Elopements, The Follow Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about last weeks discussion of elopement. I was really surprised that even here, in APW-land, we still seem to view elopement as taboo, and even selfish. Now, I’m not arguing that elopement is for everyone (it certainly wasn’t for me), but I am arguing that eloping should be viewed as a valid choice for each of us. When I brought the discussion up with David last week, and said that an large number of people said something along the lines of, “but you owe your family a wedding!” He commented that big family weddings haven’t even been the historical norm for very long. 100 years ago, we were getting married in our parlors, or at the courthouse. Maybe our closest family was there, maybe they were not. But this idea of the huge party, the party you owe everyone? New.

But I thought Marisa-Andrea said it best when she said:

I definitely understand family members being hurt that were excluded. 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 also think that couples must be true to themselves and authentic. Always.

Which? Yes. So when Lauren sent me this article from the AARP bulletin about a couple’s elopement because of immanent deployment, I had to share it with you. Because not only does it knock the wind out of the sails of the ‘elopement is just selfish’ argument, it also knocks the wind out of the sails of ‘It’s selfish to hold a party after your vows to celebrate with your loved ones, since you didn’t invite them to witness your vows,’ argument. It reminds us what a freaking blessing it is to get to celebrate with people who just got married, whether we were invited or not, whether we knew them or not. And more than all that, it reminds all of us, no matter how big our wedding, what the point of this whole thing really is. And now, the article:

As a senior at MIT, our only daughter, Holly, got engaged. Soon the Army called her fiancé, Erik, to go to Iraq, so they planned to marry after he returned and she finished graduate school. As all brides do, Holly dreamed about her wedding. She chose a dress, a church and a family friend as organist. She chose her favorite processional and recessional marches, one of which her father had composed.

But reality did not follow the plan. Erik was sent to Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., where he learned he could ship out at any minute. Holly left school for a few days to see him off. The couple decided to marry right away, the uncertainty of war looming in their minds. They called to tell us, we arranged a flight but were still in the air when they found a justice of the peace at the courthouse. It happened so fast that the bride wore blue jeans.

When we arrived, we made the best of the situation and took them to dinner. As it turned out, our new son-in-law didn’t get shipped out that day. The base chaplain found out and asked all of us to come to the local church the next morning. We didn’t know why.

At the church, Holly wore a favorite teal silk dress, and Erik his uniform. As we waited, a miracle unfolded. The church’s entire congregation came to support the newlyweds, whom they had never met. Some even brought wedding gifts wrapped in silver paper and big bows. Following a blessing ceremony, the congregation formed a receiving line and greeted the couple at the altar. We didn’t have a photographer, but our “wedding guests” snapped away. They sent us their pictures, so we have reminders of a very special occasion. It was a wedding to remember for all the right reasons.

(Go see a picture of the couple here)

I thought it was time for a reminder that creating a new family is never a selfish act. Life is imperfect. Sometimes elopements hurt feelings, sometimes weddings hurt feelings. But starting a new family on honest present footing? Letting people who love you celebrate you in their own way afterward? That’s not inherently selfish, and we should re-think it being taboo.

Elopement pictures both from East Side Bride, of course. Picture 1 you can read about here, Picture 2 you can read about here (and on the brides blog la boudoir here and here). And f*ck it, while you’re at it, you should really read ESB’s whole series on elopement.

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  • Oh, Meg. I’m crying. This was so beautiful (an AARP mag is awesome- I keep asking for my mom ans grandma’s copies)!

    Me and FH have had the hardest time coming to a decision about “size” and “community.” We are late bloomers, and most of our extended families, while they love us, don’t know us well, and don’t know “us,” the couple, at all- I haven’t even met his dad yet! And every time I think about my dream wedding, what comes up is, “authentic.” Not on the outside, but on the inside. As an inveterate people pleaser and social chameleon, I know that having a big party at the same time as the vows would distract me horribly. I made myself ill deciding on a location and time of year that could accommodate my dad’s emphysema and everybody’s incomes…I responded to everybody’s quirks except my own, and it felt so fake, like I was working for someone else, not celebrating our relationship.

    On the other hand, I am very much into the spontaneous, the civic, and the miracle of the unexpected. And that community, coming together for these two young people, is the kind of “authenticity” I would want for a “crowd” wedding. So if I could, we’d just show up on the public square and kick it with the lunchtime crowd and whoever was out and about; or we’d elope. Unfortunately for my “dream,” FH reacts badly to both propositions. So we haven’t decided what to do yet. But I won’t budge on being able to show up. So either I have to do one of those two visions (or both), or change a lifetime of behavior. In the end, I think it’ll be an issue of time. When we get a firm date, I think things will work themselves out one way or another. But I think the couple being able to “show up” is the most important thing about a meaningful wedding, no matter what the size is of the guest list.

    • Linda

      My husband and I (44 and 41 at the time) eloped 19 years ago, for numerous reasons. It was my first marriage, his second. We each invited two witnesses, and made a video for our families. We called my husband’s brother and my father to announce it the next morning. My family responded enthusiastically, but my husband’s family all but ignored us. I was stunned.

      All we wanted were good luck wishes for the future, no gifts, no fuss, so I was quite taken aback by their lack of response.

      It turns out that they didn’t know what to do, so my new brother-in-law assumed we wanted to be ignored without asking us first. Also, one of my husband’s aunts, also insisted that elopement is secret, and to ignore us. No one admitted to feeling hurt or left out (but I will always suspect they did). By the way, this same aunt could not accept my keeping my name, to the point where mail from her was delivered to our neighbor with my husband’s last name!

      We mistakenly added to the “confusion” by not spelling out what we wanted (we didn’t think we needed to). I presumed we’d eventually connect with my in-laws one-on-one, in their homes where they were most comfortable. Unfortunately, this never happened. As it turns out, I only found out during the last few years what went wrong … and I never was able to bond with my in-laws (for many other reasons besides this). We apparently got off on the wrong foot by eloping, and never recovered. But we sure enjoyed our intimate, affordable, adults-only Las Vegas wedding … and my husband and I love each other as much as ever.

