:Captain Awkward Opens Mailbox:

:Captain Awkward Stares At Mailbox:


Let’s talk about some stuff I know about weddings. This is probably my one wedding-related post for at least the remainder of 2019. I’m going to try to hit all the bases I know how to help with. If you don’t see your concern addressed, comments are open.

Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix your family.

Your wedding invitation list does not exist as a communication device to convey exactly who you like best and how much you like (or don’t like) someone in your family or social circle. You can leave the homophobes, Nazis, and child molesters off the guest list and you don’t have to explain yourself. Here are scripts for anyone who wants to pressure you about this:

  • “Eh, we’re not that close.”
  • He knows why.” (CN: childhood sexual abuse)
  • “But he’s a Nazi. It’s not that complicated.”
  • “Everyone will live if this one person is not at one party.”
  • “[Relative] and I do have a problem, and that’s our business. It’s not your problem to solve, so please stop trying. If you keep pressuring me about this, my problem is going to be with you. Surely you don’t want that, so let’s change the subject.”
  • “You’re going to have to drop this topic, forever.”

My general recommendation is “Invite someone or don’t, avoid half-measures,” “I want to invite X but also control and head off everything about how they behave that day” or “I want to invite X on the condition that we work out everything that is fraught and stressful between us during wedding planning, a fraught and stressful process in itself” is a setup for stress and failure. If this person sucks and makes you uncomfortable? You can not invite them. If the stress of not inviting them is greater than the stress of just giving in, consider that you can invite them and plan to give them a wide berth. There will other guests, brides & grooms are in demand, maybe don’t think of it as “Many hours trapped with this difficult person and our unresolved issues,” think of it as “I’ll spend a quick few minutes of  accepting congratulations from someone I don’t like so much before I get distracted with someone else.” People say weddings are a blur and they are right, it’s actually a challenge to slow down and pay attention to every single person, so let the blur work for you! But it’s my strong opinion that half-measures are doomed.

This is because you can’t change people or fix them. People in your family who annoy you will go right on annoying you on and after your wedding day. You can sometimes create buffers against jerks but you can’t control them, and the things that are fucked up in your family will still be messy at your wedding. Sometimes people can rally and behave themselves for one photo op, I hope that’s the case, sometimes people can surprise you with how decent and loving they can be even if things are messy in the relationship, but if they don’t, nobody at your wedding will blame you. Your guests just want to be happy for you and with you, everyone’s related to at least one total asshole, one story-topper, one person who laughs at their own jokes, one person who can’t hold their liquor. Your guests know the deal and they don’t expect you or anyone else to be perfect!

Your wedding (esp. your wedding party, if you have one) doesn’t exist to fix your friendships, either.

People can be great friends and shit bridesmen and groomsmaids. What is it that you want your wedding party to do? Who in your life that you love is best set up to do what you need them to do? Do you need a wedding party at all? It’s possible that charming, loyal, delightful friend who would give you a kidney but can’t be trusted not to kill a succulent in their care is not the one you want as your logistical XO for a complicated affair, but maybe you want them around anyway for Dionysian hilarity. Set people up to succeed.

“Be in my wedding party?” is an invitation, not a command. So be respectful and up front about budget & time commitments. Let “So sorry, I can’t, but I’d love to celebrate as a guest!” be a good, happy, loving answer when it is the honest answer. Also, don’t expect people to read your mind if there’s something you want them to do, you might have a playbook in mind but it’s far from universal, so spell it out! Help people make a good decision, help people give you what you want and need.

Friends/Family of engaged people: You’re allowed to answer “Will you be in my wedding?” with “Theoretically I’d love to but can you spell out what that looks like for you so I can make sure I can follow through?” before committing. You can say no and you can resign from being in a wedding party. Will it affect your relationship with the person who asked you? Probably? Yes? You still don’t have to go broke or tie yourself in knots to meet impossible tasks. This is one of those times to check in with yourself and give an enthusiastic, committed, excited YES or a NOPE, SORRY. Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between or make it a constant negotiation.

Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix your (or anyone else’s) body.

You are lovable and beautiful at the weight you are now and with the personal style you have now. You can obviously use your wedding attire to experiment and play with different looks – ROCK ON, FANTASY GOTH UNICORN PIRATE QUEENS OF THE WORLD – but you do not have to become a different person to take up the space marked “bride” or “groom.” “I don’t plan on losing any weight” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say to people who expect you to starve and sculpt and spray and disguise your body.

For people nervous about being photographed and looked at in a way they aren’t usually, one thing that helped me was taking lots of selfies and having friends take lots of casual photos of me in the months before my wedding, so the whole act of photography was normalized, and my view of my body and face was normalized for me. I also talked to my photographer about this, telling him “I get anxious with a lot of posed photos, can we knock those out and then you can shoot documentary style so I don’t have to stop and worry about it”‘ and he was like “YES” and it worked out great. Be kind to yourself and your body, ok?

Be kind to other people about their bodies, too. “I want you to be in my wedding, but only if you change your weight, get rid of your piercings and tattoos, and modify everything about your face and body so you look more like the other people” = a crappy invitation! Either work WITH your most punk rock friend to find something that they can flaunt as they are, or ask someone else to pose beside you in photos. 

“I want you to be in/at my wedding, but only if you cover up how queer/trans you are” is an abomination. Do not do this. YOUR SHITTY OLD RELATIVES WILL FUCKING DEAL, they can tamp down their prejudices for one day, and if they can’t, they should be disinvited. Like, if the mere reminder that queer people exist is upsetting enough to kill Grandma, I gotta consider that it was just her time to go.

Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix your romantic relationship with your intended spouse.

Problems and doubts that exist before you get married will exist after you get married. They don’t just solve themselves, you have to solve them, together, you have to trust this person to solve them with you in a transparent way. Nobody gets magically better in bed, better at money, better at household chores, better at communication b/c a wedding ceremony happened. “I do all the household chores now, but after we get married it will naturally become 50/50” is 100% magical thinking. People change slow if they change at all, they almost never do it for you or another person. If your church or officiant has some kind of premarital counseling, take advantage of it. If not, bring on a couple’s counselor. Work this stuff out now, while everyone is hopeful and invested.

Wedding planning can be an interesting crucible to see how you execute complicated things as a team. If you’re arguing a lot about party planning details, if your intended spouse cannot be trusted to handle wedding planning tasks without tons of input and work from you or if they won’t let you take charge without micromanaging? ABORT & REGROUP. I’m not talking about joint discussion and budget and planning to make sure you’re on the same page, I’m not even talking about never arguing (Is rice a grain or a seed?), I’m talking about a situation where you end up having to check on a fellow adult and do all the work yourself and you’re constantly bummed out because the person who is supposed to be on your team is the one adding stress to your life. Either you need practice letting go of control or your spouse needs to show more ability and follow-through or y’all need more clarity between you, either way, figure this out before you legally combine all your money and your stuff with this person.

If you can’t be a united front about wedding planning stress, postpone the party, seek counseling, work out the issues between you. You need that person to be on your side and they need to be on yours. You need to trust them and they need to trust you. If you don’t have that, abort!

Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix everyone’s feelings.

Planning a wedding means making decisions. Not every decision is going to make every person in your life happy. You have to decide anyway.

There is literally no guaranteed way to deliver news that someone doesn’t want to hear “without offending them,” “without hurting their feelings,” “without making it awkward,” “without upsetting them.”

There is no script, there is no font, there is no “I’m fat and gay and poor and also I don’t like your church or your country club or Grandma’s veil so we’re taking this whole wedding thing in a totally different direction from the one you imagined your child would follow someday, but I’m so happy and I hope you can be happy for me, and if you can’t, keep it to yourself ’cause this is the plan anyway even if you don’t like it!” singing telegram that can control how someone will feel about or react to news they don’t want to hear. It doesn’t exist. I can suggest wording for scripts, I can cheerlead you, but I can’t make your relatives feel a certain way about your decisions or make the especially difficult ones behave themselves this one time. It’s out of my hands the same way it’s out of yours. Other people are gonna say, do, feel what they’re gonna do. Your job isn’t to manage that, it’s to act with integrity, make decisions, and communicate those decisions with integrity and let the rest be what it is.

If you say “no” as politely as you can or make some other decision and someone has feelings about it, but you know that you’ve made the right decision for you, it’s time to stop trying to anticipate or manage or soothe their feelings away. People get to feel their feelings. They don’t get to be assholes to you. You get to set boundaries about how much you want to or can absorb their feelings. You get to tell people “Ok but this is what we decided,” use the “Sorry you feel that way, I know that this is what’s right for me, you’re very loved and important to me so I hope you’ll be able to celebrate with us on the day” non-apology and then put the thing to bed. 

Consider that people who use your happy life events as an excuse to pressure, berate, blame, or try to control you or otherwise unload a bunch of negative feelings in your direction are marking themselves out as people who deserve minimal information and can expect to forgo any expectation they might have had of reasonable discussion. These people get put on an information diet, they get an invitation in the mail (if they get invited at all), they get a blanket “Oh, thanks for the input but we already decided that,” they get no more discussions of decisions that are in process, only communication of decisions that have been made jointly by you and your future spouse.

Invitations aren’t commands and traditions are not commandments. 

Invitations aren’t commands. At a certain point, someone’s attendance or non-attendance is more about “do I gotta rent u a chair or no” than it is about anything else. People have their own reasons for not being able to travel or show up. Try to celebrate with the people who can make it, the ones who did make it. It’s okay to be very sad if someone won’t join you, but to me, that’s an invitation to connect with them in other ways and make sure they know you’re important to them and that you love them in long-term ways over time (and vice versa), not a time to exert pressure. I’ve missed my share of weddings b/c it was “awesome party vs. rent/food/health.” My good relationships stayed good, even when I missed the celebrations. The ones that apparently demanded choosing unaffordable travel over my own well-being have drifted, and I don’t think that being one of many faces in the crowd on a certain day was the thing that made the difference. If it did? We’re going to have to live with that. I still made the right decision for me.

If someone elopes, trust that they had their reasons. Are you happy for them? Then be happy for them knowing that you’ve got the next 60+ years to be happy for them. You weren’t Left Out of anything, it wasn’t about you.

Traditions – which I recently saw defined as “peer pressure from dead people” – can be beautiful and important but they aren’t everything. They can be remixed and adopted selectively in a way that works for you. Nobody has to walk anyone down an aisle. Consider that anyone who tries to pressure you (“But you have to have _________ kind of food/drink/tchotchkes/toast/dance/bouquet toss/level of fanciness/a white poofy dress/church ceremony/decoration”) is free to have exactly what they like at their own, personal wedding. Their fantasies about what weddings are supposed to be like are not binding rules for you. If traditions are stressing you out and causing a lot of arguments, “Why are we even doing [tradition]” is a great question. Maybe it’s time to list out all the traditions in the families of both spouses, and opt into them one-by-one as it suits you instead of accepting a template.

You’re also allowed to enthusiastically embrace what’s traditional, there is no need to reinvent everything with the right amount of Pinteresting “authenticity.” “Parents/grandparents, I have no idea what I’m doing, what is the usual thing our family does about weddings, lay it on me!” can be a relief. Probably nobody is immune from the pressures of tradition, family dynamics, marketing or the Wedding Industrial Complex, you don’t have to make everything a life-or-death negotiation with The System to show how original you are. Templates can be incredibly useful!

If you are a lady-person marrying a man-person, people will expect you to have tons of opinions, fantasies, and be doing all the work. They will project all kinds of cultural bullshit onto you, and you probably can’t escape the maelstrom entirely, but you don’t have to accept it. The phrases “Oh, thanks for the suggestion, I’ll run it by my partner in case they have something specific in mind,” and “Ask partner, they are handling the food & music” can be a godsend. Also, YMMV, but sometimes reminding myself that planning a single party was not the sole creative act of my adult life and that said party did not have to communicate Who I Am Both As A Bride And A Woman, Plus Honor Everything About Two Families Including Honored Traditions And Exact Markers of Social Class, Especially Considering That I Create Other Stuff And My Chosen Medium For Expressing My Creative Vision Is Generally Not Napkin Colors was a healthy perspective-resetter.

Weddings cost money. How much & what you spend it on is up to you.

Even if you elope, the license and ceremony still cost some money. If you want to have other people there, you gotta budget, since throwing a celebration that is comfortable and enjoyable for guests costs at least some money. “We’re going to the courthouse and then for brunch after” = you still gotta think about stuff like accessible bathrooms, climate control, comfortable seating, all that stuff.

It’s okay to want a big fancy party, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s silly or you’re breaking Feminism or whatever. It’s also okay to want to be rustic and keep it simple, but consider truthfully whether your frail elderly relatives want to go camping in the woods with you. I reject shaming on both ends of the frugality spectrum, the “How dare you not have an ice sculpture on a yacht named after the diamond mine your grandparents left you” crowd and the “Well, I wove my own wedding dress out of cobwebs and gasoline-soaked rags I picked out of the trash over a series of months, unlike all the shallow, basic people who spent more than $3.50 on their crass, inauthentic parties which could never match my unique and perfect love” crowd are equally irritating in my opinion. Especially since the “Our relatives made manicotti and we chilled in the back yard with some beer and soft drinks” weddings and “There was a swank catered affair at a historic site, everyone looked amazing!” weddings I’ve been to all run together as “awesome weddings where people I love married someone they loved and we celebrated!” in hindsight.

Don’t let anybody shame you about doing what you can afford and what will make you happy or set you up to compete about this, okay? I know I’m more in the “it’s one party, not your whole relationship or life” camp, but it is an important occasion if it’s important to you, please don’t let anyone shame you about caring about a big deal event in your life. Especially given the sexist double-bind of “You must execute this perfectly, female human” and “You’re a selfish trivial asshole for caring about a thing your entire culture is pressuring you to execute perfectly” is a real one. I want to empower people to push back against expectations like this and outright evade them, but I’m not going to pretend that they don’t exist or that they didn’t affect me.

It’s great when families offer to pay for weddings, it can be such a lovely, generous gift, as long as you know that money with strings attached – money that is dangled as an excuse to control and abuse you – is very expensive money. You know best if this is the kind of money your family usually offers you, chances are if it’s how they’ve offered money in every other circumstance before, your wedding isn’t going to change that. You’re allowed to accept the money and still do what you want with your wedding, you’re allowed to negotiate compromises as you can, please consider how important “Big Dream Wedding” vs. “Thanks But No Thanks, I’ll Handle It Myself” is to you. Giving an abuser the power of the purse is going to take a toll on you. Is it worth it? 

Wrap-Up Recommendations

Vendors who work on weddings professionally can roll with dysfunction, they do it all the time. Coordinators, planners, and photographers can be buffers, they know all about directives like “Spouse’s parents divorced, so while we want one or two shots of both parents + newlyweds, you should also photograph them separately.”  Ooh, also, it’s easier to take a few giant group shots that include some of your not-so-favorite relatives or your sibling’s shitty date that you hope to never see again and dispatch them to the bar or buffet while you whittle things down to smaller, specific groupings than it is to constantly be like “you, you, NOT you.” Be strategic, let any pros you’ve hired help you, they’ve heard it alllllllllllllllllllllll before.

If you have questions about specific wedding etiquette or traditions beyond “Be nice to people and don’t try to manage everyone’s feelings,” good news! Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding were great resources for me, a person who had no idea what I was doing and who was not rich or particularly attached to traditional weddings. If you don’t know about them, now you do. 

Comments are open, bring us your wedding grievances, bring us your wedding sanity-savers, bring us your tales of things you worried about that went just fine in the end, bring us your disasters – planned & unplanned – and how you handled it all. If you sent me a recent wedding question and do not see anything here that answers your specific issue, these comments are open for you to get some peer support, too!

Now, before we go, say it with me, all together:

Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix you, your intended spouse, your relationship, other people’s feelings, your body or anyone else’s bodies, your entire relationship with money, capitalism or the concept of parties, your friends, or your family.

You can have a great day with imperfect people at an imperfect celebration where compromises and mistakes were made, and still have all the love and happiness in the world in your married life. Marrying a great person surrounded by loving people at an awesome party is pretty fucking great, not gonna lie, but I hope there are many more happy days, lots of kinds of happiness in store for all of us, including all the Awkward Future Spouses in Awkwardland.

Moderation Reminder: Please review the site policies if you’re new or if it’s been a while, and keep comments constructive, kind, briefer than the entire blog post, and on-topic. Additionally, it’s worth pointing out since it comes up every time we talk about weddings, there is nothing quite like a person who goes out of their way to type “I don’t see what all the fuss about weddings is about” in a comment field on a thread about weddings to make their unique and special brand of nonchalance stand out, especially when there are so many things on the internet to performatively not care about! Don’t spend all your Not Caring on us, kind stranger! Maybe someone out there is discussing their favorite TV shows and they need to know that you don’t even have a TV, or you can chime in with the full details of exactly how much you hate a book you’ve never read when someone is pleasantly discussing it with people who have. :-p ❤ ❤ Kisses!

Edited To Add:

  • Commenters, you’re knocking it out of the park today.
  • I can’t believe there was no “Weddings” category on the site before, but I’ve made one and done my best to add old posts to it to help with searching for more specific dilemmas.
  • Here’s a link to the “brochure”-style program Mr. Awkward and I made for our wedding, which we folded in thirds and put on chairs inside mugs our friend acquired from thrift stores. Yay for free clip art! Yay for telling people how things are going to be so they know when they’ll get fed and when it’s time to go home!
  • Here’s us in the middle of getting married & right after, fat, happy, and surrounded by the best people. Click to embiggen.






  1. Also: Attendants (cough bridesmaids) are not unpaid wedding planners!!!!!!111eleventy!!

    Also all of this is great! 😀

    1. First: The Captain is spot on and this should be a gift to all future brides and grooms. GENIUS.

      Second – I endorse casino’s comment times a zillion! I was MOH for my cousin’s wedding and her mom loves to be crafty and they were doing a wedding on a budget so there was a lot of stuff they wanted to do themselves. All cool, I get it, no problem. However, they *assumed* that the means by which all of these crafty projects would be done was by turning all the bridesmaids into craft slaves over five – yes FIVE – weekends. The bridesmaids were expected to help make: all the centerpieces, all the flower arrangements for all of the food tables, all the ancillary decorations, all of the bouquets (including the bride’s), the boutonnieres, wrist corsages for the grandmas, all the signs, all the favors, and ceiling decorations (and I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting stuff). Just because. And the bride would be there on these crafty days but basically did nothing because she legit thought that with it being her wedding and all she could just decide things, assign them to people to get them done, and then show up to enjoy them on her wedding day. She and her mom were totally convinced this was totally normal and that assuming that the bridesmaids were gonna take all of this on was totally cool. I was like, “dear cousin, you can absolutely have a wedding like that but ONLY WHEN YOU PAY PROFESSIONAL VENDORS TO DO YOUR SHIT. You are taking advantage of your friends and being kind of a dick about it. And by the way, if all the “girls” need to be on decor duty you tell your intended to get all his groomsmen over here too because the “boys” can wrap shit in ribbons and put shells in jars just as well as we can.”

      I’ve been in a bunch of weddings and I’ve helped with stuff for all of them but never experienced anything like that before or since. In the end, the wedding day was beautiful and we were able to have fun on the crafting days – particularly once people felt free to opt-in rather than feeling forced to be there and it became a co-ed endeavor rather than the girls doing the frilly work while the boys drank beer and gamed or golfed or whatever all weekend. But I will never get over the feeling I had that first weekend when I realized the level of entitlement my cousin and her mom had about all the wedding prep they assumed other people would do for them. PEOPLE IN YOUR WEDDING PARTY ARE NOT HIRED HELP. DO NOT TREAT THEM AS SUCH.

      1. OMG, that is mind-boggling. With my level of Not Crafty plus Weekends Are Precious, that would have been such a huge nope, especially if it was just taken as an assumption!

        1. That’s about it in a nutshell. I mean, I love her and I absolutely wanted her to have a special day – of course! And had she asked for help I would have done what I could because I knew they were on a budget. But to just *assume* your entire bridal party is free labor for as many weekends as you want to monopolize? Hell to the no.

          casino was spot on. You can (and should!) ask for help when and where you need it and people generally do well if you can name those specific things they can do to be helpful. But you have to ASK and not ASSUME. Becoming a member of a bridal party does not nullify certain inalienable rights like, you know, personal freedom.

      2. I teach paper flower classes as a side hustle, and I always tell brides not to try to make everything for their weddings, but especially not to rope their bridesmaids into it! Someone once asked if I could do a fun private class as a bridal shower activity, and I couldn’t help wonder whether this wasn’t actually a training event meant to support intensive flower making in the lead up to the wedding. I passed on that one, but I sometimes joke that I should start a company that promises to extract maximum compulsory crafting labor from loved ones—I would call it “The Surly Bridesmaid”

        1. I never want to make another flower bouquet again in my life (hers were silk/synthetic flowers rather than paper) but I would love to go to a shop called “The Surly Bridesmaid.” You need to trademark that stat! I actually LOL’ed when I read it. So many women in the world can relate! Add alcohol and I think you’ve got a winning business model there with an endless supply of potential clients…. 🙂

        2. I love “The Surly Bridesmaid” idea! But why limit yourself to indenturing loved ones? Cast a wider net! (kidding, omg please do not!)

          I worked at a flower shop for 2 1/2 years. Suddenly, people I hardly knew were asking me to be at or even in their weddings. Then, after the gracious invite, came the inevitable requests for either discount/free flowers or indentured florist servitude.

          “Hi friend whose name I will mispronounce! I know you from high school, though you can’t remember ever actually speaking with me. I am getting married, and I am entitled to free stuff. I am especially entitled to your labor, which I will make use of, complain about, and never really appreciate. It is your destiny to risk your job in order to get me cheap/free flowers from your workplace. You may get fired, but that is a chance I am willing to take.”

      3. Yikes; I thought that demanding that bridesmaids buy expensive dresses they can’t reuse because they’re hideous, in order to make the bride stand out in contrast*, was bad. Demanding dozens of hours of unpaid labor (on top of other expenses?) is beyond the pale.

        That said, if you have any autistics, compulsive perfectionists, etc. similar to me in your party (or NOT in the party – I’d personally prefer to do hours of support labor than have to be an active part of the ceremony), they might love the opportunity to assemble dozens of identical items for the wedding or reception, particularly in lieu of a gift. Reading the comments from people talking about how terrible assembling bouquets and the like was makes ME think that sounds like a lot of fun! Especially if I wouldn’t have to interact with a lot of people and could just focus on the work. Different strokes, etc.

        *Social psychology pro-tip: this isn’t how human perceptual psychology works; in fact, you’ll look WORSE to others if you surround yourself with people who look “bad” in their (the others’) opinions; it’s a function of how humans form abstract categories, whereby something that defines a majority of members of some group is generalized to the entire group, so, if the Wedding Party on average looks ill-dressed, ALL of the wedding party will be considered ill-dressed as part of a ill-dressed group.

