Eloping Before Wedding And Announcing During Wedding Reception

Hello I need a bit of advice!

My fiance and I are planning our wedding and due to us being of two different religions, we have considered eloping to Europe. We love the idea of exchanging vows between just the two of us on the anniversary of the day we met in a beautiful location such as Paris. We expect to do this two weeks before our domestic wedding date, without telling any family or friends. On the date, we will proceed to the venue and broadcast a slideshow to our guests announcing our elopement with video and photographs of our trip. We still want to keep the reception, bridal shower, bachelor parties etc as we want to provide our family and friends with an opportunity to celebrate with us and to be involved.

My question is, how would you feel if you attended a wedding to find out the couple had eloped the weekend before? Would you be happy for them and eager to celebrate with them for the night, or would you be disappointed?

Thank you in advance!

Donna, Wedding Queen

It’s perfectly fine to host a wedding reception within a year of your ceremony. However, it’s not appropriate to host pre-wedding parties like showers (or bachelorette party – after all, you’ve already had “the last night of freedom” before your marriage) after the wedding has already taken place since only those invited to the wedding, which is the gift giving portion of the celebration. Once you are married there is no way to recreate that special moment and no ceremony to replace it (a wedding already took place between you too and you’re already married), so if you decide that you want some people to witness your wedding, be sure to invite them, no matter where it’s being held. As a mother, I’d be pretty disappointed, though I’d respect my child’s decision to be married privately. I would want to see a video of the vows and showing that or a slideshow during the reception would be both appropriate and appreciated.

If you want to elope, then elope, but if you want guests to witness your wedding then invite them to your wedding. it’s really a one time event that cannot be duplicated, no matter what reality TV would have you believe

Jodi R R Smith, The Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting
Author, The Etiquette Book, A Complete Guide To Modern Manners

In this situation, I completely agree with Donna. You can not have it both ways. If you want to elope, then do. If you want friends and family to be a part of your special day, then have a wedding.

If the difference of religion is what is causing concern, I encourage you to explore this issue now. Search for a counselor or clergy to help the two of you explore what a difference in backgrounds will mean as you build your lives together. It can successfully be done, but you must communicate expectations in advance.

Either way, I wish you all the best.

Emmanuela Stanislaus, Precious Occasions, Wedding and Event Planner

I agree that you will have some pretty hurt feelings from those who thought that they were actually seeing you get married. If you’re really set on having something special with just you and your fiance, another option would be to have a symbolic ceremony. A symbolic ceremony is where you declare your life-long commitment and love to each other. It is not a legal marriage so when you have the real ceremony, that will be when your guests will get to see you get married. If you opt for a symbolic ceremony, I would suggest that you don’t show the video during your ceremony since that will only confuse your guests. Your video can be kept by you as a memory of the intimate moment the both of you shared in Europe.

Good luck!

Donna, Wedding Queen

I respectfully disagree with a “symbolic” ceremony, especially in a case where the couple has religious concerns and especially since that devalues the exchange of the vows and the ceremony. And, basically, you’re fibbing to your friends, family and guests (and maybe even to yourselves).

I forgot about Reverend Susanna’s book on intercultural interfaith weddings/marriages. Good resource for those who are confused about that process.

Joining Hands and Hearts



Father Ken Zelten OFM, Senior Pastor Ministers in a Minute; wedding minister service, curriculum director at BCE Training academy in West Tennessee.

As a minister, I have had couples who have faced this dilemma in the past. I’m afraid I have to concur with my fellow experts’ advice.
If eloping in an exotic locale is to your liking, then instead of “re-creating a symbolic wedding” where your guests, family members, and close friends may actually feel “deceived” why not just hold a formal reception?

If you decide to go through with your stateside wedding, after your elopement…its probably best NOT to divulge the fact that you were married prior to the ceremony; it will almost certainly lead to hurt feelings.

Donna, Wedding Queen

But, again, they’d be starting their marriage with a lie to those they love most?

Darlene Taylor, PBC
TaylorMade Weddings

I keep reading and rereading your post and it’s very confusing to me. First, you say you want it to be just the two of you saying your vows with nobody else to share it. At the end you say you want to provide your friends and family with an opportunity to celebrate with you. Which is it that you really want? You either want your family and friends to be with you to share in your celebration or not. May I propose that by eloping, you will rob them of that opportunity to celebrate with you. I agree with the other experts – either elope and forgo the parties or don’t elope and share ALL the wedding parties and celebrations! OR – make it a destination wedding if the location is that important to you. But to answer the question you posed in your post: If I were part of your family, I would feel horrible if you eloped without telling me especially if you were my sister or my daughter!! This may sound harsh, but by eloping you are demonstrating selfishness on your part and it doesn’t make sense with your post. You want to include your family but you don’t?? I think it’s important to get with your fiancé and seriously talk about the *why* you want to elope.

