Do you regret your elopement or tiny wedding?
April 9, 2014 2:34 PM   Subscribe

We are considering eloping or having a wedding with an extremely limited guest list. Has anyone had a great experience with this? Will I regret it?

Details: living together about two years, very much in love and committed to relationship, both of us have had therapy, separately and together, to deal with past baggage and we have both come a long way. He's the one. The only obstacle to a happy marriage is, well, the wedding.

I will point form this to avoid a blog-ish spew, but here are the main difficulties:

- He has been married before and I do not want this to be a cliche experience. I want it to be different for him and his family.
- He has social anxiety difficulties; a party with tons of people paying attention to him would be his special definition of hell.
- We are both very money-careful and the thought if spending thousands of dollars on one day horrifies me.
- We each have relatives, including in the immediate family, who are problematic and who we don't want there.
- Neither of us are particularly interested in any of the minutiae which goes into planning such things. Flowers, caterers etc. Ugh.

We have discussed doing one of those 'just you' Vegas packages where it's all pre-set. Many of them are quite affordable, include a video or photographs and basic amenities, and can accommodate up to ten guests. I do feel like I might like that because I may regret not at least having my mom there.

But I also suspect that if we did find ourselves in Vegas just on vacation and he suggested a spur of the moment let's just do it, I might say yes. I do want my mom there if possible, but I think she would understand, whereas in the other scenario of having to explain to some of the other relatives why we had a wedding and didn't include them, the repercussions would be more severe. Whereas if we invite nobody, nobody will be angry....

Has anyone here done that sort of thing? Any regrets?
posted by JoannaC to Human Relations (76 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I had a very small wedding. I really regret it. I wish I'd invited my parents' friends. Now that I'm a parent, I see that my parents wanted to celebrate this life event. Those friends had seen me grow up too. And some of my family members are still hurt that I didn't invite cousins or people's kids. (We had a small venue and just invited my aunts/uncles.) I also wish I'd let people bring kids and that I'd spent more money.

I still wish I'd done those things, celebrated that time in our lives with more people.

My husband had social anxiety, few family members able to visit and a resulting small circle of friends. I wanted to make things work for him. But, in spite of that, I really wish I'd listened to my own needs and those of my parents. My parents didn't contribute much money, but they gave us their time and, now that I'm a parent, I realize the important roles that their friends played in my life and that they were family too. And I wish I had invited more of my friends too, instead of restricting it so my husband felt comfortable.

I don't know how I would have resolved all that, mind you. He still had his anxiety. Maybe therapy or some interventions? There's a good Askme answer. :)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

There were five people at my wedding: The groom, the other groom, two friends/legally required witnesses, and a officiant. We got married in a lovely wooded park then went home and had a BBQ with 20-30 friends.

It was the best!
posted by munchingzombie at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would suggest going on vacation with your mom to Vegas and "spontaneously eloping" so nobody is offended. Because "Nobody planned it! Just one of those spur of the moment things!"
posted by DarlingBri at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

He has been married before and I do not want this to be a cliche experience. I want it to be different for him and his family.

Let that go. Drop it. His prior marriage should not be a factor in your thinking.

As far as wedding or elope, I was not interested in a wedding. My fella thought a formal ceremony in front of people was necessary. It was fine. Glad we did it but wouldn't miss it if we hadn't.

My wedding was a big deal for various people. (Possibly including the spouse - I should ask him.) For their sake, I'm happy to have done it.

If you have problem family, you may be better off with a fun weekend package. Maybe have a Sunday dinner with Mom and a few other intimates after your return.


(Edited to add: tiny wedding followed by large reception that was cheap and simple and mostly DIY with catering and music by friends who provided services as a gift.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:45 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got married at a drive-up window in Vegas with no one in attendace but us and a witness-that-came-with-the-place and I was happy with that decision. Note: I am not still married. The big deal I think is that for a lot of people having the ceremony where you declare yourself as committed-for-life has some value within some communities and some people might miss getting to share that. I'd consider having some not-a-wedding event that you shared with people you cared about if you go this route.

I think most people understand if you have a small-to-tiny wedding. I think if the people you are implying won't understand are direct family members (i.e. his parents? your dad?) that may be a good occasion for some straight talk, not blamey but just "We wanted to have a small uneventful wedding and this is how we chose to do that" and then move on. To me part of the whole idea of getting married is that you create your chosen family with the person you love and the two of you, together, can act as a team and decide how to interact with the family members outside of that. If they two of you are on the same page (and even the three of you if you want to invite your mom) I say go for it. I'd talk to your mom about it in any case just to have someone else to bounce ideas off of. If you two get along, moms can sometimes be good for perspective.
posted by jessamyn at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My wife and I did this and my only regret is not doing it to begin with.

We were planning a huge destination wedding on the New England coast through a wedding planner. I put down thousands of dollars in deposits. It became pretty clear that few people who would have been invited would have shown up.

My wife suggested an elopement or small ceremony. I was stubborn and wanted the big wedding, largely because it's just what my family has done in the past.

Our wedding budget went up and up.

When we were about to tear our hair out, my parents said that as a wedding gift, they would either pay for our wedding ceremony/reception or give us a down payment for a house.

That was a no-brainer; we decided on the down payment and went about cancelling the big wedding. Unfortunately, I only got back about 10% of my deposits, so our finances are still a bit creative.

Attempt #2 was a small ceremony at one of the big Vegas casinos. It wasn't cheap, but it was doable, and I know elopement packages are less money. We invited immediate family, and my best man and her maid of honor only. My best man couldn't make it, so I had no best man.

We had all of our immediate family make it to the ceremony. Part of our package included a live webcast of the ceremony -- which was a big hit with my wife's family overseas even though the ceremony was at something like 3 AM their time. We also got a CD with all the digital photos and the rights (THAT was NOT cheap) so we could easily e-mail around photos to people who wanted them.

I have no regrets about going with a small ceremony. I regret that I was stubborn and lost a lot of deposit money, causing some financial headaches. That would not have happened had I not been stubborn and had we gone with the small ceremony to begin with.
posted by tckma at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I got married with only immediate family -- who we did both like very much so we don't have those issues -- and I have never regretted it for a second. It was perfect. I splurged on getting my hair & makeup done and getting a good photographer, wore a pretty cocktail dress, and I have a bajillion pictures of me and my husband and our family in a beautiful park that we paid a $5 fee to be allowed to get married in, and it was absolutely perfect.

