San Francisco, CA, USA

10 Lessons I Learned from Eloping

1. Commit to eloping
Eloping means that certain friends and family members will inevitably be disappointed.  If you decide that eloping is right for you, you have to be prepared to deal with some hurt feelings and commit to the action!  Eloping kind of implies spur-of-the-moment, but I think it's necessary to have an elopement plan in place.  Decide ahead of time on a time and place, whether or not you will keep it a secret, include some people, or none at all.  Stick to your plan so there aren't any last-minute surprises!

2. Be practical
If you peruse Pinterest or a wedding website like Green Wedding Shoes for inspiration, your head may become filled with all sorts of fantastical ideas.   In the end, though, I decided I wanted to keep things on the simple side, since to me that was one of the main draws of eloping. We decided to take a few days off work and go to city hall in San Francisco.  I went to a clubbing event there once when I was in college, and remembered it being epically grand.  For after-photos (a bridal session), my heart was still dreaming of an epic shoot at Yosemite. Our photographer was so down for anything which was amazing.  But having only a few days off, I decided that I would rather commemorate our marriage by spending some quality time together with a little "mini-moon" (not a camping trip) rather than spending that time road-tripping somewhere to get perfect photos.  We decided to keep things local and easy and did our bridal session at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland.

3. Decide where to spend your money
I think with any wedding, you have to decide what's most important to you so that you know how to allocate your funds.  I was planning to spend the most on photography since pictures were all our friends and family would get to see of the day.  However, I didn't even know that most photographers charge a much lower rate for elopement packages since they usually occur during the week, so I ended up spending much less than I was prepared to!  Same with make-up artists.

As a fashion-lover, I've had some dreams about wearing a certain dress, but when it came down to it I really didn't want to spend the $3,000+ it probably would've cost for my dream dress + alterations, especially when few would even see me wear it.  I decided that I didn't want to spend much on a dress at all and spent less than $300 total on the 3 dresses that I wore for the day.  The first was a bridesmaid dress from ASOS in a nude/oyster color (sleeveless version here), whose simplicity I thought would be appropriate for a city hall ceremony (although, with San Francisco city hall being so grand, some brides really go all out there, it's amazing!) the second was a more casual dress to wear to lunch that I got from Nasty Gal, and the third was a beaded dress I picked up from Missguided's Bridal line. I do wish I splurged on a new pair of shoes, though, something with a bit of bling would've been perfect!

4. Try to look your best!
Obviously if friends and family are traveling from far and wide to see you get married, you're going to make an effort to look your best.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of NOT falling into this trap and looking over our photos, we really regretted it.  While most of our friends shed weight for their weddings, my husband and I actually packed on a few pounds for ours.  In the months leading up to the big day, when I should've been working out more than ever in my life, I had stopped going to the gym completely thanks to my back pain.  I definitely wish I had made an effort to diet and slim down for these pictures!  I did at least remember to get my nails done and got fresh highlights in my hair, but I also wish I had gotten a spray-tan, and done a hair and make-up trial.  I've literally gone to the beach like ONCE in the past five years, and that tan-line on my back is going to haunt me forever thanks to these pictures!

For hair and make-up, I hired an artist that was based in San Francisco based on photos I had seen of her work.  Typically, brides would pay about $100-$250 for a trial with an artist and try out some different applications techniques and hair-styles before the big day.  It's a pretty big expense and I didn't want to travel to San Francisco just to do this, but I realize now that it's actually pretty important for artists to be able to get a sense of your face and your hair.  I picked a well-established artist who I felt confident would do a good job based on her portfolio.  Unfortunately, I'm really particular about how I like my face done and wasn't too happy with the final look (especially considering that I paid over $500) and wished there had been more time to get it right.  A trial would've solved this.

Also, keep in mind that make-up artists tend to charge more the more established they are (this applies to wedding photographers as well), but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are better; just that they are more experienced or have been doing it for longer and have enough clients to sustain their business.  So just because an artist charges a lot doesn't mean she's going to be great and that you can put all of your trust in her.

