We Cancelled Our Wedding and Had A Backyard Elopement

Our $1.3k Kentucky Elopement (Tailgating guests included)

Meagan, Stay at Home Mother + Tom, Insurance Adjuster

Sum up of the wedding vibe: A dreamy tale of whimsy and love, bold and bright and unapologetic.

Location: Family Property in Russellville, Kentucky

Photographer: Sur la Lune Photography

The Proposal: Tom proposed to me on the side of a mountain during a spur of the moment weekend trip to Virginia, where we would be picking up one of our goodest boys (photos below). We were underneath the Mill Mountain Star when he got down on one knee, pulled out a geode and opened it to reveal the tiniest acorn. I’ll never forget how he proposed: “Do you want to grow a life together?” My heart melted. Part of it can still be found on that mountain, exuding love and growing wildflowers, if I know my heart. We unintentionally ended up getting married underneath a sprawling oak tree, a plan that had been unexpected and thrown together in a couple weeks time thanks to the pandemic. But I can’t imagine a more perfect ending. What a way to honor that acorn, to say I do, to grow our lives, together.

Planned Budget: Around $5,000 was our original budget. We had started planning a large elaborate wedding complete with venue, coordinators, food service, the whole nine yards, and that upped our budget to what was going to be $10,000 at least. We then decided to downgrade and had planned to get married on the beach, while still going with our $5,000 or less budget. Then the pandemic hit and we realized all we wanted to do was to be married. And we pulled off our dream elopement at under $1,500, in less than two weeks time.

Actual Budget: Around $1,300!

Number of Guests: Wedding party: 3 (my son Lucas was our ring bearer, my maid of honor and sister, Erin, and Tom’s best friend and best man, Adam). Actual guests: Around 18, including children (I would like to point out that this took place outside on a large property and everyone was well over 6 ft apart. We did not have actual seating! Everyone drove up in the side yard and pulled out folding chairs or sat on tailgates. They were all there for the love and I also wouldn’t change that.)

Where We Allocated the Most Funds

Definitely photography and florals!! These were my two main priorities. I knew with the right florist and photographer, no matter where I got married, it was going to be beautiful! And I have to say I was absolutely right. Carrie and Jules were the dream team and they blew my expectations out of the water. Photography was $500 for an elopement/travel fee and worth every single penny. For florals I allocated $500 and gave her complete creative control. This ended up including a bridal bouquet, flower crown, bridesmaids bouquet, two boutonnieres, cake flowers and a large backdrop piece including a standing birdcage rental.

Where We Allocated The Least Funds

Outfits! We went very non-traditional and I ended snagging a beautiful embroidered gown from ASOS for around $130 (hello good sales!) and Tom found a super cute modern Hawaiian shirt from Kenny Flowers for around $80 (totally worth it). The only other outfit items we paid for were my earrings which were around $30 I believe.

My cake was a gift from my sister who happens to be an amazing cake artist and baker so I didn’t include this in the budget. You can find her on instagram at @cloverandflour for more pricing info if you’re in the Bowling Green, KY. area! I also didn’t include Thea’s collar and leash from The Foggy Dog in our budget as we had already bought these for her, they just happened to match our wedding vibes perfectly. We also didn’t end up buying much for the wedding and instead really focused on using the outdoors as our main decor. Our outfits and florals were so ornate, there wasn’t much else to decorate!

What Was Totally Worth It

Everything! I had a lot of reservations about getting married in a backyard. You have to understand that our wedding plans had changed so much in under a year’s course. When the pandemic hit, it felt almost hopeless. I had changed venues three times. I had lost so many deposits. In the end, it was my vendors that saved me.

Jules had been with me since the very beginning and adapted and evolved with every single change. When I told her for the third or fourth time that we were changing plans AGAIN, she took it in stride, and recommended Carrie to me. Both of these women, and my sister, held my hand through the whole process, gave me advice, and helped plan our social distance elopement. We had no idea when the beaches would be safe to go to again, or when travel wouldn’t be a hazard. I have COPD, so these were all things I had to think about.

We didn’t want to wait another year. When my aunt offered up her property as an elopement site, we decided this was it. We had just a couple of weeks to get everything smoothed out. We ordered our outfits, told Jules to do her best magic, and luckily caught Carrie THE weekend she was opening her books back up. It all honestly worked out so perfectly. And I wouldn’t change a thing, looking back at it. We took a chance on a tiny elopement, and it was better than any formal ceremony I could have possibly imagined.

What Was Totally Not Worth It

Making rash decisions about planning as soon as we were engaged. Don’t put deposits down on the first place you like! I wasted so much money on deposits we ended up not using. Truly my only real regret.

A Few Things That Helped Us Along The Way

Support! Surround yourself with people that support your dream and vision. I cannot say enough that I had the BEST vendors. The best sister. The best family. And absolutely the best husband. Everybody was game for every change we made and every obstacle we encountered. Invest in people that invest in you. My vendors not only gave me tangible beauty for my wedding, but they also offered words of solace, encouragement, and friendship. None of it would have been possible without them!

My Best Practical Advice To My Planning-Self

I know this will sound contrary to the norm, but my best advice is to stop looking at Pinterest. While in theory, it can give you wonderful ideas, I found myself dreaming of unaffordable and unrealistic scenarios. I implore you to instead find vendors that share YOUR vision, and from there explore options that fit your actual budget and reality. Did I want that private island beach wedding with a $20,000 floral budget and personal chef? Uh yeah. Was it a plausible outcome to my reality? Absolutely not. Do not constantly disappoint yourself with ideas out of your reach. Instead, dream up affordable options that are readily available to you. And also, let yourself be surprised. My original wedding plan looked nothing like my elopement, and what I ended up with was a story book day dream that looked like it should have been a magazine spread. Had I not been flexible, who knows what it would have turned out like!

Favorite Things About The Wedding

How could I ever choose??? It was all such a spectacle of wonder and joy. The bright florals, the softness of the landscape, being surrounded by the ones I hold dearest. The look on Tom’s face as I was reading my vows. The unexpected oak tree. That moment right after we said I do, as we were walking towards our families, when we raised our hands and pronounced “we’re married!” and right then, the sky opened up and rain came down to greet us as if in congratulations. Only for a moment, just enough for luck, as they say. Little magics like those, those are my favorite memories. The smiles, the colors, the weather’s perfect coordination with our ceremony. Twirling in a field of wildflowers, in celebration of our deepest connection to one another.

Something Else I’d Like To Share

My biggest lesson learned here was one of love and priorities. Planning my large intricate wedding always felt more about everyone else, and less about us. It seemed so consistently backwards. I can’t recommend eloping enough. It truly gets down to the heart of the matter, which is the two of you coming together as one, celebrating your love for one another. In the end, what are you going to remember? Will it be the center pieces you spent hours making? The food that cost you $5,000? Will it be the tiny details you spent so much energy worrying about? Or is it going to be the moments. The looks. The tears and the joy and the excitement and the indescribable feelings one can only feel and not center around words. Because I’ll tell you, that’s what I remember. I didn’t want a plan, a timeline to stress over.

What I got was what a wedding should be. Raw, genuine emotions organically flowing through a loosely structured day, based solely on coming together in connection and celebration. We didn’t have a first dance, we didn’t spend thousands feeding guests and we didn’t have thousands in rentals that we didn’t need. All we needed was each other, a little floral magic, and a photographer that knows how to capture memories instead of poses. I urge you to reevaluate what is truly important, and if you are creating a wedding that centers around the two of you, or the guests that should be there in support of you. Dream small. Dream real. Dream of the little magics.


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