Life being what it is, not everyone has a year and a half to plan the wedding of their dreams. Military deployment, immigration, health insurance, pregnancy, student loans, or just being flat broke, are only a few reasons why some couples have speedy courthouse nuptials. The legitimate question is: are they still entitled to the wedding they always wanted? Is a big wedding a right or a privilege? There is unfortunately no black or white answer to this.
Most elopements or other small civil ceremonies featured here somehow mention the idea of getting weddinged or having a renewal at a later date. And overall, comments have been very positive. It is often not the case, however, among the couple's family and friends, and on more conservative websites such as the wedding section of Yahoo Answers. Your wedding, they argue, is the day you sign the papers. Having a big and/or religious wedding with all the trimmings at a later date is, among the few insults I've read: "playing pretend" by "parading in a dress," a gift-grab, and is just done to get the attention. Some say it is okay as long as they do not call it a wedding.
No one would think of screaming "gift-grab!" or "just playing pretend!" Why? …because it was in the groom's culture to do it that way.
Those reactions are extremely North American-centric. In most European countries, all couples who wish to get married first have to do so in a civil ceremony. Then, they are free to have a religious wedding if they want. The city hall wedding is often very simple, with only immediate family and witnesses present, and the bride wears a nice but casual short dress, saving the long white dress, veil and big reception for their religious wedding. The most famous example known to us here in America is certainly Eva Longoria's wedding to French basketball player Tony Parker. She was wearing a short pink Chanel dress to her civil ceremony officiated by the Mayor of Paris, but wore a white and satin silk designer dress with a fifteen foot train for the religious ceremony in a Catholic church the next day. Yet, no one would think of screaming "gift-grab!" or "just playing pretend!" Why? No, it's not just because she's a celebrity. But because it was in the groom's culture to do it that way. In France and almost all of Europe, a bigger wedding after a civil one is not only accepted, but expected.
Where do I, the hoodie-wearing eloping bride, stand on this issue? I have to say that I contemplated the idea of getting weddinged. I never dreamt of a wedding straight out of The Knot, and never cared for favors or chair covers. but I had some music and readings in mind since college, which I could not use at the courthouse. This, and not inviting parents and grandparents, are my only regrets.
So I decided to be content with having followed my childhood dream, even if the internet, movies and friends' weddings often give me a big case of the should-haves.
But then I think of my 13-year-old self watching Braveheart, the part where he secretly marries his beloved in the forest, and thinking: "If I get married one day, it will be that way. Just my beloved and I." So I decided to be content with having followed my childhood dream, even if the internet, movies and friends' weddings often give me a big case of the should-haves. I have to remind myself that this feeling only comes from the pressures of the outside world and the industry.
But it lasts only a moment, and I remember the beautiful October day when I said "I do" to the man of my life. It doesn't matter that my outfit came from a department store, my bouquet was made of silk daisies from my craft box, and the music in the background was of the elevator kind. That day, and no other, was my wedding day. The only option I am considering would be a blessing of our union by the priest during the baptism of our first child (I even found a gay-friendly Catholic church, which is very important in my values as I have many gay friends and I support marriage for everyone).
I acknowledge that not everyone feels the same way as I do. I know there are couples who will not feel married until they have said their vows in front of all their loved ones and had the reception they always dreamed of. Or others who do so because it is their culture, like a Romanian friend I met on another forum, who eloped to Cuba as her legal ceremony and is now planning a big Orthodox wedding and reception. So it all comes to the same conclusion as every Offbeat Bride article: just do what is right for YOU, and don't listen to the naysayers.