Happy Friday, Honeys! Fridays mean one thing around here – Real Weddings (or in today’s case, elopements)! I’ve had elopements on my mind lately (they’re just so intimate and magical), which is why I am SO excited to share Today’s Real “Wedding” couple with you. Meet sweet Nicole and her hubby, Brad. These two eloped back in 2015 because they wanted their wedding day to be all about their MARRIAGE and not about a WEDDING. They wanted to do something fun and unique because they knew they’d be stressed with a traditional wedding. SO they eloped and then soon after had the cutest DIY wedding reception with their friends and family!

Fun fact! Brad and my dad worked together for a long time. SO make sure to make it all the way to the end of the post because I’ve included the CUTEST picture of my mom, dad, and sis dancing at Brad and Nicole’s reception! You’re welcome!

So without further ado, meet Nicole and let her tell you all about her story!

Brad and Nicole "we eloped!"

All Photo Credit: Memories by EMZ

How Nicole and Brad Met:

We met in Macomb, Illinois, a teeny tiny little town that is home to Western Illinois University and a few good pubs. I was living there as a graduate student, and one night out with the girls just happened to be the night I met my husband, Brad. He had accepted a job as a salesman working for a Miller-Coors distributor, having never even set foot in Macomb. It just so happened that one of the girls in my grad program had gone to high school with him, and she introduced us. He asked me what I was drinking, and when I responded “Bud Light” he said “Not anymore” then ordered me a Miller. The rest is history.

Brad and nicole holding hands

How Brad Proposed:

It was NYE 2015 and we were at a wedding -so fun! As we danced the night away, I asked Brad what we are going to do in 2015. He said “Get married.” Then, we proceeded to have a giddy “Carrie & Mr. Big” discussion about getting married. I told him I did not want an engagement ring, just a sparkly wedding band. Well, he didn’t listen! In early March I woke up to my handsome guy holding a little box with a stunning ring inside!

Brad and nicole holding we eloped sign

The Elopement:

Brad and I made the decision to elope and then return to celebrate with friends and families. We did this because we wanted our wedding day to be all about our MARRIAGE and not about a WEDDING. The reason we knew a traditional wedding wasn’t for us is because I KNEW I would be stressed out, micromanaging everything and dissatisfied with anything short of perfection. I didn’t want to be Bridezilla… I just wanted to be Brad’s bride and marry my BEST FRIEND! So, we were married on the Terrace Gazebo at Vegas Weddings on March 31. Just the two of us. our friends and family were able to watch it as it was live streamed on the Vegas Weddings Website, and they celebrated from afar. We had a phenomenal experience with Vegas Weddings and highly recommend them! Planning was fun and easy. They took care of everything. We rented a wedding dress and tux right there so we would not have to worry about wrinkling during travel! The pictures and wedding video were incredible, and we cherish them so much! Absolutely no regrets.

We (eloped) because we wanted our wedding day to be all about our MARRIAGE and not about a WEDDING. The reason we knew a traditional wedding wasn’t for us is because I KNEW I would be stressed out, micromanaging everything and dissatisfied with anything short of perfection. I didn’t want to be Bridezilla… I just wanted to be Brad’s bride and marry my BEST FRIEND!

Brad and nicole Las Vegas Elopement

The Reception:

When we returned home, my mom hosted a “post-vow shower” for our families to celebrate with us right away, and then in June we had a reception.

Brad and nicole at reception

Tips to Save:

Our reception was the text book definition of DIY. We booked a fairly cheap banquet hall that was essentially just a blank canvas for us to transform.

Tip #1: Utilize your friends and their strengths! DIY sounds fun to some and intimidating to others. I actually fall into the group of people who find it intimidating, but luckily one of my best friends is Illinois’s version of Joanna Gaines and helped me with every step of my DIY wedding.

Brad and nicole table chart

Tip #2: Ditch the florist! A huge expense in wedding planning is hiring a florist. Fresh floral arrangements and other decorations the florist will create for you are certainly beautiful, but there are lots of other options. For us, we re-purposed beer bottles, decorated them tastefully and filled them with tall wheat that we had spray painted gold. As I type that, it sounds atrocious… but it was really pretty! We also filled mason jars with candles, which looked great and added a cool ambiance to an ordinarily mundane room.

Brad and nicole love you always sign

Tip # 3: Be creative. Just because something is traditionally used for the DJ, doesn’t mean it can’t be your sweet table/focal point/background for family pictures! The venue had a stage that I was told “that is where the DJ sets up…” But… why does it have to be that way? We put the DJ in the corner and used the stage for our sweets table, and made it the focal point of the whole room! It was phenomenal… probably my favorite thing about our reception! Beautiful and delicious!

Brad and nicole reception venue

Creativity, cont’d: Also, it is pretty common for people to send reply cards when they send invitations. That means you pay postage for invites, replies and thank you cards. That adds up! Instead, we created an email address for people to RSVP to. I created an automatic reply that gave them any additional info they needed (casual attire, hotel accommodations, etc.)

Creativity, cont’d: Pinterest is your friend!

Brad and nicole cupcakes close up

Tip #4: Choose good food over expensive food! Food. Who doesn’t love food? Well, wedding food is hit or miss, in my opinion! Since Brad and I were not after a formal reception, we picked food that we LOVED and served it up on cute paper plates and plastic cutlery (Oriental Trading Company)! Here is the thing… you can have fancy food at $50 per person or you can have delicious food at $8 per person. Do the math, peeps! We served pulled pork sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fresh fruit and salad, and we received nothing but compliments!

Brad and nicole turtle cheesecake

Tip #5: Weddings are celebrations, not productions. At the end of the day, if you are married to the person you love, then it was a success. Absolutely nothing else matters. You have no one to impress. Just create a fun event that celebrates you as a couple.

Brad and nicole about to dance Brad and nicole first dance


Reception Photographer: Memories by EMZ

brad and nicole group photo

Ugh, aren’t they just the sweetest! Nicole also mentioned that now “we’re happily married for three years and we have a one year old daughter, Grace. The wedding isn’t the finish line after dating, it is just the beginning of the most incredible journey of your life!” I LOVE it. So true!! I love Nicole and Brad’s love story and wish them nothing but the best! If you want your special day featured too, click HERE.

And as promised…. my fam!

Brad and nicole Goodwin family dancingNote* if you want to learn more about elopements, stay tuned! I’ll be featuring more sweet couples who chose to elope and make sure to share alllll the deets. And who knows, maybe I’ll be eloping in the future, too. 😉

That’s all for today, Honeys!