Help us “do what we want” when we don’t know what we want!
December 26, 2017 10:34 PM   Subscribe

After months of trying to wedding plan (and taking a break), I realize that my fiancé and I cannot do much without first deciding: what kind of wedding are we having? Please help, voices of reason!

So, our ideal wedding: an elopement abroad. Sadly, we cannot do this because it would disappoint our families (we have great relationships with them) and I understand that they want to witness us get married. We also cannot compromise and do a destination wedding because essential people would not be able to travel long distances (i.e., no more more than a 2-hour drive from where they live).

Our ~wedding priorities~ are: 1) get married in a cool/pretty place, 2) wear beautiful, fancy clothes, 3) have someone take nice photos of it.

Here are our options:

A) small wedding, which would include immediate family, grandparents, and two best friends (about 15 people). We’d have the ceremony and then a nice dinner to celebrate. I like this idea because it seems like I could focus on what is important to me about the wedding, plan it easily and maybe even enjoy all the little details (e.g., make things more personalized), and know that everyone there was happy to be there and truly special to me.

However, a small part of me worries that I will be there and it won’t… feel like a real wedding? If that makes sense. It feels like our One Chance to have a wedding and I worry about regretting it. This worry is amplified by pressure from the wedding industry and other people’s opinions (read: my mother’s). I’ve felt it since we got engaged: even though I chose my engagement ring and it is perfect and totally “me,” I would sometimes wonder if I should’ve chosen something big and flashy because it is a significant piece of jewelry (“it’s passed down to your children!”) and because my SO could have afforded it… even though that is NOT my taste and when I tried on rings like that, I didn’t like them! Ugh.

Also, our families know each other pretty well, but are pretty different, so I sort of worry about it being awkward with all of us alone together.

B) “big” wedding, which would have 80 people, and include mostly extended family and a few more close friends.
I know this number is small to some people, but it feels huge to me! It might be fun, but the thought of it (and planning it) makes me anxious. Most of our friends live across the country from where the wedding would be and wouldn’t be able to attend, so it would be mostly family, which is ok, but also means it won’t be a crazy party, which is what I think of when I think of a typical, large wedding. There’s no middle ground between this and option A in terms of the number of people invited because most of this list is family (and if one aunt is invited, we have to invite the other four…) Also, I worry about all these people together, if it’ll be fun or weird or go poorly, and that, in the end, I won’t feel like the day was about us and our love.

The pros: it’d be a typical wedding (little for me to regret? I don’t know) and my mom (and maybe my dad) would be happy that we’re having a “real” wedding (side note: I’m probably the only one of their kids who will marry and their only daughter, so there’s that). Only two pros, but they feel like big reasons. On a more sentimental note, I worry that I will look back when my parents are older and think that I should’ve just done it for them, especially when I feel like I don’t have a great reason for not “going all out.” It will be more work, but maybe it will be more rewarding because of it.

Re: money. Our parents have generously offered to contribute, so my SO and I would likely make the money back that we will have personally spent. Therefore, money technically isn’t an issue (read: I won’t save a ton by doing the smaller wedding), but I still will have a budget and therefore anticipate stress as I try to work within it for the larger wedding. Also, the thought of spending so much money on one night seems extravagant and frankly kinda sickens me.

Other fun factors:
I’m in grad school and set to graduate in May, after which we intend to find jobs and move. We currently live across the country from where we’d have the wedding (i.e., our home state). We might move back to the home state… but we might not. In terms of waiting: we’ve been together for a while and, honestly, a wedding feels like a means to an end. This makes us not really psyched to put off the important part — being married — for the part we care less about, the wedding. SO has no preference for either option; he and I can equally envision either happening.

Thanks so much for reading and for your help!
posted by metacognition to Human Relations (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No matter what you do, you can’t please everyone. So you might as well just please yourself on your wedding day and have the smaller wedding you want.
posted by samthemander at 11:02 PM on December 26, 2017 [16 favorites]

Understanding why you want to get married in the first place, and what marriage means to you, will guide your thought process. If marriage is important to you, then go for the full family wedding.

