You often hear people say that their wedding day was just so stressful or expensive, they wish they’d eloped.
For many, it might be a flippant thing they say, but for others, I’m sure they genuinely feel that way.
My husband and I eloped, and I have never regretted the decision.
Wedding planning was a WTF experience…
First of all, for me, I never had an idea in my head about what I wanted my wedding day to look like, so I had no hopes and dreams to let go of in eloping. I never sat around fantasising about my wedding day since I was a little girl – I just didn’t get that gene.
When I became engaged, I didn’t immediately jump into wedding planning mode with enthusiasm. I just sat around a bit baffled thinking, “We have to have what?”
To make matters worse, I was working at a magazine publishing company at the time, and one of the titles we published was a bridal magazine. The ladies who worked on that magazine were all lovely and excited for me, imparting all their wedding-related wisdom and offering to help me plan things…but it just did my head in more and more.
The thought of 100 pairs of eyes on me walking down an aisle made me want to dry-heave. I don’t like people looking at me. I really didn’t want to be the centre of attention for a day. I was filled with dread thinking about having to do that.
We started visiting venues, getting initial quotes and ideas for how much it was all going to cost. My inner tight arse was not coping at all. We had bought a house together just a few months before getting engaged, and the cost of the reception alone at most of the venues we were looking at would have paid for substantial renovations to the house or taken a big chunk off the mortgage.
One of the best weddings my husband and I ever attended as guests was one where friends of ours hired a marquee and got catering in, getting married at the bride’s brother’s property. I thought maybe we could do something like that and sent off for some quotes. I nearly choked when the first quote came back at $21,000 (in 2004 money!) for a marquee/chair and table hire and catering (including catering staff).
I was about to go back to the drawing board when I discovered I was pregnant with our eldest daughter. All the ladies on the bridal magazine assured me I should keep planning the wedding and they knew a place with wonderful range of maternity wedding dresses and…
I decided to shelve the wedding planning plans until after the baby was born and immediately felt relief. When she was about seven months old, I decided we’d better get back to it and decided to get back to planning again…only to find out I was pregnant again.
Wedding planning shelved for a second time….
When your family is a basket case
So there we were, two little girls and a mortgage and we wanted to be married, but the truth is that money really could be spent better elsewhere. On our kids. On our house. I could not get past this. It all seemed ridiculous.
“We’ll just have a small wedding then!” my husband said. I would have loved that… in an ideal world.
Except that I could not trust my own parents, who had divorced only a few years before, to be civil, even for my sake, on the day.
They hadn’t been in the same room as each other since the divorce and they were both very, very angry with one another still.
I couldn’t have a phone conversation with either parent for many years without them hanging shit on each other and trying to make me feel bad for having anything to do with the other parent whatsoever. So having them together on my wedding day left me feeling sick even thinking about it. If we had 100 guests, I could keep them apart more easily. 10-20 guests? Not a chance.
And even if I could manage to get my parents to be reasonable human beings on the day, the wild card was my grandmother (my dad’s mum) who I have no doubt would just seize the opportunity to let rip at my mother.
The more I thought about it, the more it ate me up.
So our wedding plans remained in the “too hard basket” because no matter what way we sliced and diced it, it just wasn’t thrilling either of us with joy.
Getting some clarity
On New Year’s Day 2008, we woke up and talked about the year ahead. Did we have any resolutions? We decided that, no matter what, we should get married that year. We wanted to be married. We didn’t care about the actual wedding. We were totally on the same page with this.
“Let’s elope then,” I said.
“That’s a great idea!” he said.
And so I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted. We set about planning to go away together, later in the year, so we could finally just do it. We saw it as a holiday where, on one day, we’d dress up, get married, have an expensive meal and lots of fancy cocktails. And that’s pretty much exactly what we did.
We decided on a city that we had never been to before. I got a hair and makeup artist to come in to the hotel we were staying at on the day. We hired a photographer so we would have traditional wedding photos. But apart from that, the rest of it was unconventional… and it was the best day ever.
We told our parents beforehand so it wasn’t going to be a huge shock. We did cop a little bit of blowback in the form of a guilt trip from his side. That was nothing compared to spending $$$ and then having my family act like dickheads and giving us a shitty day we’d be sad about forever.
People who say they regret not eloping often say that because their days were marred by the sorts of family dramas and poor behaviour I was terrified of experiencing. Not everyone is capable of being a decent, rational, mature person, and that’s just a sad reality of life.
Those who have “normal” families often cannot understand this, and for many people, the thought of getting married without their nearest and dearest there to share the day with them is just not even comprehensible.
Other times, people who wish they’d eloped say so because they realise they spent so much money on something without a great deal to show for it.
Eloping isn’t for everyone, but it was absolutely ideal for us.
If I had my time over again, I would still elope. My only regret is I wish we’d done it sooner.