Shifting Priorities


This post by Mary Clare hit me like a punch in the gut. Because I could have written it, back when I was wedding planning. I’d given into imperfection, I thought. The little things didn’t matter; what mattered is that we’d all be together—every person we loved, in one room. And then RSVP week hit, and I realized through my tears that I’d given up an idea of visual perfection for an idea of emotional perfection. But it turned out, what needed to happen happened, when I really let go. And now, Mary Clare, leading the way into discussions of wedding planning for 2013:

Shifting Priorities | A Practical Wedding

When Brian proposed ten months ago, I was just beginning the final semester of my MA, which included writing a master’s thesis and taking a grueling literature survey to prepare me for my first PhD preliminary exam in the fall. Brian was months away from his PhD program’s next requirement, the equally demanding presentation known as the “literature review.” In short, we did not have a lot of spare time to devote to wedding planning. Practically the moment we got engaged we were ready to move past engagement and get to marriage. (Our decision not to live or sleep together until then may have influenced this attitude a teeny bit.) We scheduled a date the following January, hoping that in the summer months, our respective degree requirements completed, we could get the major wedding details pinned down.

We chose to get married in Pennsylvania, halfway across the country from our school, because my fiancé’s family was all there, and mine was spread out across the country (and world). During the spring Brian and I explored our options online, found a few places we might like for the reception, and started working out the details of the ceremony with Brian’s family parish. As school demanded more and more of my time, and Pinterest images started all looking the same to me, I came to the realization that only a select few things about the wedding mattered to me. The groom—that I had taken care of; the dress—I found a beautiful one, in my price range, within a month of our engagement; the music—our college choir will be providing music for the Mass; and the presence of family and friends. “As long as everyone’s there celebrating with us, I couldn’t care less,” became my mantra for bouquets, centerpieces, and the other seemingly endless details of planning. Brian, who I think I could fairly say is much less interested in any of this than I am, was of the same mindset.

I don’t mean to diminish the importance of some details—a table can look kind of weird without a centerpiece, after all, and flowers are beautiful. It’s just that I discovered I wasn’t that interested in what kind of flowers were used, or what exactly decorated the empty center of tables, as long as it was there. Luckily for us, Brian’s mother was and is a huge help when it comes to these things. She looked up florists, made mock-ups of centerpieces, put together spreadsheets for costs, set up meetings with venues and vendors for a week in the summer when we could visit, and generally made the planning process run smoothly while still deferring all big decisions to me and Brian. We made decisions, but largely without any stress or tension because we had already decided what mattered to us. “We’ll be there, and our family and friends will be there, so it will be perfect.”

Then the RSVPs started coming.

Brian’s family, as anticipated, will arrive in full force. As of now we have received only one “regrets” response from a cousin who moved out of state. My family, however, is a different story. Aside from my parents and siblings, turnout will be sparse to say the least. Some people I knew could not come—my housebound grandmother, more distant relatives whom I barely know. Others came as a surprise—the uncle who, it turns out, “isn’t a wedding person,” the cousin who can’t miss classes, the many “regrets” with no explanation. As of now, from my rather large extended family I know of two people who can come. About thirty have sent their regrets.

I imagine among the RSVPs still at large I will get a few positive responses, but the results so far have shaken me. Thinking back to my older brother’s wedding four years ago, I remember a full-fledged family reunion. All the grandparents came, most of the aunts and uncles, and a good number of cousins. It had never crossed my mind that that wouldn’t be the case for mine. The last week has found me in tears several times over my family’s responses, and no wonder. I see one of my biggest requirements for “perfect wedding day” crumbling, and no way to fix it. Pointless thoughts of regret cross my mind—”If only we’d held the wedding sooner, or in my hometown, things would have been different.” “Should I have sent out save-the-dates sooner?” “What if it’s because it’s a church wedding?” And yes, maybe things could have turned out differently. But maybe not. And that’s not something I could have foreseen.

In the end, the only way out of this will be to adjust my definition of “perfect wedding day” to “one where Brian and I end up married.” After all, that’s what we have a running countdown for on his fridge. Not for seeing our families, though seeing them would be very nice indeed, but for the day we can finally start our marriage. I know this to be the case, but it’s taking some time to adjust to the full weight of that sentiment. I am sure I’ll shed a few more tears over “regrets” from my family, and if I had a magic wand I would bring them all whether they liked it or not. Still, as I keep reminding myself, the wedding day will happen regardless. So, with just over a month to go before the wedding, I’m trying to focus on that top priority. The centerpieces can wait.

Photo by Mary Clare’s awesome friend Katie

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  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    I’m dreading RSVP day. We’re having our wedding in New York, where we’ve lived for our entire adult lives, because both our families are scattered across the country and we realized that since most people would have to travel no matter what, we’d far prefer to marry each other in the place we call home. As soon as the save-the-dates went out, though, we started hearing preemptively from relatives about how expensive it was, how long the flight. My younger brother is getting married just four months before us, so for many of my family that’s the one big trip for this year. My brother’s wedding will be a huge, loving family reunion; ours will be loving, but huge and full of family … not so much.

    I remind myself that we knew about all of this when we chose our city and our date. It’s possible we would have had a different outcome had we waited another year, or chosen somewhere more central to at least one of our families. But it mattered to us that we be married here, where we’ve built our lives together, and we didn’t want to put off our marriage just on the hope that nothing else will come up in the meantime to prevent people from coming. It still stings sometimes, though, to realize what we may be missing because of those choices, and it’s hard not to second-guess them.

    So I’m grateful for the reminder that sometimes our definitions of perfection could stand to be adjusted, and that our wedding day will be full of love even if we are the only ones there.

    Thank you for sharing this, and best wishes for your upcoming marriage!

  • Just M for this one

    Oh, this post made me want to give you a big huge hug.

    Some very important people to us (ahem… my groom’s PARENTS) couldn’t (read: wouldn’t) make it to our wedding. Given this was a second marriage for both of us, and knowing their general disapproval of my husband’s divorce, it was hard for me to not take it as them giving us the giant middle finger. I’ll confess: part of me wanted to post pictures from the wedding on facebook and tag the empty chairs in the front row with their names to “punish” them for the slight.

    But you know what? The wedding was completely perfect with those who were there–and probably much less stressful without them. Life is long, and so is marriage, and the wedding is by no means the Zenith. Since the wedding, his parents have warmed up to me considerably and have found ways to let us know that they do support our marriage. I think they regret that they didn’t come–when they saw the pictures they realized it really was a REAL wedding, and their absence didn’t make it any less so.

    Allow yourself to be overwhelmed with gratitude for all that is THERE, for all that is yours on that day, and I promise it will feel like enough.

    • Class of 1980

      This happened to a friend of mine.

      She was divorced with a wonderful five-year-old son, and she married a man who had never been married before. His mother had converted to Catholicism and insisted that she would not attend the wedding unless my friend had her first marriage annulled.

      Except … my friend wasn’t a Catholic, so that was an unreasonable demand. Also, she didn’t want to annul the first marriage because what would that say to her son?

      Once their first grandchild was born, his parents came around and have made up for it in spades. They have a lot of regret now about not attending the wedding. That marriage has given them two grandchildren they are crazy about, and they found out they really love their daughter-in-law too.

