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ELOPEMENT TIPS ELOPING WITH KIDS

The Ultimate Gear Guide for Hiking Elopements With Kids!

Hiking elopements with kids and adventure family sessions are loads of fun, but take a little extra planning. Ensuring you’re prepared with the right gear for your elopement or family session is the best way to prevent accidents, have fun, and feel confident while enjoying yourself! You don’t want to be worried if you or your children will be too cold, too thirsty, or too tired to reach the overlook. If you’re adventuring somewhere you’ve hiked before, you probably have a good idea of what you’ll need. But even if your elopement or family session location is new to you, or you’re new to hiking in general, this gear guide will make sure you and your children are properly prepared for the best day ever!

A hiking elopement or adventure family session with kids means even if you’re familiar with the hike or activity, your little ones are still learning the ropes. Below is a list of what gear you’ll want to have handy to ensure a safe and fun experience. You’ll find out how to choose which gear is best for you and your family, see examples from my experience of what gear has worked best, and get help choosing for yourself which pieces will suit your individual needs.

The ultimate gear guide for hiking elopements with kids.

Gear Checklist for Hiking Elopements

  1. Comfortable shoes for kids
  2. Baby carrier (for extra-small explorers)
  3. Headlamp
  4. Hiking socks
  5. Layers
  6. Blanket or sleeping bag
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Water, Formula for babies (or even more water, if you’re still nursing)
  9. Snacks

 Shoes for Hiking Elopements with kids

adult and kids' hiking boots for a hiking elopement

Let’s start with the most important thing – shoes! If you’re able-bodied, you can’t hike without putting one foot in front of the other! What you put on your feet is going to directly correlate to how enjoyable a hike can be. No one wants blisters on their toes – read carefully and learn how to choose the best footwear for your elopement! Location, personal needs, and length of hike will all be part of the consideration. 

FACT: Don’t buy the reviews on shoes!

The right footwear is whatever is most comfortable for YOU! You can read all the reviews, ask all your friends, and make all the lists but ultimately you just need to go try shoes on. 

Every hiker has different needs, and whether you will want more ankle support or not isn’t something I can answer. However, MOST people will benefit from shoes that fit four criteria: good tread, flexible, minimalist, and lightweight. If you’re looking for shoes that will serve you for many miles on the trails, you’ll want something that promotes a natural stride, gives your feet a chance to move naturally over uneven terrain, and has only enough protection to prevent rocks and roots from digging in. You should FEEL the ground beneath your feet – avoid shoes so stiff your arch can’t flex! Stiff shoes can cause serious foot pain over the course of many miles. And don’t forget to break in the shoes you choose BEFORE your elopement day!

Bride tying her hiking boots during her hiking elopement.

Minimalist & lightweight footwear is especially important for children

Your little one’s feet are growing, developing strength and balance, and learning how to physically navigate this world! Yes, kids grow out of things quickly, but if you do a lot of hiking as a family (or want to start), it’s worth choosing the right shoe. Heavy shoes require more effort to move, making little ones fatigue faster on adventures (meaning their big people also fatigue faster because they have to carry them). Heavy shoes also tend to be less flexible with thicker soles that make it difficult for children to navigate obstacles. Lightweight shoes, on the other hand, are both more flexible and breathable, providing support while keeping feet cool. Kids’ feet sweat 2-3 times more than adult feet, so a cool and breathable shoe is super important, especially in warmer climates! Choosing low top shoes for kids is also important because it allows ankles to flex and move the way they were meant to, meaning knees don’t have to compensate. To ensure they don’t have pain or discomfort in the future, and that their gait develops naturally, their feet need the room and flexibility required to develop muscle strength in the feet, ankles, and legs.

Barefoot is best

Walking barefoot, especially when you’re young, is the best way to develop the muscles necessary to prevent injury when you’re older. Obviously, unless your hiking elopement is through a plush grassy meadow or somewhere on the beach, you and your children are going to want shoes! The next best thing to barefoot is a shoe that mimics barefoot walking – wide toe box, thin and flexible sole, and zero-drop platform (a sole that is flat, rather than being a bit higher in the heel). 

Summary: Look for lightweight, breathable, flexible footwear for your hiking elopement, and break it in!