  • Emily

    Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!

    I am currently planning my own elopement to New Orleans. No one in my family or his family is happy for us. None of our friends support our decision to get married. So it will be the two of us, flying there, hunting down flowers and a photographer and winging it. Together. An adventure.

    Okay, admittedly an adventure that needs more planning. But HOW do you plan for an elopement? Any suggestions, anyone?

    • meg

      Silly. Normally you don’t plan an elopement (that’s part of the magic) or tell anyone till after (so they can’t bother you with being offended till it’s way too late). You just grab your partner (and a dress) and go. Maybe grab some flowers if you see them. Bring a camera or an instant camera, and ask some passerbys to take pictures of you (they will, and they’ll be totally excited about it). Nothing else to plan.

      So you’re done! Go get married (and send us pictures).

      • Samantha

        Actually, we’ve been planning our elopement for over a year, and we’ve got a year yet to go until the wedding day*. We consider it an elopement not because it is spontaneous, but because it will be simply he and I exchanging vows in a ceremony we’ve designed together. I believe you can put every bit as much planning and heart into an elopement as a bigger ceremony, although I admit the whole “planning” aspect seems to take the romance out of it.

        But really? I love the planning. Without the need to accomodate others and with the focus solely on us, we’ve created such a personal day for ourselves.

        *We chose a date with significance for us, the fifth anniversary of our first date. When people ask about my wedding plans and I tell them its simplicity, they gasp “Why don’t you just do it NOW?” and while not offended, that’s getting a bit annoying. My wedding isn’t something I’m trying to just get over with; I’m not eloping because I hate weddings or planning them. My wedding is a celebration of the two of us (just the two of us, literally), and I love having this much time to anticipate and plan. Sure, our ceremony might only last five minutes, but that doesn’t mean we have to spend only five minutes planning it.

        …er. rambles, much? :)

        • Hm. It seems to me that both Samantha & Emily (oddly, my 2 favorite names when I was small) are planning small weddings, not elopements. It’s interesting that the HUGE WEDDING is so much the norm now that a nice, small, planned ceremony is called an “elopement.”

          From Wikipedia:
          “To elope, most literally, merely means to run away, and to not come back to the point of origination. More specifically, elopement is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving hurried flight away from one’s place of residence together with one’s beloved with the intention of getting married. Today the term “elopement” is colloquially used for any marriage performed in haste or in private or without a public period of engagement.”

          Wedding Annoucement, 1917
          “There was some objections to the match by the parents of the bride, owing to her age, but the parents of the groom were willing that the ceremony should proceed, in fact aided the young people very much in the fulfillment of love’s young dream. At an opportune moment when the bride’s parents were off their guard, the young lady quietly slipped away and was met at an appointed place by the groom and his parents and together the party reached the Southern pacific depot just as the west bound Oriole was ready to pull out for the west.” (Sassy!!)

          • Liz

            you said aloud what i was thinking.

          • meg

            Indeed. Hence my “you can’t plan an elopement” advice. You can, however, plan a small wedding.

            And I think a word to the wise – if you are not inviting your parents, they shouldn’t know till it’s over. Otherwise? Scream-fest-of-the-century-with-tears. Miss Manners goes so far as to say if you don’t invite your parents, you probably shouldn’t invite a photographer, because, you know, your parent will be all, “OH I SEE YOU INVITED A PHOTOGRAPHER BUT NOT ME!!” But, she’s old school like that. But, that said, she has been around.

          • Kaitlin

            While that is all true, it seems to me like the young bride and her groom had a PLAN. Otherwise she wouldn’t have known when or where to meet him. Elopement doesn’t mean that you don’t put thought into it, otherwise it would be synonymous with “divorce.”

        • Class of 1980

          You’re planning a small destination wedding. That would be the correct term.

      • Samantha
        • Erika

          I’m not certain people realize how rude and disempowering it is to tell someone “what” their wedding is, especially as a correction: Oh, you’re mistaken. You’re not this. You’re that. Silly person.

          Weddings are highly personal affairs of individual (plus partner) expression. It just seems really…wrong to tell someone they’re using a term incorrectly, especially after they’ve explained why they chose to use it. If Samantha considers her wedding an elopement because it will be just the two of them but will not be Let’s go right this minute! then what right does anyone have to say You’re wrong. That’s not an elopement. Here’s a dictionary definition. It’s a small destination wedding.

          I think the proper response might be to embrace everyone’s unique perspective and maybe be grateful that everyone can share their stories…rather than batting them down with Wikipedia and Elopement: You’re Doin’ it Wrong!

          Of course, a dissenting opinion on this blog will probably NOT be met with the kindest response, but here it is, anyway.

          • meg

            Ok, the only uncool part of your comment is the part where you say that people can’t express dissenting opinions on this blog. That is (sort of unkindly) underestimating the exhausting hours and hours I spend every week moderating multi-hundred comment threads FULL of people kindly disagreeing with each other. Or all the posts I put up from totally opposite perspectives, perspectives that inherently disagree with each other, to get us all to think. I, for example, am not into waiting to have sex till your married – but I made sure a post went up about it.

            So. Please don’t be dismissive of all the differing viewpoints that make up this community, all the kindness shown by women to other women who disagree with them, and the work I put into making that happen.

          • Sian

            I too found this kind of unsettling and kind of judgey and nitpicky. Surely some planning must be involved in every single elopement -ones that are decided upon two days in advance not withstanding. In countries such as mine, you need to file intent to marry a month prior to any legal wedding. If you’re not affluent and decide you want to fly away and marry in private without telling anyone, you still need to save with intent in order to afford the possibly expensive travel. If you want a photographer to show up, you kind of need to book them, and especially if you’re going to elope somewhere you don’t live, that will involve at least a tiny amount of research, not to mention booking at least a little in advance. If Samantha feels like she’s eloping, cool. Emily’s description of a wedding in which her family doesn’t support the union and they plan to ‘run away’ and quickly find themselves a flower shop and someone with a camera on the ground screams elopement to me! I’m glad that she found peace with your comment that elopements don’t need planning, but for a lot of people that’s not the case and I feel a bit sad that nobody gave her any help when she asked for it.

