People Will React in One of These Ways After You Elope

bride standing in a patch of trees
After my Wedding Graduate elopement post went up, a lot of people were curious about how our families reacted to our elopement, and Meg requested I submit a reaction piece, so here it is, almost a year later (oops!).

Richie and I were extremely fortunate to experience all positive reactions from our family and friends. That said, it seemed that while everyone was thrilled with the news, every person fell into one of four categories:

  • The Relieved Ones
  • The Forgotten Ones
  • The Confused Ones
  • The Gloaters

The Relieved Ones were mostly my family and close friends in California that wanted so badly to come to our wedding but had no idea how they were going to afford to take the time off from work and pay for a trip to Pennsylvania. They were also the people who were relieved for us after witnessing all of the speed bumps and roadblocks we faced while planning. They were my friends who got phone calls from me when I was crying—again—because something else went wrong; they were our newlywed and engaged friends who would always thank us for putting their wedding planning dilemmas into perspective (glad we could help, guys); it was my mom who wanted so badly to help pay for everything but was struggling to stay afloat after being laid off.

The Forgotten Ones were the people like my brother, who just really wanted to experience the whole sibling-getting-married thing, complete with a bachelor party for Richie, a classy new suit and tie, and a well-rehearsed toast that people would talk about for days. My brother’s reaction to our elopement was really important to me because I had chosen him as my best man, and I truly wanted him to understand and accept our decision. When my parents threw us a belated wedding reception in December, he made that well-rehearsed toast (which was awesome), and I knew that he did, in fact, get it.

The Confused Ones category includes the people that gave me sideways glances for months, expecting to see a baby bump (“Why else would they elope?”). I had the opportunity to have a dream wedding at one of the most beautiful venues in the region on someone else’s dollar, and turned it down. The Confused Ones just couldn’t figure it out because they didn’t realize that this “dream” started to feel more like a nightmare to me. Other Confused Ones were my friends that knew I had wedding planning magazines under my bed in high school and couldn’t understand how I could ditch all of my plans and get married with just the basics instead.

The Gloaters were the ones that said, “You two really didn’t have the time/money/energy to spend on this.” Or, “I knew you weren’t experienced enough to plan an event this big.” Their reactions were less about our union and more about things that weren’t any of their business. They were the hardest to swallow because while they were happy Richie and I got married, they brought to the surface what they really thought about our ideas, our capabilities, and, well, us. Richie’s mom and I got into more than a few arguments during the planning process, and it often came down to the fact that she had planned two weddings and a Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and she didn’t think I could handle it. Richie would try to defend me by touting my event planning experience, but I would always emphasize that it wasn’t a competition.

Right when I realized that part of the reason I was clinging to planning a big wedding was to prove myself to her was right when I started thinking seriously about eloping. Sure, I would still love to plan an event the size of our would-be wedding, but I also know that there are certain people who seek out flaws for sport. (Example: about a month before we eloped, Richie’s parents went to their niece’s wedding. The favors were giant, chocolate-covered pretzels, and I heard about how lame they were for weeks. I argued that the fact they got favors was impressive, and that guests usually appreciate edible favors more than trinkets, but it didn’t matter. My mother-in-law wanted to complain about something, so she found something to complain about.)

Some members of our family were concerned that eloping would mean missing out on a lot of wedding presents, and they were probably right. But Richie and I don’t share the same “fundraising” mindset that a lot of people have about weddings. They threw us a reception in October that I had absolutely nothing to do with the planning of, and it was a huge relief. I never would have chosen the invitations, venue, cake, or other details, but it didn’t matter. By then, it wasn’t our party; it was their party, and I was fine with that. And I will be the first to admit that I am extremely grateful for the gifts received as a result of that reception.

My mom was worried that after six months, one year, five years, I was going to regret the decision not to have the big, weekend-long extravaganza I had been dreaming about my whole life. Of course I couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t feel like something was missing after a while, but how can I feel like something is missing when the end result—the most important part of the extravaganza—is the same? Richie and I are married now, and that was the whole point. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about missing out on celebrating with my California folks because the party my parents threw for us in December was one the best I’ve ever been to, with free-flowing margaritas and a packed dance floor. I wasn’t feeling as wedding-exhausted and dejected as I had been prior to eloping, so I helped with the planning and even did a couple of those DIY wedding projects, like centerpieces/favors and a dessert bar, that I had been looking forward to in the original planning process.

We were fortunate enough to experience all positive reactions from our loved ones, no matter what category they fell into, and we were well aware that that’s not always the case. A few very important people surprised us; we thought they would be bitter indefinitely, but even with those expectations, we knew we were doing the right thing for us and that we’d deal with it together. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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