My Top Choices for Elopement Footwear for Children:

Best for flexibility & durability

The perfect combination of being flexible and durable, this children’s shoe by Splay has all of the characteristics of a barefoot shoe, plus a velcro strap and tongue that pulls back making them easy for preschoolers to put on themselves.

Best minimalist shoes for kids

Softstar moccasins are handcrafted in Oregon, and the sizing is extremely flexible coming in narrow, regular, wide, and extra-wide, which is so important when you’re trying to fit small kiddos with wider feet for shoes. For more cushion and warmth, removable sheepskin innersoles can also be purchased.

Best kids shoes with good traction

The Xero Prio shoe for kids has a flexible rubber sole that provides protection, traction, and still allows little ones to receive feedback from the terrain.

Best for colder weather

The winter version of these Wildling shoes and boots feature a wool lining and exterior to keep feet extra toasty and dry. The shoes made from Washi (a paper-type material from Japan) are durable, breathable, and dry quickly after getting wet, making them a perfect choice for summer hiking elopements.

Best if you want a thicker sole

Merrell’s Bare Steps line features a shoe with a bit thicker sole than the other minimalist shoes on this list, but still features a wide toe box and flexible grooves on the outsole to provide a barefoot feel.

Best for lightweight when barefoot isn’t an option: 

Teva Arrowood Hiking Shoe

Keen Chandler Hiking Shoe

Carriers for Hiking Elopements with kids

Hiking elopements with children present their own set of challenges, and an added level of complication can sometimes be that our littlest hikers simply can’t make the journey yet on their own two feet. This is where an awesome hiking carrier can come in handy! However, unless you’re an extremely experienced hiking family, the number of options on the market for carriers can be overwhelming. There are super stowable soft carriers, and then hard carriers with a more structured frame, like a backpacking backpack. How do you know which one to choose? Well, I’ve outlined the pros and cons of each kind of carrier to help you pinpoint what is best for your family and your elopement!

Soft Carriers

Soft carriers are exactly what they sound like – there’s no hardware and construction to them. They are perfect for smaller babies who can’t yet ride in a more structured carrier, but they also work well for those with larger babies that are only going on a short hike. I can’t tell you exactly what mileage or age is the cutoff for using a soft carrier, so if you’re on the fence, you might want to at least try on both types to feel the difference. 

Pros of a Soft Carrier:

  • No age limit – even newborns can be carried safely
  • Carried in front and against your body, your little one can hear your heartbeat and breathing, which can be really soothing
  • It’s easier to monitor your baby’s temperature and to keep them warm 
  • Keeps really young ones close and in your field of vision, which can be reassuring for parents
  • Allows you to nurse on the trail
  • Versatile and can be used on your back for older babies
  • Has a lower center of gravity, which may make some parents feel more stable
  • Can be shoved in a backpack, diaper bag, or small space for easy stowing, and can be easily pulled out when needed
  • Less expensive than a framed carrier
  • So many options, you’re sure to find one that “feels” right

Cons of a Soft Carrier:

  • They can get really uncomfortably warm in the summer
  • If worn on the back, some babies might be too low for them to see over your shoulder
  • No or very little sun/rain protection
  • No gear storage

My Top Choices for Soft Carriers:

My go-to baby carrier for hikes

The Happy Baby is my very favorite baby carrier; these linen carriers are a dream to wear in the summer time. They are easy to get on and off, and come with a protective hood, which is rare in soft carriers. The original carrier model can be used to carry newborns without needing to purchase an additional insert, and can be used to carry your child until they are up to 45 pounds. After that, their toddler option allows you to wear your child from 25-60 pounds. Note: the Original Happy Baby and Toddler Carriers allow only front inward facing and back positions, but the Revolution Carrier also has a front outward facing carry option.

Perfect for a day hike with a newborn

Not for racking up the miles, but perfect for a day hike (especially with a newborn). Solly Baby’s soft silky wraps feel so nice for you and your baby, and can be wrapped as tight as needed. Just keep in mind that the baby should be wrapped high enough to make sure airways are always clear. This carrier is perfect for shorter jaunts with babies during those first few months.

