I want to elope, but my family really wants me to have a ceremony. How can we compromise?

Elopement compromise: I want to elope, but my family really wants me to have a ceremony. How can we compromise?
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Meghan and Ryan photographed by Lauren McGlynn Photography
My fiance and I agree that a traditional, in-front-of-everyone-we-love wedding ceremony is not a necessary piece of our marriage story. It holds no meaning for us, and for me it would be far more anxiety-inducing than romantic. We are both content to throw it out, elope, and host a reception to celebrate our loved ones later.

However, we are both also very close to our families. My family has expressed nothing but support for our desire to elope; my dad even wishes he had thought of it for my parents' wedding. I think they would harbor some disappointment, but they agree whole-heartedly that we should do what makes us most happy.

My fiance's parents do not support the idea of an elopement, and their argument does have merit for me. They argue that our grandparents will want to see us get married; however we choose to hold a ceremony doesn't matter as long as we have one for the old folks to watch. (His parents have also offered to help us financially under the condition that we do, in fact, hold a wedding ceremony.)

I see a lot of posts here that support doing what makes you happy and not letting yourself be bullied into wedding choices that aren't true to who you are. But while I have absolutely no desire to take part as bride in the spectacle of a wedding ceremony (even a tiny one), and while I do believe that our wedding should be about our love and union, and not about making relatives happy, I sympathize with the point my fiance's parents are making.

Do you have any advice for navigating this compromise? – D

This is a classic dilemma that never has an easy answer. Ultimately, you're right that if a traditional ceremony isn't for you, you absolutely should feel no obligation to do it. Time passes, traditions fade, and ceremonies of old just aren't guaranteed anymore, even for grandparents. But it does seem like there's a glimmer of hope that some kind of compromise could be made, especially since you're sympathetic to their feelings.

In this post about how to elope without hurting your loved ones, there are some nuggets of advice that are key:

Be ready for hurt feelings: I knew people would be surprised, but I thought they would just like the excitement of it all and be happy in the end. But I think some people assumed they would be a part of our wedding in some way. Some others also didn't "get" why we did it, and were semi-offended by the offbeat-ness of eloping. So, we're going to work on talking more to these people and making sure they understand that we did what we did because it was right for us. Which it was. So I feel no need to apologize, just reassure.

Have a plan for sharing the news: We were sorta ready for this… We knew we would each call our parents to tell them a "surprise," and as soon as they picked up the phone, we'd send an email with a snapshot of us in our wedding gear. But beyond that, I wish we had thought of a list of all the people we'd call before posting the news on Facebook the next day. There were some people we attempted to call, but couldn't connect with, and I'm sad about that. So I'd recommend creating that list early so you have more time to prep.

Ultimately, both of these tips are for dealing with the aftermath of a surprise elopement, which is not what you're planning. And it's probably safer that way, too.

What are the options?

Option 1: Give in and host a tiny ceremony with your parents and grandparents with a larger reception at your convenience. This would solve one problem but you'd still probably get pressure to invite others and would still be having that traditional ceremony you aren't into.

Option 2: Stick to your guns and elope with only a reception later. You can mitigate the inevitable disappointment with lots of photos, maybe some video coverage, and phone calls right after to celebrate with everyone over the phone. Maybe even a video chat?

Option 3 (the compromise): Head out somewhere to elope — the courthouse, a cliff somewhere, your choice — and live stream the whole thing for your select remote guests to watch. You get to be alone, but your family members can still watch live and almost in-person. This may still feel like a traditional ceremony to you, so I get it if you aren't into it as an option. But maybe your family could even have a little celebration after the ceremony with each other, making it feel more special for them while you're doing your post-elopement fun.

No one can tell you the answer that's best for you, but hopefully one of these solutions will resonate and you'll find the compromise you need. Best of luck!

  1. A friend of mine did this because she's extremely shy. She and her partner went off and got married in another state, and they threw a local reception later. They ended up just doing a small vow ceremony right before their first dance, so that they had time to drink a little and everyone was in a bright and bubbly mood. She didn't feel like it was as much pressure on one perfect day, just a couple minutes in the middle of a party.

    2 agree
  2. #4. Get married privately, and have a ceremony after. This might not work for the writer, but some people might feel less stressed if the 'official' business is out of the way.

    2 agree
    • That is what a really good friend of mine did. They got married at the courthouse, then had a full-blown ceremony and reception a few months later because their families wanted them to have a "proper" wedding.

      I have also been telling some people lately that if I were to get married all over again, I would elope (or have an intimate ceremony planned several months in advance) and maybe have a nice but low-key reception later on.

      1 agrees
  3. My husband and I wanted to elope but I couldn't stand the idea of my mom being super upset for the rest of time, so we brought our immediate families to the courthouse. Since this was in the same city as most of my family we had a reception with our extended family and friends the next day which included a vow renewal. We called it a one-day-iversary dance party.

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