    2. In the 1990s I was a friend of the bride and when we arrived at the hall the MotB enlisted the bride’s group of friends from high school to decorate the venue. OK?

      I don’t know if this is a thing and of course we helped but after having driven 100’s of miles (Roadtrip! was the general vibe) and being all dressed up and then, “Suprise! I expect you to wrap stuff in ribbons”? It seemed weird. We were not Local. And the male friend got to hang out with the groom and his friends and get drunk while the women helped Mom.

      Afterwards the Mom is surrounded by piles of rented table linens and glassware and chairs and needed us to help her organize all this, which was another suprise. Again, not prepared with grubbies or whatever, and we thought we were there to enjoy the party. It was like half fancy wedding and half church potluck.

      Oh, and we were all about 8 years out from actually being close with the bride. Mom just assumed bride’s old friends would act as unpaid labor.

      It would have been cool if she had laid out the plan and given us marching orders ahead of time. (Could we have said “no”?!)

      People who are getting married: If you are trying to save money and are not Planful, find someone who is planful and who enjoys herding cats to enlist the help of the friend posse In Advance.

      That said, I recently helped (for free) at a close friend’s wedding with our mutual friend who was being paid to cater. He’s a bit disorganized and I was stressed keeping tabs on him. I did not get to really enjoy the wedding of 2 of my favorite people.

      From now on I only Guest at weddings. Full Stop. Signed, I am OK with you thinking of me as a disappointment.

    3. Holy cannolli in a stromboli doily.

      When I got married, I assumed that the ONLY support I was going to get was what friends had specifically offered: one friend made the cake, and she and her husband suggested that they host a picnic in the backyard the evening before. I asked another friend, who is great with make-up, if she would do mine.

      That was it. I didn’t have an MOH. Never having been a bridesmaid, I had no idea what bridal attendants usually do anyway. I just asked them to wear something they liked and felt comfortable in. I sure as heck never felt I was entitled to anybody’s free time — I was already asking them to come give me their company and support by attending my wedding!

  2. CA nails it again. A work of genius. All other advice columnists can basically quit now.

    1. Well, yeah, except, you know, Alison over at Ask A Manager and Sheelzebub and Sars over at Tomato Nation….

      I think this should be a piece in a book they all write (along with whomever else they choose) called Judgy Assholes Who Will Judge You Exist; Let’s Cope With That, then use half of the billion-dollar revenue from its sales to donate enough copies of it to every f*cking elementary and middle school in the nation as required reading. And make it part of college entrance exams. And civil service exams. And whatever exam we need to come up with for people who run for president.

      1. Yes! I would love for this book to exist. Sars from TN is so great. I really miss her writing.

  3. Yay thank you. I’ve always been the lady smugly crowing that people deserve to be stressed out for falling for the siren song of the wedding industrial complex… then I got engaged and ended up having a wedding a few weeks ago that was wildly over our original budget.

    The day of was better than my wildest dreams and everyone told us how intimate and family/love-centric the vibe was when they weren’t screaming over how good the food was. (We blew our load mostly on food and photography, the two things we agreed we cared about most longterm.)

    It would be nice to have spent far less, hindsight bleh blah bluh, but for real: no regrets. I’m a low-maintenance lady but I felt really special holding that huge, lush bouquet and having my hair and makeup done for like, the first and last time in my life.

    You do you, and never forget to take care of yourself and your intended first and last — everyone else, eh. Find someone who is willing to go to battle with assholes so you don’t have to deal with them directly.

    BTW I’m and looking back I cannot believe I put so much emotional energy into that, good lord. Bottom line: THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

    1. I’m glad your wedding was lovely, and would love an update on how the ring and wedding-planning situation resolved! I hope your guy came through for you in a way that worked for you.

      1. 100% all the way — and thank you!

        Everything was wonderful, and we came out of it all better communicators and listeners. We ended up going to the jeweler together and that got him really excited; he dove right in looking for rings he liked, and the one he liked best I liked best, too: he liked its baguette-cut diamonds because I love bread so much, and I loved the smaller central diamond nestled within a surrounding of metal because I’m not delicate with my hands at all. He put it on layaway, and gave it to me over an outside lunch on my office break a few weeks later.

        I went out alone and purchased my own wedding band, and we went together to get his. He purchased his himself, and bless his heart immediately put it on and wore it to work because he was so excited… and scratched the shit out of it (bartender + 18k gold = disaster) and ended up coming home in tears. I took it to the shop and they happily buffed it new again. Now that we’re married it’s back to looking busted as hell, but we like it. Reminds us of how nothing in this life is perfect, but that doesn’t stop something from being beautiful and important.

        Wedding planning was plenty stressful; he HATED me saying, “I need you to own this task” because it made him feel like one of my employees (LOL), and tears were shed. He’d promised to get a caterer booked by the time I got back from a long business trip, and failed to do anything at all. It’s all water under the bridge now, because our wedding was amazing and I took some evil delight in him fretting that the food wasn’t coming out of the kitchen in the right order. (“Did you cover that with the caterer beforehand? No? Welp.”)

        I am married to my best friend and it is the greatest thing in the entire world. Every day we hug for a long time just to bask in the goofy awesomeness that is life with each other.

        1. The love you have for your partner absolutely radiates off this comment. May everyone find someone (or several someones) who loves them as much as you love him. And vice versa, I’m quite certain. Congratulations to the both of you.

        2. “Now that we’re married it’s back to looking busted as hell, but we like it.”

          That’s as it should be. I love how worn my parents’ (43 years married this July) rings look. Surely you want a wedding ring to look like it’s been on your finger every day since forever…

          1. Last week went in to get my wedding ring resized, the jeweler classified the ring condition as “loved”. It made me happy to see that.

    2. As someone who also got married to (and therefore planned a wedding with) an “ideas” person, I am sending you my solidarity. Our wedding was great, I am married to a fantastic man, and I never, ever, EVER have to listen to him rattle off complex and expensive wedding ideas when I’m just trying to get him to help me research caterers, knowing that he has no intention of actually owning and executing any of these ideas (or any intention of researching caterers, for that matter).

      Glad we both made it to the other side. FistBumpHighFive.

      1. Oh my glob, we are married to the same man.

        I researched tons of caterers only for him to pooh-pooh every single one for minute, picky reasons (he’s a trained chef) so I told him, “Look, you know what food I like, and I trust your taste above all others. Can I trust you to find and contract a caterer by (date 50 days away)?” He said of course, and continued to insist he would several times. About a week from the deadline (while I was still traveling abroad) I checked in to see who he’d chosen, only to get back, “I have a couple I’m thinking of emailing soon” which set me off like a Roman candle. I’d specifically told him that his owning this meant a lot to me because it would do so much to relieve my stress over all the other planning I was handling solo. Ugh. UGH.

        He ended up contracting one of the original options I’d scouted out. Of course ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Many of us are married to that person. In my case, it was the music / sound system for the 10 year anniversary… He volunteered, I handed him the song list a month in advance, but the whole thing didn’t get turned on until 30 minutes after the party started. It was fine – played all the rest of the night.

          We just moved in a room mate (old friend, long story, all good), so now I have *two* of them dreaming up ideas together. Some of them have even gotten done (eg, basement MIL suite bath is now tiled! 4 years after we bought the tile!), but it takes at least 2x as long as they think. At least. At the very least. (To be fair, the flooding set things back a year, at least)

          I’ve started keeping a list, of ‘long term projects’ and ‘needs action!’ for both of us to work through (with budget and small steps that we can do), and gotten buy-in that we’ll work on them at least 2 weekends / month. As long as I’m willing to be project manager, it’s working out pretty well.

          1. Oh my, I am also married to this person. The one who is terrific at divergent thinking (generating ideas) and te-he-he-herrrible at convergent thinking (narrowing it down, picking one, and getting the F to work doing it). He’s still coming up with new ideas for where we can eat dinner while we’re in the car driving to the restaurant I thought we had already decided on. I’m the one with the spreadsheets and the step-by-step to-do lists. It’s fascinating that this same guy has gotten through so many weddings (I didn’t even notice he was gone!), but also great news for other couples that it can be done. I assume there’s a reason us detail folks marry these idea people, and that it ends up getting ALL the thinking done.

          2. Dr. K– Thank-you for that insight into divergent and convergent thinking! I’d never heard it put in those terms, and that’s so useful! Mine also keeps thinking of alternatives even after a decision has been made or has to be made. I previously thought of this divide as being the J/P scale on the Myers Briggs personality type testing, the one where some like things all wrapped up and others are more comfortable with endless possibility, but divergent and convergent thinking works even better.

  4. On tradition: When my daughter was 4 years old, she developed out of seemingly nowhere a habit of saying whatever she wanted to do was “tradition, you know.” Like: “Can I have ice cream for breakfast? It’s tradition, you know.” I asked her what “tradition” meant. She said, “it means ‘don’t argue with me.'” She was right…and also knowing a 4-year-old can see through the trap of “tradition” makes it a lot easier to make different choices where appropriate.

    1. My niece pulled a similar one around the same age. When told to stop poking her corn with her finger, she replied, “I’m doing it… for LUCK.”

    2. I also declared things as Traditional because I wanted to do them! But your kid is a genius at justification. Well done!

  5. The one thought that helped us when we were planning our Wedding (20 years ago -OMFG !!!!) was…

    1) Did it make us happy
    2) Did we like it
    3) Was it worth the compromise (example I wasn’t overly thrilled about a video I wanted pictures BUT it was very important to MIL to have wasn’t that important to me so it was worth the compromise

    AND MOST OF ALL l we would still be a couple after all the shenanigans were over. ❤

    1. My MIL wanted a video but didn’t want to pay for it and we just didn’t have it in the budget. She had her BIL set up a camera to catch the action. She watched the video once when she got the tape and then gave it to us because “I don’t need this. It was your wedding.” We’ve watched the video once since then – about 10 years ago when our kids were little. The kids were not impressed because they weren’t there. LOL!

  6. “It’s okay to want a big fancy party, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s silly or you’re breaking Feminism or whatever.”

    Thank you thank you thank you so much for this. I am planning a wedding for September, and have felt so ashamed about the amount of money we’re spending on it*. I have looked everywhere in the non-traditional/feminist wedding blogsphere and seen this sentiment so rarely, and my social circle leans heavily into the “down with capitalism, here’s how well we budgeted our wedding that we fed 300 guests on $5” that I’ve been experiencing a ton of anxiety and guilt about talking about my wedding at all. I really needed to see this exact statement today!

    *Incoming rant: a big part of the reason we’re spending so much money is that my fiancee has Celiac’s, and wanted the entire menu to be gluten-free. Despite living in a pretty major metropolitan area, finding a vendor who would do *all* gluten-free was actually pretty hard. Many vendors had a few gluten-free options, but couldn’t promise that there would be no cross contamination. The last thing we wanted was for Fiancee to be sick on his wedding day, but that meant choosing a vendor who was much more expensive (gluten free buns were $4 per person extra), and those vendors almost universally came with exclusive venues. Those venues were, you guessed it!, also more expensive. For bakeries, we found exactly 3 that would do all gluten-free, one of them didn’t deliver far out to our exclusive, expensive venue, and the 2nd one charged an extra $3 per cupcake for gluten-free without cross contamination. (Luckily the 3rd bakery is very affordable and SUPER tasty!)

    We are easily spending 60-65% of our budget on JUST venue and food/alcohol. And when I tried researching how to more effectively budget around that, I found article after article that essentially just recommended we somehow exploit our friends (“let me invite you to my wedding, but first, please help me cook a meal for 150 guests in my tiny kitchen”) or I spend literally all my free time and energy on crafting my way around paying someone else. (I sew for a hobby and no, NO, wedding articles, making your own dress is NOT easier than just buying one, kthx.)

    Anyway, thank you for indulging my rant, which I have been keeping in for months every time my mother insists we don’t need to be spending so much money because does my fiancee *really* need everything gluten free and can’t I *just* do dress alterations myself and really what’s wrong with a backyard wedding (*for 150 people omg.*)

    1. As someone who both sewed her own dress and altered her maid of honor’s… Please do the thing that most saves your sanity. I gave myself months to work, and I still almost broke down, scrapped all my work, and bought a dress. It still turned out great in the end, but it was so much effort! I don’t think I’d make the same choice if I got a do-over. Sounds like you’re making the right choices for you. 🙂

      1. I made my dress for the engagement photos, and it was so much stress and anxiety. (I have a non-typical body, and fitting is not my strong suit. The darts in my ponte knit were, uh, not happy.) That was kind of my test run to see if making/altering my wedding dress was possible, and it was a great way to confirm NOPE, happy to pay a professional! Definitely suggest a “trial run” for other crafty folks considering it.

    2. Okay, as someone whose family regularly hosts parties for various organizations at their house 150 people is a LOT, particularly if you want to let everyone have a seat at an actual table. Like, we’re on a 1/3 of an acre with a large backyard and a lot of practice doing this kind of thing, and we’d probably balk at anything over 80 people and that would be a tight fit and involve some people inside and some people outside and nothing where everyone could all hear at the same time (which is non-ideal for a wedding reception.) And, honestly, for anything above 30, we hire caterers. I mean, they’re caterers we’ve worked with often, but still.

      All of which is to say – your mother has no idea what she’s proposing unless you’ve got an absolutely giant ‘backyard’ and you’d STILL probably end up having to hire caterers. Like make her find space where she could set up 30 chairs so people can reasonable get in and out of them, and then do the calculations for how to do 5 times as many.

      1. We had 3/4 acre and a 4br house (empty mother in law suite) for our big ‘do (10 year anniversary). We sat 20 to dinner, then another 80 for the party (catered hors d’eourves, sound system, dance floor, nursery (parent volunteers took 30 minute turns sitting in with sleeping kids), basically a wedding party without pics or ceremony) and it was still tight. Parking alone was pretty crazy.

        My parents’ 50th was on 3 acres, about 120 people, and that was easy. The caterers could actually park near the serving tent, and over half the people could park in a space we prepped off the road. I’d think 2 acres min for 150 people.

        Our actual wedding had a Best Woman with a turquoise mohawk (and a Lad of Honor). She was way more dramatic looking than I was, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. I liked her, her presence made it more fun, and I ended up with a great partner.

        If you’re getting married, do ‘You and Your Partner’ to the best of your budget and abilities, and let everyone else go hang in the wind. Be nice about letting them go hang, and don’t expect them to do You, but don’t feel anything bad about what you want. If it fits with your limits and preferences, it’s all good.

        (Says the woman who seriously considered the Las Vegas wedding with Merlin and a dragon who comes forward at the ‘does anyone object’ moment, but couldn’t quite put together enough desire to cover the budget. Now, if it had been *Gandalf* and a *Balrog*, I’d have begged / borrowed / stole for it…)

      2. Also? Toilets, on any property large enough to support 150 (i.e. rural and on septic), are going to be a nightmare. We just got port-a-potties.

    3. As my friends started marrying, I saw that a lot of budget weddings are possible because the couple could outsource a lot of things they’d usually pay for to friends and family, or has the time, energy and skills to DIY. If you’re not in that position, a budget wedding is pretty much impossible.

      Also, at least 50% of the time a task was outsourced to a family member or friend, I saw conflict, to the point where a two brides privately admitted to me that by the wedding day they hated a number of the people in their wedding party. And one groom said he’d forgotten why he thought a wedding was a good idea in the first place.

      I’m sorry your mom is saying mean things about your wedding. Who on earth would think you should have a wedding where one member of the bridal couple has to worry about getting sick from the menu??

      1. I don’t like the idea of doing that. I see couples ask their friends to provide the photography, catering, music, etc. to friends who do it professionally, or very well as a hobby, “as their gift” to the couple, and I just . . . a wedding gift is $250, tops, if you have the money and you’re close with the couple. These services tend to cost thousands of dollars. You’re asking friends to provide a very expensive and very time-consuming service for free, or for way less than they’d normally make, on a day they’d probably like to just enjoy with the rest of the guests. It doesn’t seem fair. And due to the relationship, you may not feel right speaking up if things aren’t done right.

        1. I was feeling a little bad about asking my professional pastry chef friend make my cake as my present, but then I remembered the LARP costume components I made for him for just the cost of fabric. But then I remembered the bike he rebuilt for me for just the cost of parts. His current girlfriend seems very nice… but if they get married I’m going to have to do something thoughtful AF.

          1. Some friendships are close enough that you can trust it will even out in the end. I have to remind myself of that with the new room mate, who will Do All The Things if we let him, and we’re constantly thinking we need not to take advantage of him, but then I help with his Excel charting or my partner finds him a cheap phone, and we are reminded – pay for materials and let the love sort itself out.

        2. Plus if something goes wrong, due to no one’s fault, there is no backup person such as a professional business would have. I came down with a terrible fever the week I was supposed to make cake pops for my sister in laws wedding, and spent a miserable two days trying to churn them all out while dizzy and disoriented because there was no one else. I don’t mind baking for people but will never again agree to do something if my not getting it done will mean disaster – too much can go wrong.

          1. I made my sister’s wedding cake; it was supposed to be tiered but there was a natural disaster in our area in the weeks prior which meant I never had time to bake a practice cake, so the 3 layers were just displayed together on cake plates of varying heights. A professional would not have needed the extra practice time for sure (although who knows how the disaster affected local schedules, might still have been a problem). On the other hand, it was still pretty and delicious and my sister was happy with it, so it all worked out. (The issue where the caterers cut it and started serving from the back while the bride and groom and all the family was out taking pictures so that none of the close or extended family actually got cake was a separate issue! They had ordered a back-up sheet cake in case there wasn’t enough so everyone who wanted some kind of cake got some, but there was definitely some eye-rolling and annoyance over not being able to have the actual wedding cake made by me, their cousin/niece/etc.! Not directed at the bride and groom, luckily! Eye-rolling and annoyance in solidarity!)

      2. Recently I went to a VERY DIY wedding – the bride and groom basically enlisted all of their friends and family to make the wedding happen – from baking the cake, to making the paper flowers, setting up their backyard, etc.

        The wedding happened, and it was pretty, and the couple was very happy and in love, but there was very clearly some family and friend drama stemming from the fact that these people couldn’t enjoy the wedding, because they were basically vendors.

        I’m getting married in less than 2 months, and while we enlisted help from family and friends for some minor things – baking cookies, making signs, etc., my main goal is that my people get to come and enjoy some good food and a good party, and I’m willing to pay professionals in order to make that happen.

        1. We had the opposite problem with one of our friends! He’s a professional photographer – I’m not sure if it’s a full time career for him, but he’s definitely good enough to sell some of his art. We specifically did not ask him to photograph our wedding, because we wanted him to relax and enjoy the day, and not feel like he had to work.

          Well. He threw a Royal Snit. He was hurt that we didn’t like his work, and didn’t trust him to go a good job, and on and on. Then on the day of the wedding, he brought his tripod and some of his equipment – and then had the nerve to complain that the “professionals” we hired (scare quotes his) were getting in the way of his shots!

          Fortunately, the professionals we hired were indeed very used to that kind of behaviour, and were well-prepared to work around him. I think they even tactfully asked for his advice one or two times, as a way of getting him onside (and out of the way.) Everyone else pretty much ignored him – and in the end, he did get several good candid shots that the paid photographers had missed, so it all worked out just fine.

          The moral of the story is – there’s no way you’re going to please everybody, so there’s really no point in trying. Just do what’s best for you. (And please pay your vendors!)

      3. I suspect that there’s also some…creative accounting involved. The cost of my sister’s wedding has slowly dropped over the years, from about ten thousandish dollars to around $1900. You know, Dad belonged to the country club, so the venue and catering were practically free! For over 100 people! The wedding gowns (two were purchased)? Which accounted for about $5000 on their own? They don’t count towards the final wedding expenses because one wasn’t worn!

        I think my sister has a very short list of things that count as purely “wedding” (however she defines that), and everything else is “wedding-adjacent” and therefore on a different budget altogether. The simplest reason, of course, is that she is probably responding to the recent emergence of Competitive Wedding Frugality and simply lying about the money. It really pisses me off to no end that the big wedding bash she dreamed of for YEARS (she’d subscribed to bridal magazines starting as a teenager), is now, thanks to this new social pressure, something she feels compelled to rewrite so she won’t be found lacking by the new narrative.

        I’ll know this for sure if she ever starts to claim she DIYed anything…

      4. It makes a big difference for sure. We didn’t pay for a photographer because my dad is a very good one and would have taken a million photos anyway (he is especially good with candid portraits; he took some real treasures at the reception). We paid only a small amount for decorations because our location didn’t need a lot of decorating and spouse’s aunt made them and put them up. We also didn’t have alcohol because neither of us really drinks. Budgeting is way easier when you are skipping some of the biggest line items! I think it’s something you luck into though – I didn’t feel like I was taking advantage of my dad because he doesn’t do photography professionally, but he loves it and wanted to do it, but in other circumstances I wouldn’t even have asked.

      5. Yes! I was always so frustrated when looking for “budget wedding” inspiration, when I’d realize “budget” actually meant: “$5000… for 8 guests!” or “$5000… but our family owns a wedding venue and our friends donated thousands of dollars worth of flower, bakery, and photography services!”

        Absolutely NO judgment on either of those scenarios, but that’s not what “budget wedding” means for us regular human beings who just don’t have ten grand lying around.

        (Also I do think there tends to be “creative accounting” like someone mentions below – another example is people who say their wedding *budget* was $X and don’t mention that their wedding *cost* was $X + contributions from family.)

        1. I’m…. honestly not sure what we paid for our wedding. We generally went for the principle of “as cheap as we are willing to go for”, which for some things was really cheap and others (that we actually cared about) was not. I also don’t even know how to answer the question of how much we paid, since I’m not entirely sure what is considered a “wedding cost”. Do the rings count? The honeymoon? The rehearsal dinner that my good friend paid for and then stubbornly refused to let me know the cost so I couldn’t pay her back, as a part of our wedding present? Not sure how to calculate it out (esp. with things like the rehearsal dinner where I have no idea how much she even bought…..).

          1. I wouldn’t count the ring: it’s jewelry that you continue to wear. I wouldn’t count the honeymoon: it’s a vacation with specific timing. I would count the rehearsal dinner. For ours, we paid for some stuff, and did some stuff ourselves, and didn’t ask anyone for free labor. We had a nice traditional wedding in my wife’s mother’s living room. We got married at 2pm so we didn’t have to feed anyone lunch or dinner. The food was a mix of catered-by-a-restaurant stuff, veggie trays from a local produce store, and blocks of cheese with lots of handy cheese planes. Oh, and about 8 million loaves of banana bread, because I made them as a stress reliever.

      6. My wedding was cheap because my parents live in Bumblefuck. It took me like five years to figure that out.

    4. I once read on A Practical Wedding that a good way to ease your guilt about spending money on weddings is remembering that a LOT of wedding vendors (photographers, bakers, etc.) are local, privately owned businesses that you are supporting. You may be helping put someones kids through swim lessons, or supporting a lifelong dream of an entrepreneur.
      Spend what you need to spend (or can afford to spend) to have the piece of mind that your fiancee will enjoy the meal and not be sick. Worth every penny.

