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Ask Team Practical: Family Teasing


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Family Teasing | A Practical Wedding

Am I required to be a “good sport” at my wedding? I have a big, loud, mostly happy family whose affections are of the teasing, joking, dish-it-out-and-take-it self-deprecating variety, never in mean spirits but occasionally to excess, at least from my perspective as the baby sister. Usually I am pretty good natured about it, but I’m having a really (expectedly) hard time with the idea of being the center of attention at the upcoming wedding event, and my sense of humor has been temporarily re-calibrated. I don’t want the added discomfort of wondering which of my siblings might bring up which stupid thing from my childhood that I might not have the emotional bandwidth to laugh off.

I want a fun, light-hearted party, but I don’t want it to end up feeling like a roast. Do I say something, or just assume that good sense shall prevail? We’re planning toasts and speechifying by invitation only, and the rehearsal dinner will just be our wedding party, so it’s not like we are opening the floor to embarrass the bride and groom, but I know about the best laid plans and all. And even though I hope this is all much ado, I’d still love to hear Team Practical’s take on it.

-Sarah

Sarah,

Keep those people away from a microphone. Seriously. They’re not invited to do the toasts? Fabulous. Still—enlist some of your awesome bridal party to keep a watchful eye on that mic and your family, and if dear old dad starts clearing his throat, have them redirect him to the bar.

But you’re not just writing in to ask how to avoid a bit of teasing, are you? The thing about weddings is that they can often shine a glaring light on the things we wish we could change—about ourselves, our relationships, and even (embarrassing to admit, isn’t it?) the people we love. Meg has written about it a bunch in the book. That’s what we’re really being sold in those glossy WIC magazine photos. It’s not the rows of matching burgundy bridesmaids dresses that we want, it’s the even line of eager and smiling friends who all get along together so perfectly. If we’re honest, it’s also what we’re being sold in the dreamy holga blog photos of indie weddings. It’s not just a cute rustic potluck, but a community of people who are all too eager to set up a folding chair and bring a vat of chili while they’re at it.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret—Everyone’s Family is Embarrassing. No really, they are. Unfortunately, weddings do not give us the magical ability to change anything about our loved ones, and they don’t give us license to mico-manage them, either. Your wedding is not “your day.” It’s a day for you and the people who love you. All that a wedding enables you to do is take a step back and evaluate who you want to be there and who you don’t (and maybe ask them to wear a tie).  But if you invite them, you have to take the whole package. That means overlooking the fact that Uncle Earl will chew with his mouth open, Dad will invariably find quarters behind everyone’s ears, and Mom will loudly discuss the price of absolutely everything in the room. Being teased by your family is one of those things that can be teeth-clenchingly annoying at the time, but that you may be able to look back on with a smile. “Remember when Dad interrupted the toast with an ill-timed, ‘That’s what she said’?” might be a really funny and special memory sometime down the line.

When it comes down to it, I can’t really say whether or not your family is going to tease you. Because it hasn’t happened yet. So! Buck up, lady! You’re wasting precious energy worrying about something that might not even happen. We’ve all heard rumors about the embarrassing things said at the wedding of our brother’s girlfriend’s cousin, twice removed. Ignore them. There are innumerable horror stories about every single aspect of weddings. You can’t waste precious time dwelling on what might happen. If you continue to live in fear that some joke is going to ruin your day, the slightest hint of teasing will make you snap. Instead, focus on preparing yourself to enjoy your family.

They’re your family. You love them—teasing and all.

 

****

 Now, how about you, Team Practical? Were you nervous about being teased or embarrassed at your wedding? How do you cope with the worries that creep in before the wedding?

Photo by APW sponsor Emily Sterne Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com or use the submission form here.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). However, don’t let thinking up a sign-off stress you out; we’ll love you regardless. You’re already writing in for advice, don’t you have enough to deal with, sweetie?

 

 

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • http://laurenmcglynnphotography.com Lauren

    Wow. What can anyone else say to that? Way to knock it out of the park Liz.

