It’s Wedding Week on Dear Wendy! This week will be chock-full of wedding columns, gift guides, listicles, dollar dances and an open bar. If you love wedding content, this is your lucky week. If you hate wedding content, this is your lucky week because open bar. But just kidding about the open bar.
I know I’ll catch a bit of heat for this, but we’ve been engaged for two years now (I know, I know… just get married already!). We’ve faced some roadblocks and financial strains, but we’re finally at a point where we can have the wedding we want… which is to say, a Vegas elopement! I’ve never, ever wanted a big wedding (especially seeing all the stress and drama my sister’s 200+ guest list wedding this summer has created), and I like doing things a bit differently. He had always wanted to get married in Vegas but figured he’d never be engaged to someone who would agree to go along with it. This would also double as a vacation for us as in four years we’ve never had a vacation together and just had time to relax.
Now for the question: when we first got engaged and told everyone of our Vegas elopement plans, of course everyone asked if they could join us. My dad was especially eager to be there as we’re really close and he’s an Elvis fan (yup, getting married by Elvis too). Now I wouldn’t mind having my dad there at all. I know he would be happy seeing the ceremony, maybe going out for a celebratory dinner with us, then going his own way to golf. The problem is that, if I invite my dad, I’ll have to invite my mom (they’re divorced) who would, of course, bring her husband, whom I’m friendly with but have had problems with in the past and whom I’m not particularly close to (and I can think of about 100 other people I’d rather have in my wedding pictures over my mom’s husband, but asking him not to be in any would be rude). Then, of course, we’d have to invite my fiancé’s family, probably my grandparents, my sister and her fiancé… and it just snowballs until we have 20 people joining us.
I’ve told my dad that this is what I’m worried about and he said that I could just invite him, we don’t have to tell anyone, and he’ll be discreet. (He’s half joking, but I really think he figures this plan could work). What should I do? Invite no one? Only invite my dad (secretly)? Invite 20 people and probably say goodbye to what we’d hoped would be a vacation? — Vegas Bride
No, absolutely do NOT invite your dad in secret. You know very well that’s a secret that won’t be kept forever, and at some point — either before your wedding or after — your loved ones — your mother, your sister, your in-laws — are going to get their feelings hurt that they weren’t invited to your wedding when your father was. I know this is where I’m supposed to tell you to just go elope if that’s what you and your fiancé both want, but I get the feeling that maybe what you want more than a private elopement is a vacation… and to avoid the kind of stress you attribute to large, traditional weddings.
But here are two things to keep in mind: eloping won’t necessarily save you wedding stress and drama. In some cases it can create even more stress if for no other reason you have to justify your decision over and over while dealing with hurt feelings of close family members who feel slighted. As for a vacation, you can still have a wedding and a vacation — otherwise known as a “honeymoon” — though it may not be exactly how you’ve imagined it.
I have a couple of suggestions: have a small wedding where you live and invite family only (yes, even your stepfather) and then honeymoon in Vegas afterward (you can even do a chapel wedding for fun; who says you can’t have two weddings?); have a private elopement in Vegas — just the two of you! — followed by a small reception for close family where you share photos.
If you go the first route and decide to have a small wedding, inviting the 20 or so people you feel obligated to include — don’t worry too much about photos. You’ll get lots of photos, and just because your stepfather will be in some — because, yes, it would be rude to ask him to not be in any — doesn’t mean you have to order a lot of prints of those — just order a few for him and your mom — or display them or include them in an album. I mean, really. If including your stepfather in a few wedding shots is seriously a reason you want to elope, then you’re being overly dramatic. Unless you’ve left out some pertinent information about the guy like he cheated on your mother with her sister or took a photo of you climbing out of the shower when you were 16 or something awful like that.
If you decide to elope because it’s really, truly what you want, then stick to your guns and keep it a true elopement and don’t invite anyone. Sure, some people will probably still be disappointed to miss your actual wedding, but they won’t be as hurt wondering why you allowed your father to attend but not them. If no one is invited, then everyone is excluded, and, if EVERYONE is excluded, then you really can’t call it an “exclusion” at all. Invite one person, though, and then it is. And that’s when shit hits the fan.
Finally, I have one more suggestion: if you do elope, why not do it totally in secret (which is, technically, the definition of elopement). Just pick a weekend, don’t tell anyone, go off and tie the knot. No one will be able to try to talk you out of doing it the way you want to because no one will know you’re doing it. And when you come home, you can throw a small party if you want. Or not. Who cares. It will already be done! And you will have had the nice, quiet wedding you want and the drama-free vacation for just the two of you.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.