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I Eloped and I Don’t Regret It
06.23.17

Chair rentals factored heavily in our decision to elope. We only had around $2,000 for the entire wedding. Chairs would have taken up a sizeable portion of the budget. I was 21 and planning an entirely DIY wedding with my entirely uninterested 24-year-old fiance. To elope was the only practical decision we made in our rushed love affair.

We met in college and, four months into knowing each other, decided to get married. I wasn’t a fan of long engagements — which I consider the equivalent of relationship purgatory — so I’d started the wedding-planning process immediately. Every minute detail added to the argument to either lengthen the engagement or scrap the whole project.

My mantra during that time was: Love don’t cost a thing. God bless Jennifer Lopez for instilling that truth in me at such a young age. It can be tough to stick to, though. You’re inundated with a lot of highly sentimental marketing when you announce to the world that you’re getting married. Everyone from your mother to your florist will tell you that it will matter that you feel like a princess for whom cost is no issue, that neglecting to hire a live band is sacrilege, that you’ll really want to invest an extra $200 in personalized Jordan almonds. It’s easy to get swept up in creating something extravagant and forget the reason you’re doing this in the first place. Love. For both your partner and an antiquated tradition.

Two months into our engagement, I found myself listing off reasons why wedding planning sucked while my fiance and I walked through the woods. It was too expensive, it was too much work between school and interning, I was mainly doing it for the cake, etc. We stopped under a grove of Lodgepole pines. Pillars of gold sunlight cut through swaying branches, dappling the ground. Heavily influenced by the peaceful tableau we’d stumbled upon, I pitched the idea of eloping. He agreed. We would elope.

Despite our laissez-faire attitudes towards the trappings of traditional weddings, there were some aspects we didn’t want to compromise on. Kristopher wanted to be married by his family’s pastor, who had married off his other siblings. I wanted to wear my wedding dress, which had arrived the same day we decided to elope.

Two days later, we drove up to his childhood hometown, which sits nestled in the Selkirk Mountains. We were married beneath a gazebo draped in lilacs resting on the bank of the gently flowing Priest River.


 

The ceremony was quick and felt like almost an afterthought. I was so relieved to be done with what Leandra refers to as the “foreplay” of a marriage. I had long eschewed common ceremonial rites of passage (prom, graduations one and two), and I viewed the wedding as no different. I just wanted to be married to Kristopher. I was so excited to start our life together.

A whirlwind of people who loved us gathered what they felt were the necessary components to mark the occasion. Parents secured the location, a sister-in-law handpicked my bouquet from her yard and my mother brought a white sheet cake topped with yellow frosted flowers that framed a heartily looped “Congratulations!”

Amid all of the hastily stitched festivities, I didn’t have time to miss the family that couldn’t make it. But looking back, it’s the one element I wish I hadn’t overlooked. One brother had a midterm, one lived in Texas and my sister was in Chicago, crying over FaceTime, as Kristopher and I exchanged vows.

After the ceremony, we said our goodbyes and headed out to have our first meal as spouses. He suggested a twinkling little Italian place, each course thoughtfully paired with the appropriate Sinatra track. I was still concerned about money, for whatever ridiculous reason, and insisted that we go to a more affordable Italian-ish restaurant.

Choosing Olive Garden for our first meal as husband and wife is pretty high on my personal list of Deepest Regrets: The Early Years.

The two of us drove back to school the next morning. Day-old pasta in hand, we began a lovingly uncomfortable period of sharing a twin mattress, dealing with the fallout of having a brother who didn’t understand what the phrase “shotgun wedding” implied and navigating expectations we didn’t know the other person had.

It seems so obvious in retrospect that you take into your marriage what you observed growing up. My dad only has eyes for my mom. He never speaks about other women in terms of anything beyond their ideas. My parents are the equivalent of two anime characters with stars in their eyes for each other. So, you can understand how it shattered my newlywed world when Kristopher told me he thought Paris Hilton was hot.

Juicy Couture-enrobed early 2000s It girls aside, it’s been six years since we tied the knot. With hindsight being what it is, I would still do it all again. The aesthetics would change, but the sentiment would remain. Because J.Lo, in her timeless wisdom, is still right. Love don’t cost a thing. Or, at the very least, it costs less than the price of chair rentals.

Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile via Getty Images.

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  • We made the same decision and it was definitely the best choice for us. Instead of spending a crazy high dollar amount on our wedding, we started saving our change right away and closed on a home 3 days before our first wedding anniversary.

    Also, our first meal as hubs & wife was Cracker Barrel. Super low-key, but that day will always be one of the most fond memories of my life. I wish more people raved about eloping the way everyone else raves about weddings.

  • streats

    Is it still eloping if family/guests are involved? Genuine question, as I thought eloping was getting married without telling/inviting anyone at all. Maybe I’m wrong or maybe there are different interpretations? In any case your wedding sounds wonderful, really pure. My experience of eloping comes directly from my parents’ story – my mother is French and moved to England as a student, met my father, and within six months they were married. They didn’t have an engagement, they just went to City Hall on their lunch break and tied the knot. No family was invited, and actually my mum’s friend who was visiting from France didn’t even know it was happening until the day – she had to borrow something to wear from my mum! She became one of the witnesses, along with one of my dad’s business associates from Japan who was in town for a meeting – which resumed after the wedding. I’ve always found that story to be amazing and it gives me comfort because my parents literally can’t complain if I decide to elope or have a low-key wedding!

