How To Elope On A Dime


Dads always joke with their daughters about passing them a wad of cash if they agree to quietly elope, right? Hm...maybe that's just in my family.

I have to think somewhere—deep down—everyone who's been faced with planning a wedding has thought of eloping, even if it was a fleeting thought. There are so many pressures that come with wedding planning - eloping can feel like the easy way out.

To be candid, our elopement began as a logistics thing. We eloped at the Chicago courthouse to simplify the legalities of our small destination wedding in Mexico. Romantic, right? However, in hindsight, our courthouse ceremony marked a very intimate and special day in our lives. It’s our elopement that we remember most fondly to this day.

(Even my mother-in-law, who is known for throwing huge and fabulous parties, remarked, "that was so nice we don’t even need another ceremony." I took this as a major compliment!)

The warm fuzzy feelings we now associate with our courthouse wedding and the intimate moments we shared with our parents have left me wanting to share my favorite bits of our day. In all of the flurry of wedding decisions and obligations, it’s the small and simple things that remain the most meaningful.


We've returned from our destination wedding in Mexico just two hours ago, and thoughts about this little post have been churning in my head all week.

I’ve always felt strongly about saving and splurging. Sounds contradictory, right? Let me explain...

Fewer, better things.

I've been practicing this mantra for the last few years, and it has become a theme in our new life together, including wedding planning. (Especially our registry!)

Here’s the priority list Clint and I made before planning for our wedding:

1. Marry in a quiet and non-frilly way

2. Create memories with our parents and siblings on a warm and relaxing holiday

3. Have really amazing photos

4. Pick out classic wedding clothes we would still love in years

5. Write our own vows

We included each of these items into our budget, some with more dollar signs than others. Naturally, I have rather strong opinions on which items should be splurged on for photography-sake (and where we could save).

Here's how that list ended up looking for our courthouse ceremony:


-suit $$$
-shoes $
-boutonniere $
-ring $$
-watch $$ (old)

-dress $
-shoes $
-hair $$$
-makeup $$
-bouquet $
-ring $$$
-coat $ (old)


-black car service $
-photographer $$$
-brunch $
-courthouse fees $


More behind the scenes notes...

Flowers: I choose to have silk flowers to save money and to use for three events: our courthouse ceremony, our Mexico beach wedding, and our Chicago reception. I typically LOVE fresh flowers, but flowers are expensive! I knew I had to cut costs here, especially since I was planning 3 events. However, let yourself be picky. Not all silk flowers are created equal! ($100 or more is a fair price.)

Photography: A courthouse wedding (depending on the time of day) is short - our ceremony lasted only 10-15 minutes. I really didn’t want outdoor photos since it was February, so it was nice that the Cook County Courthouse has an interior with a European flair. We were able to stay in one location for our photos, and we took all of our posed shots in less than an hour. I opted for a better/more expensive photographer, but saved by having a more conservative timeline (a total of three hours!). We saved time by getting ready in one location and riding together. Eloping on a weekday can save you in every area since some artists don’t have as high of a minimum as typical weekend rates.

For more info on our photographer, Tami Paige Photography or Charming In Love wedding photographers - don't miss these links!


Clothing: An exceptionally well-fitting suit is key to great wedding photos. (Think of a beautiful suit as the base to all of your photos, then add your pretty things.) Thankfully, Clint completely agreed and found his suit in under ten minutes. We splurged knowing the color and cut were perfect, and he would continue to wear this suit for years to come. This is an area that often goes overlooked, but if a suit is even a little oversized (or a poor color choice), the photographic results can be tragic. However, we saved a little money on his white shirt, bow tie and shoes. His watch was on the pricey side (#fewerbetterthings), but it was a gift he already had (so it doesn’t count, right?).

I envisioned my dress to be classic, fitted and simple. Pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O came to mind. I happened to find it right away, and I was even able to compare prices online since it's a common brand (under $100!). With a small embellishment, I didn't need to spend any money on jewelry. I always seem to find clothing for Clint, myself, and many of our clients at Bloomingdales. They have the best end of season sales, so my budget allowed for a nicer pair of shoes (on a 70% off sale - yes please!). Nude kitten heels would be comfy, yet make my legs look longer and slimmer. I've had my coat for nearly five years, so with a good cleaning and some minor alterations, voilà!


Hair and makeup: Take your time here. Find a hairstyle far in advance that doesn't look too unlike your everyday look. The regret I hear most often is how a bride doesn't feel like herself on her wedding day. Take your everyday makeup and give it a special twist, but be cautious about following a trend or going overboard. I did (and do) spend a pretty penny on my hair. I'm not ashamed to admit this since I factored it into our budget. I wear permanent extensions which need to be changed every 6-8 weeks and color that needs the same upkeep. I think well-groomed hair is the best accessory a woman could have! Save your clothing budget, and find a dependable hairstylist - this will make you look a million times better than one new outfit ever could.

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Breakfast: Tasty treats made for pretty pictures, and they also kept us full in between our vows and flying out that afternoon for a weekend beach getaway.


That’s a wrap! I hope you can find some inspiration from a day that will be a special memory in our minds for a lifetime.


Laura Rose Davis

Psst... Think you’ve read this post before? It’s possible! Laura and Clint are celebrating their 3rd anniversary in 2018. (*Some details have been updated since the original posting.)