From the first time every girl sees family wedding photos, she dreams of the day she gets to have her own. White dresses, bridesmaids and displaying your love and commitment to one another is such a huge part of our culture, CNN quoted a $53.4 billion dollar worth on the wedding industry in 2013.
However, there's a slightly different trend amongst our military service members and their significant others (or MILSO as we often call ourselves): eloping. From the unpredictability of deployments, to the appeal of the benefits our service members reap from tying the knot, it's not uncommon for military couples to elope.
I'm one of those MILSOs. I don't believe our marriage is any more or less successful than any other couples', but the opinions of those around us — as with anyone else who makes the decision to elope — can sometimes be hard to sit with.
Here's what we encountered after our elopement and how we overcame the critics:
1. Quality Over Quantity
While my SO and I had been together for more than a year, skeptics had their doubts about our choice to go from boyfriend and girlfriend to husband and wife. Factor in the backlash that we didn't partake in the celebratory fiancé period to really weigh our decision and you'd think we had already become another statistic.
However, that's far from the case. While taking the time to really learn and understand someone before making a lifelong commitment is important in order to flourish as husband and wife, so is the quality of your relationship going into marriage.
On occasion, some may believe that those who elope are looking for a quick fix to keep their relationship afloat or truly prove commitment. We made the decision while in an incredibly happy relationship and already knowing that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
2. Time And Space
In the case of MILSOs, it's difficult to spend thousands of dollars and commit to a single day when our SO could be deployed at the drop of a hat. It's not only a disappointment to the couple, but also friends and family who make arrangements as well.
In my case, the distance was a huge factor when considering funds and the ability for some of our friends and family to even make the 1,400-mile trip to where my husband was stationed. If you're ready to commit, the only person you need there is your SO, right?
3. Just A Number
It's said that if you have 200 or more attendees at your wedding, you're 92 percent less likely to divorce than if you elope. While that number is not promising and was even argued by our friends and family after the fact, we have kept in mind one thing: It's just a number.
The military community is much more familiar with and accepting of tying the knot without the frills, and we've relied on more of the advice and experience of our fellow MILSOs than any study or statistic.
No matter who you are, marriage is a lifelong commitment that should not be taken lightly, and it should be handled with care and respect. If eloping is the best option for your circumstance or just more your style, it does not devalue your marriage in the long run.
Regardless of the number of and height of the hurdles you may encounter by making the decision to elope, there is one piece of advice I have to offer:
Whether you're military or civilian, you have the will to work through problems. If you find the drive to commit to each other for the rest of your lives and value the unconditional love and compassion you have for one another, your marriage can succeed, white dress or not.