Lexie & Al's Gatsby-inspired transatlantic elopement

October 12 |

This week we're celebrating intimate weddings with destination elopements, cozy City Hall vows, and private romantic ceremonies. It's the warm fuzzies on a smaller scale.

Al & Lexie
Photos by Chris Williams

The offbeat bride: Lexie, English Literature student and writer

Her offbeat partner: Al, engineer and Computer Science geek

Date and location of wedding: Freezing, water-logged courtyard, New Orleans — January 7, 2010

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: It was a teeny tiny wedding with just immediate family and very close friends. This was a wedding for a wedding-phobic couple. We wanted to elope, but our families made sure they eloped with us!

Al & Lexie

I used to work at a country house wedding reception venue as a teenager and it left me questioning if I ever wanted to go through such a spectacle. So when my long-distance boyfriend and I got tired of late night phone calls and decided to "go nuclear," I knew it would have to be a wedding that wouldn't consume us whole, make us go broke, or turn us into monsters.

Al & Lexie

The wedding was planned remotely. I was living in Rugby in the UK, while Al was living in Detroit, and we got married in New Orleans. We first met when I was living in Florence, and when he returned to the U.S., he emailed me tickets to Jazz Fest for our third date, so NOLA held romantic significance for us. It seemed a good halfway point for our families to meet for the first time. Because of our love of jazz, Josephine Baker, Bugsy Malone, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, elements of our day were inspired by the Jazz Age.

Many wedding details were sorted on the hoof, and very last-minute. We just popped in to the nearest florist to the hotel and ordered our flowers, and made our table centrepieces from Mardi Gras decorations purchased at the French Market on the morning of the ceremony.

Al & Lexie

We concentrated on details such as the favours (personalised, cheeky charm bracelets and we gave the Yanks British candy and the Brits American candy) and the food (good hearty Louisiana cuisine such as gumbo, filet mignon, and bread pudding). We just wanted a really good dinner party in the evening before decamping to a nearby bar for an absinthe toast. The next night we all met up at the Ritz to go dancing.

To avoid guests having to wait around while endless photos were posed and taken, we told our photographer to take documentary-style snaps of the ceremony and reception, and then we clambered back into our wedding clothes the next day for a portrait session in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (a nod to my former goth days).

Al & Lexie

Al & Lexie

Tell us about the ceremony: The ceremony took place in the pouring rain at dusk. I'm English though so it's my favourite weather. The rain was a silver lining as the temperature rose above freezing for the first and only time on the entire trip. My dad was hero of the hour as he went around buying up all the big black umbrellas he could find (it wasn't planned, but ended up looking very romantic in the photos). He walked me from my room to the courtyard as a string quartet played "I Put A Spell On You."

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Al's sister Gabby officiated and made the ceremony very personal to us, basing it around our love of classic literature. Our readings were "The Sun Rising" by John Donne and our giggly bridesmaid read "Your Laughter" by Pablo Neruda.

Al & Lexie

My dad had to hold my dress up to avoid it getting wet, and the groomsmen hovered with dripping umbrellas. Despite that, I could have stayed in that courtyard forever because I was so happy getting married to Al. As soon as we were pronounced married, everyone groaned during the kiss because they wanted to dash inside out of the rain. The reception was in an old Civil War hospital that was reportedly haunted so I guess the guests were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Al & Lexie

Our biggest challenge: It felt a little lonely planning the wedding remotely, especially as I'm the only girl in my family (my mum died many years ago). I was worried that I didn't know what made a wedding "good" and was worried about disappointing everyone, including myself. I would get very stressed after reading bridal mags because they are so mercilessly consumer-driven. Al got me to rip them all up. In the end we had to say "sod what people think" and just concentrate on what worked for us.

One thing that didn't work out was our cake. The bakery had told me they were "between managers" and they ended up forgetting to make our cake! Instead they sent around everything they had left in the shop. We managed to get a full refund (and donated it to the earthquake relief fund in Haiti so it wasn't worth sulking over).

Al & Lexie

My favorite moment: Actually getting married and knowing that I would soon have the man I love on the same land-mass as me like a normal couple. Also knowing that two days later I would have to fly home to the UK alone again to hand in an essay at university was a good incentive to live in the moment and cherish it.

I also loved that my dad gave me away. I've been fighting a chronic illness for 10 years, so we've been through an awful lot together. It felt like the end of an era.

I wore my mum's pearls and tried not to be sad that she didn't get to see the wedding.

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My funniest moment: When we had our photos taken the day after the wedding, it was horrifically cold, so cold that my fingers were red raw. I was dressed in my 1920s-style outfit again, and being almost unnaturally pale, I probably looked a little eerie to the tour groups there because a woman in white kept flitting silently between the mausoleums.

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We tried everything to keep warm: Al lent me his jacket, I was wearing huge biker boots under my dress, and between shots we were running around screaming. We arrived at the Ritz with faces like beetroots.