    All of the embarrassing things that happened at my wedding – and trust me when I tell you that there were A LOT of them – they make the best stories, and it didn’t ruien it for me either. There were a few things that I was mad about for awhile even, but even so I still have really good feelings about my wedding. I think just asking your family to be kind to you can go a long way too. I had to do that on my wedding day, but once I did everything started to look up.

    • ASH

      Hey Lauren!
      I’m so curious about your embarrassing stories…would you mind sharing a few? Maybe particularly what you were mad about?

      I feel like through this whole process, my sense of humor has been quelled because I’m so busy planning and doing and thinking and answering questions and oh yeah, living a life, that my sense of humor is underneath everything. Luckily, I have a fantastically funny fiance that fetches giggles, but I wish I was a little more loose about everything.

      • meg

        You guys! We try really hard to respect people’s boundaries here… and Lauren was clear she doesn’t want to air all the family laundry here. Which is understandable, because trust me that ALL of us have stories from the wedding that made us mad, and slowly turn into very amusing stories. The point is less what they are for each of us, and more that it’ll happen to you, and you’ll be ok too.

        • ASH

          I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.

          I was just taking it as a comment made in passing, like in a conversation, and then wondering if she’d be willing to talk more about it. Like, oh, that’s interesting, would you be willing to talk more about that? Having not been married, I’m really just curious as to what kinds of things come up that make you angry on your wedding day. That’s all. I suppose, as a way to prepare. Because I haven’t really thought about being angry on the wedding day. Lots of other things, but not angry.

          Please Lauren, and all, accept my apologies. I really didn’t mean harm.

          • meg

            We can work on “angry on the wedding day” stories if you guys want. I think it happens to lots of people, and if you let go, it won’t ruin anything. In fact, it’s probably to be expected.

        • http://laurenmcglynn.com Lauren

          I just saw this & thank you for protecting me Meg! Mwa! But actually I don’t mind.

          So for instance: Our wedding photographer was actually my roommate from grad school. He’s a pretty good photographer & he was sweet enough to fly him self over to Scotland and basically photograph our wedding for very little money. He spent more money on his plane ticket than we paid him. So generous – yes.

          However he also was IN OUR FACE during the ceremony between us in our guests and I was mortified. I couldn’t concentrate on what was going on because I was too distracted by how embarrassed I was. At the reception he got wasted and actually bit – as in with his teeth- bit two of our wedding guests, made out with another one, and then made off with the underaged Russian-asylum-seeker who was staying with my husband’s parents. My husband always says that we may not have given him much money, but we paid for it psychologically.

          However somehow this has become the number one fantastical tale that we love to tell about our wedding.

          The other one’s are a bit too close to home to share in the comments, but that should give you a taste. I can totally be persuaded to write all the sordid details for “angry on the wedding day” post because it is all actually rather funny.

          • ASH

            In your face for the ceremony…EEEK! My immediate reaction to anger is tears so it is good for me to hear about your experiences and start thinking about that possibility. Thanks for sharing Lauren.

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    For me, it wasn’t teasing at the wedding that worried me… it was the teasing leading up to it. The bridezilla-tinged comments that made me feel like I was being completely unreasonable. Want to look at more than one dress store? Bridezilla. Want to talk about the guest list two years in advance so you can plan a budget? Bridezilla. I really wasn’t being unreasonable and my family knew I wasn’t (hence the teasing)… but I couldn’t deal with it. I made a few comments to my sister, who told the rest of the family, and they all laid off.

    Perhaps a few well-placed comments to spread through the family grapevine would make them think twice before roasting you?

    • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

      I totally agree about the few well-placed comments doing a world of good. You may not be able to change everything, but if the offending parties hear from other people that their behavior is not cool, they might feel more pressure to shut up.

    • Jessica

      This hits the nail on the head. Figure out who your family “connector” is (the person who regularly talks to everyone, all the time), and let them know how you feel about the teasing. They’ll spread your wishes with minimal effort from you.

