Alright everyone, this one’s going to be a doozy because we will be covering how to throw a reception after eloping! There are so many reasons to do this, and so many ways to do it. But rest assured, I’m going to break all of this down for you.
What is an Elopement Reception?
So what the hell is an elopement reception? This is basically the celebration of your marriage after you have eloped. Sound familiar? It is similar to a wedding reception. That’s really what trips people up. You start to think “should I hire a DJ? Vendors? Where do I have the reception? Does there need to be food?” I get it. The major difference between and elopement reception and wedding reception is that there are certain expectation for wedding receptions. You don’t show up to a 200 person wedding and then expect to only be fed snacks in someone’s back yard.
With elopements, you aren’t really including anyone. The point of the reception here is to include your loved ones in a celebration after you have eloped. It feels a lot more like a party than a traditional wedding reception. And you can do this however the heck you want, it’s your party and you can cry if you want to. (if you don’t get the reference move on and keep reading for the juicy stuff)
When to Throw the Reception
This is a big question amongst couples who want to elope. What you need to decide is if you want to have a reception later the same day you’re eloping, or if you’d prefer to elope completely in private and celebrate later down the line.
If you’re choosing the latter, then the general rule of thumb is to throw a reception a couple months or so after your elopement. This gives you time to book anything you might need, get your guests invited, and still have it close enough to the date you actually eloped.
How to Throw a Elopement Reception
The first thing I’m going to say here is make this about the way you want to celebrate. If you want something simple just to share the joy with your loved ones, then don’t rent out a venue and create a menu for a seated dinner. If you do want something extravagant, don’t feel like you can’t throw a big party just because you chose to get married in private. This is about you, your love, and the traditions you’re creating.
Decide Who You Want to Be There
Some couples want just direct family. Some people want to include some friends as well. And then there’s couples who go bigger and invite up to 50 people. Basically, eloping doesn’t mean you can’t invite whoever you want to your reception. Maybe you wanted the best of both worlds; to elope in private and then throw a reception after eloping that was vibrant and filled with everyone you love!
Either way, sit and think about it, figure out who you want to be there, and then you can start getting to the next steps of throwing your reception after eloping.
Decide on your budget
So you know how many people you’d like to attend your reception after eloping. Now, it’s time to determine how much you and your partner would like to spend on this event. If your guest list is looking big, expect to be spending more as you’ll likely need some kind of formal venue (even if it’s a rad outdoor camp venue.) And you will probably need some set and stone activities and food. You don’t want a group of 50 people to just look around and blink at each other.
If you’re going smaller, you can still ball out. Throw something extravagant for 8 people at a gorgeous Airbnb with a private chef. Setting your budget first will help you decide everything that comes next and will help you prioritize what is the most important to you.
Choose Your Reception Location
This will be based on how many people you decided to invite. There are tons of different options out there. If you want to skip to the the reception location list, scroll down to “venue ideas for your elopement reception.”
Choose something that matches the vibe you’re going for. If you want a dance party, go somewhere you can have a band or a DJ. If you want something intimate and casual, have it at your home or a Airbnb/VRBO
Plan Your Activities
When thinking about throwing a reception after eloping, you have to think about what you want to do during said reception. Do you want to have a bbq and do things like play cornhole and drink some beers with your buddies? Do you want to have a camping reception and have a bonfire with you loved ones while you cook s’mores? Maybe you want the lavish reception where you rent a venue and have a seated dinner and a DJ.
Consider what would be the most fun for you and your parter to throw. Add some activities that are unique to you, or feel free to incorporate some traditional wedding activities!
Think Through Food and Beverage Options
I’ll be honest, I think all parties should have some food. Maybe that’s just me, but I rarely have a friend come over to my home for a casual hangout without putting out a bowl of chips and salsa. I once had a couple who paid for a ton of different ingredients and their guests help them put together gorgeous spreads and charcuterie boards. The guests honestly had a blast doing this. You can do something simple like a buffet brought in by caterer’s.
There is also always the option to have a brunch reception, or a dinner reception, just at the restaurant of your choice. You can hire food trucks, and nowadays you can hire booze trucks too. They can roll right on up to your house, venue, or (if it’s approved by the host) Airbnb or VRBO
Hire Any Possible Vendors
So when you throw a reception after eloping, do you hire vendors? Up to you! Maybe you’re tired of me saying that, but isn’t this the reason you chose an elopement instead of something traditional? Get creative with this shit and have fun with it. Wanna dance? Get a DJ (or have friends with really loud speakers and a bomb playlist.) Want some booze? Get a bartender. Want to document this experience? Hell yeah, hire that photographer (which is my profession, by the way.)
Choose a date
Alright, you’ve made all the major decisions on how you will throw a reception after eloping, but when? If you picked a venue, try to check out they’re available dates before you make a decision. Same goes for if you found a dreamy Airbnb. Make sure they are available for the date you want before you get your heart set on something.
Lastly, I am a HUGE fan of weekday elopements. Why? Less crowds, quieter trails, and it’s always cheaper one way or another. But a reception… try to pick a weekend date if you really want to throw a party. Your friends and family will appreciate you for it.
Make an Announcement
All right, you’ve done the planning to figure out how to throw a reception after eloping. Now it’s time to make your announcement. The way you do this is going to depend on if you eloped and you already told your friends and family that was how you planned on getting married, or if you did it secretly and want this to be the way you let everyone know of your marriage, and that they’re invited to your celebration.
