As is typical of the months immediately following engagement season, I've been talking with a lot of brides and grooms who are struggling with figuring out the big picture of their wedding planning. It's not all about tasting cake and picking a dress. Before you can do the fun things, you have to make some big decision about the bones of your actual wedding.
Lots of couples begin their engagement with a certain kind of wedding in mind but end up changing that once everybody finds out they're getting married. Lots of brides and grooms who plan to elope end up having big weddings after their parents get wind of the plans and throw a fit.
Likewise, there are couples who assume they'll have a traditional hometown wedding, with all the bells and whistles, but rapidly find out that doing so can be taxing. That's sad, because nobody else should make you feel uncomfortable about how you choose to celebrate your wedding. But sometimes, it's the best decision in the world.
If weeks of wedding planning have you wondering if you should throw in the towel and elope, here are five signs that it's time to forget the big wedding.
When the two of you want an "intimate" wedding with only your immediate families and your very best friends, and both of your mothers have the names and addresses of over 100 people on each of their must-invite lists, and they're not willing to compromise…it's time to elope, and let them plan the wedding reception of their dreams afterward. And they can pay for it.
When you and your fiancé want a nonreligious wedding, and one set (or both) of parents is insisting on a religious wedding and wants one of you to join the other's church for appearance's sake…forget fighting daily battles until your wedding day; you'll never win a religious war. Just run away for a week together on vacation, and come back wearing your wedding bands. The parents won't be any less angry, but you'll exchange vows on your own terms.
If you have recently separated or divorced parents who simply cannot be in the same room without making a scene. Don't put yourself through that on your wedding day. Don't put off your life and your wedding plans, either. Just elope.
When you absolutely cannot afford to have a big wedding, and you and your fiancé have been fighting about it, but you know that to include all of your friends and family, and host something that would suit your standards will be more than your budget, don't take out a massive loan. Put some of the money you do have into eloping someplace fun, and put the rest of your money into your savings account. You will never regret NOT having gone into debt for what is, essentially, just a big party.
If there is a chance that somebody is going to object to your union, or show up and make a scene at your wedding, don't take the risk. Your wedding ceremony is about making lifetime vows and commitments to each other. Really, it's ONLY about the two of you. If you have children who are upset about the wedding, or a psycho ex with a habit of showing up uninvited, strongly consider slipping away for a private ceremony. Those aren't the kind of wedding memories that anybody wants.
Eloping is fairly easy. Any good hotel will help you set up a minister, photographer, and however much fanfare you want on fairly short notice. Locally based wedding planners also offer elopement packages that should include everything you need for a beautiful wedding.
There are no rules about how you elope. Eloping, in the traditional sense, means running away to get married. But there's no rule that says you can't bring your best friends along with you. More than once, I've planned elopements when half of the couple's parents were there and the others were not. If having the support of your mom or BFF by your side will make your wedding day perfect, do it.
If you have a change of heart later, and you've joined a church and regret not having had a big religious wedding ceremony, you can always plan a vow renewal on an upcoming anniversary, and have your union blessed by the church.
Remember, if you feel like you're missing out on the fun parts of having a big wedding by eloping, you can have a wedding reception back home a few months later, or on your first anniversary.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.