Death in family – should I postpone my wedding?
August 26, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

We were going to elope to Las Vegas in less than two weeks, but my sister just passed away. I didn't have a close relationship with my sister. Is the timing of the wedding bad?

My fiancé and I were planning to get married in Las Vegas in less than two weeks, just the two of us. I wanted to elope and have a quiet ceremony without my crazy family around.

But my half-sister died unexpectedly yesterday and I’m wondering if we should go ahead with the wedding.

I was not particularly close to my sister; she was ten years older than me and she and her family live an eight-hour drive away. I spoke to her maybe once a year, and saw her even less than that. The last time I spoke to her was when she came to town 9 months ago.

I wasn’t even close enough to know about the health problems which led to her death, she didn’t know that I was engaged, and my fiancé had never met her.

I am feeling more shock than grief at this point. I wonder if I will even feel deep grief since there was such a distance between us. I do feel sad to see my mother’s sorrow over her loss and that of my other siblings who were closer to her.

Would it be bad timing to go ahead with my wedding?
My mother doesn’t think I should get married so soon after my sister’s death. My fiancé wants to do whatever I want, but it seems that he is inclined to postpone the wedding. We would still take the trip (which is already paid for), but not get married.

I’m not sure what to do. My first thought is to go ahead with the wedding as planned, but would that be seen as be cold-hearted, and bad etiquette?
posted by zosime to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there such a thing as bad etiquette for an eloped wedding?

I don't really see why an unexpected death should change your plans - particularly and especially when it's someone you're not close to and have little to no involvement with. Your lives aren't that intertwined, after all.
posted by Brockles at 10:15 AM on August 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you had spent a few thousand dollars of non-refundable deposits on a "traditional" wedding, would you reschedule that? Is your mother the parent you shared? You mention her, but not your father. I think you should take the shared parent's feelings into account a bit, but other than that, it's all up to you.
posted by kellyblah at 10:15 AM on August 26, 2011

Yes, its bad timing, but its the timing that happened. Your eloping and her funeral are two disjoint family events. If your reason to get maried in vegas was for the spectacle involved with elopment (and to tick off your family) - you may be going at the whole mariage thing ... unprepared. If your reason to get maried in vegas was that you love the person and you want the rest of your life to start right now - nothing in that sense has changed. short... Review why you wanted to get married, why you wanted to get married in vegas... and then make the decision to do it based on that - not on the death of your half sister.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:18 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Would you postpone it for your mother or for you? If it was full wedding with guests I would probably consider postponing it, but if it's just you and your fiancée eloping I would still go through with it. Perhaps delay the announcement?

As somebody who eloped, one of the best things was just doing what we felt comfortable with and not worrying about what our family thought until after the fact. Even now (a few months later), we don't worry too much about that. If you think the fall out would be bad, maybe postpone.
posted by kendrak at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

My brother got married a couple of weeks after our father died - planned elopement to Disney World. Although in our case our mother supported the decision to go on with the plans. Life goes on, and if you had been close to your half-sister, odds are she wouldn't have wanted you changing your plans because of her death anyway.
posted by COD at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2011

You are not your mother. Notions of decorum come about because people feel like there are conventions to be met, but they change with the times as our relationships change over time. In this day and age of step-families, multiple marriages and all sorts of alternative lifestyles, many of these conventions are just outdated.

Postponing the wedding will do what, exactly? Is it a gesture of "respect" to your sister and family? You can show you care for them in other ways. Go to the funeral, send flowers or a sympathy card, let the survivors, in their grief, know you are thinking of them in some way. Tell Mom you are there to help with arrangements until you leave for your wedding, and you can certainly let her know you will be there for her whenever she needs your emotional support in the future, too.

But observing the conventions when you really don't feel emotionally invested in them really doesn't help anyone; you don't need to put on a show to avoid being seen as scandalous!

Do what your heart tells you. Get married as you planned to.
posted by misha at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you should do it, unless it would really upset your mother, or unless you think it would cast a pall over your wedding memories. There's a saying in Spanish: El muerto al hoyo; el vivo al bollo.
posted by yarly at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2011

(But if you do elope now, you should probably refrain from posting happy-happy joy-joy pictures and messages on facebook or whatever, where your grieving family members would see them. That would be insensitive to them. Part of chosing to elope now would be keeping it discrete. If you DON'T want to keep it discrete, then that might indicate that you're a little more invested in sharing the event with your family than you thought. Then you might want to think about postponing and maybe including a little family.)
posted by yarly at 10:28 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your wedding anniversary would always remind your mom of her daughter's death; maybe postpone out of respect for your mom? And so you can feel free to say, "it's our anniversary, we're planning such-and-such" without your mom cringing? You're going to be married a long time. No need to rush, especially for an elopement. At least you are not facing this situation having booked a venue, band, caterer, etc.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:38 AM on August 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

I guess you don't technically have to, but your mother just lost a child. Err on the side of compassion unless you really need to do it for health insurance or something like that.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:44 AM on August 26, 2011 [19 favorites]

I agree with Knowyournuts - you should postpone if you think there's even a chance that you might someday want to have a big happy anniversary party - best to keep these two events separate in peoples' heads.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2011

Well. 2 weeks is not today. I'm unsure why you are eloping and yet your mom gets a say. Isn't the point of eloping so that you don't have to check in with family on this decission? How close are you to your mom? Maybe you are super close to her and the rest of what I'm thinking is off-base.

