How Has Your Family Surprised You During Wedding Planning?


The good, the bad, and the ugly

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

Two hands fist bumping in a field, wearing bracelets

Atiger doesn’t change its stripes. Though sometimes its stripes become a little more intense during wedding planning. Do I have that metaphor right?

But if the tiger in question is your family, and you’re planning a wedding right now, you know exactly what I mean. Your family? Your friends? They don’t stop being themselves just because you’ve got a big, important event looming on the horizon. In fact, it often means their truest selves come through (for better or worse).

But here’s the other thing. Weddings can give you rose-colored glasses. (It’s not your fault. I blame romantic comedies.) It’s really easy to believe that maybe, just maybe, this time things will be different, especially when said family member is telling you things will be different this time. You’re planning a wedding to the love of your life, after all! This is a big, huge, enormously important day in your life. So this time your somewhat emotionally absent mother will really be there for you, because she knows it’s important. This time your slightly too controlling sister will back off. This time your partner’s family will finally really listen to you. Or whatever your story is.

The long and the short of it is that even if you’ve lived with your family your whole life, that doesn’t mean they can’t still surprise you during wedding planning.

I’m having a banner year of bridesmaiding, which means that I’ve gotten to see a lot of family drama up close, except this time it’s not mine. (Thank goodness for small blessings?) And here are just a few examples from weddings I’m participating in this year. (Don’t worry, identifying details have been changed just enough to protect the not-so-innocent.)

  • The friend’s dad, who offered to pay for half of the wedding, then misremembered how much they agreed to (by roughly $5,000).
  • The other friend’s mom, who also agreed to foot part of the bill for the wedding, then when planning starting getting real decided she no longer “believed in weddings.” (Are you sensing a theme here?)
  • The friend whose sister lost her shit over the venue choice for, shall we say… tenuously logical… personal drama reasons.

But then there is that amazingly magical thing where weddings really do bring out the best in people, and I’ve seen that happen this year, too.

  • There was the friend whose mom stepped in and bought her wedding dress when she couldn’t afford the one she wanted.
  • And then there was the friend whose brother showed up to the wedding, put his game face on, and even had a good time despite the fact that he kinda sorta didn’t want to be there at all (it’s a long painful story).

As for me, my wedding taught me that my family is going to be exactly who they are, all the time. That means I could trust the ones I could always trust, and I needed a backup plan (and sometimes a giant box of tissues and someone to bitch to) for the ones that I can’t. (Especially if there’s money involved, y’all.) And always keep a glass of emergency champagne close by, just in case.

BUT Really this is about you. APW is nothing if not the place you can get out your tissues, let it all out, and have someone pass you a glass of virtual bubbly. HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY SURPRISED YOU DURING WEDDING PLANNING? GIVE Us THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, she currently lives on a pony farm in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband Michael, their son Lincoln, and an obnoxious mastiff named Gaia. Current hair color: Natural (gasp!)

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  • Kaitlyn

    I think I’ve been most surprised by how disinterested my immediate family is in the wedding. It’s not that they aren’t excited, but no one asks me about it. I’ve gone entire weekends at home without anyone bringing it up. On the other hand, J’s family constantly wants to be in the know and seems interested and engaged, etc. Maybe because I don’t volunteer info first they don’t ask? Or maybe it’s cuz of our 18 month engagement (we’re 8 months away now). Who knows haha Not that I need to talk about my wedding all the time, but it seems to be continuing in a pattern of Kaitlyn-only events aren’t of interest (you would have thought my college graduation was actually me being sentenced to jail the way everyone was acting).

    • Kalë

      ARE YOU ME? I think we got engaged right after you did, and I am experiencing the exact same phenomenon. My family will not ask me anything about my wedding for (I am not exaggerating) months at a time. They don’t seem actively like, against it, and they really love M, but they just do not. seem. to care. Which is the polar opposite of M’s family! They want to know every detail, and are excited about EVERYTHING. Not a conversation goes by when they don’t have something to say or ask or get stoked for re: wedding. The contrast is super striking. It’s actually been kind of hurtful – maybe more than I was expecting, but, to be honest, isn’t exactly surprising with other family of origin stuff I’ve been dealing with for years.

      • Kaitlyn

        I think it’s the contrast that’s striking for me too. Like if J’s family didn’t bring it up all the time, I might not even have noticed. Maybe we have short-term families? I can see it being a thing more come 2018 even if the wedding planning has been going on for so long

        • Anne

          That’s kind of what happened with my immediate family, FWIW. They were all like, “We’re letting you do your thing! Let us know if you want us to do anything!” for the last year, and it mostly didn’t come up with them unless they were asking they should wear or if my mom happened to be having a moment of trying to plan some part of it for us (different rant). Then this summer (we’re a month out now!), the switch flipped and we’ve talked about literally nothing else the last few weeks and it’s actually driving me kind of crazy. I have been impressed and grateful how “all-in” they have been lately on making sure we have everything we need, because they are usually pretty hands-off/solve-your-own-problems with most things. I’m the first sibling to get married so I think it’s been a process for them a bit to figure out what role and kind of involvement they want to have.

          • NolaJael

            Same. But now with experience my sister is paying the price. My parents have been all in from day one to make sure their guests are invited, etc. Sorry, sis!

      • Jan

        I wonder if this hands-off approach is because they are afraid of being overbearing, and accidentally over corrected? My mom is suuuuper hands-off for my wedding, and it’s in part because of how overbearing she was with my sister’s wedding and with my first wedding. She admittedly is like, “I’ve done this before, I don’t need to be crazy, just let me know when you need me.”

        • Kalë

          I wish this was it! But no, since it is a bit of pattern – they are WAY overbearing and 0% concerned about being so, but only about the things *they* care about – I don’t think this is the case here.

    • Amy March

      Are they mirroring you? If someone doesn’t bring something up, I tend to figure they’d rather not talk about it.

      • Kaitlyn

        Nah it’s the general family dynamic. File under “things I thought would change when it wasn’t my wedding” etc etc

    • Capybara

      “it seems to be continuing in a pattern of Kaitlyn-only events aren’t of interest (you would have thought my college graduation was actually me being sentenced to jail the way everyone was acting).”

      Replace ‘Kaitlyn’ with ‘Capybara’ and you have my family.

    • penguin

      I’ve experienced this too! I expected to be flooded with wedding related questions and most of our people have just kind of… not mentioned it. At all. Even after we sent Save the Dates we’ve just had very few people mention it. My grandma and I talk about wedding stuff all the time, but other than that support has been pretty thin on the ground (my dad has been great too). Fiancé’s family fluctuates between being terrible to us about anything wedding related, then not mentioning it for months, then wondering why they aren’t more involved (??).

      • Staria

        Adding my name to the ‘me too’s here. I was a little surprised that people were so uninterested, particularly my family. I kind of put it down to, most other people our age we know are married and have children. Babies seem to trump everything else once they come along. Which is cool, babies do that. But it would have been nice to have a little of the interest that was shown for other family weddings previously.

    • Abs

      I had a similar experience for most of my year-long engagement, except that it was my family who were asking all the time, and Mr. Abs’ family who were weirdly not asking about it. Totally nice, totally welcoming, just…not apparently interested. Not only not asking, but not really engaging. This was totally in character–as a family they don’t really, like, exchange information that much–but it felt super-weird to me and I assumed that they were just not enthused.

      Then like a month out we started to hear about how excited they were, and three weeks out they offered to host a post-wedding brunch. Which HA WE HAD ALREADY PLANNED THAT DAY THANK YOU…but it made me realize that it was probably less that they didn’t care and more that in their not-planning-anything-in-advance universe, they honestly didn’t understand that we had spent a year planning, and that way back 8 months out when we were talking about planning, that was actually…real.

      All of which is to say–in my case, the surprise was BOTH indifference and then a random surge of enthusiasm at the end.

    • PNW

      I really empathize – we’ve experienced this as well, though in the reverse. Partner’s family seems entirely disinterested to the point of being unaware when this shindig is going down (I’m sure the RSVP response rate will be… great). I didn’t expect them to be effusive, but I expected… more? I don’t know. I think there’s something to the notion that it wouldn’t have been so noticeable if we hadn’t gotten lots of comments, questions, and general congratulatory curiosity from our friends and my family here.

    • Engaged Chicago

      I don’t know if this will help but one thing I started doing was a monthly “digest” that I email to my lady friends and family from both sides. I talk about what we did that month (or 6 weeks) for the wedding and what were working on next. I tried it because: it helped not have to answer the same questions over and over; it filled in people who were too intimated to ask; I think makes everyone feel included and up to speed and helps solicit help. People really seem to like it too.

      Not getting interest sucks but I’m sure they’ll show up for you when you get closer to the day.

  • Eve

    I was not expecting my dad to be at all excited for the wedding. He’s never spoken well or kindly of marriage in general and I’ve gotten several lectures over the last few years on why I should never get married, which I half expected to continue. Instead, I’ve listened to a number of speeches about how he’s so excited for me and how great marriage and partnership can be. Often accompanied by tears or almost tears from him. I’m obviously thrilled that my dad is so happy and excited, but it’s a little bizarre dealing with this abrupt change of tune.

    • HarrietVane

      Awww, that’s weird but sweet!

  • Ajw06

    I think the most surprised I’ve been with someone is with myself. Ihave struggled with my brothers for years in a mutually toxic, often violent, cycle. I hate hate hate who I am around them and how afraid I become. For really difficult, personal reasons, I’d never been able to fully sever the ties that bound us — despite more than one therapist saying it was time. I haven’t spoken to one of them since 2011 and the others I can’t speak to without it ending in tears and fits of rage. I have nightmares prior to ever major holiday or event where I am going to see them.

    All that said, I knew my mother and entire family was expecting them to be at our wedding. I expected them to be there. But when we finalized our guest list, I just… sort of… left them off of it. I still half-expected myself to send them invites anyway. Our wedding is in 50 days and so far no one has said a word, aside from one brother who said “wow I guess I don’t have a sister anymore.” I told him if he wanted to work on a relationship we could do that but that the wedding was not the right venue for that sort of work.

    I think APW (and a really, really good doctor) gave me the courage to set those boundaries up for my own protection. I just kept reminding myself that people don’t change just because you’re getting married, but that I could. Thank you for the frequent reminders. It feels amazing to have this new freedom.

    • Alli

      Good for you for not inviting them! It sounds like you did something great for your mental health. Does the rest of your family talk to your brothers?

      We ended up not inviting one of my husbands brothers, partially because he’s an awful person, and entirely because we couldn’t even obtain his address so we could think about whether not to invite him. Nobody had it, and he wouldn’t respond to our texts or emails. Another brother (this man has a lot of brothers) decided to rsvp yes and skip the wedding anyway because we didn’t invite garbage brother, which pisses me off but I’m trying not to care – my husband doesn’t seem to whenever I’ve asked.

      • Eenie

        It’s been really hard to set expectations for my in-laws that are in line with what my husband expects from them. I want to expect the same amount and way of effort/love/care from them that I expect from my family, and it’s such a different dynamic. Slowly getting there!

        • Alli

          Yep this is a huge thing. Off topic, but also with lending people money. My husband’s family is always asking him for money, including his parents, and not everyone pays him back! It’s super weird to me, because he views it as something he needs to do sometimes because he’s in a better place financially than them, whereas I view lending money as an emergency thing only. One of our marriage talks was that he needs to talk to me before agreeing to lend anyone money, because I don’t like them viewing him as an unlimited bank.

          • Eenie

            Oh yes. Very important! Budgeting has helped with this – we both ask each before spending or lending large amounts of money.

            It’s a small thing, but we split trash with our neighbors. I thought he was doing it to save money, but he’s really doing it to save them money. I wanted to plan for the inflow in the budget, and he explained they just give us $20 every few months when they have the money. As an extremely frugal person with student loans, I’ve been funneling every extra cent to them for years. He’s really good at reminding me that watching our money that tightly isn’t ALWAYS helpful.

          • nutbrownrose

            That’s such a wonderful thing to do! I strive to be that thoughtful of those around me. You have a pretty great husband, right there.
            But also I get you, because I would literally never have thought of that as a thing I could do for those around me.

    • penguin

      Good for you! I’ve had a similar thing where I’ve ended up not inviting my mom. For years I’d invite her to things, and then regret it. She either wouldn’t come at all, or would make it all about her, or would be generally terrible to me and I would have this thought of “oh I have to deal with this because it’s my mom”. Then I realized… no. I don’t have to put up with that. She hasn’t been there for me, and we really just don’t have a relationship in general. Once I finally thought it through I realized that I don’t want her (or her rude husband) at my wedding at all. So I decided not to invite her, and so far I’m feeling really good about it.

    • Liz

      Good for you! I regret inviting my mother (for reasons enumerated below) and admire your foresight and ground-standing here. Things will be so much better without them there.

    • PNW

      That’s SO hard. I went through something similar where I struggled whether to invite my younger brother. We wound up deciding to invite him to the ceremony only and not the reception (for a variety of reasons), but man – those boundaries are difficult to follow through on. You did a tough but necessary thing and deserve kudos for it.

      • Ajw06

        Thank you for this. Hearing from others in this thread that I am not the only one bolsters me quite a bit. Sometimes the gaslighting kicks in and I start to believe that I am really, truly the problem my parents tell me I am.

