Ohhh, where to even start. This was a creative project in the making for almost a year, that started in the cobwebs of my mind and came to fruition on a cool and moody fall day in one of my favorite places on earth – along the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.
My reason for styling this adventurous Midwestern elopement was two-fold. 1) I have a bit of a styling side (insert all my home decor dreams) and really wanted to stretch my creativity by styling an entire elopement myself (not just taking photos). And 2), in the world of COVID and the year 2020 making elopements and tiny weddings boom even more than they already were, I saw a need for highlighting how an elopement could be more budget friendly and simple, yet still modern, beautiful, and unique.
Insert my vision for this Northwoods, rustic and bohemian style elopement – extremely intimate and only between a husband and wife, featuring lake blues and warm agate tones, reasonably priced wedding attire, gorgeous florals and stationary, handmade and local macrame earrings, complete with some gooey, homemade cinnamon rolls by yours truly. The weather was a bit chilly and cloudy, the sky was dark, and the waves of Superior were crashing forcefully along the shoreline. To our amazement, the sun peeked through the clouds at sunset to provide some amazing light and warmth, that just added to how special this day ended up being.
So, before we dive in to alllll the photos – I want to quick run through some tips and info on how to style and plan for your own elopement or tiny wedding, keep it within your budget (so you have more moo-lah to spend on your honeymoon or put toward life together!), and still create a magical, beautiful day unique to you.
Let’s talk location right off the bat. This one can vary from your parent’s backyard, a destination spot with incredible mountain or beach views, or somewhere special to you both that’s a bit closer to home. I suggest when you first sit down to talk about location, you discuss your budget and figure out which aspects of the day are most important to you. If an epic view/backdrop is high on the list, then by all means make that happen, and you can look for ways to save some $$ on other areas (if you have to spend extra on flights, lodging, etc.).
For the sake of being more budget friendly, I’m going to highlight some ideas and places more local to Minnesota and the Midwest (since that’s where I’m based and this shoot took place), but, you can absolutely use these ideas to find places closer to you that fit this bill, your vision, and your budget. Here are some of my favorite places and ideas (and please remember to check with your location and/or elopement photographer if permits are required, and if there are any rules/guidelines to follow!):
- Pretty much anywhere along the North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage (some faves: Palisade Head, Black Beach, Grand Marais, Tettegouche State Park, Gooseberry State Park, Park Point Beach)
- Gunflint Trail
- Bayfield, Wisconsin area
- Badlands in South or North Dakota
- Black Hills of South Dakota
- State Parks across the state or neighboring states – pick one special to you, or one with the environment/vibe you love best!
- Smaller parks or beaches
- Campgrounds and resorts (including ski resorts!)
- A family or friend’s lake cabin
- Parent’s backyard
- Local restaurant or brewery
- Airbnb or rental homes (start by asking the owners if they allow something like this!)
This one I had SO much fun with! Albeit, it took me a bit of time researching and shopping to find exactly what I was looking for because of my budget friendly yet modern, bohemian parameters. I ended up finding a full length, off-white, lace dress from Morning Lavender for my bride that cost a total of $68 after a discount code. And for the groom, I originally found a suit coat at a thrift store, but wasn’t completely sold on it and ended up finding exactly what I had been envisioning in a plaid, brown suit coat from ASOS on clearance for $40 (my model had the rest of his attire already in his wardrobe, bonus!).
When you see gorgeous elopement photos in epic locations, I feel like it’s implied that you still go to a wedding shop and find a stunning gown and sharp-looking tux for your day. And while you can absolutely do this if it’s something that’s important to you and within your budget, I wanted to show that you can find your attire for much less and still LOOK GOOD (I mean, check out the smoking couple below). Here are some places outside of your traditional wedding shops to start your search:
- Thrift stores – seriously, these can be so underrated! It may take some more searching, but you can find some gems here!
- Local clothing boutiques – check your hometown!
- Online boutiques/stores – Azazie, Baltic Born, Lulus, VICI, Roolee, bohme, ASOS, Free People, Madewell, Morning Lavender
- Etsy – WeAreReclamation, FlutterDresses
- Discount type wedding shops (or those with great sales/clearance)
- Other brides/grooms – Poshmark, Stillwhite
- Family or friends – take pieces to a local seamstress and make it your own!