    • meg

      Indeed. And we ALL have the right to firmly say (to people’s faces) that Bridezilla is an ugly anti-feminist word, and we don’t want to be called that EVER. It’s a sexist slur, and we should Shut. It. Down. the same way we would shut down any other sexist or racist or other slur. Protect yourself the same way you’d protect a friend.

    • AnotherCourtney

      That’s how it was for me, too! Some of the worst fights I’ve ever had with my mom were in the first few weeks of wedding planning, when she prefaced most of her comments with “you’ll probably turn your nose up at this, but I was thinking…” Eventually, she realized that I was NOT the money-grubbing bride with unrealistic expectations that she was expecting (I’m not like that at all in real life, why would engaged-me be that way?). The rest of the planning was amazingly smooth and fun, until the night before the wedding, when I had my first real moment of being overwhelmed and my sister snapped at me “Oh, don’t go all crazy bride on me now!”. I’ll never forget those words, but I’ll also never forget the comfort everyone gave me (especially my mom!) when I immediately burst into tears in the middle of the living room.

      You can’t control how people talk to you or treat you throughout the wedding process, much less on your wedding day. You can surround yourself with people who step in and lift you up again, though, and that – by far – drowns out the voices you don’t want to hear.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

      Bridezilla is a nasty word, and it’s really unfair that your family used it that way.

      Sounds like you handled the situation incredibly well though!

      • Lucy

        ugh, hate the Bridezilla shit. We get slammed with expectations about how our wedding needs to be perfect, and we need to look perfect, and we need to spend spend spend, and this is the most important day of our lives etc., and then we get slammed for having any feelings or acting like the wedding is important to us.

    • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

      And, of course, once you get married you switch from ‘bridezilla’ to ‘boring old married lady.’ Even if you are 22 and are not boring, thank you very much! It’s hard to escape.

    • LW

      I have an approach I use in my Kindgarten class, that has actually worked for me as a 31 year old when someone says something about me that I don’t think is true.

      Sample dialogue:
      Kid in class: (hurt, angry voice) Ms W. so-and-so says I’m only 3!
      Ms. W: Well, are you 3? (knowing full well they are not)
      Kid in class: No! I’m 5!
      Ms. W: Well then, there you go. You’re 5! It doesn’t matter what they say.

      Replace “kid in class” with family/friends calling you bridezilla and the “Ms. W” with you, change some dialogue and you’re set. If you are not being a bridezilla, then you’re not. Just like if you are 5 you are not 3.
      Not sure if that makes sense typed out,but in my head it does!

      • revedehautbois

        My concern about this approach is that sometimes the taunts that hurt the most are the ones with a little bit of truth, or what feels like it might be true. Being called Bride-zilla when you’re not engaged (or at least not upset) is fairly easy to shrug off. But when you’re frustrated and trying to be reasonable-but-assertive is both when you’re most likely to get called a Bride-zilla and when it will be hardest to shrug it off without feeling insecure and unreasonable.

        (For kids, I’m thinking about a high achieving kids shrugging off being called “stupid” fairly easily, but it’s much harder to help a student who struggles with academic work respond to the same thing. The point should be not to use insults & to tell others not to use them because they’re hurtful and unhelpful. False insults are not the only ones that deserve to be shrugged off, if that makes any sense.)

  • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

    This describes my family to a tee, and I promise, on my wedding day, good sense did prevail. There was enough repartee to make me feel at home though. I mean what would a good wedding be if I weren’t allowed to tease my own bridesmaids?

  • Umpteenth Sarah

    My husband used the term “sloppy seconds” (to describe the bride) in a wedding toast he once gave to his best man. Needless to say, I was horrified at the potential payback — my family is much more conservative than his — and asked him to tell said best man to keep the embarrassing stories for our after-party, which he did, and those after party stories were hilarious. So hilarious that I’m glad they were shared, but I was really glad my dad didn’t have to hear them!

    So, maybe there’s some middle ground? Where roasting and such can happen in a place where you don’t have 200 sets of eyes staring at you, but rather 25 sets of hazy, drunken eyes? And, where someone can get their moment in the sun to tell their funny story, but it won’t make you feel so uncomfortable?

