In the weeks after my surprise elopement, I've been doing some reflecting on the entire experience. I realized that I've learned these eight important lessons that I'd love to share, in the hopes of helping others who are also considering eloping.
1. Putting effort into the elopement wedding day was worth it
We spent time putting together our outfits with our ivory and orange theme, semi-DIY-ing my veil, getting pampered at the spa together, DIY-ing flowers with little family treasures, etc. It probably took more time than I anticipated for a “simple” city hall wedding, but I'm so glad we could feel good about ourselves and get that wedding-y feeling on the day. It all added to the energy!
2. When you elope, photos are so important for you and those who couldn't be there
Originally, I thought we'd just ask our witness to snap photos with my point-and-shoot camera. But as we started getting things together, I realized that I really wanted nice photos to remember the day and to share with our friends and family. We were SO lucky! My cousin is an aspiring wedding photographer and was available to take awesome photos. And our families just loved being able to see our whole day, from gettin' ready to gettin' hitched.
3. A courthouse ceremony actually feels very special
When we arrived at the County Recorder's office, we immediately saw two other couples waiting to be wed. Everyone at the office was so nice, congratulating us along the way. Plus, all the officiants in that county are volunteers who do this on their own time for free. Amazing! Beyond that, we also found a really special meaning in saying the same vows as all the other couples. A feeling like we were a part of this greater tradition of marriage. And, with the recent over-turning of Prop 8 in California, we loved that the officiant didn't pronounce us the traditional gender specific “man and wife” but said were now viewed as spouses in the state of California.
4. Be ready for some hurt feelings
I'll talk about parents in #8 below, but I'll say I was surprised that some friends were hurt by our secret engagement and elopement. I knew people would be surprised, but I thought they would just like the excitement of it all and be happy in the end. But I think some people assumed they would be a part of our wedding in some way. Some others also didn't “get” why we did it, and were semi-offended by the offbeat-ness of eloping. So, we're going to work on talking more to these people and making sure they understand that we did what we did because it was right for us. Which it was. So I feel no need to apologize, just reassure.
5. But take in the overwhelming LOVE you'll feel from your community
Even with what's said above, the vast majority of people were delighted to hear our news, with comments like “Oh how exciting! I'm glad you followed your heart.” to “Even though it says it's true — I CAN'T REALLY BELIEVE IT!!! We Have to Celebrate!” to “HOLY CRAAAAP!” to “Say waat? Congrats guys, that's like mega super awesome!” We felt the love! There was even a spontaneous get-together at our place the night we announced it with all our neighbors. Just wonderful.
6. Have a plan for how to share the news
We were sorta ready for this… We knew we would each call our parents to tell them a “surprise,” and as soon as they picked up the phone, we'd send an email with a snapshot of us in our wedding gear. But beyond that, I wish we had thought of a list of all the people we'd call before posting the news on Facebook the next day. There were some people we attempted to call, but couldn't connect with, and I'm sad about that. So I'd recommend creating that list early so you have more time to prep.
7. Post-wedding getaways are the best
We picked our date because we already had a little getaway planned and knew we'd like the post-wedding break. We didn't do anything romantic. We flew from sunny California to chilly Wisconsin for a tabletop gaming convention called GaryCon. I met a bunch of my husband's gaming friends for the first time, learned how to play AD&D, lounged about… no, I mean “volunteered,” partied past midnight, and even had time for a few hot tub visits. It was a relaxing and totally fun way to start our lives together!
8. Have a defined adult relationship with your parents BEFORE eloping
This is a big one. So many times I heard couples saying they can't stand the stress of a traditional wedding, and they just want to elope. A friend reminded me upon hearing the news, “Wow, you are brave!” because it can take guts to leave your family out of your wedding. If your relationship with family is lacking clear personal boundaries, which is causing problems in your wedding planning, I doubt eloping is going to make that better. Actually, it may make it worse.
I'm an only child who had trouble establishing myself as an adult with my overbearing-but-loving parents. I've gone through some extremely tough times with my parents in order for them to see me as my own person and to respect my life decisions as an adult. But getting our relationship to where it is today is the reason my parents have been able to not only accept my marriage, but rejoice in it! Sure, it has been a shock to them, but they are doing well with the news and are very excited to celebrate with us. I only know that if we were still in the same emotional space that we were 10 years ago (heck even five years ago), this would be a very unhappy experience for all of us.
So those were my lessons learned from eloping — I hope they help others. What are your pieces of advice for eloping couples?
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