“But how do I tell my family that I am eloping?”
This is a thought that I am pretty sure every bride that elopes has had to process.
It is a common misconception that when you elope it’s because you have bad blood with your family, your relationship isn’t approved of, or a myriad of other negative assumptions.
In 2020 however, especially as the Rona has created the very resourceful COVID bride, eloping is actually a way to move forward in a world that feels like it’s in limbo.
While family situations can vary drastically and opinions can be hard to ignore, it is important to remember that this day/experience is to celebrate the sacred union between you, your spouse and God.
I do believe honoring your parents is of high importance but there are plenty of ways to honor them other than having their idea of a wedding. Remember, you cannot change how people react or treat you but you can control how you share this news.
Here are five things that will help create space for a healthy conversation about eloping.
To begin, you need to effectively communicate why you want to elope to your family. Eloping is no longer the same as it was 20 years ago.
Oftentimes, it’s because you want to have an intimate and adventurous experience. Saying your vows in a remote location with just your spouse-to-be, you, a photographer, and officiant can be a truly spiritual occasion.
Think through why eloping is important to you. This is probably counter-cultural but I think if your heart’s not in a place where you can explain why you want to elope, other than wanting to exclude your family/friends, you shouldn’t do it. Know your why.
Eloping can be a touchy subject for some. Parents, family, and even friends can feel like you’ve taken an experience from them.
At the root of it, the initial upset with the idea of eloping is usually unspoken expectations not being met. For instance, a friend may have felt they were going to be able to be in the wedding party. Maybe your family feels a little excluded because your dad wanted to walk you down the aisle or your mom wanted to help plan the event.
These feelings they may have are real and valid, so do not brush them under the rug. You can show your family gentleness by listening without speaking.
After you’ve shared your why, listen to what they are feeling. Ask questions like, “what were you hoping to experience on my wedding day?” Maybe their answer will create space for you to meet that need in another way.
Most importantly, even if they express unmet expectations, that isn’t a reflection of you. You are not a disappointment, because they are disappointed. Walk with them as they process and keep painting the picture of what your dream day looks like and why.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but be patient. It may take a few conversations before they come around to understanding your heart behind eloping. Keep explaining your perspective with a lot of gentleness. Keep listening to their hurt. Keep looking for ways that you can meet their needs outside of the actual wedding day. They will start to come around.
Like I said earlier, eloping makes people feel excluded because of unspoken expectations. Before you share the news of eloping, maybe think of ways you can include them on the wedding day or in the eloping experience.
This can look like eloping somewhere beautiful without anyone but you two, an officiant and your photographer, THEN having dinner with your closer family/friends that night.
It can also look like live-streaming the event if possible. Maybe it looks like including them on the getting ready moments or having a reception later – similar to what COVID brides have had to adapt to.
This last step is important because everyone processes differently. It may take a week or two before they are able to articulate how they feel, they may need to verbally process with you, they may need space. It is important to keep reaching out, trying to understand and showing them that you care about them. Your continuous pursuit of their heart shows that you aren’t eloping to hurt them or exclude them, but that eloping isn’t even about them.
I know these conversations can be sticky but I hope that these five tips for navigating family conversations about eloping give you the framework for some healthy communication! Good luck.