Monday, February 1, 2010

Elope or Deal with the Crazy?

Hey ESB-

I'm in the middle of a dilemma. My BF and I are in the early, early stages of planning (we've both said yes and are looking at rings). We've been dating for almost four years now and are madly in love with each other. Although we're a bit young, we've already been through some tough patches and have come out on the other side even closer than before.

My dad abruptly left my mom this week. Took all the money, lawyer-ed up, and left. The (seemingly) strong family of mine is suddenly in pieces and we have yet to see how everything plays out. My emotions on the subject are...complicated. Logically, I tell myself that it is their relationship, their problems, and my role is to be as supportive as possible while trying to remain neutral (not pick sides between the two of them). The emotional part of me is all over the place; part of me wants to bury my head in a pillow and the other part wants to scream and shout and lock them in a room till they figure it out. Obviously, I recognize that the logical choice is the best.

This situation has shaken me a bit, as it would anyone I think. It's kind of scary to see two people who were in love for twenty-odd years break up. I have faith in my relationship with my BF and I know that he is still the one I want to marry. In fact, the only thing I can think about doing is start the planning from scratch and run away in a few months and elope. Just the two of us somewhere beautiful with a witness each (our best friends), a photographer, an officiant, and a bottle of champagne. I'm afraid this is an idea that has sprung up only from my desire to escape from the reality that is my family. On the other hand, I've always been a practical person and this isn't the first time I've thought of eloping.

Do I exclude both of our families to have the simple wedding for just the BF and myself? I couldn't imagine trying to get my parents to even be in the same room as each other until well after the divorce is official. But I also don't want to exclude his family just because I am ambivalent about celebrating our union with anyone but us. And perhaps this is just all a reaction to my parents' marriage failing? I was hoping you might have an opinion on eloping and how to deal with the potentially upset family members, not just because they weren't invited, but also because we might be celebrating our union too soon after the dissolution of another.



Hey Anon,

I'm sorry. That sucks big time. I was a baby when my parents split, which I sometimes think was a lucky break because I was too young to know what was going on.

First, I'd say take a little time to breathe. Don't rush off and get married without inviting anyone if there's any part of you that will regret it. I didn't think I wanted a "real wedding." For months I kept telling H that we should just drive to Vegas, not because I was avoiding family but because I was avoiding wedding planning.* But I'm so glad we had a wedding. There's something incredible about having your family and friends gather not only to celebrate with you but also to serve as collective witnesses to the marriage. (It sounds new age-y, but it's true.) I don't know how bad it is with your parents, but I'm guessing neither of them would want to miss your wedding, even if it meant they had to be in the same room together.

ON THE OTHER HAND, maybe it's reallyreally bad. Maybe you want to get the fuck out of dodge, have a simple wedding like you said, and just be married already. I don't see anything wrong with that, as long as it's a decision you and your BF are making together. So what if people get upset? They'll get over it. It's your wedding.  It's your life. I mean, right?

Plus (and I hate to bring this up) if you were counting on your parents to pay for, or even contribute to, the wedding, things might get pretty complicated. There's nothing worse than the back-and-forth about money between two divorced (or soon-to-be-divorced) people who are not speaking to each other. And guess who has to be the go-between?

Godspeed and pls keep us posted.


(Magdalena Frackowiak in Viktor & Rolf, styled by Katie Shillingford and shot by Josh Olins for Dazed & Confused, via Refinery29)



  1. that's a bummer about your's really never easy.
    As someone who went the elopement route, I highly recommend it. My husband and I first tried planning a wedding & it just kept getting more complicated. I actually suggested eloping & he was stoked. Having problems deciding who witnesses should be, we opted for a confidential marriage license, which doesn't require a witness. We deputized my best friend for the day, she married us, took some pictures, then drove us to the airport where we hopped on a plane to our honeymoon. Our ceremony was so romantic! It was all about us with no distractions. I wouldn't change a thing.
    To honor our families we threw a big party on our first anniversary . It was a blast, it was all about them, and everyone was happy :)
    wishing you the best

  2. Thats really sad and crummy :-( I'm one of those who is not totally sure I want the "big" family wedding because I have lots of family drama too (resulting from the divorced parents as well), but we're going for it anyway. I'm hoping everyone will be polite the day of and no punches (I'm mostly worried about the verbal ones)are thrown, but it has been a rocky road with planning and especially with the finances. We've really had to be the neutral party and make sure everyone is working directly with us and not each other.

    A lot of people have suggested to me that we have two ceremonies. One before by ourselves that is just for us, so we have that moment that can't be ruined by crazy family. And then we have the big wedding party after that when more of the pressure is off, because we would already have that special moment together that no one could take away from us.

