Dear Carolyn:

Whom should weddings be for? As a bride-to-be who is not religious and dislikes pomp and circumstance, I don't really want a traditional wedding -- a quick justice-of-the-peace ceremony and a nice dinner with family and friends would be sufficient. No white dress, no church, no gi-normous debt. My fiance, on the other hand, comes from a relatively traditional Catholic family -- and he sort of wants a wedding that his (very large) family would expect, but mostly because they expect it. He also wants my parents, who are admittedly better off than we or his parents are, to foot the bill. However, my parents would also be happy with a quick ceremony, and I see no reason to heap another expense on them -- they're not moneybags, despite what he thinks. Who should do what here?

Weddingsville

Since your way costs little of anyone's money for reasons of firm conviction, and since your fiance's way costs a lot of someone else's money for reasons of mushy, fear-driven pandering, I'm going to have to give this serious thought and get back to you in a few weeks.

[Now thumping wall with forehead.] The less obvious answer is that there isn't an obvious answer. My duh is your riddle, and rightly so. I don't have to take families and feelings and futures into account. You do. I also don't have to find a way to live with this guy. You do.

And I hope you find one soon. Making this decision in a way that shows respect for each other, for yourselves, for truth, and for the general cause of sanity is a great test for the two of you to take before you take on "ever after." Even better if you can pass it.

Carolyn:

Boyfriend of a year hasn't said, "I love you." When asked if he loves me, his response is that he cares very much for me but doesn't know if he loves me. I also don't know where we're going with the relationship and have considered ending it but haven't because I love him and want him in my life. Am I just setting myself up to get hurt?

No "I Love You"

If your primary goal is to avoid pain, then being human isn't the best way to attain it. Anytime you care about something, anything, you've set yourself up to get hurt.

That said: You are far more likely to get hurt when that something doesn't care as much about you.

Since there will always be inequities early in a relationship, the answer can't be to drop someone at the first sign that your affections aren't fully returned.

Plus, signs are unreliable; this guy's (apparently) honest "I don't know" at the one-year mark could lead to a much happier ending than another guy's insincere "I love you" at the three-week mark.

Or not. Which is why the words people say and when aren't as valuable, ultimately, as what you're feeling and why. If you're feeling insecure and unhappy in this relationship, because you feel in your gut that he isn't as nuts about you as a true love would be by now, then you probably have something there. But if things seem to be good, then let them.

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