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Ask Meg: Secret Engagements & Proposals


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Ask Meg: Secret Engagements & Proposals | A Practical Wedding

So we haven’t discussed elopements – true elopements – on APW…. at all. Which is strange. We do have an elopement wedding grad post in the works (see the amazing Mina & Alex above,* as shot by Max Wanger) but we’re not there yet….. BUT. I got this excellent email from a reader that I want to throw out for discussion:

I love APW. I am so glad to have found a wonderful collection of rational, intelligent, open-minded women. I came upon your website when I was in the pre-engagement limbo phase of my relationship. I found a lot of comfort in reading the “engagement and proposals” posts. The other reader comments really helped me calm down and realize that it wasn’t all about some ridiculous grand gesture or large diamond ring. Especially since I never really cared about those things to begin with. Somehow a staunch feminist like myself was wrapped up in reading fancy wedding blogs and coveting shiny things and getting stuck in whole peer pressure of “competitive wedding planning” where each bride has to post constant updates about their weddings on Facebook.

I finally came to terms with being “pre-engaged” and then I found myself being proposed to on my birthday last week. I was completely surprised and while it wasn’t some over the top ridiculous romantic gesture, it was sweet and thoughtful and something that I will always cherish. So here is my current situation and I would love your and your reader’s advice.

Over the course of my relationship, my boyfriend (now fiance, still not used to it), had always discussed eloping. We both fell in love with this idea of running off to Paris and having a small ceremony (after being legally married in the United States first) and then telling our families via postcards that we mailed, which would conveniently reach while we are still on our honeymoon.

I am still in love with this idea. I am extremely financial responsible and would rather have the money that my family would have gifted me for a wedding and use that for a house down payment or to boost our retirement accounts instead. There are a lot of other factors at play. The relationship is interracial (so it would need to be some cross cultural event), neither of us are remotely religious, and the most important reason for me is that my parents have the most unhealthy marriage on earth (seriously) and I know they would find a way to use my wedding as a way to declare emotional warfare on each other.

I don’t want a wedding. I just want it be the two of us, saying some meaningful words to each other, in a beautiful location. But I do want a honeymoon! I keep my priorities  straight.

But here is where the tricky part comes, now that we are engaged and because we are planning on eloping in the next year, we have decided not to tell anyone else that we are engaged. We made this decision because as soon as our families would have heard about us being engaged, wedding planning would start immediately and it would be a non stop cycle of guilt and questions. When is the wedding shower? Where are you registering? Why aren’t you changing your last name? Why can’t we invite 300 people? It also makes it easier that am not a ring person and am instead wearing a small and simple diamond necklace. It is our little secret. My only worry and this is where I would love the advice of your readership is do people ever feel guilty about eloping and can people share any experiences they had after eloping and how they dealt with their families. And any advice they would like to pass along would be great. I ask this because I am starting to feel slight pangs of guilt. I am the oldest and the only girl. I know I will be happy with my decision but I just don’t want it be an issue with my family for the rest of our relationship. I love them but if this is the most “important” day of my life, then I want it to be my way. And if they were involved, I can’t see them being open and understanding.

Here is my, totally subjective advice: part of the joy of eloping is that you can skip the whole (really not that fun, no matter what they try to sell us) engagement period and jump right to being MARRIED (which is amazing). So, I think if you’ve going to elope, you don’t wait till next year, you do it now.** Book a flight to Paris, take some time off work, and go. And then, when you send those postcards tell them that you’d love to celebrate with everyone when you get back. You can be really uninvolved with the planning and just show up, or just make it a small celebratory dinner.

But, supposing you can’t fly off to Paris in the next few months and do this thing? Well, in that case, some backup advice. Engagements can be kept wonderfully secret (remember this couple who kept the secret for two years?) But here is the thing… when you run off and get married? You’re under no obligation to even mention that you were engaged. Ever. You can just say, “It was the right time for us, and we just needed to go do it” and leave it at that. Because somehow, being an emotional person myself, I suspect most of the hurt would come from being kept in the dark for a year. The wedding is easier to come to terms with because you’ll be So D*mn Happy. And I am not a fan of honesty always being the best policy. Trying to be KIND is the best policy.

Oh. And don’t just send a postcard. Send a Polaroid. If my baby girl ran off to Paris to get married, seeing her on-top-of-the-world-happy would help me get over the sadness of not being there. Because that’s what you want for your kid, in the end, right? For them to find their own path.

So be brave, my dear. Things that you know in your heart of hearts that you want? You usually don’t regret. Seriously.

Team Practical, thoughts??

* Look at the name of their website. How perfect and inspiring is that?
**I tend not to be pro debt, but seriously, a honeymoon elopement? You can pay that off over the next year if that’s the issue. WORTH IT.
PS And send us Polaroids too, yeah? And a picture of that damn secret engagement necklace. That I’ve got to see.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Courtney

    After and before my fiance and I got engaged, we both were for eloping. We kept our engagement a secret for a week and were uncertain about what to do for our actual wedding. As soon as I started talking to my friends and family about our engagement, I realized I would miss them too much. I realized I wanted my momma and my sisters there which is why I would want a wedding with my loved ones.

    I’ve always felt this way about secrets (I’m not saying this applies to you): If you’re keeping a huge part of your life a secret, it’s probably because you don’t want to hear other’s opinions. Most of the time, I think it’s because I know I’m wrong or I don’t want to be judged.

    I know a few people who have eloped. One did not regret. And one does.

    Good luck deciding!

    • Courtney

      ALSO, another point: the past two years have been particularly hard for my father and his side of the family. There’s been two major deaths and a large part of me felt like I owed it to them to give them something to be happy about. Not out of guilt but because I love them and they deserve to have some good family gatherings after two very hard years.

      • http://www.verhext.com verhext

        This is basically exactly why I’m not eloping, except a little voice in my head keeps saying “Elope! Elope! Elope!”

        My parents kind of eloped — they got fed up, said “we’ll be at the church next weekend if you want to show up!” & a handful of friends and family came. No bridesmaids, my mom in a mini dress, etc. Cute!

      • jolynn

        I think that this is an *excellent* point, but could also be accomplished with a celebration upon return, maybe?

  • Anna

    I completely understand your desire to elope and I agree with Meg 100%! Don’t keep people in the dark and send a beautiful photo.

    I am in the “pre-engagement” phase of my relationship right now and every fiber of my being tells me to elope with my partner instead of host a wedding. Of course I feel guilty but there’s also a lot of relief that comes from not feeling like you have to cater to some of the crazy that is family. Weddings can be joyous celebrations but as I have seen with friends and team practical, they can come with a lot of baggage (emotional, financial) and that might not be right for you.

    Will Paris make you happy? Yes? Then do it!

  • Eliza

    Ooh! First! Excited!

    Gosh, now I don’t know where to start. I will start by saying, I agree with Meg wholeheartedly. Especially about polaroids, and doing it ASAP. Seriously, flights are cheap, and sick leave is easy. (Well, maybe not. But Paris is worth it.)

    From a personal perspective, I have this to say. Keeping the secret may be easier than you think. I am, and always have been, the world’s biggest blabbermouth. I shout news from the rooftops. I had been waiting to be engaged for a *while*, too. We got engaged on a Thursday night …and didn’t tell *anyone* until that Sunday night. And it was surprisingly easy – I felt zero desire to tell anyone. (And then we didn’t mention it for the first hour or two of dinner with my parents! Which made the eventual reveal even more hilarious.) Doing it this way was right for us, even if it may not have been right for anyone else. If we hadn’t had those few days (substitute hours, weeks, months, years as your mileage varies), the experience of telling people would have been ruined, because before we could tell other people, we had to really understand ourselves what we had just done. And we’d been talking about getting engaged for years – and it still took us days.

    Once we told people, oh the stress. I will say it again: OH THE MONUMENTAL STRESS. So many questions, so many people to tell, so much excitement. It was exhausting. (And we were in a situation where everyone was really, really happy for us. I cannot imagine how stressful it could have been if our families had been pressure-y, or unsupportive, or full of expectations.) So I say, there is NOTHING wrong with waiting to tell people. There is nothing wrong with not telling people at all. Who needs an engagement? If it’s not something you want, or something you need to plan the wedding (and it sounds pretty awesomely planned to me), it’s not necessary. And I really, really don’t think you’ll regret it.

    I haven’t eloped, and I (probably) won’t be (though oh goodness, have I thought about it over the last week or so.) But I did talk to my grandma about it about six months ago, when I thought my then-boyfriend wouldn’t want a wedding, but I so very much wanted to marry him (and him me. Just not the wedding part. With all the people, and the staring, etc.) I thought she would hate the idea, miss the wedding, be upset she wasn’t there, etc. We are, and always have been, very very close.

    She said, “Go! If I hear in the next year or so you’re planning a trip to Europe, I’ll know what to think! Anyone who really loves you will be so, so happy for you, and will understand. Just send me a photo.”

    And I think anyone who really loves you, and really gets you and your situation, will ultimately feel the same. (And even if they don’t, the statement stands. If they don’t love you and understand you enough to get it, you probably wouldn’t have wanted them at your wedding anyway.)

    • http://www.verhext.com verhext

      Flights are cheap? I’m flying to Paris in 2 weeks for work, and 2 tickets to Paris == more expensive than my budget for my wedding! No one I know headed to Europe right now is finding deals!

      • Eliza

        Maybe it’s just the Australia to Europe ones – a few weeks ago there were some for $240AUD one way (about $200USD), Melbourne to London (stopping at KL)! It seems like if you keep your eye out sometimes there are crazy sales :)

        • http://www.verhext.com verhext

          That’s amazing!! From the West Coast (US) it’s starting at $1500 RT!!! Crazy!

          • meg

            I thought that was just usual for Europe from here. Clearly I haven’t traveled enough. MUST GET ON THAT.

  • http://mrsbasement.wordpress.com Mrs. Basement

    I say dont elope. I say stand up to your family. I say give the people who love you two a chance to stand up for you. Have the wedding you want with and for the people who love you. I say go through the fire. Slay the dragon.

    • http://onecatperperson.blogspot.com Angie

      I hate saying this because I want to be all kinds of supportive and encouraging, plus running off to Paris and eloping sounds rad and romantic… but…. when I read this:

      “I don’t want a wedding. I just want it be the two of us, saying some meaningful words to each other, in a beautiful location.”

      It reminded me of the things I used to say before planning a wedding. I didn’t want a wedding because I didn’t want to spend the money, I wanted to buy a house. (Which I don’t understand why everyone things they need to buy a house right away. We need to go to grad school first.) I didn’t want to deal with the family drama, guest list, etc. so I figured in order to not deal with that stuff we had to elope. (I still don’t want to deal with that stuff, but I want a wedding.) And I was really scared to have a wedding. I was scared it would suck. I was scared to plan. Just scared all around. But I confronted that fear and my partner and I are getting married in a public park with 78 of our loveliest loved ones.

      Do I wish we had eloped? Sometimes. But then I remember something I read on APW many-a-time: Our weddings are not just for us, they’re for our families, our parents, our friends and everyone else that supported us through our lives. They are looking forward to celebrating as much as my partner and I are.

      So that’s my two cents. As much as it pains me to say it. I hate giving advice, I hate telling people what to do and I hate the way “have a wedding” sounds. When people told me I “needed to have a wedding” I wanted to punch them in the throat. But really, having a wedding doesn’t mean giving into WIC or bullshit or lavish expensive crap. Having a wedding means celebrating love and tradition (not the kind the industry wants you to buy into) but the kind of tradition that is a rite of passage.

      Ultimately, you will do what’s best for you and your partner. And whether you elope in a romantic city or have a 500 person bash of the century- you’ll end the day with a spouse for life. And that’s all that matters.

      • J

        “When people told me I “needed to have a wedding” I wanted to punch them in the throat.”

        THIS – is why I love being part of the APW community :)

      • Chelsea

        To build on this…
        Wedding planning has taught me a lot about how to deal with my (occasionally crazy) family, how to set boundaries, what to expect in the future from my fiance’s family, and a lot about myself and my fiance and how we deal with those issues. Was it always easy? No, but I think it was incredibly valuable.

        So, if you really want to elope, elope! But if part of you wants a wedding and you’d be eloping just to avoid the family issues, then I think you’d be giving up a lot of valuable learning experiences and delaying the inevitable. You’ll come back to the same family, and their issues will come out eventually (around holidays, arounds kids, around you moving, around SOMETHING). Wedding planning gives you a crash course in dealing with them.

        • meg

          While I do, in general, agree with Chelsea… I also think setting boundaries means eloping. Maybe it’s just because it’s RIGHT for you, or maybe it’s because your family is that kind of nuts. I’ve known families who shouldn’t have had a wedding thrown for them, that their kid needed joy, sanity, and boundaries.

          • http://www.tbonelee.blogspot.com Jess (or T-Bone)

            I have to say that while I completely support the idea of eloping and if that’s what you want to do I say GO! DO IT!, but whenever I hear (or read) that someone is questioning the idea of eloping I think it means that deep down there is doubt and the fear of regret. If eloping is something you want to do then you just do it! The whole concept of eloping is spontaneous! Planning an elopement really defeats the purpose in a way. I’m wondering if the writer does want a wedding…just none of the family drama (which is totally understandable).

            Also….to get married in Paris requires that one of the couple lives in paris for 40 days before the ceremony (in addition to a whole other host of required paperwork that needs to be turned in 10 days before the ceremony for the license). And if the plan is to have a civil ceremony in the US and then another in Paris why not just have the one ceremony in the states and then honeymoon in paris?

            (And I do kind of love the idea of a secret engagement necklace. Think of all the stolen glances and giddy secret smiles!! How romantic!)

            good luck! keep us updated!

  • mire

    I also say don’t elope. Sharing this special day with your loved ones is also utterly romantic. It’s not necessary to have a huge, expensive wedding. It can be something small, relaxed and more you.
    Let’s say you elope and then come home just to organize a party and celebrate with your families…And what is the gain in that? Your loved ones were not able to share this moment with you and now you still have to put in the effort and money to organize the party. Eloping makes sense only if you are not close to anyone in your family and you don’t care about their presence.

    • meg

      Eh… First, I’m not sure I agree that sharing a special day with your loved ones is romantic. It’s a lot of things, and can be joyful, but romantic? Um, not here. It’s stressful even under the best of circumstances. It’s a cost/ benefit of it being worth it. Second of all, you’re painting something of a rosy picture here. Lots of people don’t have families like this – and that’s important to acknowledge.

      Also, kinda want to throw out there, it’s not bad family = elope, good family = wedding. I think we’ve set up weddings as this cultural ‘must do’ and i don’t think they are. I think weddings are great things, but I also think eloping can get a bad rap. Because seriously, WHY NOT?

      • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

        I agree with you, Meg, that creating a norm where elopement is an option for all sorts of people is the right. But to answer your question, “Why not?” a story.

        My brother-in-law married his fiancee at the courthouse as an elopement. They were in the same town that my husband and his other brother lived at the time. They called my husband after the deed was done to see if he was available for fancy brunch but when he was hung-over and had things to do so turned them down, they went ahead and celebrated with the other brother, not mentioning that the reason they wanted fancy brunch was to celebrate their marriage.

        It still makes my husband sick to his stomach that their desire for a certain type of event (surprising siblings by telling them over brunch) meant that he was excluded. I think it’s analogous to insisting on a certain type of engagement event. His sister and parents also feel left out since they live in different cities so I think the “Why not?” has to consider the legitimate hurt close family and friends will feel if they are left out of the event as a cost in the final cost-benefit analysis. The benefit might still be greater than that cost but it might not. Your spouse is not the only person that you love and have committed to avoid hurting.

        • meg

          I am not sure we do ourselves, as a community, a service when we make elopments taboo. Really. Yes, your story shows problimatic handling of thigs (eeeee!) but we could be talking about how they mishandled the wedding. So. In sum, I wouldn’t take elopments off the table…

        • Marisa-Andrea

          Well, I also think it’s not so simple as that either – not so simple that it takes elopement off the table completely. I definitely understand family members being hurt that were excluded and that essentially, elopement usually means some will be excluded and others will not. BUT — and yes, it’s a BIG but — two people coming together in a marriage can be intensely spiritual and emotional and is something that should be done in a context in which those people are their most authentic selves. While having a wedding may satisfy or please certain family members because they get to be present, get to participate in the big to-do or what have you, it does a disservice to the couple and everyone involved if having a wedding means that the individuals marrying can’t show up. And to me, that’s not a joyful or romantic event.

          I think it’s wonderful if a couple considers how others may be affected by their decision to elope or not or ANY decision they make regarding their choice to get married, quite frankly. But I aso think that couples must be true to themselves and authentic. Always.

