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Dear Captain Awkward,
My family has managed to kill the buzz of new marital bliss…or at least I’m allowing them to in my mind.
After a decade-plus long marriage, children, and lots of misery, I divorced, and later married a long time friend. We have a very solid relationship, my children adore him, and life is as good as it can be with our hectic schedules. Other than my parents, there was no wedding for my family to attend. Because this was my new husband’s first marriage, and he lives out of state, we were married there so that his family could all be present. My family was aware that we were getting married, and explanations were made regarding the wedding location. Our wedding happened, and life moved on. The problem is, I haven’t….at least not in my mind.
Many families are “quirky”, and mine is no exception. Heck, Hollywood seems to have a whole film genre for uncomfortable family comedies. It’s all fun and games until it’s your own, though. Since our marriage, exactly one family member (in my sizable family) has called to wish us congratulations. Not a single card. Lest you say this is sour grapes over not receiving money or gifts, or some obnoxious etiquette whinge…Maybe deep, deeep down there is a bit of truth to that. I can’t imagine not giving my own sibling/niece/grandchild a wedding gift. It is my second marriage, and there was no wedding for them to come to, so it is understandable. My greatest concern is (in addition to the fact that his family now thinks mine must be pure evil and worries about what he has married into), my husband feels hurt and jilted, when he has moved away from his EXTREMELY, UNBEARABLY close-knit family to be here. He has inferiority issues regarding my first husband. He makes less than half of what the Ex made, he is missing the 15+ years of family history my ex had with us, etc. He could use some friends here, or at least acknowledgement that he exists.
No one has reached out, invited us over, or has tried to get to know him in any way. In fact, I was told by my sister not to bring him with me (during our engagement) when I visited her out of the country, “because it would be like having a stranger in her house.” That trip to see her was taken at the cost of our honeymoon. (It was all the money I could save in two years, and all of my PTO from work.) I thought that was the final straw, until no one even acknowledged that I had gotten married at all.
My family does not still seem to be grieving for my previous marriage or Ex. Our divorce was very friendly, amicable, and we still raise the kids together exceptionally well. My divorce did not inconvenience the extended family in any way (not even so much as a babysitting request), so I just can’t wrap my head around what is going on here. Yes, some cards of gifts for our wedding would have been nice, but having them welcome the man I love into the family would have been the best gift of all. Too bad none of them can bother.
Can’t wait for Thanksgiving
Dear Can’t Wait:
Throw a party. Invite all the friends and family who are local to you, and invite all of your family who are not local to you. Get some nice invitations and send them in the mail. My family lives in Massachusetts, and I am in Illinois, and I cannot fly home for every wedding, baby shower, christening, bridal shower, etc., but it’s nice to be invited. An invitation isn’t a command. The people sending them know that I almost certainly can’t come and there’s no pressure attached. But they still send them, because an invitation is a message that I am included. Send them the message that they are included. Model the behavior that you’d like to see from them.
You said your family was aware that you were getting married. “Aware” is not the same as “invited.” Maybe that is the root of this trouble, maybe not. It’s so tempting to try to figure out what went wrong here, but since you can’t change it, what matters is what you want to happen now. Do you want your husband to get to know your family, and vice versa? Do you want to rebuild a connection? If they won’t do the inviting, you do it. See who shows up.
“But it’s their job to invite us over,” I can hear you are saying. Sure. But “they” haven’t. And you’re an adult, and maybe the lines of who usually does the inviting have gone all blurry. This is a little bit like the case of the person who feels excluded from a former friend group— Maybe the group doesn’t hold together as an entity anymore, but some of the individuals in the group are still reachable. “Divide and conquer” isn’t quite the right phrase, but, “Connect to the people who you love best, who you most want to introduce to your husband” is a decent strategy here.
It can be a casual party, like an open-house. Make or otherwise obtain some food, put out some plates and napkins, put some drinks in a cooler, and throw your doors open. Don’t try to replicate a wedding or even refer to a wedding. “It’s fall, come eat chili with us.” Definitely seed the crowd with a few dependable friends, and maybe some friends of your kids, so you know there will be at least someone who shows up and so you can all have a good time no matter what happens.
The people who come will get to know your husband. It won’t be everyone. It won’t be your sister, for instance. But it will be a start.
P.S. Your husband is used to being surrounded by a close-knit group of people, so this is a big adjustment, to be sure, and he will have to make an effort to make friends and find people who share his interests. You can support that, but you can’t do that work for him, and I don’t think it’s realistic to expect your family to fill in that space even if y’all do establish some kind of friendly relations. Your husband needs to go to Meetups, games nights, sports things, the gym, classes, etc. as if he’s starting from scratch in building a community for himself where you live. Family can be part of that, but they won’t be all of it, especially if they are being doinks about getting to know him. This, this, and this are applicable, especially some of the discussions in the comments. It takes time and sustained effort. I wish him the best with it.
126 thoughts on “#634: My family hasn’t acknowledged my wedding or tried to get to know my new husband.”
Maybe this is a terrible idea, and someone tell me if so, and I wouldn’t recommend it if it were anyone other than your family we’re talking about, AND I don’t know what your relationship with your family was like during Previous Marriage, but: have you, like … *asked* anyone what’s up? Maybe picked an especially close (or even-tempered) family member to invite out for coffee, and just say “Things seem really weird with you all and New Spouse; do you have any insight into whether something is going on?”
Also, re “he could use some friends here”, does your spouse have receptivity to/time for/interest in making connections that don’t involve you — hanging out at the nerd store, joining a rec sports league, whatever? As he develops a life of his own, contact with your family (or the lack thereof) will be less significant.
I’m with you – pick somebody friendly and ask them what’s going on.
I guess I don’t understand how “we were married in a different state than where my family lives” turned into “there was no wedding for my side of the family.” Even if LW’s family is really hard up, economically, and were not able to come, were they even invited?
If they weren’t invited, I can see where LW’s family’s grievances might have been born. Every wedding I’ve ever attended has been out-of-state for me, but my relatives still invited me and let me be the one to make the decision as to whether or not I could make it there. If a close relative got married and didn’t invite me, I’d feel quite snubbed.
That’s kinda what I was thinking. I’m getting married for the second time next May. I have very few local friends and my family lives clear on the other coast. But we will have a wedding, and we will invite the people we love best in the world, wherever they are. Many of them will not be able to come, but they will know we wanted them there, and we will know we gave them the opportunity. I’m not trying to criticize the LW — there are so many reasons this could have happened that I don’t know about, and I’m aware of that! I’m just saying that, looking through the lens of the family, if they were expecting to be invited to the wedding (*NOT* expecting that the wedding would be held near their home, for their personal convenience!), it might look as if the couple wasn’t interested in getting to know *them* rather than the other way around. In that case, a friendly reaching-out such as the good Captain suggests might do more than feel out who is at least responsive… it could help mend fences the LW and her new husband might not even be aware had been damaged.
I think it might come down to how the families are. My brother got married in a different country because that’s where his partner is from, and they decided that having the wedding with partner’s family made sense since it was a chance to meet partner’s family, and also that they were going to be living out here with our family. So other family got the party, our family got the frequent interactions. They didn’t have a wedding or a party for this side, and it wasn’t an issue. A couple years later they bought a house and some people got them nice house-warming gifts on the theory that they hadn’t spent any money on wedding gifts for them.
It might be an issue for LW’s family, but it might not, is kind of what I’m trying to say.
It might depend on the family or it might depend on how it was handled. I don’t see why one can’t send invitations, even if they are marrying in Thibet, perhaps with the acknowledgement that people won’t be making it. But if one doesn’t invite people to their wedding, they should take some time to explain the situation to their closest relatives beforehand, not let people know about the wedding through others. And it’s probably on them to initiate the first of these frequent interactions.
Long time reader, first time commenter, but, yeah, this was my thought process. How was there something where “his family could all be present” but there wasn’t a “wedding” that LW’s family were even invited to? LW made their family aware that there was a wedding happening and then didn’t invite them? That’s cold. I get if the family couldn’t travel or whatever, but to not even give them the option seems a little offensive to the family.
I wonder if the new husband’s family felt like the other family didn’t like the husband because they didn’t attend the wedding with the husband’s family. Does the husband’s family know that LW’s family wasn’t invited? They’re not pure evil, they weren’t on the guest list.
I don’t know how LW’s family works, but in mine if I said ‘We’re getting married and we’re going to do it in SO’s hometown so his family can be there but we’re not inviting you guys, mmmkay.’ that would be taken as ‘I have no interest in acknowledging my relationship in front of you and don’t care what you think.’ They’d be really hurt. And that would probably bleed onto how they interacted with my spouse and our relationship. No way would there be gifts and cards in that situation.
I think CA’s advice was spot on, it’s time for LW to do some inviting to let people know they’re welcome.
Yeah. I don’t know if I would go as far as feeling snubbed (for me personally, not telling you how to feel!) but I definitely would not be interested in sending a wedding gift (expensive!) or card without an invite. The LW may have accidentally sent the message that they’re not that interested in their family meeting husband.
I would feel snubbed if it were close family. First degree relatives need to be invited to the wedding unless those people have been excluded from one’s life for other reasons. There is no way I would send a gift – etiquette does not require it of me, and I would not volunteer one. If we’re not close enough for me to be invited to the wedding, we’re not close enough for me to spend a bunch of money on a present.
I wouldn’t require an invitation to the wedding before formally acknowledging a marriage, but I would require an announcement. Without that, I won’t know that you want my acknowledgement.
That means a letter or call or email or note whose content is “we are (getting) married” as opposed to an off-hand comment that the wedding will (or did) occur.
Yeah, I was kind of like. . .wait, did they get married on Mars? I feel like traveling for weddings is such a common thing that it’s hard for me to imagine not being weirded out and offended by “you’re not invited because it’s out of state”. Even if the entire family never travels and would never go, explaining the location rather than sending an invite and saying ‘of course no worries if you can’t make it’ is very odd to me.
