Intimate Woodland Vows
How did you meet?
Virtually, Tinder. Physically, coffee shop.
It's pretty hard to meet someone when you never leave your house, but somehow me and Catie managed to find each other. Of course, the story is funny in general because we met on Tinder, but another layer of humor is added with the idea of Catie herself on the app. An avid outdoors professional who was a workaholic when we first met, but still felt like she was missing something. I was well on my way to continuing college yet never finishing a degree and was steadily collecting cats and hoarding "antiques". Our meeting was easy, lesbian tinder isn't too poppin' in an Oklahoma college town, and we were both hooked from the first messages sent back and forth (Gilmore Girls & Netflix talk). After a week or so we met at what would end up to be our favorite spot in town, a local coffee shop. After the first night, all nights were a melody of nervous laughter, slow couch cuddles, and out of character late nights.
It's been three years now, after buying and beginning to restore an old house from the 1920's in Illinois, ditching that house to move across the country again to an older and smaller bungalow to repair in California... and of course the stereotypical picking up of two additional cats and a dog, we are finally married. It would’ve been wrong to contain our outlandish outdoor personalities within a building, and plain strange to have an entire wedding's worth of guests watch us introverts exchange vows: so, we finally settled it, a nice international elopement with a public reception afterwards.
What about the proposal?
Two proposals because neither one of us wanted us to give up the opportunity to be surprised or to be the romantic proposer. We, of course, had to play a part in picking out our own rings and decided to go to a flea market in Texas to do so… We ended up with a table, some fabric and the rings! Jessica proposed first in our bedroom, she picked me up from class and had our friends light about 1,000 tea lights and arrange baby’s breath. She made an XL Loch Ness monster, now called Nessie, and Nessie was wearing the ring when I opened the door.
Months pass… and Catie set up a morning surprise for me. Literally the only time she’s ever woken up before me, she hung up some super cute geometric garland and wrote a sweet card on our dining room table. She had fireworks prepared but we didn’t set them off. Proposals started in May and lasted until mid-June with one graduation, a trip to Jackson, WY, trip to Costa Rica, and move from Oklahoma to Illinois in between.
When did you know that you were meant to be with each other?
Jessica: Within the first few weeks, Catie wasn’t sure if she was ready to full on date her first girlfriend, or at least wasn’t ready to be what I wanted to be, and I was in for the win. We broke up for three days and then she wine texted me. The rest was history because pretty much any time after that we were both on the inseparable page. An added bonus was my mom awkwardly waving to her on the highway (because she just must be polite at all times) during this 3-day time frame while we were driving in separate cars.
Catie: Neither of us can remember how the idea came about, but after beginning to date in November, we decided I would come to her parent’s house in Angel Fire, New Mexico for New Years/the rest of Christmas break. This resulted in me driving 10+ hours in snowstorms and local power outages through mountain passes in the middle of the night in my 2-wheel drive SUV. The trip resulted in my meeting her family about 2 months after we started dating and the subtle introductions of her to my family. The trip is also marked as our first getaway together and ultimately the location where we held our reception.
Going into the wedding planning, what did you definitely know?
We wanted an outdoor wedding, we wanted to elope and we wanted as minimal people present as possible. Catie knew she wanted a reception following the elopement with friends and family to celebrate, and she convinced me of the merits of it as well.
Location wise, the mountains of NM or CO where we spent a lot of time road tripping and camping early in our relationship seemed ideal. Early on we knew we wanted a videographer to film everything so we could share it with everyone who wasn’t present. We ended up in Bloomington, IL for the courthouse legalities, Western Australia for the true ceremony and elopement with the reception in Angel Fire, NM.
What surprised you during planning? What was easy, what was difficult?
Catie is far more traditional than she let on and Jessica is okay with winging it. Also, once again catering is expensive and it was hard to wrap our brain around it. When planning for events in different counties and states, it’s hard to finalize plans. Mainly because you can never go visit or test what you’re choosing without an absurd hike in expenses. Also, spontaneity was hard but led to some of the best decisions we made, like it wasn’t until two months before our ceremony in Australia that we decided to go to Australia. We chose to do that because we knew we’d never forget it but also because Catie’s dad couldn’t get off enough time to come to the states. Once we made the decision, all the other ones became easier and started to fall into place. While it’s hard to plan a long-distance ceremony, it’s also easier once you realize you can’t change or plan too much and that when there is no plan there is no stress of following the plan.
Also, modern day amenities made some of the more traditional difficulties associated with wedding planning much easier. For instance, Jessica’s dress search was nearly stress free as she ordered one she fell in love with online from the get-go. Catie went two-fold on the dress search, she found a beautiful one with her mom and I in person, but opted for the online love affair for the reception dress. In some ways, ordering the dress online takes out all the stressful time constraints and personal insecurities of a traditional dress shopping experience. However, the sentimental aspects are somewhat gone as well…
Honestly, the easiest part of our whole journey was the videography and photography. Once we got the parents on board, Lisa and Alex turned into a combination wedding party/best friend/videographer/photographer/wedding planner/guardian angel/dance coaches amalgam that made everything smooth and relaxing. Not only did they provide excellent quality photography and videography service (ensuring that in 10+ years we may still love and want to share our day instead of laugh at the ridiculous dresses/awkward poses) but they did little things for us, like help us learn how to dance, or at least masquerade as dance proficient for our first dance the night before our reception. Or, help us find the ONE, seriously, pre-made cake in Margaret River the day before we were to eat wedding cake following our ceremony. They provided us with all the easy transitions, small (yet genuine) talk and aid of comforting friends through the small in between moments too. They were the easiest part of wedding planning for sure.
Is there anything you wish you knew while you were planning your wedding that you know now?
Catering is expensive but well worth it. If you have a vision, push for it. Especially since no one else is most likely visualizing what you’re seeing, and if you don’t push for your vision you’ll end up with a mish mash of 10+ people’s visions and it’ll just be… wonky looking.
Everything will not go perfect, and majority of things that don’t you won’t even notice. For instance, we stressed about welcome signs and made a big to-do about an XL sign for the entrance into the seating area for our video. I mean like, we spent $$ on the design and it got printed and there was a huge hullabaloo the day before because no one had the foam board or spray adhesive. But, no one ever put the sign out. And, no one noticed until the next day when it was found under the bed in one of the guest rooms where it had been stored to maintain pristine quality.
Any advice for couples planning weddings now? Anything you would have done differently or anything you’d like to add?
You need a DJ. It’ll be just sad without the DJ. Hire a videographer + photographer and they need to be like someone you’d be friends with because this isn’t your high school prom, it’s the pictures you want to look at constantly (trust us, we had no photos and now we have about 55 in frames everywhere). If you want to elope, just do it (regardless of the scary expenses or people’s feelings getting hurt). You can always work it off and people can come to your baby shower (or whatever else). There’s a point where people stop freaking out about individual budget items and this thing happens where you spend a lot of money on the finishing details of the wedding, just know that will happen and be okay with it (it does make a difference).
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
Which day? Courthouse day was the coffee and macaroons afterwards. The waiting room was nice too because everyone was so happy and there was a large window overlooking downtown.
Elopement day – for Jessica, sitting on the rocks watching the sunset (and being photographed) while watching the surfers, extra special time was Catie’s blood sugar going low and just munching quietly in peace with Alex, Lisa and Catie on banana chips. Catie’s was the ever changing scenery, going from the large Karri Forest with family to the wide open and warm beach. Reception day – for Catie it was exchanging rings at the lake and our first dance, for Jessica it was the toasts and hearing other’s fond memories and perceptions of our relationship (they were all true, Catie is very responsible and Jessica likes free stuff).