Q: My daughter and fiancé are having a destination wedding. We invited family and friends on both sides to attend, and there are approximately forty-five people that are attending. On the groom’s side, only his parents and one friend are attending. This is a symbolic ceremony and the bride and groom were going get married before we went to the destination. No one knows this because they wanted to keep it private with just his parents and us. They asked his mother to ask her pastor if he would perform the civil ceremony here in the U.S. She did that, but now she has also invited her other family members to this ceremony because they aren’t able to attend the destination wedding. She was told in the beginning that this was to be a private ceremony. Now it seems that the groom is okay with this as well. I am personally paying for the destination wedding. The guests who are attending the destination wedding do not know that this is a symbolic wedding (something which we found out that many couples do with destination weddings). I feel that if our guests who spent the money to travel to this event will be hurt if they found out about this private ceremony with other people in attendance and they were not. Of course, I am upset and so is my daughter. It is like a feeling of betrayal to our guests. Please help with any advice.
—Upset in Paradise
A: Dear UP,
My disclaimer here is, of course: this isn’t your battle. It’s up to these two crazy kids to decide what they want for their ceremony, how much of the family will be there, and what they do about Mom slipping out invitations. I know you feel some ownership of this destination event since you’re footing the bill, and as a result, hosting. But this other stuff with the family politics and the “private” not actually being private is all theirs to sort out.
That said. I’m going to answer the rest assuming that you’re going to forward this link over to that daughter of yours, because of the wisdom and quality of the writing, etc. Of course. Why wouldn’t you.
Maybe groom’s mom misunderstood. Maybe she wasn’t told outright that the ceremony is private, meaning no guests. Yeah, it’s possible she’s just being presumptuous and pushy, but when it comes to these joint family affairs, it can be hard to parse out exactly who said what to whom and how it was received.
Or maybe this is just the only way his family is going to get to participate in the wedding. Not everyone can afford the expenses involved with getting to a destination event, and there’s a chance that this private ceremony is the groom’s family’s shot at supporting him and your daughter. In any case, let’s give mom the benefit of the doubt because why not, it makes extended familial relations easier to endure.
Now that the invitation has been spread around, this couple needs to figure out if they really, truly want a private ceremony. And if they do, whether that privacy is worth ruffling his mom’s feathers a bit (it very well may be). If so, groom’s mom has to rescind her invites. That sounds really uncomfortable, I know, and won’t make her happy at all. But citing a misunderstanding covers a whole host of wrongs, including, “In all of my excitement, I didn’t realize it was a private ceremony and that I wasn’t supposed to invite guests.” She could also offer to host her own little party to celebrate the couple for folks who can’t attend the destination wedding. Or, if your daughter and her partner want to soften the blow, they can offer to throw some small get-together as a sort of compromise.
But, based on your letter, that’s a big if (and like I mentioned above, a whole lot of not-your-place, as the mom on the other side of the aisle). From your letter, it sounds like the groom is okay with having family there. And if the groom is okay with having family there, then why was there a private ceremony to begin with? Are these two on the same page? It sounds like maybe they’re not, and if that’s the case, that explains why his mom was confused.
Even if family shows up to the ceremony, it’s safe to assume your guests won’t feel betrayed. It seems unlikely that they’d even find out. But if they do, a simple, non-gossippy, no-details, “It was intended to be private, but it didn’t work out,” is enough, the end. Pretty much everyone realizes that there are complicated logistics and family politics muddying the works of planning any wedding. And trust me that you don’t want to be the mom trashing the new in-laws.
I get it, you feel responsible for the destination event, you want your guests to feel valued, you want your daughter to have everything she wants. But you’re not responsible for other peoples’ actions (or lack thereof). These two may decide it’s not worth the fight with his mom, and just let his family come to the ceremony. It’s a decision that doesn’t involve you, and one that’s less about their wedding, more about finding their footing as a family. You’re doing an awesome thing by covering this destination wedding, and people are coming because they want to celebrate your daughter and her partner, no matter what other events are happening or who’s going to them.
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