A couple looking at one another on a beach during their Kitsap State Park elopement.

How to Elope Without Offending Family- Tips for Telling the People You Love that You’re Eloping

While eloping is arguably a lot less stressful than getting hitched the traditional way, telling friends and family that you’ve decided to forgo a big wedding can feel anything but (hello family dynamics!). Navigating how to elope without offending family is one of the biggest hurdles couples face when deciding to elope. And while I’m not going to lie and say that it will be easy, it doesn’t have to be quite so hard either. Read on for suggestions on how best to announce your intention to elope— you’ve got this!

How to elope without offending family top tips.

Top Tips for Telling Family You’ve Decided to Elope

Tip 1: Tell Them in Person, the Earlier the Better 

Though the word elope is defined as “running away secretly to get married, especially without parental consent,” the word no longer has such clandestine connotations. Today, eloping generally refers to tying the knot on a smaller, more intimate scale while opting out of a large formal wedding.  

Eloping doesn’t have to involve running, and it certainly doesn’t have to be secret. In fact, the best way to elope without offending family is to let them know in person. If you’re anticipating a negative reaction, it may be tempting to break the news over a text message or in an email. Resist this temptation. Talking face-to-face (or FaceTime-to-FaceTime) not only prevents potential misunderstandings, but also shows that you respect the individual and care about their feelings.  

And it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. You don’t want the first time your close friends or family hear about your elopement to be on social media.

Telling friends and family that you’re eloping before you actually do it can go a long way in minimizing hurt feelings. If you’re close with them, you may also want them to participate to some extent. Telling them early will allow them to feel involved and to take part in a meaningful way, even if it’s from a distance (see ideas for involving family and friends below and in this article).  

When announcing your decision, start with those closest to you and move outward. Try to do it in one day so they get to hear it from you and not someone else (creating a list of all the people you will call in advance will make this easier).

Couple embracing during a Pacific Northwest beach elopement.

Tip 2: Prepare for Negative Reactions    

You’re stoked that you’re eloping and others should be, too, right? Well, yes, but don’t expect them to be. While many people will be thrilled about your decision, others may not feel so over the moon. This can be really disappointing when you feel so good about your decision, but don’t let it color your response too much. Instead, active listening and a little empathy can go a long way. You don’t have to give in to validate their feelings. Just understanding and voicing that you do get it can decrease negative emotions when they crop up. Keeping in mind that their emotional reaction isn’t coming from a bad place, rather it’s because they genuinely care about you, may help you keep any disappointment you’re feeling in check.

A couple hugs during a Mount Rainier elopement ceremony.

Tip 3: Share Your Why

Explaining why you’re choosing to elope may be all that’s needed to get some family members on board with your decision. I know it sounds cliche, but letting them know it’s not about them, but rather it’s about you, can really make all the difference.  

Explain to them the reasons you are choosing to elope. There are loads of reasons, but some of the most common ones are:

  • wanting to avoid the stress of planning a big wedding
  • wanting a truly intimate day where the focus is on the relationship
  • wanting to save money for a big trip or a down payment on a house  
  • wanting this to be a special experience for just the two of you and your children 
A bride and groom swing their child while walking through the desert at their Lost Dutchman State Park elopement.

Remind your family that you love them and that your decision has nothing at all to do with them, but is instead what you genuinely feel is right for you and your relationship.

Tip 4: Get Them Involved

Some of the negative responses coming from family and friends may stem from feeling that they are, in a way, being deprived of something. Deprived of planning your wedding, deprived of celebrating with you, deprived of…  Finding ways for them to participate, even if it’s from a distance, allows them to feel involved.  

Tapping into their love language, that is, the way they speak and understand emotional love, can deepen their involvement. For instance, if your mom’s love language is quality time, suggest she plan an engagement party, or intimate affair either before or after your elopement. This acknowledges her desire to spend time with family and friends, and also makes her feel valued. A win-win.  

You may also consider an additional small ceremony that close friends and family can participate in, such as a tree planting ceremony. The tree you plant then serves as a reminder of your commitment to one another and to your family, of how love that is nurtured will grow, and of the love that you all now share. And it can be revisited again and again. Emphasizing the significance of this ceremony and how happy you are to have your friends and family share it with you may go a long way in helping them accept your decision to elope. More unity ceremony ideas can be found in this post.  

You can elope without offending family. This couple had an intimate celebration that grandma attended following their actual elopement.

There are tons of other ways that you can involve friends and family. Invite your mom or best friend dress shopping. Collect letters of well-wishes, marriage advice, or funny memories that can be read during or after the ceremony. Or write a letter to your parents that they can read on your elopement day. They will feel emotionally connected no matter how many miles are between you. Even just giving them the details of your elopement can make them feel that they are part of the planning process.

