The more I write about lesbian wedding planning for this column, the more I realize that there’s no way I can cover every relevant topic when it comes to getting gay married. When my friend and former Autostraddle writer Kristen shared with me that she and her wife had chosen to elope, I knew that she’d be able to talk about this particular wedding planning choice better in first person than I’d ever be able to. I asked if she would write an essay about it for Blush and Bashful, and delightfully, she said yes! So below is Kristen’s reflection on why she and her wife decided to elope, what that meant to them, and how you can consider if eloping is the right choice for you. — Vanessa
When we got engaged, I hadn’t planned on eloping. We agreed that a courthouse wedding was on the table, but then daydreaming got fun. I initially did the full fantasizing/Pinterest thing and had lovely ideas about vineyards in France, taprooms in Montreal or a cute farm in rural Ontario. Maybe we could have a midnight grilled cheese cart! But since we were looking at venues that didn’t typically host weddings, the rejections started piling up, my anxiety increased, and settling on a traditional wedding seemed like an inevitability.
One day after a particularly sleepless period, my wife arranged a date night at a sake bar. Underneath an artificial sakura tree, she proposed in a much more meaningful way. “Let’s first be clear… I do want to get married. But I’ve seen how stressed you’ve been. Would you want to elope instead of throwing a wedding? Or we can have a wedding too! Whatever you think you need.” And holy shit I said yes.
For a bit of background, I worked in the wedding industry during uni and must have attended twenty weddings in my twenties. There were always lovely touches and charming ideas, but I never connected with a wedding and thought, “this is exactly what I want.” Having been at the periphery of so many nuptials, I realized that no matter how much you bend over backwards, there’ll always be one guest that vents their disappointment to the couple, which is pretty deflating.
When you elope it’s fantastically freeing to only focus on yourselves. You know that you’ve already disappointed people, so you don’t have to dance around, pretending to meet people’s expectations! You can question whether you actually like something, or whether it’s just an unquestioned tradition. Don’t care about linens? Find being given away creepy? Hate pre-wedding rituals? Indifferent towards center pieces? Couldn’t give a flying fuck about invitation paperweight? Then don’t!
We got to have a bunch of gleeful conversations, asking each other what mattered to us on our wedding day. We wanted to elope during a larger vacation. We wanted to find a private location where we could forget the outside world for a long weekend. We wanted to self cater, as cooking is what had brought us together. We agreed we should invest in a suit my wife could wear for years rather than a dress I’d only wear once. I was adamant that we find a photographer that could capture everything so I could remember that day when I was old and senile. And of course, we wanted to self finance, but I didn’t want to blow through our savings. Luckily eloping is a lot cheaper than a 200 person wedding!
We ended up planning a road trip around New Zealand in the shoulder season. We looked up glamping spots and managed to book idyllic tree huts nestled on a hill in a town outside of Auckland. We found a commercial photographer whose eye mimicked a style we adored. We found a florist that was passionate about growing her own blooms and was game to source edible botanicals. We learned about a performer that toured her Jane Austen musical throughout Fringe fests, that happened to be a celebrant. She in turn arranged our witnesses: a charming lesbian couple (and their dog) that were curious why two Canadians would travel to the other side of the world to get married, and happened to be free on a work day. (Coincidentally we were invited to their anniversary where we got to hear from a generation of queers that forged their own path when marriage excluded them. Yet they still celebrated us!)
So discuss the plan As, plan Bs, and plan Cs, making sure that you’re both in agreement when you might have to switch your planning approach. The marriage is what counts, so confirm that the wedding planning is building that foundation, not eroding it. Getting to place my wife’s happiness over societal expectation was a true gift. That honesty put us on stronger footing than a midnight grilled cheese cart ever could have — although, to be fair, I still think that would’ve been an excellent idea.
Blush and Bashful is a biweekly queer wedding planning column.