      1. Another thing that got pointed out on the Bad With Money podcast is that wedding-related businesses are disproportionately owned by women!

      2. Yes, this was actually one of the things we did to make our wedding planning more fun/less stressful. We put our energy into finding local busiesses, and everything–the clothing, venue, flowers, food, music–was local, and my MIL enthusiastically made our favors as her wedding present to us. It also helped change the focus for me: it became less about putting together the perfect production, and more about celebrating the community that brought us together in the first place.

    5. Ah. Yes. If your fiancé has the “cross contamination will make him really sick” version of celiacs, DO go with a completely gluten-free menu and a caterer you trust to take it seriously. A friend of mine is deathly allergic to mushrooms and at his first wedding they had beef stroganoff and told the caterers “no mushrooms, the groom is allergic”. The caterers interpreted that as “We can just give him a mushroom-free portion and serve everyone else the normal stuff.”

      During the dinner, he was starving and his new wife wasn’t, so they swapped plates after he’d cleaned his and he ate three mouthfuls before spotting the mushrooms. Cue epipen and ambulance ride.

      Sooooo yeah. If an allergy/sensitivity/whatever is really serious it’s easier to keep it out of the whole venue than it is to keep the safe and dangerous foods separate. One less thing to stress about on the day!

      (Also, congratulations and good luck! 😘)

      1. “I’m deathly allergic to mushrooms but sure, honey, we can serve beef stroganoff at the wedding.” Jesus, was she TRYING to kill him? At least wait until after the honeymoon to make it look like an accident.

        1. I never put actual mushrooms in Stroganoff sauce, and it’s not that hard to change the spices to mushroom free (I guess it’s mostly in the soy sauce? Or are there other spices with mushrooms?) Anyway, it sounds great to have food that the couple can eat and no poisonous food at a wedding. If nothing else, it’s extra romantic.

        2. They thought all the stroganoff was going to be mushroom-free. Apparently the caterers didn’t have the same understanding. 😅

    6. I was at a wedding where one of the brides was accidentally exposed to an allergen and her reaction to it made her look drunk. The bridesmaids were quietly telling everyone what happened so they’d know that wasn’t the case. The day wasn’t ruined, but it wasn’t fun. I don’t blame you AT ALL for spending buckets of money to make sure that doesn’t happen to your fiancee.

      Plus I too just wanted a fancy party. 🙂 I like fancy parties and would throw them on the regular if I were wealthy, complete with caterers, buckets of flowers, and cakes that are works of art. Fancy setting + casual proceedings are my idea of a good time.

    7. I HEAR THIS. I’m getting married next weekend (so this is very timely!), and I am so incredibly thankful that we made the choice to just…throw money at a few things. Like, yes, we could have gone with the blog-chic food truck that we love but that had never catered a wedding that was our size before? And had to deal with a lot more logistics and rentals and stress? Or guess what, we could go with the (very nice) full-service caterer that would just…do the thing. Or we could have gotten married in a field on my aunt’s farm…but like, bathrooms? Tents? Where were people going to park if it had rained and the parking-field got muddy?

      Obviously we were privileged to be in a financial situation to make those choices, and I felt like I had totally sold out to the Wedding Industrial Complex for a while. But then I was just like, f*ck it, I am willing to exchange currency for not having to THINK about things.

    8. “my mother insists we don’t need to be spending so much money because does my fiancee *really* need everything gluten free”

      It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that he wants to be able to eat everything served at his own damn wedding. When my gf friend had a big birthday potluck, she asked people to bring only gf things and we all complied without argument because it’s her birthday and her home.

    9. Yes to this! Also, when you dig into super discount wedding budget stories, sometimes you’ll get a genuinely cheap wedding (ex: We went to the courthouse and then got tacos) but other times you’ll find that the couple had some unusual way of getting a normally expensive thing for free that can’t be replicated (ex: My aunt owns a wedding venue, all my friends are bakers and florists, a member of the couple took time off work to make crafting their full-time gig). #1 rarely gets discussed in wedding publications but #2 is often written up as a smart couple giving universal advice.

      1. My mom managed to pull off her second wedding for about $2000, because:

        – she had a contact at a costume shop that had just received a donated stack of bridesmaid dresses that HAPPENED to be the right color and sizes, and they also happened to have a lovely bridal gown that would fit her, and they cut us a serious deal on the rental fees;
        – my stepsister did everyone’s makeup (not the most sanitary option, she just used her own stuff, but we all made it through the day without getting pinkeye);
        – we (mom + sisters + me) raided a Michael’s literally the day before the ceremony for supplies and spent the entire evening making bouquets for the bridesmaids, corsages for the mothers, boutonnieres for the groomsmen, and centerpieces for all the tables;
        – the cake-and-punch reception had light refreshments (we literally bought a few cases of soda, a few bags of chips, and the MOH made the cake) and was in the basement of the church where the ceremony was held, and we set up the tables that morning (and the church didn’t charge her to use that space or the chapel because her fiance was a member);
        – instead of a DJ, Mom and Stepdad made a playlist, burned a CD, and plugged his laptop into his portable amp; and
        – the wedding was around Christmas so she just made her colors red and green and used the decor that the church had already put up.

        None of those things will necessarily work for any ol’ Dick and Jane getting married, and honestly they cut more corners than most people getting married for the first time would probably want to. It was a second wedding for both of them, and they and their friends were all older (40s and 50s, parents in their 70s) – they didn’t want or need a huge all-day-all-night alcohol-filled blowout bash. Just an afternoon together with their friends and family was fine.

        1. “we (mom + sisters + me) raided a Michael’s literally the day before the ceremony”

          So I’m figuring you probably mean that you bought a lot of stuff, but I’m really enjoying the image of all of you falling upon the Michael’s with swords and fire, maybe already dressed up for the rehearsal dinner if you had one, and making off with sacks of silk flowers and ribbons and pins.

    10. I was super anti- big weddings, and then we had a moderately sized one and it was one of the last times I saw several family members before they died and one of the few times all of my friends have been in one place at a time. I kinda want to do another one for our 10th. And my main regrets are areas where we skimped but shouldn’t. I also went to friends who did it all on a shoestring and those were great.and one’s we weren’t invited to because it was a dinner for ten people and I wasn’t invited. it’s all good. My only advice is to echo casino up there and hire a dedicated planner and don’t make your bridesmaids do it.

      And yeah, for the love of all things good, do not make others lose weight to be in your wedding. I mean, you wanna lose weight, do you, but don’t put that on other people.

  7. Marvelous timing, Cap! Tomorrow night I’m the officiant at one of my best friend’s weddings (thanks to the, I’m Very Reverend) and this made me laugh out loud at the office. Wish I’d had your post to hand to the bride about 3 months ago.

  8. A brief and positive story I just want to lay gently in the comments:

    I’m getting married in three weeks (omg, three weeks). The ceremony is microscopically small and the absolutely-not-a-wedding-reception the next day is only slightly larger. We live near my intended’s extended family. I don’t have an extended family. My intended’s uncle is racist, sexist, and probably homophobic. We were going over the guest list and got to him and I looked up and said, “What are the odds he’ll behave himself in front of my diverse group of friends?” and he said, “Zero. But if we don’t invite him we’ll have to leave off Brunhilde and Casper too,” and then we drew a single neat line through each of their names. ~fin~

    1. OMG MARRY THAT DUDE POSTHASTE. A future spouse who has no illusions about his family is a future spouse who will always have your back when his family decides to be ornery.


    2. Perfect! My MIL has 4 siblings, 2 of them half-brothers. I have never met the other two brothers in the 3 years we lived in the same state leading up to wedding planning. Nevertheless, they were my soon-to-be uncles, so they went on the list. I sent her our tentative guest list to get her input, and her practical response was “sweetheart, there’s almost no chance they’ll RSVP, let alone attend, so don’t waste the printing cost and postage, or make your mom stress about their missing reply. Just take them off the list.” (I married into the most respectful-of-your-personhood&reality family ever; 3 years married, hubby mentiones to her 2 months ago that we’re thinking about kids in a 2yr time frame, and she has never once brought it up in the 4 times we’ve spoken since 💕)

  9. “I reject shaming on both ends of the frugality spectrum”

    forking THANK YOU! Like, I have no problem with people wanting to hit up the courthouse, then have some people over for a chill potluck BYOB cookout in the backyard, if that’s what you want then do it, I’m not gonna judge (although I personally hate potlucks so I would bristle at being asked to bring a warm, homemade dish as the price of admission to anyone’s wedding reception; your options from me are cheese and bread, or raw veggies with store-bought dip), but please for the love of whatever is holy to you do not judge people for deciding to rent a venue, or hire a caterer, have a photographer, or spend money on other “fancy” stuff for their weddings. You can absolutely make the argument that no one needs those things, but they’re nice to have on your big day! I don’t plan on having a big, fancy do when the time comes, but I am planning to have a venue that isn’t my apartment, or my parents’ house, or his parents’ house, and I’d like to hire people to make food for my guests, and pay someone to take photos, and wear a dress that comes from an actual bridal shop. I’m also planning to be responsible, and not expect people to pay for their plate in the form of a wedding present because that’s tacky AF. But man, the idea that people would judge me for that kinda sucks.

    I do think a lot of the people saying that lavish weddings suck, and the wedding industry is dumb, and people who do anything but elope in Vegas are idiots, are probably people who feel pressured to spend themselves into debt for a ceremony they don’t care about and other people want for them, and that sucks. If that’s you, then I am sorry, but please find a way to deal with that pressure that doesn’t involve turning around and shaming people who choose the thing you don’t want, because all that does is put more resentment and general bad feels into the air.

    1. I have a friend who probably hates potlucks, and she brings a supermarket veggie/dip platter or bought dessert to Thanksgiving. And I am absolutely always grateful to her for these things. It is always needed and delicious. So yay supermarket veggie platters!

    2. PS: I was once intimidated by the idea of having a whole big wedding because it all seemed so stressful. Then a friend of mine reminded me that your wedding is one of the few times in your life where you can have everyone who’s ever loved you gather in one spot to celebrate a huge moment in your life. The next time that happens might be your funeral and you won’t be able to enjoy that, so enjoy your wedding, and if you can/want to go big, do it!

      I’ve also appreciated the opportunity for reunion that weddings can provide for people, having gotten to party with friends that moved away years ago at other people’s weddings, like this past weekend getting to catch up with a friend who’d moved across the country like 5 years ago, so I’d like to provide that for my friends as well when the time comes. I mean, when else can you invite someone to cross the United States to celebrate a milestone in your life, and also expect them to arrange their own accommodations? Sure, I could’ve invited my far-away friends to come celebrate my 30th birthday, but then I’d need to let them crash at my place, and even then, most people don’t fly for birthday parties.

      1. My beloved late Aunt Barb never married, but wanted the big, semi-formal reunion-style party that is often associated with weddings. So she threw herself a lavish 50th birthday dinner in a botanical garden, and chartered a bus–with drinks and snacks–to take people to and from the venue (which was a long drive away from her hometown where everyone gathered). You better believe I flew my broke-ass 20-something baby dyke self all the way across the country to attend the party my awesome single aunt threw FOR HERSELF.

        My own wedding celebration, which Barb would have loved, was a block party with a Prince cover band, attended by family, dear friends, and some neighbors I met that very day. Here’s to having the party you want–wedding or otherwise!

    3. As someone who throws a lot of parties that people bring stuff to (they are not, strictly speaking, potlucks), every party needs a veggie tray and some chips. I extra appreciate text-on-the-way people because I probably forgot to get ice or limes or something. I like to make stuff, but I’m also not ashamed to bring a case of the sparkling water I like and some grocery store cookies. Do you.

      1. My foster dad brought two big bags of ice to our wedding reception on the grounds that no one ever remembers to bring ice. And he was right! It was a very helpful thing that I hadn’t even considered!

    4. Yes! We had a big-ass wedding, and a lot of that is because my in-laws are immigrants from a place where you invite everyone and go all out. And considering the political climate, it was extra, extra important to us to include the entire community that raised my husband.

      And well, hellloooo! All kinds of progressive, white liberal acquaintances popping in throughout the wedding-planning process to say that big weddings are soooooo self-indulgent and wasteful and “less meaningful.”

      1. “Thank you for your input. You’re helping me reduce the guest list right here and now.”

    5. I am having a potluck wedding in September and I am sure we will need bread and cheese and crudites! Part of that is just wanting to save money, but part of it is that we already have a full household of stuff and we really don’t need or want gifts, and it’s easier to enforce that if we can redirect people’s gifting impulses into bringing a covered dish.

      But, part of it is definitely that have a mental line for how much I can spend without dwelling on the cost to the point where it saps all my enjoyment of the day, and it’s set VERY low–definitely below the cost of eloping to Vegas! So, potluck wedding at home, secondhand dress, ring off Etsy, no attendants, farmers’ market flowers and no other decor, electronic invitations, whatever color plates and napkins Costco has. No DJ because there’s no room for dancing anyway,and no photographer because we are both extremely camera-shy and don’t want to stand for posed pictures. I suppose guests can take casual shots if they must, but we’ll be signing an official document that says we were there; I don’t see why we need a visual record on top of that.

      1. I totally get that! If it sounded like I was judging people for having a chill, DIY thing at home I am sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I just personally don’t like being told “come celebrate so-and-so’s birthday/going away/fill-in-the-blank celebration! But it’s a potluck so everyone cook something!” because while I like cooking at home, the second someone expects me to bring a covered dish as the price of admission to a celebration I’d really like to attend, I don’t wanna do it. The timing and logistics of making it at home, transporting it, storing it safely and heating it up later are just a li’l overwhelming sometimes. I’d rather buy a wedge of brie, cut up a baguette, bring a bottle of wine and have that be my contribution, and not feel like a lazy asshole for doing that when I know people are gonna be putting their whole selves into fancy, signature dishes for the event. I just hope you’re proactively providing options for people who aren’t keen on providing food, like “if you’re not a cook, that’s okay, we also need these things . . .”

        1. My friend is getting married this fall and has basically no budget and her future MIL was like well that’s fine just have your friends all cook something! And my friend is like…my friends are also poor? a lot of them don’t have big kitchens or any kitchens or the equipment or money for ingredients or the time to do it? or they live far away and are traveling and how is that supposed to work? A potluck can be great depending on the circumstances, but her MIL just doesn’t really get that these are not those circumstances. Also, the suggestion in this case seems like a transparent attempt to just push the money and labor off on friends without any real consideration of how it will affect them.

          1. Adding to my previous comment to say that I actually love the idea of redirecting people’s gifting impulse to food for the wedding! Hope it’s clear that your circumstances, Ellen Fremedon, don’t sound anything like my friend’s!

        2. Hear, Hear! Hello my name is Peche and I am a potluck slacker. I love to cook for (with) myself a friend or two, but the minute I am expected to produce something potluck-worthy all the fun goes out of it for me.

          “But Peche!”, they say, “You used to be a professional baker!” And the times I went all out with the homemade goodies were failures, in terms of my time and effort, because the work crowd was into deviled eggs and those delicious meatballs in grape jelly, so they found my whatevers unrelatable.

          Now I buy canned dolmas. I like them, the people I work with who have heard of them like them, and 1 or 2 people try the “exotic” new foodstuff and like them, then people ask for dolmas, not scratch-baked layered pastries.

      2. Regarding pictures, I understand not wanting to stand for posed shots, as bride and groom, but what about candid shots of you and your family and friends? Some the pictures I revisit most (from ANY event, not just my wedding) are just of the people I love animatedly interacting.
        To be clear, I am not saying you need a photographer in any way, shape or form. But are there any pictures you might want? It might be worth collecting the casual shots that your guests will take, or asking a few shutter-happy in different family or friend groups to take some photos of their antics throughout the event.

        I know an official document will say YOU (and your groom) were there, and I know that societal pressure dictates that you *need* the traditional barbie-and-ken cake-topper photo shoot. I just want to make sure that you have considered whether pictures of your friends and family celebrating at this life event party might be worth collecting and revisiting.

        If not, sail on, O Captain My Captain, and may a wonderful day have you!!!

        1. I’m sure people will send me pictures from the wedding whether I ask them to or not and I’ll put them in a box at the back of the closet with the other photos I’ve never once looked at, but photographs of human faces actually wig me the hell out and I dislike looking at them, so, no, I don’t think I’m going to want any pictures.

  10. Such solid advice here. Take it. Really. Because the pressure and the intrusion and the nosiness and the expectations of others don’t stop after the wedding. You will continue to be subject to this kind of nonsense your whole married life. One measure of a solid marriage is how well you two estrablish boundaries, back each other up, and have a shared vision for your future. If you don’t have that for your wedding, that’s a red flag for what your marriage will look like. Start now, while you’re starting your lives together and it will set the foundation for your future. Best wishes to all the engaged!

  11. On wedding parties: I was really clear with mine that they were my Team Me, and I wanted them standing up there with me to symbolize that. No planning or $$ component. However, the aunt who threw my shower is more traditional and had different expectations. She expected them to plan games and kind of act as MCs for the event and ended up making them feel kind of weird and stressed out.

    In the long run, this was a blip, everyone was acting out of sincere love, etc etc, but I wish I had anticipated the risk for my wedding party of being blindsided by inconsistent expectations.

  12. This is everything. Standing ovation.

    I just want to add that weddings are, in the end, ephemera. They feel So Big, in the planning and the moment, but as time passes the edges blur.

    My favorite wedding I ever attended, I was the plus-one of a guy I haven’t talked to in 20 years, and I don’t remember the bride or groom’s name; I just remember the warmth and joy of the day. It was on July 4, and the couple invited all the guests to hang out in the penthouse honeymoon suite and watch the fireworks over the lake with them.

    My favorite wedding speech was delivered for the wedding of a dear old friend of mine. The bride’s name was Grace, and the best man said, “The definition of grace is getting something you don’t deserve.” I remember literally nothing about that wedding except the roar of laughter at that line.

    My favorite ceremony involved the organist playing “Margaritaville” as the bride, an avid parrothead, advanced up the aisle by herself.

    I made the dress for my own wedding. My marriage ended seven years later. I cannibalized the dress into this gorgeous bohemian-looking creation, and I wear it when I attend psychedelic ceremonies, where white is traditionally worn. I’ve had many revelatory experiences in my tripping dress, as I refer to it now.

    (My wedding was immediate family only. It is a day I will always remember fondly, though I haven’t spoken to my ex since the day we signed papers, and I doubt I will ever see him again.)

    I’ve declined wedding invitations and stayed friends with the bride and groom. I’ve attended weddings of people I now couldn’t pick out of a lineup. There were pretty clothes and music and cake, but really, that’s all I recall.

    My point, I guess, is that you just don’t know ahead of time what’s going to work and what’s going to matter and what’s going to last and what’s going to be remembered. Which makes it just like every other moment of life.

    Cheers to all of you brides and grooms out there.

    1. I also had a really small, beautiful, immediate-family-only wedding, and it was probably the best day of my short-lived marriage. I agree with your main point, you can have a perfect wedding and still have a disastrous marriage, your wedding isn’t a referendum on your relationship.

  13. I … honestly read the title as WEEDING season at first.
    Blame all the plant blogs I apparently follow now?

    Weeding also does not exist to fix your family and relationships!

    1. Though “weeding out people who piss you off” can be very therapeutic.

  14. I’d add one thing – go with the flow on your day. I had all these visions of how things “should” go and could feel myself getting upset when they didn’t while planning the wedding. I decided that on the big day I was going to focus on myself and my spouse and the rest of the world be damned for that one day. My in-laws got into an actual fist fight at my reception, at one point nearly all of my guests were in the parking lot getting high courtesy of one of the groomsmen, my grandmother and several aunts all left early angry they weren’t given a place of honor (other than the one they were given). I just let it roll off my back, danced and had a great time. And now, 17 years later, I have a couple cool stories.

    1. Yes to this. People shielded us from the worst of it. My mother literally had her date leave before her so she could get a room with the best man. We’d already left, my close friend stayed with my then-12 yr old sister as an unasked sitter since my mother apparently forgot she’d brought a child with her, once a man started paying attention to her, color me surprised. Luckily we never knew til later, and someone competent was there to look after my sister (note if i’d had an ounce of self worth back then i’d Have cut off contact with her, which i later did, after I became pregnant and it made me realize there was a tiny human coming into being and i couldn’t bear the idea she’d be subjected to the same). Funnily enough (sarcasm) the volunteer sitter is an African American woman whom my mother had strongly objected to having at the wedding on basis of her race. In a rare moment of gumption (bc i’d Not ever heard the word boundaries at that age), i said, ‘no it’s totally fine. I get it…. (pause pause). If you feel uncomfortable i’ll be completely ok with your non attendance. But it was a lovely wedding, and while there was other drama, the good people I CHOSE (read: not my biological relations) to inhabit my life protected us and helped to make it a special day. Who says you can’t choose your family?

  15. The main takeaway from my wedding was that even if you make a Horrible Mistake during wedding planning/aftermath, it is TOTALLY SURVIVABLE. HusbandNerd and I ended up not sending wedding invites to his Grandma or his aunt/cousins because they said they wouldn’t attend before we even sent invites. Cool beans, we thought, saves us postage. But then they got MORTALLY OFFENDED that we did not send them invites, then they did not even bother to tell us that they were offended, and it has kicked off a years long cold war between HusbandNerd’s immediate family and his extended family (as in extended family REFUSED TO ATTEND HusbandNerd’s sister’s wedding a couple of years later because we had the audacity not to send a paper invite to an event they already said they wouldn’t attend). We only heard that they were mad at us AT sister’s wedding when she was complaining about how petty and awful Grandma and Aunt are.

    And you know what? I don’t actually give a fuck what they think about us. HusbandNerd’s immediate family is doing just fine without them, and HusbandNerd’s Grandma/Aunt can continue being bitter assholes far away from me, and it suits me great.

    Also we didn’t write or send about half of our wedding thank you cards because we lost the list mid-move shortly after the wedding, and the sky did not fall, nor was anyone snarky about it to me. Like yeah, kind of a (accidental) dick move on our part, but I figure someone who is going to hate me forever over a missed thank you note is probably not someone I want to hang out with regularly anyway.

    1. Wow. I almost have to admire your in-laws for their extreme grudginess. That’s some really really _passive_ aggression right there, refusing to show up for one sibling’s wedding to show they haven’t forgiven another sibling for not inviting them to a different wedding they didn’t want to go to in the first place.

      1. Right?? The (lack of) logic…it boggles the mind. Luckily my MIL and SIL are delightful people, so interactions with the MAIN in-laws are wonderful. And HusbandNerd does not force me on the awful side of his family so it all works out.

