Going to the chapel ...
January 16, 2012 11:21 AM   Subscribe

How to tell the family we've eloped? Snowflake details inside!

My partner of almost seven years and I are planning on getting married very quietly (just us and the JP) in March. We've been planning this for about a year, and work, school, illness, etc. have kept us from actually making a date until now. If we do not do this in March, we'll likely be delayed until the end of summer or possibly even December 2012. For legal reasons, we need to be married before January 2013.

We're both very private people and do not want others at the wedding. I don't think this will be an issue with either family (we're both in our 30s, independent, etc. -- no one seems to expect traditional things from us). The issue comes from the announcement.

I have a close female cousin (I'm also female) with whom I have a somewhat convoluted and confusing relationship. We're very close in age, though she is a few months older, and have been considered the same person by many family members for many years. She and I have been close in the past, but haven't really talked in a couple years -- an issue which has gotten much play in the family gossip circle. Everyone talks to everyone and is super gossipy and talky. The family all gets along and is happy (for the most part).

When my partner and I decided to get married, the cousin and her boyfriend were broken up (and made it public to the family how and why). Since then, they have gotten back together and are planning a big wedding in July.

This cousin has had problems in the past with younger family members getting married before her, and her mother had a grudge (which has gone away over time) against my mother when my mother got married just three months after her. My cousin's brother (also my cousin, yes) got engaged the day before my own brother and my brother delayed announcing his engagement for fear of stepping on any toes.

So. I don't want to not announce our marriage (after the fact, of course), nor do I want to say "oh well, it was for legal reasons," which seems to diminish the whole situation. I also don't want to start some sort of family fight. I could just tell my mom and dad and brother, but telling anyone else (including my grandmother, with whom I have a close relationship) is effectively telling the whole family.

Any ideas?
posted by mrfuga0 to Human Relations (22 answers total)
Just announce it when you do it--your cousin can shove it. What's there to get upset about? It's not like you're stealing her big wedding thunder four months before her actual wedding.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 11:23 AM on January 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

Send out announcement cards.

This is what we did.

We ordered announcements from Ann's Bridal Bargains.

And instead of an invitation, it said:

Zizzle and dr.enormous announce their marriage, which took place on this date in this location.

And that was it.

We ordered them ahead of time and mailed them the week after we got married. We called our immediate family the day of the wedding.
posted by zizzle at 11:28 AM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think if you waited to announce it until after her wedding it would be more hurtful. While she's still basking in the attention-glow of a new bride you would be prancing in going "Oh wait, you STILL lost!" It would be worse than stealing her thunder somehow. Of course that would not be your intention that would be the perception.

I would just send out some nice, tasteful cards to everyone and be done with it. Let them do what they're going to do.
posted by bleep at 11:28 AM on January 16, 2012

Just send out announcement cards immediately after your wedding (I mean, it doesn't have to be that *day*, but as close as possible). Your cousin's invitations probably won't even have gone out yet.

If your cousin is really determined to feel slighted, then she'll feel slighted regardless. Anyway, you'll give your family something to talk about, which seems like something they enjoy doing :)
posted by mskyle at 11:32 AM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Call your close family the day of the wedding, mail the announcements soon after. Do not stop for one minute to think about your cousin's reaction, because it doesn't matter. She'll likely be upset no matter what you do: if you get married first, you're stealing her thunder; if you announce it after, you're stealing her thunder; if you don't announce it at all, your family will soon figure it out anyway, and they'll talk about the fact that you got married, therefore stealing her thunder. There's no winning this game.

Do whatever you need to do for your new little family (you and your partner), include whoever you want to include (your parents, say, or no one, or your one uncle Jimmy, whatever) and walk straight on along the path you've chosen. Tell people that you got married on X date, hooray!, and let them deal with whatever drama they want to stir up.
posted by lydhre at 11:34 AM on January 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

Honestly, my family has so many people in it, that in any given year there are 2-3 engagements and 2-3 pregnancies that oddly enough occur rather close to each other. Everyone is happy for everyone else.

If spacing these events apart is a thing for your family, then I don't have much advice except to say you shouldn't avoid scheduling your wedding because of someone else's, unless you would be preventing people from attending that other wedding -- that's not happening here.

