How do I give up what I’d always expected my wedding to be?

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'Grand' entrance.I always expected to have a big wedding in my hometown, complete with second cousins and friends from high school. Basically, this can't happen if my partner's family is to attend, because they can't travel due to their health. So even though, in a vacuum, I'd love to have my big hometown wedding, it's just not feasible with my partner's life. She wants a family-only wedding or an elopement.

Now, I'm leaning more and more towards eloping, because if I can't have that giant wedding I want, why not elope and then have a giant party afterwards?

But how do I get over that lost wedding? Before I came out, I always dreamed I'd marry a dude — so clearly my dreams are not set in stone. It's more of an abstraction anyway. How do I make sure I'm 100% emotionally on-board and not going to feel resentful later on? -A.

For starters, you can spend some time browsing our elopement archive — you'll find tons of gorgeous elopements that might help you get excited for the prospect of your own. Then read this post: Reconciling my wedding expectations with my likely wedding realities. Releasing expectations is an ongoing process… you've already released one vision (that you'll marry a dude), and now you've got an opportunity to release another (that you'll have a big hometown wedding), and then you'll have an opportunity to release many more (starting with the fact that your elopement will be anywhere near perfect — because weddings are never perfect).

Now we'd love to hear from the Offbeat Bride community: how are you making your peace with the wedding you're having vs. the wedding you imagined?

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Comments on How do I give up what I’d always expected my wedding to be?

  1. I try to remember that it isn’t MY day. How does a person create the dream fantasy wedding when including another, different dream fantasy wedding? My life will ‘forever’ be tied to another person and their opinion is just as valid as mine. I see it as one of the first challenges, after scrutinizing over linens, guest list, cake flavors, if we come up with something that looks remotely like a wedding- I’ll call it a WIN. But honestly, I’m surprised with how into this my partner is. I’m surprised at how into this I am.

  2. I had similar issues, but my husband convinced me that we’d regret an elopement (even with reception later) and to do what we can as we can always do vow renewals later.

    While this was similar in my books to eloping and reception later, we went for it. So many people got to attend who were so happy for us, people who would not have been part of an elopement. Their enthusiasm and excitement overwrote any feelings I’d had about ‘missed this, missed that’.

  3. I am in a somewhat similar situation. I have always imagined having a big wedding with lots of family and friends, a catered reception in a gorgeous wedding appropriate location with centerpieces and a big, white gown. Instead I’m getting parents and 2 friends for each of us, a “preception” at a nice Italian restaurant with no centerpieces and a small, dark coral dress. This choice was made due to life (we are getting married a year sooner than we always planned on and don’t have the money to do EVERYTHING we would have wanted) and because at the end of the day we are really shy people so the whole big wedding thing would have been a bit nerve wracking. This is a little more us than the dream wedding in my head.

    Though I am happy about our choices I still feel a tinge of regret at the wedding we could have had. If I let myself mourn it, I think of myself in the big dress with a huge bouquet and all the people that could have shared in our day. But then I think about what’s really important. For us, a big party is not the most important part of the day– it’s that we are getting married.

    And I try to remember that like most things in life, something that seems really important or special right now, in 10-20 years and beyond when you look back will just shrug and say “yup, it was a nice day.”

    It also helps to try to have fun with your elopement– have fun with your outfits, do something special, get creative and make it your own. We are very lightly drawing inspiration from a vintage aesthetic for ours!

  4. Could you have an elopement, and then a big reception-style bash in your hometown and also in your partner’s hometown? That way you get the private moment with your partner to say your vows, the big party with all your loved ones that you want, and whatever feels like the best way to celebrate with your partner’s family. That way everyone wins! And you can wear your wedding-day outfit multiple times, if you so desire.

    • This is actually how my partner and I will probably end up doing it. He’s based in WA while both our families are scattered across Northern and Southern CA.

  5. I’m still trying to get over The Wedding I Had vs. The Wedding I Always Imagined, especially after this weekend, when we attended a wedding that was The Wedding I Always Imagined. In truth, the day is done, we had a blast, and I got married. Focusing on the future with my wonderful husband is more important than being sad!panda over the decisions that we made together for our wedding.

