How Planning a Wedding Has Made Me a More Thoughtful Wedding Guest

This being the thick of wedding season, I’ve heard quite a lot of wedding chatter—on wedding boards and blogs, on the train, and at drinks with friends—to the effect of “I like my friend, but I don’t like his/her fiancé, so I’m going to go to the wedding to support him/her and just party it up.” I would like to respectfully suggest to the world that this attitude is a little lame.

As someone who is both getting hitched and attending hitchings in this particular wedding season, I wanted to submit a post on thoughtful wedding guestmanship. Here on APW, we often talk about being thoughtful and engaged (ha! I punned!) during the process of wedding planning as a means of avoiding the dreaded WIC and the pressure of all the weddings that have come before. But in the same way that the WIC has created a lot of unnecessary pressure on those planning weddings (from having the most adorable guestbook to making sure you have all the feelings), I also think that it has lifted some of the necessary pressure on the community surrounding the couple. When a wedding is primarily a source of entertainment, an Event, or essentially a performance art piece, then a guest becomes an audience member—a passive observer as opposed to an engaged participant.

But when you’re invited to someone’s wedding, you’re not just being invited to a bitchin’ dance party—in fact, in some cases, you are not being invited to any dance party at all. You’re being invited to share in a moment of commitment. It is an honor and a responsibility, and I think that in the same way that we expect the couple to have done at least a little work on their relationship before they make it to the altar, driftwood chuppah, or beribboned tree, we should do a little prep work ourselves to make sure we’re ready to make a commitment as well—a commitment to recognize and support the relationship being affirmed.

I personally have developed a litmus test for deciding whether or not I can go to a wedding. Before I look at my budget and my schedule to figure out if my attendance is logistically and financially feasible, I ask myself, “How would I respond if [my friend who is getting married] called me bitching about the fact that [his/her honey] never does the dishes?”

In my own home, the fact that my honey never does the dishes became a post-engagement perpetual issue, and one that inspires a more potent, diverse range of emotions than I ever thought possible to feel for the love of my life. Because as Maddie has discussed previously, it’s not just that the dishes are there; it’s that THEY WILL BE THERE FOREVER. It’s that he doesn’t appreciate me AND NEVER WILL. It’s that he’s already treating me like a Mom (in a bad, pejorative way) SO JUST IMAGINE WHEN I ACTUALLY AM ONE. It’s that we used to be so feminist and now I cook and he leaves the dishes for me too and HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN WHO AM I?!?!?!?!

So essentially The Dishes are the site where I have decided to place all of my anxieties about Forever and Womanhood and Identity and the fact that I’m entrusting a lifetime of future happiness to a human being. All of those things are a Very Big Deal, but the dishes are not. So every single person in my closest circle has received a call about the dishes. Every single one, at least once. And most of them have the same response, every time (bless them)… but not all.

The ones who know me and support me say what I need them to: “I understand your frustration, but C respects you, he appreciates you. We know this because we see it. Deal with your shit, talk to him about what matters, and try to stop yelling about the dishes. You know it hurts his feelings but doesn’t actually help anything.” (Note to self: perhaps have this embroidered on something that you can hang on the backsplash.) I always end these conversations more calm, less pissed, and ready to ask him to do the dishes without feeling like his not having already done them was a referendum on our relationship. Excellent.

But once, I got the following: “Yes, he does not respect you. If he treats you like that, how could he? Run! Run like the wind, my friend! I will meet you in the grove!” And of course, when I hung up the phone with her, I remained enraged. The source of my anxieties validated, it took me days to calm down. I threw myself into a tumult of am I making the biggest mistake of my life? that I could not wrestle into submission without the even-handed guidance of my mother. And that’s when I realized exactly how damaging it can be to have someone in your corner who doesn’t have your relationship’s back. This is when I realized what I want, practically, out of having a wedding: I’m giving everyone a heads-up that they’re on my “To Call in the Case of The Dishes” list. I’m letting them know that we need them, and I’m asking them to recognize that we’re married and help us stay that way.

You see, as much as I love C, I don’t believe that people stay together for fifty years on their own. I believe that everyone has The Dishes, and I think The Dishes are going to get harder as we get older. I can convince myself, when left to my own devices, that the dishes aren’t a big deal because a) I am a rational person, and b) they aren’t. But I look around me at some of the challenges that the strong partnerships have survived, and I don’t know if I’d be able to talk myself through those challenges on my own. When my 17-year-old cousin was killed in a car crash last year, I don’t know how my aunt and uncle made it. I don’t know how they survived, and I found myself wondering how C and I would survive. I wouldn’t be able to tell myself The Death of Our Child or A Terminal Illness or My Mom’s Cancer Is Back isn’t a big deal. It’s a really big deal. And I am going to need a community around me, when I am facing a reality that seems more than I can bear, to remind me that my husband is my partner, not my enemy. That I’m taking my legitimate frustrations out on him not because he deserves it but because he’s there. Because it’s what human beings do to each other when things are hard. In those moments, I will need people to remind me that I chose this person, and that I can either keep choosing him as my partner and keep building my relationship, or I can treat him as a scapegoat and start ending it.

So when I get those adorably designed invitations in the mail with their coordinated, pre-stamped RSVP cards, before I even look at the calendar I always ask myself: “What would I say if my friend called me about The Dishes?” If I think the only response I could ever muster would be “run like the wind, I will meet you in the grove,” I check the “no” box. When two people go through the (what I can attest is) very hard work of deciding to commit themselves to each other and wrestling through what that means and what that demands of them, I think that the least we—the people they ask to be their witnesses—can do is commit to recognizing and supporting them through the inevitable challenges that will come their way. I think that if, going into a wedding, you know that you would rather see the relationship fail than succeed, it is irresponsible to attend that ceremony. Everyone deserves a partner who sincerely believes their “I do,” and every couple deserves a community that sincerely believes their “I will.”

I know that at my wedding, I certainly hope everyone means it. Otherwise I hope they come bearing truckloads of paper plates and plastic forks.


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  • Brit

    Wow. This post really sums up for me what I hope to achieve by having a public wedding at all. The community’s role in a relationship is very important, and I wish this whole post had an *Exactly! button.

    But more specifically this:
    “This is when I realized what I want, practically, out of having a wedding: I’m giving everyone a heads-up that they’re on my “To Call in the Case of The Dishes” list. I’m letting them know that we need them, and I’m asking them to recognize that we’re married and help us stay that way.”

    Just wow.

    • 39bride

      Nailed it. This is why we are including “congregational vows” in our church wedding–we are counting on our friends and family members to support, guide and “be there” for us as we navigate our marriage. Especially with both of us being older first-time bride/groom, we know that there’s going to be a major adjustment and we’re going to rely on the experiences and wisdom of those who took this path before us.

      • Nae

        I love the idea of congregational vows!

      • AnotherCourtney

        This was absolutely my favorite part of our wedding ceremony. I still get chills, almost a year later, when I watch our wedding video and hear everyone say “We will!”. And it’s funny how it goes hand-in-hand with writing our own vows. We made very specific promises to each other that our friends and family can help us remember, and they have. :)

      • Lynn

        We did this. We asked our community to stand and support our marriage, to not come between us, to help us find ways to be stronger and to remember the commitment that we were making to each other. If they could do that, we asked them to say “We Do”.

        They did and we needed them to do that. There were strong feelings on both sides of our non-existent aisle about our marriage and the “rightness” of it, both for and against…some of the worst of it coming from people that are extremely important to us (like, oh, say his brother…or more accurately, his sister-in-law…and my best friend since childhood). We needed people to recognize that the time for airing opinions was over and that both symbolically and literally, it was time to support us as we moved forward.

        • Ambi

          This! So much, THIS! I have tried to put into words my need to have a public wedding focusing on community support, and I have a friend who just does not get it. He says the marriage is between the two spouses, and no one else should matter. I guess I can understand that attitude when thinking about people who do not support your union, but for the most part I think that having the support and influence of your family and friends could be extremely important. I am bookmarking this page, and these comments, so I can better explain myself to him next time we talk about it.

      • katiebgood

        Every church wedding I’ve ever been to had had these, I think, & they’re my favorite part of the ceremony. No need to put them in quotation marks, they’re real vows!

  • Anya

    Thank you for this! I really feel like I have to think about this – mostly because I have a huge, nagging doubt that a lot of my friends aren’t enthusiastically in my corner. And it’s a HUGE nagging feeling. I don’t think my friends aren’t in our corner because my Love isn’t wonderful. It’s not because he doesn’t make me a better person. I think it’s because he’s shy and most of my friends have little experience making friends with people from another culture. What do you talk about if not what’s on TV/been on TV/pop music from childhood!?! (commence eye rolling). This has led to most of my friends not really getting to know my fiance.

    The other reason I worry a lot of my friends aren’t in my corner is because I’m the first in almost all of my groups of friends to get married, and in our leftist circles, marriage is not necessarily a good thing. I constantly feel like our relationship, and our decision to marry, needs defending.

    So what can a woman do when she’s worried her friends aren’t in her corner? I’m sure my friends will get there, and most of them are awesome and would NEVER say anything negative to my face, but I worry! My head is choc full of what-do-they-think-of-us worries!

    • Ruth

      If you’re suspect that your friends will get there, you’re almost certainly right! You’ve known these people for a long time, presumably, and you love them and they love you. That’s all you need. It’s sometimes hard when there’s a new person in an old group of friends, maybe more so if there aren’t shared cultural experiences. But this sounds like something that the passage of time will certainly fix. As the years roll by and your friends get older, they’ll come around. Before you know it. One day you’ll feel like you just blinked and those feelings are suddenly in the distant past.

      • Anya

        thanks, that’s a good perspective, and one that I wholeheartedly believe is the case. I also like the idea of congregational vows.

    • meg

      I’m not sure (talk, talk, talk, I think). But, I wanted to chime in and say we’re still in the minority with friends getting married (I funny enough, have married friends because of APW… readers turned into friends, but otherwise not so much) for the same reasons. But that said, I don’t think APW and Reclaiming Wife would exist if everyone we knew got married all the time: I wouldn’t have needed to examine it. So sometimes being the only one is helpful. (Rambling thoughts).

      • Anya

        You’re right – there are things I love about being the first – like getting to start the conversation on MY terms. No one is asking me if I’m doing this or that like so-and-so did it. No one is going to know how much money I saved on not doing passed h’ors doeurves (however that’s spelled).

        Also – no one is surprised that I’m marrying “early” (at 25). I’ve always been a sucker for tradition, and have always been sure of making major decisions, and my friends respect that.