Newborn carried in a Solly baby wrap during a snowy hike

Perfect for adjustable carrying positions

Tula’s Free-to-Grow Baby Carrier accommodates newborns, infants, and young toddlers ranging from 7-45 pounds. Back and front carry options allow ergonomic positions for comfortable carrying and healthy hip and spine development for your baby. Adjustable, padded shoulder straps and breathable material make this comfy for both you and your kiddo. However, this one doesn’t allow for front outward-facing carry.

Perfect for multi-use

We use the Ergobaby Omni 360 and love it. It’s a bit bulkier than the Happy Baby carrier above, but has more carry position options, and is still super comfy. They are advertised as the carrier when you need every option, and that pretty much sums it up. They can be used to carry newborns (without an insert) to toddlers, and have many carry position options, front carry inward facing, front carry outward facing (from 5 months +), and hip and back carry (from 6 months +). They also come in a mesh breathable version for cooler carrying in warmer climates. Finally, the straps are crossable, providing additional lumbar support.

Baby on a hike carried in an Ergo baby carrier

Framed Carriers

Hardshell or framed carriers sit much higher on your back than the soft carriers. They are structured, like the name suggests, but this means they are not suitable for very young babies, who need more protection and a more bundled hold. Framed carriers are meant to be the backpacker’s solution to carrying children on hikes, and you could go all day with the right carrier and a willing infant. That said, they can also be frustrating to deal with on a very short hike, and it can be helpful to have a second set of hands to adjust straps and make sure your baby is secure. 

Pros of a Framed Carrier:

  • You can hike much longer with a more supportive weight bearing capacity
  • Has storage options (all those snacks have to go somewhere!)
  • Babies and toddlers sit higher in these so they can see better and appreciate the view
  • The baby is held farther from your body, allowing air flow and a cooler hike
  • Many offer sun and rain protection

Cons of a Framed Carrier:

  • Can’t be used with newborns or smaller babies (generally cannot be used safely before 6+ months of age)
  • Center of gravity is higher and can make a wiggly baby hard to balance
  • Since your baby isn’t against your body, you’ll be less attuned to their body temperature on a cold or hot day
  • Can be difficult to put on and take off
  • Heavier, bulkier, and can’t be easily stashed away when not in use
  • More expensive

My Top Choices for Framed Carriers:

Perfect for larger babies and toddlers

The Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier is super comfortable for both parent and kiddo with a sturdy metal frame that accommodates a growing child, a padded hipbelt, and a mesh back panel for ventilation. The arched profile frame transfers 70% of the load into the hip fins for increased comfort. A soft, removable pillow and side support cushions support sleepy heads encouraging mid-hike naps. The side entry option and roomy suspended child seat make this the best option for larger babies and toddlers.

Perfect for smaller toddlers, with more storage capacity

I love my Osprey backpack and wanted to love the Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier for my kiddo, but when it came to fitting us both, the Deuter was a much roomier seat for my two-year-old. The Osprey felt incredibly snug and constricting in comparison. This pack is lovely though and for a smaller child would likely be perfect. Plus the storage is better in this one (at 26 liters) than the Deuter. That said, it lacks the side entry option that is invaluable on treks with toddlers.

Summary: The age of your child, length of the hike, and your comfort with carriers is going to strongly affect whether you’d prefer a soft or hard carrier for your hiking elopement. If using a soft carrier with a front carry option though, make sure your baby is close enough to be kissed on the head, and that their airways are always open!

Other Gear for Hiking Elopements

Headlamp

You always want to hike with a headlamp or a good flashlight, even if you’re planning on being back before the sun sets. I consider this a safety feature that is just as important as a first aid kit or cellphone because you always want to be prepared for a hike taking longer than expected. Also, if you’re out before sunrise or after sunset, headlamps are essential for making a hike safe, and the photos at these times are always stunning! Bring extra batteries with you or make sure your headlamp is fully charged, if it’s the rechargeable type. You may need a headlamp for safety, but kids appreciate bringing their own for the fun factor.  

A Perfect Hiking Elopement Headlamp

Best headlamp for kids

Hiking Socks

bride walking in hiking boots during her hiking elopement

Wool socks are an essential part of your hiking gear. The best socks prevent blisters, regulate heat, and allow you to hike all day in comfort. There are many brands out there, but Darn ToughSmartwool, and Wigwam are my favorites. 

