A couple gets married in Mt Rainier.
Mount Rainier Elopement Ceremony | Adventure and Vow

What is an Elopement Ceremony?

An elopement ceremony is when a couple gets legally married on their elopement day, it is the time the vows are shared and the couple is pronounced married. An elopement ceremony meets all of the same requirements as a traditional wedding ceremony, the day just often looks vastly different. The elopement ceremony may contain all of the traditional formalities that take place during a regular wedding, or it can be as unique as the couple holding one.

To fully answer what an elopement ceremony is and what it looks like, we are going to dive into every aspect of planning your elopement ceremony in this blog and answer commonly asked questions.

What should be included in an elopement ceremony?

While it is very common for couples to share personal vows with one another and there is almost always a ring exchange, these components aren’t actually required. In fact, the great majority of what is in a wedding ceremony doesn’t really “need” to be there. Most importantly in your elopement ceremony, you need to include the legally required pieces. This may very per state, but generally this is what the legal aspect of the ceremony is:

The officiant must ask, “Do you take your person’s full name… ?”

Each party each responds in some form or another, “I do.”

Also, The officiant must announce the couple “by the power vested in my by the, insert state name here, I now pronounce you married!

Outside of these two important pieces, truly you can include anything you want! The beauty of eloping is that YOU get to craft the wedding day you want and what connects the most to your values.

Elopement Ceremony Ideas

While the above verbiage is all that has to be included, there are plenty of things you can include! Here are some of the things we see most commonly included in an elopement ceremony with or without guests:

  • Personal vows (These are vows written by the couple and shared by them)
  • Saging ceremony
  • Unity Cocktail
  • Toasts/speeches
  • Ring exchange
  • Tying the knot

How do you Structure an Elopement Ceremony?

Elopement Ceremony Script

You can use this as an example of what an elopement ceremony can include and how it can be structured. Keep in mind, every elopement ceremony is different from the next. In the example provided, this is what the officiant would be reading during the ceremony. This ceremony example is from an elopement that took place in Sedona, Arizona.

The love a parent has for their child is one that is boundless and ever-lasting, and as such the significance of this moment can not be over stated. From the first day you held her and all of the precious memories in-between, you have stood there as her guide and protector, wishing her all the best in life. So now, here where you stand I ask,

“Who gives this bride away”?

Father replies “I do”

Bride and Groom, please face each other, hold hands, and take this in. Take a moment here, look into each others eyes. Your day has arrived. As we have gathered here with loved ones, it is important to state that love is the force that brings us all here today. Whenever there is doubt in which action we should choose on any given day, love always serves as true north, leading us towards our greater purpose. Whether making a meal for our family, taking time to teach our children, or lending a listening ear to a friend, love is always the reason.

While love is the important binding factor in our joining today, the meaning of this location for our couple serves to enrich their union to an even greater extent. Among the beautiful and diverse landscape of Sedona, we share space surrounded by the red rock cliffs and all that their canyon walls hold. Here, in a place that is held sacred for many people and for many reasons, you look to grow your own connection even deeper, ready to make outward the commitment you share between each other through the ceremony of marriage.

We are all here to support Bride and Groom on their first day as husband and wife. As you begin your journey into married life, remember your reasons: the reason you get up each morning, get ready, and do your best in the world. Remember the reasons that you truly find a best friend in one another and why since the moment you’ve met that you have become inseparable. Remember the reasons you sacrifice, the reason you give, and the reason you laugh. Remember that over these deeply meaningful eight years how you have both grown as individuals and as a couple.

From concerts, dirt bikes, and drifting, together you face the world head on and look to capture every moment for what it’s worth. During this time, you’ve built a strong family and home. Whether it be a memorable proposal in the valley of fire complete with side by sides and a vista picnic or being the loving and supportive parents that you are, you have created a life around enjoying all of the ups whenever possible and being the pillars of strength for your children to learn from when life presents its hardships.

“The vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed—well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another—acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this—is my husband, this—is my wife.”


Groom, please repeat these vows:

I Groom

 do take you Bride 

to be your lawfully wedded husband, 

to have and to hold from this day forward, 

for better or for worse, 

for richer or for poorer,

 in sickness and in health,

 until death do us part. 

Groom, if these words speak the truth of your heart, now I must ask you, Do you without doubt, take Bride to be your wife?

Groom Replies “I do”

Bride, please repeat these vows:

I Bride

 do take you Groom 

to be your lawfully wedded bride, 

to have and to hold from this day forward, 

for better or for worse, 

for richer or for poorer,

 in sickness and in health,

 until death do us part. 

Bride, if these words speak the truth of your heart, now I must ask you, Do you without doubt, take Groom to be your husband?

