Ask Team Practical: Family Conflict

It’s Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa! Hooray! Today Alyssa’s doing a grab bag of questions about family relationships. I love her grab bag posts anyway, and today’s is one of my all time favorites. Girlfriend is telling it like it is. What do you do when you think your fiancé’s family is ‘trashy’? What’s really going on when your father and your partner are in a pitted war over… light beer? And how do you deal with the feelings of grief going on when your Maid of Honor (and sister) is having a hard time emotionally standing up for you. Read on, dear reader, read on…

My fiance’s family is nice but let’s call a spade a spade…they are the trashy “from the other side of the tracks” type of family. His mother, her husband, and his sister in particular are just awful…good-hearted people but just not my type and spending more than 15 minutes with them drives my partner and me insane. My family however is well… the judgmental, snobby type and already I am having nightmares about our wedding and the two families clashing. While his family likes me and my family adores him…I don’t think that our families will like each other at all and really do they have to?

What do I do? How do I handle this? In my head I expect people to act like grownups and behave themselves but I fear that I am wrong.

-I’d rather eat some pie than deal with family issues


Let’s start at the beginning. Your families don’t have to like each other, but you have to like your partner’s family. Like them enough, or at least respect them. Because you know how they say that you don’t marry your partner, you marry the family? That’s totally true. So, if you’re starting off thinking your partner’s family is trashy and awful? That might be a small red flag.

The wedding, however, is easier. Because here’s the thing: you don’t do anything.  A wedding is a social event and generally people tend to behave at big events because social protocol demands that they do so.  The, erm, trashy types will refrain from opening beer bottle with their teeth and the judgmental types will hold their catty chatter until the car ride home.  So no, your families really don’t have to like each other.  But they do have to be on their best behavior.

As far as how you handle it, you just have to figure out what needs to be handled.  Will the wedding be the first time they meet?  Try and have a family dinner beforehand.  Will alcohol loosen the tongues of either side and possibly start a class war?  Then have a sober wedding.  Already know that your aunt and his kid sister hate each other?  Make sure they aren’t seated at the same table.

The best thing you can do is set the tone by example.  Don’t fall into your family’s trap of being snobby and judgmental (*ahem* like calling people trashy…) and show them that despite their behavior, you’ve accepted your partner’s family as your own and they should too. (You have, right? You’re ready to be part of this family, right? Now is the time to think about that. Hard.)  Stop thinking of your in-law’s as trashy and learn to love their quirks; they may be annoying but they’re about to be yours for forever.  If their behavior gets out of hand, have a talk with them.  It’s up to you and your partner to decide how to deal with each other’s family, so it’s best to start having those conversations now.

Besides, all this worrying might be for naught.  Who knows, instead of eating pie, you might be eating crow.  (HA!  I’ve always wanted to end on a pithy one-liner like Dear Abby.)


We’ve provided the alcohol for our (tented, backyard) reception.  FH and I picked out a collection of beers we really enjoy and we’d like to have at our wedding.  My dad is insisting we also get a case of light beer which has turned into WORLD WAR THREE.  FH says that if he sees a case of light beer at the reception he’s going to throw it.  Dad and Mom are taking the “This is what your Uncles drink, it’s really not a big deal” stance.  FH and I consider ourselves SERIOUS beer drinkers and my family is decidedly NOT serious beer drinkers.  They drink light beer because they’re watching their weight.  FH and I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a light beer. There will also be white and red wine and pimms cup’s to drink.

The other issue here is that beer choices were one of FH’s things to handle.  My parents ended up getting the beer as it’s much cheaper where they live (doing us a favor) which I guess is where this whole issue began.  And I just don’t care at this point.  If my family wants to drink shitty beer then fine, I’m over it.  But FH is definitely not over it and is fighting this tooth and nail.  Help!

~ Bothered and Bewildered by Beer

Personally, I’d  just declare the whole damn moot and NOBODY gets ANY beer since they CAN’T be civilized about it and if I hear ONE MORE WORD ABOUT IT, I will going to turn this damn car around and they will both be grounded.

*Ahem* Sorry. But though it may sound a little silly at first glance, I think there’s more going on here. It may have started about beer, but I think this has become about respect for both of the men in your life.  Your partner wants his choices to be respected; it’s his wedding too and beer is the area he was in charge of.  But your father wants not only himself, but his family respected also; providing their beverage of choice for his brothers at the wedding is about being hospitable.  Both are reasonable in their demands, but both aren’t realizing their demands are putting way more stress on a situation than needs be.

So who wins?  Well, nobody if this continues to be a bone of contention.  Speak to your partner and your father and explain the other side and see if either will look to reason and concede.  Let your father know that you appreciate him getting the beer to save you money, but this is important to your fiance and therefore important to you.  Your uncles will be fine for a couple of hours without their favorite beer – they are grown-ups and should be used to such terrible injustices.  Also, speak to your honey and let him know that while this is important to him, it is also important to you and your father that your guests be accommodated.  These light beer drinkers may drink terrible beer, but they’re also going to be family who drinks terrible beer.

Or, if you’re feeling especially Swiss-like, suggest that all beer be served in lovely glasses and have the uncles’ special brew stashed behind the bar.  That way the relatives can enjoy their light beer and not be subjected to going three hours without their brew of choice, and your partner can be spared the indignity of light beer being consumed in front of him.  And since this lovely compromise is reached due to the immobility of both parties, your dad and your fiance should be the ones to find a way to procure and then clean all those glasses.  That’ll learn ’em.


There are many aspects of the traditional wedding that the man and I’ve gotten rid of, such as the long dress and anything with tulle, but one thing that I always wanted in my wedding was for my maid of honor to be present. I wanted the cheesy speech, I wanted the crazy bachelorette party, and I wanted someone that would be genuinely involved with the engagement-and-marriage process. And let’s just say, my maid of honor flat out sucks in that aspect. She made no effort to help with the bridal shower, rarely communicates with me, doesn’t know if her boyfriend is coming but still expects me to provide accommodation for him (i.e. rehearsal dinner deposit, seat at the head table, etc) and made such a huge deal out of the fact that I was upset that my wedding is four weeks away and she and her boyfriend had not made their hotel or plane ticket plans yet, and let’s just say, I planned my own bachelorette party.

Adding even more depth to this difficult situation, she is dealing with some intense mental health issues, and she is my sister, so I can’t do the usual “get excited or forget about it” that I would do with a friend because that’d cause a lot of hurt and rift in my family, as everyone is trying to baby her and protect her from the world.

I get it—I know that my wedding isn’t the Center of the Universe and that people have lives, thankyouverymuch. I am incredibly fortunate to have some very close friends that have taken over the emotional aspect of maid-of-honorness, my bridal brigade as you all call them, but in a way their generosity and excitement about my wedding makes this situation with my maid of honor hurt even more. My maid of honor is not only my best friend that I’m losing over this, but I’m losing her over a situation that is beyond my control and a circumstance that I did not choose, and any time I express how upset I am about this to my family, they immediately defend her and tell me to just suck it up. I’ve been sucking it up, and hating her in the process.

I know that APW has covered this before—when people in your bridal party just flat out sucks—and I don’t know if it’s too late to just have a re-shuffle, but in the end, all I want is for my maid of honor to be more excited and present. Any “getting over it” advice? I don’t want to be upset the day of the wedding that my maid of honor is more consumed with herself (and, therefore, my family is more concerned about her) than celebrating my marriage- BUT I am not good at compartmentalizing in situations like that.

The Bride that is an afterthought

Bride, honey, I don’t think that you are an after-thought.  However, I’m afraid your sister might be.

We have definitely covered this before, here and here.  We’ve also talked about what happens when you feel like a lonely bride.  However, I want you to go back and read them again. And then I want you think about what you’re saying.  You’re losing your best friend (who is also your sister) over her duties as a maid of honor?  Was the bachelorette party and her squealing over invites with you so important that you’re willing to elevate them above her role as your family member?  You don’t pick your wedding party based on who’s going to do what the best for you, you pick them because that is the person you want standing with you on an important day in your life.  You have every right to want the experience of having an emotionally and physically present sister AND maid of honor.  But the reality is that you don’t have that, and I’m so sorry for you.  However, you’ve got some great friends who’ve been stepping in on the standard  maid of honor duties, so you’ve lucky in that regard.  But even if you weren’t, is the experience of having a more emotionally present maid of honor more important than having your sister in your life?

Maybe it is.  Depending on your relationship with your sister, it’s possible that you weren’t than close to begin with and now this is just proving how distant you truly are.  However, you bring up the fact that your sister has some “intense mental health issues.”  Someone with “mild” mental health issues might have a hard time being perky, excited maid of honor, much less someone dealing with more pronounced issues.  Even someone without any mental health issues might find it difficult to be the MOH you want, depending on their personality.

Because you only mention her mental health issues, I’m going to assume that this is not a new thing that you and your family have to deal with.  And I’m also going to assume that this isn’t the first time that your sister’s needs have trumped your own.  You’ve been sucking it up for a long time and I know that’s been terrible for you.  But just the fact that your sister has someone serious going on with her health trumps any other complaints.

Does this mean your wedding is any less important?  NO.

But does that mean that your sister’s health and well-being is MORE important?  I’m sorry, honey, but hell to the yes.

My “getting over it” advice is to focus on what you do have.  If it makes you feel better, ask a good friend to help you with all the duties that your sister is failing on.  Plan for her boyfriend to be there and let them worry about their hotel and flight.  Focus on the other aspects of your wedding and making those the experiences you want them to be.  Talk to your family about getting your sister some help, if she hasn’t already.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting support at this time, nothing at all.  The wrong part is in holding someone else accountable for not giving you the experience that you want. Own your own experience and control what you can and stop letting what you can’t control completely affect your experience and your relationship with your sister.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  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).  Seriously. We love sign-offs.  Make your editors happy.

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  • Emily

    To the bride with MOH issues:

    One thing that might help is carving out some “non-wedding” time with your sister, some time to hang out and talk about everything but the wedding (her boyfriend, your job, your parents, etc. — all that stuff going on in your lives that you’ve had to push to the edges while you plan this awesome party). Trust me — I know how impossible that sounds. But it sounds like you and your sister could use some time — even just an hour or two for lunch or drinks — where you get to be sisters, instead of bride and MOH. Especially if your sister has mental health issues. She may feel uncomfortable talking to you about what’s really going on with her, because she doesn’t want to expose your happy time to her issues. But giving her a safe space in which to do that could be an amazing gift. And maybe it will help her feel that she is loved and wanted and appreciated (things she might not be feeling at a time when she is struggling and you are celebrating), she will have more to give back to you and your wedding.

    If it’s not feasible to do this (because you’re too close to the wedding, or you don’t live near each other, for instance), then talk to her about planning to do this sometime after the wedding. Suggest a girl’s weekend, or again, just a lunch. But tell her you really want a chance to hang out with her just the two of you. She may be feeling anxiety about “losing” her sister — let her know that’s not the case. It might seem obvious to you, but if she’s dealing with mental health issues, it might not be at all obvious to her. As someone who has dealt with some pretty difficult bouts of depression, I can tell you that when you’re mental health is compromised, your fears and anxieties can take on a life and power of their own.

    • Kate

      I 100% understand and feel you…..My matron of honor is my sister, who also has a history of mental illness. When she first got sick, I rearranged my entire life to care for her, and took on incredibly emotional burdens trying to keep her healthy.

      Thankfully, she has stabilized…but now I’m getting married. And now, she won’t do anything for me. It’s breaking my heart not only because she doesn’t seem to care, but also because it is effecting other people who do care.

      For my wedding dress shopping, she blocked off two months based on her scheduling conflicts…I had to get a dress quickly to allow time for it to be ordered. My mom flew up from out of town, and my own sister who lives in town said she couldn’t attend. My mother found out that her “conflict” was a single evening event in town. My mother basically forced her to attend the dress shopping and she did come and went to her event with plenty of time to spare after.

      Now, we are trying to plan the bachelorette and shower — and once again, she’s blocked off every weekend that works for my best friends. She will not tell me what she has scheduled, only that they cannot be moved. Meanwhile, I know that she goes and plays dungeons and dragons on some weekends. I have absolutely no doubt, that some of my closest friends that I desperately want to attend my bachelorette/shower weekend will not be able to attend because we have to block off the only available weekends before Christmas due to my sisters Dungeons and Dragons playtime schedule.

      It’s absolutely ridiculous….but can I possibly schedule it for when my sister and MOH “has a conflict?” She also hates traveling and doesn’t like to do anything without her husband, whom she is incredibly dependent on. Now she is trying to make the bachelorette party a “Jack and Jill” party so he can attend.

      I’m just beyond frustrated, and my best friends are frustrated, and everyone’s too scared to upset her.

      The most ironic part about all of this….she’s found a mix of medicines that works well for her that she will not take. She will not take them because she is trying to get pregnant. We’re all sitting around pretending to support her idea of becoming a mom knowing full well that she is incapable of caring for herself, let alone a child…..Oh, and she always says that her wedding was the best memory of her life…and I flew out from out of town for her dress shopping and for her shower(s) and for her bachelorette…you get it. Also, if she does get pregnant, I have no doubt whatsoever that she will demand fanfare.

      While I don’t think having a cheery MOH is worth throwing away a relationship with your sister….how can someone NOT prioritizing you NOT affect how you feel about them? It’s honest…it’s real. You can say they are sick all day long….but at what point is it just truth that you lost your sister?? I mean….everyone tells me not to expect too much of her, and I get that, but again….it’s fair to expect something from your sister– and she expects a lot from me.

      I’m dealing with the fact that the person I tried so desperately for so many years to save really is gone….and the person that remains is someone I’m trying to get to know and we’ll all pretending nothing’s changed.

  • AL

    Ok, I identify with the first question about the “trashy”family. But what about if the part of the family that you do not like so much is not really his family. but his stepfamily. That is, my husband’s father remarried a lady and her and all of her peers are well… different. I absolutely love my real mother in law, and I am ok with my father in low, as well as all the extended family it is just the stepfamily. Did I really also married them? They live in a different country, that happens to be the same country as where my family lives. Is it OK for instance for me to stay at my parents when hubs visits his dad, and said, stepfamily? I feel so bad for having this feelings, like I am not a nice person, but my mom used to say we are not all gold coins, and some people you just do not like. BTW, like the person who asked the question, it is not just me who has this feelings about this stepfamily, it is my family as well, and my brother in law a bit, and I think even hubs, though he is too diplomatic to tell. Feeling confused.

    • Kaitlyn

      I suppose it depends on how often you have contact, but I’d say as his wife you still have the responsibility to act in a manner that’s mature and caring towards these people. What’s the quote – You don’t have to be married to be an adult, but you have to be an adult to be married? You don’t have to be an adult to get married, but you have to be an adult to be in a marriage? I don’t know, but something about wife = adult, so best put your grown-pants on and sleep in the bed you’ve made yourself etc.

      As far as visiting, I guess it depends on the situation, and on what everyone else is comfortable with! I know if I went on a trip with my fiance and we split up for the night, everyone would wonder what was up. But that might vary?