        • Ambi

          Yep, and there is also freedom to marrying “late.” I’ve been dating my guy forever, and just the other day his mother (who has been pressuring us to get married for YEARS) said, “eh, you guys are what you are.” At some point, people just accept you as a couple regardless of marriage status and that pressure lets up a lot. I also feel completely free to have whatever kind of wedding we want without feeling like it needs to be WIC-perfect or meet some kind of fantasy expectation for my mom or anything like that. I can’t really describe it, but because we are older and have been together for a long time, there just isn’t that same pressure (or maybe I am assuming its because we are older, when in fact it could just be due to our personalities or something, so who knows . . .).

          Oh, and this probably goes for being the first in your group to get married too, but since no one in our group of friends has gotten married in several years, all of our friends are really really excited and are ready to throw themselves into wedding events (basically, they’re ready for a great excuse to party at showers, engagement parties, and the actual wedding). There is an upside to having friends who all have babies and kids – when they get a babysitter and come out for an event, they are determined bygod to make the most of it!

    • Ambi

      It sounds like you absolutely know that your guy is right for you and are very confident in your choice, and in that case, if you feel like your friends just need to get to know him a bit better, I would try to not worry about it too much. I know that is easier said than done, but sometimes all that is necessary is a little bit of time and familiarity with someone – I know SO MANY couples, including older relatives, where the family and/or friends didn’t really embrace the spouse at the time of the wedding, but grew to love him or her once they got to know them better. Just one example – I have a very very good friend who accidentally got pregnant by a guy she was casually dating. This guy was a bit of a “bad boy” in the sense that he got a bit too drunk, tended to have fling after short-lived fling with numerous girls, made some questionable-but-not-morally-reprehensible life decisions, etc. – and when she announced that they were getting married immediately due to her pregnancy, I will be honest, our friends didn’t really think it was a good idea. We were worried about her. Four years later, we have all changed our tune. This guy is an amazing husband and father and loves his family more than anything. When we have a cookout or dinner party, he’s the guy on the floor playing with all the kids, wiping away tears when someone bumps their head, and changing diapers so his wife can enjoy a glass of wine with her friends without having to get up and attend to the baby. He is SO different than any of us thought he would be. And we have all discussed openly (with him – he thinks it’s pretty funny now) that we were initially worried about them but were so wrong.

      So, given the fact that you know that your fiance will eventually prove your friends wrong, I really would not worry about it too much. Talk to them if you can. Explain that you know that they haven’t yet really gotten to know him and that because he is a bit shy they haven’t gotten to see exactly what you see. And ask them to trust you – you know yourself and you know your heart and you’ve made your choice, and if they understand how overjoyed you are about it, I think they’ll come around.

      Finally, and I am not 100% about this, so take it with a grain of salt, but I’d think about it before you vent to these friends about relationship issues – yes, you absolutely need someone to complain to when your guy won’t do the dishes. But in this context, I worry that if they haven’t been exposed to the fun, loving, wonderful side of him very much, but they do hear your gripes, they may form a more negative opinion.

      • Ambi

        This just made me realize that I may disagree a bit with the original post – regarding my friend who got pregnant, we loved her and wanted the very best for her, so we absolutely wanted their marriage to succeed and for them to be happy. But at the same time, if she’d called me and said that this was a huge mistake and she was only marrying him because she was pregnant and she feared that she’d be unhappy forever . . . I would have absolutely told her that walking away was an option, and that she had friends and family that would support her through it if she chose not to marry him. Maybe it depends on the situation, maybe not, but I don’t think that offering love and support and help to someone who is considering not going through with a marraige means that you would be any less supportive of their union when and if they do marry – I know that I would have supported my friend if she’d chosen to leave him and have the baby on her own, and I have supported both of them as a married couple.

      • One of the best pieces of advice that I got when I got married was to be very careful about venting about my husband to other people.

        In any marriage, there will always be a few things that end up bugging you concerning your spouse. When you go and vent to others (especially your family), they may hear the bad parts, but they won’t be present when you resolve conflicts and forge new solutions together. So when they think of your partner, they end up recalling all of the negative stuff, which isn’t very good.

        The second piece of advice that I got that I took to heart is to keep your eyes wide open before you get married and half-shut afterwards. Look for potential problems and identify what they are beforehand, but once you’ve made the commitment to marry, try not to let the little things bug you.

        • RDS

          I appreciated the general message of the post, but, like Michelle, I had a slight difficulty accepting the sentence “everybody in my circle has gotten a phone call over the dishes.”

          It’s funny… when I was engaged and just newly married, I did tend to get frustrated over “this isn’t just today’s problem; this is forever’s problem.” As those days have turned into months and then years, though, I have learned that this IS today’s problem, and it only becomes forever’s problem if I keep trying to handle my gripes by taking them outside of the relationship. My husband and I have our own version of the dishes (albeit deeper-seated and quite major), but we’ve chosen to limit discussions on this topic to ourselves and occasionally a marriage counselor. It’s worked out far better this way, because we get to the root between us and talk it out instead of thinking there is a separate root issue and building a mountain out of a molehill with a friend who really isn’t informed on the subject.

          • Erin

            Coming at this from a slightly different perspective… My ex and I were very good at appearing to be a good couple. Not just good, actually- great. We find each other funny, intelligent, charming… Beneath the surface, however, there brewed some major resentments and anger. When we finally decided that it was time to split, family and friends were devastated at the lack of notice. Many female friends, especially, felt that they could have offered support when times were tough.

            Truth is, I don’t think any amount of support or – gawd forbid -intervention would have prevented our divorce, but now I do ocassionally wonder and I wish that I had asked my community to be more involved.

    • Ashley

      “The other reason I worry a lot of my friends aren’t in my corner is because I’m the first in almost all of my groups of friends to get married, and in our leftist circles, marriage is not necessarily a good thing. I constantly feel like our relationship, and our decision to marry, needs defending.”

      This is exactly my situation too, and it feels weird and uncomfortable! But I’ve had to remind myself throughout this process that my partner and I came to the decision to marry together, and don’t need to defend it to anyone. We’ve already defended– that’s not the right word– chosen it for ourselves, after careful thought, and it is right for us. That’s all that matters.
      Though it still does feel strange to not only be the first, but also the only.

    • em

      Yes. I have struggled with this since the beginning of my relationship with my guy. There were the buddies who didn’t seem totally sure, the ones who were happy that I was happy, and a small number who really *got* why he’s so good for me. But eventually I realized that I’m happy with them just being happy for me. They love *me* and thats a wonderful thing. They’re not marrying him. And moreover, the handful who really *get* him tend to be the ones that really *get* me, too.

  • Lisa B.

    I also think it’s really important to be committed as a guest to the wedding, not just to eat free food and drink free booze. Edited to add: I also definitely see the value in having a strong community around you, supporting you and your marriage.

    However, I don’t believe it is my responsibility to judge someone else’s relationship, especially via attendance to a really important thing for that friend. Further, it seems to be implied that if you ran The Dishes hypothetical and came up with a “no” answer, that, if presented with a phone call from your friend complaining about that relationship, you would encourage her to run for the hills.

    I see my role as a friend to be that of a sounding board. Unless the SO is abusive, or has an addiction, I would never see it as my role to get my friend to leave the SO.

    • Rowan

      I agree. I think you can support your friend without supporting the marriage. Sometimes that is as important as supporting the marriage.

      I had a friend who I thought was making a mistake, who I would have told to run for the hills if she had asked. She didn’t, I was in their bridal party, I had a great time (worked hard!) and really really hoped for the best. The fact that they got divorced four years later didn’t surprise me, but I certainly don’t regret going to their wedding. She’s my friend, I love her and I’ll always be there for her. Good decisions and bad.

      • Yup. I have a friend who’s in a committed relationship with someone I can’t stand. She asked me for my honest take on their relationship once a few years ago, and I told her, as did several other friends… and she decided not to take our collective “run for the hills” advice.

        My job now is not to constantly remind her that I don’t like her partner, or to not go to their eventual wedding because I “don’t approve of their union” – it’s to be there for my friend. If they eventually break up, she’ll need a community around her more than ever.

        In an ideal world, everyone’s relationships would be worthy of unanimous community support, but the fact is that some of our friends will make choices we disagree with. Refusing to go to their wedding will only isolate those friends (and in some cases end those friendships), making it difficult to support them when/if they realize their mistake.

        • KB

          I want to exactly this 12 million times. I have a friend who is dating a guy who no one in her circle of family and friends can stand, i.e., talks down to her, rolls his eyes at us, always has to do what he wants to do. One by one, we told her that we didn’t like this guy and they eventually broke up. Yay, right? Wrong. They got back together two weeks later. She says that he’s working on his issues for her, and while I objectively think that’s great, I also have totally been there and watched as “working on the relationship” turns into “I wonder if Nascar is on TV tonight.”

          Now we never see her because she knows no one likes this guy. Some of our friends feel like writing her off, but I keep inviting her to things because I love her, I miss her, and I want her to know that we’re there for her. She says that he’s the best thing that ever happened to her. And I gotta think that, if that’s true, then I really should be supportive of this relationship if it gets more serious because, like this post points out, if you want to go to the wedding, you have to decide if you want to rally around these two people, not just one. And who knows, a lack of community support could interfere with what could have been a GOOD relationship if he, in fact, is working on being a better partner for her.

        • Lynn

          This! Before my best friend (I have three of them) married her husband, I told her I didn’t like him and that perhaps he needed a few years to mature (he was 18 when they married…she was 24). I think he still needs some time to mature, but I’ve never told her again that I don’t like him.

          He is what he is and she loves him. And when she needs me, I want her to be able to call on me, not have this lingering fear of “I-told-you-so”.

        • Laurel

          Yep. I have two close friends who are dating people I don’t like. One partner is emotionally abusive; the other is just really, really, really not my cup of tea. I’ve told them both about my concerns. Now it’s time for me to support my friends in their decisions. If those friends got married, I would be there, no question. I’d even hold my tongue. If they called me to say they were leaving, I’d take the rest of the day off work and rent a moving truck and get them the fuck out.

          I like the idea of going to a wedding always and only as a gesture of support, but it doesn’t fit with the reality of my commitment to my friends.

          Edited to add: here’s a great example of people attending a wedding they didn’t support and coming around a little. At the first gay wedding at a military base, many of the guests (like the grooms) came from conservative religious backgrounds and were uncomfortable with the idea of a gay wedding. They went to support their relative. Turns out they liked it much more than they were expecting, and got more comfortable with the whole idea. Not that that’ll always happen (if my friend marries her emotionally abusive boyfriend, I will not care how adorable the ceremony is) but you know. One possible outcome.

        • CAMinSD

          Yes. I watched someone I love marry someone I loathe (because of his treatment of her). When I was there for her wedding, I was there for her. And it happened to be a wedding.

