Marissa & Nick’s Elopement That Wasn’t

Because you guys are awesome, about two seconds after I complained on Twitter about not having a Las Vegas elopement (I mean, how is it that APW doesn’t have a Las Vegas elopement?) I got an email from Marissa. She didn’t have a elopement, exactly, but she had an almost-elopement. She had a teeny-tiny family wedding, with food at In-N-Out (yum! And awesome!) because when they explained that they were going to Las Vegas to elope, and they didn’t want to inconvenance everyone by dragging them to a party where they couldn’t afford a big meal… well… their families explained that big meal or not, they were coming anyway. So. With that, I bring you the love filled elopement that wasn’t.

The biggest lesson I learned while planning our wedding, was how not to get pushed around, but to take other people’s feelings and ideas into consideration. Some of my family tried to railroad me into things that neither my husband or I wanted. We had planned to elope, but in asking my parents to watch my little boy for a few days while we ran off, some hurt feelings were unearthed. I asked in an email and my dad’s response was, “You didn’t want anyone else to go?” It wasn’t actually the case that we didn’t want anyone there, we just knew that we were spending all of our money to get away and get married and we didn’t have much left to feed or entertain family. We also didn’t expect for anybody to want to travel to our Elvis wedding in Vegas because it didn’t seem significant enough, if that makes sense.

But. I found out that weddings are a whole family thing, at least in my family. We lost our last surviving grandparent just after Thanksgiving of 2009 and my parents gave to me my grandmother’s 1940s deco style engagement ring and wedding band. They are very, very blingy which isn’t exactly my style, and it took me a while to come to terms with the fact the more demure rings I picked and emailed to my, then-boyfriend would never be mine. I whined about it once to my best friend and that was it. I love my rings today and feel so honored to be wearing a part of my grandparents’ history.

I was also a little railroaded into a David’s Bridal dress. I had been dress shopping online and my mom was insistent about my getting to experience the whole wedding thing, even if it was a tiny wedding. She and my dad were married by a Justice of the Peace and I’m not sure that she got to experience any fun wedding stuff so she wanted to make sure I did. The dress I ended up with was a vintage looking lace number and “me” enough, but I don’t know if I would say I loved it.

What did I learn? I learned that I can be a strong person and that I can plan something. I have never, ever planned a party before and our families gushed about how fun and simple it was. I learned that you do not have to spend a lot to feed 18 adult bellies and 7 child-sized bellies. We just rounded everybody up and directed them to the nearest In-N-Out Burger and assembled on their patio. My brand new husband typed everybody’s orders into his phone and rattled it off to the cashier, the total was about $115, nobody cried about getting a wrong order. Cha-ching!

I LEARNED TO TAKE HELP! My sister, the real planner in the family, saved our butts by running out to a party store to get plastic champagne glasses, plates and napkins. And a cake server. I thought we could find some place in the Strip to get these things, but 2 hours pre-wedding, there were no champagne glasses to be found. Plenty of champagne, though… I delegated the cake pick-up to my parents and everyone was responsible for getting themselves around because we don’t drive.

I learned to stick (pretty close…) to our budget and not to buy things unless you love them for sure. We came in $150 under our $3000 budget (yes, including our own hotel and airfare). The good part about having a small wedding is being able to pay for it all in cash and not start out your new life together in debt! BIG BONUS. Second bonus, my dad gave us the money he would have contributed to a large wedding for us to put away in our high-yield savings account. YES! We’re not sure about home-ownership yet, but this will help immensely if we ever decide to take that path.

It would have been nice to know that wedding planning can drive a perfectly sane person… crazy(sih). I cried when my soon-to-be hubby buzzed his hair the night before we left for Vegas. I cried because my parents were being REALLY respectful of our elopement wishes, so much so that I realized I could not do it without them and the rest of my immediate family in attendance. I cried because I thought our wedding was cursed! My dad was hospitalized because he was COUGHING UP BLOOD two weeks before the wedding date. My best friend since kindergarten (the only non-blood-relative in attendance) came down with SHINGLES (yes. f*cking shingles.) a week and a half before the wedding date.

Other things I learned: Having family there was huge. We do not get to spend a lot of time together because money is tight and we’re a little spread out. Getting everybody together is rare and we know how to party. Also, I didn’t really think my flowers and veil mattered but I just LOVE them whenever I look through pictures. My husband’s haircut did not matter, he looks gorgeous NO MATTER WHAT. Having total control does not matter. It just doesn’t!