Al & Lexie

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? You can't control everything. We thought we would avoid the harsh Michigan winter by marrying down south, but were greeted by the worst cold snap in 20 years. All you can do is laugh and make the best of things.

Al & Lexie

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. What a beautiful wedding! The bride looks gorgeous.

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  2. This wedding is very lovely .With best wishes for both of them.

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  3. Oh. Mah. Gawd. Winner of the most gorgeous wedding ever! Love the style, the dress, the pocket watches, the umbrellas, the locations…everything is awesome!

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  4. Incredible! So many people do "1920s" weddings that don't look authentic. This one is perfect.

    ….And I bet you went to Pravda for your absinthe toast!

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    • We did! It was just around the corner. I was trying to be on my best behaviour because on a previous occasion I fell asleep on the chaise (heat, Jazz Fest & jet lag are not a good combo) and drooled on Al (I can't believe he forgave that one). It's such a weird and wonderful bar – I love the paintings and the lamps – wish we had something like it over here.

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  5. Oh. My. God. The dress, the headband, the shrug, the umbrellas! So classy! LOVE it!

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  6. I love that you guys call it "going nuclear"! My fiance and I call our wedding date "D-Day" haha. You look lovely and SO happy…congratulations!

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  7. I have to say, the wedding story is sweet, the bride clearly has a charming sense of humor, and everything is lovely – but I'm just busy fangirling over how gorgeous and glamorous the bride looks as a silent film star! I love that style and you pull it off SO WELL. Stunning! And congratulations on being able to share a continent :)

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    • Wow, thank you to everyone for their lovely comments. I had forgotten I'd submitted this (I was sick, balled up on the sofa and did it to take my mind off everything) so it was the best surprise.

      I really enjoyed wearing the silent film star outfit – it was a lot more comfortable than many of the dresses I tried on during my (admittedly not very long) search. And I found a wonderful hairdresser/ make up artist who is also a burlesque dancer to get me glam. I'm not sure if she's still in NOLA as she was planning to move to Portland, OR.

      Have just been having an argument with Al over his family spaghetti sauce (he's Italian so it's veeeeerrry important) which we're making for our friends over here in Britain but I still much prefer having a barny face to face than over the phone. Love, Love, LOVE marriage (never grew up thinking I'd ever say that) – it's even better than the big day ;)

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      • As a bride-to-be with a chronic illness (and two surgeries between me and my wedding) I am inspired knowing that you were able to pull of this gorgeous wedding long distance while going through the unbelievable difficulty of dealing with chronic illness. Without going into specifics you're not comfy giving out, can you give any advice for brides like us? I'd also be interested to hear how married life is going, in relation to being ill. It must be so nice to be together on the same continent. Being sick and alone is the absolute worst.

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        • Hi Jae,
          I'm sorry I've taken so long to reply – we have just moved which was bloody stressful (I've not really moved before).
          I'm sorry to hear about your forthcoming operations and wish you a very speedy recovery. Hospital is never fun. I do congratulate you on pushing ahead with the wedding though as girlies like us have much to celebrate.
          Organising our wedding without the Internet would have been impossible. You can feel as rotten as you like but stuff will still get delivered to the appropriate place at the right time. A good bridesmaid, friend or parent also helps because if they know you well and you have kept a scrapbook of ideas, they can run errands for you when you're not feeling your best – especially if you both have smart phones (skype can be very helpful on these situations). When you are venturing out yourself, give yourself lots of time and don't put too much on your plate. Stress can make things worse as I'm sure you already know. Also try to have a few relaxing days right before the wedding because it will help you to focus and a calm mind can help calm the body. I know it can be very difficult to know how your symptoms will behave on the day but don't feel you have to please anyone but yourself. The person you are marrying and hopefully everyone at the wedding will know how hard you try and will just want you to be happy. If you feel tired, take a nap, if you feel sick, let people know, don't try to be brave about it – it's your day but you're not being a bridezillah, you just have some extra concerns.
          Marriage with the illness has been fine on the whole although my health took a turn for the worse this summer (on my graduation day darn it) and I was housebound for a good three months and had to reacquaint myself with hospital. But I am getting back to (my) normal slowly and Al has been wonderful especially as I hadn't felt so bad the whole time we've been together. I did feel guilty about the amount he had to take on but he assures me he's always known what he was letting himself in for. Humour helps – we laugh soooo much. Everyone has ups and downs. Being married while going through the health stuff makes me feel very fortunate indeed and I wish all the chronically I'll girls out there similar good fortune.

          Hope that's ok and not too preachy. Good luck Jae.

          Lex xxx

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  8. My SO and i are planning an intimate NOLA destination wedding for next winter, and I am DYING to know which courtyard you were married in!! It also looks like ya'll were able to sty in the rooms surrounding, which is exactly what we want. Any info would be awesome!!

    BTW: it is photos and stories like yours that let me know we are making the right decision to plan something intimate, in a city we both love equally.

    1 agrees

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