designing our wedding with intention

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.

photo by

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!)

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Jenn

    I absolutely love that you weren’t afraid to blaze your own trail here. So many of the traditional aspects of weddings and bach. parties, after doing them over and over, can feel very contrived and non-specific to the individual. I know your friends and family will remember your events for years to come. Well done! Oh, and I think the wardrobe evolution deserves a post of it’s own- I want details! 🙂

  2. It has been SUCH a joy to read about your beautiful elopement! I’m so excited for you =) When my hubby and I tied the knot this past April, we did a lot of non-traditional things too. He and I both shy away from being the center of attention, so we opted for a private, immediate family only ceremony an hour before the reception, which included our closest family and friends. It was just right for us and I think that’s what matters. Can’t wait to hear more details about your wedding!

  3. Helena

    Our invitations are blue and grey as well! I’m generally not as much of a fan of blue… it just happened to work out that way.

  4. Ele

    I seriously can’t get enough of these posts… your wedding sounds fantastic! Especially looking forward to hearing about the ceremony when you return, since you designed it personally I’m sure it will be full of wisdom and joy 🙂

  5. Angee

    Bravo for making this about you and your honey. My hubby and I did the same thing and didn’t do a large wedding and instead opted to splurge on our honeymoon and other things. We had the most incredible time and the memories are still with us 13 years later. Congratulations!

  6. Claudia

    I’m so very happy for you and Scott because it’s clear how happy you both are. What a special and wonderful time in your lives! I’m giddy reading that you were squealing when you opened your invitations and that you like the packaging, it’s always nice when a bride appreciates it! I love working with you!

  7. I absolutely LOVE it! It’s so exciting to see everything come together. It makes me want to elope (although I’m already married, ha!).

  8. AdeOla

    I love your story and how you made your wedding about your own traditions without excluding family and friends. I have always dreamed of a non-traditional wedding and yours is inspiring me to go with my heart.


  9. I, too, LOVE this post! I found out only a couple years ago that my parents nearly eloped when they got married. While they didn’t go to Las Vegas (or Paris!), they told their families on a Tuesday that they were getting married that Friday!! I personally think this had more to do with my dad getting too anxious waiting for a wedding than anything else (I, the oldest, was not born until years later). I absolutely want to do something like this. Like you mentioned earlier, I never have dreamed about my wedding either. Can’t wait to hear more!

  10. Stef

    We eloped just a week before you so I LOVE seeing your perspective on things! Like you we could have had a big wedding, but it just doesn’t suit our current life/future goals. There was still a shocking amount of planning and stress involved in coordinating the elopement, but it was the best decision for us (and apparently you too!) Congrats to you both.

  11. Valerie

    Jess, I am so thrilled for you! Just reading how you feel about Mr. Lively in different posts is exciting to see. Being married to the love of your life is such an adventure and I’m so excited you didn’t have to wait a whole year to start it and have an incredible memory of leaping for it!!

  12. I love how you guys sat down and worked out what was important and special to you. I hope you are having an amazing time!

  13. olivia

    This is all super fabulous. I love these ideas! I’m now wedding planning myself and if we were to elope, I’d completely copy your ideas! Since we’re not eloping though, I am making sure that I follow you in designing our wedding with intention as well. Congratulations!

  14. Oh my GOODNESS! This is just adorable! I linked here from my friend Sarah’s blog (inspiration-driven life). After helping plan several friend’s weddings, I’m jaded and burnt out on the pomp and often unnecessary circumstance of a traditional Western wedding. I kick around ideas of what I’d want my wedding to be like – lately it’s been backyard pool party/barbecue themed, but the idea of an elopement sounds romantic, simple and oh-so-fun. Thanks for detailing it out here. It’s good to see something a little less traditional pulled off well!

  15. Heather

    I love this. I’m not engaged yet or planning on being engaged anytime soon, but I’ve lately been thinking that when that day does come I’d like to skip the whole wedding thing, save that money, and take a fabulous trip like you did to elope. I’ve bookmarked this post to come back to 🙂

  16. Oh my gosh, Jess, I love every bit of your planning and details. And the Mrs. Party!! Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to seeing some pics and hearing about the ceremony!!

  17. Victoria C

    Congrats!! I want to elope! It always sounds so romantic, just as yours does! My fiancé is absolutely against it though, so at least I talked him into a small intimate wedding next Spring.

  18. S

    oh my! this is amazing! this actually sounds like the perfect wedding to me.

  19. Krystal Bowers

    I am so in love with what you guys have chosen to do! My boyfriend and I have talked about doing the same kind of thing when we get married- it’s so inspiring to read your posts.
    Thanks for all the great ideas 🙂

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