Elopements, The Follow Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about last weeks discussion of elopement. I was really surprised that even here, in APW-land, we still seem to view elopement as taboo, and even selfish. Now, I’m not arguing that elopement is for everyone (it certainly wasn’t for me), but I am arguing that eloping should be viewed as a valid choice for each of us. When I brought the discussion up with David last week, and said that an large number of people said something along the lines of, “but you owe your family a wedding!” He commented that big family weddings haven’t even been the historical norm for very long. 100 years ago, we were getting married in our parlors, or at the courthouse. Maybe our closest family was there, maybe they were not. But this idea of the huge party, the party you owe everyone? New.

But I thought Marisa-Andrea said it best when she said:

I definitely understand family members being hurt that were excluded. BUT — and yes, it’s a BIG but — two people coming together in a marriage can be intensely spiritual and emotional and is something that should be done in a context in which those people are their most authentic selves. While having a wedding may satisfy or please certain family members because they get to be present, get to participate in the big to-do or what have you, it does a disservice to the couple and everyone involved if having a wedding means that the individuals marrying can’t show up. And to me, that’s not a joyful or romantic event. I think it’s wonderful if a couple considers how others may be affected by their decision to elope or not or ANY decision they make regarding their choice to get married, quite frankly. But I also think that couples must be true to themselves and authentic. Always.

Which? Yes. So when Lauren sent me this article from the AARP bulletin about a couple’s elopement because of immanent deployment, I had to share it with you. Because not only does it knock the wind out of the sails of the ‘elopement is just selfish’ argument, it also knocks the wind out of the sails of ‘It’s selfish to hold a party after your vows to celebrate with your loved ones, since you didn’t invite them to witness your vows,’ argument. It reminds us what a freaking blessing it is to get to celebrate with people who just got married, whether we were invited or not, whether we knew them or not. And more than all that, it reminds all of us, no matter how big our wedding, what the point of this whole thing really is. And now, the article:

As a senior at MIT, our only daughter, Holly, got engaged. Soon the Army called her fiancé, Erik, to go to Iraq, so they planned to marry after he returned and she finished graduate school. As all brides do, Holly dreamed about her wedding. She chose a dress, a church and a family friend as organist. She chose her favorite processional and recessional marches, one of which her father had composed.

But reality did not follow the plan. Erik was sent to Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., where he learned he could ship out at any minute. Holly left school for a few days to see him off. The couple decided to marry right away, the uncertainty of war looming in their minds. They called to tell us, we arranged a flight but were still in the air when they found a justice of the peace at the courthouse. It happened so fast that the bride wore blue jeans.

When we arrived, we made the best of the situation and took them to dinner. As it turned out, our new son-in-law didn’t get shipped out that day. The base chaplain found out and asked all of us to come to the local church the next morning. We didn’t know why.

At the church, Holly wore a favorite teal silk dress, and Erik his uniform. As we waited, a miracle unfolded. The church’s entire congregation came to support the newlyweds, whom they had never met. Some even brought wedding gifts wrapped in silver paper and big bows. Following a blessing ceremony, the congregation formed a receiving line and greeted the couple at the altar. We didn’t have a photographer, but our “wedding guests” snapped away. They sent us their pictures, so we have reminders of a very special occasion. It was a wedding to remember for all the right reasons.

(Go see a picture of the couple here)

I thought it was time for a reminder that creating a new family is never a selfish act. Life is imperfect. Sometimes elopements hurt feelings, sometimes weddings hurt feelings. But starting a new family on honest present footing? Letting people who love you celebrate you in their own way afterward? That’s not inherently selfish, and we should re-think it being taboo.

Elopement pictures both from East Side Bride, of course. Picture 1 you can read about here, Picture 2 you can read about here (and on the brides blog la boudoir here and here). And f*ck it, while you’re at it, you should really read ESB’s whole series on elopement.

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