I got married to the most awesome dude to grace this earth and that is what mattered. He does not commit easily, but he committed himself to me for life AND he even teared up during our vows even though they were funny Elvis vows. That moment mattered, our public promises to each other.

Our day turned out really great and the mood was simply happy. Everybody was glad to be there, everybody got along. There were no issues that were not solved. Our venue cranked us through efficiently but still gave us plenty of attention and a great ceremony. Everything was all good. Totalmente bueno.

Oh, and sound advice: Please ride a roller coster the day before you get married so you can just scream. It felt so good. You don’t even know.

Photos: Fancy portraits by Bently & Wilson, the rest by family, friends, and the wedding chapel

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  • I just love this. The teachable moments, the confidence built and the love shared. It’s all so damn wonderful. Great job Marissa and Nick! Makes me want to get all married up Vegas style!

    p.s. I think your dress is beautiful. You wore it well! And your husband’s suit is off the chains.

    • You guys are gorgeous gorgeous GORGEOUS. That dress is delightful and you certainly did rock the flowers and the veil. Lovely! And congratulations for finding (or perhaps, stumbling into in a lot of ways) a celebration that was truly YOU.

    • dev

      That is some SERIOUS groom style. And you look AMAZING in your dress.

      What a sweet wedding. I love it!

  • Wench

    I love that phrase ‘please ride a roller coster the day before you get married so you can just scream’. I’m immediately going to see if there are any fairgrounds in London the day before I get hitched.

    Beautiful wedding, fabulous story

  • Riding a rollercoaster the day before is the best wedding advice I have ever heard.

    • Nina

      When I read that, my head immediately screamed YES!!! I almost wish I could go back in time to before my wedding just so I could make sure I get in a good scream on a rollercoaster! I think that would have been the best feeling ever (of course I don’t actually want to go back in time because I’m so happy to be graduated).

    • Eliza

      Yes!! My sister in law was asking me what I was going to do on the morning-of to make sure I didn’t spend the morning stressing prior to getting ready for the 5pm ceremony. Now I know what I’ll be doing – going to the theme park around the corner from our house and riding the vintage roller coaster! :D

  • This was beautiful! I loved how your family was like – we’re coming too, please. And then were amazing and helped you out with things and were okay with how you choose to do things (mostly). What a great sense of community to start your life with…


  • YES for a Vegas mini-elopement/wedding/elopement, whatever you want to call it. YES YES YES. I love this story so much, you have no idea.

    We originally had the 140 person, historical mansion party planned for next year and realized – can’t do it. Doesn’t make sense financially and we were both getting so caught up in things that it wasn’t us. So I wanted Vegas. I really wanted Elvis officiant. I didn’t get it, but instead we’re doing family and a handful of friends only. And I’m so much happier.

    But I felt the same way – it’s not that I didn’t (don’t) want everyone there, it’s just that we can’t do all of it and pay for everyone too.
    And I too even started to get worried about the small wedding we’re having in December – making people get hotel rooms, fly into town the weekend before Christmas, Sunday wedding so do they take off work Monday…and my concerns kept coming down to the same thought Marissa had – “We also didn’t expect for anybody to want to travel to our Elvis wedding in Vegas because it didn’t seem significant enough, if that makes sense.”

    It TOTALLY makes sense, at least to me. And then I started talking to my family, and talking with my best friend and realize – they’re coming whether we like it or not. Because it IS significant. And I feel so loved that it’s a bit overwhelming. And now I know, after looking at these awesome, joy filled photos that we’re doing the right thing, and I’m so looking forward to it!

    Congrats Marissa and Nick — and THANK YOU for sharing!!!

    • KristieB

      Oh my, I understand.

      Our original original plan was a big vintage country fair/ carnival wedding on my parents’ property. A year before we got married, my older brother decided to get married at my parents’ – and had me plan the whole thing. It was stressful (and expensive) to have a home wedding. Not to mention the whole “you stole our idea” thing.

      Our second plan was a big 60’s cocktail reception at a city landmark. Just pricing out the things I wanted was making me have a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t make a single decision on anything. I didn’t want to work another wedding were I should be having fun instead.

      We ended up taking off to Hawaii with 25 of our closest family and friends. I couldn’t have eloped and not had anyone there. It meant so much to have a tiny holiday with my favorite people. It cost the same amount as any of the other parties – but we lived large and spent 2 weeks in paradise. By far the best decision we made. Unfortunately, the home reception we are currently planning is the worst wedding decision.

