Dear Captain Awkward,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my question! Here’s the situation: I got married nearly two years ago. For our wedding, we tried to keep things very simple and planned for two toasts, one from each side. I asked my best friend to give the toast on my side. Two days before the wedding, my Mom insisted that my brother give a toast too, since he gave a heartfelt and funny one at my sister’s wedding. I agreed, albeit just to appease her, because I love my brother and he’s a great speaker. I explained to him that I would be honored for him to speak and that Mom really wanted him to as well, and he agreed with a note that it might not be great with such short notice.
It wasn’t great. In fact, it hurt my feelings. The other toasts were sweet and funny with some loving jabs. My brother was okay at first, just some silly marriage advice. But at the end he was like “I know I’m supposed to roast my little sister: growing up, she was a poor sport and a tattletale”. The end. Nothing to blunt the jab, nothing about caring for me or that he’s happy that I found such a good match. We have never spoken about it.
If this matters, my husband agrees that it was harsh and maybe awkward. His brother roasted him HARD but did it in a way that showed how much he adores him and nothing had a sting to it.
Generally my brother and I have a good relationship. We live a few hours apart, text a little bit most weeks and see each other a few times a year. Typically we’re trying to make each other laugh or just catch up on life, but I think we could eventually be truly close.
For some reason I just can’t let this toast go. I know I’m being sensitive, but am I just being a “poor sport”? Also, I don’t know if I should talk to him about this. I mean, he DID warn me that it might not be great with such short notice. Maybe I should re-write the narrative in my mind that he tried to make a joke (based in truth) that just fell flat?
Hello Sensitive Sally,
Weddings bring out the weirdness, don’t they? It’s such an emotional time and a lot of families try to use them to spackle over the weird stuff or perform a certain kind of togetherness and closeness. The word “should” gets thrown around way too much for my personal comfort level. I also know all too well what it’s like to have that one thing someone said that isn’t true (but secretly you worry it might be kinda true) that you just can’t stop obsessing about.
I think you are suffering from a bad case of l’esprit de l’escalier or “staircase wit”: When the perfect thing to say in a situation occurs to you only after the fact. Because there was a good time to address your brother’s toast and that time was at the wedding. After the toasts you could have gone up to your brother, given him a sisterly little punch to the arm said “I’m telling Mom you said I was a poor sport, asshole!” and he would have laughed and you would have felt better and then it would have hopefully been forgotten.
But it’s been two years. Your brother was put on the spot on short notice and he didn’t do exactly what you would have liked. In the minds of the guests, if his toast was awkward, it reflected on him and not on you. It is extremely unlikely that any of them even remember what he said. Their memory of the event is most likely is “Good wedding!” And your marriage is a happy one, yes? Then you had a good wedding. So in my heart of hearts, I think it is time to let this one go.
What “letting go” looks like in practical terms:
1) Stop reliving it and chewing it over. Stop complaining about it to your husband and seeking validation about it. I hereby give you validation: It was kind of a weird thing to say in a wedding toast. You are validated!
2) Yes, rewrite this in your mind as an awkward attempt at a joke that just fell flat.
3) Enjoy the relationship you have with your brother now. Things are pretty good, right? So build on what’s good going forward. Connect over what you have in common. Be kind. Share jokes. Make good new memories to push the bad memories down.
4) What is bothering you about this really? Is it worrying that your brother doesn’t really like you? Or like you as much as he likes your sister for whom he did the great toast? Is it worrying that people think you’re “a poor sport and a tattletale”? What’s that thing that you can’t let go of? What’s the thing that is making you afraid to say “Brother this is silly, but it’s bothering me” and just clear the air already?
One possibility: This happened largely because you had a perfectly awesome plan and then your mom pressured you to override your plan in favor of her plan and her idea of what your sibling should be like. I don’t suggest talking all that over with your mom because again, it’s been two years, and “this minor thing from wedding planning is still bothering me” isn’t going to be a productive conversation. She either won’t remember or she’ll get defensive and you’ll feel even more bruised.
Even if you don’t talk about it, you can still address it in how you manage your relationship with her going forward. To do this, pay attention to times when you want something and your mom or other people in your family try to pressure you to override your wishes. If this weird wedding toast incident leads you to get better at saying “Thanks for the great suggestion, Mom, but I’m going to stick with my original plan!” it may have given you something very valuable in the end.