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Carolyn Hax: Future sibling-in-law sets extreme dress code for wedding

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: When is it reasonable to expect a sibling to stick up for the family to a partner? To wit, my sibling is getting married. The other siblings and I are not in the wedding, and this is quite fine. We’re all adults, and we’re delighted to simply attend and celebrate.

But sibling’s partner has sent parameters for what the family should wear. Not just “cocktail attire,” but a set of acceptable colors and patterns and materials and whatnot. And not, “Wear a black dress or suit.” None of the listed options are ones we would choose on our own. (Think along the lines of, “Everyone should wear shimmery chartreuse or celadon,” even if we would look awful in shimmery chartreuse or celadon.)

Is it reasonable to expect the sibling getting married to stand up for us and say, “They’ll wear cocktail attire, but that’s all we can expect”? Do we have to obey this dictate, or is there a way, without creating a massive fight, to say, “We’re not going to embarrass anyone, but we’re going to choose our own attire”?

— Awful in Celadon

Awful in Celadon: I would alert the sib that parameters have been received and noted, and they will be treated as suggestions, not marching orders, thanks in advance for understanding.

But don’t ask Sib to stand up for you. Sib has hands full right now with the partner’s delusions of grandeur.

Re: Celadon: I’m no fan of shimmery chartreuse, but I bristled at the framing of this question as “brother’s fiancee vs. the family.” Your brother is half of the couple requesting this wardrobe, so bring it up with him as if it’s something he has control over, not as if it’s something his future wife is doing unilaterally.

— Bristly

Bristly: Ah. You’re right, and I hang my head in shame at feeding a divisive narrative. The only principled response is to treat it as the couple’s joint decision. This loving-unity approach will also, ironically, serve you well later if your sibling develops controlling-spouse problems and needs family support. Your standing will be diminished if you’ve already taken sides.

So, yes, bring it up with Sib as an equal stakeholder. One quibble: There were no genders mentioned in the question.

Other readers’ thoughts:

· Best to be prepared for the holidays, too, and practice calming techniques now.

· There are 365 days a year. This wedding is exactly one of them. Wear what they requested, and work on a good relationship with your sibling. [Carolyn here: Only if cost isn’t an issue.]

· I disagree with 365-days-a-year. They are adults, and they should wear appropriate clothes that they choose. Bad idea to start off the new relationship with the new in-law thinking that they can issue such demands and that they will be met. Good chance that will lead to more demands over the years. Start off with graciousness but not with obeying orders that are unreasonable.

· If you give in to the wedding wardrobe demands, does that mean you have to wear ugly Christmas sweaters if the new in-law demands that?

· The wedding is not a costume party. Anyway, Miss Manners would approve of Carolyn’s advice (and your instincts) but not the costume request, despite the fact that a general dress code, like cocktail attire, is fine.