If you’ve followed this space since the very beginning, then you’ll know J and I’s love story is a funny one. We grew up just 10 kilometers apart, he worked at the fast food restaurant my friends and I would skip class to go to, and we had numerous mutual friends. In fact, one summer during university, I went to a house party in the city and J was there with his friends, yet we never met. I guess it just goes to show timing is everything. In high school I was too focused on creating the school newspaper and chasing – exclusively – guitar wielding boys, and in university I was perpetually in long distance relationships (when I’d return to Halifax from Toronto every summer).
Fast forward to the year of graduation, a job offer in local news at the TV station in Halifax and an insistent friend (hi Ros!) that I meet her colleague from the military reserves (J). After finally meeting, we immediately hit it off (I think it was his cardigan). Soon enough he was texting me non-stop (literally – even if I didn’t respond) and asking me on dates. One night while watching ‘Finding Nemo’ in his parents’ basement, he asked me to be his girlfriend – and the rest, as they say, is history. We’ve backpacked through Germany, Austria and Italy, visited Disney World, Cuba, Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands, and moved to another country to pursue career passions.
We got engaged at sunrise on Mount Royal in Montréal while visiting one of my best childhood friends. After much complaining (me) and an awkward, nervous speech (him), we decided to do this thing forever, ever. Originally we had planned a romantic wedding on the water with 200+ of our friends and family. But with an impending job offer (him), legalities surrounding visa eligibility for the U.S., and growing wedding anxiety (me), we decided one Sunday afternoon to just elope the coming Friday. I have received so many questions from across social media about how we pulled our elopement together. Here’s how we did it:
Make it official. On Monday I was working from home so I called a couple of Justice of the Peace representatives and picked the one I liked most – and promptly booked him in for five days’ time. On my lunch break, my dad picked me up (J had our car) and took me to the governmental office to register our marriage. I paid the fees and got the paperwork for our JoP to authorize. We also confirmed our venue, which actually turned out to be my sister and (now) brother-in-law’s living room… arguably the most beautiful wedding location in Dartmouth (in case you didn’t know, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is one of Canada’s most romantic cities – a fact I believe our elopement heavily influenced, ha!). We had to meet with the JoP the Wednesday before the ceremony to go over paperwork (we also met his beautiful poodle and had a lovely cup of tea).
List your priorities and stick to them. To be honest, when I initially started planning our elopement, my priority was literally just getting married to J. It wasn’t until my sister commented that I needed a white dress, and my dad offered to take care of picking up the flowers for the ceremony that I realized there was more to the special day. I had actually already ordered my customized wedding dress (that couldn’t be returned), but unfortunately it wasn’t ready in time for the special day. Fast forward to my sister and I panicked, running into stores across Dartmouth and Halifax in the evenings asking for “anything white(ish)!” We found my wedding dress in the clearance section of Le Chateau; it was the only white dress left and, as an act of fate, in my size. Two of my dear friends offered to take photos of the nuptials – and they are some of the most special pictures in my life. As a checklist, I’d consider getting the following together for your elopement:
- Marriage license/registration
- A guest list (if you have more than just yourself, your witnesses and JoP)
- Ceremonial songs (what you enter to, sign to, kiss to, leave to and dance to)
- A dress
Determine who needs to be in the room. This is arguably the hardest part of ANY wedding, whether you have 10 people or 300. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t lose friends over this subject (people, no matter how well acquainted, will always have opinions), but because our celebration was so small, we opted to have just best friends, close family members, parents and siblings in the room – and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. If people are offended, you should handle it with grace, and if they can’t forgive you then that’s on them (respectfully). Our evening was perfect with a great balance of friends and family in the room. The setting was intimate and seamless, drinking beers in the kitchen until the early morning hours, exchanging funny stories and gushing over how we were finally, actually married! We felt truly blessed to have the love and support we did in that room (with our – roughly – 25 guests).
Get some budget flowers (and candles can seriously change a room). My sister had a lot of anxiety about setting up her home as the wedding location, but she really didn’t need to worry. Her family area is a large, open space that is home to a beautiful fireplace. I think it took us (myself, my sister, brother-in-law and J) all of 30 minutes to set up the space the night before. The next morning my dad dropped off literal buckets of flowers to the house (not kidding – there were infinite floral options), J’s parents dropped off some of the snacks for the reception and my sister skipped out to get us sushi while I finished writing my vows. When she returned we feasted on sushi, placed the flowers throughout the house and basked in the excitement of such an intimate event. J actually went to work for the day (while I took a personal day). My mom and best friend handled all of the moving bits (including my bouquet!) while I got ready upstairs. Pro tip: my dad has a flower guy but Costco flowers also work beautifully (in fact, I used Costco flowers for our wedding reception the following fall when we couldn’t cancel our originally-booked wedding venue). We also placed candles throughout the home to give it a cozy, warm, intimate feel.
Pick your ceremony songs. This may seem like a minor detail but it makes such a difference. J and I spent hours in bed listening to our favourite songs to see where they could fit in our ceremony. It’s something that may have been considered a waste of time (especially due to our self-inflicted 5-day planning timelines), but it honestly was the best way to fall asleep every night leading up to the elopement. With all of the craziness of planning a wedding in five days, taking time each night before bed to listen to some of our favourite songs and plan where they best fit in one of the most important days of our relationship left us with all of the warm and fuzzy feelings.
Full disclosure: despite eloping in February, we still had a wedding reception the following fall. I couldn’t return my wedding dress (due to it being custom for my short stature) and we couldn’t cancel our originally-booked wedding venue. In retrospect, we are so happy we didn’t cancel. The October celebration was such a special event with all of our friends and family – and it was nice to have a no-pressure reception with four times more people. We had friends fly in from across the country for the party. At the reception we celebrated our “I still do’s” where we repeated our vows, had speeches, and danced to our wedding song in front of the (literally glittering) basin after sunset. We also had mother/son and father/daughter dances, and I tossed the bouquet while J did a very sexy garter toss… which was then one-upped by my cousin’s performance after catching the garter.
While big weddings can be overwhelming, it’s so special to have literally everyone you love in the same place, eating, drinking, and – most importantly – dancing. Our reception took place in a refurbished mansion on the Chester Basin in Nova Scotia where people stayed up until the early hours. We concluded the celebration with a sleepover on the floor and a greasy, informal brunch in the chef’s kitchen the next morning. And once again, thanks to another pair of amazing friends, we have some of the most beautiful wedding photos I’ve ever seen to commemorate the day (in my actual wedding dress). It was so perfect to have an intimate gathering for the ceremony and then a full-on cottage party to celebrate with everyone else we love – especially with J and I moving to another country three days following the October celebration. It really was the best send off!