CJ & Jessica's lesbian elopement to open-minded Iowa

May 4 |
Photos by Di Victoria Yin

The offbeat bride: CJ, Entreprenuer

Her offbeat partner: Jessica, Homeland Security Expert

Date and location of wedding: Decorah, Iowa — February 11, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: We eloped to Iowa — which is not the place most people choose! We decided on the date first — 2/11/2011 — and then searched the internet for places where you could legally be married as a gay couple. They were all cold. And then the website "Welcome in Decorah" popped up and we knew we had found the right location.

I wanted to dress in black and be slightly steampunk, so I bought all of our wedding clothes either online through eBay or at second hand stores.

I made my veil using a broach that I had and a peacock feather.

Tell us about the ceremony: It was very low key. We got up that morning and the inn keeper made us a wonderful breakfast. The water heater was being fixed, so we weren't sure if we would have hot water to take a shower, but they rushed to fix it for us. I am sure most brides would not have been as calm as we were about the possible inconvenience!

We picked up our bouquets and headed to the church. There were seven people total at the church, including us. Our officiant is a strong advocate for gay rights (actually all rights) and had prepared a printed script with our vows and poetry on it. I cried during most of the ceremony because I was so happy that it was actually happening!

Our biggest challenge: Since we lived in separate places at the time, coordinating everything from California and Louisiana to meet up in Iowa was a challenge. But Amalia, the Welcome in Decorah website creator, helped us find everything we needed and she and her husband even served as our witnesses.

My favorite moment: Just as the ceremony ended and we walked outside to take a photo in front of the historic white church, it started to snow. As soon as we were done, it stopped, so we took it as a good sign and the photos turned out magical!

My funniest moment: We wanted to ceremony to start at 2:11 (no particular reason, it just seemed harmonious), so we all kind of stood around the church waiting for it to be time.

Also, for the end of the ceremony, I had asked the acoustic guitarist to put together a medley of songs from the Sound of Music for our recessional. He did a great job considering it was just him playing, so we walked down the aisle and then turned around to listen!

We took everyone involved in our day out for drinks after the ceremony and ended up making some friends for life. Everything was perfect.

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was a little worried about the weather — but the snow just added to the magic.

My advice for offbeat brides: There are so many great ideas on this site and others for making your wedding reflect your personality. Be sure and hire a great photographer, because you will live your wedding day over and over through the photos.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? This wedding was just for us. Our families felt left out, but we will make it up to them over the years. We plan to have a reception before the end of the year and will use all the inspiration and great ideas on this site!

Sometimes you need to be selfish. It was more important to do what we wanted than to make other people happy or follow convention.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Oh goodness, you two look so amazing and happy. I love the "sometimes you need to be selfish" advice. I need to remind myself of that every day (in fact, I have it written on a piece of paper in my wallet, and stare at it sometimes!).

    Congrats and much love!

    4 agree
  2. How beautiful you both look… and so happy…

    And how about that SNOW! It made your great wedding pictures FANTASTIC.

    Love it – and especially the part about being a little selfish, which you handled with such grace.

    Happy forever to you. :)

    5 agree
  3. Wow. I'm sorry you were forced to travel to have a legal wedding, but I'm glad you managed to take such joy in the process. Congratulations, you guys. I wish you many long years of happiness together!

    More pettily, you guys look amazing!

    4 agree
  4. LOVE those pics outside the church! LOVELY! CONGRATS!

    2 agree
  5. Cheers to you, your future together, and to a minister who actually lives the Christian commandment: Love thy neighbor. Amen!

    10 agree
  6. Thanks for the goosebumps! Those photos are fantastic, especially the ones with the snow but I also love the one of your officiant cracking you two up.
    The happiness just oozes out of these images. Congratulations to you both and may you have many long happy years ahead of you!

    2 agree
  7. Not only an Iowa wedding, but a DECORAH wedding (my hometown). It looked like a beautiful wedding. Congratulations!

    4 agree
  8. I'm sorry you couldn't get married in your home states, but Iowa welcomes you! As an Iowan, I'm glad you chose us. And you both look radiant. I'm glad you embraced our snow. I think the cold only makes love feel warmer.

    7 agree
  9. I am also sorry you had to travel to be married, but it looks like Decorah was a really magical place to have had to go to. I loved reading about how welcoming they were, and the pictures just show how happy you were. Congrats!

    2 agree
  10. Another Iowan coming in to say hi! I'm sorry you couldn't get married wherever you like, but I'm proud our state could host such a lovely ceremony. Happy wedding!

    3 agree
  11. I'm currently living in Decorah, and am getting married here in 3 weeks! I'm so happy you found a beautiful and accepting place to have your ceremony!

    3 agree
  12. Thanks for coming to Iowa to get married, I'm really glad you found our state so welcoming and accepting! And thanks for the 'sometimes you need to be selfish' advice :) My husband and I decided we didn't want to wait one more year to be married, so we did a civil ceremony with our parents and siblings in attendance. My grandparents were kind of upset, but in all honesty, they'll still get to help with the big party next year. As for me, I'm just happy to be married!

    3 agree
  13. Just another Iowan posting to say congratulations and thanks for choosing our state. My fiance goes to school in Decorah and it is a really lovely place. So happy it was welcoming to you two. :D

    2 agree
  14. Being from Iowa, it makes me proud that you were able to come here to have such a great wedding experience.

    2 agree
  15. My hometown of Decorah ROCKS! So glad you found a warm welcome in the midst of cold weather!! Congratulations to the happy couple!!

    1 agrees
  16. This is so great. My partner and I are headed yo davenport on Wednesday to get married. Our only disappointment is the requirement for two witnesses . We really wanted to elope in the truest sense of the word.

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