If not, you can perfectly live in sin, or the two of you could just go to your local Register office and be done with it. This is 2018 (well almost) after all!
posted by Kwadeng at 11:03 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

You do know what you want: our ideal wedding: an elopement abroad. So, do that, and have a small service witnessed by your family and friends here (A). Depending on where you are traveling, you may want or need a legal ceremony in your home country anyway. Or maybe splitting it along legal/religious lines might work for your situation (wedding in a small chapel initially, and larger gathering with a justice of the peace later on).
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:03 PM on December 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

Do you often regret "milestone" decisions? Stuff like moving to a new city, choice of college, choice of apartment or car?

It sounds like the only reason you'd have a bigger wedding would be to guard against regretting a smaller wedding later, but... I guess I've never heard of anybody regretting having a smaller wedding, if $ wasn't the limiting factor.

I mean, it sounds like you don't regret your ring, you just 2nd-guess yourself about it. Actually the whole thinking process you have around this seems very anxiety-driven.

Maybe give yourself permission to have the small wedding it seems like you want and not worry about regretting it later because 1. you probably won't and 2. even if you do, so what? Regretting not having a big wedding is a totally livable condition and will probably be less uncomfortable than all the worrying you're doing now in trying to stave off regrets later.
posted by mrmurbles at 11:08 PM on December 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

I came in to say what kwadeng said more succinctly. Ask why the wedding should have your criteria (which are reasonable)?
Ask if that need can be met other ways (photoshoot, party)?
Ask what your marriage means and how you want to express your committment publicly (vows in registry office? Necessary for nearest and dearest to witness)?
Do not ask yourself what your parents / friends / colleagues / social media followers expect from your wedding - that is not important.
posted by b33j at 11:17 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

One more option - do the wedding that you want to do (hometown or elsewhere) and then have your parent throw a big party in your honor. they can spend as much money as they want, your mom will get to plan it the way she wants and you and your sweetie can just go with the flow.

This definitely works if you get married somewhere else and do the party after the honeymoon. Depending on your family, you might be able to pul this off on the same day - When I got married (eons ago in wedding culture time) we did a religious ceremony on the morning, a small luncheon for wedding guests and then a big reception for everyone that my parents felt needed to be invited. Worked for me because I didn't really have any needs for what the party should included.

By the way, the only thing I regret about my wedding was that we hired a really lousy photographer. I may be unusual but other than that, it was mostly about the actual ceremony - wearing special clothes and getting up in front of family and using the traditions of my faith to create this new family with my husband. Since I didn't need anything from the meal/party part, it was OK to use that part to make my mother happy. So, this is a variation on respect the few things you really need and trust that the most important part is that you will end up married at the end of the day.
posted by metahawk at 12:04 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Small wedding, go on a destination honeymoon. Done and done. (If you can afford it, which I assume you can if you'd like to travel to elope anyway?)

Personally, I had a small ceremony with immediate family at the courthouse. It was the best decision. It felt like a wedding. We all cried. My dad (hobby photographer) took our photos. To be honest, we hardly look at our photos. ETA: I wore a white cocktail dress and had a boquette.

I feel like weddings and especially photos are A Big Thing that people think they need, but it's literally ONE day in your entire journey of your marriage and relationship together. We've been together for over 8 years and there are many other memories that I look at more fondly than our wedding day - which was wonderful and perfect. But to be honest, the day my husband had to pull a plastic tube out of my abdomen after surgery 6 months ago felt like a pretty big deal and commitment.

Overall, I highly recommend small, low key weddings. The less stress, the better. I'm also a big advocate of doing what you want, even if that means you upset family sometimes. It's your marriage and your spouse is about to become your other half and it will be "Team Us" against everyone else once you're in a committed relationship.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:30 AM on December 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh, and not to abuse the edit window. I ditched my big (still cheap, CZ and gold) ring for a rose gold band about a year ago. Also a perfect choice. What I'm saying is, you do you. My husband thinks you should elope if that's what you want.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:33 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think your list of priorities is modest, reasonable, and likely to work out well under any of the scenarios you've considered. I think your descriptions of small wedding vs. big wedding both assume a sort of self-possession that wasn't part of my experience in a wedding that was in-between your options A and B in size.

