One Bride Who Decided Her Big Day Wouldn’t Be Big
Planning your wedding is a wonderful time of your life, and an opportunity for you and your spouse-to-be to prepare the day of your dreams and work together as a team. However, wed- dings can sometimes end up being more overwhelming and expensive than couples expect when they start out. I found this at my own wedding, and friends have confessed that in the final weeks they just wanted it to all be over. Abandoning your big plans and simply eloping for a quieter and more intimate celebration crosses the mind of more than a few couples. So, this week I spoke to one bride who actually did so – Arriarne Kemp-Bishop from Australia – about how they decided on an elopement, how it turned out, and what they think about it in hindsight.
Tell us about your wedding.
My now-husband and I planned a traditional wedding for 60 to be held in Noosa, Australia in November 2000. Due to the stress of others’ expectations we cancelled everything – travel, accommodation, photographer, flowers, restaurant – and eloped in July 2000 to be married in the Maldives. We decided two months before that to call of the larger wedding, though our plans to elope took less than a week to finalise; we just sought the optimum time to run off. We also held a very very tiny secret ceremony locally (Coogee, Sydney) a week before we left the country, so that our marriage could be recognised in Australia.
How long had you been planning the bigger wedding, and when decide you decide to cancel it?
We had at that stage been together for 12 years (we were ‘childhood sweethearts’), so our engagement was of no surprise to everyone. But we still wanted to go through with the process and the wedding experience with our family and friends – well, we thought we did anyway. We had been planning the bigger wedding in earnest for about six months, but we (read: I!) had been thinking about a wedding for years.
Was it a general build up of stress and costs that led to your decision to elope, or a specific straw that broke the camel’s back?
It was less about costs and more about managing everyone else’s expectations and wants when it came to our wedding. We felt that we were judged on every decision: from what we wanted on the menu, to the types of cars we wanted and what I was thinking of wearing. “You can’t serve duck, not everybody will like it!” “Why pay for cars, just use the family’s Lexuses?!” “I simply don’t want my daughter to walk down the aisle looking like a meringue, urgh!” “You want to wear red to be married in?!” The final straw was when my now-mother-in-law told my groom that she ‘expected’ that his brother would be the best man. My husband and his brother aren’t close, and my husband wanted his best mate to be his best man. We looked at each other after that particular phone call and said, “I will if you will”. The next morning we cancelled everything, then booked the trip, then told everyone.
How did you inform people that you’d cancelled the larger wedding, and what were their reactions?
We told our close relatives by phone. For the smaller Maldives wedding, we decided very quickly to each only invite one sibling, our parents, and one grandmother each, making the ‘party’ a small group of 10. We told everybody else about the cancelled larger wedding mostly by email. It was funny, a few people said, “Oh, but I’d already booked my accommodation!” – to which we replied, “Love you to bits, but we hadn’t formally invited anyone yet!”
How did you decide on the Maldives for your elopement location?
The day we cancelled everything (the night after the decision to run away) we met in the city and went to a travel agency we knew specialized in the Asia-Pacific region. We had Vanuatu in mind but they convinced us on the Maldives. There was a good package going at the time, which we thought would suit the few family members we were inviting. And the agency’s owner was good friends with the owner of the Maldivian island we ended up getting married on, which ensured it was a party to end all parties!
How did you feel about your decision to cancel the larger wedding at the time?
My husband was absolutely fine with it, he never really craved a big wedding. I was a little uncertain at first, though I was greatly relieved we were finally doing this on our own terms. On the day, I knew it was absolutely the right decision. It was absolutely amazing, in every way. And when we got home my aunty threw a big party for anyone who wanted to come and celebrate with us. She made us all wear what we wore on the day of the wedding in the Maldives, too.
How do you feel about the decision now?
We both feel completely, utterly happy and comfortable with the approach we took to getting married. We would do the exact same thing again in a parallel world. It was a very rare time where we did exactly what we wanted, rather than compromising to make others happy. To this day, my 91-year-old grandmother, who was one of the eight guests to accompany us to the Maldives, still talks about the experience as being the best holiday she has ever had in her life. She whimsically refers to certain moments, and wishes she could travel back there so we could do it all over again. It makes us proud and happy and reinforces that the approach we took was the right one for us, as well as for a few special people in our lives. We often share our elopement decision and experience (only when prompted!) with people who are planning an engagement or marriage so they can see that, for some people, it really can be the most special and memorable way of going about things – for a number of reasons.