            If I were to wed, it would be a two-person affair in a country other than my own, because my own doesn’t support same-sex marriage at all. I probably would have no desire to tell anyone prior to ‘doing the deed’ that we were planning it. We’d just book a holiday and do it while traveling. But that ‘just’ is a bit misleading, because, obviously, there’s going to be exchanges of money, google searches on ‘is X legal in Z’ and ‘how do we obtain a marriage licence in Y’. There’s going to be at least an order or two placed online from overseas, and discussions aplenty. I feel like this would be eloping anyway, personally, but whatever.

            I get the urge to correct people all the time too, and of course we all have our own opinions, and define things in different way. But I agree with Erika – some of these comments really read disempowering and rude to me. I feel like pointing out that Emily didn’t NEED to stress herself out if she didn’t want to do XYZ because that’s the beauty of elopement, but then pointing her to so many great resources on APW that could help her if she did want to plan some things/get a better understanding of elopement and destination weddings and maybe asking what specifically she was stressing about would have been so much more productive and supportive.

      • Emily

        Okay, this may sound absolutely ridiculous, but it never occurred to me that I could NOT plan. I thought that was my job as wife-to-be.

        I kind of feel like I’ve been given permission to do whatever the heck I want now, and that feels really nice. I will send pictures! (I never even thought of asking people to take them…)

        • meg

          YAY! Not planning is totally the most liberating thing in the world. I’m so excited for you :)

        • meg

          Also, may this be the beginning of your liberation from all the things you (we) think wives have to do.

    • My friends planned a great elopement in Las Vegas. When they did the math, they found that going with a classy place that guided the license process, provided a photographer and some of the other frills was the best thing for them because then they had no regrets because they didn’t think to plan for something and it was totally stress-free.

  • That’s such an awesome story. Personally, the idea of eloping as selfish never really sunk in with me. I’ve never understood how something that is definitely right for the couple can be considered bad in any way. Then again, we’ve been faced with this tough lesson through the wedding planning process as well because any time anyone makes a decision that someone else doesn’t like, it can be considered selfish. We decided to keep the guest list small and to only include family against the wishes of his parents and they remain angry about that because they feel as though it was a selfish decision on our part. But for me, it’s not selfish, it’s just what’s right for us.

    Although I can’t speak from personal experience, I do think that if a couple knows that elopement is right for them, they really should go ahead with it. Wedding planning is stressful and if you already feel like you don’t want to be a part of it before it even begins, it’s probably not a good idea to force yourself through it. For us, the joy of a wedding has been the light at the end of the tunnel but for a couple who would rather elope, the stress would likely be too much and the reward far too little.

    • elemjay

      It is absolutely *impossible* to please everyone (couple, family, friends) associated with a wedding. Choices must be made. If someone feels the need to label them “selfish” then that is also probably inevitable. But seriously, no one gets everything that they want…..

  • ddayporter

    awesommmmme. misty-eyed first thing in the morning.. that was an amazing story! and how is Marisa-Andrea so darn smart all the time..? :)

  • Eeeek! So glad you posted it, Meg. That was one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read in a long time, and it totally belonged in the APW community.

  • C

    I both agree and disagree. I really think it depends on the circumstance. And in the case of the reader who asked for advice; I think it has to do with culture. So maybe in Anglo Saxon weddings it hasn’t been the norm to have big weddings for a long time, but the girl who wrote to you is Indian and that is an entirely different matter. If you elope and your family is from a culture where there are strong cultural expectations and big families and big weddings are the norm (African, South Asian etc), it’s not selfish to elope, but the strife that could arise from such a situation may not be worth running off and getting married with out at least telling anyone first. It’s certainly the couple’s choice but there are consequences that one needs to be realistic about.

    • Sarah Beth

      Indeed. In a lot of other cultures, a wedding is a BIG deal, and often the celebration involves an “open invite” for the entire community. And things have been done that way for hundreds, even thousands of years. Marrying in your parlor with a couple of folks present was really a relatively brief anomaly in the history of getting hitched.
      There’s a reason elopement has a stigma attached to it. For a large chunk of human history, people only eloped to hide something. Either the marriage was against the parents’ wishes, or the bride’s wishes, or the bride was pregnant, or some other scandal. Otherwise, you would get married in a large community event so everyone could participate.
      Of course those reasons aren’t always our reasons today, but it’s hard to shrug off history.

  • Amanda

    this is an amazing story. I’m planning my wedding, and everyone around us is happy and looking forward to the wedding, but sometimes I think I’d be happier eloping. I want the pretty white dress and our closest friends and family members to be there, but since we’ve been told we need to invite everyone, most of which we don’t talk to or really know for that matter, eloping sounds better and better. so because we don’t want to disappoint anyone we’re trying to plan a casual affair where people will have fun. I’m just not sure how that’s going to be achieved and us still be comfortable with it.

  • Allie

    What a lovely story. What I got from it, and what I get from all stories here on practical wedding is the recurring message that you have to do what is right for you and your partner, and your family situation, at the time.

    This couple, it is very obvious, made the choice that was right for them. I’m a firm believer that those moments of magic come when something is very, very, right. I sometimes wish I was eloping (but it would have to be with our parents and siblings. And maybe a best friend or two.)

