Today’s wedding graduate post comes in two parts, and I could not be more excited about it. First, Lindsey tackles telling us about her eight months pregnant, shotgun elopement to her long time partner. I think she nails it when she says that, at one point in her life, she was enamored with the trappings of the wedding, without realizing that she wasn’t enamored with marriage. But for her wildly imperfect, brilliantly happy elopement, she got it right. And I learned a whole freaking lot reading about it. Then, later today, she’ll be back talking you through what you should think about when planning an elopement…. a post we’ve needed on APW for a long, long time. So without further ado, the amazing Lindsey:
Had you asked me at the age of 21 to describe my “dream wedding”, I would have started talking about the venue, dress, colours, flowers, and favours. I had my guest list all ready (119 people on my side alone) and would have asked you about whether or not I should hire a videographer. Oh, and it would happen when I was 24 and the skinniest I had ever been.
My actual wedding was in the ugliest room at city hall, I was wearing a black dress that I got for 50% off. I had twenty dollars worth of tulips I bought at the market and no favours. The guest list for the ceremony was 2. And I was 29 and eight months pregnant.
And now, almost a year later, when I have trouble sleeping at night, I replay our wedding day in my head and smile myself to sleep.
I had a shotgun elopement and wouldn’t change it for anything.
Lots of changes happened, both gradual and quick, over the eight years between 21 and 29 that left me happily embracing a city hall elopement. A few years ago during a rough patch in our relationship, I complained to L- (the now husband) that we were never going to get married. He responded that he was worried that I wanted a wedding and not a marriage. Looking back, I see what he was worried about. I was so caught up in the trappings of a wedding; I hadn’t given much thought to our life after the wedding. I had put in countless hours finding the perfect favour (just so you know: rosemary sea salt in mini canning jars) but hadn’t thought much about how we would work our finances, share holidays, deal with family illness, what traditions we would embrace or even small things like how we would handle being kind to each other after being awake with a teething baby for three days straight. That realisation came quickly.
Others came more slowly. Watching marriages around me, both positive and negative, lead me to reflect on what was important to me, what I wanted to emulate and what I didn’t want to repeat. Over the 8 years I became more attuned to the needs for my marriage rather than my wants for my wedding. And when I let go of those wedding wants to focus on my marriage needs, listened to my partner and shared my thoughts with him, we ended up with the perfect wedding for us. Our perfect wedding (which was far from actually perfect) started on December 26th, when L- gave me a card that said: “Do you want to get married? I do.” I burst into tears and made him promise that he wasn’t joking. He wasn’t.
Over the month of January we hatched our plan: We would invite friends and family to dinner at one of our favourite restaurants to celebrate L-‘s 29th birthday. An hour before dinner, just the two of us would go to city hall and in front of two strangers we picked up along the way we would finally (after seven years of being together and five years of living together) get married.
Planning an elopement = easy.
Executing an elopement = also easy!
I took my wedding day off work. Got my hair done (hated it, undid it) and bought twenty dollars worth of white tulips. Burned a wedding play list. Found our reading in The Velveteen Rabbit. The photographer , a dear family friend of my great grandparents, grandparents and parents came over to our house and took pictures, to later tell the story of our wedding. I felt giddy with excitement and couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. We hopped in a cab (with a quick stop at bank machine to pick up the $115 we owed the city for getting married) and just outside of city hall we asked two strangers (Peter and Jasmine) to be our witnesses.
My giddy excitement stayed with me until the very last minute, to the point that I was worried that without an audience made up of family and friends I wouldn’t recognise the solemnity of the moment. But the second I walked down the aisle, and saw L- and realised what we were about to do, the solemnity and sacredness of the moment overwhelmed me.
I remember watching other weddings, and during the vows I always wondered how aware the bride and groom were of the cameras, the audience, the shuffling and commotion. Now I know that during that moment, all extraneous activity was non-existent and I was completely present in the moment. We were married. It was perfect.
At 8pm our friends and family had all gathered at the restaurant and were wishing L- a happy birthday. My best friend (who came from 7 hours away for the “birthday dinner”) gave me a knowing look. Between the first course and the main course, L- stood up to thank everyone for coming and said something to the effect of “I think many of you here believe we have an ulterior motive for this celebration [gasp in the room], and it’s true. Today is also Hank Aaron’s birthday [giant collective sigh of disappointment]. So thanks for coming [L- goes to sit down]. Oh and by the way, Lindsay and I got married earlier this evening.” [Giant scream goes up from the tables, exuberance ensues.]
It was also perfect.
We started off our marriage with a lot of compromise. L- would have been happy to be common law forever. Being married was very important to me, especially since we had a baby on the way. L- is an exceptionally private person, especially when it comes to emotional things, and has a hard time letting people see his emotional side. I love parties with friends and am very free with my emotions. Our elopement allowed me get married and allowed him to do the private part privately. The party afterward let us celebrate publicly with those closest to us.
I wish I had known that even if I was so happy for us, and sure of my decision to elope, that not everyone would feel that way. Just after we announced our happy news, my dad got up, put on his coat and left the restaurant. Not at all the response I had wanted. I wish I had thought a bit more about how our decision would affect those we love. I had written my parents a letter about our choice and explained that while I knew they might be disappointed, I hoped that they would understand that we were doing things in a way that was right for us. I suppose this is a truth whether you elope or not. You and your partner make a plan. Your community (be it friends or family) either agrees or disagrees. If they agree, everyone is happy. If they disagree, you either change your plan or you don’t.
This holds true if you are eloping, having a destination wedding, holding your wedding outside with no backup, having a secular ceremony, having an open bar, not having a bar at all, having dancing, hiring a videographer, serving meat, not serving meat, and on and on.
The emotions of the day, both positive and negative, ran very high. Happily, I can report that in retrospect, the highs remain high and the lows, well, I remember them but not in vivid detail. I can still remember that giddy excited feeling I had when the music started and I walked down the “aisle” to L- but I don’t remember, with as much clarity, the feelings when my dad left the restaurant. Maybe like labour, you don’t remember the exact pain (sure you remember that it hurt but not how the hurt felt), you just remember that moment of locking eyes with your baby for the first time. And that might be why, despite all the drama and emotions and turmoil that weddings seem to cause, they keep happening. Because even amidst those moments of extreme pain, you remember the one moment of pure joy and clarity.
Photos by: V.Tony Hauser (black and whites) and good friends (color)