For us, though, he doesn't like center of attention things at all, and for me it was the wedding I had always imagined since I was a little girl (and he was more than happy to oblige me). My parents were thrilled, his parents were hugely disappointed to not get to invite all their friends but did their best not to show it (though it was made clear that an elopement without them present at all would be Not OK). Every time I go to someone else's wedding now I just sit there thinking "glad they're happy, but thank God I didn't have to do this".
posted by brainmouse at 2:52 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mr. Meat and I got married (4 years ago today!) at the courthouse, immediate family only. It was perfect, no regrets. We didn't even tell anybody else beforehand because I absolutely did NOT want the "engagement attention."
We did have a big friend party when we got back home, and that went over well. Some more distant relatives are still mad, but whatev.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:55 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go have a small wedding, then some months later, have a friend party in an easy location. You are over thinking this, you two are the ones getting married.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

We eloped. We looked at Vegas, and decided it just wasn't "us." We decided to get an officiant on a beach in Maui. There are quite a few companies that will set everything up for you, from license to photographer (not just in Hawaii, pretty much any city or scenic destination). It was great, a lovely ceremony. No regrets at all!

We did it for similar reasons... Not into big parties or being the center of attention, or spending our life's savings on a single day.

I told my parents in advance, because I thought that would lead to less hurt feelings. My husband told his family after the fact. No one was upset about it.

I highly recommend eloping!
posted by Kriesa at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I eloped in Scotland. I've always been super-private about my relationships, so the idea of standing up there and having a party with everyone staring at me was so mortifying that I started having panic attacks when I was reading wedding magazines.

My parents were unhappy, but they got over it. Sometimes I didn't feel married at all, but that was more circumstance than ceremony.

I'm not married anymore, but I'd definitely elope again. Vegas next time. A+++.
posted by mochapickle at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know this is not quite the question you were asking but I had a biggish wedding (75ppl). I would have preferred to elope but was afraid of offending people (especially my husband's family). I hated our wedding. It was stressful and being the center of attention just made me feel weirdly lonely. People I was trying to please complained anyway and I felt it was a burden in everyone involved. It went really fast and I didn't have time to really enjoy anyone's company, least of all my new husband's. I wish I could have a do over and elope at a farm in the middle of nowhere with just our parents and a couple of friends. That would have been perfect.
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:00 PM on April 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: When I got married it was just 3 people - me, my now husband, and our good friend as a witness. We went to the county clerk's office and then a baseball game afterwards. We told our family about it after the fact. We went this way for a lot of the reasons you outlined - we wanted to save money and energy for future house hunting, neither of us are really big party people, we didn't want to be the center of attention, and we didn't want the headache of planning and coordinating. (Honestly, getting there on transit was enough stress.)

I have some very small minor regrets about not having Band of Gold as the song for our first dance, but that's about it. Going through with subsequent family stuff (a small wedding celebration husband's family threw for us, my brother's wedding), has only made us happier with our decision. It was totally right for us.
posted by kendrak at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

We had a very small wedding: us, our first child, the friend who married us, our best couple friends and their child, and my sister. We did it in our living room and went for sushi after. It worked well for us, but we weren't interested in solemnizing anything in particular, just legal protection because I was leaving my job to be a stay at home mom.

In two years, we'll have been together for ten years, and I think we're going to have a big party with friends and family. That's the part of a wedding I was excited about, so a tenth anniversary seems as good a time as any.

I'd recommend thinking through what's important to you about a wedding before making the decision. For some people, getting married is a community event. For others, it's very personal. My mother was upset that she wasn't there, but my dad wasn't surprised: in college, when my mom took over the graduation party my housemates and I were throwing, I'd warned him I'd probably elope.

My spouse is also fairly private, so that was an additional factor in making the decision. We don't regret it, three years in.
posted by linettasky at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2014

We got married at the courthouse without anyone there but us and the judge (no witnesses needed in GA). My parents through us a party a couple months later for our extended families and some friends. I could have done without the party. The more weddings I go to, the more I'm glad we skipped all of that.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:07 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

We walked into a small town courthouse one morning and a nice lady at the clerk's office took care of it. Simple, friendly, fast, legally binding.
We also attempted to get some random religious authority figures at various churches to marry us the day before. Don't do that, it's kind of a dead end.
That's my eloping advice.
posted by steinwald at 3:12 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Went the small route -- parents and siblings only -- for the ceremony, then went out to a nice dinner that included our officiant and her husband (a close friend of mine). Then honeymoon. Then a reception in our backyard, to which we invited all the people who'd be hurt if they were excluded altogether.

There were some initial grumbles from his grandparents about not being at the ceremony, and from his mother about not having a religious ceremony. It's been a few years and no one seems to care anymore.

All things considered, I think we should have stuck to the original plan of eloping without telling anyone ahead of time (turns out I can't keep a secret) because we didn't want or need any cake, spotlight or expense. But I am very pleased that once we drew the line, we managed to keep the parents from snowballing it into something big. I remember the day fondly. And the cake was delicious.

Whatever you do, before you tell your families, talk through what both of you want and what you don't. ("What does 'no gifts' mean???" It means we don't want any gifts, Mom. "But your grandma will be devastated if you don't let her make you a quilt!" A quilt is fine, Mom. Just don't buy us anything.) It's so easy for things to snowball, and it's easier if you can explain what you want before anyone gets their heart set on realizing their dream wedding Pinterest board.
posted by katieinshoes at 3:13 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

We eloped at city hall, no witnesses, and told family later. It's been almost 15 years now, and I have absolutely no regrets.
posted by barnoley at 3:13 PM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

We each have relatives, including in the immediate family, who are problematic and who we don't want there.

We had a similar issue, but fortunately, the problem relatives are not fond of travel. In response, we were able to have the wedding in our new city, 3 states away from where our families live. This allowed us to invite problem guests that we knew would never show up.

My husband's first marriage was very small (4 people) and when we got engaged, it was something he wanted to rectify. I had very little opinion, so we went with a medium to small wedding and it was perfect.

The ceremony took all of 7 minutes and I held the photographer to a firm 30 minutes of pictures after the ceremony. The rest of the event was light food, drinks, and dancing. We held it in a botanical garden so we didn't have to deal with flowers or decorating. Food and drink were catered and a DJ took care of the tunes. It wasn't super-cheap but it was far cheaper than any wedding site will lead you to believe is possible.

The people I loved were there. No one who was difficult showed up and I got to dance with my dad, my husband, and my dear friends, which was something I never even knew I wanted.

