Harini Saravanan and Jarvis Harrison’s May 31 wedding venue offered two options when COVID brought events to a halt: cancel or postpone until a later date. With family flying in from India, the logistics and uncertainty made it clear that postponing might lead to further complications down the road. They decided to elope in July.
Charleston was a special place for the Charlotte-based couple; it was where they went on their first trip away together and they’d returned many times. They arrived at the Bennett Hotel with just their photographer (Columbia-based Taylor Torbert) and her assistant, whose insider knowledge of the city made their photo shoot extra special. The hotel’s varied and elegant design scheme proved the perfect backdrop, not just for the photos. When they came to an area with a grand piano, they knew it was the place to exchange the vows they’d written for each other in little composition notebooks. It was just the two of them, and it was perfect.
“There were so many expectations for the wedding,” Harini says. “When we dropped them, we were so happy.”
Upon their return from Charleston, the couple found that their families had secretly planned a backyard wedding for them, with just immediate family members and an officiant. Harini’s sister made the food, her mother designed the backyard, and her father made the mandap (wedding canopy). Jarvis’s aunt (also the couple’s wedding planner) had made sure that traditions from both of the couple’s cultures (hers Indian and his African American) were incorporated; they walked around the fire and jumped the broom. Every guest made a short speech. “We really felt the love,” Harini says. “We didn’t miss out on a thing.”
Thinking of an elopement? Forget what you think you know about it and make it your own. Here’s some advice from the couple:
Let go of your expectations and lean in to the joyfulness of the occasion.
In surprise comes delight. Let the experience surprise you. When you’re open to serendipity, amazing things can happen (such as this couple’s impromptu exchange of vows at the grand piano).
Your wedding can be as easy as you want it to be and still respect all the rituals you want to incorporate. A more intimate ceremony doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice what’s important to you.
An elopement doesn’t mean you don’t celebrate with your family and friends. It’s not all or nothing. You can have it both ways.
Focus on celebrating your commitment to each other. With COVID restrictions for filing paperwork, Harini says, their elopement didn’t fulfill legal requirements (that came later). Rather, it was a time for them to exchange vows. Celebrating with their families allowed them to honor their traditions. You can create your own plan for making your wedding legal, spiritual, and celebratory. All those obligations don’t have to be met all at once or in one ceremony.
Venue: Bennett Hotel (ceremony)
Planning, design: As You Wish Events & Design
Photography: Beulah Photography
Florals: Charleston Flower Market
Bride’s attire: Pothys
Beauty: Silhouette On Site (hair), Erin Michelle Artistry (makeup)
Jewelry: Diamond’s Direct (rings), GRT Jewellers, and family heirlooms
Groom’s attire: Belk