Dear Captain Awkward,
I got married 2 years ago, and since then Older Sister & I haven’t spoken. What prompted the silence was that she wasn’t a Maid of Honor at my wedding.
Let me preface this by saying I come from a Southern family where weddings are a big deal, but if it had been solely my choice, I would’ve happily eloped at city hall. But we did have a traditional Southern wedding, which my mom planned.
My husband wanted his brother to be his best man, so knowing that I needed a MOH, I picked my younger sister. I figured that Older Sister, who’s 11 years older than me, would’ve been relieved that she didn’t have to stand in front of everyone and buy a dress she’d only wear once.
Welp, when I called to update her on the wedding plans, she was very upset and ended the call abruptly. I felt terrible and called back later, apologizing, asking to talk. She didn’t return my call for three months and only did after my mom drove down and convinced her to reconcile. We had a nasty conversation of “how could you not know this would hurt me,” etc.
I thought about having 2 MOHs, but that would mean my husband’s sister would be left out, and I wasn’t eager to include her because we haven’t always been on best of terms. So I sent Older Sister an email asking her to do a reading, and she said fine and that she wasn’t upset anymore. Then she sent a hurtful email to my mom, which was about a lot of other things, but also said how mom should’ve “made” me have two MOHs.
Anyway, the wedding day wasn’t fun. Older Sister ended up crying in the bathroom while I was getting ready, and I had to be the liaison between her & mom the entire weekend. It was terrible. I didn’t even want this damn wedding, and I spent the entire time on edge and nauseous. Afterwards, I wrote Older Sister an email explaining how angry I was, and she said not to contact her anymore.
Captain, I still feel so guilty about the MOH thing. Maybe I should’ve had 2 MOHs, my husband’s sister as a bridesmaid, and gotten two groomsmen to even things out. I was trying to protect myself against more drama and stress by not doing those things, but that clearly backfired.
I don’t have a plan of how reconcile with Older Sister, and that’s fine for now. But I need an honest answer to this question: Did I really mess up? Did I wrong Older Sister?
Thanks for reading,
Dear Guilty Sis:
Your mother sits in the middle of this tale like a spider, and I wonder how much of this fight was a proxy fight about something else entirely – old wounds between your sister and your mom and you in a headspace of “Ok, fine, I’ll have your stupid wedding.” Whatever, weddings and funerals bring out all the funky stuff in families and I feel like a fight about them is never really *about* who stands where wearing what dress. You and your sister were”not on the best of terms.” That is a truth that you are not and were not obligated to spackle over when planning your wedding.
Like, maybe there is a Big Book of Southern Weddings where it is written: “Thou shalt ask the elder sister to be thy principal nuptial companion, then thy younger, then thy friends in order of how much affection thou feelst towards them, that by the order they walk down the aisle and the relative size of their bouquet all shall know their exact and ultimate rank in your heart. Any women of your peer group and acquaintance not selected to participate in the bridal parade are hereby designated Left Out and should consider this a most grievous offense, akin to the Cut Direct. The Best Man shall be determined by a trial of combat, that the groom shalt know that the man most able to defend him in battle is by his side.”
Even if that were an actual set-in-stone Etiquette Rule, bad news: You don’t have a time machine.
Good news! You don’t have a time machine. IT’S OVER. You are married. Dunzo.
With the power vested in me by the Internet and my own self-designated title of Captain Awkward, I hereby give you permission to stop worrying about anything that happened at your wedding. It was one fucking day of your life two years ago, not “who you are” or a referendum on every single relationship of your life. The Internet, The Dearly Departed Spirit of Prince, The Wedding Industrial Complex, All Your Favorite Characters of Literature and Fiction, Whatever Gods You Worship or Do Not Worship hereby do absolve you. May you and your spouse enjoy a long and happy life together.
A script for yourself:
“If I had known what a big deal it would be, I might have done the bridesmaid thing differently. But maybe not! Too late now! I have made what amends I could, and now I forgive both myself and my sister for getting caught up in a FEELINGSTORM during that time period. I am also calling ‘bygones’ on this whole thing. I will not perseverate on guilty feelings or try to seek answers about this any more.”
If your sister still wants to avoid you, let her. At family gatherings when you do run into her, greet her politely and then give her a wide berth. Focus on the people you are happy to see and who are happy to see you, and nurture the family relationships that sustain you.
Some scripts for your sister, should she speak to you again about this:
If she comes at you easy:
“I did not know it was that important to you, and if I’d known how hurt you would be I would have asked you about it first. I am sorry* for hurting your feelings. I’d really like you to be my sister again, so when you’re ready to talk, I’m here.”
If she comes at you hard:
“I honestly did not realize it was that important to you. But [sister], it’s been two years. Why are we still fighting about this? Do you want to be my sister in the here and now, or do you want to stay mad and avoid me forever? What would it take to just declare “bygones” over this whole thing?”
Then, listen to her. You can’t predict what she’ll say. She may surprise you.
*A note on “sorry:” This is a “Do you want to win the point, or do you want to make peace?” moment. It’s not about whether you owe the apology, it’s about whether the apology will de-escalate the situation and get the outcome that you want. The words “I am sorry for my part in this” are powerful ones to offer up when you are trying to make peace.
If your sister still wants to nurse her hurt about not being asked to be in a wedding that happened two years ago (one that she spent ‘crying in the bathroom,’ and ‘stressing you the fuck out’) for another two years, then she’s chosen to try to “win” the argument and “be right” (subjectively speaking, of course).
Finally, that thing about your mom: She was in your letter a lot – planning your wedding that you didn’t really want, driving down to facilitate reconciliations, fielding letters of grievances from your sister. That can be all to the good and she’s probably a lovely person. I can’t quite put my finger on the vibe that made my Awkwardsenses tingle, but tingle they did. Maybe you are the Favored Child and your sister is or feels like the Outsider in some way – which is totally outside your control/not your fault/not an excuse for her behavior toward you, just, it might be thing that is present in the soil where the current conflict grew. It’s easy for us to roll eyes at someone who wants to be a bridesmaid sooooo bad, but there’s maybe something primal here about your sister seeking out her “rightful” place in your family that’s bigger than bouquets. If so, please know that it was not on you to know about or fix whatever it was or is. Repeat after me: “My wedding was not created to fix my family.”
Anyway, I wonder what would happen if you tried out a policy of speaking with your sister directly or not at all. Scripts: “She should speak to me directly about that.” “I’d prefer to speak to her directly about that.” “If that’s true, she can tell me directly.” Treat apologies (or insults) relayed through your mom or other family members as if they don’t exist, resist telling negative stuff about your sister to your mom or other family members for a while, and don’t enlist your mom to forge peace (especially since the last one did not hold). If your mom is relieved to be out of the middle, that’s a very good sign. If she keeps trying to fix things, try saying, “Thanks Mom, I know you love both of us. It is what it is. We’ll figure it all out in our own way.”
Your sister will come around with time, or she won’t. You’ll be open to it when she does, or you won’t. Time to hang up the dress and the veil and the grudges. You weren’t that close before the wedding, you aren’t close now. Give it 20 years more and see where you end up.
272 thoughts on “#900: “It’s been two years. My sister is still mad that I did not choose her as my Maid of Honor at my wedding.””
I don’t know if it would help, but maybe a mention to your big sister that you always thought you two were more similar. You never intended to hurt her or snub her, so while you didn’t think lil sis would mind being MoH, you thought she’d be relieved to avoid the wedding trappings because you knew how much the whole wedding mess was stressing YOU out.
Maybe making it out to be a thing you have in COMMON as the reason you didn’t pick her would help?
It could simply be she’s never been a bridesmaid or MoH and you were her only opportunity to experience that life event?
Oh, Goddess, LW. I’m so sorry. Your wedding sounds SO MUCH like mine. I swear, I’m having tiny little flashbacks right now. (Asparagus wrapped in bacon. Twitch. Twitch.)
My letter would have varied in the particulars (cousin not sister, I dared to have it in my city instead of my parents’, etc.) but the tone and the feeling are the same. I too wanted a small city hall event and got roped into it by my Southern Belle mom. I discovered, in the process of having my wedding, that my family wasn’t what I thought it was and that my mother and I had an unhealthy relationship. I’ve spent 16 years trying to sort out the mess that I didn’t even seen until the day I called to say I’d gotten engaged and Mom announced she had the whole thing already planned out.
That lack of boundaries was a big part of the problem in my relationship. It may be a problem with yours, too. If, in fact, the parallels are as strong as they suggest, may I suggest that therapy might be the best thing for you? I spent more than a decade trying to do it on my own but I’ve made faster progress since seeing an excellent therapist.
Asparagus wrapped in bacon. Interesting. *HACK*
My moment was when I mentioned to my mom that my fiance and I were looking for a DJ and she went bazoo. “A DJ?? A DJ!?!?!?! WE are MUSICIANS. What will people think?!??” is the direct quote.
It backfired on her. She booked a jazz trio — which was very nice — but had to find the sheet music to the song we wanted for our first dance, and ended up having to special-order it for God knows how much money. She complained to me about it — once. After the look I gave her, she did not bring it up again.
Hahaha, I feel you so hard on this! My parents overrode my wish for a jazz trio to hire a bouzouki band, who refused to learn or play the song that we wanted for our first dance, so we ended up doing Greek circle dancing the whole night…which was the one thing at my wedding that I 100% didn’t want.
Whaaat. What genius came up with asparagus wrapped in bacon? 0_o
(Though for the record, pickled asparagus wrapped in salami defined my childhood after school snack experience. So good.)
Off-topic: I actually thought it sounds delicious (and have looked up a recipe for later ^_^), but it still sucks that DameB had to have it at her* wedding if she didn’t want to. I’m sorry you had to go through that, DameB!
* this is me making a not-so-educated guess at pronouns, I apologise if I got it wrong.
It does sound good, but it also sounds like a huge pain to prepare!
I thought so, too, but this one looks easy to make, in case anyone is interested: http://lovelylittlekitchen.com/bacon-wrapped-asparagus/
It is *delicious*. Especially if you squeeze a little lemon over it.
I always get it premade, though, so I can’t state how hard it is to make yourself. Apologies!
I bet it would be really good in maki rolls (ie, sushi)… I might need to make that later.
I actually LOVED asparagus wrapped in bacon. That’s why I chose it. But I then had to defend it for *weeks* — five phone calls to three states, the aunt who disliked me intensely invoked as why I shouldn’t, etc. etc. My mother would call me at my office (where I shared a cubicle with someone) multiple times a day to hector me about it and if I said, “Mom, I’m at work, I can’t talk right now,” she would snarl that I shouldn’t use that tone of voice to her, etc. etc. I had to defend or compromise on pretty much every single aspect of the wedding like that.
Seriously. My wedding was a nightmare. Don’t get me started on the rehearsal dinner. Or my dress.
I still eat it, sometimes, but there’s always a moment of ill-defined anxiety when I see it.
Making it is a bit tedious, but totally worth it. I like to finish it with shavings of parm or a drizz of good balsamic vinegar — maybe one of the herbal ones from Salt and Olive. If you don’t want to do the tedious thing, Cook’s Illustrated has an excellent recipe for grilled asparagus with a bacon dressing that’s not quite the same but takes ten minutes. (You can find it for free if you search food.com for “Pan Roasted Asparagus With Red Onion and Bacon”) okay, ending derail…
(And she/her pronouns are perfect. Thank you.)
>.< my God, that sounds awful. Kudos for getting through it all in one piece!
And thank you for the recipe tips 🙂
I often wrap asparagus in prosciutto, which is def tasty and saves the trouble of having to cook bacon.
In my mind, asparagus with ham is a Classic Dish (TM) and asparagus with bacon seems close enough to be logical? But then again, I’m German so I’m sort of obligated to be weird about asparagus.
omg, I must buy prosciutto now. I’ve switched to pickled asparagus to avoid cooking too. 🙂
Isn’t it one of those slightly old-fashioned things? Like angels and devils on horseback?
I’ll second that – my own excellent therapist helped me see that I was not a Horrible Person for not doing everything my mother ever asked of me, or for breaking promises that were inappropriate for her to ask of a child, and that it was not my responsibility to manage her feelings, and so on.
The more I learnt about boundaries, the more I noticed that my mother was having none of them. (and it later turned out that was why my sister refused to talk to her – it was such a relief to find out I wasn’t the only one seeing this!)
OMG it’s SUCH a relief to have an ally inside the Zone of Mom Glom. Especially since my mom was/is very gaslighty My sister-in-law was always very annoyed/confused when I put up boundaries. Then she and my brother had their son. Once that happened, my mother completely ignored thier boundaries and suddenly she was like “You know, I used to think you were the crazy one but now I see that she is the crazy one!”
It’s good to know you’re not alone 😉 Internet fist bump of sympathies if you want them.
as a southerner, this sounds pretty accurate, actually…:)
Re: Big Book of Southern Weddings. Last summer my nephew got married. There were 13 bridesmaids, 2 MoH and 4 “honorary bridesmaids” It was ridiculous.
When I was fifteen, my aunt demoted me to “junior bridesmaid” and made me wear a matching dress with the six-year-old flower girl.
I’m not Southern, but my grandmother remarried when I was 12, shemade me a junior bridesmaid, complete with the matching dress with my 7-year-old flower-girl sister AND MY OWN BASKET OF FLOWER PETALS AND BASICALLY ALL THE DUTIES OF A FLOWER GIRL AND NONE OF A BRIDESMAID. I spent the entire day dying of embarrassment and really wishing she had just not had me be in the wedding at all.
Which is a long way of saying: *fistbump and awkward nod of junior bridesmaid solidarity*
When I was 12, my aunt promoted me from “junior bridesmaid” to “bridesmaid” because I surpassed her in height. My mom had mixed feelings about being in the exact same dress as her 12 year old daughter (mom was 48 or something like that), but like a sensible mother, she kept these feelings to herself for like a decade.
When I was dress shopping for my own wedding dress, the woman at the shop asked me if I also wanted to look at bridesmaid dresses. I said “Oh, I’m not having a bridal party. My best friend will help me get ready, but that’s it.” Without missing a beat she said in a 100% genuine tone, “Oh, you must really like your friends!”
Bridal party dynamics are weird. Opting out felt like a great decision. My bff opted out, too, mostly. She & her husband assigned speeches/readings to siblings, and I had ALL THE FEELS when I realized that I was given a “sibling” role rather than a “friend” role.
When my best friend got married she only had her sister as bridesmaid, which was cool, but then the sister and I got to hold the chuppa on my friend’s side (and her husband had 2 people on his side). This was even though the chuppa itself was pretty sturdy and didn’t need holding. It was great to be included like that. 🙂 I haven’t gotten married and probably never will, but if such an event were to happen I would include her in some similar way.
When she was planning the wedding, she kept telling me, “You and (personIwasdatingatthetime) should just elope! Don’t go through this!” The day before the wedding she got in a fight with her mother that was so severe her mother MADE HER APOLOGIZE IN WRITING before deigning to talk to her again.
This is the first I’ve even heard of “junior bridesmaid” and from this thread it sounds like a hazing ritual for the inconveniently aged, amplified by the Wedding Industrial Complex’s hunger to sell more dresses.
Sympathy feathers to all of you
a hazing ritual for the inconveniently aged, amplified by the Wedding Industrial Complex’s hunger to sell more dresses.
Got it in one.
Yeesh, and I felt bad about having four…
(though that was largely because there was only one groomsman. For a variety of reasons DH’s side was pretty much non-existent at the wedding, which I’ve never been happy about)
Yep. I’m flashing to “Steel Magnolias” where Shelby is complaining about having 9 bridesmaids and M’Lynn tells her that “there was no way around it.”
I ask as an only child: is there a particular etiquette out there saying that if you have a sister, she HAS to be your MoH even if you’re not close? My impression from other weddings I’ve seen is that this is the case (especially with my cousins where Oldest Cousin had Middle as her MoH even though she’s way closer to Younger). But that said, beats me what it’s supposed to be if you have multiple siblings.
Don’t know, but when my (only) sister got married, I was not in the bridal party. And we are close. Which is why she did not ask me to participate in that particular torture. (Been there, done that, have the* Dresses I Have Never Worn Again to prove it.)
Nope. I was asked to be a bridesmaid for my sister, but she had someone else as her MOH. And then I was removed as a bridesmaid after she sprung that the dresses were going to be yellow on me after I had just woken up; I made a remark about it without thinking (see “just woken up”) and she emailed me to tell me not to bother.
I dodged a bullet, though, because her friends were like her, very much not my style of people, and I would have been miserable. Not to mention that I didn’t actually make it to the ceremony because we got a flat tire on the interstate. Honestly, if I had it to do over, I’d be like, “Oops, sorry, we’re busy that weekend.” (But I didn’t say when it’s going to be? “Nope, sorry, busy.”)
Weddings are not my favorite thing ever. Especially if I’m involved, but even not involved… yikes. My SIL’s wedding was beautiful, but also a lot of stress because it was all “THIS SHOULD BE HAPPENING THIS WAY” and reality didn’t really like being ignored.
Definitely a thing in some parts of the US, and I absorbed somewhere that sisters of the groom should also be included in the bride’s wedding party. My mom and I both have multiple sisters, so I took a page out of her book and had my best friend as MOH, sisters as bridesmaids. However, one of my friends actually went the opposite direction – the bride didn’t have a sister, groom did, but the groom wasn’t close to his sister and she had been downright rude to the bride, so the groom chose a close friend (female) and the bride chose a close friend (male) to be their only attendants. You can bet the groom’s family threw a fit over it (both the snubbing of the sister and the non-traditional genders of the man of honor and best woman), but the bride and groom held firm! Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with family dysfunction. Like, if everyone in your family gets along, probably any set of attendants will be fine, but difficult people looooove to use weddings, funerals, etc. as a venue to grind their favorite axe, whatever it might be.
Why am I suddenly envisioning legions of women dressed as Storm Troopers and marching in lockstep…?
Now there’s a bridesmaid’s outfit that I, for one, definitely would wear again.
But not after Labor Day, of course.