  16. Due to my very large extended families and my partner’s controlling one, we decided to have a surprise wedding. The ruse was a big number birthday party for me, so we figured whoever showed up for that was a good invite list. The only thing we didn’t nail was getting my mom on the same level of dressed up as everyone else.
    It’s always weirded me out that my parents lost contact with the people in their wedding party over the years, and since we each have one sister and they have the same name, they stood closest to us during the ceremony in the park closest to our house, and we had our mothers sign the license as witnesses afterward in the basement party room of the bar at the end of the block.
    Aftermath: My sister, who lived with us, was hurt that we hadn’t told her, but got over it quickly, and my dad now wears a tie to every remotely special event. Interesting thing was one friend on each side was noticably hurt to not have been asked to be part of our wedding party. My friend was making a huge assumption about how close we were, and my partner’s friend pouted and moped through the whole party because he’d “been robbed of his only opportunity to be a best man.” We no longer speak to either of them, for different reasons that in retrospect, that incident really flagged.

    1. omg, I LOVE this. Surprise wedding disguised as a birthday party, that is excellent. I also love the detail that your dad now wears a tie to any remotely special event.

      1. I loved that detail too! I have visions of a dad looking at an invite “It says Pool Party – bring your suit for some splashing good times” and thinking better bring a tie, just in case. 🙂

      2. We had a pizza party as a surprise wedding reception (we eloped the week before). Folks’ levels of dress were all over the place and it just added to the silliness!

    2. I no longer talk to one of the people who stood up with me when I got married. I thought that sort of thing would never happen to me, but it did. And I survived. I was pretty miserable about it, but there were red flags.

      1. I also no longer talk to one of the people in my wedding. I didn’t want a wedding party in the first place but my husband did so I caved and asked two people, one I knew I’d still be friends with and the other that was questionable but my other closest friend at the time. My red flag was when I told this person that we were getting married, the first words out of her mouth were not “congratulations” but “am I a bridesmaid?” A few years later, she didn’t even invite me (or tell me) about her wedding. We weren’t friends after that…more because she only ever thought about herself and I was tired of someone who didn’t have my back.

  17. My third wedding (third time was definitely the charm) was an in-town elopement. Both our fams are awesome and supportive, but the logistics and expense of doing even a ‘small family’ shindig were just too much. Trying to pick & choose between my 200+ relatives while dodging well-meaning-but-picky MIL’s ‘suggestions’ lasted about a day, then we decided to opt for the local courthouse.
    A friend who could marry people offered her services and backyard and surprised us with a really cute setting & treats and wrote some lovely words, her husband took lots of pics, and we each had two friends as witnesses. It was awesome! Family were very understanding (and spared travel/expense) and we celebrated afterwards at our favorite brewery and got to spend our wedding night happy & calm.

  18. “Weddings don’t exist to fix your relationships” is, of course, very true. In fact, I know it will probably make things worse between me and my mother! But the whole affair is giving me more sad, mournful (honestly, grieving) feelings that we don’t have to kind of relationship where she’ll be excited about… literally anything.

    Weddings! They bring the complicated feels!

    1. Hello, firstly I hope you have a lovely wedding and you and your spouse-to-be are super happy and not stressing too much about stuff. (Wedmin, it is DRAINING.)

      Secondly, I ended up going to counselling in the run-up to my wedding because of all the complicated feels (honestly, grieving) I was going through about my relationship with my Difficult Mother.

      I am not sure if this is an option for you and your situation, but I honestly would recommend it if it is an option. It doesn’t fix the broken relationship, but it does help you decide how much emotional, mental and physical energy you want to spend on that relationship. It helped me grieve and build better boundaries so she didn’t upset me as much on the day.

      Alternatively, another solid tip: I arranged the day so that my wonderful friends were with me whenever my mother was around. We came up with strategies to make sure my time in her company was limited (e.g. oh but Mother-Junebug, come with me, Friend A, and check that the venue is all set up. You’ll see Junebug at the ceremony and we could really do with your guidance that things are just right; or table plans that unaccountably meant she was 3+ people away from me at all times), and it meant on the day any Feels were minimised because I was always with people that mainly just bring me unbridled joy.

      I actually feel my relationship with my mother post-wedding is… if not stronger, then I’M stronger about the limitations in our relationship. I hope your grieving produces some healing, and that your mother becomes a background element to a much bigger, more joyful occasion.

      Virtual hugs!

  19. They best thing my BFF did when she got married was have one person keep an eye on the Potential Problem Person (very close family member, fine in small groups, unpredictable at larger gatherings). That way the bride and groom could enjoy their day knowing their “bouncer” had their “PPP” under control. The person ended up being very well behaved, but no one had to worry about which way it was going to go except the one person (and they happened to be the one who suggested and volunteered for the bouncer position). This was a case where they actually wanted to invite the person, they just wanted some behavior insurance.

  20. Some very useful advice that I got: the person who makes your cake can be an asshole and your DJ can be an annoying person and that will probably be ok, but if you hire a photographer you will be spending SO MUCH of the day with them, potentially even more that you will with your spouse, so it’s really important that you like them as a person as well as liking their photographs.

    A good idea that my wife came up with: we got some financial help from our parents, but we also had a backup budget planned for a wedding we could do all on our own (pizza party with a spotify playlist, basically). That was a good thing to have in our back pocket when our parents started to attach strings to their money. We didn’t end up having to use it, but that party would have been fun too, and I was glad we had it as an option

    1. Adding to the “backup plan if financial help from parents comes with strings”:
      Don’t feel bad about saying “No” to your parents even if they’re helping pay. I’m having a small ceremony+dinner for 25 people at a lovely restaurant where I live. The guest list was capped at 25 due to the room I want to use for the reception/dinner. My parents wanted to invite TEN (10) of their friends. They whined a little, but they were fine when I capped that list at 4 (my godparents, and friends of theirs I’ve known since I was a baby). My mom didn’t want me to get a strapless dress (For a wedding in late June in the deep south…) because I have fat arms. I spent a couple weeks fretting over dresses with sleeves I really didn’t like that much and eventually told her “Mom, my arms will be fat with or without sleeves, and I want to wear a dress that I feel beautiful in.” and she stopped second guessing me.

      My sister, on the other hand, acquiesced to my parents’ every whim, and ended up with a wedding that didn’t really make her happy. She wanted a small beach wedding in late spring or early summer and ended up getting married in November in Baltimore in a church with >150 guests. My parents and their friends had fun, but my sister didn’t really. Thankfully my lesbianism prevented any discussion of a church wedding. 🙂

  21. During planning I cried a LOT. Looking at happy things, cry, looking at other crying photos, cry, hear a love song, cry, hear a dance song, cry. I was specifically worried about a common wedding troupe from movies & tv. Once it was all over, all the crying went away. But I had to let that be my mood for as long as it was. It was a way to focus all the stress into one big worry, instead of 20 little ones.

    My Mom was so worried about REAL!(tm) silverware because I once mentioned in passing “would bamboo forks be a cute idea?” I also had such trouble with the very thought of centerpieces, that I had to give that whole job away. Everyone is going to become hyper-focused on something!

    Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding ++2 They were great!
    & also Moment Junkie.

    1. I’m not usually a crier, but dang wedding planning has brought it out in me. So many tears over cute songs and wedding photos and thinking about my own wedding day. Glad to her it’ll pass!

  22. When I got married, my therapist told me that weddings were huge canvases, where everyone projected their own shit. And that was very much true. I hated my wedding (my mother had just died and I was a mess), but the marriage is going pretty well (almost 10 years in). And lots of other people had fun at my wedding, which I was grateful for. Spouse and I joke about renewing our vows in order to watch the other shudder with horror. Our “happiest day” is literally an affectionate joke between us.

    1. As someone who throws a lot of parties that people bring stuff to (they are not, strictly speaking, potlucks), every party needs a veggie tray and some chips. I extra appreciate text-on-the-way people because I probably forgot to get ice or limes or something. I like to make stuff, but I’m also not ashamed to bring a case of the sparkling water I like and some grocery store cookies. Do you.

      1. Oh fun, this somehow appeared in a second response. The magic of internet phones!

  23. My practical advice: Have enough chairs for all the butts you invited. Don’t do the “well we have enough for the elderly” thing. You never know who has an invisible disability, A., but B. give the people in heels a break!

    I love the Captain’s advice and just want to emphasize the point about the guest list, insofar as it intersects with the “money with strings”–you can keep full control over your guest list when you pay for the whole thing. You can’t when it’s someone else’s money. Be prepared to say goodbye to the money if you have to, and know that the Captain is 100% correct that lovely, memorable, fantastic weddings come at all budgets. It’s more about you celebrating with people you love, in a way you choose, than it is about fancy caterers or live bands or photographers or designer gowns or “dream venues” or any of the rest (these are also fun things to have, but not at the expense of YOU, if it comes down to it).

    1. “Have enough chairs for all the butts you invited.”

      Yes! And also, if you’re serving food, people generally don’t want to be juggling plates and drinks and utensils while eating, they want to be able to set stuff down.

    2. +10000 to the “invisible or intermittently visible disability” advisory on “have enough chairs for all invitees”. As a bride with mild CP, I had our venue provide seating for the bride, groom, maid of honor, and best man for the “readings and sermon” portion of the ceremony between the procession and the vows. Thus I could think about the vows I was taking and not proprioception.

    3. Also – If outdoors have a shady spot. Sitting in the direct sunlight does not work for everyone. Especially if a heatwave hits and it is 98 degrees that day and your guests are stuck under the beating sun, which is reflected by the white sandy beach and there is no breeze and something happens to delay the ceremony for an hour and you have someone standing out there telling you it will be just another minute or so. If you don’t provide shade eventually people will take matters into their own hands and start renting beach umbrellas and setting them up in the seating area. And if you had provided shade it would probably match your aesthetic better that a sea of miss-matched rented umbrellas and golf umbrellas that people found in their trunk. And then everyone totally skips your cocktail hour next to the pool to stand around in the air conditioned hotel lobby waiting for the reception doors to open because no one can stand being out in that heat for another second. Not that I have experience with that or anything. Which is to say – I know it is a crazy stressful day, but have some compassion. Someone having heatstroke is not the way you want the day remembered.

  24. I want to give a shout-out to people who are planning weddings during a time of grief! My wedding plans ended up being reeeeeally different than expected because my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness and I had to scramble to put something together while it was still safe for her to travel. Looking back on it now, my wedding was a Nice Day, but it did not define my marriage and there’s a lot of sadness and weirdness mixed up in those memories. My one regret is that I didn’t speak to a therapist in the lead-up to the wedding–I really, really recommend finding one if you’re in a similar spot.

    Also, shout-out to anyone who is struggling to perform the right kind of femininity at their wedding. If you’re going against the grain (not wearing a dress, cutting your hair, not changing your last name, whatever your family or friends or coworkers consider to be things The Bride should do), there’s gonna be some pushback. I never found a 100% effective way to shut those conversations down. You’re just going to have to accept the fact that some people won’t approve. A few might even seem really distressed about your personal choices or take your wedding plans as judgement of their personal choices. That’s on them.

    1. Manders, SO MUCH WEIRDNESS! A big hug and lots of fellow-feels about grief and also figuring out the right level of femininity. That shit was hard too (but not as hard as the grief).

  25. You don’t have to have everyone at the same party. Smaller parties with different friend/relative groups can be easier on everyone involved, and just as festive. We eloped and then had four parties in different places over the following three months.

    1. Close friends did something similar. They went to Las Vegas to marry (at the Graceland Wedding Chapel). I was the entire wedding party. It was great.

      Then they had one party in her home town for her friends and family, and another in his home town for his friends and family.

      I went to both. They were great.

  26. What I always tell friends from the moment they announce they’re getting married: “The most important thing is that you will get up in the morning not married and go to bed married. That is the only essential part of a wedding; everything else is gravy.”

    It’s a useful line when the planning and decision-making get too much, and even more so on the day, when something inevitably goes wrong.

  27. “Be kind to other people about their bodies, too. “I want you to be in my wedding, but only if you change your weight, get rid of your piercings and tattoos, and modify everything about your face and body so you look more like the other people” = a crappy invitation! Either work WITH your most punk rock friend to find something that they can flaunt as they are, or ask someone else to pose beside you in photos.”

    I wrote a really long feelingsbomb of a comment, then decided that this really isn’t the forum. But thank you for saying this, Cap. It’s…really validating to hear that this is a bad thing to do, and feel like maybe I am allowed to be hurt that it happened to me.

    1. “Do you want ME as your bridesperson or do you want A MATCHING SET OF THIN, CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE CONSERVATIVELY DRESSED people, if it’s the second thing, just admit that now and let’s spare ourselves the agony!”

    2. Hear, hear. That, plus the:

      ““I want you to be in/at my wedding, but only if you cover up how queer/trans you are” is an abomination. Do not do this. YOUR SHITTY OLD RELATIVES WILL FUCKING DEAL, they can tamp down their prejudices for one day, and if they can’t, they should be disinvited. Like, if the mere reminder that queer people exist is upsetting enough to kill Grandma, I gotta consider that it was just her time to go.”

      So thanks for saying that explicitly, too, Capn. The only things I regret in life have been not advocating for myself well enough, and THAT’S a wedding I wish I hadn’t attended.

    3. This is a bad thing to do, and you can totally be hurt that it happened to you. It sucks and doesn’t have to happen.

      Definitely worth taking a look at that friendship, to decide if they really like you and just got overwhelmed with social pressure, or if you’ve moved down different paths.

  28. When my hubby and I got married three years ago, I warned our photographer that my estranged father and his nightmare wife would be there and probably want to stir sh*t up. Our wonderful photographer asked me only if there were any photos I did not want them in, and he found a way to discretely direct the photos without them acting a fool.

    Of course that still didn’t stop dad from behaving boorishly before the ceremony, demanding special treatment even though he contributed nothing financially to the wedding (hubs term and I paid for the wedding ourselves). I calmly took my father aside and told him if he was going to behave that way all evening, he could just GO HOME RIGHT NOW. And truly, if he had left, I would have been just fine with that.

    He behaved. Hubby and I had a beautiful simple wedding. Everybody ate and danced and had a great time.

  29. My sixth wedding anniversary is Saturday, and this (genius, soothing, smart) post is bringing a lot back for me. I didn’t want a proper wedding because I was so afraid being fat and 6′ 2″ would mean I didn’t get to, or if I did, that I would hate it. My husband did want a small meaningful wedding, so I told him that it was up to him to plan it. I was there to bounce ideas off, but he was the vendor contact throughout. On the final vendor walk-through, the venue coordinator mistook me for the caterer. (Is it weird to be delighted by this?) I bought a cheap empire waist dress from the internet, had a seamstress replace the skirt and add sleeves, and looked awesome.

    Long story short, I’m really glad I was persuaded to be brave and celebrate with ~50 family and friends.

    1. Hee hee hee. Husband and I had a super DIY wedding on our property and I still take delight in the look of shock on one of the musician’s faces when he showed up an hour before the wedding and realized the bride was running around in jeans, t-shirt, and a bandanna, doing stuff with pumpkins. (We did Renaissance clothing and I just want to say hooray for dresses with lacing that don’t need adjustments made. Pretty but low-maintenance is totally my jam. Plus it gave me ballroom-scene-from-Labyrinth vibes.)

  30. I loved my wedding and had a great time, and it ended up being more “traditional” than I ever thought it would be but the thing that made it so great was I focused on what was important to me and said “fuck it” to the rest. Example: I didn’t want to pay a shitload for flowers and I’m not a crafty person, so I told my husband that if he wanted centerpieces he and the groomsmen could make them because if it were up to me we’d have bare tables. He did and they did and it was Not My Problem and it was glorious. I also chose bridesmaids who were all people I love dearly who are hugely practical and helpful, and they made sure the day ran smoothly and that I ate/difficult things were handled.

    HANDS-DOWN the funniest and most memorable moment of my wedding for me was both a fuck-up and is also the cause of my one regret, which was that we didn’t have a videographer to capture this moment – right when my father and I reached the front of the aisle, his phone went off, and it took him a moment to realize what was happening. My brother was officiating and he was the only person who was mic’d, and he full-on leaned into his mic and said “TURN YOUR FUCKING PHONE OFF, DAD” at top volume. I still laugh every time I think about it.

  31. I can’t even finish reading until I celebrate this:
    “Like, if the mere reminder that queer people exist is upsetting enough to kill Grandma, I gotta consider that it was just her time to go.”

  32. I just got married this past December. My husband (he/him) and I (she/her) went to Wellington, New Zealand, because it was a place we’d never been where it summer and also close to Christmas, giving us the opportunity to always opt out of family holidays in favor of our anniversary. For us, eloping wasn’t a money saver or anything, but it spared us both a lot of potential stress and heartache because his parents are tricky types and mine are religious types and he and I are neither of those things. It was a wonderful day, and I was really glad. We did some things traditionally (I found a killer white lace dress), and some not (we did not have an officiant, but instead just read vows to one-another), and it was a lovely day.

    We also had a courthouse paperwork signing in the US about a month prior, because it was easier with the holiday timing than doing paperwork in New Zealand. We thought it would be a nice gesture to invite my family, who were going to be in town anyway, and even that 2 hours of brunch and signing papers was way more stressful than I had intended because they liked to paste their wants and needs and traditions onto the day. But it was also good overall that they felt included. I was so glad that our actual day was just about us. So if you have the means or the time, decoy weddings are the way to go!

  33. “People get to feel their feelings. They don’t get to be assholes to you.”

    So crucial to remember on both sides, for so many more reasons than weddings.

    1. So true! This should definitely be on a t-shirt or a pillow or a cute framed poster/cross-stitch

  34. I am planning my wedding this year at age 39 (I take being a late bloomer very seriously) and man has it been so much easier for me as a cranky older than traditional bride to just be “nah we’re doing it this way” with much less pushback than I bet I would have gotten even ten years ago (much less if I had gotten married at 20 like my own mother). Which is not to take anything away from people who want to marry young and more to advocate for being cranky and speaking up for what YOU and your significant other want.

    That said the bugaboo I have been dealing with, after years of unlearning my impulse to take on other people’s emotional labor unasked is now trying to head off my mom from doing said emotional labor (i.e. the string of texts last weekend fretting about who was invited to our rehearsal dinner and which airport she should tell people to fly into – did I mention our wedding is in OCTOBER? Also we have a website with all this info on it already, which she knows. ) It is really illuminating where my inherent event planning anxiety comes from, though.

  35. My bf and I have been together for 7½ years. We’ve talked about getting married – we want to *be* married, but the whole process of *getting* married (i.e. having a wedding) is paralyzing to think about. I was raised to be a Good Girl and accommodate everyone else’s needs, like most female-identifying persons, and there is literally no way to have a wedding that pleases everyone. Intellectually I *know* that’s 100% my problem, but that feminine-socialized part of me continues to clutch her pearls at the thought that someone, somewhere might have a negative opinion about me or something I do.

    I’m mostly concerned about our grandparents (I still have all 4, he has 1 left) – we both have grandmas that are really good at making everything about them, even and especially when it is emphatically NOT about them, and I have a grandpa whose hobbies include playing saxophone in a 10-piece band and also telling me about how every decision I have ever made is wrong and bad. None of those old fogies travel particularly well anymore, either, and they all live in different parts of the country – it really seems like the fairest thing would be to have a wedding that’s equally inconvenient for all of them to attend, with the added bonus of making it likely they won’t, because there’s no way I could get away with just not inviting them.

    1. If it’s any help in a “hey things CAN be done this way” sort of way, I just this year managed to get married with 0 wedding. We signed documents at the courthouse & were done.

      My immediate family made a day-trip which was as much about getting to see where we live as anything (half of them hadn’t visited yet because it’s so far) and we had a nice dinner at one of our fave holes-in-the-wall before they went home. A month later my spouse’s local friend-group hosted a dinner party that was explicitly in our honor but otherwise just a normal party (although the custom-order in-joke cupcakes were KILLER, 10/10 do recommend). The first few functions we attended featured a few minutes of our loved ones going “aww, congratulations!” or otherwise demonstrating affectionate interest; we’ve also gotten some greeting cards.

      It is not the right approach for everyone! But for us it was *divine.* We wanted to be married but both of us view parties as “trials to be withstood” at best, on top of the wedding-specific stress. So we just opted out entirely. We’re exactly as married and nobody has said anything but “congratulations” to us, even the family we identified during engagement planning as the type that would whine at us to have the wedding where THEY live (nowhere near us…) so THEY don’t have to effort. (I admit that was another mark in the “what if we Just Don’t?” column.)

    2. Do what works for You and Your Partner. *Whatever* works. Figure out what *you* want, ask your partner what *they* want, find the compromise, damn the torpedos!

      So many variants to pick from! On this page alone:
      1 wedding, 1 big party – same time, your hometown, invite everyone and hope the old fogies don’t make it
      Surprise wedding – invite everyone to a bday or anniversary party, have someone marry you there
      1 wedding, 1 local party, multiple small remote parties – travel to the different grandparent areas and have a nice dinner with each of them (call it a bridal tour to get around the fogie problem, that’s a common old tradition): you don’t care as much if a gma makes it about her, and if gpa’s band is playing somewhere, you can make that part of the tour (maybe 1 week to tour, 1 week to honeymoon?)
      Eloping – invite no one / very small group, tell them later. (doing it on the spur of the moment can be a great excuse)
      Not getting married at all

      On the pearl-clutching: your life forever will be better the more you can let that go, because as you get older the pressure will get worse, especially around reproduction issues (no kids = ‘when?’; kids = ‘here’s how you should raise them.’). I’m even hearing from my LGBTQx friends that they are facing increasing pressure as LGBTQx parenting becomes more normalized.

      Remember the Field of No Fucks! Plant it and water it and make it grow.

      1. I would like to point out that sometimes whatever works for you also means you can feel whatever feelings you have about the process. Thing that bugged me the most during wedding planning AND during my pregnancy was everyone going “Are you excited?!?!” Actually I am really stressed out and my life is about to change and there is so much planning – which is how I want things because I need to over plan and I really enjoy knowing that I have everything super planned and I like to make exhaustive lists – but I am super stressed and that is how I need to be right now. Don’t make people feel like they need to be super excited or let people make you feel like you aren’t excited enough. I was excited and extremely happy day of, but there are a lot of feelings that go into planning a wedding and you don’t need to be a glowing bride (or pregnant lady) all of the time.

    3. This sounds like an ideal situation for eloping?
      You get to be married, no wedding planning required, and you can travel around to the various branches of the family at some later unspecified date.

    4. May I recommend eloping? I felt many of the same things. I did want to be able to have the big party celebrating and eating yummy food with family and friends, but I was also dreading all the little stresses. My husband and I “solved” the problem by having a faux elopement (it was very planned and not at all secret, but nobody was invited except the photographer and officiant we had hired) and then hosting a regular reception after we returned. The reception, being what the part that required much more planning and consideration/accommodation of others, was indeed kind of stressful in lots of little ways that added up to make it not a super fantastic day in my memory. But the ceremony for just us was absolutely perfect. With much fewer variables and only ourselves to consider, we were able to make it exactly what we wanted it to be. We have heartily recommended eloping or faux eloping to everyone ever since.