        But I’m surprising myself evey day, and I’m surprised the wedding has been the catalyst for all this change. Thanks, APW, for the handholding and the comforting lurking space.

        • KRS887

          Wanted to pop in and give you some love. Am also currently planning and finally getting to the crux of many long simmering family issues in therapy. Its been tough after decades of criticism, control, and gas lighting but thanks to my wedding I was finally able to see my family for who they are and that I am not the problem. I am still struggling with boundaries but hearing about other people dealing with the similar issues helps me remember that I’m not wrong about what I’ve experienced. <3

  • savannnah

    So my fiancé and I had the benefit of being the 3rd and 2nd kids to get married in our respective families so there’s a lot of known crazy and not a ton of unknown crazy. The usual dance his parents do around money, the made up or outdated etiquette my curses like a sailor mother suddenly cares about and the very inappropriate-can’t-stop-Michael-Scottesque-car-crash of a toast my father in law will inevitable be 3/3 for.
    They have also been amazing and super helpful and my twin sister who does not do ‘girl stuff’ threw me an amazing shower and even showed up to my bach party in NYC even though she knew there would be woo girls and dancing and that she’d cause a chronic pain flare up. My mom got and survived breast cancer during the 18 months I’ve been engaged and she had little to no tolerance for logistics and planning but loved to go to my fittings (mostly so she can tell other brides her opinions on how they look) and my dad is officiating our wedding and putting in little jewish-ish touches here and there that make him and me immensely happy.
    What I didn’t anticipate was one of my close friends and bridesmaids being so completely unable to see past herself and celebrate something good in my life that I’m anticipating our friendship never recovering from and that makes me sad and I’ve also come to acceptance by now as well.
    What I also didn’t anticipate was that so many of my fiance’s friends and family members would tell us that ‘they don’t travel’ as an excuse for not coming to our wedding. There’s a big culture clash there but it’s hard to see him sad and hurting about that.
    Also my 24 year old brother broke up with his long term girlfriend of 4 years who I consider a sister 3 weeks ago and he just called to say he wants to bring a date to our sept wedding and I don’t know what to say to him about that…

    • Cleo

      “Also my 24 year old brother broke up with his long term girlfriend of 4 years who I consider a sister 3 weeks ago and he just called to say he wants to bring a date to our sept wedding and I don’t know what to say to him about that…”

      I would think your brother is hurting and lonely – even if you initiate a break-up, it’s a painful thing. I don’t know you or your brother or why they broke up, but since your brother is the kind of person to be with someone in a loving, committed relationship, he might be afraid of feeling particularly vulnerable at a wedding when he’s alone and maybe recently was having thoughts of “at our wedding…”

      My advice would be to let him bring someone depending on his track record at picking people (and also to maybe re-read the thread from a couple weeks ago about whether plus ones should be allowed for people not in committed relationships).

      • savannnah

        I think in general this is great advice- but my brother and his ex were explicitly never about getting married and he is Dj-ing for the wedding as that’s his scene (so she’ll be alone at a wedding where she knows no one?) I’m just not sure he’s thought it out to bring a different woman than the one everyone is expecting him to be with at the wedding as a lot of people don’t know they have split. His ex was a much beloved member of our family and integral into our wedding planning so it’s complicated. I think I’ll tell him it’s his choice but everyone is going to be up in this woman’s face and asking him a ton of questions and that sounds like a crappy time for both of them.

        • CMT

          Sounds rough for your brother and any of his future partners that they’ll always be compared to the beloved ex.

          • savannnah

            Eh, I think its more a timing issue, I’m sure in a year my family will feel better about a new partner, but 3 weeks is rough!

    • Yael

      “The made up or outdated etiquette my curses like a sailor mother suddenly cares about.” If it weren’t for the complete lack of twins in my family I would ask if you are one of my siblings.

      • Anne

        The version of this we encountered was finding out that having a DJ (to make sure there’s a good dance party) was apparently HUGELY important to my doesn’t-dance-or-stay-up-late mom. We are not having a DJ, but knowing our friends we have zero concerns about whether people will dance.

    • S

      Off topic a little but RE: the FIL toast: I would personally take this 3 for 3 thing as the PERFECT excuse to tell him that since he’s had 2 opportunities to do a speech, maybe it would be a cute and nice thing to do to let your mother in law do it this time instead! Just to mix it up ;)

      • savannnah

        Oof. I wish! They are divorced so that’s a funky dynamic. We are trying to mitigate it by saying he can give a toast at the rehearsal dinner but I’m not optimistic. He stole a mic from my SIL at her wedding mid speech the last time and went on a long rant that highlighted the 2 years the couple was split and how sad that was…

        • penguin

          Wow, sounds like someone needs to be on keep-the-mic-away-from-FIL duty at the wedding. That’s a nightmare and there’s no reason for it.

    • Oh, that would complicate family photos. But I guess the date would not expect to be in any? I hope?

  • Alli

    I started to type out this whole thing about my dad surprising me by preparing a toast for the reception but not telling me until the rehearsal (whole fight went down, he ended up giving the toast at the rehearsal dinner instead) but then I remembered how my father acts during any other time of my life and realized I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I love him, and he loves me more than almost anything else, but he’s very self aggrandizing and the wedding made those tiger stripes extra intense.

  • Kalë

    I could make a whole long post re: the bad and the ugly. But I have already devoted so much time and energy throughout this process to the HOWs and the WHYYYYYY dear god why’s when it comes to my family, and posted here quite extensively (both as me, Kalë, and anonymously just in case) and I just don’t have enough bandwidth right now to even type it all out. I honestly just feel pretty defeated when it comes to the intersection of planning my wedding, thinking ahead to my marriage, and my family of origin. With that said, I would love to hear from others who there right now, and who have been there previously. How do you deal with planning one of the most important days of your life, and strengthen your relationship(s) during the process, when your family just doesn’t really give a fuck… or even seems to be actively trying to take away from this special time?

    • AP

      For me, it was letting go of this part that did the most good:
      “and strengthen your relationship(s) during the process”

      So much of my emotional energy during and after wedding planning was sapped by trying to force relationships to be something they weren’t. It was incredibly sad to realize that I’ll never have a close relationship with my MIL, my dad will never get over his own insecurities to be actively involved in my life, my mom will always try her hardest to steal the spotlight.

      I’m not always great at it (hello, anxiety) but working on acceptance, both for the imperfect people/relationships in my life and for my real and complicated feelings about it all, has been the strategy that helps the most. Practically, it looks like not seeking approval from people whose approval isn’t truly valuable to me, making decisions that are right for me and not worrying about what others think, letting people have the reaction they’re going to have without internalizing their reactions or trying to take responsibility for them, and then forgiving myself when everything gets too hard and I snap.

      Hugs, friend. This stuff is hard.

    • Jess

      You could probably go back to many of the planning/happy hour posts from last year and see me going through those feels in the comments.

      I think the important thing to ask yourself is which relationships do you want to be stronger through wedding planning. Then ask yourself which of those is the other person also putting in the work to strengthen it, in ways that are healthy and helpful to you.

      For me, that meant I pulled even further back emotionally from my mom (with therapy), leaned hard into my relationship with R, and asked friends to help me feel excitement that I didn’t (literally – like: hey, can you tell me I look pretty in my wedding dress? can you talk to me about how awesome flowers are?).

      I also cried a lot, so, when all else fails, do that?

    • penguin

      I’m here right now, currently planning for our October wedding. What we’ve been doing is stepping back from the people who have shown us that they aren’t supportive (MIL) and lean into the help of those who have been there for us (my grandma, my dad). Since his mom got angry and rude any time we brought up the wedding, we stopped bringing it up. We also stopped seeing them as much. I used to encourage my fiancé to see his parents more (he usually wanted to and just wasn’t proactive about planning). Now I don’t do that, and neither of us wants to see them more than we have to. A few months of that and it seems like his mom -might- be coming around. She’s asked to be more involved, and asked what we need help with. I’m going to make a good faith effort to talk to her about decorations and centerpieces, and if she throws a fit again, oh well I tried.

      Our wedding planning motto has been a combination of “fuck it, nail it” (any decision is a good decision, just make it and move on) and “nope, we don’t have to put up with that” (i.e. family drama).

    • Staria

      Lean on your friends, find the people who truly are there for you. Realise that this is important, what the ones who aren’t supporting you are telling you about themselves. Know that you’ve got this, and you’re lucky to have your partner, and the opportunity to start your own ‘baby family’ and set the tone for what you want that to be like going forward xx

  • Capybara

    The fact that my family’s been unenthusiastic has not been a surprise for me. They’ve always treated parenting as more of a duty to discharge than a wholehearted undertaking. What surprised me was my mother’s reaction when I told her that we’re thinking about getting legally married now, mostly for financial reasons. (The wedding’s in a year.) She’s very practical, so I figured she’d tell me, go for it, the legal deal isn’t The Point of your wedding ceremony. No, her first question was, “So if you get married now, will you just have a reception, no ceremony?”

    It took all my willpower to exit the conversation gracefully.

    • theteenygirl

      Don’t feel alone – this is exactly how my family felt when I told them we got legally married already (for immigration purposes). I explained to them that if we didn’t do the marriage part first, we would be separated for 9 more months minimum and it would completely break me to be apart from FH for that long. We also explained that we wanted our ceremony at the wedding to be about an emotional bond and not a legal one and yep.. apparently legal is the only one that counts in my family’s eyes.

  • Christy

    My mom surprise-paid for the entire wedding dinner! It was 22 of us at a restaurant and we were expecting to foot the $1800 ourselves and my mom stole the check! She’s not wealthy (or broke), and we’re not a check-stealing family.

  • Alexis

    I’m the first child/grandchild/cousin on my side of the family to get married, so everything has been a little… intense. At first, my parents said they would support me in throwing whatever type of wedding I wanted. They even said they’d be cool if I eloped. Sounds great, right? So fiance and I planned a more intimate destination wedding (local to us, though- we live a few states away from family) with only very close family and friends. Booked the venue, photographer, everything was going well and family seemed excited.
    Now we’re about 8 months away, and all hell is breaking loose. Suddenly the destination is a pain for everyone, plus my family is horrified at the small guest list and the fact that we aren’t having a church wedding (my family is Greek Orthodox). It got so bad that for a few days my fiance and I considered canceling what we had planned and doing a church wedding in my hometown.
    Now we’re back on track for the original wedding we wanted, but everything is turning into a fight… my mom is mad I didn’t ask my cousins to be bridesmaids, more people are added to the guest list without my knowledge, etc.
    I guess the biggest surprise was the emphasis on doing what we wanted at first, and now, months later, apparently what we wanted was all wrong. I’m not trying to upset anyone with what I’d planned, but I wish I’d realized earlier that family saying “do what you want” doesn’t actually mean do what you want.

    • jem

      Thisssss has happened a lot to us. I’ve learned that “do what you want” means “try to figure out what I want” when coming from FMIL’s lips

      • Alexis

        Yep, that’s exactly it! And I feel terrible because it means I ended up making decisions about the wedding that they said they were cool with, but later I’ll get a snide comment about it. My mom recently said during one epic fight that she’ll just “shut up and show up.” Yikes.

        • penguin

          Honestly if she says she’s OK with something, and then later decides she’s upset about it, that’s too bad so sad for her. She had her chance to speak up and she missed it – don’t feel terrible. Not that I’m bitter that someone in our lives is doing the EXACT same thing *cough* MIL *cough*

    • theteenygirl

      Heyoo first child/grandchild/cousin/friend to get married here. I told my oldest sister how difficult it was navigating being the first one to get married and her response was, “this is payback.. I had to do that my whole life” Sigh.

      • Alexis

        Ha, I’m also the oldest sibling/cousin/grandchild on my side too, so I probably should have seen it coming! Did it get easier throughout the planning process?

        • theteenygirl

          I’m actually the YOUNGEST .. but the FIRST to get married which honestly I think is worse because I’m getting the “but you’re the baby!!!!” on top of the “but you’re the first!!!”

          I’ll be honest the first six weeks of my engagement were the WORST and we nearly called off the wedding (it’s only a six month engagement anyway) so the only way for it to go was up…? I think I’ve figured out how to deal with my mother which was the biggest hurdle. At first it was, “this is what’s happening” but now it’s “this is how I want it to go, what is your opinion” and then I may or may not take her opinion into consideration. She’s chill about some stuff and NOT CHILL about others.. and it’s too hard to guess what she’ll feel about each thing!

          • lottie

            If they’re saying that to you, they’re probably also saying things like “why aren’t you married” to the older siblings…. says the unmarried older sibling who got a lot of that when my younger siblings got married… if people care about “order,” then everyone is probably getting comments about it, which in turn sucks for everyone…

          • theteenygirl

            That sucks :( They’re not getting though, luckily! I have two older sisters, one in a common law relationship who has decided not to get married and everyone was kind of like, alright that’s cool. And the other doesn’t date and again it’s more like, alright that’s cool.

