Six years ago today, my now husband James and I booked and paid a deposit on a wedding venue we never got married at.
You can see from the picture we were pretty stoked to at least have this aspect now “ticked off” our list.
If you have never planned a wedding, well, let me just say in the simplest, most straight up way possible, it is stressful as fuck.
So just pulling it back to basics right, there is a few things you need for a wedding; two people who want to get married, someone to “marry them” or conduct some kind of service, two witnesses to sign the paperwork, some rings and a location.
When we booked this specific location, well, our wedding plans, like many had become far more complicated than that. For starters, my Dad had died two months earlier and all the plans I had told him about before he died included him walking me down the aisle.
At a friend’s wedding recently I was sitting next to another married friend of mine Kylie, who must have been married just over two years now as I was pregnant with Jai at her and Ari’s wedding even though I didn’t know it at the time.
Across the table from us where some other mutual friends of the bride and grooms and they are currently engaged and wedding planning and asking us about our tips for wedding “success” if you like… Good thing Kylie was there cause my only tip was, “don’t invite anyone”!
James and I had a whirlwind romance beginning to our relationship, one romantic novels are written about and I have written about this stuff for him in a folder of stories about our first years together which I did in secret for a long time and gave to him on our first wedding anniversary. But today as we talked about how ironic it is we never had that original service and plan eventuate and how bloody glad both of us are that it never happened that way, we first laughed and joked about how much more cost effective it is if none else to elope and how more people should consider it..
But more than that, our wedding had no guests, “a proper elopement” as all the resort staff commented in surprise… And do you know what that made for?
A day purely focused on celebrating our love for each other and the next chapter together.
So here is the top reasons we thought of to elope and not invite anyone to your wedding if it’s not your thing or it all becomes too hard and stressful like it did for us the first time round planning…
- It’s about you.
It’s not about who has what dietary requirements, whether you feed guests sit down meals or not? Do you have an open bar or make people pay for drinks? Who is feuding with who and who do we have to sit on opposite sides of the room? Who had issues or problems or accessibility stuff we need to consider? Who do we invite out of obligation and who do we really want there? What does my mum want, what does yours? What does that random family member who always causes a scene need? Blah blah blah…. So much of wedding planning stress is actually nothing about the two of you getting married, it is about the people you are entertaining and including in the day… That’s cool and awesome, but yeah, another option, just don’t invite them… Any of them.. 😉
- You can have your wedding on any day of the week or time that takes your fancy..
There are many benefits to point out here… when we did elope we had Josh (our eldest son) with us, he was 18 months at the time, having a morning ceremony meant I know he could nap while we had photos etc… Also, just saying, do you have any idea how much cheaper it is to have a wedding on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday or Sunday..? Yep no guests to consider for has other advantages there too..
- Cost advantages
Beyond just the day of the week and not having to pay for others to eat and drink, the whole cost of our wedding, which included things like flights, car hire, private beach house at a resort, five day holiday, room service, honeymoon package, EVERYTHING was still a grand total of probably the cheapest wedding of my friends and family I have heard yet. And we rolled a family holiday and the closest thing to a honeymoon you can get with s clingy breastfeeding toddler in tow, all in one package!
- The best of everything!
I was so lucky to have a great wedding planner who helped me with everything. She was part of the resort package. In fact the minute my Mum casually flipping through a magazine saw a story about a couple ‘eloping and not telling anyone until after’ and made a passing comment, “I can imagine you doing that!”, James and I made eye contact across the room, “that’s pretty much permission right there dude” we said to each other with our eyes… that night we researched “best wedding resorts”… I found one that had all the bits we wanted, a wedding planner, a separate beach house you could hire on the water front (but still a 50 meter walk to all the benefits of being in a resort), a honeymoon package, photographers and babysitters they had access too, knowledge of celebrants in the area, a spa and salon on site, a pool, everything WE wanted. It was made so easy for me.
The wedding planner sent me a template, you need to pick these things, and here are my top three recommendations, that’s it. I just had to pick my favourites. The hardest part of all was not telling anyone we were planning it for the six months out we did… There were a very few people I told, those who were originally going to be my bridesmaids mainly cause I still needed help with some of those calls, being a bride and planning a day like that you will look back on forever is a bit of pressure as much as it is fun and exciting.
Anyway, she told me their off seasons, we planned it during school holidays, just before the “real wedding season” started just out of cyclone season but on the cusp of the busy period. We planned it mid-week, we did all those thing because it meant we were able to have the best of the best, I got all my “first picks” for everything because I wasn’t competing for time slots with others, most of the service providers even gave us discounts!
