My now-husband and I struggled through about a month of wedding pre-planning before we decided to elope. We hadn’t even made any major decisions and were already feeling weighed down by obligation and doubt. (For example, we live far away from both of our immediate families, so even picking a state to get married in was proving difficult.)
Finally, one evening we took a step back and agreed that the most important thing to both of us was simply being married to each other at the end of the day. I mean, duh—that sounds so obvious, but it’s easy to forget when you’re surrounded by the overblown possibilities and expectations created by the wedding industry.
Something awesome happened once we decided to elope: It made literally every other decision easier and more fun.
We were no longer bound by expectation (perceived or real), obligation, or tradition. We did us. We decided to spend a week in Asheville, North Carolina, get married at some wild, quiet spot in the mountains, and spend the rest of our time eating and drinking our way around town. It turns out our dream wedding looked a lot like our dream vacation: chill, surrounded by nature, well-designed, drinky.
Here are some “wedding rules” we broke, that ended up making our wedding perfect for us:
We didn’t know where we would be getting married until we got there.
Upon arriving in Asheville, we hiked a few of our favorite spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and decided on the spot for the ceremony (Looking Glass Falls) less than forty-eight hours before it happened.
We got married on a Monday morning.
Since our location is a pretty popular spot for tourists, we got married on a weekday morning to cut down on the chances of anyone else being there (and to keep the rest of our week open for celebrating).
I didn’t wear white, or even off-white—or even shoes.
Once I knew we’d be getting married in the mountains, I went full “goth forest goddess,” and ended up in a simple dark green dress, with dark nails, and flowers and herbs in my hair. I never found a pair of shoes I really loved, so I just wore some nude flats until we got to the waterfall—then went barefoot.
We didn’t have a cake.
French Broad Chocolates alone are reason enough to visit Asheville. We got a huge box of assorted truffles in lieu of a cake. I loved being able to graze on them all day. I see their chocolates around Durham sometimes now, and will buy a small box to celebrate other milestones, or just because. So much better than a freezer-burnt slice of wedding cake.
We took a mid-ceremony break.
This one was unplanned, but the fact that we had no guests or timeline to worry about made it a non-issue and a great story. We asked my best friend (and boss!) to officiate the wedding, her husband was the Best Man, and their three-month-old son was my Man of Honor.
I kept crying so much during my vows that the baby started crying too—so we took a 15-minute break from the ceremony so the officiant/mom could feed him (and I could calm down). We actually ended up taking a lot of our portraits then too, and I love knowing that they were taken during this impromptu, unconventional downtime.
I think it was so easy to break with tradition, with these “rules,” because we created a few rules for ourselves first. We figured out what was important, and stayed focused on that. Our two big-ticket items were lodging and photography: We rented a cool mid-century modern Airbnb house for the week, because it was located close to all our favorite Asheville haunts, and felt like a home-away-from-home.
And since it was still important to us that our families and friends felt like part of our day (even if it was after the fact), we hired our favorite local photographers to document everything and had beautiful photo books created for our parents.
We also bought a fun instant camera, and took photos of ourselves throughout the day to include in our announcements, which we had designed and printed before the fact. We mailed them out the day after the ceremony, so throughout the week all of our friends and family (who were all shocked but totally supportive... I don’t think anyone was that surprised) started calling us from all over the country with congratulations and well-wishes.
Everything else fell into place—we didn’t overthink it. We went to Whole Foods the evening before and bought a bunch of flowers to make my crown and my husband’s boutonniere, and filled vases around our rental house with all the leftovers.
I did my own makeup while sipping coffee that morning. We had written our vows without the natural self-censorship that would’ve come from knowing we had to “perform” them in front of an audience. We bought a great bottle of wine to toast afterwards, and made dinner reservations at an amazing restaurant for just the two of us. That was the extent of our wedding planning.
Our two-year anniversary just passed, and I still love telling people about our elopement. It surprises me how often someone will respond with a wide-eyed whisper, “I wish we had eloped.” Of course, eloping isn’t the only way to go. There are as many ways to celebrate a marriage as there are couples getting married.
And I think that’s what we forgot for a moment—that a wedding can be whatever you want it to be. That if it works for the two of you, then it works. That you’re two grown-ass adults who can decide to invite everyone, or no one; that you can throw the biggest party this world has ever seen—or run off to the courthouse in secret, then go get doughnuts.
That your wedding can be as simple or extravagant or refined or conceptual or traditional or silly as you want it to be—because no matter how you celebrate, you’ll still be married afterwards. If you can remember that, then everything else is cake. Or chocolates.
Would you ever consider eloping? Tell us in the comments.