On February 22 of 2019, I met a man named Dennis at the birthday dinner of a mutual friend. We got to know each other over the summer and our first official date was September 22. We got engaged exactly two months later on November 22, and married on February 22, 2020, the one year anniversary of the day we met. Apparently 22 is our number.
I’m sure that sounds fast to a lot of people. Sometimes it feels fast to us too. But every time my husband and I reflect on our relationship, the timeline is not nearly as important as the feelings of safety, contentment, and rightness that we have together.
When we started thinking about getting married, about the actual wedding I mean, I had a lot of well-formulated opinions to share with Dennis. After all, I’ve been a part of many weddings of friends and family in the past 20 years and I’m also a pastor who officiates weddings. Even though I didn’t think I would get married, I had built a pretty firm list of do’s and don’ts over the years.
For my own wedding, I didn’t want the stress, possible drama, expense, or delay of planning something traditional. I’ve watched even the most level-headed friends go haywire over wedding details like color schemes, party favors, invitations, and seating arrangements. Those things have no lasting meaning; they are just the trappings of an event. In our society it seems that the event of a wedding has eclipsed the purpose of the wedding — to begin and celebrate a marriage.
One of the reasons why I love Dennis is that he highly values friendship. I do too. To both of us, friends are family. So when we talked about having any sort of traditional wedding the numbers overwhelmed me. We could have easily invited 600 people to our wedding. Dennis’ people are all here in South Florida, but mine are all over North America.
Weddings with modest guests lists can come with a hefty price tag, even when you don’t serve a full meal at the reception. So it seemed that our options would be to:
- Blow a budget on a wedding with all our friends and family and set the date 8+ months out so my guests would have time and money to make travel plans, OR
- Do an inexpensive, private elopement, and later find creative ways to celebrate with all our loved ones
After doing some quick online research, I learned that the average cost for a wedding in America in 2019 was $33,900. American brides spend on average $1600 on their dress, plus an additional $250 on accessories. I’m a pretty practical woman. Those numbers are NAUSEATING to me. And as a follower of Jesus, I often question if the cost of modern weddings is morally defensible, even if you have that kind of money to spend.
Rather than spending months saving and spending money on a traditional wedding, I’d rather save money for a house, pay off school debt, travel with Dennis, and simply start our lives together sooner. So I pitched the idea of eloping to Dennis and he liked it. In fact, all of December he kept saying to me, “let’s just get married now.”
When I thought about what I wanted our wedding to be, a few things were very important to me. Overall, I wanted the ceremony to be spiritually-focused. I also wanted it to be a reflection of who we are and what we value. Authenticity is very important to both Dennis and I. So that meant not getting entangled by tradition or swayed by other people’s expectations of what we should do or what a wedding should be.
And that’s why you see me in a purple dress. Purple is one of my favorite colors, and bright colors have always felt more joyful and celebratory to me than white. I knew I wouldn’t feel like myself in any kind of white gown, so I never looked at one.
I wanted the ceremony to be thoughtful and meaningful, but not stiff or too formal since Dennis and I are very casual, fun-loving people. After working with couples who treated vows like an afterthought (with one couple even asking me to pick their vows for them!), we decided to write vows that are meaningful to us.
We read a bunch of vows. Over the course of a few weeks, we talked about the style of language we prefer, the meaning we wanted to convey, what we hope for our relationship, what we need from each other in order to thrive, etc. We wove together vows by borrowing phrases or lines from other sources, but also writing lines that are completely original. Here are our completed vows:
I, take you Dennis/Corrie, to be my husband/wife, and these things I promise you:
I will always be a safe haven for you.
I will consistently show you patience and tenderness.
I will be honest with you.
I will forgive you as we have been forgiven by God.
I will not only be a wife/husband, but a helper, friend, and guide
so that you will be able to meet life’s joys and challenges
knowing that I stand by your side for the rest of your life.
We are so pleased with how our wedding turned out. It was simple. Beautiful. Meaningful. Intimate. Relaxed. There was so little “event” stress that we were able to focus on each other, the words that were said, and the vows we made before God. While we couldn’t share those moments with everyone we love, we have video and pictures that we can share.
I’m also glad that the wedding was not a financial burden or stressor. Our wedding expenses were a fraction of the average American wedding, and our total included both of our outfits, all our accessories, our wedding dinner, and airfare for one of our witnesses. My dress was on clearance for $37. It was vibrant and made me feel beautiful.
We approached our wedding by reworking everything we’d heard and observed about weddings. We tossed out the typical wedding playbook. We refused to be steered by the demands of the wedding industry. And while we heard the opinions and navigated the expectations of others (and believe me, there were MANY opinions), we didn’t let them control us. We knew we could never please or appease everybody in our lives, so we didn’t enter the game. Instead, we turned everything upside-down and focused on pleasing God and ourselves.
By doing those things, we created a wedding experience that freed us to focus on what is meaningful and lasting. To us, this was right and good. Ultimately, our wedding ceremony was a great foundation for our marriage. It was a foreshadowing, I hope, of the unity and peace that we will share for the rest of our lives. And I think, when it comes to weddings, that’s what really matters.