A traditional wedding isn’t for everyone. In fact, elopements are becoming more and more popular. No longer the scandalous choice of yore, elopements are now a wonderful, romantic way to have a more intimate, private ceremony in a special location or at a nearby courthouse.
Elopement invitations may sound a little counterintuitive, but many couples choose to invite their closest friends and family to an intimate ceremony and celebration rather than a large gathering. To help happy couples, we’ll examine the different types of elopement wedding stationery, everything you need to know about elopement invitations (including how to write them), and six helpful tips for couples who elope.
Now it’s time to focus on the star of the wedding. No, not the happy couple, rather the elopement invitations. We’ll look closely at:
Without further ado, if you plan to elope and say “I do,” here is everything you need to know about elopement invitations.
Just like wedding invitations, elopement invitations are endlessly customizable. You can create something that is truly personalized to you and your partner and your wedding day. Specific elements include:
Format – Elopement invitations can come in multiple formats. For written cards, the invitation will be in the form of a stiff letter sheet that is folded once with a piece of tissue paper protecting it. This invitation is placed into an inner envelope which is then placed in an outer envelope. We’ll discuss assembling your invitations later. More informal options could be digital or use more casual paper.
Size – The invitations come in multiple sizes, but the most common is the classic size, which is 4.5 by 6.25 inches, and the embassy size, which is 5.5 by 7.5 inches.
Folding – The invitation can come in the form of a single card, a folded sheet, or a double folded sheet, depending on your preferences and the information included.
Paper – Invitations are often made from high-quality material because they are both informational and a keepsake. Favorite paper options include 100 percent rag, cotton, or linen. Avoid wood pulp paper because it’s acidic, which can cause discoloration.
Weight – Bond weight is the standard measurement for stationery. Thirty-two to 40-pound bond paper is a good weight. These heavy cards should be made of three-play stock, which refers to the thickness of the paper. Some paper is also measured in “offset weight,” which can be converted to bond weight. One hundred pound offset paper is equal to 40-pound bond paper, for example.
Finish – You can choose from multiple finishes for your invitations. Smooth vellum is the traditional finish. More recently, laid papers have become popular because of their muted rigid texture.
Edges – The edges of the invitation card can also be customized. Beveled edges are cut on a slant, while deckled edges are rough. It’s also possible to add indented panels to the card.
Color – Traditionally, wedding stationery was the color of ecru, which is a shade of beige. However, couples can now choose from the entire rainbow of colors to make their invitations their own.
Typeface – When you order invitations, you will usually be able to choose the typeface. Older typefaces are more formal. Popular choices include Shaded Antique Roman and London Script. The typeface is an excellent way to tie in both your wedding style and your and your partner’s personalities.
Printing method – There are also multiple printing methods to choose from, including engraving, lithography, thermography, blind embossing, letterpress, offset print, and computerized typesetting. Each of these methods has its own aesthetic advantages.
Motif – All of the above elements work together to create a certain style that reflects the couple and their wedding theme. Some couples also choose to include a motif or ornament, such as a simple illustration of intertwined dolphins, on the invitation.
Enclosures – Enclosures refer to other cards that can be included in your invitation suite. Examples are reception cards, direction or map cards, and reply cards.
Even though elopements tend to be more casual than weddings, there are still timeline elements to consider, specifically:
You should send out the invitations six to eight weeks before the elopement date. You should start planning and ordering, or making the invitations a month before that, which would be seven to nine weeks before your elopement date.
The first thing you need to do to ensure that you receive your RSVPs in time is to send out your invitations far enough in advance. Then, your guests will have plenty of time to respond. Tell your guests that they have four to five weeks to RSVP so that they can figure out travel or accommodation plans, if necessary.
You’ll want your RSVP deadline to be no closer than two to three weeks before your special day. If you have any wedding vendors, they will need a final headcount a week before the elopement date. You’ll also need some extra time to contact anyone who hasn’t RSVPed yet.
If you’re worried about guest RSVPing in time, consider creating a wedding website where guests can easily RSVP. You’ll find over 250 free wedding website templates through Zola’s free wedding website builder. They’re easy-to-use, and you can even match the design to your elopement invitations.
