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Who: Whitney and Stephen Taylor
Live: Alexandria, Virginia
Work: Whitney’s a therapist and Stephen’s an athletic trainer.
Ages when they eloped: She was 25, he was 30.
How long they dated before getting engaged: Two years. Stephen was working as an athletic trainer for the Minnesota Twins and traveling a lot, so there was a lot of long distance going on.
Relationship Timeline: Dated for two years → Proposed June 2017 → Engaged for a year and two months → Eloped August 28, 2018
How they met, from Whitney: “We met at a bar in Clearwater, Florida. Stephen ordered me a drink that was absolutely disgusting. I took one sip and asked the bartender for a whiskey and ginger. Steve took his hat off, looked at me and said, ‘Well. Hi, I’m Steve.’ We ended up talking for hours, walked along Clearwater Beach, and found another bar to close down where we sat talking until 2 AM. I went home that night and was absolutely terrified but excited. A couple weeks later we met up again for breakfast. And here we are!”
Whitney’s first impression of Stephen: “I definitely felt a connection that absolutely terrified me!”
Stephen’s first impression of Whitney: “Whitney had a spirit that was just so alive and it made me feel excited about life again.”
Proposal: “We got engaged in Galena, Illinois in June 2017. Stephen was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for baseball season and I drove up there from Florida with our puppy, Addie, once the school year was over (I taught second grade in Fort Myers, Florida). He had three days off for the All-Star break and we wanted to spend some time together alone away from the host family we were spending the summer with. Stephen reserved a cabin for us that was pet friendly so Addie could be there too. When we got to the cabin we set up a picnic. Stephen all of a sudden said, ‘Wait, we need speakers.’ And he ran off into the woods! He came back with a complete stranger who started taking a video of us and then, out of nowhere, Stephen proposed. I totally should’ve seen it coming because he was quiet all day long. I totally thought he was mad at me for something!”
The Decision to Elope
Main reasons they eloped: “Stress, money, and wanting to start our marriage in the same freedom and space of love and privacy that it evolved from.”
Who initiated the conversation to elope versus have a more traditional wedding? “Both of us! Kind of. I first want to note that Stephen had always been down to have whatever kind of wedding that I seemed to want. He just wanted to get married. He always mentioned how cool it would be to do something non-traditional, but it was never a serious conversation.
“We put down a deposit about six months after getting engaged for a beautiful mountaintop venue in my home state, New Hampshire. We had no plans of changing this venue or wedding plan until we moved from our home in Florida to Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC.
“With the stress of moving, Stephen starting a new career, myself looking for a new job to start while finishing graduate school, and the financial burden of a wedding, we decided to push back our initial wedding date of October 2018 to the following summer of 2019. Planning a wedding is tough and we just didn’t have the time, energy, or the financial resources to keep it all going. We really wanted to be able to use our time in a new city exploring new places, rather than spending our evenings picking table linens, arranging seating charts, and keeping all 12 (yes, 12) bridesmaids up to date on wedding plans and decisions.
“Once we decided to push the wedding back, we sent out ‘change the dates’ to all of our guests and let them know that ‘due to unexpected life events,’ we would be rescheduling our wedding to the following summer. However, a few weeks later a very close childhood friend of mine suddenly passed away, and Stephen and I were reminded that nothing about tomorrow is guaranteed. Before we moved to Virginia, I also lost my grandfather. Saying goodbye to him was extremely traumatic and heartbreaking as Pop was very close to me. Nobody could compare to their bond. One of the last things Pop ever said to Stephen was, ‘I know you’ll take good care of my granddaughter.’ So now, with a completely new life in front of us, with a reminder about what life is truly all about, and with the loss of one of the wedding’s most VIP guests, we considered an elopement.
“In true Whitney fashion, I called Steve one day while he was at work and said, ‘Hey, what if we just cancel our wedding and drive up Highway 1 and elope in Northern California?’ Long story short, he loved this idea. When he came home from work that day we walked to Southside 815 [a neighborhood bar] for some drinks and nachos and worked out the logistics of eloping on a bar napkin. The next day, we booked the tickets to California.”
Was this a rocky or smooth decision for you as a couple, or somewhere in between? “Somewhere in between. The initial decision to push our wedding back was Stephen’s suggestion and I was extremely angry at first. But I grew to understand and agree why it was the best choice. However, once we both agreed on eloping, there was no looking back. We are still 99999% happy with our decision and think every couple should elope!”
How they broke the news: “My parents were told over the phone and it was no big deal. Stephen told his parents over the phone and they were just glad we were finally getting married. We told our close family and friends once we made the arrangements to elope. Others were informed by a social-media announcements.”
How the news was received: “Oh, gosh, so many people told us we would regret it. That we were being irrational and irresponsible and immature. Those remarks reassured us and solidified our faith in our decision because at the start and end of every single day, a marriage is only between two people.”
Venue: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve along Highway 1 on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The day before the ceremony they drove around the area picking the perfect ocean-front spot to exchange vows.
Why they chose this spot: “Stephen has always wanted to drive Highway 1. A year before making the plans to elope, he took me on my bucket list trip to the Amalfi Coast. I wanted to give him a bucket list adventure, too, so it seemed like the perfect decision. We would spend a week driving Highway 1 and elope in Northern California at the end of the drive. Most people that I read about started north and went south to places like Big Sur, but I read that for money-saving purposes it would be best to start south and go north.”
