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by Abigail Van Buren

Distaste for Big Wedding May Mask Deeper Issues

DEAR ABBY: I am 21 and have been with a great guy, "Albert," who's 20, for more than a year. We're engaged to be married and live together in a condo we recently bought. We both work full time and support ourselves comfortably.

While I would love to marry Albert, I feel we are young and I see no need to rush into it. Things are wonderful between us, but I'm not really looking forward to a wedding.

Albert wants a formal wedding with family in attendance. He says his parents and other family members would be upset if we eloped and would have trouble forgiving him. I'm a rather reserved person, and the idea of being put in the spotlight, with all the hoopla and expense, is overwhelming. In fact, to elope would be perfect for me.

When I share my feelings with Albert, he becomes offended and accuses me of not being as "in love" with him as he is with me. I do love him, and I would be happy to be his wife. I'm just not interested in a ceremony and everything that goes with it. We need advice. -- RELUCTANT BRIDE IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR RELUCTANT: The fact that you "see no need to rush" and say you're "not really looking forward to a wedding" indicates to me that while you love your fiance and theoretically would like to marry him someday, you are not yet ready to make that final commitment. Albert may be picking up on your ambivalence, which is why he says you don't love him as much as he loves you and becomes "offended" when you try to discuss your feelings.

Of one thing I am certain: You should not elope or have any other kind of wedding right now. What you should do is talk with your clergyperson. Premarital counseling, which is offered by most denominations, will help to ensure that you and Albert are in agreement about other important topics, including (but not limited to) how you plan to handle finances, how many children you want, how they should be raised, etc. These are issues that can make or break a marriage.