Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Thursday, June 10, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Good news! Carolyn's archives have been updated. Check out the sidebar on Carolyn's archive page to find even more transcripts from past Hax chats.


Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. I can't even remember the last time I did a wedding chat, so this should be interesting. (And if it's not, then, oops.)


Not so fancy-free: Thanks for having a wedding chat, Carolyn!

My issue is, my fiance and I do not want to have a traditional wedding. We're what some call "hippies," and we just want to have a big outdoor pool party, complete with sprinklers, dogs allowed, jello shots, etc. No wedding dress for me, no fancy cake, no expensive flowers, no wedding party, and people are welcome to take their seats to watch the vows in dripping wet swimsuits. I'm happy and excited just thinking about it!

The problem is that the whole point of this kind of celebration is to eliminate the stress and clutter and just let everyone be happy and have fun, but it seems to be backfiring. Both my family and my fiance's family is upset that they don't "get to see us" have a "special, beautiful" wedding event. My fiance has two siblings, but I'm an only child so my parents are especially upset that, in their eyes, they're missing their only chance at this. My fiance and I hate that what we hoped would be carefree and joyful is actually paining the people we care about. We don't know what to do.

Carolyn Hax: I'm loath to suggest changing something you're so excited about, but if your intent really is to host an event that makes people feel relaxed and happy, then it's worth revisiting your plan.

You can still keep the pool, dogs and jello shots (none of which should probably be mixed, now that we're on the subject), but maybe save them for after a small outdoor ceremony. "Cheap and laid-back" and "beautiful ceremony" aren't mutually exclusive at all. You and the groom can wear something simple and summery; pots of local/Big Box Store flowers can serve as a backdrop, which the guests can then take home as favors. Even a local cellist/violinist can play for 30 minutes for a reasonable feee--very in tune with a hippie aesthetic.

Again--change things only if your main concern is to bring joy to the people you love, and if you feel they're genuinely heartbroken--i.e., aren't power-playing you.


Bethesda, Md.: I received a wedding invitation recently that had "Monetary gifts preferred" written on the bottom in big letters. No question, just wanted to let everyone know that the apocalypse is nigh.

Carolyn Hax: Eh, that particular harbinger announced itself years ago, and we're all still here, more or less.

Hope you sent regrets. That's really the best weapon against the trend--especially since all the yowling we do about it in this forum doesn't seem to have made a dent.


Norfolk, Va.: My friend posted this about her wedding on Facebook last night: Am I really so unimportant that people can't take time out of their schedules for the biggest day of my life?

Would it be helpful to -gently- explain to her that a wedding on a Friday a.m. means that a person has to take TWO days off work, i.e. one to travel to her area, one to attend, and only 6 weeks notice makes that even harder to swing?

Further FB comments make her seem genuinely hurt albeit oblivious/obnoxious.

Carolyn Hax: The whole setup suggests she's beyond hope. But if you do plan to remain friends with her, then it would be good of you to step up with, "It's not personal, it's the Friday morning ceremony on short notice." I mean really. No one should have to state the obvious like that, but since someone apparently does, then it might as well be you.


Where did I go wrong?: Carolyn-

I am a mom of a soon-to-be engaged 27-year old daughter.

I am anti-big/expensive weddings. I had a small wedding, borrowed my dress, let my sister (MOH) choose what she wanted to wear. Reception was at my parents' house, catered by family and friends.

Imagine my surprise when daughter announces she wants lavish, destination wedding, with all the obnoxious bells and whistles. And guess who she expects to pay?

This led to a huge row. Other than setting guidelines of what her dad and I can afford/would be willing to pay, how can I get her to understand how. . .WRONG she is!?


Carolyn Hax: Don't. "Getting" someone to "something" is a setup for failure even more spectacular than the "I want a destination wedding and I want you to pay for it" setup. And absolutely DO NOT venture even close to the "I walked a mile to and from my wedding through the snow barefoot and uphill both ways" zone--it's a relationship black hole. Just decline to finance the wedding and let her work out what's possible from there.

That doesn't mean you can't voice objections to line items when necessary--e.g., "No, Muffy, it is not acceptable to print 'Cash gifts preferred' on the invitation." That's a moral obligation to society. But otherwise, set the financial guidelines, stick to them and hope she gets priced out of her own fatuity.