If their wedding is in July and yours is in, say, August, or a few weeks after in July, I don't see how that is impeding to your cousin's thunder in any way....
posted by zizzle at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2012

Don't give in to that nuttiness. You can't and shouldn't be a slave to the notions of crazy people. Announce it ASAP.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:36 AM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

People are weird about weddings and there is nothing you can do to stop that. You're very kind to want to avoid upsetting your cousin, but--to this complete stranger--nothing you're proposing infringes on her "big day" in any way. Marry your partner, when you want, how you want. Send out a simple announcement card shortly thereafter. If your cousin thinks no-one is allowed to live their lives at all in the years and months leading up to and following her wedding, your cousin is very much out of line.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

"This cousin has had problems in the past with younger family members getting married before her, and her mother had a grudge (which has gone away over time) against my mother when my mother got married just three months after her."

All you can do with people like this is ignore them. People do not "own" birthdays, wedding anniversary dates, baby names, other people's family planning or ovulation cycles, or "the entire year I am getting married."

If you were both having huge weddings for which family would have to travel, and a substantial portion of family would have to choose between one and the other, it would be nice of you (but not required) to consider her dates. As you're not having people travel, do your thing and send the announcement and don't worry about it. Any catty fake-congratulations should be treated as if they were sincere (this drives catty people crazy!) and anything hurtful should be ignored or greeted with something adequately Miss Manners-y. She has addressed the particular form of insanity of people who think they own dates many times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:42 AM on January 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

I think the only possible way you getting married could reasonably be construed as obnoxious is if you did it within 1-2 weeks of your cousin AND if it were a big wedding you were expecting/hoping everyone to travel for. If you're planning on getting married 4 months before your cousin in a very low-key way, you're doing nothing wrong.

You can't control other people; "Crazies gonna crazy." Enjoy your wedding (in whatever form it takes) and treat it like the joyous occasion it is, independent of what you're worried about other people thinking.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:57 AM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

My family can be a little weird about this too, but if you're not having an actual ceremony that requires people to travel, make plans, etc., your cousin will come off as frankly ridiculous for getting upset. What thunder are you stealing by letting people know you're married? At least in my family, most of the drama that comes from two weddings being scheduled close to each other is in the inevitable comparisons between the ceremonies/receptions/brides, and in potentially overlapping events.

If she's going to be upset by you distributing an announcement, well, that is entirely her problem and she is being unreasonable. You can't plan your life around her crazy.
posted by yasaman at 12:02 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

The best way I've seen this done is quickly and with little fuss. My roommate and his girlfriend went off to Lake Tahoe for the weekend and when they came back they said "By the way, we got married this weekend." Instead of a single big celebration the whole thing broke down to a bunch of a little dinners and gifts after the fact.

This is as opposed to some other ones I've seen where some people knew in advance, or announcements went out after the fact, or -- and yes I've seen this happen -- the couple sent announcements *with a gift registry note* after the fact.

Basically I think you can skip a lot of angst by not adopting the accoutrements of an actual wedding. Quietly eloping won't steal anyone's thunder.

(just us and the JP)

You'll likely need a witness as well. A friend that has never met your family and has nothing to do with them would be best.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:15 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mrs. usonian and I eloped. The night before our appointment at City Hall, we called our immediate families and pretty much said, "Hey, FYI we're getting married tomorrow!" In our case we had been with each other for 8 years and living together for 5 of those, so it wasn't exactly a surprise... and honestly I think they appreciated not being asked to schlep all the way to the other side of the continent, where we were living at the time. We didn't send out announcements or anything; word percolated around the extended families, and we told friends and acquaintances the next time we happened to see them. No big deal. It's about the rest of your lives together, not the event itself, right?

I don't know if the passive approach (let the word get around, versus making a formal announcement with cards) would minimize or exacerbate the situation with your cousin... but in either case, you can't let her hold your marriage hostage. I think Eyebrows McGee's response is spot-on as far as that goes.

You'll likely need a witness as well.
This probably depends on your state and/or municipality. In Los Angeles we were able to pay an extra $5 for a "confidential marriage license" and get married without a witness.
posted by usonian at 1:21 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Crazies gonna crazy."