  6. I couldn’t. My husband and I eloped back in 2010. He’s in the Air Force and three days after we got engaged we got short notice orders for him to move to another country. We had less than a month to make the move. So a week later he went to work for eight hours and then we went to a court house. We’re currently planning our “get weddinged” ceremony for 2014.

    It’s not so much about having the WIC big wedding, but I never imagined getting married with no one I’d known more than nine months being there. I want to be able to celebrate with our friends and family, so on our fourth wedding anniversary, we’ll be doing just that.

  7. I so needed this today- thank you! My younger cousin just booked the dream venue we could not afford for her wedding. I’m working on letting go of my jealousy (and obsession over how she can afford it with only one partner working, and a child, while we could not as two childless professionals!) as my own, much smaller and less expensive wedding approaches.

    Releasing expectations is an uphill battle but I’m trying to just understand that everyone’s priorities are different. Ultimately, we prioritized not starting our marriage with wedding debt over having the big wedding at the fancy place. Our 40 person, tiny wedding will be perfect for us at this stage in our lives. I recall another post about how weddings are time capsules and I know we will look back fondly on the small wedding we were able to afford as we started our careers and our lives together.

    • Hi Anne, I see your post is from 2 years ago and if you care to share Im wondering if in the end you wound up happy with your decision. I ask because I am still having trouble 3 months after feeling happy about the wedding I had. I did realize there would be concessions and was okay with many because we as adults had no desire to have zero savings to start our lives. But at the very end after a few financial nightmares it was all changed so much it was no longer even close to what I wanted and out of my comfort zone. I played along the whole night for the sake of the guests hopefully enjoying but I wasnt comfortable. Worse now is a good friend is planning her wedding. Shes the happy fancy free type and said none of weddding planning should get to me. Then she started hers and wrote to me ‘now I get it’. As she has shared details a lot of what I wanted she will be doing and we will be attending. Im afraid it will just make me sad and making comparisons. (Though Im supportive as she can afford it so I wont tell her how I feel.) How does one reach a point of being content with what we had afterward?

  8. You’ve already got lots of great advice on letting go of expectations… I’m wondering, though, if you have to assume “elopement” or “big party” (or elopement + big after party) as your only options. How might it feel to compromise a bit – somewhere between your visions and your partner’s visions – by having a small wedding of say 50-60 guests in the town where your partner’s parents live? I think one of the most valuable lessons of wedding planning is learning how to discuss major decisions and find good compromises (of course your compromise may look really different than the one I just suggested)

    • Thanks! Actually, Partner would only want immediate family there–she’s not one for crowds, really, so it’s be about 25 people total. Which isn’t ACTUALLY that small, but it feels tiny in comparison. Plus like, if we have the small wedding and spend a ton of money on it (not that we’re big spenders, but if it’s a wedding and we have to plan it and all) why not just elope and then celebrate later?

      The eloping/party is the compromise, at least so far. I wouldn’t want to push her too hard–she never really planned on getting married at all, so the idea of a wedding just isn’t “her.” And let’s be real–I’m way more excited about the marriage than the wedding.

  9. I also struggled with this right up until I found out we couldn’t get married in the church. I had always planned on a big church wedding with the princess dress and the long train with bridesmaids, jr bridesmaids, flowergirl…the whole nine. When the priest told us we couldn’t get married in the church without jumping through some hoops, i was surprised at how much I was okay with that. I realized that it didn’t matter where we got married, as long as we were together, that was what mattered. As the date approaches (45 days!), I’m working on understanding that the vows and our love is the important part and the rest is just “fluff”. I know it’s hard to give up what you always dreamed of having, but after it’s all said and done, the real “dream” is to be with the one you love and knowing you’ll always have each other.

  10. If you find that you’re heart’s really set on having a big hometown wedding, you could always have a small family ceremony in your partner’s area, and then a giant reception in your hometown. My suburban friend married into a traditional Indian family and they had two weddings to honor both of their sides and it was a beautiful compromise to start their lives together.

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