I had basically no role in managing the event--we were fortunate enough to have a third-party wedding planner--and yet I felt lucky that day to just be able to go through all the steps. I mean, I was glad it was happening around me--I like weddings and rituals in general!--but "enjoying the details" vs. "feeling the day was about us" simply weren't possibilities while it was happening, because it was more like, wait here, smile, walk there, be ready, stand there, don't pass out, pose nicely, and generally speaking do the thing you're supposed to do over and over. Even with someone else running the show, enjoying the details and feeling the day was about us were things that primarily happened in retrospect. Oh, and even with someone else running the show, Mistakes Were Made.

Maybe you're super relaxed and able to enjoy being in the spotlight while also being in charge, but since your priorities will be satisfied either way, my suggestion is think hard about practicality as the tie-breaker: e.g., are you OK with how much time it'll take to plan, are you sure you want to both 'act' and 'direct,' how much time is your family or fiancé interested in putting into it, can you hire a wedding planner, and so on. You're worried about the regrets you might have, but you know the main things you want out of this, and those things are going to be fine.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:36 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have the small wedding, and if you regret not having the big splashy affair, pull out all the stops when you renew your vows on your 10th/15th/25th/50th wedding anniversary! It's not now or never.
posted by kate4914 at 12:51 AM on December 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Hi! It sounds like you... do know what you want. You want a small wedding. It's OK to want what you want! Normally I am with Wobbuffet: weddings are sooo not The Couple's Special Day to Showcase Their Hip Aesthetic and Unique Love but a messy ceremony bringing two families together. But! Reading what you have written, your parents sound pretty chill, and you sound more worried about your future-self than like-- my mother will literally disown me if I get married in my partners religion (to put it in perspective in terms of wedding planning dilemmas). Like tattoos: even if they don't represent who you become in the future, most people dont regret them but rather think fondly and compassionately about their former selves. So fuck the fear of regret and have the wedding that makes sense to you in your gut right now. Have a small wedding and splash out on the outfits, photographer, food and venue (even non-destination destinations can be great-looking if you are willing to pay $$$). Fly a broke friend or two or out. Honeymoon at your dream vacation and set up a fund to go back there every year on your anniversary. Congratulations!
posted by athirstforsalt at 2:15 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

We had a "big" wedding - ~100 guests, church, big dress etc but fairly tightly budgeted. The planning was super stressful, especially as it coincided with a lot of other stress in our lives. There were multiple things that I felt I compromised on and multiple things that I was aware other people weren't happy about. I wished many times in the run up that we had eloped or done something smaller. However the day was amazing, it was lovely having so many of our family and friends be there in one place to wish us well.

You say that you're worried " about all these people together, if it’ll be fun or weird or go poorly" - most people will make a good faith effort to make sure your day goes well for you. A small minority may care more about their own needs/creating their own drama (and an even smaller minority might have their own legitimate concerns). If your guests fall into the first category it'll be fine, if some are in the second category it's more of a worry so I think that's important to weigh up.

Only you and your fiancé can decide how important these factors are for you. I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect wedding and there is definitely no such thing as a wedding that doesn't upset someone along the way. It does sound from what you've written that the smaller wedding is the one that would make you happiest and I agree that there's nothing to stop you having a bigger anniversary celebration later if you do end up feeling that you missed out.
posted by *becca* at 2:30 AM on December 27, 2017

Agreeing with everyone else, it does sound like you already know what you want - the smaller wedding. (And then you can go on a destination honeymoon!) In the end, it's your wedding, not your parents', and you're the one who has to be happy with it and not stressed out. If you then end up regretting going small, you can always go huge for vow renewal, and/or get your parents to throw you a biiiiiiiiig party when you come back from your honeymoon.