I can't favorite this enough. If some of your relatives are determined to crazy (and it sounds like on this issue they might be), nothing you do is going to make a difference. You're fine! Congratulations, mazel tov, etc.
posted by cyndigo at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2012

We got married at the courthouse after 13 years together because I had health insurance and the dude needed health insurance. No witness needed in GA. We called our immediate families from the bar afterwards, then posted to Facebook, which got the word out with exactly the correct amount of reverence. We had a family party a couple of months later which was not something I personally wanted, but it made our families happy. I didn't want presents but was told we were expected to have a registry for the party, so we did. Some noses might have been bent out of shape, especially by the Facebook thing, but they know us and love us and I think have gotten over it. We should send out the damn thank you notes for the presents, though--noses do get bent out of shape over that.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2012

"Crazies gonna crazy." YES! No one can win whatever game it is they think they're playing. It's just not possible.

The mister and I eloped as well. Later that evening we called my mum, my oldest brother and the mister's dad and it was over and done with. Later that week I mailed out, to both families, nice announcements that I designed and printed out. No drama at all.
posted by deborah at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

We just told our immediate family and close friends and basically people we liked, then let them tell everyone else. Oh and I posted an update about it to facebook a few days afterwards. Family was told a week before hand (we got married at home with just two friends as witnesses plus the celebrant (legal minimum in my country) and planned it two weeks out), everyone else told a day or two afterwards, facebook after that. Telling would have been less awkward if I had the ring to break the ice, but I didn't get that for a few weeks so I kind of had to blurt it out. I assume the extended family knows via gossip, don't care enough to ask and find out.

In your case I'd just tell whoever in your family and friends you want to tell, parents, grandma, etc, at a time that works for you, then just let the cousin and whoever else find out via the gossip mill. Might as well let it work for you for a change. If you do want to celebrate a bit more the announcement card route is fancier and nice, you can send them to whomever you decide and the gossip mill will work just the same.

And congratulations! Secret marriages are fun.
posted by shelleycat at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2012

This cousin has had problems in the past with younger family members getting married before her, and her mother had a grudge (which has gone away over time) against my mother when my mother got married just three months after her. My cousin's brother (also my cousin, yes) got engaged the day before my own brother and my brother delayed announcing his engagement for fear of stepping on any toes.

All of this is noise. They have a problem. That is because they CRAZY.

You don't have any problems here - don't get caught up by this nonsense. Announce away!

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:11 PM on January 16, 2012

Agreeing with the masses here. You are not stealing thunder. You are making a low key announcement. You could even sell it as didn't want to steal thunder so even smaller than you might have otherwise. Heck, your parents aren't even going to your wedding. What can a sane person have issue with this?

If you call a few close friends and relatives on the day, I would call cousin and let her know directly from you. I might even pump her up by saying how much you are looking forward to her wedding and how beautiful and fun it will be. If you almost sound wistful for having missed out on the big wedding thing, she may not have an issue at all.

When you attend her wedding, deflect any congrats for you to them.

"Hey mrfuga0, I heard you eloped a few months ago. Congratulations. "

"Thank you so much. It was really just a small ceremony making us legal. This wedding and this bride are so beautiful! What a tremendous day it is."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:41 PM on January 16, 2012

Your only obligation is to send out timely thank-you notes to people who give you gifts.

Personally, I would get married, call my parents and siblings that day, and put the announcements in the mail the day after (mostly because otherwise they would get forgotten.)

I do think it's best if you do the announcements ASAP; odds are her invitations will go out in June or perhaps May, depending on how on-the-ball she is. By that time, your announcement will have been such old news that the only people who listen to any craziness will be, by definition, also crazy.

BTW: the only correct solution to "I hate that you people keep getting married before me" is to get married immediately. Or, you know, grow up (that seems unlikely in this situation.) The solution is never "magically compel all my family members to put their lives on hold to prop up my bizarre, delusional, and totally inappropriate beliefs about my own importance and how others should accommodate it."

Cooperating in her attempts at compelling you to change your behavior is actually very bad for her mental well-being; she would be in fact well-served if you had a GLORIOUS, opulent wedding both the day before hers and the day after hers. The only reason I don't think you should do that is, well, she's not that important.
posted by SMPA at 4:41 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

We made a power point presentation and emailed it to friends and family a couple of weeks after we eloped. It seemed to go over well.
posted by Kloryne at 6:53 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do it your way and send the notices if you want to. Then call her and tell her you did it this way specifically so she wouldn't feel put out, though of course you know she's so reasonable that wasn't really a worry anyway. Follow up with an email CCing both your mothers saying how lucky you both are to have found The One and reiterating that you especially wanted to accommodate her.

Dare her to fuss.
posted by anildash at 10:34 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

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