Before we got married, I would have said I didn't need a ceremony or any of the frills. But now, I can't imagine it differently.
posted by teleri025 at 3:14 PM on April 9, 2014

We had about 20 guests at our very low-key destination wedding in New Orleans: Our parents, siblings, and very best friends. It was AMAZING. We chose a destination wedding since we had people coming from both coasts and everywhere in between; if everyone had to travel, we figured, might as well travel somewhere fun, but even if we'd had it at home, the guest list wouldn't have been much bigger. We got a few gifts, but didn't care one way or another about them, particularly on top of travel expenses.

It ended up being like a really intimate party. We got to really talk and hang out with everyone, and the actual ceremony felt wonderfully private. I didn't expect it, but I ended up being tremendously touched and glad we got to share the moment with people we love, who love us, and who have been so supportive of our relationship. I have never for a second even vaguely regretted not having all my grandparents, aunts, cousins, acquaintances, parents' friends or gifts there.
posted by mostlymartha at 3:20 PM on April 9, 2014

Five people at my wedding. Me, spouse, photographer, officiant and helicopter pilot (to get us up the top of the mountain and serve as witness.)

No family, no friends. And we travelled half way round the world to do it.

It couldn't have been more right for us. And as my sibling preps for a big family wedding I am only more and more convinced we did the right thing.
posted by Hobo at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We got married at an inn in Vermont. The only people there besides the two of us were the three people who owned the inn: one married us, one took pictures, and one made sure everything looked nice. The whole experience was so great, I am glad we didn't do it any other way. The ceremony was too intimate for me to have enjoyed in front of our friends & family, as I am extremely averse to public displays of emotion or affection.

That said, we had a pretty traditional reception a few days later - white dress, first dance, the whole bit. However, unlike your boyfriend I love to plan parties, and I only kept the parts I wanted to.

In part, I had a big traditional reception because a few years prior, my mother died. I wanted to bring all the people I loved together for a reason other than death. Hence, the reception. (also hence the wedding but for different reasons...)

Only two people expressed disappointment at not being there and quite frankly, they're always disappointed so that was no surprise.
posted by lyssabee at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I did a small wedding. Part of this is my wife and I married in a state where same sex marriage is legal and that state was one where none of our family (or us) actually lived. We rented out a bed and breakfast ( 5 rooms total) two rooms for her family side two rooms for my family side and 1 room was us. We held the wedding on site. It was inexpensive, fun and intimate. I wouldn't have done it any other way. We also shooed everybody else out and had our honeymoon there.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:24 PM on April 9, 2014

My son and his wife had a small ceremony in San Antonio. Destination wedding for everyone but the Orthodox priest! They just invited close family and friends, and I think we had maybe thirty people, tops. The wedding was simple, traditional and beautiful. They catered some Texas barbecue, had cake and baklava, and we all had a blast.

I think that you have to decide what is and is not important to you personally. If you would miss having some ceremony, have some ceremony. You don't need a huge guest list for that. I do think you need to do something that makes it special for YOU in order to not have regrets.

(I had a more traditionally sized wedding. At the time I dealt with some social anxiety, and I was pretty stressed. The wedding we had was more for my husband than for me. As time goes on I am kinda glad we did what we did but at the time I would have been perfectly fine with a handful of people in a field with flowers in my hair.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:29 PM on April 9, 2014

Best answer: I helped my sister plan her ~120 guest wedding and we did a lot of the work ourselves to keep within a somewhat reasonable budget. It was a lot of work. A lot. And, a lot of money. It was lovely and it was wonderful to see family and friends and we were lucky that it all went according to plan with no drama. But, it was expensive in every way. Time, money, stress - all of it.

After going through all of that with my sister, I was overjoyed to have a very simple City Hall marriage ceremony with my parents (who live close by) and both of our siblings. I was all wonderful with absolutely no stress and no stomach churning about the expense of it all. We were well-rested, relaxed, and emotionally present. We got a wonderful Judge and had a meaningful and touching ceremony. I wouldn't trade our simple City Hall wedding for some big affair even if it all got planned and paid for by someone else. We have NO regrets.
posted by quince at 3:32 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My husband and I had the smallest possible wedding - us. There were probably a couple of squirrels around and we saw a deer wander past as we parked. In Colorado, you get your license and then you are effectively married and you can have a ceremony or not and have someone officiate or not. It. Was. Perfect.

We don't have problematic family so that wasn't an issue. (Come to think of it, all of my family had tiny or completely private weddings.) Neither of us are social and I have some social anxiety. Getting up and talking in front of others about how I feel about him would have been awful. It's way too personal to share with other people like that.

I really recommend having the wedding that you and your beau want. Like Jess the Mess says, some people are going to complain no matter what. What do you want to remember - wasted money and stress? Or a day that fit the two of you?

Good luck and stick to your guns! There is no single "right way" to get married. Oh, and congratulations!
posted by Beti at 3:32 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd say you're allowed to have the wedding you want to have.

My wife and I had a small wedding, but our idea of small was limiting it to around 75 guests. We had no regrets about designing the guest list the way we did. If I had any regrets after the fact, it would be extending invitations to important people we thought would attend, but who ended up either replying with a no, or replying with a yes and then canceling at the last minute. So it's less "I wish we had invited so-and-so," and more "I wish there hadn't been empty seats."
posted by emelenjr at 3:37 PM on April 9, 2014

Mrs Straw was a nanny for many years. She'd been married before and done the big thing, and I had no desire for a huge ceremony. When we decided to get married, we asked if one of her former charges, who was then in college, if he'd officiate and a neighbor would witness. Was supposed to be 20 minutes of signing the requisite paperwork, then we'd all get on with our Thanksgiving vacations. Well, our officiate was at a LAN/gaming party at said neighbor's house, and so brought the entire party over, complete with cake and champagne.

So we had a bunch of 20 somethings (that we'd known since they were younger kids) throw us a small party. It was awesome, no expectations, some really heartfelt appreciations, one "oh, wait, this really is a wedding? Wow!".

We did do a housewarming party a few years later where we invited everyone who would have traditionally been invited to a wedding. That was awesome too, and nice because we could just host a party.

So, yeah, I'm not into the big wedding thing, and have zero regrets in avoiding it.
posted by straw at 3:38 PM on April 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Eloped, three years ago, don't regret a thing.

