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This week while I’m away, Helena (Queen of the Nuts and Bolts and Sweeter CPA) is going to be answering a question that I asked her earlier this summer: What accounting software should I choose? You see, I have used Quickbooks for years and wasn’t sure if it was time for me to change systems or not.

Tomorrow Helena will go into detail about the pros and cons of two major accounting programs for small businesses.

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

designing our wedding with intention
August 14th, 2012     |    LifeOur Wedding

Now that I’ve shared why we decided to elope, I’ll share what traditions we decided to keep, what we edited, and what we invented.

As I’ve mentioned before, our decision to pass on a traditional wedding is saving us a substantial amount of money. Which has allowed us to intentionally splurge in some areas like our honeymoon and wedding gifts, and save on others like an expensive wedding dress, floral arrangements, and venue.

Overall, I think we’ve successfully tailored our wedding to our personal preferences. I feel over-the-top excited about our plans and incredibly grateful for such an unexpected and unconventional way of getting married. I never would have imagined we’d be eloping, but it turned out to be a perfect fit for us.

Which of course goes to show how individual each wedding should be. What we have done is certainly not right for everyone. It’s really all about doing what is best for each individual couple and their intentions.

Here’s how we crafted our wedding traditions.

Engagement Photos

Though we did not plan to get engagement photos taken, we got very lucky. My friend and photographer Kelly Stonelake tweeted me about a photography workshop (Film Is Not Dead) in Chicago that needed engagement couples to shoot. So we snatched up the opportunity and got some great free photos like this one by Catherine.

The other few engagement photos on the last few posts were by the adorable Jonah of Jen and Jonah (if you live in Ohio, I definitely recommend them!).

Wedding Invites

When it came to wedding invites, this was high up on my priority list. And though we weren’t inviting people to our ceremony, our friend and family celebrations definitely warranted nice looking invitations.

And when it came to invites, I knew exactly who I wanted to design them: Claudia of Fig. 2 Design Studio. (She’s also the designer behind our Jess LC stationery as well.)

And when it comes to packaging, Claudia kills it.

I still can’t believe my invites were inside these adorable packages! (I was pretty much squealing when I opened them.)

And there she is. Our lovely little invite.

We decided to make it an announcement about our elopement without event details. Printing only one announcement for both the family and the friend gatherings helped us save money and keep things simple. I also designed a wedding website (through Blogger so I could customize the look) and have the party details going out in an email to friends and family later this week.

You’ll notice that we went with a French blue and gray scheme which is very… French looking. But in fact the color choice originated from the color of my shoes. I’ll share more about what I’m wearing soon.

Somehow the beautiful blue color also popped up in most of our wedding details despite the fact that I’m not personally a huge fan of blue (except for this shade, of course). If I had a traditional wedding it would have been gray, white, coral, and gold all the way.

But crazy things happen when you do something completely different than you imagine.

And it all just seems right.

I cannot wait to see the invite framed on the wall with a photo of our shoes.

Wedding Officiant and Photographer

When we first decided to elope in two month’s time, the task of finding French officiants and photographers sounded… not fun.

So we instantly decided to invite our friends to fill these roles, rather than try to work with people we’ve never met before.

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We are flying our friends Kim and Scott to Paris with us. Kim is a fantastic photographer and Scott is exactly the kind of person who is perfect for running the ceremony. So rather than fork over a chunk of cash to people we don’t know, we are treating our friends to a trip to Paris instead. (They are super psyched.)

Kim and Scott will be with us for three days and then fly home. At which point Mr. Lively and I will stay for our honeymoon.

Side Note: we decided to skip the hassle of trying to get a French wedding license and did it here in Chicago ahead of time. So as Mr. Lively likes to say, we were “legally” married for a few weeks, but not “officially” until our ceremony.

Ceremony and Dinner

We devised the ceremony itself (this was a big deal to us) and I’ll will share it in more detail when I get back.

But as far as location and restaurant afterwards, we don’t really know yet. Getting married on an August Sunday evening in Paris means quite a lot of places will be closed (we’ve heard) so we are going to wing it.

I’ll share more on what we decided to do when we return.

I’ll also be finding a little bouquet from a market on Saturday… of whatever looks fresh and beautiful.

Wedding Gifts

Because we are eloping and not having a traditional wedding, we are skipping a wedding registry. I’m happy that we can leave the gifts out of the equation and just spend our time with our friends and families when we celebrate with them in September and November.

But we didn’t ditch the idea of a wedding gifts for one another. This is where we intentionally splurged.

