How to elope and manage family expectations of a big wedding? This is one of the most common struggles we hear from couples!
While we believe that your family is the best of intentions for you, we also believe that the decision for your wedding day is entirely up to you and no one else (yes – even if they are helping to pay for your wedding!).
Why would we say this? The first book of the Bible – Genesis – clearly describes how a man and woman leave their parents in order to join together as a new creation. We believe that the first step of that new creation is deciding how, where, when and under what circumstances you commit yourselves to each other as you exchange vows. We believe that decision is yours alone.
However, we also balance that fact with how the next book of the Bible – Exodus – gives us this instruction:
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
There is nothing like family. The people who have always been there for you – always will. They have the best in mind for you, and we believe once you open their eyes to why you want to elope – they will be your strongest supporters.
Ways to Elope and Honor your Family
Address the myths of eloping
Eloping is no longer what it used to be – when a couple would “run away” from a family situation. Getting married despite the wishes of one (or both) families, this created conflict from the start and holds a stigma with many from that era.
Explain to your family that this is very, very different. Instead of running away from something, you are running towards an experience that you both know is the best fit for you.
These myths still hold strong amongst those in our parent’s generation, so start slowly. Explain that – while it’s true that there are still “let’s run to Vegas” style elopements where people literally run off without much thought and get married – what you have in mind is the exact opposite. Here are some tips to help you start the conversation in a way that is non-threatening:
- Ask your parents what they most enjoyed about their wedding day. Chances are, you’ll find many parallels between what they experienced and what you want in your day.
- Explain how weddings today are far different; they have become industrialized & “one size fits all.”
- Talk about how this industrialized wedding machine has created an expectation of couples throwing a party for the guests, instead of the guests celebrating the couple.
- Speak from your heart about what you’re looking for in your day. Your personality may have you wanting to avoid being the center of attention, or you feel like weddings today place a lot of demands on the couple. Instead, you may want an experience more intimate and without all the pressure.
- Talk about how important your relationship is with them and your family, and that while you love and respect all of them – wouldn’t they agree that your wedding should be about you as a couple? Shouldn’t it be the one day you can call your own?
Communicate Shared Interests over Expectations
Once you’ve had this opening conversation, you’ll most likely find things you share between your “why” for your wedding day and their perspective. You may find that your family is attached to the tradition of a big wedding day symbolizing the start of your new lives together. Communicate how you see that symbolism in your elopement day instead, and the ways you feel it makes the right statement for you as a couple.
It may come down to some of the most simple things about your wedding day that your family is attached to – that you might not have thought of. A mother or father wanting to see you in your wedding dress for the first time, or being able to “give you away.” Maybe all they wanted is to be there when you say “I do.”
Whether over symbols or traditions, find that common ground beyond the fixed positions. That’s where you can make progress to show that you share more that you realize.
Include, don’t Exclude
A common fear of family members (related to the old stigma of the word “elope”) is that they would be completely excluded from your celebration. Make it clear that you want them included!
Take your conversation about what you share to talk about how your elopement day might look like. There are always opportunities to include your family members. Here are some examples to think about:
- If you are deeply attached to a wedding day for just the two of you, talk about ways to include your loved ones – even from a distance. We’ve seen situations where the “mothers” have collaborated on bouquets, picnic baskets, and all sorts of details as their way of contributing and caring for their son and daughter. You might want to Zoom with your family the morning of, or if possible, Zoom your ceremony for your loved ones.
- If you are open to having your family along at your elopement, talk about what that may look like. We’ve seen a broad spectrum of where parents and family members are there for the whole day, to where they are present just for the ceremony (the latter works especially well if you have a hike planned just for the two of you). There are so many ways to find the right balance – we have LOTS of experience here and would love to help you!
While elopements can take the form of a couple sharing their vows in solitude, they most certainly can include the guests you hold closest to your heart. Whether you call it an intimate wedding or elopement, the purpose is the same – to be intentional about what you do and who you invite on your day.
Describe how you want them involved and show them how. Place their hearts at ease, knowing that you deeply care for them.
Share your Heart – and your Situation
Above all, share your feelings about why eloping is so important to you. Why you are drawn to a small, intimate setting vs. the typical wedding that society expects of you. Being honest about your motives – and what you know will make you happy – is the best way to help your family understand.
At the end of the day this decision is up to you and no one else. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your family out of the process. If you find yourself “stuck” – we’re here to help. We want you to have the best, most epic & personal day ever!
Looking for ideas on how to plan your elopement and include your family? Check out our blog post Eloping with Family – How to Include your Loved Ones in your Intimate Wedding