ALEX & KELLY’S BEACH ELOPEMENT STORY
Let our beach elopement story be the encouragement that you need to throw the rule book out the window, and do your wedding day how YOU want to. As Elopement Photographers & Guides, we make the dream of a stress-free wedding come to life for couples. We help guide our couples through the most exciting time of their lives, and we are there on their big day to document their stories.
REALIZING A TRADITIONAL WEDDING WAS NOT FOR US AND DECIDING A BEACH ELOPEMENT WAS
I began planning a traditional wedding. Soon after, I realized I did not want a traditional wedding. Alex bought me wedding magazines, I wrote a guests list, knew who’d I’d hire as our photographer, picked out the venue and caterer, and EVEN BOUGHT A DRESS. (Yes, as soon as we got back from Colorado, I made a bridal appointment with BHLDN, I mean, have you seen their dresses?) Knowing my heart just wasn’t in it, I never put any deposits down on any of the vendors I looked at. I then started dreaming of a backyard wedding. At my parents’ house, we could get a small tent, the guest list was now down to 45 people. I still hated the idea of walking down an aisle in front of an audience. Then my head started to spin while researching tent and chair vendors. A quick tip: Don’t tell vendors what you’re renting is for a wedding, the price automatically increases! Even when trying to keep it simple, the dollars were adding up. The whole thing just felt like a huge party for everyone else. It felt like a production that did not represent Alex and me in the slightest.
I put the wedding planning on hold… because I knew that what was being planned was not what I wanted for our wedding day.
FINDING THE COURAGE TO ELOPE
We had a trip planned to North Carolina to visit our best friends over Labor Day weekend. Days leading up to the trip we started joking around about a beach elopement while we were down there. I even mentioned it at work, OUT LOUD. The night before leaving, I looked at my wedding dress and even debated packing it. The thought of a beach elopement was so tempting. But, I shut the closet doors, once again, trying to please everyone but us. During the long drive there, we talked about it some more, still joking.
The next morning, at breakfast, I mentioned the thought to my best friend Megan. She gasped with excitement and told me she would absolutely love to help me plan my wedding in one weekend. Finally, someone who understood me! You see, from the time we got engaged in March, I would casually voice my opinions with my friends about not wanting a traditional wedding. I heard things like, “but you have to”, and “that’s not fair to everyone else”. Why was everyone around me making MY wedding day about them? I had no encouragement to bend the rules. I’m so thankful our best friends encourage us to do what would make us happy.
THE BEACH ELOPEMENT PLANNING BEGINS
The perfect dress for a beach elopement.
The dress. It was hanging in my closet 500 miles away. I made it very clear that there would be no wedding without that dress. If I wasn’t wearing that stunning, shoulders to floor lace, satin pink underlying wedding dress, there would be no wedding. It was the perfect dress for a beach elopement. For some reason, that thought was more unallowable than the thought of eloping. The first time I tried it on I cried. My sisters and my mom were there with me. No BHLDN dress, no wedding.
Megan threw out the idea to call our good friend David in Maryland, and see if he would go to our house, get the wedding dress, and overnight it to me. FUCKING GENIUS! With butterflies in my stomach and the realization that I might be getting married in the next few days, I called David. He was chipper as always, a good sign. I asked him the favor, and without hesitation, he said yes, he would do it. WHAT?! Thank you, David!!! The rest of this story wouldn’t even be a story if it wasn’t for him! Oh, and let’s just talk about how UPS & FedEx ARE AMAZING. You mean, I can pay someone to deliver something to me that is 8 hours away, and pay extra so they deliver it the next day.. again, fucking genius. From that point on, it was on!
Obtaining a marriage license
We started google searching “eloping in Wilmington, NC”, not knowing how to pull this off. In 2016, there weren’t free resources online for how to elope, hell there wasn’t even really a name for what we were doing. Adventure elopements weren’t a thing yet. Or, if they were, the majority of people didn’t understand what they were, or why someone would want to have an adventure elopement. Anyway… Some search results landed us at a little Bed & Breakfast, in the heart of Wilmington. On their website it said they specialized in elopements. We had no idea what to expect going there. But when we arrived, I already knew this still wasn’t what I wanted. I always envisioned getting married barefoot on the beach, not inside of an old victorian house with bad lighting. We spoke to a man that actually turned us away. He told me I was insane to think I could get married by the end of the weekend. He said we would need “AT LEAST two weeks” to pull it off. Ha, little did he know, I had a best friend with the mindset of Leslie Knope running for City Council, and we were not backing down that easily.