      ETA: the biological parent v. step-parent distinction isn’t necessarily key. If someone plays a significant role in hubs’ life, I think you have to find a way to tolerate/accommodate/support as necessary, whether it’s a blood relative or an obnoxious-but-not-dreadfully-heinous friend.

    • Marina

      What if they WERE your family, not family you were marrying into? Would you still avoid them, visit other relatives instead of visiting them, etc? Maybe so–I certainly know people who choose to have no contact with their families for whatever reason. But think about it long term–this isn’t avoiding them for the next few months, or even the next few years. You’re signing up to avoid them for the next 20 or 40 or 60 years. In some cases, it might actually be easier to learn how to put up with them the same way your husband has to.

  • Funny, I always thought that it was more trashy to judge people for being “from the wrong side of the tracks” than it was to actually be from there, especially if they’re still “good hearted people.” I went to public school, though, so what do I know?

    • Carbon Girl

      It all depends. There is “trashy” in that people are red necks or blue color or just poorer or what not, which doesn’t say a lick about who they are as people. If you’re judging them based on their culture or circumstances then that is just plain wrong. But then their can be “trashy” in that they lack basic manners, get too drunk, fight and yell in public, which people can be regardless of their class (see: Real Housewives). If the latter is the case, then I think the letter writer does have a reason to be concerned.

      • TNM

        I agree with your distinction in general. But “wrong side of the tracks” virtually always denotes class. I don’t know that you can put a gloss on this one.

      • AH

        What I thought was a bit overlooked in Alyssa’s answer and so far in the comments is that the bride’s fiance also doesn’t particularly like his own family. So if he’s already distanced himself from them, then it’s an issue of a major life event where they can’t be excluded, but including them is also fraught. Given that it seems like both members of the couple are in agreement, it seems kind of harsh to pile on the bride for being judgmental.

        • Stephasaurus

          This. I’m glad you pointed this out. I also find it a little sad that people are focusing so much on the word usage rather than the actual point. I would’ve thought this question would be applicable to so many APW readers, since a wedding inevitably brings together LOTS of different people — whether it’s different cultures, attitudes, races, whatever. I saw this topic as a good opportunity to think about how my family and my FH’s family will get along at our wedding!

          But hey, I too went to public school, so what do I know? ;)

        • I actually didn’t bring that up because I’m not sure how true that is. The letter implies that they drive him crazy like they do her, but he’s had many more years of being driven crazy.
          Also, I’m a believer in, “He’s an a**hole, but he’s MY a**hole.” There’s no telling the tension that might arise if one day their mutual complaining goes a little too far on her part, so no need to even go there.

    • Stephasaurus

      I’m pretty sure that the term “trashy” is open to interpretation. Trashy to one person might not be trashy to another. The definition of “trashy” didn’t really seem like the main point of her question, though.

      • I don’t mean to get into a snit about semantics, but “wrong side if the tracks” is a colloquialism for “poor.” maybe the author just needs to choose her words more carefully, but if she’s really taking issue with the financial means of her fiance’s family, she needs some rather harshly worded advice. Given that she does concede that they’re good-hearted, just “trashy,” it sounds like zes taking issue with the fact that they have last year’s model of racing yacht or something.

        • Stephasaurus

          I just read it as a generalized question about how to deal with two families who are extremely different from each other. I didn’t read too much into it, because I know the details weren’t the point. The question was selected, I assume, because a lot of people who get married generally are bringing together two very different families.

          • Unfortunate phrasing, but the particular letter was chosen because it’s definitely a good question with a situation that we can all relate to.

            And I’m not gonna lie, I have a relative that I refer to as the “Slutty McTrashFace.” She’s earned it though. :-)

      • PCA

        Sure this question is about different people getting along but trash does literally mean worthless so I think that using this word to describe a person is unacceptable. Another example of how hurtful words sadly slip into the common lexicon.

        • I agree about the poor choice of words. However, I DO think it was addressed in the subtle, awesome way that Alyssa does. Which is, how about we don’t blame the person for her poor choice of words and get right to the heart of the matter–she is worried about the behavior of people and how her family will judge them. Alyssa addressed this AND she made sure to acknowledge that by calling the family members “trashy” might she be judging as well.

          And to top it off, she presented the message in a way that can be heard. “I totally understand. Here are some thoughts on the matter, and btw, maybe check in with your thoughts about the family, too.”

          • Kaitlyn

            Alyssa is pretty magic.

        • z

          I don’t really know what the appropriate or politically correct term for this subculture is. I certainly know a lot of inappropriate terms, and I think this issue is something people of any background should be able to talk about, but what is considered polite? Any suggestions?

          I think the class stuff is really really hard, especially because people are so sensitive about it. I’m certainly weary of being considered alternately a hick for being from where I’m from, but sometimes a snob for where I went to school– I take it from both sides which gives me a little insight, I hope, at least into how annoying it can be.

          I think for some parents/relatives, the marriage means a lot of important losses, and class/culture plays into it. The (aspirational) permanence of marriage makes it impossible to ignore things that could be overlooked in a just-dating relationship. Maybe they’re losing their place as #1 Family as your baby family takes shape, maybe they’re losing you geographically, or maybe religiously if you changed religions as part of the marriage, and losing common cultural practices, which are so often correlated with class, can really be painful when compounded with all those other things. It’s really hard to feel like a fish out of water at what’s supposed to be a family event. And with class things, it’s really hard to explain why something is or isn’t being done without hurting people’s feelings. I could never, ever, ever have done a dollar dance or smashed cake in each other’s faces or whatever, but I would have felt bad if omitting those things made someone feel that their traditions weren’t valued. I like to flatter myself as open-minded, but class taboos are surprisingly powerful.

  • Stephanie

    To the Bride that is an afterthought: I respectfully disagree with Alyssa that health problems necessarily are more important than your wedding. You didn’t specify the nature of your sister’s health issues, but perhaps this is something that has been going on for some time, and there is an established family dynamic whereby her health issues are always elevated to be topic numero uno. That’s kind of the sense I got reading, or maybe I’m just projecting my own situation…my mom’s had serious health issues my entire life and I grew up feeling like I wasn’t *allowed* to have my own problems because they were never going to be more important than hers. Or rather, I went right ahead and had problems because I am a human being, but neither of my parents ever acknowledged that they were important, and of course this drove a huge wedge between us. You’re not upset about something frivolous – you’re upset about your wedding, one of a very small number of major life passages. You are allowed to be upset! Your feelings are legitimate and I think that depending on the circumstances health problems won’t always trump all.

    • Lizzie

      I am definitely going to second Stephanie’s point here. Bride – reading your letter, I didn’t think you were asking who was going to help you tie ribbons around guest favors or stamp your invitations,  I just heard you pleading in the background something along the lines of “Please please please … for this one day, in the context of my family, can everything NOT be shaped around my sister’s mental illness” (cue the movie Rachel Getting Married). Very likely this is a projection of my own fears about my wedding – I obviously don’t know what the situation is in your family – but if this rings true at all, I feel you with every bone in my body. And I don’t know what the answer is other than to avoid situations on the day of the wedding that you know will be explosive and to hope for the best. I actually have a sister who opted out of being part of the wedding party altogether. First I was pretty hurt, but once I’d taken a few deep breaths and talked to another of my sisters, I realized that it was her way of caring for me because it was the best chance she had of avoiding difficult feelings on the day of the wedding. But to thoroughly confuse the matter, one thing I would say in your situation is that I would not attempt a wedding party reshuffle, because I bet most of all your sister wants to feel like she made your wedding better, and for her to go into it thinking she had already messed up could be really difficult.

      • anon

        Yes, yes, yes! (Re: can something NOT be about this for once.)

        I have been on both sides of this situation, because my fiance has some mental health issues and so do I. All I can tell you is that your sister probably knows what’s going on and feels bad about it, but can’t do much to control it.

        Unfortunately, that probably doesn’t help you very much because, while it sounds like you care very much for your sister, you have your own emotional needs to tend to. I think this is adjustment-of-expectations time–while in some sense you shouldn’t *have* to do so, and people just want what they want, end of story, if you can succeed in reframing the situation, you AND everyone else will be a lot happier. It shouldn’t have to be your responsibility to do so, but you hold the power in this regard, so there you are.

        Also, you should know that there are many, many organizations that provide help and support for people with mentally ill family members. Those people have been in your shoes, and they won’t judge you for your own emotional needs. May help to seek out some people who have been there, done that.

        Also, about the rest of your family: they might be more or less defensive depending on how you bring up your sister. A “I’m-so-pissed-at-her-why-does-she-have-to-do-this-now” comment will set off your family’s protective alarms much more easily than a “I-am-so-hurt-I-know-it’s-not-her-fault-but-I-still-feel-hurt” will. Probably they all feel hurt, too, and are scared to talk about it for fear of hurting her.

        • This, definitely. The Bride has a good support system of friends that can handle where her sister is lacking, but she and her family might need to find a group to help them deal with her sister’s problems because I’m sure this is going to affect more than just her wedding in the future.

          • KEA1

            Another piece that might (hopefully!!!!!) help with the family dynamics before and after the wedding (and hey, maybe during too?) is if the bride makes a point of talking with her family frequently about the things going on in her life besides the wedding. a) It’ll get them more accustomed to noticing that she has a life, even if her sister’s health issues have seemed all-consuming; b) it’ll help her practice bringing up her own life with her family and not waiting for them to ask, which will come in especially helpful when, say, she has her *own* major stuff (good or bad, hopefully good!) to discuss with them later; c) it’ll help everyone involved keep the sense of perspective on how the wedding fits into the grand scheme of things.

    • SpaceElephant

      I don’t think Alyssa was saying the Bride’s feelings aren’t legitimate, at all. I think all she’s saying is:
      A. You can’t expect something from someone that they aren’t able to give you.
      B. The MOH’s health issues trump the wedding as far as the MOH is concerned. The Bride doesn’t have to prioritize her sister’s health issues over the wedding. But she can’t expect her sister to prioritize the wedding over her own mental health issues, if that makes sense. Health before bachelorette planning.

      I come from a family with a lot of drama. When I learned not to expect anyone to be who they are not, to give what they cannot or will not, my life got a lot more sane.

      • meg


      • Her feelings are DEFINITELy legitimate. I probably should have been more clear.

        There comes a point when you want something from someone (and you’re just NOT getting it) that you need to take charge of your situation and your emotions and stop letting them hurt you.
        If the story you imagined with a wonderful sister isn’t happening, stop being upset that someone doesn’t know their part and rewrite the damn thing with a supportive group of friends who save the day. It won’t be the same, but you’ll still get your happy ending.

        • Going Anonymous Again

          I’ve been on the other side of this. A girl I considered one of my best friends sent me a really nasty note telling me I was not paying enough attention to her wedding.

          It was a month after my kidney transplant.

          I politely backed out of standing up in her wedding.

          If someone has health issues, be appreciative of what you do get from them. They’re probably not slacking, it’s likely harder than you realize to help out and they might be ashamed that they can’t do more.

      • Kaitlyn

        Head on the nail, SpaceElephant. I too come from a crowded, dramatic family, and I finally started learning to see things as you’re explaining them by reading books on forgiveness and anger management. Changed my life for the better in countless ways.

    • Extremely good point. My brother and I have a very strained relationship because of his mental health issues and past behavior. He’s gotten a lot better, but when my mom asked if we would be including him in the wedding party, I actually burst into tears. I don’t consider myself a very emotional person or a drama queen (I was actually pretty surprised at my reaction), but there’s a lot of pent up emotion there and I didn’t want to have to worry about him so much during the wedding. I think a bridal party should consist of people who truly love and support you, and with whom you want to share this special moment in your life.

      That said, I think the Afterthought Bride might have made a mistake in choosing her sister to be her MOH. It sounds like they are close, but the sister’s past doesn’t indicate she can really be there for the bride during the wedding planning experience. It sucks, but it might have avoided a lot of drama if she had chosen two MOHs–one to actually do the MOH stuff and her sister kind of “in name only.” Of course, their parents should also tell the sister that she needs to fulfill basic obligations (like letting them know if her boyfriend is actually going to show up) and not let her get away with generally being inconsiderate. But forcing a role on someone who’s probably not going to be able to fulfill the requirements is never going to turn out well, no matter how much you love them and want them to be there.

    • Sarabeth

      This is a super-common dynamic, I think. And I would highly highly recommend that anyone dealing with it find someone neutral to process it with. That might be a therapist, a pastor/rabbi/what-have-you, or a really good friend who is not enmeshed in your family’s drama. But you need someone that you can talk about how you feel with who is not going to criticize you for your feelings. Honestly, it sounds like your sister can’t help herself, but your family is making a choice to ignore the impact of your sister’s actions on you, and that can’t but be hurtful.

  • Jo

    1) Eep. I agree w/ Alyssa that sometimes people just wouldn’t naturally hang out, but you can definitely expect the whole families to be on their best behavior.
    2) We’re super beer snobs, too, to the point that we brew our own. We’re dealing with this by having some lighter beer that Bud Lite drinkers can enjoy. We’re also telling people what beer will be there and having them bring their own if they don’t want to drink any of what’s on offer. Agree with how Alyssa said to approach it w/ both people, though! Spot on, as always.
    3) This one’s a bit touchy for me. Sibling relationships are complicated, complicated, ridiculously complicated. Pretty much every move has a deeper meaning that goes back to first grade or before. I have five sisters and differing relationships with each of them. I realized going into this that I couldn’t expect them all to have a response that I wanted, I needed to accept them as who they are. To the point that some of them are ecstatic and moving heaven and earth to get here, and one isn’t coming because she’s ‘too stressed’. It’s not about the wedding, it’s about the relationship you’ve always had with her, hurts that have come from that, and if you can accept it as it is or not. In my very unpaid, biased opinion. :) I’m so glad you have friends who are stepping up. Make sure they know that you appreciate the heck out of them, and let your family know that you won’t b*tch about your sister to them, but that you need to have some attention right now. Accept your sister where she is, or fake it til you make it. :)

    • Totally agree with #3. The people around you and your relationships with them (good or otherwise) don’t change just because of your wedding. And that’s okay, even though it’s hard to deal with sometimes throughout the planning stages.

      • meg

        Again, yes.

    • charm city vixen

      “Too stressed” to make it? Whoa, talk about not having expectations of others in order to not be disappointed!

      • Jo

        Yeah…very symbolic of the relationship as a whole.

      • Anon

        FYI- This could actually be indicative of a of Social Anxiety, thus hardly fair to criticize. There’s a long-standing saying about not judging people until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

        • charm city vixen

          I understand that — which is why I wasn’t judging :) I’m just saying, it’s definitely an exercise in not having expectations of others… if you don’t expect anything from someone, they will never disappoint and cause resentments.

  • Zoe

    To bewildered by beer:

    I think Alyssa was right on that this is probably about more than beer (at least to your fiance). On the other hand, to you dad it’s like “my family likes this kind of beer, so I’ll provide it for them.” What about your fiance bringing the beer he wants, and your dad can supplement with light beer for his family. Because seriously? “FH says that if he sees a case of light beer at the reception he’s going to throw it.” and “We wouldn’t be caught dead drinking light beer.”?? um… who cares? I think this is really one of these things that on your wedding day, you will not even notice in the slightest in your Uncle Bob is drinking a Bud/Sam/Coors/Whatever light. Even if you are SERIOUS beer drinkers. Thank your future husband for an awesome job in bringing his beer, and then thank your dad for being so considerate re: your uncles.