      • Jashshea

        So glad someone else brought this up. It’s not that I disagree with the overarching point of the post (I certainly do not), but I think it’s also just as important to be “in the grove” for your friend if they decide to walk away. I’ve had good friends go through marital troubles (ranging from The Dishes to I Love Someone Else) – some discussed it with me, some didn’t. I’m 100s of miles away from them, but if they’d called and needed help, I would have been there to support them, with the understanding that supporting them could mean supporting the dissolution of their union.

        • meg

          That is true, but I think that’s true because circumstances change. If at the time of the wedding you feel like you can’t support the relationship (not that it’s not your favorite, but that you can’t support it), I think that’s when these issues come into play.

          • Jashshea

            In one of the instances, I didn’t think that it was a super idea that they marry (both good people, but they didn’t mesh). I kept my mouth shut, had fun at the party and later flew up to spend time with her the night before the divorce decree was finalized. The orig marriage was years ago. I don’t know that I’d be more vocal now than I was then, unless The Dishes were abuse or general bad-personess. I honestly have no idea – I think it would depend on the friendship.

    • meg

      I think it depends, quite frankly. I was in a wedding once where I didn’t have strong feelings that the relationship was GREAT, but I didn’t think it was destructive. I knew I could support her in her relationship, and I stood up for her. The marriage didn’t last, which was the best for everyone concerned. She was later engaged again (that wedding never happened, thank god), and I knew I couldn’t stand up for her. Jury was out on if I would have attended, but thankfully I never had to make that decision. It was a destructive relationship, I would have told her to run for the hills at any point including after the wedding, I couldn’t have supported her marriage, and that affected how I approached the wedding.

      So. Basically, I think it varies. But I do think, as someone who has gotten married, that I actively wanted everyone there to be in support of our relationship. That was more important to me than just having all my friends there. I wouldn’t have guessed that before hand I think, but afterwards I count everyone who was there as someone who will back me to the hilt if I ever need support in my relationship. It would be hard for me if I ever found out someone was there, who I then tried to turn to, who then DIDN’T support our relationship. Because these questions are not abstract. Marriage is long, and you need a lot of help along the way.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        This. But I would also say weddings are public. You are inviting people to come and stand with you and support you. Inevitably, this requires people to examine whether they can stand and support you as a couple or not. I do believe my job as a guest is to be honest in assessment because otherwise I’m standing with you and flat out lying. That doesn’t seem so nice either at the expense of sparing hurt feelings.

      • Laurel

        Well, I’d back my friends to the hilt. It’s just that, in some cases, backing them to the hilt means getting them a moving van instead of helping them stick around. People make mistakes. I’m not going to remove myself from my friend’s life or major life events because they’re making a (major) mistake.

        I’m a pragmatist about community: it’s REALLY important to me, but in order to keep it I accept that people will disagree and fight and be judgmental and make mistakes and that it’s important to stick by them. I don’t know if everyone who’s coming to our wedding supports our relationship — a few of them have never met either of us, so I’d be shocked if they had an opinion. One person definitely absolutely would like us to break up, although not because she thinks we’re bad for each other. But she’s known both of us for over a decade, so she’ll be at the wedding. That’s community, for better or worse.

        • meg

          Well, what I’m saying is a little different. First, circumstances change, and if they did, I’d expect friends to help me with a moving van as needed. We’re on our second wave of divorces, since our hometown friends married early, so we’ve helped with our share of moving vans (and cash, frankly, when divorcing friends needed it).

          BUT. That said. What I am saying is, backing my relationship to the hilt is different than just backing me to the hilt. And on a personal level, I would not have wanted people there at our wedding who were literally being asked to make a statement in support of our relationship, and promising to always be there if we turned to them, to be there is they didn’t feel that was a role they could fulfill. If they were always just going to back me, and not tell me “You’re dead wrong, and your partner is right, go fix it” if that were the truth. For me the ceremony wasn’t abstract, it was a concreate commitment (and, as a Jewish ceremony a literal binding contract, abet one with an official out clause) and I needed to know that my guests were in on that… not just there for the party (though it was a RAD party).

          • Laurel

            I get what you’re saying. I like the idea that people at the wedding should be on board with supporting the relationship. I see how that’s really meaningful. For sure, backing your friends doesn’t mean agreeing with them; sometimes it means telling them to get back in there and fix it.

            But it doesn’t square with the reality of my other commitments. If my friend with the emotionally abusive boyfriend were getting married, would you tell me not to go? I don’t see that being a good idea. It’d make her even more isolated, even less able to leave if she ever wanted to. (I wish her boyfriend weren’t going to be at our wedding, too, but again: no way am I going to insult him and isolate her that way.) Should we not invite the friend who has always wanted us to break up and is absolutely not on board with us getting married? She will never ever support our relationship, but not inviting her would do a ton of damage to a relationship that has problems, but remains important to her, to my partner, and to me. Also, honestly, it means something to me that she’s coming: she’s affirming the fact that she’s part of our lives even though she’s not supporting our relationship.

            Community is complicated. These aren’t great situations and they weren’t great situations before we decided to get married. I accept that our friends and family will remain the people they are, warts and all, and I still want them there.

          • I am glad that I didn’t feel the same way when I was getting married, because I wouldn’t have been able to have my mother there. (She really liked my abusive ex and was very, very slow to warm to David.)

            Luckily, she got over it and pulled her head out of her ass and is now fully on side, but it took awhile.

      • Rowan

        I know there was on person on my husband’s side at our wedding who didn’t support our marriage. I met her at a really difficult time during our early relationship and we didn’t get off to a good start. She is the only person scowling in the picture of me walking down the aisle.

        I’m still glad she was there even though she probably would have told my husband to run for the hills if he asked. She is important to him and because of that her being there was important to me. I figure we have our whole lives for her to come around and realize we are good together.

        It would have been worse if she hadn’t come. The fact that she came and supported my husband makes me want to make an effort to be friends.

      • Ambi

        I completely agree, Meg. My future sister-in-law is engaged, and her very best friends don’t like the guy. He’s a nice guy, he makes her happy, but he has also been the reason she moved across the country (left the friends), quit her job (her choice, but the friends judge it), and has inspired her to suddenly become a lot more domestic than anyone thought she would ever be (a year ago, she would have said she never wanted kids, now she’s a stay-at-home fiance preparing to be a wife and hopefully very soon after that a mom). They don’t have any real basis for disliking the guy except that during one trip home, both the bride and groom had too much to drink and got into an argument (a stupid drunken fight about absolutely nothing, which they were both over the next day), and the friends witnessed it – they have hated him since and think he’s no good for her. When all of the family and other close friends (the ones who live in the same city where the couple now resides and who know him better) absolutlely love him.

        These friends are her bridesmaids, but they’ve been critical of the union from the start. One evening when they were over at her mother’s house (it’s a small town, they’re friends with the bride’s mom too and socialize with her sometimes), they were griping about the guy and saying he wasn’t good for her, and her mom, rather fiercely, told these girls that they could either get on board with the marraige and support them or that they should step down as bridesmaids and not attend the wedding, but that she didn’t want to hear one more critical word.

        • Lynn

          That’s a hard conversation to have, but some times it is necessary. I actually had to tell my MoH the same thing.

          It was terrible. Tears and angst and all of those things but it essentially came down to me telling her that I couldn’t continue to expend the emotional energy to defend my choices to her. He may not be who she thought I should be with, but he loves me to pieces, is a good man, and will do what he has to when push comes to shove.

          Terrible, terrible conversation. But it allowed each of us to get it out, wipe the slate clean, and move forward.

          Part of that moving forward was a realization on my part that I had to stop sending her an email every time I was slightly annoyed with the PA. She’s been my friend for over 25 years; that’s what we do. She gets pissed at her husband, she tells me so she doesn’t rip his head off the first chance she gets….I get (got) grouchy with some boy I’m dating, I tell her so I can begin the work of figuring out if I’m really grouchy with him or something else entirely. I had to engage in a whole lot more positive gossip and flip that script.

          Hard work. Necessary work. Occasionally sad work because I feel like our friendship has lost a dimension, but it’s not fair to him and my responsibility has now become to protect our relationship.

          • Ambi

            Yes, absolutely. I think (I’m not totally sure) that these girls have slowly come around to at least being quiet about their disapproval and being vocally happy for my SIL since she is so happy to be engaged. I don’t think they’ll ever really like the guy (especially given the distance and their lack of any real interactions with him), but they’ve at least realized that they can’t be in the wedding while also being critical of it.

            I do think my SIL has lost an element of her former friendship with these girls, but honestly I don’t know if that is actually a sad thing or if it is for the best. She has been growing apart from them for years, and they were actually holding her back a bit, so personally I view this as a painful but necessary part of growing up for her.

    • Sara

      I completely agree with this.

      In addition, isn’t being a part of a strong community supporting your friends regardless of their faults? I have a friend that is constantly in terrible relationships and after expressing my concerns, the best I can do is watch and wait. If he realizes that he made a mistake, I’ll be here for him. If not, I’m still going to be here for him. But his relationship is important to him and our group of friends can’t just cut him out because we don’t like his girlfriend. We endure her, we hope for the best for him and we live with the outcome. Who knows? Maybe she’ll grow. But not attending a wedding if it may happen…that would just kill the friendship. I don’t want that at all.

    • Cleo

      Lisa B. : “I see my role as a friend to be that of a sounding board. Unless the SO is abusive, or has an addiction, I would never see it as my role to get my friend to leave the SO.”

      Exactly this!! In my view, liking the friend’s significant other (or thinking they’re a good match) is not a prerequisite for supporting the relationship.

      A very close friend is currently dating a guy whose personality grates and who has no sense of boundaries (he tries to feel up the girls in our group in a “playful” way and doesn’t take “stop it!” seriously). I told my friend about it and she accused me of thinking he was trying to sleep with me. Long story short, I told her I can’t hang out with them together anymore. However, I also told her that it had nothing to do with the relationship because she loves him, and he clearly adores her (he just acts like a 5 year old sometimes). I also have issues with the relationship and think she’s in for a load of heartbreak, but that’s not up to me. If/when they get married, I’m putting my personal feelings aside and I’ll be standing up there with her to support her and her relationship, because if she’s happy, I’m happy.

      In more serious situations it can also be just as, if not more important, to stay present in someone’s life while they’re in a terrible, actually damaging relationship.

      Case in point, my uncle used to be married to a woman who was emotionally abusive and isolated him from his friends and family. No one liked her, and most of his friends avoided him to avoid her, but we stuck by him, and when he finally got a divorce, he had a soft place to fall, which was crucial for his emotional well-being and survival.

      What the latter experience taught me about the former is that it’s important to not abandon someone you love when you think they’re making a mistake. It’s not about “I told you so,” it’s about that person having a community in a really terrible time. And, for me at least, I want to support my friend’s relationship because nothing would make me happier than being proven wrong.

