DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a girl who has fallen head-over-heels in love with a man around twice her age. As might be expected, my enormous, religious, rather stuffy family finds him objectionable. I understand this sentiment and harbor no ill will towards them, but I have been living with him for two years and am considering marriage.
Without the support of my family, I am not in a position to afford a wedding, nor do I have enough people in my life without them for a proper wedding party and such. I am considering elopement, but I want to do it in the most gracious way possible, and maybe invite a few close friends. I don’t imagine my family would bring me joy on this day, and I don’t know if I want to invite them. Besides, I could not afford a wedding large enough to accommodate all of them. And I’m no longer religious, which may offend some.
What would your advice be on dealing with the inevitable hurt feelings that would arise from excluding my family from my wedding? Should I forego the elopement altogether, suck it up and have a wedding with my family?
And how ought I alert my extended family about the marriage if I elope? Is it even possible to politely state: “I am now married, you were only excluded for budgetary reasons, and I don’t want a gift from you; here is a nice picture of us”?
I’m still not even sure if I’m married to the idea of tying the knot. All the potential for hurt feelings seems like more trouble than it might be worth!
GENTLE READER: Wait a minute. Did you just reveal ambiguity about the marriage itself? Miss Manners is not your therapist, but she knows enough to say that the answer to that is: Then don’t. Not unless you are sure.
However, she is your etiquette adviser, and will address the question of how to elope tactfully.
Elopements are characterized by secrecy and defiance of restraints, and you have both elements. But they also suggest a passionate abandonment of expectations, whether it is by lovers desperate to be married, or by a wife equally desperate to exchange her husband for her lover.
You needn’t arrange a nocturnal flight via a ladder at your bedroom window (which would be weird, as it is apparently also your fiance’s bedroom). But what will help inspire sympathy is the charm of romantic recklessness.
What you have suggested instead would be merely a very small wedding, with friends, but no relatives. So yes, the relatives would be bound to feel the insult of being excluded on top of the injury of having their disapproval defied.
Instead, why don’t you run to City Hall or whatever, with only one or two close friends, if any? Afterwards, confess to your family that you and Clarence just couldn’t bear not to be married and couldn’t wait. Ardent love stories tend to soften hearts.
And save the celebration for later, when you can invite everyone and they have come to realize that objections are now futile.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)