    • Carbon Girl

      My husband and I are extremely serious beer drinkers but we had light beer at our wedding along with many awesome microbrews. The light beer was not prominently displayed at the bar but if people asked for it, they got it. People had traveled far and wide for us and we wanted them to feel welcome, so providing the beer we knew they preferred was part of us being good hosts. And we knew what they preferred: My dad’s brothers have, on several occasions, come to my parents house for a party, saw my dad’s selection of microbrews, and then gone to the store to get bud light!

      • I agree… as a good host you should provide something that everyone will enjoy and if that means a beer you aren’t particularly fond of… just do it. My husband and I are somewhat beer snobs as well, and offered beer and wine at our wedding. We couldn’t afford many types of beers, so we opted for a microbrew that we hoped would appeal to even the palates that prefer lighter beers. I think we only ran into one issue – we forgot to get Grandma’s vodka, but my husband’s uncle ran to the store nearby and grabbed her favorite brand, which they kept to themselves. ;)

        • Ms Ditz

          Totally agree. Of course, make the wedding about you as a couple and display all of your fancy beers. name the tables after them. Do your wedding toasts with them. Include them in your vows. But you are also hosting others. Don’t go overboard with the accomadations, you can’t make everyboady happy all of the time, but one case of beer isn’t going to kill anyone (unless he really does throw it.)

    • Jan

      I second Zoe’s comment. B&BBB, I also consider myself a “serious” beer drinker (but try not to call myself that because it sounds pretty snobby if you ask me) and would much rather have a creamy stout than a Coors Light, but come on, you and FH must have realized by now that “serious” beer drinkers are in the minority. Let your ol’ uncles have their light beers. They wouldn’t appreciate the more expensive stuff, anyway! Also, it’s apparent that you and FH take beer seriously, but you don’t have to make other people feel lowly for not falling head over heels in love with all the brews you two know about and adore. It’s just BEER, for heaven’s sake!!!

      • Beb

        Yeah, did I miss the memo on the Serious Beer Drinking thing? Does being a Serious Beer Drinker give one the right to dictate other people’s taste in beer? Get over it. From where I’m sitting, your FH is coming off as a wee bit obnoxious. You’re entitled to your superior taste in beer, but that doesn’t mean you need to shame people who enjoy drinking Bud Lite. Personally, I enjoy a nice Coors Light now and then. Sue me!

    • Fiorentina

      Yep, probably about more than beer. Sounds like there is some judgment and desire for acceptance going on on both sides of the beer debate.

      But with respect to the beer, I don’t see that there’s a problem with having both serious beer and light beer at the reception. (FWIW, I am also a “serious beer drinker”, in that I’d rather have water than light beer.) HOWEVER, I will not be the only person drinking at the wedding and I’ll be happy to have light beer for those who prefer it.

      I mean, if some of your guests are vegetarian, and you all are meat eaters, are you going to serve only meat dishes and let your vegetarian guests go hungry? (Yes, I am aware that this is not a perfect analogy and it could very quickly move into the absurd, but I do think it might provide a bit of perspective.)

      • Sarabeth

        Conversely, though, if you guests eat meat and you are vegetarian, you have no obligation to serve meat at your wedding. None. Which I think is more analogous to this situation.

        I mean, I actually think that getting the light beer is probably the best choice if you can make your husband see it as a generous concession towards your extended family rather than as your dad micromanaging your wedding. But the idea that guests have a right to dictate the specific choices of the food and drink they will be offered as a general rule? Not true.

        • Fiorentina

          Hmm. Touche.

          Agreed on your solution to just see light beer as a generous concession. Who knew beer could be so complicated, eh?

  • My husband doesn’t drink, so originally we stated that we were not having alcohol at the wedding at all. From my dad’s reaction, you would have thought the world ended. He just could NOT stomach the thought of not providing adult beverages to the guests! And my fiance did NOT want to spend his wedding day around a bunch of over-served friends and family (because really, who likes drunks when you’re sober?). After much arguing, discussing and crying (on my part, anyway), we ended up having some champagne and beer at the wedding. My dad bought it, most people drank it (including me!), and it was really not an issue. I felt like all the angst beforehand was for nothing, after all was said and done. Sometimes issues blow-up during planning that actually don’t make that much of a difference… like Alyssa so wisely says, it’s generally because there’s a bigger issue going on than just what’s on the surface.

    • Julia W

      We had a similar situation. My husband and I don’t drink. Mostly for personal preference and self-control reasons. Naturally we thought that our wedding would be dry. But oh man did my parents throw a fit. Pretty quickly we agreed to have champaign and wine. A few months later my dad started insisting we should have beer as well. Repeat frustration. We conceded again. Finally, my dad starts talking about getting a couple kegs of light beer (in his mind that is what everyone drinks). I was pretty upset (how did our dry wedding end up with everything but an open bar?!) I did manage to convince him that bottles would be much better, especially since the guests were not ALL light beer drinkers. Another key was that the leftover would not go bad! We only went through half of the beer but the wine was nearly gone…

      Overall, I don’t regret letting my dad do his thing. Our wedding was not tarnished by alcohol and people behaved very well. We had other areas where we let go of our vision a bit to please different people but some of those are the best moments. (though we did HIDE the horse shoes…somehow I couldn’t see how that, alcohol and small children would mix well)

      Also, thanks to Alyssa and the other commenters for reminding me not to look down on or judge members of my family that prefer hick and country times more than the ballet. Sometimes I forget that I’m not better simply because of my education and recreation choices. Besides, digging clams is fun. Even if I won’t eat them.

      • z

        Ugh, that sounds so maddening. My parents drove me crazy by constantly wanting to revisit issues I thought we had resolved! It’s impossible to make any plans if no agreements are ever permanent, and it causes so much anxiety because I never knew what random things they would suddenly want to change. Such a huge waste of time dealing with that annoying habit.

    • |A Lady

      OH MAN we have this problem in the reverse. My gentleman and I both drink (moderately– he’s never been drunk), but his mother is a serious teetotaller. She knows I drink and doesn’t have a problem with it, but she will completely freak if she finds out Gentleman drinks, because she thinks there is a history of alcoholism in their family (there isn’t; this has been confirmed by all the other members of her family). BUT. I have a big Mediterranean family, and it is considered pretty rude not to have booze at a wedding in their circles. And if there is booze at the wedding, Gentleman wants to drink (yay champagne!). Annnnnd that will make his mama freak out. And she is already freaking out about us getting married in the first place. Mahhhhh.

  • Shannon

    Alyssa, you are hilarious. I mostly agree with you. One thing I would like to add to the idea of becoming part of your partner’s family… I think that what you say is true (i.e. you need to at least respect your husband’s family, and TRY to like them), EXCEPT in a situation where there is abuse in the family. In my particular situation, it’s mostly my sweetie’s mother who is the abusive one, but the dad and brother can sort of “go along” sometimes. So… pretty awful family situation. I’ve tried a number of different approaches over the years of knowing them, and what I have found works best is to keep my distance. When I’m involved in the family drama, I can’t take care of myself or support my partner. When I keep my distance, I’m much better positioned for being the level-headed one in the situation, and can help my partner through it.

    Only one person in my partner’s family has shown me any respect – his grandmother. So, I keep in touch with her. We connected early on in my relationship with my partner, and I love her. I communicate with other people in the family when necessary (like when they’ve given me a gift and I need to thank them for it), but I work hard to keep my distance so that they cannot “get me” with their abuse.

    So yeah, I just wanted to respectfully disagree with the idea that one must always marry one’s partner’s family… Sometimes getting too involved with a poisonous family is not the right call to make. I know others who are in similar “boats” as mine, and they have also made the decision to step away, as I have. If the family is respectful and nice, but just annoying, then yes, I would definitely make an effort to like/respect them. But I’ve learned some very important lessons about interacting with an abusive family, and it is not a family that I am required to be a part of. I’m marrying my partner, and together we’re breaking the cycle of abuse. His family hinders that process rather than helping it. I’m a big believer that sometimes it’s okay to make a break from your family (i.e. when it’s abusive), or to not become involved with your in-laws.

    • It is mostly definitely a whole different story when gross disrespect or abuse is involved. In any situation or question, regardless of the other fact, if there is anything abusive or illegal going on, it is an entirely different circumstance.

  • As a person who does not drink, maybe I’m not qualified to comment here. But isn’t wanting to watch your weight a very legitimate concern? I realize it’s only one night, and perhaps these are the sort of people who don’t really have any weight to watch, but offering a lower-calorie option doesn’t seem like a bad thing. I suppose they could just drink white wine, but most men I know don’t like white wine. Anyway, I have to applaud anyone who is making an effort to live a healthier lifestyle. Just a thought.

    • meg

      Ehhh. Look, it’s a wedding, not a diet convention. You don’t want what they are serving, don’t eat/ drink it. It all goes back to the fundamental APW philosophy that your guests are grown ass people, and they don’t need their every whim catered to. You just need to be a good host (just serve food and wine, ON TIME), and they can deal.

      • Yes yes yes.


      • emmyjane

        I totally agree. My wedding had a great choice of 2 kegs (one hoppy, one non for those who wanted something lighter but still delicious) and 6 different types of wine. Plus non-alcoholic sodas and waters of course. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend sent him out for a sixer of bud light and it struck me as incredibly rude, mainly because he should be able to enjoy his own brother’s wedding reception. Can’t people not drink for 3 damn hours? We’re supposed to be grown ups.

        • You do. not. need. alcohol to have a party.

  • carrie

    I could talk about feeling lonely in your bridal party all day, and wish I had time to read the previous posts and comments right now, but after some quick reading, am so glad to know I’m not alone. My shower/bachelorette was last weekend and 3 of 4 bridesmaids were there. Two parked in a corner during the shower after bringing food/beverages to the shower which was awesome and they helped with gift stuff. But the party? They didn’t dance, they didn’t drink (one was the designated driver, so I get it but the other wasn’t drinking out of solidarity – I’m not saying get drunk but don’t act like you’re a tee totaller all of a sudden), acted like they were too good for it, played on their phones all night. It was awful. I have been feeling like they must hate me or I must have done something terrible to them for them to act this way. One of the friends, I have been drifting apart from and this underlined the reasons why I had been feeling distance. The other, I don’t know.

    Me me me me meeeeee. Sorry, y’all. I’m just really glad to know I am not alone. To the afterthought bride, we are all behind you and are excited about your day. We are the super extended bridal brigade. You are not alone! :-)

    • Steph & B

      I feel you Carrie, but at least look at this way….they loved you enough to be there and have a party for you.

      I know how it feels to be the lonely bride. I cried huge snotty ugly tears over it a couple of days ago. Essentially a combination of the fact that my family has no interest in my wedding and keeps giving me fits about it and my bridal brigade is non existent. It hurts when a newly made friend is more excited about your wedding and more helpful than your family and close friends that you’ve had for years.

      After my brief pity party, the boy reminded me of everything that I do have. So I don’t have friends who will bend over backwards for me the way that I do for them and I have family that treats me more as an outsider than as a daughter (divorced parents are so much fun). But I do have him and he is willing to do anything to make me happy. I have his family that loves me like their own daughter. And I have this wonderful new friend who is sticking up for me and pouring love and creativity into my wedding despite the fact that we’ve only known each other for a little less than a year.

      Like Alyssa and Meg have said before, people handle weddings in different ways. And your bridesmaids they are supporting you in your own way. I mean, hey, you had a bachelorette and a shower and they helped. So that’s love right there. I’m assuming that there were more people around you who were dancing and enjoying themselves. And like you said, APW is hands down the best bridal brigade all around.

      • carrie

        Excellent points. Thank you!

  • The Wedding Graduate post that Faith from The Kitchn wrote a while back really resonated for me while reading the beer quandary. Faith emphasized the importance of hospitality, but it seems a bit lost on this particular FH. I don’t know the back story or all the details, but I think he may be setting himself up for some tough times ahead with his future father-in-law. Even though it’s “his assignment” does not mean he can approach it with no one else’s feelings in mind. And what’s the big deal about light beer anyway? I don’t mean to be all preachy, because I have definitely been in the FH’s shoes (and, if you ask my mother, who is helping me plan my wedding, I am STILL there – i.e., being rather bratty about things I feel strongly about), but it’s very helpful to take a step back and think about the long-term. Will having light beer at your wedding negatively affect your life in any way? No. Will insulting your future father-in-law and his family negatively affect your life in any way? Quite possibly. I hope the FH comes to realize that the wedding is not just about him! (Again, I don’t know all the details, but from what I read it sounds like he needs a reality check.)

    • p.

      From my perspective, this as less about the FH’s future with his FIL and much more about his future with his wife. Perhaps because my husband and I had certain conflicts like this (although not specifically about beer). My husband felt like I often put my family’s needs above his (and in all honesty, I did.) That’s why I see the beer issue as potentially being more about the FH wanting to make sure his partner is willing to stand up for the couples needs over the bride’s family’s needs. Maybe the light beer/serious beer drinker thing is lame, but to me, the underlying issue is more about supporting the ‘baby family’ than about hospitality.

      • myrna

        This makes sense, except the cause needs to be worthwhile when asking your spouse to go to bat for you, you know?

        • Yes, I have a hard time seeing the FH’s refusal to let his FFIL buy a case of light beer as a need. Definitely agree about the importance of a united front, but some bones are just not worth picking. If it were the other way around — say FH had to buy the beer and FFIL was insisting on all these expensive brands — well, yeah, the couple would definitely have a good reason to team up against FFIL. But hopefully everyone will have enough beers of their choice to enjoy themselves and turn this little quibble into a vague memory!

  • Sophia

    I have to second Alyssa. Be careful calling his family trashy. There are people (who I love!) in my family who are objectively a little trashy but if I heard other people refer to them as trashy I’d be pissed.

    • Jo


      Even in my own head I’m careful about labels for significant other’s/friend’s/in-law’s family, because I might get drunk and accidentally let it slip.

      • Anonymous for potentially pejorative in-law talk

        That is a really good idea. I need to get better about this.

        • Jo

          a) love the name.
          b) me too. Work-in-progress.

  • Oh good grief, just buy the case of light beer. Something like Amstel light is a totally respectable light beer that also comes in bottles, if you’re serving everything out of bottles. My husband is also a Serious Beer Drinker, and we didn’t end up serving a light beer, since nobody in our family/friends drinks it, but if we had served a light beer, it wouldn’t have ruined his Serious Beer Drinker Cred. Nobody is going to look down on you and your husband for accommodating reasonable requests of your family. No matter how serious and snobby about beer anybody else is, they will simply think that you are being nice and accommodating the masses of lesser educated people. So yeah, this is definitely about more than beer. I’m guessing this is a case of “it’s not what you want, it’s how you said it” and Alyssa is right – talk to both sides separately and figure out what is actually going on.