Whatever you want is right.

posted by arnicae at 3:39 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My wife and I both kind of regret having the medium sized wedding we had; not because of the actual day (which was a blast and super fun) but all the planning that lead up to it was insane, and made our lives pretty miserable for a solid 8 months.

nth-ing everyone that says there's no right way to get married. Do what you (both) want, yo.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:39 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your wedding is yours and you should do what you want. You can celebrate with various people at other times and in other ways. I love my family and try to treat everyone in my life, and strangers for that matter, with kindness and sensitivity.

But the possibility of people getting offended by unwritten rules is about the worst reason I can think of for doing anything, let alone going through a ton of hassle to spend thousands of dollars for something you didn't want in the first place.

I'm doing something similar to what you're doing.
posted by cnc at 3:57 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

My partner and I had a five person wedding, just us, our two friends/witnesses, and the marriage commissioner. The day we got married, my father showed up in town without warning us, and we had a seriously rom-com morning trying to keep our wedding appointment a secret from him so he wouldn't try to crash it! We hiled him off just about ten minutes before the commissioner showed up at our apartment.

Why we did it:
  • Cheap. We have friends who spent thousands and thousands on a wedding. To hell with that.
  • My partner loathes being the centre of attention.
  • We don't particularly enjoy sharing our most important moments with our families.
  • Sheer bloody-mindedness.
No regrets at all, and we have purposely never told anyone else what day we got married so it's remained a weird little mystery for our families. We held no reception, had no parties, received no gifts and sent no thank you notes. All in all I could not imagine a better way to get married.
posted by Sternmeyer at 4:01 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got married with 22 people in attendance (immediate family and closest friends). I loved my wedding, but I still wish we had eloped. Other friends of mind had huge (100+ people) weddings and loved those. Go with what you want.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 4:03 PM on April 9, 2014

I've done both. I regretted the elopement ONLY because it wasn't what I actually wanted in a wedding (also because I knew I shouldn't be marrying that guy). If you DO want to elope, then follow your gut and elope.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 4:06 PM on April 9, 2014

I had a big-ish wedding, and I was a little sad that it wasn't the tiny city hall wedding I'd been hoping for, but it was still wonderful. My brother got married a year later where it was just them, the officiant, and a couple of witnesses they didn't really know. He was kind of sad it was so small, but it was still wonderful. Getting married is about finding the right person, not the right venue, so just do what feels right!
posted by Diagonalize at 4:14 PM on April 9, 2014

Elope, then have a small reception with whoever you want whenever you want. Being consumed about cost or other issues on your wedding day isn't a good plan for a happy wedding day.

We got married overseas at the start of our honeymoon. I think my wife just wanted a vacation in Italy and figured we'd get extra time off from work if we called it a honeymoon. Then, 2 months later, we had a reception with family/friends/etc which was great as there was no pressure.

Best part was my wife got to wear her wedding dress twice for the same man.
posted by Farce_First at 4:15 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

We did the elope then a small reception a year later thing. Would absolutely do it again.

A small event with your friends is much more enjoyable than a giant wedding with all kinds of people you don't know.
posted by colin_l at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2014

Got married at the courthouse 13 years ago. My first, her second. We were in our thirties. Only her kids and parents were there with us. Absolutely no regrets.
FWIW I also am not wild about big social events with me at the center of attention, or spending tons of money.
posted by jockc at 4:26 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Many of the things on your list are the reasons my husband and I had the wedding we had. It was not precisely small (I think we invited 75 people and around 65 attended) but it was just a cocktail party. No bridesmaids, no ceremony, no bouquet, no Big American Wedding Signifiers. No someone's second cousin or that guy who used to work with your dad being bored or, worse, being obnoxious in attendance.

We served finger foods and booze (we paid for catering, so that was an expense, but did not have to do seating charts). Midway through the evening, we got everyone's attention and had our officiant (an old friend with a license-for-the-sole-purpose-of-marrying-people license, which is legal around here) sign the documents while everyone looked on. Then I made a toast thanking everyone for being with us, while people took pictures with their cellphones.

It avoided a lot of the wedding planning BS (no flowers, no linens, no picking bridesmaids--which seems stupid when you're in your 40s) and reduced some of the costs. It spared my husband having to be stared at for the whole duration of the wedding.

We regret not vetting the bartenders better. Also, it made hiring a photographer (which I am VERY glad we did) difficult because while we were not trying to cheat anyone out of their hard-earned income, no wedding photographer would offer a package less than 12 hours, with "getting ready" photos (getting ready involved feeding the cats and hailing a cab) and pictures of the cake (there was not one). We ended up hiring a corporate event photographer.

But like everyone says, you should do what makes you happy. Will you regret not having people with you when you "get married"? I know I would have because, to me, getting married is a public-facing gesture of a private-facing commitment. But I don't for a second regret making that public-facing gesture exactly the gesture I wanted.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:31 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have had it both ways - the family wedding (for my marriage #1) and the just us wedding. I SO prefer the courthouse (and not just because I'm still married to him).

I insisted we dress up - full dress, tux, veil, flowers. My daughter was the flower girl/ring bearer/best man/maid of honor. My husband's photographer friend met us down there. We got married in the SF City Hall rotunda on the anniversary of the day we met. For us, it was more romantic, we didn't want presents and we didn't want to get in debt.

If I hadn't had the nice fancy wedding pictures to send to relatives, however, I would have regretted it. But every time we go to a wedding and the bride breaks down right beforehand about seating arrangements or a fight ensues in the reception hall, my husband and I squeeze hands, kiss and thank each other for our wedding.

When we hit year 10, we'll throw a reception with friends and family back near our home town - at least that's what we said 10 years ago. Maybe I'll just find an excuse to go to City Hall with him - like renewing our dog license - instead.
posted by Gucky at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, also. My sister just got married, had the huge princess expensive thing she wanted. I think my entire family was stressed their whole engagement, planning that wedding. I also do not want to even fathom how much money it cost.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2014

posted by John Cohen at 4:47 PM on April 9, 2014

My husband and I got legally married at city hall one May, while I was pregnant. (This was for insurance and paperwork reasons.) The nice lady at the registrar's office gave me a daisy to hold, and her fellow staffers were the witnesses. Afterwards, we went and ate hot dogs from the cart in the park next to City Hall. (Which we still do on our actual anniversary every May.) We told no one.

The December after our son was born, we had a small wedding (22 people + our 6 month old son) at my mother's house, which was (and always is) lavishly and tastefully decorated for Christmas. We did hire a caterer, and spent $300 on a cake. We did not have rings or a photographer. Everyone who was there says, to this day, it was the best and most romantic wedding they've ever attended. It was the right wedding for us.