            I guess my family is very chill about everything EXCEPT the actual wedding haha

    • penguin

      Oof I feel this. My fiancé’s parents started out the same way – whatever you want to do, we’re there for you! Anything you want, as long as you have the wedding you want! Then all hell breaks loose as they tell us that the date we picked (and literally had a contract in hand to sign for) was UNACCEPTABLE and we were EXCLUDING FIL’s family and how COULD we. Not to mention that they had known this date for over a MONTH at that point, and they approved it, and then they last minute realized it was the day after a Jewish holiday. Not the holiday itself, the day after. But FIL’s father (my fiancé’s grandfather) is apparently very observant, and was refusing to observe the holiday anywhere but at his home synagogue, so he’d miss the wedding. MIL threw an absolute raging tantrum over this (not FIL, and not FIL’s father, who were all very reasonable and accommodating). FIL’s father is a nice man that I’ve met one time, which was the only time my fiancé had seen him in a decade. We had no idea he was religious (no one else in their family is, as far as we know), but somehow we were supposed to know this, and also supposed to plan around him.

      It turned into a whole big thing, and since we hadn’t signed the venue contract we bumped the wedding to a weekend two weeks after that. Fiancé’s grandfather was very gracious and thankful, and he was great about it the whole time. My future MIL has been a pain in the ass ever since, and that theme has continued.

      This was on top of them telling us that it’s not a wedding if the groom doesn’t wear a tux, and there must be a seated dinner, and all this other nonsense that is REQUIRED for a wedding. /endrant sorry

      • Alexis

        Oh my gosh, that sounds extremely nerve-wracking. It’s good that a new date worked out, but still… a lot of unnecessary stress. I’m sorry you had to deal with all of that. Pleasing people is HARD, especially with situations like weddings when it really is a lot about the family, too.

        • penguin

          Thank you! Wedding planning has really been a crash course in creating and maintaining boundaries, and learning that you really can’t please everyone. We sat all immediate family down (separately) and found out any dates that wouldn’t work for the wedding, and crossed those off right away. We found a date that worked, and re-confirmed with them that it was fine. Then a month later somehow we’re the WORST and that date wouldn’t have worked all along – even though I have the chart we made showing that they approved it haha. You can’t win!

      • Jan

        Oof. Yikes. That… sucks. Not the same situation but in the vein of date-related drama: I almost had steam come out of my ears the day my future sister in law sent me all the dates that she could possibly make work for our wedding… and there were only two. For the year. I was like, “newp, not how this works sorry.”

    • sofar

      Ah yes, the “we’ll support you whatever you plan,” followed by, “OMG we just assumed you’d plan the kind of wedding we wanted.”

      • Jan

        This feels similar to Cool Bride, who is all. “Bridesmaids, I totally don’t care what you wear, just make it X color” and then freaks out over the dresses her bridesmaids pick. I saw that a lot when I worked at a bridal salon.

        • Alexis

          Not gonna lie, this was me at first!!! I told my bridesmaids to wear whatever dress they wanted, thinking that was the most low-key and easygoing thing to do. They’re already traveling for the wedding, so I felt terrible asking them to spend money on a dress I picked out. Anyway, after my MOH told me one of the bridesmaids was planning to pick matching dresses for everyone, I reconsidered haha. Now I think we’re going to do mismatched dresses in a color scheme. Sometimes no direction is waaaay worse than a ton of direction!

          • tilbury

            I made my bridesmaids a PowerPoint. It was mostly funny, but it really helped guide them – I’d like this color, this length, this material, these are the “no’s,” and here are a bunch of examples. So far it’s working out well – all the dresses they are picking are gorgeous! Black cocktail dress sounds easy, but people want instruction!

        • jem

          To be fair, I did this, and one of my bridesmaids picked a dress that was more of a bra loosely attached to a miniskirt. (I guess that counts as a surprise!)

  • Aimee

    Can I gush about my family for a minute? I haven’t had the best relationship with my parents in the past and they at one point actively opposed my relationship to my fiancé, so I was a little nervous about announcing our engagement and how they would react to things like our decision not to have a religious ceremony. They have been the best!! They are so excited for us and are really trying to make up for all the hurt in the past. They offered to cover the whole cost of the wedding and have zero demands about how things should be done (“we trust your judgement”) It’s still early in the process, to be fair, but so far they have surprised me in the best way and i feel so amazingly lucky.

    • Engaged Chicago

      I love this! My parents surprised me too. They’ve embraced my fiancé and made a lot of efforts to make it feel like two families coming together who are excited to come together. I was so nervous to get engaged for fear of family drama. Instead, it’s been lots of love. Very happily surprised

  • jem

    My uncle (famously gruff, parsimonious & unsentimental) is flying two violinists across the country to play at our wedding because he was overcome with a need to contribute to our day. Every time I call him to discuss details, he gets misty and talks about how happy he is for me and how much he loves fiancé. I’ve never seen him excited about a family function before and I’m just so flattered and grateful and flooded with family love.

    • Christy

      Oh this reminds me! I was shocked when my dad’s brother who lives across the country and whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years (1) flew out for not even my wedding but the next-day celebration and (2) gave me the largest gift of anyone (not wealthy).

      Of course, my mom’s siblings (my godparents) didn’t get me a card or present at all. My mom’s brother’s ex-wife did, at least. I was kind of surprised by my godparents.

    • Leah

      This is so lovely.

  • sofar

    Just how much people care about someone else’s wedding. Was not prepared to have nearly every social encounter for two years be an interrogation about the wedding.

    I never ask people about their weddings (unless they bring it up), so it never occurred to me people would just straight up ask me things like, “So … what are your colors?”

    • Alexis

      lol whenever someone asks me my colors I go into this weird panic, as though not having A Set Color Scheme means that my wedding and later marriage will end up in shambles. Strangely enough, that’s everyone’s first question, too!

      • sofar

        My sister advised me to answer that question with “shit-brown.” I regret that I never had the guts to do that.

        • djuna

          I’m telling people mine is “flesh tone.” At the table/linen rental company the associate asked what our colors were and my fiance lovingly gestured my way and said “knowing her, some washed out sickly skin shade.”

          • sofar

            LOL that’s probably how my husband would also describe my preference for “neutrals.”

      • ssha

        When I was younger, before I was even close to getting engaged,”what are your colors?” always mystified me as the first wedding planning question when I would overhear those conversations. Not big things like “is one or both of you moving to a new place? What are you excited about for the wedding? How are you feeling about this big step?” — then again, maybe it’s easier for people to stick to things that don’t mean as much?

        • SarahB

          I generally just laughed off the question and answered, “All of them! Or none of them… wait no, Some of them!” I’m a huge smartass, though. I tried to make it clear I wasn’t ridiculing the question, as I know lots of people are into a set color scheme, just that it wasn’t really my thing. I like colors. As far as I know, there will be some.

    • theteenygirl

      Two coworkers have straight up asked me my wedding budget. Just like, find out I got engaged and then asked the usual, “When’s the big day” “oh that’s so soon” followed by “how much is the wedding costing you?” and I’ve just been like :|

      • penguin

        Wow super none of their business! I can’t imagine asking someone that unless we were like… hella close.

        ETA: Or a total internet stranger since we ask that stuff all the time haha.

      • Jane

        That is crazy. Wedding budget info is for sharing with very close friends and strangers on the internet.

    • Katharine Parker

      I will cop to asking people about their wedding (I like weddings and find weddings interesting and weddings are an easy source of small talk), but I pay attention to people’s social cues about it. I don’t think I’ve ever been like, “tell me your colors!” but I will definitely ask, “how’s wedding planning going? Have you done any of the fun planning lately?” so we can discuss dessert tasting or dress shopping or honeymoon planning or bachelorette partying, depending on what the person considers “fun.” If someone says, “you know, we haven’t been doing much planning right now,” I’ll move the conversation along, and for people I am actually close to, I will frame the question differently, but for my husband’s coworkers, I’m going to use planning a wedding as a fairly neutral conversation topic.

      • sofar

        Oh, yes that’s totally normal. I do that too and didn’t mind when others asked open-ended questions (usually I took it as an opportunity to bitch about the wedding).

        I was just flummoxed by very specific questions followed by arguments when I didn’t give the “right” answer.

    • AhhHowDoesDisqusWork

      ugh this is the worst, and especially after. “How was your wedding?” “Well actually it was extremely painful and I’d prefer not to talk about it”

    • Kalë

      I was recently asked, by a very no-nonsense family friend: “What is your vision for the wedding?” a) what does it mean??? b) why do you care!!!

    • Anne

      Yeah I try not to bring up the wedding before other small talk, based on my own irritation with people only wanting to talk to me about the wedding for the last many months.

      Shortly after we got engaged, a guy friend of mine who usually only has brain space for his job and endurance sports asked me, out of the blue, what our colors are. When I stopped laughing all he could say was, “I thought that’s what you were supposed to ask when someone is getting married!”

    • penguin

      I wasn’t prepared to get questions like “What are your wedding colors?” within days of getting engaged. Other favorites:
      “Are you pregnant?”
      “Do you have a date yet?”
      “What’s the theme?”

  • Kaitlyn

    OH something else that surprised me was all of the old etiquette/ideas that have popped up. My mom: you’re supposed to get married where the bride is from (nah I’m good), the bride’s family is supposed to pay for the whole wedding (she was horrified when she found out J’s family was contributing financially and didn’t want them to think less of her, were paying half ourselves and have told her there’s no way we’d let either family foot our expensive wedding even if they could). J’s mom was being driven nuts by her sisters for not throwing us an engagement party and was worried I’d be upset (nah I’m glad good haha), and even she’s worried about buying a dress before my mom even though my mom will probs buy 5 and decide the morning of the wedding.

    I’m sure there’s more, but every time something like this comes up, J and I look at each other and go, “Wait that’s a thing?!”

    • Eh

      My inlaws are very traditional and many of their numerous asks were for our wedding to be more traditional. It was interesting though, they asked us to have our wedding in their hometown despite it being traditional that the couple gets married where the bride is from. They said that they got too many complaints from family that my BIL’s wedding was an hour away in the city we live in (note: my BIL/SIL live in the same town as my MIL/FIL, they just got married in the city we live in). They said that if we got married in the city we live in that his family would complain (though they would probably make the trek), but that it was unlikely they would travel 7 hours to the town I grew up in, since his extended family doesn’t travel much. We were considering venues in the city we live in but we ended up picking a venue where they live.

    • ssha

      “Wait that’s a thing??” -said in various tones- is like the mantra of wedding planning.

      • nutbrownrose

        I really want like, a musical version of this now. In the musical of having a wedding, this is the one they montage a bunch of scenes in, with “Wait that’s a thing?” cutting in periodically in ever-more-horrified tones. Someone with directing and musical talent get on this, please.

        • ssha

          I can so picture this. APW THE MUSICAL, I need it to happen.

        • ssha

          Re: these other comments, “what are your colors” would be an entire musical number.

          • nutbrownrose

            Oh, absolutely! And “I know you’ve never met these family members, but I would boycott my child’s wedding if they were not invited” also would be. Not as catchy, though. We need someone with musical skills. Can we have Lin-Manuel Miranda? He’s got exactly the tongue-in-cheek this needs. And the puns would be to die for!

          • ssha

            OMG, Lin would be perfect! I like the way you think.

  • theteenygirl

    On the bad surprise side.. I was surprised to find out that my mom basically disagreed with the way we went about getting married/having the wedding later, and the guest list, and well.. everything! She hasn’t been supportive of basically any part of the wedding, while still maintaining that yes, she is still supportive. Sigh. I can’t get into the details again without going into rage.

    On the happy surprise side.. my parents (who didn’t save a dollar for our educations and who basically stopped helping to pay for anything after we got our first part time jobs in high school) gave me a $5000 gift to put toward the wedding costs. Apparently, they’ve had it put aside since I was a baby. Nice surprise!

    • Capybara

      I’m really happy for you that you got a nice chunk of money towards a wonderful wedding, but side-eyeing your parents who decided it was important to save for a baby girl’s wedding but not her education.

      • theteenygirl

        Right?! That’s essentially what I said to them afterwards and they were kind of like.. yeah.. we know…
        It doesn’t really surprise me though because neither of them completed high school, so they didn’t expect all three of their daughters to go onto university (the oldest of which is getting her PhD in a few months!). But then they expected all of us to get married which.. is sort of funny because the daughter getting her PhD has decided to live common law forever and not get married..!

      • djuna

        Oh, so much this. My parents didn’t contribute a cent toward my education, but are overjoyed to contribute to my wedding. I told my mother that while I was thankful for the wedding assistance, I was hurt and bothered (and have been for 15 years) that I received no help through college (and certainly none through grad school, though that was more understandable). Her response? “You take everything so personally.” I mean…..

        • djuna

          I should also mention that I used a portion of her wedding money to pay off school loans/medical bills. We’re great at making a cheap party look expensive ;)

      • Ilora

        Ugh, I am so sick of hearing the “logic” that if parents pay for their children’s education then the student won’t appreciate it/learn life skills etc, but paying for their wedding is totally fine…My parents paid for my education and because of that I was in a position where I was totally capable for paying for my wedding myself! Which makes sense since I’m older/more established now than I was straight out of high school…

        • Capybara

          The “work for it so you’ll appreciate it” logic might have held water back in the day when a high school grad could realistically earn enough to pay their own way, but these days it’s a bit like telling your kid to go scavenge in the woods for dinner so they’ll appreciate it more.