- The intimacy
It’s our love story right? It is a day about us… I know and understand the desire to share that with those you love but at that time in our lives, everyone was still raw and devastated about my dad dying, the last thing he said to me was “don’t let me steal your thunder” so I foraged ahead with the plans we had before he died… but in retrospect, doing so was making him steal the thunder in itself.. Weddings and funerals man, they have the ability to bring out the best and worst in all of us as they are such monumental times and celebrations.
At our wedding there was literally six of us, there were also the wedding planner who came along in the morning to set it up and the two hair and make-up ladies who helped me get ready but the service itself was just us. It was James waiting at the end of the aisle for me, Josh throwing rose petals as I walked down the rose petal aisle while in the capable and caring arms of the babysitter, the photographer taking the photos and our celebrant. The photographer and babysitter where our witnesses.
After the service itself Josh went with the babysitter Lisa who had a son of a similar age to have a play and a sleep while we did photos and then we returned to the beach house and front lawn where we got married hours earlier to drink champagne and finish the photos before josh got dropped back, the photographer left and the resort brought us the first course of our honeymoon package dinner.. It was beautiful..
- The relaxed nature
The day before the wedding, the various people helping us (celebrant, photographer, wedding planner, make up peeps, babysitter, everyone) said “Ok, what time is the service?”
We hadn’t planned a time. Why would you need an exact time when no one else is coming? “Umm in the morning? I dunno, what about 10am?” we replied.
So a 10am wedding it was planned to be. This was in Northern Queensland (we wanted to go “offshore” enough that it felt like an overseas holiday, but not too far cause, well travelling with a toddler is hell and also I’m Australian, getting married in Australia made the paperwork easier). The morning of the wedding a cyclone was coming in. It was like grey rolling clouds for half an hour followed by beautiful sunny skies.. As 10am approached, I remember James and Coleen our celebrant standing outside saying, “I think its going to start raining right at 10am hey?” In a normal setting I get that would be kind a bit of a disaster, but we had no pressure from ourselves or others, “well why don’t we get married at 1030am then?” I suggested…
I remember everyone but James’ shock at that moment… When we were talking about it today we both remarked how at that moment and following that, every single one of the people who helped us with our day commented on separate occasion and to both of us, “this is the most relaxed wedding I have ever experienced!”
That might be a personal draw card, but why would you not want that for your wedding? The stress of the wedding day seems to be something we as a society have made to become part of the ritual but why? That element was one of the best facts!
- No issues
I didn’t spend the whole time worrying and stressing that my dad wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle. We didn’t have anyone get excessively drunk or be a pain in the arse somehow (which is like a stable at weddings right?). Things like trying to coordinate bridal parties & MC’s, eliminated when you don’t have one haha
More than that, we had an eighteen month old who had only been cared for by other people a handful of times. He was still breastfeeding (a major aspect of my dress selection was “can I pop a boob out if need be? Haha) and some of those aspects in an what can be perceived as overwhelming ritual and event for a little person and for a mum and bride in that process, well a lot of those where eliminated. It was a pleasurable and relaxed event for all involved, including the little person who had been a product of our love for each other in the time since we put off the last wedding plans.
- No pressure
Like everything in life, everyone has different expectations, I dunno what the battle is for you or the hard part of your wedding plans but for me, like all brides, my dress was something of significance and importance to me. Like I mentioned, being able to pop a boob out as a breastfeeding mum was important to me. But just like lots of other women I had expectations and pressure, if from no one but myself for all of these aspects to be perfect.
When we had our original wedding plans, the shoes where of huge concern to me.. I dunno why.. I wanted these navy stilettos, my mum bought them for me in fact, I don’t think I have worn them more than once, just to show off to my new husband around the house after we did get married.. but when life changes, and man how life had changed in the two years between those two versions of what we planned our wedding to be, things like the shoes lost significance..
It became less of a “performance” to me, it became more real… More down to earth which totally suits James and I and all that we are together. I took the pressure off myself.. In fact none of us wore shoes at all for our wedding.. It wasn’t about the shoes, or the dress, or my hair and makeup or the rings (well hell obviously it was a bit about those things for me!) or anything materialistic, it was about us… Btw my dress was from ASOS haha I ordered a few “off white dresses” I liked and cause they were like $100 each instead of thousands, I had a choice which was even cooler 😉
- The convenience
Not only in planning and pre-wedding stresses being minimalised but the whole affair was really convenient. I think again part of that was being able to be the star attraction or focus on a day when we weren’t competing for the attention with others. Mission Beach where we got married is like “wedding central”, people travel there from all over the world to get married. The resort we stayed in, well I don’t know how many weddings a year they host, but lots as I said I started my search with “best wedding resorts in Australia”. But the fact we were a random mid week wedding just before peak season, we were actually made to feel like royalty, which is a lovely feeling particularly when you are celebrating your love for one and other. In the days following we did other “normal” tourist stuff and people made comment to us regularly, “oh it’s you guys! That was so beautiful the other day. We saw you out and about taking photos and you just looked so in love”.