We researched and learned what we needed to do to obtain a marriage license. City Hall was the answer. We went to City Hall and WOW, it’s true what people say about the south, the people there are so nice. The lady who was behind the counter had big blonde hair, smelled like fresh-picked flowers, had a huge smile on her face, and kept saying how refreshing it was to see two people so happy about getting married. I guess most people going to get their marriage license aren’t jacked with adrenaline, planning a beach elopement that might happen tomorrow.
When and where to have a beach elopement?!
It was Labor Day weekend. As we were applying for our marriage license, I started thinking about when this elopement was going to go down. We were only in town for a few days, so it had to be while we were there, but there was also a hurricane coming through. After checking the weather, we decided on that Sunday, the 4th, the day before Labor Day! I got a little excited knowing that every wedding anniversary of ours would be a long weekend, hehe. 😊
We picked Fort Fisher State Park for our elopement ceremony location. At the time there were no rules about having a wedding ceremony on the beach, and Penelope, our officiant, said she had officiated a few elopement ceremonies there in the past.
Finding an officiant
As we were applying for our marriage license, I was google searching for officiants in Wilmington, NC. The name Penelope caught my eye. She had a five-star rating ⭐️ , so I called her. We connected over the phone talking about our love for the beach. I knew she was our officiant. I feel so lucky that we found her. She really was the perfect match for us and our day. But wow was it easy. Just like that, we would have a wedding in three days! This is it… we’re going to elope! I was so happy. Marriage license, check. Officiant, check. Dress, check. Next, rings and Alex’s outfit.
Wedding rings and Alex’s beach elopement outfit.
We walked around downtown Wilmington until we found our rings. A little locally owned jewelry store named T.S. Brown had exactly what we were looking for. We went to Goodwill and found Alex a pair of beachy linen Tommy Hilfiger pants that were just one size too small, a sky blue Ralph Lauren blazer, and a fresh white button-up. That night Megan took out the pants a little bit with her crafty skills. Have I mentioned how much I love her? We went to the local grocery store and picked out flowers. Writing my wedding vows was easy. I had been brainstorming for months, keeping a note on my iPhone for every new vow that popped into my head.
Time to get married and have a beach elopement!
The big day was here. We set our alarms for 5 AM. We pushed through our hangovers and got ready for one of the most memorable days of our lives. Looking back, there was no part of our wedding day that was stressful, rushed, or involved any amount of drama. It was how a wedding day should be, focused on the couple, focused on Alex and me committing our lives to one another.
After our ceremony, we popped bottles of champagne, played our favorite tunes, and enjoyed the moment. We got breakfast on the pier of a restaurant in Wilmington, with a view of the ocean. Later that day we set up camp on the beach and continued the celebration. Dinner was hot dogs around the campfire. Looking back, these were all things we did to make our elopement that much more special for us. Keyword there is: for us. We did things that we love. That is the secret to creating the perfect elopement day. You might be thinking about how to make my elopement special. Creating a day and activities that you know you love is the secret.
LOOKING BACK ON OUR BEACH ELOPEMENT
You might be wondering, why didn’t we hire an elopement photographer for our elopement? And the short answer is because they didn’t exist. Or at least we didn’t know they did. Back then, photographers weren’t specializing in elopements. Big traditional weddings were just what everyone did. Looking back, there wasn’t one moment from our wedding day that we wouldn’t want to remember. We would have 100% invested in an elopement photographer if we knew about them.
When I look back, the real reason, the reason that trumps all other reasons to elope, was because I did not want to wait to marry Alex.
You deserve one day, out of all of the days of your life, to unapologetically do exactly what it is that you want…. And that one day should be your wedding day. It’s the one day that should be 100% about you and focused on your relationship. So let it. Elope.