Eloping is a popular option for couples who want to keep their wedding ceremony intimate and personal. And while you can certainly hire an officiant to perform your ceremony, there are many benefits to creating your own “just us” elopement ceremony. Doing so allows you to customize every aspect of the ceremony to reflect your unique relationship.
Plus, it can be a fun and rewarding experience to create your own ceremony together. And of course, a DIY elopement ceremony is going to be a more intimate, personal experience than hiring an officiant. It’s sure to be a memorable experience that you’ll cherish for years to come.
So if you’re thinking about eloping, keep reading for some tips on creating a DIY “just us” ceremony.
How to make your elopement legal without an officiant
You’ve decided to elope! Whether you’re looking to save money, avoid wedding planning stress, or simply want a more intimate ceremony, there are plenty of reasons to choose this route. And while it may seem like a simple process, there are actually a few steps you’ll need to take to make sure your elopement is legal. Here are some options for tying the knot without an officiant:
- Get married in a civil ceremony at your local courthouse. This is probably the simplest option, and you can usually arrange everything with little advance notice. Plus, most courthouses offer free or low-cost ceremonies. Then you can have your Spiritual Ceremony whenever and wherever you want!
- Have a friend or family member officiate your ceremony. While they’ll need to do a bit of legwork to make sure they are legally able to officiate in your state, this can be a great way to personalize your elopement. Just be sure to have them write out your ceremony in advance and practice it a few times!
- Self-solemnize your marriage. This means that you serve as your own officiant, and while it’s not legally recognized in all states, it is an option in some. Google says Colorado, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all allow self-solemnizing marriages. If you go this route, just be sure to check local marriage laws to be sure and find out the necessary steps.
- Do the paperwork ahead of time. When Scott and I were married, we had a wedding officiant meet us at a Starbucks to fill out and sign our marriage license. Then two random people having coffee signed as our witnesses. It was fun and we love having that experience as “our little secret”. Fun fact- we did that on April Fool’s Day!
- I am a licensed, ordained minister with Universal Life Church, and can legally marry couples in most states. I’m always happy to help couples with their wedding documents! I can’t perform your whole wedding ceremony, because then you wouldn’t have any photos of it, but I can help you design a DIY “just us” ceremony then pronounce you married and do the legal paperwork.
A Commitment Ceremony
A commitment ceremony (or, spiritual ceremony) is when decide to do the legal part ahead of time or on a different day than your main wedding ceremony. Your legal wedding date will be different than your ceremony date if you do the legal part on a different day.
For Scott and I, that didn’t matter. We hired a wedding officiant to meet us at a cafe on April 1st, where we had our legal wedding. It was just us, and two random customers were thrilled to sign our marriage license! Then we had our amazing commitment ceremony on September 20th, when we eloped in Arizona. It was just like a real, meaningful wedding ceremony, but with no legalities!
We get TWO anniversaries every year! We celebrate our wedding anniversary on the day of our commitment ceremony, and every April Fool’s day we have a secret celebration to remember our “legalversary”. ;)
Benefits to a “just us” elopement ceremony
On your wedding day, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re going through the motions. If you want your ceremony to be a truly personal and intimate affair, that’s perfectly understandable. After all, this is one of the most important days of your life! There are lots of ways to make your ceremony unique, from writing your own vows to incorporating special readings or traditions.
And there’s no need to worry about saying your vows in front of an audience or offending anyone. So go ahead and make your ceremony exactly what you’ve always dreamed of. It’s your day, after all!
Craft your DIY elopement ceremony
If you’re planning a DIY elopement ceremony, you can use the following prompts to help you craft it. While a traditional wedding ceremony includes saying vows, exchanging rings, and being pronounced as a married couple, you can go bananas and create your own DIY elopement ceremony that is special and unique to you as a couple!
This is your chance to personalize your ceremony and express your love and commitment for one another. Here are some ideas for creating your own elopement ceremony. I recommend writing everything down that you plan, and then you can preserve it in a folder or binder as a wedding keepsake!
01: Create your elopement ceremony script
Writing your own DIY elopement ceremony can be a little overwhelming, but it’s also important if you want your ceremony to be beautiful and memorable instead of awkward or rushed. Plus, it’s a great way to personalize your big day. Here’s an example of a ceremony script:
- Set up the ceremony space with lanterns and flowers.
- Light the lanterns together.
- Come together and stand facing each other.
- Start by doing a short guided meditation for grounding & energy clearing.
