Should we still have a wedding shower if we’re an eloping military couple?

Guest post by Kacey

We know that planning a military wedding comes with issues us civilians aren't aware of. That's when we turn to Kacey, our resident military helicopter pilot/Tribesmaid to dole out the advice.

In the Army, you only have a certain amount of days' leave in which to get married and you can never predict when those days might be. Frankly, my fiance and I might not be able to have a ceremony and reception to which we can invite our friends and family.

Since we are not able to include them on our wedding day, should we be able to have a bridal shower and bachelorette party? Are we cheating our friends out of what's due to them since they are giving us gifts? Is it unfair to invite people to a shower, and then not invite them to a wedding? -Ang

I'd say that if a military couple wanted to have a shower and bachelor/ette parties without a big wedding, then that's their business. Part of being a military family is the constant understanding that all plans are tentative based on the needs of the military.

I'd recommend that they sit down with their friends and family and try to explain that to them. A military marriage is never just about two people. You're always married to your spouse AND their service.

If, after full disclosure, the family thinks that throwing a shower is no longer appropriate, you can either elect to have a no-gifts party, or go some other route.

In my opinion, though, showers and gifts should be about celebrating the milestone, not given in the expectation of some return fanciness paid for by the couple or whoever is paying for a wedding.

Are there any other military couples out there? What did you do about pre-wedding parties?

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Comments on Should we still have a wedding shower if we’re an eloping military couple?

  1. I also have a military wedding coming up soon, and after talking to a lot of already married couples it seems that it is common to get married either by a justice of the peace or church official for convenience. This means that the process to receive benefits happens a lot faster, and also because depending on the branch you do have to worry about whether or not your spouse to be will even be around. It seems 50-50 from what I have heard in regards to couples letting friends or family in on the elopement or not. I told my parents and best friend, my husband only let his two best friends in on the secret. Because we are also in another state we opted out on any showers or parties, but I can tell you that planning for the wedding has been a lot less stressful even though we are hiding a secret. In the end I agree about talking things over with your intended and decide on what you will tell your friends or family since not everyone may have the same feelings. Best of luck and congrats.

  2. Maybe this is because I’m always looking for an excuse to throw a party, but I think it would be awesome for you to give your friends and family a way to celebrate with you, especially since they might not be able to be there on your actual wedding day. You could think of it as a pre-reception 🙂

  3. It should be out of your hands, because showers should be thrown by someone other than the happy couple. If the family or friends who want to throw your shower explain all of this to prospective guests, it’s up to them to decide if they want to attend.

  4. It sounds to me like you’d like to have a party celebrating your wedding but unlike the usual reception, it can’t be tied the actual wedding day ( whenever that is ).

    I say go for it! I don’t think your guests will care what you call it — shower, reception, barbeque, potluck — they’ll be glad to show up. And if they decide to bring gifts or not bring gifts, that’s on them.

    But if you must worry about it, think on this : we’ve all been to social functions where we felt obliged to bring a gift, even if we weren’t that enthusiastic about the event. And we all survived. The small minority of your guests who might feel this way will survive too. Don’t sweat it.

    Go have your party!!

  5. I’m military myself, planning a wedding with another Soldier. So I totally understand the whole quick wedding, eloping thing. It gets tough planning a wedding when you don’t even know if you could get the leave for that time frame. That being said, I think anyone close to you should understand that. Friends and family definately should, I’d hope. Maybe if you would add a note on the invitations something similar to “we’re eloping but we want to celebrate with you” it would make it seem more like a celebration of your marriage then that of gifts.

  6. I’m planning a military wedding too, and we’re going with the elope-now, wedding-later route, which is making our lives so much easier. My father actually happens to be ordained, and will be marrying us at a super small 10-person ceremony, but then we are lucky enough to have the time to throw a big celebration later on in the year. From all that I know now, even if you can’t have everyone to the wedding, throw a party and celebrate, seriously. People WANT to get together and CELEBRATE, regardless of whether its the day-of or not. They might appreciate something on the invitations stating what’s going on/ why you aren’t having a formal ceremony/ etc., but generally people just want to gather and share in the love of the couple. If you want to have these celebrations as bridal showers and bachelorette parties, then do it! If anyone asks, just politely explain that THAT will be the “reception” or what have you, and 99% of people will totally understand, and then not feel bad or hurt from being excluded. Just my two cents, but that’s what I found is really helpful 🙂 Best of luck with whatever you do decide!

  7. My sister is a civilian, but eloped with only her hubby and 6 other guests for the ceremony. But, we still had a bridal shower before and a reception (6+ months later) for family and friends. Some ladies came to both the shower and reception and some only went to one event. I think it is getting more common to do things like that.

    Also, some acquaintances threw me a small bridal shower, and not all of them were invited to the actual wedding. But, they just wanted to celebrate and give well-wishes to us.

  8. Perhaps instead of a shower, you guys can throw a small reception? That way the people are invited to celebrate your marriage (even if it hasn’t happened yet, or happened a week or a month ago) rather than just being invited to give presents, which is the point of a shower.

    We are doing something similar since my fiance is military and our families are on opposite coasts.

    Nothing wrong with throwing a bachelorette party whenever you can swing it!

  9. Thanks everyone for the awesome advice! We are planning on probably just a quick elopement with an actual wedding later. It’s really nice to know that I’m not alone in this debacle.

  10. My husband and I eloped a little over a year ago (he’s in the Navy) and we’re planning to have a ceremony/reception anyway when we’re able. Just because the practical realities of military life are restrictive doesn’t mean that you and your loved one don’t deserve to have the big celebration that everyone else has. For our part, we eloped for the following reasons: we had been together for 7 years and were planning to marry anyway, he was deploying and he wanted to make sure I would be able to have access to information about him while he was away, and he wanted to make sure I had health insurance.

    So, legally marry when you need to, and then feel completely free to have your ceremony and reception whenever is right for you!

  11. There was a post recently about an open elopement:

    This is what my guy and I are doing. I’m AF, he’s Army. For us, the wedding ceremony is only for us. I know that people might want to come and see, so we’re telling them that’s fine to show up. Afterwards we intend to have a big cookout that weekend. All of our friends can come and celebrate with us.

    Also, no one is “due” anything because they gave you a gift. A gift is about giving, not using it as an invite to your wedding. That would be like saying because they gave a gift at your baby shower they can attend the birth. (IMO)

  12. My husband, who is in the service (Navy) and I just recently got married because of his new orders to leave the country for a few years. So of course we wanted to get married right away. We didn’t tell anyone but close family. Right after we were married I had to come back to my home state to finish school, then I will be moving out of the country with him. My family wants to throw me a “bridal shower” which I am enjoying the planning for, and I think it is a great way to share with people our marriage. However, I am running into difficulty with what to put on the invitations to the shower. I want it to be as proper as possible with the correct etiquette, but I just don’t want people thinking I am using them for gifts. Really I just want to celebrate it and see a lot of family and friends that I never see so I can share this moment with them especially since I am leaving the country. If anyone has any suggestions on how to word the invitations I would really appreciate it, I am so bad with wording things like this.

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