The Best Wool Socks for Hiking Kids

Clothing Layers

Child dressed in cute overalls during a hiking elopement with kids.

Base layers, knits that can be easily removed, and clothing items with texture, like corduroy, photograph lovely and keep little ones warm, but not too warm.

Layers are a must, no matter the time of year! If you’re wearing a dress, I always recommend a solid pair of nude leggings to keep you warm without standing out in photos. Under suits, a wool base layer will keep you warm without feeling stuffy. Look for merino wool to get the performance of wool with the comfort of cotton. It’s not stiff and scratchy, and wicks moisture much better than other materials.

I cannot stress layers enough. For you and your children, flexible layers can be the difference between a meltdown due to discomfort or the ability to stay cozy and happy all day outside. Down jackets, chunky sweaters, wool shawls, small blankets, scarfs, gloves/mittens, and beanies are all essential if eloping during the winter, at high altitudes, or even in the desert in the evening. The textures of chunky sweaters and scarfs photograph beautifully, and you’ll photograph more beautifully if you’re comfortable, too. Hand warmers can do wonders and they’re so easy to stash in pockets, gloves, mittens, or even in between layers when the weather becomes a little too cold for comfort. Toe warmers are worth considering, though harder to stash in tight shoes. In the summer, sun hats are a must for kids on long exposed hikes.

child in a sunhat taking a break during a summer hike

Base Layers for Kids and Babies:

Ella’s Wool 

Chasing Windmills thermal long johns

The Best Merino Base Layers for Babies

This bunting can double as a sleeping bag without needing to worry about your little one getting swallowed up:

The Most Versatile Outerlayer for Kids

Blanket or Sleeping Bag

Bring along a lightweight blanket or sleeping bag even if it isn’t cold out! It can make for a beautiful addition to cozy pictures, or serve as a dirt-free place for your little one to hang out while you’re a couple steps away getting some individual portraits. If it is cold, a sleeping bag that packs down easily can be a perfect piece of gear for your kid to snuggle up in, if they get chilly or want to sit down.

My Favorite Blankets For Style

The Most Lightweight Hiking Blanket

My Favorite Children’s Sleeping Bag

Sunscreen

Sunscreen isn’t necessary only in the summer! A little dab on exposed noses in the winter can help when the sun is reflecting off freshly fallen snow. Sunscreen, or even just a little bottle of lotion, can also help if the wind picks up and cheeks become red and chapped. It really is a basic necessity during hiking elopements with kids. 

Baby safe sunscreen that’s great for everyone in the family

 

Water & Snacks

This one is the most obvious yet the most overlooked necessity when hiking with children. My rule of thumb is to always have one more meal on hand than you think is necessary, and as much water as you can comfortably carry. Even when it isn’t hot out, hiking depletes your water reserves and hangry isn’t just a result of lack of food. Adequate hydration and regular snacking are essential for keeping morale high during a hiking elopement. Never underestimate the power of a well-timed cracker in keeping kids from getting cranky.

child outside eating a cracker

Never underestimate the power of a snack for calming a fussy kid.

Now that you’re prepared to check these things off your gear list, it’s time to get down to planning the specifics!! Need some inspiration? This post has loads of ideas for including kids in your elopement day! 

Each location and each family is going to be a little different. The items listed above are essential for all hiking elopements with kids, but let’s talk about what you need for your dream location! I love guiding couples and their families through every step of the planning process, from location scouting to double checking that everyone is having fun midway up the trail.

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ELOPING WITH KIDS HOW TO ELOPE

Eloping With Kids- Ultimate Guide for Including Children in Your Elopement

There are lots of ways to include children when eloping with kids along.

Including children in your elopement takes planning, but it is a meaningful way of showing them that you’re truly all in this together! Your new adventure as a married couple is an experience you deserve to cherish for the rest of your lives, and planning a day that involves your children can foster feelings of connectedness and belonging amongst all of you.

 

YOU ARE EMBRACING YOUR ADVENTURE, PRIORITIZING YOUR RELATIONSHIP IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN, AND MODELING AN EARTH-CENTRIC WAY TO COMMIT TO YOUR PARTNER AND YOUR FAMILY.

