For a better wedding, elope

I had a lot of fun planning my own wedding. You only get to throw a party like that, theoretically, once in your life, and there are a myriad of aesthetic considerations. Flowers, music, food and so on. All of this is on my mind after returning from my brother-in-law’s wedding last week.

My wife and I, in retrospect, would have carried out our own wedding very differently. First off, we planned it long distance on account of tradition, the tradition of holding the ceremony in the city of the bride’s family. Long-distance wedding planning is a pain, and a lot of our friends didn’t come because of the drive (or so it seemed). As it was, we already bucked a lot of the current American trends: No garter, no bouquet toss, no dance and our processional was Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major — a gorgeous organ piece of almost ten minutes. A friend told us ours was one of the most unique and beautiful weddings she’d ever been too.

Still, we’d do it differently if we could. I’d like to stretch the celebration out and see the whole think become more personal; stick to family and close-ish friends, not so many acquaintances milling around. I’d like good friends and family to be around for a couple of days. The rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception just aren’t enough time in all the rush to allow for real conversation. How about a barbecue and trip to the movie theater the day before? My wife and I would have loved to put on a formal dinner for our guests, but decided against it on account of cost. (We tried to do the whole thing on the cheap, and as I recall the rough total was somewhere around $6,600, $600 more than it would have been if the in-laws’ church wasn’t being remodeled that year.). My brother actually invited all the family out to brunch the morning after his wedding, a nice touch to extend the celebration. It seems that other cultures do this a lot better than ours from some things I’ve read.

Yesterday I had another thought: The whole wedding situation would actually run a lot more smoothly if a chaste couple (the assumption here on this Christian blog) eloped. You propose, you find a few best friends as witnesses to get the formalities over with and jet off onto the honeymoon. After you get back you start planning what can then be a more relaxed wedding scenario. This avoids the obvious sexual tension during a traditional wedding. The bride and groom are free to enjoy the company of their guests during whatever ceremony or reception plans they choose to make. They don’t feel pressure to rush off after the festivities.

Sarahs wedding arms

Another aesthetic consideration for today’s bride and groom is the photographer, something I’ve written about before. Photography has, in a sense, taken over the modern American wedding. Before or after the ceremony (the correct answer is “before”)? Friend, amateur or pricey professional? The photo session for a wedding often takes as much time as the ceremony and reception combined, at least in my experience. The flashing and clicking and running across the aisle by the cameraman or woman to catch every best angle during the ceremony is, frankly, distracting.

The same brother I mentioned above avoided formal photographs altogether, even though they hired a professional to record the event. I personally like this idea, however modern American mothers seem to take great umbrage to the lack of faux, er, formal smiles. In the case of my brother, his mother-in-law made the bride and groom put the dress and tux back on months after the fact for a proper sitting.

Can’t we find a happy medium, where a few formal photographs are taken during the span of, oh, say an hour before the whole shindig? Well-done candid photos are, simply, better anyway. The one image that I remember from our own album isn’t a formal capture at all, but of my wife getting ready the her bridal chamber, eating a quick lunch while one of her attendants irons the train of her dress, which she’s already wearing. She’s beautiful, the photo is beautiful and poetic and real.

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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