I got Mr. Lively a fancy-pants espresso maker. Since Mr. Lively worked as a barista one summer in college, our kitchen is now a mini-Starbucks, much to his delight. (I really think he likes making me lattes just so he can foam the milk.)

And Mr. Lively gifted me a very generous shopping budget for new clothes and my wedding outfit. I’ve been beyond thankful for his gift and he’s loved watching me evolve my wardrobe this summer.

Much to my intern Caitlin’s delight, she’s reaped the benefits of my wedding gift as well. She’s been on the receiving end of a substantial closet exfoliation.

Bachelorette Party

Since we were keeping the elopement a secret, it was not possible to have a bachelorette party ahead of time. So when we celebrate with friends I won’t be a bachelorette anymore.

Which is why I’ve decided to have a “Mrs. Party.”

Yep, I’m inventing my own special lady party that is going to celebrate the fact that I’m already married. I’ll elaborate more on this party once it happens.

So there you have it! I’d love to hear if anyone has made similar choices in their weddings or elopements. (And if these ideas resonate with others and get adopted into their own nuptials I would be thrilled!)

DESIGN YOUR LOOK 2012: pin your heart out!
August 13th, 2012     |    Life

Hi all! We were beyond impressed by the submissions for this year’s Design Your Look contest—serious talent. So as we explained last week, the entries are now all on the Design Your Look Contest board on Jess’ Pinterest.

The look that gets the most repins by noon on Monday, August 20 will win! Remember, we will be monitoring the board and multiple repins of an entry by the same Pinterest user will not be counted and may lead to disqualification from the contest. We will announce the winner next week here on the blog.

Good luck and happy pinning!

-Caitlin and Kiley

why we eloped
August 13th, 2012     |    LifeOur Wedding

When Mr. Lively proposed on May 30th, I was planning on a traditional wedding next fall.

The following day his parents came into town and we talked about possible venues and catering for three whole days. But during their last night in town we finally broached the subject of our honeymoon.

We decided we wanted to go to Paris.

I’ve never been to France before and Mr. Lively speaks French and hasn’t been to Europe. So it seemed like a great trip for the two of us to enjoy together.

However, we quickly realized that since we were footing almost the entire bill for the wedding, funds would most likely be so tight by that point it would be out of the question. I recently found out our budget was $20,000 less than the average wedding spent in Chicago… so our estimate was probably a naive assumption to begin with.

Then suddenly, Mr. Lively’s father suggested that we elope to Paris and do the ceremony there.

At first I was unsure… I mean, we had been working out the math and if we saved – substantially – each month, we would have the money we would need to meet our wedding budget. So though a Paris honeymoon might not be realistic, the wedding part was something we could do here in Chicago…

But it didn’t take long to reflect deeper and begin with the end in mind. Growing up, I dreamed about my ring (I worked in a fine jewelry store in high school and I’m a jewelry designer) and my home (I used my mom’s interior design stencils to draw out new floor plans for my bedroom when I was 9).

Yet my wedding was never something that I thought about so it never had huge significance to me. It was mostly about creating a bond with my husband and God, and celebrating with our friends and family. Which is what a wedding accomplishes, but at a pretty high expense for our current income. Though we could most likely foot the bill without debt, we’d have little more than a small emergency fund to show for it afterwards.

Which meant saving for a home in our future was going to take us quite a while after the wedding next fall. 

So while I did get the ring of my dreams (my late Grandmother’s stone is nestled in my favorite setting), my home was going to be somewhere far off in the somewhat distant future. It also made preparing for parenthood in a few years financially more challenging.

Which means that on a leap of faith, we embraced the wedding road less travelled and decided that the elopement idea really did intentionally suit our lives and long-term goals.

If we had an unlimited budget that didn’t set us back a penny on our other savings goals… I’m honestly not sure that we would have eloped. But that isn’t our reality and the fact is that over the past two months of preparing for this trip, I’ve been surprised at how wonderful the whole process has been – and compared to a wedding – pretty stress free.

And Mr. Lively has been loving every second of our unconventional plan.

We are also grateful to have families that support this endeavor. In fact, our parents have each sent us words to read aloud so we have a piece of their wisdom during our ceremony.

We planned on keeping this a secret from almost everyone, but we needed to fill our extended families in so that we could reserve the hotel rooms needed for the family celebration. Though a few members thought it would be nice to see us get married, no one wanted to see us get married at the expense of our financial well-being. And the vast majority of our families have applauded our choice and are excited for a fun family weekend.