I agree completely. Lots of my family marry in different states, but that doesn’t mean they don’t *invite* everyone. I’d feel terribly snubbed to not receive an invitation, also–and there’s no way I’d send a card. I’d feel like they made their feelings perfectly clear when I wasn’t invited. In fact, when hubby and I were married, his family was intentionally left off the guest list (long, ugly story). We didn’t get any cards, gifts or invites from those folks, either. But I didn’t expect any.
It’s very common for those that go away to be married (destination wedding,wedding in another state, etc) then throw a party for everyone when they come home to include everyone. I know it’s not what you intended LW, but I do think it’s on YOU to throw this party since you left your family out of the big day.
I’ll be interested to hear what the commenters say. I behaved like this toward my sister around the time of her second marriage. I still felt close to the ex and the new guy genuinely felt like a stranger. We hadn’t had many opportunities to get to know him. We still don’t know him the way we knew the ex. He’s reserved and somewhat shy. I think our family just hadn’t had time to warm to the new guy and we weren’t making opportunities for that to happen. But, several years later all seems to be fine and I don’t perceive any hard feelings.
I’m a bit like the sister too! Rn my sister has a new bf and she really wants him included in all family events (no problem). But, I still haven’t had that breakthrough conversation with new bf where we connect as two humans and start to understand each other. He and I are both quiet and reserved and he has also rubbed me the wrong way a couple times in really small ways. I am completely ok with him showing up at family holidays and things like that even though I don’t feel I know him, but he would most definitely not be welcome at my place as an overnight guest at the moment. But if my sister told me she couldn’t visit because of that, I would also respect that and wouldn’t pressure her.
Captain, you give such great advice (or, at least, you give the same advice I’m thinking in my head = great advice. lol)
I wonder if a shift in traditions between LW’s first and second wedding might be partly at fault for dashed expectations. People don’t seem to send wedding cards These Days, even when they send gifts. And people rarely send gifts unless they’re invited to the wedding.
I’m hopelessly old-fashioned: When I get a wedding invitation/announcement, I buy a fancy card and write a long note inside it full of wishes for a long and loving marriage. I also always bring wedding gifts home from the store, wrap them myself, and then ship them to the happy couple. Yeah, it’s much more effort than just clicking the online registry and having it sent to the address on file. But my thinking is that, hey, they’ll only get married once (we hope) and they think enough of me to invite me to be a part of that.
But I know I’m an outlier. When Mr. Scorched and I were married, I was crushed that we got exactly 2 cards (one from my mom, who is the source of my own antiquated habits, and one from a distant relative who wasn’t even invited to our very small wedding). And not a single wrapped gift.
I love the Captain’s idea about inviting all of them to a celebration with actual paper invitations. Even if they can’t come, this will give them some communique to react to, and one that has a social expectation attached to it.
You are clearly as wonderful as several of my friends, and you make me hang my head in shame. I honestly had no idea that even sending engagement cards, let alone wedding cards, was a thing until we got engaged and married. I subsequently felt very awkward when better-bred people did those things for us, which were lovely to receive.
I’m not sure whether traditions are changing, so much as whether different families have different expectations. My entire extended family was pretty badly off for their whole history until about twenty years ago. These things just weren’t done by any of us, as the extra cost was not supportable – everyone was happy that expectations were low, so we were doing each other a favour by not sending cards or gifts.
I’ve tried to get a better feel for etiquette, but the hardest thing is reaching out with a social gesture. I worry that the recipient might feel pressured into reciprocating when they can’t afford to. In practice most people are delighted to receive good wishes or gifts, but it’s sometimes challenging to overcome the social standards I grew up with. Two friends who couldn’t come to a recent housewarming party sent wonderful presents. I would never have done that – who can afford to do that? But actually, I can afford it, these days: I just don’t think like I can.
I don’t think there’s always a Right Way to do these things or that better options cost more — a social gesture doesn’t have to mean buying a bunch of (imo creepy) engagement photo cards or whatever, and people whose background includes that expectation aren’t “better-bred” than others. The Captain’s hypothesis that the LW’s family may have felt left out of their wedding seems very likely to me, but expensive printed invitations and wedding gifts are not the only way to communicate caring. I would even suggest that, if someone’s family does not tend to do that sort of thing, it can be a little rude to inflict it on them because of some aspirational idea of etiquette.
Oh, I wanted to say exactly that – people who perform antiquated social rituals are NOT “better-bred” than I, they just have different priorities. And the mere IDEA that these old-fashioned social mores make someone BETTER THAN YOU is 100% makes-me-want-to-barf repugnant. I was raised by decently well-off people who came from the South and the East Coast, two bastions of bullshit, excuse me, etiquette. My mom seriously thought I would be a debutante. (HAHAHAHAHAHA I would rather die than attend an event with a “Dress Nazi”. No, really, where is the cyanide.)
And while I was raised to be a little old-fashioned in this way, I have thankfully overcome it. I personally find gift wrap to be an extra-ordinary waste of time and money and trees. If I am ordering you a gift it will come in whatever box the company delivers it in, and you will like it or there will be no more gifts. I re-use gift bags over and over for birthdays and holidays for everyone except my young son, who currently loves to tear wrapping paper. (And paper towels.) I fucking HATE birthday cards, get-well cards and any other reason to waste paper and a stamp and kill a tree. I don’t like receiving them (mostly throw them away unopened), and I don’t like being told to send them. I make phone calls or send emails or a text. If I say thank-you in person for something, there is no way in hell you are getting a thank-you card. I already said thank-you. And I don’t have time for people who think they are better than me for living in the goddamn 1800s when it comes to thank-you notes. My aunt tried to harass me about this, when I would take a pic of my son in/with her latest gift and send it to her with a note of thanks through an email or text. So I just started refusing all her packages. Apparently she thinks I hate her, but I’m just glad I don’t have to put up with her bullshit attempts at guilt-tripping me. And the never-ending flow of things-I-do-not-want has ceased. Yay me!
You seriously throw away cards, gestures of esteem that a person took their time to send to you, unopened, and then sneer at the sender?!? How interesting that you are proud of that.
“I honestly had no idea that even sending engagement cards, let alone wedding cards, was a thing until we got engaged and married. I subsequently felt very awkward when better-bred people did those things for us, which were lovely to receive.”
What a nice reminder to me; you sound like a delightful person who makes their gratitude known, whether or not it’s through traditional channels. I came from a sort of formal etiquette tradition, and I admit I can get pissy about certain, specific thinks (thank-you notes, hello!). I’d rather be the type of person who appreciates people for who they are, though, and is happy to receive correspondence but doesn’t judge somebody for the lack of it.
P.S. I laughed at “better-bred;” I knew EXACTLY what you meant, but I immediately thought of thoroughbred horses in a barn, trying to write wedding cards with their hooves. Maybe they are also wearing monocles?
Oh, *please* don’t be ashamed, or think this way about yourself !! There is absolutely NOTHING “better bred” about falling for the plethora of phony “requirements” the wedding industry has tried to sell us by convincing us that they are absolutely mandatory according to etiquette, and we will be forever stamped as second-class if we don’t rush right out and buy them.
Letting people know about one’s engagement? Awesome. Doing so through those little cards with the couple’s photo on them? There’s certainly nothing wrong with that if the couple can afford them, and *wants* to do it this way – but there is equally nothing wrong with a letter, or an email, or a phone call. In fact, a handwritten letter is the most TRULY “traditional” way to do it… those printed cards are really just trying to serve as mass-produced handwriting. (And for the Very Very Proper, they fail – it has to be engraved, provably so via feeling the indents on the back of the card, to serve as Proper mass-produced handwriting, such as Miss Manners or impeccably old-fashioned great-aunts might accept. Printing is too informal.)
If you’re seriously interested in learning more of the *real* scoop on proper etiquette, I strongly recommend reading Miss Manners’ books. She has several, some on specific topics (like weddings, or business etiquette, or the proper uses of technology) and some general. Her biggest, most general omnibus is “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior,” and it will teach you everything from how to serve a proper formal 14-course dinner to how to snub somebody impeccably politely to how to be gracious to a friend who’s going through difficulties they don’t want you to know about. She is also uproariously funny.
One of Miss Manners’ regular themes is that there is *never* an occasion on which every possible polite course of action involves spending money. There are times when, once you’ve made a choice (such as deciding to accept a wedding invitation) you are *then* obligated to spend money for a gift… though even here she cautions that it need not be lavish, and that brides and grooms who try to direct the amount or type of gift you get them are the ones being tacky. But if you don’t want to spend money for a gift, and decline the invitation, then you’re under no obligation whatsoever. Similarly, the goal of announcing one’s engagement with absolute propriety need not involve buying photo printed cards – handwriting is every bit as acceptable, and only costs for paper and stamp. (Okay, I guess that technically costs a little, but you get the point, I hope.)
There is a huge amount of garbage out there, trying to tell lovely people like you who want to do the right thing and don’t feel confident in their own knowledge of what that is, all about the endless things they must buy in order to be Really Well-Bred. And it’s all just that – garbage. Miss Manners does an awesomee job of sorting through the trash, telling us what our *real* obligations are (which inevitably involve more attention and less money than the Politeness Vendors want us to believe), and offering options for how the cash-strapped can meet their social obligations on an even footing with the wealthy. She’s amazing, and from what you say about your uncertainty and desire to learn, I think you’d find her a big help.
>>There are times when, once you’ve made a choice (such as deciding to accept a wedding invitation) you are *then* obligated to spend money for a gift…
I find that really weird. I have spent hundreds of pounds to be able to attend weddings, and people spent hundreds of pounds to attend ours. The idea that anyone is *obliged* to buy a gift – really?!
It’s not a “gift” if you’re obliged to give it. While people frequently confuse the two, “gift” and “price of admission” aren’t synonyms.