    • Jo

      Corona Light: best light beer around, pretty much tastes the same, the bottles are pretty, and you can add limes! :)

    • I agree. I don’t drink soda, but we’ll have something available for people if they want a Coke or whatever. It’s not a huge thing to ask, and no guest will see a bottle of Amstel Light and think “They must not be true beer lovers!”

  • Sooooo….regarding letter #1: If your partner’s family is “nice” and “good people” yet somehow not “your kind” of people…what exactly ARE your kind of people? Mean, terrible people?

    • OR, nice people who definitely have different views. I know a lot of nice people who have some political and social views that just put my teeth on edge and make me want to SMACK.

      I only say this because even though the letter writer used some not-nice references, I have a sneaking suspicion that if she were to detail her issues with her in-laws, most of us might be like, “Oh, yeah, that’s totally terrible. Yeah, they sound nice, but geez….” (Which I”m not suggesting she does! That’s more info than we need to know…) So they deserve respect, if not a weekly invitation to hang out and chat…

      • also anonymous for in-law talk

        Or nice people who just don’t relate to your values or interests. My husband’s aunts do NOT understand my career interests and think it’s ridiculous that I’ve done what I’ve done with my life. Eh, who cares?

        Many of my in-law’s family are trashy. Example: some family members asked me if one of my husband’s cousins was a guest or a homeless person who wandered up and started eating our food. But you know what? 1) pretty shortly after the fact, all that stuff gets really funny (HAHA, HE BURPED IN MY FACE!) and 2) you can be perfectly cordial to anyone that you would not normally choose to spend time with. It was not my experience that everyone “behaved themselves” but it all turned out fine anyway.

        • Anon for the In-Laws

          I think this is a good example of how weddings can totally bring to light differences or behavior one would call “trashy”. A cousin who looks homeless is all in good fun at the local bar or backyard BBQ, but put him the context of a formal affair and it is totally GASP worthy.
          I have always gotten along great with my in-laws, even the extended aunts and uncles, but the wedding and the planning has brought up situations that have made myself and my parents want to pull our hair out (and many judgmental comments slip). Inviting people off the guest list, opinions and comments on food choice, pushing off taste ideas for music, etc. Wedding planning really forces a lot of little differences to the surface that on a day to day basis are usually meaningless. The most important part is to make it through the planning and the big day with minimal hurt feelings, because chances are once the wedding is over everyone will go back to getting along just fine.

  • Kelsey

    Regarding the first question about family issues: Alyssa is definitely right about the wedding being the easy part. For the most part, people will act like grown-ups for the ceremony and reception, because that’s what’s expected of them. She’s also right that you need to think hard about whether you can deal with marrying into the family, because you ARE marrying into their family, just like your husband is marrying into yours.

    I’ve got a similar situation in that my husband’s family is… different than my own. And it can be annoying. I can stand family time for about three days; after that, I want to JUMP OFF OF A BRIDGE. Thankfully, we don’t live close enough to have to see them on a regular basis, and I know that we probably never will, based on discussions we’ve had about our preferred locations, etc.


    They may be different than my own family, they may have different ideas of acceptable behavior and discussion topics, but they are now my family. And they ARE good people; nothing toxic to wade through, just annoying personality traits. Regardless, they’ve accepted me with love and open arms, and any people who accept you with love are people to be thankful for. My husband came out of that family unscathed, so they have to be doing something right. I expect my husband to accept my family as his own, so I need to do likewise.

    What helps me is knowing that my husband has about the same tolerance for his family as I do. I’m not the odd man out in how I feel. Still, I make sure to keep my bitchy comments for my best friend or my sister or whoever will let me blow off steam in a way that won’t damage my relationship with my in-laws or my husband. Because that would be wrong.

    The only thing I can recommend is that you and your husband keep a united front. Don’t let EITHER of your families come between you, force you to draw lines or choose loyalties, etc. If comments on either side get out of control, let everyone know that that shit won’t be tolerated. You wouldn’t let anybody talk smack about your mother, would you? You have to have the same attitude about your in-laws. Embrace them early on, and it will become your way of life. Just live out of state, if possible, haha.

  • ElfPuddle

    With respect to all y’all, I disagree about the beer.
    (Warning, I’ve been reading Toxic In-Laws).
    It sounds like our serious beer bride doesn’t really want the light beer there, either. If that’s the case, don’t have it and tell your dad/uncles that they can deal with it and/or bring their own and hide it because it’s your wedding not theirs. To me, your dad sounds like he’s trying to control a situation that isn’t his to control. If your FH is upset about it, then it doesn’t really matter what uncle thinks. He and Dad can drink whatever they want, but shouldn’t expect it at the party FH and you are planning. Yes, that’s a tricky thing when Dad has offered to pay for it. But is he paying for it so that he can control what’s bought, or to actually be helpful? If he were being helpful, he’d pay for what FH and you want as long as he could afford it, and not worry about what he wants.

    I understand that sometimes compromise is better than a fight. (Usually is, in fact.) On the other hand, if this is important, it’s important. I wouldn’t change my venue (Catholic Church) just because my sister-in-law is atheist. It’s our party, and just like I need to accommodate others sometimes, they need to accommodate me sometimes.

    • Took the words out of my mouth.

    • I’m sorry, but your choice of church is not the same as letting someone provide light beer at your reception. I think the crux of this is – do you want people to drink what they want and be happy at the reception (including your new FIL) or do you want to die on the hill of no light beer for the sake of beer-snobbery? Beer choice is not a question of morals, no matter what some beer snobs think : )

      I agree that maybe this is more about some kind of power play than the beer, but I think it’s better to just err on the side of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. If you give them the beer they want, you can probably get something YOU want in exchange.

      • I agree, church vs beer is not really on the same playing field, but I whole heartedly agree that

        (a) this is a power play
        (b) Alyssa turning the car around (or the OP) is both hilarious and a good idea
        (c) it’s very obvious the Bride doesn’t want the light beer either
        (d) men have silly arguments

        But to only drink light beer because you are “watching your weight”? Then drink water. Alcohol is not necessary to have a fun time. I suppose that is a problem with these questions – we only see an inch frame into their lives – but. It’s a respect issue on all counts, and while the groom-to-be stomping his feet and saying he’ll toss it is juvenile, if that is part of the wedding that was HIS area, HIS take, something needs to be said and respected.

        • It’s just that now that this has become An Issue in the family, it makes me wonder if the uncles will complain and someone will say, well we wanted to get you the light beer but the happy couple said no, which is going to be problematic. I don’t at all think that you should compromise on things that are really important to you on your wedding day, but if this is already at the point that you’re writing into APW for advice on it, I think it would be better for everyone to just do it.

          Also, I think it COULD be a power play, but I highly doubt that it is. I mean, maybe. But with what we have from the letter, it doesn’t seem that way to me.

          It’s BEER, people!

          • Except, wouldn’t that fall in line with them acting like grown *ss adults and not complain about the beverages served for a 3-4 hour affair?

            I think if it were “just beer”, she wouldn’t have written in.

      • ElfPuddle

        Actually, for most of my family, the choice of church/no church is the same as choice of beer.

        And, again, it isn’t about the beer. It’s about family members trying to dictate what the bride and groom try to serve at their own reception. Their reception. Their rules. We aren’t talking about needing to accommodate a wheelchair, or anything serious. Dad, Uncle, and everyone else can either play along at a party that isn’t theirs, or get over it. I would recommend both.

        But, also again, this is in part because I have some very controlling in-laws, and FH and I are getting adept at setting boundaries. With some things, you just have to. This struck me as one of those things.

        • My in-laws had major major major issues with the fact that we didn’t want to serve meat at the wedding. I didn’t think it would be an issue at all, because we were serving fish and had a big buffet so everybody got enough food. And I struggled with it because I wanted to believe they were just insane and controlling and I wanted to write off what they wanted because they were so insane and controlling.

          Except that they’re not controlling. Yes, something else was going on there – I had strong beliefs about not serving meat, and my in-laws weren’t respecting them, because I hadn’t communicated my reasons for serving meat to them.

          At the end of the day, yes, maybe the in-laws are controlling in this case. But what kind of beer to serve doesn’t really seem like the place to throw your arms up and say, “that’s enough!”

    • AnotherCourtney

      I like your point about not being TOO accommodating, but I think in this case, it’s less about changing your venue to appease your SIL and more about not asking her to join in a prayer. Planning a wedding is absolutely about what you want and what you feel comfortable with (I’ve definitely had my moments of “I don’t like coleslaw, so we shouldn’t serve it”…until my mother-in-law wisely suggested “Well, you don’t have to eat it, dear.”), but it’s also about being a good host and considering what OTHER people want just a little bit, too.

      In either/or situations, I completely agree with you. Have a church wedding if you want it. Serve vegetarian dishes if you don’t eat meat. Whatever. But if you can serve what you want AND reasonably accommodate what someone else wants (especially someone important to you, like a future family member)? That just sounds like a win-win situation to me.

    • Based on the letter and not reading into anything involving a power play that I just don’t see on the page, I stand by the fact that I think they should let her father buy a case of light beer.

      I agree that guests should (and probably will) be fine with whatever they do. But is the beer equivalent of “street-cred” (she wrote SERIOUS in all caps) really worth throwing down with your dad and possibly having your relatives miss out on a bit of the fun of the day? In my opinion, it isn’t.

      You have every right to decide this is the hill you want to die on, but I personally do not think that this is that big of a deal to draw the line in the sand over.

    • SpaceElephant

      There was an actual great piece in The Hairpin, of all places, a few weeks ago about ‘How to Have a Great Wedding’ or something. And what it all boiled down to? Accommodate your guests, make sure they have a good time, and you will have a good time.

      Either there or somewhere else someone said “The reception is really the first event that the bride and groom are hosting as a married couple.” I truly believe that, within reason, they should be their most hospitable selves at the reception and try as best they can to make sure their guests are happy. In this case, there is an easy way to do this, and a great opportunity to be welcoming and hospitable. Not a hill to die on, IMO.

      • Beb

        Love this comment. Totally agree!

    • ElfPuddle

      With all due respect, I’m obviously seeing this as a different issue than some of you ladies. I’m not saying it’s a hill to die on or a battle to be won. I’m saying that their wedding reception is theirs. Period. If they want to serve food/drink they like, good. If they want to serve food/drink that others request, good. They want to serve what they want to serve, and I don’t think guests and family get to complain. The bride and groom can complain, because it’s their party. Everyone else can deal, shut up, or any number of things, but they don’t get to control/choose what’s served.

      • charm city vixen

        Elfpuddle, I totally agree!

        Not a battle to be won at all, just a boundary to establish, for the bride and her FH, who, regardless of what I think is important, clearly values the decisions he made in terms of the beer choice.

      • Sarabeth

        Yeah, I think there are two wholly distinct issues here:
        1. Should they serve light beer? Probably it would be the nicer choice, given what they know about the preferences of their guests, although it’s not a requirement.
        2. Does the bride’s father get to dictate what they serve at the reception? No, and some boundaries might need to be set there.

  • es

    To the bride with MOH stress,
    My best friend (and bridesmaid) is also dealing with serious mental health issues. we’re talking about ways to “manage” this on the day and in the lead up. One of the ideas is to have a go to person for her. The hope is that she can have someone if anything goes wrong or is feeling too overwhelmed but that it doesn’t turn into something that impacts on half the people attending. Maybe this could work with your family?

    We’re also focusing on the things that she can do not the things she can’t. Can’t handle dress shopping? That’s fine cos she’s listening to me rant whenever things get crazy. Etc.

    Does it suck balls when she can’t get involved more? Hell yes. But it’s better than her not being involved at all.

    Of course all situations are unique and family dynamics add another dimension. I hope you can find ways that work for you both.

    • FawMo

      This sounds like an awesome compromise. And you sound like an awesome and supportive friend. Props.

  • Cassiel

    To the Bride who feels like an afterthought,

    I’m not sure if this will help – please take it or leave it – but have you considered elevating some of your other friends to Bridesmaid status? I know it may be impractical at this point, but depending on how formal or coordinated the wedding is, it may be possible for them to put on their best dresses and stand up there with your MoH.

    Now, you’ll be the best judge of whether your sister would read this as a slight against her. I guess i’m just thinking that it may be easier for you to feel better about the situation if:
    * you can focus on acknowledging and celebrating the people who have been there for you
    * you can symbolically see them as “real” bridesmaids – or even better surprise bridesmaids – rather than last resort bridesmaids coz your sister let you down.
    If getting them to be bridesmaids isn’t practical or wise maybe you can another way to acknowledge and formalise their role.
    I love my family but there are definitely times they’ve let me down too. We don’t do important holidays well, for example, but over time I’ve learnt to rejoice in friends who step up into those roles – to not see them as a poor substitute but as an great gift I probably wouldn’t have if my family was in a place to meet more of my needs.
    Best wishes for this one and your wedding very soon!

    • Anna

      If you have good friends speak with them. Explain your situation- you’re sister isn’t able to be present for you in many ways, but she is your sister and you need her standing up with you when you take your vows. Tell them you need them just as much and ask if they mind helping you with other details (including listening to you vent and calming you down when needed).

      Good friends will understand and be there- with or without an official title.

      • FWIW, if a good friend of mine came to me with a request like that, I wouldn’t even THINK TWICE, I would totally be there. I know I’m not the only one, either.

    • Anne

      At the very least, you may want to ask some of the good friends who *have* been there for you to be around the day of to help you get ready. My relationship with my sister/MOH has been (amazingly, surprisingly) better than ever throughout the wedding planning process, but she has a history of mental breakdowns around big events, particularly mine. And my other bridesmaids are all relatively new mothers, will have their children there, and are just sort of checked out right now.

      So I asked my two best friends from work, who have both been amazing and supportive through the whole process, and who are both calm and dependable, to sleep over the night before the wedding and to join us for getting ready. Neither one wanted to be a bridesmaid, but I feel like this way I get what I need (emotionally present friends on my wedding day) and I get to recognize our friendship without making them Buy The Dress, or making my bridesmaids feel less than.

      • Jo


  • My almost-husband is a brewer so he is a Very Serious Beer Drinker, but I think the best thing is to get some light beer. If you have a bartender, can you have the beer served in glasses? Then no one would even know! I broke down and got a blush wine for our reception even though I hate it because I’d rather have people drinking and happy than not.

    • Oh man, if I had only served stuff I like at our reception, it would have been really sweet juice-wine, hard cider, and water. But the wedding isn’t just about me, or even about my husband, so we served dry white wine and red wine and several varieties of beer.

      It sounds to me like the writer thinks that serving red and white wine is somehow an acceptable alternative to light beer. I’m not sure that that is the case. I would be annoyed if somebody didn’t serve wine, and only served beer, and when I asked for wine, I was told, “we have light beer.”

      • Most definitely. Personally, I am a light beer drinker – specifically, a Miller Lite beer drinker, but I will drink any lite beer. What I WON’T drink is almost any craft beer because they’re too strong for my taste – even the “light” ones. I just plain prefer something much more subtle and I find that in mass-produced, cheap light beer. So shoot me. I also don’t particularly care for wine or liquor, so the supposition that those are suitable alternatives for light beer drinkers is a bit off base.