    Even though I’m not eloping, stories like me give me strength in the fact that I don’t “owe” anyone anything. We’re inviting a medium group of family and friends, and I’m doing everything I reasonably can within our budget to make sure they have a good time. But I’ve been stressing recently that “so and so won’t like the food,” and “maybe we should have a vegan, gluten free, sugar free option,” and “what if people don’t like our bluegrass band” and “what if people feel put out that it’s a sunday afternoon.” It’s nice to hang on to the fact that although we love, adore and cherish our family and friends, we don’t OWE them a party. After the love and covering the basic needs (bathrooms, food, some kind of drink) the rest is just icing, ya know? Gosh, that sounds selfish and spoiled. But I’m trying to say that (and duh, I know most of you ladies know this already) there is NO pleasing everyone. We are doing what is right for us, in our situation, just the way this great couple did. And I’m hoping we get a little piece of wedding magic too.

    • Trisha

      I went with the theory that it was my wedding, and my FH’s wedding, not anyone else’s. This meant that we got to do things in a way that was right for us, and that we wanted. After all, I wouldn’t want somebody else to tailor their wedding to what I enjoy. It was non-traditional in a lot of ways, but it was what fit us, as people. And when it came down to it, everybody had a great time. No one was bothered by the house music, or the lack formality and tradition. All they cared about was supporting us, and sharing in the love and joy of the day.

      I’d say just go with what’s right for you, and don’t worry about the rest of it. If you’re happy and stress free on your wedding day, that’s all that’s going to matter to anyone. It doesn’t sound spoiled at all, just practical. Do your thing, and the day will be awesome and perfect.

    • YES! Yes, yes, yes. I’m struggling with this a lot, as is my fiance. We don’t like traditional plated blah blah BORING meals, so we’re doing heavy cocktail stations for dinner. My fiance is SO worried that people won’t have “enough” to eat. I’m worried because we’re not shuttling them the ten miles between the hotel and the reception site, so they’ll have to find designated drivers. I’m also feeling self conscious that it’s a real problem with the guests that it’s on a Thursday.

      You know what?? OUR WEDDING. Our party. There will be PLENTY of food (our catering coordinator assured us of that). Our guests are grown adults and can either draw straws to be a designated driver, or get a taxi. And as for a Thursday, 90% of our guests are local and can take a half day off from work or make it a long weekend (I’ve done at least as much for other weddings or for travel). We’re throwing a big party to celebrate with the people we love, and if the people we love are cranky about it, that’s one less mouth to feed (and they should grow up, duh).

      What’s RIGHT for us is being with our loved ones– we’re inviting and hosting, and it’s up to them to show up and smile. We’ll already be smiling– we’re the ones who get to get married!

  • Meg – i LOVE this post. Such an important reminder. My grandmother, who is now 94 years old, is one of the most serious, stern, nearly-emotionless (seemingly) women I know, and she’s always been that way as far as I can remember (I know, doesn’t sound like a fun story!). However — when I sat down with her while we were planning our wedding to talk about *her* wedding, I asked her what it was like, and the biggest smile came over her face when she told me that she and my grandfather had *eloped*! They literally decided they wanted to get married, found a church and a pastor, and did the deed right there on that day — without their families… She didn’t really answer my question when I asked “why” she did it — but I could tell that she relished the fact that this was her wedding story.

    This was COMPLETELY unexpected for me — but explained why all the pictures of her wedding day have her in a flowery-covered dress and him in a casual suit, not at all the typical wedding attire for 1932. My grandfather died about 20 years ago now – but when she talks about him, she still tears up. She’s refused to get married again because in her heart, he will always be her husband and she his wife. They created a beautiful family together, and it all started *officially* with an elopement — which I think is amazing, if unexpected :)

    • My grandmother and I were going through a stack of old pictures and letters a few months ago, and we found the telegram that her sister had sent her and her family in the 1930’s to let them know that she had eloped. Too cool.

    • liz

      kristin, i was suprised by this same kind of story! my grandmom wore a navy blue skirt suit. they ran off together because her dad didn’t approve.

      • liz

        i’m a jerk who misspelled your (lovely) name, KERSTIN.

    • Trisha

      My in-laws eloped in their living room. My husband was adamant at first that he wanted to elope as well, because it worked so well for his parents, considering they’re still one of the happiest, most in love couples either of us know.

  • liz

    hmm. i’m gonna be honest, i don’t remember the, “you selfish bride!” comments. but i do recall fearing my own would sound like, “well since I loved MY family, and you apparently don’t…” which wasn’t the intent at all.

    there’s a little bit of selfishness to every wedding. and should be. there is an element where you should be doing what YOU want, of course. and that’s exactly what i did. i picked what i wanted to do, after weighing the options before me.

    that story is amazing. but you know that. amazing that their family could join in the joy and support their decision.

  • I agree with Liz. I wouldn’t characterize the comments on the last post as viewing elopement as taboo or as selfish. I did see a lot of folks (myself included) respond to a woman who asked for advice by saying, “These are things you should consider as you make your decision” and many of those things worth considering are the feelings of your friends and family.

    I know that I went out of my way to affirm that elopement was a valid choice before I contributed my two cents to the discussion. Many others did, as well. The beauty of APW is that a letter like that one can inspire people to tell their own stories from a variety of perspectives so that a giant repository of experience is collected in one place for current and future brides and grooms to access as they consider what choices are best for them.

    To flatten the 3D stories by characterizing them as communicating elopement as taboo and selfish really isn’t fair.

    • meg

      I think it’s impossible to respond to 176 comments without some flatting – but that discussion is still very much there and very much open, and I linked to it. So the 3D version is alive and well. That said, it is and remains my blog, as community minded as it is (I’ve been pretty firm about that), and I do want to continue writing response posts when I feel so moved. I had a strong reaction to that long conversation, and one that I thought needed to be said. Not very many people used the words selfish, but that message came through in parts of that very long thread, and I thought it needed to be addressed. As I said, I’m not arguing that elopements are right for everyone, or for most people, but I think they are right for some people, and those people need clear, upfront, undivided support.

