When my husband and I had been together about two years, we bought the house we live in now. the day we moved in, he proposed to me in front of our new fireplace. We were both floating on clouds that day. I was smiling so much I felt like my face would crack, and I couldn’t stop looking at my ring.
Over the next few months, we talked about what we wanted our wedding to be like. The more we thought about it, the more the whole idea stressed us out. Neither one of us really likes to be the center of attention. We’re about as casual as two people can get, and the idea of planning for months for a party that lasts one day was very foreign to both of us. We didn’t like the idea of having all of our friends and family feeling that they were obligated to get us a gift, just because we were getting married (let’s face it, when you get a wedding invitation in the mail, you know you’re getting the couple a gift, whether you can make it to the wedding or not). And the money! In our area, an average wedding costs $31,900. This does not include the engagement ring or the honeymoon. WTF?? If a 30-year old couple invests $30,000 in the stock market, and gets a conservative return of 8%, by the time they are 60, they will have $301,880 – without investing another penny over those 30 years.
The more we thought about it, the more we knew we didn’t want to have any part in the traditional wedding industry. We had been planning a roadtrip to Telluride, Colorado for my husband’s birthday that spring, and a couple weeks before the trip, he asked me if I wanted to get married while we were there. So we rolled into Telluride with our wedding rings, a marriage license, and our camping gear. We spent the first day there looking for someone who could marry us, and found a guy we felt really comfortable with. We hiked to Bridal Veil Falls, the spot we had chosen for the ceremony, to make sure it was as good as it looked from afar – it was even better close up.
The next day, we hiked up to the falls with the wedding officiant and a local guy we had befriended who had agreed to take pictures for us. His dog also came along for the trip. So it went that J and I got married in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life, wearing our hiking boots (only practical, since there was 6 inches of snow on the path we hiked) and jeans. We were both as happy as we have ever been, and there was no stress at all. We were free to completely luxuriate in the knowledge that we were officially committing ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. No worries about anything. Afterwards, we went to the local brewery and had lunch – our idea of a great reception. We called our families from the payphone near where we were camping, to share our happy news. His parents were a bit shocked, but quickly got used to the idea that we were married. Everyone was happy for us. And our marriage is just as real as if we had spent $31,900 on it. (we actually spent $200, to pay the officiant and the guy who took pictures – we insisted that he take the money). I made a scrapbook of the week we spent in Telluride, and we both love looking at it and remembering what a great time it was. Never once have either of us regretted not having a traditional wedding.
Obviously, eloping is not for everyone. If you truly want to plan and have a big wedding, more power to you. But if it’s a source of stress instead of a joyful time, perhaps it’s worth considering other options? The purpose of a wedding is for two people who love each other to vow their committment to each other. The rest is just details. But so often, it seems that we get hung up on the details, and forget the real meaning of the wedding. There’s definitly no need to be in tears over a mixed up flower arrangement, or in debt for five years to pay for a ‘dream wedding’ that’s over in a few hours. A wedding is a great opportunity to consider what’s really important in each of our lives, and make that a priority. The wedding industry would love to have us believe that a wedding is only perfect if we spend $31,000 on it. But J and I know otherwise, and I suspect that anyone else who has ever shunned tradition and gotten married their own way would agree with us.