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Wedding Planning Q&A: Big Wedding or Elope
Should I have a big wedding or elope?
We've done it both ways (Sabrina eloped and Eunice had a big wedding)–it's really your call. We're pretty much of the "go big or elope" mentality. If you're going to have a wedding, pull out the stops and make it an awesome party (it doesn't need to be over-the-top expensive). Avoid an expensive and impersonal compromise–even the most bare bones, traditional wedding can easily cost over $15,000 (and on average costs about $22,000, with catering costs being the largest portion of the budget). If you're going to bother having a traditional wedding, make it memorable. Don't make it cookie-cutter.
Reasons to elope:
- Budget constraints / priorities-eloping means you can have a really awesome honeymoon!
- Family tensions: they can make planning a wedding incredibly stressful, particularly if parents are footing the bill and going to be calling the shots, making the wedding more pageant than party. Marriage is a joyful occasion–if the family energy building around your wedding is negative, ditch the wedding and elope.
- Romantic ideal: eloping is romantic and hassle-free. Yay!
Reasons to have a big, creative wedding:
- It really is one of the best days of your life–or can be, if you play your cards right. As old married ladies looking back now, we've realized that there are really only a few occasions in your life that are such profound causes for celebration and connection: marriage, the birth of children and funerals. To a lesser extent, there are also graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries and family reunions, but these rarely bring all your most loved people together in such memorable way. So you should take advantage of the opportunity to anticipate, savor and remember this milestone.
- Party of a lifetime–it can really be an amazing party. When else do you get to party unencumbered with all of your closest friends and family before you're all bleary-eyed parents and beyond? (We say that with the greatest love and respect for our darling children!)
- Creative project of a lifetime. Especially when it includes lots of DIY elements, planning a wedding is a complex, creative and logistical project that uses all parts of your brain and skills towards the amazingly profound goal of connecting and celebrating the most important people in your life. It's super satisfying when all is said and done. (That's why a lot of wedding planners are brides-in-recovery who decided to get into the business because they loved planning their own weddings so much!)
That said, there will be hassles no matter which way you go. From experience:
- Eloping: You can't avoid hurting family members' feelings, and you may always have a vague feeling that you missed out on a meaningful connection with friends and family.
- Big wedding: The money will make you want to vomit in your mouth and curse the "wedding industrial complex" (see our thoughts on that here). There will also be family tensions that will need to be delicately navigated.
Ultimately, you need to do what is best for you as a couple and your future. Marriage is hard work that you have to embark on alone, together, so you need to give yourself every advantage-starting out of the gate in major debt over a party will far outweigh any of the positivity and support that a wedding provides.