Tell us about the engagement.
We didn’t have much of an engagement – and there was no actual proposal, either. It was more like a conversation that resulted in us agreeing that we wanted to get married. The exact timeline is a bit fuzzy, but it was somewhere between two weeks and a month between the time we decided and when we actually got married. After we had already married, Sarene bought a more traditional engagement ring and surprised Rebecca with a “proposal.” It was a really sweet moment.
What’s your experience of being a military couple? How do you cope with the distance?
Long distance has always been a part of our relationship – even outside of the military. In the beginning, we lived an hour apart. Then Rebecca moved out of state for grad school. And then Sarene deployed. People have always asked us how we dealt with distance. The truth is, we never felt the distance was very difficult because we always wanted it to work out. Even now, when we spend time apart, we talk almost every night. Good communication and showing the other person you care are essential. Sure, it’s not always easy-peasy, but in general, we view the distance as an opportunity for each of us to have our own experiences and put focus on our individual growth during that time.
As for the military side of things, Sarene is in the National Guard. For people who are less familiar with the military, this means she isn’t constantly deploying and going away but works a regular job and serves one weekend a month with some extra commitments in between. The potential for deployment is always there, but it’s not a regular thing. This allows us to have more control and balance when it comes to maintaining our everyday life and going through periods of distance. And that helps a lot.
Tell us about the elopement. Why did you choose to elope, and what planning went into bringing it to life?
We eloped because Sarene found out she was going to deploy overseas. We had been dating for two years at that point and had already expressed that we saw a future with each other. The deployment just moved those plans up. We never had an exact timeline, but we were (and still are) one another’s biggest support system. So getting married just made sense – we wanted to make sure that we could support one another fully even while living on different continents. It was important to Sarene, too, that if something did happen, Rebecca was taken care of. We didn’t know exactly when Sarene would leave, so we decided eloping made more sense rather than trying and squishing something more formal. We figured we could always do something more formal later on if we wanted.
At the time and before the elopement, Rebecca was finishing a master’s degree, five hours away and out of state from where Sarene was living. So most of our planning happened over the phone or text, and little pizzazz was involved. Honestly? Most of it was logistics about how to get the license, what courthouse we wanted to go to — that sort of stuff. We picked out some simple, temporary rings for one another and exchanged them the night before we got married.
How did you go about telling your family and friends about the elopement?
For the most part, friends and family were excited for us, and it wasn’t hard to tell the people we were close with. For those that knew us, the elopement made sense to them, too. And even though we could only give short notice, we had some really great friends and family that were able to celebrate with us the day of or shortly after. There were some family that weren’t supportive, though. It wasn’t easy to go through the process of telling them, but the elopement had the added benefit of not having to draw out that painful process. To be honest, that had some influence on why we decided to elope as well.
What was your experience having photos taken on your anniversary?
It was really, really special. Our photographer was fantastic, too, and was a big part of what made the experience so special. We felt so comfortable even though it was our first time having professional pictures taken together. We felt great taking the pictures, had a lot of fun, and were even happier with how they looked. It was a very positive experience.
Where do you see yourselves in ten years?
The night before we got married, we ordered Chinese takeout and watched TV. It wasn’t anything overtly special, but we still have a really great memory of that night because we were really happy and spending time together. We see our future like that too – in ten years or one, we expect to be living life, enjoying our quiet moments together, and having good memories to look back on.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A lot of our wedding story is kind of comical. We thought eloping would be easier planning-wise but encountered many unforeseen circumstances. The night before, we were supposed to meet up with friends and have a small celebration, but there was some bad winter weather, and Rebecca ended up getting into town really late, so we had to cancel. Then the day of the wedding, an incident closed the courthouse, meaning that our appointment to get married was also canceled. We ended up going to a completely different courthouse a few hours away, and only Rebecca’s sister made it to the actual ceremony. This meant that we had to have a volunteer witness from the courthouse.
Then, two years later, we decided to have a more formal celebration. We booked a venue, ordered catering, got decorations, etc. It was supposed to take place in Mach 2020, and, well, you can guess the rest. Neither of us were ever too upset about any of these things though – plus, we have a really unique story to tell. In the end, we have each other, and that’s what matters. Thick and thin, we wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else.
Photography by Kari Paine Photography