(Also, just to reinforce, you 100% made the right choice with the engagement ring. It's your ring, you're the one who's gotta wear it. That's what matters. Like as not, any future children may not want to be saddled with the Big Family Engagement Ring, anyway.)
posted by sailoreagle at 4:30 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you did your first choice, and eloped, you'd have a tiny wedding - two people - and no regrets.

If you did your second choice wedding, and had an amazing destination, you'd have a very small wedding - whoever could make it there, maybe 8-10 people? - and no regrets.

So I think you're overthinking your potential regret factor if you have a small wedding. Everything you wrote points to that as ideal. Mentally reframe it as a destination wedding to a local destination, and invite the people you want.

If the reason for a big wedding is wanting to include more people, just not wanting to jump through all the hoops of throwing a wedding for more people, then you could also think about a small wedding, and a later-in-the evening or week medium-to-big dessert reception to celebrate that wedding (less planning, less expectation of personalized little touches, less money, plus more dessert).
posted by Mchelly at 4:34 AM on December 27, 2017

Best answer: Just another perspective: I used to be Team Smallest Possible Wedding, but I've changed my mind lately (NB: I have not had a wedding yet, I just have thoughts about it). If you're close to or have a good relationship with your families—and I know that can be a big if for some folks, but it sounds like you do—then a wedding can be a wonderful opportunity to have a reunion for a joyful reason (as opposed to a funeral, the other time when extended family tends to all get together in the same place). There's also what you mentioned about having the chance to do something your parents will remember and cherish as they get older; you might think of it in part as a gift to them.

I dunno; people make the argument that "other days are about family, this day should be about you!", but I kind of think there aren't always that many days about the extended family, whereas the whole honeymoon, or any other vacation you go on as a couple, will be about you. You can take a small, intimate trip overseas any time in your life. You only have one opportunity to have a wedding that your parents and other loved ones can attend. Maybe that sounds guilt-trippy, but I'm not trying to do that; I've just started thinking about it that way myself. Basically, I've come around on seeing a wedding as an opportunity to create a precious memory for the people closest to you. YMMV.
posted by honey wheat at 5:06 AM on December 27, 2017 [12 favorites]

As a data point re: regretting a smaller wedding: My parents and I fought bitterly over my wedding plans. For months. In the end, we had the smaller wedding (40 people total). Four years later, I don’t regret our decision one bit. It was just as memorable, we have great pictures, and I feel the smaller guest list allowed the event to be more intimate. So, go with your gut if that’s what you want.
posted by cozenedindigo at 5:33 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I say have the big wedding and let your mom plan it. You’ll have to let go of the idea that the wedding is about you. It’ll be one of the joys of her life and if anything doesn’t go well, you can shrug and say, “Well, I wish Mom had done that differently.”
posted by lakeroon at 5:46 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

My son had a small wedding, probably 30 people if that many. It was PERFECT.

My own wedding was about the size of your larger one. To please my husband. I endured it. Do not underestimate the aggravation of wedding planning.

If it were me in your shoes I would go smaller.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:54 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Start making the guest list. Then ask yourself In 10 years will I care that this person was/ was not at my wedding? and that will help you decide on the size. Another way to decide it to look at cool venues. If there's a state park with a gorgeous view, but only 25 people can fit on the hill top, there you go. We had 100 people or so, had a nice party. The hassle was that I tried to meet the needs of too many people. I wish I had said, frequently, How important is it to you that we do X? We can accommodate some requests, but not many, so choose your preferences. It's possible that you kind of want the bigger wedding, and if you do, that's fine. Bigger wedding means wedding shower, usually, if you care about that. Your stated needs of cool/pretty place, beautiful clothes, nice photos are easily met with the small event. I think people who have ordinary incomes regret weddings that cost a bunch. You don't need a theme, planner, gifts for guests, super-fancy food, etc. Deciding to have an affordable wedding is a great idea.
posted by theora55 at 5:54 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

My beloved spouse and I got married a month ago with ~65-70 people in attendance*. It was the right size for us. I was worried that it was too small; I also worried that our ceremony was too short and didn't include any music or readings (I love words! I've sung at multiple friends' weddings, why would I not ask them to sing at mine?). People were actually VERY MOVED by our short, simple, mostly boilerplate from the officiant ceremony, and it was, in fact, an awesome party, and very wedding-y.