    • JennyWren

      I don’t think it’s the traditional definition, no. We got married with just our parents and our Minister and I certainly wouldn’t describe it as eloping. Given that my parents live overseas it took a certain level of planning just to get them there.

    • Ciccollina

      Yeah that’s what I thought!

  • Andrea Raymer

    I love the idea of eloping and having a short engagement. It may be a little naive of me since I’ve never had a relationship but I just feel like if you know, why wait. But I also know I want to have a big wedding. I have a very close, very big extended family and I love all of the times we get together and have a party. Weddings are so much fun when you have 15 cousins and know everyone there. I see myself running to a courthouse a week after getting engaged while still having a big party and religious ceremony later (#churchgirl).

  • cuffers27

    Love this, very inspirational!

  • This is exactly what I want! I don’t want all the damn fuss- the ranking of best friends to be bridesmaids, the walking down the aisle, the shedding of thousands and thousands of dollars to pay for acquaintances and friends to get wasted.. Also my parents are divorced and I don’t want to deal with any weird family drama. I’d much rather have a lil ceremony with a couple witnesses, get some food and drinks after.. and then off on an epic honeymoon where we can really celebrate “us.”

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    this article makes me want to elope with the fiancé i dont have!

  • traces of light

    My husband is from the US, my family lives in mainland Europe, and we live in London. Organising a wedding would have been a long and expensive process (and that’s not even touching the fact that my parents haven’t been in the same room for years). We had a beautiful holiday planned last summer, and about six weeks before, my then boyfriend asked if I would be up for eloping and getting married just the two of us. No family, no friends. It took me a few days to get used to the thought, but then I loved it. We only told our close family and friends in advance, so it was still a big surprise for most people who knew us, especially because we had never formally announced an engagement. Ultimately, we got married in a gorgeous spot in a botanical garden, me in a lovely 60s vintage wedding dress. The ceremony was sweet and intimate and emotional, everything we had hoped, and we’re still very happy with our decision. The only thing we decided to splurge on (apart from my dress, oops) was a wedding photographer, because we now have beautiful shots to share with friends and family.

    • JennyWren

      Yeah, I’m a Brit with an American husband living in the US, so I know how that goes. We had my parents over for the wedding but as time goes on I even feel like that was maybe too much? My sister couldn’t be there so it sort of feels like just the two of us would have felt like less of a compromise, somehow. I also regret not having professional photographer because we don’t have a single decent photo of the both if us that day.

  • Sage

    I wanted to elope but my then fiancé didn’t, so we compromised on a very small intimate wedding. Guests were immediate family and close friends only. I didn’t feel like I had to put on a show for anyone and the planning was not difficult at all.

  • Sage

    I wanted to elope but my then fiancé didn’t, so we compromised on a very small intimate wedding. Guests were immediate family and close friends only. I didn’t feel like I had to put on a show for anyone, and the planning wasn’t difficult at all.

  • K

    this is so interesting to read right now with where I am with my fiance in our engagement. We have been engaged for 2 and a half years and just the other day we decided to not get married, but stay together as we already are. we have the wedding bands in our possession but neither of us choose to wear them yet, though i dower my engagement ring every day. but for a while we wanted to elope and do something similar to this, but as time has passed, it’s become less of a priority. and neither of us really feel the pressure to actually get married legally, because we both feel like we’re married already. it’s so interesting! i never thought we would be here but it’s really nice and calm, and there’s zero pressure. if i’m being perfectly honest i would probably do a much shorter engagement if i could re-do but it’s just how life has panned out, and I just wanted to say that i think what you guys did was awesome, and screw all the external pressure from society telling us we need to do marriage in a certain way! it’s all very personal.

    • K

      do wear **

  • Lil

    Eloping sounds fun, maybe I’ll hop on a plane to Vegas and elope with my nonexistant fiance…

  • nicolacash

    I cringed at the Olive Garden part. Other than that, I totally agree with bypassing the whole wedding-industrial-complex thing too

  • Slushee

    We laugh about our quick and dirty wedding… 14 people all in. And we had a great time without the faff of save the dates and guest lists. The people who were there really shared the day with us. It was great and I would do it any other way – 7 years later today!

  • Ciccollina

    I completely understand that you didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I think that weddings are almost entirely out of hand these days. And to be frank, spending $50k on a wedding in a church while there are people starving in the world seems almost sacrilegious to me, I personally don’t think it’s very Christian to waste money on something just so you can show off.

    I am one of those people who needs occasion in their lives – events, dinners, parties, museum visits…whatever it is, something to look forward to and a small sense of ceremony feels right to me. I think my partner and I would have a few family members, a pretty bouquet, and a lovely dinner afterwards and that would be enough 🙂 Not quite as simple as your wedding but every couple should be free to choose their own adventure.

  • Angela

    I’ve been trying to convince my boyfriend we should elope for about 6 months now. He’s afraid of what MY family would think. I just want to get married by Elvis… we’re working on it.