Can I Tell My parents They Can Come to The Wedding, But Not See Us?

We gave up our elopement, so what's their problem?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW


Q: My fiancé and I know exactly what we want our wedding to be. Elopement-esque. We say this because it’s not a full-on elopement—we’re not running off and getting married without telling anyone. We instead have decided on a very small wedding in Tahoe with only immediate family. Seventeen people in total. The only reason we decided on this was so we didn’t upset my side of the family.

My fiancé has been married before and has done the big, $50 a plate dinner wedding. I’ve never been married, and I’m not a fan of a huge wedding. We both just wanted to elope at a courthouse, but my family wouldn’t forgive us for that. We have expressed to both sides of our family that we aren’t having a reception until later on in the New Year and that after the ceremony we would like to spend the day with just the two of us. We also let everyone know that they don’t need to come up the night before and they could just show up to the ceremony. Everyone has now decided that they are coming up the night before and that we should all spend the entire weekend together. My Grandpa is insisting that we all have dinner the night before and that he will pay for it. My parents and my in-laws are insisting we get together for a celebration after the ceremony as well. We have both told them as nice as possible that we would like to spend the day together doing things we haven’t done yet while in Tahoe. Everyone has told us they understand and that it’s fine, but yet they still continue to insist that we do everything together and are trying to plan things to do. This is becoming a big issue for me and my fiancé. My fiancé is starting to feel like his opinion does not matter and that this isn’t going to be the wedding we both want. He is afraid of resenting the entire thing and us both being unhappy with how it went. We don’t know what to do anymore. No one seems to be listening to us or considering what we want. This has turned into what they want to do, not us. Please help!!!


A: Dear Daphinie,

Well, this is why elopements sound like such an awesome idea, isn’t it? Excluding family completely means you get to skip on all their opinions and demands. Involving family means all sorts of wonderful things, sure, but it also means you’re stuck hearing about what they want, and weighing it against what you want. Deciding when to cave and when to stand your ground is basically a constant tension of wedding planning. There’s not always a right or wrong answer. Sometimes it’s a gut thing, or a matter of deciding whether holding fast to what you want is worth whatever levels of stress it’ll involve. Other times, it’s all about trying to decide if your family’s wishes are reasonable.

In this instance, I think they are.

Yeah, you feel like you’re making a huge concession by letting them come to what you’d hoped to keep private. But the whole reason they want to be there is to be with you. You’re asking the folks who love you most to come out, witness a huge, amazing thing happening in your life, and then just leave you alone. That’s pretty tough!

You can certainly put limits on the togetherness time. Maybe you don’t spend the entire weekend with your family; maybe you bow out of Grandpa’s dinner the night before, or escape not too long after the ceremony. But consider giving these loved ones a bit of your time to celebrate with them.


Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Amy March

    I don’t think it’s okay to invite people to travel to see you get married and not host a reception of some sort while they are there, but that doesn’t mean you’re locked into spending the entire weekend with them either.

    I think now they’re pushing everything because a) they’re pushy like that, and b) you’re giving them nothing to focus on. Could you have your ceremony in the morning and host lunch for everyone, and then festively depart for married time?

    I understand you’ve nicely told them what you want, and I’m sure it’s very frustrating, but I don’t think inviting people to come watch you get married but then leave you alone immediately is a particularly nice request, and also doesn’t feel very realistic. People have feelings and expectations about weddings, and while you certainly don’t have to meet all or even most of them, having a reception following the ceremony is a pretty basic one, especially since it sounds like they are all traveling at least some distance to get there.

    • Jess

      Yup. By inviting people, you do kind of owe it to them to spend a little time actually WITH them. Your wedding is not a show that they are all assembling to watch, it’s something you are asking them to participate in – and therefore have to let them participate.

      This seems the sort of situation that a “Punch and Cake Reception” was designed for, no? We get married, we spend some time with the family chatting and letting them tell us all about their happiness for us, then we go do other stuff by ourselves.