Shortly after my wedding I read a write-up of a small wedding on A Practical Wedding (and you should check out APW if you haven't already!) that said, "Many online forums showcase the worries of brides concerned their wedding won’t look wedding-y, but I can guarantee if you have a couple of adults saying vows and they’re the fanciest of the party, it’s easy to confirm you have, in fact, attended a wedding."

If 20 people is the right number for you, you can have an awesome wedding-y wedding with 20 people. Heartfelt vows and fancy clothes are absolutely enough to make it wedding-y (and even those probably aren't 100% necessary).

* If my parents were only children instead of having a brother and two sisters apiece, or if my cousins/aunts/uncles were assholes who I didn't like, this number would have been substantially smaller. More than half of the guests were my cousins/aunts/uncles, and it felt great to bring people together, like my cousin who works in the State Dept. and hadn't seen her very-beloved sister in over a year.
posted by mskyle at 5:59 AM on December 27, 2017

Have the small wedding. The Wedding Marketing Complex is lying to you. Do what feels true to you. Fancy clothes, an officiant, and a beautiful location will make it feel like a wedding.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:10 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think given your list of priorities you should go with the small wedding and a destination honeymoon; you can also consider budgeting for a half-day shoot with a local photographer on your honeymoon if you want an additional set of pictures.

However I will push you to really sit with that list of priorities because you have a lot more words about your family than your wedding priorities. So I wonder if your family is actually an unspoken priority. Some people see the wedding as all about the couple and some people see it as about the family and I think you are falling in the middle there and that's where you need to decide. The small wedding is a great place to sit with that, I think, but I think it will help you feel better about it if you really make it explicit that you want to please some family a little bit.

Because the small wedding will not save you from showers, rehearsal dinners, and other things unless you have your point of view firmly in hand. :)

As a data point, I wanted a meaningful ceremony, to have lots of family there (I hadn't met most of my husband's family so it was a chance to if they could fly out -- more did than we thought would -- and his family is Catholic and so the wedding part was really important to them, more than to me), and to keep things simple.


I can only tell you this now because I have watched wedding shows on TV where they have planners and Define Their Priorities. I'm not sure we did that when I got married ('94, the year Four Wedding and a Funeral came out.) There were checklists in wedding magazines that we ripped out and crossed out some items and checked off others but mostly weddings were a kind of family tradition, not a social media event. mother took over the planning which was actually helpful in some ways but I ended up with the wedding of her dreams so it was not (by early 90s standards) simple. But it was part of a pre-Pinterest, pre-Say Yes To The Dress generation. So to share a bit of pre-$40k wedding Gen X experience...I did care mildly for a few years that I'd ended up in a huge dress eating chicken kiev at the dreaded Head Table, and then I didn't. That's what you did then, especially the chicken kiev. We ended up a little broke but with no debt. The jerks in the family were jerks, the sweeties were sweeties, my friends were great and then they all did their weddings better 'cause I was the first, but that's ok, I got to go. It wasn't a competition.

You could say I had regrets and it was like, well, if I were doing it over I'd change XYZ big deal. It wasn't My Most Special Day but the trick is...I never wanted it to be. It took me a while to figure out that's what I meant by "simple." And - I got that.

So...that's what I mean by priorities. I kind of get the vibe you are going for and I say go for it. But first confirm that is really, really what you want. 'Cause all your other words are about connection to family.

At a 23 year remove, I actually feel like...I'm glad we gave the family that gift, because I got the marriage and The Day was ultimately not a huge deal and didn't define us as a couple much, except that we are prone to letting our family do what family's going to do.