*falls off couch laughing*
I don’t think it’s etiquette so much as a general cultural expectation that if you have a sister, you two will just naturally be so close that no one else could possibly be your MOH. In my experience, some people get very itchy when those cultural expectations aren’t followed, especially if the “demoted” relative hasn’t been completely cut off and is at the wedding. I saw this at my wedding with my mom, who’s traditional MOB role was filled by my stepmom. (Since my mom couldn’t be arsed to be on time to the wedding and missed the ceremony entirely, I clearly made the right choice.) I’m also 99% sure that this tension is the exact reason my best friend eloped rather than have a wedding. Based on closeness and getting shit done, I would have been her MOH, but it would have been a Big Deal to her family to demote her sister to bridesmaid.
I don’t think it’s a particular etiquette rule, per se, but my mother did tell me that my sister would be very hurt if I didn’t ask her to be my Maid of Honor and asked my friend do it instead. My sister and I are pretty close so it wasn’t a big deal or anything, except that she wasn’t living anywhere near me at the time and isn’t really into wedding stuff, so functionally my friend actually did everything that a MOH usually does without the fancy title. But my friend also understood and wasn’t hurt that I picked my sister, so…meh.
(I really wanted my little brother to do it, but for various logistical reasons it was likely he might miss the wedding altogether. Not sure if that would have been more palatable for my sister or not.)
I have a sister and a brother, my husband has four brothers and a sister. My sister was a brides maid, but not my MoH and his twin was a groomsdude, but not the best man. If anyone said anything about them not being MoH/Best Dude they didn’t to us. I did get flac over not involving my brother more than I did (he got a reading to get my Mom off my back since I didn’t let him appoint himself MC). I have seen the case of “sister is always MoH even if not close” a few times though, so, uh, I guess it depends on the family?
I have 3 sisters: J, R and F. I am the youngest.
F married first and only had friends in her bridal party.
I married second and only had F in my bridal party.
R married and only had J in her bridal party.
J is unmarried.
When my brother T married he had our brothers S and D as groomsmen, his bf as chief and two more guys (I think?). His now-wife has her friends. Their wedding was *huge* compared to what us sisters put together.
Brother S is getting married in February – I don’t know what his plans are but his betrothed is from a Traditional Italian Family so I don’t know how much control they have over the proceedings…
I was sad not to be in a bridal party but I certainly didn’t feel slighted. I believe it was/is similar for the others.
I think it’s all cultural. We are Australian but I know there are some Australian families expect siblings to be included regardless of personal relationship to the one getting married.
Nah, I’m pretty close to my sister and I’m a bridesmaid at her upcoming wedding, not MoH.
She was MoH in her best friend’s wedding and that friend is playing the same role in hers.
Kinda team harsh here–your sister is 11 years older than you. WTF. I am not saying she doesn’t have a right to her feelings but she sure as fuck does NOT have the right to go off on you, disrupt your day, and pull your mom into this (though I share CA’s spidey sense about your mom).
You were not wrong for naming your younger sister the MOH. At all. Let your sister be as mad as she wants. For now, enjoy the peace and quiet that a lack of drama brings.
I will also second CA’s thoughts on your mom. If she brings this up, shrug, say “This is between me and Sister. I don’t want to talk about it.” And if she continues, “Mom, I said I didn’t want to discuss this.” A third time: “I’m going. Bye!” Use this tactic when/if your mother/another family member want you to intervene in something (or you feel like you have to): “This is between you. It’s on you to work it out.”
Yeah, I think I’m on Team Harsh as well. My script would go something like this: “Sister, I didn’t realize how much being MOH meant to you, or I would have picked you. Once I picked YS, I was worried that adding you would also mean adding Husband’s sister and thought that would be over the top. I’m sorry for hurting your feelings, but you’re being ridiculous. It’s been Two. Effing. Years. Get the effing hell OVER IT.. It. Over. Get. (The hell.) When you’ve started acting like a reasonable human being again, you know where to find me. Until you do, go jump in a lake and take your passive-aggressive extended tantrum someplace else. I hereby resign from my position as your Emotional Punching Bag, effective immediately. Peace out.”
Fuck yeah, that message is GOLD.
“I hereby resign from my position as your Emotional Punching Bag, effective immediately. Peace out.”
I want to get this printed on a t-shirt and wear it every time I have to be around my verbally abusive, bullying older sister.
I can’t help but suspect that whatever LW wound up doing at the wedding, Something would have come out Wrong. So there’s that. But in any event: no time machine! Also: no telepathy.
Yes! LW – The person who cries in the bathroom when you are getting ready for your wedding IS NOT a person who would have made a good MOH. She still would have tried to make the day all about her and would have probably found lots other ways to stress you out – something you probably knew subconsciously when you decided to ask your younger (closer?) sister.
FYI – Anyone who’s friends have not started to marry – Being MOH is not about you. It is not a day to wear a cool (or awful) dress and be center of attention. It is about putting your friend first and doing whatever you can for her and the wedding for that day. It is usually not at all fun. My one round as MOH was one of the most stressful weekends I have ever had and I swear it took years off my life. I *literally* prevented the wedding from being called off. I must have ran over a mile total in heels with my dress hiked up. I calmed and mediated and organized and diverted. At the end of the night I wanted to punch both the bride and groom in the face – but I was charming and supportive the whole time. Being MOH is not an honor or a reward for being the most awesome friend/sister – it is a great big heaping responsibility and a pain in the behind.
I was my sister’s MOH, had been back in the US for a hot minute, and had no idea about any of this stuff. I didn’t even know to look it up since I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I honestly thought it was just a title and wouldn’t have been at all offended if my sister wanted someone else.
Thankfully, my family’s drama llamas are extended family members and they knew they’d be shown the door double quick if they pulled any shit.
Word. Being a MOH is like being in the Secret Service. The bride is the president, she’s the one everyone is there to see. Your job is to help smooth her way, and keep any undesirables from disrupting the event, make sure she’s not bothered with trivial details, and possibly leap in front of the bride should someone decide to throw a drink. I actually discreetly bounced an unruly family member from my best friends wedding and spent most of the night carefully steering her horrid step mother at least 3 tables away.
Oh, and if the dress is big enough, in addition to your enforcer duties, you may have to help her pee.
People like you are my heroes. My MoH spent my wedding day diverting my narcissistic, abusive mother away from me and acting as a buffer between us. Her finest moment was actually the night before, when we all arrived at the venue (we were staying there the night before/after) only to find a mix-up with the rooms meant that I, the bride, had nowhere to get ready for my own wedding as I was expected to check out of my room first thing in the morning, and my two bridesmaids had nowhere to sleep at all. While I was dashing back and forth between rooms and reception (we had a LOT of other stuff to get ready too including decorating the rooms for the wedding ceremony and reception), my family arrived and stood in the lobby staring at me as I ran around in a panic trying to get things sorted out, calling as I passed them, “hi folks, sorry can’t stop to chat now but I’ll talk to you as soon as this room problem is sorted.” Mother spent this time commentating on me in a loud, screechy voice, “there she goes again, SO RUDE, why isn’t she speaking to us? Her own mother! I’ve come all this way and she treats me like this. SHE HASN’T EVEN SAID HELLO” etc etc.
Seeing I was getting more and more upset and stressed, my MoH marched over, greeted my mother politely and said something like (and I heard this second hand so can only imagine how she said it), “As you can SEE, Xebi is trying to sort out a difficult problem that’s come up THE NIGHT BEFORE HER WEDDING. She has already said hello to you, I heard her, and she also reminded me that you have a dinner table booked less than an hour from now, which is why she’s rushing so she will be on time to TALK TO YOU PROPERLY at YOUR family dinner.” My mother actually shut up, which was pretty much unprecedented, because absolutely everything has to be about her and she will totally freak out if she is not the centre of attention. My dad even had to spend a significant proportion of his father of the bride speech talking about how wonderful she was, just to avoid the fallout he’d have to deal with otherwise. A MoH like that is an absolute godsend.
Incidentally, we’ve been friends literally since the cradle, she spent our entire childhood and teenage years promising me that if she ever got married I was absolutely going to be her MoH, then she got married and I just got a regular guest invitation without a word about anything else she’d like me to do. Her sister was MoH. Did i throw a tantrum? Of course not, because I’m a frigging adult. I went “oh well, she obviously changed her mind about that” and still invited her to be my MoH three years later. No regrets there.
This. It has “honor” in the title, but the only honor involved is being the best at administrative duties and shutting down the inevitable fuckery that goes with weddings.
It depends on the situation. I’ve been MOH for my sis and my best friend, and I enjoyed it both times. But for my sis I didn’t have awkward family stuff to deal with (we had fun, actually; the worst thing was getting the whole family together for the family portraits. Other than that things were fine), and with my bf I was living out of the country at the time so I did almost none of the MOH duties (I was co-MOH w/ HER sister), and she was just excited that I loved her enough to spend $1400-ish to fly across the world to be with her on the day of.
It’s this line right here “and I had to be the liaison between her & mom the entire weekend” that sends up the reddest flag for me. What does it mean? If LW is the egregious one, then why is she also mediating between her sainted mother and sister?
Yeah, that jumped out and clobbered me, too. If Sister’s grievance is with LW, why is it LW who is running back and forth in her goddamn bridal gown, apparently the only person available who can broker peace between Sister and Mom? (Also, boo hiss, Little Sister, who fell down on the MoH Prime Directive: Dispatch with prejudice any piece of unexpected chaos that is threatening the bride’s sanity.) This makes me think Sister is actually mad at *Mom,* not LW, and is just freezing out/displacing blame onto LW because she’s “mom’s favorite” or “the one who can do no wrong in mom’s eyes,” or “always takes mom’s side,” or what have you. Or even just because she’s a safer target, someone who will take the venting of FEELINGS and be willing to blame herself, as opposed to whatever brand of escalation Mom might unleash if Sister came at her directly.
Mum wanted the wedding. Mum planned and arranged the wedding. Mum was intimately involved in the reconciliation situation. And then… Mum was in some sort of epic shitfit with the sister *on the wedding day* that resulted in the bride spending her day running ragged to deal with the two of them? Meanwhile, little sis who was the MOH and therefore had the role where such issues should be hers to solve was doing… what exactly?
LW seems to be full of guilt over a situation that she wasn’t responsible for in the first place. It was never her job to perfectly manage everyone’s emotions and needs, and I’m concerned that she seems to be taking on all of the responsibility. There were multiple other adults there. And those adults were responsible for voicing their own needs appropriately, and dealing with their disappointment appropriately.
LW did not destroy everything by choosing a different sister to be MOH.
Why is it apparently LW’s job to be the emotional caretaker for her entire family?
Hell, if I was the little sister in this situation, and saw eldest sister throwing this level of epic tantrum over something to the point of potentially ruining bride sister’s wedding, it’d be my first instinct to volunteer to step down as MOH to fix things.
If I were the little sister I’d make sure as hell that Eldest would not be in a situation to create greater disruption with her tantrums, which means holding onto the MoH position with every tentacle I could muster…
Concur. Little Sister offering the MOH role to Eldest sounds like it would have made an even bigger shitstorm for everyone.
“Why is it apparently LW’s job to be the emotional caretaker for her entire family?”
Yes. One thing I have learned with wedding planning is just let people be hurt. You can’t please everyone. If I was little sister in that situation, I’d be telling Bride Sister to go relax and be a bride, I’ll deal with Mom/Big Sister’s temper tantrums.
Also, as long as you’re married at the end of it, the wedding is NOT a failure. No matter who is upset or hurt, or if it was raining, or your dress fell off, or all your friends showed up drunk. If you end the day married, SUCCESS!
I’m going to stretch the good Captian’s spider analogy here, and raise the question of just how much of this feelingsnightmare Mom “wove”.
She planned the wedding, and it often seems that particularly in Southern culture, while the bride may be the appealing ingénue making her debut, Momma is still unquestionably the Grande Dame, the Prima Donna. So…. If Mom was the go-between for much of this, how much and what kind of influence has she exerted on everyone else?
When my own sister got married, my Mom told me that sis, who I’d never had a good relationship with and wasn’t even remotely close to, *had* to have me as a bridesmaid. So I sighed and put my brain into the “shut up, deal with it & get it over with” gear. I had zero desire to be a bridesmaid, but whatever–it’s her wedding.
First problem–the dress. I realize that it’s practically de rigeur for them to be ugly and unflattering, but this was more than vanity on my part. Sis had picked sleeveless dresses; I, however, had dealt with lifelong compulsive skin-picking, the worst of it on my arms. Even on a good day, they’re just a giant mess of hard-to-miss, mottled & discolored scar tissue. On bad days, there’s half-healed scabs up & down both of them. I didn’t care how I looked, even though I *was* uncomfortable with it, but I really didn’t want everyone staring at my arms instead of the bride and groom. So, I asked about having something to camouflage them, like a light wrap or something.
The answer from sis was pretty much no way in hell. So cue the sturm-und-drang dramafest.
I kept trying to find a compromise, sis kept shooting everything down and getting increasingly pissy about it, and Mom just pleaded and worried. Eventually, I got fed up with the BS and just talked to Sis directly, asking her if she really wanted me in the wedding party and wouldn’t she rather have some close friends instead, and saying that I had no particular desire to be a bridesmaid anyway, but would if she really wanted me to be one.
“What do you mean you don’t want to be a bridesmaid?” She had a look on her face like a stunned mackerel.
I repeated what I’d said–it wasn’t a big deal to me, but if she wanted me there, I’d do it.
“Mom’s been insisting since day one that you *have* to be a bridesmaid and would be really upset if you weren’t. That’s why I asked you.”
“Um…. No. She told me you’d be heartbroken if I wasn’t one.”
Yeah. Now in Mom’s defense, she was older to start with, and very traditional-minded, plus she’d had Parkinson’s for several years and the early signs of dementia were beginning to show. I’m sure she was doing what she thought was right & proper—I can easily see where she would find the idea of me *not * be a bridesmaid for my sister unthinkable.
So LW, you can see why I’m wondering exactly what part Mom played in all this, and if she didn’t stamp her own perspective and expectations on any communication between you & your sister….
Yup, that’s the same line that made my eyebrows go up, too. There is, in fact, something icky about this whole dynamic, and I’m not sure if it’s all on Older Sister. Obviously we don’t have all the context for All the Events That Have Ever Happened, Ever, but LW, it might be worth taking a look at your relationship with your mother, too, and use whatever information you glean to try to make your life less stressful, in whatever form that takes. I mean, it’s possible that Older Sister is just a drama queen who will try to suck everyone she can into her black hole of drama, but if your mother didn’t do anything to shut that down and she put you in the middle (during your wedding weekend! that she planned!), that’s kind of troubling.
I read that part of the letter differently–I thought the LW meant that including her older sister would have forced her to include her husband’s sister, and that she hadn’t “always been on best of terms” with the future sister-in-law, so she decided to include neither.
Certainly seems that the LW was no longer on the best of terms with her sister by the time of the wedding, though.
I read it that way, too.
That’s how I read it as well, and it struck me as strange. Why would anyone expect the bride to treat future sister-in-law equivalently to her actual sisters? If the LW had only one sister and chose her as her Maid of Honor—would people have thought she was snubbing her future sister-in-law and forced the LW to find a role for her? I suspect not, since apparently no one said anything about including the sister-in-law in the wedding that actually happened. So what difference would it make if the bride has two sisters and therefore two Maids of Honor?
Still, it’s all academic. What’s done is done and furthermore, it all happened two years ago. I whole-heartedly agree with the advice that the LW should stop letting her mother be the go-between for her and her sister. The LW and her sister are both adults; the time for their mother to butt in and try to help manage their relationship is long past.
Should you have had 2 MOH and said “to hell with an uneven number of attendants?” Yes. Yes, obviously unless you have some sort of severe OCD disorder that would make you so twitchy at the notion of bridesmaid asymmetry that you couldn’t focus on your vows, you should have given more weight to the feelings of the people involved than some abstract principle of even numbers. Was your sister unreasonable in how she reacted? Also yes, but sibling competition and favoritism is weird. Was your mom supremely unhelpful in all of this? Again, yes.
But, can you do anything about that now? No. So the best you can do is try and make up with your sister and refuse to get into it with your mother (Cap seems to have good suggestions for how to do that) and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD keep this event in mind when naming any kids and choosing godparents – otherwise it could be the whole mess over again.
I respectfully disagree. The feelings that most matter in a wedding are those of the people getting married in said wedding. Anyone else should focus on helping the spouses-to-be and sharing the occasion with them, not on picking fights.
Also, please don’t make fun of OCD to make your point? It’s unnecessary and gross.
Agreed, esp. about not making fun of OCD.
I’m not mocking OCD – that’d be a perfectly legitimate reason to want a precisely even number of something on your wedding day. But on the original point, while obviously the married couple’s feelings matter most, that doesn’t mean that the feelings of everyone else involved or excluded don’t matter at all. In this case it seems that it really mattered to the older sister and it didn’t matter at all to the OP (no extra cost or effort, no other scheduling issues) other than this abstract notion of asymmetry (which, again, absent some actual reason why that bothers OP, really isn’t a reason). In this case it would have been very easy for OP to just say “fine, two MOH,” since it meant so much for one sister not to feel excluded or ‘unfavorited.’ On the balance of “practically no effort or inconvenience to the bride” and “huge deal to the sister” I’d say the “huge deal” wins out, even given the fact that the other party is the bride.
But, at the end of things, it can’t be fixed, so I suppose it doesn’t matter much.
Um, no. Very viceral no.
A) It’s not necessarily about symetry. It can also be that if only one sibling among the lot is ‘excluded’ then it’s an obvious exclusion, and it’s perfectly reasonable to not want to make that statement.
B) Frankly, if I said ‘one bridesmaid/MOH and done’ and my sister told me that she’d love to be included and would I consider having her as a bridesmaid too, assuming we hadn’t been fighting like cats and dogs, I’d obviously include her. Weeks of silence and emotional manipulation lead to a ‘hell no, and also take your drama-lama back to your house and off my lawn’. In other words: really obvious emotional manipulation is bullcrap and giving into it won’t make the person happy, but WILL set you up for another couple months of the same nonsense.