      • Juliet

        I came here to say cake and punch! Really, you could knock that out in 45 minutes. Just start the ceremony an hour earlier in the day that you were thinking, have a quick cake and punch reception, do a quick send off, and you’ll still have the same amount of time in the day to explore just the two of you as you were planning. Win-win, right?

        • Kayla

          I think a fun send off would really help. It’ll feel less like the couple is bailing to do their own thing, and more like the family is sending them off into married land.

    • raccooncity

      I don’t know…if people are clear on the invitation that it’s ceremony only, here’s the location, then can’t adults just be adults and decide if they want to go or not? Or at least decide whether it’s worth making it into a personal vacation that happens to feature a ceremony? That’s basically how I decide any destination weddings i get invited to.

      LW’s expectation that people wouldn’t stay overnight seems ridiculous given the travel aspect and the fact that no one owns a city while their wedding’s happening, but I’m sort of team ‘make your decisions about going based on the wedding that exists’

      I know there are cases where you could never say no…i mean, if it was my sister’s wedding, I’d never miss it. But then I would also plan a nice dinner or romantic night for me and spouse. Or a fun family get together with the others who came. Sister isn’t obligated to provide the party.

      • Amy March

        I think you are obligated to provide a party of some sort when you are inviting people to watch you get married. Adults are adults and they can say no, but I don’t think that means any invitation you want is appropriate. Here, she knows they don’t want to say no- it’s already just immediate family who really want to come. It’s not polite to just invite them to watch you get married and refuse to entertain them in any way or spend any time with them.

        I think there are a lot more options for weddings than a $50 a plate country club bash, but the options aren’t infinite. There’s no wedding police who are going to come and hold them hostage until they put out a cake, but there’s also no way to insist that her family not think she’s being rude and hurtful by issuing an invitation to travel to watch a ceremony and that’s it please don’t attempt to see us more than that because we want to be newlywed tourists in Tahoe.

        • raccooncity

          Oh yeah, I totally agree that it’s rude. Super rude. Just like I think that destination weddings where the guests are clearly shouldering the cost of the whole wedding are rude. However, I just think that “do you want your family to think this you are being rude” vs. “do you have to have a reception for them” are questions that are answered separately and depending on the person would be weighted differently.

          Am I confused about why LW draws her line about not wanting to be seen as rude somewhere between the ceremony and the reception? Yes. But whatever, hers to draw.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Oh it’s absurd. I cannot even explain how annoyed I would be if someone did this to me. I’ve had people invite me to visit them and they had no interaction with me while there so I can imagine a wedding would be even worse. She’s having a wedding, small but still a wedding. No one wants to go to Tahoe to look at you get married and not at least have cocktails and appetizers with the couple after. It just isn’t done! Lol

        • laddibugg

          If I could do a country club bash for $50/plate I’d be elated lol.

  • Eenie

    You could always elope the weekend before, and then do the weekend that your families want. No one needs to know.

    It’s hard to imagine what you want your families to do, show up for the ceremony and then just all go home? It sounds like your families have good intentions. The dinner the night before can just be a nice family dinner. And maybe you give them the hour after the ceremony and then take off and let them be happy for you and celebrate without you. They probably won’t like it, but if that’s what’s important to you, just do it!

    • Danielle Antosz

      That is the first thing that came to mind for me too, just do the actual wedding before and don’t tell family. That is what we ended up doing. My folks, his brother, and us at the court house. Six months later, we had an actual “wedding” with extended family. It was awesome, and way less stress.

  • Violet

    It seems there are two main expectations that go into attending a wedding- witnessing and celebrating. We’ve discussed here how some people are more about the witnessing and others are more about the celebrating. Some commenters have said unequivocally that they only want to celebrate, they don’t care about the ceremony aspect as much, and others have been just as firm that it’s witnessing the union that they most care about. Others yet want both. So clearly there are different viewpoints on this.