  • http://www.spottytypewriter.com/ Kerry

    I am the baby in the family as well, and I cannot tell you how often I am told by my parents and sister that I “take things too seriously.” It’s maddening.

    Before my wedding I caught whiff of a plan my mom had, in cahoots with my fiance’s mom, to show “funny” growing-up pictures of us and tell some “funny” growing-up stories about us at the rehearsal dinner. My fiance had no problem with this (he, apparently, has learned the art of not taking things seriously), but I broke out in hives at the mere thought of it.

    I sat my mother down and told her that this was not something that would make me happy, and in fact it would make me quite UNhappy, and I found that to be cruel. I was labeled a poor sport, and endured a few days of grumbling from the family. I enlisted my fiance as a teammate and he also spoke to the them about a change in plans (this really helped!) and we held our ground. We talked with our loved ones who were giving speeches and cleared what stories they would be telling beforehand, and since they knew they still got to talk and be in the spotlight and be funny, they came around.

    Was this a lot of worry and work over something that wasn’t really a big deal in the long run? Yes, probably. Do I sound like a stick-in-the-mud? Yes, probably. But I can tell you I enjoyed that night a whole hell of a lot more after I’d laid ground rules and knew I wouldn’t be embarassed.

    • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

      Ugh, I hate the “you take things too seriously” excuse. It doesn’t matter if someone is trying to be funny or not intending to hurt you. If it’s hurtful, they should understand that and stop it. I’ve had to have that conversation with my dad several times.

      • Shiri

        That makes me crazy. It is right up there with “you’re too sensitive” as one of those comments that only makes the person saying it feel justified and can add up to something that, once it has been said to you repeatedly, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I totally feel you on this.

        • Jade

          It is called gas-lighting. Look it up and shut it down. No one deserves it.

          • Shiri

            Jade, that gives me more insight into myself than I can explain here. Thank you.

          • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

            I’d never heard of that term before. Thank you!

  • katieprue

    Hmmm… Liz did a great job of addressing family teasing in general, but I feel like there is a huge aspect of teasing that is glossed over. I have a lot of personal experience, so maybe I’m identifying with Sarah a little more than I should. However, there is another brand of teasing that goes beyond the quarter-behind-the-ear, nicknames, and dirty jokes variety. Sometimes families bring up mistakes that you’ve made in the past again and again. And again. And maybe once more just for fun. It’s not mean spirited (much…) but it happens. This, I think you need to talk to those folks about if you can. This post is well-timed for me because it puts a little bug in my ear to have a chat with a few people and say, “Listen, you know how you like to re-hash stupid shit I did when I was 16 at every family gathering? Just don’t. You will make me cry.”

    • http://theatreprojects.blogspot.com Jessamarie

      Reading this put that exact same bug in my ear about some of the teasing that might show up and put an unnecessary damper on my wedding day.
      Those conversations might be tricky, but I think this is exactly the time to let the rumor mill work in your favor, let a few (kind) people know what you are worried about and ask them to spread the word. Even if the word doesn’t get to everyone, there will be an awareness in the room, and hopefully enough people who do know about your fears to quickly take action to shut up an offenders on the actual wedding day.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      I actually had a similar talk with my mom when I was 14-ish or so. There were some stories from when I was a child that I did not think were relevant or appropriate to be shared when different groups would have her introduce me and such. And those stories were strictly off limits. I told her she couldn’t tell them again until she was telling them to the guy I was going to marry. And by the time I got around to finding that guy I’d made peace with the stories and was telling them myself. It is perfectly fine to sit down and make a list of stories not to be told.

      • meg

        Why are you so WISE????

        • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

          I’m going to blame my parents for that one.

    • anon

      Augh, I hate those “stories!”

      It doesn’t even have to be relevant, just “Oh man, remember when you did that dumb thing? Ha… yep. That sure was dumb!”

      Aaand we’ve added nothing to the conversation except a reminder that I screwed up that one time. Fantastic.