Baltimore, Md.: Hi Carolyn, just a really quick question: I'll be traveling to a wedding in July via Amtrak, so I'll be packing light. The couple is registered at a few stores, but would it be acceptable for me to just get a card and write a check as my gift? If so, is there some kind of standard amount? I'm a guy and don't know much about weddings other than they result in a marriage, and this will be the first one I attend for a friend of my own, not my parents. Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: You, my friend, would make an awesome wedding planner.

A check is perfect. Have fun.


Re: Pool-Party Wedding: I'm all in favor of nontraditional weddings, but I can't imagine anything more nightmarish than having to wear a swimsuit at a wedding. It's bad enough picking out a dress and shoes for a terrestrial event, but having to be in swimsuit-ready shape would be a dealbreaker for me. I do go swimming, but I make sure to minimize the time I spend out of the water in a suit because that's unhappy for everyone involved.

Carolyn Hax: I hear you. But it's not often (ever?) that we get handed an excuse to buy a new coverup.

Or, you can go in casual summer clothes and not swim. Think of it as a picnic at a park.


NC - It's not a competition!: Any advice for avoiding the whole "my wedding is better than yours" thing? I'm getting married the same month as my friend. She constantly wants to know what I'm doing for invitations, flowers, bridesmaids, etc. and then makes a little remark about "oh, so-and-so did that and it didn't go well." After every conversation - where I try to only give brief answers and quickly change the subject- I feel anxious and start to doubt what I've decided on. Which is ridiculous. I'm wondering how I can nip this in the bud without cutting contact off with her completely until we've both said "I Do."

Carolyn Hax: "I know you're in the same boat and will understand--I'd love our conversations to be a wedding-free zone (WFZ). The plans have already invaded the rest of my life, and I'm just dying to talk about something else."

Even if she ignores you and keeps fishing for wedding dirt, having explicitly asked for a WFZ means you can respond by putting your fingers in your ears and saying NAH NAH NAH NAH, or by saying, "Wedding? What wedding?" You get the idea.


re: Hippie wedding: I think the Hippie wedding couple should talk to their relatives about whether their relatives truly want them to be happy with having the kind of ceremony that makes themselves happy, or whether the relatives want them to have the kind of wedding that isn't their style, simply to make the relatives happy. A wedding isn't about the parents, it's about the couple getting married. And FWIW, if the big deal is wanting to see the couple get dressed up, maybe the couple can get dressed up on another date and get some photos taken. I hate the idea of families dictating someone's event for them. This kind of situation is exactly where you get unhappy brides and grooms shoehorned into huge event weddings that they never wanted.

Carolyn Hax: I get it, but that's not what I suggested--I suggested a sundress and Home Depot impatiens. And, reiterated when I was done that changing plans is advisable only if the intent of their original plan was to keep everyone relaxed and happy. If the point was to have a pool party, then they keep the pool party, right?

All that being said, a talk with the more vocal/heartbroken relatives wouldn't be a bad idea. But that's something to take on once the couple are both in agreement beforehand on what they're willing to bend on, and what they aren't.


Arlington, Va.: I was recently asked to step down from a bridal party to make room for a family member that needed to be added. At the moment, I'm not too hurt--the bride and I haven't been that close for awhile--but I'm sure it will get harder as the event comes closer. My main concern at the moment is that two of my closest friends are still in the wedding party--any suggestions for dealing with feeling left out as the pre-wedding events start happening and at the actual wedding itself?

Carolyn Hax: Ugh. I see no reason to budge from your position of not caring too much. I realize you'll be left out of a thing or two on the actual weekend, things to which your close friends will go, but otherwise your ejection was a blessing in a breathtakingly rude disguise. Wash your hands of it and relish your freedom to wear a dress that fits.


Vows: Dear Carolyn:

We were married in April (yay!). Our minister gave us a stack of old vows (photocopied from books) from which to draft our own vows. (Old = some of them still had "obey" and "thy" in them; none of them was usable.) We didn't do anything super original - the usual like love, honor and cherish - but we added a part about being friends and partners and we agonized for a ridiculous amount of time over which word should go where, trying countless adjectives, and did a lot of editing until we both agreed they were perfect.

