Written by Isiah Kurz
At Love and Latitudes, we believe in your wedding, your way.
For our couples, this usually means desert sunrises, wedding dresses, and hiking boots. In other words, you like adventure but you’re not big on tradition. That’s why you decided to elope in the first place.
But the location is just one detail in an outdoor elopement. There’s also the wedding ceremony itself. You’re not interested in getting married in a church—and honestly, you’re not interested in the religious part either. While some couples enjoy religious ceremonies that reflect their beliefs or the beliefs of their family, lots of couples prefer a secular wedding without any references to faith.
Want a religious ceremony instead? Read how to have a religious elopement here!
There’s plenty of reasons someone would want a secular wedding including:
- Neither you nor your partner are particularly religious and you want your service to reflect you and your love.
- You’re religious, but your partner isn’t and a secular wedding just makes sense.
- You’re not religious, but your partner is and a secular wedding just makes sense.
- Your guests are a mix of religious faiths and non-religious and you don’t want to distance anyone.
- You feel like traditional religious weddings are too focused on ceremony or sermons and not enough on the couple.
- You want to break the mold by doing something all your own.
Or maybe it’s none of these. Since elopements are already fairly non-traditional, many elopers also want a non-traditional service to match. That’s totally cool. Having a secular wedding service is easy.
Secular Wedding Ceremony
What’s really fun about secular weddings is that you get to set all the rules. Interestingly enough, there are only a few things necessary details that make a marriage legal and valid:
- The signed paperwork to make it legal
- Both partners to say ‘yes’
- And an officiant or witness to observe the ceremony
As for everything else, it’s up to you!
Okay, sure this sounds like a lot to think about. But hopefully, you have an elopement officiant to help you suss through the details:
- Processional (Optional)
- This one is just plain practical. If you’re walking up to the altar or wedding arch, it helps to ritualize the action. The wedding party goes up first, then the couple (sometimes escorted by parents or friends to give them away).
- If you don’t have an aisle or enough people to walk past, you can skip this step.
- Family Blessing (Optional)
- Some folks like to have a parent, family member, or friend give them away at the altar. This escort is acknowledged by the officiant before departing to their seat.
- Then again, some people don’t like the idea of a parent, family member, or friend giving you away, you can skip this step.
- Welcome Statement (Necessary)
- This one’s easy. You just stand there while your officiant thanks everyone for coming and begins the ceremony.
- If it’s just the two of you, the officiant greets you and starts the ceremony.
- Wedding Sermon (Optional)
- The officiant shares a few words about the couple, their commitment to each other, their history, or what the commitment of marriage means.
- Concentration (Optional)
- The officiant wishes the couple happiness and longevity.
- This portion can include references to a higher power or the universe if the couple wishes.
- Wedding Vows (Optional)
- Traditional vows: The officiant guides the couple through their traditional wedding vows.
- Contemporary vows: The officiant guides the couple the vows, but the language is a little more natural and modern.
- Custom vows: The couple writes their own vows and shares them with their partner.
- Private vows: There’s no rule dictating that you have to share your vows publicly. Feel free to say your vows to your partner before or after the ceremony if you prefer. This makes for a very intimate moment away from your guests, if you and your partner are more private people. Imagine saying your views as the sun rises on your wedding day amongst cacti or mountains—wow!
- Declaration of Intent (Necessary)
- This is the all-important “I do” part of the ceremony.
- Ceremonial Activity (Optional)
- The couple can include a symbolic activity of their union here.
- Examples include lighting a unity candle, handfasting, pouring colored sand into a vase, etc.
- Rings (Optional)
- The couple exchanges rings when prompted by the officiant.
- A lot of couples are surprised to learn that exchanging rings is totally optional. You can swap out the ring exchange with an exchange of gifts, handfasting, lighting a unity candle, or simply holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes.
- Pronouncement (Necessary)
- The officiant pronounces the couple married by law.
- Kiss (Optional)
- Okay, this one is optional too. But you’ll want to kiss your newly-wed spouse!
- Presentation (Necessary)
- The officiant pronounces the couple married. If you have guests with you, everybody cheers. If it’s just you, you can play music to celebrate the moment.
- Recessional (Optional)
- If you walked up to the altar or wedding arch, you’ll need to walk away too.
- This can be as ceremonial as you wish. Couples sometime play music as they walk away.
- Reception (Optional)
- Nothing left to do but party!
- Want to get creative? Celebrate with a hike, rock climbing, swimming, picnic, or some other outdoor activity!
- No shame if you want to wave the reception entirely.
That sounds like a lot right now. But trust us, it goes by quicker than you think!
It’s easy to have a secular elopement in the desert, on a mountain top, or on the beach. So, book your own elopement or outdoor wedding, reach out to Love and Latitudes! We offer wedding photography, elopement planning, and officiant services.