They had planned a huge 300-guest wedding, but when COVID hit all their plans went out the window. Knowing that what was most important was their shared commitment, they eloped in this no-fuss celebration.
Tell us about falling in love.
We have been together for five years. Our wedding date was the fifth anniversary of our meeting- but it all depends on who you ask. Lil will say that our love story began when she arrived at Camp Akeela for her first summer and Celia’s third summer in 2015. She looked across the tennis courts and saw a girl wearing a goat t-shirt, Birkenstocks, and jorts walking toward the crowd of new staff. While she was fascinated, Lily played it cool (maybe too cool) and barely spoke a word to Celia at first.
Little by little, Lily interacted with Celia and realized that she wasn’t just cute, but she had a personality to compliment the looks. As much as she could, without looking like a stalker, Lily sat by Celia at meals, played the same lawn games, and invited her to go to the infamous “Boat Launch” (really just a pile of gravel across the lake where counselors drank their stress away). So, naturally, when it came time to request co-counselors before the campers arrived, Lily slyly requested Celia due to their “ability to balance each other out when interacting with campers” (we all know why she ACTUALLY made that request).
In typical Celia fashion, she was entirely oblivious to Lily’s crush. But to her surprise, her love story began when Lily’s wish was granted. And they were bunked together as co-counselors in Cabin 15. They barely left each others’ side, never getting tired of each others’ company. Day by day, they became better friends. And Celia began spending her days realizing that she couldn’t get Lily off her mind.
About two weeks into co-counseling a bunk of 11-year-olds, Celia confessed her feelings, and Lily after hiding her obsession for a month, reciprocated the feelings. In camp life, staff often say that an hour spent together in a relationship feels like a day, a day feels like a week, and a week feels like a month. This couldn’t have been truer for these love birds.
C: Lily had come out to me quickly. I was still exploring my sexuality and was not officially out to anyone in my life. We spent every night on the porch of our cabin, Bunk 15. Sharing our life stories, memorizing each other’s family members’ names, laughing, spending time with friends, and holding each other close.
Before meeting Lily, I rarely stayed up past 9 pm. I was a socialite but created strict rules for myself that often isolated me from young adult socialization. Suddenly, I found myself staying up with Lily until the sun came up in the morning. We both still vividly remember the pink sky rising above the camp lake from the view of our porch floor.
Lily was the youngest of seven children and was always the life of the party. I was fascinated with her energy. One night, after a day of thinking about Lily nonstop and realizing I had feelings for her. I sat on the porch with her and told her I felt sick to my stomach. When she asked why and I explained that I was nervous to say to her, but that I had feelings for her, she simply hugged me. Telling me she felt the same way and then kissed me on my forehead. It was so simple. I felt so loved.
Tell us about the proposal.
In August of 2018, we were wrapping up our third summer together at Camp Akeela and preparing to live in the same state together finally. We had a big dinner party planned with our camp friends to say our final goodbyes as we all headed off into the real world apart from each other.
Celia asked Lily if she wanted to take one last walk down to the creek. This was a common spot for us to walk to and get away from camp for a little while and enjoy each other outside of the busy camp life. Lily was excited to take a walk and to end camp on a sweet note with Celia.
As we began to walk down the road toward the creek, we began to talk about our favorite memory from each summer camp together. We talked about the past three years and how incredible they had been for both of us. As we were walking toward the creek, Celia said, “I have a feeling this will be your favorite memory of them all.” As Lily looked ahead, there was a blanket, wildflowers, and a string of photos from our years of being together set up at the creek spot. Lily thought Celia was giving her a romantic goodbye from camp. But as Celia pulled a ring out from her back pocket and began to profess her love to Lily, Lily quickly began to cry like a baby. As we walked back to our dinner party, Lily realized it was actually an engagement party held for the two of us!!
You had a big wedding planned, but then the pandemic happened, right?
Well, our wedding was planned for 300 people on August 29th of 2020. But clearly, the world had other plans for us. We sent out an announcement to all of our guests in April to inform our guests that we were canceling our celebration but still getting married privately.
We talked about a thousand different ideas. Including just getting married with our parents, getting married with our parents and our siblings, a drive-in wedding, a zoom wedding, and many more ideas. Finally, we decided it was safest just to get married the two of us. Hopeful to be able to celebrate next summer with our guest list.
The night before our elopement, we were told to get on zoom to have a call with both sides of our families so they could give us a toast before our wedding day. When we got on, they told us we would be doing zooms for four hours with different groups of people who were supposed to be at our wedding. From 5 pm until 9:30 pm, we were on zoom calls with family and friends. They all were giving us toasts and well wishes and we felt so loved. The emptiness that we felt about them all missing our wedding day went away after that night on zoom.
Talk to us about the day you got married.
