Mt. Rainier hiking elopement

Planning an elopement is so much less stressful than planning a big wedding. Although, it opens you up to endless possibilities. A lot of couples struggle with figuring out what feels like “them” for a ceremony on their elopement day. So, here I wanted to go over unique ceremony ideas for elopements in 2023!

Let it be know that an elopement ceremony doesn’t need to be completely in private. A lot of eloping couples choose to have their closest friends and family present during their ceremony. That being said, some of these ideas will include family, and some will be for couples eloping in private (or saying their vows privately.)

Hike to Your Ceremony Location

Hiking to a ceremony location has gotten super popular in the recent years. This is a great choice for couples who love hiking, want to elope alone, or are inviting friends and family who can also manage a hike. I’ve hiked with my couples through the wild flowers of Mt. Rainier, up a rock path to a gorgeous glacial lake, and even do short 1 mile hikes in places like the Redwoods.

You can do this locally or internationally. There are beautiful hikes all over the world, and this could be easily added to any elopement day. This is one of the ceremony ideas for elopements that could easily be just a short part of your wedding day if you’d like to add on other activities.

ideas for elopement ceremony

Have Your Ceremony Near a Body of Water

This ceremony idea for elopements won’t be for everyone. Although, I personally love when couples commemorate their first moments of being married by doing something special, like running into the ocean. Sometime in 2020, I had an elopement at Cannon Beach in Oregon. After the ceremony, the couple ran into the ocean and started splashing each other, kissing, all of the cute things. It made for incredible photos and such a great experience for the couple.

You can also consider having your ceremony on the water. This could be on a boat with an officiant. Alternatively, you can say your vows privately to one another during a canoe ride before having your ceremony. This is another great opportunity for photos, and a great option for couples who want to say their vows completely privately.

I’ve also heard of couples doing their elopement on a cliff side, and then cliff jumping into the water right after their ceremony ended. Again, this might not be for everyone. Dresses, tuxes, and makeup are expensive. But it’s fun as hell and water activities can be great ceremony ideas for elopements.

elopement ceremony ideas on the beach in Hawaii

Have Your Officiant Tell the Story of How You Met

This was one of my absolute favorite ceremony ideas for an elopement. Let me explain a bit further. So, the officiant of one of my couples asked each of the girls two write in their own words, the story of how they met and ended up together. The officiant then combined their stories, and read it during their ceremony as if from a story.

I have never cried that much during a ceremony. (Don’t worry, my photos are still incredible.) During the ceremony was the first time the girls heard the other’s version of the story. This made their ceremony special and exciting for both of them, and I just truly loved this idea. They proceeded to also say their vows as well. Everything was incredibly endearing and sweet.

Vow and ceremony ideas for elopements

Have your Ceremony During an Activity

“Activity” is vague. Let’s get into it. For example, saying your vows to one another while in a hot air balloon sounds absolutely incredible. Or, if you like that idea but don’t want to be in the hot air balloon, you can do it during an event like the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

There are so many unique ceremony ideas for elopements. I’ve seen couples rock climb in the wedding attire and say their vows while suspended in the air. I’ve also seen couples do their weddings underwater. This is an insane concept, but in the cool way. Another one of my favorites is when couples who love winter sports wear their wedding attire on a mountain, and then snowboard down after saying their vows. Wether you want to add in a horse ride, swimming with whales, snow-showing, a gondola ride in Venice, or saying your vows under the northern lights after a sled dog ride, the options are seriously limitless and can be totally unique to you.

Take a Helicopter Ride to Your Ceremony

Living in Alaska, I would see this ceremony idea for elopements all of the time, and I’ve also gotten to work some of these incredible elopement days. Couple will get in their wedding gear, and load up on the helicopter. Next, we head out. Or up, rather. After some time in the air, we land the helicopter in a location chosen by the couple for them to say their vows together. Helicopters can only hold so many people. Between your photographer and pilot, this is normally a private ceremony.

Couples will land on glaciers, mountain tops, near glacial lakes, and more. These are such unique ceremony ideas for elopements, and the photo opportunity is out of this world. And hey, who doesn’t want a boost of adrenaline on their wedding day?

Hiking elopement

Include Your Pets in Your Elopement Ceremony

Your pet can be in your first look, ceremony, reception, or the whole dang day if you want. I adore when couples include their pets into their ceremony and bridal portraits. Give your pet some flowers or dress them up in something cute to mark the occasion. During your ceremony, you can have someone holding on to your pet while you’re saying your vows. If your dog is super well trained, they can even be your bring bearer.

In the state of Colorado, it’s actually legal to get married without of an officiant. It’s also totally legal for your dog to “sign” as one of your witnesses. This basically means you can stamp your dogs paw in ink, and place their paw print on your marriage certificate. It’s absolutely adorable and I can’t get over this idea. I wish every state allowed this. But you can still include your pets a ton of different ways that are all great ceremony ideas for elopements.

Photo by Adventure And Vow

Include Your Family in Your Elopement

This one sounds simple, but choosing to elope with just your partner or choosing to involve your family can be a tough choice. If you’re choosing not to include family in your ceremony, then one of my favorite ceremony ideas for elopements is reading letters that they wrote for you on your wedding day. Or, if you still want to be in private but wish they could still be apart of it, you can always opt to live stream your elopement wherever you are.

There are so many unique ways to include your family in your elopement plans. I go further into detail with this on a separate blog post that you can find here!

ceremony ideas for elopement, mt rainier eloping with family

Unique Ceremony Ideas for your Elopement

It would be impossible to list all of the ceremony ideas for elopements in this one blog post. Additionally, I think people are constantly coming up with new ideas. That being said, if you’re currently planning an elopement and are looking for help coming up with ideas for your day, let’s chat! I’m an elopement photographer splitting my time between Washington and Oregon. I help my couples location scout, get permits, create timelines, and help them bring to life any unique idea they might have for their own elopement.

Don't forget your free elopement planning checklist


You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

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