  • Lexipedia

    My parents (who are definitely NOT traditional) after we sort of mentioned that we were expecting engagement within a few months told me that they would like to pay for the wedding. Very generous, and we were entirely blown away by the offer, but it has definitely led to some tiptoeing around money. I had expected them to say “here is a budget of money” and we decide how to spend it and make things fit. Instead, they have just been paying for things as we go, but not be super involved with vendors, which is making me anxious about coming to them with things like the catering quote. We’re doing this long-distance, and these things are harder on the phone, but I worry that there is going to be some point at which they are surprised by the expense and don’t tell me that it’s too much money (again, unexpectedly high catering quote).

    • Amy March

      On this I feel like you can’t solve it. If they make an open ended offer, don’t involve themselves, and then don’t even tell you when it’s too much money? They need to manage their own finances better then and I’d encourage you not to assume guilt or anxiety over that possibility.

    • Katharine Parker

      Do you have a working budget? My parents paid for stuff as it came up, but we had a budget from the start so we knew that the catering quote fit within that, etc. If at some point I had been like, “the catering is going to be $90k, they say to make the check out to cash, I’m sure it will be fine” it would have been a different conversation, but we were on the same page throughout and ended up where we thought we would when the final bill came in.

      If you’re concerned about the budget, I’d talk to them about what your projections for the total cost are going to be. If you’re not in agreement about what that will look like, you should know sooner rather than later.

      • lamarsh

        Yes, second this about creating a detailed budget with parents. We shared the cost of our wedding with my parents and my mom insisted on making a detailed spreadsheet of all costs when we chose our venue. It helped later on when the cost of something surprised my parents to point back to the original budget and show that it was actually pretty much what we had budgeted for. My parents definitely had a disconnect between what the wedding would cost generally, and then, oh, now we need to write a check out for $X.

        • Katharine Parker

          I think any wedding planning needs to start with a projected budget, either by starting with the total amount you want to spend and breaking it down or by starting with your venue/catering costs (along with other major expenses) and working outward from there. Even a budget of a million dollars is still a budget–you can’t have Rihanna perform AND get your custom Belgian glass tent, Ms Middleton, and stay on budget.

      • Lexipedia

        We do have a detailed budget, which I insisted on when they were being all wishy-washy, but a couple of things have come out above what we had hoped and are pretty much fixed costs. Like, we have two optional caterers and both have come in about $4K above what we had predicted – which is making me feel squidgy. It’s mostly labor and rentals, so it’s not like cutting the guest list by 10 people is going to get us to our ideal number. They understand, and totally had overage built in to their expectations, but I still feel squidgy about the money.

        • Katharine Parker

          If they’ve been on board with the budget and they’re telling you these over-budget numbers are fine, I’d listen to Amy March’s advice–let them choose how to spend their money. If they say original budget+4k is fine, trust them.

    • penguin

      We’re having a little of this with my fiancé’s parents. They offered to help us pay for the wedding, but then wouldn’t commit to a number. They said they didn’t want us to have to come back to them and ask for more money, which OK, but we didn’t want to plan a wedding and then find out they weren’t paying. We finally got them to talk about numbers, and they were like “just plan the wedding you want, pay what you can, and then we’ll pay the rest”. Then they threw in “but don’t go crazy, like over $40,000 or something”. Our entire projected budget was and is around $20k, so we figured that was just fine. They still refused to commit to paying for anything up front – they said that we should plan it, and then come talk to them and they’d pay it. Which made me feel gross, because I don’t want to run every financial decision through them for a veto or something, that just sounds exhausting. Fiancé finally convinced them to just pay for the reception (food, bar, etc) and that’s what we’re planning on right now.

      I really would have preferred just a number up front that they were willing to contribute, and a check, but here we are. We’re half expecting them to decide to pull all support at the last minute just to be assholes, so we’re making sure that we’re ABLE to pay for it ourselves if we have to.

  • AtHomeInWA

    “A tiger doesn’t change its stripes.”

    And this is why we are trying to postpone telling my grandparents as long as humanly possible. Like … maybe ask my aunt and uncle to sorta grandparent-nap them and a nice set of clothes. Because grandma likes large surprises, which are almost never appropriate or appreciated, and grandpa likes … being a douche.

    In related news, my parents only have two asks for our wedding. That they are invited and they get to wear clothes (nudist wedding was jokingly floated as an idea, as long as they don’t have to dress to theme). Both independently credit grandma’s “involvement” in their wedding as the reason for their hands-off approach.

    • AtHomeInWA

      That said, if anyone has suggestions on grandparent wrangling, I’m all ears.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      Hahaha. We’ve joked in the past about a nudist wedding, too. My mom likes the idea the most, just because it would freak out my dad’s side. Those stripes have certainly not changed.

    • sage

      Haha my mom too has been incredibly hands off and supportive of everything bc of my grandmother’s “involvement” in her own wedding.

    • Clare C

      My mum’s 2 asks? That she can come (so no elopement) and that she doesn’t need to do anything on the day (so she offered to foot the bill for a planner)
      Also very hands off due to Grandma drama…though we’re only getting started so from comments above perhaps I should keep one eye open!

  • SplittingHairs

    My mother volunteered to pay half of the wedding budget and anything that was over that budget was our responsibility. It was incredibly generous and DH’s parents made the same offer. My mom wanted to know where everything was going and since his parents made the same offer just split everything down the middle. I gave them an itemized budget upfront withe everything imaginable listed. The problem came when every few months my mother would come up with something she didn’t want to pay for. This was a problem because she made me split every cost in half, so if she didn’t pay for something that means his parents would take an unfair share on since they were game to pay for anything wedding related. She is also very opinionated and if she didn’t think it was right for her to pay for something then it wasn’t right for his parents to pay for it either.

    • Ilora

      That sounds incredibly frustrating! I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that.

  • Jess

    I was not surprised by my family, necessarily. I was disappointed by my mom, but in line with the ways I expected to be disappointed (see: people don’t change who they are just because it’s your wedding, or because this time you really really want them to).

    I was reminded in a lot of ways that my dad is pretty great, which wasn’t a surprise but I had forgotten. Because talking to him necessarily means talking to my mom, I hadn’t done a lot of that in recent years. We had a few private conversations about me feeling stressed by my mom or me having emotional freak outs, and I always walked away feeling better and with a plan.

    I was surprised at how well my friends showed up at my wedding, though. I had this nagging feeling that nobody was going to come, or if they did it would be to make fun of me (see: lingering grade-and-middle-and-high-school friendship scars). But they came! And they hugged me! And they had fun! Lots and lots of fun!

    I was also surprised by how much R was there for planning. Like, he was in it. He was holding my hand when I was stressed and nailed his chosen tasks and offered his opinions and generally reminded me that we were doing this whole wedding thing so we could promise to be fully equal partners. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, because that’s kind of his general approach, but I was anyway.

    • theteenygirl

      “(see: lingering grade-and-middle-and-high-school friendship scars)”

      Reading your post makes me feel so much better… I recently talked to FH about my default setting of “nobody likes me, everything is a burden, and no one is ever having fun” despite how much I’ve talked to a therapist about it. It’s all leftover from really toxic “friendships” from grades 3-12. So it’s been amazing to talk to friends and have them say how excited they are for it, and even like.. buy us gifts.. which I never expected!

    • Jane

      So glad for you that R was really being a true partner throughout the whole thing. My FH has been great sometimes but I have still 100% had to be the person who is making sure all the balls are in the air, and that is exhausting. Good for R! And, yeah, a great sign for you guys as partners.

  • Katharine Parker

    My family was my family: supportive, loving, interested in the things they cared about (no one cared about picking linens; everyone had opinions about the music), dismissive of things they don’t care about (“Katharine, no one can tell the difference between these two tablecloths”). There were definitely some moments when I was like, I cannot deal with the judgment after the decision has been made, especially the judgment of “why are you so concerned about this, no one will even notice”–I’ve spent hours choosing the best tablecloth, let me live in the delusion that it matters!

    And in the end, we all had a great night and we never need to discuss tablecloths again.

  • I had two happy surprises:
    * My mom offered to split the deposit for my wedding dress with me, and I was so happy for the help. My mom flew up for a weekend of dress shopping, and after we found THE DRESS and did all the crying, my mom surprised me and said she was paying for my entire dress! Cue my ugly crying (which I have photos of thanks to my bridesmaids) – I knew it meant a lot to my mom to be able to pay for my wedding dress for me, and I’m so thankful that she let me go a bit above budget to get the dress I absolutely loved.
    * My youngest brother went through travel hell to get to my wedding, but he made it and even did a reading at my wedding! I was worried all of my siblings wouldn’t be able to make it, but he did and looking back I’m so glad they were all there.

  • Clare

    not planning a wedding, but I think another thing that movies are responsible for is the idea that people show “their truest selves” during wedding planning (or grieving, or other major life events). And sometimes this is true. But I think more often what you are seeing is people’s coping skills- how well they are able to process/control their behaviour during highly emotional times. Some people have great coping skills, some don’t- whether because they don’t care to learn or simply because they haven’t had the practice. It doesn’t mean it is ok if people respond badly, but it can be easier to navigate their reactions if you view them as a coping mechanism rather than a true depiction of how they feel about you. It also can help when people have a reaction you really didn’t see coming- not everyone’s reaction to stress (good stress or bad) is what you may have predicted.

    • Jess

      I really love this perspective!

    • Jen

      This is a really good way to put it. While for some people this is still an extension of who they are, framing it this way does help. Some people are really bad at coping with any stress so of course it’s turned up past anything you’ve seen before for something like a wedding.

    • Katharine Parker

      Yes, wedding planning shows you what people are like when planning a wedding, which is not necessarily indicative of some larger meaning.

    • Polly

      Thank you for posting this. This is actually helping me get past a lot of the hurt feelings I’ve been holding onto from the treatment I’ve received from my mother. She’s always been really bad at coping with anything and can have an explosive temper. Everyone tells me that it’s just because she loves me and acts like I should just put up with it. After your post I realized all of her behavior is linked to her not being able to control herself and it doubly helped by you just stating “it doesn’t mean it’s ok”. I was sick of people telling me to just put up with her mental abuse since it’s “because she loves” me and “doesn’t want to let go” and “it’s only temporary, you’ll be living with your husband in just a year”. I feel like telling them that if my partner did half of what my mother did they would be telling me to leave him and the reasoning they’ve been feeding me sounds like something an abuse victim would use to rationalize staying.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Yes!!!! Another huge thing to remember is that weddings dig up a lot of feelings for people–particularly if your own life isn’t really going how you want it to, there’s nothing quite like someone else’s happy, perfect wedding to remind you of your own Babadook hiding in the basement! Obviously that doesn’t excuse horrible behavior, but the key thing there is that it’s generally not about *you*, so much as all of the unrelated baggage your wedding is reminding them of.

  • Allison

    I’ve been having lots of confusing feelings about how little my friends and acquaintances care about me getting engaged. I had a lot of anxiety about becoming “for public consumption” as a bride/during wedding planning and very very few people have commented in real life. On the one hand, that makes me really relieved, because I don’t have to perform “bride” or refuse to perform bride. On the other hand, it’s made a couple of friendships that are kind of fading out feel even more faded, AND I’m having an extremely short engagement and tiny wedding that none of my local friends are invited to. I thought I could tell them when they asked me questions about it, but no one’s asked any questions, which leaves me in the very awkward feeling position of bringing up my wedding to let them know that it’s tiny and basically no one is invited. Wedding feelings are confusing.

  • Laura C

    I kind of expected my parents to judge my wedding. They are really, really not big wedding people and I had heard my dad say things about the (very few) weddings he’d been to in recent years that indicated that he just…didn’t get why you would do it, where “it” is really have a wedding at all. So even though I knew they would try to understand why our big wedding was important, I thought it was possible they just wouldn’t be able to totally meet me where I was. But I underestimated them. They were so incredibly supportive, they not only listened to endless wedding planning talk but went with us to look at venues and had all sorts of ideas for making things easier. They handled most of the interactions with the shop that printed our StDs and invitations, making it possible for us to use a small, unionized business in my hometown. When we were working on our seating chart they suggested that since there were close to two tables of “their” people, they should just sit at separate tables so there wasn’t an A table and B table of their friends. On the morning of the wedding, my dad went to my husband’s cousin’s house to pick up the trash from the rehearsal dinner and take it to a composting facility. So many things like that.

    But most of all just the support without judgment that started at the beginning and never wavered.

    • Rose

      I was a bit similar. I didn’t exactly expect our parents to judge our wedding, really, but maybe a little bit. Both my parents and my in-laws were married in very small backyard or living room ceremonies, so I felt a bit self-conscious about having a somewhat larger, definitely more expensive wedding. But both sets of parents were excited, in their own ways, and very supportive of our wedding. Which was a pleasant surprise! I didn’t expect them to be critical to our faces, but neither did I expect the amount of enthusiasm. I never once felt judged by them. So nice!

      • Laura C

        Yeah, I mean, I didn’t expect them to be hostile or anything, but I expected some gentle questions about whether X was really necessary, or careful silences. So exactly, the amount of enthusiasm and support was a pleasant surprise.

  • Eh

    My immediate family was great. I learned a lot about the family I married into (I did not see the narcissistic family dynamic before). I was disappointed with my extended family.

