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When you hear the word “elope,” you’re not alone in picturing an Elvis impersonator in a Vegas chapel. But the fact is, elopements can be a very chic and really smart decision—and they don’t mean you have to thwart your wedding wish list either. Example A: The stunning nuptials of Raleigh, North Carolina, newlyweds Jenny and Rob. After becoming engaged, the duo knew right away they had no interest in going into wedding debt as many friends had done before them. So utilizing their generous network of loved ones, the pair planned a Pinterest-perfect mini wedding in their own backyard, replete with amazing DIY decor and a true ceremony and reception.

The bride’s advice? “Think to yourself, ‘What do I want?’ No, really, though, ‘What do I want?’ If you like a tradition, keep it. If you don’t, skip it! There’s so much freedom when you decide to do things the way you truly want, rather than how you think you’re supposed to.” YAS. Here’s how Jenny packed every last wedding dream of hers into an affordable elopement. 

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Capturing the magic of the day was Jenny’s number-one priority and a non-negotiable expense. And so, almost the entire budget went toward her amazing photographer Danielle Riley ($1,000 for an elopement package). We’re all in agreement, right? Best. Splurge. Ever.


Jenny’s bloom needs encompassed a lush bouquet of greenery for herself, a flat-laid table runner and swags to dress up the altar. Here, Jenny wisely worked her network: Her mother’s florist friend let her purchase the greenery at cost, and Jenny then DIY’d her arrangements, using Pinterest boards as inspiration.


When it came to the dress, Jenny initially went to a few bridal ateliers—but she just couldn’t justify the expense. After ordering several low-key dresses to try on at home, she ultimately opted for a breezy, boho white frock from Show Me Your Mumu. As a fun addition for photos, Jenny’s mother decorated her daughter’s favorite denim jacket with white vinyl letters spelling out “just married.” And for hair and makeup, Jenny’s beauty-savvy friend handled the morning-of as a sweet wedding gift.


Granted, Jenny and Rob had an absolutely beautiful property to host their backyard affair. This pondside, lattice arbor was already in place, and so all Jenny had to do was spruce it up with greenery, linen swags and rustic details like bottles and vintage letters (many of which were Goodwill scores!).  


We love the warm and whimsical outdoor chapel Jenny created with mix-and-match aisle seating. Boho-chic party rentals, you ask? Nope, they literally brought their dining set outside...and had their parents bring theirs over for the day as well.  


Would you look at this attention to detail? To dress up and unify the mismatched chairs, Jenny tied dried lavender bunches to chair posts with twine. (Both materials were bulk-ordered on Amazon.)


Personalized paper goods were an important aspect for Jenny, despite budget constraints, so she got clever and designed programs and elopement announcements herself, which she then printed on cardstock at work. Note the little white sachets placed on every seat…


To celebrate the declaration of man and wife! The little white cotton baggies and loose, dried lavender were DIY’d with the sole intention of capturing this magical moment.


So what if you only have a handful of guests and straightforward venue? We love how Jenny differentiated each phase of her nuptials with adorable chalkboard paint directives. On to the festivities…


How absolutely beautiful is this picnic dinner setup? To craft the table, Jenny and Rob bought a dense sheet of plywood at Home Depot and laid it down over cinder blocks. Blankets were literally borrowed from friends, and the throw pillows were purchased new from IKEA for $5 each. As for this glorious canopy of twinkly lights? They asked for them early, on their registry.


Was there a fabulous reception meal? Of course there was. Their intimate reception for 22 was catered family-style by the couple’s favorite Mexican restaurant...for all of $10 a head.


This Insta-worthy tablescape also couldn’t have been more cost-conscious. The mason jars were bought in bulk at Walmart, and the plates and cutlery are actually all disposable (!), another clever Amazon find by Jenny.


Three cheers for personal details. Jenny is a self-professed “coffee person” and collects mugs on all her travels. That coupled with the fact that her brother owns a coffee shop, meant a coffee bar for guests on arrival was a must. Jenny designed a logo and the coffee mugs doubled as wedding favors for guests.


Another network hookup: These precious miniature blueberry pies, which served as the couple’s wedding cake. The baker at Jenny’s brother’s coffee shop whipped them up to the tune of $100.


How photogenic is this feature wall? Fun fact: It’s a $10 painter’s drop cloth that Jenny’s talented sister-in-law drew by hand. Anyone else feeling verklempt by all these heartfelt touches?


Jenny found these amazing tree stumps (which acted as pedestals for her candles) for free on Facebook marketplace. The candles themselves are from IKEA, and the vases were all borrowed for the day from various friends and family members.


For her “dance floor,” Jenny salvaged a huge, forgotten Persian carpet from the basement of a family friend. The couple had the requisite first dance together before inviting guests to boogie down with them. Jenny’s little brother had the honor of DJ’ing over the Bluetooth sound system. (So adorbs.)


We’ll wrap things up by saying this: An “elopement” is no reason to sacrifice all the lovely little wedding details you’ve pined for and Pinned for ages. Sparkler send-off in your own backyard? Hell to the yes.

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Photographer: Danielle Riley
Catering: Nana Taco
Dress: Show Me Your Mumu

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