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Ask Meg: Secret Engagements & Proposals

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.

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