why we eloped

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.


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This Post Has 43 Comments

  1. Jen

    Love your blog! Thanks so much for sharing your story. When my husband and I got married, we also eloped with the idea that we wanted to be prepared in the future to buy a home, have kids, and be financially stable and a big expensive wedding just didn’t go along well with those plans. We had the support of our family and did a big party later with family and friends. Almost 9 years later, we’ve never regretted it. Good luck and congratulations!

  2. rita

    i love this. i love that you are doing exactly what felt right for you and for your families and that you are making your wedding into what you believe it to be about rather than what you felt it had to be about. from my experience, the conversations with the different families throughout wedding planning about values, expenses, etc. only help set you up for the future of familial negotiations that comes with being married, and it is clear that you worked your way through those and have set your intention that you and mr. lively (and your puppy!) will now be your own family as much as you are a part of your respective families with both family’s blessings… which is quite an accomplishment in 2 months and something to be proud of.

    so happy for you, even though i have never met you! literally told my husband all about your elopement on the plane on friday and couldn’t wait to read all the posts this week! enjoy your honeymoon!

  3. Paige

    Love this. We got engaged and married in 8 weeks as the husband was scheduled for leave for training (he’s in the Army) and we ditched a lot of the traditional wedding events and created an intimate gathering of friends and family to celebrate. Sometimes I think how great it would have been to celebrate with all of our nearest and dearest, but when I think back on the day itself, there is nothing I would change – other than eating more cake and dancing a bit more. Not too shabby. Sounds like you have made a decision that is perfect for you and your growing family – congrats!

  4. anne

    Jess, I am so happy for you two! This is just wonderful. I feel like this can be a wonderful way for other people who are in your situation to maybe have more license to loosen the reigns of culture, and have a wedding/honeymoon like they’ve always wanted. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Amanda

    I dream of someday getting married but that’s the thing, I dream of the marriage, not the wedding. I think it’s crazy how expensive weddings can be and I’ve always said, I would much rather spend that money on traveling, our home, etc.

  6. Eleanor

    Jess, I’m loving reading all about your elopement! You seem to have such a good mindset about the whole thing, and you’ve now pretty much convinced me that eloping is the way to go! (Though that could just be wedding fatigue speaking- I’ve been planning my sister’s for months.)

    I’m wondering how you two handled the legalities of getting married in France… I was under the impression that it wasn’t possible for two non-residents to marry there unless at least one of them had been in the country for a set amount of time prior to the date. Did you have a legal ceremony in the States before you left? In any case, it’s so exciting!

  7. Kim

    Hi Jess, My husband and I did the same thing we eloped to Maui and it was the best decision for us on many levels. He is a Chicago boy with CA family, and my family is from Tennessee and Florida so we are spread out. We had 8 wonderful days in Hawaii for the fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding. Then celebrated with both sides of the family in Chicago and Tennessee it was perfect. Traditional Weddings to me are not worth the burden of the stress and $. The future is what it most important. Congratulations!

  8. I think this is so brilliant! What an amazingly intimate wedding you will have with just the two of you, and a honeymoon in Paris?!? Absolument!

    My sister and her hubby did the same thing-they went to Hawaii and did a wedding and honeymoon for them, just the two of them and it was perfect. In fact, as much as I loved our wedding, eloping to a place you want to really enjoy seems ideal and can save so much money.

    So excited to see and hear more! Congrats love birds! xo

  9. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Lively! It makes me so happy to read this, and I can’t wait to read whatever else you’re willing to share with us. 🙂

  10. Kerry

    Congratulations! I think it is so wonderful read about you were able to talk with your now husband and family about what you wanted and what felt right in relation to a wedding, honeymoon and your future life together. So happy for you and hope you are having the time of your life right now!

  11. Meghan

    Congrats to you Mrs. Lively and to Mr. Lively!!! Paris is amazing and you two deserve to have your dreams come true. I can’t wait to check out this dream ring of yours!! Enjoy the rest of your trip 🙂

  12. kelsey

    congrats on your marriage!!! i am so happy for you both, and i can’t wait to read more about your ceremony.

  13. Kristen

    Félicitations M. et Mme Lively! I can’t agree more with your intentions for this plan. Thank you so much for sharing this and that your families were supportive. One day, it is my hope to proceed similarly with making a life-long commitment to someone. It is wonderful to know that I am not alone in my ideas.

    Enjoy your amazing honeymoon!

  14. David

    Big congrats and best wishes for the future! Enjoy the honeymoon!

  15. Kristi

    I live in the Chicago area as well, and my love and I are talking marriage, so learning about the price tag of a Chicago wedding has me more than a little freaked out. Thank you for giving us a new option to consider! Maybe Paris in the spring…?


  16. Virginia V

    Wonderful. Thank you for sharing this unique, personal, and admirable plan. It’s so great to hear someone’s story of an “intentional” wedding, when there’s so much pressure and media push toward expensive wedding events.

  17. Congratulations! I love that you two decided to do this. A personal ceremony in the city of Love…beautiful! I wish you two a happy and long life together filled with many blessings 🙂

  18. Congratulations! I wish you all the happiness in your marriage. I applaud you for eloping, I wish I had done the same thing. Have a wonderful time in Paris.

  19. Jenn

    Congratulations on your elopement in Paris! We’re in a similar situation and we’re getting married in Maui next month. The only people in attendance will be my fiancé’s dad and his GF. I’ve never really wanted a big wedding and like you, we’re also footing the bill so instead of blowing it on one day. We’re vacationing in Maui for two blissful weeks. I already know it’s the best decision we’ve ever made yet. Wishing you lots of fond memories in Paris.