      • Mmouse

        I agree with this message as a whole, although that wasn’t on my mind when we made our guest list. Im not sure that everyone who came to our wedding would 100% support our relationship, but I am sure of certain individuals who would. Those are the people I call about Our Dishes. Sometimes though, I think there are situations where attending a wedding where you don’t support the relationship is important.

        For example, my sister was in an awful relationship & all of her loved ones had voiced their concerns (both politely and impolitely). She broke up with him, but quickly restarted the relationship, only now she’s keeping it a secret from us – although it’s obviously not a well-kept secret. It makes me incredibly nervous that she is dating this man & not sharing anything with the people who care about her. She’s stubborn and I can see her eventually deciding to marry this guy (if that’s what he tells her she should do). How could I not attend her wedding? I wouldn’t support the relationship, but if I didn’t attend she’d never forgive me & it’d just make her feel like she had no one to turn to if/when things go wrong.

        Sometimes it’s about supporting your friend as a person & being thoughtful in your relationships. I wouldn’t tell anyone to run for the hills over typical bumps in the road, but I’d sure as hell help them out if they needed it.

  • “That I’m taking my legitimate frustrations out on him not because he deserves it but because he’s there. Because it’s what human beings do to each other when things are hard.”

    This right here has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned in my relationship. Sometimes it’s easier to direct my frustrations at my fiance because he’s there and it’s not like I can yell at the world when I’m frustrated with life in general. It happens the other way around, as well. We both know very well what’s going on – but when we’re arguing about anything I’ve learned that if I *have to* complain to someone who isn’t him it needs to be to someone who understands how strong our relationship is and that little nugget of human wisdom as well.

  • SomeOtherHilary

    I love when I come here and can read a post that simultaneously galvinizes me about friendships I find non-supportive and also teaches me how to be a better friend. Thank you for the post.

  • Rowan

    I have a different litmus test after planning my own wedding. I used to just go for the party, booze and dancing.

    Now, I ask “Would I go to this if they were only serving punch and cake?” If the answer is “Hell, yes! I can’t wait to support my friend” I go. If my honest answer is, “I would resent taking the vacation time/traveling to get there/spending money on hotels, gifts, etc/etc only to get freakin cake” I don’t go.

    Wedding planning made me a much better guest. I cringe about some of the stuff I did to people before I went through it.

    • KB

      I cringe at how many RSVPs I never returned in time. I think karma may come back and bite me in the ass on this one…

    • meg

      Mmmmm. This is great.

  • I definitely RSVP way faster than I use to.

    • soleil

      Me too. I send that card immediately upon receipt.

  • KB

    “So essentially The Dishes are the site where I have decided to place all of my anxieties about Forever and Womanhood and Identity and the fact that I’m entrusting a lifetime of future happiness to a human being. All of those things are a Very Big Deal, but the dishes are not.”

    Virginia, my friends are going to read this post and email me and say “KB, did you write the Dishes post on APW???” The dishes are the biggest point of contention ever and, while it used to be about the (d)ishes, it is now All About the Dishes. I will empty the dishwasher IN FRONT OF MY FIANCE so that the dishwasher is obviously empty and then come back after dinner to find dishes in the sink. I will then ask “Why are there dishes in the sink? I emptied the dishwasher” and my fiance will say, “Oh. I forgot/didn’t know.” Wait, what?? It then becomes all about Why Don’t You Listen and/or Love Me Enough to Put Your Plate in the Dishwasher. The only thing that checks me before flying into a rage is remembering that he does everything else without me asking (vacuums, takes out the trash, etc.) – so, in the end, he really just has a dishes blindspot.

    • Jashshea

      Yuuuup. I can rinse out my plate and put it into the empty dishwasher and then watch him put his still dirty, sticky, stinky plate in the sink and walk away and FUME about it. But I’m sure he’s driven nearly as insane when I’m fine with not having a garbage bag in the can as soon as I remove the full one.

    • Ambi

      With shame and downcast eyes I have to admit that I am the person who leaves dirty dishes in the sink (and yes, it drives my guy crazy).

      • Jashshea

        Too many college apartments overrun with ants for me to leave sticky dishes anywhere. I’m itchy just thinking about it.

        Inch thick dust bothers me, but let’s be real – if it’s an inch thick already it doesn’t bother me THAT much.

    • My fiance is kind of like this, sometimes. He has a terrible memory, and often forgets about around-the-house things that I’ve asked him to do and would mean a lot to me. And it’s so, so easy to get ticked about the fact that he didn’t do what I just asked, because my internal dialogue tell me “oh, he’s not doing this because he isn’t listening to me/doesn’t prioritize what I need.”

      But. It’s not that he’s not listening to me, or not hearing my requests. It’s not that he’s intentionally trying to annoy me with not doing these things. In fact, he completely means to do what I’ve asked.

      So, I work on being more sympathetic and understanding about his memory issues and when I ask him to do something, and if it’s very important or time sensitive I make sure that I let him know that, and he makes more of an effort to give himself physical reminders of what I’ve requested and why.

  • pizzel

    The decision to go or not go to a wedding has never been about approving or disapproving of the marriage. Sorry to be boring but it’s always a question of when and where and how much time and money it will take me to travel to it.

    Additionally one of my best friends married a guy I can’t stand. It’s not just me, everyone scratches their head about it. (Socially awkward dude who cheated – what’s the appeal?) But I love her to death and her wedding was close enough to where I live so that I didn’t have to take time off work or book a plane ride. It wasn’t a “going for the open bar” situation, but it was a “going because this is an important day for a good friend”.

  • BB

    I went to a wedding this past spring that was very difficult because the groom very vocally (to his friends) did not want to get married, but the bride “wouldn’t let him get out of it” and it was a very painful process altogether. I went to that wedding because I support the groom (he is practically family), even though I think he made a huge mistake (as do all of his other friends), but I think it was important for us to be there even though we don’t think it will last. I do sometimes feel guilty that none of us took the bride’s side, but she treated us so terribly…. I don’t know. I have a lot of regrets about that wedding, but hopefully it will teach me when to not go to a wedding in the future and/or how to be a better guest/friend in general.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    The communal aspect of weddings was extremely important to us and to be honest, halfway through planning we realized it and revamped the entire process around that idea. I think unfortunately, weddings HAVE become productions and many times guests do attend a wedding expecting to be entertained or catered to instead of supporting the couple. Where did everything go so wrong? Listen, the last wedding we attended before ours kind of scared me. This couple dared to buck tradition by having a chocolate fondue fountain instead of a cake and no garter toss and guests complained about the lack of cake and garter toss. Someone went to so far as to way “I don’ t like to attend weddings that don’t have cake. I expected to come here and have cake.” I thought of these remarks when planning our own wedding because it made me sad that what people paid attention to that day wasn’t the visible and obvious strain and tension between the couple, the fact that the groom seemed like he didn’t want to be there or be getting married and the fact that the wedding had actually been postponed several times literally the night before the wedding because the groom couldn’t get his act together. What people paid attention to was the absence of cake. Very sad, actually.

    • H

      I might argue that the reason people paid attention to the lack of cake and garter toss is because there was nothing delightfully distracting about the happy couple. If people sense that tension, people will take it out on the event rather than the couple, whereas if people sense that the couple is happy, it’s about discovering what they did to plan the wedding.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        I don’t know what the reason for the focus of the lack of cake was; I think this is entirely possible. But I also think it’s a fair observation to make because I think this happens often, even at weddings where the couple is obviously happy and happy to be getting married. And I think that was kind of the point of the post. As a guest, it’s not about going to the wedding to eat cake and have a good time, but many of us as guests approach weddings in this way. Having been at a wedding where all signs leading up to the wedding and even the day of suggested that something deeply troubling was going on with the couple, it was really really sad to be at a wedding where we all stood there (myself included) and said we would support this couple when really, we probably didn’t. It’s not a moment I am proud of.

        I think to a very large extent, maybe we think it’s not our place to make judgement. But we can be conscious as guests and when we receive that invitation, like the OP, decide if we really can go and support the couple or not.

  • Your analogy of The Dishes is a fit way to look at relationships, both the ones we support and the ones we question. There are the little things in life that we can laugh about because they are anomalies, things drive us crazy but so out of character that they actually reinforce all the other wonderful aspects of a relationship. Then there are the things in life that we must cry about because in and of themselves they mean little but they define all other aspects of the relationship. If a friend is true, s/he will tell you to run for the hills if the Dishes fall into the second category.In a week, my husband and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage, a union my parents were sure would fail, but they grew to understand the value of the man I love and the way he cherishes me. And he does the dishes!

    Not many of the brides (or grooms, for that matter) would think to call me to complain about the Dishes, and if they did, I would cluck and tsk, but I know they don’t really want my advice. In this wedding season, I’m the older statesman with a different role. I think couples want the testament of the happily wed, the long-lasting relationship, the team that can pull the wagon up the long hill. We said our “I do”s long, long ago, and I’m looking for the chance to hold hands during the ceremony, to shed a tear for the swiftness of time’s chariot, and to echo their vows.

    Thanks for reminding all of us that we have a role to play in the weddings we attend. These celebrations should not be a spectator sport!

  • Betsy

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now, and it’s a great thing to remember. I’m planning my wedding right now, and I’m so frustrated because I’m getting the feeling that my guests want to come to a performance rather than a participatory event when, for me, it’s MOST important that it’s participatory. I’d rather elope than put on a show.

    The main reason why I’m getting this sense is that my requests to help with wedding items (cookie baking, participating in wedding party, etc.) are often met with either confusion or exasperation. Maybe I’m doing something wrong or maybe I’m oversensitive. Does anyone in APW-land have advice on asking for help with the wedding preparation that goes beyond just giving opinions (many of my guests have offered their opinions, which are helpful, but help with the execution would be great)? I would greatly appreciate it!

    • Rosie

      Hi Betsy, we asked people to help by saying things like ‘We thought it would be really nice if you would be able to do x’. Some people didn’t seem too enthusiastic, but seemed to sort of warm up to the idea: they’d go ‘umm, yeah, ok, if you’re sure’ but then seemed to get into it. Other people were really keen from the start, and some people were like ‘oh no, pressure!’ so we just said ‘well, don’t worry about it, it’s fine if you’ve got a lot on’ and asked someone else. Hope you find some people who are willing to help! It is difficult to tell if people want to do something or not, people aren’t always outwardly super keen.

      • Betsy

        Thanks, Rosie! You’re right that it’s difficult to tell — one of my fiance’s friends is all about helping, which wasn’t something I expected from him, and most of my friends are a little lukewarm on the idea. I’ll just work on taking people for who they are and accepting the level of involvement they want. And then asking someone else.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I don’t have any advice, but I’ve got tons of empathy.