        Just buy some goddamn PBR and call it ironic.

        • myrna

          Just buy some goddamn PBR and call it ironic.

          eye <3 u!

    • Jo

      We’re dealing w/ that by having a huge variety of beer, white wine sangria, water with fruit in it, lemonade, and possibly iced tea. My main worry is that people will get dehydrated–as long as that doesn’t happen, I’m down. We’ve also put out a bulletin that people can bring their own (although it’s a bit unusual b/c it’s a weekend camping affair).

      My family is fairly dry but fun, his is almost pickled, in the very best way. It’s going to be very interesting!

      • Jo, I still want to come to your wedding. You’re only making it worse. ::winks::

        But yes, Jon’s family (those that could attend our wedding) is fairly dry, mine is almost pickled … in maybe NOT the best way. ::laughs:: We had a “dry” wedding, to avoid conflict. Those that we could trust to drink we secretly told to bring flasks. This kept them happy … and a drink in my hand … all day. =)

        • Jo

          I still want to invite you! I think I need to have a real-life version and an Internet-friends-waiting-to-be-real-life version. :)

          • ::stamp of approval::

            What’s awesome is that that second list is getting shorter every day … and the first list is getting longer. Hooray!

  • Bambi

    I have been lurking for a long time, though I’ve never commented before. But I just had to speak up about the first question regarding the “trashy” family. Forgive me if this is long, but I feel very strongly about this issue.

    This is exactly my situation in reverse. My family is much lower income, Southern, stereotypical redneck (my parents live in a trailer park) and my FH family is wealthier and “classier.” We have had many fights and difficult conversations about the fact that I think his family (and even he) looks down on my family due soley to money and class. My family is full of really amazingly good-hearted people who give more of themselves than almost anyone I know. They are the ones to scrounge together money, food, and clothes for a neighbor whose house burned down or stop on the side of the road to help someone change a tire in the pouring rain. But, it has to be said that they also fit almost every stereotype of “trailer trash” you can think of – missing teeth, extremely overweight but not self concious about wearing skimpy clothing, uneducated, gamble a lot, are very loud, messy almost to the point of hoarding, etc. AND I LOVE THEM. So it has really gotten to me, more so in the past couple of years that my FH and his family seem to treat them as less than themselves. This is clearly and undoubtedly true for my FH’s family – they have “white trash parties” for goodness sakes, which are basically theme parties where everyone dresses up like a redneck and they serve “trashy” food like Popeye’s Chicken and pink box wine and cheap light beer and play bad country music and all get too drunk. I had to explain to them why this offends me so much! The people they are making fun of and dressing up as are basically my parents. And my dad doesnt have that missing tooth to be ironic and hip. My mom didn’t serve us pork and beans to be funny – it was all she had time and money to make. This was my life (and is my parents’ lives), and it absolutely infuriates me that my FH family thinks that they are so much better than “people like that.” Believe me, my FH and I have had it out over this so many times. He swears that he loves and respects my family, but deep down, I think he does believe that his upbringing and his parents way of life is just better. I have tried so hard to show him how judgmental he and his family are being by basically assuming that if other people could just be a little smarter, work a little harder, and get it together, of course they wouldn’t live like that anymore – they’d live like my future in-laws. They don’t see it as simply different cultures. They can’t imagine that things like hunting, four-wheeling, drinking beer in a swimming hole in cut off jean shorts, or eating a bucket of fried chicken could be fun and fulfilling experiences that make people as happy as going to the opera or touring around Greece or shopping for $500 shoes for a fun “girls’ day.” To me, our families are very different, but one isnt better or more right than the other. Yes, his family is definitely more stylish and cultured. But that doesn’t make them better people or any more worthy of love and respect.

    I had to speak up because I want the bride who posted the first question to understand that her judgmental attitude toward her FH’s family could very possibly cause serious problems in her relationship. My FH and I have been together for almost a decade. We love each other very much and deeply respect each other. We both “get along” with each other’s families, but this judgment or lack of respect that he and his family seem to have for mine has seeped into all kinds of other areas and created deep problems. This is not a small issue. If you look down on your FH’s family, you are denying him an essential part of the love and respect every person needs from their spouse. I know it is difficult – believe me, my parents make me cringe so much (like when my dad orders Franzia pink wine in front of my FH’s “serious” wine-drinker parents), but I try to remind myself that I am basically acting like a teenager when I feel like that. My parents are good people. They love me and have done an amazing job to raise me on the limited resources they had. They both worked full time jobs and also side jobs, held a marriage together for going-on 40 years, raised 2 kids, and gave us a wonderfully happy and supportive home. For me to be embarrassed by my dad’s wine choice is like the snotty teenager asking to be dropped off at the end of the block – it’s just juvenile, and I need to get over it. But it is hard, and I know it must be even harder for you to do that for your FH’s family. But, honestly, if you love your FH and want your marriage to be happy, you really need to try. Because no one, not even someone from the “wrong side of the tracks” needs or deserves to spend their life with someone who looks down on them.

    • WELL. SAID.

    • There are not enough EXACTLYs in the world for this. You just described my own family and my husband’s to a T.

    • Can I buy you a beer? I’d like to.


    • Manya

      This is a beautiful post. So glad you wrote it.

    • Thank you for sharing so openly. This is really great.

    • Anonymous

      Yes. Thank you for writing that. And “white trash parties” offend the hell out of me.

      • anon

        I am shocked there even IS such a thing. How is it that the family doesn’t know ANYONE who might be offended by that except for you? You want to talk about trashy, mocking another culture is right at the top of the list.

    • Kelsey

      Oh. SNAP.

      You GO, girl. Very well said.

    • Moz

      For a first post, this strikes me as being a good ‘un.

      • Steph & B

        I’d just like to throw my AMEN into the mix.

        Speaking as someone coming from the “wrong side of the tracks.” It’s been an interesting learning experience for both of us. We’ve both had to confront our definitions of stereotypes and assumptions about certain classes. We’ve learned that despite the different “classes” and differing political views, that deep down our families have had many of the same struggles. And that there really are more similarities than dissimilarities between our two families. They did after all raise the two of us. And we have fallen in love and are making a life together. So there must be some similar philosophies somewhere.

    • charm city vixen

      Well said! Loved the last sentence: “Because no one, not even someone from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ needs or deserves to spend their life with someone who looks down on them.”


    • Lindsey

      Bambi, thank you so so so much for writing this post. This is brilliant and I wish I could make it required reading for everyone in the world.

      (And omg, “white trash parties” make my blood curdle. What, do they also have “blackface parties”? God. The whole concept is so offensive, and I’m glad I don’t have anyone in my life who has ever done such a thing.)

      • Jeannine

        yes, they do–I’ve seen them called ghetto parties or pimps and hos and generally afro-style wigs and blackface are involved. but yes, point taken, it’s pretty awful that such a blatantly dehumanizing term like “white trash” is allowed to circulate in polite society or be entertainment.

    • myrna

      Sing it, Sister!

    • Bambi

      By the way, I know I focused on the relationship issue rather than the actual question about the wedding day. I did that in part because the original answer and other advice about the wedding day were so good that I didn’t feel like there was much to add. And, to me, the larger relationship issue was a bigger deal.

      But, as for the original question, I think it is absolutely right to expect that people will be civil and act like adults. But at the same time, please keep in mind that you and your FH will set the tone for how your families behave. Just be aware of the messages and attitudes you may (unconciously) be conveying, because they will make a difference.

      Here is an example. My family and my future in-laws have all gotten together a couple of times before. The first time, years ago, I hadn’t been dating my FH long and wasn’t even aware that these class/money/judgment issues existed. The event went just fine, and everyone got along. Then came years of dating, during which I figured out how judgmental my FH’s family could be (the “white trash parties,” mean comments about other people, and things they had said about my family that got back to me through the grapevine). Before the next event, I was nervous. I tried to micromanage my family into looking and behaving the way that I thought would expose them to the least amount of ridicule (“Mom, please wear this dress I bought you instead of your too-short jean shorts.” “Dad, please don’t wear socks with sandals,” “Let me order wine for you” – that kind of thing). I also joked with my boyfriend and his parents to preempt their comments (“I don’t know if we should go to that restaurant unless my dad can bring his own six pack.”) All of that was a huge mistake. By the time we all had dinner together, my parents were nervous, self concious and irritated. They assumed that my boyfriend’s parents were judging them. Which they were, because I’d opened the door. It was all very uncomfortable, and honestly, I don’t think my parents’ relationship with my FH was ever quite the same.

      All of that is to say that my best advice for the wedding is to try to make everyone feel loved and welcome. Stand tall and be proud of both families, even if they are doing things that do kind of make you cringe. Don’t act like you are embarrassed or ashamed or you’ll invite others to be judgmental. Start now – how you interact with both families during planning will carry over to the big day. And, above all, please have an open and ongoing dialogue with your FH about all of this.

  • Emily

    Sweet holy moses, I am right on the same page with questions 1 & 2. My SO’s family is…of a lesser class than my own. Not trashy, per se, but of their upbringing and background are noticeably different than my own. I adore them to bits and pieces, but for the first few years of our relationship this was definitely something that both the future in-law family and I noticed, and it caused some friction. Over the years, we’ve grown to know and love each other, and we’re able to gently rib one another for our (now funny) foibles (they put ice in nice wine! who does that?) and differences (chief among them that I’ve “turned their son into a yuppie!”).

    However, in the 5+ years we’ve been together, our families have never met. And I have a hunch that my future in-law family will be a shock to my own family, and vice versa. I think the in-laws are fun, but I know my family will look down upon their behavior. I think my family is wordly, but I know the in-laws will see them as snobs. I want to get married to my SO at some point, but I dread the meeting of our families and the drama/gossip/sniping that will almost inevitably ensue.

    • Anonymous

      For starters, if you love them to bits and pieces, may I suggest you find a better way to refer to them? One that doesn’t include the word “lesser”, perhaps.

    • Liz

      See Bambi’s comment above.

  • Anonymous for potentially pejorative in-law talk

    I think I have the opposite problem of the first writer, but really, it’s the same. My husband’s family is rather . . . proper? I’m looking for a charitable way to express myself. Economically, our families are about on par – my family is actually probably much better-off than his, at the moment. But culturally, it’s like we’re from two different worlds. (Reading some of the other comments, maybe we’re not so different as we could be. But what looks like a small hole from a distance can feel like a chasm when you’re standing on the edge trying to bridge the gap.) My parents wear jeans, drink beer, clip coupons, and do their own home repairs. His parents wear slacks, and drink fancy cocktails when they drink at all, and hire people for everything from walking the dog to vacuuming to mowing the lawn.

    (Once, when we were dating, after my whole family got back from my cousin’s Christmas party, which included jungle juice and a beer pong table, and to which all relatives between 16 and 60 were invited, my mom asked me what we’d done for the holidays with my then-boyfriend’s family. I told her we’d gone to see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas concert. She looked stricken. “Oh God! They’re taking you to the *symphony* and we’re taking him to do shots with our relatives!?”)

    I feel like I have nothing in common with them. I find it draining to be around them, like I always have to be well-dressed and on my best behavior. I buy my own parents Christmas presents at Kohl’s and happily so, but have to go to Nordstrom’s or else take the tags off so they don’t know their presents are from Kohl’s or TJMaxx for his family. We have nothing to talk about. I try so hard to be pleasant, but I feel like I’m just being fake. I find it so hard to think of myself as part of their family, while I’m pretty sure he’s already completely comfortable with my family and might even already identify as one of them. I look for the good side of all that they do, and find myself defending them to my family and even to my husband, even when I secretly (or not so secretly?) agree with what’s being said, but it doesn’t make me enjoy their company any more. I can’t force myself to like them.

    I’m sorry, I’m venting. I can’t tell my husband “I don’t like your parents.” I don’t want to talk about it with my family or friends, because I’m afraid of setting a “dump on my in-laws” precedent if I okay gossip and complaining by bringing it up – which would only make things worse in the long run. Anonymously on the internet is my only chance to let it out. Sorry.

    • Hannah

      Yep, that’s me, too. There’s no difference in income, but his parents and their relatives are so much more formal and “polite” than mine. I find it weirdly exhausting to be around people who never swear, never tease each other, and never tell each other when they’re being ridiculous (while my brother continues to call me Dork and tells me regularly to stop being such a pain in the ass, which I actually *love*). I’m constantly on guard not to offend them, although they are lovely, sweet people who are very, very nice to me. It’s just a different family culture, and even after 15 years together, I’m still not entirely at ease with them.

      • Noemi

        My situation is the opposite of Hannah’s– my family is very polite and tends towards the formal, where his jokes around and just acts completely differently. We don’t always see eye-to-eye about our families, each preferring our own, but I have made it a point to no longer say discouraging things about his sibling-who-has-made-some-wrong-choices and encourage him to hold his tongue the same way about some of the people in my family.

        Family cultures, I have since realized, can be so different. I never even thought of such a term, but it fits perfectly. My family’s culture is to think of everyone being under the same roof at the same time (but ignoring each other) “family time”, almost exclusively go out to eat at Chinese buffets, value academics above all else, never swear or drink, and be critical of one another (I’ve learned to accept that that is a family trait). His family has get-togethers with alcohol, likes sports, goes camping, and has completely different interests. How does this relate to the wedding? My parents refused to pay for any alcohol, but his insisted, so his dad and step-mom are picking up the bar tab as well as providing hors d’oeuvres while mine will pay for the buffet (we love buffets!). I am slightly worried when some of my relatives will meet some of his (my judgmental uncle HATES overweight people). But! For the wedding, it will all be okay (I hope!) because they can all be civilized adults and put differences aside. And I suppose I should keep in mind that he will probably never love my family as much as I do, and vice versa. And I’m okay with that.

        • AnotherCourtney

          This is so much like our family dynamics! My mom paled at the thought of serving alcohol to so many people when she doesn’t drink herself, so his dad graciously swept in and said he’d be happy to take over that aspect. Instead, my mom and I are planning the buffet. :)

          We abide by the no-negative talk rule, too. Some friends, and some extended family, too, are fair game, but close family and friends-who-might-as-well-be-family are off limits for complaints to each other, unless it’s something specific, very valid, and easily fixed.

    • carrie

      Your husband doesn’t realize at all that you’re not totally comfortable around his parents?

      And do you really not *like* them, or you just don’t have anything in common? I think they are two different things. I have more to say (just call me Miz Unsolicited Advice!) but I’m curious about these two things first…

      • Anonymous for potentially pejorative in-law talk

        Oh, no, he realizes I’m not totally comfortable around his parents. I’ve blamed it on geography, and I do hope that it’s partially a function of that, and so will get better with time. (We’ve been together 3 years, and are newly married.) Oddly enough, it’s because we’ve lived closer to his parents almost since we started dating. We’d see his parents for dinner, say, once or twice a month, or even once a week – but because my parents lived 4 states away, we’d go visit them for a weekend, or a week, and spending so much time in someone’s house – plus the fact that my family has so many family events that we’d spend basically 24/7 with them while we were there – offers more of an opportunity to get comfortable around them. He was making himself breakfast in my parents’ kitchen and watching sports with my dad in the living room while my only contact with his parents was dinner out at a restaurant or occasionally stopping at their house to pick something up.