LW already mentioned in the letter that the reason she couldn’t just have two maids of honor was because then she would feel obligated to include her husband’s sister as well, and she doesn’t get along with her husband’s sister. LW shouldn’t have to do acrobats to please every single person at her wedding. She should just be able to get married.
I suppose it would have been “not the done thing” to have hubby make his sister a groomsman…
My husband had his sister as a groomsman, but I’m getting the feeling my wedding was not as traditional. (She looked so good though! She wore the same top, but with a black pencil skirt instead of slacks.)
LW here. It’s actually less about asymmetry and more about my husband’s feelings. If I had had 2 MOHs, my husband’s sister would’ve been the only sibling not in the wedding party. And, given that we historically weren’t on the best terms (but on great terms now, yay!), I didn’t want another shit storm consisting of “OMG now husband’s sister is left out.”
I also mentioned extra groomsmen b/c I didn’t want my husband to feel bad that I had 3 people standing next to me and he had 1. Not that he probably would’ve felt bad, but in typical Southern fashion people would’ve felt bad for him, and me, being the bride, would’ve somehow gotten blamed.
LW here. It was less about symmetry and more about my husband’s feelings. If I had had 2 MOHs, then the only sibling not in the wedding party would’ve been my husband’s sister. She & I haven’t always been on great terms (but we are now, yay). So I was trying to avoid another shit storm of “OMG now husband’s sister is left out, the bride is such a bitch.”
I also mentioned the two groomsmen thing b/c I didn’t want my husband to feel self-conscious that I would’ve had 3 people standing next to me while he would’ve had 1. Not that he would’ve cared probably, but other people would’ve cared and felt bad for him. And I, being the bride in a Southern wedding, would’ve been blamed.
Well, it does seem like you were going to offend someone no matter what road you took. Considering that, I’d say yeah, your sister should have been willing to suck it up for the sake of helping the wedding go smoothly (seriously, that is the prime directive of the MOH anyways). I guess the question now is how badly you want to make up with her. If you do, in my experience, people will usually forgive some high-level wedding offenses if they feel it was necessary for the show to go on, so a “sorry you were the one that got shafted in the wedding line up – I was really stressed about everything else, this seemed like the best way to do it, and I honestly didn’t think you’d be that upset about it,” might do the trick. Of course, that might leave her feeling that everyone else in the wedding was more important (including the SIL you didn’t like) and she was the disposable one, so I dunno, maybe just an “I feel terrible you were hurt, what can I do to make it better?”
I think (I hope!) people would have been more understanding than you give them credit for. If we buy into this idea that the level of inclusion in the wedding somehow tracks with your level of affection for that person, I don’t think anyone would expect you to include your sister-in-law to the same degree that you would include your own sisters. And I would argue that if your husband were really all that bothered about his sister’s supposed exclusion, then he could have found a role for her—perhaps the reading that your older sister did instead.
But really, none of this matters since this was already decided over two years ago and as other posters have said, it sounds like your sister (and possibly sister-in-law) was determined to be offended regardless of what you decided. I don’t think you did anything wrong, but even you had, your miserable wedding day and two years of wondering if you’re an asshole without realizing it (you’re not!) are more than punishment enough.
I can tell from this explanation, and from your letter, that you did your best to make everyone happy. It is really, really not your fault that your big sister is having a lot of feelings about this. And while people can’t control how they feel, they can control how they behave, and her behavior has been awful and is also very much not your fault at all.
One important question I would ask is, What kind of relationship (if any) do you want to have with your big sister? I ask because she’s behaved really badly (actively lying to you about how she was feeling when she told you that she wasn’t upset anymore, acting like an enormous toddler and stressing you out on your wedding day, badmouthing you behind your back to others). Also, I notice that there seems to be a certain amount of pressure on you from Mom to patch things up. And I wonder what would happen if you just took a moment, set aside any thoughts about what other people will think or what kind of relationship you’re * supposed * to have with her, and just focus instead on what you * want *?
Possibly also relevant:
And I, being the bride in a Southern wedding, would’ve been blamed.
There’s a saying that goes, “A woman’s place is always in the wrong.” Is your family like mine this way?
Good luck. Congrats on getting married.
I think by the time I was done planning my wedding I had developed an intense hatred of the word “symmetry” (because it’s never just symmetry) for similar reasons. Which is saying a lot because I was going to school for architecture at the time and we’re basically trained to find asymmetry disturbing on like a psychological level.
There were quite a few of those required traditions that I ended up doing simply because my husband wanted to and it would be weird for only one us to do them. Which is how we ended up with a father daughter dance done to a song from the musical spam-a-lot.
No whats more awkward the having a mother son dance and no father daughter dance? having a very sweet tender mother son dance followed by two idiots “dancing” around to not yet dead and trying to sneak off the dance floor halfway through.
Well, you know, the LW thought she WAS being considerate of her older sister by not making her a MOH. She says that. And she was also trying to avoid offending her future SIL as well, since SIL would have been left out if LW had both sisters as maids of honor. Honestly, it sounds like she has family who were looking for reasons to feel slighted and found them. And regardless of how her sister feels, crying in the bathroom on someone else’s big day and forcing the bride to placate her- and then 2 years of silent treatment? Someone needs to stop acting like a toddler but it’s not the LW.
Ok, so I’m not a crier myself, but from what I understand about the people who are, it’s not like you can just choose not to cry through sheer willpower or something. Now if she’d thrown a fit in the middle of the reception, yeah, that would have been different, but if she really felt like crying, I’d say hiding in the bathroom was the best way to go about it. As for the LW assuming the sister preferred not to be the MOH, well, she was evidently quite wrong about that, wasn’t she? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think the sister should have taken it on the chin and gotten over it – two wrongs don’t make a right and all that – and two years worth of silent treatment is pretty excessive, but I don’t think the sister’s over-the-top hurt feelings negate the fact that the LW did something hurtful.
Well, I mean, there’s crying in the bathroom and there’s crying in the bathroom. One might become overwhelmed and step away to compose oneself, which is a good way to handle sudden feelings in public. Or one might lock themselves in the bathroom until such time as one can be convinced to return to to the party by the secret right combination of requests and promises by the secret right combination of people. That’s not so great. Because we have the context of some other bad behavior, I think it’s reasonable that people are interpreting Older Sister’s behavior to be closer to the latter than the former.
there’s crying in the bathroom and there’s crying in the bathroom.
Don’t forget Drunk Mother In Law Crying At The Wedding Dinner.
Hi, I have OCD and I’m feeling pretty mocked by the words “severe” and “twitchy” in your original comment.
Also, it was the LW’s wedding and it was the LW’s decision. She didn’t owe it to her sister to make her the maid of honor.
Maybe you could just stop? What you’re saying is pretty rude and not constructive.
Hey, hi. I have OCD and an asymmetrical wedding party. There’s a lot of unspoken cultural drama that goes with weddings, and I absolutely guarantee that that’s on people’s minds and anxieties and nerves more than the visual appearance of things. Unfortunately, there’s only so much control the bride/parent-to-be/graduate/focus of huge cultural event has over that. I suggest not heaping the responsibility for the feelings of the grown adults who can’t be assed to focus on making the event special for the bride on the bride and/or a mental illness(!) .
If she’s having the wedding FOR family, not herself, maybe her feelings aren’t #1 for how to do the wedding?
Nope. Family members over the age of, let’s say, 12, are responsible for handling their own feelings. A harried and stressed-out spouse-to be shouldn’t have to deal with that on top of everything else that comes with organising and surviving a wedding.
OK. And what if another sibling or relative complained that you don’t have TWO MOH’s that’s just WRONG and they made a big deal about it? Where does it end? She had the wedding for her family; that doesn’t mean she was obligated to indulge every whim of every family member, including one who was 11 fucking years older than her and grown enough to know better.
Her family is having the wedding for themselves because she never wanted one. So she is already delegated into “Bride’s feelings don’t matter”. But that doesn’t *make it true*, and under no circumstance is ANY person, let alone a bride on her wedding day, obligated to be FEELINGS-nanny for a bunch of grown-ass adults throwing tantrums.
Yeah, even if it’s not “for her” and what she wants, she’s still kind of supposed to be the center of attention, not her mom or sister or whoever else. Everyone should bend over backwards (within reason, of course) to make sure the bride is happy – the bride should not be tearing her hair out about how to please every. single. guest. Especially because it’s impossible.
Nah, when you’re the one paying thousands of dollars for the giant party to celebrate YOU getting married, you’re number one.
“The feelings that most matter in a wedding are those of the people getting married in said wedding. Anyone else should focus on helping the spouses-to-be and sharing the occasion with them, not on picking fights.”
Quoted for truth. If everyone did this weddings in this day and age might actually be happy occasions again.
When my little sister recently got married, a family discussion started turning into an argument over whether I should be a bridesmaid or not. I’m disabled, you see, I wear some visually striking medical headgear and cannot stand for long periods. She had just asked me to clarify there was no way I could be a bridesmaid due to my condition, and I said that wasn’t the case but I was okay with whatever she wanted. (My older sister was already Maid of Honor.) My dad weighed in, insisting that I would distract the audience from the bride, so I shouldn’t be up there at all (hello, ableism). My future brother-in-law made helpful suggestions of how it could be doable with a stool, and everyone else began throwing in their opinions.
My little sis became flustered, talking fast and long trying to reason it all out and please everyone. I interrupted her with a HUGE hug mid-sentence that silenced her. I said “It’s YOUR day, it’s YOUR wedding, you do whatever works best for YOU. I love you so much, knowing you thought of me up there is all I need. I don’t need to actually be up there, because I know you love me and are including me in your heart.”
We were both crying and hugging each other hard and she said she loved me too.
And that was that. Everyone dropped the subject. It ended up that I wasn’t a bridesmaid, but I was the one who ran last-minute errands when everything went wrong to pull the event together, I was the one who got her to her photography appointment in time, helped protect her dress and wrote cute Facebook statuses about her memorable quotes throughout the day.
I wasn’t a bridesmaid, but I was there, and I was trusted to help. And that felt a billion times better than being an official bridesmaid just because she felt pressured or obligated to have me in the wedding party. It wasn’t about me, it was about her.
“My dad weighed in, insisting that I would distract the audience from the bride, so I shouldn’t be up there at all”
I um… wow. All of the PWD solidarity fist-bumps to you, and Jedi hugs too, if you need them. It’s almost as if some people are unable to grasp that we’re real human beings with real thoughts and feelings, and not just purely decorative, or house pets. Thoughtless ableist remarks are bad enough in general, but they’re so much worse when they’re made by people who should know better.
I have to disagree a bit, Traffic Spiral. I am seeing this as a classic Kobayashi Maru. A no-win scenario.
Even if she had chosen two MOH, wouldn’t one need to be nearer the bride and the altar? And so forth. All for a wedding the LW didn’t even want.
Dear LW, please let yourself off the hook. No matter what happened, someone would wind up unhappy, sounds like. This is why people elope.
And also, giving in to 3 weeks of emotional manipulation and BS gives way to… more emotional manipulation and BS about everything else forever, until a boundary is set.
You do have a point about the Kobayashi thing, it looks like someone would have been offended either way (Sister or SIL, or Bride having SIL involved when she didn’t want that) so there’s little point in going back and wondering what could have been.
Seriously, no. Older Sis was mad that Younger Sis even got picked. Saying “Fine, both of you can be MOH” is not and was not a magical fix for this problem. If Older Sis wanted to nurse a grievance – which she so very obviously did – it would simply be “but you didn’t ask me in the first place and now you’re just trying to placate me”. Or, as somebody else pointed out, other imagined slights about how the ‘other’ MOH got more favorable treatment.
Scolding the OP to make sure she doesn’t do this again as if it were her fault is supremely clueless and unhelpful.
Wow. Just wow. I do not even know where to start here, other than: Hi, I have OCD and I am offended by the way you use it here. *To me* it implies that the only reason to stand up for yourself and make choices that are good for you is if you are non-neurotypical in a manner that makes you somehow incapable of caring about other people. Perhaps that isn’t what you meant but it is absolutely the way that it came across. That’s a good place to start for me.
The rest of your comment: It is not the duty of the bride to make sure her family is happy-happy-joy-joy on a day that is made out of stress. Even someone who WANTS a wedding is going to be at least a little stressed about it due to the societal pressures on them to have a “perfect day”. Aesthetics are a perfectly valid reason to want/not want (YZ) instead of (QR)
For that matter it isn’t the responsibility of ANYONE to live their life attempting to make everyone happy all the time. If LW and Mr. LW want to name their kids after different kinds of apples , or have dogs for godparents it is up to them. The only person who gets to argue with them/be annoyed at the name is Little LW when they are old enough to like/not like their name. If the rest of the family is going to be thrashing around making LW’s life about LW’s Family of Origin rather than about LW…then they are the ones who are wrong.
If YOU want to carefully examine every aspect of your life to make sure that nobody at all gets offended, ever, that’s your prerogative. LW did the best she could at an event that she didn’t want in the first place that shoved her into the spotlight and under those societal pressures to present joy.
seriously, the way OCD gets tossed around as a reason is hella fucking obnoxious and hurtful to many people who have it. (i have it. it’s a *miserable* disorder.)
I didn’t mean it in the way you say. I meant it very specifically as that that’s the only reason I can think of where an uneven number of people would trump including a sibling – not in any greater sense of who can make choices and why. That being said, I can see where it comes across as flippant, at least, and that other people might feel differently and take offense. For that, I apologize.
I didn’t mean it in the way you say. I meant it very specifically as that that’s the only reason I can think of where an uneven number of people would trump including a sibling – not in any greater sense of who can make choices and why. That being said, I can see where it comes across as flippant, at least, and that other people might feel differently and take offense. For that,I apologize”
Next time, check your gross ableism at the front door.
Wow, you really want to pick a fight over this.
Thank you, Big Pink Box.
Traffic Spiral: I don’t think anyone here wants to pick a fight. You fucked up. You meant X, not Y? Whatever. The point is, you offended people. The correct answer is to apologise and not do it again.
Also thank you, Big Pink Box. I am not fond of those kinds of semi-apologies.
“You really want to pick a fight over this” = “I don’t understand how I’ve been hurtful and so obviously YOU must be the problem.” Nope.
Also, we do not diagnose people here, and OCD is a diagnosis, not a punchline.
If you have never read the excellent “get off my foot” comment by Hershele Ostropoler, I think this might be the time to rectify that. I’ve found it very helpful when, surprise! I ended up with a foot in my mouth and only a vague idea how it got there. These things happen to us all. The important part is learning from them so that they happen less frequently in the future.
In case anyone wants a link:
Yeah, we don’t call that “OCD,” we call it being persnickety! (If you suffer from persnicketiness, things not matching or being uneven…or things not ideally artisitcally asymmetrical, if that’s your particular flavor of persnicketiness…WILL irk you!)
If you must use a pseudo-psychological and outdated term, try “anal-retentive.” Drs. Sig Freud and Ben Spock might perk up their ears from the great beyond.
Wow, no. She’s been focusing on the feelings of others to the point that she had a goddamn wedding she did not want to have. And as she pointed out, if she upped it to two, then she’d have to have THREE and include her husband’s sister, whom she’s not on the best terms with.
How about-someone who is getting married gets to have a reasonable ceremony and everyone else can stop acting like fucking five year olds?
I just don’t understand why the husband’s sister couldn’t have stood up with him on his side? Boom, symmetry, everyone’s siblings involved.
Because having a girl on the guys’ side makes baby Jesus cry, DUH. [/sarcasm]
I just don’t understand why we’re trying to explain to the LW how she could have fixed a wedding that’s two years in the past by making decisions she didn’t want to make for a ceremony she didn’t want to have. The problem is that Older Sis is being petulant and giving her the silent treatment NOW, after LW has tried to explain and apologize. Older Sis needs to get over her shit.
Agreed. The offense has happened, and rehashing might-have-beens is exactly the problem LW is having with her sister, no? She can’t unbreak those eggs, unspill that milk, rebottle that genie. So offering advice that would only be useful if she could time-travel isn’t constructive. What LW needs is support for the current state of affairs, which is Older Sister nursing an unreasonable grievance and continuing to make the LW feel guilty about it.
+1 “I would have…” and “Why didn’t you just…” = unhelpful and irrelevant.
This would have involved the SIL-to-be likely being present at the head table, in photos of the wedding party etc. If I had someone I didn’t get along with I sure as heck wouldn’t want them around me all day on a day that is already stressful and being visibly present in all of the major photographic memories of that day.
Luckily the two get along now per LW post above but it’s really not as easy as ‘well she could just stand on the groom’s side’.
“Did I really mess up? Did I wrong Older Sister?”
Not in my book. As cavyherd said, I think this was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. You did the best you could under the circumstances and your sister chose to take offense at who got to be maid of honor instead of enjoying a special day with you. She then chose to hold a grudge against you for two years (!) despite attempts at reconciliation.
LW, you’re not responsible for other people’s choices. It’s very sad that your sister chose this path, but it’s really not your fault, nor something you could have avoided, because you can’t control other people’s decisions or reactions. Please, try and forgive yourself. You did not wrong your sister: in spite of what the Old Book of Southern Weddings says, your choice of maid of honor was not intended as a slight to anyone. That someone chose to take it as such is very much out of your control.
Anybody who deserves to be your Maid of Honor is someone who also won’t make your wedding ABOUT THEM (especially when it’s already super stressful and not the ceremony you wanted) if for some reason you pick someone else.
By throwing a huge tantrum over it and then shutting you out (for years! years!!!) your sister is proving that (a) you made the right choice after all, and (b) age doesn’t equal maturity.
A thousand times THIS.
MB, I hope you heard the literal applause in response to this comment. Exactly my thoughts… doesn’t help the relationship with Pouty Big Sis right now, but it does illustrate that LW’s gut instincts were exactly correct.