      Luckily I haven’t had to endure tooo much of that, but when it does happen, it’s maddening. I love the fact that you ladies have the bravery to stand up and say “You know what? This just isn’t necessary right now.”

  • Faith

    Also, you have an amazing, built in protection from anyone who might give you a hard time: your new spouse. If you share your concerns with your fiance, they will most definitely want to keep the day fun and joy-filled for the both of you and will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens. If it means to simply take you by the elbow away from cousin who is loudly voicing her opinion to you, or actually taking the mic from brother when he crosses a line.

    You are going to be so filled up to the brim with happiness that most things will go by you without a thought, but when they do, depend on your new baby family to look out for you:)

  • http://www.breakingdownthebank.blogspot.com EmilyEF

    I think Liz is dead on here. This one important day is not going to magically change who people are. The great part about that is that it is not very likely to change who you are either. All those years of dealing with your family’s ribbing and being good natured are likely to pay off. While it will be an emotionally charged day, all that excitement and joy of your wedding will lift you up and when someone makes a joke, your habits will kick in and you’ll laugh it off or dish it right back.

  • Lizzie

    Toasts gone wrong was a big worry of mine before our wedding, and I definitely agree with the advice about speaking to one or more understanding family members about it ahead of time to diffuse the worry. But here’s one other thing to think about: the things that make you uncomfortable in a toast might not be the things you would expect.

    I was actually more embarrassed by some of the very nice things that were said about me than I was about the teasing. Among other things, I was described as “an optimist”, “athletic”, and “refreshingly naive”, none of which really fit with my self-conception and all of which made me squirm a bit. But the story about me stubbornly sticking out all seven minutes of an ill-advised karaoke version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” complete with an Ethel Merman voice? That I could handle.

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      Ha, “refreshingly naive” made me laugh, because I’ve totally been described that way, and I never know if it’s a compliment or not.

      “Um, thanks?… I think?”

  • http://naturallycode.com/wordpress Jade

    I think it’s important to bear in mind that there’s a difference between a little good-natured teasing, and something that will make you really uncomfortable. I am seriously uncomfortable myself with practical jokes – they don’t make me happy in any way – and I don’t think it’s fair for your family to make you uncomfortable at your own wedding. You need to grin and bear your family’s personal quirks – but you should talk about how unhappy you would be with anything else with your family.

    If they know you will be actually upset, and they love you – they should lay off a bit.

  • kim

    Thank you! I could have written this letter.

    My family’s teasing is ingrained, and I’ve noticed that all the kids have grown up one of two ways – giving it right back and accepting it entirely, or withdrawing from it completely. I’m in the second camp. I am the *leader* of the second camp. My mother’s teasing turns into mean-spirited bullying really quickly, and I can actually feel my throat close up a little at the very thought of her making a speech at my wedding after a few Fuzzy Navels.

    While my fiancé usually thinks her teasing of me is hilarious (wtf dude), I have enlisted him to help me present a united front: My Mom Does Not Get To Make A Speech. This is already going to be a really tough day for my anxiety disorder, I don’t need to be sobbing (and not in the good way) on top of that.

    If you’re *really* worried, like if it goes beyond good-natured ribbing, maybe enlist someone (your DJ or wedding singer or whoever’s in charge of the music; or a wedding party member?) to babysit the mic and be the “bad guy” if someone tries to hijack it? That way, they can be the hard-ass so that you don’t have to.

    • http://theatreprojects.blogspot.com Jessamarie

      We have talked to our DJ about a Can have the mic list, a can’t have the mic list, and a can’t have the mic after a certain time of night (that list will probably include my fiance after the night reaches a certain level of drunken crazy party-ness). Imagining that conversation makes me giggle “I’m sorry Mr J-, I know you are paying me, but it says right here in the contract you signed that I am not to give you the mic after 10 pm and it is 10:23.”

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    I think there’s often also the fear that the bad behavior of your relatives will reflect poorly on *you* – I.e. if Uncle Bob is being inappropriate or tacky or too loud or *insert embarrassing trait of choice* then suddenly people will start thinking *you* are tacky, loud, etc. Being on display OS such an ingrained part of wedding culture and this fear can make it realllly uncomfortable. BUT I would say that the reality is that your guests know and love you, and that any poor behavior on the part of relatives will have no effect on how they see you (or would only serve to create sympathy).

