couple holding handsEloping isn't always something couples plan for, exactly. A wedding, yes. Eloping? That's something you do at the last minute, usually. And there are many reasons why a couple might elope. You could reach a budget crunch when your finances suddenly change. Maybe the stress of planning a wedding is just too much for you. Or maybe one of you is injured or becomes ill. Whatever the reason, ditching a big wedding for a super-intimate one needs to be done very carefully, especially if you've already send out invitations or a save-the-date.

We spoke with sisters Lizzie and Anna Post, authors of Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, and their mother Tricia Post of the Emily Post Institute for advice on the most considerate way to elope.

1. Don't just run off, get married, and tell everyone after the fact. It sounds great in the movies, but in real life, you really do need to be a grown-up and take responsibility for your decisions -- personally.

2. Break the news by phone. The Posts recommend calling everyone you've invited. Don't just send out an email, and definitely don't leave it to a Facebook or Twitter announcement. When you call someone, "you're more able to control the tone of your message," Lizzie Post says. Plus, "you can gauge the reactions of your friends and family members" and address their feelings immediately.

3. Explain how your plans have changed. How do you break this awkward news? Say that your plans have changed and that you will be having a very small ceremony instead of a big wedding. You're very sorry about this. Thank your guests for their understanding.

4. Be prepared for hurt feelings. Remember, Lizzie Post says, even though the wedding is about you as a couple, other people were very much looking forward to celebrating your union with you. And you are essentially un-inviting them to your wedding. They may be terribly disappointed -- and hurt. People are likely to take it personally. Be ready to absorb those feelings and don't get defensive.

5. Offer to return any gifts. It's rare that an engaged couple receives gifts before the wedding. But if you do, the polite thing to do is to personally call the gift-giver and offer to return the gift, Anna and Tricia Post say. "Under the circumstances I'd like to be able to send my gift back to you. Could you tell me where I should send it?" Mostly likely, the gift-giver will insist that you keep it. If they don't, graciously follow through with your offer to return the gift.

6. Keep your save-the-date invitees list small for this reason. The Posts recommend sending your save-the-date to your nearest and dearest only in the first place. That way, if you do decide to elope before the invitations go out, at least you have a smaller, closer group of people to contact. It's also a smart practice in general, even for couples who go through with their wedding. Among other things, you don't want to informally invite people before you've actually drawn up your list and crunched the numbers.

Do you know a couple who eloped? How did they handle it?

 

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