Yes, really. The idea is that, if you care enough about the couple to want to spend their special day with them, you care enough about them to give them some token in honor of it. It needn’t be expensive, but it is, as I’ve always understood it (including from Miss Manners), the appropriate thing to do. “The idea that anyone is *obliged* to buy a gift” is precisely the same as the idea that anyone is obliged to return hospitality by issuing invitations in the same number as those received… it’s that, if you’re going to accept someone’s offering of affection to you (in this instance, a wedding invitation), you ought to be making an offering of affection to them in return; otherwise it comes across to them (who are, after all, often spending upwards of $100 a plate just to feed you) as freeloading. That doesn’t mean the gift has to equal the cost of the person’s place at the wedding, or anything stupid like that (which I’ve heard some very greedy brides and grooms try to demand!). It just means that, if they say, with their actions, “Hey, we love you enough to want you with us on one of the most important days of our lives,” and you actually wish to accept this, you should be responding with, “…and I love you enough to want to send you forward into the years of your marriage with a tangible memento to remind you of me.”
I suspect that part of how this tradition developed is that the form of reciprocity used in everyday hospitality — the obligation to invite someone in return — doesn’t work for weddings. You can’t realistically be bound, if you attend someone’s wedding, to invite them to yours. First of all, there’s absolutely nothing to say you will ever have one; second of all, a large percentage of those invited to weddings are married already (and not inclined to divorce in order to have an opportunity, through their remarriage, to fulfill their outstanding social duties); and third of all, even if you’re 1) going to get married, 2) after everyone else you know who invited you to their weddings, and 3) are going to retire from attending weddings immediately after your own, there’s such a wide variation in wedding styles and sizes as to make it completely impracticable for etiquette to demand that everyone whose own weddings you attended thereafter be invited to your own. (Which will not stop whiny second cousins who invited you at the insistence of their parents, from trying to insist that you *are* thereby obligated to invite them to yours, but you needn’t pay any attention to them.)
So there’s developed the wedding gift, which substitutes for reciprocal hospitality as a way to ensure that you’re not accepting without giving somehow in return. But the idea that it is okay to accept someone’s hospitality without returning the kindness in one way or another — no. Doesn’t work in daily hospitality, and doesn’t work for weddings either.
That said, both I and Judith Martin, who writes the Miss Manners books, are American, and she makes it very clear that she’s writing about American etiquette, since every country’s manners are individual and very different from each other. Since you indicated your expenditure in pounds, I’m going to assume you’re not from the U.S., or at least aren’t living there at present. It’s possible that there is a different expectation where you live. Weddings are a mass of confusing and often conflicting traditional etiquette, and I’m having a difficult enough time planning a wedding by way of one country’s manners… I wouldn’t even try to master any other country’s! Please take everything I’ve said above as marked, “U.S. ONLY,” and find a more reliable source for the rules about manners in your own land, OK? 😀
@Nora Rivkis: I agree with a lot of what you said, but even Miss Manners says that you are not *obligated* to buy a gift if you attend a wedding.
When She Was Good: Really? Well, okay, I think it may depend on your definition of obligation; certainly she says that there is no excuse for interrogating you or anything if you *don’t* give one. But this is what I found from her when I looked the question up:
“There is no such thing as an invoice for a wedding present. Neither a wedding invitation nor a formal announcement constitutes that. You give a wedding present because you want to indicate symbolically that you care about the couple.
“Yes, there is a catch. That is that you should not be attending a wedding if you do not care about the couple (either truly, or because they are relatives and you are supposed to care), and therefore wedding guests give wedding presents. If you decline the invitation, or if you are not invited but receive an announcement, all that is required is that you send the couple good wishes.”
In short, that you’re absolutely free to choose not to give a gift. Or you are absolutely free to choose to accept the invitation. But not both, for the same wedding.
>>t’s that, if you’re going to accept someone’s offering of affection to you (in this instance, a wedding invitation), you ought to be making an offering of affection to them in return; otherwise it comes across to them (who are, after all, often spending upwards of $100 a plate just to feed you) as freeloading.
I get that, but I’ve literally attended two weddings in my life that I could go to on the bus or by car. Every other single one has cost me at least a couple of hundred pounds in travel and accommodation. Similarly, nearly everyone who came to our civil partnership had travelled a few hours from and probably booked overnight accommodation, and lots of them had come from other countries. Obviously etiquette varies from place to place, and I’m sure lots of people do only have local guests at their weddings, but I wouldn’t have thought the fact that people were travelling to attend a wedding was so unusual. For me the fact that people are giving up their time and possibly taking annual leave from work and spending money on travel and accommodation is the “quid pro quo” for the fact that the marrying couple are providing dinner and a party, not the gift.
You could say that, if you attend a child’s birthday party, you are “obligated” to give a gift, and generally (barring particular family custom) people would find it rude if you just turned up, ate the cake, and didn’t acknowledge the occasion with a gift. Weddings are the same.
In the case of weddings where you have to travel, the expense and time commitment of travel often *stands in* as your gift, I think. “The present of your presence” and other snappy little sayings. But I think it can be nice to also buy something small, if your budget allows. Still send formal card or note. That kind of thing.
As other people have said, the idea that a wedding present has to be equal to the cost of your dinner at the reception is not actually correct etiquette and it would be rude of the bride and groom to complain that your present was not expensive enough.
I’ve attended 1 wedding (and will be attending another tomorrow) where I literally cannot afford a gift. I wouldn’t be going if it weren’t for my father in law kindly buying our tickets so my spouse and I can watch their siblings get married. What is the etiquette then? We’re worse off than even hand-to-mouth and my spouse is disabled and can’t work. I really, really hope I haven’t been a rude boor this whole time. Both couples have been aware of our financial situation but now I can’t stop worrying.
For Ashes – Really don’t worry about it! Give them a nice card with a message written inside. Nobody will care, really. I had many cards like that when I got married, and it just made me happy that I had a physical reminder of all the people who were celebrating with me!
Ashes: I agree. Write your good wishes, people will understand and be touched.
Ashes– A card is absolutely appropriate, but if you want to do something more, do you have a favorite recipe you could write out and include? That’s something tangible and personal, and potentially a lot more meaningful than something chosen from the registry.
Long live Miss Manners!
I love Miss Manners passionately!!
This is about the gift giving, but this i also where I”m finding a reply button. Apologies if it’s in the wrong place?
So, I just got back from a wedding, and developed an opinion or two. The bride and groom were nice, laid-back people, and I know they didn’t keep tabs on who gave a gift or anything like that. They’re the type to say “We were just happy you could make it” and mean it. Still, of course, I suppose everyone brought a gift.
Where I’m seeing wiggle room in the custom is the word “buy” and people’s (not yours, but US society in general) idea of how expensive a wedding gift must be. I’ve heard of people getting board games- not the 3-figure super involved ones, either- for wedding presents and loving them. And my friends probably received some more expensive gifts, but topping the pile was a blanket knit by our Aunt. I know it wasn’t a huge outlay of money or, for her, time or skill, but it was a huge outlay of love.
I figure, if we go on Miss Manners’ assumption that if you’re attending a wedding you want to be there and love the people involved, maybe the catch is that the gift doesn’t have to be three figures, shiny, impressive to strangers, but just something the couple will value and know that you gave it because you loved them.
And if it’s me, if they can’t do that, I don’t want to be at the wedding and am thereby apparently absolved from gift-giving anyway. 🙂
RJ: Absolutely!! There is no reason a gift has to be expensive, or indeed purchased at all. You can craft something, if you’re good at it. You can bake cookies and put them in a pretty tin you already have around. You can take a piece of pretty note paper and write a letter telling them how much they mean to you, and all your wishes for a magical future together. The idea is simply not to give *nothing*… it’s got nothing to do with big fancy expensive shiny STUFF, as much as the companies who run wedding registries would love you to think so.
I completely agree. And personal gifts are more memorable, too, even when they’re ‘cheap’. 20+ years on I don’t think I could tell you who bought any specific thing from our wedding registry, but I know exactly who made the simple little framed sampler with our initials and the wedding date that’s hanging at the bottom of the stairs.
When you’re bringing a new person into already established communities, sometimes they are welcomed by lots of getting to know you invites, sometimes, you have to be the one who does the introducing. When husband and I started cohabitatibg, we very deliberately made a choice to about one Friday out of three have another couple (or collection of unpaired friends) over for a casual game and dinner night. We took turns inviting “his” friends than “mine”. Three years later, they’re all “our” friends but it took deliberate effort for both of us to create situations where friends and new partner got better acquainted.
“there was no wedding for my family to attend.” “Our wedding happened, and life moved on.”
It sounds like the family is taking the LW’s cues on this, and I think it would be logical to interpret those cues as “this is really not a big deal” and “we don’t really care to have LW’s family involved.” It doesn’t even necessarily have to be that they have a grievance or are upset with the LW and New Husband, just that they’ve picked up a vibe of “we don’t expect you to care or invest yourself in this” and are behaving accordingly. I’m pretty sure that’s how I would feel if a family member got married in another state with the spouse’s family present and theirs not invited – I’d feel like they didn’t care much whether I was a part of their ongoing married life or not.
THIS. Thanks, Editrix.
I did not invite my very close-knit and HUGE family to my wedding because my husband is a major introvert who had a hard enough time with our parents/siblings/10 closest friends at our wedding. Instead, after the wedding, we (actually my parents) hosted a big, casual, low pressure party for my family very shortly afterwards. Given that the wedding was on the other side of the country from most of them, and the party was in the same town, quite a few family members were relieved to not have to travel (my cousin followed suit with the same strategy–small wedding, then family bbq–2 years later because she saw how much less stressful it was for us). They also felt plenty involved, and have made an effort to get to know my partner when we’re visiting them. There are ways to send the message of “Please don’t come to this wedding, but please welcome my new spouse into the family.” I think the letter writer missed the mark at first, but the captain’s advice will help make up for it.
Please tell me your tricks and secrets! Particularly for how on earth to phrase these things in a way that does in fact induce the relief that you say your family felt. This is more or less exactly the reason the idea of getting married stresses me out beyond reason, and also the solution I had come up with mentally, but cannot for the life of me find advice on how one might do such a thing without deeply offending the non-immediate family. (Or maybe this is just me projecting, and they wouldn’t feel that way at all! But, y’know. Nerves and that and trying to behave kindly, etc.)