    I think your compromise so far has shown a willingness to honor your families’ desires to witness the formation of the union. But now they are also expressing that they have a desire to celebrate with you, also. I don’t think that’s so unreasonable, and given you are also holding a reception later on, it seems you value the celebratory aspect, too.

    This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You can have a small celebration with them immediately following the ceremony and still have the bulk of the day just the two of you.

    • Lizzie

      As someone who semi-eloped and then had a reception later, I totally agree with this. People seemed to have no problem celebrating without witnessing, but the other way around usually does not fly.

    • I think you bring up an interesting point about witnessing and celebrating. For me, witnessing a wedding makes me want to celebrate because it’s such a monumental occasion, so I would have a hard time separating the two because they are tied together in how I experience the emotions.

      • Eenie

        Whereas I can celebrate someone without witnessing! But the witnessing part adds its own little bit of awesome to the celebration.

  • Lisa

    I totally get that you want newlywed time and that you feel like you both have already made a major compromise by inviting guests to what you want to be an elopement. In the interest of keeping family peace, would you be willing to consider as a compromise getting married alone the day before everyone arrives so you can have all the alone time and elopement that you want? Or possibly ceding one additional hour of your ceremony day for cake and a champagne toast either immediately following the ceremony or later in the evening?

    I think the rest of the weekend activities are easy enough to beg out of with a simple, “Guys, you know we’d normally love to hang out, but you understand we’re on our honeymoon, right?” With a little bit of a smile, this should hopefully deflect them and make the relatives realize it’s kind of crazy to demand your time following the wedding celebrations.

    • Laura C

      This. I totally get having made a giant compromise and then being expected to fold and fold again, and resenting it. That happened to me a lot (albeit in the context of a totally different wedding). But … if you can get yourselves right with a couple of the asks, but stand firm on having good-sized pieces of what you want, it can be a win-win. And you can make a semi-big deal of it. Sit one or two key members of your family down ahead of time and very seriously explain the compromises you’ve already made and that you’re willing to embrace their requests A and B but not C,D, and E, and that you hope they’ll understand that these are decisions you guys are making for your relationship. And then be gracious about the things you’re giving in on, and open to enjoying them.

      • Liz

        Yes! Like, “I’m ALREADY letting you guys come to the ceremony, you want even MORE?” But I think if LW looks at this second concession as part and parcel of the first, it makes more sense.

  • honeycomehome

    “The only reason we decided on this was so we didn’t upset my side of the family.”

    I think it’s clear that you’re not interested in celebrating with your families, the weekend you get married. If you were, you wouldn’t be resistant to everything they suggest. Inviting them in order to avoid hurt feelings isn’t going to work. They’ll still be hurt that you don’t want to see more of them and you saying, “But we allowed you to travel to the ceremony!” probably isn’t the solution you’re hoping it is. I think Liz is right, but I’d add that this is likely an either/or scenario. Either include them more, or actually elope. The half-way solution isn’t going to satisfy anyone.

    Anyway, my guess is that this wedding already happened (December, before the New Year, right?). What did you decide? How did it go?

