Dear Amy:

I have been dating my fiance for six years, and we've been living together for three years.

Just recently my fiance said to me, "Let's run away and get married. We can have a large wedding when we are financially ready." His plan was to just tell his and my parents but, for the most part, to keep it a secret.

I ended up telling his mother about the whole idea, and now she wants to have a large wedding and large reception. We want a large wedding and a large reception, but not now. We even had a plan that if we got married now and had a large wedding later, I wouldn't take his last name until the big "celebration" wedding.

We want to go "all out" for a "real" wedding, but we thought it would be fun to be married while we wait until we have the money for a dream wedding. If we run off to Reno, should we still invite his mother and stipulate that we will have a small wedding now and a lovely wedding later?

Frivolous Bride in Calif.

You got it right when you called yourself "frivolous." This is a goofy plan and leads me to conclude that you and your fiance are confused about what weddings and marriages are all about.

People go to weddings to witness the joyful and ACTUAL union of loved ones. Marriage is a deeply meaningful experience (and a religious event for many people). Throwing a wedding for yourself after you are already married means that your big wedding -- the "real" one -- won't really be a wedding at all, but a party where an already married couple goes through the motions of pretending to get married. I wouldn't be surprised if you had trouble finding clergy or a judge who would participate in that ceremony.

Couples facing a military deployment or that have another extremely compelling reason to marry quickly should do so with the option to celebrate and bless their nuptials later with family and friends. But you and your fiance seem to have the idea that you can squeeze the concept of marriage into a shape that fits your desire to be the center of attention at a big party at some later date.

Perhaps you should split the difference here and plan a scaled-down version of your dream wedding. Though smaller, everybody involved (including the two of you) would have the benefit of knowing that the event was an actual wedding. That's the best way to start a marriage.

Dear Amy:

Do you know how doctors feel about dating their patients?

Are there any rules about this?

I'm interested in dating my doctor, but I don't want to make a fool out of myself if it is "out of bounds." Worse, I'd hate to lose him as my physician.

Can my flirtation with my doctor go further? He is my primary physician -- and he is single.

Need to Know

While there is no rule dictating a person's ability to make a fool out of herself, there are definite guidelines concerning doctors dating their patients.

According to the American Medical Association's ethics policy, "Sexual or romantic interactions between physicians and patients detract from the goals of the physician-patient relationship, may exploit the vulnerability of the patient, may obscure the physician's objective judgment concerning the patient's health care, and ultimately may be detrimental to the patient's well-being."

"At a minimum, a physician's ethical duties include terminating the physician-patient relationship before initiating a dating, romantic or sexual relationship with a patient." (The entire ethics policy is available on the AMA's Web site, Search "sexual misconduct.")

Because you seem to place such a high value on your physician's skills, wouldn't you rather have him as your doctor?

Remember that relationships may come and go, but a good primary-care physician is forever -- or at least until you switch HMOs.

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

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