Nina & Richie’s NYC Elopement

You guys! YOU GUYS! Today we have a real-true-honest-to-God elopement wedding. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee! I get a lot of questions about elopements that go something like this, ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? What if people hate me? Shouldn’t I? Ahhhh!” And I think this post answers the question about what the decision to elope should sound like. It should sound a lot like, “F*ck it.” (And don’t worry, if you don’t elope, you can still get to feel like this. I did, the week before our wedding). When I got the email from Nina this weekend about her recent elopement, I couldn’t have been more excited. And this week felt like the perfect time to run it – here is Nina’s super wise contribution to the ongoing discussion  of weddings and tradition. Because, after all, what is more (and less) traditional than an elopement? Nothing. So here is Nina. I hope she makes someone braver today, and makes someone really embrace that f*ck-it feeling. Plus, I might be a little in love with their wedding. Just, you know, a little.

Richie and I planned our June 2011 wedding for six months. But instead of six months of progress, it seemed like on September 19th, we were exactly where we were when we first got engaged. Everything was going wrong. Our restaurant reception venue refused to give us a contract; the dress I ordered a size too big (and even lost weight while waiting for) came at least a size too small (irregular), and the manufacturer wouldn’t take it back because the style had been discontinued; caterers were asking for a minimum of way more dollars than we were planning (and able) to spend on the entire affair. And on top of all that, we had the kind of family drama that you only see in movies.

So after a particularly difficult weekend, Richie suggested (again) that I consider eloping. Before, it was something that sounded nice and romantic, but it just wasn’t for me. I needed my family and friends there to celebrate with us. But this time…I had finally had enough of things not working out, making me wonder if the universe was telling me not to get married. This time, I said I okay. We brainstormed where to go and decided on New York City because it’s just a short drive away, plus NY has only a 24-hour waiting period and it’s, um, New York City.

We found a married couple officiant/photographer team that specializes in elopements. I emailed them about their availability for Saturday, September 25th– the upcoming weekend. I heard back almost immediately, and it was a go. In the couple days leading up to the weekend, we finalized our ceremony with the officiant (we sent her a reading and our own vows), booked a hotel, and I even found a dress at a bridal shop on my lunch break on Wednesday. It was in these final days of wedding planning that I realized what was important to me.

Sure, I would have loved for my family to be there, but I knew that they hated how unhappy I was during the planning process. I knew that they’d want me to feel relaxed, sane, and like myself on my wedding day. While we were planning, whenever I was stuck, I’d ask Richie: “What do you want at this wedding?” and he’d always say, “To marry you.” And I felt the same way, but there were centerpieces to make! And menus to plan! And people to seat! The week before, though, I got it. Yes, I wanted to look beautiful and get great pictures– those things would be nice, but mostly, I just wanted to marry him.

We called in sick on Friday and headed straight for the Clerk’s Office, which was an amazing experience, as people were actually getting married, in dresses and suits (one couple was even wearing matching shirts) while we were just picking up our license in our sneakers. The process was painless and took a total of 17 minutes (we timed it).

The rest of the weekend was a lot like our Friday morning in the Clerk’s Office: easy and perfect. Everything that went wrong in our six months of planning was matched by everything going right the weekend of our elopement. We were calm, relaxed, zit-free and happy when we said our vows and exchanged rings (which we picked out online and had overnighted only days before) on some rocks at the Turtle Pond in Central Park. And our family was there, in part! I fastened a brooch that was my grandmother’s to my headband, wore pearls that have been in my aunt’s (by marriage) family forever, and Richie wore his grandfather’s cuff links. Our families were touched that we incorporated such details with so little time to plan.

I never envisioned that I’d elope when I would think about my wedding as a kid (and TRUST ME, I thought about it a lot). And after meeting Richie, I still never envisioned an elopement. But having grasped at so many different versions of the wedding I thought I wanted while we were planning and finally settling* on an elopement, I can’t imagine any other version of our union.

*Yes, eloping was settling because I thought I wanted a big(ish) wedding with our nearest and dearest around us, complete with a Welcome BBQ and family-fun-time woven throughout the wedding weekend. But while I never encourage people to settle, I also have to admit that settling can surprise you. It definitely surprised me, and I’m awfully glad it did.

Photos By: Guerrilla Weddings

PS Much more from Nina on her blog

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  • Caroline

    This totally gave me goosebumps. Congrats to you both and thanks for sharing such an awesome, honest wedding.

