I never wanted a big wedding: here’s why I wish I’d gone with my gut & eloped

Guest post by Samantha Starns
AngieV 149 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Photo from this sweet Philadelphia elopement by Black, White and Raw Photography

Let me start off by saying, I never dreamed about my wedding as a kid. I never even really thought about marrying someone until my husband came along (love you, Brian). It was weird, because everyone else had Pinterest boards for their wedding once that became a thing and I had no idea what Pinterest even was! I repeatedly told Brian during the planning stages that I was cool to elope to Maui where we had previously planned a vacation about two months before the wedding. But nope, too much family and societal pressure. From every direction.

So, let's break down the mistakes I made, and why I wish I had eloped…

I didn't have a day-of coordinator

I was the one running between vendors making sure stuff was done. The first dance? I made sure that happened by working with our (albeit FABULOUS) DJ. Same with the father/daughter dance. Time spent managing things: almost all day. Time spent during the reception with my husband, not including the first dance: five minutes. And that was when we were eating.

The venue was my parents' ranch

While it was free, that came with its own challenges. At an all-inclusive venue, you don't have to worry about setup or take down. My friends and family helped set up, but guess who was left to take down the tables, chairs, and stack dirty dishes in jeans, a t-shirt, and their wedding hair/makeup? My new husband, a groomsman, and me (save for a couple of guests who felt bad when they realized we would be the ones cleaning up. Embarrassing.).

My poor mother and aunt

To save on catering out at the rural ranch, my aunt (who is an amazing cook) offered to cook some savory comfort food. It was delicious, but my aunt couldn't enjoy the day as a guest and honored family member. Also, my mother? I later found out that she didn't enjoy the day at all because she was so busy trying to manage things. Particularly while I was gone getting my hair and makeup done.

“You have to invite Aunt Carol”

Okay, I don't have an aunt Carol, but I got SO much flack from several collective people about who I should and shouldn't invite. This was probably the biggest factor in me wishing I had eloped.

I had calls from family members pressuring me to invite people who had flaked out on me during some of the biggest moments of my life. I also had some people call my husband and end up nosing their way in with an invite because Brian's the nicest person on the planet.

I even had some in-laws bring uninvited guests that I had never met, despite being told multiple times that we didn't have the room/budget. That led to a minor scene being caused as place cards were handed out, and in turn kicked some people out of their seats (including my mother-in-law who thought I was personally slighting her).

Logistical nightmares

On top of all of the above reasons, some guests arrived almost an hour an a half early and were giving me a bad time while everyone was trying to have portraits taken, the weather was spotty for an outdoor gathering of this magnitude, and the amount of leftover food and drink (we calculated how much alcohol to buy with one of those online calculators) was enormous. We were left with about 75% of the alcohol we bought initially. All of that had to go with somebody.

I realized I was doing all of this to please other people.

“My parents would be hurt if we didn't have a ceremony.”
“You're TOTALLY inviting me to your wedding right?”
“Fine, if you don't invite them, I'm not coming.”
“You don't have to invite so-and-so, but if they inquire, I want you to go ahead and say they can come.”

Yeah. Those are just a few things I heard throughout our relatively short engagement period of six months.

We ended up spending money on things we no longer have or forgot. I spent money on decor, food, and pleasing other people when the day should have been more about Brian and myself. About two months before our wedding, Brian, who was now helping out more with the wedding plans, turned to me and said, “Is it too late to elope?” I, of course, said yes, because we had so much non-refundable retainers out in the world that we'd be losing money. Looking back, that's a pretty sad reason to go through with something that you're both not super hyped about. My preference would have been to elope to Maui or Las Vegas, or somewhere else epic and invite a handful of people at most.

You know what happened after the wedding? Brian and I went home and I cried. And not happy tears.

Something else I should not have done…

I looked at those ridiculous wedding boards on the internet. Know the ones I'm talking about? All those boards do is allow couples to judge each other because they don't have $7k restroom facilities towed in for their guests. Their opinions on elopements and intimate weddings are rude, and downright cruel. And also? Those opinions don't matter.

