Now, things to think about before your elopement and/or shotgun wedding.
If a tree falls and no one is there, does it make a sound? When you elope, you don’t have an audience. This means there was no one there but L- and me to say, in a few months, “Remember at the wedding when….?” Since our witnesses were strangers, the only people we could talk about our wedding with was the other person. Because of this it was really important for me to have our wedding documented by a photographer. I wanted to be able to tell the story to our friends, family and future child. I wanted to have it recorded. Our parents were also really happy to see the pictures and hear us tell the story; it helped them feel like they were there.
During our honeymoon we sat down and wrote out, independently, our thoughts and memories from our wedding. The little things that could easily be lost in the busy-ness of life. We sealed them up and will read them sometime, maybe in 10 years. If you plan to elope, make sure you think about how your day will be remembered.
Be prepared for strong reactions from others. The thought of upsetting close friends and family is probably what holds most people back from eloping. No matter how much you try to anticipate how people will react, there is no preparing for what will actually happen. Some people may surprise you with their reactions, for others it may be better or worse than expected. When my dad chose to leave just after our announcement, I had to realise that it was his decision, much like eloping was my decision. Neither of us agreed with the actions of the other person, but they were, for better or worse our decisions.
Be prepared to explain why you decided what you did, but don’t feel the need to justify. Acknowledge the feelings of the hurt party and realise it may take them some time to share your joy. While I had 8 years to slowly change my wedding plans, my dad had very little warning. Now, almost a year after the wedding my dad is very accepting of our marriage, happily calls L- my husband and seems to bear no grudge.
Be prepared for unexpected feelings from yourself. In the weeks after our wedding, I was worried we had done the wrong thing. I felt guilty for making my dad feel so sad. These immediate feelings passed, especially when I realised we had done the right thing for us, even if it left some people unhappy. Even when I was certain I had no regrets, at a wedding a few months later there were moments where I felt a bit sad. I felt sad that I wouldn’t walk up an aisle with everyone I loved surrounding me, or that I wouldn’t get to make a speech. I recognised that sadness as simply being sad over a choice not taken. When it would hit me, I would remember the choices we made, and why we made them and the feeling of sadness would pass. We are married, that is what’s important.
To post-party or not? Having a post-elopement party seems to be fairly common (at least between the two people I know who have eloped). Seven months after our elopement and six months after our daughter was born we threw (with the help of both sets of parents) a “marriage and baby party” for about 130 people in my parents backyard. There were signature cocktails, delicious foods, bunting, speeches, and oh yes, stress. In many ways I imagined it to be similar to planning a traditional wedding, except happily we only had to focus on the party part. Having the “marriage and baby party” allowed me to enjoy some of the trappings I missed from a regular wedding. I got to give a speech and see (almost) everyone I loved smiling at me, I even got to make favours. I had the best of three worlds. A private ceremony, an intimate dinner and a big party. But truthfully, when I look back and think about our wedding, I think about the private city hall ceremony.
(And if you’re eloping shotgun-style, also consider the following:) Babies = highly unpredictable. Originally, our post-party was planned for when Eleanor was three months old. Just before her birth I panicked because I was worried we would be so sleep deprived and out of it that it would be a disaster. So we pushed it back until she was six months old, thinking we would have it all figured out by then. Ha. In retrospect, having the party when she was three months would have been perfect because at the start she was an amazing sleeper and we were rested and feeling on top of the world. When party time did arrive, we had been dealing with a baby who, for the past three months had not slept for more than two hours at a time and were pretty much at our lowest parenting point. If you do plan on having a wedding/party immediately (and by immediately I mean within twelve months of birth) post baby, don’t assume anything. Do it whenever works for you. Your baby will either cooperate or not.
And in conclusion: One of my favourite people, 90 year old Bea said it best; “my first wedding was arranged in four days and we were very happy until he was taken from me. My second wedding only had five people and that was extremely happy also. So you see you do not need all the fuss to be happy.”