Our day was exceptional from the start. After getting out our emotions about missing family and friends on our Zoom call the night before, we woke up at the crack of dawn out of excitement to start getting ready.
We have always been somewhat home-made and straightforward when it comes to appearance. Celia blow-dried her hair with a giant house fan, and Lily did her own makeup. There was no hair stylist, no makeup artist. Just us two, sharing the excitement and thrill you usually spend with your individual parties. We listened to our favorite music, got coffees from the local café, packed up our car for the wedding and mini-moon, and started the one hour journey to Camp Akeela.
When we arrived at Akeela, we were met by our officiant and her partner, Mo and Meredith, and our photographer, Dan. We designed a simple yet special setup for our ceremony. Buying plants from Cedar Circle, the farm Meredith worked at and decorated the porch. We chose to celebrate our wedding on the porch of Bunk 15. The same bunk we spent our first summer, and the porch where we shared our first kiss. We both hold so many unforgettable memories from this porch. We were elated to add one more (big) memory on this spot!
Before the ceremony, we took some time to ourselves to get dressed, cheers with mimosas, and share letters we had written to each other. It was a perfect quiet moment together before the moment we had been waiting two years for. We gave Meredith the “go-ahead” to start the music (Truly Deeply Madly by Yoke Lore). And we walked to the Bunk 15 porch.
Mo did a fantastic job officiating our wedding. She is a friend of Lily’s sister, and she knew our journey. From camp dating to engagement, to planning our wedding, to cancelling it, and finally to elopement. She captured the spirit of our relationship by involving humor, our families, wisdom, and love. We couldn’t have asked for a better officiant! We were both messes by the time we arrived at our vows. Mo had surprised us by asking each family member to share words with us on our wedding day. Lily couldn’t contain her emotions as she recited our vows, and Celia congratulated her on making it through. We were so focused on memorizing and reciting our vows that we both didn’t remember what words Mo had asked us to repeat for the exchange of rings. But that didn’t stop us from having a romantic-as-hell kiss!!
After the ceremony, we popped some fancy bubbly from Cheese and Wine Traders in Burlington, VT. Then Dan took us on a newlywed photo shoot around camp. We jumped into the lake in our wedding outfits, and then we changed into our swimsuits and took a dip in the camp lake. Mo and Meredith had packed us a BBQ picnic. So after we enjoyed lunch, we hit the road for our mini-moon (Celia calls it a quaranmoon) in Burlington, VT.
What does marriage mean to you?
We talked about why we were getting married a lot. Especially as we approached the day of our elopement, which was far less grandeur of a plan than our pre-COVID 300 guest-list wedding. We found ourselves getting giddy about the day but then asking, “Why are we feeling this way? It will be fifteen minutes of our life, and it’s just a signed piece of paper…”
But Lily said it best – marriage is the most serious, sacred, and coveted promise one person can make to another person in their life. It means that you will see your partner at their most beautiful and at their ugliest; that you will love them through it all.
To us, marriage is a bond we will experience with no other person in our precious life. Our wedding was just fifteen minutes and a signed piece of paper. But our marriage will be the most incredible adventure we’ve had yet.
Advice for other couples planning a wedding, especially those with changing plans?
We had planned a gigantic wedding over two years and then arranged a private elopement in about two weeks. We could rant about how to communicate well during the planning process or how to juggle family opinions. Still, the best advice we could give other couples during this time of pandemic is to put the health, safety, and interest of your guests before your own desires.
We have experienced the perspective of both the engaged couple and guests of a wedding, which is a blessing and blast in the end. However, an engaged couple’s social pressure is immense. To have the wedding of your dreams, celebrate with all your friends and family, capture magazine-worthy pictures, set off on a dreamy honeymoon, etc.
Similarly, guests’ social pressure to attend a wedding is immense. To travel long distances, be in the mental space to celebrate, take off work, and attend all weddings so each couple can have the experience they deserve. The pandemic has obviously tested these norms in all ways. We found success in assuming that our guests would be relieved not to expect to travel and attend a large wedding. This simply leaves the door open for discomfort for at least some of our guests, which we did not want. And our guests responded with nothing but gratitude.
Plus, in the end, we surprised ourselves by discovering that all these things expected of a wedding can still exist during an elopement. Our families still celebrated us from afar. Our photographer captured intimate and breathtaking photos. We honey-mooned in our state in a safe vacation rental, and we had a wedding we will dream about forever!
Anything you are glad you did? Or wish you didn’t do?
Everyone says the standard wedding night flies by. We knew this would be even more of a reality for us with our private ceremony. Taking some time to ourselves after setting up the site to get ready together and read each other letters we had written is something we are both glad we did. We will both always remember this precious moment before our wedding.
Both of us are glad we got married this year! Talking about putting the whole thing off for a year and getting married in 2020. But we are so happy we are married and had the special day we did.
Photography & Film Dan McMahon Photography