Brittany & Nick Elope (Sort of)

We started this week with Manya’s story about how crazy waiting to get engaged can make you and how you can be redeemed with your actions. So it only seemed right to follow that up with Brittany & Nick’s story about how planning a wedding was making them crazy… and how they chose to let go of it all, and have a teeny tiny wedding where they followed their hearts and were surrounded by love.

Planning a wedding is like eating pancakes. Initially you’re super stoked—it’s gonna be so great, I love pancakes! There’ll be all these adornments—pecans and bananas and syrup and butter. Glorious! But a few pancakes in you’re sick and f’ing tired of pancakes… but you’ve already committed. So you feel like you have to finish the pancakes you’ve already started, and if you do, by the end you’re like EFF—I never liked pancakes in the first place! I’m never eating pancakes again! I don’t want to see another pancake recipe as long as I live. I might vomit. But what happens if you scrap the pancakes halfway in and decide to have an omelet instead?

Before I knew it, I was knee deep in pancake batter and there was no eating my way out. Nick and I, in a failed attempt to appease the masses, staked our claim on a moderately sized and well-antiqued bed and breakfast in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We hired string musicians, debated hors d’oeuvres, researched flowers, types of paper and invitations (embossed or just plain print? Will I be judged for cutting that God-Forsaken corner?), and all sorts of other sh*t that neither of us had ever cared about before. We were swept away in a monsoon of  half-a*sed concessions and sacrifices we swore we’d never make.

And then one lovely December afternoon, a request for a deposit came. Our venue wanted their cash to reserve the date, as it was merely five months away. It was timely, yet for some guttural reason unexpected. And with that brief three-lined email, my wedding-world-façade came crashing down. It was met with panic and hesitation. This would be the commitment to a wedding event that we didn’t want. I had been so sure, so committed to this pancake extravaganza we were cooking up. When in reality, we were egg people all along.

So I called my family. I told them we were eloping but they were most certainly invited. It would be in Savannah, Georgia over my Spring Break. Why Savannah? Why not. Why Spring Break? Because what else do you do Spring Break your senior year of college? And Nick did the same. They applauded our honesty and stood by our decision.

As for the rest of our wedding planning—it was cake (ha!). It consisted of picking flower colors, cake flavors, type of champagne and time of ceremony—all left up to my most wonderful partner Nick. There was one thing from the original plans we didn’t scrap—the photographers. We needed someone who would capture the day as we experienced it, and seeing as there would be few witnesses, this became even more of a priority. And we were so not disappointed by that decision! The photographers were two lovely ladies we found on APW who were equally as excited about the prospect of our elopement and were quickly onboard with the new plan.

Some people might have an aversion to a pre-packaged elopement, but it fit us just right. We didn’t want a courthouse elopement, but a full-fledged wedding wasn’t our style either. This allowed us to find our place in the wedding-spectrum that felt to be the most candid, unadulterated representation of who we are and what our unity represents. Oh, and when we told people we were eloping and our closest family would be there, the puzzled looks were promptly followed with, “Isn’t the point of eloping to have no one know? It isn’t an elopement if people are there and it’s planned!” We called it an elopement because that was the name of the package. We could have called it a small wedding, or an intimate commitment ceremony or a union gala. It wouldn’t have made a difference. All that mattered was Nick and I were there, it was exactly what we wanted, our family was joyous and we were surrounded by love on the most important, defining day of our lives. 

And the day itself went seamlessly. We casually ate breakfast in the dining room with our family, which wasn’t planned, but ended up a very sweet beginning to such an emotional day.

Nick and I got ready together the morning of the wedding, mostly for solidarity and a sense of normalcy. We spent some of the last few hours of singlehood strolling hand in hand through one of the most beautiful parks in the South, with our photographers trailing behind. It was a precious memory that enveloped us with good feelings and unabated love—and the moments were captured forever. As we neared the Gastonian, I was ambushed by one of the most wonderful surprises—my best friend of a lifelong bond stepped out of a cab in front of us. She caught a last minute red-eye from NYC to make the wedding. And make it she did, with barely an hour to spare!