  • Hubby and I got engaged in Central Park. Love the photos! :)

  • This rocks. What a great and honest story. Thanks for making this morning a little happier!

  • Meghan

    Man oh man, this is amazing. I’m coming up on the final three weeks and there’s still all those “little touches” to do, and I’m getting a little oxygen mask-y about the whole thing. But you’re SO RIGHT about what’s really important, and if the programs aren’t perfect no one will even remember. I can’t wait to write a post for you, Meg!

  • Erin

    Awww! When I got to the part where you guys decided to elope, I thought, “Wow, they really get it — what it’s really all about.” I’m so glad for you that you were able to find that!

  • Trudi

    Oh wow, I read about this sweet elopement on Guerrilla Wedding’s blog! I love “We were calm, relaxed, zit-free…”

  • What a great wedding. The headband is fantastic and the fact that it’s your grandmother’s brooch is even better.


  • Rachel

    “While we were planning, whenever I was stuck, I’d ask Richie: “What do you want at this wedding?” and he’d always say, “To marry you.” And I felt the same way, but there were centerpieces to make! And menus to plan! And people to seat! The week before, though, I got it. Yes, I wanted to look beautiful and get great pictures– those things would be nice, but mostly, I just wanted to marry him.”

    This is exactly, exactly what goes on in my head, and in conversations with my wonderful fiance. This was wonderful to read today :) Thank you!!!

  • I’m a wedding planner but I love elopements (shhh–don’t tell). Did it myself. Great story and great reminder of what really matters in all the wedding frenzy!

  • LeahIsMyName

    Wonderful. What a great peek into a great wedding. And I love that they found an officiant/photographer couple who specialize in elopements! That made me smile.

  • And you got some fab-u-lous photos! How lovely you look! Thanks for sharing your experience. I am loving the peace and joy on your faces.

  • we’re at T-minus 9 days prior to wedding weekend (next friday) and i read this thinking the entire time: “WHY WHY WHY didn’t we do this?”

    although I am insanely filled with jealousy, i am SO happy for you both :) What beautiful photos and event!

    • Sarah


      We were three days out when we had this realization. We were getting our license and he just looked at me and said “why don’t we get married NOW?”

      We didn’t, but even just the THOUGHT was calming. I got it, and I knew, then, that he got it, too.

    • april

      yeah, i had that feeling as well. i think it is very common and totally normal. for us, once the friends and loved ones started arriving, squealing with delight & excitement about the weekend’s events and smothering us in smooches and bone-crushing, teary hugs all the “omg-what-are-we-doing-why-did-we-not-elope?” stuff melted away and we had a great time. you will too. :-) xoxo

      • thanks ladies. You’re both right of course. But then- this post made me realize that had we not already committed money wise, we would have given serious consideration to eloping.

        but you’re right- it will be fine…. :)

  • Nina, wow, you both look SSOOO happy. Seriously, the joy just explodes out of your pictures. Kudos to you and your husband for doing what was right for you and having such a beautiful wedding!

  • I eloped too, with the same encouraging words from my husband “I just want to be married to you”. I admit that it was also hard for me to “settle” as you define and explain it so perfectly (I’m working on my wedding graduate post still). I was so afraid of regret or missing out on something. But in the end, when you are married to your best friend, the “how” doesn’t matter so much.

    Documenting with pictures is important to be able to share with family and friends afterwards, and yours are fabulous! I’m so happy for you!!!

  • brittany

    this parallels the fiance and I’s planning process, frustrations, discussions and ultimate decision to say “screw it” so much it’s scary. we’re doing the same thing next month.

    you guys look so freakin’ happy, congrats!

  • F*ck yeah! Way to go!

    Also, I looooove your dress.

  • Alyssa

    This is so stunningly romantic! And HOW ADORABLE ARE THEY?
    Had I been at the park that day, I would have been so excited and would have totally spied on their entire ceremony….

    • Anna

      Wedding creepers unite!

  • Marina

    This is just fantastic. I love that you felt like everything started going easier once you decided to elope–that is totally the feeling that should happen when you make the right decision. Congratulations on sticking to what’s important to you, and “settling” for the rest. :)

  • NICE! Not sure the last time I’d seen a real true elopement! I agree with a former commenter, they “get it”.

  • I am so happy to see Nina’s elopement here! When she announced it on Twitter, I was completely surprised, elated for her and more than just a smidge jealous. Tony and I have talked about eloping on many, many occasions. The only thing that has stopped us are my kids and my family (who really, really want to be there).

