I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has been a strange year for just about everyone. I remember posting to social media last December how excited I was for the coming year because so many good things were in the works. We had trips planned to visit friends. My brother was getting married to his college sweetheart. Shawn and I had just gotten engaged, and had started planning our own wedding. So much to look forward to! But then COVID-19 took over everything. We canceled trips. We downsized the wedding plans. And Shawn and I put our own planning on hold. A lot of unique situations and unknowns led us to our decision to elope. Family and friends have told me that our decisions need no explanation, but I thought I should share our elopement story for anyone who didn’t know yet or was curious.
The Best Laid Plans…
Last fall, Shawn and I began dreaming of and looking into a destination wedding in Ireland. Shawn has Irish heritage and we have both always wanted to visit Ireland. Add to that the fact that there happens to be a beautiful castle with his last name on it, it seemed to be the perfect place to celebrate our marriage. We had virtual meetings with the castle staff and talked through what a wedding there could look like for us. One thing we realized in planning a destination wedding is that it would be much easier to make our marriage legal here in the States than in a foreign country. Therefore, if Ireland was our plan, we would elope here and just have the ceremony overseas.
There are several benefits to being married. Insurance reasons, tax benefits, financial savings associated with combining accounts and policies, and legal rights to assets like our house are just a few. When COVID-19 became a real issue here in the US, the likelihood of having the wedding we wanted dwindled. European countries blocked travel of Americans, and our state government made large gatherings of people illegal. Not only could we not travel, but we couldn’t have a traditional wedding here at home either. Shawn and I knew a wedding wouldn’t be happening for us this year. Like so many other couples, we had to put our plans on hold. However, thinking back to all those reasons we didn’t want a long engagement in the first place, we revisited the idea of a legal marriage without the wedding, and concluded it was the best decision for us.
Our Elopement Story
As talk of shut downs became more frequent, I applied for a marriage license. The day Shawn went to pick it up, they were getting ready to close the county clerk’s office. They let him in to get it literally as they were locking the doors. I emailed a pastor I know and asked if he was willing to sign it for us. Luckily he agreed! Governor Whitmer announced the stay home order would be going into effect the morning of March 24th. On the evening of March 23rd, we grabbed the quickest dinner of PB&J sandwiches, and drove to the church. We Facetimed two witnesses, read some vows, and signed the license. Took the license to the witnesses, and mailed it in. Just like that, we were officially (unofficially?) Mr. & Mrs. Slane.
We didn’t tell anyone. Only the pastor and our witnesses knew. Shawn and I wanted to be married, but our intent was not to elope INSTEAD of having a wedding, so we kept it a secret. We just wanted the legal protections and benefits that came with marriage. Honestly, we feared if people knew we had gone ahead and got married, they would be less excited about a wedding for us later on. At the time, we figured COVID would blow over in a few months, and we could continue on with planning an actual celebration. Eventually we’d have the wedding, get married, and no one would have to know we had actually signed the papers a few months prior.
Unfortunately, weeks of shutdown turned into months. Here we are nearing the end of 2020, and, while micro weddings and elopements are happening, the kind of celebration we want to have is still not possible. I did buy a wedding dress last month, but it’s still nearly impossible to make any concrete plans with still so much unknown. So that’s our elopement story. We will have our dream wedding someday. Until then, I’m just happy to be married to my best friend.
Photos by Laurenda Marie Photography