IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

When her wedding didn't pan out, this bride founded an elopement company instead

To save other couples from facing similar disappointment, Jennifer Allen turned her waylaid nuptials into a new venture.

Wearing a Walmart dress purchased on the way to city hall, it wasn't the wedding Jennifer Allen ever dreamed of.

In fact, her nuptials were nothing short of a hurried affair that took place at a county courthouse just five days after her then-boyfriend, Tavarous Allen, proposed.

"We got engaged on Thursday and married the following Tuesday," Allen says of the 2010 ceremony.

The last-minute decision to tie the knot came after Tavarous Allen, a Navy serviceman, discovered he was being deployed to Djibouti, Africa. Wanting to ensure his fiancée was taken care in the event something happened to him, he popped the question and the Dallas-based couple decided to marry.

They contemplated eloping in Las Vegas, but simply didn't have the time or resources to make it happen. Instead, they settled on a civil service with the intent of hosting a traditional wedding, complete with friends and family, upon the petty officer's return from duty.

"I went to work that morning," Jennifer Allen says of the Tuesday in July that was to be her wedding day. "I went to Walmart, bought this white linen dress. I still have it hanging up in my closet."

Since it was two o'clock in the middle of the work week, only a few select family members could make it.

"When we got there, Tavarous had on the same clothes he proposed in five days earlier, minus the tie. It was very informal. We stood before the judge and we got married," Jennifer says.

Courtesy of Jennifer Allen

Allen says that as happy as she was to wed the man she loved, the day itself was far from intentional, and the setting left a lot to be desired. "I felt like I was just another number," she says. "Like once we left, somebody else was going to come in and probably talk about a speeding ticket."

And her wedding night? It was spent alone.

"He left for deployment that exact same day a couple of hours later. I drove him to the airport and he was gone," Allen recalls.

In the year her husband served overseas, Jennifer Allen was to plan their real wedding, an epic showcase with all the trimmings.

"I quickly released that my definition of 'epic' was expensive and it became increasingly difficult," she says. Not to mention, her fervor to plan a lavish wedding had begun to wane since they had already gotten married.

"I didn't have my 'bride glasses' on," she says, explaining that for all intents and purposes, the "big day" had already happened, and with it went much of her excitement and anticipation.

Even so, they still planned to have their long-awaited wedding. It was just a matter of timing. Then, a year after her husband returned home from Africa, they had their first son. Soon after, they welcomed another boy in 2014.

Before long, years had passed. While they continued talking about their wedding, raising kids and navigating all the related expenses took precedent.

"Even with that, I was still like, 'We can do something for our five-year anniversary,'" she says. "And the reality was, we couldn't afford it."

Turning disappointment into success

The wedding that wasn't was never far from the Dallas mother's thoughts. But instead of dwelling on it, in 2017, she channeled her energy into helping other couples, in similar situations, find a way to elope that didn't break the bank.

Jennifer Allen became ordained, as did her husband, her mother and sister and the company "Just Elope" was founded.

"That first year, we married eight couples and my mind was blown," she recalls.

Jennifer Allen
Courtesy Vanessa Christina Photography

The next year brought even more couples seeking non-traditional weddings. Then more the year after that. Now, seven years after founding Just Elope, Jennifer Allen says the company has helped more than 400 couples get hitched with no signs of slowing down.

"The business has gone from us marrying couples at local parks to partnering with some of the top venues in the Dallas area to provide all-inclusive elopements," says Allen.

As the company has grown, so has her reputation. Among the couples she's helped marry are Da Brat and wife Jessica Harris-Dupart, as well as the daughter of NFL Hall-of-Famer, Jerry Rice. Allen even appeared on Season Three of the popular reality show "Love is Blind" to officiate the marriage of SK and Raven.

"It's been this amazing experience that came from something that I lacked in an area that I saw a need," she says.

How Just Elope works

Calling Just Elope a "ceremony company," Allen says that at its core, the business caters to couples looking for a small, unique wedding, with no more than 50 guests, in lieu of the more traditional, hours-long, celebration.

“It’s really a slower-paced day and a lot more laid back,” she says. “It’s for the couple that doesn’t want to walk around to say ‘hi’ to 200 people.”

In essence, Allen and her team help coordinate the logistics, including providing an officiant, photographer, flowers and other details, wherever the couple chooses to wed.

Courtesy Just Elope

"We've married couples on the news in pajamas at a coffee shop, at a Whataburger, at a Texas Legends basketball game during halftime," explains Allen.

They even married a couple at the Dallas Zoo. All that was needed was permission, an entry fee and a promise they wouldn't get in the way of other patrons.

"When we say we will marry you anywhere, we mean it," she says. "I want somebody right now to say they want to get married at the Apple store and it was love at first iPhone because those would be the most amazing and beautiful pictures."

According to Allen, most couples plan their elopement or wedding about three to four months in advance. That said, Just Elope also offers same-day service.

"If you did call me today and say, 'Hey, we want to get married today,' we could do any package today."

Courtesy Just Elope

The 'hopeless romantic' still dreams of a wedding

As far as Allen's own wedding is concerned, the Just Elope founder says that had her ceremony been everything she ever dreamed of, her successful company might never have happened.

"What if I would've had that big, beautiful wedding the first go-round? ... I wouldn't have known that there was a need or void to fill," says Allen.

And while it's a tradeoff she's more than happy with, there's still a part of her that would like to have the wedding of her dreams.

"The hopeless romantic and little girl inside of me, of course, wants to experience all of those things," she says.

Two years ago, she and her husband welcomed a third son into their family and the prospect of a big wedding seems further away than ever. "I don't know if it's within my reach anytime soon," she says.

Even so, if she and husband, Tavarous, ever decide to tie the knot again, Allen says it would have to be a complete do-over.

"I jokingly told my husband, if we ever, at this point, ever had another wedding, you would just have to completely re-propose," she says.

"Because of how we got married, I didn't have an engagement party or a bridal shower or bachelorette party. I assist people with coming up with ideas for all these things that I think they should do, when, deep down inside, it's what I would do if I had the chance."