      (P.S. If you are interested and able to get there, Colorado is a wonderful place for doing this sort of thing because they make it very easy to get married. The license is relatively cheap, good for 30 days, and can be picked up in any county for use in any county. There is no blood test or other weird background requirement. You do not have to have witnesses, and you don’t even have to have an officiant. If you wish to self-solemnize, they have a version of the license for that. So easy!)

  36. The best part of the wedding planning process was when it was down to the wire, we realized there were a few things we hadn’t had time to do, and we just looked at each other and decided not to do those things (printed programs spring to mind). Realizing I could just NOT DO stuff was enormously freeing. I paid for a beautiful bouquet because I really wanted one, but my bridesmaids’ bouquets were from flowers from Trader Joe’s. I had a few of my local friends over a few days before the wedding, cooked them dinner and poured a lot of wine, and had a bouquet-making party. It was a really special moment to have with my girlfriends right before the big day (and the bouquets looked great!).

  37. Yes to everything!!!! I would like to put “comfortable and enjoyable for guests” in all caps. I’ve been invited to a shocking number of weddings where “quality of spectacle” took precedence over “quality of care for guests”. You can have a casual, undecorated, teetotalling spaghetti-feed of a wedding in your weedy backyard, if everybody can sit, everybody can pee, and your friend in the wheelchair can actually get into the space. And good friends will have fun and be delighted to be there. If folks have to stand around and subsist on cake and butter mints for hours, they probably will wish you’d spared them the honor of viewing your luxe dress irl.

    1. Nobody was mad at the “Bar & snack table is open, grab yourself a little something while we snag some photos, the ceremony starts in half an hour” order of operations at our wedding. And I sprang for the good, sturdy chairs.

    2. I once bailed on a dear friend’s wedding when – at 8 pm, four HOURS after it started – dinner had not been served. It ended up.bring served at 9. It was also outdoors in the South in July. We only made it to the curb before my two children started crying. D-, would not wedding again.

      1. Yeah, and honestly, in general, I’m of the opinion that if you invite guests with kids, even if you make good provisions, you should not be mad if they happen to need to leave early.

        Sometimes, small humans have unexpected needs or are just having a bad day. Or are overwhelmed by lots of strangers in a small room and fancy clothes.

      2. I was at a wedding where the bride was 40 minutes’ late for the ceremony. This meant the gap between the ceremony and cocktails at the reception locale was minimal. Good news, we thought.

        The cocktails were being served on a mezzanine/ balcony area with the actual hall doors locked, and while canapes were served they literally never made it to a full half of the mezzanine. So a lot of people drinking, and most of them not eating at all, those who do subsiding on hors d’oeuvres. Bride and groom were nearly two HOURS late arriving. Then the dinner courses were extremely slow to arrive. So, when the two hours’ late dinner started, you got a starter salad…. then a grapefruit ice half an hour later. Half an hour after that you MIGHT have got your plate.

        If we’d had kids it would have been a nightmare. (The groom did, so I suspect this was not all good for him.)

    3. At my wedding, we did family & friends photos as the chapel, then sent all our guests to the reception venue while we did wedding party photos at a couple of picturesque park locations in between. We’d booked out our favourite restaurant for the reception, so everyone had tables and chairs and the restaurant served entrees (and the bar was open) while they waited for us.

      Block booking a small-but-good restaurant for several hours also meant that the food was glorious 😅

    4. I went to a family wedding 6 weeks before my own. We ate cold food at 9pm in a too hot room, after staying for family pics after the ceremony and then — surprise! — being drafted to pass chairs from one space to the other like a bucket line up the fire escape.

      That wedding was objectively more beautiful and Instagrammable than mine was. But I knew ours would be better for our guests, which is what mattered to me.

      1. I’ve been to two weddings where it transpired that the guests were expected to help the bridesmaids clean up the venue after the party. In both cases I found this out as I was entering “introvert needs to say goodbye while she still has energy for social graces” phase. I had carpooled and couldn’t leave. I was so angry, as the bride sat inside with 1 friend and the groom sat smoking cigars with most of the men. Both weddings were beautiful, but if you want the gorgeous venue, maybe pick one where you can afford the cleanup fee? Or at least tell your guests you’ll be needing their labor ahead of time.

        1. Yikes! Yes, I agree. I think I’d be lowkey pissed and horrified if I found out, towards the end of a wedding, that they were expecting guests to stay and help clean up. I won’t say that shouldn’t be a thing, it can be for budget weddings (especially backyard ones) but it’s not great, and if you really can’t afford to pay someone to clean up, you need to tell the guests ahead of time that you need people to stay and help clean up.

          1. If it was a backyard, obviously DIY/low-budget/we’re-just-happy-y’all-are-here type deal, I think I probably would have come expecting to help out in some way. But if you’re going to rent a nice vineyard and bring a bajillion decorations? Your guests should not be moving tables into storage at the end of the party.

        2. I was at a wedding a couple months ago where I surprise-volunteered for that at the end. But it was fine because I was really good friends with the groom’s family, and because no one had been relying on me to do that – if I hadn’t, the wedding party would’ve done it themselves.

          1. In one case the problem was that I was staying & carpooling with some bridesmaids, who didn’t tell me until I wanted to leave that we had to stay and help clean up. In hindsight I should have just gotten a lyft/uber back, b/c ultimately I haven’t really talked to any of them again anyway

    5. About hiring friends for free: For our budget wedding party I asked a friend with a nice camera to snap some pics in the evening. Well, the friend got drunk very fast and all the pictures show blurry shots of feet, ceilings and vague crowds.
      So I learned a lesson real fast: if you aren’t willing pay for professional services, you can’t expect professionalism and you’re in no position complain about that.
      Luckily, not having pictures from our wedding party didn’t really bug us all that much, suprisingly. We had a great wedding, people had a good time, and we realised that ultimately the memories matter more than the pictures.

    6. Yes! Your guests’ comfort and enjoyment does matter! They *are* going out of their way to be there, and while they want to be there, you do need to be a good host. That doesn’t mean bend over backwards to please the picky jerks, but it does mean making sure people can sit, pee, eat, and enjoy the reception. And do what you can to keep people at a comfortable temperature, no one enjoys freezing their butts off or overheating; I know you can’t control the weather, but you can help people manage it, heat lamps and fans are your friends! You could even hand out paper fans as wedding favors, or wraps for the women if it’s an early fall wedding that might be chilly.

      1. Yes to fans as favors! I went to a summer wedding recently where the party favor was a laminated, folding fan printed with photos of the couple and poems that they’d chosen (and I think the program?), it was *adorable* and very much appreciated. Not a low-stress/budget choice I’m sure, but to point out that if you are going the super themed and decorated route, functional and considerate does not have to conflict with sweet.

    7. Oh yes! And please, provide you guests with somewhere to *be*. The number of wedding’s I have been to out of town where there was a big hours long gap between the wedding and reception and no where to go for that time. If you can’t have a cocktail reception at least provide people with a church basement and some snacks or a patio to hang out on and some water? Spending three hours in a strange town when you can’t go out to eat because you will be fed at the reception and can’t go to a bar because you’ll have to drive to the reception and you are wearing nice clothes so you can’t go bowling or something active is just super stressful. Once the wedding was in the middle of nowhere – just corn fields and forest and the entire wedding party took off four four plus hours because the bride wanted pictures at a place that was over an hour away. Most of the guests ended up getting McDonalds and then sneaking into the reception hall early because it was that or sit in our cars for four hours. I tried to keep things clean at my table, but the hall and decorations were a bit worse for wear by the time the bride showed up.

  38. Can I just … vent for a minute please? Thanks.

    Earlier this month, my brother-in-law got married. This is a couple where we spent every major holiday together, and his wife and I would go on local wine walks together as part of a group of all-female family and friends. We saw them a lot!

    So when they got engaged last fall, I was SO EXCITED to do all the fun family wedding things. But throughout the whole thing it was like I wasn’t even there. I know that sounds like I wanted it to be all about me, but that’s really not my intent – just saying that when they drew the circle of family for wedding party and family activities, they included my husband and all three of my children … but not me. No bridesmaid role, no bachelorette, no dress shopping (but of course she was wearing the exact dress I had pictured for her) – nothing.

    Day of the ceremony, when the photographer read from the list they had of immediate family (which conventionally includes spouses), once again – they include my husband, my kids, but not me.

    And that was it for me – I was done. Never mind that I drove my family all 6.5 hours there, never mind that I’m the breadwinner of the family so I had to bankroll my husband’s bachelor party attendance and outfitting four people for the wedding party, never mind the family relationship that I THOUGHT we had – that was the moment I checked out.

    My mother-in-law tried to yell after me to get me to come back for family pictures – nope, sorry. Not your wedding, and the people who ARE getting married clearly didn’t want me on the list. I busied myself making sure the bartender had what she needed and the caterer knew where to put the food and making sure my kids had everything they needed. Didn’t speak to bride or groom the entire evening and ended up leaving early to take my middle kid back to the hotel when her allergies acted up.

    I’m told that later my MIL threw a FIT about my behavior, which is really funny to me. All I did was be quite, happy, sociable, and not speak to people who clearly only invited me because they knew I would need to transport and bankroll the people that they ACTUALLY wanted at their wedding.

    Yes I’m still hurt, yes it shouldn’t be a big deal, yes I should just get over it, but that’s where I am right now.

    End rant.

    1. You behaved impeccably and I applaud you from afar. Seriously, turning a snub into an opportunity to make things run more smoothly is some genius-level social jujitsu.

    2. Oof. That’s a shitty thing to do to someone. It’s okay to feel left out – that’s exactly what they did to you, and none too subtly, either. That sucks, I’m sorry.

    3. You did the best you could with a bad situation. I consider your handling of it the platonic ideal. Your Mother-in-law apparently wanted you to suck it up even more (How dare you notice the snubbing and react accordingly!), but her expectations were not yours to manage.

  39. None of us want to think about this, and I sure hope none of the Awkward Army are in this situation, but if you’re engaged to be married and you have the thought in the back of your mind that maybe you shouldn’t go through with it, maybe you shouldn’t marry this person? DON’T. The closer it gets the more pressure there is to go through with it because you’ve made all these plans, and everything is supposed to be wonderful, and I succumbed to that and I married the wrong person and it cost me four and a half years of a miserable marriage, declaring bankruptcy over my partner’s debts, the expenses of the divorce, and having to see my married name in my work login every day in the computer.

    You can always change your mind later and get married if it turns out that is what you want. You can’t make it not have happened in the past if you go through with it and wish you hadn’t.

  40. First-time commenter: Just popping on to say that the Captain’s advice is spot on as always. I also want to affirm that a small wedding done in a non-traditional way is still a “real” wedding. Hubs and I got married a few months after I graduated from college, two weeks after he finished Americorp service, one week before we moved 1300 miles across the country and two weeks before I started graduate school. We had 7 people guests at our wedding, that’s including the two photographers. It was perfect. Hubs’ large family still has not gotten over the perceived slight. July will mark 5 years.

    They survived. We survived. We’re married and happy.

    His mother and grandmother tried to plan a wedding shower for another couple (cousin of my boo) on our wedding day. Asked me to organize the games. I said no and we had a family meeting about how hurt we were. The response was: “we thought because you weren’t doing the traditional/right way, it wasn’t important to you.” We set them straight about that! My relationship with my MIL was forever changed after that, but it provided valuable information about her worldview and we worked through it.

    Small, non-traditional weddings are great! Do what’s good for you, not what other people want. The only other advice I can offer is: choose a good photographer!! I went with my parent’s friends from their church, who are technically professional photographers. I should have done more research, their style didn’t mesh with our personalities, so most of our wedding photos look stilted. But, at the end of the day, we were married. And that’s what mattered most.

  41. Also, this:

    “Also, don’t expect people to read your mind if there’s something you want them to do, you might have a playbook in mind but it’s far from universal, so spell it out! *Help people make a good decision*, help people give you what you want and need.”

    Emphasis mine and applicable to nearly every aspect of planning. In terms of accessibility and guest comfort, it will never be possible to foresee everything you could possibly do to make sure every single guest has an ideal experience at your wedding. Especially when it comes to dietary and physical limitations, of course it’s ideal to do what you CAN to look after common/known ones, but there will always be accommodations that are unfeasible, contradictory, or that you just plain don’t think of.

    So give potential guests as much information as you’re able to about the menu, venue, restrooms and stairs, indoor/outdoor, weather contingencies, parking/transit, RSVP dates, plus-ones or lack thereof, kids of lack thereof, length of time doing various things, previous-day or next-day events, etc. DRESS CODE. I don’t know if there’s a way to convey it without coming across as snobby or controlling to some, but this stresses me out so much at various events. I’m cool with whatever level of formality is in the offing, but please don’t make me guess.

    And the sooner the better, because in the event there’s an aspect that’s a serious enough problem that a guest simply cannot come, A) they don’t want to find out about it *after* they’ve bought travel tickets and taken time off work to be there, and B) depending on the relationship you as a guest have with the to-be-weddeds and the trickiness of the aspect in question, it’s sometimes *possible* to say “I would love to be there with you, but X is a dealbreaker. Maybe we could do some brainstorming and find out if there’s a way we can work it out, but if not, please know that I love you and hopefully we can do something special to celebrate on another occasion”.

    And to whatever degree possible, give people individual information on potential dealbreakers that might not be on the wedding invitation/website/whatever. Especially with personal conflicts – if neither Person A or Person B is actually horrible, but you know that one or both would prefer never to set eyes on the other again, a heads-up that ‘A/B is also invited, we will be sad but understand if this means you would prefer not to come’ is more kind than a surprise.

  42. One of my favorite wedding DJs of all time was the bride’s 11-year-old cousin at a backyard wedding. You can’t NOT dance when there’s a child DJ, plus he was dropping some sick beats.

  43. If there is a person whose behavior will probably be good but you can’t be certain about, I can’t recommend enough asking some willing and charming friends to keep their eyes open and be prepared to hustle someone out.

    Our source of wedding stress came from a couple of my husband’s exes. One publicly said they planned to come, despite not being invited, and my husband had one conversation where he was very explicit that they were not to come and they would be told to leave if they did. The other decided to (knowingly) plan a party for the day of our wedding and invited all of our friends plus my husband- without me.

    We let a few close friends know what was up, despite being fairly certain neither person would want to make a scene, and decided we were going to trust those friends to take care of any situation that arose and enjoy our wedding day. Having those people we trusted to deal with anything that came up made it possible for me, the person who worries and frets and gets anxious when there isn’t a plan, to chill.

    Asking for help if you need it is an A+++ in my book!

      1. I never heard anything else about the party after my husband got the invitation! Basically everyone had already RSVP’d yes to us, and they all came.

        The part that really baffles me is that in the many, many years since, I’ve heard of a couple more times where an ex or interested person tried planning a birthday party for the day of the wedding they’re protesting and inviting all the mutual friends. Apparently it’s a thing?

  44. There were 7 of us at work planning weddings at the same time. I was the least stressed because mom and dad said here are x$ use it as you will, wedding, down payment, honeymoon. Whatever but that’s it. Our relationship was so much better, I knew that was it. If we wanted more we paid for it. Everyone else was constantly asking parents for more money, or worrying about the strings attached to money. I hope any parents can see this and what a gift it was.

    1. My Dad did this for my wee wedding 25 years ago. When I told him I was getting married — he said,”figure out a budget, ask me for the money, and if I can swing it, I’ll help.” I’ve noticed with other folks’ weddings: writing a bunch of individual little checks makes a parent feel like they need to weigh in on all of the individual little decisions, and then everybody gets fratchety. Note: my dad didn’t have any conditions, but under this system, the honorable thing is to name conditions before expensive deposits get made. Your kids are welcome to have the wedding they can afford, themselves, if they don’t want your conditions. They’re also welcome to decide that some conditions mean you’re a jerk who should be eloped away from, anyway.

  45. There were 7 of us at work planning weddings at the same time. I was the least stressed because mom and dad said here are x$ use it as you will, wedding, down payment, honeymoon. Whatever but that’s it. Our relationship was so much better, I knew that was it. If we wanted more we paid for it. Everyone else was constantly asking parents for more money, or worrying about the strings attached to money. I hope any parents can see this and what a gift it was.

  46. Dropping this in for any upcoming weddings: BrotherLogic is a part-time wedding DJ, and did the honors for a friend’s wedding that I attended a couple weeks back. He performed the best DJ trick I have yet encountered:
    Step One – Summon everyone to the dance floor to take a big group photo
    Step Two – Take a few big group photos
    Step Three – When the photographer gives you the thumbs up, turn on a crowd pleasing dance number

    Fall for this trick! It is magic!

    1. My niece got married in April. They had the bridal party out on the floor and the DJ announced that the bridal party would come and bring people onto the dance floor and you were not supposed to refuse. They’d dance with you, then go bring someone else in. They brought my daughter, 10 at the time and self conscious as hell about dancing, out on the floor and I don’t think she left it until we went home. She’d have fought her dad and me but the best man, not a problem.

  47. I’m looking for input from LGBT readers. I’m getting married soon and some of my extended family is pretty conservative. My friends group is almost 100% not cis/straight. I don’t *think* my family members will say anything but I am absolutely ready to kick them out of the wedding if they do. Any suggestions on the best way to make that clear to LGBT folks attending without making them have to spend their time worrying about it? I told my trans bridesmaid directly because she asked me about it. Appoint minders for them? Note: not inviting the relatives is not an option due to Family Stuff, but I don’t think they’ll be staying at the reception all that long. My mom has already promised to talk to the only relative I’m really worried about.

    1. Is there any way to do it the other way around? Can you make your extended family aware of how not cis/straight the wedding will be? It might help you to think of them as the ones that need pre-wedding alerts to be on their best behavior, rather than your friends having to be alerted about possibly shitty treatment.

      1. Yes, good idea! I’d make a wedding website prominently displaying brief profiles (with names and pronouns) & photos of some out members of the wedding party and/or explicitly stating how queer y’all are and how happy you are to celebrate openly without fear and how bigotry is so not tolerated. Maybe some behavioural guidelines? I’d go for a happy-excited-matter of fact tone, put up the website, then direct potentially problematic guests to it.

  48. I laughed out loud when I saw the title of the post because I have been invited to two in-lawy weddings (a cousin, and my SIL) this summer and God, this post is so relevant!

    The SIL’s wedding is a three-day-ceremony stravaganza. That’s not typical for our cultural background, so every guest is a) shocked and b) full of quiet dread. I’m a very chatty, very sociable extrovert, but 72 straight hours isolated in a villa full of in-laws with whom I’m expected to pleasantly interact is a hellish prospect even for me.

    I’ve stocked my partner (whose introverted soul finds the plan… slightly more disagreeable than me, shall we say) full of assertive & kind scripts to shorten our stay and pointed him in the direction of his sister. Should his quest fail, I’ve already scheduled some convenient migraines to hide in our room for part of the shenanigans. My main goal will be surviving the proceedings without setting anyone on fire.

  49. Both my sisters got married in the few years before I did. I have two thoughts about that:

    1. Did we all use the same venue for ceremony and reception? Yep. Was it weird? Who cares! Our family and extended family came to the same place for another good party, knowing what they would get. And it was new for all the in-laws! (We did all choose different parks to take photos in, so we had at least a little concern about differentiating…)

    2. Middle wedding sis shared her budget spreadsheet with me, which was helpful both as a timely local piece of info for shopping around and as a checklist for the things I might not’ve thought about at the start of planning. I know that kind of sharing might be weird or impossible, but I was glad I had that info.

    1. Oh wow, no the spreadsheet’s not weird, that’s spectacularly helpful. That’s actually something that if I was a wedding planner I would create and offer to my clients, so they could play around with different options and see how they impact the budget.

      1. Oh, definitely agreed as a tool for planning! I just mean sharing the financial details with a person you know (or asking someone to do that) may seem weird since people can be very private about money.

    2. I got married 5 years after my sister and used SO MANY of her wedding plans for my wedding. It was amazing! Hey, she liked this florist, and I don’t really care about flowers? I’ll go there and just tell them to make me a nice bouquet! She got married at this venue? They even still had her file so I could get the same package. It saved me a lot of headaches.

    3. My cousins got married less than a year apart and had the same ceremony spot (their local church), same reception venue and same DJ. Both weddings were beautiful and super fun. If people had feelings about it, I didn’t hear it! If it’s not broke, why fix it!

  50. Any advice for being a person in the wedding party who has Serious Problems for Very Good Reasons with some of the other people in the wedding party? (The spouse-to-be who I am standing with is aware of the Problems (and has a few of their own!) but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that this may be an issue at the wedding and also it’s not their job to take care of me at their wedding.)

    1. I would say to the spouse-to-be you’re standing with, “Hey so I absolutely do not want my beef with Jerkface to be an issue at your wedding. If it is at all possible for us to [not be alone together, stand separately, do different things] then that would help, and I’m not going to contribute to any drama.” Then try to ignore that person or otherwise pretend you have no problems with them until the wedding is over. Use everyone else as a buffer. But if you feel baited or drawn into drama, you have to be willing to resign from the wedding party rather than create problems for your friend.

    2. It depends on the problems in question. Does what they did make you question the fact that spouse-to-be is still associating with them, much less expecting you to be around them at a social event? Or is it more of an ‘Ehhhh, I’d rather not see them, but I understand why STB wants them there?’

      If it’s the former, see the captain’s point about how being in the wedding party (/attending the wedding at all) is not a binding contract.

      If the latter, you still do have the option to pull the ripcord; elsewise, in your shoes I’d plan strategies for how the persons in question are likely to behave.

      Are they decent/smart enough to not actively be assholes to you at the wedding? Swell, have minimum interactions for politeness and no more. Have a pocket full of excuses for cutting such interactions short swiftly (‘Oh, I haven’t talked to aunt Mary yet! Bye!’)

      Are they likely to seek you out, follow you, harass or otherwise bother you? If this is a possibility, I personally wouldn’t attend unless I could guarantee that at least one friend among the attendees (or my own date, or whatever) was 100% aware of who they are and what they might pull, and was prepared to act as a buffer if need be.

    3. Trust them to step up, act like you think they are going to be their best self at the wedding, and if they do anything inappropriate, be like ‘I’m really just here for (Bride and Groom), I’m just making sure they have a lovely day. That’s all I’m here for. I’m really not interested in (crap thing they said or did) today. Got to go and see if Bride needs me!!!’…

      Good luck! Let It Go!…

      1. Thanks to all three of you for your replies! It’s less of a personal beef and more of a ‘I guess these people have been important to STB but given the things they think/say/do why is STB still associating with them?’ I’m less worried about assholery specifically directed at me as I am about the fact that I’m generally uncomfortable around them, particularly given that I never know when they might start saying these awful things (sometimes about marginalised groups of which I am a member).

        It actually hadn’t occurred to me that it being a wedding might make them more likely to be on their best behaviour, but that definitely helps, and I think having a number of different possible reasons to leave an interaction with them will also be useful. Being there for my friend is very important to me, I’m just hoping to minimalise the amount of the time I’m upset/stressed/panicky because of these people.