 

There are lots of reasons for eloping with kids. Below are just a few, as well as loads of ideas for how to include them in your elopement day. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that your relationship with your partner is still the focus of your elopement, even when your kids are along. Involving your children in your wedding day doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice intimacy with your partner. It’s okay to preserve the elopement ceremony for just the two of you! There are many ways to elope with kids, even if you do choose to step aside at the ceremony to privately share your vows. If a family-friendly elopement is your dream wedding, you’ll find creative ways to involve them below! 

Flower children at an outdoor family-friendly elopement.

how to include your children in your elopement- ideas for eloping with kids along

1. Have your little ones help you during the “getting ready” phase of your day

  • Have your daughter brush your hair, and brush hers. Have your child zip up or button your dress (even if they have only started practicing zippers and buttons). Have your child tie your tie, or button your jacket. Even if they don’t manage to actually accomplish these tasks from beginning to end, I promise these getting ready moments will make beautiful photographs and memories for all of you. You can do this whether your children are coming to your ceremony or not. It’s a way to both involve them meaningfully and to make them feel a part of the action.
  • Expert tip: Make sure to set aside plenty of time for getting ready when small kids are involved. I am familiar with the anxiety that stems from needing to be somewhere at a certain time, despite small children wanting to do everything on their own (and painfully slowly!). Kids move at a different rhythm than adults, and there’s no sense in trying to impart in them a sense of urgency. It won’t do you any good. Give yourself time to enjoy moments that naturally unfold during this intimate part of your wedding day. 

2. Family First Looks

Bride laughing with the flower girl and ring bearer during a family first look at an outdoor wedding.

  • Have a first look with your little ones, before or after a first look with your partner. Your child will feel so important seeing you ready to get married before your ceremony, and the sweet moments this creates are such a lovely addition to an already incredibly meaningful day. And they photograph beautifully.

3. Ask them to be flower children or ring bearers

Little girl acting as the ring bearer during an outdoor elopement ceremony.

  • Yeah, it’s a more traditional role, but remember elopements don’t have rules! You can take what you like from traditional weddings and leave all the rest! Just don’t forget outdoor weddings require a bit more care, and LNT principles should be followed at all times (it’s also a great time to teach your kiddos what LNT principles are all about!). LNT means that you won’t be throwing confetti or flowers in wild places. Instead, let them get creative! Have them brainstorm how they would like to perform their role. I promise, they will think of ideas you would never imagine.

4. Write vows for everyone

  • Write vows for your partner, and your kids! Or ask your kids to write down their feelings to share during the ceremony. If they aren’t old enough to write yet, they can tell an adult what they want to say in their letter (maybe an older sibling, or grandparent). If they’re too young to really verbalize their feelings, have them draw a picture!
  • Including vows to your children shows them the commitment being made is not only to your partner, but to them, and to your family as a whole.
  • You can write your vows to your children in the cover of their favorite childhood book as a special keepsake for them.

Vows can be written in a favorite book of poetry and given to your partner as a keepsake after the ceremony.

5. Set aside a special time during your ceremony to let them talk

  • Your marriage is a change for them, as much as it may be for you. Even if your typical living situation hasn’t altered much and you’ve been living with your partner for years, there’s something solidifying about tying the knot and making it all “official” with a ceremony. Your kids may feel this weight even more than you do, as kids find a lot of meaning in rituals (especially young ones). Give them an opportunity to talk about what this means to them and what they are looking forward to. You may be surprised and really touched by their earnestness. 

Flower child at outdoor elopement with kids.

Tips and inspiration for writing vows

Vows are often quite personal, may be handwritten, and are filled with and elicit a lot of emotion.  You and your partner can write these together, or compose vows separately and have it all be a surprise, steeping your day in that much more emotion. There’s absolutely no need to memorize your vows. Your wedding day will be filled with so much emotion; take some pressure off and hand write them in a vow book. Or, as a memorable sentimental gift, hand write them in a favorite book and give it as a special gift to your partner at the end of the ceremony.

If you’re writing your own vows, here are a few questions to ask yourself to kick-start the writing process:

  • What is one of your very favorite things about your partner, about your children?
  • Describe one of the times you were proud of your partner, or children.
  • What’s one of the craziest, most adventurous things you have done with your partner?
  • Why did you fall in love with your partner and, importantly, why are you still in love with them?
  • And finally, What are you promising your partner, or your children?
Need more help with writing vows? Check out this “how to write your personal wedding vows” blog post for tips, tricks, and inspiration.

