This is one of those classic “Have your cake & eat it too scenarios”. But in this case you really can have both!
For many people the idea and thought of planning a traditional style wedding stresses them out. And I get it!! But they still want to have a celebration with their friends & family in a larger setting.
I know this is possible, because it’s what me and my husband did.
Why We Did It
We wanted something very special & personal for our ceremony. The vision we had in mind wasn’t based on having everyone we’ve ever known stare at us as we exchange our vows & rings. We knew, if we even did some kind of bigger party, that we didn’t want it to be on the same day we got married on. We wanted our wedding to feel very personal and intimate, not a day full of one event right after another.
Even though we wanted something smaller, very intimate and intentional for our ceremony, it was still very important to us to celebrate with her friends and family. Many of our friends were along the journey with us from when we met, up to today. Each of us had friends that started as our own but became “our friends” not just “Nick’s Friends” or “Rachel’s Friends”.
For both of us our immediate families are a bit smaller, but our extended families are huge. Family is something we both hold very close & dear to our hearts so we knew from the beginning we wanted to celebrate with them in some way as well.
We are both pretty evenly split 50/50 introverted & extroverted. So having a smaller ceremony where we could intentionally personalize the experience (& not have 400 people stare at me as I walk down an aisle in a wedding dress), but still have a celebration where we could socialize & celebrate (in a slightly more casual manner) was perfect for us!
There were so many factors that came down to it when we made our decision. But ultimately we removed any parts that made us nervous or negatively stressed, and focused our attention on the things we had always been looking forward to.
How We Did It?
After having many discussions and weighing our options, we decided on an elopement style ceremony & personal celebration + a somewhat traditional style reception.
We chose a day to get married, how we wanted, surrounded by only a handful of family members. We both invited our parents, siblings, and Nick (my husband) invited his grandparents, and we each invited one friend. Now for some people this could be a lot of people, but thanks to our smaller immediate families, this was the perfect size for us. We got married surrounded by the ones we wanted there. After the ceremony we sent everyone else home and had our own personal celebration! Aka lots of yummy tacos!
On a different day, not too long after, we had a reception where we invited friends and extended family. We mainly visited with the people who came, did our “First Dance”, ate some more tacos, did some more dancing (but this time everyone wasn’t just staring at us. Can you tell having lots of people stare at me makes me uncomfortable?), smashed some cake in each other’s faces and overall had a great time celebrating!
We really had the best of both worlds!
How You Can Do It Too?
#1 Choose how you want to get married!
#2 Choose 2 separate dates!
#3 Make it happen!
I wish it was really that easy. But in all seriousness, that is also what kinda happened for us. We worked together to build a vision for these days separately and put in the work to make it happen.
I wish I could give you a step by step process on how to make it happen, but each elopement/party combo will be VERY different from anyone else’s.
When I work with couples to photograph their elopements, I also help them plan every bit of it. No elopement has looked exactly the same, there are some basic steps to follow, but it is dependent on how YOU decide to get married. If you need help executing your vision, contact me and I would love to help! I’ve listed more ideas below, because I know that how me & my husband did it, may not be the right fit for you!
How Do Invites Work?
For invitations you have a couple options …
#1 If your Elopement Day & Party Day are pretty close to each other (2 months or less, unless people would be traveling, in that case, send out invites at least 3-4 months in advance, if you can), send invitations before your elopement day (wording ideas below).
#2 If your Elopement Day & Party are far apart, send invitations after your elopement day, (wording ideas below)
#3 If it’s a very casual setting with not too many people, call or text them.
What to Say On Your Invitations
When writing the invites, however fancily or casual your wording is, say something like …
Situation #1: “John & Jane will be getting married on June 1, 2023 in a private ceremony at Zion National Park. (Don’t give em too many deets, or you know someone is going to show up anyway! You could also take anything about location out if you want)
You are invited to celebrate with us on July 1, 2023 at a casual reception (or whatever you choose) at (INSERT ADDRESS & TIME HERE).”
You can include a picture of you both (like an engagement picture, one from the proposal, or just a cute picture) and send it off, per usual!
Situation #2: “John & Jane were married on June 1, 2023 in Zion National Park in a beautiful private ceremony. You are invited to celebrate our marriage with us on September 1, 2023 at a casual reception (or whatever you choose) at (INSERT ADDRESS & TIME HERE)”
You can include a picture of your elopement day on the invites!
#3 If your celebration is smaller and casual, you can always just call, text or email to set something up with your friends & family.
We did a somewhat traditional reception (but took out all the parts we didn’t like, such as a receiving line, speeches, garter tose, etc) but there are so many other ways to do it! Here are some of the other ideas we had when planning & some ideas I’ve seen from some of the amazing couples I’ve worked with …
– Hold a family get together with each extended family separately (and one for friends). Very casual, back yard BBQ style, but with the intention of gathering to celebrate your marriage.
– Open house style, where there would be simple snacks & food, for people to stop by & visit, but no planned “reception-like activities”. Could be casual, could be a bit more formal.
– Nothing. Just doing the Elopement side of things.
– Visiting with various friends groups and families in smaller group settings. For example, going on a backpacking trip or spend a day at the Lake with our outdoorsy friends. Or having lots of good food with friends from college, etc.
All In All
However you and your partner decide to get married is PERFECT! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You both are the only people in your relationship, and how you choose to celebrate your love & marriage is up to you & only you!
If you need help planning and are planning on eloping, I would love to help you and document your day for you! Let’s chat!
Here area few images from a post-elopement ring-ceremony & reception.
The couple had previously eloped but wanted to include their friends & family. They decided a ring-ceremony & small reception, filled with close family & friends best suited what they wanted!
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