Who: Esther Cunningham and Christopher Scherer
Live: Brooklyn, NY
Work: Esther is an actor and Christopher is a cheesemonger and a student at the Institute for Culinary Education.
Ages when they eloped: She was 26, he was 27.
Relationship Timeline: Dated around 8 months → Engaged for 4 months → Eloped July 10, 2020
How they met, from Esther: “We met on a dating app—Hinge! We messaged for a while on the app, then he took the big risk and asked for my phone number and we texted for a week or so. Lengthy paragraphs like we were writing letters to each other. Eventually, Christopher took another big risk and asked me to meet up in person. I had a very wonky schedule at the time due to an acting internship so I told him I could do a Thursday morning breakfast. He suggested, unbeknownst to him, my favorite bakery—Brown Bear Bakery. I almost cancelled on him because I had to stay late at the theater the night before, but I figured I could roll out of bed for coffee and a high quality pastry even if the date itself was horrible. The date wasn’t horrible. It was pretty wonderful and lasted about three hours I think!”
Esther’s first impression: “He was taller than I expected. And very well dressed. Way cooler than I ever expected. When I walked into the bakery, he was chatting it up with the employees. I was afraid that if the date went poorly I could never show my face there again.”
Christopher’s first impression: “Beautiful, cute, self aware but not self absorbed, funny, intelligent.”
Engagement story as told by Christopher: “Well, it was towards the beginning of Covid in Cincinnati. Esther had found out that the show she had been involved with at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company had been officially cancelled and was feeling sad about losing her job. The ring we had created was in production but not yet completed. So I took her high school promise ring from her parents and hid it in my pocket. I told her to boost her mood we were going to dress up, order takeout from Sotto, one of the nicest Italian restaurants in the city, and have ourselves a fancy dinner.
“While she dressed and did her makeup, I set up the table with candles and jazz music. She came in and saw the spread, then I turned her towards me as I kneeled. I told her that even though we didn’t have our official ring, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted her to be my wife. Our lives are never going to be perfect, but what matters the most is that we have each other. She was crying. Good tears this time. After I slid her ring onto her finger, we kissed and looked at the stars and lights of downtown Cincinnati.
“A few weeks later, the ring came in at last. We took our dog on a walk to Brown Bear Bakery, the first date spot, and I handed her the box and the real ring. Then we headed to a local favorite, Lost and Found, to sit outside and sip some cocktails to celebrate the second proposal.”
Why they eloped, from Esther: “We both knew that the big, celebratory wedding we would like to have wouldn’t be possible for two years because of the pandemic and schedules (both of us have parents who are teachers so a summer wedding was a must so neither of our mom’s would have to stress too much more). And the more we discussed what was important to us in a ceremony, the more we realized that we just needed the people who loved us most to be there. We didn’t want to put anyone’s health at an unnecessary large risk. And we both felt that a larger wedding with masks and such would feel like a let down. So we decided small and intimate was the move for us. We think we would like to have a ceremony or party later to celebrate with our friends around the country. But we know how frustrating this virus is so we won’t do that until it is fully safe for everyone to eat, drink, dance, and celebrate. At this rate that may be on our fifth wedding anniversary!”
How they told their families, from Esther: “We each broke it to our moms over the phone and let them break it to the families! My mom was just happy to see me legally wed. I think Christopher’s mom was excited to celebrate our love and didn’t care too much how it happened! I do have to mention my mom kept sending me venues for a week or so that were 2-5k to rent. I had to sit her down and explain that elopement truly meant courthouse wedding. The downtown Cincinnati courthouse is actually really beautiful and we toyed with having the ceremony inside. But because of Covid restrictions, the building only allowed 8 people in the room–including the couple and the photographers. And since I had 5 siblings plus my parents who wanted to be there, we already were over the limit before adding any of Christopher’s family. So being outside was the best choice for our group.
“Christopher’s grandparents kept saying how ‘unusual’ the wedding was!”
Ceremony venue: Smale Riverfront Park, along the Ohio River in Cincinnati (both lived there at the time)
Brunch: The Baker’s Table. Esther introduced Christopher, the foodie in the relationship, to this brunch joint. While looking for food venues, they were severely limited by Covid capacity restrictions, but The Baker’s Table could take them and 25 guests. They created a seasonal brunch menu, curated a playlist based on their music tastes, hand wrote name tags, and even crafted a signature cocktail called “The Honeybee” after their song, “Honeybee” by The Head and the Heart. “We felt showered in love and consideration from them,” says Esther.