A young co-worker is in the process of planning her huge, catered at a farm on the ocean, big dress, horse and buggy wedding .... which is in the summer of 2015. I've watched her stress over the venue, her photographer, her dress, the food, the font for the save the date cards -- everything it is possible to stress over, and there still is a year to go. One day over lunch she asked about my wedding and I told her the story. Her eyes grew wide... "You can DO that?" she said.

A wedding is a celebration of the bond between the two of you. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. If anyone was offended by not being invited to our wedding, they've never said anything. We have beautiful memories, and a few cute candids of my son, taken by a friend.

Don't worry about anyone else. Do what you want.
posted by anastasiav at 4:52 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Told the parents four weeks ahead. Told the rest of the guests two weeks ahead.
We got married with parents and siblings and one best friend each in my mother-in-law's back yard in the morning and then had a big BBQ with anyone who wanted to come in the afternoon. A friend of ours did the ceremony (and he insisted on wearing his dress kilt; it was a very fancy kilt).

This let me keep the promise I made to my mom that she be there when I got married. I don't like standing in front of people either. This worked fairly well. The BBQ was nice, no one had to get dressed up, the only bad thing was that my husband and I had to do the clean up that night and we were exhausted. I think at least one relative was annoyed that there wasn't good advance notice - and there were friends who couldn't make it to the BBQ part. Having it outside meant that it wasn't mobs of people in a small enclosed space. The BBQ was potluck but we supplied lots of meat (brother-in-law manned the grill) and grilled veggie options and made sure there were enough beverages. We ended up with so many leftovers!

It worked. I don't regret not having a big ceremony and reception. My sister did the traditional thing and she loved it and it was a beautiful day. I had fun. The thing is that you're celebrating getting married to someone you love - that's the center of the event and all the other stuff is just a party. You can have any kind of party you want - just the two of you, or more people, and more party.

Congratulations and good luck. This stuff is hard to do and people get more upset about weddings than seems possible.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:55 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My dad and stepmom got married in Vegas, just the two of them. A few years later she told me that it felt anti-climactic for her because when the ceremony was over they went out to dinner, and there was no one else there to share their good feelings and celebrate their special event with them.

I was a young adult when this happened, and I was told after the fact that they'd gotten married. Not being included in the ceremony made me feel like it was something that didn't matter very much, and for several years I didn't give their marriage the respect it deserved (there's some other family dynamics involved in that of course).

So I would say, if you want a small wedding, sure, go with that, but do include a few close friends and family members, don't go all by yourselves.

And at some point later on, throw a casual reception (backyard bbq or some such) and let people express their happiness for you.
posted by vignettist at 4:56 PM on April 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

One other idea - I had a friend that hosted her own engagement party at her house. A casual sort of affair, wine and nibbles. When all of the guests got there, she announced "surprise! we're getting married tonight!" and they did the wedding right there in her living room. Kept them away from all of the stressful wedding planning nonsense, and they got to be with friends for the event.
posted by vignettist at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

We got married in a courthouse and the only guests were my husband's parents and my dad. My only regret is that my mom (terminally I'll at the time) was hospitalized and couldn't be there. But we went to the hospital right after.
posted by amro at 5:04 PM on April 9, 2014

I have never, ever, even for a second, regretted my small wedding.

If Vegas is what you want to do, then do that! There are also other destinations with pretty courthouses. You could hire a photographer and do a courthouse and photo session wedding. You could even have your own romantic venue and hire an officiate or the judge to come out. Lots of options.

Personally, I got married to my husband, in the courthouse. We had his parents, his sister, and my parents. (I feel you on the annoying family. I have some crazy extended family so I didn't want them knowing about it.)

I didn't tell many people before we did it and kept it quiet. Then after we got married I uploaded photos on Facebook and sent out formal announcements in the mail with a link to online photos.

Best. Choice. Ever.

I had a dress and such, so I still got the feeling of a wedding without all the drama, cost, exhaustion... etc.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:07 PM on April 9, 2014

I eloped.

Wedding rings, blood tests, marriage license, dinner and movie: Under $300. Marriage lasted more than two decades. No regrets.

I have been to weddings that lasted less time than it took to pay off the cost of the wedding. I think a marriage is a private matter, between two people. I am well aware it impacts others but I think that when it comes down to brass tacks, those two people and how they relate is the part that matters. It would take a lot to convince me to have a big wedding. I just do not see what that adds to a marriage.
posted by Michele in California at 5:21 PM on April 9, 2014

I just got married 11/12/13 (woo!) so maybe my report is too early for you, but we were married with just the two of us and the necessary officiants, and I regret NOTHING.

We went to Couples Tower Isle in Jamaica. If you stay for a week, the wedding is free. It included a photographer and one framed picture (we bought extras, but they were like $10 a photo so we only got 10 of them), a cake, etc. We had to pay $250 for the legal paperwork. The whole thing took about half an hour, and we had a blast! I totally recommend it! My husband (woo!) is a flight attendant, so the flights were free, and the week at the resort was like $3500. Luckily my parents paid for that, so we had basically nothing to worry about financially which was so nice!

I don't really care for his family so I didn't want them coming on a weeklong vacation with us. My parents live in Canada, so they couldn't really make it down for a week (especially if we didn't invite my in-laws since that would be unfair). I don't get along with his sister, and my sister was living in Africa at the time. I didn't care about other family or friends being there; we're pretty introverted and spilling our romantic guts out in front of everyone seems really strange. My parents had been to the resort before and highly recommended it, so it was an easy decision. I feel slightly guilty that they paid for it and didn't come, but once they saw the photos they knew we'd done the right thing.

Only you can say for sure if you'll have any regrets, of course, but I would do it the same way again a million times if given the chance. It was perfect for us! Low drama, low cost, high reward!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:27 PM on April 9, 2014

I have been to weddings that lasted less time than it took to pay off the cost of the wedding.

Obviously, I meant "I have been to weddings where the marriage lasted less time than it took to pay off the cost of the wedding."

And barely missed the edit window. Derpa derp.
posted by Michele in California at 5:29 PM on April 9, 2014

We did this 6 years ago, with no regrets. We are in Toronto and were very pleased with the officiant we got through the Humanist Association. They have some nice templates you could work with. There are so many ways to elope.

We opted not to tell or invite anyone other than our 2 witnesses, and we took them out for dinner and cake after marrying each other at home and getting some photos (cats included). As introverts, this was a joy-filled and relaxing day. Really perfect in ways that it couldn't have been with more people around.