To help you find the right announcement wording for your elopement invitation, let’s go through each of the lines that you might need to write. In order, these are:
Host lines – Traditionally, the parents of the bride hosted the wedding so their names came first. Now, couples might host their own wedding, or both parents might host. In the case of elopements, typically the couple is hosting their own runaway affair. So, whoever hosts will be listed first for the elopement invitation.
Request lines – The next line solicits its recipient’s presence at the elopement. For ceremonies that take place in a house of worship, couples typically write “honor of your presence at the marriage of [couples’ names].” The British-style spelling is traditional, hence the “U” in honor. For ceremonies that don’t take place in a house of worship, couples typically write “the pleasure of your company at the elopement of [couples’ names].”
Bride and/or groom lines – In traditional invitations sent by the bride’s parents, the bride is referred to by her first and middle names while the groom is referred to by his full name and title. Of course, times have changed, so refer to you and your beloved in the manner that makes you feel comfortable.
Date and timelines – For formal weddings, the wedding date and timelines have everything written out, including all the numbers. Since elopements are more casual, using numerals is totally okay.
Location lines – Next, you’ll write the city and state in full. The street address is optional but helpful. We recommend including it if it would be difficult to find the location, or if the event is taking place at someone’s home.
Reception lines – If you’re planning a wedding reception and it takes place at a different place, give its location, as well as the time if it does not immediately follow the ceremony, on the following line. Otherwise, write “reception immediately following” or “afterward at the reception” to denote that the ceremony and reception will take place in the same location.
RSVP lines – Some elopement invitations will include a separate response card. If not, place the RSVP request in the lower left-hand corner of the invitation. Include the address that guests should use to send their reply. In our more modern world, you may instead list a wedding website or email address for guests to RSVP to more easily.
The request line wording can be a pain point for many couples, especially if one of their parents is divorced or deceased. Here are some helpful examples:
Only the mother is remarried – If the parents hosting are divorced and the mother has remarried, list the mother and stepfather in one line and the father in the next. The father’s name will only appear first if the mother does not contribute to the costs of the elopement.
Only the father is remarried – If the parents hosting are divorced and the father has remarried, list the mother’s name in the first line. In the next line, list the father and stepmother.
Both parents are remarried – If the parents hosting are divorced and both are remarried, list the mother and stepfather in the first line and the father and stepmother in the second.
Neither parent is remarried – If the parents hosting are divorced, and neither is remarried, list the mother in the first line and the father in the second.
The parents of both partners are hosting – If the parents of both partners are hosting, list all of their names in one line.
The couple is hosting – If the couple themselves are hosting the elopement, then they will list their own names in the request line.
If one parent is deceased – If one of the parents is deceased, then list the living parent in the first line. It’s optional to mention the late parent after introducing the name of the bride or groom.
If both parents are deceased – If both parents are deceased, then add their names after introducing the bride or groom.
There are countless traditions and rules when it comes to invitation wording. You absolutely don’t need to follow them, but if you choose to do so, here are some additional reminders:
The wife’s name is placed first on the invitation if she has a different last name.
The connecting word “and” between two guests’ names suggests the two guests are married.
Children are usually addressed on the inner envelope. Boys under 13 are referred to as “Master,” and girls under 18 are referred to as “Miss.”
If a guest can bring a plus-one and you don’t know his or her name, write the guest’s name followed by the phrase “and Guest.”
Now that you’re almost ready to craft your elopement invitations, let’s look at some traditional etiquette, as well as some advice to consider, including:
Calligraphy – Many couples choose to hire a professional calligrapher for their invitations; this can be a lovely touch. If you’d like to do so, you should give the envelopes to your calligraphers at least two to three weeks before you need them. You will also need to give the calligrapher a guest list that includes full addresses and titles. Make sure that you allow for extra time to contact friends and family, and to get their addresses and preferred titles.
Titles – It’s tradition to write your guests’ full names and titles on the outer envelope. It might be helpful to contact them in advance to ensure that you have all of this necessary information.