    • elemjay

      The thing that was interesting for me about the responses to the initial elopement thread was the number of people who felt very attracted to the idea of doing something similar but felt it was something that they were not “allowed” to consider. There clearly is something that feels “forbidden” about elopements to many on this site.

  • What Marisa-Andrea said, that is EXACTLY why I find the idea of eloping so tempting. I am a private person and I fear that I will not be able to be 100% emotionally present on my wedding day. But since my fiance does not share the same fear, and having a wedding is really important to him, we are having a wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I want a wedding too, and I’m excited about the wedding we are planning, but sometimes that fear creeps back into my head and plays games with me.

    • Hey, Erica. Like you, my husband is a private person and he had some reservations about marrying in front of a group of people. One thing that helped us a lot was writing our own vows and reading them to each other each week starting about a month before the wedding. Besides being an awesome, life-changing, romantic preparation for the wedding, it really helped husband and me feel more confident about “performing” in front of guests on the big day. Bonus: I was super emotionally present during the ceremony. I remember every moment, and I still tear up thinking about it.

    • ddayporter

      I love Kathryn’s idea! However I’m private in a different way, where I’m totally comfortable being up in front of people but I am Not as comfortable sharing the deepest feelings of my soul with other people. So it helped me to just do traditional vows, where we said I Do and I Will and We Will and stared at each other and forgot the crowd, and then we had our yichud and had that private time with just the two of us that we both needed. if you wanted to write your own vows but have a hard time saying them in front of other people, a yichud is a great time to get that done.

  • Oh my… I love that first photo. I remember the first elopement from ESB months ago.

    Chiming into Liz’s comment… I thought I was a little too “weddings are for families too, ya know!” And yes, families are important, sharing it with people are important, but that’s not for everyone. We just happened to choose a wedding with family and friends, for many reasons that were personal to us. But trust me… we are still hoping to one day hit up Grand Opening in NYC for our own little, private, pop-up wedding for two. One day…

    But that’s besides the point. Holly and Erik had a beautiful union and they were surrounded by LOVE. That’s the only thing needed at any wedding besides the two birds tying the knot- love from strangers or love from family or just the love from each other.

  • FK

    Well, this (beautiful) “elopement” story is not typical because the bride’s parents were actually there. That’s the issue. It’s not about the white dress or whatever. I was going to comment on the original post, but I thought a lot of people had already made the point I was going to make, which is that it’s likely that close family members’ feelings will be hurt. That’s what the reader seemed to be asking about. Is that the end-all, be-all? No. Making one’s family members happy is not anyone’s primary responsibility, but whoever plans an elopement should just be aware that that’s the choice they’re making and be okay with it. I think it’s unreasonable to say, “If they love you, they’ll just be happy for you.” Love is more complicated than that. And, I say this knowing lots of folks who eloped whom I love, including my still-married parents (whose wedding was so romantic & low-key: a few friends on a picnic where they had their first date)! But my mom has mentioned that her one regret as she’s gotten older was that it upset her own mom not to be there. I don’t know if she actually would have changed her decision over it, but it’s part of the equation. I mean the “parlour” marriage was still at the bride’s parents house. I agree with C, too, about the different cultural histories. I also share some of the others’ surprise that you interpreted the comments as you did, Meg. There were a couple judgemental ones, but on the whole, I think they were just saying, “Here’s something to consider.” They, for the most part, weren’t saying elopement’s not a valid choice!

  • A-L

    I don’t remember what if I posted on the elopement thread, though I did read it. And I remember it to be a combo of, “You go girl, elope!” as well as, “Elope if that’s the best thing for you but remember that there may be consequences from friends/family.”

    But I think there’s a key sentence in the AARP article that people are overlooking. “They called to tell us, we arranged a flight…” Yes, the parents didn’t get there in time. But they were still invited. My mom’s always said that it was okay if we decided to elope, but that she wanted to come with us so she could witness the ceremony. So if you don’t want the big to-do with the invite lists, and the dresses, and the menus, and everything else that a non-elopement wedding entails, that’s fine. But there’s still a small core of people (most likely your parents) who want to be there see you get married in jeans and a t-shirt, and might be pretty hurt that they weren’t invited even to do that.

    So I guess I’m with the, “Elope if you want to but remember there may be consequences,” crowd. And I also think that military personnel have a greater degree of latitude than regular folk for this. In fact I think a lot of the quickie weddings of our grandmothers were in large part due to war and deployments.

    Anyway, I’ll stop blathering on but just wanted to share my thoughts.

    • A-L

      Oh, FK just posted about the parents being there. And I totally agree with her post.

  • Emily

    I wanted to elope all along, but my husband convinced me that, for us, the wedding should be a celebration of our community as much as it was about us. We wanted our community there to commit to supporting us in our marriage – because let’s face it, we’re not doing this alone! We actually had a part in our ceremony where our family, then our bridal party, and then the whole congregation stood and committed to supporting us. For me, that made it worth all the hullabaloo and the fancy white dress and the flowers and all the things I wanted to rebel against. I am all for elopements if that’s what you want, but I’m glad that my husband convinced me to have a wedding.

    One other thing (really a big wedding vs. small wedding issue) – I can’t even count the number of meltdowns I had, thinking about how our guest list was expanding and we were inviting people I didn’t even KNOW, and how these strangers were going to be witnessing this incredibly personal thing and how I would feel naked, making my vows (and, God forbid, crying) in front of all these people. Do I wish I could have avoided those meltdowns? For sure. But did I take my eyes off of my husband’s face during the whole ceremony? Not really. For all I know, the congregation didn’t arrive until we asked them to stand. So, we invited some people I wouldn’t have considered as part of our “community” – they are now! I accidentally had a big wedding, and I loved it.

  • First the elopement story above made me cry. What a beautiful outpouring of love and support!