      I thought my parents would enjoy assembling our chuppah. They’re crafty, DIY people. (I’m not.) I gave instructions I thought couldn’t be simpler: borrow umbrella/flag stands, purchase 7 foot doweling to fit umbrella/flag stands, screw eye-hooks into dowels, sew fringe on 2 sides of sheet they already own. Not counting the driving to the store, the project should take less than an hour and save considerably from the $180 it costs to rent a chuppah. And these were the kinds of things my parents do on Saturdays when there’s no wedding to plan, and they’re insanely thrifty.

      But they didn’t like my instructions, for basically WIC reasons. (They are much more vulnerable to WIC than I am.) The umbrella/flag stands would be too wide. Wooden doweling…I don’t know what’s wrong with wooden doweling, but now Dad’s all about PVC and cross-supports. And the sheet isn’t traditional enough.

      /end rant

    • Marina

      I think the issue with participation is that there’s two different kinds… the kind where everyone does what you want them to do, and the kind where everyone does what THEY want to do. The first is pretty hard to come by, even in the most crafty/DIY/baking/potlucking communities.

      So if feeling like your guests are participating is the most important to you, maybe adjust your idea of participation. If your guests are all about showing up for the ceremony but not so much about pre-wedding prep, maybe incorporate participation into the ceremony. Passing the rings around for a “ring warming”, asking for community vows along with your vows like people mentioned above, passing out flags for people to wave as you walk back down the aisle.

      Which still leaves the question of how you get all that cookie baking done, unfortunately. But it hopefully makes it less about Cookie-Baking-Actually-Whether-My-Guests-Love-Me and more about just cookie baking.

      • Betsy

        That’s a good distinction, Marina. I’ve been trying to ask tasks of people that seem appropriate to them (the cookies were my female relatives, who make these cookies every year because they’re my grandma’s recipe), but maybe I think need to about the setting too. There will definitely be lots of singing at my ceremony, so maybe that’ll be the best participation for the both of us.

    • Lynn

      I think there’s a difference in asking for support in your wedding and asking people to actually do things for your wedding. There are lots of people who supported our wedding (we had seating for 150 but there were a lot of folks standing at the back); there were only a handful (perhaps about 20? Mostly family and wedding party) who actually did things for the wedding.

      For me the first step was getting really clear about what it was we wanted for the wedding. Once we knew what we wanted to have happen, it was then time to take stock of our friends and family. Who had the capacity (translation: skills and time) to help us with those things? Who had expressed interest in more than an off-hand way in helping us? and then asking.

      In some cases, we realized immediately that some people when they said they’d love to help with the wedding? Were only being polite. Knowing them and their history meant that we knew they weren’t going to be someone to count on. There were others who were serious about the whatever-you-need-I’m-on-it train.

      When I asked, I said things like, “When we got engaged, you said that you’d love to help us out with the wedding, and I wanted to know if that offer still stands? Because we could really use someone with a trailer who would be willing to head to church and pick up 150 chairs to bring back to the house and help us get them set up.” or “Hey Uncle Bubba! Since you’re an electrician and all, would you mind making sure that the generators are running and will handle powering the band and the lights?”

      Being specific and making things manageable for both parties (us and our helpers) was key for us…and we wouldn’t have gotten married if we didn’t have a group of people who were working extremely hard to pull off the wedding. Remembering that we were in fact asking people to do something for us and being grateful for their time and efforts was also important.

      • Betsy

        Thanks, Lynn. I could work on being more specific. I usually test the waters with a less specific question, and I can see how that might scare people!

      • Ambi

        LYNN, I think you are right on with this. For years I envisioned a DIT wedding where all our family and friends helped make the food and the decorations and played the music for the ceremony and did hair and makeup and officiated and, and, and, and . . . And now I’m not planning on having my family or friends do any of that. It just seems like way too much hassle. Paying attention at holidays and reunions and my brother’s wedding parties, I realized that my family just isn’t good at that kind of stuff and doesn’t really like doing it. They probably WOULD if I asked, but it isn’t worth it. So, my plan now is to ask for participation when it is sentimental and has a special meaning – having my best friend there while I’m getting ready, even though I’m not planning on having bridesmaids, asking my aunt to do a special wedding reading since she is famous for giving great wedding toasts but we aren’t having toasts, having a young cousin play his trumpet because he’s really good at it and proud of being good at it and I think its really sweet. Those kind of things. But I have just nixed the projects that were basically manual labor – we won’t be catering our own wedding, even though we COULD. I am not going to ask my future father in law to bake our cake, even though he’s a great baker, because it would stress him out too much. Overall, for me (and I can only speak for myself), the reality of DIT just isn’t nearly as rosy as the blog-world makes it out to be, so I’ve kind of abandoned that idea.

        • Lynn

          I don’t know that it was rosy for us, but it was what it had to be. With the guest list that his family wanted, we had no other choice. At the end we fought about some of it (like catering it ourselves…his parents felt like they shouldn’t have to do anything the day of the wedding. I felt like I couldn’t ask my mother to contribute another $2000 when she was out of work and was already paying more than she could afford), but eventually everyone fell into line. Pretty much because I said we weren’t going to do anything differently. Period. End of sentence.

          We also, though, had people come out of the woodwork to happily help. One of the guys who did the most work with set up and break down and fix-it and everything else we hadn’t seen in almost 7 years (literally worked like a dog for 3 days before the wedding and then had everything cleaned up before we got there the next morning for clean-up). There were many people in the weeks leading up to the wedding who said, “We’re here to help.” Out of town friends and family arrived early, worked into the night, did without asking. At our rehearsal dinner I broke down *bawling* because I could feel all that love and I was overwhelmed that there were all those people coming together for us, to execute this vision we had, trusting us that it was all going to be lovely.

          It wasn’t the easiest, but it was the wedding we were supposed to have.

          • Ambi

            It sounds really beautiful, and I don’t mean to knock DIY or DIT weddings – I think that when that is an option it can be really great. I have just realized that, for us, it really isn’t a great option and it is more realistic for us to cut our guest list and have a very small intimate wedding rather than try to do all of the DIT stuff that would allow us to afford a larger wedding. Of course, I have to mention that I haven’t yet had to go through any of those dreaded guest list negotiations with family or had to cut good friends or anything like that, so maybe I’ll reconsider, but right now, I just know that asking my family to do all of the things I would need them to do for a larger DIT wedding would not end well. So, I am making peace with that and just accepting that it isn’t a good option for us.

            By the way, I attended a great DIT wedding a year ago, which we were invited to because my boyfriend used to work with the groom. I barely knew the groom and had never even met the bride, and yet because we had flown in a day early, we volunteered (and were happily put to work) on setting up the venue on the wedding day. My boyfriend and I spent hours alongside the couple’s other friends stringing lights, setting up tables, sweeping floors, assembling centerpieces, and figuring out how to work the sound system. And in that case, it turned out to be fun – we all listened to music and drank while we worked, I got to know a lot of the guests our age that I otherwise would not have gotten to know otherwise, the venue looked AMAZING when we were done, and the “crew” partied like crazy at the reception because we had all bonded so much during the set up.

            So it can definitely work. You just have to know your crowd, I guess. My family would stress out and fight and not actually get anything done. My friends would want to help but they are just way too busy with jobs and babies and life. My guy’s family is not a DIY kind of family – they wouldn’t really understand. So for us, I am envisioning a smaller, simple wedding without the need for so much DIY.

        • Laurel

          I totally envisioned a DIT backyard barbecue thing with my dad running the grill.

          My dad has no desire to run the grill, or really to do any organizational or physical work for the wedding. He wants to write a check and call it a day. My family’s actually pretty good at that stuff — my mom helped me cater a friend’s wedding — but they do. not. want to.

          What I’m saying is: I hear you. You have to know your friends and family and know what people are willing and able to do.

    • bears fan

      My friends had a sign up sheet on their wedding web site for various tasks people could volunteer for. I think this is a good idea as long as people actually get to do what they want to do. In this wedding, helping was sort of mandatory and I was a bad guest who didn’t sign up til late. All the flower-picking and decorations crews were full — I got stuck on venue set up and babysitting somehow and ended up setting up chairs and tables and chasing after a 2-year-old in a park in my heels. Then I had 30 minutes left to drive back to the hotel, shower, and get ready again before the ceremony.

      That being said, I think the sign-up on a website worked well. It lets people off the hook and lets the folks who do want to help volunteer their services.

  • Julia

    Best APW post ever. And that’s saying a LOT.

  • Emma

    Hmmmm — I’m actually on the fence on this one. On the one hand, I totally agree — why bother to go to a wedding if you don’t support the marriage? It’s like attending the birthday party of someone while daydreaming about their death. People should be honest about their intentions, and at a wedding, you definitely want the honest support of everyone there.

    But the practical creeps in. After all, which is worse — attending a wedding when you don’t support the marriage, or refusing to go to a wedding because you don’t support it? I mean, won’t both hurt the couple’s feelings?

    Of course, you could just make up a reason that you can’t go, to spare your friend’s feelings while avoiding being the dreaded unsupportive wedding guest. But now you’re lying to your friend, and the situation isn’t that different from just going to the wedding and keeping your objections to yourself. Plus, the better your friend, the harder this is to pull off — my close friends would see through any excuse I threw out for not attending their weddings. And if I don’t have to travel to the wedding, it gets especially dicey. Also dicey? Refusing to go to a family wedding. I’d have to really hate the future spouse to not go to a sibling’s wedding, because going to that wedding is actually about more than supporting the marriage — it’s also about supporting my family.

    I just think that this is the kind of thing that is ideal, but unrealistic. Attending certain weddings, even if you think the bride and groom are ill-suited, marrying too young, or just plain out of their minds, is simply something most of us will have to do in our lives. And I know as a soon-to-be bride that odds are good that there will be guests at my wedding who don’t care about our marriage at all and are just there out of family obligation, or because there’s an open bar. I’d love it if that weren’t the case — I wanted a small wedding with just immediate family and our closest friends. But that’s not the wedding I’ll have, nor is it the wedding most of us get to have thanks to social obligation. But that’s okay. My hope is that my loving supportive guests will outweigh the ones who don’t care that much, and that even if they don’t, our marriage will be okay because after the wedding, we can just lean on the people who are in this thing with us.

  • Lisa

    I thought this past was interesting. I like the sentiment behind it, but to me, the realization that I can’t muster up enough support for me friend should be an indication that I need to do work on myself rather than an excuse for me to not be there for him or her.

