So you think you wanna elope
About two years ago, I, Mr. Huff and four friends traveled to our favorite home-away-from-home city. We asked them to join us for a long weekend in New Orleans so that on Saturday we could stand between a cannon and a huge Catholic church, hold hands, and share some very traditional vows with each other. Neither one of us had our family with us. Neither one of our family’s knew we were doing this beforehand. After our 10-minute-long ceremony we took some pictures, looked at art outside Jackson Square, squinted against the bright sun, laughed, and joked and smiled and we felt so very loved in that moment.
I had huge reservations about getting married and marriage, and weddings and despite the fact that I’ve written about some of it here and talked about it with some of you individually, I wasn’t comfortable having conversations about my dislike with people who didn’t agree with me. I didn’t, and don’t, see the need to convince people who have bought the romantic, white-laced conventions of American weddings, that weddings are actually ridiculous affairs that are a huge waste of money. Most because, its such a personal decision that I wouldn’t want to take the joy away from those white-laced conventions for people who truly want them. I have no problem with their interests and desires as they relate to them. Just as they relate to me.
Our ceremony was short and sweet, but the aftermath of our wedding was very long, over-wrought, and bitter on the family front. I won’t point fingers or criticize those people here. It happened and I did my best to be understanding of their pain while not indulging in resentment for too long. Once I realized what I was doing, I did my best to stop. And it wasn’t easy. And I honestly, may not still be in the resentment-free camp. But the aftermath didn’t taint the joy I felt in that moment where I held Andrew’s hands in my hands and I looked him deeply in the eye and realized that I had made him far happier by being there with him than I had ever understood I could. The love that caught in his chest when he breathed deeply, and the sound that he made just before he said “I do” will keep me warm during any cold marital periods we have for our lifetime.
So all of this is written here to serve one purpose. You should elope. Every single one of you who has a person they love and who they want to spend the rest of their life and they want legal and financial rights that one gains by getting married should elope. Every one of you who wants those things but doesn’t want the ceremony, the conventions, the pressure, the decisions, the drama, the details should elope. But, you should only elope if . . .
- you’re okay not having your family and/or friends with you when you share those vows. It’s likely that you may not understand how you’ll feel at the moment you say I do. But I know I was delighted that there weren’t dozens or hundreds of people watching me to provide any distraction from looking Andrew in the eye. I honestly don’t remember where our guests were standing. I only remember Andrew and the minister, and I barely remember him. That’s what I wanted. Will the absence of people in your pictures matter to you after the fact? If so, then keep thinking about what you want more.
- the fallout from your loved ones will not be greater than the joy you expressed when you got married. There will be fallout. There will be at the very least “But we really wanted to go to your wedding.” And there may even be the “How could you do this to me?” Unless your family and friends are all incredibly loving, generous, well-adjusted, and have no expectations of your actions including them, just understand that there will be hurt feelings. You’ll have to be understanding of that. After all, you did just participate in a huge life-changing* event and you excluded them. Do I buy the “weddings are really for the family, not the couple”? No way, man. But there are a lot of people who do feel this way and you should be prepared for that.
- the absence of ceremony is truly okay with you. Sure you can hire a stranger to perform the ceremony and make it as big or as small as you want it to be. But if your religious leader is who you really want to perform the ceremony, then you may have some extra finagling to do to get what you want. And if you’re not sure, keep thinking about it. Seriously, if you’re going to be married forever what’s a few more months of thinking and talking so you can work through any lingering doubts?
- You’re willing to answer a lot of perplexing questions from people. Actually, you’re going to get perplexing and inappropriate questions from people no matter when you get married, but especially after an elopment. My favorite was “Did you feel the absence of god at your wedding?” My response? “God is in the details.” (Seriously folks, if you’re going to ask prying questions that are judgmental, expect obtuse responses. If you’re lucky.) The thought of all the decisions we would have to defend so we could have a wedding that didn’t contain any of the aspects of a wedding that I personally despise (which would have made it about 10 minutes long) made me consider hiring a psychiatrist. But, I didn’t get off scot-free on the question front once I got back. From people who were far more loving and far less clueless, I got “Would it really have been that big of a deal to have something? You know for the family?”, “How about you guys just say your vows again so we can hear it?”, “What’s really wrong with weddings?” But, for me, since these questions came after the fact I felt stronger even though I still didn’t feel the need to defend my answers.
- you’re prepared to have someone you love, someone you care about, someone who means a lot to you surprise the hell out of you by saying “Well, its not like you had a real wedding.” There are people (and I didn’t really grasp this until after the fact) who see the ceremony as the “real” part of the wedding, not the legal, financial responsibilities and rights you gain by signing a piece of paper. Marriage is a legal and financial commitment far more than an emotional one. One doesn’t need to get married in front of anyone else to make an emotional commitment. One does need to sign a piece of paper to get to visit your loved one in the ICU however.
Eloping worked for Andrew and I and I know several other people now who have made that decision. We have no regrets about eloping. The location, the people present, the words we shared were what we wanted. But while we don’t regret those things, it sure would have been nice to not have the lingering after effects hound us for what seemed like a year, at least.
So while I don’t wish to change anything about what we did for the wedding, I do wish we’d warned people that it was something we were considering. At least I think so. Because I can’t see the what-ifs, I can’t know if telling our family and friends ahead of time would have spared some of the hurt feelings directed at us. It may have, it may have made it worse when we did elope. Or it may have made it better. And that’s the decision that I can’t even begin to offer advice on. It’s such a personal choice and reactions are so different and only you can know what is likely to happen and what you’re willing to work through with the people you love. Just like with weddings in general.
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