Mandy & Luke

Seattle Elopement with an Afterparty

*Mandy, Graphic Designer & Luke, Mechanical Engineer*

In the early days of APW, elopements were still taboo (even here). We talked about them. We debated them. And I hoped, one day, that going to the courthouse would become a less taboo and more viable option for more folks. And these days, things are changing. There are photographers who focus almost entirely on elopements. The New York Times is writing pieces about people (APW wedding grads!) who eloped and had a party afterwards. The conversations about the courthouse seem less fraught. And if anything can push the conversation forward on elopements, it’s crazy-amazing weddings like Mandy and Luke’s. (And, cough, not to be shallow and all, but can we talk about her SHOES? And her NECKLACE?) And with that, Mandy…

I’m pretty sure we did everything wrong* in planning our wedding, but in the end, everything turned out just right.

We planned our engagement. We shopped for a ring together and picked one out that was perfect. We ordered it and had it shipped to my work. It stared at me from my desk all day. I took it home, gave the box to Luke (to give to me), went to work out, and came home (sweaty) to become a fiancé. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was incredibly romantic. This was a life changing decision that we were making. It wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, but it was one of the big ones. And we did it together.

We knew right away that we didn’t want a wedding. We are so so so lucky to have oodles of supportive family and friends that we share our lives with, but when it comes to undying confessions of eternal love, we are intensely private. We opted for the courthouse in the spring with a delayed reception planned for the summer.

We told everyone our plans in an effort to head off any hurt feelings a surprise elopement might cause. In hindsight, it didn’t matter how much notice we gave. Feelings were still a little hurt. Everyone says “it’s your day,” but we learned it’s a day for everyone else, too. Ultimately, we decided to do what was right for us, and went full steam ahead with the courthouse.

We got married in March. We woke up, went to breakfast at our favorite café, walked around the sleepy city, and headed back to get ready. We invited our friends Sean and Julia, an amazing photographer and videographer, respectively, to tag along for a couple of reasons. One, we knew we needed two witnesses and couldn’t invite some people and not others, and two, we knew we were going to celebrate this day months later with everyone and wanted to be able to share all of it.

The way Sean and Julia captured our day was so perfectly us—glammed up versions of us, of course—but us nonetheless. We will never be able to thank them enough. It’s funny to watch the transition from our comfortable selves to a nervous bride-and-groom-to-be as the pressure mounted—even without an audience. We headed to the courthouse with our paparazzi in tow, met with the judge, and then it was time.

Our ceremony was one minute long—which we think is hilarious. Then we were married. We all headed out for drinks (and more pictures). Julia caught my bouquet in our hotel room. And then Luke and I went and had a nice quiet dinner at our favorite restaurant to wrap it all up. The next day we left for our honeymoon.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago. We threw a delayed reception at a summer camp in Oregon—think bunk beds and horse shoes. We had enough food, drinks, and places to sleep for anyone that wanted to come. All they had to do was show up. The rest we covered. And they did not disappoint.

We spent the weekend floating down the river, getting our faces painted (my parents chose a new career path when I graduated college… seriously), making s’mores, and hanging out with our nearest and dearest. Everyone pitched in. Our moms made hundreds of yards of bunting. Our dads hung lights. Our friends moved tables and made pies in jars a la pinterest. And on Saturday we had as normal of a reception as we could muster.

We debuted the wedding video for everyone to see, which was a pretty magical moment. The pictures from the courthouse ceremony became part of our guest book so we could forever tie those two days together. I think that by the time all was said and done, any hurt feelings were dissolved. It was an ideal endcap to our months long celebration.

At its core, getting married is about you and your partner, so obviously you have to acknowledge your own needs when deciding how that will translate to a wedding (for us that meant a very private ceremony at the courthouse). But remember, there is probably a village of people that want to help you celebrate. Find a way to let them. In the end, I’m glad we did it the way we did it. The wedding day was just about us, which is what we needed. But the celebration at camp was so warm and lovey that I think we didn’t realize how much we needed that too.