    • Daphinie

      The Wedding Was Great My Husband (Jason) and I decided to just go with the flow. We ended up having Dinner with my Grandfather and our family. The Dinner was wonderful! After dinner that night we went to our room for a about a half an hour and then we went back down to the Casinos with everyone and hung out at a wonderful bar and had a great time. There was actually a live band playing that night so we all got to have a few drinks and dance.
      The Wedding day was AMAZING!!! My Twin sister and I went and got ready with my Jason’s side of the family and they made a wonderful breakfast. When it was time for the ceremony we all walked to the venue together. The Ceremony was perfect! not to long and not to short. After the ceremony we all took pictures and everyone was included; which is exactly what I wanted, I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. After the ceremony everyone went there separate ways. My sister and brother in law had a party that they had to go to and my parents hung out around town. Jason’s parents and sister went back to their hotel and did things around town as well. Jason and I went to our room for a little while and then had is 19 year old son and his father meet us at our room. Since my Step-son is only 19 we didn’t want to leave him all by himself, there isn’t much to do in Tahoe if your not 21. Jason and I had planned on going to dinner but then hi dad offered to take us to a very nice restaurant. The restaurant we all wanted to go to ended up being closed for remodeling, so we wandered around looking for other places to eat and ended up at a really nice buffet. The place was perfect! They were serving steak and lobster that night and all sorts of other wonderful dishes. Everything turned out far better than we expected! I think the reason Jason and I put such guidelines up was so that we wouldn’t be disappointed if something didn’t go exactly as we planned. We also got to see other happy couples that got married the same day as well so it was even more special knowing other people were celebrating as well.

  • TeaforTwo

    Could you stick around for toasts after the ceremony (kind of an extension of the ceremony?)

    I don’t think you need to spend MUCH time with family to make them feel like they saw you on your wedding weekend. At bigger weddings, nobody gets much time with the couple. They will, of course, want to spend time together because it’s hard to get 17 family members together in one beautiful place at once. But I don’t actually think the couple need to be there for most of that.

    If it were me, I’d craft a really meaningful ceremony, serve champagne and have toasts, hug everyone, and then head off to go be married, letting all of the guests go out together for a delicious dinner to enjoy each other’s company. It will still be more face time than any family member would get at a 200-person wedding.

    • raccooncity

      “They will, of course, want to spend time together because it’s hard to get 17 family members together in one beautiful place at once. But I don’t actually think the couple need to be there for most of that.”

      Yeah, the part where the family doesn’t come the night before was never going to be successful because hey, vacation with family in senic location. This is super hard to get organized, at least in my family.

      We had a similar situation at my wedding where we weren’t into the idea of all the surrounding events, and our families organized MANY, and asked us to come and we said no. The said they understood, and asked us to come to more. Turns out they understood, but probably didn’t want us to feel excluded. No one was mad when we didn’t make an event. Take people at their word.

  • elle

    I’m semi going through something similar… I’ve been married before and have done the giant wedding, wanted an elopement this time around. My family was on board. Fiance has never been married and wanted something, but nothing huge. His family wanted a big, giant 300 person wedding.
    The compromise is a destination wedding with about 60 people. I really want to spend as much quality time as possible with my fiance but once family and friends are traveling to see you get married, you have an obligation to spend time with them. So, I booked us a room in a quiet B&B on the property while our family and friends are staying in the bigger resort. I’m hoping this will prevent people from showing up at our door all weekend. We’re also getting ready together, in which I’ve carved out an hour or two of “just us” time. We’re also heading down to the island a day before everyone else to give us some time together. I think these are all options LW can look in to.
    It’s tough to always feel like you’re compromising for your wedding but, unfortunately, that is often just the name of the game. As my fiance always tells me when I start to get pouty about everybody wanting to be involved in everything – you’re LUCKY to be surrounded by so many people who love you and want to be a part of your day. It’s important to remember that :)

    • another lady

      “you’re LUCKY to be surrounded by so many people who love you and want to be a part of your day. It’s important to remember that :)” – exactly this!

      • R

        YES. These people will not be around forever. They may not even be around next week. Do you want to potentially regret shutting them out when they just wanted to celebrate you?

        I lost my dad suddenly a couple weeks after my birthday last year. I was very close to not letting any family come over on my birthday because I was just really tired that day and didn’t feel like doing a big thing, but I did it and it turned out to be the last time I ever spent with my dad.

        I’m not trying to encourage worst first thinking or anything but I think it’s important to let the people you love celebrate you to a reasonable degree and recognize how lucky you are to have them around.

