Lessons From A Bride

Elopement, A Real Wedding Option

Elope. This is the nuptial norm for most military couples, but what are elopements really like?  I’m breaking it down for all my traditional wedding people, who think eloping is a dirty word.  Elopements can actually range from a humble and sudden exchange of vows to a luxury experience.  Feeling a little spontaneous?  Let’s elope!

The original definition of an elopement is simply a no notice or secretive marriage that takes place with just the couple.  Many associate it with running off to Las Vegas or Mexico with the one you love with the intent of coming back with shared last names.  Today, some of the original framework still holds true, but additional guests or local elopements are becoming more common.  Generally speaking an elopement is planned under 90 days and has 5 guests or fewer.  Micro Weddings are equally as popular with military and civilian couples as it involves an intimate guest list of under 30 people.  Anything over that, you are just having a wedding.  I’ll break those down in a future post.

Focused On The Marriage Not The Wedding

The element that I love most about an elopement is the focus on the marriage as opposed to the other details which can be a bit of a distraction.  You aren’t worrying about appeasing family, friends or living up to any particular expectation.  The focus is put on the couple.  Their wants and wishes.  They hone in and make the day they choose to say “I do” special. 

Believe it or not, my husband and I eloped.  Yup!  I was head over heels for this promising Air Force pilot.  We knew it was serious by the second date when we were talking about credit scores and future plans.  We just knew.  Things moved fast, which is common in relationships with military members.  We took a hard look at finances and our future plans as we found out we were expecting.  Little did I know my husband to be would propose in December on Christmas day.  When asked about a wedding date we completely dismissed the idea as we figured we would wait until after the baby and settling in at whatever new base we would be assigned to.  Then we’d have a “real wedding”. 

By February I started thinking, “I really would like to be married by the time my son arrives.”  My husband said, “Okay, pick a day.”  I figured we could do it when all of our family was in town to visit for his UPT graduation, but my soon to be husband reminded me that if we are eloping we didn’t need everyone there as the mission was simply to get married.  He was right!  That weekend would have been focused on thirty other things besides the true focus, us.  Two weeks later I purchased a dress that fit my belly, had it hymned (because I’m short), made a bouquet with broaches and pink silk hydrangeas and made a bird cage head piece out of tulle and two bobby pins.  My husband wore his service dress uniform.  Our local church pastor married us since we had completed marriage counselling with him, which is uncommon for most elopements.  After the nuptials we went to our favorite Mexican Restaurant for dinner and some friends joined us.  One even made us a little cake!  This was a “real wedding” and it was perfect.  I remember thinking to myself, “I’d live in a cardboard box as long as it was with you.”  It showed and the few that witnessed could see it.  

Intimate & Personal Experience

There was something magical in those moments when all that mattered was just the two of us.  We later endured the wedding runaround as we wanted a celebration for our family and friends to be a part of.  My dad wanted to walk me down the aisle, for example.  Ultimately, I think we were less stressed over it because we had had our intimate experience via the elopement.  We said several times throughout planning that we wanted our guests to have a great time so the burden of the occasion was lifted.

The intimacy of an elopement is unmatched.  If you choose a Vegas adventure or a backdrop in the great outdoors, the couple has the opportunity to express themselves through their selection without the task of coordinating access for several people.  Think about it.  You can elope in a tropical cave under a waterfall, on the cliff of a national landmark or in any other place for that matter.  Sky’s the limit.  Many assume elopements mean a cheaper option, however that isn’t always the case.  The investment on the experience and details go directly to the couple’s enjoyment.  If they want to each enjoy a five star meal, exclusive photo shoot, personal fireworks show or anything else, they can do so.  You have the unique opportunity to create a once in a lifetime experience for just the two of you and the few you may ask to bear witness.

The must haves!

There are a few things I would definitely recommend when choosing to elope. 

·         Wedding Planner

·         Photographer

·         Videographer

·         Marriage Announcement

·         Wedding Video

·         “After Party”

You absolutely have to capture these moments so a photographer is a non-negotiable to me.  Having quality photos is one thing I promises you will not regret.  You can used them when sending your wedding announcement, which is another must do.  People should be informed of your new chapter and it’s nothing to hide or down play.  Eloping is a momentous occasion because it’s all about the marriage.  A videographer is a close second.  You will want to share the footage with those who weren’t there as well as reflect back on it for years to come.  Of course I’m going to tell you to get a planner.  I know, I know… I’m required to say that, but seriously!  A planner knows your location, has relationships with venues and knows policies or restrictions that may be vital to pulling things off with a short timeline.  I list this first as the planner can match you with an amazing photographer and videographer that fits your style.  Last, but not least you should have an amazing “after party”.

