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Carolyn Hax: Mom wants to help plan wedding, but her ideas get ignored

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
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Hi, Carolyn: My only son plans to be married next summer. I like his fiancee. They both say they want me to be involved in wedding planning, and I am contributing financially both to the wedding and to a down payment on a house.

The problem? Any suggestion I have made has been shot down or ignored. The one thing I begged for — that they have the wedding on a date when his only sister, who is a resident physician out of state, could attend — they said did not work, even though the wedding will be in their town, and there is no good reason for them to be fixated on the date they chose.

Is my only option to smile and be quiet? I am afraid that, if I say anything, I will cry and possibly alienate them both.

— Odd Woman Out

Odd Woman Out: These are two different issues, which I am going to address separately — and I urge you to do the same. Until I get to the end and bring them both all the way back around to the only reasonable option: to smile and be quiet. But I’m hoping it won’t sound so bad by then.

First, there’s the “be involved in wedding planning” thing. I think it is safe, and happier for all, for you to assume that they were sincere in encouraging your ideas — because that can be true even as they shoot them all down. Using your money.

Inviting someone to help with planning doesn’t guarantee liking their ideas. It’s not necessarily personal, even. It can just be a different vision of the event.

You wouldn’t want them to adopt suggestions they don’t like just to humor you, certainly.

If it’s really important for you to feel useful or included, then my advice is to pay careful attention to the choices they are making, imagine how the wedding is shaping up in their minds, not yours, and see whether you have something to add that (you believe) makes the most of their vision. Or, simpler, just say: “Put me to work! Doesn’t have to be planning. I’ll do errands and busy work, too.” Perhaps this was their idea of “involved” all along.

But, you know what? You can read everything I just wrote and say, “Nah.” Because asking me what I think isn’t the same as promising you’ll take my advice — and I’m still “involved,” peck-pecking away at my ideas, just less usefully than I may have hoped.

The second thing is excluding his sister. That he tuned out your plea for a different date is of much greater consequence than rejecting your advice on flowers or whatever else. I’m sorry.

I’m also balking, though, at your insistence they have “no good reason” for the date they ultimately chose. Their not giving you one is different from their not having one. Only they have the full story, which includes the right not to share it.

Therefore, the attitude that gives you the best chance to come out of this still liking your son’s bride and not alienating them both is to trust them to have excellent reasons for their choice, sad as its consequences may be.

So here we are, as promised, at the smile-and-be-quiet buffet: This is their wedding, and you are here to love and celebrate them. Period. As long as you don’t drift from these core truths, whatever you choose will be fine.

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