The newlyweds.
The newlyweds. (Handout)

When Mark and I got engaged, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a wedding. All I knew was that we didn't have much money and we wanted to go some place beautiful.

Initially, I had wanted a few close friends to be there with me to witness the special day, but deciding on exactly who that would be proved to be an extremely challenging task, and he wanted to go off somewhere, just the two of us. As far as family went, my parents have both passed away and his had just started the process of divorce, so after giving it some more thought, I realized that the two of us going off alone together to get married might actually be the most romantic and perfect option.


We looked around online and found a great (and reasonably priced) elopement getaway at Hacienda Vargas in Algodones, N.M. We both thought the desert was a magical place and fell in love with the pictures of the tiny, 200-year-old adobe chapel they had on the property for small ceremonies.

We flew out to Albuquerque on a Saturday in September and had a wonderful day of sightseeing around town against the backdrop of the picturesque Sandia Mountains. On the day of our ceremony, we drove south about 25 miles to the little town of Algodones. When we got off the highway we were greeted by an explosion of wildflowers (it just so happened to have rained right before we came, so we got to see a rare, lush New Mexican desert). We got to the Hacienda and had a few hours to prepare for the evening ceremony in the comfort of our honeymoon suite.

Since we were there on a Sunday, we had the entire place to ourselves, which was magical. When the time came, we got into our wedding gear and walked into the chapel. The short and sweet service was administered by the innkeeper and his wife (who was our witness), so we had a total of four at our ceremony.  We tied the knot in the adobe chapel by candlelight at sunset, and every minute of it was absolutely, profoundly beautiful.

The next day, we woke to a delicious New Mexico breakfast and then drove off to our honeymoon in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. At the end of the trip, we were both completely thrilled with the experience. I'm so grateful that Mark and I were able to start our new life together as a married couple with a wedding that turned out to be a fun, romantic and intimate adventure.

On those long stretches of desert highway, we had hours to talk and bond and get to know each other better as husband and wife. And on the way back to Albuquerque, we drove until we got tired, then pulled off the road to a motel off Route 66 — the Sands Motel — that just happened to be the spot where Elvis honeymooned with Priscilla. We came back to Baltimore the next day with an iPhone full of pictures to show our friends and family, totally blissed out from the experience.

And the best part of all: We're expecting our first baby in July.

Angie Young-Peightel, 33, is the Maryland Film Festival's membership manager. She lives in Mount Vernon.