    Second, my favorite thing about APW and all the other wedding blogs really is getting to see that different things work for different people. No qualifiers. No judgements. We don’t all have sunny relationships with our families. We don’t all have traditional families. Or traditional weddings. Or we do. But I for one appreciate the reminder that what works for us may not be the case for others. So hooray for elopements! Or for giant traditional weddings. Or for small intimate gatherings. Above all I think you do what works for you as a couple as you create a family of your own!

    • meg

      No. I didn’t make that point writ large in the post, but I think it’s key. When people argue “you owe your family a wedding,” I think maybe what they are saying is “I owe my family a wedding.” There are plenty of families who are owed NOTHING, as upset as that might make them. Manipulative boundary crossing families, for example. In those cases? A postcard from Paris? That’s taking care of yourself.

  • Michelle

    I’ve never commented before but I feel like I should contribute to the elopement conversation.

    My now-husband and I were married in January at the courthouse and none of our family or friends were there, although those closest to us knew that we were getting married that day. We live in Cincinnati and our most important peeps are in Georgia, Alabama, and DC, and in the end it came down to: we knew we wanted to get married, the impetus was to add him to my health insurance (he had been unemployed for almost a year and had started his own business, and COBRA costs were about to rise for him) and plus he was going out of town for work for 6 weeks so it was either do it before he left, or wait several months so that we could do something still small but that would include the people mentioned above. There was no easy answer and in the end we decided to not have anyone there. We’re planning our reception/celebration/”the blessed event,” as my two sisters call it, for September because of other timing issues (my job revolves around one major event each year that happens in June so there was no way it was happening before then, and he is a sportswriter and we had to work around team schedules). The event will take place in Athens, Georgia where we both went to college and we plan to recite the vows we took in January so that our parents (and other family and friends) will have the opportunity to know what we said. I’m wearing a wedding dress (though it will be short, and made by my grandmother) and he’s wearing a suit, and we are technically having attendants although there will be no walking down an aisle or any of that because we’re doing all this in a very cool bar.

    The only regret I have is that we didn’t take more photos the day we were married. We talked about having a photographer with us, and in the end just wound up taking our own camera and asked random people to take our photo. Our family and friends weren’t mad with us, and seemed to really accept our decision. It may help that we’re in our 30s.

    The positives about what we did far outweigh any negatives. We had an awesome day that included a hot dog vendor, doing our registry, lunch at Chick-fil-A (we’re from Georgia, so don’t give us a hard time) and then dinner out that night at a really incredible restaurant.

    We went back and forth on whether to keep the courthouse wedding a secret from everyone and whether to do a “fake” ceremony in September, but we were too happy about being married to keep it quiet. So our save-the-dates became a hybrid announcement/save-the-date and we asked people to come celebrate with us in September.

    I went through a couple of months where I felt like I needed to apologize for the way we were doing things when explaining the situation. Somewhere around April, I finally realized what I had been doing and decided that I didn’t have anything to apologize for and that I should be proud of the way we did things. (We also went for an aquamarine engagement ring instead of a diamond and I found myself apologizing/explaining for that too, but that’s a whole different story). Mostly I just had to take ownership of my decisions and stop feeling like I had done something wrong. I’ve also felt mega-weird when trying to explain that we’re having a reception 8 months after getting married, but it’s what worked for us. People have said “Oh, you got the hard part out of the way!” but that’s nuts. Saying our vows was the easy part… it’s the politics and emotions of planning a party that are the hard part. And when you take the gravity out of the event, it opens you up to really question the choices you make because you don’t have that “it’s your big day/everything changes that day/etc etc” mantra being thrown at you all the time.

    This is an insanely long comment but I guess I needed to get it off my chest. Bottom line, if you’re thinking of eloping, do what’s right for you. There are no rules and there is no black & white right or wrong. All situations are different and it’s up to us to write our own stories.

    • I agree, saying my vows was the easiest thing in the world. Committing to this amazing man who I’m madly in love with, that came naturally. Hearing that we had to invite this person, oh, and this one to the reception, you’re right, the emotions, and especially the politics, made it way harder for me. If we didn’t lived so close to our families, we definitely would have eloped.

    • Aimee

      Michelle-me too, almost exactly! Same unemployment/Cobra fun, wanting to just do it now, and having having a party 8 months after the fact, which will actually be the 4 year anniv of the day we met (and to me will always be “our day”). We ended up going to the court house on New Years Eve after work and having a friend who is photography student take a bunch of pictures. We used one on our announcement/save the date. So now we’ve claimed NYE as “our day” too!

      I have just owned it the whole time though and didn’t apologize to anyone. This is how I wanted to do it, this is what works best for us as a couple, and please come celebrate at a really great party we are throwing for ourselves and our families and friends.

      APW has really helped me stick to my guns and not feel any regrets. Our family has been very supportive and understanding for the most part. We aren’t doing many “wedding” type things at our party. I’m taking the parts of a reception that I like the most (mixing of our worlds/appetizer buffet/full bar/dancing) and skipping the rest, ha! Enjoy your other special day!

    • liz

      we considered this also, for the same reasons. we were going to have a quick, secret (sort of- outside of the family, i guess) courthouse elopement so i could be on his insurance, but still plan a wedding- ceremony and all. my parents and his parents were on board. the only reason we didn’t is in the end we didn’t need to. (he got fired- yay)

  • KristieB

    I’m sitting here at my desk crying my eyes out. That story was the most beautiful thing I’ve read in ages.

  • My husband and I are both very independent people, neither of whom feel any ties to tradition just for traditions sake. We’re both also pretty private people, when it comes to things that are personal and very important to us. We both felt like we wouldn’t be true to ourselves if our marriage ceremony was big, or included people that we didn’t care deeply about. At the same time though, we both love to throw a party, and wanted to include our extended family, and the people who wanted to celebrate with us. We had talked extensively about eloping, but neither of us really wanted to miss the chance to throw a party. But we didn’t want the big production that wouldn’t be about us, or for us, either. We ended up with what turned out to be a beautiful compromise.

