How To Have Your Dream Wedding without Settling

Just minutes after we publicly announced our engagement, we swarmed with questions from friends and family. “Have you set a date? Where will the wedding be?” Seeing as we’d been engaged less than 24 hours, I was immediately reminded of the many questions I had myself. “How many people should we invite? How long should we be engaged for? Where are we going to get married?!”

Being a wedding planner, I had the advantage (and disadvantage) of knowing the answers to most of the “standard” questions. I knew just about how much we’d be spending per person, and the typical price of each wedding vendor. But I was absolutely clueless about where we would have our wedding.

The ideas came into my head just as quickly as I dismissed them. Ever the realist, I found reasons that each location wouldn’t possibly work. We just had a magical engagement here in Savannah, one of our very favorite spots. So maybe we could get married here? But no, that would be too far for both our families. I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Chicago. The majority of my extended family was still there, so we could have the wedding there… but, no, that meant it’d be unlikely that Warren’s family and all our current friends, neighbors, and coworkers could make it. We could have the wedding locally in South Florida or maybe even Tampa, where we met. A local wedding did make sense. I could use vendors I trusted and had worked with numerous times before. A local wedding meant I could visit our venue multiple times for meetings. However, a local wedding would also mean sacrificing what we had both envisioned for our big day.

Warren and I had always agreed that our wedding would have a cool Fall breeze, with the leaves changing colors. There’s something so incredibly nostalgic about the transformation of leaves in Autumn and the smell of a dusk October bonfire. I had always pictured saying, “I do” in my childhood home backyard. I’d make my way down the front staircase that I had taken so many prom and homecoming pictures on.


Then I’d walk into the backyard where I had played Ghost in the Graveyard every summer night, made snowmen at Christmas, and marked my growth on an oak tree each year. I had it all worked out. Unfortunately, by the time I got engaged, my childhood home was no longer in the family, so I had to find something equally as perfect. No palm tree or sandy beach would be an adequate substitute for the crisp fall air or the Kentucky bluegrass that feels so soft on a bare foot.



We quickly concluded that what we wanted wasn’t going to be found in Florida. With a guest list approaching over 200, there were a lot of things to consider about planning a wedding in another state. The mere thought of trusting vendors I had never met sent me into a panic. Not being able to visit the venue at last minute didn’t appeal to me either. So here was this dilemma: do we have a wedding locally with the vendors I know and trust in a less than ideal location? OR do we have our dream Fall wedding in a different state without knowing a single vendor and never having visited the site?

I made a list of pros and cons. I slept on it. I searched online forums for advice. I really couldn’t decide which option was best. Exhausted, I threw my hands up and said, “why don’t we just elope?!” Now, realistically, this would never fly with our parents. Plus, we couldn’t imagine a wedding without our families. So with a Grinch-like smirk on my face, a light bulb lit up. A family elopement.

I was so excited to finally be getting married, I wanted to shout it from the mountaintop! So… I found myself a mountaintop.

We’d officially be married at a private estate in Waynesville, North Carolina.


And since our parents and brothers would be the only ones invited, we didn’t have to worry about guest travels and accommodations. Upon making this decision, we felt immensely at ease. We were going to get our dream wedding! Ideal outdoor location during the fall? Check. Family? Check.

Buuuuuut I didn’t want to forego a wedding party! (insert whiny voice) I still wanted a bouquet toss. I wanted to see old friends and family. I wanted to use the vendors I love. I wanted those traditional things. I was back at my original dilemma, because I couldn’t have both weddings… Or could I? The old saying goes, “it takes two”, and in our case, it takes two… weddings.

A month or so after our family elopement, we would have our “celebration” in Florida with all the vendors I trust, at a venue I could easily visit, and with a traditional bridal party and all the normal wedding events. The idea didn’t go over well with some people we told. Reactions ranged from, “so I’m not invited?” to “wait, you’re getting married twice?” I felt borderline offended when people belittled our decision. “Well an elopement isn’t a real wedding…” To me, the private ceremony in North Carolina was real. It was the one that meant the most to us. This was our ideal setting. Our favorite time of the year. A real dream come true to have my “backyard wedding”. How come no one could see that? At times, having friends and family laugh at the idea of “two weddings” made me doubt how great of an idea it really was. What in the world was I thinking, planning two weddings, my weddings… on top of the numerous client weddings I already had on my plate. Luckily, my fiancé was amazing. Through all the tears and panic attacks and doubts and sticker shock, he constantly reminded me that it wasn’t about everyone else or their opinions. All that mattered was us. US. We weren’t marrying anyone else but each other. 

10 months later, we started our drive to North Carolina.