Yep, though we will be eloping for our private ceremony, we are still going to have a friend bash in September and a family celebration over Thanksgiving weekend. So in a way, we’ve kind of deconstructed a wedding. Many of the traditional elements that are important to us will still be kept, but we are skipping anything that is not very important to us.

Which means for half the cost of our original wedding budget we are getting a five star, nine day honeymoon to Paris, a celebration with friends, and a family weekend (not including the family dinner my parents are paying for). We’ll also have a nest egg growing for our future home as soon as the end of this year.

Inadvertently, our new plan also allowed us to do some things we always thought would be a bit of a challenge for us in a traditional wedding. We are now going to be able to devote our full attention to our friends and family separately at each event. Plus, we’ll be able to welcome our families into our new home over our first Thanksgiving weekend as a married couple.

Early this year we set an intention to always make a big meal for Thanksgiving and have an open door policy for friends and family to join us. And there is no better way for us to begin this tradition than to open our new home to our extended families this fall. So while we are fortunate that the weekend itself is a good one for guests to get time off, it has huge significance for Mr. Lively and I as a new family.

Phew! It is such a wonderful privilege to share this all with you! If you’ve been following along this summer you may have noticed a few points where I was super stressed… that was largely due to preparing for this elopement in two and a half months and preparing for our move and new puppy this fall. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind I never predicted. Our lives have changed quite a bit since May 30th.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In case you are wondering when we are going to have our wedding ceremony, we already did. Yesterday. August 12th, 2012.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing all the traditions we kept in our unconventional wedding, those we ditched, and those we invented.


photo by
we eloped to paris
August 10th, 2012     |    LifeOur Wedding

Yep, you read that right.

Mr. Lively and I are on our way to Paris to get married! 

I know many have wondered whether Mr. Lively’s name was a pseudonym or his actual last name. It’s his real last name.

Which means my name is now going to be Jess. Jess Lively.

I like my new name so much that I’m evolving past MakeunderMyLife and evolving the site into I hope you like the new look we added too. But more on that when I get back from Paris.

While I’m away (August 10th through 19th) I have wedding posts all lined up to explain why we eloped, how we designed our wedding/elopement with intention, and the “important stuff” like what I’m wearing.

So stay tuned, there will be plenty of pretty and wedding intention to come next week.

Thanks so much you guys, this has been the most delicious surprise to share with you. I’ve been waiting all summer to fill you in!


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single-tasking update
August 9th, 2012     |    Business AdviceLife


As promised, I’ve been diligently tracking my email inbox checks over the past week. The experiment proved my theory correct: when I check email less frequently I get more accomplished, and I stay more on top of my inbox. 

To help show my progress, I used TeuxDeux and marked my little inbox checks as I went along (which you can see in the image above are the light gray marks on each weekday).

Though most days I was on the money, yesterday I slipped and checked my inbox four times a day. Over the weekend I also had to receive and forward a few documents to different people on a work related project. But to help myself stay true to my no email intention for weekends, I had my Gmail app on my iPhone set to the search bar, not the inbox. So when I needed to see if the document I needed to forward had arrived yet, I could search by the name of the person instead of glancing at all emails in the inbox. Which was wonderful. It allowed me to do what I needed without getting wrapped up in other emails. In fact, all week my iPhone Gmail app barley got used.

Which, compared to my past email addiction, is a minor miracle.

And as I intended, I still used my inbox to write emails or respond to specific, project related emails more frequently than three times a day. But over all, the precious hours of my workday when I closed my inbox and actually worked on my business cannot be understated. I definitely accomplished much more than had I kept my inbox open all day.

If email was food, I’m all about three solid meals rather than grazing. (Super random analogy, but I like it.)

Going forward, I intend to keep true to the three daily email checks as much as possible. When I need to send a document after hours like I did this weekend, I’ll continue to use the search page on my phone rather than keep it open to the inbox. And I’ll continue to mark the email checks on my TeuxDeux list during the day to visually remind myself to stay the course. Kinda like a food journal, I suppose.

Though this method of email checking may not work for everyone, I definitely encourage anyone who thinks it might help them to try it out!

It could make a (productive) world of difference.


balancing friends and a relationship
August 8th, 2012     |    Life

Since getting engaged I’ve noticed that I’ve been spending even more time with Mr. Lively and less time with my friends. Which is understandable to some degree, but I’m working on improving that balance.

Over on The Everygirl I have shared a few ways that I am creating habits to help me keep my friends a high priority in my life and busy schedule.



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