Hilary & Isaac's serendipitous bookstore elopement

March 4 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Adam Balfour and Jeremy Matthews
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The Offbeat Bride: Hilary, Artist

Her offbeat partner: Isaac, Ceramicist

Date and location of wedding: The Montague Book Mill, Montague, MA — December 14, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Isaac and I met at an art gallery, which is appropriate since he is a ceramicist and I'm a painter. About 12 hours into our first date (we ended up staying awake for 36 hours straight) we were joking about how we should elope. The joke continued, and quickly it became less of a joke and more of a "let's do this!" Isaac surprised me by proposing in August and presenting me with a stunning 1920s-era white gold ring (it never occurred to me that when you agreed to an elopement, you could also have a proposal!). We were married in a private ceremony — just the two of us and a wonderful reverend — at an old bookstore in Western Massachusetts.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Although we went about the elopement with absolutely no following of traditions, the one thing we did do was to get ready separately and then meet at the bookstore. I walked in to see him in his beige suit with a fuchsia boutonniere, and he got to see me flounce in with this gigantic pink quinceañera dress.

We included two readings in our ceremony, both poems:
"Resignation" by Nikki Giovanni and "Sonnet XVII" by Pablo Neruda.

post-ceremony

Our biggest challenge:
Deadlines were our biggest challenge. We actually had our first wedding license expire; we were so excited to get married that we kind of forgot to plan anything out. What got the ball rolling was meeting with the reverend who married us. She was so kind and good-natured about the fact that she was dealing with two totally disorganized artists whose second wedding license expired in three weeks. We hadn't picked a date, a location, or even a state (it was between Massachusetts and Vermont).

Rev. Hannah helped us figure out what kind of a ceremony we wanted by interviewing us about our thoughts on marriage, vows, etc. Hannah was truly a godsend, and we later joked that if she could get the two of us married in under three weeks, she could get anyone married!

elopement-cupcakes

My favorite moment:
Although our ceremony itself involved no friends, family, or witnesses of any sort, we managed to include as many people as we could. Right after the ceremony, we drove to a friend's house for a "reception" (she made us a wedding cake out of four cupcakes topped with two ambiguously-gendered Christmas tree elf ornaments). We then spent the next four days driving a total of 943 miles to visit family and friends and have a bunch of parties.

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But the most incredibly serendipitous part of our elopement turned out to be the photographers. Our whole wedding, from license to dress to flowers, cost about $700. We couldn't afford a photographer, which we knew we'd later regret not having. Minutes after we were married, we were having coffee at the bookstore's café when we were approached by two young men who are students at the Hallmark School of Photography. They'd gone out that morning to come up with a project idea for an assignment, and saw us all dolled up and glowing. They asked if we'd mind posing for some pictures. We spent the next hour and a half being photographed by Adam and Jeremy, which was incredibly fun. They shortly thereafter sent us 41 stunning portraits. And the best part is that they did it all for free! We helped them with their project, and they ended up being our heaven-sent wedding photographers.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
I've witnessed a lot of my newly-engaged friends insist that they're going to elope, and then they end up with a gigantic, expensive wedding they never really wanted because they got pushed into it by family members. Both of our families were incredibly supportive of our decision to elope, which allowed us the freedom to do it all our own way. So I suppose the lesson we learned from all of this was that yes, we could get married the way we wanted.

bookstore-wedding

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. I adore your dress and I can't think of a more perfect place to elope than a bookstore. It's already full of hope, dreams and adventure. What a great place to begin your story!

    Your dress…those shoes…the snow…completely perfect (the groom's not bad either 😉 ).

    17 agree
  2. THANK YOU! And it's even more perfect because I managed an independent bookstore for ten years. 🙂

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  3. What amazing photos. I love your dress.

    You also ended up having a very Jane-Austen-era style wedding of the small ceremony/elopement and then traveling between the homes of family and relatives afterwards to celebrate… all of which makes your bookstore location for the elopement even cooler.

