Hey Elderly Aunt, how do we break it to our families that we’re goin’ to the courthouse — not the chapel?

My long-time boyfriend and I have decided to get married! We had planned to do it eventually, but with the coronavirus and all, we decided there was no reason to delay. Especially since we didn’t care about having a big fancy wedding. Our only concern is about how to break the news to our families. While we would have wanted a city hall ceremony even in a non-crisis, how do we reassure them that this is the right decision for us?

Hot dogs and congratulations to Harrisonburg’s own Pierre and Mademoiselle! The Elderly Aunt is such a huge fan of romance!

Is it correct to assume that both you and your Romeo live on your own (or together) and are financially independent of your parents? If not, then your parents definitely deserve to be a part of any decision to marry. If so, it’s difficult for the Elderly Aunt to see exactly what the problem is. 

Because you are a long-time couple, surely your parents either knew (or suspected) you two might eventually wish to marry. If your parents are either extremely conventional or unconventional, they might have opinions about what sort of a ceremony you should have, but surely they accept that the final decision of when and where to marry is yours. If not, then your parents are still trying to run your lives and you—at least partially—are allowing them to do so.

The Elderly Aunt feels very strongly the process of growing up is a give-and-take situation between parents and children. At a certain point, we parents are required to cede control of our healthy children’s lives to them.  Conversely, if our children truly wish to grow up, they are required to shoulder the final responsibility for making their own decisions.

If either you two lovebirds—or your parents—have yet to reach this point, then it seems to the Elderly Aunt that you and your fiancé’s decision to marry provides the perfect opportunity for you two to take a giant leap forward in the growing-up department and for your parents to take a giant leap forward in the letting-go department. 

In no way does the Elderly Aunt mean to advocate that our grown children should not seek out parental advice on big decisions. What she does advocate is that both generations accept that parental advice does not translate into parental control. 

As for to how to tell them, dear reader, why not just tell them? And do not, for heaven’s sake, be nervous about doing it. Let the joy you and your fiancé feel about your decision shine through your words and expect your parents to share in it. 

If your parents raise objections or concerns, listen and consider them seriously, but do not let give them final control over what you do. If your parents have a hissy fit, so what? Perhaps they, too, have a little growing up left to do? The bottom line is, dear reader, that if you and Romeo allow your parents to be inappropriate buttinskis in your decision to marry, they will continue to be inappropriate buttinskis during your marriage. 

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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