Last month we went to another wedding at our church and they used the vows we wrote - verbatim. I was in shock. I am PO'd at the minister for taking our personal vows and giving them to another couple. He does many marriages a year and didn't give us any vows that had been used this century. I guess it's a compliment, and I don't know what I want. An aknowledgement? A promise not to give "our" vows to anyone else? Should I say something? Should I let it go? I don't know why I felt so violated. I haven't gone back to church since this happened.

Carolyn Hax: I totally get why you feel violated, I do--but this is kind of like when you introduce your best friend to your brother, and they fall in love and get married and go on to spend much less time with you now that they're spending all their time together. You feel kind of robbed, and PO'd, right? But, at the same time, you've brought real joy to people. That has to count for something.

Maybe my quickie example was too limiting, even. Your words, emotions, beliefs are being embraced by people on the most significant days of their lives. There is something cool about that. I suppose I could make an argument for your having your names on the sheet that gets handed out, so you get proper credit, but there's also something even cooler about being the unnamed agent behind all of these loving pronouncements.


Leaving the Reception, WHEN?: Is it really a sin to leave the reception before the new couple does?

Sometimes receptions are just way too long; sometimes you are not part of the "core" group; and sometimes one gets tired of sitting around.

Your thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: I think that particular rule has long since gone out the window--possibly since the "wedding night" lost most of its significance beyond that it's nighttime and there was a wedding.


The future for Bridezillas: I got married before all the latest wedding weirdness and my kids are too young for me to have had to deal with weddings for them. So I've avoided it all recently.

But a question -- when the bride (or groom or mother-in-law, for that matter) takes the bridezilla route, what does it imply for the future of the marriage? Do bridezillas always end up being wifezillas or are there some cases where a perfectly normal woman takes a short leave of her senses for the wedding, but then returns to civilized behavior once things have settled down?

Carolyn Hax: I'll let you guys take a crack at this, too, but I'll say that, anecdotally, I've found pre-/post-/mid-wedding behavior to pretty well reflect the character of the couple--with the exception being when there's extreme external pressure from one familial corner or another. That can really skew the results.


D.C. Area: My soon-to-be-married son mentioned they would like to receive monetary gifts toward a honeymoon. I told him it was absolutely unacceptable to put that on any type of invitation. However, I have heard of a "honeymoon registry" (I have not mentioned that to him yet - I want to check it out more before putting that but in his ear). Is it acceptable to add include a "honeymoon registry" with the standard department store registries so guests have more options?

Carolyn Hax: It is absolutely unacceptable to put any registry information in with an invitation. Registries exist not for the enrichment of the couple, but solely for the convenience of the guests, who might prefer to give stuff vs cash, but who don't want to spend their cash on stuff the couple doesn't want. This information should be provided (by the bride, groom or family/close friends of) solely upon request.

It is a really, really narrow set of parameters, and, full disclosure, I don't even like those any more. I used to feel pretty neutral about registries (keep em out of the invitations, but otherwise go for it--I even had one myself), but now--after years of reading about and witnessing their abuse--I wish they'd just disappear. If you don't know what the couple wants, write a check. With that one sentence, all registry justifications go away. Now if only the registries themselves would go away ...

Oh right, you had a question. If he and his intended -need- some things, then they can put them on a regular registry. It is not cool to ask the guests to send them on a honeymoon. If you get asked by close friends what the couple would like, you can use your judgment on saying, "Cash always fits." Really--it has to be people you trust not to find that offensive.


NY, NY: Does an engagement question count for this wedding-centric chat? My boyfriend and I have been casually looking at engagement rings for him to see what I like, what I don't, etc, but I've asked him if I can be involved in picking it out and he's agreed (he has this endearing habit of bringing home presents I'm allergic to, can't use, don't like to eat, etc...his heart is in the right place though, so I appreciate every one of them!) but for something this expensive, I'd rather we both put thought into it. When I mentioned this to my mother, she told me that I was greedy, ungrateful, and "you're lucky you're getting anything." It hurt my feelings to no end. Now, she didn't get an engagement ring from my father, so I'm guessing this is colored by jealousy a bit, but...I feel horrible. Are we really so wrong to go pick out the ring together? Am I an ungrateful -wench-because I want something on my finger I'm not allergic to and would actually like to look at for the rest of my life?