        • elle

          I’m so sorry for your loss <3

  • another lady

    This is what I thought I wanted, too. We lived 2 blocks from the county court house and could have ‘got the wedding over with’ at any point in time (and believe me, I suggested that multiple times during planning)! We could have saved tons of $$ and time if we had just gone to the court house and had a small reception after. Or we could have gone to the local resort town and hosted a small party after. But, that is not what hubs or the families wanted. So, we hosted a 150 person wedding with full dinner, bar, the whole 9 yards! We got married a couple of years ago. And, looking back, I do not regret it at all! It turned out to be the wedding that I never knew I wanted. I loved having it!
    My advise to Daphinie: Just go with the flow a little bit more. Pick the couple of events that you want to attend (or are willing to attend with the family for their sake) and then spend a couple extra days in Tahoe as a ‘honeymoon’ with just the two of you. You might need to be very specific with your families about what events you will be going to that are open to everyone – “we are having the wedding ceremony on x day and time. We are having a cake and drinks reception after at x time and place. We are going to the pre-dinner/post brunch that g-pa is hosting. Then, we are staying at an undisclosed hotel for the rest of the weekend for our honey moon. Hope you all enjoy your mini-vacations. We can’t wait to hear about all of the fun you had without us!” Then, move on with your plans and hope that family is appeased by the couple of events and ceremony that you are hosting or will attend. You could even do a ‘fun’ event that other can attend too later in the weekend. Let everyone know that you are going to x place or doing x fun touristy thing on a certain day and time that others are welcome to meet you at and attend (probably pay their own way). Otherwise, tell everyone that you expect to only see them at those events and will be doing your own thing the rest of the time. I think that people can respect that and will know that they will get some specific times with you and be happy with that.

    • Jess

      THANK YOU for this – I have been feeling so many mixed emotions about doing a Wedding rather than a small event, and knowing that it was wonderful for someone else who went through those same things is reassuring.

      • BSM

        If it helps, I also REALLY wanted to full-on elope or, at most, do a courthouse wedding and cake and punch get together afterwards. My now-husband reallyyy wanted to have something that resembled a more traditional wedding (ceremony, reception, dinner, dancing, bar, other people lol), so we ended up taking that format and doing it in a way that felt the most us. This meant 75 people at a cool restaurant in Venice, pre-ceremony cocktails (all parents were SO against this, but we were adamant and it was awesome :)), a very secular ceremony, and a crazy dance party. Honestly, it was amazing, and I’m so, so happy that we did a bigger wedding than my original vision. This isn’t to say that there weren’t MANY times during wedding planning that I wanted to throw in the towel and go to city hall, but I do think most people are pretty flexible in that you can do “wedding” many different ways and enjoy the day.

        • This was us, too– I wanted a small thing, he wanted a big thing. We ended up going big and it was great! It was awesome to get all of both our families in one place for what is likely the only time it’ll ever happen.
          A lot of my desire for small thing was not wanting to *be the bride* with all the cultural roles and expectations associated, and also not wanting to do all that work. (And lord, it was a lot of work.) Early on I made it known to my husband and also all the nosy relatives who asked that it was not *my* wedding and I was not *the bride* but it was *our wedding* and if they asked about the bride they better also ask about the groom.
          We did a co-ed engagement party in lieu of a bridal shower. My husband was an equal partner in planning, DIYing, bugging people about the guest list, etc. If at any point it looked like I was doing all the work, I started redirecting people to him.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I think elopement-Esqe deals are hard. Once you to start to invite people, the elopement factor kind of goes away and what you basically have is a small wedding. So you have to navigate the same as you would a wedding. In this case, people have to travel and it’s not unreasonable for your guests to want to spend some time with you beyond the ceremony since they’re actually traveling for your wedding. This would be true even if you were getting married a courthouse with 5 people. No one wants to just come see you get married and bounce. So… Decide what you want to do. Do you want to elope? If you want the small ceremony, then pick an activity or two to do with your guests. Also that way, they aren’t coming up with stuff for you and if they do, you can say well we will see you at dinner and brunch or whatever and THEY can plan whatever they would like to do with each other.

