Thursday, June 1, 2017

city hall chic - ALL the details from my elopement

A little over a month ago Chris & I decided to elope. Something we thought would be super easy and fun. Originally, our plan was to get married while we were staying in Palm Springs. But the more I got into planning our escapade, the more I started feeling like I was planning a whole wedding, price tag included...

- just for my bouquet, I was quoted at $400
- paperwork + legal officiant to marry us, we were looking at $4-600
- photographer $3-400
- hair + makeup $2-400
- tried looking into a "cheaper" idea of a traveling wedding officiant who then needed us to pay for their motel room...ugh
- haven't even tacked on our hotel + flights is this eloping??

So, at this point I'm sure some of you are like, "if you're eloping why the heck would you need any of this stuff? don't you just go to the court house and sign some papers??"

Absolutely. If that's how you want to elope, that is absolutely your prerogative. And that is so not me. It may have been my second wedding, but this was Chris' first. And even though he couldn't care less about flowers, or hair, or photos, I wanted him to still have all those wedding day experiences! And he loved every detail like I knew he would....because naturally, there was NO wedding planner. Eloping meant I had to pull something together, and pull it together fast!

And after taking into account what it would actually cost to elope in Palm Springs, I decided to see how I could pull it off at home in the Bay Area for a fraction of the cost.

So, here's how I pulled it off. I'm giving you every detail + links and information to everyone who helped pull off this perfect little Spring elopement.


Let's talk about the dress first. Because it's my favorite thing in my wardrobe right now. This spectacular white confection is made by self-portrait. Major tip: I bought my dress straight from the self-portrait website. My dress was not only shipped directly from London, but it was almost $200 less because of the conversion rate since I paid in pounds and not dollars. 320 pounds coverts to $412 which is more or less what I paid. I believe my total was $420. Yassssss....

*If you were to purchase this dress right now from Nordstrom (as an example) you would pay $545 + $50 in taxes, which comes to about $600 for the dress.

I am over the moon with this dress. Hello! She has pockets! And the fabric...intricate and heavy...just exquisite to touch and to look at. It's just beautiful. And...I will most certainly be able to wear it again. The self-portrait lace frill midi dress in white (320 pounds = to $412.22) is available for purchase HERE!


Driving along one day, it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted to get married at a gorgeous old Victorian that I had swirling in the back of my mind. Specifically, the oldest Victorian in our city. Rengstorff House was one of the first houses built in Mountain View, around 1867, by Henry Rengstorff. I had checked out the property as a potential site for a photo shoot...and now I had the perfect shoot plan. My elopement.

I wanted this beauty to be the backdrop for our basic but sweet little elopement. So, I emailed who I needed to email via the City of Mountain View, and discovered that I could essentially elope on the property, for free. 

Here's why: I applied for an amateur photo shoot permit. Meaning, there would not be a professional photo shoot happening on the property. With a total of about 8 people, my mother being our main photographer, no props except for a table to sign our marriage license, we qualified for the amateur photo shoot permit - which happens to be free of charge.

So, I managed to get us on the property as an amateur wedding photo shoot that was to be featured on my website...never mind that we would also be casually signing a real marriage license and making it official too...sneaky, sneaky! 

It's funny because a lot of you guys totally thought I was just shooting a wedding scene for the site, being that we are in the thick of wedding had a lot of you fooled too.

Professional shoots and weddings at Rengstorff House are commonplace and obviously have a price tag. Weddings at Rengstorff House are absolutely beautiful, set among English gardens, there's space for small and large parties. I highly recommend for Bay Area brides looking for a sweet location. It's breathtaking on a late Summer afternoon.


I waited about 6 months to color my hair. And when I did, I did it a few days before I eloped (risky!) and I did it at Aveda. I wanted my hair an even silvery-blonde for my wedding day. I went to master artist, Marissa at Aveda Atelier Salon in Santana Row in San Jose. 

I waited 6 months to touch my hair with bleach because it was damaged and needed time to chill. And I didn't want my hair to fall out. So, I went to Aveda because they know what's up when it comes to color. And an elopement/wedding is no time to mess around when it comes to hair color.

Full highlights ($200) + a much-needed haircut ($100) Note that these prices are reflective of a master artist. You can always go to Aveda and ask about other stylists who charge less depending on their level of expertise. All Aveda stylists are excellent. 

Master Artist, Marissa Domanico can be found at Atelier Salon & Studio in San Jose (408) 244-4222.

*For the day of my elopement, I had my usual hairstylist (Jesus Yanez of Hair by Chuy) simply do a blowout and then straighten my hair. I wanted my hair straight and simple for a chic look under my pop of a veil. The dress I chose to wear was va-va-voom...wild hair would have been overkill and almost defeating the purpose of our simple and sweet styled elopement.

To book an appointment with Hair by Chuy (based in Sunnyvale), text or call: (408) 316-4652. I've been going to Chuy for 15 years.

**My makeup was done c/o NARS beauty business manager Stephanie Ramirez, who you can typically find at the NARS counter at Bloomingdale's in Stanford shopping center in Palo Alto.

Stephanie is literally the only girl I trust to do my makeup when I need it to be photo-shoot worthy. She gets my easy-breezy, everyday style and basically brings out an even more gorgeous version of myself. 

I wanted my wedding makeup to be chic with a hint of sultry, but still maintaining a look of innocence. Brownish/coppery tones around my eyes (no lashes, just mascara) + nude/pinkish glossy lips did the trick.