Bride replies “I do”


And now we will exchange rings as a symbol of the promises made here today and of your on-going commitment to each other. This exchange is a timeless tradition that centers around the completeness of a circle. The rings are precious because you wear them with love, and they serve as a reflection of where you’ve been, where you are headed, and the reasons that we are here together today. Family, would you please bring forward the rings. (Family brings forward the rings, handing them to Bride and Groom)

Groom, if you would place the ring on Bride’s finger. (Pause as the ring is halfway on her finger) Please repeat after me:

I give you this ring

As a reminder

That I will love and honor you

Please wear it as a daily sign

Of my commitment to you

(Finish Placing the ring the rest of the way)

Bride, if you would place the ring on Groom’s finger. (Pause as the ring is halfway on his finger) Please repeat after me:

I give you this ring

As a reminder

That I will love and honor you

Please wear it as a daily sign

Of my commitment to you

(Finish Placing the ring the rest of the way)

[Closing Statement]

Bride and Groom, always remember that a successful marriage contains these three elements, memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes, and promises to never give up on each other. To truly love, you must both enter your life together with vulnerability. To truly trust, you must, in good faith, allow for freedom and autonomy. To truly respect, you must consciously treat your partner with reverence. In marriage, the little things are the big things. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is not only marrying the right person, but also being the right partner.


And so now, with our vows made and rings exchanged, and now the moment you’ve been waiting for, by the power vested in me by the state of Arizona, I now pronounce you husband and wife!

You may kiss the bride!


Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s my honor to present to you for the first time as a married couple, Bride and Groom Last Name!]

A father walks his bride down the trail to her elopement ceremony.
Olympic National Park Elopement Ceremony | Adventure and Vow

What Happens at an elopement ceremony?

Outside of the officiant speaking during the ceremony, common elements of the ceremony can often be similar to a traditional wedding. While you will have plenty of conversations with your officiant to go over any questions or concerns, it is important to note that there is rarely ever a trial run, so anything that you wish to included in the ceremony outside of the officiant speaking his parts also needs to be structured into the event so that things happen smoothly. These are some items that may happen during your ceremony + how to structure that!

  • Walking down the “aisle”

It is important to discuss what you want to do for all of these items before the elopement day so you two, your officiant and your photographer have a clear vision for how the ceremony will flow. When it comes to elopements, usually the aisle is actually the trail. The options here would be: walk down the aisle separately, walk down the aisle with a parent/loved one that is present, walk down the aisle together into your ceremony or you can simple decide to casually gather.

  • Leaving the ceremony/after the kiss

After you are pronounced married and share your first kiss, what do you do?! This is most commonly for us the one that seems to be tricky for couples that are eloping. My personal advice, if you do have guests, is to walk back down the trail/aisle while everyone claps and is excited and show your stoke too! This is often when the couple will naturally start hugging all of their loved ones and take some time to share in the moment. Or you can let your guests know that you plan to walk out to share a moment alone before coming back in for all of the congrats. Remember to do what YOU want here! We had a couple once end their ceremony by going straight into their first dance, there are no wrong choices.

If you do not have guests after you are announced, we like to give our couples a second together, we simply hang back letting them share this moment alone and then once we can tell they are ready we join back in with congrats and what is next up for the day. Maybe that’s portraits, reading letters from family, a toast, etc.

A couple shares their first dance in the desert.
Moab Elopement | Adventure and Vow
  • Ring Exchange

Typically, this happens within the ceremony, but it is important beforehand to discuss who will be holding the rings – each person getting married, one person within the couple, the officiant or a guests. If it is a guest, be sure you give them the ring before hand. Also, let them know to come up when asked in the ceremony to hand the rings to each of you.

  • Unity Cocktails + Toasts/Speeches

Unity cocktails typically happen mid ceremony or later in the ceremony. However, we have seen them at the very start. In this case the couple made their unity cocktail to kick off the ceremony and then shared the cocktail with each person in attendance toasting to them for joining them in this moment.

We have also seen couples take the time to allow each of their guests or parents to come forward and give a speech in regards to the couple or even the couple share a toast for their guests. We have also had a couple have their entire ceremony be them giving surprise speeches to each person there and thanking them for being a part of their life, relationship and this moment. Just keep in mind there are no rules for when, where or how – just think about your vision and plan ahead.

A mother gives a speech during an elopement ceremony.
Sedona Elopement Ceremony | Adventure and Vow

How Long is an Elopement Ceremony?

An elopement ceremony typically can range from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. The shortest elopement ceremony we have been a part of was 5 minutes and the longest was a little bit over an hour. Consider the length of your personal vows, your actual ceremony verbiage and the additional things you plan to include to calculate how long your ceremony will be. It can be as long or short as you want it.

Most Special Use Permits ** allow a couple between 1-2 hours of time at the permitted location for their elopement ceremony. However, be sure you read the permit and know the rules before making a payment to make sure it works for your ceremony. For example, Arches + Canyonlands National Park only allow 10 minute ceremonies as of right now.

**A special use permit is the permit issued by the various land management agencies to hold a wedding on public land.

The elopement ceremony is only a portion of the elopement day. We recommend reading our Elopement Timeline Samples blog to get a better idea of how to structure your entire elopement experience!

Elopement Ceremony Locations

We have a list of the Best Elopement Locations in the United States and beyond, but your ceremony location is a bit specific. If you are eloping in a National Park, there will be a list on their websites of specific locations you can hold a ceremony + with how many people are allowed there. In many public land areas you can elope *almost* anywhere if it is just you two. Special use permits and rules vary greatly so it is important once you have picked where you want to elope to look into the rules for that are for your ceremony.

