Is an elopement right for you?! It was for ME!
Are you contemplating eloping and taking 10 guests compared to 300?! Are you working on a budget but still want that dream location?! Maybe you are thinking, “I just want to spend all my money on a honeymoon!”
In my career as a wedding photographer I’ve experienced hundreds of weddings. They are beautiful, fun & sentimental – but the day comes and the day goes. The first thing I said to my husband the day after our wedding was “I’m so glad that didn’t cost 50k.” We both praised the Lord above and continued on our merry (and married) way.
With my husband being in the military and our engagement being so short, I think a lot of people assume we got married at San Francisco City Hall as a Plan B. But believe it or not, I didn’t want a big traditional wedding. I’d actually been obsessing over SF City Hall for years.
I truly believe an elopement or intimate wedding can feel just as epic as a big, fancy affair.
Here are the 5 ways we made our wedding day SO special!
#1 Location: Choosing a place that is beautiful all on its own will lend itself to stunning photographs and give you that “holy crap we’re getting married today” feeling.
San Francisco City Hall is an epic place. The architecture and light makes it feels like you are in Paris, or sent back through time. Its beautiful all on its own. The building itself has a very romantic history. Thousands of couples get married there every year, including Marilyn Monroe and Joe D’magio back in the day. Between the marriage license and ceremony it cost us $190 to get married at San Francisco City Hall, proving you don’t need thousands of dollars to secure your dream wedding venue.
# 2 Details: Half the fun of being a bride is planning and curating all of your details. A tiny wedding can free up more time and money for things like splurging on foil pressed invitations or the perfect wedding shoes.
Eloping doesn’t mean you have to miss out on collecting all those special details you see on wedding blogs. We sent out custom designed invitations to our 19 guests. We even asked them to dress in a particular color scheme so everyone looked amazing in the photos. I ended up with the most beautiful headpiece I have ever seen. We wrote our own vows in vow books that we now display in our home. We had a florist create my bouquet and personal floral pieces for our immediate family members. We hand wrote thank you cards to each of our guests and even made little goody bags for them: Giradelli chocolate and custom coasters with our names, wedding date, and the SF skyline!
#3 Photo & Video: DO NOT skimp on photo and video, period. If anything, these are the areas you should splurge on! Eloping is going to save you thousands of dollars on catering a dinner for 200 people – put some of those savings towards hiring the BEST to document your day.
Our biggest expense was our videographer and would have been photography too if my business partners hadn’t graciously shot our elopement as a gift to us (thanks girls!). Talented photographers and videographers are the key to your epic elopement. Not only because they will tell your story with all the emotion and artistry that it deserves, but there are going to be a lot of people you love who won’t be at your wedding and will want to feel a part of it. We had our team documenting our entire day, from getting ready at 5am to our 9am ceremony – to a sexy couple’s boudoir session at our hotel – then ending with coverage of the sunset boat ride we did with all our guests. I love reliving all of these moments and sharing them with the people who weren’t there.
# 4 The People: Invite the people YOU want there and don’t let anyone pressure you to do anything different. You will be so happy you stuck to your guns. And if your dream wedding has no guests at all, then do that!
We had 21 people at our wedding, including us. I would not have had it any other way. I know guest list is a struggle for a lot of brides, but it wasn’t for me. Over the years, my circle of friends and family have gotten increasingly smaller. And because Adam and I only knew each other for 4 months when we got married, it felt odd to invite a bunch of people who were strangers to our new spouse to such a sentimental day. I had already met everyone who came for Adam, and Adam had already met everyone who came for me. It was perfect.
# 5 Celebrate: you deserve to be celebrated, too!
Much like my point about details, eloping doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the pre-wedding and wedding day celebrations. My business partners took proposal and engagement photos of us that I will treasure forever. I went dress shopping with my girlfriends and FaceTimed my Mom in for it – everybody cried! My besties surprised me with the perfect bachelorette party night complete with sexy shirtless photos of my husband-to-be. I did dress fittings, a hair trial, a makeup trial, and searched high and low for the perfect bridal bracelet and earrings. We also registered for gifts at Bed Bath and Beyond which was so much fun!
On the wedding day, we had the freedom to plan the celebrations we wanted to do. Even though we had a civil ceremony, we said personal vows to each other beforehand just the two of us. Afterwards, everyone went to an epic brunch (my favorite meal to eat out for), ate bacon, and drank mimosas. In the evening we changed outfits and took a boat-ride around the San Francisco bay at sunset. We had our two best friends make speeches on the boat and everyone toasted with plastic cups. The night ended with drinks at the hotel bar!
We didn’t have a traditional wedding, but it was an epic one. A few years ago, I was dead set on the big wedding. There was a part of me that thought I needed to check that box. But our circumstances gave me something even better. We didn’t spend a ton of money, we made memories with our favorite people, and we never felt more in love with each other.
All you need is a beautiful place, thoughtful details, great photos & video, and a few friends and family. Soak in every special moment and celebrate as often as you can!
We don’t feel like we missed out on a single thing. We loved our elopement and we love being married even more!