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Eloping: Our wedding, our way

Eloping seems like such a romantic idea. Run away to an exotic place or location, or just city hall, and get married without all the ceremony.
We wanted simple. My fiancé and I had been together all through the time I was in graduate school in Italy and he was living and working in his home country of England. We were engaged in Paris under the Eiffel Tower. We traveled constantly and when it came time for us to actually plan our special day, I didn’t want to plan. I wanted us to run away alone to the marriage bureau in New York City (an idea not inspired by a plot of a certain chick-flick, I promise). I would wear something fun and cool in lieu of the traditional dress, and I wanted to grab a burger afterwards with my new husband and call it a day.
What we ended up with was much different because we then decided to invite our parents. My mother heard about this plan and wanted to be there, and upon reflection my fiancé wanted his parents to be there as well. So it now became my parents and their spouses, my fiancé’s parents, and us. Then, the floodgates opened.
Ultimately, we had five of my fiancé’s friends from England fly over, my siblings and their significant others, and my sister’s three children, one of which was a newborn. Our elopement was turning into something else altogether. With so many guests wanting to come to our untraditional nuptials, more traditions started to become necessities.
We decided that moving the location to Central Park instead of City Hall made more sense to accommodate this influx of guests. We decided to create something approaching a wedding party, my husband’s Best Man was his childhood friend from London, and my best friend flew in from Los Angeles to be my Maid of Honor.
I, the anti-planner, also discovered why people do plan so far in advance for these events: because things will go wrong. My expensive hairstyle with curls completely fell limp just an hour before the wedding. The restaurant where we got our burgers after the ceremony wouldn’t split our check and caused me to panic, and my “untraditional” dress was ruined by a seamstress one week before we were due to get married, and I was left scrambling to find a dress. I found myself wandering a very large, traditional wedding dress retailer and bought a traditional, strapless, satin dress off the rack, and I bought a cathedral-length veil to match. If I had to go traditional, I was going to be over-the-top as well.
I realized “eloping” for us really meant that we wanted to do our wedding in our way. We took the opportunity to be critical about what made it feel special for us, and what didn’t. We may have succumbed to some traditions but we didn’t blow our budget. Our sizable wedding party did all go out for burgers after our wedding in the park. I didn’t have any flowers, and my fiancé saw my new dress before we got married. We found a gem of an officiant and she instantly calmed me down and included a John Lennon line in our ceremony. These are just things that seemed like us.
Eloping in Vermont is interesting because there is no waiting period to get a marriage license in the Green Mountain State, much like Las Vegas (clearly the only thing Vegas and Vermont have in common). And Vermont is a beautiful place to have a destination wedding, which we already know, but what about a destination elopement? At least one common wedding destination in our area is already hip to the idea. Basin Harbor Club in Ferrisburgh has an elopement package often taken advantage of by those couples coming from all over the country to elope here in our beautiful state, as well as by locals. And although they do offer packages for couples running away together to get married, according to Basin Harbor wedding coordinator Anne Henderson, “70 percent of eloping couples have guests come with them, usually up to 20.” Anne said that couples usually get their marriage license at a local town clerk’s office the day before, and have no waiting period. For those anti-planners like myself, they have a package that covers whatever you could want plus a meal and a hotel room, but it’s customizable.
In the end, our wedding felt very “us” — filled with jokes and laughter, and some of the most important people to us, coming together from everywhere to form a new little family. At the end of it all, planning mistakes aside, the day ended with my new husband, Tom, and I eating Chinese food from the local market at 3 a.m. on the terrace of our hotel. Still spontaneous and romantic, but with some traditional wedding elements that worked for us.

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