      Some people don’t think about the future ramifications of their actions.

  • soleil

    I was very disappointed by my family’s sea of ‘regrets’ RSVPs. And those were the ones that RSVP’d. Many of them didn’t. It had never occurred to me that so many would not come as all the family weddings I’ve attended all the aunts have attended and most of the cousins. My family is spread out everywhere so they would have to travel as we have all traveled to one another’s weddings. My husband’s family is mostly located in Rhode Island. Most of them made it out. One of my aunt’s did RSVP yes and then she backed out a couple of weeks later for no reason. So yeah. . . I totally feel you on the hurt and disappointment. It made me feel like I wasn’t as important as other family members and played into my ‘black sheep’ insecurities. But It gets better. On your wedding day you will be steeped in joy and the people who are there will be all that matters. The rest will fall away. (This was my experience and I hope it is the same for you.)

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Oh my heart goes to you. Since we live across the ocean from my family, and we decided to have the wedding in the place we now live, where most of the husband’s family is, it was kind of obvious that only my close family (parents, brother and sister + their partners) would be able to make the journey for us. We knew that, and we did plan a barbecue back home when we were there for our honeymoon.
    But oh how much it hurt to get regrets from some of my very close university friends (who are in the same continent) and who I had always been sure they’d be with us.
    One of my best guy friends even used the “I’m not a wedding person,” excuse which I thought was lame. You might not like weddings and that’s fair, but I personally wanted him in our wedding, being a witness to our commitment. It all goes to that thing we say a lot around here about your wedding “showing you how things are, in contrast to how you wish they were. ”
    It hurt, but you know what? As much as the regrets hurt, it is the people who actually come and are present on your wedding that matter. You will feel so loved and full of joy, and the ones that are meant to be there, will be there right there with you (even if some will be in spirit and mind: I wasn’t able to go to my best friends’ wedding in Mexico: but I was following closely through facebook uploads and mobile phone videos that were sent to me by my family almost live, minutes after it was happening).

    • Class of 1980

      “I’m not a wedding person” has got to be the lamest excuse in the book.

      I hope those who use it are planning to elope for their own weddings. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that excuse used by people who had large weddings themselves.

      • KC

        I’d note that there isn’t an exact equivalency between having a big wedding and being a wedding person (especially since having a big wedding isn’t always one’s own choice).

        Personally, if I have to pay over a thousand dollars and use vacation days, etc. to travel somewhere, for the most part I’d actually rather do it to visit my friends sometime when they’re not fried, overwhelmed, and have so many people to deal with, so that I can spend interactive time with them, unless it is going to be actually meaningful to them to have me there. I would note that I’m not a total wedding dropout; I’ve traveled for the weddings I’ve been physically able to when I knew it was likely/possibly important to them that I be there (two long-distance weddings I’ve skipped, though, since we weren’t super-close, so I didn’t think they’d want me to deal with the expense of intercontinental travel but probably sent me an invitation because they didn’t want me to feel excluded, or in case I might happen to be in the correct country at the time, but I may have guessed wrong; if so, y’all, I’m sorry! But half a month’s salary, when things are tight, is a lot to spend to attend a wedding where the bride and groom would likely be at most vaguely pleased you’re there, if they noticed.).

        And then, big weddings can either be “we specifically want all these people here” or can be “we want everyone who wants to come to be able to come” (or can be “parents or fiance want a big wedding”). I had a short list of people who I really, really, really wanted to be there, and then whoever else wanted to come and could come? Great! So we ended up with a big (and fairly eclectic) wedding population. But I really wouldn’t have wanted to have *any* of them tearing their hair out trying to figure out how to budget for flights while still being able to pay rent, or how to get to the wedding and still have enough vacation days left to see their family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, or… etc.

        And then there are also the clueless people who do not make a connection between it being important to them to have you at their wedding and it being important to you to have them at your wedding.

        And then there are the just-plain-jerks. But I wanted to note that there are categories apart from the just-plain-jerks. :-)

        • Class of 1980

          Oh, you’ll get no argument from me that money issues and vacation days are completely valid concerns.

          What I meant is that you should never tell someone you are not attending their wedding because you are “not a wedding person”.

          It’s unbearably rude for so many reasons.

          • never.the.same

            I disagree. I am introverted and I hate both small talk with strangers and dancing, which are usually the two biggest elements of weddings for guests. I have yet to be at a wedding where I get to speak with the bride/groom for more than ten minutes and the awkward, painful rest of the occasion is not worth it for everyone. And especially in cases that require expensive travel, it is totally valid to say “I am not a wedding person.” It doesn’t have to do with the couple or how much or little you support them. It’s about knowing yourself and being honest.

            A wedding is not an imposition. But it’s not an obligation, either.

          • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

            I agree both ways here. I think saying “I’m not a wedding person” is a cop-out phrase, but it’s much easier then giving a list of emotional/personal/psychological reasons not to attend. I think there was a past APW post or comment that talked about choosing whether or not to attend a wedding, and the poster concluded that if she could not in good conscience (for whatever reason, big or small) support the couple’s union, then she would decline the invitation.

            Never The Same makes a good point that she could better support the couple a different way, and hopefully she would be able to express this to close friends on family.

            I think the rude part is using “I’m not a wedding person” instead of owning up to travel or financial barriers. But I do think it’s a legit way to avoid discussing more personal issues. Perhaps they want to avoid the awkward “I don’t feel like we’re that close” conversation, or the “romantic relationships are a pain point for me right now and I don’t want my negativity to bring the party down” conversation.

          • Class of 1980

            I’m looking at etiquette in this situation. Etiquette does not require any excuse be given when declining an invitation.

            (This doesn’t apply to family members.)

            If you must say something, saying “I really wish I could make it, but I’ll be thinking of you” leaves a decent impression without having to be too specific.

            Saying “I’m not a wedding person” sounds like they’re saying they don’t think you’re worth it.

            I’ve usually heard this excuse given because the person merely dislikes weddings and can’t be bothered to show up and support their supposed friends.

          • kyley

            @NEVER.THE.SAME

            Weddings aren’t an obligation (that’s why they are not an imposition; it definitely has to go both ways), but telling someone that you “are not a wedding person” is a pretty hurtful way to communicate that you won’t be attending someone’s wedding. You can feign not enough money or not enough vacation time or whatever, but I don’t know anyone who would hear “not a wedding person” and wouldn’t have their feelings hurt.

          • Diane

            I think the message that is often heard from “I’m not a wedding person” is “being part of an important milestone for you isn’t enough of a priority to outweigh my own discomfort”. And that’s a really difficult thing to hear (even if it’s not what’s being said or meant). I completely agree that “I can’t make it but I’ll be thinking of you with love all day” is a much more graceful way to excuse oneself, even if it’s for the exact same reason.

          • Newtie

            I agree completely.

            But there is always the possibility for an exception. I have a good friend who is a recovering alcoholic – she was very secretive about her problem, and very, very reluctant to tell even her closest family and friends that she went into rehab and sobered up. Her first year or two of sobriety, she missed a lot of weddings (she was afraid they would be too difficult for her). Since many people, even relatives, didn’t even know she was an alcoholic, let alone a newly sober one, a lot of people didn’t know why she declined.