  51. How timely! I’m getting married in two weeks and the RSVP bad behavior has been STAGGERING. We asked anyone who we knew was dating someone at the time if they wanted to bring their partner and if they said yes we addressed an invitation to them; we also gave people who weren’t going to know anyone else, or were traveling a long way and unpartnered, an undesignated +1. We thought we’d covered our bases! Why have so many people RSVPd super late with requests to bring a total random? And why is it that when we bend over backwards to accommodate these rude requests, those very same people refuse to provide us with basic details about that person, such as their last name, or their dietary restrictions? I swear to god there’s a person we’ve never met on our seating chart right now as “Cindy Somebody,” and if the relative who wants to bring her doesn’t get back to us after MULTIPLE requests for her surname, she will remain Cindy Somebody and he will have to explain to her why.

    1. Oh, so much sympathy! I tried to make the RSVP process as simple as possible (all online! Just click this button!) and there is NO way to make the process so streamlined and foolproof that you won’t have to chase anyone down.

    2. Oh the RSVPs. People are just not good at them. To me, there is one way to do RSVPs: When you receive the RSVP, you think, “Do I want to attend this thing and am I able to do so?” If clearly yes or no, respond pretty much right then and there. If you need to check a few things first, put the RSVP somewhere prominent where you will see it often and not forget it, check those things as soon as possible, and send your response as soon as you know. Do NOT do the thing of forgetting to fill it out at all, or waiting til the last minute, or not providing some of the asked-for information, or showing up with a +1 you hadn’t said was coming. Just….answer your RSVP, people!

  52. Captain, you so nailed it with this post! I’m going to be laughing about “Grandma’s time to go” for days.
    So, just some things that helped me as a “non-traditional” bride. I was very anti-marriage for many years. Seriously, had guys start proposing in my teens and kept saying nope, nope. Finally found my dream man at age 39 who talked me into it.
    1. If you don’t want an engagement ring, let him know early in the relationship, even as a throw away line. “Oh, yeah, Jenna has a gorgeous engagement ring, but that’s not my thing. I would lose the diamond on Day 2 when I was changing a tire. Not for me.”
    2. If someone will no longer like you or love you if they are not invited to your wedding, it means their affection is conditional and therefore worthless. I absolutely adore my mother and she is the Queen of Unconditional Mother Love. And – brace yourselves – I DID NOT INVITE MY MOTHER TO MY WEDDING! And she was fine with it. (It was a pretty spur of the moment thing.)
    3. When someone tries to shove their ideas down your throat, remember these simple words, said quite calmly, “It’s not your wedding. It’s mine.” When I was buying a car years ago, guys I barely knew wanted to shove their opinions down my throat. It’s MY car, dudes! When it’s YOUR car, you get to decide. But it’s MY car, Same thing with a wedding. You and your intended make the decisions.
    4.. The name game. Hubby was not invested in his last name, I was invested in mine, so he took mine. In that state, all he had to do was sign his new name on the wedding certificate and then call Social Security, get a new driver’s license, etc. Easy breezy, In some states, it’s harder. The “tradition” of taking the man’s last name is about as traditional as ice cream for breakfast. (Weatherwax Jr., we all love you!) He did have to have a few Wanna Step Outside and Settle It talks with some bro types who were threatened by it, but overall, people were overwhelmingly positive.

  53. Sometimes there’s a person you want to have be there (say your intended’s mother) but she has announced she plans to misbehave (“I hate the your fiancee and I may just use the wedding as a venue to express that”). Ask me how I know. Anyway, the best advice I ever for about that was to enlist “handlers”. We had two, who were informed of the issues and who agreed to tag team my now MIL. She ended up thinking she was super popular and awesome because two people whom other people obviously loved and valued kept insisting on spending time with her, and they managed to head off at least three attempts to disrupt things. Both my handlers are now deceased, but I will always cherish the memory of what they did for me on that day.

  54. If you have a relative who is behaving badly, but who does actually love you and want you to be happy (hi dad!), I find that being really honest about what’s going on works like a charm. Feel free to use my script:

    “Every time I think about my wedding, or see you calling, I feel physically sick. Is that how you want me to feel?”

    I’m told he then routed everything through my sister because I was “so stressed about the wedding”. Who cares? Not me.

  55. So I got married just over a year ago and had an amazing, drama-free time. Part of the reason it went so beautifully was that I soul-searched and spoke to my spouse and decided to NOT come out as trans before the wedding. I wore a suit and let people make of that what they wanted.

    I did come out to my closest family a couple of months after the wedding and they handled it pretty poorly. While we’ve reached some sort of new equilibrium I’m still nursing the wound of how they treated me. I’ve been trying to make a photo book out of the pictures our photographer took of the day and it’s something I really want. The pictures are gorgeous, we look so happy and I know digital archives are fickle (and often just unviewed). But sitting down and trying to do the work of making this photo album makes me really sad. I look at all these pictures of my family, who were so happy for me at the time and said such beautiful things in their speeches, and I can’t help but remember that a few months later they treated me horribly and they never apologized. I can’t bring myself to work on this album even though I really want it (my husband can’t do it, his creative skills does not lie in this department and it matters to me that it looks right). How can I get through this and make my photo album?

    1. Who do you know who loves this type of project and would enjoy doing it for you or with you?

      Bonus points if they have their own wedding album (or other photo book) that you can look at and know you like their style!

    2. Dear internet stranger,
      Your comment caught me, and I just want to say – you deserve to have happy memories of your day, and I am sorry that some of those are currently tinged with sadness at the hurt that followed. What if you think of this album, in the version you will craft it now, as a potential ‘stage one’ rather than the absolute final product? A first draft, of the moments that you want to revisit that bring you joy of how you felt on that day and the ones that feature you and your spouse and what you found to be most meaningful (and not necessarily the ones that ‘look’ the most beautiful/perfect). It may mean that there are fewer photos, for now, of your family. But those photos won’t cease to exist – maybe you can find yourself in a place at some point you will determine in the future to revisit all the images, and craft an updated ‘second draft’ of your album. Maybe it becomes an anniversary tradition to review both your photo book and the other images, and create a new or different curated collection of moments that speak to you, or until you feel the product is finally finished to your true satisfaction.
      Or, maybe you can enlist another trusted, supportive friend or small group to help you with completing the project? I know I will procrastinate on things that seem emotionally fraught or difficult – maybe that can be a way to create a timeline/having someone help you hold yourself accountable to your plan to complete this project? And having someone else’s opinion and ability to see these images with the fresh eyes of someone at a different perspective besides one-of-the-main-couple. Or, alternately, might it be a service your photographer or another paid creative individual could manage for you, to relieve the pressure you feel and allow you to release yourself from that personal accountability for exactly how perfect you want the final product to be?

  56. Three months today to my wedding! I am SO excited, and it’s going to be a lovely day, but OOOF wedding + family=unexpected emotional curve balls.

    #1 Is my Mother in Law consistently bringing up everything that went wrong at her wedding and expounding at length as to how she hopes that won’t happen to us. She has diagnosed Asperger’s, so doesn’t always pick up on my “please stop this line of conversation” cues. Thankfully, fiancé is good at heading her off if I’m telegraphing “HELP ME.”

    #2 Is my usually very liberal parents suddenly going for all the traditions. My Mum chained herself to railings for feminism in the 70s, but suddenly a couple of White Wedding Traditions that I’d hoped to do away with are happening because they’re paying for the wedding. I’m amazingly grateful, and none are deal-breakers, but COME ON guys!

    #3 Is the weird reaction of some of my colleagues. I’m training to be a priest, and currently live in a training college. The expectation is that you don’t live with your partner until you are married, and definitely no hanky panky beforehand. Cue fellow male students making jokes about my wedding night, and whether my fiancé needs advice about it, including lots of jokey references to my “virginity.” I’ve mostly managed to shut it down by now (thank you Captain for gross-comments scripts!) but URGH.

    Sorry for the grumbles, guys, I know these are mild roadblocks to happiness and I also know everything will be fine on the day. Any advice on scripts + how to manage very differing family expectations about how a wedding “should go” gratefully received!

    1. You’re not alone with #2! My extremely activist feminist mom completely freaked out at my suggestions that my sister could wear a suit if she wanted to or I could forego flowers at the ceremony. Sometimes weddings (and other big milestone events, like having kids or buying a house) can bring up stuff you’re not expecting in your own family. And when they’re paying, you might have to pick your battles.

  57. Yeah, regarding “either invite someone wholeheartedly but don’t do half-arsed invitations overladen with conditions”: A few years ago a very good friend from uni got married to my ex’s brother. I bowed out because I didn’t want to be tasked with managing ex’s emotions on top of mine in an event of confrontation, so I didn’t go- I hated not attending a wedding of my lovely friend in a lovely setting. Ex and his brother the groom are part of a tricky family with volatile tempers all wrapped in a thin veil of British affability and wit. Ex and I broke up because it just couldn’t be fixed anymore, he was/is a controlling drama queen, verging on emotionally abusive whom I outgrew emotionally. The break up was hard, but amicable enough, or so I thought. He then got back together with a long-time ex, sent me a few text messages about how shitty I am, slagged me off to anyone who would listen and got married. So the potential for drama at the wedding was very high, I had the best intentions of not getting carried into any kind of fight or drama, but it was an emotional minefield and considering ex had been a part of my life for 5+ years, who knew how he’d react to my presence, what he would twist and use against me to hurt and provoke in front of someone elses huge wedding party with some good friends but mostly his and his brothers friends and family who knew me best from his version of events. My friend “talked” to me about her dilemma in wanting to invite me but also her worries that Ex or his wife might not be able control himself etc. etc. Kind of leaving me to read between the lines… . Another friend didn’t go either becasue she didn’t agree with the marriage (yeah, we all saw that, but what’s a friend to do except voice concern and hope for the best? Well, the “best” is unfortunately quite miserable for my friend :-/). Anyhow, all around very sad but in hindsight it is still the best decision, especially now that my ex is getting divorced and still intent on contacting me once in a while with emotion bombs.

    1. Ugh. Good on you for being so gracious to your friend.

      I have an ex that used to call in the middle of the night because you know what beats emotion bombs? 4:00am emotion bombs. I finally just asked what the fuck he wanted other than to disrupt my sleep and remind me how fucking glad I was to not be dating him. And he stopped calling – it’s only been 20ish years so who knows?

  58. We had our perfect wedding in a simple mountain amphitheater, with a burgers and soda reception at a nearby park. I bought a white dress with cute Swiss dots from Target, we ordered the cake from a baker down the street, and my parents hired a couple teenage friends of my sister to flip the burgers. My mother took care of all the decor. I told her I could not bear to pick out napkin colors, etc, but anything blue and yellow would be fine (spouse is red/green colorblind). My dad organized all the food. They actually had a great time planning it, and I was so grateful for their enthusiasm and hard work! Total cost was around $2000 for about 100 guests.

    My sister had her perfect wedding in the great hall of a beautiful museum. They hired an organizer, a band, and a photographer. She bought an extremely fancy (gorgeous!) dress for a still very large secondhand sum. They served swanky appetizers and cocktails followed by a full dinner, along with providing an open drinks bar, a cake and ice cream bar, and a photo booth. I think they were shooting for somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 for around 150 guests.

    Each wedding was an absolute blast, and each was exactly the way we wanted it.

  59. I wonder if I dare tell some wedding horror stories? TW for suicide attempt, which really wasn’t, but just in case.

    Some years ago my then h* took an overdose of anti-hallucinogens the day before my cousin’s wedding (mother’s niece & fiance). I didn’t think they were particularly dangerous, but took him to A&E just in case; as it turns out they weren’t dangerous. He was checked out and eventually sent home, with a letter for our GP. Meanwhile, I had left our then very young daughter with my parents, who lived a very short distance away, so unfortunately they knew all about it. I couldn’t take her with me.

    The next morning I took the letter to the GP, and then h said he would stay home, and he assured me he was fine; fair enough. We both wanted our d to have a nice day out. So, as arranged, I drove my parents and my young daughter to the wedding. No problem. I tried to enjoy the day and I certainly wasn’t going to mention what had happened to anyone at all.

    Afterwards I watched in horror as we were standing in the churchyard as photographs were taken, and my mother went from one group of people to another, spoke to them, clutched them in despair and then collapsed at the knees and had to be held up. I pretended I didn’t know her. Literally, I saw her walk up to the groom’s parents, who we had never met before, and do all of this.

    Joining the dots, she was telling everyone, with more than a little embroidery of her own. You can imagine; I prefer not to.

    I got such looks of pity from complete strangers, and wanted the ground to just swallow me up. And then my family would come up to me and speak earnestly of how they were There For Me (Newsflash; they weren’t then and they are not now), and give me rather overlong hugs, and tell me how brave I was. I wasn’t particularly brave, but I was trying to enjoy a wedding that was totally not about me, and which should have been about giving my daughter a nice day out with extended family, and celebrating someone else’s special day.

    I think this was the same wedding where my mother’s brother disappeared on the way to the reception and my mother concluded that his wife must have thrown him out of the house and he was so ashamed he didn’t dare come to the reception. A story she told very loudly to anyone who would listen. That wasn’t it at all; I rang him and he said he had got lost on the way and just went home. Unfortunately my mother had left a bag with wedding gifts in his car, goodness only knows why, and he had to drive half way back again; I drove an hour up the motorway to meet him so I could get it back. My mother insisted that she had to have it; it couldn’t wait for another time. So I missed a couple of hours of the reception.

    I am reliably informed that at my own wedding my mother declared it was All Too Much and refused to get into the wedding car. She walked to the church instead. Fortunately nobody told me at the time.

    I suppose there ought to be a point to all of this. It took me a very, very long time to learn that there are some people in this world who are only happy when they are unhappy; the kindest thing to do is to let them carry on. If they ever woke up one fine morning and found themselves cheerful and optimistic they would be miserable. Give them the gift of allowing them to be who they are, and if you inadvertently make them unhappy realise that this is the kindest thing you can ever do for them; they genuinely prefer it.

    *h was an alcoholic and very unhappy. At this point I was still trying to support him through rehab. But that is another story for another time.

    1. Sometimes the most wonderful thing you can do for the bride and groom is just not tell them about shit that goes wrong. If you don’t think they will notice then just don’t tell them. Let them be as happy and carefree as they can be. Don’t bring them trouble if you can help it and don’t expect them to solve things. If you are getting married create a list of who you trust to deal with certain issues and give them to your wedding party so they can re-direct people. So many people came up to tell me my mother had decided to break her sobriety and start drinking on my wedding day – so many people. What on earth do you expect me to do about it? I’m not going to stop everything to have an intervention right now

  60. We eloped.

    I thought about the cost of the cake, dress, the pressure of inviting and feeding people I didn’t like who would have expected an invite to be there. After an experience I had as a child, where a member of my dad’s family died, he was the one with the money in the family so he did a wake. My mum, my sister and myself cooked and cooked, and set out the good porcelain and served food – didn’t get a nod of thanks. Then when the wake was over, they left, never to be seen again, and we spent just as much time (even more) cleaning up than we did getting the prep time going. That’s left a bad taste in my mouth all these years later.

    Or the time when I sat down and did calligraphy for a neighbour’s wedding invitations (all 150 of them) and didn’t even get an invite. Weddings (and funerals) really bring out the arseyness of people.

    So, in light of those experiences, we eloped, did it privately, and no one knew until I left the country.

    People were mad about not being invited, but hard cheese, mates. We’re still married all these years later. So.

  61. Could I just add – sometimes people WILL surprise and amaze you. Like the close relative you are anxious about having at your wedding, because you worry that they will do Bad Things (because you can’t help but remember all the times they were an arsehole to you). Sometimes you invite them anyway and give them a role, because it’s the easiestv thing to do, and you’re wondering if you are doing the right thing, and mentally preparing to sing Let It Go on a mountaintop somewhere later if it all goes wrong… And in fact, on your wedding day, they not only completely step up and surprise and amaze you, but also look out for you, and offer you little bits of their kindness and generosity. Weddings are not for fixing your family, but sometimes if you wait long enough and you trust someone, people WILL surprise and amaze you (and I am paraphrasing the late Randy Pausch here…).

  62. This is all wonderful advice and if I ever get married, I’ll be sure to put it into practice.
    A wedding related question — I don’t know how off-topic this is, but I’m hopefully going to be going to my first weddings this year — I’m 25 and have a lot of cousins around my age, so they’re all getting married immediately and suddenly. I want to go to support my cousins and meet their fiances, but I’m kind of nervous about just…everything. I’m planning on wearing a suit, but my cousins don’t know I’m trans and I don’t know if I need to come out to them beforehand. I don’t want to stress them out or make a lot of trouble. Does anyone have any advice for, like, getting over myself and hopefully being able to be chill about this? Do I have to avoid going or go in drag so I don’t take over the event with my Personal Drama like my parents seem to be implying? If something like this happened at your wedding, would you be upset? Would you want to be notified beforehand?

    1. ‘I’m just more comfortable wearing a suit.’ You’re an adult, it’s the 21st century, you get to decide what to wear. Many women wear trousers, some men wear kilts, and the more all of us normalize the shit out of that, the better. (‘A woman must wear a dress/skirt’ usually means ‘a woman should not have pockets’ which is worth pushing against.)

      (I grew up with family expectations to wear skirts around a very elderly aunt. (Like my grandmother, she had never worn trousers in her life. Unlike my grandmother, she was not the disapproving sort.) I compromised by wearing a kilt from 13-15, and then just gave up pretending. I even – gasp – wore shorts in the summer.

      Not much later, she bought her first pair of trousers and became a convert. She was ninety-three.)

      There are probably arguments for and against coming out to your family, and I’m sure you’ll consider them all (and whatever you do, you’ll probably worry that you got it wrong, because there is no perfect course of action that will elicit perfect reactions – if people are going to be shitty about it, they’ll be shitty about it whatever you do). But how you dress as an adult is entirely up to you. Don’t give anyone the impression that it’s up for debate – it’s not.

      Also, being trans isn’t ‘your personal drama’. It’s only drama if other people make a big song and dance. You’re just being yourself, going about your day.

      Wishing you the best of luck.

    2. I would say it’s definitely better to come out to people before their wedding.

      Not because of Drama or Upstaging or anything low-key transphobic like that, though.

      People who are involved closely with a wedding (bride, groom, wedding party, immediate family) are likely to be in a whirl of distraction and stress on the day, to the point where their ability to process new information appropriately is severely compromised. Presenting someone with a major change that requires digesting when they are in that state dramatically increases the chances that they will blurt out something that will hurt you and mortify them and everyone around them.

      So yeah, I’d find a way to casually come out to the lot of them beforehand, whether that’s a facebook post or a family email or whatever. Set the tone for how you want it to go (‘in case you hadn’t heard’ is a good one, or ‘just letting you know’ – implying that this Big Announcement is neither big nor an announcement!). Wear a suit – people survive seeing cis women in suits, they can survive seeing you in a suit too.

      I hope it goes well 🙂

    3. /offers jedi hugs/ I’m going to wear a suit and tie to my SIL’s wedding, as well as my Very Queer Hairstyle (not sure about binding yet), so I feel you, laundryghost.

      I think you won’t be ruining anything by wearing a suit: lots of women do that, so if you’re ok with people assuming that you are a woman who looks awesome in a suit instead of them acknowledging your true identity, I’d go that route. People are a) very self-absorbed and b) very very willing to avoid awkward conversations, so in my experience, they either won’t notice or won’t ask.

      Don’t go in drag, that will only make you feel bad and won’t fix anything. Stop listening to your parents. They are trying to pressure and control you and making a really big deal out of a very normal thing because they’re scared and uncomfortable about your transness and/or appearances. That is not your cross to bear, tho: you cannot fix their feelings for them.

      If you do want to come out and for people to use your pronouns, I’d do that separately from the weddings (and with no mention to your wardrobe plans, there’s nothing you have to explain or justify there). You can come out to all your cousins (together or separately) as members of your family who you want to share this part of your life with, and let them decide if they want to approach you about making sure you’re comfortable at the wedding. Possible script: Cousin, I wanted to share something important with you, and that’s that I’m trans. That means _________, so I want to be referred to as NAME and PRONOUNS from now on. Thank you very much for listening, I love you very much.

      If no one addresses that beforehand, you can attend in all your besuited glory with a friend or date who noticeably uses your preferred pronouns and ask them to stay with you while you meet everyone to make sure they get the memo. Possible scripts: 1) Hi, I’m DATE, and PRONOUN is NAME, we’re RELATION of the PERSON GETTING MARRIED. Pleased to meet you! What’s your name? 2) You: Hello, I’m NAME, pleased to meet you! Date: PRONOUN is a RELATION of the PERSON GETTING MARRIED, I’m PRONOUN friend, DATE. Nice to meet you!

      You don’t need to hide, and you are not being rude or a drama llama for existing. If someone makes a scene, the onus is on them. And I’m reasonably sure that you’re gonna be fine. Best of luck ♡

    4. I remember reading wedding forums/magazines and people were picking individual flower species for their bouquets…but I was like “White Flowers, no carnations” and I got a lovely bouquet for me. You don’t have to care about EVERYTHING.

      My other two tips:
      1) Don’t forget to eat on your wedding day before the service
      2) If you involve small children in your wedding (flower girls/ring bearers)…assume they will cry and not walk down the aisle. If they do, what a lovely surprise.

      1. I’ve been in a wedding where one of the flower girls walked down with a sippy cup instead of flowers.
        Kids gonna kid, it’s still adorable!

        Plus children are EXCELLENT for seeding the dance floor, especially early in the reception.

    5. I am a woman who is not trans and I don’t like dresses so I wear pants/suits to weddings.
      You be you.

    6. If you want to tell your cousins that you’re trans, then do so. If you don’t, don’t. My vote is for telling them at a time that’s unrelated to the weddings, but that’s me.

      As for clothes: as long as you don’t try to upstage the bride, you’re good. So yeah, a suit is fine.

    7. Also a trans man, and MAN, I feel your pain. Mom has been trying to stick me in drag for years.

      This being said – remember that weddings and funerals are often when we catch up with the extended family we rarely see. What’s Joe majoring in? Oh, Becky is engaged? Uncle Brad might have cancer? Caroline is having another baby?

      It’s one thing if these are family members you see regularly, who you would normally tell about major life events. Then, go ahead and tell them beforehand. (Christmas cards are a good one, Facebook posts are another. No need to make a big deal out of it – but remember that you’ll be misgendered by anyone who forgets or doesn’t know, and do the self-care you need to cope with that.)

      If you wouldn’t tell them about your engagement, cancer, or college graduation – if this is Weddings And Funerals Family – then don’t worry about it. Being trans is just another life event, and there’s going to be PLENTY of other gossip to discuss.

    8. Your trans-ness is no more a Persona Drama than my cis-ness, as far as I am concerned. Wear what makes you comfortable.