Carolyn Hax: Is your mom always this tough on you? I can see her disagreeing, fine, but, "Ooh, I hope you didn't hurt his feelings when you asked that ..." would have gotten her point across without trashing your character. That phrasing also would have given you some credit for knowing your boyfriend and knowing what works for your relationship.

BTW, the allergy argument doesn't fly--not unless giving him instructions a la "I'm allergic to gold but platinum is okay" would be pointless and he'd go out and buy gold anyway. The argument that does work is, "This is a lot of money and something I want to wear every day, and he's not such a romantic that it's unthinkable for us to shop for it together."


For Amtrak wedding guy: The registry was made for people like you (and me before I was married). You could also get something off of the registry and have it sent to her house before the wedding. It takes a couple clicks of the mouse and would only take a little longer than writing the check.

Carolyn Hax: Oh duh, right. I still think the check is a better bet (b/c people who want stuff can use it on stuff, and people who don't can use it however they want--win-win). However, the registries are indeed the fastest way to get your gift to the couple without having to lug anything but your credit card. Thanks for the catch.


For Dumped Bridesmaid: SIL took me out of the wedding party after one of the groomsmen dropped out. The numbers wouldn't have been even... Counted my blessings the entire wedding day. Was thankful I didn't have to pay for (or wear) that extremely low-cut dress or contribute to the other money-sucking activities the bridesmaids participated in.

Toast your good fortune at the reception!

Carolyn Hax: Do people realize a year after their weddings, or 10 years, or 20, what idiots they've been about stuff like matching wedding party numbers? Seriously.


Where did you go wrong?: You went wrong by judging your daughter and her desires. While it may be wrong for you, having a fairytale, princess wedding is not long as you can afford it.

The only appropriate response to your daughter is that you are happy that she is engaged and happy about her wedding and that you and her father can contribute X (which can be $$, time or work) to the wedding and the rest will be up to her and her fiance. Then you stick to your guns, give her X and continue to tell her how happy you are for her.

Carolyn Hax: Well said, thanks.


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm going to have to disagree with you about registries. I just don't LIKE giving money, but I don't always know the couple well enough to know what they need or want. I know that registries are ripe for abuse, but as a wedding guest I find them very helpful!

Carolyn Hax: I know, I know--but, really, when you buy off a registry, you are just giving cash. It's just that the "currency" is a thing that can be deposited, and the "bank" is a store from which some other gift can be withdrawn. It's all just a fig leaf.


re: NY, NY: No, this was totally out of character for mom. It was weird, which is why it hurt my feelings. I actually AM allergic to gold, among other things, like chocolate and aspirin. He knows all this, but once brought home chocolate ice cream as a present for me, and brought home aspirin based medication when I was sick once. Therein where my nervousness lies. He's wonderful, but sometimes does things without thinking. I love him very much even though he sometimes has these boneheaded moments. Don't we all? :)

Carolyn Hax: If this is sticking with you, then you might want to come back to your mom with a that-was-so-not-like-you-is-anything-up kind of feeler. See if there isn't more to it.


D.C.: I hope engagement questions are ok.

My boyfriend and I live together and have recently started talking marriage, as several of our friends have gotten engaged. He has said that he doesn't see himself getting engaged for at least 3 more years (we've already been together almost 3) and I'm just not sure I can wait that long. He doesn't seem willing to budge on the issue and I don't want to see like a nag by bringing it up all the time, but I want to be married and having kids in the next 3 years (I'm 30 now), not just engaged. How do I tell him this might be a dealbreaker for me?

Carolyn Hax: Did you ask him what he's waiting for? You're certainly entitled to know that something affecting your life so profoundly isn't just an arbitrary thing.