  • Cassidy

    100% agree with Liz’s advice. Since they are having a reception later, it seems they are not completely opposed to the celebration aspect, they just don’t want to have it tied to the actually union. Is this a case where it may be OK to go ahead and get married exactly the way you want (alone), but also have a simple ceremony as part of the planned reception? It seems that recently about 50% of the couples I know actually were legally married in the weeks/months before their wedding for various logistical reasons (military, destination weddings, etc.). I don’t know to what extent they relayed that information to immediate family (it wasn’t broadcast widely to everyone in attendance), but I don’t think it in any way took away from the exchange of vows that day. I think that ship has sailed in this case, but perhaps for folks in a similar situation…

  • emilyg25

    You’re trying to compromise with your family, which is great, but I think you’ve gotten to a kind of weird middle ground where it’s both too much (for you) and not enough (for them). Either step back and truly elope, or step a bit more forward and have a low-key reception, like a restaurant lunch.

  • Fiona

    My husband and I eloped and then had a wedding a few months later. The elopement allowed us to do everything we wanted to do, and then the wedding was about the family, because a marriage is not just a transition for you – it’s a big transition for your family. While your family members may seem pushy to you, they are coming to terms with allowing this new person into your life. The ceremony and reception are a chance for the to formalize that and to express their good wishes, and also to recognize your new role in the family and your partner’s role.
    It’s good idea to carve out what you would like to be your private time and how you would like that to be (maybe that’s a private ceremony or days after the ceremony), but also make space for your loved ones to celebrate with you.

    • Leah

      This. In my mind, one of the things that defines a marriage, as opposed to an equally-committed long term relationship, is that marriage signifies the joining of families. I see it as a family milestone almost as much as a personal milestone – it’s how families grow and change and continue. If letting your family celebrate this big event means a short cake and punch reception, or dinner (hosted by them) the night before, then honestly why not do that? As everyone has pointed out, there are many ways to also carve out alone-time for the two of you.

    • BSM

      Hehe, I too wore a romper and did tequila shots on my wedding day :)

  • I recently heard about a small family-only wedding where the couple (who were fairly introverted) had the celebration with their guests, then cocktails and cake with everyone. But when it came time for the big dinner afterward, the couple quietly bowed out and had some alone time while the rest of the guests had dinner together. I think it was somewhat awkward for the guests because they didn’t realize they were being abandoned by the couple, but at the same time, it allowed for the guests to hang out and celebrate, as well as for the new couple to have some private time. Maybe with a little more communication it could’ve gone more smoothly.

    Along those lines, could you participate in some of the activities and take some time for yourselves during other activities, while still allowing the guests to celebrate with one another?

  • Alice

    We had a tiny (12 person) wedding where we lived in NC. My parents and a few close friends drove down, had dinner with us the night before and the night of the wedding, and then we left the next morning without seeing anyone again. A week later, we drove up to my parents’ place and did a big party with all the extended family and friends. It was casual, not too expensive, and fun to introduce them all to my new hubby, who many hadn’t met. We didn’t give it much of a wedding-y feel, and my folks usually host a party every summer anyway. If your family is hell-bent on seeing the real deal they may not go for itl but this worked great for us, especially with grandparents not able to make the 12-hour journey, etc.

  • Rachelle

    It may be because my husband and I have lost most of our grandparents in the last few years, but if you’re around the average marrying age, you don’t know how much longer you’ll have with your grandpa and I would strongly suggest that your compromise be letting him host dinner the night before. It doesn’t need to be a “wedding reception,” but just a way to celebrate and enjoy time together as a family. Clearly it means a lot to him because he is willing to pay for it and having a meal with him doesn’t seem like that much to ask. Let the family have that, do a quick toast after the ceremony and then take the rest of the day to yourselves.