    I wasn’t surprised that many of them didn’t come (we got married in October and they all had to travel a long distance). But the ones that did come did not act the best. A few years before our wedding my mom’s brother and her sister’s families got in a huge fight and they have not been civil since. They live in the same area and one of my uncle’s daughters has been known to verbally attack my aunt’s daughters if she sees them in public. The year before my wedding a cousin from my uncle’s family got married and my aunt’s family was not invited. Me and my sister traveled for the wedding (half way across Canada); even added on some time before the wedding to visit with my aunt’s family (this was not taken well by my uncle’s family). Both sides told us that they could put things aside for one day and be civil at our weddings (this was right before both of us got engaged). My aunt (and uncle) came but her children and grandchildren weren’t able to. My uncle (and aunt) came and two of his children (and one grandchild). My aunt didn’t ask for anything or inquire about the other family. My uncle’s family asked who was coming from the other family and what hotel they were staying at (and insisted on staying at the same hotel even when I suggested they stay at a different hotel), and demanded to not be seated near my aunt (I already planned that they would be on opposite sides of the venue). My aunt and my uncle were put in rooms next to each other and my uncles family through a huge party the night before the wedding (which upset my aunt, but she did not bother me with it). Also, our venue was small (we only had about 80 people) so they were in the general vicinity of each other despite being seated a far a part as possible.

    A year later, my sister got married and my uncle’s family would not RSVP until my sister told them who RSVP’d from my aunt’s family. They decided not to go to her wedding because my wedding was so uncomfortable for them (with only my aunt and uncle there, and this time my cousins and their kids were coming too).

  • AnonToVent

    Ooh fun!
    * My mother telling me about 6 weeks into my engagement “I can’t sustain this enthusiasm level for a year” when I’d only been including her in (maybe twice a week?) calls because I thought she’d want to be included. Thanks, duly noted.
    * My father calling me “bridezilla” because I did not want flowers. Actually, I have nothing against flowers, but I didn’t want the expense of a florist or the work of DIYing it. But yeah, no flowers = bridezilla.
    But…
    * Husband’s father (who has a reputation from post-divorce money issues) stepped up and paid for the whole venue! He’d agreed to 2/3 and we weren’t even counting on that in case he reneged, but bam, 100%!
    * Husband’s father and stepfather chatting side-by-side at the BBQ grill after years of not even being willing to be in the same room (see above, re post-divorce issues). My husband was so touched/relieved by how they all came together that he couldn’t speak about it without tearing up for days. :)

    • sage

      LOL I would have never thought no flowers = bridezilla… that’s ridiculous!

      • penguin

        But if she’d wanted specific flowers, I bet he would have called her a bridezilla then too. You really can’t win.

        • Jane

          You can’t. I wish we could delete that word from everyone’s vocabulary.

    • emmers

      The grilling thing is a really sweet story.

  • lamarsh

    My wedding made me really appreciate just how lucky I am to have my family. We invited 57 family members and 55 of them came, even though it involved significant travel for many of them. I had chosen to have our wedding in my home state (instead of where we live now) to be more central to them, and it was well worth it. (of my two cousins who did not come, one got sick and the other was in ROTC training and couldn’t get out.) My parents also really stepped up and helped us plan a long distance wedding which was awesome.

    My husband has a strained relationship with his family, but his immediate family was there and for the most part were fine, though his brother did manage to say some truly awful things to him in the days leading up to our wedding (in front of my family/friends). Oh and his mom told him that she liked him better when he was a baby on the day of our wedding, which was just…par for the course, really.

  • volley10

    I’m still in the early phases of wedding planning – a month in and just have a venue and officiant booked. I have a very difficult mother, who withholds approval and love, and acts like a victim. I have a overeager mother-in-law that doesn’t understand boundaries. We thought that taking charge, having a big sit down with both sets of parents, and answering any and all questions would be the adult way to do this. We are funding 90% of the wedding ourselves. Our plan seemed to backfire; everyone says it’s our day, we should do what we want, but then they strenuously push back on our desires and make us defend them to the ground. I’m surprised at how quickly we arrived at this point – only one month in to the planning process! I knew there would be blow ups, but I’m surprised at the turf battles that have already sprung up between my mother and mother-in-law. I hope to the universe that things improve, and I get better at sticking up for myself and my fiance to my family.

    • Jess

      Stay strong! Those kinds of moments can really help you and your fiance learn to come together – even if they super suck at the time.

  • Yael

    Things so far: A’s mother getting upset that we’re not planning on inviting her nieces even tho A has no real relationship with them and even offering to pay for them to attend which hits all the buttons from wedding planning with my ex (we may still invite them, but we may not. A is mostly ok either way). My father being weirdly insistent on attending the legal ceremony (happening in 3 weeks). He’s throwing us an engagement party but it’s entirely possible (based on a comment from my sister) that he’s seeing it as a reception for the legal ceremony. We are having a full religious ceremony in Jan. 2019 and he knows this. My mother telling me that she’s glad that we’re not getting married for a while because it will take her that long to be willing to be in the same place as my father (she left him). I would not be surprised if I have to uninvite my mom at some point. Neither side really gets why having a religious ceremony is important to us. And so on.

  • Liz

    I was surprised (although in hindsight, shouldn’t have been) by my mother’s dedication to being my mother, forever and ever amen, even on such an important day.

    We knew she would have an outburst at some point, and hoped it would be during the reception so it could be smoothed over. But no. Right before the ceremony began, so the ceremony was delayed and guests could hear her screaming. I had hoped she would get it together for that brief period of time, but no.

    On the other hand, my husband’s family behaved beautifully. We sat his feuding uncles on opposite sides of the room and they ignored each other entirely, keeping the peace. I was grateful that they could put aside their own rancor for that one day. I guess what I learned is that my family by marriage is better at this than my family of origin!

    • Staria

      ‘my mother’s dedication to being my mother, forever and ever amen, even on such an important day’ – going to remember this the next time my family just… bes my family. People did mostly behave themselves on my wedding day, for which I am grateful, but I was a ragged wreck from the emotional crap that was pulled throughout the year and the week before and I had to really pull myself together and detach to enjoy the day. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to yell, ‘I thought weddings were supposed to be a HAPPY FUCKING OCCASION’, isn’t it?

  • NotMotherTheresa

    The good: Dad was totally more generous than I expected! He’s always ~very~ hesitant to part with money for things that he considers frivolous (spoiler alert: EVERYTHING is frivolous with him…that’s why he’s still driving the same beat up SUV that he bought in 1996), so I really didn’t know if he’d help out much. He ended up paying for the entire (admittedly modest) reception, and, when that came in under what he’d budgeted, he actually wrote us a check for the remainder to use on ourselves!
    To be fair, I share his frugal tendencies, so it’s not like we’re talking about a $70k (or even $15k) wedding here, but still, the generosity was a very pleasant surprise!
    Also good: My bridesmaids knocked it out of the park! I didn’t have a designated MOH, which in this case, helped create a really collaborative atmosphere. At the end of the day, since there was no one designated “leader”, everyone contributed in their own way, capitalizing on the strengths and resources they had. There were definitely a few headaches along the way (there’s a reason that most projects have a designated leader), but everyone really ended up going above and beyond, and the end result was incredible! Plus, they’re all great friends now, and everyone is still raving about how we’re going to have to have bridesmaid reunions every couple of years!
    The bad: Meh, true to form, everyone still acted like themselves. Mom was still mind bogglingly self-involved. Husband still grumbled at every single expense, and acted like being told to go pick out a tie was the hugest imposition ever. Dad was too cheap to buy a new pair of khakis or a matching tie, so he showed up in cargo pants and a tie from the Goodwill. The generous but flaky bridesmaid was generous, but also flaky (sooooo many awkward texts sent reminding her of boring logistical things, like the need for a dress). The neurotic perfectionist bridesmaid was a neurotic perfectionist, which lead to roughly 4,000 panic attacks on my end worrying that she was right about the need for matching underwear or identical hairstyles.
    Having survived several previous weddings as a bridesmaid, I knew going into things that the tigers wouldn’t change their stripes, so I purposely kept my expectations nice and low. Believe me, low expectations are the key to keeping one’s sanity!!! As it was, I mostly felt humbled how wonderful everyone was…however, if I’d gone into it expecting the tigers to turn into leopards, we’d have a dead zoo right now:)

    • Amandalikeshummus

      Matching underwear?? I don’t think the Rockettes even do that.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      The one real surprise: How difficult the in-laws were!

      The husband and I had been together for years before we got married, and I’ve always had a super great relationship with my MIL. His whole family has always been super supportive of our relationship, and MIL has generally been pretty loose with the purse strings.

      However, I heard soooo much grumbling from the MIL about how much I was spending on the wedding! Mind you, this was an incredibly modest wedding, and I never asked her to contribute a dime. Still, at any mention whatsoever of the wedding, she’d act like we were plotting to sell her kidneys to finance one of those $500k weddings they feature on TV. I cannot count the number of times she talked about what a waste of money the whole thing was going to be!

      In retrospect, I think a lot of it came down to nervousness and differing tastes. She’s very introverted, she hates the spotlight, and she tends to chafe at the thought of much pomp and circumstance. Also, she’s very well aware of her family’s shortcomings, and I think she was afraid that that a big church wedding would be putting everyone’s skeletons on public display.

      As it turns out, I think I was making everything worse by trying to help her feel *included* and *special*. She didn’t want to be *included* in the fun, frilly aspects, nor did she want to be honored in any special way–she wanted to be left as far outside the spotlight as humanly possible! In fact, the thing that helped the most was handing off a few of the boring grunt tasks to her, like printing invites and picking up the cake–those glamour-less tasks that my parents hate to touch with a 70 ft. pole are exactly the kind of things that make her feel involved in a ~good~ way! She ended up being super helpful, and raving that it was one of the nicest weddings she’d ever been to.

  • penguin

    Oof we’ve had some surprises.

    Good:
    -My dad, who was unemployed for a stretch after we got engaged, and almost never has any sort of financial cushion, handed me a check for $7,000 for our wedding. He told me that he’d decided to start selling some of his collectibles, and this was some of the money from that (side note, I never knew how much of that he had built up). This is HUGE for me and my fiancé, because now if his parents last-minute decide to not pay for the reception after all, we’ll be able to. If they do pay for it, this will be almost enough to pay off my student loan balance. I told my dad he didn’t have to do this, and he wouldn’t hear another word about it. I’m so grateful, and so surprised.

    Bad:
    -All of the drama with my in-laws, well documented over the past few months. MIL and I had been pretty close before this, with frequent emails and going Christmas shopping with just us. She’d taught me how to sew, and I was starting to consider her family. Then we go from that, to her throwing a HUGE tantrum over the wedding date we’d picked and decided to go straight to the nuclear option instead of just… using her words like an adult. Somehow the wedding date became all my fault, even though fiancé and I chose it together, and had her APPROVE it like a month before the whole blow-up. She immediately jumped to saying that we were excluding family, and it was unacceptable, and they were so disappointed, and on and on. We ended up changing the date, and somehow that still didn’t resolve it. She was still being nasty to us, and uninvited us from a holiday dinner at their house. She last minute re-invited us, and I decided not to go. Fiancé was fine with this and went by himself (we talked about it and agreed that would be best, since it was his parents not mine). She took this as a personal snub, and sent my father a nasty email saying that he was a bad parent. Fiancé and I both told her in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable, and she (to our faces, in person) said that that wasn’t how she meant it, so she wasn’t sure why we were all so upset. She repeatedly said that we must have read something else into it, even though we all (me, fiancé, my dad, and my brother) read it the exact same way. She basically said “I’m sorry you’re upset”, and never really apologized. Surprise surprise, things haven’t ever really been the same.

    • Yael

      Go dad stepping up!

      • penguin

        Right! I was so surprised and just so touched. It’s literally like more than half of all the money he has in the world, and he gave it to me without a second thought.

  • idkmybffjill

    Ooof.
    The bad:
    – Expectations for people to be invited with whom I wasn’t even aware my parent was close to? And who she listed as “maybe” on her tiered guest list. (My stepmom’s cousins who I’ve met once…. and who are legion). I told her early on we’d be just choosing the must haves and so was SHOCKED when my dad called to ask why the weren’t on the list we’d sent over to approve the STDs.
    – I really thought my mom would show up for me like she always always had basically all the way through college. She was needy and helpless and occasionally rude to people. It embarrassed and saddened me deeply.
    – My MOH almost wasn’t able to come because she forgot to put our wedding as a conflict for a show she was in
    – The Best Man had to leave and come back right after the ceremony, and also miss the rehearsal dinner because he ALSO forgot to put us as a conflict.

    The good:
    – My brother who is 12 years younger felt like a true true sibling. He helped me wrangle parents and it was really incredibly special.
    – My husband who I was worried would act weird about my sentimentality returned it tenfold and I felt so incredibly loved and treasured by him.
    – My MIL really kind of nailed it in the self sufficiency department, which I was really not expecting.
    – My Dad and Stepmom both were such incredible hosts to their out of town friends and my husband’s family – took every opportunity to make everyone feel abundantly welcome.

    • NolaJael

      Woof, MOH *and* Best Man flaked on the scheduling?! Wow.

      • idkmybffjill

        I know. And almost a year apart too! MOH flaked, immediately realized her mistake and fixed it. Best Man flaked, and didn’t realize until he was in rehearsals. Luckily with how his timed out, we genuinely didn’t even miss him (it was a short show). But it was for sure a 1-2 punch.

