weddings

Eloping felt ‘romantic’. Then Amelia and Chris had to tell their families.

The bride’s name is Amelia. Her new husband is Chris. Her sister is Sofia and her mum is Jane. They jumped at the chance to share their thoughts on Amelia’s and Chris’ decision to elope.

One thing is for sure – running away to get married isn’t all romance and happiness. There’s all of that, as well as plenty of mixed emotions from shocked family and friends and those who feel like it might have been a huge mistake.

Amelia and Chris on their wedding day. Image: Provided

Why I eloped.

It was the European summer of 2013 when I decided to go on a solo trip around Europe. Despite my friends and family giving me a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t go I went anyway and it changed my life forever and not in the usual way a trip around the world does.

I had to catch two flights to Naples, Italy from England stopping at Milan on the way. On my first flight I was sat next to a father with his two-year-old baby girl. She was an active little thing and climbing all over the seats and over me.

On my second flight I thought to myself how nice it would be to sit next to someone new this time and no sooner had I thought this a very attractive tall, blonde, blue eyed American air force serviceman strolled on down the aisle and stopped at my seat. He said "do you mind?" as he slipped past me to his window seat. I didn't mind, I didn't mind one bit!

We ended up exchanging details and caught up in Italy. We went out on the Amalfi coast together, explored together and we became good friends.

I never thought I would see him again although we still kept in touch, talking online and the occasional Skype call. It wasn't until I made plans to go to America with two friends I had made while in Europe that summer that I contacted him again and asked if he was back in America yet. As fate would have it, he had just returned to America and was free to catch up. We spoke almost every day in the lead up to my trip and while I was there we cruised around the Bahamas and stayed in Miami. It was bliss and we didn't want it to end.

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My friends warned me that it was just a holiday romance and it wasn't real life but we knew what we had and it was real. I eventually left America and we hated being apart. Again we spoke every day all day but it was getting miserable not being together. He decided to come and spend a month with me in Australia and I was working the whole time. We were more in love than ever.

I had an amazing job in the media industry and didn't want to leave. He didn't want to come to Australia because he was studying to be a pilot and so we had our first problem. We had to come to a compromise for our relationship to work. After much deliberation the decision was made that we would both move our lives to Florida and start a fresh. I found a job in Miami and he will continue his training there.

We didn't want our lives together to end or be separated by borders so we decided to get married and be together against all odds. Ours is a unique situation and I had just gotten out of a serious relationship not long before. I was worried about how my friends and family would react if I told them. I was quitting my job, leaving my beloved apartment, selling my brand new car and all my furniture for a man on the other side of the world who I hadn’t been with for long.

I never thought my life would lead me in this direction.

Watch Amelia's and Chris' elopement. Article continues after this video.

Video by Amelia and Chris Kerlee

I didn't expect my friends and family to understand why I would uproot my life and most of all my career for a man either. They didn't really understand but they have always wanted me to be happy and they could see I was.

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Chris's explanation

The idea was mine but the decision was ours. As we got further into our relationship the joke began to sound like what we both wanted in our lives. We couldn’t stand being away from each other and once she actually arrived here in the Unites States we hired a lawyer and she suggested we do get married. Amelia and I didn’t even have to think twice about it and we eloped.

What man about to ask a woman’s family if he could take their loved one to the other side of the planet isn’t worried? Yes, I was worried. I had never spoken to anyone in her family before other than her sister.

I had to meet her mother, father and her childhood friends and family in person, and I only had five days to get acquainted. The purpose of my visit was a “hello my name is Chris and I’m taking your daughter if you don’t mind.” I think getting a bit of scotch into her father Tony, helped him warm up to me because somehow he gave me the approval.

Amelia and Chris on the Amalfi Coast. Image: Provided

All of my friends and family were VERY supportive of this. They could all see it when they were around me that I was in love and she was the one. For years all of my friends knew me as a ‘Forever Bachelor.’ I was happy being single and had very little interest in finding one woman, I wasn’t looking. My family and friends all believed that marriage was never an option for me.  

In my opinion the wedding we had when we eloped was even more romantic. Once we decided to actually get married we thought that having it in Destin, Florida would be the best idea as I had to stay in Memphis for a month for work soon after. So Amelia and I were in a big panic to just get the paperwork signed. I did what research I could to find someone who could legally marry us and I just couldn’t find anyone.