        • K

          Ick. It just sounds to me like your brother-in-law went about telling his loved ones and sharing the happiness in the wrong way. If they wanted to celebrate immediately after the ceremony, it just seems like they should have planned the brunch ahead of time and found some way to include those other relatives.

      • Alyssa

        I agree with you, Meg, 100% about the unnecessary bad family, good family dichotomy. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful family that I am very close to (ditto for the fiance), and my mom told me that she would *pay me* to elope. Of course she’s happy to help plan a wedding too :).

        One thing I have heard, which may constitute my advice (granted with no real experience since I’m just beginning the process) is that planning a wedding is one of the few times in life where you and your significant other will both be very stressed out at the same time about the same thing. Perhaps it’s a valuable experience before starting the marriage. Or, I suppose, it could just be unnecessary strain…

      • Lisa

        Meg, I think it would be helpful if you didn’t attempt to define what romantic means for other people. I agree with the second party of your comment here, but your first paragraph seems a little unnecessary and slightly offensive to the original commenter. My vows are being spoken by my friends and family, and yep, it’s going to be romantic. Sorry, I know that’s not what this post is about, but just be careful with how you phrase things so as not to come off as dismissive of opinions that differ from yours.

        • ddayporter

          eh, it’s her blog, remember. she’s allowed to have opinions. and I have to say, of the two comments in question, the original comment did more to define what romantic means to other people. Meg seemed to be objecting to the universality of the comment, because it’s not romantic to her, therefore probably not romantic to a lot of people, therefore not a strong argument. Maybe I’m reading all this into her comment because I wanted to object to the blanket statement that weddings are romantic, and she beat me to it. I don’t think weddings can’t be romantic, I just think we don’t know what this girl thinks is romantic so it can’t be an argument to have a wedding vs. elope.

          • meg

            I didn’t say it can’t be romantic, but that it wasn’t for me. Were parts of my wedding day romantic, yes, though I’m not personally a fan of the word but whatever. Were the parts with OUR FAMILIES romantic? No, not really .

      • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

        I love elopements and have always wanted one, but it’s just not in the cards for me. I have two young kids, and it’s important to me that they see that the wedding is a (a) reason for celebration by all of our families and friends and (b) know that the wedding is part theirs, too. Afterall, they’re getting a bonus dad in this bargain, and they ought to have a role. But, my heart is really with elopements, so we’ve compromised. Our wedding is going to be as close to elopement as I can get. We’re doing a small destination wedding (small in both numbers of people and amount/cost of travel required).

        But realistically, it won’t be the wedding that will be tons of romantic. The honeymoon, though. That’s OURS.

        Kudos to those who CAN elope.

        • http://hardcorefrench.com marissa

          This is almost exactly my situation. We were planning to elope and have my parents watch my son while we went off the Vegas for a few days. When I asked, I got a reluctant, “You don’t want anyone to go?” from my Dad. It just broke my heart and I realized I could not do this day without the immediate family there.

    • ANDREA

      that’s a little harsh, isn’t it? eloping and having a backyard barbecue when you get back sounds fun! people can say congratulations and see pictures of Paris. sounds great to me! they’ll still be happy for you. I find it hard to believe that there can only be one special moment, and if your family doesn’t share in it then everything will be pointless. I think these moments (polaroids from Paris, hugs and congratulations at whatever-get-togethers afterwards) will be special as well.

      • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

        Amen. Let me add that you will have a life full of special moments to share, as well. Eloping might be the kick in the pants family members need to start changing the relationship they have with you if you handle it well. You probably shouldn’t do it for that reason but it might be a nice perk.

        • Eliza

          Actions have consequences. Sometimes grown ups haven’t learnt this yet; sometimes parents haven’t learnt this yet. I don’t know about the original writer’s family situation more than any of the rest of us do, but it’s possible that her family drama is an incredibly negative situation, more than many of our families are, and that this has been created by her parents and their attitude. (It certainly sounds like this is a real possibility.) It’s possible that her action in eloping and in keeping the state of their relationship a secret currently is the *necessary consequence* of their prior actions, for her own emotional safety and sanity. Families can be wonderful, loving and supportive, but they can also be destructive, hurtful, negative – and not in a “we have to get through this together and we’ll grow as a family” way. In a “I am putting up boundaries so you cannot continue to hurt me” way. Just a thought.

      • jolynn

        Whether or not there is family drama is kind of irrelevant, as I think Meg suggested above: it’s about what they want. It isn’t excluding others from it to send postcards and then have a big shindig after! It’s the same kind of party, a wedding party, a community building thing, just without all of the *wedding* costs.

        Remove the stigma of elope=lesser choice, etc. APW is awesomely about doing weddings that don’t have to look any way but the way you want them, and if a Paris wedding is what is wanted, then go for it!

        • Chelsea Donohue

          I have to disagree with some on this family involvement discussion. First of all if your family is not present at your wedding it does not neccessarily mean that they are not close to you. My husband and I are close with our families and when we decided to elope they were very happy and supportive. They were not selfish about it. They were happy that we wanted to commit to each other. Marriage is meant to be a commitment and a celebration for life. Seeing us say our vows was only one part of the celebration. Family can still be happy for you and celebrate afterwards. When it comes down to it marriage is a bond between the two of you. I think it’s stupid when I hear people say that you have to have your family present when you get married because it is for them too. It is not for them and if they truly love you and respect your choices in life they will be happy for you not matter what choice you make.

  • Laura

    I’m with Meg, go for it and do send that picture. One thing in your question that I think needs to be addressed is the subject of money. Don’t base your decision to elope on being able to use the “wedding money” your family might have given you for something else. Chances are they will not give you anything. They might…but more than likely if that money is set aside for a wedding, that is what they are counting on using it for. Best to not even make it part of the discussion.

    • mollymouse

      That statement was the first thing that popped out at me. My family gave us money *for the wedding*. I’m sure if we didn’t have the wedding, the money would not have been offered. Don’t let your decision be based in any way on your families’ money (although your own financial situation is valid – I sometimes do a little sigh when I think of the thousands we spent ourselves, but then I smile thinking about the day, so it evens out).

  • http://www.aviedesigns.com avie

    Here is how we went about it, maybe this will help:

    We didn’t want a wedding, showers, diamonds or hoopla. I didn’t want to be engaged or a bride. We decided to get married and kept it a secret for a while. Once we had decided exactly how WE wanted everything to go down, we told our immediate family.

    We are both close with our immediate families and wanted them to have the option on being at our courthouse ceremony or not. No pressure. We knew they would allow us to things our way, we weren’t sure about everyone else.

    The courthouse was scheduled 2 weeks from when we told them to help keep the secret and announcements went out that day.

    We did decide to have a reception 3 months later because when else are you able to have people fly across the country to party with you? And I am so glad we did and did it OUR way. The party was amazing, way better than I thought and I didn’t have to wear a white dress and carry flowers and all that jazz.

    • jolynn

      I wanna read this wedding grad post!

  • Erin

    Meg, you’re hilarious. I love your easy “Book tickets to Paris NOW NOW NOW!” link in your response. I nearly booked my own tickets when I clicked.

    I agree with Meg’s advice to elope soon, if you’re going to. Being engaged is not nearly as awesome as being married, and 8 months of being secretly engaged sounds as stressful as 8 months of wedding planning. And I also advocate for minimizing the days (and hours) between your promise marry each other, and your promises to love, honor and cherish for the rest of your life. I would have skipped the entire engagement to get to that moment, and tried to start our ceremony three minutes early because I couldn’t wait any longer.

    However, DON’T skip marriage counseling. Pre- or post-, religious or regular, just do it. Your baby family will really benefit from it, and I bet/hope it will help you and your fiance a lot to see your greater family issues clearly and compassionately. It will also help you build your married couple identity, which will be a source of strength when you spend time with your families after you announce your fantastic news.

    Congratulations on your committment, and wishes for JOY!

    • meg

      I love you, Erin. Exactly everything here.

    • Ivy

      I agree you should consider premarital counseling regardless of your decision to elope. If your primary example of a marriage is one involving “emotional warfare,” ducking and running for cover sounds like it is probably a well used defense mechanism. (That is not to say the elopement might not ultimately be the best answer for you, just that it deserves to be looked at in the context of your total life experience, and to see if it isn’t knee-jerk reaction to something else. That is also not to say that elopement is running away from things. I get that.) If you get into some good counseling, you can work through the interracial/cultural and family dynamics issues and decide about the “wedding” when you’re ready. Those fundamental conflicts aren’t going to go away without work, as someone else posted. I vote for keeping the engagement secret as long as necessary. BTW, I do love the idea of a diamond necklace in place of an engagement ring. It’s very thoughtful and shows how much your fiancé knows what makes you, you.

      • http://inourlittleplace.tumblr.com/ InOurLittlePlace

        Ivy, this was my question. Thank you for the perspective. I think the counseling is a great idea. We have a solid relationship but it should be something we should always keep working on. We’re in this for the long run and there are a lot of things that can come along.

    • Sarah Beth

      Amen! Who was it that told me being engaged was fun? I want to hit them. It was like being on cloud nine for the first few hours. Then the heavy shoe of reality dropped in the form of a very jealous/ out-of-her-mind mother who screamed and ranted until 1 AM. And it’s been a hellish ride ever since.

      Sure, I wanted a wedding…three years ago, and a couple of hours before I went home to a rabid mother. Now, I realize that I hate the idea. I hate crowds and being the center of attention, and I don’t want to drag my divorced and bitter parents to the same event. But we’re (probably) still having a wedding.

      Do I want to elope? OH YES! Because I want to say my vows without hundred of eyes on me, and more practically, because I don’t really have time to plan a wedding. I have a foreign language to learn over the summer and a 70 pg portfolio due in the fall, not to mention finding a place to live and a job in the next year. And my fiance isn’t much help either, since he’s taking organic chemistry and studying for the MCAT.

      So, really, if eloping is your plan, please take Meg’s and Erin’s advice. Don’t wait around for a year, unless you have a good reason. (Like, you can’t afford the tickets right now.) Otherwise, why do you need to be secretly engaged for a year? What are you waiting for? As long as you mentally and emotionally prepared (pre-marital counseling is very sound advice) then go ahead and tie the knot!

      • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

        Oh, your mom had a serene and lovely reaction to your engagement, too? Ugh. It does make one want to elope, doesn’t it?

        We’re doing the wedding for FH’s mom, but we’re doing it “our way.” She’s cool with that, so long as she gets her party. Considering how she’s been wonderful (no, really – my mother is the MIL from Hell, not her!), I figure it’s the least we can do.

        However, I love the idea of running away to a resort town, getting married at a courthouse, and spending a few days at a B&B just the two of us. We’re doing all of this now, except instead of just the two of us, it’s 100 or so of our closest friends … I suppose that’s OK, too. :)

    • Kate

      I completely agree about the marriage counseling. That is hands down the best thing I got out of the wedding planning process, that I might not have done if I had eloped. (I got a lot of other good stuff out too, like setting boundaries, dealing with family conflict as a baby family, etc. but I think you will have the opportunity to face these challenges/learning opportunities in due time.)

      I think if you take the time and really think it out, you won’t regret your decision. One of my friends who is a wedding photographer told me something really important, “Most people don’t regret how they go about getting married, unless they regret who they married.”

      But, I also have to agree with people who think you shouldn’t make the decision based solely on money…I’m not saying spend 20k and go into debt, but I am saying that if you are making the decision based solely on cash, think a little longer.

      I wish you the best!

    • http://www.christinabrandl.com Christy T

      This made me laugh and reminded me of my engagement… and how I was so focused on wedding planning that my (now) husband used to say –> “Who is this crazy ‘fiance’ that replaced my awesome girlfriend, Christy?! I sure hope she comes back once we’re married!” Yes… being engaged is neat and all, but all that stress and all those expectations – eesh! The planning & stress was definitely worth it when things were all said and done, don’t get me wrong, but man do I wish I could have had a 1-month engagement instead of 10 months! Either way, whatever you choose will be right for you in the end. Lots of love! :)

  • http://www.completelyirrelevant.com Stephanie

    My fiance and I thought about eloping, but I also am the oldest and the only girl on one side of my family. Because my family is so small (only my brother and I for our generation), it would have crushed them not to be there. While I know our wedding day is about “us,” part of “us” is making sure our loved ones aren’t hurt in the process.

    I love, love, love the idea of a small, private ceremony though. We’re still toying with the idea of having a private ceremony the morning of the wedding, just us and witnesses, and then having the big deal wedding later that day. I’m not sure we’ll be able to work out the logistics of it, but we’ll see.

    • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

      That’s what we did. We had a small private ceremony in the mountains on a Friday morning and had our celebration the following evening. It turned out beautifully.

  • J

    I’m not going to tell you what to do – but I can tell you what it’s like to start at the place of wanting to elope, to being talked into a wedding, to being two months away from said wedding. When we got engaged the only thing I wanted was him, me & some beautiful words in a beautiful place. I knew this would disappoint our families but they could celebrate with us individually upon our return. Well that would be sad, so eloping turned into us and a few immediate family members – which turned into what it is now – us, a beautiful place, immediate family & the closest of friends. 30 people, in a forest (or insert in the French countryside/etc) while we exchange (what I see as) the most personal declaration of love you’ll ever utter. We’ll then have a larger, cake & punch sort of deal (except god help me, the punch will be spiked!) reception to appease the families. It’s cheap & cheerful, it gets the job done & makes the families happy. It’s a 3 hour ordeal so your parents will have a hard time declaring an all out war.

    I’m hella nervous about my parents at our wedding of 30 – but they are grown and I hope they surprise me.

    It is a private occasion, but as an APW reader you must feel the immense love that radiates from your community on a wedding day. It’s not the only way to get married, but it sure is nice to feel supported – no couple is an island.

    Here’s my final thought – we (for financial/insurance issues) got married in a courthouse nearly a year before our wedding is to happen. Talk about SECRETS – we will have technically been married for ten months on our wedding day. Our ‘engagement’ lasted only about 2 months and I have to say, wedding planning feels nice when you know you’ve already got ‘em. :) Makes me feel steady & secure while we go through the mama drama (yes we had it) and the financial planning (because yes, we’re frugal too).

    As you’ve no doubt read on APW, the stress & the money spent & the family issues are all a GREAT way to practice at being your baby family. If I had skipped this entirely, I would have regret it.

    BEST of luck to you, and remember – THIS IS THE GOOD STUFF! You’re with the person of your dreams & you love each other. You can get through the rest.

    • http://onecatperperson.blogspot.com Angie

      30 people in a forest?! That sounds amazing. And yes. Spike the punch!

      Definitely planning from a different perspective. I’m assuming it takes some of the pressure off? And I use “some” very lightly. Weddings, no matter how casual/small/frugal, will still come with pressure.

      If we weren’t doing the BBQ in a park deal, I’d take 30 people, hit up our favorite duck-pin bowling alley, grab some thirties, some pizza and do the damn thing. I actually suggested that before we started writing checks and signing contracts and the fiance shot it down. :( But hey, there’s always the first year anniversary vow renewal/bowlathonbonanza.

    • AmandaMan

      Like J, I wanted to elope but settled on something in-between. (BTW, 30 people in a forest sounds beautiful!) My fiance and I hate being the center of attention and would much rather have an intimate ceremony by ourselves. However, my mom is *really* set on being there and would be devastated if we eloped (she was worried we would and even asked me not too). For Mom, we decided to have a 10 person beach ceremony with just immediate family. The decision is right for us, and I am confident we are doing the right thing.

      That said…if you want to elope and it’s right for the two of you, then elope! Do it! If you’re having doubts, then ultimately only you and fiance can decide what to do. And if you are close with your family, then you will already know how they feel about elopement and their expectations. Whatever decision you make, go into it wholeheartedly and make the most of it!

    • Corinne

      I’m just a little confused. So you are married and no-one knows, so isn’t that technically an elopment? I am always happy to celebrate with family and friend’s weddings and I would also be happy to party just as hard after the event if they eloped. To go to a ‘wedding’ though thinking I was about to see 2 people I love get married when they were already married would be a disappointment. Not that I wouldn’t want to celebrate the joy of a union, but I would rather know up front, just my opinion.

  • vicky

    first time commenting, so be gentle!

    this may not be up your street at all, and I don’t want to use this word, but what about some sort of compromise? It isn’t one of those bad compromises in my book, it is something I wish we were doing (we are getting married on 3rd July after 14 months of planning). So, I will get to the point – depending on logistics (I am aware that the US is far bigger than little old England where I am and you might have people scattered all over to make this too difficult) could you have a surprise wedding,? It means that you get to share the day with the family and friends you choose to invite, but without the stress and comments and judgements from them during the planning. You could take a month or 2 to make arrangements whilst keeping the engagement hush hush (so not keeping people in the dark for too long), chose a venue that suits the pair of you and the atmosphere you want to create, announce that you are having a fabulous party (people might think you are going to announce your engagement or something) and then, get married! Amy from eat drink chic http://www.eatdrinkchic.com/post.cfm/surprise-we-got-married is my hero (even if she doesn’t know it). I so wish we had thought of this…so simple, so laid back, so full of what is important – joy and love. Not full of obligations, guilt, stress….

