Believe me, I've been there.
I think it's time I address the reality of being engaged and what it's like being a woman under pressure during the wedding planning process. I'm going to get really vulnerable today, so get ready. My goal is to not only let you know that you're not alone, but also show why I feel so strongly about my role as a Los Angeles wedding photographer. (This post isn't about being bitter- I just want to share my personal experience and that doesn't mean it will be true for anyone else who gets engaged.)
When Evan and I got engaged, five minutes later, our families asked, "so when's the wedding?!" Not even a moment to breathe and enjoy it. I know they were just excited, but that was the moment it all started. No one prepared me for what the next five months had in store for me. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing moment that we got to share with our families, but reality quickly set it. After the proposal, we all had dinner together. People were asking when we would want to get married, where, and what it would look like. I causally mentioned I didn't want a wedding. "You don't want a wedding? Are we gonna be there? Don't you want a big ceremony?"
"No I want to elope."
This wasn't met with understanding. In fact, it brought on more questions, more pressure, and more judgement for the next 5 months we were engaged. How could anyone possibly want to elope without anyone there? How could a woman not want the wedding she's been dreaming about since she was a little girl?
As women, and as young girls, we're just expected to want the big, romantic wedding. Cue images of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White. Extravagant church ceremony, big ball gowns, and flowers as far as the eye can see. We're forced to believe in this narrative- that our life goal is to get married to our Prince Charming and to have the most Pinterest-worthy wedding of the century. Marriage is continuously idealized in a world where if you're single, you're innately sad and lonely. I was raised in a church that preached God was enough if you were single- but then constantly praised married people and relationships, as if getting married should be our life goal (that's a whole different series I could write about). BUT we live in a society that obsesses over marriage and weddings. The wedding industry is HUGE because of this. The romance, the dramatic love story, the beautiful happily ever after- who doesn't want that?
So naturally, I knew I was going to have to explain myself to every single person as to why I wasn't about to do all that. To give a little context, Evan and I are pretty introverted. I'm sure if you've talked to us for like 5 minutes, you'd immediately know we wouldn't vibe with a big wedding. As a couple, we appreciate more intimate settings with our friends, we're not super into materialistic things, and we don't really care about how others perceive us. We're content with simplicity of everything. When we were dating, in fact, I told Evan I didn't want a wedding at all. He was actually down for it. I also had already been shooting weddings for a few years at that point, and let me just put it this way- I know what actually goes down during weddings. I've seen what couples have to deal with the day of their wedding, not to mention how expensive and stressful the planning process is already. So I got engaged with all of this in mind. Knowing us, I knew it just wouldn't make sense to have a traditional wedding.
The wedding industry has taken on a drastic shift since the pandemic hit. Big weddings got canceled and postponed, leaving everyone to rethink what the definition of a wedding was, and why weddings exist at all. Elopements have become increasingly popular, which has consequently become more and more acceptable by society. Courthouse and backyard weddings became a norm for a while. It was so cool watching society finally shift away from the traditional wedding norms and find it's way into "new" territory. Elopements became more understandable for people, which is why I thought our families would be on board.
We didn't know what we wanted in the beginning. We never had a conversation of what our values were, how we want to feel on our wedding day, or what we envisioned for ourselves.
"Well don't you want your family to be there?" quickly turned into, "don't you want our friends to be there?" turned into "we should have a small ceremony" turned into "we should have a reception."
I was SO confused. Didn't I say I never want a wedding in the first place? How did we get here? I felt so alone and I kept wanting to make everyone happy. My dad kept telling me he wanted to walk me down the aisle. How could I say no to that? I found myself explaining why I wanted to elope and what that would look like OVER and OVER again. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting trying to figure everything out. I had more free time to plan, so most of the responsibility was put on me. The venue, the catering, the decorations, every vendor- all of it was my job to figure out. No one really offered help. Honestly, I think only a few people did. But at the same time, if someone asked me what they could do, I felt even more responsibility to tell them what to do. We originally were going to a very small ceremony with just our immediate family present so we didn't hire a wedding planner. But then it turned into inviting friends, and then it turned into a wedding ceremony and reception.
Planning all of that on top of trying to find a place to live, juggling my business, struggling in my relationships with my family, and working on our own relationship was too much for me. My mental health was neglected and I absolutely hated being engaged. I just wanted to be married to Evan and start our lives together without this thing glooming over our heads.
Do you know how many people told me, "enjoy your engagement! This will be the only time you're engaged!"
UGH that was so annoying. It's like the equivalent of telling a depressed person, "just smile!"
Sure, being engaged may be special, but also it just sucks. It's like the one thing holding you back from having what you want the most in life- to be with your person forever. We were engaged for only five months, yeah it was short. But it was hard because we lived far from each other and would only see each other maybe once a week. Long distance relationships only get harder as time goes on. The reality is, being engaged is hard. There is not one moment where I've thought to myself, "man, I really wish I could go back to those days." You're crazy if you think that haha.
One month before our wedding, we decided to forget it all and elope at the courthouse.
For the first time ever, I felt heard. Evan's brother and sister in law came over and finally asked us what we really wanted. By the end of that conversation, they all understood what had been going through my mind for that past four months. It felt like I could breathe. No one took me seriously for four months and it amounted to that moment. Evan and I decided to forgo our original ceremony plans and we made an appointment at the Santa Ana courthouse to get married on a Wednesday afternoon. It felt like it was the first time we made a decision for ourselves, and it was the best decision we ever made.
So on July 14th, 2021, we got married in an office with Evan's brother as our witness. Our family came out to support us and we all got Korean BBQ afterwards. No wedding dress, no photographer, just a nice afternoon with the people who loved us most. It was so casual and nothing like I expected, and I wouldn't change that day for anything.
We decided to stick with our reception plans and host a dinner for our closest friends and family a couple weeks later. We didn't have to worry about a lot because we were already married at that point. Everyone who was involved came through for us and we genuinely enjoyed our night. However, the biggest regret I have from that night is that we don't really have many photos for some reason. I'd hate to throw shade at anyone, but again, this is why I am SO adamant about educating couples on how to find the right photographer for them.
This is why I take my job as a wedding photographer so seriously. I know exactly how important those moments at your wedding are. The conversations you have with your grandparents, or the moments your share with your best friend who flew in from out of state. You want those moments captured. You want to be able to look back at your photos and feel those emotions all over again. You want to be able to share with your kids or grandkids some day who these people were and why they meant so much to you. I never take this job lightly. I pour everything I have into every single session and wedding that I shoot because I care. I care about you, I care about your people, and I care about the memories you're making.