We wanted our day to be less 'wedding' and more 'marriage' so a super suave elopement in beautiful San Francisco was right up our ally.
When I was a little girl my Dad always told me he would give me $5,000 towards a wedding and $10,000 if we eloped. As it turns out it took me so long to find Mr Right that he didn't need to do either, but the idea of eloping had stuck.
My DH proposed on Christmas Eve 2013 at our brand new block of land where we were going to build a life together. Early in 2015 when we started planning a family holiday with my two stepkids (then 8 and 12 years) we thought "it's either a big holiday or a wedding. Why not do both at the same time?"
Eloping means you can be as relaxed or as formal as you like, without any family pressure. You don't have to have table settings, name cards, fights about which new work friend should be invited and all of that. Also, if you have an other half who would rather eat molten lava than stand up in front of everyone they've ever met and be the centre of attention for a whole day - eloping is a great way to have your special day without the angst.
I can't exactly remember when we decided that San Francisco would be the place, but I know it had a LOT to do with the beautiful pictures I found online of San Francisco City Hall.
San Fran is not cheap. If you're looking for a cheap and cheerful elopement from Australia - pick Bali. But if you want something memorable, classy and a day to remember your whole life long - San Fran is for you.
Before you leave home
Even though we were eloping I was still a bride right... so I had all the normal fun of searching
for shoes, hair accessories, the hens party... all the fun stuff. I've listed all of the bits and bobs in this post, but probably something to mention is - suitcase space.
As we were going on a fairly big holiday and the wedding was two weeks and a few cities down the line, the dress in particular had to be somewhat practical. I chose a beautiful dress from Australian label Love Honor. The Blushing Dress at $275 in my humble opinion made me not only an incredibly thrifty bride, but gave me the classy, vintage look I love without any dramas about space, steaming or crinkles. It was perfect. I still love it every time I look at our pictures.
Speaking of pictures. Picking your vendors is particularly difficult when you are half a world away. I found that many US websites didn't have the look and feel I was used to from Australian Wedding vendors. One way to get a good idea of what others have rated vendors is to check out wedding forums or platforms such as Wedding Wire or The Knot.
The Knot is where I found the AH-MA-ZING Olivia Smartt who took such beautiful pictures of us and the kids. Olivia was wonderfully helpful, organised and professional throughout the planning stage. On the day she set us all at ease - giving us excellent direction on how to stand, move and how to get the most out of our short time with her. She worked so fast to get the most beautiful pictures to us, I just couldn't fault her absolute professionalism and the quality of her work. She caught the most beautiful moments of our short ceremony and the love between not only my husband and I but in joining me with this 'already family of three.' So engaging was Olivia that we've kept in touch over the past two years and we would love nothing more than to share a wine or three and get her to take some more pics of us when we return (in like a million years time when we can save some cash).
I also found Maria-Lee, owner of Maria-Lee Makeup and Hair in an online forum (I can't recall which) and I completely lucked out. Maria does hair and make-up for the stars and her airbrush technique made me feel like Hollywood royalty on the big day. The contouring she was able to achieve with the airbrush was beautiful. With no brushstrokes my complexion looked radiant, super smooth and natural. Maria's bubbly, calm manner kept me relaxed and ready on time. The make up didn't budge one bit all day - even after the wedding when we got back into our tourist gear and went to Alamo Park and Alcatraz for their night time tour #hubbygotlife #quickiewedding.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have information regarding marriages of Australian Citizens occurring overseas on their website. They state that you should seek information from the consulate or embassy of the country you wish to get married in to determine the requirements to enter into a legal marriage in that country, but in general that marriages entered into overseas are generally recognised as valid in Australia providing that
the marriage was recognised as valid under the law of the country in which it was entered into, at the time when it was entered into, and
the marriage would have been recognised as valid under Australian law if the marriage had taken place in Australia.
A little more digging reveals there is no need to register a marriage that has taken place overseas when you arrive back in Australia.
The foreign marriage certificate is enough evidence of the marriage and in general I have found that to be the case when changing my name and details back at home.
The only thing I did do, (that cost more than it would have had we been married in Australia), is change my name officially via the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages name change certificate, rather than just as part of our marriage. I can't recall exactly who advised me of this - I think the Births, Deaths and Marriages office here in Perth, but she basically said while they technically 'should' recognise the American Marriage Certificate, I'd have an easier time changing my name on my passport and drivers licence if I had the Change of Name Certificate as evidence rather than the Californian Marriage Certificate.
Next up was to check we were able to marry under US and Californian law. The full details are available on the County Clerk's website (along with booking details). Californian residency and US citizenship are not requirements for marriage in California and so long as the two parties are aged over 18 years and not currently married to anyone else, they are free to marry. Bookings are made 90 days in advance via the reservations portal on the County Clerk's website. There are two appointments - one for the marriage licence (the paperwork $104USD), and one for the marriage ceremony (The 'I Do' bit $83USD).
The Big Day
Because we were staying for our wedding night (and sharing the room with the kids) we decided it would be worth splashing out on our accommodation for this part of the trip. We stayed at the Fairmont Hotel and honestly there is no comparison. I think The Fairmont has ruined me for all other hotels... It was the most beautiful place I have ever stayed and the staff made me feel like an absolute princess (see my 2015 Trip Advisor hotel review here).
If you are thinking about eloping I can highly recommend it. We did have a party to celebrate with family when we returned home, but it was relaxed and cheaper.
I remember all of the beautiful details of our wedding day and I spent 100% of it with my wonderful husband. Which is what it's all about right?
We woke up, I ordered room service, John and the kids went downstairs for some breakfast and Maria-Lee got to work. My little bridesmaid / flowergirl / soon to be official step-daughter came back up to finish getting ready with me and we made our way down to the lobby in the ornate elevator of the Fairmont. When the doors opened there was my soon to be husband and step-son waiting. That was the real 'oooh ahhh' moment. From there we caught a cab to City Hall for our 11am licence appointment. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tips to remember
Check out the legalities for any fine print around booking your marriage licence, some States in the US and other countries have a minimum number of days you need to have resided in the country before you can marry - call the embassy if you're unsure.
Check out review sites for any international vendors you are using to make sure you are getting a market comparable price and high quality.
When you arrive at your destination hang your dress in the bathroom and have a steamy hot shower.
Make travelling with wedding 'stuff' as easy as possible for yourself - you don't want to be trying to do much more than a gentle iron once you get to your destination.
Splash out on the important things such as your photographer and anything that will make you feel more relaxed and able to enjoy the day.
Use the concierge at your hotel to ensure you get help if you need it and potentially some 'special treatment' to make your day run smoothly - people just love to hear that you've chosen their city to spend your special day.
All the links
Dress - Blushing Lace by Love Honor
Shoes - Georgie's Bridal Shoes - Jennifer in Ivory
Hair Accessories, Earrings and Bracelet (Including birdcage veil) - Kezani Jewellery
Photography - Olivia Smartt
Hair and Makeup - Maria Lee Makeup and Hair
Flowers (Bridal and Flower Girl Posy) - Church Street Flowers
DH suit - Rhodes and Beckett
Flower Girl Dress - Lollipop Couture
Page Boy Suit - Myer
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