Manny* was, I think, the second of my college friends to get married. It was definitely while everyone was still in the “Never mind my financial situation. It is a friend! It is a wedding! We GO!” phase.
He and Lola got married in a charming rural resort area – rural enough to be well away from major airports. Going to the wedding thus involved plane tickets, a car rental, a more than two-hour drive, and, for those of us who couldn’t afford the actual resort part of the resort, a stay at an establishment that had a décor heavily inspired by the Bates Motel, but with more taxidermy.
Still, Manny was getting married. All the hassles seemed like a fun and hilarious adventure, and we were all happy. Until the rumors started at the reception. It was just a few odd remarks an increasingly lubricated Manny made. The people he’d made them to compared notes and, finally, the cheerfully plastered best man confirmed our couldn’t-possibly-be-true suspicions: Manny and Lola had snuck off to get married weeks earlier.
We were all quiet for a moment, and then finally someone said it: “I bought plane tickets for a fake wedding?”
We all had. And when an even drunker Manny hove affectionately into our circle a few minutes later, he couldn’t figure out why the mood had shifted. We didn’t yell at him or anything – we just felt less festive. The reception faded out shortly afterward, and we went back to the Severed Deer Parts Motel, which had now been rendered neither creepy nor hilarious. Just kind of uncomfortable.
In the end, we weren’t mad that Manny and Lola had eloped. We weren’t even all that mad about the expense, though there were definitely several of us who had had to scramble to get the cash together and wouldn’t have minded being a little more fully informed. We were mad, in the end, that they’d put one over on us. We’d been getting all wedding-level emotional and thinking about Wow, the Rest of our Lives Stretching out Before Us and generally becoming all Sunrise, Sunset over what turned out to be just an act. They made us feel foolish for having cared so much.
Not that they meant to make us feel so bad. But still, for a wedding celebration, it wasn’t exactly on-message.
So if you must elope, please follow these handy guidelines:
Just be honest about it.
You already decided to elope, so own it. It’s romantic and most people will be cool with it. Announce that you’re married, throw a party that’s as receptionesque as you want, and if anyone bitches, be absolutely ruthless about claiming you would have forced her into a bridesmaid dress inspired by Gone with the Wind.
If you must lie, make it across the board.
I understand: weddings are big honking wads of pressure. You have to commit the rest of your life to someone and on the same day throw the most elaborate party of your life. With everyone you love on the guest list. Some of whom may be incompatible with each other. Yeesh, now I’m going to elope.
OK, I’ve settled down. To get back to my point, I understand the theory behind the pressure-valve elopement. You get the pressure of the life commitment out of the way, take a weekend for uninhibited bonking, and then you can deal with the big family party with a more relaxed state of mind.
And I also understand how a couple might give in to that temptation and then realize that there might be hell to pay if the relatives do not get their big, proper wedding. Fine. Do what you must. I’m in no place to judge.
But don’t bring just your maid of honor or just your best man or maybe tell Fran because you’ve told her everything since you were six and she’d never breathe a word. Don’t do it! Someone will talk! ANYONE at all who isn’t you or the groom is a risk. Even your best friend, even your mom. Anyone can get tipsy or emotional enough to spill the information and forget why they shouldn’t. Don’t even tell your cat. The first day you feed him late, he will learn to type just to screw you over.
Seriously. You, the groom, and no one else, or you are risking a bar full of guests who are crabby enough to bum out the Klezmer band from across the room.
You each absolutely have to bring along a best friend to stand by you at the wedding? Fine. I just hope your best man and maid of honor are cool with being given sharp blows to the back of the head and buried at the ceremony site. At least they can dress informally.
Whatever else you do, do not get a tattoo commemorating your marriage during your elopement.
Because people will see it at the reception. Fate will find a way. And even the very squarest among them – yes, even your second cousin Pearl – will be able to deduce that said tattoo could not possibly have healed to that degree since just that morning.
I mean, really, Manny. For crying out loud.
*Names have, as always, been changed.