Blunt truth: No one has a right to be at your wedding.
As a full-time elopement photographer, at least once a week I’m on the phone with a couple working through their vision about what they want their day to look like — and often they’re debating whether they should elope just the two of them or have something bigger.
Truthfully, I love intimate weddings just as much as 2-person elopements. Getting married with 10-15 of the closest people in your life — just the ones who truly know you and love you and accept you as you are — the people who you are truly safe to be your true self around — it’s pure magic.
But here’s the thing: Those people who you choose to invite to witness you two saying your vows and promising your lives to each other — it’s a privilege for them to be there — it’s not a right.
Families are complicated folks. And just because someone shares some of your DNA doesn’t mean that they have a right to anything in your life once you’re an adult. If you have loving and supportive family who breathe life & good energy into your life — awesome. But if you don’t — if there’s someone who you are feeling pressured to invite to YOUR wedding — that you don’t feel safe around. If there’s someone who brings you down or judges you or makes you feel “less than” — it’s NOT their right to be there.
YOU CAN CHOOSE TO KEEP THE SPACE IN WHICH YOU SAY YOUR VOWS 100% SAFE AND ONLY FOR THOSE WHO 100% ARE THERE FOR YOU.
Relationships are privileges, not rights. Surround yourself with people who love you and lift you up — those who encourage you and help you become a better human being.
You can choose to invite ONLY your best friends like Alex & Josh and Sam & Cody did (pictured below) — or invite just your parents… or just your siblings… or have a day that is just for the two of you, with zero distractions and zero audience that may affect what you feel you can say aloud in your vows (like I, Maddie Mae did in Peru earlier this year).
The choice is yours friends.
Remember that you don’t have to make decisions out of fear or obligation about your wedding day. The day that you’ll look back on every year on your anniversary is worth honoring and protecting.
You deserve to have a day filled with only the people who are really there for you.
Let me get more personal here for a second.
The reason I’m an elopement photographer isn’t just because I love the outdoors, or love traveling or love helping adventurous couples create their own unique, intimate wedding days — YES. I love all of those things. But the real reason — the deeper reason is because I know first hand what it’s like to have people in my life, who share my DNA who I don’t feel safe to be around.
I grew up in a violent, alcoholic home — and my parents are the last people who I would want to be at my wedding. They don’t know me at all, they still exhibit extremely unhealthy behavior — and every single time I’m around them I feel unsafe, judged, and completely unseen & unloved. Every interaction with them leaves me feeling like I’m their biggest disappointment, that I’m worthless, that I’m a complete failure. These toxic messages have gotten so bad over time, that 2 years ago, when I was 25-years-old, the only way for me to protect myself and my mental health was to to completely cut off communication with them.
I wish it was different. I wish I had parents who saw me, who knew me, who accepted me — who were proud of me — who made me feel loved, seen, and safe. But when it came time to promise my life to my boyfriend of 5-years (who is the best thing that’s ever happened to me) — it was clear that if I was going to protect that deeply important moment of committing our lives to each other — that my parents couldn’t be there.
“BUT YOU HAVE TO INVITE YOUR PARENTS TO YOUR WEDDING.”
“MY MOM WOULD KILL ME IF I DIDN’T INVITE HER.”
I know, I know. I get how harsh this all seems. I know how deep the obligation runs to your family to your wedding. I know that from the outside it can seem petty or punitive to not invite your parents to your own wedding — but being free to choose who witnesses, and brings their presence to the moment in which you say your vows — matters.
I know that these days, weddings seem like they are for everyone else but the couple — that they are something that a couple does for everyone else. I photographed big weddings for 5 years before I discovered the magic of elopements. I have seen couples bend over backwards and sacrifice everything to try to make their 200 guests and huge families happy — I’ve seen the stress, the disappointment, the heartbreak when they realize they can’t actually please everyone — and that their wedding day has swallowed them whole, and become a big performance and production or everyone else. I’ve seen the regret when they realize they made all of the decisions about their day out of fear and obligation — and they didn’t even get 2-minutes to themselves that were truly about them.
That is one way to get married — people do it all the time. It’s the standard.But I’m an elopement photographer because I know first-hand how much of a relief it was to find out that there was another way.
When I photographed my first elopement back in 2015, it changed my life.
To see that you CAN get married with only the people who are actually there for you — that you CAN have a day that you feel 100% celebrated in, but that’s also is completely intimate and meaningful — that isn’t a performance for everyone else — it’s life-giving.
Elopements aren’t sad… they aren’t selfish… they aren’t petty — they are the truest and purest form of what a wedding really should be — about the 2 people who are getting married. Crazy how that’s such a non-traditional idea eh? Over the past 5 years of photographing hundreds of couples completely intimate & meaningful elopement wedding days (and eloping myself earlier this year) — these are the things I am 100% convinced of:
No one has the right to tell you how you should get married, or who you should get married to.
Take back all of your own decisions — they are yours, not anyone else’s.
For one day — the day that’s going to be your anniversary date for the rest of your life — you deserve to feel safe, loved, accepted, and seen — so that you can come into that moment of promising your life to another person, completely open-hearted.
It is a privilege, not a right, for people to witness the moment that you commit your life to another person.
You’ve got this friend. Believe me, I know it’s scary — but this is worth it. This is one thing worth fighting for. You deserve t
o have a wedding day experience that’s completely yours.
xx Maddie Mae
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