    That being said, you absolutely have the right to try to guard your wedding day experience from things that will make you uncomfortable. Some commenters have mentioned teasing that borders on bullying or abuse – that is *not* okay and anyone experiencing that should absolutely not feel bad for shutting it down.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      So true your first paragraph. I’ve been to a wedding where one of the toasts took more of a roast turn and we felt bad for the bride and horrified at the roaster that he would do that. It reflected poorly on him not the couple.

      • http://www.thatbridesgotmoxie.wordpress.com Renee

        At my friends wedding, her dad made a speech praising his new wife, who he had an affair with while he was still married to his first wife (the brides mom), while both ladies (and the bride) were sitting at the same table, trying their best not to throw things at him. He barely mentioned the bride or groom. It is, to this day, the most horribly awkward thing I ever had to sit through.
        But we all just felt sympathy for the bride. It reflected poorly on her father, not her.

        • Violet

          Either we were at the same wedding, or this happens more often than I’d like to think! Seriously, one of the most awkward things I’ve ever witnessed. Everyone was wondering if he was already drunk (at like 2 pm).

    • meg

      Your first paragraph is SO TRUE, and such good life advice.

    • Liz

      YES. I always think of Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, looking around at her family’s appalling behavior and worrying about its effect on her own reputation. But the good guy sees beyond all that in the end, right? (spoiler alert)

      • Diane

        Liz, you just rocketed up my “favorite people” list for the Pride and Prejudice comment. That book has gotten me through more family silliness…

  • KateM

    Just a little planning note, make sure the toasts are early in the program. I have been to a number of weddings that were a church wedding with a party bus to the reception. Super fun in theory. The reality was that most of the bridal party was trashed early on, and definitely by speech time. People drinking on empty stomachs is also pretty common. I love a well executed toast, and they can be some of the most touching moments, preparation and relative sobriety are key components of that;)

  • Lucy

    What I read from the question (and perhaps I’m projecting a bit) was not really that Sarah was worried about her family being embarrassing, more like she’s kind of putting herself out there as the center of attention as the bride and will be hurt if people take the opportunity to tease her. As others have noted it seems like the only thing to do is be straight with a trusted well connected member of the family that no, she is not is not going to be a good sport and yes, she is sensitive and will be really upset if people are too rough with her at the wedding.
    All families are embarrassing and you have to accept the loud chewing etc, but some families also have sort of a mean family culture, and that’s different. I think it’s ok to try and stick up for yourself about how you want to be treated. It might work, it might not, but I bet it will be interesting to see what comes up if you try.

  • goodheart

    i agree re: timing speeches early, if possible. the more people drink, the less common sense they possess re: what is appropriate to share at a happy occasion… and logistically, you could ask a trusted friend to make sure unasked folks don’t take a turn at the mic/front of the room. my parents are not always the kindest in public, and being from another country are not used to the toast tradition, but i was genuinely surprised at how sweet my dad’s toast was and how much he praised all the work we put into the wedding and making it a great event for our families and friends.

    funny part? he closed his toast with a story that would have been AWESOME — if it was about the right person! story was that several years earlier my dad helped me move to my new town for grad school and stayed a few days after school started. my dad shared that he specifically remembered me talking about the *one* guy in my grad school cohort, a friendly gentleman from california. problem? my husband is from california, but he was NOT the guy i was talking about in my class (someone who i happened to have a rather complicated relationship with that first semester.) all the grad school friends in the room were DYING laughing, knowing exactly who my dad was referring to and that the “friendly california boy” was decidedly NOT my husband… i was mortified, but what can you do? everyone else thought it was a great story….

  • Sarah (THE Sarah!)