        I blame that particular surprise on the woes of a long engagement.

  • PNW

    Man – lots of shocked-but-not-surprised feelings have been coming up for me… Mostly under the ‘people don’t change just because you’re getting married’ file.

    My mother – probably partially because of her own wedding experience and partially because of weird, WIC tropes that are everywhere – was so hands-off in the beginning that it became an exercise in frustration attempting to get her to give an opinion/idea/sentiment about anything. This is a complete 180 from her normal personality, so she had clearly gotten it in her head that she wasn’t going to be a ‘crazy MOB’. Ironically, this is entirely in line with her normal MO of taking things about 3 miles farther than necessary (see above re: tigers don’t change their stripes) so again – upon reflection not surprised. Finally I told her to cut it out and that I had never had an issue standing up to her, I also wasn’t going to start now. She mostly got over it, and it’s been good.

    Future in-laws – again, shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but throw in money stuff (which, in the past, we *very deliberately* avoided having these folks and issues of cash intersect) and they’ve found new and creative ways to be shitty. My only saving grace is after this is dealt with (there’s issues of an inheritance involved) we have vowed to NEVER talk to them about money again – it’s just too dysfunctional. But again – really shitty as my partner had really hoped that this was the time they would show up. We remain, as ever, Charlie Brown and the football.

    A bridesmaid – this one is actually both shocked and surprised and disappointed. I thought this lady would be allll over this experience, but she’s apparently been AWOL for any sort of other wedding event planning (a very low-key shower, a probably low-key bachelorette) which makes me annoyed on behalf of the other women who picked these pieces up (one of whom lives in another state – and is an articling student so, you know, boatloads of time on her hands – she not only flew in, but basically planned the shower from there). She also neglected to get a dress yet – wedding’s in six weeks. I’m not yet panicking about but have definitely moved past mild concern. Especially since they were given parameters a year ago and it was gently suggested that fall/winter would be the best time to look for something as, generally speaking, coppers and bronzes are trickier to find in JULY! I suspect it’s an issue of wanting to find *the perfect* dress, and I do think only good intentions are behind it but now I’m wondering OK, when do I say drop perfect and just pick something… Do I wait and maybe once fall things start rolling out in a month there will be more options, or do I say sorry hun, you’ve passed the good/cheap part of the venn diagram and now are in good/fast – pick something now. Fortunately finances are not an issue here, but I also am done feeling guilty about that as the other women found dresses they loved for under $100, so the option was certainly available.

    Whew. Apparently I needed to get some stuff off my chest :

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Oh man, just chiming in to reassure you on the dress front, because geez louise did I go through that with my bridesmaids! I’m pretty sure one bridesmaid ended up waiting until like, the week of to buy her dress.
      But, at the end of the day, nobody showed up naked, so that was just one of those areas where I had to let adults be adults, and bear the natural consequences of their actions (i.e. overpaying for a dress that she didn’t really like).

    • Amy March

      If you’re letting them pick their own dresses, assume she will figure it out.

    • Katharine Parker

      You have two options on the bridesmaid’s dress front–one, let it go entirely and decide not to be concerned with what she wears, assuming she will figure it out and it will be fine; two, email her three dress options and tell her to order one as the wedding is in six weeks and she needs time for alterations.

    • Anne

      My mom did the same boomerang thing. I think she was working hard to refrain from being her usual somewhat-controlling/formal-event-planning self (she manages people and plans fancy corporate events as part of her job, and is very good at both of those things), so she was excessively hands-off but then would periodically fail massively and come up with a crazy plan for some aspect of the wedding that made no sense for FH and I. We had one particularly large dispute and, similar to you, we’ve mostly equilibrated since then, for which I’m very grateful. She is pouring her energy into redecorating my parents’ house, planning the most excessive day-after brunch, buying new formalwear for my dad and brothers, and restricting herself with respect to the main wedding planning to mostly-helpful questions/suggestions and some help communicating with vendors.

    • april

      I would try to let the bridesmaid’s dress thing go. It’s the Internet age, after all – there may be fewer options in the bronze/copper color palate at the moment, but they’re definitely out there and most can be shipped to her door overnight. There’s always ‘Rent the Runway’ too. So take a deep breath and repeat to yourself “this is not my problem” – unless she’s a total idiot, she will find something to wear in time for the wedding.

    • somanypseudonyms

      this is probably not what you want to hear, but going to chime in to disagree with the other commenters and say: I was in the same boat with a bridesmaid, and she did NOT get it figured out, so now among my other wedding-week tasks is ordering five dresses off of amazon to my home for her to try on the day she arrives (afternoon two days before the wedding) in the hopes that something works. Gently finding out what’s going on might not be a bad idea.

  • Jane

    I feel a little bad for my big sis because I think my side of the family got all of its wedding drama and irrationality out of its system at her wedding and right now, every member of the family is just being like the best version of themselves, in big ways and in little ways. Plus they really get what throwing a big wedding involves, and have done everything to make that easier. So, like, my parents just gave me a check for their, very generous, contribution to the wedding right at the start of planning so I would know exactly what I had and not have any cash flow issues.

    And my dad and step-mom have stepped up with helping my siblings from their part of the family afford airfare and accommodations – because, even though they’re all adults, none of them have a lot of money to spare and they live on the other side of the country.
    But also, my parents and siblings have just been willing to talk about everything and supportive of every little decision along the way – while offering helpful logistical and “what grown ups might think” feedback. It’s just been so much more than I expected.
    To top it off, my niece, who is going to be my ring bearer, got excited about my suggestion that she sew a pillow for it and really ran with it. She finished it this weekend and I love it and her and my sister and everyone. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8eef8cc3e72f75e184135f0e47e00cbc95f4c1ff821509c753cc088aa53935c.jpg

  • JC

    My boyfriend’s dad is a judge, and after he officiated his sister’s wedding (so my FAunt), he said he could never officiate his sons’ weddings because he would be too emotional and not make it through the ceremony. He’s said this for YEARS. Come to find out, when boyfriend’s brother got engaged, that he really, really wants to be the officiant, and he didn’t share that hope with anybody. He just assumed he’d be asked, while everyone else assumed (given years of previous conversations) that he didn’t want to be asked. Cue knock-down-drag-out fight over brother’s “disrespect” in a completely non-related argument that was 100% projecting anger from this unspoken misunderstanding. Glad to just be witnessing these surprises so that we can anticipate them when our turn comes!

  • Cdn icecube

    Kinda surprised about the money thing to be honest. I never expected my parents or my FI’s parents to pay for the whole thing but I guess I thought that they would contribute something. But now that it’s time to talk about it FI’s parents aren’t contributing a dime towards our wedding. Which stings a bit because they had no problems spending thousands of dollars to attend and participate in FI’s brother’s international reception.
    It generally doesn’t bother me too much (because it’s not like I can change it), but it makes me immensely jealous of my friends whose parents have set aside sums of money for their kid’s weddings where as we have to wait a bunch of years to be able to afford our wedding.

    • Staria

      I really feel you. My husband has two sisters and I thought his family were really progressive but as the years go on I see how the sisters are supported more financially – they seem to have this idea that as my husband is male and his sisters are female that he somehow requires less support and his sisters need more. His parents essentially paid for a top end wedding for one sister, so I thought it would be fine to ask them if they would contribute for anything for our wedding (ie not the majority of the wedding like his sister, which his mum also organised FOR his sister, just a contribution). No. Apparently everyone was very offended that we would even ask. It made me grateful for the financial support my parents gave (emotional support was non existent, but I got that from my friends, at least). It was also a bit of a struggle financially for me as there were costs I thought his family would cover (we got married on their family wedding venue, which was being built and ended up not being finished) that added up. I expected to contribute the majority of costs ourselves, but it was more like, I thought we would pay 50-60% and then the rest would be split between our parents. It ended up being that my parents covered about 25% and we did 75%. I did cut some costs but it was hard with the ones that popped up at the end – they were things I had thought his family would cover as part of the venue and then they asked me to pay for them.

      • Cdn icecube

        I’m sorry to hear that sexism (among other things) played such a part in financing your wedding. I grew up with a parent who split things down to the penny when giving gifts to make sure everything was fair so to hear your story is really sad. I don’t get why people get offended when people ask about money for weddings. Yes, there is a difference between saying “hey, at our wedding you’re paying for flowers and those are $50,000” and “hey, we are putting out budget together and were wondering if you wanted to contribute in some way”. But DAMN. People get pissed if you don’t ask and pissed if you do.

  • mjh

    Maybe I’m in the minority with this, but there were no familial/behavioral surprises in the time leading up to my wedding or on the actual day.

    Even though it was the first/only wedding for both of our immediate families (spouse is an only child and there’s no sign yet that marriage is in the cards for any of my four brothers), everyone behaved exactly the way I’d expect they would in the circumstance. For better or worse, everyone was as supportive or selfish, thoughtful or thoughtless as always.

    There was a big, not in anyone’s control, unexpected circumstance that happened to occur right by the wedding which brought unexpected issues into the equation (discovery of a tumor on a very close family member right before the wedding, and sudden surgery to remove the tumor two days after the wedding). There was a lot that came from that and it wasn’t anything we’d prepared for, but even so, all the actions people took in that situation were what one would expect if you know them and know how they act in scary situations.

  • Jenny

    I was surprised by how much people’s behavior around our wedding seemingly altered our relationships with people permanently (or for 5 years and counting), both in good ways and bad. There were people who traveled the distance to celebrate even though we were new friends. These have turned into great friendships. There were people who RSVP’s, and who we saved a room in the lodge for (space was limited), who just showed up and left before dinner was even served, and a few people who RSVP’s and either told us day of that they weren’t coming (uh dude this was a plane ride away + a 2 hour drive, I feel like if that wasn’t in the works a week ago, you could have told us you weren’t coming), or just didn’t come and never mentioned it. The family member who freaked out when she got to our venue and told my husband she was going to tell everyone not to come (still unclear why, it was lovely, signage was fine). The family member who told us they would pay for the welcome dinner (pizza and salad for 100 people), then told us that because they’d overspent on the wedding shower they threw for us (which we had to spend $$$ on to get there because it was thrown in their hometown, not ours, and which was planned after they said they’d contribute to the welcome dinner) so they could only give us 300 dollars (this was after we’d already invited everyone). The family member who greeted us the morning after our wedding, not with a hello, good morning etc, but with a oh my gosh, you should have seen the mess in here this morning (shame on you tone of voice). Our wedding was at a lodge/retreat, and some people had stayed up the night before after we’d gone to bed and I guess drunkenly made a mess in the kitchen in the main part of the lodge (where we were not staying). Soooo, not sure what we were supposed to do about it.

    Our wedding was really the first time I’d been involved with planning something with my husband’s side of the family, so I was constantly surprised by things that I though were norms (like if I tell you to look over the guest list by x date and send me any additions and addresses, and remind you about it 3-4 times before that date, and send an email confirming that this is fine, I assume that you will not call in a panic 3 weeks before the wedding asking why D and J weren’t invited). How everyone behaved gave us a lot of good information going forward for things like planning family trips home etc. So a lot of that stress at least had a decent outcome.

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  • Rose

    The biggest surprise for me was actually my uncle and aunt who I did not invite, for various reasons that boil down to a consistent, decades-long lack of respect for everyone in my family, particularly targeted at my mom. Uncle is a highly manipulative person, who seems really pleasant until he’s trying to destroy your relationships. My parents don’t talk to them pretty much ever, and I have a fairly distant relationship with them, and also sadly with my cousins. So I didn’t invite them. And then waited with bated breath.

    And both my uncle and aunt sent short, pleasant messages of congratulations when they found out we were engaged, and then again shortly after the wedding (I’m friends with my aunt on facebook, although she’s not on much, so there is some information flow). They gave us a present when I saw them briefly that following Christmas. There was no passive-aggressiveness, no snide remarks, nothing nasty said to my sister when I was out of the room, nothing mean about my wife. . . I don’t think that my uncle has changed in the essentials, and I definitely stand by my decision not to invite them (although tbh I would have invited just my aunt and cousins, if I could have), but it was nice to be pleasantly surprised.

  • Jan

    My family has surprised me by being surprisingly chill about the whole thing. They are all loud and judgmental and I was really expecting to have to deal with all that. But they’ve somehow been super down with us just doing our own thing. They are happy to help out when I ask them to, and are equally happy to just sit back and let this wedding thing shake down however it’s gonna shake down. I continue to be amazed.

  • ML

    My younger brother did a BALLER reception speech, spoken word style and welcoming my new husband to our multi-cultural family. It was unexpected and beautiful. Star of the night.

  • Sierra

    With my people there are some I should have just known their natures wouldn’t change and others I was genuinely surprised, but know I shouldn’t have been. My family has always been extremely right wing christian, both sides. And I’m marrying a woman. But they’ve been pretty loving toward her while still making sure I never really thought they were fully accepting. But I hoped that the wedding would change their minds or at least they’d shut up and fulfill their roles because they love me and don’t want to rock the boat too much. But nope. 1. I had a bridesmaid, my oldest friend, drop out because her mom convinced her that God would be writing it down in his judgement book or whatever that she loved and supported her friend and apparently their god thought that was a bad thing or something. 2. My sister and I aren’t super close as adults because of a huge falling out we had, but despite her own bisexuality she won’t let her daughter be my flower girl and neither of them will be attending. My niece was the flower girl in my step sister’s wedding earlier this year which just… drives the knife in further. 3. My mom and I have had like 3 huge huge fights about everything because she won’t stand up for me with my sister and whenever I bring it up she just tells me “you have to understand” and I just don’t. 4. Just this weekend my dad ambushed me at home when I wasn’t expecting it to let me know he had a change of heart and would not be walking me down the aisle and he was pulling my 14 year old brother from the wedding party. Wedding planning has been the most heartbreaking experience of my life. I don’t want to be someone holding onto grudges because of one day, but I don’t think that’s what this is. I think these things are all things that are going to be very hard to move on from. I’ve been deeply wounded by every single person in my immediate family.

