Saying “I Do” State-By-State
For most of us, one wedding is enough. All that planning, all those decisions, the worry and joy building up to your special day—and then enjoying that special day—as your one special day. Lia Trageser and George Humphrey had another idea—to get married in a different US state each year!
They met through mutual friends who kept trying to set them up, but it just never worked out. She couldn’t go to the BBQ, he couldn’t make it to the baby shower. Then one day she walked into the zoo bar where he was working, and they just clicked right away.
Their first/official wedding took place one year after their first official date. They eloped to Carson City, Nevada. But when they got home, they kept putting off telling anyone the big news until eventually they decided NOT to tell and to have a wedding in their home town of San Diego on the first anniversary of their Nevada wedding. So when they had the big wedding in San Diego, nobody knew they were already married.
How did they come up with the idea to get married in every state? Lia explains, “At some point after the San Diego wedding, with wedding licenses from two different states—Nevada and California—we thought, ‘Hey, let’s keep going and do all of them!’”
How do they find officiants and witnesses? “For the vast majority of our weddings, we just went to the courthouse and had no witnesses,” Lia notes. “Actually, at our first wedding, the witnesses were another couple also getting married and we were their witnesses. In Portland, Oregon, the officiant brought witnesses for us. For the first ten years, nobody even knew we were doing it. There were a few years when our anniversary was on a weekend, and we couldn’t go to the courthouse. In those states we had to hire officiants. South Dakota was one of those, and we had a great experience. We got married in the town of Deadwood, and the officiant also had a vintage photo business. So our officiant not only performed the ceremony, but his wife photographed it AND they brought old west outfits for us to wear!”
Lia’s favorite was the San Diego wedding. “We had our wedding at my sister’s house, and we had all our family and friends present. That was also our biggest wedding with seventy guests. For that one, I wore my maternal grandmother’s gown. It was silk satin, bias cut, and very clingy, because my grandma weighed 89 pounds when she wore it! Unfortunately she was not alive to be there.”
The couple, however, agrees on their top five favorites after San Diego. As Lia describes, they include:
South Dakota, which was the first time we realized we could get creative and not just run to the Justice of the Peace.
Austin, Texas, was fun and memorable. We had several friends present, and we had the wedding itself on a kiddie train in the park.
New Orleans made the top 5 because, again, we had friends present. At that wedding, we rode up on separate bicycles and left on a tandem as our friends threw black beans instead of rice and a guest played accordion.
Erie, Pennsylvania, was memorable because it was at George’s sister’s house, and we had a Quaker ceremony. In that tradition, there is no officiant, as the couple simply marries each other in front of witnesses.
Wisconsin stands out as memorable for many reasons. We came to Cable because my college friend Heather Ludzak invited us, enticing us with promises to cater and have baby goats on hand. The ceremony was at the home of officiant Krista Love, and baby pygmy goats served as ring bearers. Meg and Erik from Emenee Studios provided photography and captured fantastic photos with Krista’s gorgeous barn, the goats, and Larry Ludzak’s logging truck.
Lia says, “Wisconsin was probably the most stressful. When we went to get the license, they wouldn’t accept George’s birth certificate. They would accept a passport, but that was at home. We texted a friend back home to break into our house, get the passport out of the safe, and have a notarized copy faxed to the clerk. The stress of that day really got to me, and I ended up sobbing all over the waiting room. But then something really cool happened. While we sat there waiting for the friend to text back at each step of the way, people from other offices in the building came out to chat and tell us their wedding stories. The kindness and distraction was everything I needed.”
You might be wondering how they keep these excursions budget-friendly. Lia explains, “We keep the weddings affordable by not usually having many guests, not going all out on flowers and photography, and rarely having a cake. Around half of the weddings have been courthouse elopements, so there was little expense. When we’ve had friends, the reception is typically just dinner after. In Texas we had sausages at a beer garden. In New Orleans, we had Po Boys from a favorite local deli.” The trips double as the couple’s annual vacation, too, which keeps costs in check.
Lia and George like to draw on and incorporate some of the great things about each state into each wedding, if possible. How did they do that for their Wisconsin wedding? Lia says, “So in this case, my friend Heather really ran with the idea. We had a Packers tailgate theme wedding and reception. Vows included many references to team loyalty and a prayer for the Packers. We laughed pretty hard throughout. The reception was tailgate fare with burgers and brats as well as some Bucky block cheese. Krista, our officiant, wore her cheesehead hat to make it authentically Wisco. There was also a Lomabardi Trophy replica.”
Despite the extra planning and budgeting, Lia and George find some definite benefits to getting married again each year in a new location. “The effect on our marriage is that we are always newlyweds!” Lia says. “But truly, thinking about our vows every year helps us remember the importance of those promises and renews our commitment. We still have our challenges like any couple, but the weddings definitely keep it fresh.” Usually, they have allowed the officiant to choose the vows. “Krista’s football-themed ones were really funny,” Lia laughs, “and our officiant in Florida based the ceremony on The Princess Bride movie, which also had us laughing. In Texas, for our train ride wedding, we wrote vows based on the “Golden Spike” ceremony when east and west railroads were joined.”
How does the couple choose which state to get married in next? “We get inspiration for trips we would want to take any way, like Hawaii was easy,” Lia explaines. “We also like to go where we have friends. We’re thinking about Tennessee for 2018. My brother’s wife is from there, and she speaks highly of the beauty of the eastern hill country. This year’s wedding was in Alaska. It was our 20th anniversary, so we wanted to go to a big state. My cousin officiated, as she lives in Fairbanks. We had the actual wedding in Fairbanks at a wildlife preserve, but we had to take some photos at a glacier. Since the wedding will always be in July, it was our only opportunity to have a winter-style wedding. Sometimes, if we don’t have an idea, we ask for suggestions. I think we may need help to get inspired to go to Iowa or Nebraska. Most years we don’t even know where we’re going next until about six months in advance.
This state-visiting wedding scheme has its own challenges, especially when it comes to what to wear. “Wedding dress shopping is fun but can get very expensive,” Lia notes. “So I’ve gotten creative. I’ve borrowed some years, and sometimes I buy from Etsy or Craigslist. George really enjoys putting together his outfits too. For New Orleans, he took his suit from our San Diego wedding and had it made into shorts.”
Despite the challenges, the couple looks forward to completing their plan to get married in every state. “Since we only get married on our anniversary, we’re going to be pretty old when we get to the 50th state!” Lia laughs.