I think if you can approach your trip in two weeks with " Joy!! We're getting married!!!" then get married already!

If you'll be feeling guilty or whatever, and your elopement will have a pall over it because of fall out from your sister's passing, then maybe postpone getting married.

Sounds like you'll be in Vegas anyway, can't you decide once you get there?


As someone who has eloped, the whole reason to elope is so that you can focus on each other without all the crazed drama of family involved. I think it showed poor taste on your mom's part to throw guilt onto your plans since she isn't going to be there anyway and it isn't about her - but that is me. Also, I totally get this was something she might have said in the throws of grief and not how she will feel in two weeks.

At the end of the day, only you and your husband count. You share a home, and a life, and a bed together every night. I see no reason why you should stay engaged indefinitely when you could be officially husband and wife two weeks from now.

Unless you relish planning a new trip and a new elopement somewhere else and you keep this Vegas trip as an engagement celebration (if you have the money, vacation time, and don't mind waiting to get hitched this could be a fun way to go) then get married as planned.

Once you are in Vegas, I bet you will feel as though you're a million miles away from these concerns.

Congratulations to you and your man!!!!!
posted by jbenben at 11:25 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Postpone out of respect for your Mom.
posted by xammerboy at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm with you - but... if your mom is going to be upset about it, it might be easiest to postpone it a little so that she doesn't forever associate the beginning of your marriage with something that she considers disrespectful or bad.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:08 PM on August 26, 2011

And keep in mind that if your mom (and all of this goes for other family members) is upset about it but doesn't want to blame you, she/they will blame your husband for going ahead with the wedding.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:10 PM on August 26, 2011

At the end of the day, only you and your husband count.

I disagree with this a whole lot. I don't think people should be roaming through life in little sealed units of only two people. One day, no matter how great your marriage is, you will need to rely on other people outside your marriage, and have your feelings considered by other people, whether or not that's inconvenient or doesn't match their own feelings.

It sounds like this is important to your mom, whether she's there or not, and she's grieving. I think it would be respectful to wait. Also it sounds like your partner feels like waiting is the right thing. So do that. I think it's the better choice.
posted by sweetkid at 12:52 PM on August 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

How close are you to your mom? Will this bug her for the rest of her life if you do it now?

If it was only affecting you, I'd say fuck it, get married, but if you're worried about your mom's feelings I wouldn't do it now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:11 PM on August 26, 2011

Personally, I think if you're going to worry enough about your mom's thoughts and feelings to postpone, I think you should invite her. If you elope, then by definition it's you and your husband-to-be's affair and not hers/theirs/everyone's. Putting it that way also demonstrates why eloping itself isn't considered 'good etiquette', and in fact most people do it to kind of escape from etiquette concerns altogether. As you're finding out, it's hard to 'escape from family'; even simply letting in your nearest and dearest drags the whole family situation into the equation. It's not really a bad thing, but it seems to be how most families work.

Of course, if you plan to have a family rather than a childless marriage, you'll have to deal with them anyway, so may as well start now. If not, then don't bother. In any case, the 'tradition' for elopements as far as I know is to announce them after the fact, so in theory you could get married and only tell your mom later, since she's not going to be there anyway, right.

Neither weddings nor funerals ever come at exactly the 'right time', and there's no 'right time' to either mourn or celebrate; frequently the two mix. Emotions are messy. A wedding might make someone in mourning feel either worse or better. The idea of the 'proper' time for these life-changing occasions implies people should experience them the same way emotionally, which simply isn't the case.

Consider the idea of an intimate family affair somewhere other than Vegas if you postpone, where you invite your mom, say. Also consider the idea of actually eloping, not telling her/telling her (or the family in general) later, and holding a 'real' wedding reception say, a year from now, where you just have a party or what have you. This works well if you're not religious, especially. You could say you've 'already signed', so all that's left is the party. It's true that your family circumstances mean now is not the time for a party anyway, but you're not having one-- you're getting eloped. You can postpone the party/reception you never meant to have anyway for the indefinite future without losing the actual matrimony, which is simply a change in your legal status. When it comes time to have the party, you can make sure to only invite a dozen or so people and have it in some fun restaurant, maybe on the anniversary of your actual ceremony. There are more options than just yes or no. Anyway, best wishes to you and your family.
posted by reenka at 3:34 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Elope and tell your mom your half-sister would have wanted you to elope.
posted by Renoroc at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2011

I'm thinking about what someone said about the anniversary of her death and your anniversary being 2 weeks apart. Each person has a different opinion about death anniversaries, but I think the angst over that fades with time. The first year anniversary will be rough, but then afterwards it can get a little easier to cope with those anniversaries.

If you will still be going on the trip, you have 2 weeks to decide. If it is truly an elopement with no other family members there, you have some time to see how your mom (and others) are feeling about your sister's passing. I can see how your mom would tell you not to elope because of her shock and grief....she can't imagine anything happy related to her daughters right now. Her world has just stopped. 2 weeks from now she might be feeling differently.

Honestly, I would lean towards continuing with your plans. Just know that your celebration may need to be subdued while others heal. You never know...other family members may look forward to a celebration to help their healing. Just know that your mom may not be able to actually have that conversation right now.
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:01 PM on August 26, 2011

Jewish tradition is to go ahead with the wedding and then grieve.
posted by brujita at 11:22 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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