  • Jen

    I absolutely love this story! How your family just made themselves present in a way that sounds so full of love and support – good job, family! And yes. Your dress is amazing and looks h-o-t on you!
    What an amazing learning experience, fun wedding, and lovely family!

  • saveroomforpi

    I love your bouquet, and all of the wedding attire is great!


  • That last picture of you two rolling the dice makes my heart go pitter-patter. That is all. :)

  • This may be one of my all time favorite graduate posts.

    Love the dress an bolero…David’s is nothing to be ashamed about:)

    Love the In-N-Out…awesome.

    Love this: “The biggest lesson I learned while planning our wedding, was how not to get pushed around, but to take other people’s feelings and ideas into consideration. Some of my family tried to railroad me into things that neither my husband or I wanted.”

    That is a perfect, balanced approach to the whole planning thing.


  • I love everything about this post – the colors, the burgers, the smiles – and not just because I really love Vegas. Congratulations to Marissa and Nick!!

  • KristieB

    Totally smoking hot Vegas wedding!

    Families and friends have a way of making any wedding significant. Congratulations!

  • Ali

    I am so incredibly jealous right now. All I wanted for our wedding was to have family and *close* friends. My fiance, on the other hand, wants to invite all of his college buddies, people he hardly ever talks to, and people who don’t even know my name, even though we’ve been dating for 2 1/2 years. I really wish I could convince him to do something like your wedding – so special and memorable!

  • Ali

    Oh, and I’m taking a lesson from you about just letting go of his hair. My fiance has been growing his hair out for Locks for Love, and technically he could donate it now, but instead he’s decided that he wants to keep it long for the wedding. He’s also planning to keep his goatee (which can be rather mangy-looking). At first I was a little upset, because I want him to look well-groomed for our wedding…but then I realized that he is handsome to me on any other day, so why would I think he wouldn’t be on our wedding day? That silly goatee is part of him, and so is his long, frizzy hair.

    • Anna S.

      Ha! My husband forgot to get his hair cut before we left for our wedding, and we got married in such a small town there was nowhere to go. I wound up cutting it in the bathtub with the clippers the night before. I had no qualms about this, as it is our normal haircut practice, but he was a little bummed he looked, in his words, like a monk, on our wedding day.

  • I love this post!!! It is so true that your friends and family don’t care what they eat, they just want to be there to celebrate you. What an awesome wedding!!

  • These picture are super, you and your hubby are gorgeous! i’m glad you stuck to your guns on eloping, and I’m glad your family cared enough to invite themselves along :)
    My dad would have said the same thing “you don’t want us there?” even though you’re right, that was absolutely not the feelings you were having!

    Great wedding, love the suit, I wish I had in-n-out at my wedding, yum!

  • Alyssa

    This was SO great, because not only was it a a Vegas (VEGAS!) wedding, but it was a Vegas wedding that everyone can learn from! And I am LOVING you bolero Marissa, it makes that Davi’d Bridal dress look stunning. (As are you, good LORD you have amazing skin. And I mean that in the least creepy way possible.)

    I also love how your family came together for you and were so supportive they brought you to tears. That’s wonderful and amazing.

    • Omigod, I know. All I kept thinking was how gorgeous your skin is! And I just love that red bolero with your dress and your dark hair. So glamorous for a Vegas wedding. I love this story. It reminds me how much a wedding brings out the important things. And some of the drama too.

  • Tiffany P


    I totally want it!! Where did you get it? Whats the designer?

    I have a Davids Bridal dress too… that I like (dont love) but it fit my budget! I think a cute bolero like that would jazz it up just enough!

    • Is it OK to plug vendors? I got the bolero on Etsy! She’s in Israel so shipping time is a little long, but great service and stuff!

      • Alyssa

        Ooo! If you can, plug that vendor on APW’s discussion page on Facebook. There’s a thread for Etsy vendors…

        • Cool, I added all of my Etsy vendors to the Facebook thread!

  • This was just beautiful. Congratulations to you on getting to have the day of your dreams, but also for compromising with grace. I’m just starting to encounter how my “vision” of my day differs from my parents’, and it’s challenging to make sure that you’re really hearing each other. Your story was just what I needed. And you’re so lucky to have an amazing family. Bravo!