            Saying “I’m not a wedding person” IS completely rude – but you never know if that response is actually just the only thing that person felt comfortable saying. People can have a whole host of (private) reasons for not attending a wedding.

  • E

    Ohh I so feel you on this. I don’t have a large, close family to begin with, and much of it has become more spread out across the country in recent years, but it still hurt to see so many “no” RSVPs for my wedding. My husband’s family was probably a quarter to a third of all our guests whereas I had 10 people. It sucked, but on the flip side that meant we were able to invite more of my parent’s friends who, to be honest, I knew and liked better because I actually saw them more often.

  • Sara B

    This is definitely hard. My family and friends all had to travel, so I tried to be as zen about their RSVPs as possible. I kept telling myself that just because they didn’t/couldn’t come, it doesn’t mean they love me any less. Sometimes finances, time, work, kids, illness are out of anyone’s control. I certainly had a couple of moments of “Really? *That’s* why you aren’t coming???”, but I realized that it is their problem, not mine, and I would be grateful for those who were able to come.

  • Kara

    Oh sweetheart, I totally get it. I give you full permission to be hurt and disappointed, as long as by your wedding day you’re able to focus on the people who -are- there.

    Not one of my dad’s 4 brothers (or any of their children/my cousins) showed up to our wedding. In some ways, I guess it was my fault for having a second reception in our home state, but it was my wedding, the only one. And…I think it reinforced some of my feelings about being second class somehow, that took a long time to let go. BUT, those who could and did come (on my mom’s side mainly) were so loving and wonderful.

  • Caitlyn

    I completely understand how you feel. I had lots of “no” RSVPs that I totally thought were going to be “yes.” I had two cousins, who I generally like, not come to my wedding even though their dad was going to pay to fly them to town and pay for their hotel. Generally I think this is because one of them has a small child that she’s a bit too attached to and was upset that we were having a “no children” wedding/reception. So she decided she didn’t want to come and then convinced her sister also not to attend. Then one of my Aunts took back her “yes” RSVP probably just because those two cousins weren’t coming, and just her husband came. All of these women are on my mom’s side of the family, which I’ve never been super close to, but it was really hurtful to think that these people didn’t really want to come to my wedding. As all three are total drama queens it was probably for the best.

    It was kind of rough to think I was going to have around a 100 guests at the wedding only to have less than 80 after all the “no”s, but in the end it worked out because I don’t know how we would have fit over 20 more people in the reception space even though we were told it could fit up to 110, and I danced all night and had so much fun. And some people made some serious effort to be there for our day, and that helped make up for lame relatives.

  • Krista

    I had the same experience, also in the middle of my PhD courses and major rites of passage. But I can still say without a shadow of a doubt that even though a number of family members didn’t attend, I wouldn’t trade my wedding experience for anything. It was wonderful. But it did make for awkward interactions at the first Thanksgiving after our wedding when people said, lamely, “sorry we weren’t there”.

  • Anne

    I totally get you. My wedding was a week before Christmas, and half of my family members couldn’t make it because they had a family get together (on their other side of the family).

    It really, really sucked, and I was very bitter about it, until like, the day after the wedding, when I realized I hadn’t really missed them at all. One of them is getting married halfway across the country in a few months, and I don’t feel too bad about not making it. I know they will be surrounded by lots of people, and they probably won’t miss me, either.

  • Class of 1980

    While I often think it’s cool to live in such a large country, sometimes it’s amazingly inconvenient … especially when it comes to the vast distances between family and friends.

    I bet RSVPs aren’t nearly as painful in European countries. ;)

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      Oh they are.
      Mostly lots of people don’t RSVP at all, you have to track them down,otherwise you’d never even get an answer.
      And well, people cancel or decide they can’t make it for reasonable or unbeknownst reasons. Even when they are not so far and the distances are relatively smaller, and there are lowcost airlines, trains, coaches, and good highways available.

      • Class of 1980

        Wow. And here I thought the time, distance, and cost were such a big factor here.

        • Copper

          I think those things are all a factor, but they all get multiplied by willingness to make an effort. Without those things there, willingness to make an effort is laid bare as the culprit in most cases.

    • One More Sara

      I think this depends a lot on the family as well.. I’m in the same country as Amanda, and all my (fiancé’s) family has nearly perfect attendance celebrating everyone’s (aunts, uncles, cousins) BIRTHDAY parties throughout the year. If they missed someone’s WEDDING, that would be a HUGE slap in the face to the couple.

      Traditionally, the structure of weddings here is also very different. I haven’t formally RSVPed for any of the 4 weddings I’ve attended here. When I told my FMIL that we were going to do online RSVPs, she literally didn’t know what I was talking about. Everyone here also thought my idea to send a Save the Date was very original. Things are just different here, but from my experience, RSVPs are low on the totem pole of wedding-worries.

      • RY

        Yeah, formal RSVPs as such are not something I know (I am German). I just had my e-mail address and my phone number on the invites.

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

        Hmmm, I was thinking Europe as a whole. We had invited people from Switzerland, France, Belgium and Spain.
        I lived 5 years in Switzerland, long enough to see that at least there RSVPing is an important thing. Sometimes when you got invited to events (not only weddings, but balls or in general any thing, even school related) you would get an answer card to send back. Same as RSVPs for weddings. It is considered polite to inform whether or not your going. With our wedding we did not have those little cards, but we did ask people to inform us by X date and gave our emails, phone numbers and address.
        Like One more Sara said, the Dutch are much more relaxed, and with the exception of a handful they all came.
        What *bothered* me (a bit) and hurt me while planning was that some people would not say if they were coming or not. We had a pretty much non-fuss wedding (no sit-down dinner), so it was not a super urgent matter, we had some flexibility, but at some point we really needed to know at how many people we were looking at and some people just did not say anything.
        I think for any event (even a casual invitation to dinner on a weekend) you have to say if you are coming or not. Or am I crazy? Are you supposed to guess?
        (Of course no answer can be assumed as a no, but it’s not nice)

        • One More Sara

          yeah the weddings I’ve been too were 99.9% Dutch, plus me. My fiancé’s aunt and uncle have actually gotten another Save the Date this year (their second ever, after ours), for a wedding happening in France.Whenever a great amount of travel is involved, I think American customs are being more widely utilized (since those are generally the best-tested ways to reach far flung guests). So Amanda.. I feel ya that those people should have responded. I’m kind of bracing myself for people not to RSVP bc they just don’t know that they are supposed to do it.

    • RY

      Not really :(

      Three members of my family couldn’t afford to come to my wedding, among those my godmother. Two others were on holidays, among those my other godmother. My cousins just didn’t bother coming. All my guests lived between 200 and 350 kilometers away. Of my family and friends, of 22 invited, only 10 came.

      Except for the aunt/uncle/cousing living in Japan, everyone who was invited by my husband came. So those were the other 35 guests…

  • Jen

    Thanks for posting this, it’s definitely not something I would have thought was a possibility either. My Fiance’s family is huge with everyone living in a pretty small area (its a small state to begin with) my family is medium and also in the same small area, and we just bought a house together in the middle of that same small area… yay local! However I’ll try to remember as we go that whoever is there is there and as long as they’re happy it’ll be fun and we’ll be married.

