Types of Elopement Ceremonies, Ideas, & How to Design Your Celebration

Wild & Free Elopements

Elopement Ceremony Ideas


Each elopement ceremony is so unique and I absolutely love the ideas + creativity I get to witness! I’m going to go over the different types of elopement ceremonies you can have, some fun ideas, and how to design your unique-to-you celebration!! 

When it comes to your ceremony, there are 3 BIG aspects to keep in mind:

Elopement Ceremony Ideas

Step 1:

Pick Your Type of Ceremony 

I usually like to start by breaking down the types of elopement ceremonies by how they are officiated. You have a few options on how your ceremony can be performed: 

Self-uniting elopement ceremony ideas from Sunset Cliffs in California
Option 1: A self-uniting marriage ceremony 

A self-uniting/self-solemnizing marriage ceremony is one where you don’t need a third-party officiant to marry you; it’s like you get to marry yourselves!! You will read your vows to each other, exchange rings, and have your first kiss all on your terms in nature. This option is perfect for those that either want complete privacy or desire true freedom! OR BOTH! ⁠⠀

I’ll dig into each of those ✌🏽 ⁠⠀

🌸 Imagine yourselves out in the wilderness, proclaiming your love and lifelong vows without the thought of who can hear you. You can express yourselves without pressure –it’s just you two. There is no need to hold back or censor your real-life kind of love. You just speak from the heart and take in every second!⁠ 

↠ If that scenario sounds like what you need — total privacy and to feel completely immersed in your day, then you might enjoy a self-uniting ceremony!

🌸 ⁠Imagine a wedding day that embraces all the spontaneous fun, adventure, and beautiful outdoor scenery your heart desires! With no strict timeline, no specific places you have to be or things you have to do — you feel no pressure, no judgment, rather the sense that you can live out every whim, uninhibited. You have a day so carefree and full of laughter that you can’t help but love every minute. 

↠ ⁠If the idea of wandering through the outdoors until you find the perfect ridge or a peaceful cove to unite indefinitely with your partner sounds like the adventure you two are looking for, then a self-uniting ceremony would fit perfectly for your day! You don’t have to coordinate with an officiant or set a specific time or location. You can get married whenever and wherever it feels right that day! ⁠

Self-solemnizing elopement ceremony ideas from Mussel Rock Park in Bay Area

↡ Making it Legal, The 411 ↡
Self-uniting:

Some states allow self-uniting ceremonies, but if the state you are eloping in does not (like California), I got your back! I’m ordained so after you perform your ceremony I can sign your documents to make things official (even if it is at our cars at the end of the day). Read more below in Step 2 on how to make this type of ceremony OFFICIAL official (with the help of a Wild & Free photographer😉).

A great elopements ceremony idea is to have a friend officiate your wedding like this couple in Big Sur, CA
Option 2: Have a friend or family member officiate 

You can invite a friend or family member to perform your ceremony! There are soo many awesome ways to incorporate someone you love into your celebration. Here are a few fun benefits to having a friend or family member officiate: 

  • They can provide a deeper emotional experience 💟
  • They have such great insight into you as a couple 👯‍♀️
  • They can recite more silly or fun readings (like, about your most embarrassing memories together!) 😂
  • They celebrate hard with you 🎉 ⁠⠀
  • They give the best hugs 🤗 ⁠
  • They are super flexible and down for any adventure together 🏝 ⁠
Family member officiating Mendocino Headlands elopement

↡ Making it Legal, The 411 ↡
Friend or Family Member as Officiant:

If your friend or family member happens to be ordained, they can sign as the officiant and I can sign as your witness! If not, I can aid them in the process of getting ordained for your ceremony or I can sign as your officiant. 

Jewish elopement with Chuppah by the mountains and a peaceful lake in Montana
Option 3: Hire a professional officiant 

No matter your religious or cultural background, there is an officiant out there willing to meet you in nature! 

boho elopement ideas with kids
Step 2:

Apply for a Marriage License

Here is the lowdown on marriage licenses in California and ideas on which might work for your elopement ceremony: 

Public Marriage License: The form most commonly used across the states is the public marriage license. With this type of license, the record of your marriage is available to anyone who goes to the county office and requests it.