  • Kashia

    Such a stunning couple! And what an awesome way to be able to celebrate with your families while still having a rocking Vegas elopement. The photos are amazing! Thank you for sharing with us. Congratulations to you both!

  • Sarah

    “Oh, and sound advice: Please ride a roller coaster the day before you get married so you can just scream. It felt so good. You don’t even know.”

    That’s the plan! I’m getting married in Orange County, California … and being from there, I, as is tradition, still have a Disney annual pass, even though I live in DC now! We’ve already got one trip planned a week before the wedding, and I think I just may stop in to ride a coaster the day before!

    I LOVED reading about your wedding … it looks like it was perfect, even with all the little things that didn’t necessarily go as planned! What a lesson to the rest of us that get hung up on “perfect.”

  • lacey

    good idea about the roller coaster ride and screaming, or any sort of fun primal experience before the big day.

    we’re doing our wedding in a month on a Great Lakes beach, and I might just have to run screaming into the water and waves for fun (and release) the night before!

  • Lauren

    What struck me most about this post (which I loved reading) is Marissa’s “confession” that she liked her dress but did not love it. I too, like my dress but don’t love it (it’s also from David’s Bridal:), but I feel like there’s a huge expectation to be absolutely in love with your wedding dress. In fact, I had more than one person tell me that I would know the “perfect dress” as soon as I stepped into it. Well, I didn’t know, and the idea of going from store to store in search of the “perfect dress” did not appeal to me so I bought one that my mom and my sister and I agreed looked good on me that also happened to be a very good price because it was on sale. Yet, I find myself feeling like I should convey more enthusiasm than I feel when people ask me details about my dress and whether I just absolutely love it. Thanks for reminding me that I’m normal!

    • Liz

      yeah, that rang true for me as well. i never had The Dress Moment. and even now, i look back at my dress with a sorta… meh.

      • Eliza

        This is really great to read – I am pretty sure I’m just not a “one dress is the PERFECT dress for me” kind of person, and so I’m totally chilled about ordering a gorgeous dress online, that matches our venue. I guess I’m just more interested in matching the dress to the perfect venue, not matching the venue to the perfect dress! It’s good to know I don’t need to second guess myself about it and try to haul ass around all the bridal stores in Melbourne looking for something I’m 99.9% sure they don’t have. (I’ve never seen a shorter-than-floor-length wedding dress in Australia – in stores or on a bride. Not ever. Anyone else?)

        • Lisa

          Oh my gosh, this makes me feel so good – my wedding was a month ago and I too ‘liked’ my dress. I tried so many on, in so many price points, but I am just not the kind of girl who slides into the satin and bursts into tears. I was starting to think there was something wrong with me. So glad I’m not the only one!!

    • Me too! I really wanted to spend as little as possible, and after trying on literally at least 100 (I know), my mom and I went to the crazy Running of the Brides sale in Boston and I told her that there was no way I was going to walk out of there without a dress. I found three good options, each for $250, and picked one. Done and done. I didn’t love it. But it did the job.

    • Alison

      I’ve spent a long time agonizing over the dress. I like my dress. It’s appropriate to the venue and it looks pretty on me. But as a Costume Designer, I’m supposed to LOVE my dress, or have someone make me the dress of my dreams, and well, that’s not how it is. If nothing else, my pretty dress will fit me properly. ‘Cause that’s one thing I know about.

    • I just bought my dress the other day. It’s pretty, it fits me, and the price was right . . .but I don’t know if it’s “the” dress. I don’t know if there’s supposed to be a “the” dress. I bought it at the first store I went to, and it’s nothing like what I had been picturing myself in. I was at the Running of the Brides, so there was no “let me think about it and come back another day,” but even though I love it, I think I’m mourning the dress I’d been imagining myself in . . . so I’m going dress shopping again. (I’m embarrassed to admit it! I already bought a dress!) So I take this post as my permission. I will go to one more store, and if I find something like what I’d been envisioning (and I doubt I will, because what I’d been envisioning had sleeves, of all the unheard appendages for a piece of clothing!) – and if the price is right – I will get it, and if not, I will remember this post and remind myself that a wedding can be everything it’s supposed to be even if I didn’t have a “moment” when I first put the dress on, and then I will stop shopping for a dress I already have. Thank you.

      • Funnily enough, about a month after we got married a Wedding Grad on APW was giving away her dress, which I LOVED. C’est la vie!!

