Dear Abby: Elope so that your in-laws won’t dress like hookers to “ruin” your wedding. Captain Awkward: Learn the fine art of not giving a damn.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh: President of the Society of Literary Characters Who Don't Get Invited To Your Wedding

Dear Abby is a classic for a reason, right?  Soothing.  Non-confrontational.  Midwestern common sense. Often terrible and does not get at any of the actual issues going on between actual people.

For instance:

DEAR ABBY: What do you do when your future in-laws tell other relatives that they intend to ruin your upcoming wedding? They are upset because they were not included in the wedding party. My future mother-in-law let it be known she’s dressing up like a hooker!

I have family members who are police officers coming to the wedding. The only idea I can come up with to prevent it is to ask them to guard the door of the church, and if need be, escort these unruly people out before they can raise a ruckus.

As you might have gathered, my fiance’s parents don’t want me to marry their son.

On the Verge

Abby’s Answer:

DEAR ON THE VERGE: Take a deep breath and talk to your fiance about eloping. Once your in-laws accept the fact that the knot has already been tied, you can host a lovely reception. When the time comes, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ll behave themselves. Use the police only as a last resort, but if it comes to that, cross your fingers and hope your mother-in-law solicits one of them.

HA!  THAT WILL SHOW THEM!

I think we’ve covered that my expertise on weddings consists of “I’ve been to some,”  but they are the bread and butter of advice columnists. In a perfect world, a wedding is a fun party where two people who love each other very much agree to do that permanently.  In the world we live in, I’ve seen legislation being written, sausage being made, and weddings being planned, and I’m going to say that the sausage is the only one I’d want to watch up close again.  Legislation and weddings have the whole “expensive!” and “bringing together people who don’t agree on anything who must now pretend they like each other for the sake of the bigger picture” thing in common.  The potential for awkwardness in both cases  is unlimited, and if you come out the other end with the thing you wanted (a good law, a fun party where people celebrate love) at least some of it happens in spite of the process.

There is so much wrong with both this question and this answer. Let’s start with Abby.  “Use the police only as a last resort, but if it comes to that, cross your fingers and hope your mother-in-law solicits one of them.”  Hilarious!  Is it tongue-in-cheek?  It’s Dear Abby, so I can’t tell.

On The Verge, I’m sure your fiance’s family does not like you and I’m sure they are just as mean and crazy as you say they are.  However, I am also sure that the answer to this problem is NOT to have police bar invited guests from your wedding ceremony, and when you talk like that you come across as the crazy person. How far would you go to defend Your Special Day?  Arrests?  Handcuffs?  Restraining orders?  Tear gas?

You had a lot of options before it got to this.

  • You could have eloped (Always an option when crazy relatives outnumber sane ones or for reasons of taste or budget.)  But if you elope now, it’s like you’re admitting that his family has power over you and the situation.
  • You could have decided to have no wedding party to minimize weirdness.
  • You and your fiance could have invited one acceptable family member to be in the wedding party so as not to hurt their feelings.

Those aren’t my recommendations at all – I don’t give a shit about the makeup of your wedding party, and I don’t know how to time travel – but I do have some recommendations going forward.

  1. Let your fiance handle his family. It’s not your problem, it’s not your responsibility.  Let him speak up for you, defend you, and set boundaries.  If he won’t – if he expects you to run these relationships for him – you’re in for a lifetime of this crap.  “You’ve made it clear how you feel about her, and I’m done talking about it.  If you can’t be happy for me and act like a grownup, I’ll miss you at the wedding.”
  2. Let them dress like hookers and act like dickheads. It only reflects on them. That kind of thing is really hard to actually pull off and keep going, and there is a high possibility that they are joking in order to freak you out (Psychological warfare. I can respect it.)  If they do show up in costume, just ignore it completely and treat them as if everything is normal. “I’m so glad you could make it after all!”  Your perfect wedding is already “ruined” by the fact that they hate you and aren’t afraid to say it.  So, go with that and have the wedding you’re actually having, where you’re marrying someone you love and his crazy family can go screw.

    Much better as fiction.