There were many traditions that we scrapped. They didn’t mean anything to us and seemed more like burdens than fond-memory-producing mechanisms. But a handful of traditions meant so much to us and/or our families that we kept them. We decided that Nick wouldn’t see me in my dress before the ceremony, so that time would be reserved for our parents. This was something that going into the day didn’t really matter to me, but our parents were adamant. In hindsight, the 45 minutes spent with our families apart became very symbolic of the entire event. It was a special time that we will never forget. The pre-ceremony hour was so impregnated with emotion that words can’t fully capture the nature of it. I sat with my mom as my dad gingerly spread flower petals in the garden so his “little girl” would have an aisle to walk down. My mom helped me don a single strand of pearls, as her late mother did for her on this same special occasion. I slipped into the ruby red children’s slippers hastily purchased the day before, and managed to feel that the universe had properly disposed of the original shoes that were left behind.

My dad walked me down the nonexistent, petal-lined aisle. It was a short walk, but it felt like an eternity. I realized every step I took forward was an act of choice. It was a committal walk that lead me to the man I love. And my dad made that journey with me. It felt like the ultimate act of approval, trust, and belief to have him willingly and lovingly hand me to Nick. All of our loved ones stood at the far end of the courtyard, cheering us on with their smiles, tears and occasional sniffles. The ceremony itself lasted no more than five minutes and I remember very little of what was said. It is more a memory of yellowy light, beautifully simple, filled with shuffling feet, nervous giggles, handwritten vows and a few too many “post Mr. & Mrs. announcement” kisses.

When we turned to walk back up the aisle, I was overwhelmed with the desire to hug Nick’s mom. And then his Dad. And then my mom. And my Dad. And before I knew it, we both had hugged every single person who witnessed our union. We had an impromptu post-union hug fest and it is one of my most favorite memories of the day. It felt necessary and right to hug and thank everyone for being there in full support; because we needed it in that moment and we will need it in the future, and those are the people we can and will turn to. They are the ones who believe in us and all that we are. They are the loved ones who raised us and will continue to nurture us, allowing us to better nurture each other and the baby family we have created. It is overwhelming to know that all the watery eyes at our wedding were looking at us in love—seeing our love and reverberating love back. It was a ceremony of tangible love that is only captured in a few moments of a lifetime.

Our union was not surrounded by flowers and music and chairs with bows. We didn’t even send out invitations. And the ceremony wasn’t followed by a tiered cake, catered buffet and meticulously planned iTunes list—though I did do a “little kicks” dance in PJs over coffee and scones later that afternoon. The road to our wedding day was filled with lots of introspection and hard questions. And the day itself had its own mishaps. But it was exactly what we wanted. It represented who we are in such a genuine, unmistakable way that every witness walked away knowing us a little more fully than when they day had begun. Undoubtedly, it will forever be marked in our lives as the most perfect day to have ever existed.

The Info Photography: Twin Hearts Photography / Venue: The Gastonian Inn / Dress: David’s Bridal / Suit: Nordstrom / Rings: Fingerprint Rings by Brent & Jess

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  • Oh my god, your dress is so pretty, but I think it is mostly because you look so full of joy and happiness you are shining. Also, that photo by the trees, so ethereal.
    I wish you all the love in the world- Good for you guys to stay true to yourseleves and had the small ceremony you needed. This post is full of wisdom.

    • Amanda you said it perfectly… Brittany you are SHINING! So happy for you that you had the guts to do what you needed to make your wedding feel right.

  • I am head over heels in love with this wedding, and this grad post.

  • Love this: “I realized every step I took forward was an act of choice.”

    It’s been so nice to read about your community and their support this morning. Congratulations!

  • Michelle

    Everything about this is just absolutely beautiful. Congratulations!

  • Oh. My. God. Your dress. It’s so pretty, I could wear it EVERY DAY. Perhaps in a different color :)

    Congratulations to you both on your beautiful, just-right-for-you wedding! You’re going to rock this marriage stuff :)

  • kayakgirl73

    Congrats on your marriage. I loved the story about your best friend surprising you and jumping out of a cab after taking the red eye, just in time for the ceremony.

  • Melissa K

    This is gorgeous. I must admit I’m feeling a little jealousy that I ate my pancakes and you didn’t. That was too many pancakes!!

  • melissa

    I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing what the word “elopement” means from yahoos who can keep their opinions in their pie-holes. Call it whatever you want, you’re married. Yay!

  • Ah!! So beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on swimming out of the pancake batter to get the breakfast you really wanted. ;)

  • I, too, LOVE the dress! So simple and timeless. Love love love.

