My In-Laws Are Forcing Us to Delay Our Wedding for Two Years

There's no explanation

Q:Dear Amy,

Myself and my fiancx got engaged two years ago, and we could not wait to share the news with our loved ones. At first, everyone seemed excited and ready to get on with the planning. But slowly, we realized that we are alone in our happiness. We got engaged young (I was 24 and he was 22), when we were about to graduate from college. We both had jobs lined up, high paying ones with excellent benefits. We got our own place (after living off-campus for a year) in the city, and began to brainstorm. We originally wanted a fall 2020 wedding, we had a venue in mind, and a list of vendors we were anxious to work with, we made a budget, and all systems were go! My parents generously offered to fund the wedding as a gift to us. And I am so so grateful for their help. We don’t make heaps of money, we can pay the bills, but we don’t have a ton leftover. We accepted the help, because without it, we would probably not have as many options.

We fell in love with a venue that was in my parents’ budget (below it, in fact) and we all got excited. My parents called my finacx’s parents to tell them that they were ready to sign off on a venue, just to be polite, and to make sure the date they had in mind worked (my fiancx’s mom travels A LOT and we wanted to make sure we were not interfering with any of her travel plans).

At this point, my fiancx’s parents flipped out. They demanded that we wait another two months, they didn’t give a reason, but we agreed to wait. Two months passed and we called again to let them know that we were heading to the venue to sign off on the contract. Once again they demanded that we wait, this time another month. At this point, we lost our temporary hold on the venue, but we caved and waited another month, this went on for about another eight months. Now they’re demanding we wait a whole year before putting down a deposit. My parents are so frustrated about this, but they want to maintain a good relationship with his family, so they caved in again.

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At this point, my fiancx’s parents also told us that they do not intend to pay for the wedding. I believe that if they refuse to pay so much as a penny, they don’t deserve a say in the wedding, and that includes a date, a time, a place, etc. We both know that if we keep caving in to their demands, the wedding will never happen, or it won’t happen until we are 40.

My parents think they will cave eventually, and plan to wait them out in order to make them happy, no matter how long it takes, but we know from past behavior that they won’t. They did this to his two older brothers, they made them wait even longer, and, in both instances, eventually the bride’s parents told them to quit it, and signed a contract with our their knowledge or consent. And because they love their sons, they showed up. My fiancx and I have talked about eloping, just to get the legal part over with. When we told my parents (they’re paying so they deserve to know), they started to yell and curse about how eloping was not an option, and that they wanted to see us “married properly,” whatever that means, especially my dad, who I almost lost to suicide three years ago. And of course they went and told his parents, in tears that they were ruining their wedding planning experience, and to just let us marry, this led to a fight between the families and the two of us, and we didn’t elope in order to keep the peace.

We’ve now been asked to push back again, this time for two more years. And we’re so sick of it. People are starting to question if I am even engaged, or just wearing a ring for the freebies and attention, it hurts my heart so badly. Should I just elope and not tell anyone? Wait out his parents? or is there a happy medium we haven’t thought of yet? I don’t want to wait five more years.

—Waiting so long

A:Dear Waiting,

Your only option here is to grow up.

You got engaged very young. The plenty of people on APW staff would be the first to say this can be great and work out wonderfully! But for you, it means you were navigating graduating college, moving in together, getting your first adult jobs, and setting adult boundaries with your parents for the first time all at once. To me, it seems like learning how to have an adult relationship with your parents is still very much a work in progress.

Figuring out how you interact with your parents as an independent adult and as part of an adult partnership is hard. It’s different for everyone, and difficult for lots of us. I don’t think you need to be all or nothing here. Your options aren’t “be a complete pushover” or “disown your family.” You need to find that balance for yourself, in cooperation with your partner.

Right now, I don’t think you are doing that work. You’re passively allowing both sets of parents to decide whether you have the legal right to make end-of-life decisions for your partner. You’re allowing his parents’ scheduling claims to decide what kind of taxes you want to pay. You’re allowing your parents’ desperate need to pacify his to decide whether you’d have to testify against each other in court and how joint property you might purchase will be treated. Marriage is a real adult thing with lots of legal implications, and these are just a few of them.

Let’s set up a plan here. First, you need to very firmly tell your parents that you do not want them to communicate with his parents about the wedding in any way, ever again, full stop. You may be thinking “Yeah yeah, that’s nice internet lady but I know my parents and they won’t listen.” I want to encourage you to try, and then to observe what your parents do when faced with your clear request, and treat this as a way of learning about how your parents feel about respecting your wishes.

Then, you and your betrothed need to have a Marriage Summit. Get on the same page about why you want to be married and when you want that to happen. Write it down: We, Bride and Groom want to be married because 1)_______, 2) __________, and 3) __________. It is important for us to be married by XYZ date because 1) ________, 2) _________, and 3)____________.

Sit with that statement for a while.

Then, talk to each other again about how you can make your wedding mission statement a reality. Right now, you’re doing whatever your parents want because they’re paying for it. What would it look like if you took that power back? How much could you spend on a wedding now? What could you save within the time frame you’ve set? What would that wedding look like?

I fully get that if your parents are offering you a luxe wedding for 200 and your budget runs to a picnic shelter in a park for 50, this is a brutal decision to make, and it’s not a recommendation I take lightly. If you decide to wait for all the parents to approve your wedding and let them pay for it, that’s completely your choice. And that’s ultimately my point. Right now you aren’t choosing anything. You’re just drifting in the toxic seaweed forest of parental expectations.

Sitting back and waiting for the grownups to figure it out is not a plan. You are the grownups, and you need to start behaving like it.

—Amy March


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