  3. Ignore the grapevine.  There are two ways to deal with passive aggressive bullshit.  One is to be aggressive-aggressive and address it head on by letting them know that you know about their little scheme and asking the offending family members bluntly about their plan.   This is what people in soap operas do and why you get so many awesome catfights and showdowns.  “I KNOW WHAT YOU’VE BEEN PLANNING!”  “YOUR PLAN WILL NEVER WORK!”

You’d think as a screenwriter I’d embrace this method.  It has its place – some aggression will not stand – but if you react to rumors and things people pass onto you, you risk rewarding the passive-aggressive behavior.  The passive-aggressive person didn’t tell you directly how they felt, they used the rumor mill and minions to pass the news on in the hopes that you’d feel bad/react/do what they want/force a confrontation.  What if you just ignored it?  The passive-aggressive person will then go crazy.  It’s not working. You’re not responding. Didn’t you get their coded message?  Nope.  Until they say what they have to say directly to you, it doesn’t exist.  Especially if this was a joke that they shared with a relative and not an actual plan, you do not want to be the one showing up like Catherine De Bourgh in the middle of the night to demand an explanation.

4. Learn the fine art of not giving a damn.Sorry to hear that.”  “That’s too bad.”  “Sorry you feel that way.”  “How would you like me to answer that question?”   If you’re marrying into this family, you’ll need this skill many times.

6 comments
  1. Sid said:

    Right on, Captain!

    Occasionally I will click on a stray Redbook or The Knot article hanging loose in these interwebs titled “10 Ruined Weddings” or “How My Special Day Was Ruined!!!” I do this in the voyeuristic hope that I will read about something that would truly ruin a wedding. Instead, I read about how it rained. Or the cake was late. Or Uncle Arnie got trashed and danced on three separate tables.

    That last one actually sounded like a wedding win to me!

    I think the problem is all the differing definitions of “ruin.” It is my belief that a wedding cannot be ruined unless the marriage doesn’t happen. Also, no one can psychologically ruin something for you unless you let them.

    Things that would ACTUALLY ruin a wedding:

    – Bride or groom caught in the act at the wedding with someone other than the bride or groom (unless the b&g are both into that sort of thing, in which case, NOT RUINED)
    – Freak meteor takes out the officiant, no on else is ordained.
    – One of the mothers-in-law flip right out and stab the offending would-be-spouse
    – Bride or Groom doesn’t show up

    As long as at the end of the day the two folks involved are married, then the wedding was not ruined! No matter what Aunt Meridith wore, how many police were called, or what the flowers were like.

    My mother may disagree.

    • JenniferP said:

      I still want to see someone speak up at the “Speak now or forever hold your peace” portion, but since I only go to the weddings of people I like and I don’t want that to happen to anyone I like, I will probably never see it.

      If you see weddings as “cool party where you marrify the person you love” and not “THE SINGLE GREATEST CREATIVE ACT OF THE MODERN ADULT WOMEN” your scale for what counts as ruined probably shifts somewhat, I’d think. Thanks for throwing the first kind!

      • K. said:

        I don’t think they even do the “Speak now or forever…” bit any more. At least none of the weddings I’ve been to in the last 10 years have had it (including mine ;)).

    • Emeryn said:

      One of my husband’s aunts wore a sequined silver suit (it would have embarassed Liberace) to my outdoor wedding. And proceeded to get totally trashed and start randomly singing.

      Did it ruin the wedding? Nah, but it did give us a funny story. Especially useful to torment friends in the midst of their own wedding plans.

      I had some relatives pitched fits because we specifically stated “No Kids” and did not want them bringing their spawn. How dare I expect them to miss Valuable Kid Time and come to my wedding?! They swore to my parents they’d crash the wedding by bringing them anyway.

      I settled the matter by calling them and disinviting them.

      “I’m sorry you feel that way. I have heard that you are upset because you will be missing out on Spending Valuable Time with your children to come to my wedding. I don’t want you to miss out on the kiddos or feel uncomfortable, so it’s best for everyone if you don’t worry about trying to fit my poor wedding in your busy schedule. Enjoy the day with your kids.”

  2. cat said:

    What, they are sober and clothed? Trumps more than one of my relatives right there. My cousin’s mom slept with one of his best friends at his graduation party (the friend was also a barely legal graduate). Now that is a ruined party story there. Another aunt had an ex-boyfriend get into a fistfight with the groom at her wedding(funnily enough, the fight was not over her).

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