Traditional Bride....: Carolyn,

Getting married next May in beautiful North Carolina. I was originally very excited to plan our small-scale, laid-back wedding the "right" way (no registry on invites -boo!, no $600 bridesmaid dresses, no extravagant registry (Kohls has great stuff), etc). But I'm having second thoughts on my ability to do that. Seems that both the wedding industry and the crazy bridezillas of the last few years have made planning something laid-back with the needs of my guests in mind very difficult. No one seems to understand that they may have to actually seek out our registry information. Potential bridesmaids seem to think it will look weird in pictures if I let them wear whatever they want. And someone the other day asked me what my "colors" were? WHA?? So what I'm asking is....any adivice for staying sane and avoiding all this nonsense? It's starting to get hard.

Carolyn Hax: It's not hard so much as annoying, no? That people are pelting you with their opinions?

Anyway, they'd be doing that no matter what you decided, so just do what you think is right.

As for registry info, if you're hearing about it, then it's going just as planned: "I'm registered at Kohls--feel free to share that with anyone who's interested."

There is one thing the wedding-industrial complex has gotten right, as long as it's handled tastefully: The Web site with all the necessary info (hotels, directions, registries) is a real bit of progress. Just keep it businesslike--no love quotations pulled from posters with kittens and rainbows. And don't post events that not all are invited to attend.


If my daughter gets married,: please, please don't let me be a momzilla. My hope is that whatever the hippie couple endes up with, that everyone can enjoy the day even if they don't get everything they want. I went to a casual wedding a few years ago. It was outdoors and the bride and her bridesmaids did most of the decorating themselves, with craft store finds and fresh flowers and potted plants. Non-traditional music for the ceremony played on a stereo. I thought it was one of the more beautiful and personal weddings I've ever been to. I'd never met either of the couple before but I felt like I knew a lot about who they were after going to their wedding. Unfortunately, I kept hearing the mother of the groom in conversation, apologizing to the guests for the wedding and reception. Sighing and saying things like "but that's what they wanted, so..." She was embarrassed about not having a huge formal wedding and she wanted everyone to know that none of this her idea and it was not okay with her.

Carolyn Hax: You know, this can apply to so many things people feel embarrassed about--a messy house, or gaining a few pounds, or forgetting to bring something to a potluck, anything, really. It's just in so many of our natures to go around apologizing for something that nobody would have thought twice about had we not said anything.


Marriage predictions: My relatives are photographers who did weddings for decades. They couldn't always tell who would stay married long-term, but they could always tell who'd get divorced: the couples who were obsessing over every detail, worrying about how everything looked and what everyone would think, and getting into fights over choosing eggshell v. white tablecloths.

Whether it's about misplaced priorities, generally having a controlling temperament (and thus being devastated when everything in the marriage doesn't go their way), or delving so deep into the wedding details that the couples didn't notice some major incompatibility, I don't know.

My relatives would see the well-matched couples years out, when they came back for anniversary portraits. Bridezillas (and groomzillas) were sometimes separated before the proofs came back!

Carolyn Hax: The stories they could tell ... which reminds me of the absolutely stunning (in a good way) piece by Matt Mendelsohn in The Post's Sunday magazine a few years back. Matt's a photographer who has done a lot of weddings, and he has an eye for a lot more than images.

(Jodi, think you can post a link? I just found the pub date--9.2.07)


Idiot, Michigan: I had six bridesmaids because I didn't want anyone to feel hurt. I now look back and realize that it was silly, I should have just had my two really good friends who are still with me now, and that I spent way, way too much time and money on one day of my life, when the rest has been so wonderful. Moral: In ten years, you won't care at all if you remember.

Carolyn Hax: I dunno ... you don't really fit the idiot description, because you were blinded by the effort not to hurt anyone's feelings. That's very different from being blinded by the need to have your photographs look balanced (!). In other words, you had the right priorities, but maybe misapplied them here or there. I'm wondering about people who wake up to realize, "Wow, my priorities were crap."

_______________________ Getting the Picture, by Matt Mendelsohn, The Washington Post, September 2, 2007


guest issue: What should a person do if invited to a wedding and you do not approve of the marriage? I went to such a wedding just to keep peace in the family. My husband refused to go, I went but left early and still feel conflicted. I guess I am asking if just being at a wedding implies support of the marriage.

Carolyn Hax: This is a really tough one, and it sounds as if you and your husband handled a no-win situation the best you could.