If it’s the second one, your invitations to your reception need to be very clear. Make sure they realize they’re not being invited to a wedding day. It’s important that they understand you have already gotten married, and this is just a day for you to celebrate that with them. There are tons of really easy and cute options that make it pretty clear right off of Etsy.
Are Receptions After Eloping Cheaper Than a Wedding?
For a lot of couples, choosing to elope is not about being cost-effective. It’s about having a day that is intentional, it is to focus your attention and love only on the other person. Are elopements generally cheaper? Yes, but elopements are not less important than big weddings. That being said, if you want to spend a pretty penny and make your wedding day extravagant, of course it can still cost a decent amount.
The same goes for throwing a reception after eloping. Odds are you could definitely save money. Doing some thing like inviting five guests to a backyard barbecue is absolutely going to be cheaper than having a reception in a traditional wedding venue with food, beverages, 100 guests and a lot of vendors.
Although, there are definitely tons of couples who want to elope in private, and then still throw one hell of a party. I know a lot of brides who have paid to get their hair and make up done again, and even buy an entirely different wedding dress for the reception. How much this costs is absolutely going to be up to you, and what you want your party to look like, and how important it is to celebrate with other people and the way you do it.
What to Wear to Your Elopement Reception
When throwing a reception after eloping, you might be wondering what you should wear, and what your guys should wear. If you want to dress back up in your wedding attire, you should probably let you guests know that it’s formal. If you wanna wear dress pants and with a dress shirt and a more casual wedding dress, you can absolutely go for something more semi formal. Or if you have absolutely no desire to slip into a wedding gown ever again, go for casual.
There are no rules, just make sure your guests are in the know as to what they should be wearing and whatever decision you make will be totally kosher.
Elopement Reception Ideas
Wahoo! You’ve made it through everything you need to consider when throwing a reception after eloping! Here are some of the elopement reception ideas you could consider for your celebration:
- Get an Airbnb with a pool and throw a pool party
- Go wine tasting
- Throw a dance party
- Have a camping reception
- Brunch and bubbly
- Have a barbecue
- Get a party boat
- Theme party
- Potluck style celebration
- Traditional style Reception at a venue
- Luxury Picnic (check out this vendor)
- Airbnb Party (check with your hosts)
- Get together with appetizers and cocktails
- Outdoor venue with outdoor party games
How Much Does Throwing a Reception After Eloping Cost?
there are far too many variables to give a solid one size fits all response to this question. A casual get together at your home with friends and family bringing food and drinks for a potluck style situation is going to be incredibly cheap.
Something a little bit more expensive than that such as renting out an Airbnb and having food and drinks provided with some decor and party rentals could easily cost $1000-$3000.
And then there’s something more extravagant, where are you decide to get your hair and make up done, have a more elegant style dinner, hire vendors, and have a bigger guest list, and possibly even rent out a venue. This could easily cost $5000 or more dollars.
But there is so much gray area here. You could choose to absolutely ball out on a beautiful Airbnb, but then just have a chill party there with your iPhone plugged into a speaker, and everyone bringing some snacks and their own booze. This is why it is so important to determine what your budget looks like, and which parts of your reception you’d like to prioritize.
Ideas for a Low Cost Reception
- Backyard BBQ
- Picnic celebration
- Airbnb with some snacks and yard games
- Get together at a friends home
The Easiest Post Reception Idea
I’ve gone over a lot of different ways to throw a reception after eloping. If this blog post is overwhelming you and you’re wondering what the easiest post reception idea is that is still both nice and can be either formal or casual, I fully recommend simply making reservations at the restaurant of your choice.
This could be a brunch restaurant, a more casual restaurant that you love, a brewery where you rent out some the space and plug your phone into their speakers, or a nice dinner restaurant that’s a bit more formal. No matter what you choose, you can easily have something a bit more extravagant, or super casual. Either way, there isn’t too much planning to this. Choose where you would like to go, make the reservations, invite your loved ones, and let them know what the outfit requirements are.
Venue Ideas for a Elopement Reception
if you’re stuck trying to figure out where you should have your reception, these are going to be the most common venue ideas. Once again, you always need to check in with your host and make sure your plans are suitable for their home when attempting to use a vacation rental as your venue. You can absolutely even have a bonfire and dance party in the middle of BLM land so long as you are respecting LNT principles and are making sure all of your activities are allowed. Here are the most common spaces I see couple planning receptions after eloping.
- Your own home
- Camping Venue
- BLM Land
- Traditional Venue
Reception Ideas After Destination Elopement
This is an absolutely amazing excuse to have a theme party. Say you had a destination elopement in Mexico, you can totally do a Mexican themed reception. Maybe you had your elopement in Italy, and you want your dinner menu to include all of the incredible dishes you got to try when you were abroad.
theme parties are tons of fun, just make sure that there’s no cultural appropriation going on if you decide to incorporate elements from a international destination that you eloped at. Don’t be that guy.
Last but not least, if you don’t get a traditional venue, and you’re throwing your reception after loping in a Airbnb or home, you can still absolutely deck out the space with decor. There are lots of party rental companies. You can rent tables and chairs. Hire a florist to do florals. Or, you can make your own decorations. Just because you might be having your reception outdoors, or just at home, doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the decor. Although if you don’t care about it for sure isn’t necessary.
These are All of My Tips on How to Throw a Reception After Eloping!
I am an elopement photographer based in Bend Oregon. Through my time documenting love stories for couples all around the world, I’ve gotten the knack for planning as well. I include planning services such as permit assistant, location research, and timeline Curation in my photography packages. If you’re looking for an awesome photographer who can also help you plan out your day and amazing reception, get in touch with me!