    We had the wedding and reception both at a local park. The wedding was down by the lake, on a rocky outcropping overlooking our town, which we both love dearly. The wedding guest list was only thirty people, just our immediate families and closest friends. It was intimate, and lovely, and fit us perfectly.

    After the ceremony we moved to the reception site, where we had invited everyone else to a party celebrating our marriage. No one was offended by this. Everyone had a great time, and was happy to share the day with us in a way that allowed us to be true to ourselves.

  • Maddie

    I think this conversation is fascinating (the selfish vs. selfless wedding). I love that somehow the WIC powers have deemed private ceremonies and elopements with only a few guests (or *gasp* none) in attendance to be selfish but throwing a multi-thousand dollar party in your own freakin’ honor is a generous offering on the part of the bride and groom. F*ck you, WIC. You suck.

    • Maddie

      Sorry. The MTA has made me cranky today. Did I mention that this post was incredibly heartwarming and what I personally feel all weddings should be about?

      • Maddie

        Woah. Way less cranky now (yay for tea and pasta!). Also wanted to say that this comment does not reflect my opinion on what we practical ladies and gents choose to do with our nuptials (Heck, we did both! We eloped and then had a big ol’ wedding a year later). It’s just frustrating that the WIC standards have the power to make us question our integrity as friggin people throughout the planning process. Without actually acting selfishly, the decisions we make can be deemed selfish on principle just because we’ve chosen to do something unexpected. We betray expectations we didn’t even know existed and then we have to suffer the consequences. It’s maddening.

        I want hot chocolate now.

        • meg

          Um. This was totally comment of the day ;) Because it’s such a good point, and I didn’t even THINK of it.

          • meg

            And funny :)

    • Samantha

      Best. Comment. Ever.

  • That story made me all warm and squishy inside in the best possible way.

  • Sarah Beth

    I love this story. Thank you for sharing! I actually teared up a little.
    But I have to say, I hear about a lot of spur of the moment weddings due to imminent deployment. In fact, it’s one of the very few cases where families who expect a wedding aren’t upset. And, of course I can see why. It’s out of the couple’s hands, after all.
    But it irks me that you have to have such monumental reasons, like war or a cancer diagnosis, in order for it to be ok.
    Oddly enough, I got the green light from my family to elope. But my fiance cannot be more against the idea. So we’re planning a wedding. C’est la vie!

  • The only reason my husband and I didn’t elope was because it would have hurt my mom’s feelings. His parents had seen him married the first time and don’t like me anyhow, so I didn’t want them there, but I couldn’t do that to my mom. Still, our wedding was very small – immediate family only.

    My cousin eloped when her husband was going to be deployed and then had a beautiful ceremony when he returned 18 months later that included the entire family and friends. My uncle, who has a ranch in the mountains, drove her to the meadow in a wagon decorated with flowers. There were flowers on a bower. A former priest (who was dating my mother at the time – oh, the stories here) had them renew their vows and then there was a big party at the covered picnic area.

  • kat

    While I completely feel the pros of elopement (something I wanted to do, but never considered a real option), I was raised in such a family that I totally get the family guilt that goes with elopements (Catholic guilt also comes into play here, what fun.). When talking about a cousin who had eloped, my father literally teared up. To some people (and to me sometimes), it does seem that my family makes unfair demands, BUT they’re still my family and I grew up with them as my whole world. If I can bend a little here and they can bend a little there, we can all get along just fine. To me compromise has been worth keeping them in my life (and this is a decision I continually revisit to make sure I’m still comfortable with it).

    I may not have wanted a huge wedding at first (150 guests but few bells & whistles), but as I’ve done the planning, I’ve warmed to the idea. I love my dress, I’m excited about the food (it should be super super good!), and I’m excited about the dancing! We may be having the guests our parents wanted, but my parents have definitely gone great lengths to let me plan it my way.

    It may be a compromise, but that’s life (and family).

  • Amy

    My favorite wedding is an elopement.

    The best wedding I ever attended took place about 12 years ago on my grandpa’s back porch. Two of my grandpa’s acquaintances had lost their spouses within the last five years. They decided they wanted to be married and eloped because their children didn’t approve of them being married again so late in life. (He was 84 and she was 78.)

    They had my grandpa as their preacher, eleven-year-old me as their photographer (with a polaroid camera), and my mother and older brother as their witnesses. The entire ceremony took ten minutes, and we had cake afterwards. I remember them saying that at their age, you don’t make love wait.

    • Wow. That is so sweet. I bet it was beautiful. :)

    • meg

      Sniff. Love. You were probably the best wedding photographer that ever was.

  • “Because not only does it knock the wind out of the sails of the ‘elopement is just selfish’ argument, it also knocks the wind out of the sails of ‘It’s selfish to hold a party after your vows to celebrate with your loved ones, since you didn’t invite them to witness your vows,’ argument. It reminds us what a freaking blessing it is to get to celebrate with people who just got married, whether we were invited or not, whether we knew them or not. And more than all that, it reminds all of us, no matter how big our wedding, what the point of this whole thing really is.”

    Yes! Thank you for this. While not eloping, we’re having an immediate family/close friends-only wedding this Saturday before my sister leaves for 2 years for the Peace Corps. We’re also having a big party in August, but I think some of my extended family is a bit miffed about not being invited this weekend (and also asking the question “How much longer are you free? Arg!). We want to celebrate our happiness with people and hope they’ll be just as excited about it as we are. And, with the exception of a few, I think we will.

  • stop making me cry at work!

  • Alison

    My roomie’s sister is planning her wedding to a man who comes from a Hispanic family. This means her small affair is turning into “You have to invite So-and-so and That Person because you invited Him and Her, and WHAT WILL THEY THINK?” (coming from the groom’s family). For them, a big wedding with an all-out reception is most definitely expected. An elopement? Out of the question.

