The first wedding we planned was small—I was set on that fact from the very beginning. Like many late 20-, early 30-somethings, I had attended my fair share of weddings in the years prior. But rather than fill me with daydreams of what my own special day would look like, they instead firmly planted a single idea in my mind: that if and when I got married, the only requirement was that I didn’t want to be stressed out about it.
I had already carried the stress at some weddings I’d attended: running around at the last minute to make sure every tea light was lit, and organizing a last-minute run to a nearby gas station to pick up a couple of much-needed bottle openers. As a bridesmaid, I’d also witnessed the even more terrifying stress radiating from the bride firsthand. All of this to say, when my longtime boyfriend, Derek, proposed to me in Paris after a picnic comprised almost entirely of cheese, my first thought was “I want a stress-free wedding—but how do we get there?”
Back at home (and riding the engagement high), I started to plan the first iteration of our wedding, a small ceremony on a hillside in the Hudson Valley, where we met. But it didn’t take long before I was met with the same problem as many who dreamed of a “just right” wedding: It’s really hard to have a small wedding. Our initial plan was to have about 20 people, some close family and a handful of friends. But it’s hard to leave anyone out, even when they’re understanding of it all. For example, I have three older brothers, all of whom have significant others, plus kids. The realization that I may have to pick and choose between them hit me hard, and brought one planning session to a screeching halt. 20 seemed like it was going to become 30 or 40, which meant altering everything we’d already decided on, and I felt like I was back at the starting line.
Video by Mark Weinberg and Dave Katz
But square one isn’t a horrible place to be if it ultimately helps you find the solution. I can’t remember which one of us suggested eloping first. But after that first discussion, I felt the weight lift off my shoulders, which is how I knew it was absolutely the right decision. Then, I sort of wondered what had taken me so long. I had wanted something simple, inexpensive, and low-stress, yet the obvious solution was to cut everything else out of the process, and make it just about us.
So we planned our elopement, and it was so easy. Each detail we sorted out helped another element fall perfectly into place. Because our wedding date was just after the New Year, we decided to skip a destination and stay close to home. We also decided that since no one would be attending our wedding, we wanted to document the day a little more fully so that our family and friends could still be a part of it.
On the morning of, I woke up after a perfectly sound night of sleep, made myself a cup of coffee, and started my hair and makeup. Derek rolled out of bed a little while later, and shortly after, our friends, photographer Mark Weinberg and videographer Dave Katz, were at the door. To have close friends be the folks behind the lenses of our big day was a serious plus—it made us more comfortable,like we could really just go on with the day and truly enjoy it (and they were just along for the ride).
It takes at least one strong cup of coffee for Derek to become a functioning human in the mornings, and after he finished his first, we started making breakfast together. For me, this was one of the highlights of the whole day. Our friendship had begun years before, largely surrounding a shared interest in food and cooking, and when we started to date, it was such a huge part of our life together (and still is). He kept our knives sharp and taught me precision cuts, and I helped him get over his fear of all things baking. Many chapters of our romance contain food memories.
Our first year together, he taught me to make kimchi, and we gingerly tended it as it fermented for weeks. By the next year, I had taught him how to bake pies, bagels, and biscuits. On our third anniversary, he recounted a story about the first meal I ever cooked for him—it was so beautiful that it actually made me weak in the knees. Someone was always in our kitchen, whipping up everything from weekend brunches to late-night snacks to 10-course dinners for two. I’m cooking for him, he’s cooking for me, or we’re cooking together. So it felt really right—normal, even—to cook together on our wedding day.
I started to make a batch of buttermilk biscuits, while Derek sautéed onions and browned sausage for gravy. Our dog Brimley smelled the sausage and nestled himself near the stove in hopes of an eventual fallen taste. We moved in sync, weaving in and out of the corners and workspaces, completing two separate tasks on our way to making one breakfast. It didn’t take long to come together—maybe 20 minutes—but it felt so wonderful to slow down and do this familiar, comfortable activity on what was such a special day.
There were dozens of other perfect moments: when our number was called at the marriage bureau, the precise moment he said “I do,” sharing ice cream in Washington Square Park, the musicians who played for us, and the strangers who cheered for us as we walked down the sidewalk.
But there was no moment more perfect than our breakfast together. We sat in comfy chairs in front of our fireplace wearing regular clothes, eating piping hot food we’d made ourselves. It could have been any other day of our lives up to that point—and that’s really what was so special about it. This day wasn’t the day, or the only day. It was just a day. A day when we got to celebrate spending our lives together, part of a journey that had already resulted in five beautiful years.
We held hands and jumped into the next chapter. There was no stress—just biscuits and gravy.