  • YAY for elopements! Beautiful, sweet, and sane. Thanks for sharing this post. ;)

  • april

    So sweet and beautiful. Just perfection in words and photos and feeling. Blessings to you both in your marriage!

  • Liz

    so simple and sweet and jealousy-inducing. like sarah, i was FLOORED when i saw the news on nina’s twitter.

    nina, can you come back and tell us how your family reacts? cause that’s the part that’s always made me wonder.

    • Thanks everyone!!! I love you, Team Practical.

      And Liz, I knew I was forgetting something in the post! Our family was ECSTATIC. I’ll go down the list:
      My mom: Was a little sad she couldn’t be there, but says it’s the smartest thing we could have done.
      My dad: Is still confused.
      My brother: Was bummed because he “really wanted to be in a wedding.” (Not my wedding– A wedding. He’s 28.)
      Richie’s parents and sister: Were so, so happy and also said they thought it was a smart move (we were most nervous about telling them and thought the reaction would be one extreme or the other: happy or pissssssed).
      Extended family and friends: Thrilled.

      And now, Richie’s parents are throwing us a party at the end of the month, and my parents are throwing one for us in December when we’re in my hometown for the holidays! It really couldn’t have worked out better.

      • meg

        Hey Nina-
        Once you’ve had those parties, would you write us a follow up post (with pictures!!) on how they went, and how the family reaction was? I think it would be super helpful, and that’s the question I get asked the most often.

        My standard answer is “if you’re going to do it, DO IT, and then tell people. They might be a little mixed, but overall they will be happy. It’s when you tell your mom ‘hey I’m eloping next month’ (which is not the point of eloping) that she gets upset, because you kind of just told her ‘I’m getting married and you can’t come.'” BUT. I didn’t do it. So I really really think people would LOVE smart articulate advice from someone who has been there.

  • carly

    Our Sept. 18 wedding could not have been more perfect, and I’m still reveling in the joy/loveliness/delight of that day. But this wedding – WOW. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a slight tinge of jealousy. I’ve been reading APW for nearly a year now, and this is the first wedding I’ve ever commented on. Calling in sick to work? Finding a dress on your lunch break? Getting married in NYC, just the two of you, on a gorgeous, sunny day? Thoughtfully incorporating family heirlooms? Um, yes, please! I wouldn’t change my wedding for the world, but if I had it to do over again, I’d definitely consider something like this. Congratulations, Nina and Richie! You two look over-the-moon happy, and may the joy of your wedding day be with you, always.

  • theresa

    this wedding makes me so happy! congrats :)

  • Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, all of it. And those pictures are bursting with joy!

  • Kudos to you! This wedding is perfect in every way. Congratulations!

  • Joselle

    I’m not going to lie. This post makes me want to elope! Only, I’m 4 days away from getting married so what’s done is done. My fiance and I did discuss elopement but ultimately decided to do a more public but small wedding comprised of just over 40 guests. We are both private people, although I have a tendency to sometimes be a ham and a princess and those are the sides of me that won out. But I think elopements are awesome, beautiful and romantic. Love them.

    What is so beautiful about this post is what you and your husband (!) both desired in a wedding: to marry each other.

    Ultimately, that is what every wedding, no matter the kind or size, should be about. Congratulations! And Nina, all of your blogs look really cool so I’m happy to have more reading material to tuck into later.

    • KA

      Needed to “exactly” the difficulties of being a very private princess/ham (ham/princess) while wedding planning! See my minor freak-out during yesterday’s post if you need further proof that I totally understand. Congrats, have a wonderful wedding!

      And congrats to the elopement grads! It looks like it felt amaaazing. I love the shoe-less picture!! While mired in my own wedding planning I’m starting to think there’s really something to embracing what the universe seems to be telling you (however hippy dippy that may sound), even if it’s *nothing* like what you thought you wanted. It seems to me like you guys did that, and with the best possible results. I’m awed. :)

  • Joselle

    As a slight tangent, any pregant bride posts forthcoming? If not, can I unofficially put a call out for some pregnant brides to submit a grad post? That’s something I’ve been dying to read on APW. Pregnant brides are as traditional (and not) as elopements!

    • meg

      I’ve never gotten a post from a bride who was pregnant. Though I’ve TOTALLY been to some rad shot-gun weddings. (Yes. You’re allowed to call them that when the bride has a sense of humor and tells you she got her wedding dress from the “D*mn, I got knocked up!” store.)

      • rosie

        and that bride should remember those adorable invites from upupcreative!!

