At one point shortly after my proposal, amidst divorced parent drama, I remember scream-sobbing at my sister, “I am never having a wedding.” Of course, that was a moment that soon passed, but I never quite let go of the sentiment behind it. I have a dramatic, complicated family and diverse friend group. However, our families are also very generous and were so excited upon our engagement. So they handed us cash to plan a wedding. So plan a wedding we did.
During our seventeen-month engagement, I planned the shit out of our wedding. Due to our budget, it was largely DIY with lots of family and friend projects. We decided to keep it intimate—forty guests at most, family style dinner, live music, beautiful venue at a mountain park… it was shaping up to be quite the lovely event. I never felt like I lost sight of what it was all about, marrying my love. But, I felt like it was still somehow missing something.
My husband and I are introverts. We don’t do PDA, or double dates, or any of that. We don’t host parties; we don’t go out dancing; we don’t spend a lot of time with other people. Ever since the beginning, one of my favorite parts of our relationship has been how we save the best parts of ourselves for each other and stay relatively private about our love. However, a wedding with friends and family is not that. A wedding is a celebration for your community, a very public declaration of your love. If you want a day all about you and your love, elope. If you want to recognize your friends and loved ones, have a wedding. But what to do if you want both?
About two months out from the wedding, we had a trip to my cabin planned. When we first went to my family’s cabin together early in our relationship, we pictured getting married in the National Forest up there. However, the reality of asking a large group of individuals to hike into the forest for our wedding was just not feasible, or environmentally conscious. But I couldn’t let go of the idea of exchanging vows on top of a mountain. I tossed out the idea of eloping at the cabin. I didn’t want to call off the wedding, but I wanted to “get legal-ed” before the big day. I wanted to have my elopement for us and still have a wedding for my family and friends.
So we eloped.
On the day of our elopement, I didn’t shower. I wore my favorite floral print dress with my North Face jacket and my Ugg boots. In Colorado, you can self-solemnize your vows, which means you just need the bride and groom, no priest or judge or witnesses. The day started with four-wheeling into the National Forest with our cat, where we found an impromptu spot for us to elope. We hiked to the top of a little mountain with beautiful views. Then, we each said some words from our hearts and signed the marriage certificate. We even used our cat as a witness on the certificate. After popping a little Moet & Chandon, we headed back down the mountain. The whole day was a beautiful celebration for the two of us and truly helped ease my anxieties for the community-oriented wedding.
A few weeks later, we had the wedding—our community celebration. We publicly exchanged our vows and rings and then celebrated with our nearest and dearest. My grandpa, a retired firefighter, acted as the leader of ceremonies and did an amazing job. My husband and I handcrafted the ceremony and included a community vow where we asked our friends and loved ones to vow their support for our relationship. The moment where everyone pledged their support was so special. It really encompassed the importance of our community for us.
There were thirty-six guests, including us. Our food was our number one priority and I cannot speak highly enough of our caterer—Elevated Catering. They designed a custom menu and our guests feasted! To reflect our inner nerdiness, we had Harry Potter, Adventure Time, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones references. One of the highlights of the evening was playing with bubbles and light sabers. A live steel drum and acoustic guitar duo played during dinner, and then we DIYed the dance music. Despite having a small crowd, we had a blast on the dance floor.
We DIYed a bunch of decor for the wedding. The community celebration was truly about our friends and family coming together to craft a special day with us. My mom made the napkins and my bouquet. My aunt, grandma, and mother-in-law collected the glassware—drinking glasses, centerpieces, and plates. My other grandma collected pashminas for the guests. My dad made the place cards. I made the menus. My friends and I crafted the terrariums and artificial flower centerpieces. My groom wrote and recorded the song I walked down the aisle to.
Did the elopement make the wedding day any less special? Absolutely not. On the elopement day, we spent our whole focus and attention on each other—relaxing with Mother Nature. On our wedding day, we publicly declared our love, and our community declared their support. I have zero regrets for the unusual journey we took to wedded bliss. I would do it all over the exact same way in a heartbeat.
So, if you want to have an elopement and a wedding—go for it. Have your cake and eat it too. The Internet might judge you but I won’t.