Offbeat Bride is your friend for many, many, many scripts around getting married.
Exactly. As the Captain says, you can’t rewrite the past; but this seems plausible, and if it’s the case, it suggests that invitations to interact with the new husband might be a cue the family also picks up? Fingers crossed.
Hi Editrix- Sorry, should have mentioned this….We did have an engagement party here at home, sent out invitations several months before, etc. Less than half of those invited came.
Yes, creating the situations where it can happen, this is a great way to think about it.
For acknowledging the wedding itself, you know, wedding cards, congratulations, or gifts are usually sent after the marrying couple sends out a wedding invitation. Or, if the people are not invited to come to the wedding, then, after wedding announcement cards go out. I wouldn’t expect to receive a congrats, card, or gift from someone if I had not first sent out an official ‘thing’ that announces the wedding happening. And, from their standpoint, there *was* a wedding for them to come to, they just weren’t invited because of the distance. I think waiting to hear the literal magic words “congratulations” from them might not happen, since it sounds like it’s been a while, and they may feel a little hurt you didn’t include them in your wedding stuff. BUT, ALL of this is to say that you extending an invitation to them to reconnect, such as with a big party where everyone is invited, sounds like a really great idea. I think it’s possible you are waiting for certain magic words from them before *you* reach out (Congratulations, come over for dinner) and they may be, also, (I’m sorry, I’d still love to see you, come over for dinner), and since both sides are waiting, making a start to reconnect, yourself, is a great idea.
Rant alert —
LW, my sister is in a similar situation-ish, and as the outside sister/family, I’ll give you my perspective. She started dating “Jim” about 18 months ago. They met at work, got to know each other on daily basis there (while she was dating someone else), and progressed quickly. She’s only 25 and has been in approximately 2 non-serious relationships prior. She has never really expressed a desire to be partnered, and she has a history of mental illness and self-esteem issues that she has had some on/off success in addressing. In any event, they quickly moved in together (her into his place), got a dog (he picked out, he named) and she decided to bring him along on family vacations (he was welcome, but do you really want some guy you’ve met 2x with you in a vacation environment for a week plus?!). Not to mention, there are some cultural differences between his family of origin and mine — nothing we can’t get around, of course, just some hiccups here and there.
This doesn’t sound like you, but she repeatedly talks to the family about their issues, how much they fight, how miserable her job is (they work together; he likes his position and wants to stay, she does not); and wonders why we all are more reserved than typical around him. On his best day, he’s a case of guy-trying-too-hard-to-fit-in and at his worst, is awful for my sister (*big sister no one will be good enough disclaimer).
In any event, I try to remind her, as I would you, LW, that the relationship building comes with time between dating partners/spouses and your family. If you had/have a good relationship with them, there’s no reason to think that this could not be built up. You didn’t indicate in your letter how quickly you got together with Husband #2 after the divorce, how quickly the wedding/wedding planning progressed, etc. Even without “grieving” or “carrying a torch” for your Ex per se, these things DO take time to get over and recalibrate in everyone’s brains, interactions, etc. It was easy for you to fit into your new hubby’s life as this was his first marriage. He’s coming into a whole set of patterns, relationships, quirks, etc that you have had YEARS to navigate.
Seriously, time is your friend here. Do as the Captain advises. Keep doing that.
Honestly, not every family welcomes new members in with open arms. (God knows mine doesn’t.) I know they are “supposed to” and that should be mandatory, but….you can’t force them to care, really. I do wonder how they were different (if they were) with the first one vs. number two, but sometimes people are just assholes or uninterested.
And if he thinks your family are jerks, well….why shouldn’t he think that?
Honestly, I’d just try to move on without trying to get them to care, but that’s me and I am sick of family drama. I do the bare minimum of price paying these days when required and otherwise I don’t expect anything–and that’s what I’d get regardless.
Families may be supposed to welcome new members with open arms, but that’s because in the usual course of events these new members are not brand new aquantainces, but long-time romantic partners of a family member. From what I can tell, the LW’s family hasn’t even met her new husband, in which case it really is the LW’s job to introduce him around.
I had a thought about this. When young!Kellis started out dating she would complain to her family and friends about the things that bothered her about her dates instead of bringing it up directly to her dates. And then she would wonder why her fam & friends didn’t like the person.
No wonder, since all they’d heard were my complaints. Why would they like someone I frequently said bad things about? I hadn’t give them any incentive to like the person.
I’m a little confused as to whether you invited your family to the wedding and they chose not to come, or whether you did not invite them. I am getting married in my home state (which is different from my fiance’s home state), but we are inviting people from both families in roughly equal numbers and we expect that plenty of his family members will travel to the wedding (as will members of mine, as my extended family is quite spread out). If it’s the case that family members received an invitation and never RSVP’ed or said congrats, I agree with you that it’s somewhat weird. But if you never invited them, they are probably feeling snubbed! I would certainly feel hurt if my sister chose not to invite me to her wedding, even if distance for some reason made it impossible for me to go. Even when you KNOW people can’t attend, it is usually considered polite to send an invitation anyway if they’re close — for example, I have some older relatives who are in assisted living and certainly will not be able to travel to our wedding, but we are still sending them invitations so that they feel included and know about the event.
I think the Cap’s advice is great if you invited but they chose to ignore the invites. Be the bigger person, forgive, and reach out.
If you never sent invites, I would reach out and first APOLOGIZE. Is this totally necessary? No, it’s your wedding and you have the right to invite or not whomever you want. But if you want to repair the relationship, you should probably acknowledge that you’re the one who initiated the issue by choosing to invite only one side of the family. (An elopement, where everyone is equally uninvited, is different, I think. It strikes me as quite odd to explicitly exclude only one side of the family unless there is a history of serious abuse or something similar, which you don’t mention here.)
“But if you never invited them, they are probably feeling snubbed! I would certainly feel hurt if my sister chose not to invite me to her wedding, even if distance for some reason made it impossible for me to go.”
Yes, this. Several commenters have pointed this out so I don’t want to dogpile, but LW, you seem to never have considered how this looks from anyone else’s point of view. You keep claiming there was “no wedding for them to go to” but that isn’t what happened — you didn’t invite them because you decided for them that it was too far. Good grief no wonder they are pissy!
Also, stop letting your husband talk about your family as though they are “evil” and he “wonders what he married into.” You aren’t going to be able to repair your relationship with your family if he’s dripping poison in your ear like this.
Also also, again — look at things from your sister’s point of view. She lives in another country. You probably don’t see her that often as a result. You didn’t invite her to your wedding. She’s never met or has only rarely met your new husband. Can you really blame her for not necessarily wanting to host him for however long you were there? I mean, I hate having even my closest friends come and visit, so a near-stranger would really bother me.
Hi, posting this comment to those who mentioned this. We wanted to have a wedding reception here, but we were discouraged from it. Our budget was almost non-existent, and my parents would not do it because it was my second wedding. (I understood, but still disheartening.). We DID have an engagement party. About half of them did not come. Some gave excuses, some didn’t. I have tried to introduce him to various family members when he is in town, but the engagement dinner was the best we could do on our very limited budget, and they didn’t seem to think it was necessary to attend that, either.
The Captain’s advice is spot on, and I would only add one thing:
Act on this advice ASAP, or not until after January 1st!
We’re heading into the holidays, which means lots & lots of parties, gatherings, get-togethers, socials, family dinners, and other demands on time. If the goal is to have a get-together that is easy for everyone to attend, either have the event before the start of the ThanksChrismukka season, or at least give a long lead time so people can schedule time for the party.
If a big party isn’t your thing (or, if you don’t want to wait until January to start making efforts to settle things) then pick one family member / friend group per week, and invite them out for coffee/shopping/hair salon/dinner/whatever. It can be just you & them, or you can include the spouse. If it’s just you, you probably will hear “congratulations on your wedding”… once you mention your husband and how happy you two are.
In fact, even if you are going to pull of a big party, having a dinner with just your immediate family (at a neutral location that is not someone’s home) is a good idea, if only to raise everyone’s comfort level before Thanksgiving negotiations begin.
YES to this. Easiest way to ruin your own party is to put it in competition with other parties that people have obligations to attend. Your ‘get to know hubby’ party will lose to ‘that one time a year all the cousins get together’ or ‘let’s all try to get together for holiday, grandma’s not getting any younger’ every time.
I agree with some of the other commenters, LW’s first step here is to come out of “I’ve been so wronged, when will they apologise” mode and think about how she might have contributed to the alienation of family from hubby – she seems to be the first one who did any excluding in the first place by not inviting them. I definitely wouldn’t expect any gifts – personally, I wouldn’t send anyone a wedding gift who hadn’t even sent me an invite. I’d suggest that LW could have handled this better by pre-empting any confusion or hurt feelings by having a conversation way before the wedding, to explain to the family why they wouldn’t get invites. Then she could have organised a separate party just for her family, to help them feel less excluded – good thinking Capt Awkward. And if LW hasn’t talked to them directly about how they may have liked her to do anything differently around this, it might be a good time to do so.
Agreed on all of this. And then what happens when LW does create opportunities for her family to get to know her husband will be clarifying.
Hi, posting this comment to those who mentioned this. We wanted to have a wedding reception here, but we were discouraged from it. Our budget was almost non-existent, and my parents would not do it because it was my second wedding. (I understood, but still disheartening.). We DID have an engagement party. About half of them did not come. Some gave excuses, some didn’t. I have tried to introduce him to various family members when he is in town, but the engagement dinner was the best we could do on our very limited budget, and they didn’t seem to think it was necessary to attend that, either.
My cousin got married & explicitly disinvited her cousins. Aunts & uncles got an invitation with a message included that their offspring were not welcome at the marriage. This was not an attempt to have a childfree wedding, since all of us cousins are of age. (Although it has occurred to me that the same may not necessarily be true for the family of the groom.) Since then, the couple have had their first child together. Cards were again only send to aunts & uncles. Because of the obvious exclusion, I feel disinclined to congratulate my cousin on either her marriage or the birth of her child.
