We’ve all found ourselves challenged in myriad ways by the COVID-19 pandemic — beyond the most obvious concerns about health and safety, you may have had to tighten your purse strings, change or limit the way you travel, stop attending or throwing parties and put off seeing loved ones. Such a climate has made weddings, the most elaborate parties of all, seemingly out of reach. But for many couples who have decided to elope rather than delay their weddings until next year or beyond, it’s all about finding and celebrating beautiful, perfect moments when the world is in upheaval, and about deciding you love your partner so very much, you simply can’t waste one more day not being married to them.
We spoke to several couples who recently took the elopement leap and found out whether love really can conquer all — even during a pandemic (hint: with all this love we’re seeing, it certainly looks like it can).
Photos by: afistfullofbolts.com
Natalie & Matt from Los Angeles – 5.5 years, married for three months
Cynthia & Noe from Los Angeles – Friends since 2007, together 7 years
Kelly & Eddie from Portland, Oregon – 5 years
What made you want to move forward with an elopement and not wait?
Natalie & Matt: “At the time we were supposed to have our wedding, and still currently, there was no indication of when the world would be ready to host grand events again. We didn’t want to put such a special moment on hold… and maybe we were a little stubborn about letting a little old pandemic get in the way of our plans. Simply put, we couldn’t wait to be married!”
Cynthia & Noe: “We had planned for a June wedding — smallish (about 90 folks) — and when the pandemic hit, we thought we’d postpone for the fall. When we realized we’d probably have to postpone [for] more than a year, we decided to DIY everything and go tiny. We reminded ourselves that all the fancy stuff isn’t what really matters. We just wanted to get married.”
Kelly & Eddie: “We were always intending to have an elopement with just the two of us (even before COVID), so although we had to change our plans [regarding] destination, the opportunity to get married on a rooftop [at Heathman Hotel] in our own city of Portland made it all the more special.”
What’s one thing you did/added to make your day feel special?
Natalie & Matt: “We ended up hiring [the same] photographer that we had originally contracted to [both] capture the big day and be our witness! So we got glammed up and arranged for a mini pre-ceremony photoshoot at this transportation center across the street from where we were supposed to have the civil ceremony. The location was all glass with a dome-like ceiling, so it almost felt like we were in a botanical garden. There were even birds chirping and flying above us! The center was totally empty during our photoshoot, which was really sweet — it was such a special and peaceful moment, just for the two of us. And we got the most gorgeous photos out of it!”
Cynthia & Noe: “I couldn’t wear my wedding dress that I [had] purchased [for our original wedding] because it still hadn’t been altered and wasn’t ready (tailors aren’t open for business right now!). So, I decided to sew my own dress and my partner’s pants. It was special wearing something that I [had] made with my own hands.”
Kelly & Eddie: “We ordered the loveliest, tiniest, triple-tiered cake for ourselves and started eating it at home while getting ready for the ceremony.”
Did you have other attendees? Or stream it for family?
Natalie & Matt: “Oh yes, we invited immediate family. Not sure if that was a mistake or not (kidding). The civil ceremony was held at a little booth in the Honda Center parking lot in Anaheim, so we allowed both of our parents and Natalie’s sister and grandmother to come watch at a distance, as long as they all promised to stay in the car (strict orders from the County Clerk’s office). We both have brothers that were unfortunately out of state, but we Facetimed them immediately afterwards.”
Cynthia & Noe: “We asked our immediate family to meet us at a park and social distance around us. It was perfect. [With] under 20 people, it felt safe and inviting.”
Kelly & Eddie: “Nope! It was just us, our officiant, and amazing photographers.”
One (or two) pieces of advice for couples going through the same thing?
Natalie & Matt: “Embrace it. This may not be the fairytale wedding you dreamed of, but it strips it down to just being about the two of you and the important commitment you’re promising to one another — which is really all that a marriage is.”
Cynthia & Noe: “Don’t worry about all the plans you might have made and invested time in. In the end, all of that doesn’t really matter. You can still pronounce your love in your own special way, and even if you don’t have the celebration you wanted, you can look forward to having it later in the future! Go for it, and make it special in your own quirky way!”
Kelly & Eddie: “Take things in stride, and always being able to laugh with each other helps with both the good and bad,” says Eddie. “I highly recommend getting married alone! Pandemic or not!” from Kelly.
Do you have any fun/funny/interesting/quirky memories from your special day that you’d like to share?
Natalie & Matt: “Remember when we said we allowed our families to come watch, as long as they promised to stay in the car…because those were the rules we were instructed? Well, they didn’t. That was foolish of us to assume otherwise. When we arrived at the ceremony location, we saw both of Matt’s parents were strolling around the parking lot with champagne glasses in hand and carrying balloons (mind you, there was a sheriff parked in the corner of the lot). Natalie’s father, for whatever reason, was late and not present by the time we had to begin the service, so we had to start without him. Then, just before our vow exchange, the officiant interrupted our ceremony and said, “I’m going to have to call the sheriff on that man.” We turned around and saw that “that man” was Matt’s father, who had, once again, left the vehicle to stand at the very front of the parking lot to take pictures. After some yelling and large hand gestures, we were able to carry on with the service — by this time, we were halfway through the ceremony, and Natalie’s father was only just pulling into the parking lot. To top it all off, we asked Natalie’s sister to record everything, and she did capture most of it…except when it was time for us to kiss as husband and wife, the phone accidentally gets knocked out of her hand and she totally missed the moment. At the time, it was all incredibly stressful to deal with, but looking back now, we’re grateful for these memories. It probably sounds like a catastrophe, but it was very beautiful, we promise.”
Cynthia & Noe: “Yes! So many!! [But] I’ll share just two. We had planned for my family and my partner to arrive by this huge tree at a park in our neighborhood. The plan was for me to arrive about five minutes later, so I could “walk down the aisle” —which really [meant] “walk down the sidewalk” to the tree. Just as I started walking and heard our special song play, this lady and her son zoomed past me [on bikes] and cut me right off! They blew right past us, and didn’t even realize what was happening… I guess I could consider those random people our “wedding party!” Another funny moment: Right when we started sharing our vows, a neighbor across from the park started sawing a huge piece of wood, and all you would hear was his saw! One of my best friends ran over, asked him if he could hold off for a few minutes, since we were having a ceremony, and he stopped! But then two minutes later, he started drilling something instead. Well, I guess he thought it wouldn’t be as loud — haha!”
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