Addresses – When you write the addresses on the envelopes, make sure to spell out all of the words instead of using abbreviations, such as “Apt.” or “St.” The same rule applies to city and state names. Numbers less than twenty should also be spelled out rather than using numerals.
Return addresses – The return address is traditionally on the envelope’s back flap. Couples used to use colorless raised lettering called embossing, but the postal service prefers that couples don’t because it is more difficult to read. This service is still available, however.
Envelopes – Another tradition is to enclose the invitation in two envelopes: an inner envelope and an outer envelope. The outer envelope will have all of the information that the postal service needs, and the inner envelope will have the names of the guests. The purpose is so that the inner envelope won’t be damaged in the mail, especially if it is a fancier, decorative envelope.
Postage and stamps – Once your invitation is complete, you should bring it to the post office to weigh it, as this will ensure that you use the required amount of postage. You can use special stamps to suit your style or the design of the invitation. The postal service offers an entire “Love” stamp section to look through.
Hand-Canceling – When you drop off a letter at the post office, they usually place it in a machine that prints barcodes on the envelope and can cause damage. Many couples visit the post office and request “hand-canceling” to avoid this potential blemish.
By now, you’re about ready to send your invitations out. If you choose to use a full elopement invitation suite rather than a single card, here is the order that you’ll assemble the various elements:
Place the invitation itself on the bottom of the stack with the print side up.
Place a sheet of tissue paper over it.
Place all other card inserts on top in order of size, with the smallest on top.
Place the reply card under the inner envelope’s flap.
Place this stack into the inner envelope with the print side up.
Place the unsealed inner envelope inside the outer envelope with the guests’ names on the inner envelope facing the back flap of the outer envelope.
Now that you’re a verified elopement invitation expert, it's time to start shopping for stationery. If you can’t find specific elopement invitations, simply look through wedding invitations and customize them to your needs and liking. At Zola, you’ll find hundreds of customizable designs so that you can create an engagement invitation as unique as you and your partner.
Planning an elopement might be less stressful than planning a wedding, but there are still a few things you definitely don’t want to forget, such as:
Remember to book a photographer – Elopements are much more intimate than weddings, but there might be one more person you want to include: the photographer. The photographs will be the perfect way to make all your family and friends feel included even though they weren’t able to be present. If you’d rather not have a photographer at your elopement, you could do a separate wedding photoshoot instead.
Remember to check local laws – Marriage is a legal status, so don’t forget to confirm the legal details. You’ll need a marriage license, so you’ll have to research the details and timeline for that. You may also need witnesses or an officiant with certain credentials. If you’re planning on a city hall wedding, you’ll likely need to make an appointment. These are details that are too important to forget.
Remember the costs – Eloping is certainly less expensive than a wedding, but there are still costs to plan for. At a minimum, if you’re planning a city hall wedding, you’ll have to pay for your marriage license and the courthouse ceremony. This will cost about $200, depending on your location. On the high end, couples who elope to exotic destinations can pay anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. If you’re planning on having a larger reception party later, then don’t forget about those costs too.
Remember your favorite traditions – Even though you’re going the nontraditional wedding route with your elopement, you can still include traditions to make the memory even more special. Don’t take traditions such as the first dance or a champagne toast for granted. Look for ways to incorporate these and more on your big (elopement) day.
Remember transportation – It’s easy to forget the little details, such as transportation. How will you and your beloved be arriving and leaving your ceremony? Will you have separate transportation or arrive together? Look for all the little details, such as transportation, so that your big day goes off without a hitch.
Remember the rest of your friends and family – Even though most of your friends and family won’t be present at your ceremony, they will still want to feel included in your special moment. You can find creative ways to include them, such as hosting a reception or post-honeymoon party. Even just mailing wedding photos can be an appreciated gesture.
Before you hop on a plane or into a car to speed away to your elopement, hop on over to Zola for everything you need to plan an enchanting elopement. Since you’re probably keeping the guest list small, consider creating a wedding website to share photos and updates with all of your friends and family who can’t be present at the ceremony.
Zola offers 250 free wedding website templates for you to choose from. You can even match your website design to your invitations. Enjoy an easy and breezy elopement with our help.