  • http://kathleenmaryelizabeth.wordpress.com Kathleen

    I’m so sorry!!! This same thing happened to me- except they all came to my sister’s wedding five months later. Which I didn’t understand.

    At the end of the day, though, we were surrounded by the people that cared about us and WANTED to be there for us, and that was what was really important.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      Ohhh, I would feel a bit mad at that situation!
      For our wedding, both DHs younger siblings got married earlier in the same year, and the number of members of his family that attended each wedding got smaller and smaller.
      His brother (youngest went first) had pretty much everyone, including people who flew past our location to get there. His sister had everyone except the ones who flew past us. We had DHs parents and siblings. And yet DHs sister still complained that she had “not had many family members” at her wedding when she tried to pull out of attending our reception and found that suggestion made us sad.

      Honestly? I barely spoke to her all day – I was too busy catching up with friends who had travelled in from out of town. Same with DH. And the other family members? Sigh. I dont know any of his family beyond the immediate ones, still, 2 years later.

  • Daynya

    Oh, I know this feeling all too well. I had the same thought process. I don’t care about the decor/food/anything, I just want to be with my people, celebrating. When the replies started to roll in, I went from being giddy with anticipation, to being completely deflated and heart broken. Most people did not give reasons, and that’s fine. BUT, I assumed they all did not want to come because it was ‘just’ a reception. We had a private ceremony, and I had friends lecture me that driving out of town to ‘just go to a party’ was kind of pointless. So, I did my best to suck it up and focus on who was making the journey to support us. In the end, I was sad that day that a few of those people couldn’t make it, but it made me even more grateful for those who were willing to make the trip for ‘just a party’. I keep saying it, I grew up more in the year of planning our wedding, than I have since I became an adult all together. It was a life changing process for me, and all the road bumps have made me a better person, for sure.

  • Christine

    I completely feel you on this.

    Our families are local (we both are from NYC) but I already have been hearing no’s before we have even sent out Save the Dates. We are getting married on a Sunday, and some CLOSE family members have said that they don’t ‘do’ Sunday weddings because they have to be up for work the next day. My half sister is also getting married two weeks before me (she got engaged 6 months after us but picked the date so close!) so everyone will be getting hotel rooms, etc. Our wedding is a bit of an inconvenience for them.

    I am terrified of even going ahead with planning a full-blown wedding for these reasons. My fiance and I have considered eloping, but when I research this on wedding blogs, most people say you cannot elope and have a shower or a bach party (which my fiance’s friends have already planned for him and a close friend of mine has mapped out the shower).

    I’m so happy you enjoyed your day and had a great time, even with the hurtful ‘regrets’. Gives me hope that I will feel the same way!

    • Shiri

      Christine, your wedding is not an imposition: http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/01/you-guys/. It is not an inconvenience! It is your wedding. It is.

      Also, you can elope and have any kind of party you want. You can. The rules about what you can do and what you can’t? If the people involved will understand and won’t be hurt and will love you anyway/in spite of/BECAUSE, then you can. Talk to your friends about the shower and the bach party, make sure they feel involved in your wedding/loved, and do what you need to do.

      And what you want to do. Don’t let your family’s involvement or lack thereof change what you want and what you both will be happy with. Please don’t, because day of, it won’t be about who isn’t there, it will (god willing and the creek don’t rise) be about how the day feels and the fact that you come out of it married.

      • Catherine B

        Oh good, I was hoping someone would respond to this with wiser words than I could!

        Elope if that’s what’s best for you! Have the shower, have the bachelor party! They’ll be ways for your friends to share your happiness, other wedding websites be d*mned.

    • http://capeofdreams.wordpress.com Jessica@CapeofDreams

      Don’t listen to what anyone says you “can” or “cannot” do. You can do whatever you want to do. It is your wedding to do the way you want.

    • MDBethann

      I second what Shiri said and add that you can “elope” and still have your closest friends and family there. I think there are even some wordless weddings and/or wedding grad posts on this site about those kinds of weddings.

      And not to knock anyone, but I’m surprised your parents were okay with having the weddings so close together!

      • Christine

        Right?! That’s exactly what I was thinking! Makes family/friends ‘choose’ which wedding to go to — and it’s easier for people to choose the first one! Especially for out of towners.

        Thank you guys for the support… other wedding sites be d*mned is right! Although it’s stressful, I DO want to have a real wedding, with little candy bar favors, cheesy dance songs and invitations with cute little graphics on them. I just felt that eloping would be easier for everyone else, since it’s turning into a headache for people — especially since we’re paying for it ourselves. But then, the only people we’d be hurting in the end is us.

        THANK YOU so much for the kind words and support!

  • Anon

    It would be nice to hear more discussion of this topic, of letting go. What’s important to you and not worth letting go? What’s okay to let go? What do you learn from having to let go of something that was really important to you? Did you just lose, or did you find what you lost in other places? What happens on the other side? Does it truly not matter as much as you thought it did? What happens?

    • Shiri

      Wow, you just inspired me to finally write my wedding grad post! Thanks :)

    • One More Sara

      In terms of things worth letting go or not, I think it boils down to what you can and cannot control. You cannot force your family members to buy plane tickets and book hotel rooms to be at your wedding, so it’s probably best to try to let that go.

      • Anon

        Thank you for your replies!

        But if if it’s important to you to share the day with your family, does that mean you need to rethink your out of town wedding? Or that you try to do local stuff to include them in some way? How does the feedback loop work? It’s hard.

        • One More Sara

          My fiancé and I are from different countries. Naturally, we can only get legally married once, in A) my country B) his country or C) a neutral country. Our top priority was to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible, so option C was out. Our friends and family who live here (his country) for the most part have the financial means to travel to the US (my country). My American family and friends would struggle a lot more financially to travel over here (NL). We decided we would get married in the States to make it as easy as possible for my family and friends to come, and figure if some Dutch people here miss out, we could always celebrate with them after the fact. I expect that we’ll get some inevitable unexpected no’s, but knowing we did everything we could to make it manageable enough for most people, I’m hoping those no’s will be a little easier to swallow.

        • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

          It was important to me to have my siblings and their kids attend our wedding, which would have been a big financial strain for one. So we asked my dad to give part of the money he wanted to give us for the wedding to them to cover the costs of the trip. Short of moving the wedding to where they live, it was the only way to make sure everyone was there.

          For the extended family, we’re having a reception where they all live since most of them wouldn’t have been able to travel. This way most everyone can make it and it turns into a bit of a family reunion, which is especially important since the past couple of times we’ve all been together have been for funerals. Having a separate party with all of them together felt more important than having a few of them at the wedding.

  • http://lmiyakawa.blogspot.com Laura

    I had a similar experience at my own wedding. My family, fully extended, is 6. My husbands is ~80. Even with limiting cousin invites, my wedding was 34 guests from his family, 6 from mine. For a long time I worried about how this would feel on the day. I fretted that I was going to feel like I was attending one of his family reunions.

    A few days before the wedding, I realized that with this marriage his family was my family. We were surrounded by people who loved us regardless on the day, and that’s what truly mattered.

