Q: My partner and I decided to tie the knot (yay!!), which means we’ve been starting to solidify our ideas about what our wedding should, must, and might include. It might include our lazy dog, it definitely must include a mimosa bar, and we feel it should include only our closest friends, no family. Being the introverts and “odd sheep” in our families, we are seriously considering limiting the guest list of our elopement-esque wedding to our closest friends (ten to fifteen people). While we have lots of love for our families, neither of us is very close to them. Our friends feel more like our family, and we’re more comfortable and more excited about having the witnesses to our dedicated partnership be those closest to us. So, have any of you had a friends-only wedding? If so, how did you deal with negativity from family who were surprised (and hurt) by your “friend-lopement”? Did any of you regret your decision?
A: Dear Ashley,
I promise I’m going to muster some of the solidarity and support you probably were hoping for when you wrote in. But, first, we gotta talk about some things.
You acknowledge that your family might be hurt by the decision to exclude them. And yeah, elopements hurt feelings sometimes. Weddings hurt feelings sometimes. We can’t always make wedding decisions in hopes of never hurting anyone ever. My concern is that, “You chose them over me,” or “You like them better than me,” is a very deep, special sort of hurt. Particularly when it comes to the people who feel they love you most, or are closest to you. I’m worried that “just friends” carries more sting than “private” or “alone.”
I try not to play that mom-card too often, but if I put myself in those shoes in a hypothetical place several years from now, I think I could scrape together some understanding of my son’s elopement. It would be much harder to try to understand why he wouldn’t want me there, but would want someone else.
I’ve mentioned before that a selective guest list can make an unintentional statement. When you’re considering pointedly singling someone out and excluding them, it sends a message. The message I’m concerned you’re sending your parents isn’t that you’re adults, that you’re forming a baby family, that you’re setting boundaries. Instead, I’m afraid this decision would say, “We like these other guys better.” And that isn’t a statement about your relationship with your partner as a pair of grown-ups. It’s a message about your parents that could change your relationship to them for a good long time.
Weigh that a bit. Consider what that sentiment would mean to the folks around you and how it would impact your relationships as you move forward in your marriage. I’ll concede that I don’t know the full dynamic over there, and all I’ve got is an email, so maybe I’m way off.
If you read all I’ve said and still think, “Yep, got it, thanks. Still inviting just friends,” I’ll open it up to our readers for thoughts on how to handle the aftermath. We’ve got some good words about elopements and family over here and here by smart ladies who’ve gone before you. My advice would be to remember that you’re only in control of your own decisions, and in trying to carry those out with great care. How your family chooses to respond isn’t your responsibility, and voicing hurt (within reason) is their right. I’d make an effort to be gracious and compassionate if and when it’s voiced.
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