    Just my take on it, from someone who has planned their wedding to be a laid back casual affair when I wish it just *was* that, not planned to be that. But maybe that isn’t what you want.

    At the end of the day, wherever and however, you will be marrying your love, that is all that really matters.

    • Ashley

      I have a friend who had a surprise wedding last year. It was a second marriage for both of them, and they were originally planning to elope in France. They let their immediate families and a few key people in on the secret, then threw a big backyard barbecue where they just “happened” to get married. Their family and friends loved it. Then they went to France for a honeymoon.

      • K

        I think the problem with surprises is that people make a special effort to get to weddings, so if they don’t know it IS a wedding, some who really want to be there might not come. Which is what happened at our announcement drinks (the closest thing we had to an engagement party) – some people chose not to brave the Friday traffic, walked the dog instead, etc. and then were sad they missed what most of our friends had been waiting for for eight years.

        We were ‘secretly’ engaged for two weeks, which I really recommend to others. We took two weeks to have this be between just the two of us, and also to really check that this is what we wanted and were ready for. I think that when you start telling other people, as other posters have mentioned, it kind of gets away from you, like you step on a rollercoaster of planning and others’ expectations. Those two weeks were the calm before the storm, to enjoy this important decision in our life,before dealing with who-are-we-inviting, what-are-we-spending, can-aunt-judy-come onslaught.

        And my mother asked me to elope! although we didn’t, in the end.

    • http://beckybopwrites.blogspot.com/ Becky

      I’ve seen blog posts about a couple of surprise weddings lately that look like tons of fun. One was a couple who hosted the event at their house (http://www.soyoureengayged.com/bloggers/real-wedding-southampton-ma-tara-and-robin/) and the other at a restaurant, where everyone in attendance thought they were there for an engagement party (http://geneverege.bigfolioblog.com/weblog/post/148090). Incidentally, both are two-bride weddings, but I see no reason the idea can’t be adapted by straight folk too. ;) Anyway, I do think it could be a fun compromise, if the couple is looking to compromise, of course. But as others have said, don’t count on getting the money your parents would have spent on a wedding to use for something else; I know that my parents were willing to contribute money toward the wedding but wouldn’t have just given me cash instead. They’re helping to host the wedding because they want to celebrate our wedding, not because they have some extra money they’ve been saving.

  • Nina

    Hear, hear, Meg!!

  • Emily

    I don’t have much to offer in the way of advice, because I am in a similar sort of muddle. My boyfriend and I have been together for a long time, and we know we are going to get married sometime, but we are pretty young and busy with other things, and his older brother is having a very difficult time with wedding preparations and in-laws, etc. So, we are sort of engaged, even if it’s not “official.” I’m not very keen on the whole wedding thing for the same reason as the reader who wrote in, very complicated family dynamics both in my immediate family and my aunts and uncles. Not to mention, we’re not that happy about laying out the money or asking our parents for it.

    However, I’ve thought a lot about it and come up with this idea of layers of intimacy: Start with a courthouse ceremony, just the two of us and maybe our friend as photographer, then have a spiritual ceremony with immediate family and very close friends followed by a lunch or dinner, then later a large reception for all of our extended family, parents’ friends, etc.

    On the other hand, we go to Quaker meeting and also both love the idea of our whole community joining us in the meeting house for our vows. So we still really don’t know what we’re doing, or when.

    But I guess I’m trying to say that you can have it both ways :)

    • http://meaghanking.wordpress.com Meaghan

      I looooove the “layers of intimacy” concept! That’s something I’ve been struggling with. My boyfriend and I are in that “pre-engaged” phase, and so even though it’s not an immediate concern, I find that I’m already torn between wanting to celebrate with friends and family and wanting an intimate, personal ceremony with just the two of us under a big tree. I’m writing that one down!

    • http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/ The gold digger

      Yes. I really wanted our wedding to be just the two of us. I even had my mom convinced that it was OK as long as she got to be there for the religious part. (We were going to have a JP do it, then have a Catholic blessing.) That would have solved my main dilemma of not wanting his parents there because they have no interest in the religion.

      But. At the last minute his parents said of course they wanted to see us married, even though they’d said no the first two times we had asked. We never should have asked a third time. My wedding week had way too much drama. How do you invite only one family and not the other because it wasn’t my side (cough, cough) that was getting drunk and causing trouble.

  • Eat Broccoli

    We kept our engagement secret for 2.5 months. It was fabulous! In those two months we worked out major wedding facts, when, where and who. So when we did announce we were getting married, those pesky questions had answers and family who like to give input (wanted o unwanted) couldn’t cause decisions were made. But having your own little secret is the best part, people will ask when your getting married and you can come up with some “line”. Then when your are alone laugh about if they only knew! It also gives you time to put the whole wedding versus marriage thing in perspective. Maybe figure out a guilt free way to have your wedding with your family. Be creative! No one knows what you two are planning yet. I found it also helped me be an engaged person without becoming wedding crazy. I was engaged and people were going about their regular business with me, cause really I was still the same person and will remain the same person no matter engaged or married.

  • Amy

    Here’s what my parents did, and maybe it’ll give you some inspiration.

    My mom had just signed a lease with her roommate for another year, thinking that my dad would not be proposing anytime soon. 3 months later, he popped the question, and apparently they wanted to get hitched right away, but my mom didn’t want to ditch her roommate or make her roommate feel guilty.

    So they got married. In secret. And kept it a secret from everyone, including their parents and friends. Once the lease was up, they had a small ceremony with family and friends. It was only years later that they revealed to anyone that they had been married for several months before the public wedding.

    The appeal of this is you get to do it your own way, with no pressure or expectations from your family… and your family doesn’t feel like they missed out on anything. And when everyone goes crazy about the public wedding, you can remind yourself that you’re already married and remember your private celebration, and no family craziness can take that joy away from you.

  • http://ladybitsblog.blogspot.com Button Gwinnett

    I say elope. Paris is always a good idea.

  • Zeke

    I can agree with so many of these great posts, but still adding my own two-cents and sides of the same coin.

    Secrets can dangerous – especially when you’re doing it just to ‘protect’ both yourselves and your families (and rightfully so). The hurt will only deepen if you let the secret linger too long, as in we were engaged for a year before we eventually eloped. Do it now! Total agreement with Meg there.

    As I’m regaling my friends with all our wedding plans and ideas being thrown at the walls to see what sticks, one of my best men keeps throwing back at me “10 minutes left on the meter”. He and his wife eloped and we had a cute little reception at one of our favorite outings (movies in the park) with our small group we call our Family.

    Good luck to the both of you.

  • ddayporter

    I have to agree 100% with Meg. Elope, but do it soon. No need to mention the engagement.

    It doesn’t sound like even a little part of you wants a wedding, so I don’t think you must have a wedding. Sure, weddings are as much for your community as for the couple, but, we’re not talking about a wedding here. We’re talking about an elopement, and a marriage. We had a wedding, and it was amazing and just what we wanted, but that’s the point – it was what we Wanted. It was amazing to have our friends and family there in the room for the ceremony, but I think it would also have been amazinggggg to run off to Paris and get married before anyone even knew we were engaged. the polaroid idea really makes it, I think. maybe even get a video camera and have it recorded, and show it at whatever party you might have when you get back (if you want a party. throwing a party without the Wedding label can be a heck of a lot cheaper).

    I don’t believe that anyone is owed a wedding. Sure, they can be great for bringing family and friends together, but it’s not your responsibility, or your duty. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who eloped, so I have no real actual knowledge of whether or not it makes a difference.

    • Marina

      “I don’t believe that anyone is owed a wedding.”

      This deserves an extra “exactly”.

  • MN Bride

    Long time reader, first time poster. I don’t really have any opinion either way. It’s just too personal a decision for me to give any sound advice about and, true to the APW way, I think whatever is best for a couple is best. However, if you do elope, I would strongly recommend telling your families RIGHT AWAY. My brother eloped and told no one for over 2 weeks. My mom, other brother and uncle were devastated about not being told for what seemed so long. They felt so left out and unimportant and irrelevant to my brother’s life, which is not true and was never his intention. In addition, the stress of keeping this secret was terrible for my brother and then for me (I was the first one he told). He fretted and worried and procrastinated. Meanwhile, I don’t even want to imagine what my sister-in-law was feeling as she watched her new husband struggle to tell his faimly that he married her. Ouch all around! Do what’s right for you but don’t keep the joyous news a secret for too long after you make the leap.

    • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

      I love how many first-time commenters there are on this post!

  • Cupcake

    This reader email struck very close to home for me, actually made me cry. “I don’t want a wedding. I just want it be the two of us, saying some meaningful words to each other, in a beautiful location. But I do want a honeymoon! I keep my priorities straight.” I could have written that! I very very very much really really really want to have a private ceremony (just my and FH) and have it be part of a vacation we take together. So you can kind of call it eloping with a honeymoon. I had always tried to imagine a large wedding when I was growing up, but I never really got into it. Then when I was thinking about marrying my ex, we discussed eloping and traveling to Scotland and that just felt way more “me” than a conventional wedding with guests and people looking at me. I HATE people looking at me with expectations. I hate giving presentations, I hated auditioning for solos in choir in high school, and I even had to talk myself into having a 30th birthday party a few months ago because I am so uncomfortable with people looking at me and giving me presents.

    So shortly after my birthday my FH and I got engaged. We had talked about the wedding prior to the engagement, and he is very much against eloping. He loves large groups of people (whereas I hate them), loves being the center of attention, loves having a big fuss made, and his parents love planning family gatherings. So…kind of the opposite of me. My mother had maintained for years that she would encourage me to elope whenever I am ready to get married, and even offered FH and me money to do it. She also hates large groups of people, planning events, etc. And she and I are also very money-conscious and would rather put the moolah towards a down payment on a house. But do to compromises I won’t get into (this is already way long), I am now stuck with a 135-person wedding that is still a year away, making it a 1 1/2 year engagement, another thing that sucks. When deep down you want a private ceremony it can be awful trying to plan a conventional wedding. Because there is so much preparation that goes into it, you don’t just make the decision to have the wedding and that is it. You have to live with the planning, the small battles that come up over the planning (who knew transportation would cause tears?), the vendors and acquaintances who just ASSUME that because you are the bride you are the one who wants the hoopla and tease you about it even though deep down you just want to walk away from the whole thing because you are just trying to make other people happy.

    If you want to elope but are considering a conventional wedding, make sure you can really be happy with the wedding before you decide one it. Otherwise, elope and then have a fun barbecue or something to celebrate with family and friends when you get back. That is exactly what good fiend of mine did and she was nothing but happy about it!

    • sara

      Your comment struck very close to home for me! wow. Except that roles are a bit reversed. I certainly don’t like being center of attention, or big fusses (no thank you very much), and having all the bells and whistles of a wedding is NOT a priority for me; However, I love family gatherings, and throwing closest friends into the mix just sounds like a whole lot of fun and, well, lovely! Similarly, my family sounds perhaps more like your FH’s family with planning and enjoying gatherings like that, whereas my FH (and his much smaller family) get overwhelmed by it all. So much so that I really really fear that FH is dreading the wedding, and the very last thing in the world I would ever want is for him to dread any part of getting married to me.

      So, we have had long discussions about actually having a small, completely private ceremony, and then still having the party with everyone. It is still hard though, since I will suggest something like that and then he does say it might just be better to make it official when everyone is there since they are already planning to come and it could be fun too… He started to feel a little more ok with a wedding when his father and some friends noted that a wedding is in some ways rite of passage, as one other commenter noted.

      At any rate, I guess I don’t have much advice, but reading your words were almost like hearing them come from my FH. Maybe I just wanted to say that while I am still trying to comfort him, and find a truly comfortable way to get married so that he actually might look forward to it, it is weighing on me that I’m dragging him toward something that he doesn’t want and that hurts a bit.. (I’ve even suggested the town hall elopement of sorts–heck my MOM suggested it too, but for whatever reason, he feels we are too far along to actually do that. really? I don’t think that is true at all, but it is tough, and maybe it is because of some other social pressures at work on him that I don’t know about?) I’m really finding this a struggle, and wish it wasn’t, and wish I could give you a supportive hug, like those I’ve given my FH when we’ve talked about all this, since I feel you both might be having similar trepidations. *HUG*

      • Cupcake

        Sara,
        Here’s a hug right back to you! I know (or at least I come as close to knowing as possible with having our situations reversed) how hard it is for you to be excited about a fun family gathering when your FH may be dreading it, my FH is in your place and just hates how upset some of this makes me. I think so long as you and your FH talk openly about what you each desire and expect deep down, you two can (just as hopefully my FH and I can) come up with a wedding situation that suits you both. We are discussing having a private ceremony earlier in the day, and letting the planned “wedding” just be the reception. Maybe your FH would find that more to his liking?

        Good luck with your plans, I really hope there isn’t any more stress than you two can be comfortable with. And thanks for your thoughtful comment!

      • Kate

        Hi Sara! Just wanted to let you know I was in that same position when we were engaged. I come from a huge family that loves to get together and celebrate, and my husband comes from a more spread out family that isn’t as close. I was really worried that he would be unhappy, especially because he hates being the center of the attention. (I don’t love it either, but I was willing to deal to have my family there.)

        But, he wasn’t unhappy or uncomfortable in the least. We were both absolutely joyous that whole day. As Meg has said before, you really aren’t the center of attention. People are there for you, but they’re certainly not staring at you for 5 hours. And afterwards my husband told me he was blown away by how great it was, and that he wouldn’t change it.

        No two experiences are alike, but just thought you could maybe use a little encouragement.

        • sara

          thank you, Kate! that was so helpful to hear, really. I am so happy for you and so glad it worked out so wonderfully. I am so looking forward to us being absolutely joyous together too, and really appreciate your encouragement. *hugs*

    • Beth

      can you just cancel your plans and elope? or marry alone and turn the “wedding day” into a party celebrating the fact that you’re already married? if it’s still a year and a half out, you should be able to cancel contracts and get your deposits back.

      • Cupcake

        Beth,
        I happen to think both of those are brilliant ideas, and I am totally ok with personally eating the one deposit we have put down so far (the venue) if FH were to agree to elope. He has made it clear that eloping is NOT an option, so this past weekend I suggested your second idea as being a GREAT compromise (which I think it is, I can suck it up and deal with a big party if it makes him that happy and I think FH should be able to suck it up with a private ceremony, since he hates the idea of me having to be on anti-anxiety drugs to marry him in front of people), but unfortunately he won’t get married without an audience. I really thought that after I caved on the wedding size and started figuring out ways of making the wedding “me” (something FH had suggested, so that I’d actually want to go, haha) it would feel a little better. But such is life.

        Thanks for your suggestions, you made my day a little better by making feel like I really am trying to come up with good compromises. :)

        • N

          http://offbeatbride.com/2009/03/weddings-for-shy-people

          This post might be helpful for figuring out creative ways to not be the center of attention even while there are lots of people at your wedding. Good luck with finding the right balance for both of you!

          • Cupcake

            N,
            Some of those suggestions are FABULOUS! I <3 OBB and am a member of the OBT, but I hadn't seen this advice before. Thank you thank you thank you!

  • http://www.palindromebride.blogspot.com Melinda

    I would trust your gut and elope. Standing up for yourself is a spectrum of activities from confrontation to removal of the stress. I wound up confronting it because of mom-guilt. I had a lovely wedding day, but would not repeat the process again. I truly believe that I would be just as happy today if I had eloped. I read a lot of stories from the WWII era where finances and military service necessitate elopement. I read very few regrets about it because 50 years down the road, the marriage was all that mattered. I’m in Meg’s camp on this one, do it and do it as quickly as you can :)

  • Ally

    i say DO IT!!

    we were secretly engaged for quite some time before we decided to tell anyone. it wasn’t because we didn’t want to share good news with our family and friends, but we wanted some time to adjust and figure out exactly how we wanted to do things before letting word get out. and at the time we were planning a small courthouse deal with just imediate family present. that ‘secret’ bit of time was THE BEST.

    i ended up blurting out the news to my grandmother just a few hours before she died. so, naturally, the entire hospital staff knew (even before my parents). ha! if it hadn’t been for that, i don’t think we would have told anyone until the very last second. and it would have been great. don’t get me wrong, we have wonderful, supportive families who were over the moon about this news. but after we shared, it left our hands and our ideas ran away with everyone else’s imaginations and expectations.

    i wouldn’t have felt guilty for a second for holding that in and not inviting anyone. honestly. and keeping a secret like that wasn’t hard, because it was my news, and not anyone elses, so no guilt. plus, my family wouldn’t have been surprised, so i know that i wouldn’t have been hurting them. when it was just up to us, it was all about starting our marriage, not about a wedding. now that the word is out and we are coming up on the wedding, i often have to remind the people around me (and myself) what this is about. and it’s not about the d*mn napkins.

    so i say go for it. if you have no regrets, then you need to do what is good for you and your future family, not what the WIC or even we have to say. good luck!