  • Jashshea

    Not sure if this is better or worse: My family is quite large, especially on my mother’s side and I invited about 30 people from that side. We received 3 replies (for 8 ppl) by our due date and 4 replies total once all was said and done.

    That being said, I’m not terribly close with any of them. I saved my tears for when a few good friends couldn’t make the trip for the wedding, as it’s difficult to say when I’ll see them again.

  • Paige

    My first wedding breakdown was about the guest list. We decided on a small wedding (60 people) with family and a small group of our favorite friends. The problem was, my friends are all over the country and world – his friends are all local. Even though I knew his friends are my friends too, I ugly cried in the Target parking lot thinking about how NONE of my friends were going to be there on our big day. Why would they come from hundreds of miles away for a short ceremony and lunch reception? Who would spend the money on a 3-hour flight to come eat cake with us and then go back to their lives? I felt like our wedding was an imposition (cut to me buying the APW book as soon as ugly crying was over).

    Needless to say, after many happy phone calls, I realized my friends had been planning forever on coming to see us get married and celebrate our love. The people who are meant to be there will be there – with happy faces, full hearts, bells on their feet. Your wedding isn’t an imposition, but it may be a time when you get a reality check about who is actually supporting you in this endeavor.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      YEP: “…it may be a time when you get a reality check about who is actually supporting you in this endeavor.” Very true.

  • JESS

    Oh, I know how you feel. I had close family members who did not attend my wedding, but they didn’t even RSVP. I have never heard a word from them (in response or in congratulations) since I announced I was engaged, even now, three months after the wedding.

    As Meg says, weddings put into harsh perspective the difference between the way you wish things were and the way they really are. In this case, it was hard to accept that my family wasn’t as close and loving as I thought they were, and they weren’t as excited for me as I wished they were.

    Everyone is right: on the day of the wedding none of that matters, and the people who are there are exactly the people who are supposed to be there. But I still get a twinge of sadness when I think about that family -the emotionally perfect family in my mind- that I don’t have.

    • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

      I also had close family members that I never heard a single word from. I’m kind of relieved I’m not the only one. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but ultimately it’s made me more realistic about which family members I know I can count on.

    • Jashshea

      Samesies for me too. I barely got a FB congrats from most of my cousins.

      However, the people that were there from my extended fam were awesome and I loved having them there. My bro is getting married in a few months and isn’t extending invites to everyone, which peeved my parents. But I understand the logic.

      • JESS

        Yeah, I totally get your brother. I actually got a card (with money), after the fact, from one of those no-response family members. Well actually, my mom got it – they sent it to her though it wouldn’t have been difficult to get my contact information and send it straight to me. My mom is beyond pissed that I haven’t sent them a thank you, but I kind of feel like they haven’t done anything worth thanking them for. I told her she could send back the money. I know it’s petty, but it’s still a fresh wound and I couldn’t bring myself to act nonchalant about their complete absence in this lifechanging event.

    • Claire

      So true. Not one of my husband’s brothers or step brothers came to our wedding even though it was just an hour drive for some of them and we had offered to pay for travel for the out of state ones. Excuses ranged from “I don’t know if I’m gonna have that day off” (a month before the date) to radio silence. Most didn’t even send congratulations, much less a gift. I know that was hard on my husband, especially given all the effort and travel expense and time we had invested in their various weddings. What made the slight more glaring was the extreme lengths my siblings went to in order to be there for us (driving from Guatemala with 5 kids and a pregnant wife!) My longest, closest friend also declined in a pretty hurtful way. It was sad & hurtful they didn’t make the effort to be there or even act like they cared. They were missed, but their absence didn’t make the day any less joyful. And we both still started our marriage surrounded by overwhelming love and support.

  • Alice

    Our wedding was very far from my home country so I knew basically no one would come (and have very good reasons for doing so…like not having oodles of vacation time and thousands to drop on airfare) . But it still hurt… even though it was fully expected and totally understandable. And I think there will always be a bit of a bittersweetness about those missed memories but it was not an overwhelming feeling the day of our wedding, nor is it a primary memory from that day. I’m not sure that makes sense. I just mean… it’s part of what happened but it didn’t ruin anything. I just focused on the people that had been able to make the trip…. who were honestly my absolute nearest and dearest … and afterwards, I swear I didn’t get to spend enough time with them all and they were only 6! So maybe it was a blessing in disguise?

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    This was by far the hardest part of our wedding planning. We had our wedding four days after Christmas and where we live, which makes it a destination wedding for pretty much everyone. But some people I really thought would be there weren’t. It was even harder for my husband who has put a lot of effort and money into being there for other people’s weddings and couldn’t understand how people couldn’t be bothered to make the effort for him. We’re having a separate reception in Texas for my dad’s huge family and some friends from there who may have come to the wedding didn’t because they can just go to that. On the other hand, a friend who moved into a new house with two small children several states away two days before our wedding was here. Another friend who lives in Haiti cut her visit to her family in Texas short to come to our wedding in Florida. It was so helpful to me to have read here on APW so many times that some people are going to disappoint you, but other people are going to come through more than you expected. Though I will say, I think this is a lesson that we all really have to learn for ourselves. I worried that it would look silly to have 10 people in the wedding party with only another 40 sitting at the wedding. We worried that it would be silly to have a band for such a small crowd and that our reception space would look empty with only seven tables. Our caterer worried a lot about how much food we’d have left over (we’d started on the assumption that we’d have around 100 people and could only cut back to food for 80). But it was fine. It was great to be able to really talk to and spend time with everyone there. That day, I was only thankful for the people who were there, not thinking about the people who weren’t.

  • AK

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. While I am nowhere near planning a wedding, this is by far my biggest fear. As the oldest of my siblings, most of my extended family (which numbers >100 people) has already written me off as ‘the one who won’t get married’. Don’t get me wrong, it is refreshing to no longer be plagued by the “When are you getting married?” questions at every family gathering! My younger siblings have stayed rather close to home and have married people from the area as well. I moved across the state (Gasp! a three hour drive!) from most of my extended family, and I just can’t see a wedding in my hometown (which I haven’t lived in for over 10 years) being what’s right for me, even though it would be convenient for my extended family.

    Anytime this topic casually comes up in conversation with my mother (which, unfortunately, is pretty regularly since we can’t have a conversation without talking about who is the latest person to get engaged) I am made to feel like the most selfish person in the world for even thinking I may want to have my (hypothetical at this point!) wedding in the place where I have created a life. My biggest fear is compromising what I want to accommodate the homebodies that won’t end up coming anyway.

    So thanks again for a post I can relate to which also makes me not feel like the most selfish person in the world!

  • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

    Oh this post. So many feelings.

    Because of divorces and remarriages, my family is kind of huge and unwieldy and hard to explain. Also, there are parts that don’t get along with other parts, estrangements, long lost cousins, and plenty of other nonsense that people love to write movies about. Deciding who to invite was one part minefield and one part test of how well I tolerate pain: how much drama did I want to endure to ensure that my family was present? In the end, I invited my entire immediate family (and hoped they’d all play nice), grandparents, and the aunts, uncles and cousins I was closest to.