    The bride-to-be is handling it all beautifully. I hope never to be put in that situation… I’d be going into meltdown mode! I think when it’s my time to start a marriage, it’ll be marked by an elopement with a small party after OR a very small wedding, like immediate family only. I’m not a big party type of person, and those who know and love me would understand why I made that choice.

  • Melissa

    As a future eloper, I cannot believe that people thought it was selfish. I’m marrying one man. He’s the only one who needs to be there. And as a future party after the elopement holder, I can’t believe people thought that was selfish. I don’t think that shelling out thousands of dollars of my hard earned money to celebrate with friends and family members that are supportive and kind in varying degrees is what I would call selfish.

  • Krystel

    That story made me all teary! I personally couldn’t elope although at times I’ve wondered why not when I’m feeling crushed by the planning pressure. I have two dear friends who eloped to Vancouver, Canada. While a heterosexual couple, they wanted to get married where EVERYONE was allowed. Only a few select friends knew. They did it in a park and seriously grabbed some passing people to even be the witnesses! They went on a family vacation to Italy with his side and while there, told everyone what they had done. His family was delighted as they had all given up on the two “making it official.” We had a party for them when they returned. None of us were upset that they were “selfish,” we were just happy to celebrate! I had great fun making them a stacked luggage cake. In fact, 2 other sets of friends eloped as well.

  • mollymouse

    Gew – I may be another whose comment was unintentionally construed as “A party after an elopement is selfish.” I originally commented that a work-friend had a ceremony/reception for close friends & family and then another reception for a larger group a few weeks later. It was presented to us as her Wedding Reception, when in reality it was a party to celebrate their marriage. We felt awkward and uneasy because we expected one type of event (wedding) and attended another (very happy party).
    I meant to highlight the semantics involved in celebrating an elopement with family & friends. Additionally, it’s a different situation because that couple hadn’t actually eloped (they had just had a small wedding). So I don’t think it’s selfish at all to celebrate your marriage if you choose to elope – in fact, I think it’s a great idea!

  • Amaaaaaaaazing. Thank you SO much for that story, Meg. I love the posts that remind us of the reason we do all this. Family and love and support and community (wherever it comes from) and love love love. Such a great post.

    We are all different and however we celebrate our love and our relationships is fabulous. And sometimes, what’s right for us is a very private, very personal moment with two people in love.

  • scal

    I love elopments, there’s just something so romantic to me about running off to get married with just you and your sweetie. It’s awesome. I love me some weddings to-big, small, expensive, budget-I love them all.

    That said, I grew up as a army brat-and have always been a little leery of SOME military elopements. 80% of them were because of deployments and health care etc, but there were also a solid number that were clearly about the fact that military personnel get a significant pay raise if they are married. And so there would be lots of personnel that would get married to 18/19/20 year olds, just to get the pay raise. But honestly, I think that says more about those individuals than the idea of elopement as a whole

    • meg

      It’s so funny. Both my parents are military brats, and they talk about how you couldn’t get married till you achieved a certain rank. You could get dishonorably discharged because it was considered the height of irresponsibility, getting married when you were making that little.

  • WM

    Sorry that this is not about elopements – I think eloping is rad. Do it if that’s what’s right for you.

    This is about the comment about the statement that big weddings are a new thing. I’m being picky. Big weddings may be a new phenomenon in the USA, but that doesn’t mean they are new in general. My family is ethnically Italian and the old tradition in Italy is that a wedding is a party for the entire community. Becasue, you know, Italians like to party. I guess?

    I also remember one time when you made a comment that our mothers and grandmothers would not have had favours at their weddings and probably don’t even know what favours are. In my case as someone of Italian heritage (even though I’m Canadian) this isn’t true. Italians call this the “bomboniere” and it’s not just done for weddings! Every baptism, first communion, confirmation, and wedding that’s done in my family includes bomboniere.

    That said, I really don’t care for favours OR bomboniere or whatever you want to call them! I’d rather spend that money on the food.

    Just thought I’d put that out there since APW is all about different perspectives. :D Picky picky readers, I know! Love and hugs Meg, you’re my fav!

  • A bit late to the comment party and completely new to APW.
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with elopement. The Rock Star and I decided we were going to elope several years ago. On our 10-Years-Together Day, we’re taking my sister and his better-than-a-brother-best-friend as witnesses and traveling several hours down the road to one of our favourite cities where we will find some judge or justice of the peace to marry us. We’ll give them each a digital camera to shoot lots of pictures and we’ll turn one of those images into a postcard to serve as an announcement/come-party-with-us-in-eight-weeks invite to send off when we get back.
    We’re doing the elopement thing for several reasons:
    1. Neither of us can justify any of the expense that goes into a wedding (dress/suit/flowers/rental space/whatever)
    2. Since we’ve been an exclusive item for so long most people have given up on us getting married at all or expect us to one day eventually elope.
    3. My family is HUGE and his family has a whole lot of rifts–those are things we just don’t even want to deal with; by throwing a huge celebratory party we’ll be able to exclude any negative vibes/people we really don’t know despite shared blood.
    4. We’ve been together for so long we have mostly mutual friends–the other day we were listing who we would want to stand with us if we were going through with the big production and three or four names were on both of our lists!
    5. My Most Importants are things I keep private. I don’t tell a lot of people. I don’t make major announcements. And it seems to take away from the personal commitment to exchange my vows in front of so many people, to detract from its meaningfulness.
    6. We (perhaps selfishly) do not want to deal with the stress of planning a wedding. We prefer to live our lives as carefree and cheaply as humanly possible.


  • In Australia eloping is the emerging wedding trend for 2010. In the past 12 months I’ve noticed a huge change – weddings are getting much smaller, weekday weddings and destination/elopements are much more common to the extent that approximately half of the weddings I officiate are weddings for couples eloping from other states, from other countries, or in their own backyard, with the two required witnesses and maybe two to three other people max. And yes, I agree with Marisa-Andrea, the ceremonies are often an intensely spiritual experience for everyone present.

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