  20. It is so great that both your families are supportive and joyous about your elopement – I think it is incredibly romantic and can’t wait to hear more details! We had our wedding for less than the average price in our city and I completely agree with you that having the big wedding is not worth compromising your financial future over!

  21. I love your blog. I have been reading it for awhile but have never commented. I’m never really sure what to say or if its that important that you hear it. But I love your design your life with intention and its exactly what I’m trying to do.
    This particular post speaks to me as I have never been the girl who dreams about weddings or marriage or any of that until I met the man I am with now. We have been together for two years and I now know the feeling of wanting to say those vows in front of the people you love for this special person.
    But if we do get married we will most likely elope as I have no desire to plan a wedding and spend all that money for one day. I love your idea and I think its wonderful to do it on your honeymoon as well. Paris is one of my must see places on my bucket list.
    I wish you all the happiness in the world and hope you have a spectacular time.

  22. 17 Perth

    Absolutely fantastic! Congrats to you both and so happy that you guys did what YOU wanted to do. 🙂 Now that living life with intention. 🙂

  23. Kate

    Hi Jess, Congratulations! I am loving reading about your elopement in Paris. I too don’t really dream of a big wedding and I just love how you have followed your hearts and created a wedding that’s right for you. Looking forward to reading more..

  24. So exciting, and congratulations! We also ended up eloping (we went to San Francisco!) and though not for everyone, we knew it was the right choice for us. So excited to see all the photos!

  25. Congratulations Jess! I’ve been following your blog for a long time (though I was more of a lurker – I’m trying to be better about commenting though!), and I’m so happy that you’ve finally tied the knot with Mr. Lively. It sounds like you guys will have an AMAZING time in Paris. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

  26. Lori

    Congrats Jess! I’m so happy for you and Mr. Lively! I’ve never been to Paris but I’ve been wanting to go and just image it’s a beautiful and romantic place to get married! Congrats again. 🙂

  27. Kate

    Congratulations Jess! Welcome to married life, it’s so wonderful 🙂

  28. Tiina

    I love the eloping! I and my hubby got married in April this year, and we also decided to have a small ceremony at the city hall, followed by a dinner and a cocktail party in our new home. I was 7 months pregnant and all our friends loved the intimate and romantic setup we had! Our day was just perfect and the price tag was good, considering all the plans we have for the future. We never got to the honeymoon since I was so pregnant, but we travel so much anyhow it’s ok. Now we are planning on taking a mini trip to Nice, with our beautiful little baby girl 🙂 lots of happiness to you, I love reading your blog and following your success! It’s a true inspiration for my business and life in general.

  29. I LOVE THIS. I am not yet engaged but I am in a serious relationship, so thoughts of what I want my wedding to be like have popped up. I find the cost of weddings to be absolutely appalling. Why has our society turned this event into such a financial burden? I watched my little sister plan her wedding under incredible stress, and money was a constant source of argument between her and my parents. I want my wedding to be beautiful, but I refuse to spend thousands and thousands of dollars or go into debt to accomplish that. While I want to be able to welcome anyone who wants to celebrate, I am very wary of weddings with hundreds in attendance. Not only does that add so much expense, it leaves the bride and groom feeling rushed and overwhelmed with the need to acknowledge everyone. I would much rather spend my wedding day wrapped up in my new husband and merry-making with only my closest friends and family. I have also seriously considered an elopement, and would plan on pretty much exactly what you’re doing. A private, intimate wedding followed at least several weeks later by a big party for extended family and friends. I worry that my boyfriend or more likely my parents or his would not be so thrilled about this idea. I hesitate to broach the topic now since there isn’t even a ring on my finger, but bringing it up once everyone’s jumping into planning mode also seems reckless. I have at least mentioned to my boyfriend my desire for a small wedding. Perhaps I should elaborate. Sigh… so much to think about. At any rate, CONGRATULATIONS and I’m so happy for you both and your new life together!

  30. Maureen Shaughnessy

    I like that you planned your entire experience with such great intention and for very good reasons. You still did the whole thing with love in your hearts for your family and friends. The fact that you had a friend and family bash sometime after your elopement in Paris says alot for how important it was for you to include the ones who care about you and love you, in your relationship. And that you filled them in ahead of time was awesome. We had the experience of being excluded from our son’s and daughter-in-law’s wedding for reasons I still to this day do not know. It’s not that we are bad people or that they don’t love us. And they have never explained it in a way that we can understand. You did it the right way for you. I’m sure there are many different ways to go about beginning a committed life/marriage together. Congratulations on starting your marriage in a beautiful, thoughtful, considerate — and fun — way.

    1. Jess Lively

      Thank you so much for your thoughts, Maureen! We are so, so happy that we did our marriage in this way, especially looking back now. : )

      I’m sorry to hear that your son’s wedding was to explained in an understandable way. That must have been a difficult thing to deal with but it sounds like you have a lot of love for them and I wish you, your son, and your daughter-in-law the best!

  31. Dainty_Mom

    April 12 is also MY wedding anniversary, Jess!!! But I was married in 2008! 🙂

    Catching up on posts on your blog, and this was the first time I read about your elopement. Beautiful and inspiring! Wishing you both all the best in life and love!

  32. Aw, I’m so glad this post resonated with you, Rach! This was such an awesome time in our life and one that we are so glad we did according to our intentions. : )

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