    9. Just throwing in my few cents: we didn’t do much about photos at our wedding, but encouraged everyone who wanted to take pictures and send us copies. In particular, I encouraged people to take pictures of each other and the other guests.

      I now have, and treasure, a wonderful collection of pictures of my friends dressed up in whatever they like for festive wear, looking happy. There are kilts, there’s tie-dye, there are suits and dresses and most of all, there are my friends looking happy and natural.

      Wear what makes you feel your best. Bring that best to the wedding. It’s one of the gifts that everyone can bring, and it’s a gift that never gets worn out or lost or broken.

  63. We had been planning a small-scale wedding, but some health issues (resulting in a need for health insurance, pronto) led to us getting married sooner.

    In a lot of ways, it solved a series of problems. A traditional wedding would have made it awkward not to invite her mother and sister (and we were both worried about them behaving themselves). At the time, we also knew that most of the friends we actually DID want to come weren’t going to be able to afford to travel to attend. I also wasn’t all that keen on having the “Yep, I’m a lesbian” conversation with some of my extended family. (Many of whom I was simply NOT going to invite, but I knew the fuss of a wedding would get to them and I’d probably have to deal with it.)

    So, we ended up getting married in the common room of our apartment complex. I wore a dress I found at Goodwill (which is actually funny because my grandmother found HER wedding dress randomly at a grocery store that didn’t normally sell them). She wore a bridesmaid style dress. I made little coordinating hair ribbons for us.

    We had a mad scramble at the last minute to find the wedding rings. They needed to be sterling silver because I have metal allergies, and we got married at the winter solstice. That means we were trying to find wedding rings about a week before Christmas. It was a complete zoo. We found hers easily, but I have weird tiny stick-fingers. This was an issue because apparently my fingers are size 4 and they don’t normally carry ‘off the shelf’ rings below size 6.

    After hitting five stores in the middle of the Christmas rush (and both being thoroughly sick of the process) we finally found a sterling silver ring for me in the Herberger’s juniors section.

    The big splurge we’d made for the day was some nice prime rib that I was cooking. I was already in my (rather poofy-skirted) wedding dress when the timer went off, so dress and all, I reached in to temp the beef. That’s without a doubt my favorite photo of the day.

    There were some people who grumbled about not being able to be there, but honestly, it worked out pretty well. At the time, we soothed feathers by saying we’d have a commemoration party in a few years and invite more people.

    Now, maybe we will and maybe we won’t, but the thing is, once you get married everyone gets used to you being married and doesn’t think about that sort of thing. So if we never do have that party, I’d be willing to bet exactly 0 people we used that line on will ever remember and complain about it.

  64. A quick note to say the Captain’s advice is great, as ever. I just want to add something that I wish I had been told at the time.

    It is okay to not enjoy the wedding planning at all, and to not have a very specific opinion about various aspects of the event. It is OKAY. Not being detail-oriented about everything does not mean that you do not deserve nice things, or that you don’t care about your wedding. The dominant narrative is, of course, that the person who is, or is assumed to be/is read as, ‘the bride’ should care explicitly about every particular detail–yet not *too* much, lest you be deemed One Of Those.

    But in truth, some of us aren’t event planning types, some of us are neuroatypical and not always great at making decisions, and some of us just don’t care about minutiae, say, what color the chair covers are as long as there is somewhere to sit.

    Some of us are all three.

    It’s okay to just want to have a nice day, and not be super engaged in every detail, and to find the process unpleasant. And it is okay if you enjoy it, too. You are all valid, and I hope you have an amazing time on the day, as we did.

    1. When I don’t have a preference between the aesthetic choices, I go with cost – ‘second lowest’ seems to get something most people find acceptable. For color, I pick one that I like and then make sure the other options match the one. Pick white or ivory and use the color I like as the accent.

      Can be weird, of course: most people do not seem to think turquoise (the dark blue green) and purple go together, but I like them. Applying that to your example, I might do chair covers in white or ivory, with turquoise and / or purple ribbons.

  65. “Like, if the mere reminder that queer people exist is upsetting enough to kill Grandma, I gotta consider that it was just her time to go.”

    No longer a specific problem that I have to deal with, but oh god, thank you so much for saying this.

  66. The problems:
    My parents are non-amicably divorced. My grandmother was good at generating needless drama (cutting up the birthday cake at a big number birthday before the lighting of the candles? Why!?). My mother’s favourite phrase is “Oh, but you *must*…/thing I never do, nor will ever do/…”. I have a very small family- no aunts/uncles/cousins at all.
    His parents both from ENORMOUS families and love ENORMOUS parties, and would insist all family must be invited. His mother unpredictably prone to making scenes at public events. Several of the ENORMOUS extended family are unpleasant people.
    As a couple we are low key, like a nice time spent with good friends, grit our teeth through giant/dramatic faaaamily stuff (because we do love at least some of them!)
    Solution: wedding just us and 6 friends who we took out for dinner afterwards. Told parents the next day (they got over it, grudgingly).
    If that’s your roll I highly recommend it. 😉

      1. If it’s You and Your Partner, do it!

        My partner and I had been talking about ‘when we retire’, and I wanted kids, so we looked into the legal situation and determined that marriage was the easiest way to get what we wanted (eg, joint health insurance). We were doing a cross-country trip as a graduation celebration, so we looked into Vegas (ooooh, the dragon), but I couldn’t quite justify the $$ for the cool one and couldn’t quite stand the cheese of the rest.

        We got home, I started my new job on Monday. On Friday, I still didn’t have a computer, I’d read all the documentation, I’d shadowed people… my boss said around noon, ‘head out.’ I called up my partner and said, ‘wanna get married today?’ He said, ‘I’m at lunch with bunch of friends, including Punk Friend and Vehemently Never Marrying Friend (VNMF), come on over, let’s see.’

        Five hours (and some drinks) later, we have licenses and are standing in front of a magistrate at the jail. Punk Friend was Best Woman, her turquoise mohawk got a lot of attention from the guards. VNMF had ‘done his duty’ over the drinks, trying to talk us out of it and was now Lad of Honor. It was awesome – I love telling the story, sorry to all who’ve seen it before. I called my parents just after, my partner called his the next day (or two).

        We did our ‘big party’ for our 10 year anniversary, which gave us a lot more freedom from expectations. For the 20 year anniversary, we took a weekend in Philadelphia with friends and saw a band we both love (Front 242). For the 30th… I dunno, maybe whitewater raft through the Grand Canyon with the kid? My parents did that around year 45, and we seem to be into traveling right now.

        1. ‘At the jail’. I LOVE this!!!! The whole story!!! But now you can say ‘we got married at the jail!’

          1. Lol – since the meetcute of ‘my partner and I’ is either

            ‘The first time I saw Partner was in a bar, when this guy walked up with a pitcher of beer, set it on the table where I was sitting with several friends, said ‘Merry f*cking Christmas’ and walked away. One of my friends sampled the beer and said, ‘well, he’s got good taste.’ ‘


            ‘I (cis female) picked up Partner (cis het male) at a gay bar’ (not the same bar where he delivered the beer),

            ‘married at the jail with Best Woman in a turquoise mohawk and Lad of Honor’ is really par for the course.

            You should see our last family picture – Hagrid (with umbrella), Fluffy, Rhea Ollivander, and Young Wizard .

  67. I was 23 when I got married, and REALLY wish I’d had this advice (it’s been 17 years since). One thing we did get right (despite lots of family pushback) was not having a ringbearer or flower girl in the wedding party. Kids are adorable and including them in the ceremony can be great for some families, but for me at 23, this was an idea I knew I wouldn’t enjoy on my actual wedding day. Kids were way too much of a wildcard for me then.

  68. My cousin wanted me to be flower girl at her wedding when I was six. I have a serious phobia of dead flowers, which at the time extended to living flowers that could die at any moment. She used a bouquet of artificial flowers, so I could carry it. The flexibility to change traditions to suit the situation is good.

  69. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress ( ) has a wonderful description of being a feminist, not wanting anything to do with the frills and stupidity of wedding dresses and then, on the gentle insistence of the lady who works in the wedding dress store, tries on the right dress and is moved to tears at being so overcome with how beautiful she in something that looks good and fits right. She sees it as empowering.

    Anne Morrow Lindbergh planned a surprise wedding. She and Charles Lindbergh were being followed around by that day’s version of the paparazzi. Her mother threw a party. One guest was the clergyman and friend of the family’s for many years. At one point in the party, Anne privately went to change into a wedding dress. The clergyman was asked if he’d mind performing the ceremony at the spur of the moment. I think it was a sister or another guest who was good enough on the piano to play a wedding march. The guests were asked to have a seat, and the wedding happened. There had been no engagement announcement.

    One way to look at wedding disasters is that they make for memorable stories. If everything goes perfectly, then people say it was a lovely wedding, go home, and forget all about it. If there’s something funny that goes wrong, people keep talking about it for years.

    I can’t find the column now, but Judith Martin, Miss Manners, had a wonderful statement on how there’s nothing wrong with choosing your bridesmaids according to how thin and beautiful they are for the role. She only cautions that this should be done at the very beginning of your friendship with them when you first meet. No sense befriending someone who isn’t perfect enough to be bridesmaid and then ending the friendship just before your wedding. She got the wording just right.

    My own etiquette question. Some years ago we were invited to a wedding several hours away. We arrived well on time. So did a lot of other people. The organ played. The groom and best man were there. The organ kept playing. No bride showed up. No explanation was given. We all sat in the church waiting and wondering and wishing we’d brought something to read. After one hour, the organist went home. More than 2 hours after that, the bride showed up, and the wedding continued. I’ve often wondered at what point it’s considered okay for the guests to cut their losses, give up, and just leave. If I’d been alone, I probably would have, but my boyfriend convinced me to stay. In that situation, are you allowed to ask someone what’s going on? Who?

    1. I would have tried to discretely ask either the officiant or a member of the wedding party — probably the best man. And then prodded them to make a formal announcement.

    2. Wow. And no announcement was made about the delay? “Bride got lost/car broke down/stuck in SigAlert/had to go to urgent care will be here as soon as she can.”
      You’d think they’d want to head off speculation that the bride had gone on the run.

      1. As I try to remember back– Maybe more like a total of 2 hours instead of a total of 3. The best man did come by at some point to say to us individually that the bride was getting her hair done. No estimated time was given.

        It wasn’t long after a similar situation at a wedding. It was to be outside, but there was unexpected rain. In that case, we knew what was the matter in that we were all milling around inside a house with everyone silent including the mother of the bride who said nothing to anyone. It was like we could find no one in charge. After some time, and after some time when I thought about giving up and leaving, somehow the word went out that chairs were to be brought in. That I could do! I walked outside in what had become a light sprinkle (it had never been heavy rain), and brought in plastic chairs. In that case I can figure out in hindsight that I might have started conversations with people the same as is done after a wedding. “Hi, I’m Clarry, how do you Bride and Groom?”

  70. Getting married in November – have been re-reading some of the Captain’s older posts for reassurance, this new addition is very welcome. (Cap, the way you highlight the difficulty of balancing the attitudes of “a woman’s wedding day is the most important day of her life you must be a princess this is YOUR DAY!!!” vs “Ohhh whatever I don’t even really WANT a wedding, I’m not into all that societal pressure, I just want to have a totally cool/effortless party” is like the most Seen I have ever felt)

    Weird question for anyone currently planning a wedding (or who has planned one in the past) – do you find yourself worrying that your guests will be like… bored?? Like, I’m making 100+ people come and be in a place for a whole long day. What are they going to do with themselves all day? I mean I know the answer to that is, eat, drink, dance, socialize, take photos and have their photos taken, oh and watch us get married. But I still worry they’re just gonna be hanging around like, “…hm. Now what.”

    Part of this I think is because we’re having a winter wedding – I’ve been to lots of weddings over the past few years, all in Summer and with the aspect of standing around in a lovely sunny garden when not doing something specific. We won’t have that, obviously.

    The other thing is that I’m generally worried people won’t want to come. I have anxiety when I plan a small birthday celebration. This is like that times a million. Don’t I need to give people the option to play Mario Kart or something?

    1. The boredom thing: Mario Kart is awesome! We had s’mores & hanging out by a bonfire, the option of karaoke that nobody used, infinite glowsticks for little kids (fun and you can see where they’ve got to), giant jenga and other games, lots of people hanging out and catching up with each other. One thing that helped was to schedule out time blocks that things are happening and make sure guests know. X:00 – cocktails Y:00 – ceremony Z:00 FOOD!

      We had cake & toasts on the schedule about a couple of hours before the party was supposed to end as the last thing that was a “everyone come together for a photo op thing to pay attention to” moment, early-to-bed folks, the olds, people with kids, etc. could plan to take off after that if they wanted and there would also be a set time that I could relax and be “off stage” so to speak. I also can’t say enough for doing formal photos before the wedding (vs. making your guests wait while you have a giant photo shoot).

      1. We took all formal photos before the ceremony which meant a lot of family came somewhat early to be in those pics, but then we were able to go straight from ceremony to food (it was all happening at the same venue) and that was excellent! Friends and the more extended family didn’t have that indefinite waiting around between ceremony and reception and we didn’t have to figure out what to do with them while we were busy with pictures. 10/10 would schedule pictures first again!

      2. I was at a wedding that had giant jenga once! The little kids ended up building a fort out of it!

    2. I worried SO MUCH about “will guests be bored?” My solution to this was not not have big gaps of downtime, and it worked REALLY well. I don’t like cocktail hours where you just sit when I’m a guest at weddings, so we didn’t have one. Just, wedding invitation was around 5:00, at about 5:20 or so the ceremony started, which was over in all of 10 minutes if that, we went to snap a few pics and while we were doing pictures the bar was already open and we had a snack table going, and then dinner started pretty soon after that. We even did the photographed sparkler “exit” hours before we actually left so people didn’t feel pressured to stick around, ha! We had a little dancing but it was mostly people hanging out drinking and chatting, which is our speed. It was really nice! We didn’t set a time for the cake cutting, just sort of headed that way when most people seemed to be done eating. So yeah, I am definitely on team “don’t drag everything out forever,” if you do things in pretty close succession there is not a lot of boring lull. As a socially anxious person myself I liked not having to wait around. As I recall we left the venue around 11 p.m. that night, most guests were gone by around 9 p.m. Everyone seemed to have a great time and we got lots of positive feedback. It’s a little less organized than a strictly set schedule but it felt better to me.

  71. The best thing I did at my wedding was this: I found a post I had made that had comments from lots of people I was friends with (which included some of my husband’s friends, and my mom), many of whom didn’t know each other, but all of whom were going to be at the wedding, and as part of the ceremony we called them all up and gave them printouts and did a live reading of the comment thread. It was probably very weird for some people in the crowd, but it made me so happy. (I think it was about ‘Back to the Future’).

    1. That sounds super fun and I would definitely have enjoyed it even as a random non involved guest!

  72. Captain – thank you, I love you, three weeks and I’m freeeeeeeeeeee of this maelstrom of feelings!!

  73. My wife’s one desire for our wedding was for it to be on horseback, which ended up solving a whole bunch of problems because we could plausibly not invite anyone to the ceremony except our parents and siblings (so as not to scare the horses/make elderly relatives hike to the campsite we rented) and had her also-horse-owning best friend do the ceremony. It worked beautifully, renting the campsite for the weekend was dirt cheap, and her pushy aunt didn’t get a vote.

    We solved the reception by declaring to our respective mothers that a) we would show up to whatever they had planned b) I wouldn’t dance so don’t blow money on music and c) as long as there was a gluten-free option we didn’t care about food. We ended up with a super-casual California reception at the (free) community center in her parents’ subdivision with all my wife’s old friends and the whole neighborhood, and a tiny-but-slightly-fancier reception in the Chicago area for all my elderly midwestern relatives who don’t travel and my mom’s lovely-but-wealthy friends in an event space owned by a nice nonprofit. We showed the ceremony video for the midwesterners, who enjoyed it and got to feel included, and my grandmother declared – astonishingly; she’s the Mary Berry of the midwest and not inclined to be unkind out loud – that our wedding was Much Nicer than my cousin Ed’s very fancy destination wedding at which our side of the family was roundly ignored.

    I was mostly glad it was over, but I am very happy to be married, and that was really the point.

  74. I’m going to put in a plug for SECOND WEDDING, BEST WEDDING because we are older, wiser (? LOL!) more cautious but also more joyful after having been through some awful, previous marriages, and now we’re doing it ourselves, with our budget, and so little drama. Of course, we have 8 months to go, so I guess KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD, but so far everyone in our families has been helpful and supportive. And everything is just so much more CHILL because hey..second wedding! The pressure is off! Except not really because I want everyone to have a good time and we’re doing it one state down from us so that makes the logistics more complicated, but HEY! We’re doing this because we love each other, and we love our families. We could have just eloped! We still could! No…no we couldn’t we have already put down so much money hahaha…

    So shout out to all the second time brides and grooms out there. It’s JUST as big a deal as the first time (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!), but somehow so much more chill.

  75. If you have a relative who is behaving badly, but who does actually love you and want you to be happy (hi dad!), I find that being really honest about what’s going on works like a charm. Feel free to use my script:

    “Every time I think about my wedding, or see you calling, I feel physically sick. Is that how you want me to feel?”

    I’m told he then routed everything through my sister because I was “so stressed about the wedding”. Who cares? Not me.

  76. Getting married in November – have been re-reading some of the Captain’s older posts for reassurance, this new addition is very welcome. (Cap, the way you highlight the difficulty of balancing the attitudes of “a woman’s wedding day is the most important day of her life you must be a princess this is YOUR DAY!!!” vs “Ohhh whatever I don’t even really WANT a wedding, I’m not into all that societal pressure, I just want to have a totally cool/effortless party” is like the most Seen I have ever felt)

    Weird question for anyone currently planning a wedding (or who has planned one in the past) – do you find yourself worrying that your guests will be like… bored?? Like, I’m making 100+ people come and be in a place for a whole long day. What are they going to do with themselves all day? I mean I know the answer to that is, eat, drink, dance, socialize, take photos and have their photos taken, oh and watch us get married. But I still worry they’re just gonna be hanging around like, “…hm. Now what.”

    Part of this I think is because we’re having a winter wedding – I’ve been to lots of weddings over the past few years, all in Summer and with the aspect of standing around in a lovely sunny garden when not doing something specific. We won’t have that, obviously.

    The other thing is that I’m generally worried people won’t want to come. I have anxiety when I plan a small birthday celebration. This is like that times a million. Don’t I need to give people the option to play Mario Kart or something?

    1. When I got married, it wasn’t a whole day; it was sort of a late-afternoon/evening thing. The ceremony itself was at maybe 4:30, then we had a reception line after which guests went straight to the reception venue for appetizers while the wedding party had photos done. That took about an hour, then we had maybe 20 minutes hanging out with people and eating appetizers before starting in with toasts and stuff, which led into dinner and traditional festivities.

    2. Don’t worry too much – if they really didn’t want to come, they wouldn’t – they can say no! In my experience, people are ridiculously excited about weddings. And in terms of the boredom – yes, weddings can be boring – what have YOU seen and loved at a wedding that you could copy? A ‘pub quiz’ for everyone to start solving? A bunch of toys and cushions in a corner for the kids so they feel special? Games? Wine tasting? Old framed photos of you and your partner dotted around, for them to reminisce over? A project (eg ‘Everyone bring a flower and together you will be making a bouquet for your table – there will be prizes!’) You will think of some cool things! Good luck!

  77. My best wedding advice is to throw the kind of party you usually like to throw. My spouse and I love having cocktail parties, so for our wedding, we did a bigger version of that. We skipped the whole sit-down dinner, assigned seats thing and just had a short ceremony and then drinks, heavy appetizers, and dancing (with plenty of seating available, of course). It helped contextualize the whole thing as “a party to celebrate a big life event” and not “a WEDDING RECEPTION, which must be PERFECT.” If you’re not a big party-having couple, don’t force yourself to suddenly care about parties. If you’re more of a board-games-and-snacks crowd, do a version of that. Start with whatever your customary celebratory gathering is, and scale up or down as you like.

    Also, one of my greatest joys of wedding planning was printing out the master to-do list from the knot and gleefully crossing out all the things we were not going to be doing. Save the dates? Seating charts? Spray tanning? No, thank you, just strike those right off the list. It was therapeutic.

    Oh! Also! We had a photobooth as combination favor/guestbook, and it was AWESOME. The photobooth staff pasted all the pictures into an album as they went and everyone wrote notes around the pictures, which as you can imagine, got even more hilarious as the night went on. Highly recommend.

    1. A couple of my cousins had photo booths at their weddings, and it was great! We took a lot of combo family photos (all the oldest children! now all the middle children! family members who share the traditional middle name! etc.) with varying degrees of silliness and there was always a line. I don’t know what it cost, but we got to take our own pictures home and the bride and groom got copies of everything, perfect souvenirs of the wedding!

  78. I wish I’d had this nineteen years ago. It would have saved me ALL the travails.

    Please imagine my wedding: my conservative family from the Deep South where guns, God and beer are the most important things, as well as my “let’s live in a Bruce Springsteen song” NJ relatives, who met any deviation from tradition with literal, out-loud gasps of horror and, I’m not even kidding you, actual clutching of pearls. (I said I was getting married in Boston and my NJ aunt, with whom I’m NOT close at all, shouted, “You can’t get married there!” in the middle of Easter celebrations.)

    My husband’s family included his cliché-embracing, self-professed butch dyke baby boomer mom and her wife — who both work purple socks with Birkenstocks — and his nudist, pot-smoking minister dad, who performed the wedding.

    At some point, I will have had enough therapy to turn it into the comedy novel it deserves to be.

    1. I would have given a very significant amount of handmade cookies to be a rainbow flee on the wall during your wedding, DameB. Please let us know when you’re ready to publish!

    2. Was Dad nude and/or smoking pot during the actual ceremony? I want to be sure I’m picturing it correctly.

      (And I hope one or both answers are yes.)

      1. He was full dressed and sober for the ceremony, alas. I’m sorry to burst your fantasy – it was chilly and outdoors.

        He did wear a purple robe and I think a rainbow stole? (it was long ago!) and I had to explain what rainbows meant to my mom.

        We had a picnic wedding just so I didn’t have to deal with the seating chart.

  79. – We got married in, and held the reception at, my home church in part because no alcohol was allowed on church property. There were some guests and groups which we did not want to access alcohol, at least not on our dime. Venue choice can be stategic.

    – We also chose not to invite some relatives because they are known racists. I’m still glad of that decision.

    – We took more photos with more groups (“And now all the aunts and uncles!”) than I had planned or cared about, but it didn’t cost me more money or more emotion. Other relatives could also purchase those photos and it made them happy at no cost to me.