LW, I love Cap’s “permission” to put it behind you. You didn’t deliberately try to hurt big sis. For sis to continue to hold onto this doesn’t mean you haven’t done enough to mend bridges – it means she’s perfectly happy to keep that bridge burning. After 2 years … heck, 2 months would’ve been bad enough, but 2 years? That is ALL on her
Love this. It’s your wedding. You don’t have to be in charge of other peoples’ feelings. Your sister overreacted and is still overreacting.
Maybe it would help to think of your letter like this:
I really wanted my wedding day to be about me and my husband. Even if that meant having the wedding with just the two of there at City Hall, at least it would have been about us. Instead, my mother insisted on planning the whole thing thus making it about her with me and Husband filling in as props. Then my older sister insisted on making it about her right on down to making a big dramatic scene on the wedding day, and having been so successful at that, she’s still doing it 2 years later.
Your sister is making your marriage be about her. Does that put it in prospective better?
Let’s pretend your sister was hurt but loving and really wanted what was best for you. She’d have accepted her position graciously and asked if there was anything at all she could do to make the day go easier for you. Then she’d have done whatever you said even if that meant helping to take care of elderly relatives or watching the littlest kids or keeping an eye on people she knows might fight or get too drunk. But no, she didn’t do any of those things to put your mind at ease. Being in the limelight was more important to her.
Same for your mother. Your mother might have asked what you’d like best for your wedding day and gone with whatever you said, but no, she twisted your big day into hers.
Looked at like that, you’re becoming more and more blameless. (The way things were going, why stop at letting her be maid of honor? Why not step aside and let her be the bride?)
So, I’ve been planning a wedding for a while now (the actual event is now less than a month away) and I thought I really loved my fiancé and really liked my future in laws before we started the planning. And I still love him, but the jury is kind of out on his parents. From day one they’ve been telling us what we should or shouldn’t do, who they should or shouldn’t invite, and nagging us about whether we’ve done things yet, because omg hurry or there won’t be any DJs left. It has honestly been a test of our relationship, but we’ve tackled it together. If anyone is going through wedding planning, I highly recommend avoiding The Knot and reading a book called The Smart Couples Guide to Planning A Wedding (or something similar) and reading lots of Offbeat Bride. You don’t have to follow the rules, and you should do it together.
This is only tangentially related to the OP’s question, but one thing I definitely learned with wedding planning was how to be the bad guy. No, future father-in-law, you cannot bring your disgusting womanizing friend whom my fiancé despises. No, future mom in law, you cannot invite “all the out of town guests” to the rehearsal dinner, it will be the entire wedding guest list. And I learned to pick my battles in the name of harmony.
You learn a lot about yourself and your family and your future in laws planning a wedding. Maybe what the LW learned is that she and older sister are not meant to have a close relationship. Maybe they don’t share the same thoughts about the ceremony of weddings. Or maybe, as the Cap points out, there’s some other family dynamic going on. If so, you learned that too!
^5. 24 more days. 24 more days.
Omg. I didn’t count the days. 25. O.o
38 more days for me…. SOOOOON
Hang in there, people! Soon you will be married. You’ve got this.
All of this! I’m also getting married in 24 days and although planning has overall gone well, it has been an exercise in boundaries and choosing my battles as well. Also, in my case the decisions I thought would be controversial? Everyone is fine. Some random thing I didn’t think or know about? I get an out of nowhere feelingsbomb from one family member.
I strongly suspect, like others here, that the sister would have gotten upset over something else if she was maid of honor.
The things that have so far helped us to stay sane:
1. It’s a small bridal party. I have one matron of honor and he has one best man. The best man is in Florida and the MOH is in the process of moving, so we knew right away going in that they wouldn’t be around to help or to pressure us. I told the MOH to pick whatever dress she wanted and the best man would wear a matching tie.
2. Both our families are overall pretty easy going, and we don’t have a lot of friends or siblings trying to push their own agendas, although his father…I’m not sure if he’s being deliberately obtuse when he keeps asking to add friends to the guest list, or if he’s just pushing to get a reaction from my fiancé.
3. In any case, I’ve been keeping pretty mum about most things. I don’t ask his mom or my mom or anybody else their opinions on flowers or rings or dresses or DJs or centerpieces or favors, or whatever. We designed the Save-The-Dates and the invites on our own and afterward showed it to them like, to say “what do you think?” but if they’d said “we hate it,” we would have gone on anyway. Nobody gets decision making power except us two. Others have input, and we may take that input into consideration, and we might even agree with it, but it’s ultimately our decision.
Some people just need something to be upset about. I’m sure that after it’s all said and done, we’ll be married, and at least one guest (or non-guest) will be unhappy, or insulted, or offended, or whatever. With a large enough guest list, it’s inevitable. What matters is we’re happy, I think. 🙂
at least one guest (or non-guest) will be unhappy, or insulted, or offended, or whatever.
Yep. My husband’s dad brought up for years that I had not offered him oatmeal. (His parents stayed with us. For nine days. DO NOT DO THIS. Do not let people stay with you when you get married. They can stay at a hotel.)
Anyhow. I came down from the guest room, where Primo and I were sleeping, because his parents had our bedroom (uh-huh) to the kitchen. His dad was eating cornflakes so I did not ask him if he also wanted oatmeal. I made oatmeal just for myself. We went through this dance for the next four days and not once did he indicate that he would like oatmeal instead of or in addition to his cornflakes. (I had also told him and Primo’s mom, who get up at dark thirty, way before us, where all the cooking stuff was so they could make themselves a hot breakfast if they did not want to wait for us to get up.)
It wasn’t until over a year later that I learned that Primo’s dad was ticked off about not being offered oatmeal. It was one of the things he was upset about until the day he died.
Moral of the story: Some people are impossible to please. Make yourself happy.
…that may be the very pettiest complaint-turned-grudge I have ever heard. Thank you for offering this fascinating new perspective on the depths of human irrationality.
Did you scatter Quaker Oats over his coffin?
The venue we are having the wedding at is a country club that used to be an estate, and they have a small guest house with about 6 rooms and told us we (as the being married couple) get a free room and we could also have some friends/relatives stay as well, for an additional fee. We very nicely offered to cover the room expense for our MOH & the Best Man & their spouses, since they are all coming from out of state, and the Best Man and his wife might stay with us for a few days before/after (the logistics are still being worked out), but under NO CIRCUMSTANCES were we going to allow ANY parents to stay in the same building. No.
Of course, his father who has no sense of boundaries whatsoever, keeps questioning about that, and we keep saying no. A few years ago, we went on a vacation to Cape Cod, and rented a small, one bedroom condo. For various reasons, we brought along my cat. My fiancé (then only boyfriend) offered off-hand that if his dad wanted to also go to Cape Cod, he might be welcome to stay with us a night or two. He figured his dad would say no, of course, because a) boundaries and b) his dad is allergic to cats and can’t stand being in our house for more than like 5 minutes without claiming to be near death and needing a benadryl (And wine to wash it down). The oblivious idiot who is his father was seriously considering staying with us despite the fact that there was a cat (he kept insisting it would be fine) and we were obviously wanting to get away…together? “No, privacy won’t be an issue,” he insisted. Finally, at my insistence (because I was very close to not going), the Dude told his father that he was not staying with us, and his dad was mildly insulted but got over it. But either way, no way is he staying in the same house as us, never mind the same building. 😛
Did you scatter Quaker Oats over his coffin?
I love you guys. xox
Since you can’t even eat bacon right I’m sure you would have made the oatmeal wrong, too.
(If this doesn’t make sense, go to the gold digger’s diary, her father in law thought she ate bacon incorrectly and never stopped complaining about that either.)
My MIL told me during wedding planning that her job was to “shut up and wear beige”. I still think that’s funny!
If/when I ever have kids getting married, I will stay the bleep out of it. My mom has always said, “if you ask for my opinion, I’ll give it, but if not, I won’t say anything unless it’s nice.” That’s pretty much my philosophy. 🙂
I hope I can be chill if my kids get married. I know me, and the choices are either “take over” or “stay out of it”. Hopefully I can find the right balance so the kids can have whatever they’re going with.
OMG that’s what my mother in law told me! Ok, actually she told me about her mother-in-law who tried to take over the wedding (BROUGHT HER OWN PRIEST) and the extra priest had to sit mother-in-law’s mother-in-law down and tell her that exact thing! Apparently she never spoke to him again, but she did stop trying to take over the wedding. Anyway, my mother-in-law related this story early on in the planning process with a sort of hint that I should feel free to tell it to her if she got too involved. She’s pretty great!
Holy cow. Own priest??
My future mother in law is okay. She’s been a little bit nagging during the wedding process, but she more nags her son than me, so I’m okay with that. His stepmother is the most annoying, self-centered, narcissistic individual I have ever met (his father is second) and I thank my lucky stars every day that she’s not his actual mom, because then we would probably have that sort of experience.
lol yes, and they were all Catholic – it’s not like there was an interfaith issue going on! Honestly, my mil’s mil was a piece of work. In fact, my fil’s whole family kind of is. My fil joked about the tradition of spending the night before the wedding trying to convince the groom it was all a mistake and to call it off…joked about it in a way that definitely implied that it had happened to him. SO GLAD they are at a generation’s remove from us!
I wonder if that’s the true modern function of weddings – as a pre-marital stress test 😛
I’m American, and not much of a royal-watcher, but I did watch William and Kate’s wedding. And after all the sad things that have happened in that family, the thing I liked best, that convinced me that these two are going to make a good go of it, was the way they looked at each other when she reached the altar. Not transported joy, not dewy-eyed infatuation, but *relief*. They gave each other this look that said clearly, “Oh thank *God*; this whole thing is a ridiculous bloody zoo, but with you here I know I can get through it.” That’s a solid partnership right there.
I’m licensed to officiate weddings in my state, and I’ve so far solemnized two. The second one, I actually did a fair bit of planning on as well because the bride had a firm grasp on her aesthetic but wasn’t sure how to pull it off. I ended up in my Maleficent costume, with the B&G as Robin Hood and Maid Marian and a fire-breathing dragon head behind me. Three fourths of the guests were in costume as well.
Coolest wedding ever, and now I just have to settle on my own plans…
“… and a fire-breathing dragon head behind me”.
That’s so awesome. Now those are some wedding photos I wouldn’t mind seeing!
My former spouse’s parents got upset because we didn’t invite step-parent’s extended family… They didn’t talk to us for a year.
Weddings make people irrational.
My daughter got married in July, and one of the things she said in the run up to the day was that, however well you knew each others family, a wedding was great for finding out how the other family operates, what their priorities are, how they negotiate situations – all useful stuff to know.
Ugh. There was a reason you wanted to go the whole “city hall” route. While you can’t time machine this mess into being repaired, learn from it. Listen to your intuition. Your sister is eleven years older and managed to make your wedding day about her. Two years on she’s *still* making it about her. I’d shrug my shoulders and enjoy the silence, personally. I’d also tell your mom to stay out of my relationships, *especially* with anyone that came out of her uterus. Choose a good friend to godparent (I can imagine the whining that she’s not the fave auntie when you start knocking out kids).
Now is an excellent time for deciding how to deal with PITA relatives. Begin as you mean to go on. You’ll feel a lot more peace and a lot less guilt when you internalize the fact that your not responsible to manage other people’s feelings.
Every time I read a story of wedding drama, I’m sooooo happy fiancee and I are eloping. Thank God for getting to be alone!
I wanted to elope. Still wish I had. Best wishes!
LW, I have four siblings who got married and one who is engaged. I have not been a MOH or a bridesmaid or a groomswoman in ANY of their weddings. I didn’t get asked to read a reading, or play the piano, or ANYTHING!
And yet somehow, I remain unoffended that my siblings had their weddings how they wanted. I attended, danced if there was dancing, ate food, chatted with guests, and did last-minute dress and hair repairs.
It *hurts* a little, yeah, but such wee pangs are not worth the trouble it takes to say them out loud. Because I am a goddamn adult who knows it is NOT ABOUT ME.
Your sister is way out of line. You didn’t do her wrong, unless you called her up to tell her she wasn’t your MOH because she looks like a halibut, but that seems unlikely.
I would just like to state that I was forced to read the last line of your comment out loud to my daughter, followed by a rendition of the “out to see a movie” line from “Fish Heads,” in the appropriate voice:
“I picked a fish head to be my Maid of Honor, didn’t have to have a fam-ily fight!”
LW, you are not in the wrong. Hell, I’ve been married three times (two formal weddings, one courthouse one), and I had my two closest friends in [home state] stand with me for the first one, my closest friend in [transplant state] for the second one, along with my daughter, and just my daughter at the courthouse.
My brother (only sibling) never had any complaints, nor did the siblings of my husbands.
(I won’t say that I’m incredibly good at staying married, given the evidence — but all of my weddings went off without a hitch!)
I am pleased to entertain!
So the thing is, a lot of the time, when you grow up with some sisters, a sense of emotional competition is implanted deep within your beating heart. You are lined up next to my sisters, being picked apart and compared and contrasted throughout your adolescence, the wounds from which would never really disappear. Some sisters feel less important or less wanted than other sisters. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal until somebody’s wedding, when you’re subconsciously in the running for Most Important Sister To The Bride.
Figuring out how to make each person feel uniquely special at your giant We’re Married Now Ball is a talent, not a skill: either it comes naturally to you, or you have to take a crazy How To Wedding class for months beforehand. It’s absolutely bananas. There’s a reason lots of brides select their mother to be the Matron of Honor. You don’t have to select Top Sister that way. There’s generally only the one mom.
My point is, LW, all of this shitshow where your sister appears to be acting like a huge baby is suspended on crisscrossing threads of deeper meanings and social obligations that you didn’t, and couldn’t have, known about. You were getting married, LW! You had so much shit on your mind! You could not POSSIBLY have had the mental space to keep tabs on how each single solitary person is feeling in each second of your planning!
Forgive yourself, LW. The Giant Southern Wedding With Too Many Sisters is a FUCKING MINEFIELD. And you made it through! I’m sorry you’re still having trouble with your sister. That totally sucks. But there’s really no way you could have navigated around it without a degree in wedding planning.
Oh gods yes. My youngest sibling graduated recently, and only got enough tickets for parents + 1 other. I politely bowed out to minimise the need to choose between siblings (they asked, which was all I needed to feel appreciated, but actually going wasn’t necessary*!), but both their SO and our other sibling wanted the remaining ticket and assumed that of course, they’d get it, and it definitely turned into a Referendum On Relative Importance, and both were Very Offended at the implication they might not get it (both had good REASONS to be valid choices, but …). (The good news is I think they got a bonus ticket at the last minute, but there was no way to know until, like, the day before, and this drama went on for months).
The problem with major milestones is often the limited seating, which forces people to *overtly* prioritise their potential guests/participants. Which is the best way to bring out all the drama and hurt feelings.
*also oh god so boring. I’d have felt hurt if they hadn’t wanted me there, but I was quite happy not to be *expected* to be there, and I certainly wouldn’t have pressured them to pick me if I’d wanted to go.
I think the LW was referring to her future sister-in-law with the “not on the best of terms” comment (ex.: “…that would mean my husband’s sister would be left out, and I wasn’t eager to include her because we haven’t always been on best of terms”) but it is good advice regardless of the previous state of terms between LW and Sister.
I will say that weddings are horrible and stressful (in my book) and I have rarely enjoyed them. I try to avoid weddings that I expect will be larger than a dozen or so people, to be honest, because they trigger a lot of introvert hot buttons and make me freak out. I send regrets and the nicest gift I can afford within my tight budget. By now, I know I am not going to be a good wedding guest if there are going to be crowds of people there (even if mostly relatives and people I know), and if the ceremony is going to be long and drawn out over several nights or a weekend, and if it will ALSO cost more money than I can justify spending to attire myself appropriately, rent a hotel room, and travel there and back. It is not a good gift to the newlyweds to impoverish yourself and then regret attending.
Confession: I tried to be a good sport at my brother and SIL’s wedding, which was 99% awesome (to be fair…hey, even the bridesmaids’ dresses were tasteful, affordable and truly re-wearable), but I had a mini-meltdown (that I unsuccessfully tried to hide) when the hairdresser insisted on attacking my head and giving me a horrible, hideous, tightly-yanked-back, PAINFUL, weird-ass asymmetrical ROLL across the TOP of my head. No, it was not in any way all about me, or about me one iota, and I posed gamely for some photos (which I hate and look horrible in–but they aren’t MY wedding photos!), but I also went and had a quick “boo hoo” (and was HORRIBLY embarrassed that I couldn’t bear it better), removed fourteen bobbypins digging into my scalp, then fixed my own hair in a different but still appropriately neat and formal style that didn’t make my ears stand out like jug handles and give me a headache while yoinking my eyebrows all the way back to my hairline (and later photos of me are much better, because you aren’t immediately staring at my reddened ears, “bald” head with a hair-handle on top, watery eyes, and surprised-looking yoinked-up eyebrows instead of the gorgeous, glowing, beautiful bride). No one cared! It was OK! The bride and groom never noticed that I undid the horribly tight hair roll, as far as I know. Most people didn’t know or notice. Achievement unlocked: Wedding occurred, level up!
If I get married one day, it will be small, private and quick. And everyone can do their own hair. And if some feels get a little bent, given the stress, I won’t hold it against the person having the feelingsquake forever and ever. Again, weddings are rough! Gold star for making it through yours!
I will have to say that while I’m really sorry you had that awful experience, this is definitely one of the best descriptions of a hair style, the accompanying features, and anything else it brings with itself I have ever read.