Being at a wedding can be seen as support for a wedding, sure--but in the case of a train wreck in progress, it also can mean support for the half of the couple you're close to, through thick and thin. If it's not a clear case of a bad decision, I could argue for going just to keep your own judgmental attitude/arrogance in check; I mean, do we always know something is a bad idea? Sometimes we're right, but not as often as we think we are.

There are other people to consider, too. If your sibling is the one getting badly married, for example, I can make an argument for going to support your parent(s), who may be horrified at the mate choice but have chosen to bite the bullet and attend ... you get the idea. It's one of those thing people have to weigh carefully, and decide based on what they believe and what they can live with. There's no one perfect answer.


Engagement Ring: My fiance wants to buy me an expensive diamond engagement ring. Nice thought, but I don't want one. First, I prefer to wear just a plain gold band. Second, I consider it a terrible waste of money. I tried to tell him as gently as I could that I'm more the plain gold band type and I prefer to use that money for other things but he was very hurt. Frankly I was surprised he was surprised.

Carolyn Hax: Well, good that this all came out now, I guess. Have you been able to get past it, or is it still lingering?


Carolyn Hax: By the way, I first typed that as "loongering," and decided it's a shame that isn't real a word.


Mo' Money Mo' Problems: I know you tell couples to always pay for their own weddings, but my parents are inSISting that they pay for mine. They've taken serious offense when I've tried to convince them otherwise. I've backed down and thanked them for their generosity.

The problem now is that my mom especially seems to want full creative control over evvverything and constantly makes references to the fact that it's her money paying for things.

I don't want to say, "Fine then! Keep your money, we'll pay for it!" because that would definitely hurt, anger, and alienate her, and that's the last thing I want for my wedding. But I can't figure out how else to get to make my own choices. It's irking my fiance too, and I know I need to be the one to address the issue. Anything remotely tactful doesn't seem to working. How can I resolve this without creating hurt feelings or resentment?

Carolyn Hax: Second, you need to sit down with your mother to figure this one out.

First, you need to figure out which outcome(s) will be acceptable to you:

1. You refuse her money and pay/plan on your own;

2. You pull yourself out of the arrangements completely, let Mom do the whole thing with the promise that you will merely show up;

3. You accept your mom's money and input on very clearly defined terms--say, that you have veto power, or that you'll plan it and run things by her, or that you'll pay for anything that you and she disagree upon, etc.

4. You have 1-3 in mind as possible last resorts, and go into it with a more general goal of having a sane conversation with your mom, in which you express your unhappiness that these plans are coming between you--making it clear to her that your relationship with her is so much more important than any one day, even a milestone day like this.

However you decide to go into it, just make sure you're ready to stay calm, stand firm on the things that matter, and let anything trivial go. Good practice for the marriage, right?


For Leaving Reception When: Just as long as you are not part of the wedding party or an immediate family member leave when you need to go. However, if the best man cuts out early it is a little more problematic.

We married 11 years ago and people still bring up that my husband's parents and sister left the second the cake was cut. They were amongst the first guests to leave. They were tired and had to get up for church in the morning so did not want to get home late. Neither my husband or I were surprised but I have been explaining this for over a decade. And my mother-in-law was quite surprised how many of her friends and family commented to her about her early departure.

Carolyn Hax: I get what you're saying, but I can't believe other guests have been pestering you about this for over a -decade-. I thought I'd sworn off this cliche for good, but I can't think of anything to say that's more apt than, people, get a life.


D.C.: Hi Carolyn. My partner and I are moving quickly in the marriage direction, now that it's legal in D.C. We're trying to decide if we should even bother inviting her parents and sister. She had a commitment ceremony (not to me) years ago and they refused to come (they are very religious and view being gay as a sinful choice), sparking a family fight that took years, and her other siblings repeated admonishments that she was, "being mean to Dad and insensitive to his religion" to overcome. My partner would really love the acceptance that it would signal if they did come, but I'm not sure its worth risking her disappointment if they say no again. But what if we -don't- invite them and they've had some magical change of heart (they did include me on the Christmas card to her this year)? She doesn't want to make future family functions (where around some family I am her partner and some I am her "roommate") to be tense and doesn't want to miss out on being a part of her nieces and nephews lives. The whole situation is quickly evolving into a mess. Please help!

