Ten years ago today, I eloped.
It wasn’t like you see in the movies. It’s not like Denisa and I looked at each other that morning and said, “What the hey–let’s get married.” We didn’t wake up next to each other after an all-nighter and find out we’d been married in some sort of drunken stupor. Las Vegas wasn’t involved. (Although we did consider getting married in Las Vegas, just so we could say we did. It was a longer drive, though. And not as cool as Manti.)
No–our elopement was much different. We planned it out months in advance. When you live in a marriage-hungry place like Provo, Utah, it’s quite difficult to elope properly. For one thing, you’ve got all these friends who are constantly roaming the streets. Have you ever tried to hunt for an apartment without running into anyone you know? We had to live somewhere once we were married, after all. There were two or three very nice apartments we had to just walk on by instead of checking them out, because we saw someone we knew already looking.
We didn’t tell anyone we were engaged, although I did let my family know ahead of time that when I got married, they wouldn’t be there. It wasn’t the easiest conversation I’d had with everyone in my family, but they were all understanding well in advance of when I finally eloped. Actually, quite a few of them had a pool going as to when I’d actually do it. I forget who won.
Of course, all secrets have a way of bubbling to the surface. The night before the big day, I came home with a rented tux, and my roommates looked at it in confusion. “Going to a wedding?” “Yup,” I said. “Whose?” “Mine.”
Their expressions were worth it.
We’d chosen to get married in the Manti Temple for a couple of reasons: first of all, my ancestors helped build it. Second of all, it was on the way to Bryce Canyon and Zions, where we’d chosen to honeymoon. (Our other choice had been Yellowstone, in which case we’d have chosen a different temple, but again–it was too far of a drive.) I called my family from the gas station just outside of Manti. (I didn’t have a cell phone yet.)
We’d arranged for a photographer (we have lots of pictures–all of them just of us.) He was Denisa’s boss at the BYU Bookstore where she worked at the time, and he bought us a photo frame engraved with a picture of the temple and our names and the date. While he was standing in line to order it, he turned to the girl behind him and asked her how she’d spell Bryce (he realized too late he hadn’t asked). She knew just how to spell my name–she was my sister in law’s sister, and I’d even been on a date or two with her. (But hey, I’d been on a date with lots of girls at BYU. (-: ) So of course she tells him, then gets on the phone with her sister, who gets on the phone with her husband, my brother.
Like I said, secrets bubble.
But in any case, it was all too late and we were too far away for anyone to make it to the temple in time to be there for the ceremony. (I eloped for many reasons. I won’t go into them here.) The ceremony was great. I remember when we’d driven down to Manti ahead of time to meet with the Temple workers and plan things out, they’d been quite confused. Mormon weddings typically happen in temples, where only faithful adult church members can attend. You’ll get something like 20-40 people at the ceremony. There’s a temple sealer (we believe marriages performed in a temple last not just til death do you part–you’re “sealed” together for time and eternity) who you can choose. There are two witnesses, who you also choose. We asked to be married in the tower. They told us that would be really hard on our grandparents, who would have a hard time with the stairs. They couldn’t quite understand that it was just going to be the two of us. They asked us who we wanted as witnesses and a sealer. We said whoever the temple had on hand that time. (They ended up being very nice older gentlemen. One of the witnesses fell asleep in the middle of the ceremony.)
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Both the eloping and the marriage. Eloping was easy as pie. There was no pressure, and either one of us could have backed out at any time if it’s something we had any doubts about. I think sometimes people have real reservations about getting married, but they go through with it because by then, so much has been planned and they’d be afraid of letting too many people down. We got married because we wanted to, plain and simple. There were no big elaborate receptions to plan. No crazy wedding breakfasts and who sits where. No big expenses. (Denisa bought her dress at the BYU Bookstore. She got a good discount as an employee. She made her veil.)
Of course, as a parent, I can see how disappointing it could be to have your child have such a momentous occasion that you can’t be there for, but in the end, marriage is something that should be all about the husband and wife–no one else. I really liked being able to focus on that that day, and not having to worry about what anyone else was thinking or doing or where I had to be.
And as for the marriage, it was flat out the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was terrified of marriage, ahead of time. My parents divorced when I was about 6, and I was so worried I’d end up doing the same. I really didn’t want to put my kids and myself through that. I had a girl in mind who I thought would be perfect. We were great friends, and had been for years. But I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision. Being the goal-oriented lad that I am, I set a goal to date 30 girls in one semester. I got to 16, and things were going fine. Each girl was nice, but in the end I didn’t see any reason to change me from my course. Then came 17.
I asked Denisa on a date mainly because my main date had fallen through. We went on a double date with my sister and a guy I set her up with. That date was so different than any of the others I’d been on. Before it, I was mainly just happy to be bragging that I was going on a date with a girl from a foreign country. After it, I couldn’t get her out of my head. I remember getting home at 2 in the morning (my car had gotten a flat on the way home–fun) and talking to my roommate Juan for about another 2 hours. All my certainty about who I wanted to marry had flown out the window in the space of a few hours.
The only thing I can compare it to is fishing. (Romantic, I know.) When you’ve been fishing for a while, you start imagining there might be a fish on the end of your line, mainly because you’re bored and you want there to be one. So you reel it in, only to discover you’ve got nothing. But when an actual real live fish is there, it’s jerking and tugging and moving all over the place. There is no doubt.
I had a real live fish.
Less than two months later, I proposed. I’d always sworn that would never be me. I wouldn’t be the guy proposing to a girl he’d known less than a few months. (Denisa and I met at the beginning of the semester, in our German Phonetics class. Our first date was November 4.) No–I would have to know the girl for at least a year, preferably more. How else could I be certain I was making the right choice? But all that flew out the window. When you’ve got a real live fish hooked, you reel now–not a year from now.
I didn’t propose by getting down on my knee and having a ring or anything. No–we were just sitting, talking, and I looked at her and suddenly found myself blurting out, “I think I’m going to marry you.” After that, it was just an assumption on both our parts.
Anyway. I wasn’t planning on writing a novel today. We’re going tree shopping and then on a date this evening. But Denisa had to bake some bread, and so I had a bit of time and figured this would be interesting for you all to read. Hopefully I was right. I’ll just add this: When I look back on these 10 years, it’s crazy insane. I can’t believe how much we’ve done together. I can’t believe how much fun I’ve had. Sure, there have been difficult times, but those times were made that much easier by being married to the best friend I’ve ever had. We still do practically everything together, and I hope that never changes.
Thanks for 10 wonderful years, Denisa. [Insert more mushy gushing here. I try to avoid public mushy gushing when possible. I make exceptions every 5 or 10 years or so.]
For more photos, check out my Facebook album.