  • This is SO TRUE!! Good lordy I know it’s easy for weddings to blur together if you go to a lot of them and to downplay their significance. But this is a FOREVER THING. The biggest of deals. None of us should support VOWS for couples we don’t believe in. They don’t have to break up because I don’t approve, but we sure as hell shouldn’t give the impression we’re supporting something we don’t.

    • Kristen

      Even if we don’t believe in the couple, doesn’t our belief in the *person* matter more? If my brother or cousin or friend is getting married, I’m going to be there because I love and support them unconditionally. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “I love you and will be there for you no matter what … unless I think you’re marrying the wrong person. Then you’re on your own.”

      The only impression of support you’re giving is for that person as they go through this life-changing event.

      And in my eyes, if they really are marrying the wrong person, they’re going to need your friendship even more.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        I think that depends on what you believe, as a guest, you are supporting, and what you believe your role is. If you think that as a guest, you are saying in witnessing the marriage that you will do everything you can to help your friend, brother, sister, etc uphold their vows and basically stay married, then maybe you don’t attend the wedding if you don’t believe you can do that. If you’re saying as a guest that I’m here because I want to stand by you as you enter this huge thing, then you go, even if you don’t support the marriage, per se.

        • Kristen

          I completely agree. I would also add that I think the second reason is just as valid as the first.

      • Emma

        This. I think there is something to be said for hope. You may not totally support a friend’s marriage. You might, if your friend called in tears, suggest she run and meet you in the grove, especially if this is the 14th time she’s called in tears. But you can have those feelings and still desperately hope that your friend will have the marriage she is looking for. You can hope that your misgivings are wrong. After all, even though a strong marriage needs the support of a community, no one really knows what goes on inside a marriage unless you’re in it.

        So that’s why I go to weddings, even if I don’t pay the dishes litmus. Because even if the analytical part of my brain is thinking “uh oh”, the rest of me is thinking, “well, what do I know? cheers to your future happiness.” Because I am hopeful about all my loved ones, even when they make decisions I question.

  • V

    This is my new favorite APW post. Thanks so much Virginia!

  • Jessica

    I think you can support your friend without supporting the relationship. I think those are two different things. We cannot choose our friends’ partners for them, nor can we make decisions for them. In an ideal world (and what usually happens), we love our friend AND their fiance and all is well. But that doesn’t always happen.

    Like others have pointed out, I think it would cause more strife to refuse to attend a dear friend’s wedding. To me, THAT would be telling them you don’t support them and cannot be there for them if they ever needed you. I would be very hurt if a good friend did not come to support ME at my wedding just because my fiance wasn’t their most favorite person. If that relationship does end in the future, they’ll need friends more than ever. I would have a hard time counting on someone again who said, “Sorry, I’m not coming to your wedding because I don’t like your fiance and can’t support this.”

    If a good friend was moving away for a job or school and you didn’t agree with that decision, would you refuse to attend their going away party? If a friend pursued a career you didn’t think was right for them, would you not attend a graduation party when they graduated with a degree in that field? I just think it gets into dangerous territory to start judging friends’ personal decisions. You don’t have to agree with every decision they make, but if you love THEM as a person, you should be willing to support them through good AND bad (in your eyes) decisions. Isn’t that what friends are for? Not just supporting each other when everything is perfect and decisions are good, but also through rough times and when the best of decisions wasn’t necessarily made?

    So to me, that also applies to weddings. I may not agree with this life decision of theirs, but I love them for who they are as my friend and will support them in a time when they are happy and feel they are making a good decision, even if I disagree.

    • Bee

      I agree. I understand the feeling and respect the thoughtfulness involved with the ideas of this main post, but I disagree with it. I believe that the idea of only attending weddings if you support the marriage invites the idea that in order to be thoughtful about a wedding, we need to judge our friends and their choice to be married. Now, as human beings, we inevitably have feelings about our friends’ choices in partners. But I believe that being a supportive friend is more than whether I think their marriage is a good decision- because really, the only people who truly know are the two partners involved. If I am faced with attending a friend’s wedding that I might have negative feelings about, I focus instead on my friend and what I can do to be a support system. If that friend calls me about The Dishes, I will not focus on my negative feelings about his/her partner. Rather, I hope that I am able to listen and provide support, with the knowledge that my friend truly wants this partnership to work. And that, in the end, is what a supportive friendship is really about (for me).

  • Yes, the dishes. Yes.

  • This is a brilliant and deeply touching post. My wedding is in about 30 days and through the planning, our guest list has dwindled down by about 20%. We’ve actually had to “let people off the hook” because their energy and level of commitment was all wrong for what we are working towards. It isn’t easy to accept that your big day doesn’t mean all the wonderful things to your given/chosen families that it means to you, but it does help to know beforehand who you can truly count on when the dishes pile up. It’s just part of the hard work: choosing, culling, compromising and creating, over and over again.

  • Amy March

    I often have no idea if I support a relationship at a wedding. College friend- she seems happy, met her husband at the reception. Cousin- delighted she is tying the knot; cannot remember grooms name. Guy I’m friends with’s college buddy- I’ve never met either of them!

    I think I’d ponder this more if I had a relationship I really didn’t support, but the only people I’m close enough to where I’d really know them well enough to worry are so important to me there’s a whole heap more going on than me being a guest, and I’d never consider not supporting my friend, even if I didn’t support the marriage.

    I’m sticking with my own personal rules: I will only attend your wedding if I can happily: show up on time, wear something appropriate, participate in the reception (you want dancing; I dance. Elderly relatives need tea and conversation; on it), send a gift, and smile as you cone down the aisle.

  • Class of 1980

    I’ve seen this subject go two ways.

    I knew a couple from high school. Let’s call the couple “Bonnie” and “Clyde”. After a year of going together, Clyde broke up with Bonnie in a very cruel way. A few weeks later, he came back and they decided to get married.

    Bonnie asked me to be a bridesmaid, and I told her I couldn’t attend her wedding because I thought she was making the biggest mistake of her life.

    We drifted apart after that. I knew they went on to have two daughters, but I didn’t know how their marriage turned out, until another friend invited them to a card game years later.

    Clyde spent the entire card game making everyone at the table uncomfortable. He kept demanding that Bonnie give him LONG passionate French kisses in between hands. There was nothing anyone could do but avert their eyes. My friend said that Bonnie had a look of utter fear the whole time. Bonnie was afraid of Clyde.

    So, my worst fears were confirmed. To this day, I’ve never had a clear idea about whether I was right or wrong to boycott their wedding. We were all so young, and I didn’t have the perspective to know that she might need me some day.

    And now another story …

    I had a boyfriend whose friend was getting married, and he was not happy about it.

    It was 1980 and the wedding was the most extravagant one I’ve ever been to. They didn’t have a band; they had an orchestra. They had a multi-course sit-down dinner and the guest list was enormous. My boyfriend was a pilot and he flew the groom to the church in a helicopter. After the ceremony, he took the couple to their reception in the helicopter.

    However, leading up to the wedding, my boyfriend got the idea that his friend’s fiancee was going to be trouble. Although both families had money, he was convinced that this girl was going to bleed his friend dry. He spent their entire engagement trying to talk his friend out of the marriage. It was awful, and I kept telling him he was really crossing the line and should shut up.

    Two years later, the couple got divorced, but not for any of the reasons my boyfriend imagined. His friend’s wife had turned out to be a wonderful wife. His friend turned out to be a jerk of a husband and was the reason for the divorce.

    I guess the moral of that story is that your assumptions might be wrong!

    • Ambi

      I completely agree that assumptions can be wrong. I posted a story above about just such a scenario. So, I guess the moral of the story is just to make sure that when you feel like you can’t support a friend’s marriage, you have actual reasons for that decision rather than just assumptions or feelings. Most of the time, none of us really have any idea what goes on behind closed doors in other people’s relationships. This is a really good reminder of that.

      • Class of 1980

        Some people are good at perceiving the truth of other people’s relationships, and some people merely project their own stuff onto others.

        • ItsyBitsy


  • Ambi

    Oh, I have so many thoughts on this topic I can’t type quickly enough to keep up with my brain!

    A thought just struck me that I think is related – I have, unfortunately, witnessed a few of my friends’ marriages crumble and dissolve. In one particular instance, a friend of mine cheated on her husband, and he left her. We were (and actually still are) good friends with both spouses, and it was very hard to go through. I remember being so incredibly angry at my friend – the thought that kept going through my head was “We all stood up there with you while you said your vows; we vowed to protect your marriage; how could you just throw all of that away?!” I was upset that she had hurt her husband, who my guy and I both love deeply, and her children, but the community aspect of their wedding really drove home the feeling that she had somehow betrayed all of us. That probably isn’t fair to her, and the details were more complicated than that (she lied not only to her husband but also to us, her friends, about the affair). But really, I will never forget how upset I was and how much I felt like I had invested in their marriage by being a part of their wedding ceremony.

  • Rachel M

    Brilliant post. Now that I’m planning a wedding I’ve found myself thinking more about what it means to be a wedding guest, and regretting the kind of guest I’ve been in the past – more than I ever thought I would. Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between what we believe is right and what is best for the people we love and still feel like ourselves. As a potential wedding guest or whatever in life, I think it is important to always take the time to really think about each situation as it comes, for what it is (as APW is so good at provoking us to do) and to realize and accept that change, whether we like it or not, is inevitable and often beautiful, sometimes for the best, though not always. That was a rather run-on-y sort of sentence, but I hope it makes sense.

  • Ambi

    About a year or so ago, I was listening to a program on NPR called, I believe, “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” which has guests from multiple generations discuss a particular topic. That day, the topic was marriage, and I was really moved by what the oldest guest said. He said that he feels like the biggest difference between marriages in his generation and today is that, when he was young, if your friend knocked on your door at 2 AM and said that they couldn’t take it any more and were leaving their marriage, it was absolutely understood that your job as a friend was to sit them down at the kitchen table and calm them down and talk them out of it. Unless there was abuse of some kind, friends and family just fundamentally believed that they should always steer your towards saving the marriage. He said that now, people are much more likely to offer advice like “you have to do what’s best for you and we’ll be there for you either way.” It has become a bit taboo to really take a stance and advocate for one outcome or another. I am not sure if all of this is just an anecdote or if there really is that much of a difference between our grandparents’ generation and our own, but I have remembered this bit of advice and actually used it when my own friends have come to me with marriage problems.

    • Marina

      I think this is spot on. If a good friend of mine makes the decision to publicly make a commitment like marriage, unless there is abuse I think it is my job as a friend to support them in that decision. I think that’s where this post really resonates for me. Because there are so few situations where I would actually say “run like the wind meet me in the grove!” I think if I can actually imagine saying that if my friend came to me with issues after the wedding, then it’s important enough that I should have a serious conversation with my friend before the wedding.