Tip 5: Stand Your Ground

You have made the brave choice to elope, and family and friends shouldn’t be able to dictate how your day unfolds. Be firm and confident. Remember, this is your day and you deserve a true-to-you wedding experience.  

Eloping couple embracing at sunset.

Tip 6: And Document the Hell Out of It

I’m not just saying this because I’m a photographer. When you elope, photos become that much more important. During a conventional wedding day, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob, and a gazillion other people you may (or may not!) know are there to take it all in. They get to see every event as it happens. When you elope, it is very possibly just you, your partner, your kids (if you have them), an officiant, and a photographer.  

Documenting the story of your day, all the big and little moments from beginning to end, and then sharing this with family and friends that were not present helps them to feel cared for. Seeing beautiful images that truly capture the emotions that washed over the day may even help them to understand why you chose to elope in the first place.  

A wedding couple looking at one another and smiling during their Discovery Park, Seattle elopement ceremony in the forest.

Eloping doesn’t mean what it once did, and while some may still be eloping to escape friends and family, many others are choosing this route because they want to focus on their relationship, and the commitment that they are making to each other and to their own little family. While telling friends and family can be difficult, remember that you were badass enough to make this decision in the first place, and you definitely have the strength to see it through.  

Everyone deserves a meaningful wedding day experience. If you have more questions about how to tell friends and family that eloping is ultimately the best choice for you (or you just need some moral support!), I’d love to help. 


  1. All these tips are really super helpful for any couple thinking of eloping. Thank you for putting so much thought into it and sharing so useful content!

  2. This is such great advice to help a couple shape their dream wedding day!

  3. These are amazing tips and I love all the photos with it too 🙂

  4. This is so helpful for couples who are eloping! What great tips for how to break the news 🙂

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I really hope you found it useful!

  5. I’m reading this after my future mother-in-law had an emotional breakdown to us voicing her disappointment and concerns over us eloping. It was a rough situation, but this article has seriously helped validate both feelings and it’s greatly appreciated!

    1. I’m glad it helped! It’s so difficult when the people we love aren’t thrilled with the decisions we make, but it’s good to remember that they are our decisions. It’s okay to validate feelings and still stand your ground. And it sounds like you did just that. Sending love your way though because I still know that it’s tough.

  6. Hey, the images in this post are uber white and heteronormative. Just food for thought. Thanks for the lovely article.

    1. Thanks so much for reading it! I really hope you found it useful. Also, I definitely hear you on this (believe me, it hasn’t escaped me!). Please send all your non-white and non-heteronormative friends my way 💛 I’m more than happy to serve everyone.

  7. Gabriella says:

    Thank you for this. This is the pep talk I needed! We have been planning our wedding for 10 months and it’s been a dreadful process for me. My mindset has been, how do I satisfy everyone? Turns out I was trying to satisfy everyone but myself and my SO. It wasn’t about us anymore and that is why we have made this decision to elope.

    1. I’m so glad it helped! Mindset is everything. Kudos for being brave and taking the leap to make this about the two people that truly matter.

  8. Thank you for this…Just wanted to add that some may choose to tell family/friends after the fact — it can also create tension. Not sure what I should’ve done..Told people beforehand? I chose to wait and tell people after we got married and some people were upset. I guess they wanted to know it was happening? It was a quick decision for us to get married, but I suppose I could have told people before? But not sure how it would’ve changed..they weren’t invited. But just to tell those out there reading this: Decide if you will tell people before the fact OR afterwards. Both have ramifications, unfortunately, though I don’t regret that we eloped!

  9. Thanks for sharing these tips. My wife and I did a lot of these when we eloped and I’m glad we did! At the end of the day, it was our wedding day and it was absolutely perfect. Gorgeous pictures!

  10. A voice from the family’s point of view: I’m pro-eloping for many reasons (more flowers!) but the rift it can cause in a family is real and lasting. I’ve been trying to process why my niece’s elopement caused such negative feelings. It does have to do with not feeling involved or connected, that the family’s support was unnecessary. But also, the announcement with the registry items picked out by her feels like sending $$ or a present is only connection she wants. I’m not alone in feeling like its a tacky way to announce the marriage. Any suggestions on a better way

    1. I absolutely understand that sentiment as well. There are lots of other ways to announce a marriage that can give everyone else feelings of warmth and inclusiveness as well. One that comes to mind is having a film created of the elopement and sharing that in a virtual announcement capacity. I also recommend that couples FaceTime close family members the day of so they know they are in their thoughts, albeit not physically present. A small post-elopement reception sometime down the road (I think having a registry for the reception is more palatable) is another way to celebrate with loved ones while keeping the marriage itself intimate and couple-centered.

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