The Info—Photography: Sean Airhart (Wedding Day); Friends and Family (Camp) /Venue: Seattle Municipal Courthouse (Wedding Day); Camp Lane in Walton, OR (Camp) / Flowers: Marigold and Mint (Wedding Day) / Videographer: Julia Welbourne / Face Paint: Surface Art Mandy’s Wedding Day Outfit: Dress: BHLDNSweater: Urban Outfitters; Shoes: DSW; Necklace: White Owl / Luke’s Wedding Day Outfit: Suit and Tie: Macy’s; Cufflinks: Oruaka / Mandy’s Camp Outfit: Dress: Urban Outfitters; Shirt: Target

*As the fairytale wedding is supposed to go

Featured Sponsored Content

  • dysgrace

    THIS. It is PERFECT.

  • This is so perfect. Good for them! And I love the minute long ceremony :) ours was 7 minutes and people were surprised at that!

  • Ashley

    Haven’t read the post yet, but I literally said “awwww” out loud when I saw the first two pictures. Something about you guys… cute! Congrats!

  • marbella


  • Hannah

    Sending love your way. What a beautiful thing. I’m a bit jealous of your gumption. Still trying to decide about the elopement thing myself, and this was really sweet food for thought. <3

  • Moe

    Awesome. Thank you! You articulated perfectly what I’ve been trying to express. We recently eloped to Las Vegas and loved that we shared a special private moment with no one else except for our offciant and photographer/witness. Our family celebration is in the works now and I really like the idea of sharing the Vegas photos there.

  • I love x 20 this wedding. Congratulations!

    BTW, I love your necklace too.

  • charmcityvixen


    Sorry for the all-caps, but I’m a) super excited, and b) super happy to read this! Just sent it to my fiance… we love seeing celebrations that are similar to ours :)

    Congrats on your beautiful days!

    • Jen

      We are doing almost the same thing. Rented a room at a fancy 5 star resort and having a guerilla style wedding on the grounds with a craigslist officiant, his friend and a photographer I found from my neighborhood. We are having an informal reception in our yard 2 weeks later, then a week after that going on a 2 week cruise of the eastern and western caribbean. We decided to get married planned and paid for the honeymoon, planned the party next and just 2 days ago figured out the whole ceremony part.

  • Kess

    Can I just say I love your plaid?! I love how casual your party was!

    And yay for Mechanical Engineers!!!

  • rys

    That first picture is fantabulous. And that dress, so lovely!

  • Mandy

    Thanks so much for all the sweet comments, everyone! It was really an awesome series of days, and it’s so great of APW to let us share it with you. This is definitely one of the more realistic wedding blogs out there and I’m excited to be a part of it.

    Here is a link to the video Julia made for us as well.

    • Cassandra

      So I was all teary eyed over how happy y’all looked getting married… and then “International love” started playing. Love the video :)

  • margo

    aww! This looks like a great ceremony, Mandy and Luke! The jumping photo is quite cute. :)

    I also want to put it out there Secret/Oprah style: I’d like to see a post from a genuine elopement. The kind where no one knew beforehand, there wasn’t an engagement or a traditional wedding that was given up on. Just two people who went from relationship to marriage, BAM! Which is not to say that this isn’t lovely or in any way the wrong way to do it! I’m just someone who wants to get married but knows that I don’t want the engagement (no proposal, no extra ring, no showers, no planning), and I feel as though I never hear that story. I know APW would also love to hear from someone who made that choice, too, so it’s not a suggestion so much as just a wish I want to say out loud!

    • Moe

      That would be me!

      Not even we knew beforehand! We went to Las Vegas to celebrate my 40th birthday and after a night of talking and talking about it we concluded that there would never be a perfect time to get married, we may never have enough money for a wedding and more than anything all we really wanted was to begin our lives together.

      Over cheeseburgers in our suite overlooking the Vegas strip he got on one knee and proposed at 4am. I slept through half of my ten-hour engagement. The next day I was married wearing my $19 dress from Forever 21. We had lunch afterwards and began sorting out all the details of how/when to tell people. Our rings were purchased at a souvenir shop on the way to the chapel!

      As I’m planning our family celebration (because we really do need our community to come together for us) the pressure is off!! I’m planning a party and if the perfect shade of peonies aren’t in season…who cares, I’m already married!!