    It turned out that my mom, my stepdad, and two of my brothers did not come to the wedding, for various reasons. Several other extended family members ignored my invite completely, but it was immediate family that stung the most (I don’t have the best relationship with my mom, but her absence is still something I am dealing with) and was just not something I was really prepared for during planning. In my head, my immediate family would be there because that’s just how the story goes, isn’t it?

    On the other side, Bryan’s family turned out despite being farther flung and also embroiled in their own emotional battles, and it was hard not to be a bit jealous of that. I made a conscious effort to think of their attendance as a positive, “look at this awesome, supportive family I am becoming a part of,” rather than the negative, “I wish my family was as supportive,” and that made a huge difference.

    • Anon

      Thank you so much for posting. That is tough and I am sort of afraid of the same thing happening to me. I guess sometimes I try to look at it over the long term… maybe we are not where I want us to be now, but we could be in the future. But it still hurts. In moments I think why bother having a wedding if it doesn’t help us get together. But I guess there’s more than that, there’s the people who want to get together now. But it still feels like s— to me.

      • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

        I agree, it definitely feels like sh*t, but it’s definitely helpful to approach the wedding with a clear understanding of where your family is in the now, rather than where you hope they can get to before the wedding. Maybe they’ll surprise you and things will be better than expected, or maybe they’ll stay the same, but recognizing that both could occur was pretty key for me. When it came to that day, I missed my mom and my stepdad and my siblings, but I’d had enough time to come to terms with the fact that they just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be there.

        Loving your family kind of sucks and hurts sometimes, unfortunately. I coped with that by choosing to lean on people I knew could handle it: friends, other relatives, and Bryan. The positive was pretty instantly apparent, as I’m so much closer with those people after the fact and I wouldn’t have had that if I hadn’t chosen to find the good. I’m a firm believer that anyone can become your family, if you have a need for more.

        • Anon

          Thank you :-) You’re a bad-ass.

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          I just wanted to say I really like this:
          “I’m a firm believer that anyone can become your family, if you have a need for more.”

      • MDBethann

        You asked “why bother to have a wedding if it doesn’t help us get together.”

        But what us are you talking about? Both your families together, or the people you love and who love you coming together to celebrate your union? Because the wedding is about celebrating you and your union and bringing together people to celebrate that. And if more of one person’s family shows up than another, then so be it (says the married lady whose extended family is twice the size of her husband’s), but remember, through the marriage you become part of one another’s families, so by your soon-to-be spouse’s family showing up, they are showing up as your NEW family and for YOU as well, not just for your new spouse.

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    I addressed this a bit in my wedding grad post, but I had this too. I live in DC, grew up in California, family is spread out everywhere. First cousins with kids RSVP’ed no. One of my aunts and other cousin RSVP’ed yes, but pulled out the week before because the cousin got in a horrendous car accident and needed the aunt to take care of her (she’s fine now, but had a shattered ankle, bad news). All of that was fine.

    What wasn’t fine was that all of my close friends from high school chose not to come. I was in two of their weddings and flew cross country for two others. Individually, their reasons made sense (family, money, funerals, etc…). As a whole, it felt like one big fat rejection from a group of people I’d been very close to and (still) love very deeply.

    And, you know, the thing was… I missed them on the day of, a little. But there was more than enough love to go around. I didn’t feel the lack.

  • Holly

    I’m so sorry! I cried about this a lot too. I’m sure I will again, several times, as the planning continues. My partner’s family lives in a very small town, but there are quite a few of them. Most have never been out of state and don’t have a lot of money. They already said they would all be where ever we were having the wedding (yes! All of them.) We figured since it’s also closer to where we live (3 hours vs. 12), we’d get married there.

    Right when we started planning my mom flat out told me not to invite her family. She doesn’t speak to them and told me she wouldn’t forgive me if I invited them. (Honestly I haven’t talked to most of them in a while either. So, etiquette would suggest not to invite them… but I really kind of wanted some of them there.) Then she told me not to invite my cousins on my dad’s side because it would be rude since I haven’t been home in forever. I do speak to some of them fairly regularly, but they also have issues with money so I believe that is also part of her reasoning. I knew I wouldn’t be inviting my brother; we don’t talk at all. The only person that talks to him is my dad. Basically, I’m only “allowed” to invite my dad’s siblings, and his father from my side. She figures that’s the only people that would come and since it’s out of state inviting anyone else would be rude. I’ve considered just inviting them anyway, but I don’t want to be rude. I’m not looking for a present (as she says that’s what it is – which is funny since we’re not having a regular registry), I just want my family there!

    This is a second marriage for both of us. We are paying for the wedding. My family (both sides) is fairly large. My first wedding was small (10 people there). I pictured being around them for my second wedding. Smelling my grandma (mom’s mom) when she hugged me and smiled – dancing with everyone and partying all night. In this case it’s just easier (and probably cheaper) to let my mom have her way then hear about it for the next few years (or anytime my wedding is brought up). It cuts down on drama and hurt feelings since that’s why she hasn’t talked to them. His family has been super supportive and ever since I met them they felt like family already. The shocker I guess came when we were writing out our guest list. I won’t be inviting many people. I cried. I’ve been a single working mom for a long time and so I didn’t make a lot of friends. I am expecting some of my friends I will invite won’t go because it’s a drive and a hotel stay.

    This makes me incredibly sad. I wasn’t expecting this, although after a second (and third, and fourth) look I probably should have. I really could have cared less about anything else (other than my FH), but the family thing really gets me every time. Sucker punch to the soul.

    • Anon

      Just want to say, I relate. It is indeed a sucker-punch to the soul.

    • MDBethann

      If you talk to your cousins even if you don’t see them, it isn’t rude to invite them – it would be rude not to invite them. Staying in touch with someone doesn’t mean seeing them – it means staying in touch, no matter how you do it.

      I see my cousins maybe once a year and my second cousins as much or maybe less (who I saw a bunch when we were kids but now not so much). However, I went to all of their weddings and couldn’t imagine not inviting them to mine, even if they couldn’t make it. I got married in the area where I grew up, so most people were able to drive to the wedding and back in one day, and most of them came. But I think a bunch of them, because we talk online and such, would have come even if it meant staying overnight.

      And honestly, just because you invite people, the expectation of a gift isn’t there anymore, even though that is what Miss Manners says. We had people we invited who sent a “no” reply and that was it – no card, nothing. Then we had some friends and family friends we didn’t invite but who knew about the wedding and sent us gifts, which was totally unexpected and so sweet. And then there were friends who came to the wedding and didn’t even bring a card (the only thing I worried about there was that I’d lost the card b/c the card table got a little out of hand at one point).

      I say invite whomever you want. If you are close to them, invite them. If you aren’t close to them and your parents are okay with not inviting them, then don’t invite them. Just be careful that if you invite Cousin A, their sibling Cousin B gets invited too or you may hear about it later….. My MIL has several siblings, some she’s close to and some she’s not. I relied on her for the contact info for her family and since she didn’t give me info for one of her sisters or that sister’s children, I didn’t invite them. I felt weird about it, but that’s what they wanted. On the off chance I ever meet them, I’ll just say I had no contact info for them and leave it at that.