I feel that I have still failed to adequately express how completely unflattering (and painful!) that tight sausage of hair perched atop my head was, but thank you. 😀
Yep. I have 3 SILs and 3 BILs. One BIL will likely never get married, one already is (and did it in Japan, which meant we weren’t expected to attend, yay!), and one SIL got married last year. It was… well, for anyone who was just a regular guest, I’m sure it was nice. Meanwhile, future SIL (BIL’s long-term girlfriend) was mad at him because he didn’t walk with her down the aisle as we left (he accompanied their grandma but didn’t give her a heads-up so she wasn’t prepared), we missed the nibblies because of pictures, the seating chart for the dinner part had my 7 year old sitting at a different table than me and my husband, the food was… honestly not worth what they paid for it, the open bar was a terrible idea (BIL #4 is alcoholic, although everyone’s in denial, so BIL #2 kept dumping out his drinks and/or getting the bartenders to water them down to avoid an incident; the afterparty had “serve yourself” alcohol, so BIL4 got drunk, got pissed off about something, and ended up punching their cousin, but even on the way TO the afterparty he was pretty drunk and whining about how nobody loves him, WTF). And that’s without the clusterfuck that was the night before, when we waited for 3 hours in heat and humidity for SIL #3 to get back to her place, and then we were supposed to separate by sexes to spend the night… I guess the girls were supposed to sleep on the floor in SIL’s apartment? and I was not fond of that idea, especially since SIL3 is an ok person but not someone I have a lot in common with, plus husband and son elsewhere? Anyway, 3 hours after we were told to rush out there to meet her, she finally showed up, and they had all these plans and I was not about to go along with them, nor was future SIL, and we all ended up driving out to a hotel near the venue which WE COULD HAVE DONE THAT 4 HOURS AGO AND NOT BE MISERABLE WTF.
Anyway! They basically ignored several aspects of reality (like traffic and parking in NYC, and BIL4’s alcoholism) and we ended up smacked with them.
And… my actual point was that SIL #2 is getting married in the next couple of years, and she wants my son to be ringbearer (because SIL3’s ringbearer almost dropped the rings, plus he was not cute, not to be catty; SIL1’s boyfriend commented, “You had ONE JOB”)… and she’s doing a destination wedding. Like… really? I sure hope she’s planning to help us pay for airfare or whatever, because otherwise she’s gonna be short one ringbearer, especially given I’m in school and thus between that and taking care of our son, I’m unable to contribute to income. She says it’s because it’s actually cheaper, which… I’m skeptical about how that works (like, maybe it’s cheaper for her, but the cost is kind of spread around?), but either way, it’s gonna come down to whether that side of the family is going to help us get there.
I get that it’s a wedding. You only do it once per couple. But… in the grand scheme of things, you have to decide what’s most important about it, because to everyone else, it’s just another day.
I’m doing my own hair at my wedding. I don’t have time for that stuff!
My mom told me about a friend’s wedding she went to. After the hairdresser had finished styling and updoing and all that jazz, she looked in the mirror and decided she hated it. It didn’t look natural, it didn’t look like HER. So, a very short while before the ceremony, she washed her hair and wore it the way she did every other day of her life, and looked great like that.
I am proud of your re-doing your hair. I once allowed a hairdresser to talk me into getting bangs for a friend’s wedding. Bangs. I look terrible in bangs. I have no idea what I was thinking.
I couldn’t afford to hire a hairdresser for my own wedding so attempted to do it myself, in my usual style but with more product to hold it in place and my word it was a disaster. I don’t know what would have happened if the makeup artist hadn’t known some handy tricks and sent the wedding planner (who came with the venue, kept trying to change my plans and who i was VERY glad to get out of my hair, no pun intended) to the town to buy some dry shampoo. I don’t know what *I* was thinking using liberal quantities of something I’d never tried before on my horribly limp, fine hair – I look awful with my hair up too – but hey, wedding day nerves.
That is horrid (about your painful hairstyle) and I’m sorry someone was so insensitive to you. Your solution was the best solution. Personally, if a hairdresser hurts my scalp, they can either stop hurting my scalp with a quickness or generally get the fuck away from me.
LW, you did not (to the best of my knowledge, from the facts in your letter), physically abuse or take financial advantage of your sister. You did not subject her or her hypothetical children to unsafe people or conditions. You did not, in other words, endanger her well-being to the point that she had to remove you from her life to be safe and sane.
What your sister has demonstrated for two years (!) is that it’s more important to her to be Mad At You for not picking her for the honor of wearing an ugly polyester dress, than it is for her to have a relationship with you as her sister.
I would point out that respecting her choice in this matter has the benefit of you not having to deal with her Feelings (read: a repeat of this whole thing) during your future baby shower/anniversary/Festivus celebrations.
in fact, LW, if it would help, this coming Festivus put up a pole, say “I’m still mad Older Sister has been such a jerkface about our wedding” during the Airing of Grievances, and consider it put to bed.
To be fair, it might not have been a polyester dress… ;P
*shows self out*
I think we should have some compassion for the situation of the older sister.
Many people do invest a lot of symbolic weight into things like weddings. I don’t think it’s at all surprising that asking the younger of two sisters to be MoH, and not asking the older one to play any special role, hurt the older sister’s feelings. The older sister shouldn’t have expressed her hurt feelings so childishly, but it’s not crazy or even particularly strange that this would make her feel like shit, like she’s the “less favorite sister” and like her sister doesn’t see her as an important part of her life. Of course we know that the LW didn’t intend any of that, but it’s not surprising that that’s the message the older sister received.
Once the problem arise, I think the LW probably would have been better off saying, “Oh I didn’t realize being MoH was important to you, but since it is, I would absolutely like you to be MoH.” That would have been the loving, compassionate move. Even if it *is* childish of the older sister to set so much on a purely symbolic thing like being MoH, everyone is childish sometimes, and it’s kind to humor one another’s childish wishes now and then, when they’re really emotionally important to the person. The fact that the LW wasn’t willing to do that probably convinced the older sister that the LW doesn’t really care about her, or at least not in the way she cares about her younger sister. Apologizing and saying “No, I didn’t mean it like that! I asked Younger Sister only because I thought you’d rather not *have* to go through all that trouble!” would of course not convince the older sister–because if that’s the only reason, why wouldn’t you change your mind now that you know she *does* want to be MoH? That kind of apology and explanation would sound exactly like what someone would say if she *had* deliberately cut her older sister out because her younger sister was her favorite–it’s not like she’d openly admit that in any case.
Of course, the LW only meant well, and I don’t mean to criticize–hindsight is 20/20, and if you’ve mostly known your sister as a sensible person it’s easy not to have seen this emotional stuff coming. But I think I can see where the older sister might be coming from. If she’s normally a reasonable person–if this drama is a departure from her usual style–then I think the best the LW can do is to really try to convince her older sister that she really does love her and value her as a part of her life and feels terrible to have hurt her. If, of course, that’s actually how she feels.
I think that Older Sister kind of lost the right to have her feelings considered when her initial reaction to the news was to throw a gigantic hissy fit and refuse to speak to the letter writer for three months instead of saying “Oh, I was hoping to also be your MOH and my feelings are kind of hurt” right out the outset.
It wasn’t childish of the older sister to “set so much on a purely symbolic thing”, it was childish of her to throw a huge tantrum when her never-voiced wishes weren’t anticipated. I wouldn’t have been inclined to have someone who treats me that way in my wedding, either.
While I agree that we can extend some sympathy to the older sister for feeling hurt and a little blindsided by the LW’s choice I don’t believe that it’s the LW who handled it badly.
I am one of those people who invests meaning and symbolism into weddings and I’d be very hurt if I was looked over by my sibling for their wedding. But ultimately that’s MY problem and my sibling is not required to cater to my hurt feelings. In my case I’m aware that my sibling, like the LW, isn’t as invested in weddings as I am so it’s not like it would be a deliberate snubbing. My feelings would be mine to manage on my own and not to force my sibling (already burdened with planning a wedding they don’t care about) to manage for me.
I think the LW did the right thing by offering her sister a way to be involved in the wedding if it was that important to her. Unfortunately for the LW being involved was less important to her sister than throwing a fit and refusing to consider the LW’s feelings for even a moment.
Um, I agree that people place value on different things and that not getting picked to be maid of honor would hurt some people’s feelings. But the thing is, the sister’s hurt feelings are hers to deal with, the LW cannot handle them for her.
I don’t think the LW can *convince* her sister that she loves her. The LW could tell her sister “I love you, I miss you, I want to mend our relationship”, but it’s on her sister to decide whether she accepts and believes that. If both parties want to repair the relationship, both parties will need to put work and forgiveness into it. I think it’s not accurate or helpful to frame this as if all the responsibility and power laid in the hands of the LW.
“Once the problem arise, I think the LW probably would have been better off saying, “Oh I didn’t realize being MoH was important to you, but since it is, I would absolutely like you to be MoH.” That would have been the loving, compassionate move. ”
I respectfully disagree. Playing that out – LW would be in the position of telling younger sis that she can’t be MoH after all, the older sister would still know/feel she was the 2nd choice… thus causing all 3 anguish. In my opinion, LW DID do the compassionate thing by saying that it was important that big sis be a part of the Big Day by participating in the wedding ceremony. She also held her ground to the apparent manipulation that big sis was trying to do by forcing her to make her the MoH. (If LW wasn’t sure she was being manipulated originally, Big Sis’s actions later sure clarified it).
That said, I believe Cap’n is right – there are deeper currents flowing here than this single incident, and I hope Big Sis is getting help with whatever those issues may be. Holding onto anger/hurt/pain that long is draining, and for her own sake, I hope she can let it go.
Oh, sorry, I meant to say “I would absolutely like you to be MoH *too*” (i.e., along with the younger sister). It sounds like this is what the older sister asked for–to get to be MoH alongside the younger sister.
Traditionally, of course, there’s only one MoH. But allowing two is an easy way to smooth over hurt feelings. If she lives far away it’s mostly just a matter of telling her what extra-fancy dress to buy and giving her a certain role during the ceremony.
Sure, the older sister would still know she’d been asked second. But she’d also know that her feelings really mattered to the LW, enough that the LW was willing to accommodate her wishes once she knew that she felt strongly about it. Sometimes, all a person who is causing a hassle really wants is some concrete affirmation that the person in question cares about them. (And especially when you’re already feeling rejected, a concrete action speaks much louder than any number of words.) I don’t think that’s necessarily manipulative. If the older sister is *generally* manipulative, then I’d agree with refusing to cave under any circumstances. But from the letter alone there’s no reason to conclude that’s the case here.
No. What the older sister was asking for, was a time-rewind where the LW asked Older Sister first and never considered Younger Sister at all.
Off topic: sharing actually did become another emotional minefield in my family when baby naming came up. My grandmother, mother and sister all share the same middle name, which my sister gave my niece. But, she and BIL decided that adding a second middle name would be honoring BIL’s mother also, and put them in alphabetical order. Thus, my niece is FirstName PaternalGrandma MaternalGrandma LastName. My mother was really upset about this for years, and wrote my niece’s name with only her family’s one middle name for a while, though I think she’s now learned to let it go since it’s been almost 15 years. Partially, I think, she genuinely did feel rejected by Sister and BIL not using her name as is, and they were supposed to intuit that. This conflicted with her (partly cultural?) idea that maternal grandmothers are the most important. So a big dose of hurt feelings plus passive aggression plus different generational and family values at work, ugh.
I just truly don’t think that would have mattered? Someone who gives their sibling the silent treatment for 3 months and then throws tantrums and then holds a grudge for 2 years is not looking to be appeased with a reasonable compromise. Those behaviors are *power plays*. They are about feeling a sense of control over other people and having other people dance around you. As long as Big Sis can be The Most Unhappy Person In the Room, all the attention is on her. If it was not being MOH, it would have been something else – the dress, the ceremony, the seating arrangements, an insufficient display of gratitude on the part of the bride, etc.
You’re approaching this from the perspective that LW was dealing with a reasonable human being. She wasn’t, so that playbook won’t work.
This view requires reading a whole lot of stuff into the letter that isn’t strictly in there, though.
One story we could see, reading between the lines of the the letter, is a story in which the sister is a self-absorbed manipulative person who wants to be the center of attention and uses manipulative tactics to get that attention and to punish anyone who crosses her will. I’ll agree that is definitely one possibility here.
However, there’s another story I could easily see, reading between the lines of the letter, in which the sister was so upset she just kept putting off calling her sister back until 3 months had passed, then tried to get her shit together and suck it up and make peace and be happy with being given a reading piece in the wedding, then came to the wedding and still felt sidelined and was sufficiently upset about it that she burst into tears hiding in the bathroom, and then after the wedding the LW called her up to *yell* at her for the horrific crime of being sad and not hiding it well enough, to which she responded by asking the LW to just leave her alone and not call her again.
I’m honestly not sure which of those two stories is closer to the truth. There isn’t enough in the letter to tell. So, as commenters we probably shouldn’t assume one way or the other. I think most of us tend to project our own past experiences into such letters: so I find it more natural to project a usually-reasonable-but-really-upset interpretation onto the sister, and others with lots of experience with narcissistic or manipulative people find it more natural to project a manipulative-jerk interpretation onto the sister.
@diana, you’re overlooking this: “I felt terrible and called back later, apologizing, asking to talk.” Also, the bit where LW had to run back and forth between Older Sister and Mom at her own groudon wedding.
@Diana (out of nesting): I don’t think it matters, though?
Regardless of the reasons behind her behavior, the behaviors themselves are unacceptable bullcrap. Saying ‘well you should take unacceptable bullcrap because she might have been hurt and not known how to deal with her feelings’ is basically an excuse for unreasonable and hurtful actions.
Or, in other words: an adult’s inability to process their emotions and act in a socially unacceptable way doesn’t magically absolve them from a) the responsibility to do so or b) the social consequences of failing at that.
“Sometimes, all a person who is causing a hassle really wants is some concrete affirmation that the person in question cares about them. ”
I’ve been there. There was a time I might have made that argument. hell, I think there’s times I’ve made that argument about my own behaviour (and then been proven wrong as the cycle repeated itself). It is not reasonable. It is not healthy. It comes from a place of having never encountered the concept of boundaries, at best.
If someone’s causing a scene because their basic human rights are being violated, that’s reasonable. Most other reasons are not. When person A is urged to do what person B wants because feeeeelings, that’s a boundary violation. person B’s feelings can be completely understandable and natural and human, and it’s still not person A’s responsibility to manage those feelings. Not only that, but person A’s attempts to mollify person B are unlikely to cause any lasting good; they’re more likely to encourage the Feelings-Monster inside person B to make ever higher demands, causing more suffering for both person B and those around them.
Except that in this case, the LW did consider having two MOHs, and decided it wasn’t a workable solution, because that would leave her fiancee’s sister as the only sibling not in the wedding party. She also didn’t want to have to have three MOHs, and she didn’t want her fiance to feel he had a disadvantage through only having one groomsman on his side of the church.
Different scenario but somewhat similar bad behavior: when I started dating my now-ex, HIS ex did not take it well. My then-partner was surprised because their relationship had ended years previously, and his ex had dated since then, so why all the angst and feelingsbombs? I wasn’t surprised because even though they weren’t a couple, it was like they had moved into a sibling relationship, where they each were on Team Ex, supported each other, vented to each other, etc. Starting to date me meant a change away from the status quo. So I was compassionate and understanding and went along with whatever would accommodate her as she supposedly adjusted. For a year.
But in year 2, I started getting tired of it. Because partner’s ex was also a big Missing Stair, and everyone including my then-partner preferred to throw me under the bus than deal with her drama. So I was not invited to gatherings. My offers to help were refused. I was repeatedly surprised to discover that X outing had been arranged by then-partner’s ex, because he wouldn’t tell me of her involvement, etc. It was easier to exclude me and not communicate about the situation than it was to tell her to grow up and get over it, apparently as far as most of the community was concerned. By year 3, I started getting angry and noisy about it.
Being compassionate and understanding doesn’t actually fix the problem, which is the other person’s bad behavior. Validating the other person’s feelings is a good, kind thing to do. Validating and rewarding the bad behavior, not so much.
Validating the other person’s feelings is a good, kind thing to do. Validating and rewarding the bad behavior, not so much.
THIS THIS THIS.
And it’s not because someone’s feelings are True and Valid that their reactions are Appropriate and should be accepted.
I agree with you that it’s totally okay and reasonable that Big Sis had a lot of feelings about not being Maid of Honor. Sometimes weddings bring out the feelings in people! It’s not weird or wrong for her to have had feelings.
But a wedding is an event that’s meant to be all about the people who are getting married. And Big Sis’s actions were geared to make the event all about herself and about her feelings. It’s fine to feel your feelings, and it’s great to be honest about how you’re feeling; but making other people responsible for managing your feelings is never okay. I think it was fine and good that Big Sis told LW that she was feeling hurt about not being maid of honor. But when the answer was still no, she should have accepted that gracefully. And if she really found that she wasn’t able to show up to the ceremony with a smile on her face and support the LW, then she should have stayed home. The LW has nothing to apologize for, and Big Sis’s feelings are and were her own to manage.
I disagree that giving in to the emotional blackmail would have improved things. I suspect older sister, in her new position of MOH, would still have pouted and temper tantrum-ed and complained all through the entire lead up to the wedding, and whined incessantly about fulfilling the least of the MOH duties, and found a way to ruin the day and be furious for-fricking-ever anyway. That’s not what MOHs are for, so I think LW dodged an even worse bullet there, actually.
I only have one sister, but my wedding was only the second one I’d ever been to and I don’t think the first wedding even had bridesmaids, so I had no CLUE there was even a rule about who was supposed to be MOH until my Mom brought it up after the fact. So it’s not like it’s a universal cosmic rule, known and obeyed by all the right people.
LW, you did nothing wrong! Picking Older Sister as MOH would have probably still led to your self-nominated-MOH ostentatiously crying in the bathroom on your wedding day, and still blaming you for everything anyway. Let it go. It sounds like she wants to be hurt.
And that comment about “her siblings” vs “your sibling” was just vile. If that’s the way she feels, then obviously she doesn’t feel all that close to her Dad’s family #2 either, so her “expecting” to be MOH is a load of crock.
Hugs to you and your DH, and congratulations! I hope you have many, many happy years together.
Argh! Ooops! The “sibling” comment was IRT the OTHER drama-wedding question to the Captain earlier. Now I feel dumb.
The rest of the post stands.