We also got married on Leap Day which we still find hysterical. We've had 1.5 anniversaries so far. ;)
posted by heatherann at 5:38 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

We ran off to Hawaii, just the two of us. The park we got married in made all the arrangements, pastor, witnesses, photographer, everything. We literally just had to show up, and they also arranged for a limo to meet us at the hotel. It wasn't an elopement because it wasn't a secret. We simply didn't feel like bothering with all the stress of a big wedding. We spent about $5000 total, including the week in HI.

We've been married 22 years. No regrets.
posted by COD at 5:39 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got married in October. We invited our moms, our siblings, and our respective best friends. We got married at City Hall and then went out for lunch after. It was short, sweet, and simple. I DO NOT REGRET ONE SECOND. In fact, I sort of wish it had been smaller. I hate being the center of attention, everyone drove me kind of crazy asking me where we should go next, what we should do, etc. (Everyone expects the bride to be The Boss of Everything, even if she doesn't care like I didn't.) Neither of us had the heart to tell our moms that they couldn't come, so.

We had a nice party a few weeks after the wedding, but it was very laid back (I wore jeans) in a venue where we're comfortable (a local restaurant where we're regulars) and it was a great time.

We have very little debt, some great pictures, and the best part is that we got married. Do what you want. We didn't want a big wedding because my husband isn't religious (so no church), we're not fancy, elegant people (so no black tie) and like you guys, neither of us wanted to deal with wedding details or spend a lot of money. I did a lot of things nontraditionally: I don't have a diamond, I didn't wear a white gown, no church wedding, no shower or registry, and I was afraid people would judge me and think I wasn't serious about my marriage or commitment. This hasn't happened at all.

Oh! And I also had some family that I was afraid would be PISSED and throw a fit about not being invited to the wedding ceremony. There were some grumbles, but no one seemed surprised that I invited my mom (we're very close) and I ignored the complaints and they kind of blew over. Having the party helped.

Have the kind of wedding you want and can afford. Good luck!
posted by Aquifer at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2014

My wedding to my now-ex-husband was planned in something like two weeks. It was done in my grandmother's house in New Orleans in June of '98. My father had a brain tumor and my grandmother and great-aunt were in their 90s and weren't very mobile. I was getting quite stressed just thinking about organizing a wedding and travel plans for multiple elderly people and my sick dad. I knew my dad was going to N.O. to visit his mother, so I called them up and said, "What do you think about a surprise wedding for my dad?" They were thrilled but somehow the surprise got spoiled.

Those present were my father, grandmother, great-aunt, their longtime housemate and daughter, and the city judge that performed the ceremony. We went to Commander's Palace for lunch and there was a beautiful cake at the house. I regretted only that the groom's family was unable to attend, but we had a nice dinner with them in NYC a few weeks later. I kept things so close to the vest that my co-workers liked to joke that I ran off to get married and didn't tell anybody.

TL;DR: Small wedding, and would absolutely do it again.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:03 PM on April 9, 2014

We were married at city hall with two friends as witnesses. It cost about $250. Absolutely no regrets. We had a wonderful day, went out for sangria and snacks afterward and had one of the witnesses take a few photographs. I have wonderful memories.

We did it for some of the reasons you mention. Some family members were far away and it would have been difficult (and pricey) for them to make it. Other family members have issues that we wouldn't have wanted to deal with. We are both careful with money and we aren't terribly traditional. The idea of planning a big wedding held little appeal for either of us.

We decided that in lieu of the formal wedding we would throw big party on our 10th year anniversary. 10 years with my honey have gone quickly and we are supposed to throw that party this October. I think we will wimp out again and maybe just pay for a nice dinner for close friends/family here in the city we live in and in my home city! We'll have a great time, share some laughs and still come out ahead financially. Low pressure, lots of love.
posted by Cuke at 6:17 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I eloped, and it was awesome. We told our immediate families two weeks in advance so that they didn't have heart attacks, and I asked my parents not to tell their siblings because I had a couple aunts who would probably have flown out and crashed the wedding even if my parents weren't there. We got married at a courthouse halfway across the country, so it was a great wedding/honeymoon trip. I e-mailed a couple friends who lived out there and asked if they'd be witnesses, and they were so psyched. We had an awesome post-wedding happy hour and then dinner with all of them. The only thing that caused some bruised feelings was that my brother was also a witness (he lived out there), and my mom was upset that he was there and she wasn't. She quickly got over it when she realized she didn't have to buy a dress. When my other brother got married in an insane southern country club production a couple years later, she often told me during the planning process that she wished he eloped as well.

It cost us $64 for the ceremony and $9 for three wedding certificates. It was the best trip ever, and the courthouse atmosphere was so fascinating (we were not the coolest cats getting married that day - BY FAR). We had a couple parties when we got back home - one with my friends, one with our immediate families (so they could meet each other), and then my aunts surprised us with a wedding cake at my big family reunion that summer. Sometimes I wish I had put more effort into organizing a single party, but that is less and less on my mind now.

Eloping spoiled me - I really wished there was an eloping-like version of pregnancy where you could just appear with a baby and not have to deal with all the social pressure and insanity in the 9 months prior.
posted by Maarika at 6:17 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

We regret not having eloped (we had a small wedding - 75 people including us and the preacher and his wife). The MIL was super-controlling throughout, and the FIL sold my wife's car to pay for the small wedding. I am not throwing stones for that but in the end, the fact that SHE really paid for OUR wedding made the hassle of the MIL all the worse. If we had to do it all over again we would have eloped.
posted by brownrd at 7:08 PM on April 9, 2014

It really is about you. My wife and I got married a week after deciding to, with 2 witnesses. She worked the first half of the day, we went and had cake with our friends/witnesses afterwards. Most friends and family had no idea until after.
It was perfect for what we wanted, no regrets 20 years later.

So, it basically boils down to your philosophy for the ceremony. Is it mainly about you? Go small with no guilt. Is is mainly about celebrating with family and friends? Go bigger.
Bigger weddings are more stressful and the more people involved the harder it is to avoid falling into the wedding industrial complex in some fashion.
At the end of the day, make it authentic to your individual beliefs and not what other people want, do that and you are on the right path.

Good luck
posted by edgeways at 7:20 PM on April 9, 2014

I've done both. The first time I got married, it was a big thing with a few hundred people present. The second time, it was in our living room with a few friends.

The second one was infinitely preferable in every possible way. And the two of us have now been together for 13 years, 6 of them before the marriage and 7 after.

