Last Look: Elopement Lessons

A local couple recounts their intimate, romantic, coastal nuptials.

By Amanda Zurita

 Photograph by Ryan Flynn Photography

On October 30, 2014, after nearly five years together, registered nurse Carolyn Stigge and software engineer Daniel Harris escaped to Cape Flattery in Washington’s Neah Bay for intimate “I dos” surrounded by one of the Pacific Northwest’s most breathtaking backdrops. Here, the local couple reflects on their enchanting elopement, and why they wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Early Conclusions

Being introverts, the idea of even a modest sized wedding had us both tense. At some point while dating, we came to the shared understanding that if we ever did marry, it would be an elopement. The decision was less about excluding anyone, but rather allowing us to be in the moment. If we had planned a wedding, I would have felt guilty about how much our far-flung families were spending to fly to our destination. We would have chosen a more central location (that excluded a mile walk to the ceremony site). We would have perhaps been mechanical in the speaking of our vows. It would not have been our day.

We decided to marry while sitting together on our couch one afternoon, Dan looking at me and saying simply, “I really want to marry you,” and me reciprocating. That day was almost as magical as our elopement.

Dress the Part

Even though it was an elopement, we both still had an interest in dressing up. We viewed it as a special day in which any ordinary outfit wouldn’t have sufficed. Carolyn had a difficult time finding a dress that felt like her. After stumbling upon an image of a gown in a wedding blog and learning it was no longer made, she put her trust in a seamstress at Green Lake’s Eltsa Custom Sewing (206-523-1533, to recreate the dress. The outcome was a little ethereal, like the scenery.

Location, Location

In the spirit of avoiding crowds and escaping attention, along with our appreciation for remote, rocky coastlines, we stumbled upon Cape Flattery after striking out at a few other parks. Cape Flattery’s sea stacks, blue-green water, and “edge of the world” feeling provided the just right setting.

Solemn Oaths

When I envisioned myself saying my vows, I wanted the words to have meaning for me, for Dan, and for us. I wanted to feel the weight of the promises I was making. The traditional vows felt like I was reading someone else’s story, not our own. We wanted our vows to feel like the intimate conversation they should be: full of personal meaning, hope for the future together, and understanding that we are two individuals choosing to be together while retaining our unique spirits.

Sharing the Love

We chose early on not to disclose our elopement plans with anyone but our few vendors, planning to Skype our immediate family the following day. Carolyn was frankly a little terrified of the call with her mother, fearing she would be hurt. We called her first, and when her mother hung her head off of the camera’s view, we thought, “Well, this is it.” But then she reappeared on the screen, tears streaming down her face, thrilled.

Greatest Take-Aways

We were pleasantly surprised to see how supportive our families were. Carolyn is still waiting for her mother to call and start freaking out. We also reaffirmed throughout the process how much we enjoy “dealing” with each other. Everything we chose along the way was something we chose together, whereas in some traditional weddings there seems to be a tendency for things to fall on one person’s shoulders, or a tendency for decisions to be overly influenced by outside opinions.

Best Advice

If you’re thinking about eloping, make it about each other. Focus on the reasons you’re choosing to marry and the future you envision together. Everything else is just details, and it’ll all fall into place.