One of the least pleasant surprises of engagement is how public it suddenly makes your life. The second you have a ring on your finger, people seem to decide that it’s okay to ask you all sorts of personal questions about topics ranging from your faith to your budget to your family. And worse than questions are the assumptions.
As someone who worked in a super traditional investment bank when I got engaged, thinking about the questions people asked still makes my skin crawl. Because no, I wasn’t spending my daddy’s money on a wedding dress. And no, I didn’t have a line of sorority sisters who were going to be my bridesmaids. And, worse, no, my mom wasn’t actually involved in my planning, but thanks for bringing it up.
Because one of the most painful issues that comes up, time and time again, is family. When you’re getting married, everyone seems to forget that families can look all kinds of ways, and they jump right to making assumptions. And there is nothing like fielding these kinds of comments over a work lunch, or with a bridesmaid dress salesperson, or at a bar, or you know… with your boss’s boss. (That elevator ride was so awful I may never erase it from my soul.) You know the ones:
“Your mom must be so excited about this wedding, I bet she’s doing all the planning.”
“Is your father over the moon about walking daddy’s little girl down the aisle?”
“I bet your parents have been saving for years to pay for this.”
“Isn’t it the best to have your siblings get to be in your wedding party?”
The problem is, the pain that these questions cause can very quickly turn to shame. You can end up feeling like it’s somehow your fault that your mom couldn’t give a shit about wedding planning, or you haven’t talked to your dad in years, or your parents can’t even manage their own money let alone save for your wedding, or your brother doesn’t care enough to make it to the wedding. You know, the stuff our advice archives are full of.
And because you can’t figure out how to explain this to perfect strangers, you can end up apologizing and internalizing. Weddings put so much pressure on us to have someone else’s idea of a perfect life that we can forget our lives are great just the way they are. We lose track of the fact that our families don’t have to look like anyone else’s, and we are certainly not responsible for our family members’ behavior.
(And also, a reminder: you are not alone if you have imperfect or even damaged or damaging family. Your wedding should a celebration of your chosen family and friends and all the people who love you like you deserve to be loved.)
I don’t have any easy snappy comebacks for you. (Because also, you can’t try sassy backtalk when riding in the elevator with your boss’s boss, SADLY.) But I do have a whole lot of love and empathy, and a reminder that you should never apologize for your life or how your family members act or treat you.
Now lay it on us. Who is struggling with intrusive comments or questions about family during wedding planning? Who’s dealing with family who just doesn’t look like (or act like) families at the weddings in the movies? And who just flat-out needs a hug today?