I came up with a way to remedy this weirdness when it was already too late. I should have phoned my cousin several weeks before the wedding, congratulated her on it & then expressed a wish to attend the wedding with a few of our other cousins. She’d likely not have refused to invite us, I think.
More weirdness is coming up soon, since there will be a family reunion for just us cousins. Married cousin will attend, but this is not the problem. Organizing cousin has chosen an alcohol-themed activity, which I personally am not too happy with. (We’ll be tasting beer at a Biergarten & then go to a bar for drinks & then go for dinner at a beer-themed restaurant.) This is also not the problem. Organizing cousin has also invited partners of cousins, insisting that “partners are family too”. Personally I don’t feel this way towards partners. It’s true that a few cousins have longterm partners & it’s probably a good thing to get to know them. It’s also true that these longterm partners will probably be the only ones showing up.
The problem is more that organizing cousin is inviting outsiders to a family event. Most of us haven’t seen each other for a while & I don’t think I have attention to spare for any interlopers. Or maybe the problem is about coming to terms with the fact that our group of cousins doesn’t hold together very well. Organizing cousin’s idea of fun is different from mine. Married cousin & some others are not very interested in meeting their cousins. I’m beginning to think I should give up this idea of family as a group with shared interests & invest in those of my cousins I have the best connection with.
If you knew that the cut off for the wedding did not include cousins, it would be wrong to phone and ask for an exception for a few people. Couple sweat blood over these lists, and it it is always a hard choice to make. But it was their wedding, not your family reunion. Now the other family reunion is not organized to your taste either? Please let it go and just enjoy your family to the extent that you can. Some of their parteners are probably great people and potentially new good friends! Just enjoy it, and plan the party you want next time. When you do all the work, you get to make the list. But not for other peoples’ parties.
“I should have phoned my cousin several weeks before the wedding, congratulated her on it & then expressed a wish to attend the wedding with a few of our other cousins. She’d likely not have refused to invite us, I think.”
NOOOOOOO don’t do this! It would be terribly rude. Particularly if by “wedding”, you mean “the reception, which charges a large amount per head and often has a solid cap on numbers”. But even for the ceremony itself, ringing up and inviting yourself along is rude! You’re basically counting on her being unable to refuse your request, thereby forcing your way in! Even if she did say yes, do you want to go to an event where the host keeps looking at “Thomas, my cousin who has crashed my party and I really don’t want him here”? No. No, a thousand nos.
There are ways that a bride and groom can involve people in their wedding celebrations without going the full wedding invite route – my cousin did a large engagement party for everyone, plus everyone went to the ceremony, but only the aunts/uncles went to the reception. (Because of the cost! Plus we are not super close as a family.) But in this case you are better off just accepting that the bride and groom did not include you, for whatever reasons which you will probably never know, and just leave it there.
The phrase about unwelcome offspring left room for interpretation. It’s hard to get this across in translation, but as things stood, it could have been an awkwardly worded request to have a childfree wedding. Phoning her could have cleared that up. Also, it would have been good to have made contact before the wedding (if only just to congratulate her) instead of constantly hearing about it from others. The weirdness would have been prevented. This is important to me, because I realize the weirdness is partially caused by my own lack of communication.
I understand your concerns about inviting oneself & I agree that would have been rude. However, the phone call in itself would have been important in clearing the air. Expressing regret at not being present at the wedding would have come natural in such a conversation. It would then have been up to the bride to either invite or state something about difficult decisions. My cousin is frank enough to use her words & not invite people if she doesn’t want to.
This is all speculation though, since the wedding already took place & I never made a phone call.
Phoning her to congratulate her would have been a nice thing to do. Writing her to congratulate her would have been better/less awkward for her. Expressing regret at not being at the wedding to which you were not invited would not have come off in anyway except either angling for an invitation or passive-aggressive scolding your cousin for not inviting you.
If you wish someone well who is getting married, you congratulate them regardless of whether you were invited–you never know why you weren’t invited, and do you only hope their marriage is a happy one if you were invited? Plus, sending a nice congratulations note makes future interactions less weird, it’s a kind thing to do, and it has the added benefit of making you look like someone with a generous, non-spiteful spirit.
But if she sent formal, written invitations, addressed specifically to your parents, and those invitations did not have your name included, you know that you were not invited. If she had intended to have invited all cousins over a specific age, then before she finalised the guest list she would have asked around the family to learn your age. I mean, I don’t know what she wrote, but generally weddings have very specific invites because the cost of hosting them is generally expensive and venues usually have size caps.
I also think that calling and asking people to confirm to your face that they didn’t invite you will invite way more weirdness than it clears up, in my experience. If she is good at being frank, then she would have frankly invited you.
I think you could call her to congratulate her now, which could give you a feeling of being involved and celebrating with her now, but don’t mention your lack of invite. The only time that it’s polite to express non attendance is after you have been invited but can’t go.
Sorry you weren’t invited, it’s a sad feeling and I know it.
I don’t think family was ever a group with shared interests, just one united by blood and marriage. But I think your problem is that you don’t seem interested in getting to know your cousins as human beings, but only as “your” cousins. Refering to their long-time partners (the people they share their life with) as interlopers, when you haven’t had much contact with them recently?
Agreed. Thomas, I’ve been with my partner for 16 years, legally married for two. One of the most hurtful things that people have done is treat my partner like some kind of interloper, or temporary fling. I’ve been with my partner longer than one of my cousins’ TWO marriages combined. This attitude has done lasting damage to relationships in my life.
Cousins are nice to have if you get along, but they aren’t some type of ready-made friend group, and they are adults who will almost certainly have lives and relationships outside of the family. Most people do.
I invited aunts and uncles, but not cousins, to my wedding. You know why? Because my wife’s family is tiny (2 grandparents, aunt and uncle, mother, great uncle), and even limiting it to aunts and uncles I was inviting twice as many family members as she was. If I had invited my cousins, and most of them had come, I would have been cutting close friends off the invite list.
Everyone’s situation is different, but I think that your idea of phoning up and asked to be invited is an absolutely terrible one, likely to cause a lot of conflict – whether accepted or rejected.
Oof! A lot going on here.
For the wedding: it’s rude to say “don’t bring your kids” but it’s also rude to assume that people who aren’t on the invitation are invited. Which is what you are doing. How sad that your cousin had to cope with this problem! How rotten for her that her family blithely assumes that they’re entitiled to show up at events just because. Maybe the “wedding” was the parents’ idea and on the parents’ dime, and on the parents’ guest list (that’s actually what it sounds like). But even if it wasn’t, she doesn’t have to invite you
And the cousin party? Organizing cousin has decided to throw a party for cousins and partners. If that’s not the event you like, you’re allowed to create one that’s blood relatives only
Why is it rude to not include kids? Do you mean it’s rude to not invite them, or you think it’s rude to come right out and say they aren’t invited? The latter seems kind of tacky (but I can imagine a circumstance where someone would feel compelled to say it), but the former isn’t rude. Maybe the kind of wedding you want to have isn’t one that kids would fit in well with. I prefer the kind of casual weddings that aren’t affected by a misbehaving child, but I totally understand why some people might not want that for themselves.
I think what’s rude is *saying* someone (whether juvenile or not) is not invited. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be needed, because nobody polite would *dream* of bringing someone with them who hadn’t been explicitly invited . But that’s not the way it always works in real life, and sometimes one is left deciding between finding a way, as tactful as possible, to tell someone that they can’t bring their kids, or significant other, or flavor of the month; and living with people they don’t know and/or didn’t want at their wedding. I think it’s vastly better if one can avoid having to say it outright, but I understand why it’s sometimes necessary, so I try not to judge when someone says it.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong, I agree, with deciding for oneself whether or not to have kids at one’s wedding. Mine is going to have several, starting with my own, but that’s my preference. Other people are entitled to theirs.
It’s rude to write on the invitation “don’t bring the kids”. It’s sad that the family was so thoughtless that the cousin felt compelled to spell out the obvious: invitations are only for those invited
Thomas, I have a lot of cousins. They are all married. I have been to exactly two weddings in the family. I wasn’t particularly offended I wasn’t invited to all of the other weddings since I know how expensive weddings are–they couldn’t afford to invite the cousins. I still met their spouses at later family events, played with their kids when we saw each other on the holidays, and still have a fine relationship with them. Is it worth it to be so grieved over this? Weddings are expensive and stressful. Not being invited isn’t a referendum on you as a person, I promise. And honestly, if I was married/partnered and there was a family reunion where my (hypothetical) spouse was excluded because he was an “outsider,” I wouldn’t go, because my partner would not be an outsider or an interloper in my mind.
I think your conclusion to focus your energy on the cousins you have the best connection with is a good one. Extended family does not mean you all have to be close (heck, immediate family members don’t have to be close). You don’t have a force a relationship with someone you don’t feel close to or have much in common with.
Referring to my cousins’ partners as interlopers was insensitive. We’ve had events planned for cousins before, but this is the first time partners are invited. Most of us are in their twenties & but a few of us have longterm partners. As I conceded, it’s probably time to get to know them. However, these people are new to the group & I feel anxious about meeting them, while not having them around would be fine with me.
So basically what’s happening is that a previously anticipated event suddenly materializes in a form that causes unexpected anxiety by introducing an activity I might not enjoy & adding unknown people to the mix. These are my personal issues & probably not something organizing cousin could have foreseen. Yet somehow I need to write about it to realize this. (I still find the strong focus on alcohol questionable, though.)
I want to thank you all for your responses. They were very insightful.
If the alcohol is a problem for you, I think maybe go to this one to hang out and see family, but when it’s next up for a cousins family reunion, you can organize an activity where there is not so much of an alcohol focus. If you organize, you pick the venue, and you can have it at somewhere you are more comfortable.
I’ve gone to lots of breweries before, and while you do drink while you’re there, mostly you stand around and talk and hang out. You can go to the restaurant and not drink. If the objective is to just see your family, you’ll still have the opportunity to spend time together.