  3. oooh girl. all i can say (aside from THAT BLOWS) is that i'm working with two sets of never-divorced parents (his and mine) and wedding planning, despite the aforementioned "normality" (hahahaha), is really, really difficult. and stressful. so stressful that i think about eloping all the time, and then just having a party later. in my limited experience, weddings = stress & drama. parties = fun & relaxing. given your fresh set of circumstances, maybe you just table your decision for a month or two, see how this thing plays out, and start making your nuptial plans after? best wishes.

  4. My parents divorced five years ago. I feel you on all the emotions, including the feeling (guilt? selfishness? - that's how I feel, at times) that comes along with celebrating your love at a time when there is a great deal of love lost between members of your family. My advice: Take your time. Don't do anything YET. There is no need to rush into either decision (to elope or to have a wedding).

    My fiance and I have been engaged for more than a year now. We both come from divorced parents. It has, at times, put a lot of pressure on us to "do everything right" or "do everything differently" than our parents did. With pressure comes anxiety and doubt and WHAT IFS! What if we end up JUST LIKE THEM? (*sobs*)

    What has helped us understand the MARRIAGE aspect (not just the wedding part) is talking to our officiant (a priest) who put it like this: "Think of it, as if, you and your future spouse are carrying backpacks filled with stuff from your past. It is your job to try to carefully remove items from that backpack before you enter into your marriage."

    We are trying to get rid of some of the weight that comes along with the stuff we're carrying - resentment, pain, sadness, disappointment over the failure of our parents' marriages.

    Hopefully, within the next eight months, through talking to our priest and communicating with each other, we can AT LEAST better understand what we're lugging around and why. And try to make our loads lighter for ourselves and each other.

    Hope this helps! Good luck to you! You can do it. Just take your time.

  5. i normally would say not to elope if you were really looking forward to the big-family-wedding thing. you don't want to add to the bitterness you'll feel as a result of this divorce by foregoing what you want to work around their mess.

    but since you've said you've already considered eloping before this mess was started, i'd say go for it.

  6. Ouch. Divorces suck. And it usually takes a while for the dust to settle.

    If you're just ready to be married already, I vote for elopement. You can have a crazy fun reception later. Receptions always seem a bit less fraught, family wise, because they're more casual than the ceremony and there's more going on to distract people from each other.

  7. ESB-Great,thoughtful response
    Anon-That sucks. I completely get it. My sister in law, who is one of my best friends, was supposed to be my MOH and my brother was supposed to give me away. Less than a month after we got engaged, they were seperated and are now in the middle of a divorce. I felt the same way about eloping. I would take ESB's advice and really think about it, and make sure you wont have any regrets. We decided to still go ahead with our small wedding, but not have either of them involved (no giving away or standing up in the bridal party). This was a really hard decision, but the right one for us. I hope you find the right decision for you.
    Sorry for the novel, this just really hit home with me.

  8. I just wanted to take a minute to thank all of you who responded. It has been difficult to face the reality of divorce and it is even more difficult to see how many people are in or have had similar situations to deal with. Thank you for sharing your stories. Just being able to share my story has made the burden that much lighter and time will tell how this all plays out. Hugs to you all!

  9. I understand the worry about both parents being in the same room with each other. When my dad took all the money and left to be with a woman 20 years younger than him (who he ended up marrying and now has a small child with)I was worried about my future events where my parents and step mom would have to be in the same room together, meaning graduations, wedding, babies etc. My mom didn't see my step mom or dad until the day I graduated college and he left when I was 9. I was worried about how everyone would react and then you have to realize it's your day, and they just need to grow the F up. I emailed everyone involved lay it all out there and said it was my day, not theirs and they needed to leave their personal stuff behind and be adults. It's your life, if you want a wedding have a wedding and invite everyone you want to be there (with conditions to make it about you) but if you want to run away just go and do it! This is about you, don't let your parents bullshit affect your decision, something I regret having done for a large portion of my life. Besides if you elope who says you can't have a little celebratory vowel renewal later with everyone? Good luck, I'm sorry to hear about your troubles, this sounds cliche but it will get better over time.

  10. divorce is so hard on families... but parents can come together in support of their children. kiwi's parents have been divorced for years but they were both so helpful and wonderful during the wedding planning process. it wouldn't have been the same without them.

    if you do decide to wait and include your family, i hope they respect you enough to put their differences aside and love/support you in what should be a fun and exciting time in your life!

    and if not... have a fabulous time eloping! in the end, it's whatever makes you happy! wishing the two of you the best of luck!

  11. I'm Sorry!
    My best advice is to wait a few months to see how things are in a few months. for my parents divorce things can change dramatically week to week.

    Both my husband and I have parents who did not divorce on good terms. I had originally wanted a very small wedding (like 20 people immediate family and close friends only) we decided to have a slightly larger wedding with about 60 people just to give everyone some room.

    I didn't have a bridal party so it was incredibly awkward keeping my Mom and Stepmother separated while getting hair and make up done in the morning.