- Take a deep breath,
- Partner one reads their vows.
- Pause for a moment of reflection.
- Partner two reads their vows.
- Pause for a moment of reflection.
- Read a short story, poem, or inspiring words.
- Do a small symbolic ceremony like a unity candle or blessing.
- Exchange rings.
- Pause for a moment of reflection.
02: Getting the ceremony space ready
When two people decide to elope, it is a deeply personal decision. There is no wrong way to do it.
Depending on the location of the elopement, there may be a specific spot that has personal significance. For example, couples who elope in the woods may want to exchange their vows beneath a favorite tree. Or, those who are eloping at the beach may choose to stand at the water’s edge, where the waves crash against the shore. No matter where the ceremony takes place, you can create a space that is uniquely yours.
You can find your ceremony spot ahead of time by visiting the location and choosing your spot. If you do this I recommend visiting at around the same time of year and same time of day as your ceremony, so you can see what the conditions and lighting are like.
Or, if you like adventure and spontaneity, you can just choose a general location for your elopement ceremony and then look for the perfect spot on the day of.
If you are a spiritual couple, you might consider consecrating the space for your ceremony or doing an energy cleanse before you get in place and start.
Many couples choose to create a special space to exchange their vows. This space can be as simple as a blanket or rug placed on the ground, or as elaborate as an altar adorned with candles and flowers. The important thing is that it is a space that feels sacred and special to you.
03: Starting the ceremony
Once the two of you are in your elopement ceremony spot, what comes next? How does the ceremony start?
I recommend starting your ceremony by facing each other and holding each other’s hands, If you have a bouquet, you can set it on the ground next to you. then you can take a deep breath together and just center yourselves before you begin.
You can appoint one of you to start the ceremony with an opening script, or you can go right into your vows if you want. If you want to start with an opening, here are some ideas:
04: Reading your vows
The next part of the wedding ceremony is reading your vows to one another. These are the words that you will commit yourself to your partner, pledging your loyalty through good times and bad, in sickness and in health. Wedding vows are some of the most important words you will ever speak, so take a moment to really think about what you want to say. Want more tips and inspiration for writing your own vows? Check out this article!
Remember, these are the promises that you will be making for the rest of your life, so make them count. Think about all the things you love about your partner and all the reasons why you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Express your love and commitment in your own words, from the bottom of your heart. Let your partner know that they are everything you have ever wanted and more. These are the words that will stay with you forever, so make them special.
I recommend writing down your vows in personal vow books like these. Not only do they look better in photos than a folded-up piece of paper, but they can also be a treasured wedding keepsake!
05: Add something personal (optional)
This is an opportunity to add personal touches that will make your wedding ceremony even more memorable. For example, you may wish to include a family tradition or heirloom in the ceremony. You could add a new tradition, such as planting a tree together during the ceremony. This would be a symbolic way of representing your commitment to each other and your new life together. Regardless of what you choose to do, adding personal elements to your wedding ceremony will make it even more special and meaningful.
Here are some of my favorite ways to personalize an elopement ceremony:
Use your imagination, get creative, and think about what would be significant to YOU as a couple!
06: Exchange rings
Here’s the part where you exchange rings. Decide ahead of time who will go first, and that person will place the other’s ring first. When you place the ring, it’s a good idea to say something official. Some ideas for this:
07: The pronouncement
If you have anyone there with you at your ceremony (such as your photographer!) you can ask them to do this part for you, or you can do it yourselves. Either way will be perfect. If you decide to say it yourselves, choose who will say it ahead of time and the pronouncement can go like:
What to do right after your elopement ceremony
Right after your elopement ceremony ends, you’ll likely be feeling the high! You might want to consider doing a little gesture of celebration before you transition to the next part of your elopement day. Perhaps you’ll want to share a piece of cake, do a shot together, or do a toast with some bubbly. Or maybe you’ll want to do a first dance!
Whatever you do, take a moment to savor this special time. You’ve just taken a big step, and you deserve to celebrate! After all, this is your elopement day, and you can do whatever you want! So go ahead and let loose – you’re on your way to married bliss!
As an elopement photographer, I have to recommend doing some beautiful photos with just the two of you on your wedding day! Most couples choose to do these after their ceremony, but you can always do them before if you decide to get ready together or do a first look.
I hope this guide helps you create a beautiful and meaningful ceremony just for the two of you. Remember this is your day and you deserve an unforgettable wedding ceremony!