        And for your second question, I think it’s a combination of the two. I actually DO like his dad – but he’s quiet, and I’m quiet, and we don’t have much if anything in common, so it’s borderline impossible for us to talk or bond over anything. I don’t dislike his sister, but we have little in common and she lives on the other side of the country, so we haven’t formed much of a relationship – again, maybe something that will come with time, despite not having much in common. If I’m being honest, I’d say that I don’t like his mother. (I don’t even like typing it, it’s such an awful thing to say!) If I didn’t like her, but we had common interests or something to bring us together, I’d have some common ground to work from. If we had nothing in common but I loved her personality and company, I don’t think I’d have any problem. But the combination of nothing in common and not particularly liking her is hard to overcome.

        I’m interested in what you have to say!

        • carrie

          Hannah made some awesome points above – that it’s exhausting to be around certain kinds of people. And sometimes, we just need to hear that others feel like that too, and that it’s OKAY.

          I’m glad your husband realizes that you aren’t totally comfortable, and hopefully he understands? My mother in law is a very loving, sweet woman, but she’s also a little batshit. She talks a mile a minute, doesn’t finish sentences, once she is focused on something she won’t get off it (like why she can’t delete an episode of Frasier off her DVR!), can be somewhat inappropriate (she talked about giving herself breast exams at the Thanksgiving dinner table at my parents’ house) and is generally like a TORNADO. It takes me a good 20 minutes to get used to being around her and in that first 20 minutes, my blood pressure shoots up, I have to control the eye rolling and squeeze my fiance’s hand b/c OH MY GOD SLOW DOWN. However, I love her and am so happy she loves me, and especially loves her son. David is understanding of my temporary freakout and his support through it makes it so much better.

          It sounds like your husband is pretty awesome in that he can get down with the more casual atmosphere of your family which is a huge WIN. And I also think it’s awesome that you socialize with his parents on a regular basis and I’m sure he appreciates it too. I feel like this is the most important, you all are supporting each other.

          I personally think it’s okay not to be great friends with your in-laws, as long as you can respect the relationships (barring abuse of course). And to recognize them as your family now too – even if you don’t like MIL too much – because if tomorrow? The MIL were to get sick or hurt (goodness forbid), you would be right there with your husband supporting him and supporting her because they are family. I feel like these are most important things at the end of the day.

          I also very much feel like people (most of us) fight against what’s hard – being uncomfortable, not liking someone who you have to be with a whole lot. We need to accept that it’s hard and stop fighting a little bit. It’s okay if you’re not besties with his mom and sister. You’re not a jerk to them either. I feel like I’m being extra-wordy without being poignant, but I hope a little bit of this resonates and that to hear other people have in-laws who they’re not totally comfortable with so you aren’t alone.

          At the end of the day, these people raised your husband. That’s pretty cool. :-)

          • myrna

            My FH could write a very similar post about my mother; it sounds exactly like she has Adult ADD/ADHD. I once read a book about Adult ADD and it helped me immensely in understanding why my mom does the crazy things she does and being more patient with her. I thought I’d mention it incase it helps.

    • Cassiel

      Just wanted to say I’ve been in a similar position – not with my fiance but in the past. So you have my solidarity!
      The only advice I can give that, just as with the bride above those of us dealing with uh, so called classy parents of our significant others also have to discern between what is wrong and what is different.
      So, for me, I had to learn that it wasn’t bad that my SO’s 11 and 14 year old siblings spoke French to each other recreationally, just different. It was however bad that his dad made a comment that his other son shouldn’t be paid to clean but should get a real job like real people (my ma was a maid for decades).
      Of course, either way – whether there is actual elitism or just different class cultures, you’ll have to deal with it. But I find it helps to know the difference, and, if i’m gonna get upset about one, just get upset about the elitism.

      • Anonymous for potentially pejorative in-law talk

        Can I ask how you dealt with the actual elitism? Because while that’s not my main issue with my in-laws, it does come up on occasion. And I generally don’t react or smile and nod and feel complicit because I don’t like to make waves. I’ll sometimes bring it up with my husband later, but never while his parents are around.

        • Cassiel

          Hmm, to be totally honest I never completely mastered this one – the relationship ended for other reasons before I could. Like you I bit m tongue mostly and felt bad / frustrated about it. I also vented to my SO, felt bad for doing so, but was grateful that he agreed with me though was a little less aware of I than I.
          In hindsight one simple thing I wish I had done was be clearer and more confident about who I was and who my family was. They never met my family and i’m well educated (thanks to all that hard work my ma did), and I wonder now if I didn’t – unconsciously – “pass” for middle class by not talking about the culture and history of my family. I like to think that, if it really registered to his dad that my ma was a maid he would at least been more mindful of what he said. I mean, they were mostly kind people.
          That said, i’m also Eurasian, and I’ve had another boyfriend’s grandma be racist around me… So some people suck even at self-censorship.
          The other thing I guess I could have done – and think i’m learning to do now, from remote, is to be a bit more forgiving even of the actually bad elitist stuff by remembering that I am – and was brought up to be – similarly prejudiced in the reverse direction. I have to admit I tend to feel a bit morally superior to people with money, and I have to work on that. I also have to separate out those feelings about actual, individual people from my feelings about inequity in the world in general.

        • Vmed

          I wanted to answer how to deal with elitism because I think I’m getting the hang of dealing with my future in-laws’ latent/overt racism (which I hope we can all agree is similar). I used to feel silenced in these situations, but since we’re pretty much stuck together, I had to figure out a better way.

          When something comes up that’s a little or a lot offensive (e.g. pejorative remarks or cruel stereotypes about mexicans) I look the speaker in the eye, tilt my head a little, and make a kind of medium-high-pitch “eeeehhh” sound, to mean, “I’m not so sure about that.” I make a skeptical face. I ask, “why do you think that?” or say “I’m not sure that’s right” or “I’m pretty sure that’s not true” or “I don’t think it’s ok to say that.”

          And then we have a discussion, to find out where they got that idea from, and I try to set the record straight, gently. Sometimes I’ll say “My family does that because xyz, and it’s actually quite nice to be able to ____.”

          Maybe they decide that my family and I are the exception to their stereotypes, and maybe they rue the day their son/brother/nephew/friend met me, but I like to think we’re learning to be good family to each other, without resentments, without hurt feelings.

          Good luck.

          • Bee

            I never had to deal with this with family, so it’s a bit different, but I went to a set of pretty elite universities to get my degrees, so my university friends come from very different social backgrounds than I do. I don’t know that I’ve mastered dealing with them, and because they are my friends, I think they feel a bit of extra license to give me a hard time now and then, but I can share some of the ways I deal with it. (Oh, probably good to mention that I’m a farm kid from Minnesota)
            1) I make a joke that gently points out the elitism in a non-angry, confrontational manner. This helps diffuse tension, and reminds the person making the potentially hurtful comment that other modes of growing up were also valid while allowing that person to save face. Example: Friend says at dinner party, “I can’t believe there’s a J.C. Penney’s in Manhattan now. God, who wears those clothes?” I say, “I know, if your seven-year-old isn’t shopping at Bergdorfs, do they even deserve to live?” Everyone laughs. Friend stops being pretentious.
            This may not work if you are not comfortable making that kind of joke with your significant other’s family. Also, be careful that the comment doesn’t tear down the other person’s upbringing; that’s just as bad.
            2) I make my upbringing sound like something to be jealous of. (It sort of is; I mean I had a pet cow named Egbert haha) Example: Friend says, “I think I would die if I lived in a hickville like you grew up in.” I say, “Oh man, you probably would, but let me tell you, it would be okay because I don’t think you’ve lived until you’ve [insert awesome hickville childhood story here].”
            3) Be open about how you grew up. It took me a long time to be okay with doing this, but I found that the more I opened up about the way I grew up, the less my friends made comments about me being a hick, or derogatory class-based comments in general. I actually found that when my friends, who love me, started to really understand how I grew up and why I loved it that they were interested and really respected me. Also, I found that some of them were jealous.
            4) This is the hardest, but if someone really says something offensive, tell them it hurts you. This was especially true when friends met my parents and heard their accents. My mom sounds like the mom from Bobby’s World, or like a character from the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. I can laugh at this a bit because I love her, and if I talk on the phone to anyone from back home or spend any amount of time with Midwesterners, I immediately start to sound more and more like that and it’s a little goofy. I also know that it does not mean that my mom is uneducated and that is not what I’m implying when I laugh about her accent. My friends, more often than not, are. And that is. not. cool. When they do it, I tell them. Or I intentionally switch into my own Midwestern accent and ask them if they think I’m uneducated because I sound like that. Or I gently point out that they wouldn’t eat if it weren’t for people like my family, because there would be no food. It’s hard to confront someone, but sometimes, it’s necessary and it’s a good lesson for all involved; in assertiveness, in sensitivity and in being a good friend.

        • Bambi

          I also wanted to chime in on the “how to deal with elitist in-laws” question. I think the other posters are correct – you just set the tone that you aren’t ashamed/embarrased, and then it becomes more uncomfortable for them to make those remarks (at least in your presence). For me, I just respond to my FMIL’s passive-aggressive questions like “do your parents really live in a trailer ALL THE TIME?” by looking her in the eye and saying “yep, they do.” I kind of smile and basically (nonverbally) dare her to say something about it. This isn’t as healthy as a good solid conversation that gets all the issues out on the table, but it works in the moment. I think the key is to come across as confident and sure of yourself rather than insecure, embarrassed or ashamed, and other people will pick up on that.

    • I hear you. It’s okay. Vent.
      I think it’s rare that you like your in-laws as much as your own family, at least amongst my married friends. My in-laws are incredibly sweet people, but there are a lot of times I can’t be in the same room with them. That being said, a lot of the time I can’t be in the same room with my parents.
      But I think the issue at play in all of these letters is learning to stand together as your own family in planning a ‘party’ or planning your lives after. It will be a very rare and wonderous day when everyone agrees and respects each other and cares the same amount. And it will probably be an ordinary day and not your wedding.
      Sorry, I went a bit off the rails there.

  • Another serious beer drinker here, and I gotta ask: What “serious beer drinker” serves bottles (or, ACK! cans?!)


    So once the beer is poured into a glass, no one will be able to tell by looking if that’s an artisan pilsner or a Miller Light (which, by the way, is a pretty good “pedestrian beer”).

    So who cares? Get the beer they like, let your dad pay for it, and be an accommodating host. I think you guys are causing a rift where there doesn’t need to be one.

    • Serious beer drinkers who are looking to save money/effort serve bottles. We did bottles because we didn’t want to pay for glassware rentals, and we weren’t even sure we would have a bartender – if we had to pay for glassware, we would have had to spend less on beer itself.

      • Plus, local microbrews and craft beers typically have fun and attractive labels.

    • Jo

      We’re whoring out our serious beer drinker status (you should see his cabinet of glassware–one for every single beer ever made!) for the wedding–we’re doing compostable cups for serving all the beer in. Easy, environmentally friendly, and SO WRONG. But we don’t care, because we’re getting married!

      • Mejane

        Eh. I think as long as you’re not drinking it straight from the bottle you’re doing just fine.

  • Alright, we’re going to do two differnet comments for two different situations.

    The first question really got to me. Partially because my family and my husband’s family are so different, there was bound to be tension (there was, but it was under the surface, so it didn’t hurt the day). So it’s a situation I’m familiar with.

    The thing that hit me in the gut though was Alyssa’s point about being willing to be a part of your partner’s family. Because as much as I scold my family for not making Jon feel welcome as a part of our family, I have not taken the step to seeing his family as my own. The cousins I know well? Definitely. But not his parents. They’re still “Jon’s family” not “ours”.

    It’s not something I’ve done on purpose, and not something I’ve been aware of, but it has happened. I needed this as a kick in the pants to make the concious effort to see MYSELF as part of THEM.

    So, thanks, Alyssa. A LOT.

  • Mejane

    Bothered and Bewildered by Beer:

    I think I get where your fiance is coming from on this one. The beer list at our wedding was quite possibly the thing that my partner and I were most excited about during the planning process. We had 10 taps to fill, and never considered including a mass market option because there was so much great stuff to choose from. Instead, we focused on providing a range of beers w/a couple options that would suit the folks who (a) didn’t drink much beer but weren’t wine people and (b) regularly drink beer but don’t generally venture beyond American adjunct lagers. So there was Oberon (because, really, does anybody seriously *hate* Oberon?) and the Reissdorf Kolsch. We printed up lists with super brief descriptions of each beer so that people knew what they were getting into. I even ended up recommending the kolsch to a few of our guests during the reception – including one slightly sour looking uncle who was much happier for the suggestion. And sometimes it even helps to direct people to things that are nothing like what they normally drink (like a smoked porter or something), because then they won’t spend the whole time comparing what they’re tasting to their beloved golden lager.

    Honestly, I think this sort of situation can be difficult to negotiate for beer people because beer drinking is such a social activity; one of my favorite aspects of the experience is talking about the beer, sharing what you like or don’t like and, occasionally, helping someone find something that they can get really excited about. So if people come in with cases of Miller Lite? It’s somewhat akin to arriving at a wine-focused event with your very own box of Franzia. To me, this isn’t upsetting just because they’ve made the decision to drink crap (I mean, people drink crap everyday and I still manage to get to sleep at night). It’s upsetting because, perhaps unwittingly, they have opted out of the communal event.

    • Beb

      Sorry, but I just have to disagree. Not everyone at the wedding has to commune over beer. People can commune by being at the event, dancing, laughing, talking, having a good time, raising a glass of Coke in a toast to the bride and groom. It just seems a bit, I don’t know, domineering, maybe, to try to force people to have an experience centered around some item or food or drink (even if it is a truly awesome item or food or drink) that they may not enjoy. Not everyone has sophisticated palates, and that’s okay. Heck, a lot of people don’t drink alcohol at all, right? They’re still allowed to share in the “communal event” despite opting out of the alcoholic bevs. For me, I enjoy wine a lot and my fiance was on a blind wine tasting team at one point (and his mom is a sommelier), but I’ll be danged if we’re going to try to lecture people about wine at our wedding or get people who don’t really care about wine excited about wine. That’s not the point, for us. The point is for us to celebrate our marriage with our guests, and however people want to have fun (whether drinking fancy wine or utter swill or nothing at all) is kind of beside the point. Just my thoughts on this! :)

      • This whole thing smacks of proselytization. It’s like playlists: Your wedding is not an opportunity to introduce everyone you know to your favorite, obscure noise band from Djibouti. It’s an opportunity to get your nearest and dearest together for a mighty good time, which usually involves playing music they at the very least KNOW and hopefully like well enough to dance to.

        Similarly, it usually involves providing them with food and drink that is palatable and enjoyable. That might mean introducing them to brews you love, but it should also mean providing them with what you already know that THEY love.