    My mom actually called my dad to thank him after the wedding and my husbands parents had a conversation looking at his baby photos(the first one since their divorce I think).

    So my point is that if YOU think everyone can suck it up for the day and YOU are prepared for the ups and downs and awkwardness that WILL happen have the wedding. If not maybe the best option is to elope.

    For me it was worth having the wedding. I think I would have ultimately regretted not getting married in front of our family's and friends.

  12. Don't do anything you'll regret later... but, as a bride who eloped just over a month ago, I TOTALLY have to agree with ESB:

    " Maybe you want to get the fuck out of dodge, have a simple wedding like you said, and just be married already. I don't see anything wrong with that, as long as it's a decision you and your BF are making together. So what if people get upset? They'll get over it. It's your wedding. It's your life. I mean, right?"

    It was perfect, just us, my son, our pastor & the 2 witnesses were our music minister & his wife... it would've been nice to have our family & close friends there, but not worth the drama that was starting to ensue.

    We mailed out wedding announcements to people who were expecting invitations... but they were also invitations to a wedding celebration we're having a couple of months later. It will be simple, at our new home together, with homemade finger food & a big cake, and music. No pressure, whoever wants to come to celebrate that we finally got to marry will be there, and I am SOOOO glad we did it this way!! I'm in nursing school, my 2nd to last semester, and so busy with that, I can't even imagine trying to plan a wedding for March right now like we were originally planning!!

    That's my own situation, and I'm sorry about this readers, how sad... best of luck & leaving my thoughts & prayers with her...

  13. I'm sorry!

    I think that the advice to wait before decided is very good.

    We've been planning a small wedding, but today I may have lost my health insurance (long annoying story), and the topic of eloping is now on the table. Dare I say it, I actually feel a bit relieved!

  14. um, i think you know what i'm going to say.

    these responses are truly priceless. seriously, this is the stuff of a lifetime of therapy sessions.

    welcome to my world. big fuckin demons these are.

  15. this post has definitely been on my mind for the last two days. i'm so sorry that you're having to deal with this during what should be a very joyous time in your life. i think the best thing for you to do is to wait until your head is a little clearer. not that there's ever a rush to get married, but being young does give you the luxury of time. the decisions you make that revolve around marriage are some of the BIGGEST decisions the two of you will make in your lives. you most certainly do not want to end up regretting anything.

    i love that you are considering HIS family too. that is very important. my parents were never married and my mom and step-dad had a courthouse wedding. in my family, there is no wedding album, no fun stories, or happy memories of their wedding day; just paperwork. so, i considered weddings to be somewhat trite. i always knew i wanted to get married, but i honestly felt i could take or leave the whole "party". both of my husband's brothers are gay and it was very evident that it would mean the world to his parents to see us get married. i just wouldn't have felt right if they were excluded from this joyous event. so we planned a wedding, invited our close friends and family, and HAD THE TIME OF OUR LIVES. i'm not saying that an elopement wouldn't have been just as special, because there's no doubt in my mind that it would have been, but it really did feel amazing to have all our loved ones surrounding us. there's something slightly surreal about a group of people coming to support and witness you taking such a big step in your life.

    and as for your parents, my best advise to you would be to have a grown-up conversation with them separately explaining your fears and anxiety about planning a wedding during this emotional crisis. i bet they love you so much that they'll really make a valiant effort not to make their problems your problem during this special time. i think when divorce happens, parents don't even realize the damage they do to their children. they don't want to hurt you, they just do because they're not thinking clearly. communication is key. my siblings and i come from different sets of parents, so we're all only children in a sense. i was set on inviting my brother's mom to the wedding and putting my real dad's name on the program (he passed away when i was 8 months old). i knew both of these things were going to strike a chord with my mom and step-dad, but i was not willing to budge. they were definitely a little uncomfortable when i approached them, but come wedding day, everyone was so happy that all the petty bullshit didn't even matter. weddings are about happiness and new beginnings; it's kind of remarkable how even if it's just for that moment, they can wash all those problems away.


  16. As a product of divorce, which happened right in the middle of HS and puberty, I know how rough the days are, but I also know there is a light, and you WILL make it!!!!

    I was all for a traditional large wedding, but as my finance and I started planning we realized it wasn't for us. My parents were very generous in donating funds to the event. But we realized we were getting married to start a life together, OUR LIFE, not for a fancy party- so we will be getting married with our closest family members in Vegas in June. We will have a cocktail party a month later, back home, to celebrate with our extended family and friends. But the money saved is a down payment on a house, where everyone we love can come and we can build our life together.

    Ultimately do what 'feels' right for you, not a way to escape dealing with the pain and hurt. A traditional wedding where everyone comes together may be just what you need. Or it could be a day where just the two of you celebrate YOU.

    I wish you the best, and know the road is bumpy but you WILL make it!