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Can't cope? Elope!
Admit it. You always thought eloping sounded kind of romantic, right? Too bad everyone expects you to have The Big Wedding -- the kind you always thought you wanted. So now that you're engaged and knee-deep in wedding planning, why are you secretly wishing you could just fly off to a tropical island and say your I do's in your bathing suit?
Well, you can! There are many different ways to elope -- and not all of them involve running off in the middle of the night. These days, "eloping" is anything other than a traditional wedding -- from a steps-of-city-hall ceremony with just the two of you, to a fun-filled "destination wedding" with your family and closest friends. Let's Elope is filled with creative ideas for exchanging your vows in a memorable, personalized way that won't necessarily cost you a fortune -- or your sanity. Let's Elope includes: * A brief history of weddings -- and why people first began to elope * A quiz to help you decide if eloping is right for you * Inspiring anecdotes from real-life couples who chose to opt out of a traditional wedding * Elopement etiquette, including how to break the news to your family and friends * Information on how to plan destination weddings, country weekend weddings, and surprise weddings * Up-to-the-minute addresses, phone numbers, and Web sites for the world's top elopement spots * Tons of ideas about what to do with all the money you saved!
Couples that've eloped can often pinpoint the exact moment when the idea hit them: the night they came home late from work and cringed at a stack of wedding planners on their bedside table; the phone call from Mom or Dad asking them how the invitation list was coming along; or the end-of-month bill-paying session when they just couldn't make things add up. One of them turns to the other and says the magic words: "Why don't we just elope?"
"Wouldn't that be nice!" they agree as they return to the Dreaded Wedding Checklist. But for those who take the idea seriously, something changes. The pressure's off, a cloud has been lifted, and all of a sudden wedding planning feels more the way you hoped it would: romantic, fun, and exciting. Of course it does! That's because you really are planning now, not just following someone else's instructions. All of a sudden it's your wedding again, and ideas race through your head: a barefoot wedding on a tropical beach; on a mountaintop surrounded by wildflowers; in Vegas, surrounded by the friends you really love (and Elvis, of course); or in a small country chapel with just your parents and siblings as witnesses. Anything is possible, but most of all the opportunity to express yourself, to celebrate one of the most important events of your life in the way you want.
But I Want a Big Wedding!
OK. Go ahead and say it. Scream it at the top of your lungs if that helps. But let's examine what you really want: a romantic, memorable occasion that you can celebrate with your family and close friends, right? Perfectly reasonable, except that you won't get those warm, fuzzy feelings from a traditional big wedding.
For starters, romance and large crowds don't go together. And memories? Sorry. In bride-time your wedding day lasts 15 minutes. Then -- whoosh! -- it's gone. That's why people hire photographers, to prove it really happened. Otherwise you'd swear somebody drugged you and tossed you in a limo. Before you dismiss this as a plot to steal your dreams, listen to what the unrivaled master of the event has to say:
You out there in bride-land, you sweet thing: are you planning your wedding so that it will be perfect in every detail? Do you expect it to be the happiest day of your life? Miss Manners sincerely hopes not. -- Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior
"My goodness! Who on earth is she talking about?" you ask. "Not me! My wedding will certainly be different!" Of course it will be different. Just not in the way you think it will. Listen to Miss Manners. She knows what she's talking about. Big weddings are like a family vacation to Mount Everest: a year of painstaking preparation, an exhausting hike to base camp, and then the mad scramble to the summit while the weather holds. When you arrive at the top there's a momentary sense of terrific accomplishment -- I did it! But you're hungry, tired, and sick to death of your traveling companions. After a quick glimpse in all directions, you're ready to get the heck home.
Don't let yourself be swayed by the reassuring tones of those "perfect wedding" planners, either, the ones you rushed to buy the day after you got engaged. If anything, their two checklists per chapter should set off warning bells. Do you really want a wedding that requires endless preparation, faultless execution, plus a healthy dose of luck?
We hope we've gotten to you in time, because the point of no return comes quickly with traditional weddings, usually within weeks of the engagement announcement. A date is picked, a flurry of phone calls go out to friends and relatives, a site is booked, and before you know it you're committed. You can't turn back and so you have to rationalize the misery. The groom who hates to-do lists starts professing a newfound joy for organizing; the bride who detests balancing her checkbook pretends to enjoy managing a $25,000 budget. And both of you realize that your post-college independence has been an illusion; Mom and Dad have been lurking in the background all these years, readying themselves for this -- the crowning event of parent-child conflict.
Does It Have to Be Stressful?
Unfortunately, yes. The devil's in the details, and nowhere is this old saying more true than in planning a big wedding. Details mean decisions -- thousands of them! You start with the big decisions: how many guests to have; where to hold it; whom to invite; what to wear; what sort of flowers; what music to play; and what food to serve. "OK, I can handle these," you tell yourself. "I'm a grown-up who makes big decisions every day." Ah, but wedding decisions aren't like business decisions, where you make up your mind and move on to the next problem. Wedding decisions are inextricably linked together in a NASA-like decision tree of infinite permutations. Again and again you'll find yourself revising plans and revisiting prior decisions in light of new facts.
Take flowers, for example. This seemingly safe and easy area is actually fraught with complexity. You start with an idea for a complex centerpiece on each table, only to find out that (a) you can't get the flowers you wanted after all, or (b) you can't afford the prices charged by professional arrangers. So now you're considering other options. But that may mean rethinking the whole table layout, the color of the table linens or -- God forbid! -- the bridesmaids' dresses. While you're at it you'll probably want to go back and take a second look at the other flowers you've picked for the church, buffet table, or elsewhere. And, of course, you'll have to rework the budget. If your solution is now to have a friend or relative do the flowers, you've just added a whole new set of items to your list, and anxieties to your life.
Multiply this complexity by the sheer number of decisions you have to make and mounting an Everest expedition starts to look like a trip to the grocery store. Whom to invite, for example, is not 150 decisions on whom to invite, but 1,500 decisions on whom not to invite. Or more, since Palm Pilots and e-mail mean everyone's staying in touch these days. By the time you're done you'll feel like an admissions director at an Ivy League college. Of course, you can expand the size of the group (something Harvard can't do for its entering class), but then you'll have to cull through your reject list all over again to see who makes the second cut. If all of this sounds ridiculous, ask a friend who's gone through List Hell.
Just sitting all by yourself in a room for a few weeks to make all of these decisions would be exhausting work. Now factor in discussion, debate, and full-fledged argument on 100 or more of these decisions. Suddenly your fianc? is looking more and more like an ex you'd rather forget and you're vowing never to let your mother near any offspring of yours. Think we're exaggerating? Listen again to Miss Manners. Planning a wedding, she advises, is "an excellent opportunity for the couple to learn how to placate others and negotiate compromise, surely requirements for family life." Well said, but she's putting it a bit too delicately. The truth is, planning a wedding is a difficult, stressful exercise that makes no one happy.