  • Maddie

    I’m with Meg. Go now! And if you’re not going to Paris now, go to city hall now, now, now! Eloping is a gut instinct thing and the more time you take the think about it, the more time you’ll spend shopping online for your “elopement outfit” and not just packing up your favorite dress and going. You know what I mean?

    I went to city hall a year before our wedding to get legally married so that I could take advantage of my husband’s health insurance. We had intended to keep it a secret from everybody, but ended up disclosing to our parents the day before we went. They weren’t there to witness it, they were just in on the surprise and I think it made them feel like they were part of our secret even if only in spirit. I’m not saying you have to do that, because we obviously don’t have the same parents. But if there’s anybody you’d want to have in on your secret (and who you know won’t automatically give you hell for it) let them know ahead of time. It’s almost as good as the real thing. And honestly for as much fun as a wedding can be for most people, a lot of your good family and friends are just going to be happy for your marriage. That’s the part they’ve been waiting for.

  • lani

    Congrats on deciding to get married in the first place!!
    Being secretly engaged was not as hard for us at all. We wanted to tell our families first and in person and they’re far away, so we waited. For months. Yes, months. It was lovely, keeping our little secret, simply because it was our special time to bask in the glow of our commitment.

    I love the thought of eloping and sometimes wish we had done it. I just wanted to go to the park or beach, with an officiant, a guitar player and a photographer (to be able to share the experience with our loved ones after).
    If your family is only going to cause you grief, elope. It’ll be worth the little bit of guilt. Take some fabulous pictures so you can share it with them later. I think you should make sure that you bring up the idea of a small party and/or dinner with them first. To show that you do care about sharing your happiness with them. Maybe that would heal the little bit of sadness that they might feel about missing that special moment in your life.
    Good luck and please let us know how it turns out!

  • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie

    Do it do it do it do it. Also – you should do it.

    For years before my fiance and I got engaged, we had talked about running off to Hawaii and eloping. That was the plan. He proposed in March of 2009, and we knew we wanted to get married on our five year anniversary – October 9, 2010 – in Hawaii. ALONE. But we made the mistake of telling everyone we were engaged. And the guilt from our families was enormous. Now we’re in the middle of planning the huge wedding that we didn’t really want. We’re four months away, and this week has been particularly tough because everyone who encouraged us to have a wedding and PROMISED they’d help… well, they’re nowhere to be found. I called my mom in a tizzy the other day over the fact that we couldn’t find centerpieces we liked for less than $1000. I’m sorry, but in my world, $1000 for centerpieces is just way too much. I was frustrated about everything and the stupid centerpieces were just kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back, and my mom had nothing to say. She didn’t offer to help take the burden off me… she barely acknowledged that I was upset. And I love my mom, and I know she means well, but she made me feel so guilty when we announced the Hawaii elopement – and now she’s not offering to help with wedding projects at all.

    Whew. That was a bit of a ramble.

    My point is… don’t tell anyone, just do what Meg said, and get thee to Paris and have the wedding ceremony you’ve always dreamed of. Take it from someone who very much regrets giving in to the pressure to have a wedding, and dreams of her little Hawaiian elopement. I’m the biggest elopement supporter ever, and even started specializing in elopements (I’m a photographer) because I just think it’s such a lovely way to get married.

    (I should say I’m sure I will love my wedding. I’m not going to be miserable – how could I be?! I’m marrying the most amazing man. And we’re putting a lot of work into making it a reflection of us, and it will be a lot of fun to dance and laugh and eat with all our wonderful friends and family. But I wish I would have stood up for what my fiance and I really wanted instead of giving in.)

    • Tina

      Maybe you should get yourself to Hawaii and have a secret private ceremony you wanted before this wedding you’re stressing over. Or maybe instead of this wedding. :) Have your cake and eat it too.

    • http://www.puppiesnpancakes.blogspot.com Kristi

      I said “exactly” but just needed to emphasize it with a comment. :) I really agree with you. We ended up having a wedding we didn’t really want either and it certainly wasn’t the best decision we made. What we wanted to do was elope (sort of) by going somewhere small and private with our immediate families (or even very close friends) for a simple ceremony and then going out to eat and celebrate right after. That way there wouldn’t have been much planning, the really important people would have been there (or not, if they chose to be upset at how we were doing our wedding) and we would have been married! Win-win all the way around.

      We’ve also had friends do that in Norway and Hawaii… just tell people what the date is, what’s going on, and then do it. Whoever comes, comes.

    • jolynn

      Dear Katie,

      I just wanted to say do it do it do it do it! And also…do it. :) That made my day, and I’m so sorry that your family is causing stress. This is actually the reason that my significant other and I are not engaged–we don’t want to get that way without a game plan on how to deal, neither of us want to get married at this point because the world at large isn’t really ready for it, and we don’t want to elope either because my mother would be very hurt and once one person is involved it kind of grows…and grows.

      But I think we just need to do it.

      Nike would love all of our collective motivation today, eh?

  • Emily

    On giving this some more thought, I agree with Meg – elope and enjoy!

    If you emanate love, kindness and joy in your announcement of your marriage to your family, they will share it with you.

  • liana

    as someone who has eloped – like, ELOPED, as in didn’t tell a single soul, not my Mom or Dad, brothers or friends, I would say, if you are the only girl you might want to think VERY seriously about eloping. (which I can tell you are) the reason I say that is because my Mom and Dad were VERY hurt, angry and it took a LONG time for my Mom to treat me like “normal” again. I truly didn’t think they would be that upset, I knew it would be a shock, but not that bad, but OOHHHH was it bad. I’m not trying to sway you either way, I don’t regret my decision, I choose to learn from my experiences…but I know I would never do that again. My mom even said later on that she wishes we just would have told her and we could have just gone to our family priest and he could have married us, without any crazy wedding or party…Our first six months of marriage was stressed due to my family basically not talking to us. It was hard.

    • http://inourlittleplace.tumblr.com/ InOurLittlePlace

      Liana, This was my question and your response was my main worry. Its nice to get some experienced advice. There is real life to return to after this fairy tale scenario. In your situation, was it just time that helped heal things?

      • Liana

        Yes it was definitely time that helped heal things, but in our case my father was diagnosed with cancer 4 months after we eloped and it forced my mom and me back together and we were able to put the elopement behind us at the time and focus on the health of my father, but it still hurt her and it still does.

    • K

      Only you know (or perhaps can hazard a guess) as to how your parents might respond, but it seems to me from posts like this one, and my own experiences in planning a wedding (not even eloping!) is that people like to be told before. Or may still be hurt but not as hurt as they will be if they are told AFTER. So even if your mom wanted to plan a whole big wedding and is sad you’re eloping, at least she is in on the secret.

      My vote is for Paris, but to minimize tensions after, I’d drop a phone call (maybe from the airport!) to the people in your life who would like to know.

  • Trudi

    I am normally a lurker, but this post is one resembling my situation and I wanted to share.

    I don’t really have advice to offer on post-elopement guilt because my fiancee and I are still in the planning stage. I can tell you about my experience thus far with the hope of offering some insight. In a nutshell, we initially started planning a wedding of 40 at a popular destination in another state but cancelled after some surprise costs. We then moved our wedding to NYC where we live, but cancelled that too after realizing that we wanted something more “us” rather than what is normally expected.

    We are an interracial couple as well and we won’t be following any customs. We’ve decided to get married/elope in St. Lucia where I was born. An important reason for choosing St. Lucia is because my fiancee, always dreamed of getting married on the beach. While getting married on the beach in St. Lucia sounds amazing to say the least, I too worry about hurting feelings, especially his mom. His parents have been nothing but warm and loving towards me. Maybe we will invite his parents to St. Lucia with us, maybe we won’t. We’ve chosen to keep our family up to speed with our decision to have an intimate wedding and they have been extremely supportive. His parents have offered to throw us a reception after.

    My point is, it seems that you and your fiancee have this image of getting married in Paris and I think you should follow that. I suggest you take some time to really decide on what you want, I wish we had taken a few months to decide on what we truly wanted. It has taken us 6 months to get to somewhere we are comfortable regarding our wedding. Your families may surprise you! Also, Meg made an excellent point about not waiting too long to elope.

  • MinnaBrynn

    “I don’t want a wedding. I just want it be the two of us, saying some meaningful words to each other, in a beautiful location. But I do want a honeymoon! I keep my priorities straight.” Oh yes. Me too. Every day.

    As much as I wanted (want) to elope, I don’t think I could have gone through with it once my FFIL made his feeling on the matter clear (3 years before we got engaged). But not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about it and wished things were different. If I had been in a position to buy plane tickets and get out of here for a couple weeks during the 11 months of engagement (which has been rather like going through puberty again, kind of uncomfortable and awkward but with the promise of being over someday), we would have been gone in a heartbeat.

    I agree in thinking that the pain in a situation like this would come from being lied to. I’d rather be able to go right to “OMG yays” and never have to wonder why I couldn’t be told for the last three weeks/months/whatever. That’s just a feeling, maybe your people will go to the yay place right away and it won’t matter how long it’s been a secret. And, as so many people have echoed, do it when you’re ready (sooner sounds like a better idea to me, but perhaps I’m attempting to live vicariously). Do send a picture if you can. Or maybe a very short video? Something about eloping to Paris sounds like it’d make a wonderful short, kind of artsy film…

    I’d love to hear what you end up choosing, whatever it is. Good luck!

    • Tina

      Did you just compare being engaged to puberty? That is awesome, and I love it!

  • bts

    I say elope! But I don’t think you have to do it this minute. I do love the giddy enthusiasm and spontaneity to be found in doing it soon, but I think there are equally valid reasons for giving yourself time to plan for your marriage–do some counseling; talk about big stuff like money, sex, kids, religion, professional and educational goals, family health histories; prepare advance directives and living wills. You can do this stuff after your wedding (and many of these things are ongoing discussion type things) but I think it is better if you at least touch on most of them before so there are no big surprises.

    We actually kept our engagement secret for several months, and it turned out to be really easy and sweet to have the secret (we were a no ring engagement). I have a crazy stressful family. I wanted to elope. My husband didn’t. I couldn’t justify including his family and excluding mine. We had a wedding. A great wonderful wedding not huge but not tiny wedding that reflected our values and was transcendent and special. But the planning was majorly stressful (the kind of stress with serious physical side-effects). In the end, I don’t know if the payoff of the wedding was worth the stress for me. If I had a do-over I’d probably still do it the way we did it, in large part for my husband. I do look back on the wedding with joy, but it doesn’t erase the %#^&ty stuff that led up to it. I was forced to tackle really tough stuff in the planning process. I was grown-up about it, and I wish I could say that my parents and I reached some place of mutual respect or acceptance, but that would be false. If anything our relationship is worse for the confrontations the wedding forced. Being thoughtful and being mature doesn’t fix everything when it comes to tricky families. The fallout from an elopement couldn’t really have been worse. For me, marriage=totally worth the stress; wedding=maybe not worth the stress.

    So, if the thought makes you and your fiance happy, do it. Elope!

    • http://www.puppiesnpancakes.blogspot.com Kristi

      “In the end, I don’t know if the payoff of the wedding was worth the stress for me.”

      Yes yes yes! Marriage, totally. Wedding, no way. I know many people don’t feel this way, but some of us do. And I think that’s worth honoring.

  • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

    i’m so torn on eloping.

    i DO think it’s incredibly romantic, personal, independent, freeing. oh my GOSH the romance.

    but then again. i look at the photos of my mother-in-law dancing with her brother that she hadn’t seen in over a decade (but had the chance to, because of OUR wedding- what a feeling!), reminisce about my mom bubbling over, talking about her designs for the handmade veil… it wouldn’t have been an even exchange.

    one magical, romantic moment between me and josh- saying meaningful things to each other in a beautiful location. that can happen any time. and it does. and has happened a lot, since getting married. (just yesterday, even!)

    but that raucous celebration with practically everyone i’d ever met- that had never happened for me before and hasn’t since.

    i think, for me, the only way it would have worked perfectly is if the elopment were also secret. and we went about our lives, planning this big wedding, with secret knowing smiles to each other- remembering that magical moment.

    • Morgan

      Yes! The only wedding pictures I really look at are the ones from the reception – the ones of our families laughing and talking. The open mouthed laughter, the warm smiles, the picture of my mom’s cousin meeting my dad’s nephew’s new baby, the total joy of the day? The only thing I ever wanted at my wedding was everyone I loved in the same room at the same time.

      I know that different families have very different dynamics, and I do understand that for some people, the family is just not worth the stress. It’s just… the pictures of my mom laughing and dancing? Show her happier than she’d been since my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. How could I have given up the chance to make her happy too? I have every day to celebrate with David – to have romantic moments. But when else can I facilitate a joyful experience for so many people?

    • Sarah Beth

      About being torn: I’ve wanted to elope for a while, but I keep talking myself down saying that I will regret sharing little memories with family members, like the look on my grandmother’s face when she sees me in my dress.

      But then I was in my cousin’s wedding this past March. And the one thing that stood out to me was how exhausted my aunt and uncle looked. Not “tired but happy”…..TOTALLY drained. My cousin’s grandparents and brother were the same.

      I mentioned this to my mom, and she just said, dismissively, “Weddings are hard work.” as if the whole ordeal wasn’t about joy, but about work. And it made me sick.

      So I’m still torn, because I’d rather elope and have my biggest trouble be how to get into my dress, and have a big celebration like a house party when we get back. The kind of bash where you just wind it up and watch it go, and don’t spend any of the party wringing your hands and looking ill.

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

        some weddings are a lot of work. some are a lot of joy. i think you get to determine which yours will be- at least, that’s what i’d like to believe.

      • Marina

        Weddings are a lot of work, and one thing that makes me sad about my wedding 10 months ago is how stressed my mom was in the weeks before it. But there are a LOT of ways to delegate–I had a friend I wanted to involve in the wedding who isn’t interested in standing up in front of people but who is a logistical GODDESS, and she was in charge of pretty much everything the day of the wedding. My aunt took a lot of the burden off my mom. And I hired two teenage friends-of-friends (who came HIGHLY recommended as ultra responsible) to help with the set up and clean up.

        And the thing is, a lot of the stress my mom was dealing with was stress she created. I didn’t care an ounce about some of the things she spent hours obsessing over, and honestly I don’t think she did either. There were times when I felt like she was looking for something, anything, to stress over, just because that was how she was dealing with it. And I had to let it go–she’s an adult and that was her choice.

        Anyway, my point is that weddings are a lot of work, but there’s no reason not to spread it out. It just takes a little advance planning. And I highly recommend designating one non-immediate-family person to be day-of coordinator.

      • Cupcake

        Sarah Beth,
        You’ve had some great things to say today, I feel like we could be great wedding-friends, haha. And after reading a few of your comments I think you have considered the wedding-elopement-party thing from many angles and in many lights, which is awesome. If your heart really and truly isn’t into having a ceremony with guests, that is something to keep at the forefront of your decision-making. You’ll have all kinds of great memories with your families if you throw a “yay we just got married and want to share our joy with you!” reception. I promise! It makes me sad to know you think you’ll miss out on “moments” by not having family and friends at the actual ceremony. And yes, certain particular moments may not happen, but other awesomely fantastic moments still will. You could do a ring warming (guests rub your rings and bless them), have photos from your ceremony set up round the party, and focus on letting your guests know that *they* are the ones you want to celebrate with and share your bursting joy with.

        • Sarah Beth

          Um…thanks. I too feel like we have a lot in common. My fiance is also a people person, who loves big gatherings. I’ve always hated them. We are both happy, at times, to just sit back and “people watch”. But I don’t think my fiance realizes that at OUR wedding, we aren’t allowed to be wallflowers. Nor does he realize how nervous that makes me, since the majority of the guest list will be his family and friends, many of which I don’t know.

          And, honestly, I feel like I’ve looked at every possibility from all angles. Probably too many. That’s what happens when you’ve been engaged for 3+ years and counting. And I think my urge to elope is really me hitting a wall, having over-analyzed my options, and still feeling like I can’t find a happy medium.

