Q: My fiancé and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day after being together for two and a half years and knowing each other for over thirty years. He and I have been in the same friend group for about twenty-five years; a couple of his friends are married to a couple of mine. We have this tight knit circle that is more like family than a group of friends, and we do and celebrate everything together (Halloween parties, Christmas parties, football games, concerts, camping, etc.).
When we got together, everyone was thrilled, and even more so when we got engaged. Then… nothing. Crickets. The overwhelming sentiment from friends and family (on both sides) seems to be, “Why bother?” The comments I receive on a daily basis range from, “Why are you guys wasting all that money on a wedding?” to “Why don’t you just go to the courthouse and be done with it?” to my favorite, “Why bother getting married at all? Why don’t you guys just keep living together?” I had people actually RSVP to the save the dates as “no.” (Who RSVPs to a save the date?)
I have spent the last nine months planning and then canceling two full weddings and now am formulating our plan to elope, and I am absolutely devastated. I thought everyone was so excited for us and would want to share this amazing moment with us. I spent hours crafting a community-involved ceremony, with a ring warming and audience involvement. We wanted a small ceremony and reception with about forty guests in a beautiful setting in the mountains. That’s it. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, just a lovely little party to share with the people we love.
Everything was coming together when two things happened: I made a comment to my mom about being stressed out about wedding planning, and she answered me with, “I was surprised you guys just didn’t do it while you were in Vegas. It would have been so much easier on everyone.” And then in the same week my maid of honor/bestie of twenty-four years told me she planned a camping trip in Yellowstone for her and her family the week leading up to the wedding (I hadn’t asked her to do anything specific yet; I just assumed she’d be around). I had a complete and total meltdown. I completely lost my shit. I had already been crying on a daily basis for months after being age shamed and fat shamed from every dress shop and vendor I had contacted: “Are you the mother of the bride or the groom?” I am a size sixteen, not even considered plus size in street clothes, but finding a wedding dress being forty-five and overweight was a nightmare. After trying on fifty-plus dresses I settled on a blue mother-of-the-bride dress because it fits.
I hadn’t asked anyone to do anything. I didn’t invite all the ladies I know to stay up till 3 a.m. to make five hundred paper doilies. I wasn’t demanding or preening or bitchy or anything. I was simply planning a small party so we could share the most amazing beautiful thing that has ever happened to us with the people we love. Apparently no one has any interest in seeing or participating in two frumpy forty-somethings getting married.
The advice I need is twofold:
First, how do I get over feeling so devastated and let down? I am so hurt and disappointed and angry with pretty much everyone I know that I have been avoiding everyone for the past month. The next person who comments to me, “OMG you must be so relieved to be eloping and be done with all that wedding nonsense,” (there have already been several) just might get punched. Secondly, how can I make our planned elopement feel special? I don’t know how I will feel when we are saying our vows to each other and no one is there to watch or share it with us. I don’t know how to get over being so disappointed and get excited about eloping. I don’t know how to get excited about putting on a dress that, although beautiful, is not a wedding dress, and every time I look at it, all I do is remember I had to buy it because I couldn’t fit into a “real” wedding dress.
I just want to marry this beautiful amazing man who I love and who loves me, but with a wedding industry that’s told me I’m too old and too fat, and friends and family who made it clear they weren’t interested in participating, I’m completely lost and can’t find any joy in any of it at this point.
A: Dear Anonymous,
First of all, I’m so sorry. Wedding planning is already hard, and thoughtless family and friends can make the whole process so much worse. That’s before we even get to the awful behavior from wedding vendors (who honestly should know better, FFS).
Do a gut check about these friends of yours. Are they otherwise great people who are really handling this one thing poorly, or are they usually this bad at being friends? Because this is next-level bad. Like, the APW staff was muttering about forming a posse, bad.
If I step back, though, I think it’s likely that your friends are just being thoughtless about life stages. If they’ve all been through the wedding planning process already, it’s old hat to them. They’re over it. Weddings are frivolous, silly things for young people who don’t know any better (both untrue and unfair). They’ve moved on from weddings, and carelessly assume you did, too. That’s hurtful and selfish, but it’s not necessarily about being any less happy for you. If they’re otherwise great people, I’d assume they’re just being oblivious.
So, what do you do? Ignore them. Truly. If this isn’t an event you’re excited about, plan one you are, without paying any mind to a single one of their complaints. I know that seems difficult when a big piece of your vision is to be surrounded by folks who are also excited. I wish I could do something about that. But, neither of us can control what these jerks are feeling. So, instead take care of the stuff you can control and plan everything else your little wedding-loving heart desires. Because it sounds like what you’ve got right now isn’t it. That might mean tacking a really gorgeous full-tilt wedding gown onto the existing elopement, or it may mean scrapping these plans in favor of an extravagant blowout. My gut says that if you threw a lavish wedding, folks would eventually fix their faces and get on board. But you know your people. Try to look past the insecurities they’ve picked open and ask yourself honestly: Will they bitch and moan for the months leading up, but turn it around in the face of kick-ass music and cake? Or can you count on them to keep on being party-poopers? Depending on how you answer that, formulate your fancy new wedding plan. If you deign to send them an invitation, that’s totally your call.
Normally I’d close there, but hold on one sec. In our exchange, you mentioned that you’re a full-time caregiver to your disabled son. You spend every moment caring for someone else in, presumably, some wholly selfless ways. I’m assuming you don’t ever get to be top priority, that you spend a lot of time putting someone else first, and that it would be really lovely to have someone make a fuss over you, for once. Maybe that feels a little bit selfish when all written out loud, but I’m telling you: it’s not. It’s only fair.
I’ll take all of my assuming one step further and also guess that you’re so used to advocating for someone else, that you’re out of practice in advocating for yourself. It feels weird to say, “No, listen, we’re focusing on me right now.” But that’s exactly what you should say.
You’re worth celebrating. It sucks that no one is acknowledging that with the excitement that you’d hoped. It’s terrible to not only take care of the folks around you, but to then have to pull teeth to experience a little care in return. In an ideal world, these jokers would be leaping at a chance to focus on you for a day, and I’m sorry that they’re not. You deserve the wedding of your dreams. Go ahead and get excited about it! Whether or not anyone else joins you in that enthusiasm is on them.