(I may come back with more details of why it was preferable when it's not 3:20 AM.)
posted by kyrademon at 7:21 PM on April 9, 2014

10 people including us, and I have never regretted it for a single moment. We rented out a Bed & Breakfast for a weekend so our immediate families could hang out and get to know each other better. Casual-but-nice dinner at a beloved restaurant the night before the wedding; ceremony in the B&B's backyard: we hired an officiant, a photographer, and a guitarist; we had cake and expensive champagne inside immediately afterwards, and we all went out for a fancy dinner that night at a great restaurant. It was a perfect, perfect weekend that cost less than $4k all told. The whole weekend felt like the merging of two families, which was exactly what I wanted.
posted by gatorae at 7:30 PM on April 9, 2014

We eloped. Atheist + Wiccan + elopement = awesomeness and NO family drama.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:45 PM on April 9, 2014

I should mention we planned in advance and wrote our own vows, and we are still married some 14 years later...
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:51 PM on April 9, 2014

We had a small wedding in my in-laws backyard and it was great. The only thing I regret is we didn't have it catered (I wanted to bring in BBQ or something, but my now-MIL didn't want to do that. We had nibbly things from Costco and it was a little lame, though I made the cake which was awesome), and we didn't have a professional photographer. We don't have any photos with my Dad and I really regret that.

We had aunts and uncles, cousins, and a few friends. I think there were around 30 people there. It was a really lovely day that we got to share with our loved ones and not spend tons of money. The aunts and uncles said it was just like weddings in the 70s, which is exactly what we wanted.

Before we decided on that we looked at eloping, but like you I wanted some family there, especially my mom. I'm glad we went a little bit bigger and included more family, but we didn't have people we wanted to avoid like you do. I think it's perfectly legit for you to decide who you want to be there and to stick with that. Weddings are about family, yes, but they're also about creating your new family.

There are other options besides Vegas if you want something a little different. San Francisco City Hall is gorgeous, and has no waiting period. I can't find it now but there is a website listing the states that have no waiting period for marriage licenses. Once you have that you can search "Colorado elopement" or whatever and find what is being offered where.
posted by apricot at 7:57 PM on April 9, 2014

I've never been into the big wedding thing, and used to joke with friends I'd have an Elvis wedding in Vegas! Hahaha.

So, when Mr. Sunny and I did get married, we went to a Justice of the Peace, who didn't charge anything for the service, had a couple of friends for witnesses. That was it. No family on either side. There were good reasons for this. I suspect his family was a bit put out, but mine was fine with it. My dad apparently called everyone in the known universe. He was sure I was going to hell for living in sin.

Anyway, it was low-key and inexpensive, plus really stress-free. It worked for us, because neither of us wanted a big fuss or to blow tons of money.
posted by annsunny at 8:29 PM on April 9, 2014

Your wedding is not your marriage.
Your wedding is not your marriage.
Your wedding is not your marriage.

Your marriage is the most important part. I wish you a long, happy, and loving marriage. Do the work. Talk about the difficult parts. Be brave, kind, and conscientious with each other.

Your wedding? Pffft. Enjoy yourselves! Do what you feel is right.

Eight of us walked up to a park overlooking the ocean. (Two couples who are friends, the hormone-fuelled maid of honour, the minister, and the two of us. Her family is a carnival of craziness and, mercifully, estranged from her. My family is a presbytery of neuroses and, mercifully, on the other side of the continent.) It took 90 minutes, tops, to stand around and talk, perform the ceremony, do a round of toasts with single malt from the part of the old country where my family came from, take some pictures, and then head home. I don't regret it at all.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:59 PM on April 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Like many other answerers, I had a tiny tiny wedding (present: bride, groom, one set of parents, photographer, justice of the peace; other set of parents/immediate family semi-attended via skype) and it was amazing and perfect and I don't regret it, not even one little tiny bit, and I don't think I ever will. Like you, OP, I was mildly concerned that some people would be upset/offended that they weren't invited, but I learned that in actuality, no one really cares that much about your wedding except you. We did make some choices, for example initially we planned on just wearing jeans to the courthouse, but we decided to dress up and have our 2-minute-long ceremony in a nice location and have photos taken. I do think I would have regretted not making any occasion out of it, if that makes sense. But IN NO WAY have I ever questioned or regretted our decision to make it super small and low key... whereas I believe if I had gone another route and had a more traditional or bigger wedding, I would have a ton of regrets.

Some people have kind of said this in one way or another, but I want to reiterate that what you and your fiance want out of the experience of your wedding is by far the most important thing to consider when planning this. As I said above, the other people aren't really as invested in your wedding as you may fear.

Also, from your post, I'm not 100% convinced that you actually want to do this Vegas package thingy. If I'm misreading the vibe here and that is totally what you want, then that's absolutely what you should do!!! But if not, then you have to figure out what it is you do truly want and then find a way to do that.

One final thought... if you do decide to do a small wedding, for example, your Vegas package idea above, you could inform the people you really want to come (your mom) well enough in advance so she can plan to attend but not inform people you DON'T want to come (the difficult relatives)/the general public until it's too late for them to come: "We want to share the happy news that we're getting married next week/tomorrow in Las Vegas!" We did this and I do think it softened the blow for people whose feelings may have been a little hurt that we didn't include them to find out before it happened rather than after the fact.

Congratulations to you two!
posted by pupstocks at 9:49 PM on April 9, 2014

Our wedding was no guests. I still had the big dress, arrived in a chauffeured Daimler, husband wore dress uniform including sword. It was awesome. The one thing we made a priority was having a good photographer so we could send photos to everyone, but 13 years later I have to admit even the photos don't seem that big a deal.

You can have the wedding you want - pick the trappings you like (fancy dinner, cake, what you wear) and jettison what you don't (family, big groups, cake). There are no real rules other than the legal requirements.
posted by Megami at 12:06 AM on April 10, 2014

It was good for me, but I think sometimes my wife regrets not having something a little more flashy and with a few more people.
posted by modernnomad at 5:08 AM on April 10, 2014

You know, I had what goes for a small wedding these days (immediate family and a few friends, had the ceremony in the back room of a restaurant and then sat down in the same room to have dinner together, then everyone went home at a decent hour), and I don't regret it being that small. If anything, I regret not doing something even smaller. I will say that we seriously considered Vegas, and discussed it with our folks, but they would not have been interested in travelling and we decided we at least wanted our parents present. So, maybe rather than thinking about WHAT you want at a wedding, think about WHO you want there.