  • http://inourlittleplace.tumblr.com/ InOurLittlePlace

    Hi Everyone! This was my question. Thank you to Meg and all the commenters on your thoughtful responses.

    I really appreciate the honesty on the pros and cons. I also like the idea of compromise. I do think we will have some sort of party after we get home (I really want a red velvet wedding cake!). Then we can have friends and family involved and let them know how much we appreciate their guidance and love. However, I can imagine my mom “running the show”. She had a large wedding so I don’t think she can see it any other way. Recently we had had a conversation (pre-proposal) about what she thinks I should have at my wedding. She was going on about “international food stands”, two sets of ceremonies, making sure that I have a henna party (My family is Indian) and how we should play “Butterfly kisses” Moms, you gotta love them.

    I completely understand the comments about standing up and taking charge. Despite being fairly confident in most aspects of my life, I have always had a difficult time with my family. I just don’t like conflict and will agree to things even if they don’t make me happy. Family somehow seems to do that. Its one of my faults and while I am getting better, I am still not there yet.

    From what I gather, while there might be some stress and apprehension and difficulty not blabbing, a lot of you think I should do what makes me happy. I have also realized that I can use this time to figure out what I really want (no external pressure). Its a strange feeling. I am generally really excited and giddy but when I saw my mom for dinner, I felt guilty. I just hugged her extra hard. I know she loves me. I hope she’ll understand.

    Meg, I LOVE the polaroid idea. Yesterday I started to have this grand idea that we could film the short ceremony and show it at the party when we get home. I think it was because the new iPhone details were announced and I thought I can be an amateur film maker.

    Thank you all again. This means so much to me. I was never good at keeping secrets and in a way I can still be secretive and get some sagely advice. I am sure I will keep reading this post over and over again.

    • Kate

      Best wishes to you and your love! And a boring *practical* comment–there are probably legal hurdles to clear in getting married in another country. I think very few U.S. states would allow you to get a marriage license and get hitched in the time most people could afford for a vacation, so don’t forget to check that out–and let us know how it goes!

    • Erin

      Yay! Now I can congratulate you directly! Best of luck with your planning, and wishes for enormous happiness!

    • Laura

      Best of luck to you with the whole thing!

    • Sarabeth

      And on a practical level: for our four-guest wedding, we decided to suck it up and spend a fair chunk of change on a photographer. More than we would have, perhaps, for a larger wedding – but it was important to have the photos to show the rest of our families what had happened. And that part I don’t regret for a second.

    • elemjay

      Congratulations on your engagement! When me and my now husband got engaged we didn’t tell anyone for about 10 months whilst we tried to figure out what we wanted in our wedding/ marriage.

      NB getting married in France if you’re not a citizen or resident is *hard*, takes time, medical checks and good French. I know many people end up eloping to Italy instead because the paperwork and whol process is a lot easier.

    • Anna P

      ooh ooh ooh! Did you watch the video that Meg posted in the Twin Hearts Photography Sponsor post? The one that looks like an old Super 8 movie? The one that may or may not have made me tear up over complete strangers getting married? Film it like that & set to an amazing song and how could they not forgive you for eloping?

      BEST WISHES!

    • BEX

      If you do decide to elope to Paris and think you might like to make a movie of your elopement to show the family when you get home then check out these guys: http://www.reel60.com
      They are a UK based wedding film company that we talked to when planning our wedding and they are SO cool to deal with. In the end we went with just our fantasitc photographer – who is also super cool and willing to travel (emmacasephotography.blogspot.com). I was not sure if you are based in Europe and thought these might be helpful places to start if you are long-range planning from the USA. APW already has some amazing wedding elves but I thought you might find these useful, hope you don’t mind Meg! Wishing you and your partner a fabulous ceremony what ever you decide to do and, most importantly, an even more fabulous marriage x

      • http://inourlittleplace.tumblr.com/ InOurLittlePlace

        Bookmarked! Great resources. Thank you! I love the Super 8 idea.

  • bts

    As an added note: Part of my reasoning, when it ultimately came to deciding to have a wedding with people instead of eloping, is that I wanted to get the really stressful part out of the way first. With a wedding, the family stress tends to be front-loaded. With an elopement, the family stress comes later when you tell people about it. For me, I’m not sure I could have thoroughly enjoyed my honeymoon if I was anticipating the fallout from my family and friends being disappointed about being excluded from my big day.

    My honeymoon was this huge relief, that I think felt all the more relaxing because we had gotten through this difficult stuff and didn’t need to worry about it anymore. So maybe an extra two cents there, just to complicate what I said previously.

  • Beth

    I feel so sad reading all the comments from people who say “I wanted to do ______, but I got guilted into doing ______ by my family/FH.”

    It seems like so many people would rather put themselves through 6-12 months of extreme discomfort and stress rather than stand up for themselves to their families. It seems like *ideally,* by the time you’re ready to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone, you should commit to being who you are and following your heart. And it’s true that planning a wedding (or NOT planning a wedding) is one way to practice following your heart.

    –i’m getting married in 3 days and I can’t wait! But if the idea of having a wedding with 100 people there was a nightmare to me, i wouldn’t do it.

    • ddayporter

      congrats on getting married in 3 days! it’s great that you are able to have the wedding you wanted, and I’m guessing this is also the wedding your fiance wanted. but what if your fiance was strongly against a big wedding and wanted to run off to the courthouse? would you have tossed aside this 100-person wedding, with all the family/friends expections and drama and whatnot? couples don’t always mesh on the wedding plan, and that doesn’t mean their marriage isn’t going to work, but it means at least one of them is going to have a less than awesome time with their wedding. for those that end up pulling the short end and having the wedding their partner wanted, or their families wanted, or whatever, it’s hard, I’m sure. It doesn’t mean they’re weak, if they acquiesce to a wedding when they want to elope. It’s all about relationship management and choosing your battles, and I think it’s a very individual process.

  • http://ridiculouslyeverafter.blogspot.com Nikki

    I think we’ve all considered the up-sides of eloping at some point. It sure sounds nice to avoid spending the money, family drama, endless venue research and phonecalls… While I think we can all agree that eloping does seem incredibly romantic, some of us have families that just would not be okay with that.

    I am my parents’ only daughter, and while they aren’t paying for my wedding, they are beyond excited to help me plan it. My dad picked a father/daughter dance song (a SERIOUSLY cheesy song) before I was even engaged. My mom has been saving wedding invitations for years to share ideas with me when it came time for me to make my own. Because of their excitement, I can’t deprive them of this wedding. I have one of those families who would be devastated if they were left out of this huge moment in my life.

    BUT! I think each of us knows our own situation. And if eloping truly feels right for you, I’m inclined to think you’re right. Because even when I hear elopement stories where the family and friends *were* miffed and hurt and feeling left out, the couple is still giddy and happy and MARRIED. And that still sounds like a happy ending.

  • http://bravebride.blogspot.com/ Kim NYC

    First, congrats on your engagement! Hollaaaa! Woot-woot!

    Okay, I just wanted to chime in here on the issue of guilt since you used this word a few times in your post. I am always feeling guilty about things, so I’ve been working on differentiating between “appropriate” guilt vs. “inappropriate” guilt. (And by “inappropriate” my intention isn’t to judge anyone’s feelings as right or wrong. BUT sometimes guilt is just a mask for a different emotion. Read on…)

    Appropriate guilt is when you act in a way that’s inconsistent with your values. That’s pretty simple. But inappropriate guilt is when (on a deeper, perhaps subconscious and more truthful level), you are angry at someone else for imposing their unreasonable expectations on you, but because it’s scary to express your anger at them, you get angry at yourself instead. In short: inappropriate guilt is anger at others that’s misdirected at oneself.

    So while I’m super-duper feelin’ Meg’s advice, I don’t want to give you any specific direction EXCEPT that you might want to consider seeing your guilt as little breadcrumbs leading you to your true feelings and values. If eloping makes you feel guilty, is it because you can’t live up to your family’s wishes and values? Because that would fall in the “inappropriate” category. But if you feel guilty because somewhere deep inside (excluding anyone else’s opinion) there’s a part of you that believes eloping (or keeping your engagement a secret from people, or not celebrating with your family either before or after Paris), is against your definition of kindness and family, then that would be “appropriate” guilt.

    I don’t think you’ll have any regrets so long as you act according to your values. But figuring out *exactly* what your values are (in terms of elopement, secret engagement, your extended family, and your baby family), is sometimes the hardest part! However, once you DO get clarity on your values (minus any false guilt), I suspect that it will make the best options for your situation VERY clear to you.

    Wishing you courage and joy!

    • Marina

      “Exactly” isn’t enough for this comment. I want to print it out and put it on my wall.

    • ddayporter

      uhh ditto Marina. Exactly! isn’t enough.

      that is the absolute best description of guilt I’ve ever heard. you just umm, opened my eyes about a lot of my own crap.

      • Eliza

        Me too. Wow. Hmm… Lots to think about now! Thankyou for this!

        • brendalynn

          Incredible, incredible comment!

          @inourlittleplace, I just wanted to point out the tiniest (and really, I assume this is *minor*) thing that I don’t think anyone else has said yet in the comments (though in all honesty, I think I’m giving up reading all 124 of them at this point).

          And that is in re: “I am extremely financial responsible and would rather have the money that my family would have gifted me for a wedding and use that for a house down payment or to boost our retirement accounts instead.” Gifted is the key word here. It might be good to remember that if they’re not throwing you a wedding, your family may figure that money is theirs to do with what they wish. And while that might be giving you the money in a large chunk, you may find yourself with an extravagant gift or find yourself congratulating them on their new toy/vacation/etc… Like I said, I don’t think this sounded like a really important part of your consideration–and that’s good! But wanted to point out something that *might* be incongruent with reality…

          Best of luck with whatever you choose! I’m amazed by how many APW folk feel they’ve been in exactly this place. But ultimately this question is about you, your fi & the rest of your lives. Hope more than just the one eloper chimes in to give you some advice!

      • http://bravebride.blogspot.com/ Kim NYC

        I am a psychotherapist-in-training and what I shared about guilt was stuff I learned in grad school. I was intrigued when my professor explained it as well. I’m happy to pass along the info to Team Practical tuition-free! ;)

  • april

    You had me at “Paris”. **le sigh** Seriously. Book it. Go. Marry. HAPPY HAPPY! ~xo.

    p.s. and do have a party when you return so that your community can rejoice with you.

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kim

    You know that saying, ‘Secrets, secrets are no fun/Secrets, secrets hurt someone”? Yeah, not necessarily. We’ve got our share of messiness — a post will eventually make it’s way to Meg — but what I can say is this: If I really feel good about a secret, then I don’t have any guilt about keeping it. (And I have.) So if it feels right to do what the two of you need/want to do, do it, and then work outward from there.

    You said “I know I will be happy with my decision but I just don’t want it be an issue with my family for the rest of our relationship. I love them but if this is the most “important” day of my life, then I want it to be my way. And if they were involved, I can’t see them being open and understanding.” Seems to me like you know what you want, and I think it’s really important to recognize that first, before dealing with the expectations of family. Yes!, a wedding is a great opportunity to learn how deal with all of the hullaballoo and politics and such of blended families, but if you don’t want all of that, I, for one, don’t blame you. Get married how YOU GUYS want to get married, and that ends up with a Paris elopement, then party/lovingly tell/show photos/share video with your families however/whenever you guys see fit. Maybe they will be hurt, or maybe they will surprise you. But you’ll still be married, and will be able to return home with your husband/wife and deal with it together. Boo-yeah.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kim

      Make *ITS* way to Meg!! ITS!!!!!

      • cat

        hahaha, rad!

        not to denigrate all the sage advice elsewhere, but this was my favourite part of the billion comments. :)

      • meg

        Guys. Stop it. As a dyslexic, I’m putting the kabash on grammar and spelling snottiness in the comments. Period.

  • RayLiz

    DO both elope and then have a celebration with your family, it is what my man and I did/doing, but do it sooner rather then later. That is part of the fun with elopements you don’t need to plan so much you just need to show up. But being a person who did elope, i realized that the wedding* isn’t about what we want it is what the families want and it is an act of public joining of two people to create something new.

    My Elopement:
    We knew that we wanted to be with each other but for a variety of different reasons we decided that it would be best for us to be legally bonded to each other before the end of last year. So from the moment we first decided to elopement was a month. (beyond the practical reasons there were the non practical of we never wanted a wedding, i wasn’t a ring girl, etc..) We knew that feelings would be hurt and that in some respect we would be missing out on something by not having a party. WE discussed how we should go about eloping, up until and a little after the elopement we weren’t going to tell our parents but rather in a couple of months say hey we are engaged. After the elopement we decided that the best course of action was to tell our parents the truth say that we are still having a wedding but this is what was best for us. For the most part the families understood why we did it the way we did it and that it suited us; the part that didn’t cried for a week but has gotten over it.

    The Wedding: By the time we are having the wedding we will have been bonded for a little over a year, the wedding is a lot less stressful to plan, i really don’t know how to explain it but maybe it is because I got my perfect day and the wedding will just be a recommit and religious binding rather then a forever and we got over the practical hurdles liking our finances, filing taxes, creating a will, etc. Don’t get me wrong i still don’t know about this wedding thing, but i am less hung up about it and i realized that by doing the elopement/wedding everyone is able to have their cake and eat it too. Even if at first they don’t see it that way.

    *when i say wedding i also mean party. We are having a religious ceremony which is a wedding. If you aren’t having religious hang ups have a big party!

  • http://sending-postcards.blogspot.com mina

    “I don’t want a wedding. I just want it be the two of us, saying some meaningful words to each other, in a beautiful location.” – sounds like she does want a wedding. Just because there aren’t other people there doesn’t make it any less of a wedding, just less of a party.

    I don’t like giving advice, but since it was solicited… I’ll offer my opinion. I think keeping a secret like this might be stressful and contribute to the guilt.

    Alex and I told all of our friends and family (months before the wedding) that we were planning on getting married on our own. The reactions definitely surprised us, especially that of my mum’s who was incredibly supportive about the idea.

    I never once thought of telling people after the fact. I think that would have made them feel bad and made me feel selfish.

    Also, practically speaking, postcards from Europe to North America take forever, so you may want to rethink that approach! Have fun!

  • Kristen

    My husband and I loved every moment of our wedding. People should do what’s best and most authentic to them. The joy will follow. Trust me.

  • Melissa

    I say elope, especially if the family is going to be an issue that day. If it were me, I would just spend a few months hinting that marriage for you will NOT include a big white wedding. That way, the shock will be cushioned just a little bit.

    • Eliza

      There is a lot to be said for hinting/suggesting/explaining prior to being “officially engaged”! I spent … probably years, now that I think about it, but not all at once!… indicating to my parents that no, there was no way I was going to have a traditional wedding like they might have in their heads, so they were better off to give up on the dream sooner rather than later. They may not have accepted all the little bits and pieces that we’ll be doing differently just yet, but I think the ahead-of-time heads up helped them to realise that my vision would be different to theirs, and that their expectations might not be on par with reality. It’s also meant that now that I am engaged, there has been “oh but you HAVE TO do x” than I expected, and a lot more “we will support you in whatever your vision is!” than I expected, too!

  • mollymouse

    Wow, there is so much great advice here! Personally, I never considered eloping, but I planned a wedding because it’s what we wanted and not out of obligation. Unfortunately, this type of situation seems like a “You won’t know until you try” situation.
    I agree that keeping the secret is probably the most dangerous part and quicker might be better when eloping. I also like others’ suggestions of a courthouse/very intimate ceremony that also could happen with or without a lot of fanfare.
    I want to suggest caution when planning a separate ceremony & reception, only because I recently went through this situation. A co-worker had a small wedding a month ago (family, close friends, ceremony, and dinner party – cutting the cake, etc). They went on a honeymoon and had a “reception” last weekend. It was confusing and semi-hurtful, because it just seemed like a party with no meaning for us as guests. We missed the real deal and felt duped that it was framed as a wedding reception. So I guess I’m just saying, be careful with vocabulary (because we probably would have felt differently if it was portrayed as a party, rather than her wedding).

    • Jessica

      I’ve been waiting for someone to mention the separate reception thing… I never like that idea.

      One of my close friends is getting married shortly before us. While they’re not eloping, they are having a destination wedding at a resort in Mexico, then having a reception in their hometown for people who did not go to the ceremony. I cannot bring myself to terms with that idea. While I was invited to the ceremony, it is way out of my price range, and as a result, I won’t get to celebrate their marriage with them. It feels like I’m being told “hey, we don’t care enough about you to have you witness our marriage, but bring us a present anyway! We’ll give you a hot dog in return!”