      • Mom of “Sorpresa Jr”

        Hmm… I might have a pregnant bride post before too long actually. We can’t decide if we should just elope this weekend or wait ’til the spring when I’ll be bustin’ out. We JUST found out 5 days ago… so many choices to make. When to tell the family? City hall marriage now, church later? Vegas tomorrow? Yikes. So much for our Spring 2012 plan. One thing we’re entirely sure of, that hasn’t changed one bit, is that we are deeply deeply in love and we want to be together for ever.

      • Natalia

        I would just add that many places can waive the waiting period if needed. We eloped in NYC one day. We had already decided to get married and were already having a short 4 month engagement period when my husband found out he was loosing his insurance and we would unexpectedly have to pay for cobra in a few days, money we didn’t really have at the time. I called the HR at the place i worked and found out that i needed to add him to my plan before the 1st to have him covered for the next month. As it was already last day of the month we went to City Hall on a whim and were married that very day. It was very vegas – No white dress, no flowers, no rings and we had the traditional ceremony. There are only 2 photos and 1 of our friends was there to witness. Then had a great party a few months later where we wrote our own vows and exchanged rings. Since we were already into the planning process we decided not to tell our families that we had already had a “paper work” wedding.

    • Alexandra

      I could maybe ask a friend to write one. She got pregnant after they had already sent out the wedding invites–and they announced their pregnancy at the wedding! So she didn’t have [much of?] a bump, but there it is. Their child is four now, and I met her about two years ago, so it isn’t recent, but it is rather neat. ;)

  • Teresa

    When we were planning our wedding, I feel like we came to that point I call a “mental elopement”. You can read all the blog posts and comments in the world about how all the details don’t really matter, but you really have to reach that realization on your own.

    We basically had the same conversation, “What do you want at this wedding?” and he’d always say, “To marry you.” And I felt the same way… I just wanted to marry him.” At that moment I decided that as long as at the end of our wedding day I was married to my husband and no one got physically hurt (i.e. car accident, etc.) that our wedding would be a success. I went on planning, but I let go of much of the stress and expectations. I felt like mentally, we had eloped.

    On the actual day, so many things went right that it was a little overwhelming, in a fantastic way, partly I think because my expectations were so simplistic. When I think back to the ceremony all I can really remember is my husband, the judge, and this warm glow if love and excitement.

    Nina, your wedding was beautiful, and I wish you, your husband, and your family much happiness.

  • rosie

    nina, you are so bad *ss. we’ve had our share of soap opera family drama as well, and when things get fired up we always joke about just eloping. except sometimes we are not kidding, and you are awesome for going through with it. you are also super cute and your 3-days-before-the-wedding dress purchase is soso adorable!

  • Erin

    There are so many things to love about this, and the key word is “love.” Thank you for so clearly illustrating that whether it’s at Turtle Pond last minute spur-of-the-moment or whether you spend a million dollars on actually creating a pond with turtles (hey, if that’s your thing…), none of it matters if there isn’t love. Thank you for sharing these beautiful, honest, and inspiring moments with us all. Congratulations on the perfect wedding and for a lifetime full of love and happiness. : )

  • Kim

    Nina!!! I can’t believe you eloped!?! That’s awesome! I just met Nina at the APW Meet Up in Philly, and could totally empathize with her stress, although her situations kept getting more and more complex…venues + caterers + dresses + families = chaos.

    So proud of you, Nina, for following your gut, getting your priorities straight and taking the plunge. It’s got to take a lot of courage to do.


  • Melissa

    Ah, zit free too? Now I’m really jealous.

  • Amy

    I loved this post. I’m not engaged yet, but the BF and I talk about it often. I really like the idea of eloping. We’re already living together, and have been for a while, so the thought of asking my parents pony up for a wedding seems a little silly. There are a lot of complicated logistics involved also; since we live in Oregon and our families are back east.
    I love the intimate notion of eloping, but I’m sort of contemplating a surprise wedding also..surprise for the guests that is. basically just inviting people over for a “cocktail party”, and neglecting to tell them that this is actually our wedding:-) So we’ll see.
    Anyway congrats on such an awesome elopement…It’s very inspiring.

  • Shastyn

    When my fiance first proposed I seriously contemplated eloping. I know that some weddings turn into a circus of events and as a Senior level student in college I really DO NOT have time to be the wedding planner. My fiance really wanted the wedding and reminded me how much our families will enjoy coming together for us but sometimes I am still not convinced. Luckily we are having our special day at a place which has many package options so there is little for me to worry about on my own. I can still imagine myself eloping though. :)

  • the crazier my mother makes me during the wedding planning process, the more i want to elope! today, she’s been extra super crazy and i’m *thisclose* to buying a train ticket to elope in NYC this weekend!