    • another thought

      This could be considered a ‘rehearsal dinner’ that the family hosts for other family members and wedding party people that are there early. no harm, no foul, just show up!

    • eating words

      Yes to this. My family had a dinner the night before the wedding (not a rehearsal, and the parents who hosted invited their own friends), but it ended up being SUCH a lovely time full of love, and completely without stress or pressure — it’s actually really nice to have some time with people who love you before the wedding day, which is by nature just going to be more stressful regardless of how it’s structured.

  • ruth

    Just a suggestion – this is a part of a traditional jewish wedding, but I think it’s a fantastic idea no matter what faith, or no-faith, you are: after the ceremony, the couple goes to a private room to spend some time alone together, while the guests start cocktail hour or whatever out in the banquet hall. I am not Jewish, but we did this – and it was just what we needed. My husband and I love our families, but we are introverts, and our families are big and loud! Not having them at the wedding would have been unthinkable to us – but being able to escape, even for just a half hour, and just hold each other and digest this momentous experience we’d just had, before we headed out into the party was just what we needed – and made the reception with our folks afterwards much more enjoyable. Just an idea?

    • another thought

      This is also often done with pictures and photographers. If you are having one, you could have just yourselves and the photographer step away for half an hour to ‘take pictures’ / re-group yourselves / spend some time ‘alone’.

      • jspe

        it can happen either way, but the Jewish tradition is sans photographer – it’s really just for the two of you. My partner and I found it SO helpful, and I think it is totally a tradition to borrow without any concern for appropriation. We also had time with the photog, but that felt so different, even though we were comfortable with her. we needed to be our shlumped over just staring at each other selves.

        • We did this but I actually wish we hadn’t. I’d seen a lot of things talking about how great it was and didn’t ever see anyone express the opposite. So I want to be that person…
          I don’t think either of us needed the breather that much and would have rather just moved on to mingling with guests. Between the 10 mins we took for ourselves and the 15 mins with the photographer and the few mins to figure out my dress bustle, we missed cocktail hour.
          Not that it’s a bad choice, it’s just not for everyone– consider what your priorities are for presence at your wedding and go from there.

  • Mrrpaderp

    Don’t let your family spend their time and money for the privilege of being excluded from celebrating your wedding. And yes, tolerating their presence during the ceremony and refusing to otherwise spend time with them is excluding them. If you don’t want them there, then tell them and weather the pushback. I guarantee, though, that setting their expectation that they will be included in the celebration, and then deliberately excluding them after they’ve made the effort to travel to you, will harm your relationships worse than eloping would have,

  • laddibugg

    Most of the time, when you invite people to view something, there is the expectation that there will be some sort of celebration after. I mean, even after a funeral many people have some sort of gathering, and that’s not usually a joyus occasion. When I was a little kid and invited family and friends to my recitals, my mom always opened the house after for cookies and punch as a ‘thank you for coming’ sort of thing.
    I just think it’s rude and also somewhat self centered to invite people to your ‘show’ and not at the very least give them a bit of your time after.
    Ask GPa if you can choose the place, and make it low key. The after wedding celebration doesn’t have to be splashy…it can people simple too.

  • Helen

    A very traditional timeline is to have the ceremony first thing in the morning, followed by breakfast. A few croissants, some champagne and hugs, then you’ve the rest of the day to yourselves, just like you planned. Added bonus: morning light. Just a thought.

    • Lizzie

      That sounds lovely. And having the day to yourselves could recharge you for a small dinner or gathering that night or the next day, if the family so demands.

    • Kayla

      As a bonus, an early-morning ceremony is the perfect excuse to not let dinner the night before linger.

      “Sorry, grandpa, I’d love to stay for coffee, but we really need to get some rest before the big day! See you tomorrow!”