  • What’s the process? You make an appointment online with the county office closest to you. At your meeting, you both will need a state-issued photo ID and you’ll get your marriage license that day! Your ceremony can then take place anywhere in the state within 90 days of issuance and it must be returned within 10 days of completing to the same county you acquired it from. Check your county’s requirements to learn more!
  • Witness requirements: Here’s a cool thing about California ↠ you only need one witness! That witness can also be under 18 as long as they are old enough to know that they are witnessing a marriage ceremony and are able to sign their name on the official marriage license. 
  • Takeaways for your ceremony type ↡
    • Self-uniting ceremony – I can sign your marriage certificate as the officiant as I’m ordained for this very purpose! After you perform your ceremony we can get this all taken care of (even if it is at our cars at the end of the day). As for a witness, you will need one signature so you can 
      • bring a friend or have them meet us for this specific part 
      • ask a fellow hiker on the trail if they’d be willing to witness the signing (this is always a fun one!)
      • ask another vendor, like your videographer 
    • Friend or family member as officiant – If your friend or family member happens to be ordained, they can sign as the officiant and I can sign as your witness! If not, I can aid them in the process of getting ordained for your ceremony, or I can sign as your officiant.
    • Hiring an officiant – While your officiant will sign your license, if you don’t have any other guests present, I’d be happy to sign as your witness!
What is an Elopement? | What it means to elope in 2020 | Modern-day elopement meaning

Confidential Marriage License: California is unique because they offer confidential marriage licenses. This means that only the couple can purchase copies of the marriage license (so information like your addresses, mother’s maiden name, and such can remain private). You are provided with a certificate to share with health insurance and other entities that need proof for their policies. 

  • What’s the process? You make an appointment online with the county office closest to you. At your meeting, you both will need a state-issued photo ID and you need to prove that you live together by providing the same address for each partner on the form. From the offices I’ve spoken to, they most importantly want to see that the addresses match. And you get your marriage license that day! Your ceremony can take place anywhere in the state within 90 days of issuance and it must be returned within 10 days of completing to the same county you acquired it from. 
  • Witness requirements: Here’s the last perk of a confidential marriage license…. You don’t need any witnesses to sign! This can make it easier to have a super-private ceremony!   
  • Takeaways for your ceremony type ↡ 
    • Self-uniting ceremony – I can sign your marriage certificate as the officiant as I’m ordained for this very purpose! After you perform your ceremony (even if it is at our cars at the end of the day) we can get this all taken care of. As for a witness signature, you will not need one. 
    • Friend or family member as officiant –  If your friend or family member happens to be ordained, they can sign as the officiant. If not, I can aid them in the process of getting ordained for your ceremony, or I can sign as your officiant.
    • Hiring an officiant – Since there is no need for a witness signature, everything is taken care of!  
Spring beach wedding

✅ Make an appointment online with the county office IMMEDIATELY!! 

Note for destination elopements: if you are traveling out of state or out of the country for your elopement, it may be easier to do all the “legal stuff” locally and not have to deal with the hoops of another locale. 

Couple doing a self-solemnizing elopement ceremony at Yosemite
Step 3:

Design your Elopement Ceremony 

A fun elopement ceremony idea is to include playing a song for your partner like this couple in Lake Tahoe

Feel free to get a little creative here! You can design your elopement ceremony to include any of these ideas: 

  • personalized vows 
  • a ring exchange 
  • a tree planting 
  • a poem reading 
  • handfasting ceremony
  • a song 
  • ceremonial sage smudging 
  • readings of letters from family 
  • cultural or religious traditions 
  • surprises for each other 
  • or any other elopement ceremony ideas you can think up! 
Boho Elopement Ceremony Ideas

Similarly, you can stylize your ceremony however you’d like! You can grab a picnic rug to stand on or include some florals. Also feel completely ok with going super simple here — nature will take care of you with its magic!!

Want more tips?

Check out these blog posts or get in touch today!

How to Elope in CA

Top 20 Places to Elope in California

Big Sur Elopement Guide

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Ready to elope Wild & Free?

You deserve an elopement that throws out all the rules and focuses on what matters most.

 

I don't want you to have to do this alone, so it’s ok if you don’t have the details figured out yet -- I’ll help you design your day from start to finish!

 

Wild & Free Elopements is based in Southern California and photographs elopements all over the world.


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