    Congratulations to you and your husband on your marriage! And congratulations, too, on doing your wedding on your own terms.

  • I’m the last minute friend! I was supposed to stay in New York and do a student film, but the night before I realized that there was no way I could miss this wonderful day. I was almost packed for a 17 hour bus ride, when I found a plane ticket that would work! I’m so happy for Brittany and Nick and so glad they did the wedding in a way that felt right for them! It felt right for us too.

  • Cindy (Mother of the Bride)

    Ahhh…The tears flowed again just reading this. It was a wonderful day! The joy felt was that of a “new addition”. The day was simply beautiful!

  • Class of 1980

    It doesn’t look as if anything was missing … it just looks like a beautiful wedding. And yay for weddings in the southeast! Who needs extras when surrounded by trees and gardens?

    • “It doesn’t look as if anything was missing.” My thoughts exactly! Maybe it’s because yesterday’s post is fresh in my mind, but this wedding is what a wedding should be: full of love, joy, and true to the couple. Love it!*

  • Claire

    “It is overwhelming to know that all the watery eyes at our wedding were looking at us in love—seeing our love and reverberating love back.”

    So sweet. And a wonderful description of how I felt at my wedding too.

    What a beautifully written, wise graduate post! Thank you for sharing your story of choosing the wedding that was practical for you. Your photographs really capture the emotion and tell the story of some of those meaningful moments.

  • thank you for talking about the hugging. i’ve always witnessed that in weddings, and found myself doing it after.
    first bryan, and then our families. it felt like a small devotional, a thank you, a return of the blessing. a union, multiplied.

  • Laura

    I have been reading apracticalwedding for almost a year now, and this is the first post that made me cry! Great post, fantastic wedding, beautiful bride and groom! Love the sanity and the sentiment.

    • Ris

      I’m tearing up too. This is my dream wedding. And I’m getting pancakes instead, which I’m eating happily because my fiance is a pancake kind of person. But in my heart of hearts this is my kind of perfect.

  • katieprue

    What an amazing and perfect and wonderful wedding. Kudos to you for realizing that you’re egg people!! We are about to let go of a deposit on a way-too-big-for-us venue in favor of a nearest and dearest love fest of a wedding. I’m terrified, of course, but this post just helped affirm that we are so not pancake people (more like biscuits and gravy people).

  • Love the dress. Love the pancake analogy (all-you-can-eat-pancakes always seems like a real steal when you first start). Love that time with your family before the ceremony.

    And thank you for reminding me that we too hugged everyone who was at our ceremony (around 30 people) immediately after. I enjoyed those precious moments right then to thank each of them and to have them say a few words. It happened so naturally for us that I hadn’t really ever given it much of a second thought.

  • Anne

    As someone currently in the planning process, I admire your courage! To continue your analogy, it’s not the pancake batter that’s driving me crazy, exactly, but the fact that everyone else wants to make a different kind of pancakes. I’m so glad you were able to have the wedding you both wanted. Congrats!

  • Allen (Daddy of the Bride)

    Wow, sniff, sniff……that really was a special day!! Funny how quickly everyone was back in their “comfy” clothes after the ceremony. Guess we’re simply a laid back crowd, huh. Wonderful write up Britt! Really sums it up appropriately…….LOVE YOU GUYS!!

    • Amy March

      Meg- Can we pretty please with a cake-topper on top have Father of the Bride guest posts? And Mother-of-the-Bride and Bridal Party? I’m sure they will all make me cry but it would be totally worth it!

  • I love love love this wedding because I have not-so-secretly wanted to elope in Savannah for about 8 years now. My aunt and uncle relocated there when I was in high school and ever since my first visit, it has been held a large part of my heart. I try to visit every year, though it doesn’t always work out, and each time I fly or drive into the city, my heart feels full and satisfied again.

    When I married recently, we made the decision together that our small city in Wisconsin, in which we were forging our new life, represented us better than an elopment to Savannah, but my heart was a little sad, I will admit. While I was ultimately happy with my fall Wisconsin wedding, the little-girl-bride in me will always look at Savannah weddings as the epitomy of romance and perfection.

    So happy for you.

  • “This allowed us to find our place in the wedding-spectrum that felt to be the most candid, unadulterated representation of who we are and what our unity represents.”