5. Invest in a mini-steamer
I'm definitely kicking myself over not doing this!  As a blogger, I'm always using my steamer to get any creases and wrinkles out of my clothes before a shoot.  I don't know why I didn't think this would be so important on what is supposed to be one of the BIGGEST days of my life!  Obviously I couldn't take my steamer on the plane with me but a mini-one would've been perfect and you can get them for, like, less than $25 on Amazon!  Looking at these photos, I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't at least iron my dress at the hotel.  And then I remembered that I got quite drunk the day before which brings me to my next lesson...

6. Don't get drunk and stuff your face the night before 
The day before we got married, we went to a Happy Hour near our hotel where I had way too much Tito's vodka. On the way back to our hotel, we passed by a Lemonade where I thought it would be a great idea to get a giant macaron (and I was right, it was delicious, and I ate it all by myself). Then we passed out drunk, woke up, and ate a late dinner at Delfina with some friends. It was delicious so we ate a lot. I don't have any regrets about what we did, just that we did it on the day before we got married, when we should've been doing #4 and trying to look and feel our best lol.

7. Enjoy a good meal
After our ceremony we went to lunch with our witnesses at Kokkari and I have to say, I'll be thinking back on that meal fondly for a long time.  Though I'm not too thrilled about the lunch baby I was carrying around afterwards, the meal was a memorable one, and hopefully on our next trip to SF, we can eat there again and reminisce. Although our day felt pretty action-packed because we were constantly behind schedule and wanted to leave for our mini-moon in Mendocino by a certain time, it was nice to slow down and enjoy a good meal together!

8. Bring your favorite lipstick
I don't know about you, but I have a go-to, everyday lipstick, and that's MAC Brave.  MAC lipsticks are the best you can get for the price so I have quite a few colors but Brave is my favorite (I am wearing it for the bridal session shots).  I lost it recently on my honeymoon and had to replace it right away!  I wish I had been wearing my own lipstick for the ceremony so that I would've looked and felt more like myself.

9. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
I think this is a no-brainer for people having real weddings, after all that's what your wedding planner and your bridesmaids and groomsmen are for.  For us, we didn't think it was necessary since we didn't have too many things to worry about (or so I thought) but we were running late and frazzled the whole morning and we were so late for our civil ceremony appointment that I almost thought we weren't going to be able to get married!  If we had asked for help or even hired help (like even just grabbing an Uber instead of driving ourselves and having to deal with parking) it would've taken a load off!  Pay extra for things like flower delivery or for a make-up artist to come to you if it's an option--it's worth the convenience!  Keeping things as simple as possible for the day of is key!

10. Choose a photographer you love
I feel so lucky that we picked Photoflood Studio to be our photographer, Courtney was so amazing to work with.  I actually didn't do any research on photographers at all, but she did my cousin's engagement photos and I really liked how they came out so I hired her just based on that alone (I'm the laziest bride ever and did very little planning/research).  Courtney's pretty young and she's not that established yet so her rates were pretty reasonable.  But even if you like a photographer that costs an arm and a leg, photography is worth splurging on in my opinion because when all is said and done, the only thing you'll have to remember your day by are the photos and you will show them to your grandchildren one day.  If you are looking to save money on photography then definitely look for photographers that are not necessarily new to photography but newer to the wedding business--wedding photographers generally raise their rates every year as long as they have enough clients to sustain their business. Just be sure to pick someone whose vision aligns with yours!

Photos by Courtney Yee from Photoflood Studio


  1. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! How incredibly wonderful! I'm really glad you wrote a post on this! My husband and I didn't exactly elope but we had a shortly planned wedding with only immediately family. I feel like there can be SO much pressure (and especially now that I'm a blogger) to have some big elaborate wedding but it's about the relationship and what's best for the couple NOT what you think everyone else will want. I really wish I would have had a post like this to read prior to my wedding. You look absolutely stunning in your gowns and the photography is incredibly beautiful! The city hall you were married at is marvelous! We were married at a quite random little white chapel, in Georgia of all places, that my sister in law found. I wish you all the best in your marriage! Congrats again beautiful!

    Manda |

  2. Congratulations on your wedding! I literally poured over this post and adore all the photos. Despite you being critical of how you look, the wrinkles in the dress, etc. I think the photos turned out amazing and so stunning! While I am all for weddings and celebrating with friends and family, I see these photos and the private, beautiful moment captured between just husband and wife and these are precious as well. The lessons you point out are all valid and helpful indeed. You made an absolutely gorgeous bride and you two look so cute together. What a perfect way to celebrate your lives together! xoxo, Christine

  3. Tania, congratulations! Your dresses are all beautiful and you can't tell they cost 300 all together. You have great taste and I think it's important to know where you want to budget. I hope these next few weeks are blissful.