  • Lindsay

    it sounds like you’re trying to have it both ways. my husband and i wanted a sort-of-elopement. we flew cross-country to get married in san francisco’s city hall with only my sister and my husband’s best friend as witnesses. we spent the following week in SF with some time spent with them and some time spent just-us, and it was great. but! we had to piss some people off in the process. my mom was very upset to not be included, even though i explained that due to the nature of my family, including her would mean including 20 other people. so if you want a private ceremony, you have to be willing to upset some people. for me, it was totally worth it. but you can’t have a private wedding day AND appease your family.

    • Lizzie

      That last sentence: TRUTH.

      Sad-trombone truth, but truth nonetheless.

  • I had to chuckle at this part “Deciding when to cave and when to stand
    your ground is basically a constant tension of wedding planning.”
    Because, while true, that’s also kind of the constant tension of life. We just went through all this on the holiday open thread. As long as you are going to be part of a family/community/anything
    other than a loner-hermit, you are at times going to encounter these
    conflicts. So rather than think of this as “it’s our one special wedding event and its getting ruined” think of it as the first of many times that your wants/needs/expectations and those of your partner and those of your family are all somewhat at odds. This isn’t a once in a lifetime problem, its the first of a lifetime of similar problems. Not exactly comforting, I know.

    • Amy March

      Learning to balance what you want and what you can reasonably expect the people in your life to do is such a project!

  • macrain

    “The only reason we decided on this was so we didn’t upset my side of the family.” When I read that I thought- go ahead and elope. I don’t think it’s a good idea to base the kind of wedding you have on what will not upset your family. It should be based on what you want as a couple. Of course you have to take your family’s wishes into consideration, but saying that’s the ONLY reason you’re doing this semi-elopement gives me pause. If this decision had nothing to do with what you want, then of course the wedding is now about your family’s wishes, not yours.

    Unless travel arrangements have already been made (in which case, it would be bad form to change plans), I think this couple should have the elopement they obviously want.

  • Lizzie

    Semi-elopement: been there, done that. Awkward as hell, but everyone forgave us.

    My takeaway? Do what you want, even if it upsets people at the time. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

  • Hkay

    It is not clear from the letter where are the family’s requests coming from? Is it “this is the way it was always done and so you must follow the rules” or is it “We’re so happy and excited about you guys getting married so much that our excitement and happiness is spilling over your private space”.

    If it is the earlier, then elope.
    If it is the latter, why not address that directly and give them a viable alternative to share their joy?
    A “Wedding” means different things to different people, it might mean “celebrating with the ones you love, or with your ‘village’ so to speak” to your family. What if they share their joy by inviting you to a big dinner the weekend afterwards. This way they have an outlet for their “celebratory” needs and you have your quite small wedding.

    As a sidenote, like another commenter said, you don’t know how long people are there with you. You are really lucky you have family that are still with you and want to celebrate. I missed more than anything my mother and my grandmother at my own wedding (both had already passed away). Try to keep a long term perspective, a (hopefully very) long time down the road, when people have passed away, you might look at your wedding pictures and be very happy that they were there.

  • jhs

    While I totally understand the concession of allowing them to witness the ceremony, it sounds like Tahoe is a destination for everyone, so it’s a lot to ask for family to fly somewhere and stay in a hotel to witness a quick ceremony and then not talk to you for the rest of the time they’re there.

    Compromise is hard, but try to agree on one aspect of what they’re asking. Maybe go to dinner with the whole fam the night before, with the agreement that as soon as the ceremony is over, you guys are off hiking by yourselves. Or maybe there’s a way for you to organize an afternoon activity just for them, so they won’t be waiting around for you while you celebrate alone.

  • Kara Davies

    Time to cowgirl up and start using every toddlers favorite word: “No.” Politely, and firmly, “No.”

  • vsviivso isovusvos

    Honestly, I think most of the people who refuse to identify as feminist probably *don’t* really believe that men and women are or should be equal in every political, social, and economic way.

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