I am an older sis – it did not even cross my mind to expect (much less demand) to be a Maid of Honor. I was just there to pick up the dress and when ants crawled up between the lace and the satin (this was outside); my hands were the trusted ones to go in and swipe them out. To be trusted and needed is an honor — which raises the question — what is honorable about how this person is acting??? Any way I hope you are able to turn some attention to the sweet sister who was your maid. I hope you are still good with her. Keep that one who loves you actively and functionally.
I’m 22 years older than my sister; I’d be very much surprised if she asked me to be a MOH at her wedding. Delighted, sure, but still surprised!
This is a really sweet comment, actually. “To be needed and trusted is an honor.” I really respect that. Maybe I’m just overly emotional right now. Let’s all hug real quick.
Big sisters unite! I have many, many younger siblings. I have not been in the wedding party for any of them. It did not occur to me to unhappy about it. Their weddings were not about me. I am a fixer though, so I often end up with a role to play. Bride’s bouquet forgotten in town? Guests standing around at a rural church yard in the very hot sun waiting for the wedding to start an hour late? Carefully break into the church, rustle up all the water bottles and glasses I can find, get them filled, pass them around, get them refilled, keep them going around, usher older/susceptible people inside to get some shade, make the church bathrooms available, no one passes out from heat stroke, hooray!
Another wedding: Toddler nephew in wedding party (his mom is a bridesmaid) keeps making a break for the lake behind the wedding party, his mom tries to keep him in place, he starts crying, along comes auntie to scoop him up and keep him occupied away from the ceremony.
The older sister comes off as immature, for sure, but – unless it was a full floor show – I don’t think ‘crying in the bathroom’ is the worst thing she could have done if she were being spiteful or is a die-hard drama queen. And there are plenty of places I’ve not been able to stop myself crying which have been inappropriate (work, anyone?).
Older sister sounds sensitive, but if that’s the case then surely LW would already know that, and could have guessed that being overlooked for MoH *might* have been a big deal. I read between the lines that LW really DID want her younger sister to be her only MoH. On a day that she didn’t want, that was planned out by someone else, it was maybe one of the few things she could choose. And maybe older sister picked up on that and drama ensued and now LW feels guilty because of it.
Seriously, the LAST person you want as bridesmaid is the one that is going to throw a fit if she’s not asked. The bridesmaids are supposed to take care of the bride, not the other way around, so the sister/friend who is tallying up every possible social slight or ranking is a special nightmare in that the social minefield that is a large wedding.
Seriously, the LAST person you want as bridesmaid is the one that is going to throw a fit if she’s not asked
…or even at the wedding! But LW labours the point that she didn’t give a monkey’s chuff about a big wedding, or who was/wasn’t MoH, and the older sister would probably have been much easier on the day if she was happy (and busy).
LW clearly thinks about other people’s feelings and makes moves to try and avoid issues (signing up for the big wedding, thinking of sister-in-law’s being left out) so why not her older sister too? It could have been the last straw, or it could something else.
btw I don’t think LW should feel guilt over what she did or didn’t do at the wedding (or even for possibly preferring one sister over the other) but if the older sister sees that she is treated differently then that may be part of the problem.
In a strictly technical sense, this is true. And I’d feel a lot sympathy for she tried to deal with her hurt but ended up crying without being able to stop it. But then you add not speaking for 3 months, and still fighting years later. That’s when my sympathy goes down.
“Crying in the bathroom” can be done two ways: one where you hide in a stall and don’t let anyone else know, you deal with your feelings, clean yourself up, and put on a big smile so you don’t take attention away from the main festivities, or two, where you lock yourself in a stall but are obvious about it, drawing everyone into your drama and making yourself the center of attention.
Given the way LW’s sister sounds, I’m inclined to think it was the second one.
My question is genuinely curious, not snarky: have you ever asked your sister, “What is it you want to hear me say, which will finally put an end to this argument?”
On the one or two times I’ve done this, it took the other person completely aback. They stammered a bit and came out with something lame like, “Well, just that….. I’m right, I guess.” I countered with, “Okay: you’re Right. Done.”
I don’t think think will necessarily stop your sister from ever mentioning it again, but it might knock her out of the keep-fighting loop for a few seconds and give you a chacne to definitely say that the issue is dealt with.
I’ve used that a few times. It’s surprisingly effective.
I have been married (with a wedding both times). NEVER AGAIN. If I ever get married again, it will be a trip to the courthouse or to Vegas. I have done all of the wedding planning I am ever going to do.
Gatlinburg Tennessee works for those of us on the eastern side of the country …. just need 3 days in town to get the license 🙂
state of maryland has only a 48 hour waiting period!
I went to Vegas for my second wedding. SUCH a delight. Everything’s done for you. I picked my bouquet from a drop-down menu. A limo took us to the courthouse for the license. We had like a dozen guests and then we won $800 on a penny slot machine so we kept the bridal suite for the whole week.
Just chiming in to offer sympathy! I recently got engaged, and ended up both causing and having some serious Feelings surrounding whom I told about the engagement, in what order, and how – and that’s before any actual wedding planning has commenced! I’m happy to report that my offended friend and offended self have consciously decided to apply the most generous possible interpretations to each other’s behavior and accept that no insult was meant, but point is:
It’s a stressful time that has a lot of (sometimes conflicting, often impossible to intuit) symbolic meanings for lots of people. There are so many rulebooks that it’s worse than having no rulebook at all, and we’re all rookies! (Yes, many people have more than one wedding, but all weddings and families are different, with different sets of traditions and symbolic meanings, non-first weddings often come with a whole new set of opaque rules/expectations, and anyway I think you’re still a rookie your second/third/etc. time on the field!) LW, go easy on yourself, and feel free to be miffed at your sister for not doing the same.
LW: It sounds to me like you did your very best to make your older sister feel included—You phoned her when you realized there might be a problem (and she didn’t phone you back, wtf?), then you asked her to give a reading, so she was actually part of the ceremony.
Here’s how something similar played out when I got married: I mentioned to my mother, early in the planning stages, that I would like to keep things simple by just asking one old friend to attend me. My mom said, “Oh. Not your sister? That might hurt her feelings.” My natal family has its dysfunction, which in retrospect I think included over-emphasizing the extent to which my sister was shy and uncomfortable with dressing up and social performance, so I thought she wouldn’t want to anyway, but I then asked my (reliable, non-dramatic) brother what he thought, and he said “Well, maybe you should ask her IF she would like to.” When I raised the subject with her (doing my best to make her feel welcome but not obligated) she told me how she really felt—which was yes, kind of shy, but happy to do it. I ended up with 3 bridesmaids, which was PITA in certain ways, but nice in others. It made my sister happy, and it made me happy that she cared enough about me to move a bit out of her comfort zone.
Here’s the thing though: Here’s what would have happened if I’d stuck to having just one attendent: NOTHING HORRIBLE. My family wouldn’t have harped on it. It would have been fine with my sister. She would have kept any hurt feelings to herself (or talked about them with friends, not me, not my mom knowing it would get back to me), done whatever else I asked her to do cheerfully, and shown up on the day ready to do her bit with mixing and mingling and being happy for me. My sister is actually great in ways that far exceed the minimum standard, but not making a huge self-involved scene at somebody else’s wedding is a kind of minimum standard.
I am with the Captain in wondering what the underlaying family dynamic was/is around all this—not like that dynamic is your fault, or your responsibility—just that your sister’s unpleasant behavior probably didn’t come out completely out of the blue, and you’ve been raised to believe this kind of crap is somehow normal and your fault, which is it totally, totally not.
Hi, my name is Spud Tropper and I did not attend my younger sister’s wedding. I’m *not* the older sister in the letter, but I did have a very similar experience– first, I was going to be in the wedding party, then the next I heard from my mother (not sister) was that I wasn’t involved, but “could sit at the table” (I do not know what that means). My mother very much served as the go-between between my sister and I, because that’s what my sister chose. My sister never spoke to me about the wedding other than to demand that I get a passport RIGHT NOW (when the wedding was over a year away).
My sister and I were never close– it was always her and my mother…. …. …. and then “the other one” (it has taken years for my mother to introduce me to strangers as something other than “the other one”). We both have other half siblings (we’re not full siblings either, but were raised together-ish), but the main family unit was just the three of us, so not including one of those three sent a very clear message to me– “you are not actually a part of this family”. So I decided not to go to a wedding on a different continent.
Was that my sister’s intention? Probably not. I think she’s oblivious not intentionally cruel (usually), but it was a tipping point for me, because I realized that I do not have to spend time with people that don’t really like me, and don’t really want to be around me for reasons other than faaaaammily! If the LW is the favored child, and the LW’s sister was feeling like an outsider, it could have been a similar turning point for her. It’s hard to be an outsider in your own family, and even more so when it’s so very publicly displayed.
I’m sure the LW wasn’t *trying* to hurt her sister, and she can’t go back in time and change things. However, it may be best to just focus on her new life with her husband and give her sister space. I think a genuine “I did not mean to hurt you, and you are an important person to me” might go a long way in helping repair things, but maybe not. Maybe the crying in the bathroom was over that hurt, or maybe it was over not being able to wear the big pink taffeta dress. That’s pretty much the very reason I didn’t go to my sister’s wedding. “Hey, it’s family coming together time– except you, you’re not one of us” would have been too painful, too awkward, and to be honest, I didn’t have $3000 to get there. But had I gone, yeah, I would have cried in the bathroom too.
I didn’t attend my younger sister’s wedding either. I was living in another country at the time, and the timing of the wedding was infelicitous.
My sister and I have mostly moved past it–it still bothers me a little, because I was made to feel like I was super inconvenient and rude for clarifying some logistical details while deciding whether or not to attend, and that actually did hurt my feelings, but the truth is, it’s just a party, and I got over it.
In my case, my sister’s spouse’s family are a hideous nightmare, and I have to hear about it on the reg, and that annoys me so much that it didn’t take long before I was grateful I wasn’t there, mainly because I probably would have punched out one of my sister’s brand-new racists, I mean in-laws. So there’s that! 🙂
Thanks for making me feel less of a horrible person for not attending! Based on a lot of the comments here, i should have just sucked it up and played happy family for the week (destination wedding).
My sister isn’t intentionally cruel, but after so many “accidents” (as in, ruining several things that were important to me) I just couldn’t play happy family again, and definitely wasn’t going to spend thousands to do it. The “you’re in the wedding… NO you’re not” was just the last straw.
Good god no.
I’ve noticed that strain in the comments as well (the ones casting Older Sister as a monster for having a cry by herself in the ladies’ toilets are particularly…erm…special), and I say a hearty FUCK THAT. It’s a party, and if it’s hard to get to, too expensive, or full of people who are going to be super mean to you, why WOULD you go?!
I was specifically called out in the draft programme she sent me as being “Older Sister of the Bride, Miss Novel deVice”, outside the wedding party listing (I was not asked to be in the wedding party, nor to participate in any way) and it felt very much as though I was being trotted out as the Spinster Scapegoat, trip trap trip trap. She may have meant it as a kindness but it felt like a huge slam. I was a widow, incidentally, and I have never used “Miss” in my life. I was also not allotted a plus one, asked if I could have one, since it would take a full day of travel both sides to get to the wedding and kind of wanted a companion, and was told that I couldn’t have a plus one because I wasn’t in a relationship. Even widows of a certain age would appreciate not having to travel 15+ hours alone twice in three days, and having someone to dance with at their sister’s wedding!
Of course you’re not horrible! If someone chooses to have their wedding in another part of the world, they choose not to have people there who can’t – for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter – travel all that way. My husband’s sister got married in Las Vegas; we all live in the UK. Husband basically said nope, I just can’t travel all that way just for a wedding. (I wasn’t invited, which was OK because she hadn’t even met me and I’m not even sure she knew about me yet; we’d only been together for a few months.) So did most of her friends. They basically got married with no guests except for her parents, and they were pretty cool about it. No horrible people involved whatsoever.
I have missed the weddings of one of my brothers and one of my sisters. I have attended others. Never made it to any of my seemingly billions of cousins weddings (and at least half I wasn’t invited to, either. Not because we don’t get along, but see the billions part. Crazy to have all of us.) These things happen, sometimes you just can’t make it. You send your apologies with the rsvp and later a lovely gift and a note, and it should be all good, if everyone is adulting and just wanting the best for everyone all the way around.
I just got through being part of some friends’ wedding. The day-of, the bride’s parents were still telling her that if she had the ceremony at Location A instead of Location B, everyone would RESENT HER FOREVER.
LW, you did the best you could. If your older sister is bound and determined to still be angry about this multiple years, explanations, and apologies afterwards, then that’s just what she’s going to do. If you really can’t shake how much this and/or the underlying family dynamics it highlighted are bothering you, talk to a therapist. Either way, I hope you can make peace with yourself about this.
Honest question for the LW, if your older sister decided to ‘forgive you’ do you think you would be able to trust her and be genuinely close? I do find myself getting so hung up on making peace that sometimes I forget that someone who holds a grudge isn’t a person I can relax around.
A sibling relationship takes trust and a reciprocal respect. It takes two people to accept that things are imperfect. I don’t know how it is in your family but you are not responsible for everyone’s feelings 100% of the time.
Reading both the post and responses, I feel as though perhaps the place where this all started to go off the rails was when the LW agreed to let other people plan a big todo of a wedding because it was important to them, when it wasn’t important to her. This isn’t a criticism, it’s just that…your wedding is supposed to be about YOU, and if you don’t have Feelings about a big shindig with all of the pomp and circumstance, maybe it’s better to stand firm on “I really don’t want a big wedding” and let those for whom it’s important to have a party throw you a party or something. As soon as you agree to a wedding you don’t want, the day is already not about you, and you’ve only stacked the deck in favor of drama. Of course, I’m used to being my family’s black sheet, so maybe that’s easier for me to say than it might be for other people.
And I love the question “what do you need to hear from me right now so that we can put this behind us and move on?” But I don’t know what to do if the honest answer is “I don’t need you to say or do anything; I just need to keep being mad.”
Or if the answer is “I need you to apologize for having boundaries, and if you could throw in a little grovelling, that’d be nice too.”
Been there, done that, never did apologize for the boundary. Eventually it kind of got spackled over, but it wasn’t fun.
I pretty much agree with the comments that Older Sister is acting badly and that LW had every right to pick who she wanted, and her choice should have been respected even if it caused hurt. I very much understand the problem that arose regarding leaving SIL out of the wedding party if both sisters were MOHs, and the asymmetry in the wedding party probably being blamed on the bride.
I feel like there is a lot going on here behind the scenes, though. One thing I don’t understand was the original assumption by LW that Older Sister would appreciate not having to “stand up in front of people” and that not asking her was doing her a favor. LW knows her sister, and I assume she really believed she was doing Older Sister a favor, but it seems that Older Sister very much would have liked to stand up in front of people – so this has me scratching my head as to why LW made that assumption in the first place, or did not ask Older Sister how she would feel. I can only assume that LW just wanted to choose Younger Sister over Older Sister. Which is her choice and perfectly valid. I’m just not understanding the reasoning put forth in the letter (and I don’t mean that in any critical way – I’m just genuinely wondering).
I also think that there is something going on between Older Sister and Mother that for some reason LW feels implicated in to such a degree that she felt obligated to liaison between them on her wedding day. I really seems like the major conflict is between those two and LW is put in the middle for some reason.
LW, I’m really sorry your sister has been holding on to this hurt for so long, which is unfair to you. I’m not sure what you can do about it, as you’ve already apologized. In terms of your actual question, did you mess up – I’m not sure that you could have avoided this regardless of how you handled it. If you wanted only Younger Sister as your MOH, which seems like you did, I think Older Sister would have reacted similarly no matter how you went about making this preference known. And understandably you did not want to have to deal with the additional stress of “evening out” the wedding party, risking other hurt feelings, etc. So no, you did not mess up. You asked who you wanted to be your MOH, tried to make amends when you realized you’d caused hurt, and then even spent a good part of your wedding day trying to play peacemaker. You did everything you could in a difficult and stressful situation.
I think one odd thing that has happened with the rise of the bridezilla trope is that brides trying to avoid this feel like asking attendants for anything – to buy a dress, to do all the traditional bridesmaid stuff – is a huge imposition. I was a bridesmaid to my childhood friend several years ago and she was constantly apologizing to us for having to fly out for her wedding, for the price of our (pretty inexpensive) dresses, and on and on. Since the LW mentions she’s not a traditional wedding person, she might have been thinking Older Sister felt the same. Or Older Sister could have had some other family stuff of her own going on – there is an 11 year age difference, after all – and LW genuinely thought she was saving her the stress and expense. Maybe LW and Younger Sister grew up together and are closer in age, and Older Sis feels left out? Like the other commenters, I’m guessing this isn’t just about the wedding but about family dynamics as a whole.
Yikes, yes. I was an anti-bridezilla and ended up paying for three hideously expensive bridesmaids’ dresses, which are definitely un-weddingy enough to wear at any fancy party they ever go to again, plus alterations, amongst other things. I did tell them I’d appreciate any contributions they could afford and gave them a way to do so anonymously if they wanted to, but none of them did. This meant that I couldn’t afford a bunch of other stuff I wanted, including a hairdresser, and I messed my hair up horribly! But as an anti-bridezilla, i made that choice. I could have insisted they paid for the dresses, but I don’t think that would have been fair, since i picked them for my wedding. Or I could have picked cheaper ones, or made savings elsewhere. I made my choice though, so it’s on me. I couldn’t possibly resent my bridesmaids for it.
I feel like there is a lot going on here behind the scenes, though. One thing I don’t understand was the original assumption by LW that Older Sister would appreciate not having to “stand up in front of people” and that not asking her was doing her a favor. LW knows her sister, and I assume she really believed she was doing Older Sister a favor, but it seems that Older Sister very much would have liked to stand up in front of people – so this has me scratching my head as to why LW made that assumption in the first place, or did not ask Older Sister how she would feel.
I can actually see how this might happen. The LW could think that the tasks involved in being a bridesmaid would be unpleasant for Older Sister, so she wouldn’t want to be one, while Older Sister is thinking that being asked to be a bridesmaid is a way of communicating your love and appreciation. It’s kind of like how people often like to receive a gift even if the present itself isn’t something they like much; you just like knowing that the giver was thinking of you and wanted to do something nice for you.