      I guess for me it hinges on the difference between “I don’t like my friend’s partner but I’ll show up to support her” and “I think my friend’s partner is abusive but I’ll show up to support her.” That second one does NOT feel like real support to me, not unless you’ve had that serious conversation with your friend first.

      Also the difference between “I’ll support your decision whatever you decide” and “I’ll support you whatever you decide”. I’ll always support my friends. But if I think they’re making stupid decisions, like really genuinely long term harmful stupid decisions, I’m going to tell them so.

  • afrome

    this is tough. luckily, i’ve never had to make such a decision, but i can only assume that if i did have a close friend who was in an unhealthy/abusive relationship, i would absolutely feel obligated to attend the wedding regardless. not going, in my opinion, would likely be the equivalent of severing the friendship (assuming it is a good friend and i don’t have a damn good excuse as to why i can’t be there). i would be going to support my friend regardless of whether or not i supported the relationship. it would suck, yes, but it’s the only outcome i can imagine.

  • Granola

    I really needed to read this today. Not for the “should I go to the wedding” aspect, though I enjoyed it, but for the section about the dishes. This really resonated with me: “And I am going to need a community around me, when I am facing a reality that seems more than I can bear, to remind me that my husband is my partner, not my enemy. That I’m taking my legitimate frustrations out on him not because he deserves it but because he’s there. Because it’s what human beings do to each other when things are hard.”

    I’ve been going through a lot of turmoil as our wedding approaches, and I’m pretty sure it’s normal. But instead of dealing with being scared of a major life change, I get throat-rippingly angry with every fiber of my being, and I take it out on him because he’s there and because it hurts too much to hold it in or deal with it. Thankyou for reminding me that this irrational extrapolations are normal, not hidden messages about my relationship, and that its OK to talk to my girlfriends about it, instead of just hurting my partner over and over again. I regret the cruel things I say borne of anger as soon as they’re out of my mouth, but that doesn’t seem to prevent me from doing it again.

    • Ambi

      I can only hope it is normal, because I have absolutely felt the same way! Maybe APW has already done posts on it, or maybe you could write one (?), but I think this is absolutely a recognized phenomenon of engagement. I suddenly have all this stress about whether the little things will turn into big things in the future. For us, it isn’t about the dishes, it is about my guy’s complete lack of patience and his tendancy to act a impulsively – when he can’t find something in the carefully-packed hall closet, he gets frustrated and just starts tearing everything out of there. When dishes won’t fit in the dishwasher, instead of taking the time to reconfigure the way it is loaded, he just starts trying to push stuff in that won’t fit. Our garage used to be organized, but he can’t seem to be patient enough to put things back where they should go, so now we have a giant pile-o-crap in the corner. This stuff didn’t bother me for years. I too am a bit messy, so I understand the mindset of “let it pile up until it is a huge problem then go on a massive cleaning spree.” And I get it that dealing with a cabinet full of loud heavy pots and pans all crammed into a small space breeds frustration when you’re looking for a particular pot lid and stuff is falling out on the kitchen floor. But all of sudden I’m struck with major worry and anger about his lack of patience. If he can’t muster the patience to pull the lawnmower out of the storage shed without completely destroying all the carefully organized stacks of other stuff I’d packed into that tight space, how in the world can be possibly be a husband or a father?!!!! But then I remind myself that this is apparently normal, many people feel this way pre-wedding, and there is a reason I chose him in the first place. . . . and I take a nice long walk to settle down. :)

      • Jashshea

        I think you’re marrying me. Is he an ENTP as well?

        ENTPs are basically optimists, but in spite of this (perhaps because of it?), they can become petulant about small setbacks and inconveniences. (Major setbacks they regard as challenges, and tackle with determination.) ENTPs have little patience with those they consider wrongheaded or unintelligent, and show little restraint in demonstrating this.


        Example: I was cleaning the sink in the bathroom last night and my toothbrush (electric) kept falling over. I stood it up one last time, it fell against the backsplash and I knocked over 4 other things on the counter in my “angry at the toothbrush snit.” Not 60 minutes before this, I’d taken everything out of our kitchen cabinets to rearrange and add the new wedding shower stuff. I did that happily and didn’t get frustrated when things didn’t fit.

        • Ambi

          Oh. My. God. I have never heard of “ENTP” before, but that is SO spot-on! He is, without any shadow of a doubt, an ENTP. Wow.

          • JASHSHEA

            Have him take the myers briggs personality test. It clarified a lot of stuff for me – I have few close friends, but like an audience; generally think the world at large is, if not out to get me, at least less clever than I am.

            I know it’s not okay, but it really highlighted what I needed to think about.

      • Granola

        Since I’m the first of my close friends to get married, I can’t say for sure it’s normal, but I think it is. Reading ‘The Conscious Bride’ really helped. Also, thanks for the nudge into writing a post. Time to screw up my courage and start drafting…

  • ElisabethJoanne

    This story is supposed to help me. Maybe it will help someone else. It’s an example of the wise friend responding to The Dishes call:

    One of the younger little old ladies at church has been telling me how, on her wedding day (in her 40s, I think, FWIW), she woke up and thought, “Oh my gosh. What have I done?!” Another of the little old ladies at church arrived to pick her up and take her to the church, found her in this frazzled state, and said, “No no no. You’re doing the right thing. Have a shot of whiskey, and let’s get to the church.” The marriage, I hear, was short (He died too young.) but very happy.

    • Ambi

      Interesting. My cousin was recently married, and for whatever it’s worth, her maid of honor spoke at the rehearsal dinner about how, on her own wedding day, my cousin was driving them to the church, and the bride completely freaked out and got cold feet, and my cousin said very calmly, “I think you are making a great decision marrying Joe, but this is your life and your decision and if you want me to keep on driving right past the church, we can be in another state in a few hours.” At that moment she knew that, no, of course she wanted to go the church and get married, but she really appreciated my cousin for the offer.

  • Hillary

    If you turn this scenario around, it’s also helpful for deciding who to invite to your wedding. Personally, I didn’t want anyone there who wasn’t a person I would call or get together with on a regular basis, was someone who was indifferent about our relationship, or anyone with whom I wouldn’t share meaningful thoughts or perhaps ask advice. My husband felt strongly about inviting our extended social circle. This was without a doubt the most crucial part of our wedding planning, because it led us to a compromise that split the wedding and the reception. We ended up inviting six of our closest friends to the wedding, being married by two of them, and having the ceremony in our living room. Perfection. We then had a larger reception a few weeks later (on what was our originally planned wedding day). Our wedding was witnessed by our closest confidants, who will stand by us through thick and thin, and we still got to celebrate with our larger community.

    • Emma

      We’ve had (and continue to have) this exact same debate. I don’t love the idea of having a ceremony in front of people who are only moderately invested, if that, in our relationship. The list of people I really *want* at our wedding is only about 20 people long, 30 if you include the family members on which I am somewhat iffy but know I’d regret it if they weren’t there. But my boyfriend wants a big party, and his parents really want a big party. So our list of invited guests is in the 150 person range, and we hope this results in no more than 100 people.

      So there will almost certainly be people at our wedding that we’re not really that close to. But I’ve come to peace with it because at the end of the day, it’s not just my wedding. It’s his, and his family’s, and my family’s. And if that means we broaden the circle a bit (and I deal with some stage fright about it) in order to keep the peace, that’s what we’ll do.

  • I saw the title of this post and thought it would be about responding to an invitation politely, talking with people who aren’t just your friends, etc. That would have been fine and all, but this might be one of my favorite APW posts ever. It totally sums up my feelings about womanhood/marriage and how that relates to friends. (Except in a way funnier, more eloquent way.) Love it!

  • I love this so much I can’t even say. When we were married we went through our guest list looking at names with the thought in mind “are these people that are going to support our marriage through think and thin?” Because we need people. I had girlfriends talk me down from the post-wedding cliff, i.e. “you’re not crazy, you’re not the only one who’s felt this way, other people have gone though this, you didn’t make the biggest mistake of your life. You and A love each other, so get back to your apartment and FIX it, Christy!”

    Recently some friends of ours had a crisis in their two-year old marriage. Like, big, huge, I-don’t-know-how-she’s-still-hanging-in-there crisis. They’ve worked it out, thank God. The other day my friend shared with me something we’d apparently said to them one night when we’d had them over for a mid-crisis dinner. (We’d forgotten all about it.) Apparently we’d said something along the lines of, “we’re not here to take sides and fight for your side or his side. We’re here to be on the side of your marriage and help you fight for it.” And that still apparently stuck with her, even a year later. That’s what your article reminded me of, and what I’ve realized in my 6+ years of marriage: we need people on our side who will help us fight for our marriage when we can’t. Who will take it’s side over ours.Who will tell us to shut the hell up when we’re being selfish idiots and hold us to the vows we said before God and them. Because they were there – wedding guests chosen with care, people we loved then and love now as we grow our little baby families together in community.

    Kumbai-ya enough for you?

  • Sarah

    I think it is ok to attend a wedding to support a friend. We love our friends and we have to respect their choices and trust them and sometimes we have to say that we are there no matter what. Sometimes I’ve gone to weddings when I didn’t quite “get” the couple and the wedding itself has shown me how much they really do belong together. One of the things a wedding can do is help us all understand and accept this new couple. We mark the transitions of life this way and sometimes the ritual itself and hearing the vows the couples make to each other can get us to a place where we can wholeheartedly support a marriage.

  • Ambi

    Okay, I think we have all been extremely thoughtful and wise in our reflections on this really meaningful topic . . . so, I’m going to give myself permission to be completely shallow for a moment and say OH MY GOD THAT DRESS! I am deeply and passionately in love with the wedding dress in the photo (from what I can see of it), and if I didn’t already have a dress I’d want this one.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    And another story:

    We are considering having three wedding ceremonies – a tiny one at the county clerk’s office, a huge catholic one at church, and a tiny Jewish one at the reception. But I hear some people (obviously not members of Team Practical) find such procedures offensive and deceptive. While we have good religious and political reasons for our plans, they’re not so strong we want to offend our guests.

    So I took an informal online poll of mostly men about what they think about religious ceremonies that are not also civil ceremonies, as is usually the case in Europe but usually not the case for straight American couples. They didn’t care, but their comments revealed that they mostly didn’t enjoy weddings. The free food and alcohol didn’t make up for having to dress up and be in the particular social environment for basically a whole day.

    I still believe “Your wedding is not an imposition.” After all, if these men aren’t going to enjoy themselves, they can decline. If their wives manipulate them into attending, that’s a matter of their marriages, not yours. But it’s interesting to think that a full half your guests don’t expect to enjoy your wedding.