    9 agree
  4. Hilary & Isaac, I'm so happy Offbeat Bride shared your elopement story!! I hope it inspires other couples to have the wedding THEY want…not what family, friends or society tells them they *should* do.

    You may have been a little disorganized in the planning part, but the sincerity and intention your brought to the ceremony was anything but. It was my honor to witness your love for each other and my privilege to marry you two! Plus, I'm pretty sure your wedding will be the most unique I ever get to officiate. 😉

    13 agree
    • Rev. Hannah, you were the *only* person who could have done such a great job with us! You made it so easy and we were blessed to have found you (also through serendipitous circumstances!). We will always be grateful to you for being such an integral part of that morning.

      2 agree
  5. The space you were married in, is incredible! And that dress…gasp…SWOON!!!

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  6. Y'all are so cool. I LOVE the story about your photography. And the bookstore! Squee! Married in a bookstore is the most awesomest of awesome.

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  7. This is gorgeous. I spend half my life in bookstores and wonder why I never thought of it as the perfect elopement venue! I'm curious–was the bookstore open (to the public) during your ceremony? How on earth did you get permission to use it as a venue?

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As a former New Englander myself, it made me smile from start to finish!

    1 agrees
    • The bookstore let us in an hour before they opened—no customers (though that did mean we had to get married at 9:30 am!). We just called and asked them if we could get married there and they said yes. They normally do not allow weddings to be held in the bookstore but made an exception for us. We were very lucky and are very grateful!

      2 agree
  8. Amazing, amazing, amazing! The photography students are what really got me though, what an utterly perfect co-incidence!

    2 agree
  9. Hilary, You are most wonderful and I am so happy for you and Issac. I loved this blog and the pictures, what great kismet to have these photographers find you, the pictures are most fabulous. I look foward to meeting Issac and seeing you on June 7th at the Farmers Market, more kismet as it is one of our favorite summer spots.
    peace and love,
    Kevy,
    Head of Ribaldry for the Auburndale Gang

    1 agrees
  10. I just loved this wedding!

    You've got me thinking of off the beaten places to marry. Great that the bookstore didn't charge you. Love how the universe worked it's magic and photographers appeared!

    You guys look incredibly happy! Best of luck!

    1 agrees
  11. I loooooooove your dress! Mind sharing the name of the person who made it?? Thx!

    • Hey! Thank you!
      As I told OB, the dress *was* super fun, but it arrived in not great shape. My friend spent hours sewing the flowers back on (most were hanging off the dress by a few threads).
      I found the dress by googling "pink quinceanera dress." I bought it from aliexpress (alibaba.com) a year ago, long before it blew up and became so huge. Since realizing how enormous the company is, paired with the poor quality of the sewing, I've realized the dress was likely made under not the best circumstances. It was for this reason that I haven't been going out of my way to say where my wedding dress came from.
      It was, however, a great dress style for a winter wedding—with all those layers, I was super warm! 🙂

  12. After months and months of reading about wedding after wedding, mostly on this site but also in other places, I can state without hesitation or second-guessing that THIS is my favorite. The choice of dress, the choice of location, the choice of ceremony and reverend and photographer and just… EVERYTHING about this calls to me. No, actually, it screams at me from the center of its essence. (too dramatic?) Thank you for sharing your delightful, marvelous, wonder-filled celebration with the rest of us. You are an inspiration.

    2 agree
    • Thank you, Suzanne!
      Wow, what a huge compliment. We're honored!
      And yeah; we thought our day was pretty neat, too. 🙂

      1 agrees
  13. Wonderful wedding with what sounds like an amazing minister/wedding planner. Such a blessing "happen" to meet the photography students! A little miracle if you ask me.

    • Thank you! It was such a pleasure working with Hilary and Isaac…one of my all-time favorite couples and most memorable wedding ceremonies. I would definitely agree that it felt like many little miracles. What a great way to start a marriage, huh?!

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