But that's me, not you. If we hadn't, we'd still be just as married. :) Sorry this turned into a book!
posted by warriorqueen at 6:34 AM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

I had 80 at my wedding (almost entirely my family on my side and my husband's friends on his side as he had a small family). My sister had already eloped so I was the one chance for my parents to host a wedding. I didn't care (I was nursing a newborn) and the one thing I am really happy about my wedding is that I gave the whole thing over to my parents to plan and execute. They loved having the opportunity to show how much they loved me, my husband and our extended family. They also did it really cheaply, about $3,000 in total as I had it at their house and we catered it ourselves (YMMV). You don't seem to have super strong opinions on your wedding so I say just give it to your parents as a gift within the boundaries you are comfortable and just show up to enjoy it.

When planning it (or any event/party really) I decided I wanted people to walk away and say "wow, that was a really *elegant* wedding", or "wow, that was a really *fun* weddings" or "wow, that was a *real joining of the two families* wedding" and every decision we made kind of flowed from that. It helped when being indecisive about choosing between several awesome items related to the wedding.
posted by saucysault at 6:40 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I suggest that you elope abroad (without telling anyone) then let your parents plan a big wedding in your hometown for you. Win win.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:29 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had the big wedding planned entirely by my mother. It was not what I would have chosen, but it was pretty fabulous to have all my family and friends there. I was not very into the process, but I'm happy we did it the way we did. Most importantly, 5 years later, we got a chance to celebrate our relationship in front of everyone, and I love that. So, in summary, if we'd had the small event I wanted (outdoors! On a mountain! Immediate family only! Not in a long white dress!) I would have loved it. But all in all, if you marry the right person, you probably won't regret anything. (Except overspending, don't do that)
posted by Valancy Rachel at 8:15 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

lakeroon: I say have the big wedding and let your mom plan it. You’ll have to let go of the idea that the wedding is about you. It’ll be one of the joys of her life and if anything doesn’t go well, you can shrug and say, “Well, I wish Mom had done that differently.”

Warning: this can be really unpleasant if your mother has different ideas of a nice wedding from you. For instance, if you don't agree on inclusion of religious stuff, you might get blindsided by a "touching" passage. Yeah, that was my mom, and she hugely expanded our wedding list by including people who she thought felt slighted by not being invited to her wedding that was thirty years prior.

Our wedding was ours, and we planned it, but we had a ton of guests we didn't feel that close to. Sure, they're family, but they weren't close, and they still aren't. Yes, we had fun, and yes, our parents paid for the majority of it.

With that, I suggest a hybrid of the ideas by lakeroon and metahawk, where you and your fiancé make the small wedding of your dreams, and let your mom (and his?) plan something bigger for all the family they want to invite (and pay for themselves). More parties you! But less planning and stress for you, because you'll be married, and the rest is just bonus cake and dancing!
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on December 27, 2017

As someone who spent thousands of dollars & hundreds of hours planning a wedding to please other people only to have most of the people that insisted I have a big wedding eat the food & leave before the speeches so they wouldn't miss a football game . . screw 'em all & do the wedding you want. I have no good memories of my wedding day except walking down the aisle with my mum & niece that flew all the way from Australia for the event & seeing my hubby at the end of the aisle. All of which I could have done at a town hall.

Oh I knew maybe 10 people at my wedding of 80 people, all invited at the insistence of my MIL with the reassurance only 40 or so close family would actually say yes .. . then they all said yes. After the RSVP date, when I'd booked a space & paid for it.

If your mother plans the wedding she pays for it and you can let go everything you think you want in your wedding and realize the day is about her not you . ..then you'll be fine. Otherwise grab control of that sucker tight as you can, do it your way & regret nothing.
posted by wwax at 8:48 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Elope. You state that as your preference. So do that.

We decided to go to our local registry office and marry with the minimum legal bit of ceremony and strangers as witnesses. We too have great relationships with our families. We told them 6 weeks in advance what we were doing and by the time the day rolled around they'd all long gotten over any upset.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 8:48 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

We were in a similar situation, wanting <30 people at our wedding while my mom wanted many more. Partly, she wanted to reciprocate to her many friends, who'd invited her to their kids' big weddings over the years. Several months before our small wedding, my mom threw us a big engagement cocktail party at her house, with the rest of the people she'd have wanted us to invite. We didn't mind the party, and we loved our wedding, and she loved it, too.
posted by daisyace at 8:57 AM on December 27, 2017

We did a small wedding (less than 10 guests) and have never regretted it. Ceremony at my parents' house, dinner at a restaurant, fancy outfits for everyone. It DID feel special, more so than I had expected, because I was standing in front of my family making vows to my sweetie. It was so simple to plan that the focus really was on the fact that we were committing to each other. We did photos ourselves, and have a wedding album that we have looked at 4 times in a decade.