“I came up with a way to remedy this weirdness when it was already too late. I should have phoned my cousin several weeks before the wedding, congratulated her on it & then expressed a wish to attend the wedding with a few of our other cousins. She’d likely not have refused to invite us, I think.”
Okay, as someone who got married last year, if someone rang me, cousin or not and said “hey, I know I’m not invited but myself and a few others would like to come,” I’d have been really angry. It’s extremely offensive to try to invite yourself along to someone’s wedding because you’re essentially saying “hey, give me a free meal too.” NO. Do not do this Ever. Accept that you weren’t invited gracefully and don’t be a Party Smeagol. Weddings are really expensive, and they could have been having a small wedding and were trying to keep numbers down.
Sorry if I seem harsh but GAH, the idea of being on the receiving end of that makes me nauseous.
With regards to the other event, if you don’t want to socialise with anyone’s partner, then don’t. Easy. Also if someone referred to my partner as an “interloper”, yeah, I’d be pretty offended and horrified. I get not necessarily inviting someone who you’ve only been on a couple of dates with, but the idea that long term partners are somehow interlopers is ….unpleasant.
I hardly think giving up altogether is a wise course of action, but focusing on the cousins you have a good connection with is a good plan.
LW, I have no idea precisely how all of this has gone down, and so there’s a great deal of conjecture, but I’m assuming there was a process to falling in love with your new husband. Even if you woke up one day and realized you loved him, told your ex and moved out, there was still a process. And of course your family doesn’t have to approve, but they haven’t had any chance to process it sounds like, either because you haven’t given it or they haven’t taken the time. It would be like if your husband came home one day and announced, “Hey, my new best friends are Elwood and Myrtle, and we’re taking our vacation to Maui next week with them! You’ll meet them then!” You’d probably be at least a little uncomfortable, right? And nervous about being forced to spend this much time with virtual strangers, with whom you’re more or less being forced to get along with, right? You wouldn’t fault your husband for being friends with these people, and you wouldn’t necessarily reject them, but you’d probably be at least standoffish and awkward for the first few days. Your husband doesn’t need your permission, exactly, but as a considerate partner who wants things to go well, making sure that you get along by having drinks, a night out, inviting them over, is a really good way to ensure that things aren’t weird or awkward for him and he feels caught between Elwood and Myrtle, and you. That’s how it is with your family, I’m guessing. They have no idea what to do with this person who is now a member of their family. You don’t need their permission, exactly, but doing things to make sure they get along and that they have the chance to see the things you see, to take the time that you took, it makes things easier so you don’t get stuck in an awkward and painful position.
My uncle is a notorious serial monogamist, and we have had a different guy at Christmas every year for the past eight years, and it’s the first time we meet them without fail. And of course, he doesn’t need our permission to invite these guys, but it’s strange and uncomfortable to spend a several-days-long holiday that we have always reserved for really awesome family bonding time, with a virtual stranger. It’s uncomfortable for those guys, it’s uncomfortable for us, and my uncle REALLY REALLY wants us to LOOOOOOVE each other. But I can’t flip that switch on; I need time. I need to get to know someone before I can include them in the people I share one of my favorite family days with.
Your family may feel the same way. Maybe you’ve tried and they’ve turned you down. You can’t force it. But maybe they don’t know how to act with someone who is a virtual stranger (I don’t feel like that was out of line for your sister if you’re staying with her). As much as you love him, they may hopefully want to do so as well, but that’s not a “Just because family asked” thing anyone can just do at will.
My uncle is a notorious serial monogamist, and we have had a different guy at Christmas every year for the past eight years, and it’s the first time we meet them without fail.
Sounds like my cousin. She’s had 4 or 5 boyfriends (all, curiously, with names starting with H) who turn up for the first time at Christmas and are gone by the next year. My siblings and I call them “Heather’s Hs”.
“My siblings and I call them ‘Heather’s Hs’.”
That’s funny! Have you numbered them yet? 🙂
Hubert, Horace, Henley, Harold, and Heathcliff, I assume.
I suspect that a piece of what happened is a combination of there having been no wedding for LW’s family to go to, so no standard gift context (there are people who will buy wedding gifts if and only if they’re invited to the wedding, whether or not they go), plus it being a second marriage after a long first marriage, which can lead to thinking “well, she already has linens and kitchenware and pictures hanging on the walls, she probably doesn’t need anything.”
Her family may also be thinking that she is deliberately not making a big deal of the wedding, so they shouldn’t either: when it made sense for me and my partner to make things legal, we went down to City Hall with our parents and three or four friends, on a Tuesday afternoon, and then made as little fuss as possible, because while we were grabbing the legal protection, we didn’t intend to change other things in the relationship. So I wasn’t expecting, or missing, cards and gifts. With that background, if a friend or relative got married as quietly as this sounds like, without inviting me or people I knew, I would probably assume that they didn’t want any sort of fuss made.
On the practical side, I agree with the Captain: it doesn’t matter who traditionally “should” be reaching out, what matters is that she wants to have those connections between her husband and her family of origin, and that may not happen unless she starts calling/inviting people. If she sends holiday cards, sign this year’s with both names, as a small but real reminder that she’s married, and in case you forgot, his name is Murgatroyd.
What many others said: if I am invited to a wedding but cannot attend, I am likely to send a card or gift, especially for relatives or close friends. If I am not invited to a wedding (as in, I do not receive an explicit invitation, whether on paper or online or phone, whatever) then I feel it would almost be inappropriate to send a card/gift… like that to do so might be hinting that I should have been or wish I had been invited.
LW, I don’t think your family is necessarily offended or anything about your wedding being in another state, but if you didn’t send out clear invitations that they would be welcome if they could make it then I think they’re probably following your lead by not sending cards. If you did explicitly invite them, it’s a whole other story.
Agreed. All this “weirdness” makes perfect sense if the LW didn’t invite her family to the wedding. If she didn’t even make an announcement, she’s setting that distance and separation between her family and husband as a precedent. And some family members may feel hurt, especially if they were invited to the first wedding, like they aren’t invited to share in her new marriage. I think LW definitely needs to get out of the defensive mindset and start thinking proactively, as Cap’n suggested.
” If I am not invited to a wedding (as in, I do not receive an explicit invitation, whether on paper or online or phone, whatever) then I feel it would almost be inappropriate to send a card/gift… like that to do so might be hinting that I should have been or wish I had been invited.”
This is exactly how I feel. It doesn’t mean I hate you or your new spouse, I just don’t want to look like I’m trying to worm my way into an occasion I wasn’t invited to attend. I’ll of course say congratulations when I next see you, but I wouldn’t send a card or gift.
Yeah, I have relatives who would send a gift to a wedding they weren’t invited to, but it would very much be a “thanks for not inviting me, asshole” passive-aggressive dig.
I’ve actually been explicitly taught that it’s rude to send gifts for weddings to which I haven’t been invited, for precisely this reason.
I’m not sure if it’s generational or ethnic, but when we got married, a couple of friends of my parents (who we don’t know and have never met so of course they weren’t invited to the wedding) sent us cards and monetary gifts. That was beyond awkward but my mom seemed to think nothing of it. Of course they got a very nice handwritten thank you note, but it was weirdddddd.
Hmmm, I wouldn’t think that was weird at all. I have a VERY large family – my grandfather was 1 of 12 kids, my grandmother 1 of 8, and that’s just my mom’s side. There are LITERALLY hundreds of cousins. We all know that not everyone can be invited to everything, but many of the older (read: have more dollars) relatives would still send a card at least. As I mentioned elsewhere on this page, I personally don’t do cards, but I am also totally used to unsolicited cards and gifts being a ‘thing’.
No I mean, these were total strangers to us. Not distant relatives. Like, people my dad worked with. It feels very Italian to me.
I seem to remember it’s ok if you get a wedding announcement (not obligatory, of course).
That makes some sense, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never received a wedding announcement in my life (do people still do those?). Unless you’re counting the facebook post, which I then like. I guess that’s the modern equivalent.
A couple of things- My parents felt it would be tacky to have a wedding here, because it is my second marriage. They also would not help financially, and we could not afford to do more than a small reception, so we had an engagement dinner several months prior and invited the whole family. About half of them came. I emailed everyone in the family and asked them to let me know if they wanted an official announcement once the wedding took place. Not a single one responded.
One way of handling this is an At Home announcement.
No, bear with me for a minute. You send out an announcement to your friends and family that you and Husband are receiving in general, and entertaining on a particular date, celebrating your marriage and life together.
If you don’t tell people that you’re married, they won’t know that you want them to acknowledge your marriage. If you don’t provide a means for them to meet your husband, they won’t know you want them to.
But congrats and good luck to you both
Ooh, do tell me more about what this “At Home announcement” entails! Because it sounds fantastic, and a Google didn’t turn up any more details than you give here.
Thanks for the suggestion. We DID have an engagement dinner a few months prior in lieu of a post-wedding reception. About half of them did not come.
My younger brother was in a relationship with his ex for seven years when it finally ended. By that time, his girlfriend called my parents ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, and my mum referred to her as her daughter in law. They broke up because she fell pregnant and confessed to my brother that she had been cheating on him and he might not be the father. In fact, it could have been one of two other people. My brother still lived at home with my mum at the time and my mum kept inviting my brother’s ex round to the house for coffee. She would get very defensive when my brother would get angry at seeing his ex in his house. She would say “Kat is my friend and i have a right to invite anyone i like into my house.” I had to explain to my mother that this woman cheated on her son. That it was HIS HOME and she was allowing his ex to violate the one place he should always have felt welcome in. In my opinion, my brother should have been her priority and if she still had to see my brother’s ex, then it should have been away from the house.
My mother now complains that my brother never comes to visit. She still sees his ex on a regular basis and she has never warmed to his current girlfriend despite them being together for about 5 years now. My brother spends far more time with his girlfriend’s family and i for one, don’t blame him. My mother has effectively forced him out of his home, shunned his girlfriend, and then blamed HER when my brother doesn’t want to visit.
LW’s family may be doing a similar thing. It’s difficult to lose someone you class as family when you don’t really have much of a say, but at the end of the day, LW gets to decide who she is married to and who she isn’t. Her family need to suck it up and get over it.
