Offbeat partners: Jessica & Jon

Date and location of wedding: Salt Creek Falls, OR — 10/31/2018

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: In October of 2018, I was in my second year of my master’s program at the University of Oregon, and Jon was working there after receiving his master’s degree earlier that year. We had been together since 2010, cohabitating in Baltimore first, and then moving across the country to Oregon.

We never felt a strong need to get married, although I had an idea that we could get married on Halloween of 2020 (10 years dating, a Saturday Halloween, it seemed auspicious at the time). Then we learned that, to keep our insurance as a domestic partnership, we would be paying several hundred dollars more per month, and it would be zero if we were married. So, about three weeks before Halloween, we decided to get married!

Now, that sounds so mercenary – we got married for the insurance. But while that was the first impetus, we quickly realized that this was something we wanted to do, and do right. We told our parents, our closest friends, and our neighbor (who is ordained and could sign the certificate) – and no one else. Instead, I designed a postcard to arrive on Halloween announcing our marriage, and we posted a photo on Facebook with our changed status after the ceremony.

As it was a Wednesday, Jon made an excuse to get out of work and I told my afternoon instructor that I would have to miss class. Word got to her afterwards, and she asked me if I had gotten married when I ditched her class, or if that was just a rumor. Fortunately, she was thrilled that it was the reason I missed class!

Tell us about the Halloween elopement ceremony:
We asked our photographer to meet us at Salt Creek Falls Park, but when we got there the gates to the parking lot had been closed for the winter! We were still able to walk in, though, so the three of us plunged into the fog to get to the waterfall and the spot we had chosen.

There is a trail leading from the top of the falls down to the bottom, and there is a perfect viewing point halfway down that is surrounded by trees but has a spectacular view of the waterfall.

I (Jessica) had brought some burlap and flowers to decorate the railing behind us, but the rain started to fall in earnest and we realized it was now or never.

The whole ceremony was just an exchange of vows.

Here were Jon's vows:

Jessica,

When we first started dating in college, I was so full of fear. Everything was so good, and spending time with you felt so right, but I was utterly and completely terrified.

It was clear to me how wonderful you were. Not only had we gotten to know each other in the year and a half prior to our relationship while working at the dorm front desk together, but very quickly into our relationship I learned about your many interests and passions. Not to mention, I also found you smokin’ hot, and I knew I wasn’t the only one.

You can see the predicament I was in. Here you were, a gorgeous and highly intelligent girl with a deep passion for theater and amazing literary interests. You were the total package.

I couldn’t help but fear that you would realize you could be with someone so much better than me in every way. I just knew that some super brilliant, super handsome person was going to come along, and you’d move on.

However, as we know from Dune, fear is the mindkiller. As our love grew like roots in good soil, I realized that my feelings for you were mutual. I could stop being afraid and enjoy the partnership that we were developing and have continued developing over 8 years together.

Everything we do, we do as a partnership. Whether it be staying by the other’s side in a hospital for several weeks or uprooting our lives to move across the country to become strangers in a strange land, everything we do is grounded in mutual love and respect.

Looking ahead, I hope that I always treat you with the dignity and appreciation that you deserve. As Heinlein said, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” These words couldn’t be truer. Love is best when shared generously, as water between water brothers.

Therefore, thank you for sharing in this love as my partner, and I am beyond words with how grateful and overjoyed I feel that you have decided to be my wife.

Here were my vows:

Jon,

You are, hands down, the most incredible person I have ever met. You’re so smart and I love that we can talk about politics or Star Wars or feminism.
I love that you’re always interested in reading my plays and going to my shows.
I love that you learned about set construction to spend more time with me on builds that lasted late into the night.
I love that you share your passions with me, whether we’re going to archaeology lectures or watching old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies.
I love your wide tastes in music, that your playlists range from Duke Ellington to The Pixies to Kendrick Lamar – and that you’ve gotten me into music I wouldn’t have given the time of day.
I love that you are an artist like me; your paintings and drawings inspire me to make more art.
I love that you love to dance.
I love that you watch scary movies and determine whether or not they’re too scary for me.
I love that we cried together when Carrie Fisher died. And when David Bowie died.
I love that the first thing you asked for when you woke up in the hospital was a Cherry Coke.
I love that you carry your mother in your heart, and I am thankful every day that I got to know her and love her.
Our families and friends are who made us the people we were when we met. But we have made each other the people we are today. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and I’m so happy to be marrying you today. You give me strength to do everything I do. You keep me grounded so I can fly, and you make me a better person every day. I love you.

Jon said his vows first, and then I went. Rachel (our photographer) asked if I would need tissues handy in case I cried. I told her I was fine and I didn’t need them.

Of course, I got through two words of my vows and started sobbing. It was a miracle Jon could understand anything I was saying at all…

After our vows, we headed back up to the top of the waterfall to take photos and celebrate; the park was deserted and we really felt like we were the only two people in the world at that moment. Even though we were soaked, we had the time of our lives taking photos.

The earrings and necklace I wore were gifts from Jon’s mother – I don’t know where she got them but the earrings were handmade. It was so important to me to feel like she was there with us, just like everyone else we love.

Tell us about the Halloween elopment reception:
We are both hopheads and one of our favorite pubs (Brewer’s Union Local 180, now the Three-Legged Crane) is on the way home from Salt Creek Falls. Since we did the ceremony at 1pm, we planned on stopping at the pub for lunch.

What we didn’t account for is the fact that both of us would be so frazzled leading up to the ceremony that our car was running on fumes when we left the falls! Fortunately, the road was mostly downhill, and we coasted into the gas station near the pub just in time. At the bar, we ordered lunch and beers, and asked one of the bartenders to take our picture with our wedding announcement chalkboard, since it was pretty empty. When they realized we had just gotten married, they comped our entire meal!

After lunch, we came home and warmed up, and then headed over to our neighbor Eric’s house, who would do the actual official marrying. We brought a bottle of bourbon and store-bought cupcakes to share, and when we realized we needed witnesses, we grabbed our other neighbors from across the street to sign the form – they were on their way to a Halloween party, so our marriage was witnessed by a Sriracha bottle and a Resistance pilot. Eric and his wife Kathi wrote a beautiful poem that they shared with us, and pronounced us married. It was a great celebration, and we were so happy to be able to share it with our neighbors and friends.

We were right back to work and classes the next day! We still haven’t gone on a honeymoon; someday we’ll get around to it.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?

Small weddings are the way to go! We were clearly ahead of the COVID wedding trend. Dress however you want; tuxes and white dresses are definitely not required. Our biggest expense was the photographer and she was worth every penny.

I wore a custom-made dress that I had bought for my sister’s wedding earlier in the year and Jon wore slacks and dress shoes he already owned. All the money we spent was on a new shirt and tie for Jon (to match my dress), sweaters for both of us and thick stockings and boots for me, as we realized it was going to be very cold and wet. A friend did my hair and I did my own makeup, but all of that was moot the second the rain started to fall. And we still looked amazing!

My mother was devastated that she couldn’t be at my wedding. I’m her first child, and we have always been very close. But I think she understood our wish to get married our way, just like she and my dad bucked their families’ traditions when they got married. We knew we would disappoint our families by eloping, but we also knew that no wedding we threw would satisfy everyone. So we went with what felt right in our hearts, and we have never regretted it.

We’ve been through a lot, and you can hear it in our vows. In 2012, Jon got sick and was in a medically induced coma for three days, and spent a week in the hospital. Then, Jon’s mother passed away suddenly in Sept 2014, and we moved across the country a year later. It’s just the beginning of an adventure into the rest of our lives.

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