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While they may come to understand your decision, it's unlikely your parents want you to elope. "Just like you, they've held some vision of your wedding day over the years," explains John Duffy, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent. "At the very least, they envisioned being in attendance." Breaking the news, therefore, that you're headed for Las Vegas or a courthouse to exchange your vows can be heartbreaking for your parents.
"Some parents I have worked with took this decision very personally, whether this was the intention of the couple or not," Duffy warns. "Some parents have expressed that they feel as if their eloping child is dismissive of them, or perhaps resentful toward them about something in the past." So avoid hurt feelings over what are likely good intentions by setting up an in-person talk to tackle the issue. "The best method for delivering this news starts with empathy," says Duffy. "Put yourself in your parents shoes. Honestly, how would you expect to feel under identical circumstances?"
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Consider sticking to a script that presents the good news first. Think: "'I love the two of you and want you to be a part of my marriage,'" suggests Duffy, who adds that it's a good idea to be upfront that this decision is about your preference as a couple and not about your parents. "Then, I think it's appropriate to present the news, directly and clearly, followed by the 'why's' of the decision itself. This method is both respectful and empathic, and cuts out any potential misunderstanding, without making the situation an unwanted compromise or negotiation."
Finally, be prepared that your parents may need time to soak in your announcement. "Everybody is entitled to their point of view and their feelings," Duffy says. "So I would encourage you to acknowledge your parents' feelings and point of view, first and foremost, very clearly. Because this has got to be tough news to hear as a parent, the vast majority of the time. And then reiterate the reasons you have made the decision, and how it makes you feel. This may require going back to the 'acknowledgement well' more than once, but it will be worth it if it serves to smooth this issue over."