Elizabeth Day: The dream wedding I didn’t know I wanted
Styling: Holly Elgeti. Make-up: Nicky Weir using Hourglass Beauty. Hair: Alex Szabo at Carol Hayes using T3 Haircare. Dress, Mulberry. Jewellery, Daisy jewellery
Until recently, I never saw the point of eloping. It seemed underwhelming to get married without your loved ones there to celebrate.
To me, elopements were what you went to Gretna Green for. And that’s miles away – you probably have to take at least two trains. But that was before I did it myself.
I got engaged during the pandemic. We planned our wedding in the glow of optimism that existed in the brief period in between lockdowns last September. ‘It’ll probably all be over by Christmas,’ we told each other, gambling that our hope would win over scientific evidence. The ceremony was organised for 10 December with ten guests, aware that social distancing measures might be in place.
Then there was another lockdown. We didn’t want vulnerable parents to travel, so we cancelled the ceremony. But the registrars were still booked and we’d done all the admin, schlepping to the town hall and answering questions that made me feel I was lying (I wasn’t, but it’s hard to remember your loved one’s date of birth under interrogation by an unsmiling official behind a screen).
So we made the decision to go ahead and sign the certificates on the original date. We’d be in and out in 20 minutes. All we needed were two witnesses.
And so it was that we unwittingly fell into the most magical event of our lives. On the morning of 10 December, I woke up and asked my other half if he thought he’d cry during the day. ‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘This is just the logistical bit.’
Within seconds we were sobbing. Messy, tears-rolling-unstoppably-down-our-cheeks sobbing. There was something profoundly special about the service being just about us and our love. We didn’t have to worry about guests. We didn’t feel the pressure of performance. We had no expectations – and, as so often with life, when you have limited expectations, your experience is almost guaranteed to exceed them.
I had borrowed an outfit from my friend, bridalwear designer Kate Halfpenny, and it was more chic than anything I would have chosen for myself: cream palazzo trousers, a backless top and blue velvet shoes from Asos. We accessorised with matching Bride and Groom face-masks ordered the day before.
We got married at The Pig Hotel in Devon and everyone was so kind that we didn’t have to think of anything. The staff lit candles so the outdoor folly we tied the knot in looked like a twinkling Christmas lantern. I had no flowers, no uncomfortable shapewear, no professional hair or make-up. There were no speeches. I felt utterly myself and knew I was marrying someone who loved me as that person, however improbable I once thought that would be.
In a year where so many had to delay meaningful ceremonies, my own experience made me realise smaller events give you the space to be in the moment without having to worry about anyone else and the stress of putting on a big event. It was perfect because we hadn’t tried to make it so.
That’s not to say we’ve abandoned our plans entirely. Larger rituals are important and I realise a wedding (rather than a micro-marriage) is for your loved-ones, so they can be part of your journey. That’s why, in a curious way, I’m grateful to the pandemic for forcing us to do it differently. We had our private exchange of vows, and now we can embrace the public one. I’ll tell you how it goes. I’m on my way to get married (again) tomorrow.
This week I’m…