    • Lturtle

      I totally did that! No proposal, no ring, no engagement, just a spontaneous marriage. APW was kind enough to run the post I wrote about it too. We did also have a more traditional wedding about six months later, which I haven’t written up yet, but the original elopement was totally spur of the moment.
      My name is Laura, my husband is Matt, and our post was run as a half-grad write up. I am sure you can find it.

    • LW

      I too had a secret elopement with my now husband. No engagement, no one knew, really just the two of us and ugly ugly city hall. I submitted it to APW and you can find it under Lindsey and L. There are actually a number of traditional elopements (ie, people not knowing) under the elopements tab. Good luck with your planning.

  • Diane

    Two words: shoe envy.

    • Mandy

      it got a little confusing in the post- the shoes for camp were DSW. the shoes for the wedding were miss l fire that i bought online from two sole sisters in colorado.
      i’m not going to lie. i bought the shoes first, dress second.
      happy shoe shopping!

  • Lauren

    This is so adorable! Being a Seattleite, I have to ask what cafe you went to on the morning of the wedding. My man and I would have gone to Citizen — we LOVE breakfast places, and I’m dying to know yours!

    • Mandy

      Le Pichet. Number 1 favorite spot for breakfast.

  • Cassandra

    You’re wearing the same dress I’m going to wear for my courthouse wedding (except mine’s grey)! LOVE it (and love seeing how it looks with a cardigan, which is what I’ll be rocking to stave off potential March chilliness).

    We had originally planned to run off and get married at city hall in NYC. Our parents’ disappointment (which, to their credit, they tried so very hard not to show us) made us rethink our plan a little, so they’ve now been invited to our courthouse ceremony (still a destination for everyone but the groom) and we’ll take them all to dinner. I’m happy now to include them, but even happier that we’ve stuck to our guns and will be doing the courthouse wedding – anything else wouldn’t be right for us as a couple.

    • Mandy

      cassandra- just a tip, regular length cardigans made me look a little frumpy in the dress. the cropped cardigan ended up working out best because it showed the waistline. hope that helps!

  • My first thought on reading this post: are you me? Which I ask mostly because I just eloped and wore a similar dress and shoes to it.

    What I’m curious about with other elopers is how the choice is made whether or not to have some sort of big party afterwards. Right now my husband and I aren’t planning on doing anything, but there are definitely some hurt feelings that we’re trying to find a way to soothe in ways OTHER than a more traditional reception. Because I’d be ok never doing the big party. I don’t know if our friends and family would be just as ok.

  • What a beautiful celebration! I’m glad the two of you could choose to do what was right for you. :)

  • Bethany

    I just have to say, 1) I love your shoes! and 2) your bouquet is gorgeous! Congratulations on a beautiful wedding and reception!

  • Eileen

    No engagement, no ring, no advance notice to anyone, no party. After living together for more than a year, just decided to do a private civil ceremony the afternoon before we took a long-planned vacation. Left work a little early in my red wool suit. Walked to the courthouse (we are both lawyers) where the clerk of the court led us through a simple set of vows witnessed by his assistant. It was intensely intimate and deeply personal. No distractions, just the two of us looking into each other’s eyes while making the most important promise of our lives to each other.

    Proceeded to the inn next door for a glass of champagne. Came home, called a couple of neighbors over to share the news and drink a toast with us, then left the next morning to join friends on charter boat in the Virgin Islands. Didn’t say a word about the wedding when we arrived, and it wasn’t discovered until several days into the trip when someone noticed my husband’s ring glinting under water while he was decompressing on a dive line. When we got home, we called a few friends and family members and the word slowly spread. I came to understand that some were hurt not to have been included, but seriously, I never gave that much thought. It really wasn’t about them. We had to do what was right for us.

    We recently celebrated our 25th anniversary! Much like our wedding, we took a long weekend trip, just the two of us, which was simple, romantic, lovely and intensely personal. No party, no fanfare, no fuss — in a word, perfect. While most of our friends are on second and third marriages, we are more committed to this relationship than ever. We’ve raised two great kids, practiced law together for nearly two decades, and enjoyed many deep friendships. We love parties, celebrations and hanging out with friends as much as anyone else. But for our wedding (and later our anniversaries) it was always just about us.

    If we had to do it all over, would we do anything differently? I wish I had a photo. He wishes we had a party a week or two later.