Photography: Hunter & Light. Christopher used to work with one of their photographers, Jon. Esther stalked them on Instagram and loved their work.
Guest list: They were able to invite 25 friends to the outdoor ceremony, plus the judge, and Esther’s brother livestreamed it to a few friends and family who were unable to make the trip in the pandemic. All 25 attended the reception.
The registry, from Esther: “We weren’t planning on making one, but I got a nudge from my mom that her grandma was looking for a registry. Because we loved our local Cincinnati business, we used Zola so we could collect all the things we liked from all the different stores we liked.”
Something borrowed / blue / old / new: Esther had light blue toenails and a blue mask made out of one of her late grandfather’s shirts. She “borrowed” a gold croissant ring from her mom that her mom ended up giving to her.
Rings, from Esther: “We absolutely love our rings. Both of ours are custom made by Lane & Kate. I have a 14kt solitaire four prong rose cut diamond with the stone flipped upside down revealing the depth and hidden shape of this beauty. (Thanks to shop owner Ellana for talking me into it and walking us through all the design mock ups.)
“Christopher has such an interesting band inspired by his American traditional tattoos. It’s gold on the edge with a rose and vine pattern in both yellow and white gold with a black background. That may sound confusing, but just look at the pictures and you’ll see the final effect. Speaking of tattoos though! Christopher also has a rose on his wedding finger so that when he’s working in a kitchen, he can have a wedding reminder without damaging the actual ring.”
Vows, from Esther: “We both are emotional people but didn’t want to be sobbing our way through our vows. Plus I have a very traditional family. So we settled on a compromise. We had the standard exchange of vows during the ceremony. And then during our photo sesh, we stopped at the bakery where we had our first date and exchanged letters we had written for each other. That way we got to keep our sentimental feelings precious, just for the two of us.”
Splurge: During their ten-day honeymoon in Seaside, Florida, they splurged on a honeymoon photoshoot at sunrise on the beach. “It was so extremely early to wake up on a vacation, but the photos of us splashing around in the water and wandering through the charming town are just as precious as the photos from the wedding day,” says Esther. They also used some of the money for a security deposit for their cross-country move to Brooklyn.
Spent: Approximately $10,000 was spent on the wedding, and about the same on the honeymoon.
Esther’s favorite detail: “Just one? Oof. Creating the ring with Christopher and Ellana (the owner of Lane & Kate) was so joyful, collaborative, and just plain fun. But I really appreciated the intimacy throughout the whole experience. Every vendor was a real friend by the end of the process.”
Christopher’s favorite detail: “Picking out the places for our wedding photos, choosing our favorite places. And speaking to all of our vendors, building on the relationships we had with each of them. Having the people we love and care about around us. Stopping in the Rhined, Findlay Market, Brown Bear Bakery–all the places that were important throughout our relationship. It was important to revisit them on the day of the wedding.”
Three words to describe the day: Intimate (both had this as their top word), intentional, joyful
What they wish they had known sooner: That even if you’re planning the simplest elopement possible, there are a lot more details to consider and prepare for.
Advice to couples who are considering eloping, from Esther: “Have the wedding that best represents the two of you as a couple. Make yourselves happy, honor and respect the traditions of your families, and remember that it’s a day to celebrate the beauty of your love for each other!”
Any regrets? More intentional photos with family members.
The Fine Print
- Ceremony: Smale Riverfront Park
- Brunch Venue: The Baker’s Table.
- Photography: Hunter & Light.
- Officiant: Judge Alan Triggs, the county judge who performs wedding ceremonies.
- Flowers: The Budding Florist, a flower shop down the street from where Christopher lived and the only place he ever bought Esther flowers from when they dating.
- She wore: Two-piece outfit by C/MEO Collective from Revolve.
- He wore: Suit from Suitopia, tie and pocket square from Bonobos, and cufflinks and a tie clip from his paternal grandfather.
- Hair: AV Beauty Bar
- Makeup: Brideface
- Nails: Spruce Nail Salon