While eloping is arguably a lot less stressful than getting hitched the traditional way, telling friends and family that you’ve decided to forgo a big wedding can feel anything but (hello family dynamics!). Navigating how to elope without offending family is one of the biggest hurdles couples face when deciding to elope. And while I’m not going to lie and say that it will be easy, it doesn’t have to be quite so hard either. Read on for suggestions on how best to announce your intention to elope— you’ve got this!
Top Tips for Telling Family You’ve Decided to Elope
Tip 1: Tell Them in Person, the Earlier the Better
Though the word elope is defined as “running away secretly to get married, especially without parental consent,” the word no longer has such clandestine connotations. Today, eloping generally refers to tying the knot on a smaller, more intimate scale while opting out of a large formal wedding.
Eloping doesn’t have to involve running, and it certainly doesn’t have to be secret. In fact, the best way to elope without offending family is to let them know in person. If you’re anticipating a negative reaction, it may be tempting to break the news over a text message or in an email. Resist this temptation. Talking face-to-face (or FaceTime-to-FaceTime) not only prevents potential misunderstandings, but also shows that you respect the individual and care about their feelings.
And it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. You don’t want the first time your close friends or family hear about your elopement to be on social media.
Telling friends and family that you’re eloping before you actually do it can go a long way in minimizing hurt feelings. If you’re close with them, you may also want them to participate to some extent. Telling them early will allow them to feel involved and to take part in a meaningful way, even if it’s from a distance (see ideas for involving family and friends below and in this article).
When announcing your decision, start with those closest to you and move outward. Try to do it in one day so they get to hear it from you and not someone else (creating a list of all the people you will call in advance will make this easier).
Tip 2: Prepare for Negative Reactions
You’re stoked that you’re eloping and others should be, too, right? Well, yes, but don’t expect them to be. While many people will be thrilled about your decision, others may not feel so over the moon. This can be really disappointing when you feel so good about your decision, but don’t let it color your response too much. Instead, active listening and a little empathy can go a long way. You don’t have to give in to validate their feelings. Just understanding and voicing that you do get it can decrease negative emotions when they crop up. Keeping in mind that their emotional reaction isn’t coming from a bad place, rather it’s because they genuinely care about you, may help you keep any disappointment you’re feeling in check.
Tip 3: Share Your Why
Explaining why you’re choosing to elope may be all that’s needed to get some family members on board with your decision. I know it sounds cliche, but letting them know it’s not about them, but rather it’s about you, can really make all the difference.
Explain to them the reasons you are choosing to elope. There are loads of reasons, but some of the most common ones are:
- wanting to avoid the stress of planning a big wedding
- wanting a truly intimate day where the focus is on the relationship
- wanting to save money for a big trip or a down payment on a house
- wanting this to be a special experience for just the two of you and your children
Remind your family that you love them and that your decision has nothing at all to do with them, but is instead what you genuinely feel is right for you and your relationship.
Tip 4: Get Them Involved
Some of the negative responses coming from family and friends may stem from feeling that they are, in a way, being deprived of something. Deprived of planning your wedding, deprived of celebrating with you, deprived of… Finding ways for them to participate, even if it’s from a distance, allows them to feel involved.
Tapping into their love language, that is, the way they speak and understand emotional love, can deepen their involvement. For instance, if your mom’s love language is quality time, suggest she plan an engagement party, or intimate affair either before or after your elopement. This acknowledges her desire to spend time with family and friends, and also makes her feel valued. A win-win.
You may also consider an additional small ceremony that close friends and family can participate in, such as a tree planting ceremony. The tree you plant then serves as a reminder of your commitment to one another and to your family, of how love that is nurtured will grow, and of the love that you all now share. And it can be revisited again and again. Emphasizing the significance of this ceremony and how happy you are to have your friends and family share it with you may go a long way in helping them accept your decision to elope. More unity ceremony ideas can be found in this post.
There are tons of other ways that you can involve friends and family. Invite your mom or best friend dress shopping. Collect letters of well-wishes, marriage advice, or funny memories that can be read during or after the ceremony. Or write a letter to your parents that they can read on your elopement day. They will feel emotionally connected no matter how many miles are between you. Even just giving them the details of your elopement can make them feel that they are part of the planning process.
Tip 5: Stand Your Ground
You have made the brave choice to elope, and family and friends shouldn’t be able to dictate how your day unfolds. Be firm and confident. Remember, this is your day and you deserve a true-to-you wedding experience.
Tip 6: And Document the Hell Out of It
I’m not just saying this because I’m a photographer. When you elope, photos become that much more important. During a conventional wedding day, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob, and a gazillion other people you may (or may not!) know are there to take it all in. They get to see every event as it happens. When you elope, it is very possibly just you, your partner, your kids (if you have them), an officiant, and a photographer.
Documenting the story of your day, all the big and little moments from beginning to end, and then sharing this with family and friends that were not present helps them to feel cared for. Seeing beautiful images that truly capture the emotions that washed over the day may even help them to understand why you chose to elope in the first place.
Eloping doesn’t mean what it once did, and while some may still be eloping to escape friends and family, many others are choosing this route because they want to focus on their relationship, and the commitment that they are making to each other and to their own little family. While telling friends and family can be difficult, remember that you were badass enough to make this decision in the first place, and you definitely have the strength to see it through.
Everyone deserves a meaningful wedding day experience. If you have more questions about how to tell friends and family that eloping is ultimately the best choice for you (or you just need some moral support!), I’d love to help.