*Autumn, Writer and Activist & Rebekah, Graduate Student*
This week, with our discussion of Staying, we couldn’t think of a more perfect post, than, oddly, this post about an elopement in Paris. But you see, it wasn’t a big fancy planned elopement to Paris. It was a spur of the moment, backpacking trip, let’s get married elopement to Paris. And what followed was such an awesome, surrender-filled, embracing-of-life-as-it-is party, that it really couldn’t be more perfect. Because sometimes staying is just about accepting life exactly as it is, about choosing to love its imperfect complexities.
C’est la vie. If any single phrase could capture our elopement and reception that would be it. Not just in the sense of, “Oh well, something bad happened, that’s the way life goes,” but also in the sense of, “This is life—full of mishap and magic.”
My partner and I decided together to elope on the two-year anniversary of our first kiss in the middle of a six-week European backpacking adventure. We picked Paris as the site for our elopement mostly because, hello, it’s Paris, but also because it encapsulated everything romantic, sensual, edgy, and beautiful that we loved about our lives together.
We spent several days in Paris before our elopement day. Each day was more beautiful than the last—spring flowers glowing from the warm sun, breezes tickling wind chimes—perfect. Then we woke up on the morning of April 12th to find grey skies and freezing weather. So cold, we wore coats and gloves all day. We planned to exchange rings and vows all over the city, culminating with a champagne toast on the top of the Eiffel Tower, but after freezing in line for over an hour, we were so cold that we decided to grab a bottle of champagne and go back to the hotel before dinner. We exchanged the last of our vows in the bathtub of our hotel room sipping French champagne. It was one of the best moments of the day—intimate, warm (finally), and magical. C’est la vie.
When we returned home from our elopement and backpacking trip, we began to plan a reception for our friends and families. It was important to us to give them something familiar but something uniquely ours. Same-sex relationships often don’t get the same value as other relationships, and since we eloped in Paris no one even heard us exchange vows. Once again, the magical power of serendipity. We figured out that the only day my partner’s professional-baseball-playing brothers, my Canadian-American blended family, and oh yes… the two of us could make it back to my partner’s hometown was the day after Thanksgiving, which happened to be the same day upon which my grandparents eloped seventy-three years earlier. C’est la vie.
Up until the day of the reception people complained… about the required creative black tie, about the date, about the weather (it snowed the day before), about well… everything. C’est la vie. The magic of life took over and not a single person complained at or after our reception, which, as a former wedding caterer/bartender, I think is a miracle.
My partner and I specifically didn’t want to do the whole first dance thing, but when we started dancing off to the side to an Edith Piaf song, our friend grabbed the microphone and announced the first dance anyway. We tripped and giggled around the dance floor and laughed our butts off. The photos of that moment are priceless. We hadn’t planned for live music, but our DJ and dear friend whipped out a guitar and did a mash-up of “Wonderwall” and a song he had written for us. I cried. We threw an after party our hotel suite. It was shut down by the hotel security… twice.
Nothing went as planned, but in the end, there was so much more magic that way.
We spent a full day in Paris telling each other all the things we loved about one another, free from judgment and criticism. We then had a beautiful reception filled to the brim with love and joy. Honestly, there isn’t a single picture where everyone isn’t smiling. Everything we did was full of mishap and magic. C’est la vie (and I wouldn’t want it any other way).
A Post Script. Three pieces of advice for a wedding/reception that is full of life:
- Find vendors you trust and trust them. Let them handle the details. It is their job after all.
Host an after party. Whether it is cigars on your parents’ porch or closing down your favorite club at five in the morning. Trust me, when everything is flying by, you will be glad you planned extra time to spend with either a few close friends or with all the people you couldn’t afford to invite to the fancy reception.
- Laugh… at yourself, at the process, at each other, at your insane (or maybe totally normal) family, at your guest (or bridesmaid, wedding elf, whatever) who wears red sneakers and a fleece jacket as their creative black tie. C’est la vie—so we all might as well laugh about it together.