    HI! I’m the Sarah who wrote in, and since my wedding has already happened, I can say it was TOTALLY FINE and I was worried mostly about nothing. The reason, I think, is that I was feeling a lot of pressure to let my family “in” on the wedding, to give them the mic, to acknowledge them in some formal way – which, my god, there are so many of them it would have taken 5 minutes – especially because it was the first time my entire extended family would be getting together from great distances since my father’s funeral more than 10 years ago.

    I’m not sure exactly where that pressure was coming from, but it was definitely there, and I’m sure there are secret hurt feelings somewhere in the extended family – I didn’t have the candle lighting ceremony for dad, I didn’t formally mention that it was my late aunt’s birthday that day, I didn’t let them sing the family “wedding song” I sang when I was 6 at my brother’s wedding. And I love them, but no. That would absolutely have derailed the day we wanted.

    Weddings are indeed for you and everyone you love, but it’s nice to be able to run the show at least once in a while – and as the baby of the family that’s not an opportunity I get very often. That said, sincerity is hard. For everyone. Thankfully the need for lighthearted laughing was satisfied by the sanctioned toasts, in which my best friend read from my early emails about “the Cute Boy” and let everyone laugh WITH us.

    • Sarah (THE Sarah!)

      Also – to illustrate what I was worried about – the first year my future husband came to our big Christmas celebration, I commented to the family that he was trying hard to memorize everyone’s names and affiliations: my 4 siblings and their spouses/partners, my 8 nieces and nephews, the cousins and cousin’s kids, the extended family of my in-laws who are always invited – even though I’d assured him there wouldn’t be a test. An innocent little joke one gets used to making in a large family, yes?

      My sister then brought a family trivia quiz to dinner. That sort of thing.

  • Stephanova

    I’m the oldest child, and I know that I’ve inadvertently embarrassed my brother by telling a (hilarious to me) story of him when he was younger. To me, I thought it was just a funny little kid story and I didn’t realize that he was getting annoyed by it until he told me. He seriously told me. I felt chastised. Until then I didn’t really realize that I was hurting him and even though it didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time, I backed off. In our family, the roasting is sort of a way of saying you love someone. Now I pay attention to my impulse to rib people. It’s not actually a very healthy way to interact with people, but until you know you’re actually hurting someone it’s hard to realize it’s a stupid way to express love. In other words, talking to your family and making very clear that you don’t want them to roast you, despite their inappropriate “too sensitive” remarks, may actually work.

    Secondly, we didn’t have toasts at our wedding. So that’s an option too. But we still had all kinds of weird stuff that happened. For instance, unknown to me, my sister-in-law smoked up her dad and uncle. They got paranoid that the (very professional) servers were going to steal the money in our cards….so they opened all our cards, stripped them of cash, and handed the money to my husband to stick in his vest. (Yes, thank you cards were a bit vague.) My husband’s uncle kept pulling a young lady onto his lap (she was trying to make her boyfriend jealous). And then he head-butted his brother. My father-in-law rented a monstrosity of a limo for us that we didn’t want. (I would have preferred a pedi-cab.) And so on.

    If someone had told me ahead of time this stuff would happen, it would have freaked me out. I would have worried about it and tried to control it. That’s what planning a wedding can do — you don’t know what’s ahead so you try to control everything you can. As it happened, our wedding day was wonderful despite and because of the things I didn’t plan.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

      No toasts is a great option.

  • Leigh Ann

    There were some embarrassing jokes and embarrassing photos at our wedding, and some teasing, and my very drunk baby brother decided to get up at the end of the night and sing “That’s Amore” using the DJ’s microphone. But there was love in all of it, and I much preferred it to the awkward, cold, silent, tense politeness that was happening all night with my father and stepmother. This is not to minimize your discomfort, Sarah, only to say that good behavior isn’t always such a good thing.

  • Janet

    Gah, thank you for this post! I’m so dreading this exact sort of thing happening when my guy and I get hitched. My family teases just like any family, but they seem to enjoy bringing up the stories that truly embarass me or a specific story thats not even true!