        • You know Marissa,
          If you dont LOVE your dress, perhaps you could pass it on too? I would guess there would be at least one or two people on here who love it!
          (I love it on you, but its not me, and I think I would be substantially larger than you, and i have a dress already… and I’m not in the states. Sigh)

      • Liz

        i know marissa said she didn’t LOVE her dress, but hot damn. she is ROCKING it. i think she looks fabulous.

        and as much as i was… indifferent… about my plain white gown (yawn), i hear compliments about it all of the time (the genuine ones… where people write down where you bought it).

        i think we just build ourselves up for something that doesn’t exist. THE right dress. kinda like “mr. right.” ;)

  • I love this post. We settled on a mini-elopement destination ‘do with close family and friends, too. We wanted to elope, but we also felt that it was important for my kids to get a chance to be involved and celebrate the marriage, too. My family was more enthusiastic than I expected, and suddenly, we had a 40-person wedding in the works.

  • I am loving this Alyssa/Liz Team Double Action Comment Moderation Thing we got going on.

    • Liz


  • Margaret

    Hey, I think my friend got married at that same chapel! Yay for Elvis Vegas weddings!

    Can I just say, I love the way you included your family. One of the things that really surprised me about wedding planning was how much joy I got in (occasionally) yielding to my family and their wishes. Sometimes giving in, finding ways to meet their emotional needs, letting them run with something even if it wasn’t to my taste – that actually ended up being really wonderful. Sometimes that sentiment gets lost in a lot of the chatter about weddings – on both the indie and WIC sides of things.

  • ka


    I love everything about this post. Vegas, bolero, suit, In-N-Out, and family!

    I’m struggling between a home wedding we can’t afford, or a destination wedding our potential guests can’t afford, and this post was immensely comforting. Somehow it will work out and it will be awesome, though maybe not in the way I imagine it.

  • “Having total control does not matter.”

    Yup. And that’s one of those life lessons I have to keep learning over and over again. But when I get it right, things just seem to go so well.


  • Ash


  • bsw

    Fabulous wedding… I love me some In-N-Out!

    Also, can we please get a happy dance for Judge Walker who just overturned Prop 8 in California?!

    • I am totally doing up the happy dance!!

  • Soo yea. I LOVE this wedding…the Vegas elopement (well sort of) and In-N-Out burgers, everything really. I think it is great that they focused on the marriage & not the huge wedding. Congrats guys!! ;D

  • What a wonderful wedding and story. It just proves that things may not be everything you thought you wanted or go as planned but it can always turn out great in the end.

  • Soooo beautiful! I love the photos and man is that a good looking couple!

  • You know, this is another one of those posts where I really wish I had stuck to my guns and worked harder on persudaing my fiancee to have our wedding at our tramping club lodge at the skifield at the end of winter. We would have had space for about 40 people, and everyone would have HAD to be involved in cooking / cleaning etc.
    It would have been so us.

    BUT, I am glad in a way that we compromised, as it makes it easier all around for our families and friends to be with us, and we can have more of them there for only slightly more money…

    Perhaps I could do the lodge weekend for my 30th year after next instead… Now THATS an idea! :)

  • Theresa

    I know what you mean about people railroading you into things you didn’t want-we wanted an elopement and ended up with a more-formal wedding! Congrats to you and your hubs for not letting compromizes get in your way and for totally working everything out! Beautiful wedding photos, and can I just say I’m in lurve with that scarlet bolero jacket?!

  • Moz

    Totally awesome grad post guys – congrats on your marriage xx

  • Rachel

    OMG the ride a rollercoaster? My brother/best friend knew I was all nerves and stress and “if one more person complains I’m cancelling this shin-dig” the week before the wedding, so he took me to Knoebel’s Grove. For those of you unfortunately unfamiliar with Knoebel’s, it’s a stationary glorified carnival with a few wooden coasters in it. You can bring in dogs and you don’t buy an admissions ticket, so lots of grandparents and babies are running around because they didn’t have to pay $50 to get in.

    So 5 days before the wedding, he took me to Knoebel’s, where I rode rollercoasters. And, for the first time in my life, actually put my hands up. Usually, I’ve got a white-knuckle grip on the restraints, but I thought, “to hell with it. If I can get married, I can feel weightless for a few seconds, too.”

  • I get married in four weeks. And I’m going to do everything I can to follow that amazing roller coaster advice.

    Thank you!