    • Do it, Adria. But not out of spite. Do it because it’s right (you know, if it really is).

  • Class of 1980

    Some of the HAPPIEST couples I’ve known eloped. Sometimes it was because they just didn’t want to wait.

    Two of them are in my own family – my late grandparents and my aunt and uncle. They had/have the kind of marriages anyone would aspire to. Whenever I think about what a marriage should be, I think of them.

  • YES. YES. YES. i love this wedding too a HUGE bit ; )
    Sounds like things couldnt have been more perfect x

  • Laura

    Wow, this is a really relevant wedding graduate story for me right now. I was sitting here at work reading this, and about 3 paragraphs in, I got a big lump in my throat and had to fight back the tears, because of this: “While we were planning, whenever I was stuck, I’d ask Richie: “What do you want at this wedding?” and he’d always say, “To marry you.” And I felt the same way, but there were centerpieces to make! And menus to plan! And people to seat! The week before, though, I got it. Yes, I wanted to look beautiful and get great pictures– those things would be nice, but mostly, I just wanted to marry him.”

    I’ve been engaged for over a year now, and I just desperately want to marry my fiance! Right now! (Or yesterday!)
    BUT…I’ve been trying to make up my mind about whether to elope, just my fiance and I, or to go ahead and have a wedding with all of my family there. I love all of my family members and really want them all to be there for my wedding, but my parents don’t speak to each other, and my sister and dad don’t speak to each other, and I know that up to and during the wedding day, I would be constantly stressed out that the entire wedding would be tainted with awkwardness and hurt feelings. But, what if I choose to elope, and then end up being a sobbing mess on my wedding day because my family isn’t there to share it with me?
    It helps a little to hear that someone else did this, and it turned out to be a terrific decision. So thank you!

  • Pingback: Getting Married Justice of the Peace Style at Turtle Pond | Humanist Celebrant for Elopements & More()

  • Brian Cohen

    You make a great couple….i love your pictures and you two even more. Congrats! & Mazel Tov.


    PS: Way to go on the eloption

  • Alexandra

    Hooray, awesome! I have a friend/acquaintance who eloped a couple years ago: they’d been planning a standard wedding, but realized more and more that they really just wanted the two of them there…so they had a beach wedding with a photog & officiant. & they are totally happy with that.

    We’ve thought about it, a little, but also we’ve said that even if we ‘eloped’, we’d still have to each have one of our parents there, so. It’s looking like we may do the 50-person wedding.

  • Sarah

    Great story! I’ve known eloping was the right choice for my fiance and I for a few months now. We’ve recently set a date, and we are openly telling people about our not-so-secret plans to elope. Mainly because it’s so exciting we can’t help but talk about it, and also because I thought it would be better to give people a heads up. That way the people who would have really wanted to be there can come to terms with our decision and not have a big disappointing surprise if we announced it after the fact.

    To the happy couple: Congrats! Any chance you can provide the contact information for the officiant/photographing couple who helped you arrange your elopement?

  • emlou

    Awesome. Thank you for sharing. I need to stay focused on what matters cause I’m going thru the same thing right now.

  • Amy

    I know this is an old post, but I need to respond.

    I feel like I may have written this myself. After a year of trying to plan a wedding, we have gotten nowhere. Our photographer backed out, our venue doubled the price, and nothing we found made us satisfied with our wedding. We were at each other’s throats with unnecessary stress and tension.

    A few days ago, my fiance and I sat down together to figure out what we really want out of the wedding and if we need to push it back to get what we want. I realized that I’ve been forcing myself into DIY and planning in hopes that if we just made enough progress, I would start having fun with it. We realized it would never happen because we aren’t the kind of people to make a big fuss over. We just want to get married. I don’t want to argue with my sister about if I’m going to wear white and try to find the absolute perfect florist to give a few thousand dollars to.

    So we decided to tell people we’re still planning on getting married next September, but we’re going to actually do it in July. We’ll tell our immediate families a few weeks before so that if they want to come, they have the option. We are finally excited to get married instead of stressing over some wedding that we don’t want a part of.

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  • Erika M.

    My fiance and I have said that we want to elope. This was a great and inspiring story. I hope that my elopement turns out to be this amazing.