I don’t know how we would have battled the clingy toddler, two hours of wedding photos, service itself, “honeymoon package” which included three course room service to our guest house, a two hour spa package and partners massage thing the next day, the time it takes for make-up prep etc and being away from or trying to balance Josh’s needs alone in that time frame just from my own personal perspective… There were so many aspects made so convenient by just having it with us…
Some of the traditional aspects, like James not seeing me or my dress right before, these skilled, talented, experienced and empathetic professionals, such as the hair and make-up ladies helped us achieve.. But me being locked away to get my makeup done for hours, why?
Josh being around meant I could feed him down for a nap before the “service” so he was happy and contented before it started. It all occurring during the morning and daytime which worked for me because when we had finished our photos and everyone left and Josh was dropped back, I breastfeed my baby to sleep and went out to sit with my now husband on our beach front deck spa of a beautiful beach house as part of a resort and eat the epic desert they hand delivered to us..
Even the service itself, it wasn’t until that morning the wedding planner said “where do you actually want to get married? Where do you want the service to be?”
James and I looked at each other, “umm… what about the lawn just there?” I asked knowing it provided an amazing back drop but also a space for Josh to run around and be safe if he got bored or even go back into the house to play, all while under the capable and watchful eye of Lisa the babysitter.
That’s where we got married. “Some like flags or something at least?” she suggested. “Sure sounds great..” and that’s what we had, convenient was a high priority which mad the stress almost totally eliminated.
- The love
I am not knocking traditionally ways of marriage or the service or indeed any of our beautiful friends & families ceremonies and services they have loving included us in in recent years but for us, this was one of the best decision’s we ever made. It was my mum we were most worried about her reaction, do you know what she said when I did tell her the day before, “Good for you” and not in a mean or bitchy way, in a sincere, that’s awesome for you guys sense. Getting engaged days before my dad died was both a blessing and curse, I got to tell him, I got to share with him my plans and excitement and everyone commented on how excited he was, but the day following he died.
My plans and our expectations we shared when we first got engaged where never going to be the same with such a huge lack of presence from someone with such a huge role to play in this. Instead of it being a continuation of our battle to work out how to do this, how to not let dad “steal our thunder”, we realised we had to focus on what the point and purpose was and that was the love. Our love for each other and our commitment to each other to stick it out through the shit times just as much as enjoy and celebrate the awesome ones together and eloping for us, well there could have been no better way to honour that than the way we did.
Tips if you want to elope:
Do something that is very “you guys”.. this was us, if a picnic and a registry office is you guys, do that… focus on what it is for you, the people getting married.
Do it in the “off season” or “off day” to get the best of the best at the best price, you’re not competing with others and contract work on a down day is like a win to someone in that kind of field, like us you might even be lucky and score some discounts.
This is just my personal take, but if you have someone you are worried might be upset, like for me it was my mum, I told her with enough advance warning she knew before it happened to be as respectful as I could, but within a short enough time frame that I was still gonna do it regardless (I think I called her day before, like casual as, just after we landed and arrived at Mission Beach, “hey mum, we are all here safe, by the way, we are actually going to get married while we are here, I hope that doesn’t upset you?”)
Keep true to whats important to you. As I mentioned my dad walking me down the aisle was a kicker for me, it truly was. But having someone to say “holy fuck I am wearing a wedding dress and about to walk down the aisle” mattered to me big time and I did that on the phone with both my sister and my mum before I walked out the bedroom I was getting dressed in… Sometimes we can’t get what we want in life, but sometimes, maybe even often, there is a reason and a silver lining we see later that makes sense as to why..
When James and I talked about this today, there were two things be both said almost at the same time, firstly, “man I am grateful and glad with the way we did end up doing it” and also, “shit we still never organised that ‘home reception’ for all the people we were meant to invite either” hahah
That’s ok, it was four years from our engagement party until our wedding day, it will be our third wedding anniversary this year, so by that time frame, I have at least another good year or so to go before I need to do that right?! <3
So with renewed hope after speaking to a dear friend and “bridesmaid” from way back about this today and James and I continuing discussions maybe we should actually have a “wedding party” as we planned, I am not going to share too many, my dreams of being able to share them first with the people we love in persona as a way of them experiencing our magic day too are not yet given up on 😉 But here are a few more fav’s…
Photo credit Matthew Evan Photography – https://www.facebook.com/cairnsphotography
All services and support provided through Castaways Resort & Spa, Mission Beach Queensland – https://www.facebook.com/CastawaysMissionBeach/
Including hair and makeup ladies from the beautiful on site Drift Day Spa – https://www.facebook.com/DriftDaySpaMissionBeach/
Thanks to all of you for making our special day about us that extra bit more magical xx