6. huge list of ways to Involve family in the ceremony

Unity ceremony ideas with child 

In a unity ceremony, you take separate things and combine them, turning them into a new singular item. These ceremonies take on many different forms, so there are options for anyone wishing to add some symbolism to their wedding day, and to include their children in the process. 

Couple adding soil to their tree during a tree planting unity ceremony at an intimate wedding.

  • Unity candle ceremony – Light one large candle from smaller candles held by you, your partner, and each of your children, symbolizing the union of you all.
  • Tree planting ceremony – Gather soil from each of your hometowns, have your children gather soil from the home they now live in, as well as the place you intend to build your future together, and combine it in a pot to plant a tree. In a backyard wedding ceremony, this tree can be planted in your own yard right from the start to serve as a reminder for the whole family of your wedding day and of the commitments you have made to each other. This symbolizes that relationships take tending and nurturing to grow big and strong. Giving your children the job of caring for your tree continues to make them feel a part of your wedding, your family, and helps them to learn to care for a piece of nature as well!
  • Sand ceremony – Each of you and your children get a different color of sand in separate vessels to pour into one single vase, creating a lovely display, and signifying a union that is impossible to separate. This is a great alternative to a candle ceremony for outdoor weddings taking place in windy locations. It’s also great for younger children who may not be able to safely handle a lit candle.
  • Blending paint – Perfect for your little artists. Each of you choose a different color of paint and then pour it onto a single canvas, symbolizing your union, and creating a piece of art representative of your relationship. And you end up with a great and sentimental piece of art to hang in your home.

Bonus Idea for Adult Unity Ceremonies: Wine or Beer (and maybe Whiskey, too!) – You choose two different (but compatible!) wines or beers and pour them into a glass to create a third perfect blend that you then drink together. And when your kids are of age, they can toast you as well! Of course, you can involve your kids in more than just unity ceremonies. Below are some more suggestions!

Wine bottles in a handmade wooden box to seal for a later time.

Handfasting ceremony

This is a Celtic marriage tradition, and very possibly where we get the phrase, “tie the knot.” The couple joins right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand, making a figure eight to represent eternity. Then a strip of cloth, ribbon, or piece of fabric is used to tie their crossed wrists together symbolizing union. Your child can do the tying, either alone or with the help of an older sibling or adult. 

Sage smudging ceremony

This is a ritual you may not have considered. Smudging can be used in a secular or religious ceremony, regardless of your faith. You need only three things: a bundle of sage, something to light it, and a bowl to hold it while it burns. After the bundle of sage is lit, an intention, affirmation, or blessing is said by you, your officiant, or even your child (if you’re a Waldorf parent, this may be right up your alley!). Sage is an herb thought to have cleansing properties and, when used on one’s wedding day, is believed to cleanse away negative energy, allowing the family to commence marriage on the right foot. Note: Sage smudging has deep religious and cultural ties to indigenous peoples and should be done respectfully. Take the opportunity to teach your little ones the history and importance of this cultural tradition.

Lasso or El Lazo ceremony

Traditional in Mexican, Filipino, and Spanish cultures, this involves draping a floral garland or rosary around the couple (twisted in the infinity symbol, of course). Your child can do the draping, or can even squeeze into the garland. It is then saved as a symbol of love and unity.

Lei exchange

A lei exchange can be done between the couple, between the couple and their kids, or  grandparents can bestow the leis on the couple and their grandkids. Maile leaf is a popular choice for guys, whereas women wear more fragrant flowers, such as tuberose. Of course, you can use whatever you want!

Ceremonies involving the sharing of a cup

A quaich at a family wedding ceremony.

Communion isn’t the only time a wedding couple might drink from a cup. They are varied, and are used in many cultures, for instance, a Scottish quaich or a Native American wedding vase. You can celebrate by using a child-friendly beverage and all take a sip from the communal cup.

Other ideas to involve your kids

Bride and groom nailing a family time capsule during an outdoor elopement ceremony.

 

Create a family time capsule!

