If you asked my husband why we eloped he’d reply with an answer about saving money and doing whatever makes his wife happy. Or at least I think that’s what he’d say. To me, eloping was a much more complex decision that had a great deal to do with wanting our wedding to be about us.
Let’s just start from the beginning. Kanan and I met when he was thirty and I was 25. I’m fairly certain that my parents had made up their minds that I would never get married – mostly because I told them that. Truthfully, I was still about two percent open to the idea; I just wasn’t pushing it. I’ve heard Kanan was similar, but for him marriage was probably about one percent on the table… or less. I’ve said it before, but I knew I wanted to marry him almost instantly after meeting. Three dates and the idea took up permanent residence in my head. Kanan took longer to come to that conclusion, but obviously proposed after about three years with the exact ring I wanted. He’d tell you it was to make me happy. But you can’t make a man (especially one as stubborn as my husband) do anything, let alone be with you ‘til death. So I see through the gruff explanations and translate them into a kind of nostalgia.
(Rings: Laurie Sarah Designs, Photo: Amber Ferriman)
I can’t remember if we had the conversation before or after he proposed, but he asked me if I’d be okay to elope, and I said yes, completely relieved. I’m the type of person that will execute a plan I see in my head down to the detail, if that’s what I want. And for some reason I was having a hard time envisioning our wedding. I’m not sure if it’s perspective, age, or the fact that at this point I had been working with brides closely for about eight years professionally and just simply knew too much. Weddings are like funerals – ultimately they’re for the family.
We did consider how our decision may affect our loved ones, but ultimately and selfishly concluded that our wedding should be about our feelings, and us alone. Which meant we would make every decision about it. If you’ve been married, or participated at all in weddings then I’m sure you’re aware that the bride and groom almost never make most decisions based on their own selfish wants. From my (now eleven years of bridal) experience, I’ve seen most wedding decisions, from venue to photographer to table runners, made out of guilt or coercion. We decided that the best way to avoid going down the path of overspending on things we didn’t want was to avoid it altogether. Initially we tossed around the idea of having a small destination wedding, then struggled with who not to invite. Eventually we concluded that the only way to not offend anyone and truly honor our decision was to not include anyone at all. And from there we decided on just us two.
We went to the courthouse here in Eureka, CA with one of my clients and friends, Amber Ferriman as our only witness and our photographer, staying true to the only us two theme. I’m so happy that she captured these moments, glamorous in their own way. I bought a three-quarter-sleeve sheath dress from Lulus for $60, taupe pumps from Amazon for $30, spent an hour on my hair and makeup, and Kanan told me I had Jackie Kennedy style that day. We exchanged vows in a little room on the top floor, taking pictures surrounded by thousands of old books and records and a view of our little town. We went to a quiet dinner afterward to celebrate before calling the family to tell them the news. Some people choose to keep their legal marriage a secret until the elopement photos come out, but that was hard to do. So we just went with it. Whoever knew, knew.
(Photos: Amber Ferriman)
The quote: “Pursue what’s in your heart and the universe will conspire to support you” describes how piece by piece I designed my dream elopement ceremony. As soon as we made the commitment to stay true to ourselves, I could envision everything perfectly, and sought out every piece. We had narrowed down locations to three potential destinations and Canada was one of them – the solidifying factor in choosing Banff, Alberta was our photographer Henny Hwang. A year or so earlier, I had worked on a bride from Alberta – she and her fiance had traveled to Humboldt to elope in the redwoods, and they brought their amazing photographer with them. I had already met Henny and had her fabulous work in my professional portfolio. I emailed her to inquire about her availability, and we landed on September 28, 2018 at the Fairmont in Banff Springs. We chose that time of year because of the potential for fall colors and foliage, and we chose that venue because it looks like a castle. The most serendipitous part of that story: the Canadian couple are the Wilsons as well.
After our photographer and hotels were booked (we would honeymoon in Banff as well) I started in on details. The dress was something I had seen during a late night Etsy scroll session. A mix between Cinderella and Belle’s classic ballroom styles; it was perfect. I screen shot it before we were even engaged, knowing that every other gown I’d seen fell short somehow. A year later I went back to the designer’s Etsy page and it was gone. I frantically emailed her with a picture asking her what we could do and she said she could make it for me, custom. My designer’s name is Anna Skoblikova. We did all of our communication via email, my dress shipped from (if I remember correctly) Israel, and she made my custom gown using measurements I had taken at a local shop and three pictures of me. It fit like a glove, the quality is impeccable, and every detail is absolutely perfect. At times I definitely worried that I was making a bad decision by having my dress custom made by a designer in another country I’d only ever talked to through email, Paypal-ling her money and crossing my fingers. But she is the best, and if we ever renew our vows or I need a fabulous dress, I’ll have her make me another. It’s a work of art that Kanan plans to build a display dressing table for, so when I have a huge walk-in closet I can look at it every day.
(Dress: Anna Skoblikova, Photo: Hennygraphy)
I bought my ballet slipper inspired flats from Amazon, Jessica Simpson brand. I picked Kanan’s outfit from a picture in a catalog at the local bridal shop Promises and they took it from there. And I decided to do my hair and makeup myself.
(Flower Crown & Boutonnière: Flora Organica Designs, Bouquet: Banff Mountaintop Flowers, Photo: Hennygraphy)
My friend Faye, the extremely talented owner of Flora Organica designs made my flower crown and Kanan’s boutonniere out of preserved flowers that I packed in my carry on along with my ring box, and my dress and shoes. Christine, the owner of Banff Mountaintop Flowers put together the most beautiful bouquet and décor for our hotel room. I chose her based solely on her online portfolio and quick communication, and she did a better job than I could’ve imagined based on a collage of inspiration photos I sent her and colors from my flower crown materials. Things were falling right into place – every invoice printed and placed in the wedding binder with thank you cards written to every vendor.
Believe it or not, the hardest thing to put together from 1,125 miles away was the cake, and cake is my favorite. A non-negotiable. Our favorite cake is carrot, and finding someone who would make a two person vegan carrot cake was almost impossible. The hotel refused, and there wasn’t a bakery in the area who would do it. Eventually one of the bakeries gave me the name and email of her friend who bakes cakes on the side, and she agreed to make it. She delivered the most perfect and delicious wedding cake to our hotel the morning of our ceremony with a stand and a serving set. She was amazing. And that tied it all together. It was totally worth going down a 6-month long Canadian cake rabbit hole.
The day of our ceremony Henny came to our hotel room at the Fairmont and spent an hour with us getting ready. Looking back at the photos, eating our wedding cake for breakfast and having my own husband help me get into my dress are my most treasured moments. We did everything together, which for two stubbornly independent people, means a great deal to us. We took pictures at the hotel and then Henny drove us to Lake Minnewanka where we exchanged vows at the perfect spot that she had picked out the day prior. Blue water, and snow-capped mountains behind us. We took photos at two other locations, dodging tourists and several other couples getting married, and after the five hours of photos, we parted ways with our amazing photographer, went back to our hotel room, and took a nap. A couple of hours later we woke up, got ready, and went to our fancy dinner downstairs, just us two.