I dated someone where his mom was besties with his ex-GF’s mom. Like, shared vacations, frequent chats, old gifts everywhere in the mom’s house as a reminder that the ex GF’s mom makes great art. Seriously, every room had a piece or three.
First time I went over to the house she inquired about ex GF’s wellbeing and said that the both moms were just so worried and loved them both so much. And I was sitting there, all third wheely with a big brick of hurt in my chest.
In his defence my BF didn’t keep in touch with his ex and he was happy with the way things ended, but it was clear that his mother wasn’t and it became a real problem that ultimately contributed to the end of the relationship. ‘s fine that they liked each other, but maybe don’t call her your DIL in front of the new girl…
So you know, if your family really really likes your ex and has a case of the mentionitis, maybe don’t bring the new partner around. It’s better to have vague suspicions that the fam is too invested in the ex than to have it shoved down your throat.
How incredibly rude of her.
My ex’s grandmother is still very good friends with his ex before me. At this point it’s been at least 9 years since the relationship ended.
In grandma’s favor, she never once brought it up in my presence. She can be somewhat passive aggressive and catty, so either she really liked me or she recognized that I could throw down.
I think a lot of us (myself included!) want to have it both ways – to have our distance from our families (especially extended family) but also have their enthusiastic support. That’s a really hard balancing act, though, and everyone has to cooperate.
When you don’t invite people to your wedding or otherwise invite them to celebrate it in some way, there’s a good chance they’re not going to spontaneously decide to celebrate it on their own. One of my cousins did this – she had her second wedding at a “destination” location and didn’t invite family outside of her parents and sisters (OK, actually, she initially specifically went out of her way to explain that she was not inviting us because it was a small wedding, then invited us by email a few weeks before the wedding, presumably when her close friends were unable to go).
This was years ago but I suspect she’s still hurt that we (cousins/aunts/uncles/etc.) didn’t celebrate her second wedding enthusiastically enough. But you know, we were kind of hurt by being disinvited/B-list invited (or at least I was).
“I think a lot of us (myself included!) want to have it both ways – to have our distance from our families (especially extended family) but also have their enthusiastic support. That’s a really hard balancing act, though, and everyone has to cooperate.”
I think this is an excellent point. I’ve accepted that maintaining a certain amount of distance from my family means I won’t be included in everything; I’ve also learned that if I want people to pay attention to me, I’d better pay attention to them. I’m disinterested in people who only ever see me as their audience and I strongly suspect most people feel that way.
Yeah, for me, I have to remind myself that, as much as I am free to act how I choose with the people in my life, those people are free to make the same choices. And of course, sometimes misunderstandings happen and it helps to clear the air then, but sometimes people just don’t want to be around you. Maybe the family misses LW’s ex. Maybe they judge her for getting remarried. Maybe they were genuinely hurt about the wedding plans and they’ve chosen to keep their distance. Either way, there’s not really anything LW can do except reach out, and then if it doesn’t work, accept that her family dynamic is different now.
you know, I really needed to read this. I was recently at my nephews wedding and felt hurt that my siblings/mother showed little interest in me..but they can be a bit toxic and so I have learned to keep them at arms length to avoid being hurt…so I need to remember this, that I cannot keep them at a distance and be included..
thanks for clarifying this for me. x
LW, I’m sure this isn’t a malicious snub on their part. It sounds to me like you didn’t invite them to the wedding–and people don’t tend to give gifts when they aren’t invited. IIRC, you aren’t even obligated to send a gift if you aren’t invited.
I agree with the Captain’s advice, as well as with the advice that any large parties you plan should be done either before Thanksgiving or after January 1. You could also reach out to people individually and see if they’d like to get together with you and your husband for a meal, or for drinks or coffee, or for a fun activity in your (or their) area. You can keep it low key–“Hey, we haven’t caught up in a while. Would you like to come down for lunch/dinner/some coffee? It would be nice to see you and I know [DH] is looking forward to meeting you.”
Hmm. I guess I find the sister’s behavior a little harder to swallow than some — it’s what immediately jumped out at me amid all the wedding talk. Because I read her approach to the visit as a fairly open rejection of Brother-in-Law #2, in contrast to the ambiguous, swathed-in-etiquette situation back home. Yes, she did not know him well and it can be weird to have a semi-stranger as a houseguest. But the visit was the CHANCE to get to know him, and it doesn’t sound (at least from what we are told) like she even made an effort. She knew LW was spending a lot of money to travel a long way. She could have said, I dunno, something like: “I’m so looking forward to meeting your fiance, but since I don’t know him well yet, wondering if you guys might be more comfortable in a hotel for part of the time.” It’s her call, of course, but I can’t blame LW for feeling hurt in response. One hopes for tolerance/openness from one’s siblings, doesn’t one?
I think it depends on the circumstances. If she had never met the new fiancé or even heard much about him and (as it seems) a visit from the LW is a once-in-many-years occasion, I could see why she might want to keep that one visit to a sisters-only occasion rather than having the whole thing be “meet my fiancé!” as it would inevitably be if he came along.
I can totally see sister’s reaction also if the trip had been presented as a fait accompli and not an ask — “New Husband and I are coming to stay with you for two weeks, isn’t that great?!” can elicit very different reactions than “I’d love to come and visit and bring New Husband along so we can all get to know each other! May we stay with you, or would you prefer us to get a hotel?”
YES. I have several family members who have done the “we’re coming to stay! For TWO WEEKS! YAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!” thing to me and also to my mom, and even when it’s family I know and love and am very comfortable around, it’s still stressful to me. It is to my mom as well. But a couple of times those people have brought new partners no one has ever met, and that is so much worse. It’s not because I don’t like those people – it’s because I am massively uncomfortable with people in my space and feeling like I have to entertain when I really need a few hours each day to recharge in peace. And I am a little more comfortable telling family, “Hey, I need a nap. Be back in an hour,” than I am telling someone I’ve never met.
Ugh, the self-invite. Even if they’re doing it on a day trip basis it’s still such a headache. My mom follows the “I have the day off so I’m coming over!/That sounds fun I’m coming too!” kind of things by immediately saying things like “Of course you want me there right? You want me. We have fun together. Why aren’t you saying anything? Of course you want me!” Which, wow, guilt trip really does not contribute to my interest in seeing anyone.
I’ve started answering with, “It’s good to know you’re available. I’ll have to think about it.” And then changing the topic to hopefully head off any further guilt tripping. Doesn’t always work but I’m hoping the awkward will lead to less instances of this happening.
Yeah, just thinking about it is making my shoulders all up around my ears.
I had a friend come to stay for a weekend this summer, and more than a week later, he finally left. And this was amidst all of the polite “I have A Thing later this week” (it’s okay! I can come, too!) and the “I’m sorry, there’s just not much more to do in this town,” (you don’t have to entertain me!) and other such soft no’s to his hints that he might stay longer. Fiancé and I chatted and decided that in future we both have permission to be as blunt as possible with potential guests, and we limit visits to four days in the summer, two days during the school year, no questions and no apologies. And only people we know well – this friend brought a friend we had never met (he doesn’t drive or fly, no public transportation in the area), and she was terrible. So after that, we will be every bit as blunt as the sister is – the awfulness of guests who don’t have any social sense or boundaries supersedes our desire to be likable and hospitable.
I totally sympathize — there is nothing worse than a guest who wasn’t really invited in the first place, and won’t leave. Whole comedies have been written around the frustration!
I’m going to resort again to Miss Manners to offer support for your boundary-drawing, but I think you needn’t be rude in order to do it, because contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing rude about saying, “no,” without apology or excuse!! The catch is not to try to explain yourself. “I’m so sorry, that just won’t be possible,” is a classic, ultra-polite way of refusing someone, without giving them any room to maneuver because you haven’t given them any reasons. “But Whhhhyyyyyyyy???” is going to be the inevitable response, of course; at which point you answer, “Because we simply can’t.” “But why can’t you?” “Because it just isn’t possible.” Repeat as necessary, like a broken record, until they give up in bafflement. It may take a while, but they will.
This can apply to people who self-invite when you don’t want them, or to people who want to stay longer than you want them there (“I’m afraid we won’t be able to host you longer than Sunday evening,” “But whhhhyyyy?” “Because it simply isn’t possible for us,” etc.), or to people who bring along unannounced guests of their own. The last is the only really tricky one, since it can be difficult indeed to refuse a stranger who is actually physically on your doorstep and about whose plans to be there you had had no idea until she actually appeared. Especially if it’s evening, and there’s no obvious way of taking her someplace else in a hurry.
In that situation I *might*, in the interests of basic humanity, decide (while internally seething) that she could stay only until it was possible to get rid of her. “Oh! I’m so sorry; we’re simply not able to accept additional guests. Since there’s no plane out until tomorrow morning, she’ll have to stay that long, but we simply can’t do more; it’s quite impossible. I’ll find out when the first flight is to — where is it you’re from, dear?” etc. It’s still technically within your rights to refuse her outright, even on your doorstep when it’s getting dark and cold, but it’s very hard to do.
I agree with you to an extent – fortunately we do have scripts we’ve worked on, and the explanation I gave isn’t the explanation I am giving to friends. HOWEVER, when it gets to 2-4 days in our home/more means a hotel, that gets really weird and more information is needed, or when plans change, like an extra person is added or the trip is extended, you really do have to clarify, if not explain. And in that case, I actually think giving more information is okay. If it’s someone I know well (and it would be weirder NOT to share information), I’ve been okay in the past saying, “I’m sorry, past this day I am literally The Worst and probably a hotel would be better.” And when the plans change, there is literally no way to say that accommodations must change without acknowledging that things have changed. And like the Captain says, once it is already awkward and uncomfortable for me, it is already awkward and uncomfortable, and it isn’t my responsibility to do the feelings-management dance on everyone’s behalf.
Ugh, I hate the self-invites.
My husband was very specific in wanting a good guest space when we were setting up our new house. And we got a bigger house because of good luck and we have that guest room. We live just outside a major city were TONS of our college friends live. We also have good transit access. So he was hoping our friends would come to visit.