Your idea sounds lovely as a “honeymoon” moment or an “anniversary of our first date” moment where you relive the moment when you first met or where he proposed. Maybe you could save that for an anniversary trip?

I also wonder if you’re considering eloping because of the interfaith marriage and possible family drama??? If there is an underlying concern there, let’s talk about that in another post. You are not alone in that area.

Donna, Wedding Queen

Right, what’s the point of eloping if you’re going to come back and try to have another wedding?

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

I don’t really have much to add since everyone has done such a wonderful job. Great advice. But, I can answer your question. If I was invited to a wedding, for which I had already given a shower gift and now a wedding gift, only to find out that the couple is already married, I’d be pretty upset and would probably leave in a huff. It is insulting to be lied to, and this is essentially what this would be.

Jay Remer, The Etiquette Guy, International Protocol and Corporate & Social Etiquette

Weddings are a big deal! We all get swept up in situations and emotions in the planning and executing of such celebrations, many of which are new to us. Indeed, the very idea of getting married to begin with is highly emotionally charged. I agree with most of what has been said by previous contributors and I have just a little thought to add. I think a good hard look at the reason why you would even consider subjecting your best friends and family to this charade that you propose is important. It is important because those same reasons and that same logic will carry into other arenas of your life’s experience. If you want to have a private ceremony, wonderful! But inviting guests to a reception under the guise of sharing is not a well thought out idea. It smacks of a combination originality/gift grab. Were I a guest attending such an event, I would feel deceived. The idea of coming up with something creative, unless carefully considered, can be a disaster. This sort of situation is a prime example of why following tradition is helpful. You are not holding the first interfaith marriage. As hosts of your own wedding I suggest being sure of not breaking a cardinal rule of etiquette – don’t insult your guests. Although this may sound harsh, I wanted to be clear. Best of luck and may happiness follow you always!

Donna, Wedding Queen

So, to recap, after eloping you could host a wedding reception (sans the extra wedding ceremony since you’d already be married at that time. It’s a nice way to celebrate the wedding that already occurred without seeming like you’re grabbing for gifts since guests invited only to the reception aren’t obligated to send a gift. of course, many do and will, but if they don’t feel obligated to do so, they’re less likely to feel like they’re being invited only for a gift. If you’ve got your heart set on eloping, then this would be the best choice. Don’t forget to show the video and/or slideshow so that your “near and dear” can witness the nuptials. But, to answer your question, as a mom I wouldn’t be happy with elopement. I’d hope my kids would do what makes them happy while also considering the feelings of those they love. I’d encourage you to step out in faith and and consider planning the wedding you want that includes both faiths. But I know that in some circumstances elopement just makes more sense. perhaps it’s rime to consult your clergy for guidance?

But, again, the pre-wedding parties should always be done before the wedding and only those invited to the wedding (meaning wedding ceremony, not reception) should be invited. If you’re not inviting guests to your wedding because you’re eloping, then there’s no reason to invite them to these parties since they are hosted before the wedding in order to involve your guests and celebrate the upcoming wedding. No guests, no pre-wedding parties. Hosting them afterwards isn’t an option for the same reason.

Reverend Susanna Stefanachi Macomb
Author of Wedding Celebrations, A Practical Guide for Couples

It is my experience that most family members, particularly parents and siblings, want to witness your vows. Your closest family members may even want to fly to Paris for the blessed occasion. This is the birthday of your new nuclear family —and two extended families join. If you elope, you may consider hiring a professional videographer to film the event. Then have the video playing at your reception. You could have CD’s of the ceremony made for close family and friends with lovely personal notes. However, it is not typical for any pre-wedding activities to take place before an elopement–engagement party, shower, bachelor party etc. The reception after you return home is perfectly okay.

Another option: Some couples have two ceremonies. One symbolic just between the two of them, and the other legal and public.

Rev. Susanna

Donna, Wedding Queen

You may find this earlier post from a friend of a bride to be interesting:

Friend wants huge wedding after elopement