    Emma ♥

  4. Hey Darling,
    How was your Weekend?
    First Congratulations, This post was sooo Amazing:)
    Loved Everything, The photos are just Beautiful and You 2 Looked so Beautiful:)
    The Dress the Places just like a Dream:)
    I am in Loveeee:)
    Loved this post sooooo much and wish You All The Best:)
    Love Kisses
    Open Kloset By Karina

  5. Congrats! You're so lucky that you got to do it your way! Love all the photos - and that last dress was my fave for sure! And your groom is so handsome - love his bridal style too! BTW you look amazing and skinny - even if you felt heavier you really don't look it. And you can always retake photos in a few years.

  6. Congratulation to both of you and I wish you all the best in this amazing new journey together! All the photos are so beautiful and you look truly gorgeous!!! Love the dress too much and how it looks on you! Happy week ahead, sweetie! xx. Gina

  7. I think the pictures turned very good, way better than I had a photographer that we paid $3000. Yikes! I regret that we didn't plan our wedding photoshoot before the wedding, it would be more creative and pretty. I hope, other girls will listen your tips and do their day better!

  8. Oh my! Congrats!!! You both look so lovely together, and girl, your dress looks insanely beautiful.
    Those are some amazing pieces of advice, I wish I knew some of them. I got married in Iceland, and it was such an adventure, haha :)
    I wish you all the best, you're just a perfect match! <3

    Cheers, Eliza |

    1. Thank you! A wedding in Iceland sounds so incredible!!! The landscapes there are so breathtaking.

  9. This is such a romantic way to get married! Both you and your husband look amazing, and I love that you really committed to eloping. It is clear that you put a lot of thought and effort into the ceremony. Congrats!!

    ~xo Sheree

  10. Congratulations on your wedding and I think eloping is a great idea.
    I'm engaged and I would definitely think about this option as a big extravagant wedding costs too much money and is too much hassle.
    I think you look amazing and you certainly didn't need to slim down you look fabulous , thanks for all the great tips.
    Natalia k

  11. First of all, congrats on your big day babe!!! Those are stunning eloping photos with the colours of the fall and your beautiful dresses. I can't believe you got them or such a good bargain, I have to say, you know how to pick and how to plan!!! Those tips for eloping are not just practical, but also so sweet! Thank you for sharing your tips and lessons you have learned from your life time experience. Such a sweet and also informative post! Love it so much and I'm definitely bookmarking it. It's something I want to read over and over again.

    xx, Jessie

  12. Congratulations on your wedding! Such a beautiful dress to celebrate your big day. You look absolutely stunning. I had a medium wedding with around 200 people, but the option you're are sharing in this post is fabulous and it certainly avoid all the stress that a medium-big wedding represents. You two look fabulous and your images are breathtaking.
    Thanks for sharing this great moment in your life.

  13. You and your husband's elopement looks like it turned out amazing still, even with all the incidents of you getting drunk and not ironing your dress haha. I actually considered eloping, but I have also always had a dream of having a fancy wedding. But fancy generally means expensive, and I also am not about to drop a lot of dough on a dress I'll only wear once. I mean, we still have to buy a house. I wish I lived closer to you too! I would have done your makeup (I am a makeup artist) and I only charge $50 for all my faces, no matter the occasion! It's definitely not my style to overcharge for wedding makeup, like most artists do IMO!

  14. This is literally so amazing. I’ve gone back and forth so many times on what i want but i love how intimate this is and it’s not this whole ordeal to plan things and what not. The craziness of weddings gives me legit anxiety. All good things to note if i decide to go down that path one day. Thanks so much for sharing. You look like a gem

  15. I love the photos, you both look amazing!

    I'm not considering eloping any time soon, but your advice is quite useful for life in general. I guess that they can be applied to almost any type of event we are planning to organize.

    Well done for you guys!


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  19. Such a lovely pictures, dear. You look stunning, as always!


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