      I would be more OK with it if the US party was being billed as a “celebrate our marriage” thing, instead of a “we expect all the presents and money that come with a reception” thing. I fully realize I’m a bit hypocritical since I am having a traditional, formal wedding (and thus will no doubt receive wedding presents and money) but there isn’t a soul invited to the reception who will not be made to feel welcome at the church to celebrate our marriage before we get to the partying.

      It’s the whole “forget the ceremony, the presents are what’s important” thing that gets me. So maybe the girl thinking about elopement could keep that in mind if she plans on having a party later for family and friends. Make it clear it’s not about the money or presents, but rather, celebrating the huge thing you just did. You should have the wedding you want, and you should celebrate with who you want… but a presents grab is always a no-no in my book.

      • Milla

        I am very new to the wedding scene (not officially engaged, but going to have a someday-wedding), so forgive me if this is ignorant, but is the reception a plea for gifts? It’s possible I just come from a different background— I live in Utah, and many of my friends are Mormon. I cannot attend their temple ceremony weddings and so am only invited to the reception. This doesn’t bother me at all! It seems like the ceremony could be a much more private thing (or the realization of a dream like the destination wedding you mention).

        Of course, all of this is based on the attitude of the couple, and if the emphasis is on gifts-gifts-gifts, then I could definitely see having a problem with it.

        • Jessica

          It’s difficult for me to explain why I feel that way, I’m not as eloquent as I would like… but I’ll give it a try.

          Receptions are not specifically supposed to be about the gifts. Wedding guests are not required to give gifts. It’s become rather bad manners, however (in my experience and opinion), to show up without a gift. It’s like tipping the wait staff at a restaurant. You’re not required to tip the wait staff, but it’s considered incredibly rude not to do so.

          I have been told about the Mormon wedding ceremony and many guests not being able to attend the ceremony because of the religion, and I, personally, would feel much more comfortable with that situation. It’s not the choice of the couple to exclude their guests, it is the nature of the religious ceremony.

          In the case of my friend, however, they are consciously making the choice to exclude their guests. It’s not fulfillment of a life long dream, they decided it would be more affordable (the resort is $3k/ couple, after they, their parents, and their grandparents all book… they’ve covered what their dream wedding in the US would have cost) to get married in Mexico. They won’t even be legally married there, because they are not going to go through the legal stuff for Mexico, so they really won’t be man and wife until they are back in the US, and their friend (who is a rabbi and has the power to do so) legally marries them. There’s no reason to exclude people, but they’re choosing to do so. To me, it seems like they’re saying to their friends and family (they told me another really close friend was rather rude in declining to attend their mexican “ceremony”) that they don’t *really* want to celebrate their marriage with them. Otherwise they would make it possible for everyone to attend. Their insistence on a separate, second reception, knowing what I know about the ceremony, and why they’re doing it that way, comes off as a gift grab.

          Part of my attitude toward it comes from my own wedding planning experience and background. I’m italian, as is my fiancé, so we focus a lot on family. I also come from a really small town, and lived in the same neighborhood my entire life. I was just telling my fiancé today how my parents took the “it takes a village to raise a child” mantra to heart, and half of my mom’s guest list is old neighbors, family friends, my “village.” It never occurred to me to exclude close friends and family on purpose. So maybe the real problem is I’m just really attached to my village and could not imagine leaving them out of my day?

          (sorry that was so long and incoherent. I warned you, I’m not eloquent)

    • meg

      Guys – I’m not on board with you here. Every time we’ve had friends get married and couldn’t attend (for whatever reason, including we were not invited) the minute they got back we scheduled a dinner with them (we always pay, but that’s not the point). Why? Because we want to CELEBRATE with them. That’s what receptions are for, even if they are later.

      And no, if you’re not invited to the wedding, you don’t have to bring a gift. And if you feel like it’s a gift grab, you SHOULDN’T bring a gift if it’s going to make you resentful. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that you never have to bring a gift. Some of my favorite things from our wedding were heartfelt cards from friends who couldn’t afford to travel and bring gifts, Polaroids taken by friends who couldn’t afford gifts, or friends who gave us small things. In fact, an old friend who couldn’t come (and a reader, hi MA) gave us a flour sifter, and I think of her every single time I use it. And what was that? All of $12? The thing is, all these people showed genuine love and care, and a desire to contribute to our new family. THAT was what was important.

      So, I think you need to re-focus a little bit. If you don’t want to celebrate your friends life transition, make your excuses and don’t go. But it’s not about the gifts.

      And I stand by the fact that couples need to do what *they* need to do, not what friends want them to do, even if that means not invite people to the ceremony.

  • jen

    I can’t give you much advice about what your parents/relatives will or won’t feel if you elope. When we got engaged, I asked him, “would you marry me tomorrow?” While we both would have, waiting and not pissing off his mother seemed like the better choice for us.

    I do think that some thought should be put into how ready for marriage you are. For me, getting married was a process. When I got engaged, I was comfortable with the decision of sharing my life with my husband, but in the year that we were engaged we had time to settle into the idea and be ready to move on to the actual reality. I’m not saying we wouldn’t be equally happy now if we had just gone out and gotten married that day, but having the time to think “yes, he’s going to leave all the cabinet doors open for the rest of my life” before we got married means that I’ve accepted that as part of the package and my expectations are set for the life we’ll actually have, and not some dream.

    The reason that marriage is a rite of passage is that you’re intentionally making a very large commitment, and it is helpful to recognize the importance of that commitment. So, if you’re absolutely ready for that commitment; nervous/excited/etc are fine, but ready seems important to me. Its also important to sit down and discuss goals/feelings about all the big life things (kids, money, sex), get counseling, do whatever else makes you feel like you’re over-ready to be married.

  • Sarah M.

    My husband and I didn’t want to have an official engagement (or ring or proposal), so we just started planning a wedding a year and a half away. How does this relate to your situation? Well, that year and a half seemed like a really long time to wait, so we secretly got married at City Hall one year to the date before our wedding. We kept this a secret from everyone, until our parents figured it out over the holidays (at which time we told immediate family members only). It was really fun to have a secret between the two of us, both leading up to the event and during it. Afterward, it was occasionally stressful, but mostly fun, to still have the secret. The point is, you can run away and elope, and then later if you decide for some reason that you want to have a party to celebrate, you still can (complete with vows and all if you wish, or a simple pot-luck, or whatever is your style). And you can keep your engagement a secret for as long as you wish, or just go for it and go to Paris.
    Our wedding is coming up this month, and while most of the guests think we are getting married, we’re actually celebrating our 1-year anniversary! It takes a lot of the pressure of the day off, actually.

    • peanut

      we did this too, it was awesome – kinda like we had our cake and get to eat it too. We have told zero people, and it’s really not a big deal to keep it a secret.

  • Melissa

    I eloped. And had a wedding. I felt, as you do now, that eloping was the way to go, for sooooo many of the same reasons. A week after we got engaged, we drove to Vegas, just us, waited for another couple to show up at the courthouse so they could witness for us, and got married. Teary-eyed, I love you forever, MARRIED. And we didn’t tell a soul. It was perfect. But my fiance had always wanted a “real” wedding and no one knew we were legally wed, so we started planning a wedding. And the whole time I was planning, I told everyone I would rather elope (knowing I already had) and that I would be happier going to Vegas and just being married (because I did and I was).

    Three weeks ago we gathered all of our family and friends on a gorgeous mountaintop in Colorado and had a beautiful ceremony. this time witnessed not by total strangers, but by the people that love us most. It. Was. Incredible. And I am now a convert to the wedding world. We had issues too, difficult parents, divorced parents, dead parents…I hated planning…it was a lot of money that could have been spent differently (i won’t say better). But the feeling we had that day, the feeling we have still, can’t be beat.

    I was married for a year before I had a wedding and while I loved eloping, I loved my wedding even more. And still only a very, very small group of people know that we were legally married before the wedding. It’s our secret and always will be. Would I still be married and fulfilled with just our elopement? Yes. But doing it surrounded by your friends and family changes things. I am still figuring out why I feel so different now than after the elopement (I do), but I know that it’s different in a very meaningful way that was completely unexpected.

    You need to do what is right for you, and if a Paris elopement is it, then go for it and have an amazing, amazing time. If you look back on it all someday and wish you had done it differently, well, there is always vow renewal!

    Good luck!

  • Elizabeth

    First – congratulations!!

    I agree w/ the general sentiment of most folks – do what makes you and your fiance happy. Period. Part of the “what makes you happy” of course will be figuring out a way to have the ceremony/honeymoon you desire in a way that takes into consideration the feelings of your loved ones. No matter what kind of ceremony/party you plan you could never, ever make everyone happy – someone (or many) will have things they think you should do, things they want to do or have always dreamed of, opinions about what should or should not be done, etc… This will happen no matter what you plan – so your primary focus should be on what works for the two of you. I couldn’t feel more strongly about how helpful a learning experience it was to plan a wedding with my now husband. We learned so much about each other, our feelings about money, family, religion, etc… It was absolutely invaluable. But you will have that same experience w/ planning an elopement – you’ll have to figure out together how to manage the logistics, what to share or keep secret, how to announce it, how to handle any possible fall-out, how to give your friends and family a chance to celebrate you etc…

    On that last note, I will say that it can be worth allowing some of the celebration type stuff – but I can’t see any reason why that can’t happen after you get back. I’m not one who is comfortable being the center of attention but it was truly amazing to feel the outpouring of love and happiness from people – so let folks throw you a congratulations party when you return or something. I guess basically I’m saying do what you want, and allow for ways to let people express their happiness for you. Make decisions based on not wanting regrets 10 years from now and you won’t get sidetracked by minutia and guilt trips today.

    And I also agree w/ Meg and others – take some time now for premarital work, enjoy the planning, but get thee to Paree and have the time of your life!! :-)

  • Sarabeth

    If you really want to elope, you should do it. If you regret it later, you can have a party in a year to celebrate with family and friends.

    However: we did something close to this, and I am going to be a somewhat dissenting voice to the QUICK QUICK QUICKness going on here. I really wish we’d waited a bit longer before actually getting married. It’s important here that we had immigration reasons to get married ASAP, but that’s the part I regret. I wish we had taken longer – maybe just a few more weeks – to think in an unrushed way about what we wanted our ceremony to look like, who we wanted there, etc. I was stressed as hell on our wedding day, even though it was just city hall & lunch reservations. And I think that if we had given ourselves just a little more time to put together the day we wanted, we might *not* have felt the need to do the big party later. So, I would say you don’t need to wait eight months, but you might want to wait eight weeks, or whatever it takes to make you feel secure in your plan.

  • Christina

    Growing up, I never really imagined myself as a bride.

    Before I got engaged, I had already been around 12-15 other brides/friends during their engagement/wedding planning process. Most had planned weddings that their parents/family had contributed too.. if not paid for completely. Most were already stressed about the planning the first day of their engagement. Needless to say over the last few years, with so many of my friends getting married, I have witnessed all of the drama, stress, financial woes etc. that come with planning a wedding. Now don’t get me wrong, I witnessed a lot of joy too. But, I just didn’t think all of that was for me.

    Immediatley after making the engagement announcement to our friends and family.. the questions started. Questions that totally stressed me out! I remember thinking to myself; ‘already’? My brother-in law had been engaged for about six months, but there had been no mention of wedding plans, but the minute we got engaged my future sister-in-law was teritorial about wedding dates and wanted to know when we were planning to wed. Everyone had opinions, but also made it clear that they wouldn’t be able to assist us financially. And, we didn’t really want their help. Neither of us wanted a wedding, we both have “interesting” family situations. And, all we knew was that we wanted to be married.. and soon.

    While trying to plan a wedding in my home state, figure out how we were going to pay for it and keep all the opinionated family members happy, gossip got back to me. My future sister-in-law was furious that we had set a date for so soon. Since she would be planning a cross country wedding that would talk longer, she wanted us to push back our date so that she could “take the name first.” ?? Her drama recked my wedding dreams. I just didn’t.want.to.do.it.anymore. My now husband was also worried about how his long divorced parents would treat each other, he didn’t even think his father would come if we invited his mother. I could go on, but I won’t. Basically, every step we took in the plannig process, brought us closer to wanting to elope.

    After several mini-meltdowns.. I had a big meltdown. We decided to elope.

    But, of course that couldn’t be stress free either right? I kept getting questions about when and where.. I knew that people were going to try to “surprise” us so that they could join us on our day. So, we decided to do a little Vegas wedding with our parents.. and then the guest list grew a little. And, then a week before the ceremony I decided that I couldn’t live with myself if we didn’t have his brother (who is is extremely close too) there.. which meant having to invite the future sister-in-law as well.

    The big day came, our little group of family arrived at “The Little Chapel of the West” and we got hitched! It was hectic and kinda cheesy and all Vegas. And, everyone behaved (for the most part). We gathered with our family for a nice dinner and cut a tiny cake. But then the big day went and we finally had some time to be quiet.. alone.. married.

    All that to say that when you have an uncomfortable family situation. The drama is never going to go away. But, once you are married; you two are both responsbile for each other. That’s it. And, while it isn’t always easy to deal with, that little fact helps a lot. Put simply; your family just has to DEAL. Please do whatever makes you happy. To this day, I still do wish that we had eloped just the two of us. But, that doesn’t mean I would change a thing. So many people put SO much into this one day. It’s just one day. What matters is that your marriage starts the way you want it to. Not forced into some day you don’t want.

  • angela

    i’d like to throw my two cents in here, despite the fact that you’ve been given tons of healthy, wise advice already. congratulations to you! engaged, secretly or not, or really or not – it doesn’t matter. you’re planning to start your life together, and that’s wonderful.

    i’d like to just mention that i’m in love with eloping. but. i’m marrying a very family-centered young fella who was born into a very closeknit family, that i also love. so. we’re having the whole shebang, which is new territory for me. it feels right, because we’re both happy about it.

    so. you’re eloping – do it on your own schedule, but i agree that the longer you wait, i feel that you’ll have more tension to face when you finally do tie the knot. that doesn’t mean you have to cave in fear, because i feel that we should all have the right to do the marrying/eloping thing however we each feel is best. so. search your hearts over, and find what suits the two of you best. and have a wonderful marriage.

  • candace

    I really think you should do what you want first and formost, but I do think that sometimes family wants to be a part of the wonderful committment you are making. My advice would be to elope and have the wedding you both want and if you still want to include the famil,y and advoid any hurt feelings, throw a wedding party afterwards. You can invite everyone and since it’s not a wedding there are no rules you need to follow. You can show pictures from your wedding, your honeymoon and this way everyone is happy.

  • Joyful Girl

    My brother eloped christmas eve last year. And all anyone talks about is how wonderful it is that they are married!!!! I’m sure my parents felt a momentary pang when the announcement was made, but it passed quickly and now…pure joy! :)

    and wedding planning can bring just as much guilt as eloping! Just today I had to tell my parents that not everyone on their “guest list” will be invited to the wedding. and I could hear the frustration in their voices. and in my head, I was wishing that we had eloped. :)

    Go for it, have fun, and remember that when all is said and done, the most important part is that the two of you will have made a wonderful commitment to each other!

  • Lydia

    Elope! But I will add to the heap that you should do it sooner as opposed to later. I think almost all of the hurt I’d feel in this situation would be having been lied too while you planned in secret for over a year.

    I had friends who did just this. They had a trip to Mexico planned already. They got engaged, didn’t tell anyone and thought it might be fun to get married there just the two of them. The legalities were too much so they realized the local courthouse was the place. They broke their “telling no one rule” the night before they planned to go to the courthouse and each called their parents and explained they were getting married the next day and asked for a blessing. With their parents blessing they stopped by the courthouse after work and then showed up at a happy hour they had planend at a dive bar BEAMING! We were in a dirty bar, drinking watery beer but they were SO SO happy and joyful that it was the most perfect celebration ever. We called all our friends who had thought about skipping happy hour to get their tushes over there and we closed the place down. Then, the happy couple jetted off the Mexico to bask in being married! Five years later, they don’t regret one ounce of it.

    If people give you hell about “skipping the wedding” just remind them that the whole point of a wedding is to Get Married and that you are mostly just SO happy you’re married. Do it! Send pictures! Good luck!

  • Aimee

    When I started reading this post, I thought for a moment it was something that I’ve written already about my engagement experience!

    We decided to “semi” elope on New Years Eve and host a big party later. We told our families 2 weeks before and received their blessings (totally optional…we knew our families would approve though which took away the small tinge of guilt we had). After 3 months of being engaged, and me starting to be hypnotized by shiny things and bridal mags, we eloped! We then sent New Year’s greetings with our exciting news.

    The hour leading up to it, I had brief moments of wishing someone else was there with us, but then I remembered that we were still having a party later and all of the shared family stuff would happen then. We did take lots of pictures to share and used them for our annoucements. Our party is in August and its so much less pressure now that we’re already married. I’m wearing a fun sassy gold dress and we’re having it in a kitchy crazy Pee-Wee’s Playhouse type venue. I’m looking forward to “part 2″!

