Part Two of Two of “When a Wedding Planner Weds” (see Part One ) : I got married and changed my last name to “Doehr” in a destination, secret elopement to Santa Fe, New Mexico with 5 family members present. Why? The focus for us was on the sacred intimacy of our vows, each other … and wanting to leave room for serendipity and magic. We did not want just one day of back-to-back neck-breaking schedules and many years of paying back the funds it took for one day’s event to take place. Honestly, we also wanted to stretch it out. To enjoy some travel and then come home and celebrate with family and friends- perhaps even multiple celebrations.
You see, there is this myth that if you don’t do a wedding a certain way, or include all the “required” traditions, that you will regret it or that somehow psychologically, it does not count. I’m here to say that even if you believe that, with an elopement, you can still do your wedding “traditions” and “non-negotiables” later – any way you want – and as many times as you want when you get home or over the years. Knowing you have the luxury of time is a gift I cannot describe, and makes looking forward to the future even more fun.
Santa Fe, New Mexico has always held a special place in my heart with the art and Native American culture. The light and sky there is unsurpassed. Thunderstorms late Summer and early Autumn are unparalleled in their power of renewal, and there is much history there. From the Civil War era, WWII and going back to when New Mexico was still a part of Mexico. Santa Fe is for romantics.
You would think that planning a wedding – and triply so an elopement- for one who does this professionally- would be a cinch. Let me tell you: this took more work
and research than any of my full-service luxury wedding planning packages for clients. The reason being was simply this: I was unfamiliar with the area from a wedding standpoint (it’s always been a favorite vacation spot for me) , including wedding locations, the event partners, and so much more. Coordinating logistics for everyone coming in from out of town also took some time, and finally, the power-outage that knocked out the power grid from Albuquerque to Santa Fe that was the worst in 15 years and caused a delay in getting our marriage license added a little “flavor” to the process when we arrived. And because this wedding was so small, I wanted to take the time to do some special touches for those who made the effort to get there. There were a lot of dynamics. Some planned, some not.
I have always been obsessed with the 1940’s and ’50’s and Courthouse Wedding (have you seen the movie “Brooklyn”?) and set out to book a romantic courthouse wedding for my fiancé and myself. The Santa Fe Courthouse is not exactly a work of art, and every intimate venue I researched had a price tag that averaged $1700 for two people and did not include anything, or had very strict policies for our midweek, 11:00am, 7 person total, 15 minute ceremony with no music, no decor. I respect industry pricing, but could not justify that much for the simplicity of our needs midweek, combined with how much else we wanted to invest for this lifetime memory and experience.
By fluke, I stumbled on a picture on an Internet search of the gorgeous lobby of the historic Hotel St. Francis, located downtown, just off the main historic plaza. The monastery style of the hotel and gorgeous fireplace and candle spoke to me and I quickly realized we could have a courthouse style wedding, but in an even more gorgeous setting. The Director of Sales at Hotel St. Francis and the staff welcomed us and were extremely accommodating. We even got a cheer from the front desk staff when we were pronounced “husband and wife”! From our lovely European-style room during our stay that was stocked with celebratory champagne and goodies gifted to us from the hotel staff, to the entire hotel in every department, who seemed to be in celebration with us.
Our ceremony, performed by Reverend Bruce Byers, was about 15 minutes long, full of heart, and ended with his own Santa Fe flair/touch and shout-out, adding some enthusiastic fun to top it off. Afterwards, my new husband and I enjoyed what I call a “mobile photo shoot” downtown Santa Fe with our fabulous photographer Melanie West. A native of Santa Fe, she knew all the best spots to visit, and took us for a gorgeous walk (wedding photos below) and took photos against many of Santa Fe’s most famous and historic backdrops. To keep guests busy while we were gone (as well as keep tummies full between the ceremony and our lunch reservations), I made sure they were given individual gift bags stocked with snacks and bottled waters. We returned from our photo shoot about an hour later and all went to lunch, where my mother brought in the cake topper that topped my grandparent’s wedding cake as well as hers and my father’s for our wedding luncheon dessert (she and my aunt also made my bridal nosegay and my husband’s boutonniere as a love gift). At lunch, Darrel and I presented our daughters with a jewelry gift that commemorated the day and also honored their presence in our lives. Upstairs in our hotel room, unbeknownst to us, two of my best friends (who knew about our elopement escape) had been secretly working with hotel staff long distance to have our room adorned with floating gardenias (my favorite flower on earth) and delectable gourmet treats and wine.
Later that evening, my new husband and I took a walk at the historic Santa Fe Railyard and attended Farmer’s Market where something magical happened: a panel of authors were sitting down selling their books and one stood up when she saw us and said, “Here.. I think you need to see my book.” She held up a book called “From Calcutta With Love”, love letters written from her father to her mother during WWII. We looked at it and I told her it was our wedding day and she was elated and said she “knew” she had to reach out to us. We bought her book, I asked her to sign it, and asked her to choose her favorite love letter from her parents and I would read that to my new husband that night as we went to sleep.
Our wedding was in essence a roadtrip meets wedding and honeymoon combined. A “RoadMoon”, if you will. The Hotel St. Francis provided the perfect backdrop for an intimate courthouse -style ceremony and to us, it was and is the greatest location and value for intimate weddings in Santa Fe (believe me, I spent months researching). The staff is personally involved and we felt like VIP celebrities from the moment we stepped foot at this charming boutique, historic inn.
Our wedding was just what we wanted, but just one part of this entire trip, which included all the adventures we had of exploring historic sites, pueblos, ancient indian cave dwellings, and one of my favorite moments as new bride: an evening at the epic Japanese Spa: Ten Thousand Waves, where we soaked in a private tub in the Sangre de Cristo mountains under a starry sky and meteor shower and enjoyed a couple’s massage.
If I had to do all over again, would I? Yes. With an elopement, you can also enjoy multiple celebrations when you get home and you can always host a more elaborate wedding later, should you so choose. It affords a lot of flexibility, draws out the celebration to beyond just one day, and let’s face it: it’s just incredibly romantic. If you’re interested in following more of our wedding celebrations to come, including our reception, follow #HitchedDoehrs on Facebook and Instagram.Tags: Cafe pasquals, elopements, honeymoon, hotel st. francis, hotel st. francis weddings, intimate weddings, melanie west, melanie west photography, new mexico weddings, pasquals, romantic santa fe weddings, santa fe, santa fe elopements, ten thousand waves, weddingmoon, weddings at hotel st. francis, weddings in santa fe