As it turns out, having this guest room in a city were few people (particularly few in our age group) have guest rooms laying around means EVERYONE asks to stay with us. This has meant our parents can come to stay, and we’re looking forward to some upcoming visitors. Those people, who are the people we’re close enough with that *they* could self-invite, check with us.
One of his friends WHO I CANNOT STAND recently declared that he and his fiancee were going to stay with us when they visit lots of people in our city. My husband lacks the ability to put his foot down and say no, though he did say he’d tell his friends to keep quiet at night (his friend is super loud and a night owl. I am a quiet morning person…). Eventually, I decided to go visit my grandparents that weekend. I will leave before those people arrive and get back after they leave. Hosting is 100% my husbands job. He made his bed. He gets to deal with it.
(On the flip side, for that weekend, I self invited to my aunt’s house. Though it was a “Can I stay? I would very much like to spend time with you, but I could also ask cousins.” And I have a long, long history of staying there, and she does not feel the need to clean for me–she *would* feel a need to clean if my husband were coming, even though she knows him well. She has zero problems expecting me to clean/change sheets/etc, because I do not count as a “guest.” My husband, however, would put her into hosting mode, which would be stressful. So I completely get that there’s a different dynamic when a partner comes along that turns “Yes, come stay with me!” into “Can you stay at a hotel?”)
If this were a boyfriend, or even a fiance, I could see that sort of reaction. But a husband (or wife) is a different story. Married couples are not politely invited separately from each other… even as houseguests; even if you don’t know the spouse. If they choose to, that’s different — but just as it is the right of the sister who’s extending hospitality to decide whether or not to invite guests (even siblings) at all, it’s the right of the married couple to decide whether or not they’re comfortable choosing to have one of them travel without the other. The way I’d’ve scripted that conversation from both sides, if I were writing it in a piece of fiction and wanted to illustrate warmth and graciousness on all sides. would be for the sister living abroad to say, “Won’t you two come stay with me when you’re in this country for two weeks? I’m so looking forward to getting to know your new husband,” and the newly married sister to say, “Thank you so much! I’m really looking forward to introducing you and having you get to know each other. But I’m also looking forward to plenty of private sister time with you. What if we both come out for the first week and stay in a hotel near your house, so you don’t have to have a stranger living in your home before you’ve come to know him well; and then he’ll fly home and I’ll come stay with you for the second week and we can do sister things and catch up on everything we’ve missed since we’ve been so far apart?”
I think he was a fiancé, not a husband, when the trip happened (the LW said it was during their engagement). I agree that once they’re married, the calculus changes.
I agree it depends on circumstances too. It’s possible sister doesn’t have a lot of space – I visited a close friend in another country recently and didn’t bring spouse. My friend lives in a really small apartment with a roommate. I was sleeping on a single-person futon in the living room. If I had brought spouse I don’t even know how they could have accommodated us – maybe friend would have slept in the living room while we took her bed? For a week? Yeah, not a possibility, even though friend is actually good friends with spouse too. It would have been even less possible if they didn’t know each other.
Also, maybe LW’s sister just really wanted to have some sister time. My sister is currently living abroad. I haven’t seen her since April and won’t see her again til next spring at the very earliest. I miss my sister and if she could come visit or I could get out to see her, I might not want significant others around – I’d just want to see my sissy. And we’re a close-knit bunch, including significant others. I understand why LW feels like her new husband has been rejected, but it really might not have anything to do with her husband.
I’m thinking there’s multiple layers going on here. I agree that the sister’s response was rude, AND I think the LW hasn’t handled things great by expecting her family to make all the effort. I even kind of wonder whether the family was really insulted by just being informed that the wedding was too far away rather than invited, and so the sister’s reaction came from a place of ‘well you didn’t even invite me to the wedding so why should I make an effort to get to know this guy?’ It sounds like things are circular and communication has been poor all around.
Thanks for the reply. We did have an engagement dinner several months prior (half of them didn’t come, some gave excuses, some didn’t). My family made it very clear that they were not interested in having a wedding since it was my second marriage. They thought it would be tacky.
Dear god no. There are ways to meet and ways to not meet a brand new person, and “we’re coming to your house to stay with you for two weeks! btw, since there’s just one of you, we need your bed and you can sleep on the sofa” is NOT THE WAY TO MEET A BRAND NEW PERSON.
There are no caps cappy enough for that statement. I need to meet someone in a limited and casual way first, and if after I have known them casually for a bit *I* choose to extend a long-stay invitation to my apartment in another country, great, but the other person does not get to just tell me that I have to welcome a stranger if I want to see them. The “visiting me in my foreign country of residence” thing is already a fish-and-visitors/rule-of-eights situation. You cannot expect to make it worse and have the hosting party be HAPPY about it.
“Other than my parents, there was no wedding for my family to attend. Because this was my new husband’s first marriage, and he lives out of state, we were married there so that his family could all be present. My family was aware that we were getting married, and explanations were made regarding the wedding location.”
And here I think is the crux of the problem. There, in fact, WAS a wedding for your family to attend; they just weren’t invited. There are plenty of reasons to have a wedding out of state; but none of them should be to get out of inviting immediate family just because they aren’t local. It’s entirely possible that that everyone in your family would have declined to come because they couldn’t afford it or get the time off work; it happens. But you took the choice away from them, no wonder they haven’t acknowledged the marriage to your satisfaction.
Original Poster here. For the sake of brevity, I apparently cut out a lot of information that would have been useful that needs to be addressed now that I’m seeing the comments. A) I DID want to have a wedding here. We are very, very broke right now because of 3 years in a long-distance relationship, flying back and forth, the cost of my divorce, and while I have been raising three kids as a single mom. My parents would not help with the financial costs because it was my second marriage. We DID have an engagement party/reception since we were not having a wedding (and it was very nice). My whole family was invited, but most of the family did not come, so we had to invite some friends at the last minute so that we could still even host it in the restaurant we had reserved. (It was horribly tacky, but we were desperate). So you see, we have tried very hard to invite them, made announcements, etc. I also emailed everyone in the family and asked if they would like “official” announcements, but not a single person responded.
Your explanations don’t help me view this as “all their fault”. You seem to have a set idea in your head of “how family behaves” that doesn’t line up with the reality of how families behave, specifically your family and your husband’s family. I say this because you are disppointed that your family hasn’t behaved like any of the scripts on your head, and you also all-caps your disdain for how your husband’s family is. Perhaps start by trying to look objectively at your family culture. Ask your husband to accept that his family culture is not the gold standard by which all family cultures are judged, but just one of a myriad of ways in which families can be configured.
In fact, let me stop here and suggest that both of you need to get over this to some degree. Your family is not his family and will not behave like his family does. And vice versa. It’s okay for his family to be super close and involved with each other wothout that being proof that less involved families are bad and evil. It’s okay for his family to be close and involved with one another without you sneering at their over-closeness. And if you both stop acting like there is a “way families behave”, you might have a lot less angst about how both families are behaving.
Engagement parties are not part of my family culture. In my family, pretty much anyone over the age of 25 pays for his/her own wedding, and if the parents help, it’s a nice surprise. That goes for first weddings, second weddings, whatever weddings. You don’t *ask* who wants a formal announcement. When you have something to announce, you announce it. When you have a party to invite people to, you invite them. And yet I recognize that other people have other traditions. (When I got married, we had food for 85 people even though only 27 people were there because it is important to my partner’s family that hospitality be overly lavish. I arranged ahead of time to give the leftovers to a cousin who was short of money; the grandmothers were happy that we weren’t stingy and the cousin was glad to have free food for two weeks after the wedding.)
If I were you, I would have invited to the wedding those people I wanted to have at the wedding, whether or not I thought they would be able to come. When the wedding happened, I would have sent a note to everyone not there who I wanted to know about it. When people didn’t come to the engagement party, I would (for the sake of my own sanity) have interpreted it as meaning that they couldn’t come to that event on that day. I would not expect a gift from anyone for a second wedding, as i know that many people don’t send gifts for second weddings.
And I would find and email informing me that if I wanted an “official announcement”, I had to ask for one to be off-putting, to say the least, and somewhat passive-aggressive to boot. You may not have meant it that way, but the first thing I thought of when I read that was all those websites that want me to sign up for their newsletters.
What you seem to be doing is getting mad because people aren’t acting the way you imagined they would. Stop it. If you want your family to get to know your husband, create chances for them to do so. But for the rest? Let it go. People haven’t acted the way you thought they should. Well, people are like that.
It sounds like you’re holding a grudge that they wouldn’t help pay. I get that it sucks, but they might not have been able to. I don’t know what their finances look like, or what their other obligations are, or what you were asking them for as far as assistance. And even being unwilling because it’s your second marriage- well, did they pay for the first one? It’s not unreasonable to say, “OK, kid, you’re on your own now.”
By not inviting them to the wedding, you snubbed them all. I would be willing to travel to a wedding where I might not be willing to put in the time and cash for an engagement party. But you basically told them they weren’t important enough to be invited, and now you want them to become your husband’s new best buddies. You can’t have it both ways. (Especially if his family is calling yours “pure evil.” Really? That’s nonsense. He needs to tell them to put a sock in it.)
The whole, “Let me know if you want an announcement” really comes off like a snub too. Either send them or don’t, but what you did is awkward at best and sounds more like, “We’ll only send them if you beg us,” at worst.
So the point is: BYGONES.
The wedding is over. Whoever made a mistake or misread or miscalculated what people wanted with the situation, it can’t be undone now. No one is going to apologize for anything. Nobody wants to have the post-mortem conversation. It’s done, everyone did the best they thought they could, and the only thing to do is to let it go and not bring “I am mad at you about the wedding” into future interactions. The acknowledgement of the wedding that the LW wants isn’t coming. So what happens now?
What can maybe be done is inviting family, singly or in small groups, and trying to connect with them as best you can now and in the future, to see what grows there. Do you want these people to be an ongoing part of your life? Then see if you can make that happen.
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