Carolyn Hax: I may have read this incorrectly, but it sounds like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation--inviting them will be, er, "mean" (?), and not inviting them would be a snub, with fallout that costs her access to nieces and nephews. Right?

If that's the case, then your partner would probably minimize the damage just by calling to say what the plans are, and asking if they'd like to be included.

If I misread your intent, and if the only potential up side is finding out that her parents now accept her, and the potential down sides are family censure and dashed hopes and limited niece/nephew access, then it's hard to justify inviting them. There are other ways to work toward acceptance.

If she thinks just talking to them about it won't be too inflammatory, though, then I would advise that.


Washington, D.C.: But then what about listing registry info on the wedding website? That's what's happening now. Is that less rude than incuding with invite or essentially the same thing?

Carolyn Hax: I don't have a problem with that. Going to the Web site is a choice, to get wedding info of all kinds all in one place. Opening an invitation and seeing gift info is an ambush. Very different things, to my mind.


For traditional bride: When hubby and I were planning our wedding 4 years ago, all the vendors LOVED us because we were so laid back about everything. "What are your colors?" "Oh. Just white." Done. Easy! I had a MOH and one bridesmaid, my hubby's 11-yo niece, and I told them to wear whatever they wanted. They themselves chose a single color (I didn't care), but totally different dresses and slightly different hues. I didn't care then and I don't care now. You know what I did care about and what I will cherish the rest of my life? The memory of my closest friends and all my family members from both sides being able to come and share a wonderful, special day. I remember seeing my oldest friend's newborn for the first time ever as I walked down the aisle, seeing both parents' happiness at my happiness, dancing with my crazy cousins, and everyone having such a happy time. No going into debt, no worry about trends or fashions, just exactly what a wedding day should be: a celebration of your new life with the people you love the most.

Also, buy Miss Manners' wedding guide. Dispels all those false "traditions" that require you to spend spend spend on everything.

Carolyn Hax: Proof that you can go "traditional" without going mad, thanks.


Don't Support Wedding: I was a little surprised at your response to the person who went to a wedding even though they did not support the marriage. What if it had nothing to do with the people getting married (your "bad decision" assumption), but more to do with the person and her husband and their hangups (ie: don't believe in gay/interracial/interreligious marriage)? It seems the answer should change.

Carolyn Hax: Because I knew it was possible the guests were being judgmental where it wasn't appropriate, I included this phrase: "If it's not a clear case of a bad decision, I could argue for going just to keep your own judgmental attitude/arrogance in check; I mean, do we always know something is a bad idea? Sometimes we're right, but not as often as we think we are."

Admittedly, I didn't write that with gay/interracial/interreligious marriage in mind because that didn't occur to me. I'm not so naive as to believe that people who think this way are extinct (alas), but they are just not part of my day-to-day reality, so my mind just didn't go there.

Now that it's there, my inclination is to say that people who object on those grounds should decline the invitation--not because it's their right to (tho it is), but because they don't belong at the celebration. Either believe in the individual(s) getting married, believe in their love, believe in their happiness, believe in their right to celebrate what they want to celebrate, even believe in witnessing something you don't support so you can have a more informed opinion--or do everyone a favor stay home.


Wedding Leavers: They left early to go to a church service the next day? Yes, I agree that the other guests should get over it, but you'd think it would have occurred to the family of the groom that no matter how tired you are (and how late could it have been, really?), one church service isn't worth missing a large part of your son/brother's once in a lifetime wedding.

Carolyn Hax: As I said, I got what she was saying--but sometimes the level of mind-boggleage tells you what the chances were that they would make the same, very reasonable calculation you did: About 0.


New England common sense: My parents wanted big, all the stops, etc. My in-laws wanted big and a full bar. I had initially suggested small, simple, easy.

Talked about it with my husband. We really just wanted to be married. So my ruling was people could have whatever they wanted, so long as they were willing to write the check, and not complain about the cost. My parents wrote a huge check, and never said a word. My in-laws never wrote a check, but stopped making demands. (Lucky for them, my parents were willing to cover a full bar.)

Carolyn Hax: Lucky you, sanity comes in many forms. Thanks.


