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.