Stayed: Albion River Inn
Hair and makeup: “I was able to have my hair, makeup and nails done. The one nail salon in the town of Mendocino was actually closed, but I met the sweetest woman at Pacific Star Winery that was friends with one of the manicurists at Bloom [a spa in Mendocino]. She texted her friend and she came in on her day off just to get my nails ready for our big day! My hair and makeup was done by Beauty on Set. I also had the most gorgeous bouquet done by Mendocino Floral Design. All vendors were amazing and made this day feel even more amazing.
He wore: A suit from Jos. A Bank.
She wore: A dress by Stella York.
Something old: A bracelet with Whitney’s grandfather’s handwriting that reads, “Love you always, Pop.” “I really wanted my grandfather to be able to be at our wedding, but since he passed I had this bracelet made so part of him could be there with me. August in Mendocino is extremely overcast, but when we started our ceremony, the sun came out for the first time in weeks! I knew my Pop was there with me …. It was such a beautiful moment.”
Something borrowed: “My something borrowed were the earrings my Aunt Adair wore on her wedding day (I was born on her birthday and my middle name is after her).”
Something blue: Soft blue Badgley Mischka heels.
Photographer: Cassie Trottier Photography. “I found her on Instagram shortly after we got engaged and knew she had to be the one. This champ of a woman held on through all of our plans and basically was just like, ‘Ok, tell me where you need me and I’ll be there.’ She was just simply amazing and I’m so thankful she was on this adventure with us.”
Officiant: “My best friend. Kacie and I met in third grade, were separated by life for a bit, met again in high school and have been sisters ever since. Kacie was first asked to be one of my bridesmaids, but then it made sense to have her be our officiant since our friendship has been such a source of love, life, and support throughout my life. She wrote our entire love story into life with the most beautiful service ever.”
Witnesses: Their photographer and her husband.
Vows: “We wrote our own vows that were more like love letters that we wrote for each other. We literally just wrote them on sheets of notebook paper that we took the time to work on each night during our trip up the coast. We wanted these vows to be more of a reflection on the love we have grown, and the obstacles we have overcome together.”
Honeymoon: The day after their ceremony, they drove back to San Francisco and hopped a flight to Cabo for five days in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort.
Let’s Talk Money
Here’s an itemized list of what they spent:
- Gown: $2,500
- Groom attire: $400
- Photography: $3,500
- Hair and makeup: $250
- Flowers: $250
- Flights: $1,000
- Hotels: $2,000
- Car rental: $800
Says Whitney, “To save money, we decided I would get a wedding band later on, maybe for a first-year anniversary gift. But Stephen surprised me! He worked with my aunt’s family jeweler in Exeter, New Hampshire, Exeter Jewelers, to have a ring made up to match my engagement ring perfectly. My aunt picked the ring up and had it shipped to our hotel. I had no idea and was completely surprised when we exchanged rings.”
Biggest splurge: “We definitely splurged on staying in the hotels we wanted to stay in and eating the food we wanted to throughout the entire trip. Our wedding day itself was pretty budget friendly, and we wanted to make sure we were just living in the moment and soaking it all in.”
Pro money tip: “Don’t worry about travel expenses. If you want to fly somewhere, do it. We did stress a bit about making sure we found the best airfare deals, and looking back, it really didn’t matter. In Stephen’s words, do what you want. You are already saving money by not having a huge wedding.”
Whitney’s favorite part of the elopement: “Getting ready. I have never felt more excited for anything in my entire life than I felt when I was getting ready for our ceremony. I had so many butterflies! Everyone deserves to have a feeling like that. We woke up the morning of and exchanged wedding gifts. We then had breakfast together before separating for the morning. Stephen was in a different hotel room and I was in ours while the hair and makeup team got me ready. Kacie was with me and had Taylor Swift playing in the background while we just all had girl talk—the amazing women doing my hair and makeup asked me to share my love story with them. Even though it was just me, I truly felt like a princess and on top of the world.”
Stephen’s favorite detail: “Watching the sunset after our ceremony. We didn’t know that Mendocino in August is rather overcast. During our ceremony, the sun came out for the first time in a couple of weeks and stayed out for the rest of the day. After our ceremony we went back to our hotel and had champagne and watched the sunset before heading to dinner.”
How they describe the elopement experience: Freeing, adventurous, romantic.
What they wish they would’ve known sooner: “That the weather in Mendocino is chilly in August! Luckily, our wedding day was warm—but this was very rare. Research the weather where you’re going.”
Any regrets? “I do wish we thought of taking the time to have a first dance. We have a wedding song that was playing as I was hiking to the spot on the cliff where Stephen stood waiting for me (“I Get to Love You,” by Ruelle). But I do wish we took the time to have a dance.”
What they’d tell other engaged couples who are debating eloping: “Just do it! The day goes by so fast no matter how you spend it, so spend it together doing the small things that brought you together in the first place.”
The Fine Print
- Stay: Albion River Inn
- Said “I Do:” Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
- Photography: Cassie Trottier Photography
- Flowers: Mendocino Floral Design
- Dress: Stella York
- Heels: Badgley Mischka
- Suit: Jos. A Bank
- Hair & Makeup: Beauty on Set
- Manicure: Bloom
Want to share your elopement story? Email email@example.com to start the conversation.