a very short engagement…

As we approach New Year’s Eve, Mark and I are getting ready to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary! I am reflecting on our elopement and all the emotions that went with it. I married my best friend on 12/31/2009. It truly has been a year of marital bliss. I hope the honeymoon phase never ends, but I also know that we have the foundation to get through anything life throws at us!

I’ve never had the wedding fantasy. Whether I never thought I’d find my prince charming or figured I wouldn’t be able to afford that sort of affair, I just didn’t ever dream of a big white dress and a traditional wedding. I never ogled engagement rings, knew nothing about diamonds, or ever looked twice at my friend’s wedding dresses. I’m a very low maintenance practical woman, if I don’t say so myself.

But pre-engagement talks suddenly evoked a checklist of things I felt had to be done in order to be married, or engaged for that matter. And those damn bridal magazines? F’em. I blame them most of all for my temporary lack of sanity. Thankfully I was engaged to a reasonable man who helped me keep it all in perspective. And I found A Practical Wedding blog that empowered me to do my own thing.

We didn’t want the “traditional” shin dig. We wanted to have a small private ceremony followed by a big celebration with friends and family. Again, I had no desire to walk down an aisle and be the center of attention. Its kind of odd, because I am an extremely social person who loves to play hostess and throw big parties. I just don’t like being the guest of honor, or public speaking, or all eyes on me.

We started looking at venues for the party. I looked into fun simple ceremonies that could take place in gorgeous park settings if we only had 6 people. I fantasized about a destination wedding on a beach. We were a year out in our planning so we didn’t make a lot of decisions.

Mark started grad school and we discovered that his school health insurance plan wasn’t comprehensive enough for a cancer survivor (childhood leukemia). We then found out his COBRA insurance was possibly going to triple in price in the new year. I have kick ass insurance through my job. We started discussing an elopement. I didn’t want to get married over Thanksgiving or Christmas, so we decided to take New Years Eve and make it our own (just 10 short weeks after our engagement)!

I tried to arrange for a friend that was ordained to marry us at the Conservatory amongst flowers and tropical settings in the dead of winter in Chicago. That fell through with a week to go. My then fiancé kept telling me that all that mattered was that we were going to be married.

I still wanted something pretty and special. The courthouse sounded so sterile (its in a basement…) I started getting nervous, wondering if I was doing the right thing by eloping. Would I regret this? A week before our planned elopement, a health care law was passed making the “need” to elope obsolete. We decided to do it anyways. We were too excited to wait until August by then!

I made a bird cage veil with the help of a family friend that made me “feel like a bride”. The day before the big day, I went to a flower shop and made the most beautiful, simple hand wrapped bouquet I could have ever dreamed up.

We arrived at the courthouse and waited with anticipation with a group of about 20 other couples. Everyone cheered as each couple came out of the judge’s quarters. He said the nicest things to us about the importance of marriage and loving one another. We exchanged rings and made out. It was awesome! Then we checked into a fancy hotel, drank champagne, and had a photographer friend come by for a photo shoot.

For the elopement I decided what was important were pictures to share with everyone since we had no one else present. I didn’t want people to think we did it because we had to. I wanted them to see that we really just wanted to be together. Our pictures turned out more beautiful and unique than I ever could have imagined. I’m so glad we decided to document that piece of our adventure.

We sent out text messages at midnight wishing everyone a “Happy New Year, Love Mr. & Mrs.” On Jan 2nd, which fell on a Saturday, we had a huge brunch (that lasted until 1am) for all of our local friends and made our official announcement that we were married.

And then, we started planning the reception…

Side note: We did talk to our parents over Christmas and received their blessings before we eloped. It didn’t feel right to us to not at least include them in the decision. Given that we are late 30’s/early 40’s, they graciously obliged and supported us.

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