        • Beb

          Yup. Completely agreed. I truly don’t get why some people find other people’s tastes in food or drink personally offensive, as if a guest’s enjoyment of a “low brow” beer or wine is going to reflect badly on the host. What kind of assumption is that? Also, I personally would not be offended at all if someone showed up to my wedding with their own case of Franzia. Who cares? (Saves me $$ on the bar tab anyway, am I right?)

          • Mejane

            I guess I can’t speak for the LW, but in our case this had absolutely nothing to do with how other people’s beverage choices “reflected on us.” It was about sharing our love of beer with our guests, most of whom also at least liked beer, and many of whom loved it as much as we do. And if they didn’t? There was wine and soda. I suppose you could say that the guests who drank wine or soda opted out, but in my mind, they had good reasons for doing so (as in “I don’t like beer…period” or “I don’t consume alcohol…period). “I only drink Amstel Light because it’s the only thing I like” is not a good reason, at least not given the vast range of beers that exist in the world.

            And, trust me, there wasn’t any “lecturing” or “proselytizing” going on. We certainly didn’t break out the funnels and force Stone Ruination down everyone’s throat. We just did our best to provide a variety of different styles and offered samples of everything. In the end, if anyone was traumatized by the absence of mass market beer, I never heard about it.

        • charm city vixen

          I’m going to disagree here…

          If you want to play swing dancing music at your wedding, despite the fact that your guests may not know how to swing, GO FOR IT. And who says that dancing to muic that they at the very least KNOW is everyone’s goal?

          I know my elderly relatives may not know every jam on my playlist at the wedding, but I’m pretty positive that my grandma (health permitting) will shake it with the best of us!

          Also, I happen to love Roma music. I am of Eastern European descent, and I grew up listening to it. We are considering having my favorite Roma band play at our wedding. Just because my guests may not have heard it does not mean that they will not like it and want to dance.

          I would be pretty offended if instead of listening to my carefully crafted playlist, my dug through my ipod and put on his favorite song… or if he walks around with an ipod on his ears because he likes his music better than mine, it just sounds better to him. It’s just bad manners. That’s pretty similar to bringing your own beer because you don’t like what is going to be served, in my opinion.

          • Beb

            Okay, well, I don’t want to get into a my grandma v. your grandma thing here, but… MY grandmother doesn’t know how to salsa dance (por ejemplo) and so if we played all salsa, all the time, at our wedding, she’d just be sitting there the whole night. She’s Irish. The Irish don’t tend to salsa dance. Give her a microphone, though, and watch out! (The Irish do love to sing, turns out).

            So yeah, I believe that etiquette is fundamentally about making other people feel comfortable. And I want people to have fun and have at least a few songs played that they’ll want to boogie to. This is why weddings tend to play goofy songs like the cha-cha slide or whatever – because everyone can get up on the dance floor and have fun. So, while I may love salsa music and could dance to it all night, it’s not just about ME!

            Again, I think we are coming at these issues from different angles, and that’s okay. Just want you to hear my perspective on this.

          • charm city vixen

            BEB, I am really grateful that APW gives us an opportunity to hear different opinions and philosophies — and I agree, we are both fundamentally of different viewpoints, which isn’t to say that either of us is “wrong.”

            I also want to say that I read further down that you like manchego — I LOVE manchego, think it’s fabulous, and shame on someone who thinks “that ‘manchego is a safe cheese for people who don’t know cheese'”… but, oh well! It’s more manchego for me ;)

    • Beb

      Replying to your second comment, I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this. Saying that someone choosing to like Amstel Light just because they, you know, like it, “is not a good reason” strikes me as so wrongheaded. What, exactly, is wrong with someone liking Amstel Light? I like Amstel Light!

      Have you considered that not everyone in the world has the same palate, and that people will tend to like different things? I just don’t get this attitude of judging people’s food and beverage choices. Of all the things in the world to judge! I mean, who cares? How does this affect you? Why are you upset if someone likes (gasp!) Amstel Light? Shouldn’t you care more about whether your guests are enjoying themselves rather than about what they’re putting in their gullets? I truly, honestly do not understand.

      Oh, and saying that someone’s choice of beer is “wrong,” as if it were an important moral choice? Yeah, that counts as proselytizing in my book.

      • Mejane

        Whoa, pump the breaks, turbo! You’re the only person making this about morality. Choosing not to serve Amstel Light at my wedding doesn’t qualify as a “moral choice” (not all choices, by the way, are moral choices). And look, at the end of the day, no one is obligated to make the choice that maximizes some other person’s happiness. I am not required to serve a particular beverage because some subset of guests like it. It’s also rather hard to imagine that anyone sat through our reception thinking that our beer selection was some kind of critique of their personal taste.

        (Oh, and for the record, the Reissdorf Kolsch that we *did* have on tap? Functionally equivalent to a lot of the light lagers that people buy by the case. But it’s more flavorful and is made from higher quality ingredients.)

        • Beb

          I’m not questioning your decision not to serve Amstel Light – girl, you do you. I’m questioning your judginess about your guests’ reasons for liking Amstel Light, or any other beer that you have deemed inadequate. For all it matters, the Reissdorf Kolsch that you served could have been made out of golden rainbow honey sparkles – not everyone’s gonna like it! Some people are still gonna like Amstel Light. So there’s that.

          You can do whatever you want to do at your wedding and that’s totally cool. BUT, I am merely suggesting that you might not be aware of how intensely annoying it is to have someone else talk down to you about food or drink. Perhaps you’ve never experienced it. I have, and I have what I consider to be a pretty sophisticated palate! I was once at a restaurant and I ordered a cheese plate, and I mentioned that I like manchego, and this woman I was dining with told me that “manchego is a safe cheese for people who don’t know cheese.” So, I mean… maybe this is hitting a nerve for me because I don’t like when people get on the ol’ high horse about food and drink. Let people like what they like! It’s fine! I promise.

          • Mejane

            Look. I have neither the will nor the resources to halt production at Heineken. So I’m sure that Amstel Light will continue to be available to all who enjoy it’s watery flavor profile and vinegary aftertaste for many, many years to come.

            My choice not to serve it at a single event does not affect your ability to consume it. The fact that higher quality products exist does not affect your ability to consume it. My expressing my distaste for it does not affect your ability to consume it.

            Also: manchego is delicious.

          • Beb

            Manchego: bringing people together through the magic of deliciousness.

  • Elaine

    Afterthought bride, that really sucks what you are going through. As has been said on APW before, weddings do not magically change people into something they are not. If your sister has always been the center of your family’s attention with her needs put before yours, unfortunately that is almost certainly going to happen here, even if it is your wedding. I agree with Alyssa that the best thing you can do is focus on the positive (your supportive friends) and try to adjust your expectations for your sister and family.

  • To the first poster, and everyone concerned about family differences:

    My parents’ families could hardly be more different. And since theirs was a shotgun wedding, the wedding day was a stressful one. There was lots of passive aggression. For this many other reasons, this day sucked for my mom. A lot.

    Then the families went back to their separate corners (of the country) and didn’t see each other…for 14 years.

    When the day came that we knew they’d have to be reunited, everyone held their breaths. We were ready for WWIII. Tension in my house was at an all-time high.

    And then they were totally fine. Because they’re adults. Sometimes ridiculous adults, but adults all the same. And now they LOVE family get-togethers when they can see each other. And! Important point! I think it’s because THEY show up expecting to hang out, not tension. WE were the ones expecting tension.

    So I recommend everybody just chill out. And provide a (well-rounded) supply of alcohol so they can all become happy-drunk BFFs.

  • The sister/MOH issue. I had a similar situation, with some key differences:

    I come from a family that believes your siblings should be your best friends, and sisters are ALWAYS your maid of honor/brothers are ALWAYS your best man. Our wedding party consisted of 2 attendents standing with each of us. There were two groomsmen, one bridesmaid, and one maid of honor. My sister was not my maid of honor.

    Cue the HUGE uproar from my entire family. My sister does not have mental issues, but she has grown up in an environment where she gets everything she wants. As the baby of the (large) family, youngest by 6 years, she spent much of her childhood being the center of attention. So she expected it here, too. The better part of a year was spent telling me how terrible I was for choosing someone else over my sister. She didn’t like the colors we’d chosen for our wedding? “Well Sarah, you can change it, right?” She didn’t like my dress. “Sarah, maybe you should try on something your sister likes.” The shower invites went out without her name, because she was not interested in being involved with throwing it. “This is an unforgivable slight against your sister!” I was asked to cater EVERYTHING to her whims. And her lack in the helping department? Excused because she was “so hurt by (my) callous decision.”

    No matter how many times I explained to my family that it wasn’t a matter of choosing someone else over my sister (I could have easily had two bridesmaids, no MOH, but it was important to me), it didn’t matter. I finally, after many many fights and tears had to sit her down and really explain: we’re not close in age, and are barely even friends (due to the age difference, we didn’t KNOW each other growing up) … as a result, she was not someone I could call in full panic mode and count on to listen and calm me down, or who I could send to grab whatever last minute detail we needed and be sure she’d know what I meant. I explained that while I definitely wanted her by my side, these were things I couldn’t expect.
    And then I explained how hurt I was that somewhere along the way, my wedding had become about her.

    It helped. She hadn’t thought long enough to realize that I wasn’t just out to hurt her (neither had my family, for that matter), and knowing it made all the difference. She stepped up, we got refocused, and the majority of the drama went away. No, I still couldn’t call her at 2am or send her for extra program paper, but I didn’t expect it, and it was fine. She was present and engaged at the level she wanted and needed to be, and that was perfect.

    Which is my VERY long winded way of saying, Bride, I know it’s tough. You’re hurt, and that’s COMPLETELY valid. Since talking to everyone else only seems to be making those feelings worse, as they try to protect your sister, try actually sitting down and talking to HER. If you guys can work out what’s going on, it pretty much forces everyone else to follow suit. You call her your best friend … which means she knows you well enough that a conversation like that won’t come out of the blue. It very well may not only help the situation, but build up your relationship with her as well.


    • Jo

      Holy crap. You’re my new hero at sister drama.

      • I’ve had 20 years of practice. ::laughs::

        That is not to say I didn’t cry A LOT. But when it came down to it, she and I needed to sort it out between the two of us … without anyone else’s input. I HIGHLY recommend this method of problem solving. =)

        • Dragon

          Triangulation can complicate all sorts of situations. In most cases when an issue needs to be discussed, I’m a big fan of speaking directly to the person with whom you have the issue. Other people have their own (often well intentioned) agendas that can muddy the waters. Only the people involved can know when this is right, and sometimes there are good reasons to make exceptions to this “rule”, but I’ve found that it makes me feel more empowered and adult. Even if the situation doesn’t change, I’ve done my part by handling it maturely on my end.

  • emily rose

    “The wrong part is in holding someone else accountable for not giving you the experience that you want. Own your own experience and control what you can and stop letting what you can’t control completely affect your experience.”

    You just slapped me IN THE FACE.


    I’ll go read the other comments now.

  • Huck

    For the beer-drinkers: I think mistake #1 was having an opinion about something, but giving another person leeway. For example:
    1. My fiance and I are having shots of Yukon Jack instead of champagne for the toasts. We don’t like champagne, we love Yukon Jack, enough said. No one knows about the decision, so by the time they’ll know about it it’ll be too late for them to complain.
    2. We’re not having a bouquet or garter toss. If anyone asks I tell them that I’d rather be dancing and that I don’t want my brand-new husband to take off a piece of my underwear and fling it into a crowd of 300.

    I realize that this happened because the alcohol is cheaper in your parents’ part of the country, but honestly, it’s not going to kill anyone to try some other kind of beer for the night. You’re celebrating your love, not gassing them. They can handle it.

    I mean really, if one of the Bud-Light lovers was getting married, do you think they would accommodate you by having your own personal choices? I don’t think so! If you went to dinner at a family’s house that were allergic to glutton, would they fix you a dish that contained it just so you would feel more comfortable? I know allergies are not the same as personal tastes, but I have always been a person who HATES peanut butter and won’t touch it, even though I’m not allergic to it.

  • Ashley

    I’m at work but wanted to reply to the light beer post. I haven’t read all of the other comments, so maybe someone already said this…chances are they have because…um there are 117 comments already! Lots to talk about in these friday questions!

    Anyways…what about taking this opportunity to educate your family about decent beer? There are some really really great light beer options…Pabst, Coors, Natty Ice and Bud are ABSOLUTELY NOT the only light options…What about Scrimshaw from North Coast Brewing Co? Or Kellerweis from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co? These are great, light, summery beers that you don’t have to be ashamed to serve. MmmmmMMMMM! TGIF…How early is TOO early to crack one open? Heehee.

    • Jo

      It’s after 5 pm in Greenland!

  • charm city vixen

    I’m loving some of these comments, and Alyssa’s advice is always great!

    As for the beer couple, here are my thoughts:

    Just because some of my family isn’t CRAZY about cheese, and doesn’t go to cheese mongers and delight in their cheese offerings EVERY SUNDAY like I do, and maybe they would really rather see cubed cheddar cheese than lemon zested organic cheese from a farm where I’ve shaken hands with the farmer, doesn’t mean that they get to dictate to me about their cheese tastes and what I will be serving at my wedding.

    I agree with other people that it is about hospitality. I will try to accomodate my guests by providing something for them to eat and drink. But if I don’t have a particular brand or style of something and people cause a huge fuss over it? It’s six hours of their day. They can get over it.

    In my opinion, you just cannot please everyone. And if your uncle cannot go six hours without drinking a light beer, there may be some other issues at hand.

    It seems like the beer is pretty important to the writer’s FH. Maybe as important to him as the flowers or the dress may be to another bride. The wedding reception (not the ceremony) is, in essence, a huge, wonderful gathering, and as the hosts, the bride and groom will provide as they see fit. I cannot imagine being invited to partake in a wedding or a party and pitching a fit because my favorite beverage or food was not provided by the hosts.

    • Beb

      Here’s the thing, though. Dad is going to be providing the case of light beer, not the bride or groom. They will not be put out (financially) in any way by making what seems like a *tiny* concession to their uncles’ tastes and diet concerns. They don’t have to pay for it, they don’t have to bring it, they don’t have to drink it (heaven forbid). What’s the issue here? Also, it didn’t sound like the uncles were going to “cause a huge fuss” over it – rather, it sounds more like the groom is threatening to throw an actual tantrum if a lowly case of light beer makes an appearance at the wedding. I mean, for Pete’s sake.

      • charm city vixen

        For me, it wouldn’t be an issue of paying for it or not.

        It’s my party that I’m hosting. You are my guest. This is not a college kegger (unless the wedding is that, which the writer did not specifically say), and it is not BYOB. As my guest, you will have what I provide for you to eat or drink, and I will make the event as hospitable as possible.

        That being said, I will not cater to every whim.

        I recently held a birthday party and invited my friends and family. I provided lemonade, seltzer water, iced tea, and a fruity non-alcoholic cocktail. I also made quite a lot of food, all of which I spent a lot of time and energy preparing (some vegetarian for the comfort of my vegetarian guests, and others were not).