As it happens, I went to the wedding of a dear friend last weekend. I’ve been friends with the bride for quite awhile and I was also friends with her late husband, so this wedding was a big ol’ bag of feels for me for a whole bunch of reasons. I bring this up because she didn’t ask me to be a bridesmaid, and to be honest, it hurt a little bit. Maybe more than a little bit. Plus, I’m friends with the bride’s girlfriend, who was feeling alone and left out and frankly like she’d been relegated to Invisible Girlfriend.
Where I’m going with this is it’s pretty much impossible, as far as I can tell, to have a wedding without hurting at least someone’s feelings. You can only have so many bridesmaids and maids/matrons of honor. You can only spend so much money. You can only invite so many people. You can only choose one venue. Hurt feelings are par for the course because weddings bring out this bizarre, primal feeling about How Things Have To Be Or Else.
Now, your sister could have dealt with it like I dealt with my sad feelings–by not burdening the bride because, for me, whatever I feel is less important than the fact that someone I love is happy. She also could have pulled you aside and said that she was hurt instead of putting you on the spot. She could have done lot of things. She didn’t. She made this about her and between her and your mom, managed to make your wedding way more stressful than it needed to be.
I’m with the Captain. I think now is a good time to forgive yourself for whatever sins you apparently committed. If you hadn’t hurt your sister, it would have been someone else, for some other reason.
I don’t get the whole wedding thing… I don’t hate them, some of them are fun, I just don’t see the crushing importance of being in the party for someone who isn’t the bride or groom, or their parents.
With that in mind, this realllllly sounds like a trigger for an existing issue. I can understand someone being upset, but to be weeping in the bathroom at the wedding… there are larger issues involved. Self-esteem issues, or as the Cap said, “unfavored child” stuff. I obviously don’t know your sister, but I think if you go at it in the “I wasn’t trying to hurt you” route, you might finally get at the root of the actual cause.
I am probably over-empathizing with Older Sister, having myself just recently been the MOH in my younger sister’s wedding, but with that perspective, I do have to say that even though I didn’t really want to be a MOH for a lot of reasons LW mentioned (cost, dress I didn’t pick out, standing in front of people, all the planning of the bachelorette party and the bridal shower), if my sister had just picked one of her friends over me (no other sisters) without asking me about it first, I would have been really hurt. Honestly, partially because I would have been concerned about our shared family’s perception of me if she hadn’t asked me to be a bridesmaid (i.e., what kind of b*tch is her sister that she didn’t even ask her to be a bridesmaid?). I may be reading LW’s comments wrong, but my perception is that Older Sister was both not MOH and not a bridesmaid at all (but that there was a second bridesmaid who was not a sister). Yeah, I can imagine that really hurt. Granted, that doesn’t excuse her behavior afterward at all.
LW, maybe I missed something, but it sounds like your last direct interaction with Older Sister was when you sent her an angry email after your wedding. Now, you feel guilty because Older Sister’s feelings were hurt when you didn’t pick her as your MOH, but you don’t actually want to repair your relationship with her (based on your statement, “I don’t have a plan to reconcile with Older Sister, and that’s fine for now”). But your question is solely about whether you objectively wronged Older Sister. I am not sure why it matters? Other than you would like to feel (a) right and (b) justified in continuing to not reconcile with Older Sister. That probably sounds more harsh than I mean, but I think if you want to have a relationship with your sister, you know that you will have to be the one to offer the olive branch. If you do not want to, that’s fine too! But I think it would help if you ask yourself if you don’t have/don’t want a relationship with Older Sister because of all of the drama that happened with your wedding or because you’re very different people and you don’t want to have one. While the latter is fine, I think it’s worth asking whether it’s damaging to both of you to perpetuate a narrative that your estrangement is solely due to what happened with your wedding that could theoretically be fixed if the rightful party would just assume all the blame for it.
I have no sisters, but my (then future) SIL pitched a hissy fit before the wedding because I didn’t ask her to be in our wedding party. I didn’t ask her because she’d always treated me like she wouldn’t have spat on the best part of me if I was on fire, but that’s neither here nor there. So I did ask her, and she accepted, and the poor thing spent the day surrounded by my friends and (I’m sure) feeling rather left out because she didn’t know very many people there and I was too busy to look after her. But to her credit, she sucked it up, looked pretty in the wedding photos, and has been a much better friend since then. Weddings, in my experience, are always fraught with some kind of family drama, and the only way to win is not to play. You got through it, it’s over, and you won the jackpot: you and your husband got each other out of the deal, and now the two of you can make your own life without all the leftover angst that others tried to foist on you.
One thing our minister remarked on that really resonated for me: people tend to focus very strongly on the wedding. The point is, the wedding is the beginning of the marriage — and that’s the important part.
Amen to “the only way to win is not to play.” Worked nicely for me when my mother tried to make everything about her. She kept asking why she wasn’t involved in EVERYTHING about a wedding that was taking place 500 miles away (bearing in mind she herself lives 200 miles from me so we couldn’t exactly pop out shopping together), so I was like “I’ve always admired your wonderful talent at card making. You’re so creative and they’re always so beautiful, so I’d be absolutely honoured if you would make the invitations for us.” Given the timescale, the designing and making of approximately 100 near-identical hand crafted invitations embellished with beads, flowers and all sorts of lovely things left her no time to get involved in anything else to do with my wedding but still made her feel a big part of things because EVERY guest got to see her work, plus they really were lovely. Win-win.
Wow. I have no patience for this because since I was a kid I have been asked to give things up/put up with these kinds of shennanigans while also being told to suck it up when I’m disappointed. As an adult, I have no sympathy when other adults are pissy because they didn’t get their way in an event that isn’t about them. (YEAH, even if the wedding was done for the family, it’s done for the family to celebrate. That doesn’t mean you must indulge the whims of a toddler trapped in an adult woman’s body.)
I’m gonna reiterate since there are people here who feel like the LW has no right to boundaries or to expect a sister in her 30’s (at the least) could act like a fucking adult:
Crying in the bathroom and putting the bride in the middle of whatever agita is going on between your and your mom on the bride’s wedding day is shitty.
Saying you’re not mad anymore (after tearing the bride apart for not reading your mind), and then sending a ragey email to mom about how she should have “made” the bride name her as second MOH is shitty.
Having a wedding so family can celebrate is a nice gesture. That doesn’t mean that the bride has no right to boundaries and has to capitulate to every demand or whim every family member has. Where does this end? What if younger sister freaked out at the insult of having a second MOH? What if another sibling freaked out and said it was wrong, wrong WRONG? What if a few family members decided the venue wasn’t up to their liking? Jesus H. Christ, there has to be a limit.
A 30-(or 40)-something who freaks out about not being named MOH would find another grievance to nurse if she got named second MOH.
The LW was not being hurtful. The LW was not being cruel. The LW was harried and stressed and dealing with some people who have a fuzzy sense of boundaries.
“Can we extend some compassion to the older sister?” If she acted like a mature adult, wrote to CA and said “How do I deal with my disappointment and get over this?” I’d have compassion. My limit is when the older sister throws tantrums, does not speak to the LW for three months, throws tantrums, and then cuts off all contact for two years and counting because she didn’t get to be MOH too. Work that shit out in therapy. Whatever issues she has with the mom or the family aren’t the LW’s fault and it beyond shitty that the LW is expected to pay for this and be her emotional caretaker/scapegoat. That’s bullshit.
In Prince’s name,
That was kind of my interpretation, too, not that LW was the Favored Child but that LW’s sister was, and was used to getting everything she wanted and expected everyone to read her mind.
Honestly, the sister could have eliminated this whole problem by either a. TELLING LW that she wanted to be involved or b. sucking it up and dealing with her feelings like an adult (i.e., her problem, not everyone else’s). Getting their mother involved? That’s a shitty thing to do, too.
The fact is, there is some amount of drama involved in any celebration like this. Trying to avoid it (as I imagine the sister was thinking she was doing by involving their mother) just sends it underground to explode somewhere else. (Admittedly, this is the charitable interpretation.)
LW might have asked rather than assumed, but at the same time, LW didn’t want the wedding in the first place, but she was stuck with making all the decisions anyway (and Great Cat help her if she made the “wrong” one, according to those who did want the wedding). There was no winning move here for LW. But the sister could have made this a great deal easier if she’d wanted to. Obviously, she didn’t want to.
*clap clap clap*
Honestly i thought the exact same thing but the tone of the comments seemed to be “what if the sister was feeling x” so i chickened out before i commented lmao
THANK YOU. Honestly, some of the “but faaaaamily!” BS in this thread has been mindblowing.
I have a sister. I did not make her a bridesmaid at my wedding. She became the official videographer. No drama. The end.
At our wedding, we told everyone we had three priorities, in this order: 1. We get married. 2. We have a good time. 3. Everyone else has a good time. There was some good-natured ribbing about the guests coming third, but no one seriously suggested that their wishes should take priority over the actual people getting married.
What is it about weddings that brings out such bizarre behaviour in people? I include myself in this – I was hurt/miffed, way back in the 70s, when a long-time friend didn’t ask me to be a bridesmaid at hers. Never mind that the yellow dress would have made me look like a bilious lime. Never mind the time consuming rituals of organizing showers. I felt somehow “less than” for not being asked.
Nonetheless, I got over it. Someone who still hasn’t gotten over it, two years later, is way too focused on herself. I agree that she’d have somehow made the wedding about her. Asking her mother to “make” the bride have two MOHs was just way over the top. Whose wedding was this, anyway?
“Bilious lime” is the best thing I’ve read today – brilliant!
To the LW: I hear all of this so much.
1. Don’t let this become your memory of your wedding. My sister was an absolute mess and it’s easy to think back on the wedding day and all the things that she did that made me want to scream. It’s harder to re-focus on all the wonderful people that were there and the wonderful moments, but really try to train your brain.
2. Once when I was 32 my mom said, “Well you said such and such to your sister and she thinks….” and I said to my mom, well she’s 29 and I’m 32, why are you and I having this conversation? And there was dead silence on the other end of the phone and if I had a gif of frolicking through the fields I would post it. It just hit me all at once. IGNORE THE SPIDER.
Great points, Megsammor, but in regards to “Don’t let this become your memory of your wedding”:
Sometimes you can’t help it. Especially if you get stuck playing peacemaker on a day that should have been about you. If the LW manages to retell the narrative of her wedding like you refocused yours, gold star (actually, gold stars for both of you), but she shouldn’t feel bad if that proves to be impossible.
What I did when it proved impossible to refocus my narrative around my graduations (both high-school and college, spent both mediating between Messily Divorced Parents instead of having fun with lovely people) was this: I acknowledged the anger and frustration (“I did *not* deserve that on my graduation day!”) and used them to cement a decision for future Special Days (“Mom, Dad, when and if I get married, you two are not attending the ceremony at the same time, and that’s final”).
If the LW is unable to refocus her wedding memories, maybe she can take the lingering anger and hurt and use them to fuel her when drawing a controversial boundary? For example: “No, Mom, I’m not reconciling with Older Sister” or “Older Sister, you and Mom will be civil to each other during Thanksgiving, or so help me God!”, or whatever is appropriate for the situation. Even if the wedding ended up being an unmitigated mess, it doesn’t have to end up as an *useless*, unmitigated mess.
B. Are we related? I also had the fun of, at least at my college graduation, playing mediator between Divorced Parents (to the point where I actually had to ask my friend to sit between them during the ceremony, like they were children in the backseat of a car that couldn’t be trusted to leave each other alone). The entire event was plagued by fighting and tears (mine, because I was just SO MAD), threats of leaving and just not going (by my mother), and other bs. I wished I could have skipped it altogether.
For that reason when/if I get married – neither is invited. They can’t be trusted, and frankly I’d rather enjoy my wedding day without them.
But then, I don’t much have a relationship with any of my family any more, so it would be fairly easy to get married and have no one find out for years as long as I didn’t post it to FB!
B. Are we related? I also had the fun of, at least at my college graduation, playing mediator between Divorced Parents (to the point where I actually had to ask my friend to sit between them during the ceremony, like they were children in the backseat of a car that couldn’t be trusted to leave each other alone). The entire event was plagued by fighting and tears (mine, because I was just SO MAD), threats of leaving and just not going (by my mother), and other bs. I wished I could have skipped it altogether.
For that reason when/if I get married – neither is invited. They can’t be trusted, and frankly I’d rather enjoy my wedding day without them.
But then, I don’t much have a relationship with any of my family any more, so it would be fairly easy to get married and have no one find out for years as long as I didn’t post it to FB!
(P.S. Apologies if I’ve tried to post this twice, had some login issues – mainly that I didn’t remember my psswd!)
*Virtual fistbump of solidarity*
Hey, we could start a club! Each member would have to provide a harrowing story or a script for managing difficult parents in order to enter, and could ask others to ruin interference on select ocassions. There could be cookies 😀
It sounds really smart for you to disinvite them, and I’m glad it’s logistically feasible for you. Here’s to hoping for future dramaless weddings!
Dramaless weddings, here, here! Though I’m sure there’ll be some backlash when/if I ever get around to it (one of the reasons I haven’t yet – we’re all but married as is, but man, all that paperwork just doesn’t sound like something we want to do at the moment. As it is, a courthouse wedding is pretty much what we want, with maybe a small party after for dear friends).
Interference cookies – double chocolate, with macadamia nuts (chocolate dough, with chocolate chips – white and dark – and toffee chips and nuts for balance)?
It’s terrible when we can’t rely on the other adults in our lives to at least pretend niceties for a small window of time, if for no other reason then it’s Not About Them.
Oh my god, this brought up so many feelings from my own wedding. I also wanted to elope, I also got talked into having a ceremony for friends and family (though we managed to keep it small, hallelujah). In our case, though, it was my husband’s best man (old friend, not sibling) who ended up causing drama and making it about him. He decided, totally without input from us, that there needed to be a whiskey toast at our reception, despite the fact that we were having the reception at a tiny brewery where we were explicitly forbidden from bringing in our own alcohol or serving anything other than their beer (they didn’t have the license for it). He bought a GIANT thing of whiskey – like, several gallons – and it was sitting on our kitchen table when I got home from picking up my flowers, shortly before family members were supposed to arrive (wedding was at our house). I was already very stressed out by the whole weekend, and I freaked out and made him get it out of sight and swear NOT to bring it to the reception (his plan was to fill a flask for each of my husband’s male friends!).
He and his girlfriend acted polite but cool to us for the rest of the weekend, and they haven’t spoken to us since except for one email to tell us how offended they were and that they never want to have any contact with us ever again.
Basically… LW, I feel your pain, and I wish you the best at moving on and not blaming yourself for drama that sounds like it really wasn’t your responsibility.
What a terrible punishment that must have been, to no longer speak to someone like that. My sympathies! 😉
Other complaints: while getting ready for the wedding, we “sent him away” to buy a bottle of wine to “get rid of him” (actually, he pointed out that the name of the winery on the bottle we were going to use in our Jewish wedding ceremony translated to something like “bad luck,” so my husband asked if he’d be willing to go to the grocery store A BLOCK FROM OUR HOUSE to pick up a different one, and instead he inexplicably decided to go to a WalMart fifteen minutes down the highway); we were insufficiently happy to see them when they stopped by the morning after the wedding to tell us goodbye (we were exhausted from the whole weekend and wanted to be alone together rather than hanging out with them, how awful, I guess).
And this guy is in all of my wedding photos. Sigh.
How unsurprising that this boor would intrude on your honeymoon by stopping by the day after the wedding!
*gets caught on a detail*
There’s a wine – no, a winery – whose name means bad luck?
What is it?
Inquiring wines – minds – want to know!
Now that I think about it, I think it was a Latin word that he (the boorish best man) claimed meant “I have loved,” like past tense, and he suggested that would be bad luck. It’s a local winery in our area, I don’t think it’s distributed nationwide.
If it meant “I have loved” it would have to be “amavi”.
LW, you most certainly did *not* wrong your sister. Whatever happened, it wasn’t about your bridal party.
I like the idea of telling your sister that you thought you were doing her a favor by sparing her the wedding follies.
Okay, let’s start with the basics here: this happened two years ago, and there’s nothing you can do from here to fix what happened back then (unless you’re holding out on everyone and you *do* happen to have a time machine handy). So, on the one hand, there is nothing to be gained from brooding over this particular thing except endless drama and fuss.
For the future, you have learned the following:
1) If you’re having an event, do NOT outsource the planning to your mother, unless you actually want another such drama-laden incident to be used as fodder for family arguments forever after. Keep this in mind for things such as christenings, children’s birthday parties, and big family events like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
2) Your older sister is not emotionally mature, carries grudges, and sulks. From the description you’ve given of her, she doesn’t sound like a pleasant person to be around (and no doubt she works this into her internal drama – “nobody likes meeeeee”). What she needs most of all is a good solid dose of therapy. Until she gets this (and at present you are NOT the person who should be suggesting it) she is going to remain an emotional toddler. Go look up methods of dealing with small children throwing tantrums in public, and adapt to suit for the next such incident.
3) In future, if your first instinct is not to have a big “event” for some lifetime milestone, you should probably go with that instinct. Sounds like you have good ones (and you know your family).
I second the Captain on the ideas of forgiving yourself for the events, and also second the notion of pointing out to your sister that there is nothing which can be done about the matter now. If you’re really keen on building bridges, ask her what she wants done about the matter here and now (and be prepared to point out the lack of a time machine if necessary). Otherwise, leave her to enjoy her sulks in peace, and wait for her to rejoin the adult world when she’s ready. (This includes ignoring “helpful” messages relayed to you on her behalf by other relatives).
It sounds to me like the big sin here was neither having nor not-having your sister as a MOH, but the Lack of Clear Communication With Concerned Parties. The lesson here is if you are planning something, and the feelings of others are involved, talk to them. A four-line email about how you want a small wedding with only one Best Man and only one Maid of Honour and no other maids or men, and how do they feel about it, and what other roles might anyone like to play in the wedding – usher,videographer, singing a song, Uncle Creepy minder, etc., could have spared you a ton of grief!