An after party can mean a lot of different things to different people.  It could be a honeymoon.  A romantic getaway or staycation that keeps with the idea of the focus being on the couple.  It could be an actual party.  Celebrate with friends and loved ones.  Big or small, whatever fits your taste.  Go to dinner after or do something exciting like bungee jumping or a tour of the local attractions where you eloped.  Either way, ensure that you celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!

Why This Planner Wishes She Had a Planner

It’s my big day! I said “Yes” and now I can throw all my creative juices and energy into planning and designing the exact wedding I want.  I know who to call on to execute the vision, and I don’t need a planner… right? 

Wedding design and planning had always been a passion of mine.  I mean, I loved scrolling through Pinterest and pinning inspiration on my board.  I loved the logistics of moving parts and timelines and critical path resolution, you know the nerdy stuff.  I come from a creative circle, so I was excited to solicit products and services to support friends and family businesses.  It was a no brainer.  I totally had it all under control.  This is the attitude of most DIY brides and trust me I wore it proudly.  My husband went along for the ride figuring that going “planner-less” would save money, so he just added his input on the things he cared about, and I took care of the rest.  We made it 12 months, 6 months, 1 week and then the wedding weekend was here.  Family came in from across the country, college friends met our local friends, and we kicked of a magical weekend filled with love and appreciation for those that supported us.  Done!

About a month later we met with the wedding photographer to check out all the beautiful moments that were captured from our wedding day.  As we clicked through our gallery I just couldn’t help myself.  It’s like the more I clicked the more my eyes were opened.  I noticed everything.  I mean EVERYTHING!  I missed so much.  “When did they take that picture?”  “Who put that there?”  “Where did that go?” I noticed everything that did not go as planned.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved each photo and every memory captured, but in looking back I realized that a lot of things just didn’t get done.

My favorite examples to set the scene would probably be the groomsmen’s tuxedos.  My husband chose a mix of friends that were military and non-military to be by his side.  We wanted them all to have the same type of look, so the Airmen were asked to wear their blue mess dress (formal military uniform) and the search began to find a place to rent or purchase blue tuxedos.  The navy tux had just hit the market and we selected the only vendor in town that carried this option.  Perfect! We get to support local business and keep with our style concept.  Groomsmen sent in their measurements, paid deposits and were good to go.  Well, because we were so ahead of the trend about two weeks from the wedding we get a call from the vendor saying that our specific pick of tuxedo, that new navy color, wouldn’t be available until a month after our wedding day.  Furious is an understatement of how I was feeling!  The vendor discounted the rentals greatly and offered a grey or black option.  We went with grey given the color palate we had and there they were.  Those grey tuxedos glaring back at me in every groomsmen picture.  Did it look bad? No! Was it what we wanted?  No! 

A wedding planner is an advocate for the couple.  He or she maintains a level head, can think through sourcing options, and then discuss ways to resolve the situation with vendors.  With a planner we could have looked into options of finding a new vendor.  The internet is a great resource and although outside the buy local plan, was still a viable alternative.  Refunds could have been negotiated due to inability to provide the agreed upon goods or service, but most of all, not having to deal with the headache and stress that comes with having to change one of the main things we wanted for our wedding.  Having an advocate on your side along the way can make things run much smoother and more efficiently.

The day of a wedding is always hectic.  A “day of coordinator” would have helped a little, but month of services for sure is the way to go if you choose to handle all your details.  A planner ends up being your quality control (QC).  Combing through your details to ensure it is how you would want it to be is crucial.  I missed out on having that QC.  Our planner would have caught those cake boxes that were in the chair and left out while the photographer took pictures of the room.  He or she would have asked the caterer to change out that red plate the cheesecake was served on, which not in our color palate.  I even believe the planner would have enhanced our travel theme as they would have noticed the lack of luggage that was left at our home that was supposed to make up our baggage/gift check area.  Don’t get me wrong, our family and friends pulled together to help out and we had an amazing time, but they couldn’t have known what details to check for and things to look out for.  QC is huge at any event especially a wedding.

I know I seem like a bias source, but let me be frank for a second.  The amount of money we “saved” is not worth the time I could have spent with my grandparents that traveled from New Jersey, the conversations I missed having with my friends from Texas or going down memory lane with my sorority sisters.  I was running around doing it all, so I missed that.  All I’m saying is you shouldn’t have to.  I think about how much more I could have enjoyed our wedding day if we were just all relaxing and allowing a team to run the show.  Those are moments we really can’t recreate and if I could have done it differently I would definitely choose a planner. 

Investing in professionals who have your best interest at heart is what it’s all about.  Planners relieve stress and free up your time.  My planner would have kept me from buying things I didn’t really need, been my advocate and quality control specialist.  They would have kept every vendor focused and in line with our design and timeline so that the only thing I thought of while looking through those pictures are how much fun we had.  Everyone has to weigh the benefits for themselves, but take it from this planner who needed a planner… WORTH IT!