    Hell, they even teased ME at my SISTER’S bridal shower a few years ago with one of the gifts they gave my sister. My sister was originally present at the time when said event occurred years ago when we were children, so she totally got the joke. However, I was mortified that all of the bridal shower guests who weren’t family now knew about this particular story. *Sigh*

  • Susanna

    This was a lurking concern of mine leading up to the wedding, as well. I told myself, bottom line, Person X loves me, and I trust that whatever comes out of their mouth, even if it stings a bit, is not intended to hurt. And then I. Let. Go. Now, say you have reason not to trust the intentions of the person giving the toast in that way. That’s another story.
    Thankfully, the worst that came out during the toasts was the Secret Cat Language that my brother and I invented a few years back (to this day I am mortified by the idea of anybody other than my immediate family hearing it- it’s just too ridiculous). Thank God he didn’t demonstrate.

  • ambi

    My worry about teasing is that my fiance’s family teases, and meanly, and I know that my family will make really easy targets. And as much as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to come up with a nice way of saying “y’all think you’re funny, but you’re all really just asses, and I won’t put up with you being asses to my family during the wedding.”

    • Liz

      Your fiance should probably be the one to nicely say that.

      • ambi

        Agreed! I wouldn’t actually say that to them – it just frustrates me. Luckily, though, my family has been aware of his family’s tendancy to tease and joke (in insensitive ways) and they are prepared for it. But I do hope we can find a way for my guy to gently explain to his family that their particular brand of banter makes other people really uncomfortable and can be downright mean.

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  • http://medeamaterial.com Jules

    Something that would’ve been devastating to me had I thought about it happening did at my wedding. Battling with body image issues, getting married while not conforming to the WIC standards of what a bride should look like and then comes the wedding day and someone says something potentially horrifying:

    My dad said out loud in front of people that I would squash my husband on the wedding night: at the time I was quite overweight and he is rail thin. I remember that my brother opened his eyes very, very wide and sucked in his breath in horror. Call it wedding zen, but I wasn’t offended or humiliated like I would’ve thought I’d be. I smiled and changed the subject.

    Somehow, I saw where he was coming from when he said that, and that there was no way on earth he could’ve said that to hurt or offend me on purpose. What I saw instead was that he was probably reflecting on HIS wedding: my mom was told something similar when she got married to my dad: my dad was much skinnier than she was.

    My brother did mention later that he honestly thought I’d break down with that comment, that it had been completely inappropriate and he was quite surprised and impressed that I had the insight to not let it bother me and to let it slide. At the end of the day, I knew I was surrounded by people who love me and care for me, and that one word or phrase wasn’t going to change that.

  • librobot

    I also want to say that, depending on your family dynamics, maybe you should say something in advance to people. At Thanksgiving my dad was pontificating (as he often does), and my dad said that he was thankful for my fiance, because “it takes a really special person to handle” me.

    My brother (who has spent his life trying to make me feel like i’m a nosy, bossy bitch) rolled his eyes and said “that’s right!” and then laughed and started to make fun of me.

    Thanks, pops. Way to make Thanksgiving feel real special.

    I talked with him later about it, and was honest about how that made me feel and how that gives other people in the family the liberty to make fun of me. I think he got it.

  • Littleredcat

    Whoa! That photo at the top is me! What a shock to check in and see a photo from my own wedding here!

    I would like to add that my husband and I both totally love to be the center of attention and experienced no (unpleasant) teasing from family and friends on our wedding day. Even though there was plenty they could have teased us about and they certainly seemed like the teasing types.

    O and above all that Emily did an absolutely fabulous job capturing how much fun our day was- even if she caught us not smiling our faces off in that photo.

  • Autumn ELizabeth

    The most embarrassing story from our post elopement reception?
    That would be my drunken partner (facilitated by her lovely brother who was constantly refilling her never empty beer) threatening to punch our guests if they didn’t say goodbye before they left……The best part….the next day when someone (who hadn’t said goodbye before leaving) told my partner not to punch him, she had no idea to what he was referring. This is still an ongoing joke in our fabulous community of loved ones and makes me grin even as I type it. Being able to let go and laugh is so key so do whatever you need to before hand to make that happen….be it yoga or in our case burritos.