Do I Have to Spend a Week in an All-Expenses-Paid Villa for My Cousin’s Wedding?

High-class problems are still problems


My husband and I haven’t had a big vacation in a long time—life stuff, our own wedding, school, new jobs with limited vacation time all have gotten in the way. As travel addicts, this has been torture for us, so we have committed to taking a big international trip within the next year. We’ve been saving all our extra money, and our vacation days, for what will be our first vacation in three years.

And then life happened. We’re invited to three weddings requiring travel within the next year. No question, we are going to the weddings—it’s my best friend, his brother, and his cousin. But the costs and vacation days are adding up!

To save our vacation, we came up with what we thought was a perfect solution: My husband’s cousin is getting married in Italy. We planned to fly out to Greece, spend five days there, and then pop over to Italy on Thursday for the Saturday wedding. We get our vacation and the wedding and only have to pay for one international round-trip flight AND make the most of our meager vacation days.

Win-win! Or so we thought. His cousin has decided to rent a villa for everyone attending for the full week of the wedding (Monday through Saturday) and cover the full cost, which is super generous. But he has told us their vision involves all the guests (mostly family) being there for the full week. They see this as much of a family reunion as a wedding, with all of us eating and drinking and partying all week long. When we told the groom we’d be coming in just two days before (which, by the way, gets us there two full nights before the wedding and in plenty of time for the rehearsal), he was disappointed and has asked us to reconsider. The groom’s parents and my husband’s parents are also telling us, “This wedding isn’t about you, and family comes before vacation.”

Doing the full week in the villa plus five days in Greece isn’t do-able with the vacation time we have. And spending a week with my husband’s overbearing family in a villa (no matter how lovely and free it is) without an easy escape is a vacation to neither of us. My husband has been firm in saving our vacation and telling everyone to back off. But everyone seems very hurt by our decision, including the groom, to the point I wonder if we are being selfish—especially because the couple is covering villa and all meals for us.

What do you think?

—I Thought Vacations Were Supposed to be Fun

A: DEAR vacations,

You’ve come up with a perfect plan. It sounds like it fits your vacation goals for the year, falls within your time and money budget, and gets you to the wedding with a couple days to enjoy catching up with your husband’s family.

The thing is, people don’t have to like it. I’m glad your husband is being firm! To be honest, I’d take the free trip and rent a car to get away, and plan Greece for the next time. But I respect that an Italian villa with his family is not the vacation you’ve been dreaming of, and that’s completely fine. His parents can be hurt. The fact that they are having feelings doesn’t mean you are wrong, and it doesn’t mean they are wrong. It sounds like this trip is a pretty big deal to them, and they’d like to share it with you. We all want things! Of course this wedding isn’t about you, which is why you do not need to live your lives around it.

The groom’s expectations, though? They’re… a lot. Paying for a villa and meals for a week? Lovely, generous, and I’m totally willing to take your place if you decide you don’t want to go. At the end of the day though, it’s still an invitation, not a subpoena. Guests might just not be willing to devote 1/52 of their year to celebrating your wedding. Hell, it can be hard to get guests to commit to twelve hours for your wedding. It’s the highlight of your social calendar, not theirs. And I know, I know, “It’s also a family reunion!” But a) not everyone makes it to those, and b) aren’t half the guests not even relations?

I think it’s easy for people to get carried away when planning destination weddings. First it’s a ceremony and reception, and then a rehearsal dinner. And a welcome party. And a morning-after brunch. And then since we are all traveling we may as well do a boat cruise the day before. And a campfire that night. Because we are all staying in the rustic lodge, right? It will be a hundred percent family togetherness all the time but with ALL of our favorite people. And then suddenly you’re at, “We will just bask in non-stop love for five days.” (Which, TBH, always sounds better when you’re planning than it does by day five. There’s a reason you don’t live in a giant compound 24/7.)

So, sure. For those of you planning weddings in far off destinations, if you have the resources available to plan a weeklong love fest in an Italian Villa, a) make that plan, and b) please invite me. (Since I’m not involved in family dynamics, it’ll be all fun and games for me.) But do so knowing that you can’t force it to happen. People may not want to spend four days at an event you planned. Because they have their own lives going on, and that’s the only reason they need. Don’t set yourself up for “failure” on this. If your vision is everyone all together for all the time, sorry—I’m sure someone doesn’t like the venue you picked so they are staying elsewhere, and someone has nearby in-laws so they’re only coming that night, and someone else just plain says no. Plan, instead, to enjoy whoever comes, and be delighted that people want to take the time to hang out with you! Be in touch with the reality of who your people are—does anything lead you to believe a significant number of them want to do this?

As for you, Vacations, I hope you have the best time in Greece and Italy and enjoy the trip knowing I’m deeply jealous of the fabulous week of globetrotting (if not your in-laws). Like, srsly, how fancy does, “Oh we’re just going to swing by his cousin’s wedding in Italy on our way home from Greece,” sound? So make that your mantra, and maybe avoid family phone calls for a little bit.

—Amy March


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