    My advice is to do what you truly want to do and don’t be influenced by outside sources telling you what you should do. ITS YOUR WEDDING! There is no right or wrong. APW taught me that and helped me feel at peace with my version of my celebration. Congrats and good luck!

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    Oh my god, so many awesome comments to read.

    But, first– Meg, you should have an “Exactly” button for the post or for your original advice, because that’s totally where I’m at. Down to the last WORD of it, just. YES.

    Best of luck, Dear Reader, and send us polaroids from the other side. :)

  • Amanda

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, so it is possible that someone (or sometwo or three!) have already said this — I LOVE being engaged, and actually (mostly secretly) wish our wedding was a few extra months away so we could enjoy this stupid-grin-plastered-to-my-face-24hrs-a-day feeling for longer. Seriously. Once we are married, the relatively harder stuff comes into play (along with all the good stuff!), such as shared finances, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally excited, over-the-top-excited to be married, but we will be for the rest of our lives. Engagement feels like a secret society for my FH and I, and I love being the only members ;-)

    So my little suggestion is that if you can keep your engagement a secret (if that’s truly what you think is best for the two of you), then do it, and enjoy a few months – even a whole year – because being engaged is something you won’t ever get back. And I am cherishing every. single. moment.

  • Lisa

    I didn’t read through all 105 comments posted so far…but I too was quietly proposed to. He gave me a diamond necklace- like yourself- which I wore for some time before a ring ever went on to my finger. We did tell our families shortly after, and unfortunately, for me, that is where the fun ended. My family didn’t disapprove, but I have unfortunately very opinionated sisters who made enough comments to send myself- a rather strong and independent 35 year old female- to bed in tears for a weekend. So I decided to do something about it- I asked him to marry me in a private ceremony. It took some convincing to get two friends of ours to serve as our witnesses, but six months after getting engaged, we met our friends & pastor at our church on a cold Sunday afternoon and exchanged vows in a tearful yet joyous ceremony that lasted all of seven minutes. I wore a $30 dress from Target, he wore a suit from work, there was no music, no other guests, just us. And it was amazing. I don’t even have five pictures from the wedding, and I couldn’t care a bit about it. We had pizza at a local pizza place afterward and our friends bought us a cake- and all of those pictures- not a dozen in all- have us wearing jeans and sweaters. No one else knows nor do I ever plan on telling them. It doesn’t bother me one bit and I have no regrets. A marriage is about the two of you and the commitment you make to one another, a wedding is something entirely different. Do what makes you happy….if it is the right decision, you will not regret it and wonder what if. (To be fair, I should say we had already planned the entire wedding when we eloped and my wonderful husband won’t allow me to cancel, although I ask him every week. None of it matters any more, even the absolutely gorgeous dress I would never wear, and I realized it immediately upon awaking the day after we got married.. The photos, the cake, the music, none of it. Calling him my husband and moving forward in our lives in more than enough for me.)

    Run now and elope. Go to Paris, go to the nearest courthouse, just go. And don’t get too caught up in what others might think!

  • http://bloominwedding.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    A friend of mine had a secret marriage– they went up to the mountains and signed their marriage license in their PJ’s. It sounds kind of romantic, but as a friend, I felt pretty sad that they kept it a secret from me (and everyone else). I realize their marriage isn’t about me–at it’s heart it is about the commitment and the family that the two of them are creating. But, I am a believer in the family being made not just of the core couple, but the supportive net of community that surround the core and keeps it whole, fulfilled and functional. Your circle of people who you love and who support you, WANT to be there to support you in this too, so I think I would opt for telling people: “Hey, we got engaged! We’re going to Paris to get married. Come party with us when we get back!” Or, something to that effect. You’ll have to deal with naysayers and different opinions, but that’s life, and it isn’t bad practice to start figuring out how you, as a couple and as a family are going to negotiate your core within the circle of people that surround you.

    I will also say that I just got married and the planning process was totally stressful and kinda sucky. But the engagement offered me and my partner a time to negotiate what we wanted our married relationship to be during that interim. And the party we had? It was effing fantastic. Our community showed up with total joy and support and I am still kinda high from it 10 days later. The stress of planning was totally worth it to me, now. This is an individual decision, but from my perspective, I would recommend having a (simple) party when you get back from Paris to include your community in your commitment. I think you’ll be surprised and pleased at it’s awesomeness.

  • K

    The best advice I ‘ve heard was that a wedding is just one day and, while important and special, it’s not the time to try to patch up relationships. Not including someone will NOT ruin a relationship or prevent an already crappy one from being patched up sometime in the future. There might be hurt temporarily hurt feelings or disappointment, but nothing that can’t be fixed with sharing of photos and stories from your elopement with those people (in a group or individually) over some good food and drink can’t heal.

    Paper cut, not stab wound.

  • http://twentyfirstcenturynomad.blogspot.com Kortney

    So. Many. Comments. So. Little. Time. Want. To. Read. Them. All.

    I’m in the pre-engaged state of things but we’ve been together for more than two years now and everyone knows we intend to get married–but when? That’s the kicker for us. See, we’re an international AND inter-faith couple (me: Christian/American; him: Jewish/Australian) and there is just no easy way to do a wedding with those kinds of dynamics, not to mention that my family is poor, poor, poor!

    We’ve spun the whole wedding thing in every direction possible–here? there? in between?–but there is no option to save people money, save ourselves the stress and make it possible for everyone to enjoy our union. Not to mention that from being gone so long, I have almost no friends in Australia or America and truth be told, having a wedding but not having friends to celebrate with on my side of the aisle makes me want to cry. I’d rather just say “no one gets to come–we’re eloping.”

    So we are.

    I’m pretty sure his mom is against the idea. We ran it around people in a joking way and she said something that suggested she was not pleased with the idea but whatever. This is about us and yeah, I want to share my happiness with people but not at the expense of my OWN happiness and not at the expense of my family’s financial stability. I expect some people to be upset on both sides but they’ll get over it. Eloping is the most fair thing we can do for everyone–us and them–and sooner or later, they’ll realize it.

    Besides, it’s just one day! Is that one day more important than the whole marriage? Absolutely not.

    Go. Elope in happiness. Pursue YOUR kind of romance and if other people want to participate by throwing you some kick ass party when you get back, all the better! If people are going to be all crabby and upset because you didn’t spend thousands of dollars to feed them and entertain them with boring slideshows of baby photos no one looks at, then tell them it’s too bad they can’t support your new life with your life-long-love and leave them to their own shame.

    PS: your idea is romantic to me and I love the secret wedding necklace! As a couple who can’t really afford rings right now, I might just take a cue from you. :)

    Congratulations!!

  • bamagirl3525

    I really, really, really wanted to elope. I knew wedding planning would be a hassle, I knew dealing with my fiance’s mom’s preferences (not to mention MY mom’s preferences!) would be trying, and I just wanted to avoid it altogether. Except… my fiance wanted a wedding. Nothing fancy, but he said he couldn’t not have a wedding (what with family and all). I gave in, but every time I had a meltdown over wedding planning (which he was not at all helpful with), I knew that an elopement wouldn’t have had those issues. And our parents could have planned a party (or parties!) to their hearts’ content. Win-win! Oh, well…

    So, I envy you, totally! And I say, if both of you want to elope, DO IT. Don’t have a wedding because you fear you’ll regret it (which is essentially what I did), have a wedding because you know that you and your fiance will not feel married without a wedding (or because you want an awesome party, or whatever). And I agree with Meg, do it NOW! Everyone will forgive spontaneity (“Well, we were in Paris, we just got caught up in the moment, whee!!”) but they might have a harder time understanding why you kept an engagement secret.

    And please, pretty please, do tell them when you get married… A friend from home got married in secret, then got jilted at his wedding when his “fiancee” (actually his wife!) couldn’t forgive him for having a bachelor party when she asked him not to have one (which meant d-i-v-o-r-c-e). My friend’s mom was devastated that her son had kept such an important secret from her (they are very close).

    So, secret engagement, but no secret wedding, and you shall be a rockstar in your beloved’s arms.

    • Moz

      I agree with this. I think that it is much easier to explain an elopement after an engagement. That way (when you’re ready) you say ‘hey, we’re engaged, no plans yet’. Organise an engagement party for when you come back from a great trip you’re planning. Get married at City Hall or whatever (after having your pre marital counselling) and then go to Paris. Send your family details once you’re there. Then come home and have a backyard BBQ and tell everyone else that’s it’s done. Then more celebration!

      The problem with eloping and not telling family is that they then get to cast aspersions on your choice and say that you haven’t put thought into it, it’s a shotgun wedding etc. I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS but I’m just saying – that’s what they’ll say, so it’s worth thinking about. Especially if you do have a good relationship with the families.

      Whatever you decide – congrats! And I agree with Meg in that I also want to see the necklace!!

      All the best x

  • Samantha

    Yay ‘lopers! My fiance and I got engaged about a year ago and are planning our elopement for next July – the reason we’re waiting so long is that we want to get married on the five year mark of our first date. That’s special to us.

    Anywho, we decided to tell our families a few weeks ago. We debated just telling them after the wedding vs. before, and it was a tough decision. What we realized was, taking a stand together and letting them know with an entire year to get used to the idea was the best compromise for us. So that’s what we did.

    We’re still dealing with guilt trips* and assumptions, but this is a decision we made together and we stand together on it. It’s strengthened us as a team. So, we aren’t telling anyone *where* we’re exchanging vows (we’re doing a self-uniting ceremony at sunrise in a state park, next to natural waterfalls and tall trees and buzzy bees and and and hearts, etc), but that evening, we’ll head over to my parents’ house and have an outdoor picnic and we told them that whatever they want to do, they have complete control. Maybe they’ll get a cake, maybe they’ll make a toast, maybe we’ll just eat hotdogs. But this way, we have the wedding we want (and we’re having a minireception/breakfast in our cabin that morning for just us, complete with a (pan)cake topper-hehe) and our parents have the control over little details that they want too.

    I think it’s going to be a lovely day.

    Oh! And, another awesome thing? We can rent the cabin for a week for about $400, so yeah…we’ll have our honeymoon at the place we get married and we can return every year on our anniversary and swim and hike and renew our vows and and and…hearts, etc.

    *the mothers have already started on the “gimme grandbabies!” guilt trips, so I think this is just something I’ll get used to politely ignoring

    • Sarah Beth

      Can I just say it: I envy you. I envy both of you for having the strength to say “this is what we’re doing”. It sounds like your wedding day and subsequent celebration are going to be wonderful.

      • Samantha

        Thank you so much, Sarah Beth. :)

  • Ash

    Although I LOVE to give advise. I think this is something everyone has to figure out for themselves. Not on a whim. Elope if it is absolutely right for you but think deeply on it first.

  • peanut

    This is a super personal decision that only the two of you can make. I have heavily flirted with eloping, but a) both our families would be crushed, and (more importantly) b) part of me wants a wedding. In your case, it looks like you don’t really care about having a wedding, so it depends on how close you are with your families, how important a wedding would be to them, and how much you would be affected by their potentially hurt feelings. You don’t want to be at your uber-romantic elopement with a nagging feeling of “ugh, my mother will never speak to me again” – that would make it not-so-romantic.

    If you choose “YES” to the elopement please send photos to us! We’re honeymooning in Paris and I can’t wait!

  • Sarah Beth

    Wading through these comments, it seems like the blissful engagement is just another thing the WIC is trying to sell us. That it’s just a year of exuberant parties, and showers, and excited friends. But it isn’t for everyone. Sure, engagement’s great, but the magic certainly seems to wear off quickly once the planning starts. After all, it’s pretty clear that couples don’t have year-long engagements because they love being engaged. They do it because they have to save, plan, organize, do damage control, placate, and orchestrate a mind-boggling, social-mine field we call a wedding.
    I think that’s why eloping is so attractive to some couples. Sometimes, the prospect of a wedding is so daunting, they’d rather skip it. And sometimes, it has nothing to do with misbehaving families. Sometimes, the hoopla just isn’t your thing, and you’d rather step into your life together, simplicity and sanity intact. It’s a shame, though, that weddings have evolved (for the most part) from a community celebration and outpouring of love and support, to a “production” where the couples every decision is under close scrutiny. It’s a shame that people who otherwise would have a wedding opt out because of that scrutiny.
    It’s nice to see a community like the one on APW, which seems more concerned with bringing it back to the way it ought to be. Whether out celebrations are lavish or private, we’re trying in earnest to remember what it’s all about.

  • Jen M

    you owe it to yourselves to go to Paris for wedding/honeymoon whatever. If your family is nuts and you don’t want to deal with them, then don’t. Will you eventually have to deal with it? Yes, but why the hell would you have a wedding just to prove you can? no, no, no. Paris, wine, baguettes, lots of butter and lots of love.

  • http://southernbeth.blogspot.com beth

    Oh gosh, I totally relate to this post. My fiance and I had planned on eloping. I had a perfect purple dress I had planned to wear and even figured out where we’d go. (Eureka Springs, a charming little town up here in the Ozarks of Arkansas!)

    But after I told my mom this, I could tell she was really hurt that I wouldn’t be having a wedding. My mom and I are really close, as are my Dad and I, and I didn’t want to deprive them of this experience. So, we’re having a wedding. I will say that my mom has been INCREDIBLY supportive of me bucking some traditions. I really have my cousin to thank for this who had a relatively unconventional wedding (by my family’s standards) a few years ago. My mom LOVED her wedding and was all a flutter with things we could do without (read: cake cutting, bouquet tossing, ect).

    I still really want to elope. I had no desire, and still do not, to have a big elaborate wedding. Most of my family lives across the country, too, and I feel horribly guilty asking them to pay so much money to see us say ‘I do’. I especially never wanted to PLAN a wedding. I have a new job, I live in a new state, and no family where I’m planning it. It is unbelievably hard. I just want my mom!

    Also, I already FEEL married and I hate that we essentially have to postpone our marriage to have people here. Its frustrating, but I’m hoping in the end, it’ll be worth it… Right??? Help!

    At least I LOVE my dress (um, why was I such a snob about David’s Bridal? I found the perfect dress at two places and at DB it was a quarter of the price!) and I LOVE my maid of honor, and obviously, my almost husband. I’m excited to see my friends from college and celebrate, but geeze, it’s expensive for them to come out here! I feel bad. Better make it awesome.

  • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

    I agree with Meg (and with others here) – if you feel deep down that eloping is right for you, then do it. Just do it. If you KNOW it’s right for you, you won’t regret it. If “you should share this with your loved ones” doesn’t resonate with you, admit that. Listen to that.

    And if you do regret it? You can still say with a clear conscience that you made the decision that was best for you at the time, that made sense for you at the time, and that one can never tell how one will feel in the future (all they can do is take their best guess), so you don’t regret having done it *then* even if you would regret it *now* (now being that hypothetical future point). Thinking this way is so freeing, because it gives you the ability to make decisions that are good for you now with an eye to the future, but without fear or enslavement to it. It also allows for mistakes and regrets without destroying your confidence in yourself and your decision-making ability.

    But…there is one thing I’d like to say. I apologize in advance. But.

    “I am extremely financial responsible and would rather have the money that my family would have gifted me for a wedding and use that for a house down payment or to boost our retirement accounts instead.”

    Maybe it is not meant the way it comes across, but as someone who grappled with “do we have a wedding or do we save the money” and decided on the wedding (for all the reasons in Meg’s “you deserve your wedding” post – no recent death in the family but we want to pay the joy forward), I can’t help but feel a tiny smidge of judgment regarding those of us who feel a large-ish wedding can fall within the realm of “financially responsible”, as long as it is done responsibly. Using money for a house or retirement account is not the only responsible thing you can do with money…and sometimes, in the name of social cohesion, joyous events, and bringing people together, it’s OK to spend money a tiny, eensy weensy bit irresponsibly. If all we ever did with money was 100% prudent, we’d feel our lives were rather dull. (99% prudent is enough). I am not saying that a big wedding you can’t afford is a good idea, nor am I trying to blurble out some Wedding Industrial Complex hype about how you “have” to spend money…because you don’t.

    THIS DOES NOT MEAN that you should have the big wedding. It means that a big wedding is right for us, and for many others, and I’ve seen this “you can use that money on a downpayment for a house! That’s what we’re doing because we’re financially responsible!” argument before, and it always smacked of “we’re financially responsible…and you’re not.”

    I really hope that is not what you meant – in fact it probably wasn’t. I just felt I had to speak up about it because it pops up so often.

  • http://smallweddingbighoneymoon.blogspot.com travelingbride

    firstly congrats and all the best in whatever you decided to do, its an amazing time in life and I’m sure whatever you choice will be amazing because you are marrying the one you love.