  • A family wedding day time capsule. Each of you can add a special love note or meaningful item to the box to be stowed away to open at some later date. This is a great way to remind you of what your children were interested in, and where they were in their childhood when you got married. It will be a sentimental reminder for all of you of what your life was like with kids the year you got married. 
  • Let your child pronounce you married. It’s okay if they aren’t quite talking yet. Baby babbles are super cute and a moment you’re not soon to forget!
  • Have your child sign your marriage license. If you’re getting hitched in a self-solemnizing state, your child can sign as witness or officiant. They will feel so important, and this becomes a lovely keepsake to pull out when reminiscing about your wedding day.
  • Do you or your children have other skills you want to put to use on your elopement day? If musically inclined, you could play a song together, or maybe your children could perform one for the two of you. You can write your own song, or choose one that is meaningful to your family.
  • Local traditions. If you’re getting married via a destination elopement, consider incorporating local traditions. Learning about the place you’re getting married can bring up some wonderful ways to celebrate while tying the knot!
  • Cultural traditions. Traditions that give a nod to your roots can imbue your day with even more purpose and intention. This can teach your kids about where they come from while celebrating the future of your family!
  • Start your own family tradition, and have your children help! This can literally be anything you and your kids can dream up. Put them to task brainstorming ways to make your ceremony extra meaningful and they’ll probably come up with things you never would have considered! 
  • Involve family and friends who won’t be there with you. Ask family and friends to write notes for you to read to each other at some point during your wedding day. You’ll feel their love and support from a distance, no matter how far away they are.
  • Wedding cake.  If a wedding cake is as important to you as it is to me, go ahead and have some. Let your kids help choose a style, pick a flavor, and dish it out! I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like cake!
  • Family wedding reception. You can pack a family picnic to enjoy after your ceremony, and revel in the view from where you chose to say your vows.

Groom playing a song to his family during an intimate forest wedding with kids.

Final things to consider when eloping with kids

7. Be honest with what you want.

If you want an adventurous ceremony that is a bit too exciting for the kids, there are still many ways to involve them! As mentioned above, bring your kids in on the planning and give them a chance to personally craft part of your elopement day, so you can see their hands in the celebration whether they are present or not. You can also include your children virtually by calling them before or after the ceremony.

If your kids are up for part of the adventure, but might not make it all day, split your schedule to spend time with your children before and after your vow exchange. If you want a private vow exchange with your partner, invite your children in for the first look or while you’re getting ready, so they can see how excited you are for this commitment. You can also plan a multi-day wedding experience where one day is family-focused, and another is just-us time with your partner.

8. Be realistic with your expectations.

Only you know your children, their capabilities, and their limits. You are intimately aware of what makes them happy and what is going to put them in a bad mood. Choose an adventure they can handle, or have an alternative plan. Remember: if they can’t handle a backpacking elopement and that kind of adventure is super important to you, you can still make it happen and involve them in other ways! Be realistic about their abilities and have back-up plans. 

9. Designate a kiddo wrangler.

A kiddo wrangler at an outdoor elopement ceremony can entertain your children while you have the best day ever.

Designate a best friend or family member who is attending as your kiddo wrangler, so your child can be present and you can get married without needing to constantly worry about their safety and happiness. Your kids will be happy to have someone else to interact with. Plus, if your kids are anything like mine, they’re much more likely to behave well for another adult.

10. Explain LNT principles to your children in a way that makes sense to them

This article will help: 

Help Kids Leave No Trace 

11. Come prepared! 

Little girl carrying her lovey at an outdoor elopement with kids.

 


Encouraging your child to bring their lovey along is a great way to keep them occupied and have them feel safe and secure in a new situation.

The best way to ensure everyone is safe, has fun, and doesn’t become overwhelmed is to be prepared for your elopement location and plan. Check out this blog post for the list of essential outdoor wedding gear you’ll want to have on hand!

Additional Things to think about when planning your family-friendly elopement

Whether you want to involve your kids in your ceremony or not, you have to decide what kind of ceremony you want to have! Yes, there are more ways than one to have a wedding ceremony (thank goodness!) – now is your chance to choose the method right for you and your family.