    This struck me as a really appropriate response to yesterday’s discussion in the comments; a perfect example of a couple following their gut, carving out space that felt right to them, and living authentically. Beautiful!

  • Alyssa

    GOD, the picture where her mom is wiping away her tears. That is stunningly beautiful…as is the whole post.

  • Erin

    I applaud your use of metaphor and curse words. We could be great friends.


  • Gorgeous.

    “I realized every step I took forward was an act of choice.”


  • Tex

    I’m bookmarking this. Being recently engaged, I want exactly the type of wedding described here, but I am beyond worried about the planning process and what everyone’s expectations will be. This is exactly what I needed to read, so thank you very, very much for sharing. I’ve been reading a lot of wedding stories for a long time and this is one of the few that has really, really moved me.

  • faith

    Great “elopement”! I think we would have loved this kind of wedding.

    Also, a fellow David’s Bridal dress wearer…way to rock it.

  • Moz

    Gotta love egg people :)

    Your wedding is awesome. I say ‘is’ because it feels like one of those weddings you were kind of at just by looking at the edible pictures! Congrats on your marriage xx

  • Li Tushinde

    On Sailing the Seas of Life

    One of the most courageous acts of life,
    To pick a husband & a wife,
    To know that whatever else you do,
    At the end of the day you’re a crew of two.

    Yes children & parents & jobs will impact,
    As the crew of the ‘Alexander’ trims & tacks.
    When life comes along with its storms & gales,
    Don’t curse the wind,
    Adjust your sails!

    2’Shinday ‘11

  • bawling! This was beautiful. Congratulations.

  • susana

    I can see that they are made for each other…. God bless your marriage.
    You look INCREDIBLE BEAUTIFUL Brittany!!!!!!!!!!!! so is your MOM!!!!!!!

  • Yay, Brittany & Nick! This is still one of our favorite ceremonies EVER. We both cried! There was so much undeniable love!

    Thanks for letting us be such a big part of your special day!!

  • Your wedding looks so stunning, and it sounds like it was emotionally bursting with happiness and you-ness.

  • Your description of planning a wedding was EXACTLY how I felt about it (and feel about pancakes).

    • Also, congratulations on your marriage! and for doing what was right for the two of you!

  • YES ABOUT THE PANCAKES!!!! Who can eat so very many with all of the stuff and all of the things on top?? I mean, all of the wedding stuff too, but the pancakes. Yes.

    Also. Savannah. YES.

  • Melodious

    Beautiful. And BRAVO! for sticking to your guns. Looks like the day was truly a reflection of the two of you. Your photos are amazing! Aren’t the ladies at Twin Hearts awesome? I found them here, too. Just a little bonus amongst the community and sanity of APW…

  • Kimikaze

    Yes yes YES to the pancake analogy! I wanted an omelette, got talked into having pancakes, but ended up with pikelets (basically little pancakes…not sure if that’s a specifically Australian thing).

  • Barbara Rooney

    This was a wonderful day for us too. The venue was spectacular. Everything was perfect, the setting, the inn, food, and GREAT photographers.
    I am especially happy that they followed their hearts and had what they wanted. Seeing this post made me realize again what a great life these two have in front of them.
    ” Mother of the Groom”

  • Ann

    Beautiful wedding. It was so courageous to follow your heart, and not give into what everyone else thinks your perfect day should be. Sounds like you and Nick have a wonderful future together. Congratulations!

  • Congratulations from someone who also married in Savannah. There were definitely times that I really wanted to go the “elopement package” route, and while it didn’t end up being right for us, it looks like it suited you guys beautifully!

  • Kim

    Congratulations to both of you! Love , Love, Love these beautiful pictures!!! I know you will be so happy! I knew that the first time I meet Brittany and witnessed how stong the love between you two was! Looking forward to seeing both of you soon I hope! Lots of Love, Kim

  • Anne

    I loved reading this. I was searching for Savannah elopements and stumbled upon this post. My fiance and I have spent over 6 months planning a full on wedding and after all that time, we just realized a small elopement is all we want. So we’re scratching the whole wedding and starting anew with plans for a much smaller, simpler ceremony, also in Savannah. Reading this confirms for me that we’re making the right decision. Congrats and your wedding was beautiful!

  • Claire

    I have read and re-read this post so many times. I love this wedding/elopement and it’s my biggest source of inspiration to stay on cue of how my wedding should look like and not to get too caught up in the details. Love love love.