What is the appeal of running away to elope?
When you are in your sixties and elope, people think you've gone nuts. But at the ripe age of 65, my partner and I decided to run away and get married
I could start this story with the day Mike got down on one knee at the dinner table to propose marriage and then, thanks to his arthritis, couldn’t get up without help.
Or the day he said, “We’re going to piss off some people, whatever we do. Why not elope?”
But really, we go further back—47 years, in fact. Mike and I got to know each other in our first year studying commerce at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He was a cool guy, and we both loved sailing and playing tennis.
"I was engaged to someone else, so we stayed friends"
But I was engaged to someone else, so we stayed friends.
Life moved on.
My beloved husband Dave had died of cancer a year before the pandemic. Mike’s marriage had recently ended in divorce. During the bitter loneliness that came with living alone through the lockdowns, he found me on Facebook and we started talking. Long story short, he arrived at my house in Burlington with flowers and an overnight satchel, and we spent the rest of lockdown together, catching up on 40 years.
A little over a year after he first showed up on my doorstep, Mike proposed. And then we had some decisions to make.
Why choose to elope?
Public gatherings at the time were limited to just 10 people. Our adult kids and their families added up to more than that, not to mention our best friends and our siblings. How could we choose which ones to include in the wedding?
That is when Mike suggested a wacky idea: We should elope. Who elopes at 65? I thought. Isn’t that a thing done by people much younger than we are?
“Think of all the people we can shock,” Mike said, with a wicked grin.
“The tackier the better,” I said, warming to the idea.
He found a log cabin chapel in Ontario’s Niagara Region that does drive-through weddings. “Perfect!” I said.
We contacted the chapel. The wonderful people who run it gave us the following warning: Don’t tell anyone in advance you are eloping. If you do, some will show up to surprise you. They’ll take photos and post them on social media, and people who weren’t told ahead will be upset that you didn’t include them.
That sounded like good advice, so we kept mum, giggling like school kids about how we were planning to run away and get married in secret.
"We kept mum, giggling like school kids about how we were planning to run away and get married in secret"
The day came and it was absolutely delightful—the opposite of tacky. The chapel owners knew I was a mystery author and asked if they could use our wedding photo, along with my biography, on their website for promotion. Sure, I said. No problem. Nobody I knew would ever think to look at a small chapel’s website.
After the ceremony, Mike took me to Tim Hortons for our wedding meal and told me I could have “anything I wanted.” The whole day cost us in the ballpark of $400.
As we ate, we joked that it would be funny to not tell anyone about the wedding until someone asked if we were ever going to get married, maybe years from now. We would say, “Actually, we eloped three years ago!”
We went home and kept ourselves nicely busy in the way of newlyweds. So we didn’t realise right away that all hell had broken loose.
In the days that followed, people started congratulating Mike on Facebook: 20 people, then 40, then 80. I was shocked to see that my mystery author blog was overwhelmed with comments about the wedding. We started hyperventilating: We hadn’t even told our kids, and here it was all over Facebook!
We soon discovered that a photo of Mike and me at the chapel holding our marriage certificate was being seen around the world. And the photo was accompanied by my biography, and lists of books I’ve published and awards I’ve received, leaving no doubt of my identity. How could everyone be seeing this?
Such innocence. I completely forgot how everything is linked online. Things that go on websites are often shared on social media. We shouldn’t have been so surprised. But really, who truly understands the baffling empire that is Facebook?
"Such innocence. I completely forgot how everything is linked online"
Oh, we had to laugh—the best laid plans and all that.
With the cat out of the bag, we quickly texted our kids. My two girls sighed and said, “What will mom do next?” and something to the effect of, “Thank God Mike is around to look after her because, honestly, someone has to.”
I thought that was a pretty good reaction. Mike laughed.
Others weren’t as cheerful initially. We learned that, indeed, a lot of friends and relatives want to be told in advance that you are going to do something as significant as get married. Mike explained that the whole point of eloping is you don’t tell anyone in advance. They’ve forgiven us by now.
That’s where I think the age issue comes in: If you are young and elope, people cheer you on as romantics. When you are 65 and elope, people think you’ve gone nuts.
But when you want to be with someone and you don’t have many decades left and the world is under lockdown, you don’t need the expensive dress, the wedding gifts, the fancy reception. Love is precious enough.
Making a happy commitment only needs two people, no matter how old they are.
© 2023, The Globe and Mail. From "Who elopes at 65? We did—because, well, why not?" by Melodie Campbell. The Globe and Mail (September 6, 2023), www.theglobeandmail.com
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
Loading up next...