We’re celebrating our first anniversary this week! One year after becoming a Mrs., I’m finally ready to share a few things about our ‘wedding’. What was so special about our ‘wedding’ you might ask? Well, we had exactly 0 guests. Yes, no witnesses, no fuss and low stress.
The History Timeline
8 years ago to the date, we officially became ‘a couple’ after only three dates. We dated exclusively for a year and a half before moving in together in 2013 and testing the waters so to speak. The promise ring came just a few months after that. He proposed in San Francisco (organized in secret, with my manager as a ‘work trip’) in summer 2016, and he even organized an engagement dinner with family and friends upon our return. We decided to wait to get married until those questions died down (When are you getting married? Where are you getting married? How many people are you inviting? Are you planning a family afterwards? Etc., etc.), taking all the time we needed to digest and think about what we wanted. 23 months later we officially tied the knot on non-Canadian soil, with only the judge as our witness.
Why Not Go Traditional? Why No Guests?
In all honesty, that wasn’t what either of us wanted. Firstly, we knew we wanted to get married south of the border so that we had US documentation should we ever want to move to the US (he is an American citizen), so that ruled out Canadian wedding options. Secondly, I have a massive family and didn’t want to put any of them through the stress of getting to and from the US just to attend our wedding, let alone determine who I would invite when we were considering a small under-20-person wedding in the states. Thirdly, I see on a regular basis the drama associated with planning a ‘traditional’ wedding and I wanted none of it! Sending invites, venue hunting, finding a photographer, a florist and a planner, composing then shrinking the guest list, figuring out table arrangements and avoiding family drama – it just wasn’t for me!! I’m organized, but I want no drama and low stress because no one wants a Bridezilla or a breakdown. And lastly, arranging a small, intimate elopement for two meant saving thousands of dollars that can go towards our future home. It just made sense to us.
Family Thoughts on the Idea…
My immediate family wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of not attending our wedding. At first, I don’t think they thought we were serious and passive jokes and comments arose nearly each time we met. As months passed and no news of plans came, I think it finally sank in. Although they initially said that they respected our decision and we had asked for no parties or celebrations leading up to our wedding, the questions eventually come regarding hosting a summer BBQ celebration, hosting a small dinner for the family, hosting a reception in Canada afterwards, and other similar suggestions... I personally did not feel comfortable hosting such parties as the North American culture implies that gifts are expected and I felt it unfair to do so given that there would be no wedding (even if you say no gifts, people are stubborn!). We reiterated each time when asked about a celebration that this was our wish, but one unapproved surprise celebration still made it in before our elopement (with the best intentions of course). Most of our friends simply avoided asking questions about the wedding and we didn’t prompt them to ask. We still talk to all of our family and friends, we did host a nuclear family dinner a week after we returned to Canada, and everyone seems perfectly fine with everything now that it has passed – no damage done.
How Did We Do It?
About a year prior, we researched the marriage requirements of each state, including how one could apply for a marriage licence and how long it took to process one. We narrowed it down to five states: New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut and Pennsylvania based on distance from home, ease of applying and potential spots to stay/host our own ceremony. We ultimately decided on Pennsylvania as we could drive there within a few hours, were able to easily make arrangements to visit the county office two months prior and submit our marriage licence application, and we were able to plan a wonderful pre-marriage stay at Glendorn Lodge through personal connections. The county office was also able to refer me to a few local judges who might be available to assist with officiating our marriage, and so we met the judge who would wed us in May while applying for our marriage licence. I did some research on hotels and Airbnb options in the area and we found the perfect one (even we were delightfully surprised at how amazing the home and property was!) – it was spacious, had a back patio and a small apple orchard out front. I bought a cute summer dress a few months prior and he already had a suit, and we purchased a few small items to enhance our elopement (a 360 cam, lavalier mics, some photo props, my giant flower, and of course t-rex suits) and make it as we had envisioned it. I even planned a lovely celebration dinner at Landmark Restaurant in nearby Jamestown, NY. We also got to spend time exploring the PA area, visiting the Kinzua Dam and Kinzua Sky Walk, as well as time exploring the Allegheny National Forest and the hiking trails within it – it was fun! Everything just seemed to work out and the process did not drain us physically, mentally or financially.
To our friends and family who still don’t understand why we didn’t make more elaborate plans leading up to and for our wedding. It wasn’t that we didn’t want people to know we were getting married or that we didn’t want to celebrate with you. Marriage to us was simply just ‘officializing’ our commitment to each other for life – we already lived as though we were married so we just didn’t see what the big deal was about. To us, the only difference was a piece of paper that had an official date on it. Too often today, weddings seem to be about pleasing the family, making a statement by throwing the fanciest wedding and/or making you go broke to finance the event. In our opinion, marriage is and should only be about the two people involved and their commitment to each other – not anyone or anything else. All we wanted was a low key, low drama day that reflected us and what we wanted our day to be – and it was exactly as we wanted it. We still feel our decision was one of the best we’ve made together and for anyone looking to tie the knot without the stress of a traditional wedding, I would encourage you to consider similar arrangements.
I’m working my way through life in Canada and traveling when I can afford to explore beyond the border. Sharing my tips, trips, opinions and rants on life and travel in the meantime.