Photo by Adrienne Gerber Photography
Navy 1st Lt. Junior Grade Siqi Chen and Elizabeth Chen were married last summer, but in a way, they’re still very much newlyweds.
The couple often is apart due to his deployments and her studies.
They eloped on July 5, 2019, after dating three years and two months. We recently spoke to Elizabeth Chen, a first-year physician’s assistant graduate student at the University of Mount Union.
Why did you decide to elope?
We decided to elope because we didn’t have time to arrange a full-blown wedding, especially since I had just started my first semester of PA school, but we also didn’t want to postpone the marriage for another three years. We both realized that we’d have to be long-distance for a while due to his deployments and my out-of-state schooling, and we figured that we’re stronger together anyways, so we might as well just make it official!
Neither of us wanted the ceremony to actually occur at the courthouse, so I found a venue, bought a dress, arranged flowers from the most amazing florist and booked an incredible photographer! My parents flew up from Tennessee for the ceremony, and his parents sent their congratulations and well-wishes from Macau (they unfortunately couldn’t attend due to their work schedules, but plan to attend our future reception/celebration).
Where did you marry, and who performed it?
The ceremony was officiated by Pastor Glen Davidson of the Alliance Church of the Nazarene and was held in the gardens of Glamorgan Castle in Alliance.
How did your friends and family react to your elopement?
Everyone was extremely surprised, particularly since we had just gotten engaged merely one month prior, but they were so very happy for us, too!
Did you have a party/reception, and if not, are you planning to do so?
My dad’s family all lives in the Butler, Pennsylvania, area and several of my aunts and uncles threw us this phenomenal, semi-surprise reception the day after our wedding! My dad has eight siblings, and thus has a huge family, so the reception was a great chance for my husband to meet some of them!
Later on, we are planning on holding a celebration/larger reception for friends and family to attend. This will likely take place after his sea tour and my graduation.
How did you meet?
We met as undergraduates at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s two years older than me, but we happened to join an on-campus club the same year: the Chinese Students Association. We attended countless events and parties together for the next two years, but only occasionally.
Then, during his senior year and my sophomore year, he dropped a really slick pick-up line: He asked why he hadn’t ever seen me pray before a meal, and when I responded that that was because we had never eaten together before, he asked if I wanted to go to dinner with him. At this point, most people probably would’ve gotten the hint that this was a date, but not me … ! We were both heavily involved in CSA at that point, and he was the historian/photographer; since I had had the position the previous year, I genuinely thought that he was seeking photography tips. When a friend-of-a-friend clarified that this was a date, I backed out because at the time I just considered him to be a friend.
For the next three months, we kept texting and interacting like nothing had ever happened, and I gradually realized that I was becoming attracted to him, but then I had to figure out a way to make him ask me out again. A week before he graduated, we finally had a heart-to-heart and we went out on our first real date May 14, 2016, and a few days later at his graduation, I met his parents (I often joke that this relationship moved REALLY fast!).
Who proposed to whom? How and where? Was it a surprise?
Siqi technically proposed to me, although it wasn’t really a proposal.
Memorial Day weekend, Siqi drove from his training site in Connecticut to visit me here in Ohio, and that’s when we went ring shopping and began seriously discussing the possibility of marriage. It was either get married now or wait until the end of his three-year sea tour. We weren’t sure if we would have enough time to go through with the ceremony though since his orders at the time just said that he had to report to his new base in Georgia by July 31.
Then on June 4, Siqi randomly called me after class to say that his commanding officer had clarified that we’d have a few weeks before his official report-date to get married if we wanted, and that was that. He called my parents later that week to ask for their blessing, and after that, we were officially engaged—for all of one month!