        My parents and other guests asked if they could help. I told them that everything was taken care of, but if they wanted to bring dessert, they could. That was my boundary. It was MY party that I was hosting. I didn’t care whether or not my parents would BUY the burgers or the wine or whatever — it was NOT on the menu at MY house.

        I used to nanny and do daycare, and I had a saying I always told the kids: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” It’s pretty much my motto when I go to any party, especially a wedding, regardless of whether or not I like the food or drink choices.

        • Beb

          Wow. We have very different approaches to hostessing, then! I find it lovely and helpful when people want to bring food or drinks to my parties, even if their offerings are not “on the menu.” And allowing people to enjoy foods or drinks that they like, but that I might not have been able to provide for them, strikes me as good thing. But, to each her own.

          • charm city vixen

            I agree, I also find it lovely when people want to bring food or drinks to the party. As long as they do not overstep my boundaries. And I am not saying MY boundaries would be beer — for me personally, I don’t care about booze at all — but it sounds like the writer’s FH cares about beer, and maybe that’s HIS boundary.

            I think the issue isn’t that they would not have “been able to provide” light beer at the wedding — it’s that they did not WANT to. And the father’s desire to have light beer for family members vs. the FH’s desire to take care of something that means a lot for him for his wedding strikes me as a boundary issue. If the wedding isn’t BYOB, or if you do not like chocolate cake and that is what the bride chose, or if you don’t really care for Italian food and that is all that is being served at a work function — then I believe the protocol as a polite guest is to remain gracious and thankful for having been invited.

            And I’m not just speaking from a hosting experience, but also as a guest.

        • Beb

          Just curious – what happens if someone brings something to a party that you’re hosting that is outside of your “boundaries?” What happens?

          • charm city vixen

            I’m gracious as a hostess. I smile and I say thank you. And I realize that not everyone is as mindful of social niceties as I am. There is an exception to this rule; I do not generally serve alcohol in my house because I am in recovery, as is my FH. Also, according to social niceties (and I know I’m being backed up by Miss Manners, here), if someone brings a bottle of something to drink or a dessert, it can be seen as a gift for the hostess, as a thank you for hosting. I HAVE received gifts for hosting parties, mostly flowers but sometimes food.

            I have never had a single person bring something to a dinner or party who does not call and ask first. Ever. Mostly because it would be extremely rude to do so, not to mention the fact that it may already be served (like if I were to bring hummus and chips and the hostess already made some).

          • Anonymous for potentially pejorative in-law talk

            It’s rude to bring something without asking? I was taught that it’s rude to show up empty handed, and you should almost always bring something – flowers for the hostess, beer, wine (obviously not if the person doesn’t drink) or a dessert being the most common, all with no obligation to serve it at that event, of course.

          • Beb

            @ANONYMOUS FOR POTENTIALLY PEJORATIVE IN-LAW TALK – I always thought that, too (and still do!). I would never dream of showing up to an event without bringing something along. Just last week, my fiance and I went to a barbecue and we brought along a nice bottle of red wine and a couple of kinds of chips (including delicious pita chips, om nom nom). We didn’t call ahead and ask if it was okay to bring chips or wine. The host was very gracious and immediately put out the chips, which were gobbled, and opened the wine, which was guzzled (in a classy way) by one and all. I don’t see how we behaved incorrectly there…

          • charm city vixen

            It’s not rude to bring something without asking — a gift for the hostess is always appropriate. But I was taught that it is rude to bring a gift for the hostess and expect it to be utilized for the dinner/party/what have you.

            Here is a Miss Manners letter to back that up:

            I almost always ask if the host wants me to CONTRIBUTE something to the meal, and if not, I bring flowers, chocolates, etc. as a gift for the hostess — not something that I expect that she place out for all of us to enjoy. (The exception to this rule is obviously potlucks)

            And as an aside — Miss Manners is quite eloquent on what the role of a hostess vs. role of a guest is. There are many different views of this, of course, but I usually find myself agreeing with most of the things she says. That Miss Manners link shows other letters she has answered too.

          • Beb

            There was no expectation that the host would serve anything. But even if he hadn’t served it, I know he wouldn’t have been miffed that we hadn’t called ahead. I’m pretty confident that most of my friends are usually delighted and grateful when guests show up to their parties with treats, whether they choose to serve them then or not. It’s a nice gesture.

      • ElfPuddle

        But it is his input in his wedding. If this were over the flowers, would we be telling BBB to compromise, or to just do what she wants?

        • Beb

          Honestly? If you’re so worked up about some physical element of your wedding that you’d physically throw something across the room that didn’t fit into the plans (case of light beer v handcrafted artisan fancy beer, tulips instead of hydrangeas, whatever), you need to, in the words of my mother, take a chill pill. So yes, I would probably tell the guy to compromise on flowers, too.

        • charm city vixen

          Or what if some members of the family only like vanilla frosting on cakes, and some really only like chocolate? Should the bride decide not to use the strawberry frosting that her FH was so proud of picking?

          But what if instead of eating the wedding cake, her dad wanted to provide a vanilla-frosting cake for her uncle to eat so he did not have to eat the cake he did not like?

          • Beb

            Let him eat cake! I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. Maybe I’m missing something?

          • PCA

            Sure, if it’s important to Dad by all means give the man a vanilla cupcake, especially if he has dietary restrictions and really wants to join in on the cake enjoyment. Everyone can have their cake/beer and eat/drink it too.

          • Beb

            I mean, I get the direction you’re taking this in, that every guest’s whims and desires cannot be catered to, and I agree with you on that. But really, that’s not the situation here. The situation strikes me as such a small compromise and it just sounds like the groom’s being a little bratty/intractable about it. I’m a lawyer so I take things on a case by case basis. And in this case, I feel like the bride and groom should allow their uncles to have one solitary case of light beer at their wedding.

            It sounds like you and I are coming from very different philosophies about hosting and making guests feel welcome, though, so we might just have to chalk this up to different worldviews.

          • charm city vixen

            BEB — I guess we do come from very different philosophies about what it means to be a guest and what it means to be a host. As you said previously, to each her own.

            PCA — if it is a dietary restriction (which “light beer preferences” does not seem to be, as there is always water or soda to drink), I believe that allowances could be made. It just does not seem like it’s the case.

      • bumblebee611

        You know, Beb, when I first read the beer question, I thought about it the way you did — they don’t have to drink it or pay for it, why do they care? And I thought — beer, how trivial? But on reading Charm City’s commentary, I can definitely see where the letter writer is coming from. I suspect the threat to throw something is made in jest, and we don’t know all the conflicts that may have led up to this. For all we know, this beer dispute is just the last straw. My fiance and I are largely paying for our own wedding, and it’s not some super formal, huge, compulsive detail-driven affair at all. But we definitely have our own ideas about food, music, and other things that are important to our effort to represent who we are as a couple. If some family member came along and said oh you HAVE to serve ____ [that completely didn’t fit with the rest of the meal] or you HAVE to play ___ song [that was musically out of step with everything else], and I’ll pay for it to make sure you do it, I of course would tell that person we’d decided we like XXX and that’s it. I don’t know that it so much has to be that the couple think it reflects poorly on them that someone else chooses to drink light beer, I would see it as more that choosing these fancy beers is how they choose to represent themselves, as a couple, to friends and family, and someone else is trying to tell them that their choice of how to represent themselves is not acceptable, and is not even a choice they can make on their own!

        • Beb

          Bumble, I will agree with you on the general point that other people should not dictate every aspect of your wedding. That’s not cool. Certainly, my wedding will reflect my and my fiance’s tastes. Absolutely. BUT. I just refuse to buy the argument that a case of light beer is going to ruin this couple’s wedding day. Nope, just don’t buy it. That’s silly.

          Speaking from my own wedding perspective: my fiance and I really love salsa dancing. We are big hams and love to show off and we’re going to have our first dance to a Gloria Estefan song, and it’s going to be rad. But we’re not going to play all salsa music the whole night, because if we did that, we’d have like, three people on the dance floor. And we want people to dance and have fun. So we’re going to play a variety of music that most people will like. And if someone requested we play a certain song, I’d say sure. I mean, what’s the harm?

          I also don’t buy the argument that, if this couple “represents themselves” through beer, that having a separate case of light beer for the guests would somehow sour that. The couple would still have all the beers they picked… so again… what’s the harm?

          • charm city vixen

            I think the difference is that it would not bother you to allow the beer, or the song, or what have you, so why not?

            Clearly, the FH in the poster’s letter DOES care. And really, as we are at a wedding blog where people care about all sorts of aspects of their wedding — who is in their bridal party, the centerpieces, the ceremony, the food, the music, etc. — I can’t really sit here and say, “Well, because I PERSONALLY do not care about beer, does not mean that this guy does not care about it for his wedding.”

            And I think the letter-writer needs to respect that. Because there is quite a bit of stuff that my FH cares about that I do not necessarily mind — and vice versa. Because I care about how HE is feeling, I will respect his wishes concerning what he feels strongly about (he doesn’t like when I talk about our joint finances with my parents? cool, I won’t do it. He really wants a fall wedding? Great, I just want to get hitched! Out of respect for him, not because I am overly concerned).

            Marriages are about compromise too — and sometimes, instead of saying “why not?” to the rest of my family, maybe I should say “alright, why not?” to my FH.

          • ElfPuddle

            And the harm, to me, isn’t the beer. It’s that the father of the bride is choosing something that is not okay with the groom.

            Controlling parents (and in-laws) don’t need it to be a major thing, like what house you live in, but they need to take decisions away from the couple and do it themselves, often with the “I’ll pay for it, aren’t I nice?” angle to make it hard to say no.

            It’s not a beer thing. It’s a boundary thing.

            When I marry my fiance, I will have two sets of in-laws (long story that doesn’t need to be told here). One is a tiny bit controlling, and the other is completely crazy and very controlling. Therefore, fiance and I have to be very clear about our boundaries. All of them, every time.

            Obviously, BEB, you don’t have to deal with those kind of people. I’m jealous of you for that. May you always be able to compromise and be healthy.

            B&BB’s letter sounded to me as if she’s having control issues similar to those I have with my sane in-laws with her dad. It isn’t about the beer, it’s about Dad being in charge instead of FH. That isn’t healthy. The choice needs to be B&BB’s and FH’s.

          • Beb

            @Elfpuddle – here is the problem I have with your comment: it falls into that territory of “you’ll seeeee” that I think is a no-no on this board, and for good reason. It dismisses my experiences and my opinions by presuming that I “obviously” have never dealt with whatever situation we’re discussing, the implication being that since you have, you know better. I think it’s probably easier for you to dismiss my life experiences (of which, by the way, you have no knowledge) than to face the possibility that perhaps I am approaching these questions with a more generous spirit than you are, for example, or to really grapple with where I am coming from, even if you don’t agree with it. Whether I have dealt with controlling people or not is irrelevant, and doesn’t make my perspective any less valid than yours.

  • MEI

    Cecily: When I see a spade I call it a spade.
    Gwendolen: I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.
    -The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde

    …it seemed apropos.

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  • TJ

    My wedding was last Saturday, and after a week of thought, I’m pretty sure I hated it. Why? Because it wasn’t about us getting married. It was everyone else trying to eat and drink as much as they could on our dime and loudly comparing our choices to their preferences.

    Seems like the beer issue and the disappointing maid of honor both stem from the same problem – relatives forgetting that your weddings are not about them. Maybe (definitely) I’m still bitter that I spent thousands of dollars on a wedding for a bunch of people I don’t like anymore because I catered to their whims and issues and pushed my needs and desires to the wayside, but I think it’s a valid viewpoint to consider. Have whatever beer you and your fiance want, Dad be damned. And dump your sister as your maid of honor. Her problems won’t go away and she’ll find a way to make herself the center of your family’s attention anyway, but at least this way, you can finally, briefly, push her to the periphery of yours. And as for Burns vs. Simpsons, you can’t change ’em, so forget about them.

    If you focus on what everyone else wants and does, you won’t get what you need from the whole experience, and will resent everyone who contributed along the way. Focus on your boo and go get MARRIED instead.

    • KEA1

      TJ, first of all, congrats on your marriage–especially since it sounds like those congratulations have been in way-too-short supply lately. Second, HECK TO THE YES about how frustrating it is when guests aren’t gracious. If you managed to get through the day without stopping everyone, grabbing the mic, and making an official announcement that people could either shut up or leave, then you are a far better woman than I would have been if I’d been in your shoes.

  • Anon in Canada

    For the MOH letter…

    My MOH is my sister. She has also suffered from mental illness issues. She also sucks at being a MOH. Big time. Done nothing. My other bridesmaids suck at being bridesmaids (some because they are on the other side of the world, so it’s not totally their fault), BUT we don’t love these people because they are great at being bridemaids! We love these people because we love them.

    Mental health is more important than your wedding. Your relationship with your sister is more important than your wedding (NOT MARRIAGE, WEDDING!) Suck it up. I know you have already had to do that anyways, so whats a few more days?

    I’m in the exact same boat as you (minus supportive, on the ball bridesmaids) so I get where you are coming from. I don’t even think that my sister is going to make a speech at the reception, which I would die for. But you know what? That’s okay. I’ll still love her. Will I be hurt? Yes. Would I have anyone else as my MOH? No way! She is my sister and I love her, despite all this crap. I’ll get over it and I’m sure she will ask me to be her MOH when she gets married and I will do an amazing job. Because I still love her. Good luck and it will be fine! I promise. You can go it “alone”.

  • Jen W

    Alyssa, you rock. And you made me laugh (out loud) with the Dear Abby ending.

  • Carly

    RE: Beer quandary – what about the people driving who want to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks without blowing over??? If my guests decide to drive I want to help them responsibly enjoy a few drinks – and that means light beer. It’s totally arrogant to refuse it on grounds it’s not ‘serius enough’ urgh.

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  • Diane

    No one has posted on this in ages, but I want to leave this here for whoever may stumble across it. The third question hits home for me in two ways. First, I am a psychiatrist (well, still in residency, but it counts). I bear daily witness to what mental illness can do to people’s lives and I have respect and awe for the way that so many of our patients create good and full lives with the knowledge that they live close to that edge. I also know that the drugs I give my patients, which I do believe in, can have terrible side effects and a rational person could choose to ignore their doctor and go off the drugs. And I feel really sad when people come into the emergency room and I’m the one ordering medications that they don’t want but they’re too agitated to be safe to themselves. For anyone who is on the patient side of this equation, I’m sorry for the ways in which we as a profession fail you and I hope that you will continue to let us try to do our best. Because a lot of us really want your life to be all that it promises on the best days. So yes, find ways to adjust your expectations and leave it to your sister (and maybe your parents) to stress about her plane tickets.

    But I know there’s another side to this because I’m also the sister of someone with a mental illness. It’s scary and devastating and at times you are too busy praying that they’ll get better to even care about your own stuff. But sometimes you’re also fed up as hell about the drama and you want your needs to matter too, even if they’re not really life-or-death. I am lucky, as I plan my wedding, that my sibling is doing very well and will be standing up with me at my wedding, but five years ago I never would’ve imagined that I’d even want to ask, I was so pissed. I wish you that time and healing and a damn good therapist to help you get there.