I have never been the person who imagined having the “big wedding”. As a publicist for a big beauty brand, I spend a lot of my working time thinking about who is going to sit next to who and what flowers are going to be where and is everybody having a good time? I love going to other people’s weddings: I’m the first person in tears and I’ve planned a million hen parties. But for me, the idea of organising a wedding has always felt like planning the ultimate press event, and that just felt like work.
But that’s not to say I planned to elope. Not exactly.
It was December, almost six years ago, and my boyfriend, Arthur, and I were getting ready to go on holiday to Thailand. We’d been dating for two-and-a-half years and were talking about moving in together – I was selling my flat so we could do just that. I’m Canadian and a week before we were due to fly – on Christmas day – my boss called me into her office. “Oh darling,” she said, “I’ve just got a letter form the Home Office asking me if I’m renewing your visa on January 8.” I was shocked: I thought I had until May to decide what I was going to do. I had already been at the job for four years, and if my current boss was to renew my visa, I would need to stay there another three.
That Sunday night, I told my boyfriend that I had to make a decision about my future in the next five days. He didn’t seem particularly concerned. “Well that’s boring isn’t it,” he said over pizza in a restaurant. “You’re a nice person, I’m sure you’ll get a visa anyway. Let’s talk about it when we get back.” As anyone who’s applied for a visa will know, being a nice person has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you get one. My boyfriend was being so aloof and completely unbothered about my predicament that I started to think that I’d got our relationship totally, totally wrong. Doubts flooded my mind: he wasn’t serious about me at all; we’ve just been having fun these past two years; I’m selling my flat for nothing. By the time we got home, I was in pieces. I left him watching Antiques Roadshow and went to clean the bathroom – I was in tears and didn’t want him to see. I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing and crying away, when he walked past to go to the kitchen. He asked me to get up. “Well you’ve ruined what was going to be the most romantic proposal on the beach in Thailand,” he said. “But I can’t watch you agonise over the future over the next five days, it’s going to kill me.” That’s how, with me still wearing a pair of Marigolds, my boyfriend asked me to marry him.
And that’s when we decided to elope. Because if there’s one thing better than getting engaged on a beach in Thailand, it’s getting married there. We made a deal: apart from our parents, we couldn’t tell a soul. My mum thought it was brilliant and my dad was probably secretly delighted that his only daughter didn’t want an expensive, 500-person wedding.
Even though we were eloping, I still needed a dress – and only had three days to find one. In the afterglow of getting engaged I thought, “Oh it doesn’t matter, I’ll just wear anything,” but that quickly changed. Luckily, I found an amazing, white Theysken Theory silk slip, which I bought in two sizes (thank you, next-day delivery) and prayed one fit. Looking back, my only regret about eloping is that I didn’t get to go dress shopping.
Once we got to Thailand we looked at two different places and decided to get married on a really remote island. I emailed our hotel manager, a very cool French guy called Florian, and told him our plan. My only stipulations were that we’d marry on the beach (but not with people around) and that I’d have a bouquet of flowers.
On the day itself, Arthur and I had lunch together before getting dressed (my soon-to-be husband, ever the practical joker, wore one of those tuxedo-printed T-shirts) and leaving for the island by boat. My something blue was a scarf Arthur had bought me from a Thai market. Our guests for the day were Florian (who we’d convinced to be our fake priest after much negotiating and wine); the boat driver; the one photographer who lived on the island, who made us take the cheesiest, most hilarious wedding photos; and a woman who did a barbecue on the beach for us. I loved every minute.
It’s not that I didn’t want to share my day with anyone: I love my friends, but I couldn’t pick bridesmaids. Our parents, who are divorced, all live in different countries, and it would have been a big ask to get them to our wedding. That the anxiety of making those decisions wasn’t a factor in my wedding made it so much more enjoyable for me.
Two months after we returned, we went to Hackney Town Hall (Florian was great, but his service was not, sadly, legally binding) and walked each other down the aisle in front of our friends. Then we all got on a bus and went to for a massive curry in east London and after a couple of drinks in Wilton’s Music Hall, our London wedding was done. But it’s our wedding in Thailand that we celebrate – that’s our anniversary.
Since I eloped, I’ve had brides turn around and say they wished they’d done the same. But I would never want to tell anyone how to do their wedding. For us, though, it was perfect.