I got engaged after three months of dating someone, and I think the fact that my family and friends don’t know him very well has taken a toll on our engagement and my wedding excitement. The thing is, they don’t seem very excited; my mother never talks about it; my sister only talks about it if it concerns what she can and cannot wear; and my father hasn’t asked me a single thing about the wedding and has brought it up all of zero times, though he does bring up my cousin’s wedding (quite the extravagant affair and something I’ll never be able to afford) often. This makes me feel as though I shouldn’t be excited either, and when I bring this up to my fiancé, he says that they don’t feel excited because I don’t feel excited. Well, I don’t feel excited because THEY don’t express any interest in my marriage or wedding! I feel ashamed in a strange way and can’t work past the fact that I have almost zero enthusiasm due to what I perceive as the unfairness of the situation. I keep thinking it’s because I’m not having the big traditional wedding that people aren’t excited. I’ve even thought to myself that if I were prettier, more photogenic, people would be more excited. I’ve hit a totally invisible road bump in my thinking about all of this.
The thing is, I have been trying to get him and my friends and family to hang out, but my family is intense sometimes. And when I try to bring up the wedding with my mother, she doesn’t say much. At all.
No idea what to do. Elope?
Sorry to jump right in, but I have to address that last bit about “not being pretty enough” right off the bat. Please shake that notion right out of your little head right now, miss. That is a terrible, horrible thought. How excited people are has nothing to do with how deserving you are of excitement. If something like a wedding is chipping away at your self worth or making you feel cruddy, it’s really worth examining why. It’s one thing to want folks to be enthusiastic. It’s another to start to question your value when they aren’t. How valuable and beautiful we are is never accurately measured by the emotion and expression of others. Ever.
In the way that many people have different complicated emotions in response to the big things, people also have really different (sometimes really weird) ways of expressing them. Maybe your family isn’t so excited as much as they are sad to see you move on, nervous about being central to a big event, or worried for you (we’ll come back to this one). And if there is some excitement mixed in there, maybe they just don’t know how to express it. Give me a minute to do what I do best, and make this about me. When I first moved into my college dorm, my dad spent the whole day snapping about things. At idiot drivers! At the car trunk not closing! At the guy on the radio! When it was time to say goodbye, he squeezed me tight and told me he was proud of me. Proud of me? That’s what that was about? Emotions aren’t just complex—they’re complex to the point of profoundly confusing. Sometimes they just work themselves out in really odd ways that make the rest of us scratch our heads. (Besides all that, if my cousin were to have a lavish, expensive wedding, I know some members of my family would talk about it endlessly. Not because it’s more exciting, but because it’s a terrible kind of fun to gossip about how other people spend their money.)
I said we’d get back to the issue of worry, so let’s do that. Three months is fast. Not necessarily “bad fast,” but your family might have a little worry for what could feel like a quick decision. Think about that one for a bit. Have they expressed concern? Is it possible there are concerns that they haven’t even voiced? It’s possible. And it’s a good plan to solicit the opinions of the folks who care about you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re right or even valid, but that’s sort of the point. You get to hear their thoughts, weigh them, and determine if you think they are onto something or not.
Not only might they be worried for you, but it may be taking them a quick minute to adjust to a choice that perhaps they weren’t ready for, even if you are. We could be talking about a little emotional whiplash. Even in the case of stuff that’s really joyous and exciting, jumping right into full throttle enthusiasm about something you didn’t expect can be sort of difficult. In that case, you might want to think about having a conversation (without judgment) about processing these changes that will be affecting them, as well. After all, they are somewhat suddenly getting a new family member they don’t know very well. That’s emotionally complicated stuff, right there.
I hate to break it to you, but your fiancé is at least a little bit right. This is your wedding and folks are going to take their cue from you on how enthusiastic to be. Besides, excitement has a way of being contagious. Plan an engagement party! Invite your mom out to pick out your shoes! Those little lead-up events sometimes get to be too much, but a lot of the time, they really work to build excitement for what comes next.
When it gets down to it, as with all things, you may need to be honest and forthright. Sometimes in weddings enthusiasm reads as support, and a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of support. You, unfortunately, don’t get to decide how people feel about your wedding (or even how they express those feelings). But you can be direct in asking them to support you and maybe even help them understand what support looks like to you.
You also can force the issue about having your family and partner get to know one another a bit, if that’s important to you. And I’m going to argue that it should be. Think about it: it’s hard to get excited about someone you don’t know. In marrying you, he’s tying himself to your family. While that doesn’t mean your partner needs to fall madly in love with your family, or vice versa, it will help to know how they interact so you know what you’re up against in terms of possible future family chemistry. Plus, you’re all going to be part of one big family, so you might as well get cracking on that now.
It sounds like you all could use a little bit of conversation to put you on the same page. Truthfully, they may not be excited. One of the sadder parts of wedding planning is coming to grips with how things actually are in comparison to how we’d hoped they’d be. But, even if they’re not excited for you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited for yourself. Finding who you want to spend your life with is a big damn deal, and you should own how wonderful that is.
Team Practical, did you face any family or friends who weren’t as excited about your wedding as you anticipated? How did you respond it felt like you were alone in your enthusiasm?
Photo by APW sponsor Jessica Schilling 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. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!