I can honestly say that I have never dreamed of having a big, traditional wedding (even though I'm the only daughter in my family). In fact, my parents and three brothers all listened to me joke for years about "eloping to Italy" after I first visited what was then and still is my favorite country. But what if I actually did it? Would my family approve?
I never gave it much thought until my boyfriend told me how upset one of his good friends was when his younger brother went to City Hall here in New York City and secretly tied the knot with his girlfriend before jetting off on what his family thought was a vacation, but what was actually a honeymoon. He couldn't believe that his brother hadn't included him—or his parents and other siblings—in such an important step in his life. Worse still, his brother broke the news to him via a long-distance phone call. (Speaking of which, I have another friend whose father told her he'd remarried with a toss-away line in an e-mail! Needless to say, she was speechless—and not in a good way.)
This made me think. Who is a wedding for anyway: the couple or their families? Obviously, for lovebirds who opt to elope, it's all about them—whether they're intoxicated by love (or liquor), a secret, just-the-two-of-you ceremony makes the moment something you alone shared. To certain people, myself included, that's a lovely and romantic notion. Then again, I also wonder if I'd regret not having my family there to hear me profess my love and help celebrate my happiness long into the night. But since I feel no immediate pang to say "I do" anytime soon, I guess I'll just cross that bridge—perhaps in super-romantic Venice—if or when the time ever comes. —Donna Heiderstadt, travel editor, Modern Bride