Your elopement is a lot more than just saying “I do” and taking some photos. It’s the day you’re committing your lives to one another. Make your ceremony extra memorable by incorporating one or more of these 15 ideas for a unique elopement ceremony!
1. Exchange personalized vows.
Saying vows is an almost essential part of any wedding ceremony. To make this part of your ceremony extra special, hand-write your vows to your partner. You can write them in a special vow book like one of these, and after your ceremony give them to your partner as a gift. Or, write your vows on a piece of parchment paper or flat card and frame them together to display in your home.
2. Plant a tree.
I love a good tree planting ceremony! When you plant a tree together it symbolizes the two of you coming together as one, with strong roots and the ability for your love to grow. In addition, it’s also an act of helping our planet.
You can further the meaning of the tree planting ceremony by asking parents or other loved ones to contribute a little soil from their home. Symbolizing two families uniting as one.
If you plan on planting the tree in the ground, make sure it’s ok with whoever owns the land first. And be sure to find out if the tree will require care in order to survive. You wouldn’t want to plant it, leave, and have it die soon after. That sounds like a recipe for some bad juju to me!
Another option is to plant the tree in a pot and take it with you when you leave. Then you can plant it back home and be sure it gets the love and care it needs.
3. Incorporate handfasting.
A handfasting ceremony is a unique elopement ceremony idea. Handfasting is a unity ritual, based in ancient Celtic tradition. A couple stands face to face as their hands are tied together with cords or ribbon. This is where the phrase “tying the knot” came from!
You can each choose your own material and color of cord, ribbon, or strip of fabric. Making the handfasting ceremony even more personal. You can make them yourselves, or purchase pre-made ones like these on Etsy.
Even though handfasting has it’s roots in pagan tradition, it doesn’t require you to reference any religion. So it can be incorporated into any wedding ceremony with symbolic meaning. However, some officiants may not want to perform a handfasting ceremony, so be sure to find one who will.
Check out this amazing witchy elopement in Marquette, Michigan for an example of a handfasting ceremony.
For a demonstration on how to tie the knot, check out this great tutorial on YouTube.
4. Tie a Unity Knot.
If you like the symbolism of “tying the knot” but don’t want to include a full handfasting ceremony, you can perform a simple unity knot ceremony. The idea is similar- you each have a piece of cord, rope or other similar material. You bring them together and tie them into an intricate and beautiful knot, symbolizing your union. You can keep the knot in your home as a reminder of your commitment to one another.
5. Read notes from loved ones.
Maybe you aren’t inviting guests to your elopement ceremony, but you still want to involve them somehow. One way is to have them each write you a short note, with a piece of advice or wish for you going forward in your marriage. You can then read these during your ceremony to each other, or at another time on your wedding day.
6. Create an “elements bottle”.
To create an elements bottle from your elopement wedding ceremony, start with an empty decorative bottle that has a cork or lid. During your ceremony, gather elements from that exact spot to fill the bottle. Examples would be: soil, sand or dirt, small rocks, twigs, leaves, petals from your flowers, etc. Cap up the bottle and take it with you as a memento from your wedding day!
7. Record a message to your future selves.
An easy and fun activity to do during your ceremony (or at any time on your wedding day) is to record a message to your future selves. Most phones have the ability to record audio, so this should be an easy task that will have great meaning later on. Here are some ideas for prompts:
- Share something you’re looking forward to in your marriage.
- Talk about why you wanted to marry this person.
- Make a promise to your partner. (Make sure you can keep it!)
- Talk about where you see the both of you 10 years from now.
- Give 3 heartfelt reasons why you’re in love with them.
8. Take a shot!
Taking a shot together is fun and also makes for a great photo op! Personalize it by using custom shot glasses or other drinking vessels. Another way to add even more meaning is to brew your own drink of choice! You can create a custom, signature whiskey, vodka or other libation prior to your wedding day, and share a drink together at the time of your union.
9. Read a poem.
Poetry is a romantic and unique elopement ceremony idea. Read each other a poem that you wrote yourself (if you have a way with words), or that you found elsewhere but means what you want to say. Here’s an example:
“When I Am With You” – Rumi
When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
I want to hold you close like a lute, so we can cry out with loving.
You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones.
