Latinos take their traditions very seriously. I know that, you know that, we all know that. From baptisms and birthdays to quinces and Día de los Muertos, everything we do is deeply rooted in rituals and customs that have been passed down for generations. But what happens when someone isn’t all that traditional? Is it OK to toss tradition out the window, even if it means going against your family’s wishes?
With weddings, these questions can lead to some contentious confrontations and create uncomfortable rifts among loved ones. Suddenly, what’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life has morphed into the most stressful, and you’re left feeling like no matter what you do, you’ll end up disappointing someone.
When Melinda Guerra got engaged, she and her fiancé knew that they wanted to elope. Getting her traditional family on board, however, wasn’t going to be easy.
Credit: Melinda Guerra
“Things were rough,” Guerra told FIERCE. “The more traditional Mexican family members took a while to warm up to the idea.”
While Guerra’s mom was “wonderful throughout the whole thing” and took care of breaking the news to her relatives, Guerra’s dad wasn’t as supportive.
“My dad and I had lots of conversations about my not having a traditional wedding — that there would be no aisle to walk me down and that it would be no grand family event,” Guerra said. “He eventually understood that I was not budging on this, but there was a long while when things just remained tense any time it came up. In addition to his losing out on a wedding, he was also hurt that we were planning to just move in together and get married at some point down the road, [which] seemed obviously inappropriate to him.”
Although Guerra said that she wishes her dad had been more encouraging from the start, she has zero regrets about skipping out on the traditional wedding altogether.
“Eloping was the best decision for us,” Guerra explained. “I found a judge in a small town in Indiana and got a bouquet from the local florist. The next day, we kept my stepdaughter home from school, dressed up, picked up Ring Pops for the ceremony and went to get married. The three of us got ice cream afterward.”
That level of intimacy is a big part of the allure of eloping. Personally, I never seriously entertained the thought of elopement — at least not until I recently got engaged myself. Then everything changed, especially once I started crunching the numbers. As weddings become more expensive — according to the Knot, the national average cost of a wedding was $33,391 in 2017 — more and more brides are confronting an unpleasant reality: While a wedding might arguably be the Ultimate Tradition, it’s also the most costly. And for many of us, it’s not necessarily worth it.
Because let’s get real: $33,391 is a lot of money that could be used on, well, just about anything. That’s a new car, a down payment on a house, an epic intercontinental voyage … you get the idea. Risking the familial backlash might not be such a gamble if it means being able to spend that money (or even a fraction of it) on something you’d actually want. And if you’re lucky, maybe there won’t be much of a backlash at all.
For culture coach Regina Rodríguez-Martin, who also chose to elope, everyone seemed to be supportive.
Credit: Regina Rodríguez-Martin
“I know being a Mexican-American woman from a huge Catholic family made me unusual in my decision, but I haven’t done much in my life for the sake of tradition. I’m fourth-generation Mexican-American, born in 1966, and have had little interest in quinceañeras, weddings, posadas, Roman Catholic masses and other rituals.”
Like Guerra, Rodríguez-Martin has “no regrets” about her decision to elope.
“I’d never dreamed about a big, traditional wedding day and had always been indifferent to those spectacles,” Rodríguez-Martin said. “At the age of 41, I cared about a traditional wedding less than ever. I just wanted to be married.”
Puerto Rican yoga therapist, Rachel Divine, also just wanted to get married.
Credit: Rachel Divine
For her elopement, a handful of friends helped make the day extra special — with a little creativity.
“I had no bouquet so my friend made one from the flowers in the parking lot,” Divine said. “We got married in East L.A. at the city courthouse. The chaplain said I was the happiest bride she’d seen in forever.”
After the informal wedding party, they ate lunch at a taco spot, drove around Hollywood and capped off the night with home-cooked lobster and champagne.
“I loved it and saved money,” Divine said. “It’s stress-free — I so recommend it.”