- Express, Target, and Kohls have some great and reasonable suit coat/pant options for guys, and cozy or fun layering options for ladies
- Brides who don’t want to go the traditional route of a white/ivory dress, check out colored bridesmaid dress options!
Florals are the one thing I suggest splurging part of your budget on if you can. Floral designers are incredibly creative, and their talent a lot of times just can’t be beat! If you want to save some money on flowers, ask around with your local florists/designers about their elopement options/packages, or consider keeping it simple and sticking with only a bouquet. Here are some of my favorite designers and places to look (starting with the amazing Randi of Beezie’s Blooms who is local to me and grows a lot of her own flowers/greenery):
- Beezie’s Blooms
- Abloom Floral
- Native Sage & Co
- Flora North
- Kindred Blooms
- Floral shops local to you OR local to the place/area you’re eloping
- Etsy – wooden florals are becoming very popular, and will last forever!
- Farm Girl Flowers – great options for a single bouquet!
- Family or friend with a garden and some design skill (I’ve had brides who’ve had this done for their weddings, and they always turn out stunning!)
Stationary for an elopement can range from extremely minimal to “all the fixin’s.” You can keep it short and sweet with an announcement to send out to your family and friends saying you did the thing and got married in your favorite place. Or, such as in the COVID-era, if you intend to have a reception celebration later on you can include extra pieces such as an RSVP, hotel/accommodation card, etc. I recommend seeing what a designer could come up with for you within your budget, especially if you’re wanting something really unique and different from the run-of-the-mill stationary sources. But, if you’re really on a tight budget you can save some funds, do-it-yourself, and create something fun using one of these websites. Here are my suggestions ranging from a few designers I love to some of the websites I’d choose if I was doing something myself:
JEWELRY / RINGS
This one I honestly feel like is so personal to each couple and budget. So, I’ll just briefly highlight a few resources for jewelry and/or rings that I love and are unique (clay, macrame, wood, etc.):
FOOD / DESSERT
Again, you have lots of different options here for an elopement and you can make this really unique to you two, or you can even just skip this all together. But, trust me – just like any wedding day, you’re GOING to be hungry and need to eat, especially if you’re hiking and adventuring around. Here are some fun ideas for incorporating food into your day:
- Have a family member or friend homemake something for you to bring to your location (cake, pie, cinnamon rolls…) – for this shoot, my models (as well as myself) have dietary restrictions and I made some dairy free, gluten free cinnamon rolls from scratch that we brought along to enjoy after we ran around the rocky shore. Who doesn’t love gooey, warm cinnamon rolls, and I definitely think this needs to become a more common item at weddings!
- Pick up some fresh donuts from your local bakery!
- Order a small cake for just the two of you to share
- Pack a picnic lunch or charcuterie board
- Order some pizzas from your favorite pizza joint!
- Go out to eat at a local restaurant or brewery after you share your vows
- Head back to your Airbnb and make a meal together (or order takeout on the way back to where you’re staying – my pregnant self is really craving some tacos right about now, so that’s one idea!)
HAIR / MAKEUP
I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to hair and makeup and like to do it myself and focus on a natural vibe, so my first suggestion for saving some money in this area is to do it yourself. This maintains an authentic, true-to-you style, and can help you feel most comfortable and yourself for your elopement. If you’re planning to share vows at sunrise, this also is a bit more feasible when you’re getting up and ready in the early hours of the morning. But, if this is something within your budget you want to splurge on, there are many hair and makeup artists who love to be a part of elopement days as much as traditional wedding days! Here are a few local to Minnesota that do amazing work:
DECOR / LINENS / FURNITURE / ETC.
I’m a big DIY and thrifting type girl, so if there’s something I can do, find, or put together myself when it comes to decor, I do. For this shoot I utilized items I had at home, thrift store finds, and Target. You can also search and find stylists and rental places local to the area you’re eloping (or nearby) that supply everything from tables to arches to linens to tableware and utensils. Depending on your plan for food or dessert, you may not need anything extravagant – or you can dress up your elopement spot with some fun and unique pieces. Here are a few resources:
And there you have it! I hope this helps you and gives you a place to start getting ideas rolling as you budget and plan for your future elopement or tiny wedding! Now, without further ado – here is the result of all of the amazing vendors below coming together and helping my creative vision come to life!
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