It’s Friday, and Alyssa has the week off (What? Yes. You get time off as a blogger). So today’s Ask Team Practical is really an Ask Meg, and we’re tackling the debate of whether to have a wedding or elope.
My guy and I have been together for five years and have been through a handful of tough situations and tough conversations, and we’re both moving toward the idea of getting hitched and being married to each other. We’re working together to make our relationship a safe haven—a place where we can grow together and as individuals—something that will last for the long haul. It has been its own strange and awkward and rewarding journey, and I’m looking forward to continuing to grow our relationship and really explore marriage and what that means.
I’ve had a couple of years to think about what our wedding would look and sound and feel like. And after all of my fantasizing about weddings, after reading APW wedding graduate posts, going to weddings as a guest, thinking about money (or the lack thereof), and so on and so forth… I don’t want a wedding. I just want to be married. Is that odd? But my guy wants a wedding. He wants our families and friends to get together and party with us, to rent a cabin in the woods and fish and have bonfires and drink home-brewed beer with people we love. It sounds great, and I’d love to do those things with some friends sometime, but I have no interest in the social politics nor the traditions nor the philosophical implications of A Wedding. We’re not religious, nor traditionalists. We’re broke. Our people are scattered all over the US. I don’t get along very well with much of my family, but my mother would expect that I invite them. I’m shy, and I don’t want something as emotional and intense as my wedding vows to be said in front of a bunch of people, especially if they include random distant cousins that show up and if friends bring their dates-du-jour, you know? The idea of all that planning—the food, the music, the dress—sounds totally overwhelming and not at all like something I want to do. So: do I try to convince him that eloping is the best idea ever, or do I try to make a wedding work? How the heck do I deal with this?
Not Scared To Hitch But No Party Please
Of course the real answer to your question is that there is no answer, other than the one you and your guy come to after lots of conversation. But. Our job is to help you think things through, so let’s break it down into helpful pieces:
What Is A Wedding?
There are a million reasons to get hitched, no matter how you choose to celebrate it (courthouse or forest bash). Here are some of the reasons that I think are the most compelling:
- It is, to paraphrase Wedding Graduate Luis, the only time we get to have so many people we love gathered in one place, until the last party that’s thrown for anyone (and we won’t remember that one).
- It is a time-tested way to combine two families and build a brand new family. Think of it as ritualized fighting. The difficult and painful parts of this life transition are going to happen anyway, so you might as well give everyone a time-tested and well understood way to do it.
- It’s a way to solemnize your relationship in the presence of witnesses (you have to have at least two), or your community.
- It’s a way to mark the passage of time. What is tradition other than a way to say, I was here, I lived, I participated? (For more wise thoughts on tradition, may I direct you to Wedding Graduate and theologian Clare?)
- It’s a way to participate in something bigger than you. And by “bigger than you” I don’t mean “God” so much as I mean “the human race.”
Those are the reasons I find weddings compelling, whether they are comprised of bonfires and home brewed beers in the woods, or simple courthouse ceremonies with two witnesses. The trick is to figure out which of those things are compelling for you, then to build your wedding from there. Which brings us to…
What do you want out of your wedding?
The next thing you need to do (after laying on your back, staring at the stars, and pondering the why of weddings) is talk to your partner. Why does he want a backwoods bash? Why do you want a teeny elopement (please be specific with your answers).
Here is what I’ve got. Neither one of you should allow yourself to be forced into a wedding that doesn’t fit with who you are. Remember Wedding Graduate Nicole, who allowed herself to be pushed into a big wedding when she wanted to elope? She said, “I desperately wanted the courthouse wedding, but was told by many that I would truly regret not having a big party. A part of this many was my husband. If you’re really wanting the courthouse shindig, then do it. Stick to your guns.” She didn’t love her wedding (though she ended up having a blast), and she loved being married. So, perhaps that’s an argument for eloping (if your husband agrees to that).
But then there is Kayce, who said, “If it weren’t for our community we probably would have run off and eloped. I’m glad we didn’t. Our closest friends and family are scattered all around the world. Having them all in one place for a week to celebrate with us was the greatest gift and made all the stress of planning the wedding worth it.” Or Devereaux who said, “My best advice to wedding undergraduates is this: just do it. Don’t put it off because you don’t think you have enough money for a nice wedding, or because you’re intimidated by the planning, or because your family is having a hard time. Just marry the one you love.”
That’s a lot of conflicting advice, yes? So maybe the best advice comes from the long-married Adrianne, who said, “Resolve to be content.” Figure out what your path is, and then make it work for you. Or…
Make it what you need it to be.
Most important of all, remember that there is no rule about what a wedding has to be like. Don’t want to spend a lot of money? Don’t. Don’t want to invite the whole extended family? Tell your mom no. Don’t want people do bring dates you don’t know? Tell them they can’t. Don’t want to be hassled with picking a dress and planning catering? Skip it.
What is the process of getting married really good for? It’s good for making you an adult in the eyes of your community. It’s good at making you step into your own power. It helps you learn to say yes to what matters and no to everything else. It teaches you (wait for it) to say no to your mom. So just like you’ve used the time in your relationship to figure out what you need it to be, use this time of getting hitched to figure out what you need your family to be in the context of the world. Maybe that’s a family that celebrates with a small low-key barbecue. Maybe that’s a family that elopes.
But for goodness sake, if you or your partner wants to gather those you love most around you, don’t give that up over someone else’s idea of the “social politics or the traditions or the philosophical implications” of a wedding. Make it your own. That will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.
What say you Team Practical? For those of you that were ambivalent about a big party, how did you decide what do to?
Photo: Elissa R. Photography
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). We’re not kidding. It brings us joy. What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!?