      Good luck!!

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        I had a wedding in my husband’s country, and so I kept seconding guessing who I was inviting because I didn’t want to be rude. But I finally decided I didn’t care and took the location of of the equation and invited people simply on the fact of whether or not I would happy to have them there at the wedding. I didn’t want to exclude people on my own guesses as to whether or not they would decide to fly to the wedding. I finally convinced myself to remember they were all adults and could decide for themselves, and hopefully would realize I only was inviting them because I really wanted to include them (and it had nothing to do with hoping for a gift). It went well, and I didn’t hear anything negative about it. (And I think people felt a freedom to not send a gift/card either….judging from how things panned out.)

      • Mary Clare

        I invited several people that I knew couldn’t come (in addition to all those that I expected would come and couldn’t) and I didn’t even consider that it would be rude. To me, it says “I would like you to be there if you could, but even if you can’t I still want you to be part of it emotionally.”

    • Teresa

      It is not rude to invite your family to your wedding if it means a lot to you to have them there. Even if they may not be able to come, they might just be touched by your invitation because it means that they are important to you. It is hard to go against your mother’s wishes, but I just think you needed to hear that wanting your family at your wedding is not rude and is not only so that you can get a gift.

      • Anon

        I agree. My wedding will require travel for a lot of my fam. I am thinking of things like including a note in the invite, or sending one separately, that I understand if folks won’t be able to make it, but I want them to know I’d love to have them if they can. I don’t want them to feel obligated, I just want to include them. This can’t be wrong!!

  • Cellistec

    Mary Clare (and all the commenters who dealt with or are dealing with the same thing), I feel for you, and I’m rooting for you with the fridge countdown and the perspective-keeping. It break my heart that my relatives don’t seem enthusiastic about my upcoming wedding. Thank goodness for friends–they’re really saving the day (and by day, I mean year). So the lesson I’m drawing from this is that when someone is getting married, it might help to go out of your way to be excited for them, because maybe they’re not getting enough of that.

    For everyone in the same boat as me, here’s a massive WOOOOO CONGRATULATIONS!!! should you need a celebratory pick-me-up.

  • Laura

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post.

  • Anon

    Oh man, I know that feeling. For me, it wasn’t so much for family as it was for friends. We live and got married near where my husband grew up and went to college, so most if not all of the friends from “his side” (they are indeed good friends to both of us, but y’all know what I mean) were able to make it.

    My friends from before I moved out there, on the other hand, were scattered around the opposite coast and almost all of them were in grad school at the time. Of all the friends from high school and college that I’d invited, I think ONE outside of the wedding party was able to make it. I was seriously bummed about this for a while (“Is my husband just a better friend or more likeable than I am??” *sobpanicsob*), but then the wedding came and, go figure! Things were still wonderful. It may have been unrealistic for me to expect that most people would be able to miss school/work and fly across the country on grad student budgets, but at least they know I would have loved having them there. And we’ve had multiple occasions to meet and catch up since then.

    It was hard to not take it super-personally at first, but like every other challenge in wedding planning, you eventually just shrug your shoulders and keep moving.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      “…but at least they know I would have loved having them there.”

      This is what I decided too. And I love getting invites…it makes me feel loved, even if I can’t go.

  • DanEllie

    Thank you for writing this! Even seven months after our wedding, there are parts of me that are still trying to let this very issue go. The comments have been helpful too.While I didn’t have to chase for RSVPs, we got some unexpected no’s from cousins that were painful (and telling them about the celebration later definitely felt odd.)

    Somehow it’s helpful that we weren’t the only ones, and boy are family relationships fraught sometimes!

  • 39bride

    This is tough. Few of my friends are local, and only two people traveled from out of town to attend our wedding (I shed tears for some of those “No’s” at RSVP time, and one in particular still makes me very sad). However, it goes both ways. You may have people that DO come who will be such a surprising joy that it still makes you warm to think about it months after the wedding.

    BOTH of the only guests (non-bridal party) who traveled to attend our wedding were people we never expected to make it–sent them what we considered “courtesy” invitations. One was a dear friend I hadn’t seen for 5 years who flew in and out the SAME DAY (and rented a car to drive 45 minutes to the church) just to spend a few hours with me at the wedding. She was there while I got ready (we only had to young girls as our attendants) and from the moment she arrived made herself indispensable to me and family members who were still prepping/setting up. The other person was someone who is practically a “second mother” to me, who has been to hell and back with our family as we spent 4 decades of joys and sorrows together. We thought she’d never be able to afford it, but my mother and sister stepped in to make it happen. Sandwiched between work obligations, she flew in for about 36 hours and like my college friend made herself indispensable and filled our day with pure love and joy.

    I guess I’m saying that, Yes, even our guest lists won’t be “perfect,” but don’t let those disappointments spoil the “unexpected joys” that you probably wouldn’t change for the world. :)

    • Anon

      Thank you for sharing this. It helps to hear. :-)

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Your story made me teary. It is true that some people end up being wonderfully present in ways we never would have expected…

  • Laura

    Your post brings up two very poignant issues. First, the issue of selecting a wedding location that is “fair” to you and both of your families, which it sounds like you really took into consideration and tried to make the best decision you could. Second, the issue of what happens when the actual guest list ends up not being “balanced” between both sides. I’ve definitely been to weddings where one side of the aisle is noticeably more filled-out than the other, and I can imagine that is a very tough situation.

    From someone who hasn’t yet had to deal with this second problem, one possible resolution comes to mind. If you originally had a number in mind for your final guest count, and now, with all the “regrets,” it’s looking a little slim, maybe you have some friends, family friends, etc., who were not originally on the invite list due to capacity limits who you could now invite. I bet they won’t even notice the tight RSVP time window. This is the “B list” idea, discussed on APW before. It may not be the same as having your actual family and close close friends in attendance, but maybe it will help you feel a bit more surrounded by your community.

    • Rebecca

      I saw an adorable sign at one couple’s wedding on a blog somewhere that said “pick a seat, not a side,” which I totally loved. Since we’re having a tiny wedding, I’m planning on eliminating the aisle altogether. Which also saves me from processing…yay!

  • Newtie

    This post is exactly why I always make a huge effort to go to weddings, and to show up with my biggest smile and my best dancing shoes. At my own wedding, it meant SO MUCH to me that people not only made the effort to come, but also made the effort to at least pretend they were having a good time. I tend to be one of those people who naturally thinks things like, “Oh, so-and-so would never even notice if I’m not there…” or “So-and-so is so sweet to invite me, but I know I’m not one of her ‘closest people’ so she probably just invited me because she felt like she had to….” or to otherwise assume that I’m not an important part of someone else’s party. But after my own wedding I’ve come to realize that it really does feel supportive to have people show up — so barring truly insurmountable conflicts, I always go to weddings (and funerals, for the same reason).

  • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

    I had my first “no” and it wasn’t even a real no; it was way harder on me than I anticipated. I heard through the grapevine that my (first) cousin was coming to the wedding alone, without her husband or kids. I only have a couple of first cousins, and I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. And I knew they could afford it. So I was upset. Also, my family has always made it a point to travel up north (Florida to NJ) for everyone’s events AND every Thanksgiving, so it hurt me that they wouldn’t do the same once.
    But you know what made it even worse? They never said anything about it. No phone call at all, and when I saw them at Thanksgiving, not a single word. No, “Sorry we can’t all come but those at home will be thinking of you!” Nothing.
    I expected to be totally zen about RSVP’s, especially with our out of control guest list. Then I realized that I’m putting all the effort into making a big wedding because I want people to be there. So I forgave myself for being sad, and I’m trying to move on without staying angry.

  • Amanda

    …to adjust my definition of “perfect wedding day” to “one where Brian and I end up married.”

    Adjusting definitions – this is something that I had a light bulb moment about this morning while driving out of my new community. My husband & I moved in the summer, and I was excited to get one of those “couple standing beside SOLD sign pictures”. However, it appeared as though the real estate company that sold us the house removed the for sale sign during the night, a few after we moved in, without ever placing a SOLD sign. Seeing a house this morning with a big SOLD sign on it made me sad once again that I missed out on what I expect is normal for everyone to experience. But then I got to thinking…

    My childhood wasn’t “normal” or regular like all my friends, my early adulthood wasn’t normal. Our wedding wasn’t, either. This isn’t to say they weren’t wonderful (for the most part, everything was!), but just different than my expectations, and different from my definition of “normal”. Adjusting my thinking today to be less sad about what I thought I had missed out on (and these thoughts extend way past the SOLD sign into other aspects of my life), and to focus on all that I DO have that is awesome, really calmed me. Sure, I might not have anyone (non-family) willing to throw me a baby shower, but do all first-time Moms have the support that I do from my family & spouse? My life isn’t “normal”, but if I can change my definition of “normal”, I can be a much happier daughter/sister/friend/wife/Mom.

    Shifting our definitions to include what is real, tangible, in-our-face-right-now can allow us to be at peace with what is, and not to long for what we think should be. Best wishes to the OP, and I echo those previous comments indicating your wedding day will be so full of love from those who *are* there, that you won’t have too long to dwell on those who are not.

    • 39bride

      Awesome comment!

      “Shifting our definitions to include what is real, tangible, in-our-face-right-now can allow us to be at peace with what is, and not to long for what we think should be. ”

      I’ve probably been more conventional than you, but I know what you mean. There’s a whole lot I missed out on in my first 40 years (and a lot more I wish I HADN’T missed out on). I’ve found that recognizing that I’m so blessed NOW instead of focusing on the pain of what I missed, never had or never will have helps me keep things in perspective. I mean it still hurts, but I waited so long for the joy I have now that I refuse to let the pain of the past dim the joy of today–I’m going to revel in and soak up every bit of happiness I can get my hands on!

  • http://thefeministmystique.blogspot.com Shannon

    Sending a huge hug your way!

    I’ve had a similar experience. My fiance and I both come from large families, so I expected that we’d have this huge wedding (even though we’re having it in GA and our families live in FL and CA). But aside from his parents, siblings, and grandmother – 2 people are coming. And people from my family, aunts and uncles that I’m close to, are not coming because they’re “uncomfortable at weddings” or other reasons that I’m not really sure of. They can all afford it. And I know they expect me to be at family events (like my uncle’s wedding a few months after mine), which makes me feel like my event is somehow illegitimate or not as important (maybe because it isn’t at a church?). I’m still surprised at how hurt and disappointed I feel, and like another commenter said, am trying to move on with the wedding planning without being angry.

  • Kait

    I completely understand! Our wedding planning is going super well so far but who is (and isn’t) coming has been my only meltdown point (this far!).

    As soon as we announced the date (10 months today!) the I don’t know if I can make it’s started which hit me way harder than I ever expected. And that didn’t count the breakdowns over realizing that between us all 8 of our grandparents had passed away before our wedding.

    I just keep repeating Meg’s (very wise) mantra from the book that the only people you need will be the ones who are there and hope that proves true in our case.

    • MDBethann

      My DH and I each have 1 grandparent left, but what we did to make the missing 6 grandparents “present” at our wedding was a vase of 6 white roses on top of the piano at the church and we noted in the bulletin that the roses were in memory of our grandparents who had loving marriages and that we hoped our own marriage would be as long and loving as their marriages had been (2 sets of grandparents had been married for 50 years or so before one of the pair died).

      My living grandparent has some health issues and had been in the hospital until the day before the wedding and she was slow to get ready for the wedding so she wasn’t there when it started. But she made it in time to see us say our vows an exchange rings, which made me happy. She has been such a big part of my life that it was a tough week before the wedding thinking that she might not be there (we had a video camera recording everything just in case).

      It IS hard though, to realize that people who are so important to you, like grandparents, are gone and can’t see you get married. I wore my late grandmother’s ring for the wedding and at one point I made the “mistake” of looking at my hand and then at the roses and I started crying. Unfortunately it was during the pastor’s sermon and she couldn’t figure out why I was crying. But you know what? It’s not a bad memory of my wedding – it’s a good one. While I’m sad my grandparents never met my DH, I know they would have loved him and I know that they were there that day looking down on us and were happy for us.

  • http://www.cartes-postales.ca Vanessa

    I’m not engaged; heck, I’m not even sure I’m pre-engaged, but I identified a lot with this post and my heart hurt a bit. Given that all of my extended family lives across the country from my immediate family, I have always somewhat assumed that few of them would come to my future theoretical wedding. (Not that those reasons for them not being able to come wouldn’t be legitimate: expensive travel, etc.). Despite knowing this, I wonder if it will hurt any less to receive those regret RSVPs.

  • Sarah

    I was unexpectedly hurt by the fact that my stepdad’s entire family was totally AWOL for my wedding. They’ve been family for 13 years, since I was in middle school, and less than a year before mine they ALL came to the ill advised, last minute, far away wedding of my stepbrother. I didn’t even get a single negative RSVP or wedding present from any of them (except one cousin, who texted me congrats the day of, and the step grandparents). But the 5 aunts/uncles, their spouses, and 30+ other cousins? Not a word. I’ve never felt so much NOT a part of the family.

  • http://www.karinajean.com karinajean

    oh, honey. I am just catching up with my feed and caught your post. this is EXACTLY why I bailed on my scrappy plans for an intimate last minute beach wedding ceremony with immediate family and closest friends and went instead to my quick elopement (APW post under “kari and mike”) with just parents, kids, and the closest friends we were heading out on vacation with. at the first whiff of “oh I can’t come because I’ll probably have to work” from one of my beloved siblings I shut down out of fear of more rejection. Just like that.

    I LOVED our ceremony. but I was really sad for a week – I know that jobs are important, but so is ME GETTING MARRIED. anyway, we didn’t want to put off getting married to fit into someone’s work schedule, and we’re so glad that we are all hitched up. but I also want the big family reunion. and that’s going to be the next party – everyone is already on notice. No excuses this time. (good luck to us all.)

  • Catherine

    My husband what acting weird for some weeks, and like nothing he said what he leaving us me, and our 2 kids. I was referred by a good friend of mine to contact Priestessmunak@gmail.com, I thought it is crazy, he gave me my husband back, and like its not a problem. Priestess Munak gave me the peace back to my home. I will be forever indebted to you.