    On the BEST AND BRIGHTEST NOTE I have the best future in laws. They’ve been so helpful and so loving and accepting and I am so thankful for them. My other bridesmaid has been so great too. She showed up at my door after my dad pulled that with pizza and beer and stayed with me the rest of the day until my fiancee came home from work. I made a new friend through a fb bridal group and we’ve hung out a few times and we’ve been talking so much and she just agreed to be my bridesmaid, too. And my fiancee has just proven to me so much that she is the best choice I have ever made. She’s shown me so much unconditional love and reminds me every day about how bright our future is. I’m so glad I’m taking her last name.

    • Yael

      I’m so sorry.

    • Lexipedia

      That is just so, so awful. I’m so sorry you have to deal with all of that BS when you are trying to celebrate the love between you and your soon-to-be wife. It’s great that you have awesome FILs and that you can lean on them, and I hope that you really do have a wonderful wedding day with your chosen family who loves and respects you. Best wishes to you and your fiancée!

    • suchbrightlights

      I’m so sorry for the hurtful reaction from your family of origin and I’m thankful for you that your family by marriage has been so welcoming. Wishing you and your fiancée many happy years together.

    • Henri

      So many huge hugs for you. And I am giving your family and oldest friend a huge amount of judgy side-eye, because they are behaving shamefully.

  • Staria

    My brother pitched an absolute fit over us saying we wouldn’t have children at the wedding, yelling, screaming, the works. The worst bit was my parents, instead of telling him to be calm, fed into his upset and tried to do the convince-me-to-have-kids-at-the-wedding. I didn’t mind having some, but we just couldn’t invite every child to begin with – they would have been a quarter of the guest list and we would have had 25 kids under 5 at the wedding. So we did have a few kids in the end, but everyone else managed to ask nicely / was from interstate and couldn’t get babysitting (my brother and sister in law are local and had access to ample family members to babysit).

    He continued to throw tantrums (this is a grown man – he was 32 last year) the week before the wedding, with my sister in law ringing me 8 times and sending 27 texts in one day, five days before the wedding. Not offering to help, not asking how I was, apparently trying to explain to me why my brother was having so many problems (she was a bridesmaid). I got what she was trying to do but I literally did not have one hour to spare to listen to it all – I didn’t get more than five hours sleep any night that week, I was trying so hard to get everything done before the wedding. My mother, tired of the fighting, instead of telling my brother to pull his head in, said to me ‘He’s suffering more mentally than you right now, you know’. (This mental suffering magically disappeared once the wedding was over.)

    Even though he ‘got his way’ and had my nephew at the wedding in the end (and I was ok with that – my problem was always my brother’s abusive behaviour) our relationship, which wasn’t great before, has worsened. In the past I’ve always tried to smooth things over but this time my brother broke my heart.

    It sucked for my brother to be awful like that and want all the attention when I was the one getting married, but I have amazing friends who were there for me while my family were wrapped up in their own problems. So there’s that.

    • YummieYummie

      Dude… this is my nightmare. I’m the youngest of five with a huge age gap, so all of my siblings and cousins (my mom has eight siblings on her own) have kids. Even some of the kids have kids! Most of them are really young, and everyone is local so our guest list would be comprised of about 50 kids under 18 if we don’t go the child-free wedding route…and that’s not including any kids on my fiance’s side! I have no idea how to even begin bringing up the child-free idea to my family, but having that many children at a wedding just doesn’t seem feasible.

      • Amy March

        “Are you offering to pay for the 50 children? No? Then bye.”

      • Staria

        You just have to be clear on your vision, take a deep breath, and dive in, YummieYummie. APW had actually been really helpful for my own thinking, in terms of: Getting married is a point in your life where you have to really start doing what’s best for yourself, your partner and your ‘baby family’ going forward. Because otherwise your boundaries and feelings will continue to be trampled forever, if your family are boundary-tramplers, and most are in some way.

        Something that helped us was our venue – if you pick a non-child-friendly venue, people understand better (ours was on a farm next to a high-speed road and no secure fencing); also if you have a night-time-party wedding. However, we had a daytime wedding, and quite a few of the parents invited actually thanked us for that and said it made babysitting easier – it was a case of dropping the kids off at 9am pre wedding and picking them up at 4pm, which is more like a normal day at Uncle’s house or at daycare, rather than having to pay night time babysitter rates and have sad kids missing their parents at bedtime.

        You may also have to be like us and issue an initial ‘no we’re not inviting children’ and then make a few exceptions and expect there to be grumblers. I did make an exception for breastfeeding mothers / mothers of under 12s – there were five babies under 12 months. Two of those were babysat in the end though. Both my husband’s sisters insisted on bringing their 1 yo and 6 month old children, ok the 6 month old was breastfeeding but they also had babysitting as an option (as opposed to others who didn’t). However all the parents who got babysitting lived it up childfree and my sisters in law spent the day rushing around trying to keep their babies out of the sun.

        The other thing you can do is get a venue with onsite babysitting, or hold a ‘children’s sitting’ if you’re having a ‘weekend getaway’ type wedding and have kids’ dinner at 5.30pm and adults’ reception at 7.30pm.

        Ultimately it also depends on the ages of the kids. Above about age 6 it’s a different proposition. Most of our friends had very young kids and I didn’t want to have essentially a kindergarten class worth of kids at our wedding.

        Another thing I learnt – for me friends respect my boundaries; my family (and my partner’s family) to an extent don’t, they feel free to say things like ‘You don’t mean that’. So you might be surprised by how some people react. Best of luck xx

  • Anonymous

    I was surprised more by my future husband’s family than my own. My family was utterly overinvolved in a way that only comes from neurotic love. His family just failed at the basics of showing up. His parents had zero interest in planning or even hearing about anything wedding related, large parts of his extended family aren’t coming for no reason and most painfully his grandparents decided they weren’t up to travel after all. If they’d said that from the get go I might have been more understanding but bailing 6 weeks out after saying for a year that they were totally coming hurt my fiancé so much. It was heartbreaking to witness and I was so furious that they were so cavalier about missing their first grandkid getting married.

  • suchbrightlights

    This is the opposite of a problem from a planning perspective but I’m surprised my future MIL isn’t one iota interested in being involved in the anything. She is a lovely and kind woman with a deep interest in her children’s lives and from the enthusiasm she shows towards her family and many other life events I thought she would probably have more opinions. She has none, which, well, I also have no opinions on other people’s weddings. She may be a little intimidated by my very involved and very DIY capable mother- my mom (and I) can have that effect on people when in the Competence Zone. I hope she’s just doing a “do my thing and let the kids do theirs” and it’s not a reflection of something I’m missing.

    Should probably count my blessings as I was out with my cousins last weekend and my cousin in law reminded me of the difficulty she had in planning a wedding that felt true to her and my cousin, while also trying to avoid the WWIII that would have come of disagreeing with my aunt’s different vision. Shall we say my aunt is enthusiastic, and leave it at that? (They had a beautiful wedding that felt very “them”.) Reading through the commentariat I’m grateful that I have a “surprise” that isn’t a “problem!”

    • Lexipedia

      I’m also surprised at my FMIL’s pretty nonexistent interest in participating. Our email chain post-engagement included me telling her that I’d love to include her in anything she wanted to participate in and she was very excited. She also said she was especially touched as a “mother of sons” that I really wanted to give her space to participate in the “girly stuff.” She’s on the other side of the country, but my parents are far away too, so it’s not like my mom and I are having meetings with vendors together.

      But other than compliments on the dress I chose, it’s been like pulling teeth to even get information on things we actually need opinions on like her family’s guest list and contact info, the officiant (their family friend), anything about the rehearsal dinner they want to host…

      Similarly to you, my mom and I are very close and I’m wondering if that makes her reluctant to engage. She is very introverted and she may see requests for participation as “butting in”

    • Henri

      This is also my FMIL, so much so that I was actually really excited that she sent FH 4 texts in a row upon receiving the invitation in the mail. I was thinking, “Rad! She does care!”
      I had him ask her and FFIL *three times* what they cared about, what they wanted to see, etc. and . . . nothing. Which is great and deeply confusing for me (from the Family of One Billion Opinions).

      • suchbrightlights

        I think you’ve nailed down why this is still subconsciously bothering me even though I know intellectually that this is just her not having an opinion, not a passive aggressive Correspondence on the State of our Union. My family is all of the options and shows investment by collaborating. That’s probably not true to the extent I thought it seemed to be in MIL’s. So thanks for the perspective!

  • Caitlin

    The bad:
    – My Mum: Generally we get on well. We are both very organised people and so that works well for us but with wedding planning something seems to have broken. She’s simultaneously trying to fill the “Chill MOB” idea and being hurt that I’m not involving her more. I am trying to involve her (we went dress shopping just the two of us because I knew it was important to her even though I would rather have taken my friend who understands me best for a quiet trip) but I feel like I’m getting a lot of passive agressive hits. For example, when we were talking to a friend of hers and the friend said how lucky my Mum was to be involved in so many weddings (step-son, daughter, step-daughter) her response was to sigh and say “Mothers really don’t get any say in weddings these days, brides do it all themselves”. (My response “and grooms” without looking up from the list I was making). She also said “What was brilliant about getting married the second time was that no one felt that they could butt in with their opinions, why can’t it be like that the first time round?!?” right before launching in to a tirade of things I simply must do.
    – Random strangers: Everything from “You must be looking forward to being Mrs X!” to “Sweating for the wedding!” when I am at the gym.

    The good:
    – My fiancé: He’s been equally as involved as I have been. As the planner of the family, I worried that I would be doing all the leg work and he would be just dropping in the odd opinion, but he has been stepping up to take on all sorts of things. From designing the invitations to insisting that he will be taking the first pass at the table plan because he knows that it is going to stress me out.
    – My Dad: He’s done a lot of good things over the years (from buying a book on ladies fashion so that he could understand what me and my sister we talking about to having an incredibly awkward conversation after I turned 16 about how having sex was my decision and nothing to be ashamed of as long as I was safe) and some not so good (saying “Maybe if you and your sister had been boys it would have been me staying home and your Mum working away.”) but with the wedding he has been great. He insisted that we didn’t pay for our wedding. He gave us a starting point, and said that if we needed more we should come to him. When I told him that I wouldn’t be asking him to do a speech or walk me down the aisle, he was completely relaxed and said that our wedding sounded like it reflected us perfectly. Instead, he is writing us a poem, like his Dad did for his wedding to my Mum.
    – Our guests: The number of people who are thrilled to be coming to our wedding is amazing me. I have a fun quirk where I genuinely don’t expect people to want to do things for me or even to remember me and so I’ve been very excited by each and every RSVP.

  • I have mixed feelings about my family’s involvement. My sister got married last July, and they hosted the reception on their small holding. The wedding was over two days with most guests camping, so there was a lot of infrastructure to build. Everyone pitched it, especially in the week beforehand and the wedding was fabulous. And there’s enough leftover homemade cider that we’re still drinking it now.

    (hard cider, to Americans – we only have hard cider!)

    J and I live at the opposite end of the country, and we knew we wanted something local to us for our wedding. It’s more traditional, with a venue and caterers and all that ‘traditional’ jazz. I know, rationally, that my parents can’t leave the smallholding for long periods and that my desire to have an event that they could just relax and enjoy means they’re focusing on just the event, nothing around it, but it kinda stings when my mum says “we’ll drive up on thursday, but stop at my sister’s overnight, then hopefully get to you on friday night, wedding on saturday and drive home first thing sunday morning”.

    C had your full attention for 12 months, with weekly check ins; the Christmas before was all about sewing bunting and making cider and digging septic tanks, and we all pitched in and had a great Christmas DIYing stuff. We came down a week early to paint compost loos and build eco showers for the guests – J and I had bought our first house and it had been my 30th birthday just before, but all that was swallowed up in wedding prep. My wedding feels like an inconvenience to be worked round, to try and find a way to squeeze it into a weekend so no one needs time off work and combined with other social obligations. It doesn’t help that they’re bringing my sister and BiL with them, so they’ve got the same tight turn around and my sister will miss out on anything bridesmaidy I might have planned in the run up.

    It feels like my parents view my wedding as one they’re just guests at, same as they would a second cousin’s or family friend’s, while my sister’s was one they had a stake in. And I know, rationally, that’s because they did have a stake in my sister’s wedding in a way they don’t mine because they were hosting it (and benefiting from the work done in the long term, too) but I’d kinda like them to pretend? I can’t really think of anything I can ask them to do – they can’t make booze for my wedding, because the caterers don’t allow outside alcohol, and they can’t DIY bunting because we have minimal time to decorate the venue (it’s open to the public during the day, so decorations are table only and to be put out by the caterers), and god knows we don’t need them to build toilets from scratch!

