real life

Hard-won life advice: Don't tell your parents you got married by email.

If there’s one piece of advice I could give to any young, starry-eyed couples considering a romantic elopement, it’s this: don’t inform your parents via email.

It’s not all sunsets in Tuscany or celebratory Michelin-starred meals for two in Paris, or, in my case, huge, sweaty parties in your New York apartment at the height of summer.

There are consequences for your carefree, inexpensive, selfish marriage, and they will make themselves felt.

Little did I know, a few short months after this picture was taken I’d be married.

For me, such a party took on a slightly less jovial atmosphere when, between sips of melting frozen margarita and holding my shirt over the air conditioner, I caught sight of my new husband, who has asked that I refer to him as the International Lord of the Dance for this article, threading his way through the crowd towards me, a look of sheer terror on his face.

He was brandishing a mobile phone, holding it away from himself like a gigantic dead NYC subway rat by its tail.

“It’s your mum!” he said, eyes widening meaningfully.

Earlier that day, the ILotD and I had taken the A train to downtown Manhattan and, as if in a big, loved-up RTA, we’d gotten a number at City Hall and taken our place among adorable, identically-dressed gay couples, Latina brides with 17 bridesmaids and one bride wearing what can only be described as formal hotpants – all waiting to get married.

Manhattan’s City Hall on a Friday afternoon.

The ILotD wore a crumpled suit that he’d packed when we left Sydney for future hoped-for job interviews and hauled all over Europe and South America before we’d arrived in New York.

I was wearing a $17 white sun dress that I bought on eBay and one of those stick-on bras that I kept sweating off.

We had been living in New York, first in a share apartment in Harlem, then in various other arrangements, each more uncomfortable than the last, and finally, in our own apartment in Fort Greene (where the Notorious B.I.G. grew up, no big deal), Brooklyn for about six months.

Walking to our wedding. I’m wearing the only pair of sandals I had and my glasses, because I ran out of contacts. Just how I always imagined it.

After we’d slaved at dodgy freelance jobs for months, I’d hit the Holy Grail.

A job. A visa-sponsored job, as a reporter for a terrible, terrible publication that shall remain unnamed. It didn’t matter. Haven’t you heard all the songs about New York City? They’re all true.

The ILotD had proposed a few months earlier, at DUMBO in Brooklyn, looking over the water. He’d thriftily done it on my birthday, thereby killing two birds with one stone. It was an emerald, by the way. A teeny little emerald, because they’re my favourite.

We decided to get married all in a rush. ILotD works in film and TV and could only find freelance jobs for which he couldn’t be sponsored, and if we were married he’d instantly be entitled to my E3 visa.

His brother and his then-girlfriend (now fiancee, getting married the right way in December) were in town, and a friend of a friend, who just happened to be a wedding photographer, offered to take some free snaps. It seemed like it was meant to be.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So we’d gotten a marriage certificate on the Thursday, and booked our ceremony in for Friday. As if an afterthought, we’d informed our mothers via email the morning of the wedding. Kids are the worst.

“Hi mum!” I said, trying to sound perky instead of scared.


“You got married? Are you MARRIED? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have put a flight on the credit card and come over!” she wailed.

It was then I realised what I’d done.

I’d robbed my mum, who’d only ever fed me when I was hungry, done my hair up in high sideways ponytails secured with scrunchies made from the same material as my school uniform, and told me the other girls were only mean to me because they were jealous, of the most precious time in a mother’s life.

For my mum, there’d be no wedding-dress shopping, no cake-tasting, no floral-arrangement agonising. No speeches, no hen’s parties, no night-before nerves, no seeing her only daughter walking down an aisle, or observing her drunkenly busting her best moves on the dancefloor then puking on her wedding dress.

I felt terrible.

“No, no, mum, honestly, it was nothing, you didn’t need to be there,” I told her, adding that the ceremony had taken all of two minutes and 17 seconds. The brevity of the ceremony was true, the rest — not so much. How could I have gotten married without my mum there?

Pictured about to enter a 500-year-old Peruvian mine. We’d done many, many stupid things together before our last-minute marriage.

The enormity of what we’d done had hit me right on cue, after our names were called to go into the chapel.

I’d been ready for an impersonal, downright perfunctory ceremony, a mere formality performed by an overworked civil servant who’d be marrying about a hundred other couples that day.

However, though short, the ceremony wasn’t impersonal. The celebrant, a big, jovial New Yorker, pronounced our names correctly and said other things I wasn’t expecting, about having and holding and loving and respecting.

We said “I dos”, me with tears streaming down my face and ILotD laughing maniacally. We were a little hysterical.

We calmed down after a couple of glasses of Champagne. Photograph by Fiona Chapman.

There’s an iPhone video of us leaving the chapel, me still trying to stem the flow of tears, the ILotD recovered from his inappropriate giggling fit. “She’s overwhelmed,” the microphone picks up my friend Ally, who had witnessed the ceremony, saying.

That’s why I said the words which I am now having to live up to to my mum.

“We’ll have a proper wedding back in Sydney! I don’t even feel married! We ate pizza after!” I gabbled.

We really did eat pizza afterwards. I’ve got tomato-sauce stains on my treasured eBay dress now. Photo by Fiona Chapman.

That’s where we’re at. We’ve moved back to Sydney and we’re doing that thing I kind of never wanted to do: planning a wedding.

So, if you’re planning to elope, my recommendation to you is to tell your parents properly and make sure they’ve come to terms with it, lest you promise them a wedding in a fit of guilt.

These two are getting married… again. Photo by Nadina Benvenisti.

But here’s the kicker: this new wedding, it’s not for my mum any more, or for anyone else: it’s actually for us. So that instead of a civil servant in New York, all our loved ones will witness, like a Venetian carnival mask, our weird happy/sad, laughing/crying, hysterical love.

Now, has anyone got a spare $60,000? That’s apparently the average cost of a wedding these days.

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Thanks to Fiona Chapman ( for the NYC wedding pics!