    • Ambi

      I think this is some sort of cultural trend where guys have decided it is cool to hate weddings – I see it all the time in my boyfriend’s group of friends, and it is such BS. Not only do they actually have a great time at the reception (some of our favorite memories with our group of friends have been at each other’s weddings, and I know for a fact that these very same guys genuinely enjoy themselves and go home only when everything is over – they don’t leave early), but also at the ceremony itself – maybe they think it is uncool to show emotion or be touched by other people’s love for each other or something, but I have also witnessed that these guys take the ceremony seriously and really do care about their friends and loved ones getting married. Yes, there are a lot of those little inconveniences that guys tend to gripe about – from renting tuxes to standing around for hours during pre-and-post ceremony photos to spending a lot of money on travel and gifts and lodging and all that – but I don’t really believe that they actually hate weddings.

      • SusieQ

        I don’t know. I’m a woman, and I tend to not like weddings that much. The expense, the expectations, the feelingsyness, the socialness, and the fact that many of them are just not the type of party that I like (type of party that I like = barbecue). Add to that the “oh-my-gosh-do-I-have-to-do-this-someday” anxiety that I felt for about ten years (until I recently got married), I wouldn’t say I hate them exactly, but they are usually not my cup of tea. I feel this way about most/all milestone events (graduations, showers, particularly fancy birthday parties, etc.), including and especially when I’m the one with the milestone, and I’ve come to accept it’s just a thing about me.

        Here’s the thing though; I am still honored to be invited to such events for people I care about, and if I decide to go despite my (milestone-specific social anxiety?) issues, which I usually do, I am also honored to be there. I choose to enjoy myself to the best of my ability and to be present during the day, both for the guest of honor and for myself. Usually I end up having a lot of fun, and ALWAYS I am glad I was there. I wonder if the men you talked to, ElisabethJoanne, have a similar experience with weddings. I would love to think I am not the only person with this hangup.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I agree with both of you. Part of it is men giving in to their bit of WIC that says they’re not supposed to like weddings. Part of it is that different people (of any gender) like different kinds of parties. My own wedding won’t be my favorite kind of party, but we consider it a gift to our guests who, though it’s not their favorite kind of party, either, we’re at least trying to make it the kind of party most of our guests can enjoy.

      In a way, knowing people don’t expect to “have fun” takes the pressure off. If I can’t plan a fun party, I haven’t disappointed them. Also, getting people to be honest points out that “Your wedding is not an imposition.” They know they won’t “have fun,” or that fun will be an unexpected bonus, yet they are honored to attend anyway, for reasons more important than fun, food, and drink.

  • Jane

    I respect the thoughts behind this post, and the sentiment of wanting support and not wanting to be fake about showing support to others, but I just can’t agree with it. First of all, one of the most important things to learn about life is that we cannot control others, only ourselves. We can invite people to our weddings, but we cannot control how they will feel about our marriages. Worrying about how a guest really feels is just inviting unnecessary distress, I think. Second, I agree with the people who have pointed out that it is people making mistakes who most often need the loving support of friends. If your friend is making a bad choice, the least you can do is be there to support he through the aftermath. In any case, we cannot always know the truth about a relationship from the outside. Even if you attend a wedding that gives you a sinking feeling, it doesn’t mean the relationship will sink.

    • Emma

      I love this: “it is people making mistakes who most often need the loving support of friends.”

      We are all so fallible. I’ve watched marriages that I wholly supported fall apart. I’ve seen friends who I thought were perfect for each other call off engagements. And I’ve gone to weddings for couples I wasn’t sure of, only to find years later that they had the kind of relationship that goes the distance. And in at least one of those cases, even though I appreciate their commitment to each other, I *still* can’t stand my friend’s spouse!

      The point is, no one at a wedding can predict with 100% certainty what will happen in that marriage. We think we can guess, but most of us, even the close friends of the bride and groom, simply don’t know. Showing up and showing our love even when we have our doubts is a way of admitting that we don’t know — but whether this is the biggest mistake of their lives or the beginning of an amazing marriage, we should be there to say “Good luck and I love you.”

    • Ambi

      I think this is a fair point, and of course every situation is different so you have to make the decision that is right for you at the time. I have been interested to read comments about not inviting people who don’t fall into the category of people I would call in order to get support when I’m frustrated about The Dishes. I haven’t been through this yet, but I am starting to understand that, while I really love the idea of only having loved ones around you on your wedding day who truly and deeply support your union, I guess I don’t see that as such a clear cut option. I anticipate having to make compromises and invite rarely-seen relatives and boyfriends-of-friends and parents’ business associates even if I don’t know whether those people really love me and my guy and are completely supportive of our marriage. So, it never really dawned on me to have stress about how each and every guest feels about us getting married. What I did take away from this post (and from recent experience) is that there really is never a need to either (a) go to a wedding while at the same time being openly critical of the marriage, or (b) invite and include people to your own wedding who are openly critical of it. To me, there is a big difference between trying to control how guests feel and taking control of your own emotions/actions – As a guest, I can either get on board with the marriage and shut up about my criticism or I can stand by my assessment and in that case I probably shouldn’t attend (not always, there are exceptions). As a bride, I can’t make all of my guests feel a certain way, but I am going to erase any guilt over excluding someone who is open about not wanting my marriage to succeed.

  • I really like the sentiment behind this post, but ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that in general it is best not to judge others relationships — I don’t think you can truly know a relationship from the outside. (I’ll caveat this by saying that none of my friends that I can think of have had long term, meaningful relationships with terrible people. They’ve had long term relationships with people who I didn’t think were right for them certainly, but I never thought their significant others were horrible people. So maybe if a friend of mine had been in danger of marrying a horrible abusive person I would feel differently. I don’t know.)

    There are definitely friends of mine whose significant others I didn’t love. There are those who I thought would likely divorce. And, at times, I have been right, and it’s much easier to remember when you’re right when two people get divorced and you’re like, I knew it.

    But there have been times where I have been dead wrong. Where the dude who I found totally wrong for my friend ended up being the most amazing husband and dad, and as I got to know him, became a great friend of mine as well.

    So now I do not think it is my place to judge my friends relationships. Overall, I think my friends are very smart, lovely people whose judgment I need to trust. Sure sometimes they will make mistakes, but who doesn’t? It’s part of life. But just because your friends inevitably will make mistakes does not license you to stop trusting them about their own lives.

    Also, on a side note, one thing to bear in mind is that people deal with the outside face of their relationships very differently. Some people are gushy and tell you all the little lovey things. Other people only vent to their friends about the bad. Some believe They Know while others believe that Knowing is not possible. Just because a friend voices doubts or is constantly complaining about her SO doesn’t mean it’s a bad relationship even if you did those things that would mean you were in a bad relationship.

    • Elaine

      Exactly to this! When we were in our early 20’s, my best friend got engaged to a guy whom she had been dating for a year or so, but whom she’d seriously considered breaking up with just a few months previously. They fought all the time about issues that seemed like deal breakers to me, including in front of other people. She’d also gotten together with him only a few months after breaking up with her college sweetheart, from whom she was expecting a proposal but got a “Dear John” letter instead. While we liked her fiance well enough on a personal level, a few mutual friends and I were seriously concerned about her reasons for marrying him. One of our other girlfriends and I even attempted to stage an “intervention” at brunch the weekend after their engagement; however, once we saw how happy she was about their engagement, we dropped the idea, congratulated her, and oohed and ahhed over their wedding plans. I was the maid of honor in their wedding, even though I still had my doubts that they’d make it or were all that well-suited for one another. Fast forward half a dozen years or so, and he’s an amazing husband and father. They are extended family to me and my husband. They still have their issues, but have mellowed out a lot as they’ve matured, and they exhibit the kind of commitment to one another that I use as the model for my own marriage. Had I not attended their wedding because of my doubts that they were right for each other, I would absolutely regret it and probably not have her in my life.

  • Leanne

    I clicked over from my reader just to comment on what a lovely post this was. While it is obviously a very nuanced issue, the writer has a wonderful way of capturing her take on it.

  • Virginia

    Hey y’all! The original post writer here. Just wanted to throw out a response to an idea that’s been popping up in the comments: that sometimes supporting a friend in a failing relationship means helping and loving them as they make their way out of it. I think an important distinction to make is that allowing a failure to come from within a relationship is different than helping to push that failure along. If you’re close enough to someone, you can do the latter pretty passively and unintentionally.

    It takes an active reorientation to go from “your boyfriend sucks” to “your husband isn’t my cup of tea, but he’s your family so I will no longer treat either of you as though he is a question.” That’s a basic level of support, but reorienting yourself requires an acknowledgment that something is changing and that you’re willing to accept it.

    • Amy March

      But that also takes a very particular view of marriage. it’s one I share, but I know I have people in my life who would absolutely encourage me to run to the grove, not because of any real concerns about a partner, but because that is what they would do, and how they live their lives. Coincidentally, this group of friends would include people who aren’t themselves married.

      I also feel this post is looking at a wedding different than those I frequently attend- I just don’t think my childhood friends parents are the types of people I would even ask this question about, and yet it matters deeply to me to have them there.

  • Heather

    Thank you so much for your wisdom. I read your post to my partner and we both appreciate what you had to say. It spoke to us and reminded us to not fight about the dishes or cleaning the bathroom. ;-). But truly it spoke to the kind of wedding ceremony we would like to share with our community, the people that sincerely and honestly, love and support us.

    We wish you and your partner all the best in your commitment to one another.

  • MEI

    I really enjoy this post and the questions and discussion it raises about how to communicate with a friend about his/her relationship and marriage. However, for future reference for the author, some of us find the word “lame” to be offensive and ableist, and would very much appreciate if you could use a different adjective — maybe “inadequate”? Thank you for considering this and thanks again for a great post!

  • Joanna

    “… my husband is my partner, not my enemy.” THIS!!! We all need to be reminded of this from time to time, don’t we?

    I wish I could send this blog out with my wedding invitations.

  • We were doing research on how to improve information we give to our visitors and found you’re most excellent website. It’s a treasure of information that any wedding couple could richly benefit from. The statement that stood out from this post is the responsibility of the guest to realize they are sharing in a moment of commitment and that is an honor to do so. The exact quote was “You’re being invited to share in a moment of commitment. It is an honor and a responsibility.” Excellent insight! That’s an angle most people don’t think of when attending a wedding. Thank you for a great post! BH

  • Emily

    This is exactly the way I needed someone to frame The Guest List argument for me. Thanks

  • KateW

    This is a great article! I think it is so important to have an emotionally supportive community outside of your marriage, and a community that supports your marriage at that. I have definitely had the Dishes complex as well :) I think there is not enough discussion about the fact that marriage is a big change and a big commitment, and naturally produce some anxiety and freak-out moments, even in a healthy relationship, and it’s nice to hear someone who knows this first hand to say it to you during an anxious, “this is a huge decision” freak-out moment.