Weddings are times to celebrate a new stage in your relationship with those you care about- not the time to stress over everyone else’s happiness. For mine, on my wedding day, I only stressed finding my groom’s ring when it rolled off the pillow (found out in time! ) because I had made the tough decision to tell my older brother he couldn’t be in the wedding (he was way too unreliable with personal issues) even though this also meant his daughter wouldn’t be my flower girl. With how his life was then, I could not have handled the stress of not knowing whether he’d even show up for the wedding. To his credit, he understood and did attend without complaint. 6 years later, we have a better relationship than ever, both of us having apologized for many things. I hope you and your older sister are able to move past this, however that happens.
Pretty much agree with what the Cap says. But . . . I’m the oldest in my family. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like the weird outsider in things. I’ve been hurt by family unthinkingly leaving me out of things. To the point they don’t even realize they’ve left me out or hurt me with the lack of invitation. (I don’t believe it to be malicious) It’s never fair to hold grudges on that, IMO–but there can be a lot of hurt that is probably not intended. I’d offer the perspective that if your sister’s willing to consider mending fences, and if you want to mend them with her, make sure she knows she’s important to you to. Sometimes it doesn’t take being maid of honor, it just takes knowing you’re not an afterthought or an obligation. No idea if that is the case here, but I do know that letting people know they matter can cut through a lot.
That was what I was trying to say, just phrased much, much better.
Without knowing more about the family dynamic, I find it hard to be as harsh as others on the older sister. Not excusing her actions, she shouldn’t have behaved the way she did. However, I’ve been through this and I know how much it hurts to be the one *always* forgotten/excluded/not invited/not considered. The LW didn’t intend to make her feel like that, and she did try to make it up to her sister. This isn’t about the wedding– that was just the catalyst for things that were already there.
Maybe the lack of communication isn’t the silent treatment or a grudge, but older sister bowing out of interactions where she knows she’s an extra party. Of course, that could TOTALLY be projection on my part, and she is just selfish and into the drama.
Yeah, I had a similar reaction. In family lore, my mom got mad that her sister didn’t use napkins my mother purchased at my cousin’s first communion. What actually happened is that my mom was hurt that (a) she wasn’t even told about or invited to the event (The family is uber Catholic and this is typically something she would have been invited to) because everyone just assumed she knew about it (even though we lived out of state) and (b) this came right on the heels of my grandmother not telling her that my grandfather had moved out and filed for divorce, even though all five of my mom’s sisters knew. My mom is the “weird outsider” in her family who is regularly excluded from sisters’ weekends and it’s very hurtful to her.
I absolutely agree that sister should have behaved better. But the degree to which their mom was involved in mediating their communication (and in dictating that the wedding happen in the first place) makes me think there’s some other dynamic going on. That said, LW can’t be responsible for how her mother acts any more than how her sister feels, and it’s not really her responsibility to solve this bigger dynamic, shoul dit exist.
I assume that not being asked was somehow the last straw for the sister, or felt like confirmation of something she already felt or feared. If they had a healthy relationship before that, it would have withstood that. To me only an already precarious relationship would be so damaged by that.
So no, it wasn’t ‘wrong’ to not ask her to be maid of honour, but it apparently hit a sore spot or old injury somehow.
The real question now is, does the LW miss her sister? Does she want to reconcile and try to build a relationship now, in the present?
By ‘that’ I mean not being asked to play the role she had hoped to play, I mean. If they had had a strong relationshiop, the sister might have been hurt or sad but I just don’t think it would have been so big a deal or that it would have caused a big separation between them.
JADP, but when my boyfriend’s daughter got married, her sister wasn’t her MOH, and they were *twins* and very close. The MOH was her best friend, and the twin was a bridesmaid, and everyone was happy.
The tiny bit of drama we had is that MOB was apparently a bit uptight that I would be there (though they’d been divorced for years), and bride was concerned about MOB bringing her boyfriend, having him sit at the head table, etc. I of course immediately offered to bow out of attending, just to make peace, but the bride wouldn’t hear of it, and all in all everything ended up fine. (And no, I didn’t sit at the head table, either, and I understood why.)
If your sister was willing to remove herself from your life for two years because you didn’t extend a ceremonial role to her, you probably made the right choice in not having her be your maid of honor.
I don’t think you wronged your sister by not choosing her as MOH – I live in the UK, so it may be different here, but I think if the rule of older-sister-must-be-MOH was set in stone where you live, your younger sister and your mum would have said so when you proposed something different.
I slightly wonder about the angry email. My daughter got married in July, and it was lovely, but in the immediate aftermath we were exhausted, and – i don’t know – there was a flat feeling at points.
For the record, I think the crying in the bathroom is normalish: my sister locked herself in the bathroom for some time at my daughter’s reception, and had a huge crying jag afterwards (she doesn’t find gatherings easy) – but you shouldn’t have been made aware of it, and when you found out others should have ensured that it was not your problem to deal with. (My daughter didn’t know about my sister, and while I spent a little time with my sister calming her down my older sister quickly took over, because it was better that I was free to enjoy the day.) I think your mum and younger sister also failed you there.
So I’m wondering if in the email, because you were exhausted and rightfully frustrated that the day you didn’t want was a trial rather than a celebration, you said more that you might have in normal times. Equally, your sister may have read more into it than you said, because she was feeling very emotional.
(I think my mind goes along these lines because my sister-who-doesn’t-do-events does sometimes send me horrible emails afterwards – “I felt so unwelcome because…”. I don’t think she realises her feeling of discomfort during events is internally generated, so she sees it as coming from an external source, and blames the host for her reaction )
I’d suggest you revisit the email, just to be sure that you didn’t, in the moment, say anything that you now feel wasn’t fair.(Even if you did: that’s okay, it would be really normal to do that – she behaved badly, not you. I’m not comparing your email to my sister’s – your stress absolutely came from external sources.) And then if there’s anything you want to retract you could do that, and if not, not. Then let it go.
My mum always told great stories about her wedding. It sounded completely dreadful. Her older sister cried from the moment she announced her engagement, refused to say if she’d be bridesmaid until the week before, picked out a wedding dress my mum hated, but wore (see continuous crying) etc, etc.
The marriage, however, was entirely happy, and as the children of the marriage we only benefited from my mother’s experience, because she saw weddings as a necessary evil, and didn’t mind what we did at all. I hope your marriage is as happy.
People advising LW to reach out to her older sister are overlooking that her sister said “don’t contact me.” I assume this is why the LW has no plan for reconciling: I can’t see a way to plan a reconciliation with someone who has asked not to be contacted.
The Captain’s scripts fit with this: they are things the LW might say if Sister contacts her, and suggestions for telling her mother to stop trying to get in the middle, and possibly making things worse by doing so.
We all have some weird stories about weddings. I was “mad” at my sister for picking her dress without me. I am literally her only sister and she just went ahead and selected her dress without my help. To myself in the past: How was she supposed to know I wanted to be a part of that if I never said so???????????????
I cannot hold a grudge for that long for something that unreasonable. It is not her fault. She didn’t know. Also, she looked fab.
LW, you didn’t know either. You don’t have the power to read minds, and even if you did, it was YOUR wedding. No obligation to do anything you don’t want to… including having more than one MOH. Forgive yourself, offer peace to the sister once more and call it a day.
You cannot be asking for forgiveness (?!) for this one thing forever.
LW, I have an older sibling who has spent most of his life angry at me for various “reasons.” The “reasons” are vast, mysterious, ever-changing, impossible to fix, and impossible to apologize for.
The “reasons” have included, variously: giving my dad an art book to give to him, quitting a job because I didn’t like it, going on a few dates with a guy that my brother knew, going to his concerts, not going to his concerts, having depression, getting help for depression, taking antidepressants, not caring enough about fitness, having a haircut he didn’t like, wanting to be left alone, refusing to agree that our parents abused us (they did not), majoring in English, going to grad school, getting along with my parents, having friends, refusing to tolerate being treated as a literal and/or metaphorical punching bag, not wanting to listen to his harangues on libertarianism, the Red Pill, feminism, refusing to acknowledge that women really have all the power and guys just get taken advantage of all the time…….
I could go on, but you get the idea.
I strongly suspect that for whatever reason you have a dynamic whereby your sister has made it IMPOSSIBLE for you two to be reconciled, because no matter what you do now or what you did then, it was not about fixing the situation and giving her her way, it was about her having a “reason” to be angry and punish you.
I am not discounting that her not being Maid of Honor hurt her feelings. I am sure the things I mentioned about hurt my brother’s feelings. But! I have accepted that there is not way for me to repair our relationship because he actually doesn’t want the relationship to be repaired. He wants to remain forever the wronged one and for me to be forever the evil villain.
I have opted out of this dynamic and I do not have a relationship with him anymore, and that’s fine! I’m fine with it. I am very fortunate in that my parents understand what a shithead he is and they do not pressure me at all to have a relationship with him or ever pull the “but faaaaaaaaaaamily” card and I understand that that is RARE, and I am forever grateful that they don’t deny that he really is just an asshole.
My best advice to you is to find peace with the situation, not seek for peace with your sister. You may never get it. You did nothing wrong.
LW, this could be a mirror image of my sister’s wedding. My sister, with our mother’s input, insisted on arranging the wedding so that all siblings could be there (no “sorry I can’t make the date” possible), and then asked me to be a bridesmaid in place of one of her close friends. (She had a limit of 8 bridesmaids. That was all that would fit in the space available.) Now, my sister and I have never been close: there’s a significant age gap between us and we share no common interests. To add to the awkward, I’m queer, and at the time was in a long-term but not married relationship that our mother had asked us to be discreet about for the sake of elderly relatives. (This was all before same-sex marriage was legal, or even imaginable.) Sister phrased the request as “really wanting me to be part of the party,” so I felt it was impossible to be totally honest without hurting her – I would really rather not be part of the ceremony. I told her I was honored, but would not be at all offended if she would prefer to have one of her close college friends instead. She insisted that she wanted me, while at the same time being vocally disappointed that the remaining close college friends weren’t part of the party.
It was an ok wedding. The enormous thunderstorms only flooded the neighboring town, so we watched the disaster snug and dry in the hotel bar. I found out afterward that my mother had said something about it looking weird if I wasn’t part of the wedding party, and that my sister had decided from that that I would be mortally offended if I wasn’t included. In fact, the truth was that I would have preferred not being part of the wedding party, and would have been glad to give up my place to someone closer to the bride. My lesson from this? Don’t act on what I think someone’s feelings are, find out for sure. It’s actually been important and helpful as our parents age and us sibling have to coordinate elder care.
Going forward, I think the Captain has some good scripts. Seems to me it’s really your call what you want to do with this, and that’s not really a bad place to be in.
LW here. Thank you all. I really appreciate your kind feedback. A few more thoughts…
CA is right in that there is some primal stuff going on here about my sister feeling like an outsider. She’s technically my half sister, and she was raised by my (then) single mother until she was 11. My younger sister & I were born two years apart. I know it must’ve been really hard to go through divorce, have only 1 parent for several years, then a new dad, then two younger sister babies who probably sucked away mom’s attention like leeches just as she was turning into a teenager. But I have never thought of her as my “half” sister and, up until the past few years, I worshipped the ground she walked on.
The feedback here has made me realize that my older sister has put one big guilt trip on me my entire life, and that’s not OK. My earliest memory of this was when I was in middle school and my was sister driving us somewhere, crying because she didn’t want to invite her biological father to her wedding, me saying I’m sorry, her saying “you don’t know what it feels like, you’ve never had to go through this…” She’s often pointed out differences in our respective childhoods throughout the years (mine being better than hers, etc), and this has always made me feel guilty as hell.
So anyway, there are definitely stronger family currents in play here that had been brewing underground for years. I was sort of aware of it at the time of my wedding, but not that much. *I* certainly never thought of my older sister as an outsider, and it makes me really sad to think she’s sees herself this way. So, I am going to continue to internalize what CA said, “My wedding was not created to fix my family.”
Btw, my mom is actually a lovely person. Imperfect, with issues of her own? Absolutely. Pushy, with unrealistic familial expectations? Hell yes. But I can forgive her, because she means well and does back off when I push back. I would’ve disappointed a lot of people if I hadn’t had a wedding, not just my mom.
But, if someone does find a time machine, please lend it to me b/c I’m going to go back and get eloped in Vegas in a Belle princess costume. My husband will be the Beast, obviously. And no one will be invited.
LW – there’s always vow renewal/anniversaries at some point in the future, so you and Beast!Husband (awesome!) can make some memories all to yourselves!
Well, you’ve just explained a big part of why your older sister was upset: she perceived your choice of bridesmaid as a statement that you only wanted your “real” sister, and real sister is not Older Sister.
But as other commenters have pointed out: the issue now is what sort of relationship you want to have going forward.
So maybe think about that.
I have two thoughts to leave you with:
1. Try to communicate directly with Older Sister, rather than through your mother
2. If at any point you do apologize (and the Captain is right, we often have to choose between winning and reconciliation, and sometimes an apology opens the way to reconciliation), try not to include an explanation, or the word “but”. These tend to turn the apology into an excuse.
Examples: I’m sorry I did X but I meant Y
People hear that as I meant well and you’re a cry baby.
I thought you felt X
People hear that as You are wrong for not reading my mind and correcting my assumptions
I don’t think you did anything wrong 2 years ago. I hope you and your sisters develop relationships that make you happy. Jedi hugs if you want them.
Thank you for the Jedi hugs.
The perspective I have now wasn’t something I had at the time of my wedding. I was genuinely shocked she was upset about my MOH choice. I didn’t think she thought of herself as an outsider. If anything, my younger sister has been the overlooked one of the group for years. So I probably won’t apologize anymore. It clearly didn’t work at the time of my wedding, or at any other time in my life, for that matter.
I believe you! It was out of character as you describe her. I’m guessing you inadvertently trod on one of her emotional landmines in a field she didn’t even realize had not yet been cleared.
FWIW, a dear friend didn’t get on with her much older sibs until she was in her late thirties (and the sibs were in their mod to late 40s). Now she and her sibs are quite close.
That gives me hope! I would be very sad if we never spoke again. I just can’t make up at my own expense anymore. I’m spent, you know? But do hope that there is a day where we can have a relationship again. I do love her.
Fingers crossed for that day. (And yeah, go do the Vegas thing!)
It sounds like your sister is taking her anger at your mom out on you. Her having a more difficult childhood is not your fault. It was not your job to be the emotional caretaker of your sister as a child (and you’re still a kid in middle-school) and it’s not your job now. I sympathize that she felt left out in many things, but as you pointed out downthread, your younger sister was was overlooked a lot (and might have a bit to say about your older sister’s complaints on that score). You are not a mind-reader and you do not have to be her emotional punching bag. She needs to work this out in therapy. I hope for her sake she does.
Thanks, Sheelzebub. Everything you’ve said in the comments have been spot on. And maybe I don’t know the whole story, but from what I do know my mom (who wins the shittiest childhood award) did the best she would with the cards she was dealt. I can’t say the same about my older sister.
I also wanted to thank you for this particular comment up above: “‘Can we extend some compassion to the older sister?’ If she acted like a mature adult, wrote to CA and said “How do I deal with my disappointment and get over this?” I’d have compassion. My limit is when the older sister throws tantrums, does not speak to the LW for three months, throws tantrums, and then cuts off all contact for two years and counting because she didn’t get to be MOH too. Work that shit out in therapy. Whatever issues she has with the mom or the family aren’t the LW’s fault and it beyond shitty that the LW is expected to pay for this and be her emotional caretaker/scapegoat. That’s bullshit.”
After reading that, I was finally able to breathe.
The story in my family goes like this: The younger sisters were not supposed to marry AT ALL until the oldest sister married. Girls were supposed to go in birth order. If no one wanted to marry the older sister, too bad for the younger ones. When my grandmother wanted to marry before her older sister, her mother was so appalled that she boycotted the wedding altogether. “Take that!” seemed to be the message. (I think my grandmother was born some time around 1895 and married some time around 1920.)
With that in mind and I know I’m probably projecting all over the place, but may I guess that the older sister in this letter, the sister who is older by 11 years, the one so upset about not being maid of honor, is not married and has few prospects of ever marrying? May I further go out on a limb and guess that THAT is the root of her hurt and anger that has continued years after the wedding itself? It’s not about the particular machinations of the wedding itself. It is about the fact that you’re married, presumably happily so, and she is not.
If my guess is the case, no amount of explaining and apologizing is going to help. No amount of making her maid of the honor at the time could have helped. The only thing that would help would be to divorce and become miserable– or become miserable and then divorce. Doesn’t matter which comes first.
Sorry, I wrote the above having somehow skipped over that LW had already written in. All this is wrong. Kindly disregard.
Looking at the LW’s comments, the older sister got married when she (LW) was in middle school.
Hahahaha your Southern etiquette is great, Captain.
LW, fellow Southern here. The Captain is totally right about weddings bringing out the family funk, and I think being from the South makes it extra weird. I’m planning on not getting married, despite having a good Southern dude as my partner even, and it’s something I felt weird about for a long time. I had to change my relationship with my region of origin to make it not weird for me, and that toile therapy. You’re not alone with feels about Southern weddings.
Oh, and my impression is that you always asked your best friend to be your MOH. Screw family, your friend is for running interference with them 😉
I had the tiniest wedding ever – I literally invited my dad and his parents (my mom’s dead) and we went to the Justice of the Peace, then we spent a weekend with them and sent them home on Sunday. It was the smartest thing I ever did – no bridesmaids, no stupid matchy-matchy clothes, no complications, almost no stress. But get this! Afterwards I told my aunts who live in Colorado (I am in NY) and they had the temerity to call my dad and bitch about not being invited. I wanted to call them and go, You’re just lucky I didn’t elope, I was an inch away from it. I’m glad I never spent all that money and time on a big wedding.
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