The Upsides and Downsides to Eloping

A friend and one of my bridesmaids, came back from her family house in New Hampshire and announced to me over the phone, “So…I got married last weekend.” While I can’t remember my exact reaction it was something like, “Whaaaaat?” There’s still a small shock even with predicable elopements. It wasn’t quite the last minute elopement, but they performed a secret engagement and then a secret wedding all within a month – only the immediately family knew.

The bride was a little concerned that she didn’t receive the warmest congratulations from everybody, between the shock of the news, the abrupt updates over the phone and then the gradual processing of information people were feeling a little dismissed since they didn’t make the top-secret information cut. The couple also had to field a lot of pregnancy questions, which was not a factor. It is not always easy for people to jump on board immediately or understand a couple’s decisions.

Elopement offers escapement from traditions and people, but therein lies your problem – exclusion. While marriage is about the couple, the couple comes from networks of family and friends who were responsible in their upbringing and development.  They’ve invested years of caring for them since their first steps to high school graduation; it is only natural for them to want to be a part of the next biggest step. How celebratory can an elopement be, if upon a couple’s return they’re faced with friends and relatives who feel cheated by being excluded? If you elope beware of trading of one problem for another.

The other downside is judgment by others. Elopement has never carried the most positive reputation. It has always been known as an outlet for people to marry without family or friend support or to cover an unplanned pregnancy. It can be interpreted as a careless and poorly thought out action – an escape outlet.

On the other hand, there are upsides to elopements. A friend told me the story about how she and her boyfriend had been the sole witnesses to a friend’s elopement. Unable to agree on anything with the Mother of the Bride, who uttered the words, “if you don’t like it, you should just elope and save us all from this pain and misery” (or something to that effect). And so the bride did just that. The comparative drama they would have experienced from planning a traditional wedding with her mother versus the quite, simple, drama-free wedding they had was completely worth it to the couple.

Elopements still carry the stigmas of yesterday and they are not the stereotypical cost-saving, drama-free, face-saving, simple events people make them out to be. An elopement doesn’t necessarily save a ceremony and marriage from existing obsolete and sexist traditions either. For example, an eloping bride might still be asked to obey or take his name. It’s considered unconventional, not ripe with equality. The only difference between a traditional wedding and an elopement is stealth, speed and witness count. To become an acceptable, mainstream wedding methodology free from its historical stereotypes, context and approach is imperative. The tradeoff to eloping is entirely based off the condition and quality of the alternatives.

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