My Wife and I Eloped, but I Still Want a Big Wedding One Day

On February 7, four years after we had our first date, my partner Beth and I got married. That’s right y’all, ya girl is officially a wife!! It was a long time coming.

When we got engaged, I told her that I wanted a big, fun wedding. I have been dreaming about getting married and having a wedding since I was a little girl. While that’s not really her vibe, she loves me and is willing to go along with whatever I want. She’s divorced, and her first wedding was more the vibe that she had envisioned, so it wasn’t like she was missing out.

We weren’t in a huge rush to start planning. One day while we were out, we drove past a cute building, and I saw a banner saying that it was a wedding venue and event space. I looked them up and fell in love. It would be the perfect place for the late summer wedding I’ve always envisioned: they have an outdoor garden and a beautiful ballroom. I bookmarked it on my computer immediately. We arranged to take a tour. Even though we didn’t have a firm date in mind, I needed to see it irl to see if it lived up to the vision of it online and in my head. It was even better. I’d just started working a job with a decent salary, so we tentatively began looking at fall of 2023 for a wedding.

About six months after we went on that tour, I had to leave my job for mental health reasons. But I hadn’t yet given up on my dream of having my big gay wedding. Maybe we could still make fall 2023 work. Pretty soon, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen.

There were a lot of tearful conversations about ways we could compromise and I could still have the wedding I wanted. But none of them ever had a tangible plan. Beth didn’t want to accrue more debt for a big wedding. I knew that if we didn’t have the wedding of my dreams, I would always be a little bit sad. We continued to table the conversation, and every time we drive past our dream venue, we both sigh and say “someday.”

Fall of 2023 came and went, and we had another conversation about getting married. We’d been engaged for almost three years, and we weren’t any closer to being able to afford the big wedding. More importantly, we realized that this year is an election year. It’s a scary time to be a queer person. I began to worry that the longer we put off getting married, the option might not be available to us anymore. The thought of not being able to marry Beth because I was too hung up on the perfect wedding scared me. We had to do something. I could hear the clock ticking in the back of my mind.

Surely, there had to be something we could compromise on. We had floated the idea of eloping several times before, but it always felt like a logistical nightmare. Where would we do it? Who would be our witness? How would we make people feel better about being left out? My friends and family live on the east coast, and my parents can’t afford to fly out here. Beth’s family is local, and I couldn’t fathom the idea of getting married with her family in attendance and not mine.

One day, I looked up California marriage licenses and realized we have something here called a private license. It’s nothing special, but you don’t need a witness if you choose to get one. Jackpot.

“What if we go to the courthouse and get married? Just the two of us and J?”

If we got a private license, it could just be us and our 10-year-old son in attendance. We agreed that this felt like the right decision. This way, we didn’t have to leave anyone out — we were leaving everyone out. One night we filled out the form for the license. A week before Christmas we went to pick it up. While we were at the County Clerk’s office, they asked us if we wanted to schedule our ceremony then, so we could get it on the books. We chose February 7, paid the fees, and left knowing that in less than two months we’d be married. Our son was sworn to secrecy under the threat of me returning his Christmas presents if he told anyone.

I want to make it clear that we’re not getting married strictly under duress! It sucks that we even had to take politics into consideration when so many other couples don’t, but we still got to get married on our terms. It’s just that now, I’m not worried that we will have to rush to get married because the Supreme Court decides to do a taksie-backsie with federal marriage equality.

I never thought I would elope. I’d always seen myself in the poofy dress walking down an aisle and dancing the night away. But eloping in this particular season of life felt like the right choice. It felt right to have it be just the three of us — we as a family unit are so tight, I couldn’t imagine getting married without my son in attendance. But this way, we didn’t have to deal with anyone’s disappointment in not being included. They may feel that way, but it would be a lot easier to handle if they knew that everyone else was in the dark, too.

Since we were eloping, I knew I didn’t want to wear anything white and stereotypical. I had a terrible time trying to find something that felt special enough to get married in, but also fun enough to wear to the courthouse. Eventually, I decided that I wanted the three of us to feel the most like ourselves. I wore my hot pink tulle skirt with a black tee shirt, leather jacket and boots. Beth wore relaxed pants, a button down, sweater vest and tie with Vans. The boy wore a suit with a tee shirt and Vans before swapping his suit jacket for a bomber jacket. At first, Beth balked at the idea of me dressing so “casually” but I reminded her that I’d always wanted to get married in hot pink. A suit didn’t feel like me, and I’m so unbelievably picky when it comes to clothes. She worried that she would be too dressed up, but I think our outfits capture who we are perfectly.

We had a perfect day. After three days of rain, the clouds left and we were left with gorgeous blue skies. We chose the Beverly Hills courthouse, and they had a great (and efficient) setup. A lovely older woman with red Sally Jessy Raphael glasses named Roberta married us. Our boy recorded his moms getting married, and of course I got teary eyed. And then my mascara ran into my eye and it was stinging so bad, I had to stop the ceremony for a second! I changed the vows because I had to make it fun, and afterwards we met up with Beth’s best friend to have her take family photos of us. Then we went for lunch at my favorite diner. I got a waffle and my son got fries and a chocolate milkshake.

It feels amazing to be married and get to call Beth my wife (in my best Borat voice). Our families couldn’t have taken the news any better. I was really nervous that my parents would be mad at being left out, but they were great. My best friends were super supportive, and it was really heartwarming to hear Beth’s sister call me her sister. Not her sister-in-law, her sister.

One day, we’re still going to have the big gay wedding. I’ll get to wear the poofy white dress, Beth will put on a suit, and we’ll dance down the aisle and say the vows we right and exchange rings. We’ll legally change our last names (we’re choosing to hyphenate so that we can share a last name with my son). We’ll dance the night away and shove cake in each other’s faces and indulge in signature drinks and a make your own ice cream sundae bar. But now, the pressure is off. I don’t have to watch the months fly by on the calendar or look down at my engagement ring and wonder “when?” I can finally stop saying “fiancée” and say “wife.” No one will ask “when are you two finally getting married?”

Things didn’t go exactly according to the plan, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 115 articles for us.

11 Comments

    • thank you Carmen! for your good wishes and also for being the best editor for this piece!

      fun fact: forever and ever and ever is what i said instead of “for as long as we both shall live” =D

  1. My partner and I are planning on having a wedding anniversary party for our 5 year or 8 year anniversary, which I would love to see as a bigger tradition. An idea for what year your big wedding is?

    I think a lot of queer people find themselves in this place, of wanting to be married, but unable to afford a big party yet
    So I’d love to see it be more of a thing to throw a party for an anniversary, so there’s less pressure on the wedding itself
    And also, more times to celebrate love, the better!

  2. Hey congratulations! The pressure to do the marriage thing the “right” way is so intense so well done for finding something to fit you. As my wife and I discovered you can have any number of ceremonies over the years. We had what we consider our real wedding by a river with 2 friends 25 years ago, and since then a non legal big church wedding for everyone ( with only my two teenage sisters from my family), then years later the legal not-wedding ie a civil union cooked up by the New Zealand government ( we are New Zealanders) and finally a legal wedding when gay marriage was legalised. The last 2 were down at the Court House with 2 witnesses. The only one we celebrate is the first one, can’t actually remember the date of any of the others. I guess being queer doesn’t make life any less complicated …

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