Ninety-seven days ago, I got married.
Ninety-eight days ago, exactly nine people on the planet knew I was about to get hitched: me, my husband-to-be, two childhood friends, two college roommates, one company HR representative, one hippie jewelry designer and, unfortunately, one Geico agent (don't ask).
In case you're counting, that leaves just about 7 billion people on the planet who didn't know, including: my parents, immediate-future in-laws, 99 percent of friends and my boss, who gritted her teeth and wished me a lovely critical four days in the middle of a huge project off.
No, I'm not pregnant.
My now-spouse and I debated extensively the true definition of the term "elope" in the six months prior to our very planned surprise wedding. It usually conjures up an image of a knocked-up bride, drive-through Vegas chapel or both. All we had was one otherwise unremarkable night when we decided we might as well get hitched.
We decided to have a surprise wedding because that's just our style. Neither of us are wedding people. We don't like traditional anything. Right now, we like having money more than we like spending it. We figured we had more important (read: fun) things than wedding planning to occupy half a year of our lives. And really, we didn't want the real reason for us getting hitched -- the whole head-over-heels, can't-live-without-my-partner-in-crime thing -- to get buried in a pile of taffeta and birdseed and giant chair bows.
So we ordained a friend online, flew in a select few accomplices who were sworn to secrecy and went to the courthouse. We walked our little processional through a set of metal detectors -- which is basically an arch, right? -- got the marriage license, went outside and signed it during a one-minute "ceremony," then made our grand re-entrance back through the metal detectors to turn it in.
And then we came clean.
We videotaped the "ceremony," dropped the key 30 seconds of footage into a tacky photo slideshow set to "Hotel Yorba," uploaded it to YouTube, sent my parents the link and summoned FaceTime. (Full disclosure: A few glasses of vino may have been consumed before that last step.)
As it went, my mother didn't threaten to kill me. Through her (happy) snot and tears and gasps emerged four words, crystal clear, when no doubt remained as to what was happening: Kate. You. Little. Shit.
Then we sent the video out to the world.
Then we had a tacky party. We'd already invited friends to a "big, fat, tacky, fake wedding party" at a local community center, with instructions to don old bridesmaid dresses and ill-fitting suits and prepare to do some cheap champagne-fueled YMCA-ing. This came as no shock to our crowd, who's used to our annual tacky Christmas party (this year's theme was nativity), our festive costumes (such as the American flag pants and patriotic Zubaz we don for various holidays) and generally goofy antics (like switching our Batman and Poison Ivy costumes midway through Halloween -- fishnets + man legs = yikes).
The kicker: It wasn't fake.
The bride wore an early-90's, long-sleeve, tiered lace gown with someone's else's makeup on it by eBay. The groom wore an embroidered velour mariachi suit by Goodwill.
Guests busted in, screaming and cheering even louder for our sneaky nuptials than the fact that they could still zip their decade-old bridesmaid dresses. They settled in, sipping Miller High Life and Cook's champagne (if you want to call it that) straight from their personal-sized bottles, nibbling on a sheet cake wreck from Sam's Club and digging into the barrel of cheese balls.
During our impromptu toast and cake cutting/face smashing, complete with two-foot tall "Bride" and "Groom" glasses gifted by a friend, I heard someone whisper to the person next to her, "Did they actually get married or not? I'm so confused!"
The feedback on the whole thing was stellar. Equally divided, I'd say, among:
I so should have done that when I got married.
I'd totally do that, but my mother would KILL me.
I wish I was cool enough to pull that off. (Ha.)
Shockingly, no one whined. No one bitched. No one sobbed that they'd never get to walk their only daughter down some rolled-out, faintly stained piece of rental satin.
Family and friends saluted our commitment to a marriage, not a wedding. Our big reveal video, which we set as private on YouTube, got a scary 1,200+ views and counting (who is still watching this thing beside my mom?!). Friends showed their boyfriends and girlfriends. Coworkers showed their spouses. Parents showed their kids (some as an example of what to do, some as an example of what not to do).
When the festivities died down and our house became our own once again, my new husband and I attempted recovery.
"I have multiple bruises," I moaned from the shower.
He sighed. "I think that's the sign of a good wedding."
We sprawled across the couch, sore from lugging around cases of Miller High Life, exhausted from playing college with a four-day slumber party and emotionally spent, to say the least. He called me Wife and I rolled my eyes. We examined our rings. We regretted mocking people who leave the morning after their wedding for Sandals Jamaica. We talked about who liked our wedding and who thought it was classless. And then we debated what to make for dinner.
When we got home after our first day back at work in our newly-married state, we found a giant box waiting in front of our door. Much to our annoyance, my parents told me they were balking our strict no-gift policy. The sheer size of the box scared us first. And then we noticed the return address: Kmart. Half-tempted to just close the door and pray for thieves to come in the night, we opened it to find none other than... six toasters. The crappiest toasters you ever did see. Shrink wrapped together.
"What in the world are we going to do with six toasters?" we asked my dad.
"Exactly," he said.
I guess we had a real wedding after all.
Below, photos from our wedding:
Kate's parents reacting to the news.
Kate and Brian at their surprise wedding.