How to tell family you’re eloping

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Just as many men and women may have visions of what their wedding will be like, parents, family members and friends also may envision others’ weddings. Parents who have their hearts set on seeing their little girl in a white, princess gown or their boy beginning to start his own family could be disappointed at the prospect of not attending a big wedding. The opinions of well-meaning people could make it difficult for a couple to announce they prefer to elope instead of having a lavish affair.

Modern-day weddings have become costly spectacles, with couples spending in upwards of $30,000 for the average fete. Oftentimes, the wedding is as much about the fanfare as it is about the ceremony between two people pledging their love and fidelity to each other. Also, in some families the wedding can be about impressing others or a “keeping up with the Joneses” type of event. This can make a wedding seem less enticing for a couple who wants to keep it simple.

Although statistics on the number of elopements that take place are about as elusive as the perfect gown, a good number of couples choose to ditch the stress of wedding planning in lieu of a quiet ceremony somewhere beyond the lights, cameras and eager eyes of guests.

The cost of weddings is also a large factor in the choice for elopement. Martha Stewart has even been quoted as saying, “Instead of paying runaway prices, people are running away.”

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While the prospect of saying their vows atop a picturesque hillside in the middle of the Alps may appeal to some low-key couples, most realize that sharing the news of eloping with their family and friends is not nearly as appealing. In some cultures, the wedding is meant to be a public event. For other families, parents and siblings may almost feel robbed about not getting to share in an event as momentous as a wedding, especially if the couple has already been a part of other family members’ events. Telling people of the elopement decision could require some finesse.

Experts advise that family and friends should be told of the elopement idea — before it takes place. Although the conversation could be awkward, it will be much less of a blow than sitting down with everyone and saying, “Surprise, we ran off and got hitched!”

Discussing the idea with everyone and telling them the reasons why eloping seems appealing will start a dialogue. This enables friends and family to share their opinions and feel part of the decision-making process. If the reasons for elopement are over areas of conflict, such as what to do with blended families after a divorce, this might prove an easy and convincing defense of eloping.

Some couples may find that their relatives are supportive of the idea. After all, the money spent on the average wedding can be put to other uses, including using it as a down payment on a home or student loan payments. Many will feel comfortable with the idea if there is some way to celebrate, such as a small dinner afterward.

Couples know it’s hard to please everyone, and few will likely be pleased if a couple elopes. There will be some people who feel insulted not to be invited to the wedding. However, one has to hold fast to the hope that if these people really love the couple they will eventually dismiss any ill feelings after a couple elopes. Couples who want to spare feelings may have a small ceremony at the courthouse and then elope and do it all over for just each other.

Ultimately, a marriage is about finding compromises and what works for you as a couple. The choice to elope may set the tone for many other compromises to come as the years go by.

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