On sort of the flip side, we had our wedding at a restaurant fifteen minutes from our house on a Sunday night. Basically nobody who didn't live right down the street decided not to come. That wound up being wonderful, because the problem relatives and the distant family friends self-selected themselves right out.

And if you do decide to have some sort of party, rather than elope, and really do hate planning, I can't recommend restaurants enough. It was great. We didn't pick linens, we didn't decorate squat, didn't buy flowers, we didn't have a caterer/venue, we didn't make a hotel block. We really like to eat, so we picked a restaurant that we like that had a private room, and picked out food. We all showed up a little early wearing our party clothes, said vows, and then ate and went home. And had the BEST leftovers for the next week. It still cost money, but feeding people is expensive.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 5:48 AM on April 10, 2014

We got married at SF City Hall - just the two of us, with a photographer who was also our witness. All the family were far away in the UK and we decided not to have friends on the grounds that if our families weren't going to be there, no one else should be. We called our parents and sisters the next day.

We dressed up, went out for lunch after, stayed overnight in a nice hotel and then went up to Point Reyes for the weekend the next day. It was wonderful. I don't regret anything about it, and I haven't been to a wedding since which made me wish we'd done things differently (quite the opposite - trad weddings often seem to me to be all about The Wedding and very stressful, whereas ours was all about the marriage and so much fun).

Having said that, it was important to me to have nice photographs to send to family and friends (we sent out 'we got married!' cards with a nice picture a week later) and when it was possible, we had a big relaxed party for friends and close family in a nice pub back in London, but I think it would have been fine if we hadn't. Our respective parents also chose to have smaller lunch parties for their own friends to 'introduce' us - which was a really nice way of celebrating with them without it being a big stressy event of clashing party styles and personalities.
posted by melisande at 7:13 AM on April 10, 2014

You should have the wedding you really want.

My uncle got married in the early 90s. For religious reasons they had a registry office wedding in their home town. They caved and invited their parents the day before. And they told us the night before. My mum, his sister, was 39 weeks pregnant. She cried. My dad didn't really get that they didn't want family there. I was 12 at the time, and I learnt that you never do it that way in my family.

If you do what you really want and some people are unhappy that's ok. If some people are unhappy and you didn't do it the way you really want that's a problem.
posted by plonkee at 10:25 AM on April 10, 2014

When we got married, it was him, me, his best friend and my best friend as our two witnesses, and the judge. Like you, we didn't want to spend a ton of money and I wasn't crazy about being the centre of attention either.

So I wore my favourite outfit, he wore the dressiest things he had (read: not very dressy). We took our witnesses out for supper and that was that. It was 33 years ago and we both still think it awesome and we recommend it to everyone.

There will be people who are upset, and there will be people who are not. I think our families would have liked to have been there, but they were great and respected our choice with a bare minimum of comment.

This is *your* wedding, so I think you should do what the two of you will remember happily for the rest of your life.
posted by Amy NM at 11:19 AM on April 10, 2014

Hi! This question could have been written by me a year ago. We initially wanted a very small wedding, but were swayed into planning something larger by all of the usual arguments (great to get everybody together, weddings are a community event, important to our parents to have their friends and siblings there, etc.). Partway into planning this bigger event, we seriously realized that nothing felt right, and we decided to revert to our original plan of doing something really small and personal.

We picked a date (about a month out!) when our parents would be visiting anyway, asked a friend to officiate, and had a perfectly beautiful wedding at nine in the morning standing by our favorite lake. Our siblings were there, too. Afterwards we went out for brunch at a restaurant and had a great time splashing out on food and champagne-- no restaurant bill for 9 people could possibly reach even a tenth of what a more typical wedding would have cost!

We still got things we really wanted-- I wanted a cute, short dress, stunning flowers (a bouquet for me, and boutonnieres and corsages for everyone else), beautiful rings, and an excellent photographer to capture everything so we could share the event with friends and family.

When I initially talked to some friends and family, many people mentioned similar concerns to those mentioned here. After the wedding, though? The response has universally been some variant of "You guys did it the right way, man! I wish my daughter had done a wedding like that." Nobody's holding a grudge as far as I can tell. Being married is great, I'm so relieved to be done with planning and still financially secure.

Lots of people told us "you can still have a big party to celebrate!" and although I suppose we could, both of our parents threw small parties for us in our respective hometowns, and once we were married the thought of doing any more wedding planning was pretty unappealing, so we won't hold a belated reception or anything like that.

We still received quite a few gifts, although we didn't expect them. Many close friends and family members didn't give us gifts, and that's completely fine with us. Being married is really fun-- my suggestion is that you plan the wedding you truly want, and do it with a relatively short lead time so naysayers don't get a chance to get up a head of steam. Certain relatives who were critical of the idea at first (when it was an idea) were completely kind and supportive when the idea became a plan. There's a difference between "We're thinking about doing..." and "We've decided to do... and we want you there." Good luck with everything-- and congratulations on your engagement!
posted by bonheur at 12:16 PM on April 10, 2014

My wedding only had 15 people present - parents, siblings, grandparents, our 3 best friends, and the officiant. It was perfect for us! There were some pissy family members who were ready to come to the ceremony, even though we were very clear in the invitation, but it didn't matter. Everything was perfect and I wouldn't have changed a thing.

We had a big party later that night and invited everybody.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:24 PM on April 10, 2014

This thread is very relevant to my current interests as my boyfriend and I are heading to Las Vegas on Monday to be married on Tuesday. Just the two of us. Not an elopement, as everyone knows, but for reasons of maintaining our last drops of sanity after we both had radical job changes and bought a house in the last year. We're not religious nor particularly romantic and we just want to be married without having a wedding.

We allowed my parents to throw us an engagement party, which was nice (and, unexpectedly, people gave us a lot of money gifts). But because of reasons of my impending not so reasonable mother-in-law we had to draw the line at NO GUESTS and, you know what? Everyone (except her!) completely understands and supports us. They support US, not some kind of party they imagine we'd throw. We'll have a housewarming/reception celebration in a few months when we get some breathing room but nothing remotely the scope of a wedding. My work gave me cupcakes and a small gift. People love that we just don't want to deal and, by extension, they also don't have to deal as the fun wedding to chore wedding ratio seems to be about 1:5 and I'm not convinced I'd be the outlier.

I guess we'll find out if we regret it. But I kind of doubt it.
posted by marylynn at 3:18 PM on April 10, 2014

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