These are our top things to consider for your elopement ceremony location:

(Some of these questions may or may not matter to you, but they are all thoughts to consider and to decide how much the answers would matter to you!)

  • How private is the location?
  • Is there enough room to hold your ceremony here and still follow Leave No Trace?
  • How is the lighting at this location at this time?
  • How accessible is the location for yourselves and/or anyone else in attendance?
  • Can you have the ceremony you envision here in relation to the Special use permit or rules for this location?
A saging ceremony for an elopement in Puerto Rico.
Saging Ceremony for an Elopement in Puerto Rico | Adventure + Vow

Who can Officiate an Elopement Ceremony?

Really, anyone ordained can officiate your elopement ceremony. Typically, 9 out of 10 times we are officiating for our couples, but this is not the only option! Here are the most common things we see as far as who is officiating an elopement ceremony:

  • Us (Your elopement photographer! Yes – we are both ordained)
  • A guest – a parent, sibling, the friend that introduced you, etc
  • A pastor/spiritual officiant

For the majority of the lower 48 states, the only requirement here is that they are ordained. You can get ordained online at the University of Life Church.

Can you have a Religious Elopement Ceremony?

Yes, you can have a religious elopement ceremony! To have a religious elopement ceremony you may consider your pastor or a local pastor from the area to perform your ceremony. We have performed religious ceremonies as well, including biblical readings and prayers. You can for sure include as much of your religious traditions into your ceremony as you wish! When working with your officiant to write out your ceremony, be sure to share your ideas!

Self Solemnization Ceremony

You can legally self solemnize at your elopement ceremony in Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Nevada. This is where you and your partner would hold your own ceremony without an officiant and become legally married this way!

However, if you and your partner are having a just you two elopement somewhere that self solemnization isn’t legal but are really dreaming of the intimacy of a just you two ceremony, you still can! How we typically do this is allow the couple to have their own space, and to hold their own symbolic ceremony. Then once the couple has sealed their vows, once it is time to sign the marriage paperwork we perform the legal requirements of a ceremony together and everyone signs – couple, officiant, and the required witnesses.

Who Witnesses an Elopement Ceremony?

In most states you will need two witnesses who are 18 years of age or older. To be a witness, these people must have witnessed the legally binding ceremony as performed by your officiant. Typically, if one of us is officiating the other one of us is a witness. If you have one person with you that is officiating then we can both act as witnesses. If you have guests at your elopement two of them can sign as witnesses. If this is the case, we typically advise our couples to decide before the elopement day which two people you want to sign for you.

In the event that we do need one more witness we will find someone that was a bystander during the actually ceremony or if we are somewhere super private that may not be possible. Alternatively we find someone on the trail, in the parking lot or where you are staying and we will recite the legal portion again and have them sign, completing the marriage paperwork!

A couple is announced married during their elopement ceremony.
Elopement Ceremony captured by Adventure and Vow

Elopement Ceremony Invitations

So, by now you have probably picked up that an adventure elopement wedding sometimes has guests! To us, an elopement is 15 guests or less. Anything higher than that we typically recommend couples to book some sort of venue or private space for the sake of their experience and following Leave No Trace. While many public lands may allow groups larger than this, depending on where you are envisioning the ceremony to take place, the logistics can often become more difficult than a couple initially realizes.

So if you have guests at your elopement here are a few ideas for how you can invite them:

  • Call them! (Eloping is unique in the sense that there are not a lot of guests so it is easier to do more personable invites!)
  • In person invites over dinner, brunch or just hanging out!
  • Virtual invite w/ virtual RSVP
  • A wedding website through Zola, The Knot, etc.
  • Mail an invite
  • You can also send a card to your loved ones that state something like: “We are eloping! We invite you to watch our elopement ceremony virtually on LoveStream” If you can stream your elopement ceremony, pending cell range.
  • Or if you do not plan on having guests you can always send a card to let people know you are getting married, or wait and send a We Eloped card with images from your elopement on it!

No matter if you are eloping with guests or not, we think when sending a card to someone, it is really special to share a little bit about why you chose to elope or why this is special for you two!

A man performs an elopement ceremony.

Your Elopement Officiant!

Hiya, we are Traci + Bill, a husband and wife elopement photography team. You guessed it, we are both ordained! We include officiating into our packages because we know how hard it can be to find someone to hike twenty miles, kayak overnight, or off road for hours out to your dream elopement location. That’s how it started anyways. Turns out we really love offering this for our couples! We love helping our couples have a *THEM* wedding day!

We work with our couples every step of the way to help co-create an epic adventure to start off your marriage!

Throughout our entire planning process we were so impressed by their knowledge of Sedona AZ. Traci & Bill really listened to our wishes and were able to lead us to our beautiful ceremony location that could also accommodate family members including my elderly grandparents…We are so thankful for them, especially their reminders of how our special day is really what we make of it by being in the moment and remembering how we got there. Our photos are breathtaking, a dream come true and we’re so stoked to have these memories captured so beautifully.

– Amanda + Matt | Eloped in Sedona, AZ 2022