Q:Days into our engagement I became pretty unhappy with what our dollars could get us for venues and rentals, not to mention that my parents insinuated that choosing to get married where my fiancé and I live instead of five states away where our parents live meant we didn’t care much about them. I couldn’t believe my parents had become the parents who were turning my wedding into something about them, instead of supporting what I wanted for such an important event.
It became too stressful to think about the wedding itself, so I decided to focus on the honeymoon for a while. I grew up traveling all over the world, so the idea of a new adventure was so reassuring and refreshing. The more I looked into flights and points of interest and museum tickets I felt happier about getting to be with the man I love doing something incredible.
It was at this point I realized that’s all I wanted—to go on an adventure, alone with my love, and start our life together doing something amazing. We decided to get married in Iceland, during peak northern lights season, in a country full of waterfalls and volcanoes and glaciers. Early on we realized that the minimal interaction we had already had with our parents over wedding planning was not something we wanted to repeat. So we called them up and let them know we were getting married out of the country and that we wanted to do something we love as the beginning of our marriage. Because I knew it might be hard for them to hear, I reassured them that when we returned we could have a reception near them (we are actually having two receptions on our return—one up north near both sets of parents, and one in the south for our close friends). I let them know they could invite whoever they want and plan the whole thing between both pairs of parents.
Unbelievably, they are more upset than I thought possible. My fiancé’s mother is barely speaking to him and has started posting angry photos on Pinterest about how she’s so hurt and tired of trying anymore (she has never told us directly what that means or that she’s upset about our plans). My parents have told us that they think we should get married with them before we go to Iceland, that they must witness our vows, that it’s vital my dad walk me down the aisle, that they refuse to come to Iceland (they weren’t invited but it’s nice to know they decided not to come).
It’s been hard, especially as when we got engaged my parents pledged financial help (no strings mentioned in that offer), but obviously their responses to our plans mean we haven’t asked them for anything and are paying for everything ourselves. In that regard, it seems even more unfair that we should be punished for what we want when we aren’t asking them for any help or relying on them in any way.
As this has become our decision, it’s been upsetting that I can’t find any posts online of people having similar situations. We are not estranged from our parents; I just FaceTimed my mom yesterday. We are simply uninterested in starting our married life trying to please our parents. Why can’t we do what we want and they be happy for us?
—Mixed up and Mad in Music City
A: Dear MUAMIMC,
Parents are pretty notorious for making our wedding decisions about themselves. They’ve got their own ideas, and sometimes they mistakenly think those should also be yours. But, lady. Whether or not you invite them? That is about them. It’s understandable that they’d have some feelings about it.
You’re allowed to elope, of course. That’s a totally fine, completely valid choice. There are loads of great things about eloping! For one, you can avoid all of those loathed arguments about the location. You get to sidestep all the bickering over details. You can enjoy time with just your partner. But in exchange, you’re gonna face some unhappy parents. That’s the trade you’re signing up for, here.
You get to pick the wedding you want to have, but you don’t get to dictate how other people feel about it. And it sounds like your parents aren’t even handling this poorly! They’re not disowning you or doing anything dramatic. They’re just coping with some completely normal feelings in completely normal ways (P.S. Time to unfollow that Pinterest board for a bit). As parents, we pour a lot of ourselves into our kids. Everything my boys experience impacts me in a profoundly personal way. Their hardships are mine. Their joys are, too. I’m trying to raise independent kids who make their own decisions, but still, I’d hope to be able to at least witness the big, exciting, happy moments after being there for all of the sad, hard, heavy ones.
Try to see things from their perspective, and while you’re at it, to readjust your expectations. Your parents are disappointed, and there’s not much you can do about it. That’ll be easier for you to cope with if you expect it, rather than hoping for them to be overjoyed to miss your wedding (it ain’t happening). Try to be a little less defensive and a little more sympathetic to how they’re feeling. It’ll make it a little easier for all of you to deal with the disappointments you’re facing.
(And psst, guys, really, don’t tell your parents if you’re planning to elope. I mean it. Eloping means telling them the good news after the fact, when all they can do is cry a few tears over missing it and move on.)
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