 

Your answers to these basic questions will influence how your elopement takes shape:

 

  • Will we get legally married at this elopement, or will this be a commitment ceremony?
    • Commitment ceremonies are basically just wedding ceremonies without the legal paperwork. For many reasons (such as, timing, location, and guest count) couples choose to separate the legal requirements from their elopement. This means you don’t have to have witnesses or an officiant present on the day you say your vows.
    • Commitment ceremonies are sometimes called “symbolic ceremonies,” and they give you the freedom to do things in whatever way feels right for you! Write your own vows, celebrate your own traditions, and remember that there’s no “wrong way” to celebrate!
  • Will we be self-solemnizing or will an officiant be marrying us?
    • An officiant or celebrant can be a minister, a best friend, a close relative, or even your photographer (I’m actually a licensed officiant and can do this for you!). If you’re not getting married in one of these self-solemnizing states (PA, IL, WI, CO, DC, CA, ME, NV, KS), you will need a licensed officiant, and likely witnesses, at your ceremony. 
    • If your ceremony destination is remote and requires some effort to get to, you may have to find an officiant who is as adventurous as you are!
    • If you’re in a self-solemnizing state, anyone can lead the ceremony – no license required! 
  • Will there be a religious component?
    • Some religious ceremonies necessitate the inclusion of specific passages and readings.
    • Certain religions also have strict rules regarding who can and cannot be involved in the legally binding portion of your marriage union, so keep that in mind as you look to include your little ones.

After nailing down the details of the kind of ceremony you wish to have, you can choose ways to involve them that are most meaningful to you! If you’re not already convinced that a beautiful elopement can involve little ones, below are some reasons why you may want to consider including them in your wedding day magic.

WANT YOUR OWN GUIDE FILLED WITH TIPS, TRICKS, & FUN IDEAS FOR ELOPING WITH KIDS?!

Reasons to include your children in your elopement plans

Our children learn from watching us. Their imitation of our words, actions, and emotions can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s also a strong motivator for you to be intentional and authentic. Involving them in your elopement plans gives you a chance to show your children what matters most to you – your relationship with your partner, with them, and with our planet. It’s an opportunity to set an example, align your actions with your beliefs, and demonstrate your values in an immensely tangible way. By eloping instead of planning an expensive and wasteful traditional wedding, you show your children that you value experiences over things, and that time spent outdoors with your loved ones is your favorite way to celebrate! By sharing this celebration outdoors in your favorite space, you’re forever connecting intention and celebration with your deep love of nature.

Child in a stroller at an outdoor elopement ceremony.

Our children benefit from experience outdoors

Showing our children what we value most will help them appreciate those same things as they grow older. Developing a connection with nature at a young age helps your children in so many ways! Yes, an elopement is just one day outside, but it’s an immensely important one! And it could very well be the spark that ignites a lifelong love of nature!

Reason 1: Nature facilitates the development of creativity & imagination.

Little girl blowing a wish flower while enjoying time in nature.

  • Natural environments and their contents are more open-ended and less structured, which allows children to use their imaginations, to dream of new possibilities, and to use objects in novel and inventive ways.

Reason 2: Time in nature helps our kids build confidence.

  • They learn to take calculated risks, and discover they can do things without the constant help of adults.
  • Kids have freedom to act outdoors, instead of actions being completely dictated by a curated interior environment, which gives kids a greater sense of efficacy.

Reason 3: Nature helps children build connections and take responsibility.

  • Children who fall in love with wild places are more likely to grow up wanting to protect them.
  • Being outside stimulates a sense of wonder! Children become interested in the Earth and the systems on our planet that foster life. 
  • Being outdoors is the most natural way to teach Leave No Trace principles to our young ones. When they are outside, they learn firsthand what happens if they forget to water a plant, or what happens when they pull a flower. They come to understand the power their actions can have on the planet. 

Reason 4: Marrying your best friend is the most amazing experience to share with your children!

By planning your dream outdoor elopement, you’re teaching your kids that anything is possible, and to follow any kind of dream they may have. By watching you act upon your convictions, they witness evidence that untraditional and intentional actions can have great reward, and result in the most meaningful experiences! And by including them in your elopement plans, you’re showing them that you’re all in this together!

You can absolutely have a stress-free wedding day with children, if you plan accordingly! I’m here to help because planning outdoor celebrations that involve children make my heart sing. I’d love to help you plan and document the perfect elopement for your family 💛     

Ready to plan your own adventurous family-friendly elopement?!