    I’m just having an “It’s not fair” tantrum because we also put in a similar level of work for my mum and step dad’s wedding (which was had at a village hall, so no compost loos, but we did all of the catering ourselves and again it was the same week as my birthday, so that only got a brief nod – July birthdays kinda suck) and in trying to make life easier for everyone by picking a convenient date and an all inclusive venue we’ve pushed people away. Just because it’s not physical work doesn’t mean planning our wedding isn’t work too, and we don’t need support? I know that I just need to woman up and ask them if I want them to come up earlier, but part of my is scared that they’ll say no and not understand why I’m asking, and that’s worse.

    • TL:DR version – my family have a tradition of self-catered DIY weddings where everyone rocks up and pitches in, and I’m having a more traditional wedding at the other end of the country, and it feels like people are placing less emotional value on the wedding as a result.

      • ssha

        I’m so sorry, that sounds very painful.

    • Cdn icecube

      I’m just here to say that your feelings aren’t unfounded and it makes sense why you would feel the way that you do. If your parents can’t help with physical stuff (decorating etc) why don’t you ask them to help with other things? Maybe try to get their input on the menu or have them help wrangle RSVPs? I can understand feeling like you’re second fiddle to your sister and maybe you need to tell them how you feel.
      “Mom, Dad, i understand that because of the homestead you’re not able to spend a lot of time out here for my wedding. But you’re making me feel like it is a big pain to attend my wedding. I understand that this may/may not be the case, but this is how your comments make me feel. For that reason i would really appreciate it if you came up early/didn’t stay at your sisters/helped with e,y,z etc”.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        I would say something similar, but with the first attempt to express this with more emphasis on, “I know I’m having a different kind of wedding than Sister, but I’d really like to find more ways to include you in the process of planning it. That’s important to me.” See if they step up and sound interested, before putting them on the defensive by telling them that they’re making her feel neglected. It might be a know-your-people kind of conversation.

    • Katharine Parker

      I would say two things. One, people aren’t going to say “that was pleasant” and leave early. They’re going to think how special and beautiful and exciting it was to be at your wedding, and they’ll enjoy that it is different from your sister’s or your mother’s weddings. Your wedding is going to be lovely, and people are going to enjoy it!

      Two, have you told your mom that you feel a bit neglected over this? I’d feel sad about the “try to make it Friday night, leaving first thing Sunday” nature of their trip for your wedding. Could you ask if they can at least arrive in time for dinner Friday and stay for a nice breakfast/brunch/lunch on Sunday? Can you ask if your sister could come separately, so she can be there earlier/later than your parents (for a Thursday night girls’ night, maybe), and so that no one is dealing with the logistics of bringing anyone else? There may be reasons that these things can’t happen, but you’re also not asking too much if you ask them to reconsider these plans to give you and your wedding a bit more attention. Along with that, are there other ways that they could help you? Are there other things than bunting that your family likes to DIY–could they make shortbread or caramels or bottles of cider for favors? Are there signs that someone could paint, or photos that need frames, or programs to fold? You might not get exactly the kind of support that you would like, but hopefully your family is willing to offer you a version of the support that they’re familiar with giving at weddings.

      • It’s definitely something I need to have a conversation with them with, but it’s a hard one to broach because there are a lot of logistical reasons they can’t come for long, and making them feel guilty over it won’t change the situation. My mum could come up before my stepdad, but I don’t want him to feel like I don’t want him there. I’ve worked myself into a flap about it, and that’s something I’ve inherited from my mum – she’ll definitely work herself into a flap about it as well if I don’t approach it very carefully!

        And, as J pointed out, when I’m very stressed I tend to push them away anyway, so it’s a double bind of either freaking out that they’re not there or freaking out that they are. I think I’m going to ask if they can come up a day earlier, so they’re around for all of Friday and I’ll take it off work and we can run any last minute errands together. I need to find out when the in-laws are coming up, because it’s going to be awkward if they’re around for a lot longer than my family.

        I’ve been wracking my brain for something they can contribute in a way that is authentic to them, but we’ve signed ourselves into a corner in terms of the caterer and venue – no edible favours, nothing pinned to the walls, nothing on the outside of the venue, nothing containing glitter/confetti etc. It’s put the kibosh on a lot of DIY options, which makes me a little sad (but future me will probably appreciate!). I might ask them to bring some winter foliage up to decorate the tables, if there’s anything evergreen that’ll survive nine hours in a hot car (potentially with two dogs!).

  • april

    Pleasant surprise story: I hadn’t planned on having any sort of wedding shower. My bridesmaids were college friends who, at that point, were spread all across the country, and I come from a very small family (only child, raised by my aunt), so there wasn’t really anyone nearby to host anything. My husband, on the other hand, comes from a very large family – his dad has 9 siblings, and my husband grew up surrounded by dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins. Much to my surprise, one of his aunts (also his godmother) was adamant about hosting a shower for me. Because his family lives in a different part of the country, my aunt was the only member of my family to attend. But it was still a really lovely experience – I got to know my husband’s female family members a little better and they got to meet my aunt for the first time. Actually, the most surprising thing about the whole experience may have been how touched my aunt, who is usually pretty unsentimental, was by the whole thing :)

    • Leah

      That’s such a lovely welcome into his family!

    • Staria

      That is SO BEAUTIFUL! How wonderful :)

  • J.

    My mom, who ALWAYS told me to elope, had all sorts of ideas about a ‘proper’ wedding and all the necessary traditions when I got engaged and decided to have some sort of ceremony. A lot of it was focused around: “If you are going to do it, do it right so no one get’s offended” kind of mentality, probably to avoid family blowback. But, some of it seemed to be more “my only daughter and first child is getting married” ideas, like “you have to have flowers” and “a veil completes the outfit!”

    Also, my father, who has largely been non-involved until I was an adult, had a strong desire to walk me down the aisle. Which, again, my mom insisted was important.

    I learned a lot about how non-emotive people (like mama and dad), can express emotions in different ways. Weddings weren’t important until they were personal. Dad has a warped view of how parenting works, but in his mind, he was still parenting. Walking me down the aisle had a significance to him I never assumed he cared about. Providing flowers for the wedding was important for Mom to create a beautiful environment. The idea of not offending people was done out of a protective mama bear instinct.

    Different people express love different ways, which was a great lesson for my marriage and navigating our new family!

    • Yael

      My dad did something similar – always told me to elope, and then when I gave everyone a head’s up that A and I are getting legally married (but not considering this *the wedding*) he was very insistent about attending. He seems to have dropped it, but some comments from my sister made me think that maybe not? We always planned to have our families involved in *the wedding* but that’s a year and some off.

      • Amy March

        sounds like he considers now the wedding, whether or not you do.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    What’s surprising me is how hands-off and non-imposing my mother is working to be. She talked to my dad, they decided how much they wanted to offer, and similar to what her parents did for her, told us they’d contribute a set amount for us to do with as we pleased. It’ll cover most of the wedding! It’s pretty awesome!Pretty early on I asked her which church ladies she wanted to invite (they’re more her social circle than mine, but I love them and they love me and they need some representation), and she flat-out refused to give me names until I told her who I was thinking of. I also told her after the fact that I’d tried on dresses, and that we’re pretty sure we’ve found our venue, and I was kind of expecting her to be bummed that she wasn’t included in that process. But she was…kind of neutral about it? I showed her dress pictures and she was interested to see them, but wasn’t as emotive as I expected, positively or negatively.I want to include her, and I want to make sure I address what’s most important to her, but I also don’t know what those things are. On one hand, it’s lovely that her approach is, “Do what you want,” because much of our struggle over the years has been me feeling like she’s telling me what to do instead of supporting me in figuring out what to do, and me resisting her advice pretty firmly as a result. This seems to indicate that she’s really started to hear me, and it’s making me a lot more interested in what she has to say, and I’m lowering my walls. But I’m afraid that it’s going to backfire, and at some point it will come out that she’s hurt about something I didn’t do in the way she expected or really wanted, because she’s trying so hard not to push my buttons.

  • Olga Mikhailov

    Something that really blindsided me was my mom’s traditional attitude toward certain things. This is a woman who got married on a cliff and had a super casual backyard reception at her parents’ house. She’s a vegetarian, she’s progressive, everything about her screams “informal.” And yet she was intensely opposed to the idea of a potluck reception, didn’t think our venue choices seemed nice enough to fit the occasion and made it clear that the presence of flowers and a cake were non-negotiable. I’ve always been very close with my parents–I’m an only child–but our relationship was unusually tense for that year and a half.

  • Henri

    This is so timely. My wedding is 3.5 months away, and we just sent invites out last week (a full 95% of our guest list is out of town, so the early invites seemed like the best option).

    Since doing that, the wedding suddenly feels REAL in a way it hadn’t before. And the reality of not inviting my immediate family or most of my extended family likewise feels really real. So I’ve been having a week of feeling sad about that, designing wedding announcements for them (as the least worst option of how to let them know I’m married), and grieving the bits I’m missing out on.

    My aunt is one of only two family members invited to our wedding, and she just called me yesterday to let me know that she is considering telling my mother that she’s going to my wedding. (My mother, as far as I know, has no idea I’m getting married because we’ve been estranged for several years.) And, worse, she may not come at all if doing so would either a.) cause too much trouble for me (not really an issue?) or b.) fully blow up her relationship with my mom (far more likely). I’m not super concerned about my mother losing all of her shit at me (she only has my email address, and all her email forwards to FH so he can scan and report back). But I am fully crushed and completely surprised that there’s even a chance that my aunt, who I’m incredibly close to and fully adore, may not come, especially since she’s been in the loop on the wedding stuff from the very beginning (she was with me dress shopping a year ago!).

    • Leah

      That’s really sad about your Aunt. Why can’t she just not mention it to your mum? Are they close?

      • Henri

        Her thinking, which I get, is that they still talk on the phone semi-regularly, and her excuse when my mother and grandmother try to push her into visiting them is that she doesn’t really have the money for extended travel, which feels to her now like a fairly big lie.

        • Leah

          Ohhhh yeah that’s understandable. Ugh that’s such a crappy situation for you.

        • penguin

          I get her thought process, but also she doesn’t have to tell your mom. If she does that’s her choice, but she wouldn’t be the first person to omit something from family chats on the phone. And it sounds like she doesn’t have the money for extended travel *to visit your mother and grandmother*. She has money earmarked to go to your wedding, and her finances aren’t any of their business. Best of luck on all this. I’m also not inviting my mom (estranged), and I’m getting some family flack/”concerned” questions about it.

          • Henri

            That . . . is a really great perspective.

  • nutbrownrose

    My little brother gave an amazing speech at the rehearsal dinner, and, while I’ve always sort of known he had it in him from my late-night talks with him growing up, I somehow never expected him to come out so polished and grown-up (he’s 22, and I keep forgetting he’s a grownup because I somehow still think of him as like 15 when I left for college even though I see him on a regular basis). And it made me cry because he talked about how our favorite vacation spot is sooo important to us as a family (it’s like the one time a year he and my mom and I get to just chill and hang out at the beach with no more responsibilities than dog-poop duty) and how Husband doesn’t detract from it, but adds to it in a really wonderful way.
    And then on the day of, he really stepped up and helped get flowers and boxes loaded in a timely manner. I love him so much, but timeliness is really not his forte.

  • Kelly

    My father has been largely amazing. We don’t have a great relationship – he worked (and drank) a lot when I was a kid. We’re hardly estranged but we don’t have a warm and fuzzy bond.

    But he has been lovely about telling my (v opinionated) mother to cool it and supporting my decisions.
    I wasn’t going to do a father daughter dance or have him walk me down the aisle, but I’m seriously reconsidering.

    This whole wedding planning process has been rough (read: awful, returning to therapy rough) but it has really formed a foundation for a better relationship with my dad, for which I am grateful.

  • Emily

    My mom stayed sober for the entire wedding. This woman is a rehab drop out. She even did my flowers.
    I told her that I wanted to be sober, but in the “keeping my side of the street clean, I know I can’t control your behavior” way that they teach in ALANON. I had FULLY prepared myself for her to be drunk as a skunk like she has been at every other wedding reception she has been to, even her own.

    It was my wedding miracle. :D

  • Leah

    My sister has been the BEST during the whole process. Not a massive surprise, but the ways in which she’s shown up and continues to show up for me is just the nicest and it’s brought us closer together.

  • Shawna

    My husband surprised basically everyone (including himself) by inviting his father and stepmother to the wedding. And then they surprised everyone by RSVPing yes and coming. And no one was surprised that everyone behaved like adults and had a lovely time. They were delighted to be included, gave us incredibly thoughtful and personal gifts (including pieces of his art that we thought we’d never see again), and were deferential and friendly with his mother. His dad was extremely touched when my husband showed him he was wearing his grandfather’s watch on our wedding day (and we have a photo of that moment – very sweet).

    His father has come to the wedding of all the other kids so we knew his mom would be ok (and we talked with her about it before inviting them), but divorced family dynamics are very complicated and messy and my husband had severed ties quite dramatically when he was younger (for what we think are good reasons, but still). So it was a nice olive branch and very nice to have it be received so well. They’re not going to be super close now, but things are no longer ugly and channels are open.