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So I took the time to look at what it would take to be ordained and I got ordained myself in the process, apparently it isn’t too hard. A great friend of mine said he would do it for us and he would even do it on his boat because it was going to be Memorial Day, Saturday and everyone on the long weekend goes out on their boats to a place call Crab Island. It’s a shallow sand bar, under the famous bridge in Destin. Even then I just thought it was going to be something not too romantic. I was wrong.

The day came and we got onto the boat. We had our small group of friends just take the reins of this now ‘wedding’ and plan it on the fly. We had multiple Skype feeds rolling for family and friends around the world that would be heartbroken if they missed out on an event.

Friends were taking over duties as a ring bearer, bridesmaids and videographer. My buddy who had got ordained just to do this for us had a speech prepared out in the middle of crab island and other people on boats were cheering and honking as we said I do. It was the most unorchestrated wedding imaginable but to me the most romantic because it was us being ourselves. No stress, great friends, perfect.

Amelia and her sister Sofia. Image: Provided

Sofia's reaction

To be completely honest with you I am still extremely shocked about the whole thing and I know I told Amelia that I am getting over it but in truth, I don't think it has actually hit me yet.

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Amelia has been warming us up for years to this stage. She moved out at 21 to Yeeronga, Brisbane, then to Sydney even further then to America! So the being apart from her deal wasn't too difficult for me to grasp. However knowing that I won't see her for what may be years hasn't quite meshed in my head yet.

My sister and I have always been very close, we've been through many hardships in our family and attended many family events by each other's side and now that she is gone I have no one. To put it quite blunt, I didn't want her to leave, I didn't want her to get married, I wanted her to myself. I may be selfish or cruel but that is how I feel. In saying all this, I want what is best for my sister and if this is what makes her happy than who are we to stop her.

Amelia is a free, wild spirited girl and when she wants something she will go for it without question. And she wanted Chris so who am I to say what she should and shouldn't be doing with her life. I try my hardest to Skype and message her regularly but every time I do it just reminds me that she's on the other side of the world. My sister is my rock, my best friend, the person I tell everything to, and now she isn't her I don't have that person anymore.

Sometimes I have a little quiet cry to myself when my parent's aren't looking because I don't want them to think that I am not supporting Amelia, because I 100% am, but I miss her every day she's gone. As I said earlier, Amelia is a go-getter and strives to do her best and achieve her goals, but she has never gone to such lengths to do so, and I think that shocked me the most.

I have met Chris formally once, and at first I wasn't sure about him, I felt like he tried too hard to impress us, that being said, he only had one week to get our permission to marry Amelia so I suppose he needed to be a bit forward. I think I am too harsh on him sometimes because I am protective of my sister, although I am younger than her I still feel it is partially my job to make sure she is happy and surrounding herself with the right people. But I trust her judgement and if he makes her happy then I am happy.

Ever since Amelia and I were little we'd play wedding dress ups and waltz around in Mum's wedding dress pretending to be getting married and we'd plan our weddings full well knowing we were too young to even love. But we did all that because we loved weddings and the idea of getting married in front of each other and being by each other's side when we say I Do. And I wasn't there, and it cuts me up inside.

Amelia and her mum Jane. Image: Provided
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Jane's thoughts

Amelia has always chosen a path that involves passion. It must be in her Italian genes. I have always told my girls to use their passion and match it with visualisation and the world is their oyster. I also taught them that if they want something badly enough nothing is impossible. I think Amelia learnt this lesson well.

Of course Amelia’s father and I would have preferred to be at our eldest daughter’s wedding. We are a very close family. However after Chris and Amelia spent a week with us this year we realised what a wonderful man he was and how much he loved our daughter. We also realised that he is also a man of passion and if his dream of becoming a pilot was to be achieved he had to stay in America to do his studies.

I have always been an advocate of my girls following their dreams so how could I stand in their way. Two unique individuals who dream big and love deeply. We insisted that whether they had a ceremony or just signed a piece of paper we wanted to be witnesses to this huge event that will change both of their lives forever. Initially Chris said that there wouldn’t be anything to see but I still insisted.

As it turns out his lovely friends organised a mock wedding on a boat with bridesmaids, flowers, music and so on. It was planned a day before and is probably the most meaningful wedding I have ever been to even if is was via Skype.

Chris’s friends also made a video that was sent to us as well as his parents. My husband had a box of tissues. I was just so happy that my beautiful girl had found a man who makes her so happy.

I will miss her terribly but Skype is my saviour. It doesn’t seem so bad when I can see that beautiful smile.

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