With all that said, I'm here to say this: YOU DO YOU. If you want to have a gorgeous and huge wedding with all the trimmings, go for it! But if you're more like me, who never really thought hard about a wedding until you were with your life partner, and you love the outdoors, more intimate ceremonies, and really just can't wait to marry the love of your life without all the trappings of a more traditional wedding, I've got your back.

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Comments on I never wanted a big wedding: here’s why I wish I’d gone with my gut & eloped

  1. So sorry this turned out into such a painful experience for you. Maybe you could have an elopement vows renewal in a couple of years to do things just right for you, get amazing photos and positive and romantic experience just for you.
    I also never dreamed about weddings, choosing a wedding dress was a pain and I also organized my wedding by myself with the help of my fiancee and a couple of very good friends and a handfull of super cool vendor people. In the end we had a small wedding for 25 people which suited us fine, although I also had my ears full the whole time with the same issues you had – whom to invite, what to do and stuff. But I was lucky to stumble upon Offbeat Bride quite early in my planning which really helped me stand enough of my ground to make this day enjoyable for me and my now husband. =)

  2. Thanks so much for this post. It’s reaffirmed for me that I really do want to elope abroad and have a celebration party when we get home. I live in the UK and told my parents this week we week we were planning to marry in NYC. We’d have all the traditional evening celebrations when we got home. My parents have decided they won’t come to our wedding if we marry abroad and said I’m a disappointment and letting the family down if I don’t marry at home. I’m heartbroken. Reading your post and others though has reaffirmed that I can’t cave in and I need to do what we would like and not what the family expect. If they don’t come it’s there loss and it’s certainly more meaningful to me if we exchange vows just the two of us.

  3. I appreciate your post so very much! My partner and I have been together nearly 10 years, and the biggest reason we’re not married is because I HATE the idea of having a wedding or celebration of any kind that includes anything but the legal necessities. His family and my family would be so upset if they’re not involved, so my attitude has generally been, “Then I guess we’ll never marry!” But our relationship is about our commitment to each other and building our lives together, not aligning to their expectations, which we’ve never been good at doing anyway. You’ve inspired me to rekindle our conversation about eloping and see where it goes!

    Little does my family know that the prospect of their presence at a wedding or party is the biggest deterrent, so endorsing an elopement “as long as you have a big party afterward” is NOT tempting in the least. Sigh.

  4. Sorry it turned out this way 🙁 Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been to a few weddings and heard stories about a couple more brides and it more or less turned out the same for everyone: lots of DIY, lots of organization, stress, management on the wedding day. Some lost tons of weight beforehand because of stress and they were so nervous they couldn’t eat a bite of their wedding meal.
    I SO didn’t want that for my own wedding. We are getting married in 3 months (after 11 years as a couple!) and from the beginning we had 1 goal: simplicity. We want to have a fun day with the people we love the most. We didn’t want people we hadn’t seen in years just because “we had to invite them”. We didn’t want plus-ones whom we had never even met. We didn’t want to spend hours choosing caterers, linens, chairs, chair covers, then decorating a venue, buying alcohol, cleaning up afterwards, etc. We’re pretty lazy people 😉
    We chose to go for an all-inclusive venue, which is also a hotel. It’s a bit expensive compared to, say, a backyard wedding, but we have literally nothing to do except getting dressed and showing up, and we kept the guest list to a minimum (causing just a tiny bit of drama), which saved money. Our 15 guests and us will sleep there on the day before and on the wedding day. We’re having the ceremony on a terrasse, pictures in the gardens, and dinner in a 19th-century salon. My sister will take the photos. I’m a bit sad that we won’t have professional pictures but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it will allow us to focus on our love, our commitment, and our families, instead of posing for intagram-perfect pictures. It’s hard to get rid of the impulse to produce a pinterest-worthy show, but I think we will be more satisfied with it in the end. We will live it fully and remember it as a fun day celebrating our union, not just a day spent posing for awesome photos.
    Again, thanks for your post and for helping other people make the right decisions about their own weddings!

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