    I think elopement is great and I really wanted to for a long time, but you have to feel good about it, its your wedding day you need to be focused on starting your new life as a family not how everyone will react when you come home. So if your not 100% about the elopement have a surprise wedding, get everyone together (tell them you have a special announcement to make, have a party or dinner or something) than when everyone is there get married, exchange you vows and celebrate. people are surprised and happy and excited involved no one is making problem, all good.

    Elopements are like wedding, great when everyone is a grown up and your love ones don’t make it about them and how they feel (feelings are very important but not always mature and rational.)

  • Rachael Eisner

    So. I don’t have time to read every comment. But I do feel very strongly about this post, and I do feel that it is an un-resolved issue; personally speaking. I feel that no matter what you do, the other option will be right there, gleaming. In neon lights saying: “I could’ve been a better option for you!!”

    So with that said, you are going to have to have a serious conversation. Not only with yourself, but with your future spouse. Family matters tend to get in the way. I chose to give them what they wanted (wedding, larger than we wanted) even if it tore me apart. My fiance probably would have been a million times happier if we just eloped (however he admitted he would change his mind AFTER the phone calls would happen to him, not just me).

    The end result?: we’re happily married.
    Consequence: spent $7000 when we intended to spend $4000. Had to deal with my father pulling my hair during formal pictures. Had to deal with my really good friend getting SO intoxicated, he thought it was a good idea to threaten violence on a 9 year old. Then immediately apologize. Had to deal with a 13 year old drunk girl. Had to deal with amazing dances, family members coming out of the woodworks to show their love and support. Having to deal with new friendships forming on the dance floor with all the rig-a-marole.

    So all in all it was a beautiful day. It was One and a half years in the making. It caused me more stress and money than I had bargained for. But it helped heal my family in the end. No matter how messed up they are, and how messed up they try to make me, it was beneficial. Eloping wouldn’t take away from that, it may give the same result. Each person and situation is different. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way with each of us. How much are YOU willing to deal with these potential wildfires? How much does it mean to you to be able to call and freely speak with the members of your family you trust to talk about these secret plans? I couldn’t do it. I can’t live in secret, so I chose to be out in the open. It cost me my momentary sanity yes, but that was worth it to ME. Is that worth it to you? Reflect on that for a while. However long you need; THEN make a decision. But really listen to ALL of yourself. Not just the fear of your family starting a war. You never know, they may surprise you with random maturity.

  • http://knittoo.blogspot.com vanessa

    my boyfriend (now husband) and i both agreed that we didn’t want a big wedding either. we wanted to elope. we considered getting married at town hall. we considered going to mexico and sending postcards. we considered putting it off for another 10 years. we considered a lot of things over the course of almost 2 years, which was beginning to feel like an engagement. but finally, a few weeks (yes, WEEKS!) before my family came to visit us in Santa Fe (where we are living and working for the summer) we decided to have my boyfriend’s family come too and get married during their visit. it was very spontaneous. we found a minister who was available, she offered to do the ceremony in her garden here in town, she had a friend who was a photographer, i bought a dress at anthropologie, we ordered rings on etsy, and made reservations for lunch at a nice restaurant we had been dying to try. there. wedding planned in one weekend! and you know what? it was perfect. our families were sooo happy they were able to be a part of it and i was too. and as someone who wanted to run away and elope, i couldn’t believe how incredibly happy it made me to have our two families gather together for the day. and it didn’t take much hemming and hawing, it just worked out, like it was meant to be.

    i guess what i am getting it is that the right idea and the opportunity just presented itself and it happened. i could never have sat down and sketched all this out, it wouldn’t have felt right, or ever gone according to plan. i am sure your situation will present itself too. you may find a deal online for flights to paris, or somewhere else for that matter, and the moment may just be right. you’ll know when it is! and whatever you do, you won’t regret it, because being married is really what’s important.

    good luck!!!

  • Devon

    Although I don’t have any advice, I just had to comment because this is a situation I’m grappling with right now as well. My fiance really wants to elope, I was ok with it at first but now really know that a small wedding would be more my style, at the very least I would like to have my parents there. My fiance keeps insisting that an elopement would be better and he does not want his parents there. We kinda sorta tentatively agreed on getting married at the courthouse when his parent’s will be in town but it feels so un-special to me. I wanted to go out of town at the very least with our parents but he insists that his parents wouldn’t be able to make that trek even though his parents are coming in from across the country (I wanted to go about 3 hrs away). Anyway, had to get this out, just feeling very frustrated and upset right now because we can’t agree on anything.
    Meg, I hope you post a lot more elopements on APW, I would love to see how people go about deciding that that is the right decision for them and how they told their families, etc. Thank you for APW, the voice of reason!

  • Charlotte

    As a newlywed and a graduate of wedding planning stress, it sounds like you are teeting on the fence, hoping for a sign or a a blessing or permission to have the elopment you dream of.

    Do it!

    If you and your husband-to-be want to go to Paris, do it. If Paris becomes impossible and you both like Indianapolis, do that. You will not regret the great aunts or the banquet food of a wedding-wedding. I promise. I had a wedding. A great (little) one. If every floral detail and seating chart had been engulfed in flames and my husband and I left standing and married, I would have been just as happy. If every detail I envisioned during my engagment had come true, I wouldn’t care today, just two months later. Weddings are pretty. Marriages are real. Get yourself a marriage the way you want!

  • Apples

    Since I’m commenter 153, some of what I’m going to say has probably already been said, but I’ll say it anyway. My big sister eloped to the Virgin Islands about 15 years ago (my how time flies!). My mother is kind of a wreck/control freak, my sister was trying to plan a wedding in a city where we grew up but where neither she nor my mother lived, and it was becoming a nightmare. Plus my mother had stopped talking to her when she and her fiance moved in together. So my sister called off the wedding and the elopement was announced and planned, well in advance. We all knew about it but were most definitely not invited. We watched the video when they returned.

    I asked her recently if she regretted not having a big wedding, and she told me no, she has NOT ONE SINGLE REGRET. They had an amazing elopement/ honeymoon.

    But I will tell you this– in the process, a lot of feelings were hurt. My other big sister had always planned to be her maid of honor, and she felt robbed of getting to participate in the big day and fuss over the other sister. My mom continued the not talking (although, as is clear, she had other issues going on). My brother and I felt excluded.

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do the elopement thing, because, as I mentioned above, my sister has NO regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat. But maybe there are some ways to cushion the blow to your families, who will certainly feel left out and maybe a little hurt. Weddings are not just about the two of you, they’re about two families coming together. In which case, I think Meg’s advice not to tell anyone that you were engaged for a while and planned it this way, rather than on a whim, would probably take the sting out of it.

    I hope you have a wonderful elopment/ honeymoon and life together!

  • Karen

    I think the real questions are, what exactly is a wedding? Why do we have weddings? Who are they for? The answers to these questions are different to different people in different cultures in different times, but here are my answers and thoughts on these questions. I do not give my ideas because I think they are correct, but because you can use mine and everyone else’s idea’s to form your own answers to these questions. I think that once you have clear answers for yourself, you will know what you really want.

    I believe weddings are very important. The meaning of weddings cannot be measured in cakes and fluffy white dresses. These things are only props to an ancient and global tradition. Nearly every society around the world has some kind of marriage ceremony that predates recorded history. Apparently, humans everywhere had the need to formally recognize a union and have the opportunity to celebrate this important event with their family and community.
    A wedding to me is a way to celebrate this huge important event with the people I love. This gives me a chance to show them how important they are to me, by inviting them and by involving them in the process as much as possible. Equally important is that it is an opportunity for them to show their love for us. That may sound selfish, but people really want this chance. My family and friends know of course that I love them, but there are only rare times that you really get to fully show each other how grateful you are for each other and how much you care for each other. Weddings are the greatest opportunity, the other time it happens the most is unfortunately at funerals.
    So this also answers the last question. For me, my wedding is nearly as much for me and my fiance as it is for my family and friends. This is to me what community and family and friendship is all about: Celebrating life’s big happenings together. This is part of the fabric that ties us together. Without traditions such as these, life just kind of flows past us, and we don’t get a chance to really stop and celebrate with each other how amazing some things are.

    I’ve thought quite a bit about this for a few reasons. When we first got engaged, we were thinking city hall with parents. But then I got an incredible amount of negative comments from people, along the lines of “Why are you getting married? Are you not an indepent woman? You already live together, why get married?! You probably just want to wear a pretty dress and eat cake.” This actually got me thinking so much about why get married that I realized I actually think it’s an incredibly huge and important thing that should be celebrated big. Big does not necessarily mean the same as a lot of guests or expensive, but for me personally it meant all my friends and family.

    Sorry for the long post, I hope it helps you in any way. If your answers to these questions are more along the lines of “Wedding to me is something very personal for me and my fiance” then elopement may indeed be the right thing for you. If it’s not, but the problem is mostly your parents, you could try sitting with them and explaining your fears. You could think of some rules for them to abide by, or make them swear, even sign a contract, that they will not let their issues ruin your wedding. If they know how afraid you are about it, and how important it is to you, perhaps they will surprise you and try their best to give you great day?

    • Samantha

      Exactly! times lots.

      This is great advice. For me, the answer to the question of “what a wedding is” led me to discover that I view it as a very sacred, personal, and intimate thing – the exchange of vows between me and my partner. I realized that all my hesitation about having a traditional wedding stemmed from this core belief. That is why I have no doubt that an elopement is right for me (and my partner).

      It was good to hear the other side of that question, the other possible answer. It reaffirms what’s right for me, and it celebrates that what’s right for one person is exactly right…for that one person (or in this case, two people). I don’t judge anyone for having a huge, rocking party with 5 bazillion of their relatives and friends, but I know that for me, holding my partner’s hands and looking into his eyes and speaking to him from my heart – without an audience – is what feels authentic, romantic, and right for me.

      (insert love-noms and squish here)

  • http://www.studio222photography.com/blog Becka @Studio222 Photography

    I ADORE this! My fiance and I are wedding photographers so we are immersed in the industry every day. And we are eloping in Italy. In October. And whenever anyone asks me questions I tell them the truth… I don’t know. We literally won’t have a location picked out till we get there. The only thing we really are spending money on is traveling around Europe and hiring a photographer to document our vows and take portraits of us in the lovely landscape. I’m so thrilled. I love not having to plan and compete and come up with the perfect/elaborate/ridiculously expensive wedding. I love elopements. I secretly wish more of our brides and grooms would do it. (As long as they still invite us along to get photos for their family) ;)

  • kelly

    I’m all for elopements, and think it’s wildly romantic…especially since it seems so out of practice these days! (And honestly, I’m slightly jealous…I would love to elope, but not so secretly, and then have a 1st anny party instead of the full-blown wedding/reception combo…but I digress)…

    If it speaks to you and your new fiance, then I think it’s really important to honor that and go towards what says “wedding” to you. However, I do understand not wanting to hurt your families’ feelings.

    Perhaps there’s a small compromise in there? Would it be possible to tell your immediately family – and inform them of the secret part too – and invite them to your legal ceremony? Then your parents/siblings/closest of close don’t feel too left out while you, mostly, get to have your secret and the fun reveal?

    In the end, what’s important is that you found someone to love who loves you back – and that’s supposed to ALWAYS be what it is about. And in that spirit, your family will (should?) be utterly supportive that you chose a MARRIAGE…no matter how you went about the wedding part.

  • Lynn

    My now husband and I eloped. We went to the City Clerk’s Office in New York, where we currently live. We told almost no one. We took one friend with us to be our witness as well as a professional photographer. (So glad we did this! Our photographer made a lovely little online slideshow that definitely helped us let our family and friends in on our day.) We called immediate family and dropped announcements in the mail that day. We had a party back in our home state several months later. This was still stressful, but, as Aimee wrote above, much less so because we were already married.

    I was hit with a tidal wave of emotions of all kinds the day we got married. Guilt was not one of them. I know our family and friends would have liked to be there with us. But most understood and were happy for us. My mother, however, was not happy. She felt left out. I knew she would feel this way. But I did not anticipate the extent to which she would feel this way. Especially being an only child, I probably should have. I completely understand what Liana wrote above. The celebration back home didn’t help. And I do fear that lasting damage has been done. I don’t regret our choices and I still don’t feel guilty, but I do feel sad about this part of my life. I hope that with time, my mom can see that I am happy and healthy in another part of my life, in my marriage, and that’s a pretty important thing.

  • Michelle

    If you simply want to avoid the craziness of planning a wedding, why not have it in like, 6 weeks? That way, you cut down on the amount of time for drama to mount, and all the tiny little details that no one cares about in the long run, but people still argue about, aren’t so much in the forefront. It’s much better than arguing with your mother about why we don’t need duck and champagne at a laid-back wedding for two nerds (cough, cough).

    Or, go ahead and elope, and then come back home and celebrate with your family and friends with nice, laid-back party/reception/whatever.

    Anyway, good luck! We’re rooting for you! :D

  • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

    My mum wanted to get married in Paris (1997 I think) but she found out you had to live there a month first so they couldn’t. Just mentioning so you don’t turn up and get disappointed! I notice that you’re planning on getting legally married in the US first anyway so sounds like the Paris ceremony would just be to add some romance to your honeymoon anyway…? (You won’t need to add to the romance of a Paris honeymoon.)

    I always wanted to elope. Same dream, actually, of sending a postcard. Mine was going to say, “we’re married! Come and join us to celebrate on…” with a party already arranged for our return. In the event, we wanted a wedding, and for me it was one of the best decisions I ever made. There was awful drama on the way, ugly family issues got thrown up, but in the end, our wedding lifted us up.

    Someone close to me recently got married in secret, and although I totally respected the decision (where not everyone else did) I was disappointed. Not for me, but for them, that they missed that chance to have everyone who loves them come together to celebrate their love. Our wedding was in no way void of irritating people I would rather not share such an occasion with, but they didn’t cancel out all the other people who mattered so much.

    Having said that… the person I mentioned above is not disappointed with their decision at all. And it matters not one jot that I am disappointed for them, for something they’ll never experience. You have to work out for yourself whether you’ll be disappointed for yourself, and try not to let other people’s concern that you will be get to you if you’re sure that you won’t.

    Good luck!

  • lady

    Skype wedding! Everyone can get together to watch and party without you!! haha

  • Chelsea Donohue

    I totally can relate to your fears and uncertainty as to whether eloping is a good idea or not. My husband and I recently decided to elope in Las Vegas. We were not engaged at the time, but we own a house together and have pretty much been living as a married couple for 2 years now. We planned a trip to Vegas to celebrate our 3 year anniversary and at first had no intentions of getting married while we were there.

    About 3 weeks before we left for our trip we attended my husband’s cousin’s wedding. At the wedding many of his family members were asking when we were planning on marrying and made comments about how we are already practically married. Even his mother asked if we planned on getting married while in we were Vegas.

    This really got us to thinking. The next day, on our 3 hour drive home from the wedding, we started discussing the possibility of eloping.

    We told our immediate family and three close friends each. I didn’t tell my friends until the night before we left just incase the couldn’t keep it a secret.

    We got married in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and then proceeded to a limo for a tour of the strip. We splurged on an expensive bottle of champagne and took in all the sights and excitment.

    I was nervous the weeks and days leading up to the wedding. I was scared people would be mad at me and that I would regret not having the tradition wedding everyone else seemed to be having. Now that I look back I am so happy we did it this way. It was romantic and spur of the moment and will make a lovely story for our future children.

    My advice to you is to maybe tell your close family and friends a day or too before hand. That way they will not be able to bombard you with their opinions for too long and they will feel less hurt knowing that you wanted them to be a part of your special secret.

    We are planning a Las Vegas themed celebration in October to celebrate with all of our friends and family. Everyone so far has been excited and very supportive. So if you really feel this is what you want there is no need for regrets. This is a committment between the two of you not the whole world. When you are standing up there saying your vows it’s like there is no one else on the plan but the two of you. Enjoy it and cherish the moment.

  • Alyssa

    Wow. This letter writer could be me. I too am in the pre-engagement state and am being brought back to sanity by the wonderful people of APW. My boyfriend and I talked about eloping too. It would just fit us better than a traditional wedding. He hates being the center of attention, and I have the whole WIC, drama, stress, and egotistical bulls*it that women create for the “happiest day of their lives.” And we’re both madly in love and want a celebration of our love and commitment to each other, not a celebration of is-this-sufficient-to-please-the-shallow-people. In the end though, we’re leaning away from elopement. We both love his parents too much to not include them in the kickoff to our lives together (not to mention his dad has type I diabetes and is not doing the best, so we want as many memories with him as possible). And me, hating drama, I don’t want to deal with people being mad at me for excluding them from my wedding.