Two weeks ago, my husband woke up one morning and asked if I wanted to head down to the courthouse and get married. We had been engaged for approximately two months, together for two and a half years, and were feeling overwhelmed. We weren’t overwhelmed by our quick decision to get married, but by the reaction to our wedding plans—our decision to get married came after a short engagement that came out of the blue (at least for me) and our parents and friends were stunned.
You see, I am born European and my husband is American. He was deployed for a year to the Middle East and upon his return, I decided to visit him and stay for a couple of weeks in LA where he is from. I never expected that harsh, year-long separation will make us think twice about saying goodbye again. So my short vacation turned into a longer holiday, short engagement and ultimately and elopement.
We are young and in love, so when he asked me to go for it, I did. We got married on a randomly available date in December with (only) his mom and dad present and never looked back. It was perfect for us.
Of course, as I had packed only for a short visit and never actually planned to stay, I had no idea how to do… anything. For example, it never occurred to me that we might want photos from our wedding day (which is funny, since I started pursuing photography seriously), but now I wish we’d had some sort of APW-like guide to help us figure out what we needed to consider. Sure, we might not have followed all of it, but it would have been nice to have.
In that spirit, here’s your guide that we never had and perhaps it will be of assistance:
It seems like when a lot of people imagine eloping, they imagine running down to city hall, finding the judge, and getting married in five minutes or less after filling out a bit of paperwork. And sure, that’s definitely one way to do it—but that’s not the only way (it’s also not even necessarily that easy since a lot of cities require waiting periods and scheduled appointments for courthouse weddings). We talked about going to the courthouse a few days before we actually did, but didn’t make concrete plans for a date. I remember being totally confused on the protocol. Would we exchange rings? Could I wear a wedding dress? Would it feel like a real wedding? The answers, for me, revealed themselves in the time leading up to the day we actually went. Obviously yes, we would exchange rings. Yes, a city hall or courthouse elopement is still a real wedding—it’s your wedding, after all. In the same way that a birth is still a real birth no matter how it happens, your wedding is your wedding. When it came to the dress, I actually just ended up buying a simple white lace dress at a random retail store that I stumbled upon by accident. I love the dress I chose, simple and elegant, I ended up accessorizing it with a custom lace sash and same color shoes that I purchased a day before at LA's infamous Santee Alley (crazy right?). Two hours before our courthouse appointment I decided I wanted flowers so we randomly stopped at a flower shop and got some wildflowers to double as a wedding bouquet. And just like that, we were set to tie the knot.
Now let us take a step back. It is fairly easy to schedule a wedding at the courthouse (which we definitely didn't expect as we didn't do any prep). To our surprise, we arrived at around 3 pm int he afternoon and by 4:15 pm we had our date. The only thing you need is a form of identification and a good will to spend the rest of your life together.
On the day of the ceremony we arrived a smudge early (2 hours) and proceeded to wait. Our marriage officiant was absolutely perfect, we wouldn't find a better one if we tried. She was a sassy, short hair, black lady with great sense of humor who made the entire process joyful and entertaining (like tying the knot wasn't enough). We said our ''I do'es'' and voila we were Mrs. & Ms.
Every state and country have its own marriage license laws, so you’ll want to find out what yours are.
Now I won't kid you — there were still hurt feelings and some anger. All the friends we didn't tell, family members, even siblings who were especially enraged, however, we decided that this is the perfect way for us (I am profoundly scared of big weddings) and in the end, it worked out perfect.
Now, having a post-elopement party seems to be fairly common as well and it is something to consider down the line. My husband's big family was particularly disappointed in the obvious lack of cocktails, delicious foods, bunting, speeches so shortly after we decided that a party might be in order. 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. A private ceremony, an intimate dinner, and a big party is the key to our family's bliss. But truthfully, when I look back and think about our wedding, I think about the private city hall ceremony and lack of stress that went with it (because we didn't have time to stress about anything).
As someone who eloped, I can honestly say that eloping was the best decision for us at the time (and probably forever). You don’t have to take my word for it—I’m just one person who has eloped! Luckily, tons of APW couples have also eloped… and they’ve made eloping look incredible: http://apracticalwedding.com/eloping/.
Additionally, you can take a look at some wonderful eloping and wedding ideas here as well (my fav): http://offbeatbride.com/tag/eloping/.