I don't want to say, "Fine then! Keep your money, we'll pay for it!" because that would definitely hurt, anger, and alienate her, and that's the last thing I want for my wedding. : I dunno, I think a lot of this stuff is part of the tests you need to pass to get married. If you can't simply assert yourself and be self-sufficient (emotionally more than economically)--you are not ready to marry, hold down a job, parent children, run a household.

Carolyn Hax: Right--and the ability to assert oneself includes figuring out alternatives to, "Fine then!" It's one thing to be emotionally/financially) self-sufficient, but it's a significant other (heh get it?) to be able to do that without thumbing your nose at people whose place in your life is cherished, if problematic. It's being able to hold your mom's hand, say you love her, you want her to be happy, but you're going to take the reins of the wedding yourself because you're getting pulled in too many directions.


Mo' Money Mo' Problems: What if they divide up some of the choices to be made? Mom cares a lot about X, so she gets her way on that one. Daughter cares a lot about Y, so whatever she says goes on that one.

Carolyn Hax: This can be a really helpful intermediate step. Another version of it is to "assign" certain things to people who are getting over-involved, thus giving them something they can control entirely. The person making the assignments has to be ready to let go completely, though, of that particular thing.


Quick wedding question: My younger and only sibling, who I kinda raised for a number of rough family years and protected from parent issues those same years, is living in another state and just announced an engagement that I think is all manners of bad ideas. I actually like future-sib-to-be, what I don't like is how my sibling treats them and any attempts to point this out (which I've done, very gently, only twice, then butted out) has been met with excuses, justifications, and more. I've actually gotten emails from sib's friends (which I haven't responded to beyond telling them to talk with sib, not me) asking me to break them up. I'm not certain that's even possible and, if it were, not something I want to be responsible for. Any advice? Can I just tell sib that I hope all works out for them but I won't be attending the wedding because I can't, in good conscience, support the match or is that going too far?

Carolyn Hax: If you consider yourself a good influence on your sib, then I would urge you to be more involved, not less. There's always a point where people's behavior gets so bad that you have no choice but to withdraw from their lives, but it doesn't sound as if you're there yet. I could be wrong about that--you've given so little to go on--but if it is that bad, then at least try voicing your objections bluntly first, or else your absence won't have the impact you're hoping for.

Maybe these friends should be talking to the intended directly?


Is my photographer predicting MY divorce??: I see myself and my husband-to-be in some these postings. I see (saw?) it as a good thing that we both care so much about this important day in our lives, but because we both care so much, we are arguing about tons of things. How do we stop being "that couple"? We both care about our wedding and are invested in the planning, and our opinions happen to differ on many things.

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, but opinions on what? Do these areas of disagreement involve people's feelings and baseline comfort, or do they involve appearances and luxuries?

You'll stop being "that couple" when you have your priorities straight, when you can disagree without bickering, and when you both can yield on the little stuff--just because you like each other too much to care about winning the war over a cake knife.


Re: Not so fancy-free: I went to a relative's casual wedding in a park a few years ago. In lieu of gifts it was a potluck picnic-style affair with blankets strewn around, iPod music and a very casual vibe. Trouble is, it was painful to see some of the older relatives-- who clearly wanted to join the celebration and honor the wedding--have to leave the event because it simply did not accommodate their needs. The older generation (our grandparents, great aunt etc.) needed chairs to sit in, air conditioning (it was too hot for them to be outside all afternoon even though part of the event was shaded by a picnic shed), real bathroom facilities (the bathrooms were too far away), etc. etc. I just hope that the "hippie" couple can also make their casual wedding at least workable for guests' needs while still fulfilling their own wishes.

Carolyn Hax: This is so important, thank you.


Arlington, Va.: Carolyn,

Are you going to have a chat this week for those of us with relationship problems who are nowhere near marriage?

Carolyn Hax: No, I'm sorry, this is this week's show. I've got another commitment tomorrow at my kids' school, which is why I'm here on a Thursday. But I'll be back Friday the 18th with the usual anything-goes session.

On that note, I'm going to go, too--and for those caught up in matrimonial insanity, from any of the many angles, I'll offer a little Lloyd Dobler: "You must chill. You must chill."

Thanks for coming, and have a good weekend.


In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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