Stephanie is fast, efficient, excellent and friendly. Done & done. Bay Area Brides? She charges $150 and bridesmaids $125. Stephanie can be reached at: (408) 709-9341.


So, bearing in mind this was an elopement, and keeping with our simplistic theme, we had no professional photography. Instead, we had two professional-grade Canon cameras, my mom, my sister and my friends with their cell phones.

My mom took the majority of our rained-out elopement photos and my sister helped out too, both using Canon cameras. My mom and my sister are used to taking my pictures and used to the Canon cameras because it's what we always use for my photos you see on the website. My family is my crew. And that was definitely to my benefit.

To capture some fun vhs-styled video, I had a friend use the "VHS Cam" app on my cell phone. It provided us with just the right grainy, vintage-ish captures I was going for. There was a mood and a tone I was going for, and somehow, even with all the rain, it worked out. And in the end, I did not have to pay my friends and family for taking pictures. Naturally, I sifted and then edited the shots I loved the most. Typical Virgo - needing to be in control of every aspect.


Not one to skimp on this event, I wanted to have a cute convertible to seal the deal with our fun elopement pictures. I had this vision of a black car with white cans streaming from the back, as we drive off, back to our house for pizza and bourbon as it turned'll get to the reception...

So, renting a sexy car, even for an hour, can set you back $1000 or more. I kid you not. Pretty cars cost $$$. Even if you just want it for a picture. 

Get creative. I asked my sister and her boyfriend because cars are what make them happy. They know cars. They have too many of them. I knew they were who I needed to ask. Surely if they couldn't help me out, they would know someone who could. Low and behold, they came through with an uncle's old but sweeeet Mercedes. A black convertible that wasn't too old and wasn't too new. It was just right. And we got to borrow it, free of charge. Good thing we had umbrellas went it started raining and the convertible top wouldn't go back

Always ask around. Ask friends. Ask family. You never know who's going to be able to hook you up, especially if you mention it's for your special day.


I have to admit, I am a lucky lady to be surrounded by talented floral magicians....and even luckier to call them my friends. Not surprisingly, as soon as I knew I would be eloping here in the Bay Area, I contacted my sweet friend, Crispy of Natalini Flowers. I gave her photos of what I had in mind and she whipped up the most perfect bouquet and flowers for our table-setting to boot. 

Natalini Flowers is family-operated and based out San Francisco, serving the entire San Francisco Bay Area. People often ask, how do I shop or place an order with Natalini?? Crispy creates whatever your heart desires. Her website is not going to be FTD. First of all, Natalini Flowers serves the SF Bay Area only. They are a local florist. Secondly, the best way to contact Natalini about your floral ideas, concepts, wishes is to email or call. You can email Natalini with photos of exactly what you want or descriptions and Crispy will respond to you personally. Call and she will arrange an appointment to meet with you and discuss. 

Natalini Flowers' creations are always better than you imagined them to be. Natalini Flowers by Crispy can be reached here: (415) 503-1690 or email:


Moving on to all the other little details that made up our special day....

Something borrowed, something blue: My fabulous blue satin shoes were none the less from ZARA. Big shocker. And at only $49.90 hardly breaking the bank here. Luckily for you they are still available for purchase HERE!

My lace bridal panties ($39), with a crystal "Bride" scrawled across the bum are by Hanky Panky and available HERE.

My lace garter by Eberjey ($24) is available for purchase HERE.

I got the most beautiful golden metal "French Market" hanger to drape my dress on from BHLDN ($30). The hanger rotates at the neck for ease when photographing. Comes in gold, silver and rose gold. Detachable "bride" ribbon allows the hanger to be used long after your wedding day. 

Etsy is a wondrous destination that simplified my elopement decor, etc. in one swoop. I was able to order everything, including custom-made items, and have them delivered within my 2-week time limit.

I was able to order from Etsy stores:

- my custom-made, retro veil by EllanaCouture ($56)

- our custom-made, shabby-chic wedding car tin-cans by Sabina Hoffman of SabiHUP ($65 for set of 10)

- our custom-made "We Eloped" sign by SweetNCCollective ($50)

- Chris' custom titanium/olive wood-grain wedding ring by Stefano Dimalta of DimaltaGioielli ($160)

- black/white striped table runner for our reception table by FloraTouch ($21)

- my "Mrs. Gehrels" wide-brim, black/white honeymoon hat by Kristine Banks of DesignsBiK ($56)

Amazing, right? Gotta LOVE Etsy shops!

So, what am I missing....a friend, who is ordained, legally married us, so that cost us nothing but a hug and a handshake. 

Our "reception" consisted of nothing more than our close friends and family gathering at our home for pizza and booze! Yup. Very did manage to order about a dozen cupcakes from Sprinkles in Palo Alto. I figured a little dessert couldn't hurt. And I had Sprinkles adorn the tops of the cupcakes with little diamond rings to fit the occasion. Cupcakes were probably $50 for the order I placed.

I think that just about covers every little detail of our elopement! Long and extensive, I know. That was lot of information. But, if you're a bride-to-be or helping plan, hopefully you'll have found this post helpful and inspiring. 

Elopements are supposed to be stress-free and FUN! And even though I still got meticulous with details, we still managed a budget-friendly affair. Money that wasn't spent on a big, over-the-top wedding went towards our lovely honeymoon. And that was definitely money well-spent.

To see our elopement video post, CLICK HERE.

To see our honeymoon in Palm Springs post, CLICK HERE!


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