We had a larger party with our friends afterwards, which was fun and low-stress. Lovely. Highly recommend it!
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 9:06 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: With wedding questions people tend to either just tell you all about what their own wedding was like or get on a soapbox about how "big" weddings are a scam from the wedding industrial complex, but I think this question is simpler than that.

I encourage you to read over what honey wheat has to say here, because I think they are getting to the heart of what you are worrying about. It sounds like you have a feeling that this wedding is an opportunity to bring your family together and that you would worry about regretting giving that aspect short shrift if you keep the wedding super small. When I was planning my wedding (sorry!) I tried to really consider what was important to me and if I worried that I would regret NOT doing something later, I tried to honor those feelings. You don't mention any major drama around bringing your extended family together for this, and weddings really are tailor made for it. If the whole reason you aren't eloping is because your family wants to be involved, you might as well make this a family event. And don't assume that friends who live far away won't come! People love being invited, and some friends might pleasantly surprise you.
posted by cakelite at 9:07 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with the eloping abroad. Then look at the second wedding as an event you are creating as a ‘gift’ to those other people, and let their desires guide you a bit. That way you can take out any possible resentment of not having the perfect wedding (as you got your ideal already) and have more fun as it takes the pressure off of trying to please yourself and others at the same time.
posted by Vaike at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2017

I agree with everyone above who has said that it sounds like what you would actually prefer is a small wedding.

However, a small part of me worries that I will be there and it won’t… feel like a real wedding? If that makes sense. It feels like our One Chance to have a wedding and I worry about regretting it.

We got married a little over a year ago. Our wedding and the events (really, the lack thereof) leading up to it were pretty far outside the norm for most of our family and friends. We had about 60 guests, an extremely brief - and not at all religious - ceremony, and an entirely vegetarian reception at one of our favorite restaurants. We decided to invest in beautiful, fancy clothes (and shoes!) that made us happy, and which we've busted out for fancy occasions since, instead of a bridal gown or a tuxedo. We did not have: attendants, showers, bachelor/-ette parties, a cake (though there were scrumptious desserts), a DJ (though there was much singing and dancing), and a whole bunch of other things that made us wonder, at the time, if we were going to regret not doing all of the Special Wedding Things at the one time that we were "supposed" to do them.

One year out, I can say: we do not. When we've had a chance to visit with friends and family who were at our wedding, people tend to mention how fun it was or how much they enjoyed the food or finally meeting X person (or that our wedding ceremony is still the one to beat as far as brevity is concerned). The people at your wedding - including you! - will be so engaged in what is actually happening that no one will be thinking about some other version of a wedding that isn't actually unfolding in front of their noses. The photographer will capture the wedding you have; it's not like you'll receive your photographs back with blank spaces where stereotypical wedding elements would fall.

So, I say, go with your gut here. Don't spend extra money or mental energy incorporating things because of FOMO, especially given your notes anticipating budget stress and the fact that you'll be doing your planning from a second location - and after graduating, no less! (Both of those constraints sound similar to our planning process, and in spite of the fact that we simply said "no" to a lot of things, we still spent more time and money than we had intended.) Looking back, I can only think of ways I'd make things simpler, and my happiest, most vivid memory of that day - my husband's face while we exchanged vows - involved only the two of us.
posted by Anita Bath at 10:43 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's the thing: none of us can have exactly the wedding we want if we're also taking into account other people we love. And that's ok! You've figured out that family is important. Stick with the things that matter to you most. If you're like me, spend a little time acknowledging (for your own happiness) the other weddings you might like to have had, but won't, because you know your priorities (alone on a glacier! in a giant friend dance party! on a beach!... all would be great, but).

