For some reason, that simple statement always gets a strong reaction from people, even though my husband and I are coming up on our 10th anniversary.
Eloping was not part of The Plan. I always figured I’d have a huge wedding, on par with my huge Mexican family. Three hundred guests, a mariachi and many bridesmaids– that was all part of the girlish fantasy.
I also thought I would be at least 30 years old and financially established before getting married to some nice Mexican boy. But we all know that the best-laid plans seldom go off without a hitch.
Instead, I was just out of college, saddled with student loans and credit card debt, and desperately in love with a nice white boy. My newspaper internship paid $330 a week, and my hubby-to-be had just abandoned journalism for public relations in a bid to make a decent salary. My two-year internship required me to spend the second year at another newspaper in the chain, and chances were I was going to get sent back east some place.
So there we were, broke and in love. I didn’t know how we were going to pull off a huge wedding before I was sent packing to Allentown, Pennsylvania– but I did know I wasn’t willing to leave without him.
We decided to fly to Lake Tahoe for the weekend and get hitched. We invited our parents to come along, but they wanted no part of it– they felt we were rushing and didn’t understand why we were being so unorthodox. I’m guessing the rest of the family thought I was pregnant, hence the quickie wedding.
I was heartbroken that our families weren’t completely behind us, but I figured this wasn’t about them– it was about me and the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So we lined up a justice of the peace and a photographer, grabbed a couple of witnesses from the lovely restaurant on the shore, and headed out to the sand to exchange our vows.
It was January, but I wasn’t cold at all. The sun pierced the clouds for a brief moment as we said, “until death do us part.” I took that as a good sign.
It wasn’t the wedding I had envisioned, but I don’t regret it. It was our moment and ours alone– there was no family drama to navigate, and we didn’t go deeper into debt to finance our nuptials, like this couple profiled in the New York Times that Sue in Queens wrote about.
Our families eventually came around, and we always figured we would renew our vows down the road– maybe on our 10th anniversary. We would finally get the big celebration, surrounded by 300 of our closest friends and relatives.
Now that the date is approaching, we’re surprised to find ourselves ambivalent. We’ve got the money to pay for a big shindig, but don’t know if we really want to do it. I guess part of me feels silly at the thought of throwing ourselves this giant, showy party– what are we trying to prove? And for what purpose?
I stumbled across this essay by a woman after my own heart. Like me, the author has a hard time wrapping her brain around the business of big weddings:
How has a nearly $30,000 price tag become acceptable for a one-day event? It seems to me the money could be far better spent for a down payment on a house, a few years’ tuition at a state university or a spiffy new hybrid with some left over for gas.
To place it in a larger context, what might $30,000 mean to a school or medical clinic on the Wind River Indian Reservation or in the Mississippi Delta? What would it mean to a family living in a FEMA trailer in New Orleans?
Multiplying the average wedding’s cost by the nearly 2.3 million weddings estimated to occur in the United States this year means that Americans will spend about $64 billion on weddings. Compare this figure with the gross domestic product of Lithuania ($49 billion), Nepal ($40 billion), Luxembourg ($31 billion) or Iceland ($11 billion).
Yikes…that’s a lot of cash being spent on centerpieces and steak dinners.
Part of me says we should spend the money on an extravagant vacation, just the two of us. Or save it for the day we buy another house. Or sock it away in an IRA.
Another part of me says, you only live once. I may never again get to dance to mariachi music in a big white dress!
What say you, ladies? Did you have a big wedding, or a small one? Anyone renew their vows or have a memorable anniversary celebration? Any tips, mistakes, lessons learned? Please share!