Find 12 more ideas for romantic poems to read at your wedding ceremony here: https://junebugweddings.com/wedding-blog/12-romantic-love-poems-to-read-at-your-wedding-ceremony/
10. Be crowned.
In Greek Orthodox culture, it’s customary for brides and grooms to have crowns placed on their heads. The crowns serve as a symbol of your union, as well as appointing you symbolic status as queen or king in your family. You can have your officiant place the crowns, or if you’re self-solemnizing, crown each other. There are many beautiful crowns and crown sets available for purchase on Etsy, such as this:
11. Circle each other.
Jewish ceremonies incorporate this fun and symbolic tradition. The bride circles the groom seven times to “break down any barriers between them”. Modern ceremonies do it a little differently, with the couple taking turns circling around one another.
12. Light a unity candle.
Lighting a candle together is one of the more popular wedding ceremony traditions. You will light the candle at the same time, symbolizing your union and combining flame from each partner’s respective “hearths” or homes. If your ceremony is outside, be careful of open flame and be sure to check with local ordinances to be sure it’s allowed.
13. Sage the space.
The modern world is a chaotic place, and the idea of “cleansing” our spaces and ourselves of negative energy can sound quite appealing. The practice of burning dried sage (also known as “smudging”) for cleansing energy stems from Native American traditions. Shamans would burn sage to cleanse negative energy and promote healing, wisdom, and longevity.
The act of burning sage at your wedding (I recommend doing it right before your ceremony) can help create an environment that’s free from all negative energy, leaving space for only positive vibes and love.
Start by setting your intention by saying it out loud. Something like “I clear this space of negative energy”. Now light the sage, and walk around the space, slowly, letting the smoke fill as much of the space as possible. You can also slowly wave it around all the people present, including yourself. Don’t inhale too much of the smoke as this can cause irritation in your lungs and you may start coughing.
When burning sage, be extra careful as small, burning embers may fall. If they land on the ground be sure to stamp them out right away. And be mindful of clothing. When you’re done, make sure to extinguish the sage by pressing it firmly into a fireproof vessel, dirt, or sand until it’s completely out. Using water will make it difficult to ever light again.
Sage is becoming more and more popular, and there’s been issues with over-harvesting the plant, so it’s important to use sage that’s been collected sustainably. Mountain Rose Herbs is one place that you can get organic, consciously collected sage sticks.
14. Wrap up in a blanket.
This custom is tradition in Native American culture. The couple is wrapped up in a quilt or blanket to symbolize warmth and togetherness, as they face their future together. If your wedding is taking place in the winter or in a cool climate, this is a nice way to warm up, too!
15. Create a time capsule or anniversary box.
You can each place meaningful items in a custom box or container to open later on (often on your first anniversary). Some ideas for items include: letters to each other, a bottle of wine, photos, or other meaningful keepsakes. There are many containers to choose from on Etsy, like this one from @arrowsarah:
Remember, this is YOUR day!
You can do whatever feels right for you on your wedding day. The most important thing is to plan a ceremony that’s meaningful and memorable for both of you. You don’t have to follow tradition, and you shouldn’t let the expectations of anyone else guide you in your decisions.
Be true to yourselves, and your wedding ceremony will be a completely unique representation of you as a couple!
Find even more ideas for a unique elopement ceremony on my Pinterest boards!
A note about cultural appropriation:
Some of these ideas are customs that come from different cultures around the world, throughout history. Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture adopts practices that belong to a different culture. Often, this is done without properly understanding the meaning and complexity of these traditions or practices.
The best way to approach these things is with an open mind, and to familiarize yourselves with the roots of these practices. Learn about their meanings and the beliefs behind them. And use them with respect, care, and APPRECIATION- not appropriation.
Lume Photography is a fine art elopement and wedding photographer based in Michigan, travelling worldwide. Behind the camera you’ll find me (Andrea)- a girl who loves animals, the wilderness, and love stories. I believe in magic, soulmates, and the hidden forces of energy that connect everything and everyone in the universe. My favorite places are the woods, the mountains, and the ocean. My passion is documenting the moments, emotions and connection between two souls in love, in wild places. I’ve traveled to Arizona, Colorado, Costa Rica, Scotland, and beyond to photograph wild elopements and small destination weddings.