I found A Practical Wedding through askme, and found it very helpful in my planning.

Lastly, ymmv, but I also found it helpful to realize that most of my nearest and dearest had NOT loved their weddings. It doesn't have to be perfect, or perfectly you, or perfectly shot, or even perfectly fun for you. If you get married to the person you love while satisfying your priorities? You win.
posted by ldthomps at 12:58 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

My partner and I had this exact dilemma, and we ended up choosing to elope. No regrets from us!

The trick for us to do this without disappointing family was to drop hints about how "maybe we'll just elope!" for a few months. Once they got used to the idea, pretty much everyone came around.
posted by vasi at 3:02 PM on December 27, 2017

While my wife and I were engaged and trying to figure out our wedding, we were considering wedding sizes of less than 20 and less than 100. As we did more planning, we became more stressed (mostly due to both of us being super busy in our day-to-day lives but also due to family expectations and quasi-demands). At a certain point we both realized that planning the wedding and trying to please our families while also trying to maintain our own priorities and minimize guilt for not doing everything our families wanted had turned planning the wedding into a chore. We decided to elope/honeymoon in Hawaii and have an immediate-family only dinner the next month back on the east coast where our families live. As soon as we made that decision, all our anxiety and stress melted away. We had an awesome time. Our parents were both slightly disappointed. They expressed slight disappointment when we made our decision and then moved on and had a great time at the dinner and we never heard a negative word from them again about it. It's been a year and half since we were married. No regrets. If anything, I wish we'd made the decision sooner.

The point is, do what your heart tells you is right for you and don't feel pressured into choosing the thing you don't really want.
posted by ConradLandsman at 12:03 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

You want a wedding where you are present in the moment and enjoying yourself. You can do that no matter how many guests you have (as long as you have money). That’s a separate question, but it can be done!

Maybe instead of the big or small question you could reframe it as an emotional labor question. Do you want this day to focus on you and your fiancé , or share the moment with everyone? Both are valid and will take different kinds of work. What matters to you and your fiancé enough to want to do the work?

I had a big wedding with all the aunts and cousins because I realized if I didn’t do it, the next time I’d see them would be at a funeral. It was a chance for us all to look our best and to be photographed. I took on the emotional labor to do it but I was in a position where I could at that time. It was a hell of a lot of work. You may not be and it’s not your responsibility to do it in any case (no matter what your mom wants) :) Send memail if you want to vent, I’m paying it forward!
posted by mrcrow at 3:11 PM on December 28, 2017

I have a great relationship with my in-laws (I'm estranged from my biological family), and my husband and I both have people in our lives that we care a great deal about. None of these people were invited to our civil ceremony. I'm sure there was some disappointment, and maybe some head-scratching, but we had the day we really wanted. Fancy clothes, beautiful venue, still waiting on those photos...

I recognize that choosing an option that may exclude or disappoint people you care about is easier said than done. I don't really have great advice on that front -- no one tried to talk me out of it per say, but I did field some well-meaning but totally unsolicited "advice" and spending FAR TOO MUCH time on wedding forums, etc., made me second-guess some decisions.

N.B. I was still pretty stressed leading up to it (I may have had a meltdown over foundation flashing back in photos).
posted by sm1tten at 4:27 PM on December 28, 2017

Response by poster: Wow, thank you very much for your insightful answers! I can always count on Metafilter to give me some clarity as I make big life decisions.

I marked best answers based on those that seemed to label what I had been feeling; namely, that although I do not want/need a larger wedding for myself, I might regret not having done it for my parents. Honey wheat's comment, "You can take a small, intimate trip overseas any time in your life. You only have one opportunity to have a wedding that your parents and other loved ones can attend" resonated with me.

At its worst, planning a large wedding will just be a year of hell and I'll never have to do it again, right? :)

Thanks again, everyone!
posted by metacognition at 6:51 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older How effective is a quickly-repaid car loan at...   |   Frustrating head pain Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.