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AskCheryl: Due to Family Issues, We Want a Very Small Wedding. How Do We Avoid Hurt Feelings?

Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. As wonderful as that sounds, the days leading up to it can be very stressful as you compile your guest list and choose a venue. Complicated family relationships may lead you to consider a small destination wedding with a limited guest list.

Dear Cheryl,

Due to family issues, my fiancé and I want a VERY small destination wedding, and by small I mean his father and stepmother, his best friend and my mother and sister. The problem is that we are worried about the backlash that will come from the people we don’t invite. (His mother and stepfather, his sister, brother-in-law and kids, my best friend, my father, our extended family, etc.)

We are planning on paying for the entire weeklong event ourselves and surprising our guests with the wedding once they are there. I would like to get in front of the hurt feelings by sending out an “elopement notice” to our friends and family who are not attending that they would receive a day or so before the actual ceremony.

Is this something that you think would cut the tension before it becomes drama and hurt feelings for those who are not in attendance? The fact that we are footing the bill leads me to believe that we can make it as small and intimate as we please, but what are your thoughts on inviting only well wishes for our wedding, not guests?

Alex


A young couple share a romantic dinner on the beach


Dear Alex,

There’s no doubt that family situations can often make life very complicated. From an etiquette perspective, the bride and groom can have any type of wedding they choose. (The parents do have a say when they are paying or helping to pay for the wedding.) Many people have complicated family situations and chose to do just what you are planning. It seems like you are making a wise choice and you do not need to feel bad about your decision.

As for your question, “Would sending a pre-announcement help with the hurt feelings of those who are not invited?” … I’m not sure that it will achieve your intended goal. There really isn’t such a thing as an elopement announcement. The definition of an elopement is that you secretly get married without anyone knowing or parental consent. It is however customary to send a wedding announcement to those not invited to the wedding, and the announcement is ideally mailed the day after the wedding to a few weeks after the wedding.

As far as alleviating hurt feelings — I can’t help but think that maybe a heads up might be a better option. Is there a way to let family know that you are not planning to have a traditional wedding, but planning a small ceremony by yourselves at some future date? You can be vague, but then it sets the expectation that there will not be a big traditional wedding.

If you mail announcements that arrive a few days before the ceremony, you may be barraged with calls, and some may be more hurt that you did not inform them personally. My recommendation, to help smooth any ruffled feathers, is that upon your return you send out wedding announcements. Also, avoid posting on social media until after they have been received and make sure your few guests don’t “let the cat out of the bag” on social media either. You might consider having a trusted friend mail the announcements while you are away.

If possible, before the announcements arrive, personally call those that you feel will be offended and find a diplomatic way to explain your decision. You could say something like, “We wanted you to be one of the first to know that we got married last weekend. We decided to go away and have a small intimate ceremony.” If they get angry, tell them you are sorry they are hurt, but you felt it was the best decision for you as a couple. If they truly care about you, they will put your happiness above their own.


If you have questions or comments about gift giving, bridal shower, baby shower, or wedding etiquette, please comment below or email AskCheryl@RegistryFinder.com.

Emails in this column are received from readers. Emails may be edited for spelling, length and grammar, or to remove sensitive information. However, we are careful not to alter the intent or content of the question.

Cheryl Seidel is the founder and President of RegistryFinder.com, an intuitive search engine that helps gift givers quickly and easily find online registries for weddings, baby showers, graduations and more.

 

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