s and expecting a keg of beer and turkey legs. (But if that’s your kinda party, who am I to judge?). In the invitations we included a section near the end that read: This is an informal get together for immediate family to celebrate our union with us. Expect good old-fashioned conversation as we share our favorite wedding moments with those dearest to us. Refreshments provided. Please, no gifts.
We made sure to tell our family by word of mouth that we’d like everyone to wear dressy casual attire. Essentially, we told them to wear what they’d wear to church. We didn’t expect formal attire, but still wanted to celebrate in a special manner. I purchased a special dress for this occasion and knew we’d be taking photos, so I preferred that people look presentable. This is not an unreasonable request at all, even if it’s a smaller scale party at your home.
Be sure to include any specific details that will make it clear to guests that this is not a ceremony, but a celebration of your union after eloping.
Request no gifts if you feel awkward about receiving gifts when guests weren’t invited to the actual ceremony. It just didn’t feel right expecting gifts from people who didn’t get to attend our ceremony. I will say that relatives near and far still sent us gifts after hearing about our elopement, though. We were very appreciative of these. Just be sure to order some thank-you cards, too, in case your family and friends do the same.
We originally planned on having lawn games set up in our backyard for our little shindig. My grandparents have cornhole, badminton, and lawn dart games that everyone loves playing at family events in the warmer months. Now that I think back, they brought the games but for some reason never even set them up. Guess what? No one remembers or cares. We still had fun with everyone. It may be smart to set these up for children attending, though. They would really appreciate having some sort of activity.
We did also have a basket with cards for people to write advice to the newly married couple. This helped give the guests something else to do if they wanted a break from chatting, to pass the time.
However, we decided to play one cheesy couple’s game: the wedding shoe game. We thought our guests would find it funny (they sure did), and it helped it feel more like a traditional reception. We didn’t want people getting too bored, so we played a round of this. I’d highly recommend playing it if you have someone to organize questions and be in charge of the game at your elopement party.
Additionally, we also saved our elopement photography to show our families on this day, too. It just made sense. We photographed and edited our photos ourselves. (You can learn more about that in my How to Elope in Rocky Mountain National Park post.) We saved and arranged the final photos into a simple PowerPoint slideshow to show everyone together, so it still felt special to them.
Some final words…
As you can see, our elopement party was truly a special day that was meant for making memories.
We cared little about impressing others with flashy venues or a huge guest list consisting of every person we’d ever met. Also, we didn’t have a five-tiered cake or a live band. In all honestly, we didn’t feel we needed any of that.
We wanted to emphasize our marriage more than our wedding. AJ and I both care more about the everyday work it takes, along with the appreciation we have for one another, in our marriage. Material things just don’t matter as much to some.
We didn’t want to get sidetracked, stressed, and broke from trying to convince others of our love for one another. Unfortunately, this is all too common for young people today. They worry so much about trying to gain social status and approval in a world where keeping up with the Joneses is impossible…
You don’t have to cave in and go into thousands of dollars in debt to throw a party. An elopement party is just as important and special without all the frills and add ons. If you invite the right guests, the ones who truly care, they’re not going to look back 20 years from now thinking: They should have spent more on a fancier party for us. AJ and Tara should have dressed more formally. They should have done this and this and this… Honestly, your guests likely won’t care.
Family and friends will understand and want you to do what makes you happy.
More About Our Elopement
How to Elope in Rocky Mountain National Park
Our Enchanting Engagement Story
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