I’ve never been a wedding fan. While some women imagine their “special day” walking down an aisle in white in front of many guests, my vision was the exact opposite. Exchanging vows with my partner of nearly ten years seemed like an extremely personal, private moment and I felt almost embarassed to have other people witness it. My wedding vision from day one was eloping alone together in a dress I grabbed out of my closet. There would be no posed photos, no aisle, no gifts, no white dress, no wedding party, and especially no “watch us dance and feed each other cake” moments.
When we started to try and plan our wedding, my fiancé let me know that eloping or a City Hall wedding was off the table. He said it would feel sad and lonely to him. To compromise, he suggested a micro ceremony with just a few witnesses, followed by a bigger casual dinner party. You might as well have nuclear bombed my living room, but I begrudingly agreed to accomodate the request.
Over the next two years I tried to plan this dinner party to make him happy. Neither one of us have a big family or many close friends, so even finding 40 guests was tapping out our social list. We agreed that we didn’t want this party to feel at all like a wedding reception. We just wanted people to come out to enjoy an open bar and a fancy sit down dinner and call it a night. I wasn’t comfortable with people bringing gifts, so we decided on a list of our favorite charities if anyone cared to donate in our name. Little did we know this plan would turn out to be nearly impossible. Most every NYC restaurant private room we contacted had a 10K and higher minimum. For the maybe 30 people we would have after RSVP’s, spending around $300 a head wasn’t really making sense. Venues also kept responding to me about my making my “special day” super special, which made me want to stab them. Any email that uttered those words went straight into my trash bin. I was turning into a reverse Bridezilla. I started sending out pricing requests and telling them it was a birthday party instead. During these years, we ended up cancelling several contracts because nothing was feeling perfect or exciting. After putting a cold stop to all plans for months, we gave it one last ditch attempt. We signed the contract for another expensive private dining room and ordered invitations and save the dates from Vista Print (magnets included.) Our theme was going to be Muppets. Because we friking love the Muppets. I started hoarding a box of vintage Muppets crap to decorate with. I was taking it so seriously, I even went out and bought a maroon hand beaded ball gown, so I would feel somewhat fancy.
Months later our invitations were in the mail, complete with Kermit green wax seals (which I did myself and had blisters to show for it.)
During our planning however, there were several bummer moments. When we met with my fiancés family to tell them our plans, they sat grim faced, and his mother rolled her eyes. Their response was unenthusiastically to “let them know when to show up.” After invites went out, my two best friends as well as others let us know that they wouldn’t be able to make it- dwindling our already small number down to about 16 “maybes”.
We were both feeling deflated and bummed out. My whole life I had been the kid who had two people show up at my birthday party, and I had visions of the same thing happening on my wedding day. I began having daily panic attacks just thinking about it as the day drudged closer and closer.
We had to sit down and reevauluate. I kept making the point that I hadn’t wanted this stupid party anyway- and now it was especially going to be a waste of money since no one was going to come. This led to a blowup that caused us to cancel our whole wedding. As you can imagine this is pretty embarrasing once you sent people a friking Muppet magnet with the date.
Since it had been a pretty erratic two years of planning, most people weren’t that suprised. I symbolically burned one of our wedding invitations and posted it on instagram. I also sold most of my decorating crap on Ebay as an official symbol that I was done with this never ending planning drama.
For most people cancelling a wedding would mean you are breaking up, but we had no intention of that. We continued our daily lives as a committed couple. It wasn’t until four months later that we brought up the subject of marriage again. It was clear that we both still wanted to be married to each other, but after recent events were in a bit of a pickle. We knew at that point our only solution was to either go to City Hall or elope in secret. After two years of failed planning hell, my fiancé was finally open to this. We decided to do a self uniting ceremony at a place we loved as our “real wedding day”, and then made things legal at a City Hall later.
The plan really came together when I was scheduled to perform in Hong Kong at the beginning of the year. My fiancé decided to fly out to meet me after my gig, and we would exchange vows and rings at my favorite place in the world-The Big Buddha on Lantau Island. And we did. The day of our secret wedding was free of any stress that comes with normal weddings. We slept in, I threw on a comfy black wrap dress and we headed to the Big Buddha.
After walking the stairs to the top, we looked for a quiet, private spot to do our ring and vow exchange. This wasn’t that easy since we had picked a day when maintenance workers were chain-sawing down trees. I guess nothing’s perfect. With no people listening, we felt free to say more personal vows to each other than we would have with an audience. After our self led ceremony we took some videos and selfies, and no one around would have guessed anything special had happened. In a way that made it even more special. That night we went out for a fancy dinner and planned our City Hall strategy for when we flew back to America.
Back in NYC, the biggest issue at hand was that we hadn’t told anyone about our plan and had no witness. The day of our legal ceremony I put on my same black wrap dress from Hong Kong, and we jumped on the subway to downtown Manhattan. We had brunch and champaign at a nearby bar before walking over to City Hall. Luckily there are always a bunch of photographers standing outside willing to take your money to be a witness, and snap a few photos. We paid one of them $50 to be our best friend for the hour. City Hall was an akward mashup of people who were trying to have a real wedding complete with white dresses, bridal parties and ballooons, and people who were just there to legalize things (us).
It felt like the DMV as we waited for our number to be called on the big screens. As we signed our paperwork, we both felt happy we had done something a bit more personal and unique prior. Once we were called in the room, our legalization took no more than 20 seconds. I was relieved it was so quick. After eleven years together and many planned and cancelled versions of a wedding, we were finally married. I felt happier than I had expected to. We headed home on the subway and called our family and friends to tell them the news, as well as posted a video from our Hong Kong day. Since we were married during the non-peak Winter season, The New York Times even published our announcement the following Sunday.
Now, nearly two years later I don’t regret a thing. I still couldn’t imagine myself doing a single wedding tradition, or making my friends and family watch me give extremely personal vows, slow dance and feed someone cake.
My wedding day wasn’t the best day of my life. I never wanted it to be. It was just the start of many more best days.