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Adventures in Etiquette

Words by Elaine Hilbelink
Photos courtesy of Alea Lovely Fine Art Photography

Q: My fiancé and I started planning a large hometown wedding, but quickly realized it was not for us. Our families are set on the idea, so we’ve decided to elope. We’re nervous to tell our loved ones. What is the best way to communicate our decision and avoid issues? Do we need to tell everyone individually and in person or can we send out a formal announcement? 

A: One of the most formidable challenges in eloping is risking the feelings of family and close friends…particularly parents! If you decide to elope, have a personal conversation with those closest to you immediately after the ceremony, specifically parents, siblings and closest friends. Some people choose to include parents in the actual ceremony – if they can be trusted with the secret!

However, if you choose to do a traditional elopement, your family members may wish to throw an at-home reception or less formal party for you. This could be a solution to ensure they feel included in your marriage without all of the planning that is involved in a traditional wedding.

Even though elopements are often informal, avoid sending something as casual as a group email as it will certainly offend those not included. Sending a wedding announcement after the occasion is an appropriate way to notify those in your broader circle of family and friends.

Q: My husband and I love to travel, so we’ve decided to renew our vows in Hawaii for our tenth wedding anniversary. We want our family and friends to attend, but a lot of them may not be able to. How can we explain our desire to have them there without them feeling obligated to come? 

A: It sounds as if you have already verbally mentioned your intentions to some family and friends and received feedback about your vow renewal. Limited vacation time and finances can be a constraint on some of those close to you. If this is something you and your husband want to do, then proceed with your plans. You could send a written invitation to those you wish to include, with the disclaimer that you certainly understand if the travel would not fit in their schedules.

 Q: Instead of inviting our large extended families, my fiancé and I have decided to invite only a few close friends to our destination wedding. What is the best way to explain our decision to our families without hurting their feelings?

 A: It is important to involve your parents in the discussion of how to best keep harmony in your respective families if you choose not to include them in the destination ceremony. An at-home reception, planned shortly after your ceremony, is certainly a common option that many choose as a way to include those not participating in the destination wedding. This can be as formal or informal as you would choose to make it, and will help family members feel as if they are an important part of celebrating your marriage.

Q: My sister and best friend have been looking forward to being in my bridal party for years. I was in both of their weddings, but have decided to forgo having a bridal party at my own wedding. I am worried they are going to be hurt and disappointed. What is the best way to break the news?

 A: A personal conversation with your sister and best friend is the ideal way for you to share your wedding plans. Let them know how important they are to you and how much you value their involvement. Allowing them to assist you in planning your big day will help them feel like part of your celebration.

Q: While we’ve decided to get married away with just the two of us, my fiancé and I still want to celebrate with our friends and family after we are back. What is the protocol for planning a hometown reception when no one was invited to the wedding?

A: It is entirely normal to want to celebrate with your family and friends after a private ceremony. This after-party or reception can take on whatever form you wish. An announcement of your wedding can be sent with a written invitation to the reception or party. If it is more formal, you may wish to wear your wedding dress and have a theme related to your wedding destination. You might have pictures of your ceremony available at the party for those who want to see where you exchanged your vows. If it is a less formal event, it can be a dinner hosted by one of the families, a “sip and see” party, a barbeque in the park or on the beach…whatever is comfortable for your family and budget.

Q: My fiancé and I plan to elope, so I’m not sure what to do when it comes to registering for gifts. Should we still register and should we mention it on our wedding announcement? 

A: It is certainly permissible to create a gift registry, since those close to you will probably want to give you a gift. A wedding announcement should not include registry information, since that would send a message that a gift is expected. Make sure your close friends and family know where you are registered so the information can be shared by word-of-mouth to those who inquire.

Q: I’ve always known I didn’t want a big wedding, but I would still like to have a bridal shower. Is it OK to ask my mom or best friend to throw me a shower when neither of them are invited to the wedding?

A: Those invited to a bridal shower are typically invited to the wedding. If your mom and best friend were not invited to your wedding, it would be inappropriate of you to ask them to host a shower. If you want to create a bridal registry for those that inquire about giving you a gift, that would be acceptable, but you should not have the expectation of receiving gifts if you don’t want to include those people in your wedding.

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