    1. Oooh yes to “Venue choice can be strategic.”

      If you’re a guest and something about the couple’s choices seems hinky or non-traditional to you to the point that you feel the need to give your two cents, consider whether they’re making a strategic choice (or flat-out ask them!) before critiquing them. Frequently, that dry wedding/wedding at a weird time of day or year/wedding in an usual location/wedding on very short notice has a sound reason behind it. You really, really don’t want to put your foot in your mouth publically and THEN find out that the reason is “We have alcoholic relatives” or “Grandma’s health is failing and she won’t last til next spring” or “This was the only affordable venue with wheelchair accessible bathrooms” or “We’re pregnant and don’t want to announce til after the wedding, so the clock is ticking” or “There is an urgent immigration issue we must resolve by getting marriage paperwork done ASAP.”

      (I hope that most CA commenters aren’t the type to weigh in with unsolicited criticism, but in my experience something about weddings can remove even reasonable people’s filters when it comes to giving All The Opinions)

  80. I’ll never forget my aunt’s wedding, when she and her new husband were carrying the cake outside (it was a beautiful, low-key, homey affair), and as soon as everyone started ooh-ing over it, someone lost their grip on the tray and the entire homemade cake plopped onto the porch and split open like a melon. Without skipping a beat, my aunt bent down, plucked a piece off the top of the destroyed cake, and fed it to her new husband. It was pure love and poise, and they’ve been happily married for over 15 years.

    Ever since then, my wedding maxim is, “Everything that goes wrong* is good luck!”

    Rain? That’s good luck! Spilled champagne all over your dress? That’s good luck! Bird pooped on you from the tree you were posing under? That’s good luck! Dropped the cake? That’s the best luck of all. 🙂

    *Within the limits of safety & sanity, obv.

    1. The first thing I say to anyone planning a wedding is, “Things WILL go wrong. Make sure you’re ready to deal with the idea that something is going to be screwed up.” I have heard of people convinced their perfect ceremony was ruined because of some small thing that happened, and people who decided it was fabulous despite the things that went wrong, and generally the second were also people who handled the bumps of married life better. (Yes, even the ones for whom the bumps of married life included divorce. That can be handling it well.)

      Also, the things that go wrong are the stories you’re still telling 13 years later:

      – My music man never showed up at the reception. At all. The hall servers were visibly nervous when they came to us about this. I thought about it for a bit, and asked a couple of questions. They had a cd player behind the bar, and a few speakers spaced around the dance floor area (normally the pool table), and this was still an era when cds were ubiquitous in vehicles.

      So our Best Man/MC went up to the podium and said, “We’re going to play a wedding game. Everyone go down to your cars, and grab any CDs you really like.” My brother grabbed some stuff from our house since it was less than 10 minutes from the hall, and another friend living in the area brought in a duffle bag full of them.

      Between those and the stuff I had brought to the hall specifically because no regular DJ would have them (Our first slow dance was a song written in FINNISH), we did just fine: the Best Man, no dancer, but a fan of music, sat behind the bar and flipped between CDs. It was audible on the dance floor even once people started dancing, but not much beyond — but we’d had far too many experiences of music blasting too loud, we appreciated the volume. Most people had some of their style of music represented because hey, it was their CDs. I think a few of my techno-inclined cousins might have lost out, and I am mildly sorry for that.

      But conveniently, nobody has the Chicken Dance on a CD in their car or house.

      We found out what happened to the music man later, got a refund and a $100 gift certificate for a popular spa, and called it a win.

    2. The first thing I say to anyone planning a wedding is, “Things WILL go wrong. Don’t panic, how you handle it matters a lot more for how happy you are later.” I have heard of people convinced their ceremony was ruined because of some small thing, and people who decided theirs was fabulous despite the things that went wrong, and generally the second were also people who handled the bumps of married life better. Yes, even the ones for whom the bumps of married life included divorce.

      Also, they get to make the stories you’re still telling 13 years later:

      – My music man never showed up at the reception. At all. The hall servers were visibly nervous when they came to us about this. I thought about it for a bit, and had an answer. They had a cd player behind the bar, and a few speakers spaced around the dance floor area (normally the pool table), and this was still an era when cds were ubiquitous in vehicles.

      So our Best Man/MC went up to the podium and said, “We’re going to play a wedding game. Everyone go down to your cars, and grab any CDs you really like.” My brother grabbed some stuff from our house since it was less than 10 minutes from the hall, and another friend living in the area brought in a duffle bag full of them.

      Between those and the stuff I had brought to the hall specifically because no regular DJ would have them (Our first slow dance was a song written in FINNISH), we did just fine: the Best Man, no dancer, but a fan of music, sat behind the bar and flipped between CDs, most people had some of their music represented because hey, it was their CDs. I think a few of my techno-inclined cousins might have lost out, and I am mildly sorry for that.

      But conveniently, nobody has the Chicken Dance on a CD in their car or house.

      We found out what happened to the music man later, got a refund and a $100 gift certificate for a popular spa, and called it a win.

      1. I love that! I’ve always thought the ideal playlist for a party is if you could get everyone’s personal playlists, combine then, and click “Shuffle All” and “Repeat All”, so you achieved that before playlists were even really a thing!

  81. We wound up eloping over advanced frugality-shaming. Neither of our parents were in a place to pay for the wedding (my parents because of their money situation, my wife’s because of gayness and religion, which, fine). My mother was determined to give me the Gift of Advice and was convinced that I was screwing up my budgeting and being lavish; after months of badgering I shared the spreadsheet with her (do not do this if you’ve got an intrusive parent. Oh well). I said “well here’s the very basic budget I’ve worked on, even if we do this in a backyard with a lot of family help we need to rent chairs and tables and probably a tent” and then she told me that that was unreasonable because people could bring blankets and sit on the ground the whole time.

    Readers, I lost it. My wife’s grandmother is 86! She was going to have to have a relative assigned to her all night just to help with traversing lawns! I was not going to make a bunch of elderly relatives who were taking plane trips to attend our gay wedding sit on the ground outside for four-seven hours!

    Everything was like this. On the one hand, I had relatives pitching a fit that I didn’t want to invite uncles who I would never otherwise invite to have dinner with me, because we have no relationship. At one point I went for a massage because all the stress was making my back hurt and the! masseuse! carried on about how cheap her friend was for having a wedding without an open bar. On the other hand, a relative (also completely uninvolved) called me a bridezilla to my face because I wanted to order $40 of flowers from a farmer I’d worked with on a project instead of just ordering a bucket of daisies at Costco, and my mother started a six-hour fight with me about having chairs and tables.

    I’m glad that we gave up and eloped, but frankly, I would have liked to have a Wedding Wedding and I’m a little bitter that my drama control wasn’t good enough to get through this. It was a lot. Frankly by the end I started to resent everyone so intensely for the barrage of messages that I was supposed to throw a Unique and Unforgettable Party as a millennial with half a job and six-figure student loan debt, and that I was just failing to find the magical formula to do this all without spending any money on anything. The magical formula is to already have money, go into debt, or get money from your family, full stop. If you can’t do that, it’s not your fault.

    And never, ever share the budget with anyone who’s not giving you money. It’s none of their business.

  82. Ah, my wedding. Truly a memorable day. Music, food, laughter, and the implosion of my relationship with my parents. What is it about weddings that bring out the worst in some people?

    The most important things I learned were to plan a wedding you can afford and to stand your ground. Also, there’s no timeline – you don’t have to get married X amount of time after you get engaged. I think there’s this idea that brides know what kind of wedding they want (or are supposed to) and should hop to the wedding planning soon after the engagement because weddings are complicated and expensive and take a long time to plan, and you need to spend a lot of time planning because it’s the most important day of your life and needs to be PERFECT. When in reality it’s OK to waffle for a few months because this is the first time you’ve thought about any of this and you and your partner have a lot of thinking and discussing to do.

    What I remember most about my wedding is that it’s when I finally put up boundaries against my parents. They are judgmental, controlling boundary-bashers. Money is their No. 1 tool for manipulation. If that fails, there is always anger, guilt-tripping or aggressive coaxing. They also simultaneously infantilize me and treat me like I need to grow up. I took away their trump cards by paying for my own wedding, which they did not expect me to be able to do; and standing firm against their ire and insults.

    My father tried to lash out at me by saying I needed to act like an adult. And I did – I demanded to be treated like one. I demanded respect, decency and courtesy. I refused to put up with my parents’ nonsense. For those of you with parents or other family/friends like mine, don’t forget that. You are an adult as much as they are. You deserve to be treated like one. You are allowed to establish boundaries and let bullies and manipulators feel the consequences of pushing them. Stand your ground, plan a wedding you can afford (and therefore control) and take as long as you want.

    1. Fist bump of sympathy. My wedding was a nightmare because I wasn’t as smart or strong as you, but it also blew up my relationship with my folks.

  83. Some friends had a lovely same-sex wedding here in New Orleans, a year pre-Obergefell (they went to Seattle to make it legal a few weeks later). Their friend who performed the ceremony said “By the power vested in me by the Universal Life Church, but *not* the State of Louisiana, I now pronounce you married.” One bride wore a suit, with black Converse sneakers, and all of the bridesmen did, too. The brideswomen wore dresses with black converse sneakers. One bride wore a fancy wedding gown, and, I learned later, blue Converse sneakers. Each woman had men and women on her “side.” It was lovely. The suit-wearing bride’s parents were there, the gown-wearing bride’s father, stepmother, and brother (a bridesman) were there, but not her mother.

  84. Absolutely spot-on and fantastic advice I wish I’d been given before my wedding back in the day!

    And this gem — I think I’ll be laughing over this example of your brilliant humor for at least the next few days:

    ‘ …the “Well, I wove my own wedding dress out of cobwebs and gasoline-soaked rags I picked out of the trash over a series of months, unlike all the shallow, basic people who spent more than $3.50 on their crass, inauthentic parties which could never match my unique and perfect love” crowd…’

  85. Only one thing to add to the excellent advice above – if people offer to do things, know your people. My mum is very crafty and incredibly talented at anything design related. She wanted to make my wedding cake. But I also know she’s a perfectionist who over offers and then gets stressed about having to do too much. And I really wanted my mum around and enjoying my wedding rather than in party planning mode.

    Compromise – she decorated a base cake we bought from a professional. She was still stressed, but not as much as she would have been. The cake was beautiful. The days before my wedding were 200% more relaxing than they would have otherwise been.

    (I’ll leave out the bit where my Dad at 10pm the night before said, “Is the cake leaning?” Cue unnecessary panic and a spirit level…)

  86. The flip side to “weddings aren’t for fixing you family relationships” is, if someone really is trying to fix your relationship, they’ll actually want to make you happy. Case in point:

    My wife is trans, and her dad had been OK-enough-but-awkward from when she came out up until our wedding planning, when he told her he’d be super proud to walk his daughter down the isle. It was unexpected and really sweet, but also, my wife was really uncomfortable with the whole ‘dad gives away his daughter-property to new husband-owner’ undertones of that tradition. So we decided to have all our parents walk us both down the isle and then take their places alongside the officiant–her folks together, and my mom with me, so it felt more like a families-coming-together kind of deal.

    Everyone was happy with that, the ceremony was lovely, and having a little tradition to lean on vis-a-vis how to be a dad to a daughter does seem to have helped my father in law chill in the long term.

  87. Advice request!

    So I’m polyamorous, in a closed triad with BF and GF, out to most of our respective families (we have not called up Great-Uncle-Twice-Removed Phil just to declare our triad, but everyone we interact with knows).

    BF and GF are great. They’re planning to get married sometime soon-ish. I’m obviously not getting legally married to either of them, and while we’re talking about an informal triad-based handfasting kind of thing, the formal family wedding is going to be BF and GF’s day.

    Any advice on, uh… what my role there should be?

    I know it’s “whatever works well for the three of you”, but… Can anyone rec any good resources to look at? How do people do this?

    More to the point: I hate being the center of attention, I’m not big on weddings, the whole thing makes me Very Anxious. Best wedding I ever attended was five minutes long and followed immediately by nachos and board games.

    GF wants a rustic hipster medium-effort affair, and BF does not care either way.

    If I were getting married, I’d be pushing for some kind of courthouse-and-backyard-bbq compromise so we could have a significant family celebration without me standing uncomfortably under an arch for extended periods.

    But… I’m not getting married! This is going to substantially affect me, as their live-in equal partner, but I’m also … along for the ride, and since it’s not my wedding, I feel like I don’t really have standing to argue. I’m going to make my preferences clear, but as the person involved who cares most, GF is largely running the show. Is it legit for me to just help with logistics and go hide during the ceremony?

    Help. I am already nervous.

    1. Oooh, hello fellow polyam person! I am also someone introverted who doesn’t like attention, but I got married about 7 years ago.

      Things that I could have really used had either of our partners been up for it when I got married:
      * A forceful best person who, on the day, was prepared to be the ‘go’ person for caterers, family members, etc.
      * Someone who kept ahold of my to-do lists in the run up, because frankly, keeping them straight was almost more work than doing the items on them
      * Someone who could be a touchstone of reality every time I ran up against a worry I was being unreasonable
      * Someone who I could go spend a day or an evening or SOME TIME with where the wedding DID NOT AND WAS NOT ALLOWED TO EXIST to give me some breathing room from it

      I mean….take your pick? It’s also fine to ring fence time and space to not be about the wedding so that you get your partners being your partners, not being People Who Are Planning or Hiding From A Wedding.

      1. Hello, and thank you! That helps a ton.

        For some reason, it hasn’t felt like Enough to be that sort of organizer – the one who doesn’t make most decisions or do most of the phone calls or shopping, but who makes a schedule and Excel spreadsheets and nudges people into keeping on schedule.

        (And provides reality checks and possibly stares at GF until she compromises and finds some alternative to dragging all our friends to Canada for the wedding. GF, honey, I know it’s where you want to get married, I know you have family up there, I also know that most of our friends are broke millennials with no passports or PTO.)

        It’s not a big, visible role that symbolizes our relationship publicly, which is what I’ve had in my head that I Needed To Be.

        But man, I can DO spreadsheets. If that’s a reasonable role to take, and one that is a meaningful contribution, I will take that on gladly.

        Not that I’m, uh, coveting the chance to get some more stationary and color-coded post-its. A man has to have vices, and one of mine is neatly-arranged office supplies.

        1. What are your GF and BF’s thoughts about your potential role in the wedding, in terms of planning, the ceremony itself, and the logistics of the day and various events/activities before/during/after? What are your thoughts? Do you want any sort of ceremonial role? Or strictly logistical? Or strictly emotional? Do you want your triad relationship to be visibly marked in some fashion to the guests, or just yourselves? Like a special color-coordinated ensemble to match both bride and groom? Or that you are making or buying the rings or the unity candle or the bridal corsage or some other symbolically important item? Or maybe other matching jewelry that all 3 of you wear? Like matching ear studs or something? Master of Ceremony at any stage?

          Seems like there are lots of possibilities, but it involves conversations with your partners and self-reflection to figure out what’s right for you individually and as a triad.

          1. Having recently attended a short-notice wedding of two members of a triad (it sounded like there were Reasons to nail down legal status in advance of an incoming administration notably hostile to non-white immigrants) I recommend a person whose “job” it is to be your companion throughout the celebration. My partner’s then other partner knew the groom (the rest of my four and I were distantly acquainted with the triad) and it was uncomfortably clear to me that the non-marrying girlfriend was having Feelings and there didn’t seem to be anyone she could lean on throughout the party but especially during the ceremony.

    2. Hiding during the ceremony might lead to more talk/questions than just sitting quietly during the ceremony, since you’re out to your respective families. So, one option is to wear something nice but unobtrusive, sit and smile during the ceremony, and have a couple of true and socially acceptable remarks handy, like “I’m so happy for them” and “it’s good to see you.”

      I know a triad that handled this by having a very low-key courthouse wedding, and the partner who wasn’t getting legally married signed the paperwork as their witness.

      You may not have “standing to argue” if they both want to do something and you think it’s pointless, or if they’re disagreeing about what music to play or the color of the wedding invitations, but you do have standing to say “I don’t want to do X because I hate being the center of attention” (or because it’s something you’re not good at, or it will take too much time). And depending on how the three of you handle your/household finances, you might have standing to say “that menu sounds great, but is there room in the budget for that and the vacation we’re planning?” (You definitely have standing if it’s “can we afford that and next month’s rent?”)

      (That said, I haven’t dealt with this directly; I married one of my partners before I met either of the other two.)

  88. After helping plan my BFF’s wedding as her MOH in 2016, I do have a lot more empathy now for those brides who find themselves saying “it’s *my* day!”

    Obviously, that phrase has been used and abused a lot as well. But even with my friend’s low-key, pot-luck, backyard wedding, there was still a LOT of money, planning, logistics, and stress. And after riding all that out and getting to the day itself, if you even get a *whiff* of someone or something disrupting things, all you want to do is tie up that person and lock them in a closet. I feel like as much as CA’s article applies to brides/grooms/the wedding party, it can also be applied to guests – a surprising number of whom view other people’s weddings as “the next exciting episode of The Me Show!”

    Someone else’s wedding is not an opportunity for you to settle old scores and finally give That Crappy Relative what’s coming to ’em. While of course people party it up and get drunk, it’s not an opportunity for you to make a drunken spectacle of yourself. It’s not an opportunity to gather a group of friends around you while you cry in the bathroom about how you’re never going to meet anybody. It’s not an opportunity to Make A Statement about your political views/religious views/opinions on LGBT rights/how much you hate That Person and won’t attend if they’re there/what you think of the spouse you’re not connected to. It’s not a time for you to throw down ultimatums and say you’ll boycott the wedding over… whatever reason. If you don’t want to go, don’t go, but it’s not your place to make demands. It’s not a time to freak out about your own physical appearance/outfit/hair to the point of distracting the bride or wedding party. It’s not the next exciting episode of the-tv-show-that-is-your-life where everyone will be charmed and amused by your wacky hijinks at your friend’s wedding, or when you finally get to have the big distracting scene that gives you closure on Some Big Personal Issue.

    To be clear, I don’t mean people should never speak up and endure discomfort – just remember that you’re a “supporting character” on that day, not the star.

    All-in-all, that wedding actually went pretty smoothly, but there were indeed one or two people I wanted to grab and say, “for one day of your life, can you just stow whatever you need to stow and celebrate with Friend??”

    1. Help. I so much do NOT want to be THAT person, but when my friend gets married in November, I strongly suspect I’ll be the last Single Adult Female there (I’m definitely the last one in that friend group, all the siblings of bride and groom are married, all the cousins I know are married or at least partnered). I know her BIL good enough that I’d bet money I’ll get comments about my lack of partner. Thing is, that’s a minefield of bad feelings for me, mainly because the one major relationship I had was a Darth Ex, and that feelingsbomb will explode when prodded enough. Are there any good scripts I could use to lowkey deflect any and all questions and remarks about when I’ll get married or why I’m still single (at the spinstery old age of 32 *eyeroll*)?

      Bonus meddling family horror story from that same friend and wedding:
      My friend is the youngest of three sisters, and while the older two got married in their mid-twenties, she met her now-groom at 28, while in grad school. Her grad program is part time study, part time work, and when they got engaged they wanted to wait with the wedding until she was finished with school. At that time she was living in a separate flat in her parents’ house, but then her oldest sister moved back home from abroad with her family and claimed the flat, saying my friend could move back into her childhood bedroom. That room is tiny, big enough for only a bed and a wardrobe, so when pressured by her family, she noped out of there and moved in with her then-fiance (they’d been engaged for over a year at that point). Cue the middle sister, married to an evangelical pastor, saying she couldn’t do that, living in sin, etc. My friend gave up, they silently signed the paperwork in February, and now, while having to learn for the last few exams and working almost full time now, she now has to deal with all the wedding planning on top of that.

      1. The French have an excellent saying for this: “better alone than in bad company”. Worked for me for ages (I ended up getting married at 35).

  89. A note to relatives and guests: Please keep your complaints to yourself during the wedding day. If you MUST share them with the bride (and why was it just to me?? oh yeah, cuz it was only my family that did the complaining), at least wait a few weeks. All, and I mean ALL, of my relatives bitched about having to travel to my wedding, how long the photos took (I’m sorry they took so long, but we did serve everyone food during that time!), and then left early. Our reception was basically my husband’s family and our friends, and my sister and parents. My side of the family decided our wedding was too much of an inconvenience and left like 20 min after the ceremony (and they had eaten some of the food).

    I didn’t even get a chance to eat aside from the cutesy cake-cutting bite. But props to my husband’s family for staying and making us feel loved.

  90. This isn’t about managing relationships, but the best advice (that wasn’t common sense) that I got about my wedding was to WRITE IT ALL DOWN before too long after the wedding. (Assuming you actually enjoyed it and want to remember it, of course.) I made a wedding journal/document where I just chronicled what exactly happened all day, and I love to go back and read it with my husband on our anniversary. I have a bad memory and so there are tons of details in there that I would never remember now and it’s so fun to reminisce.

  91. I hope I wasn’t the only person who read “ROCK ON, FANTASY GOTH UNICORN PIRATE QUEENS OF THE WORLD” and hovered my mouse over hoping for a link with pictures. Fantasy goth unicorn pirate queen weddings sound like the best thing ever. ❤

  92. Late to the party here, but the attribute of my wedding which I was most pleased to have thought of was “send home wedding cake slices” as a favor. Cultural forces dictated that we had to have a huge meal at the reception and whenever I go to a wedding like that, I always wish I could have another slice of cake the next day (after midnight counts as the next day, right?)

    On the other hand, as my new husband and I went to cut the first slice of cake in front of everyone, my mother unexpectedly hissed “you’re supposed to have a toast!” So my wedding toast was the bride stammering out “uh… Clink, clink, let’s drink” to a room full of Southern Baptists and the Southern-Baptist-adjacent.

    I’m fairly certain that I’m the only person who remembers either of these things. Husband definitely only remembers the toast because I still find it hysterical.

  93. Guest boredom: We had a picnic brunch the morning of our afternoon wedding. Reserved a shelter with tables in a city park, and had coffee, juice, bagels, sandwich fixings, fruit, etc. It was a nice low-key way to spend time with some of the out-of-town guests.

    At the weekend houseparty wedding of a friend who loved to cook, the resident guests were given bags of fresh produce and cutting boards, and we spent the morning sitting around the pool chatting and whacking up vegetables for the reception dinner. It was great fun.

    Traditions: We dreaded the idea of a receiving line. Since we met contradancing, we planned the first dance to be a mixer that would have us meet everyone on the floor(Sicilian circle, we reversed after one circuit). It worked perfectly, and got everyone up and dancing right away.

    Something I’ve seen at several receptions is that the couple barely eats or drinks because they’re being interrupted every three seconds. Running interference for them and bringing them nourishment is a nice thing to do. So is making sure that there’s food and drink in their car if they’re driving any distance after the event.

  94. Captain, I love your wedding brochure! Various wedding disasters I’ve experienced would have been enjoyable events if we’d just been provided information like “How much time we’ll be spending outdoors” and “How to safely get to and from the venue after dark while drunk” (especially in pre-uber, pre-internet days) and “What time is the food so I can schedule medication/lunch/alcohol intake accordingly”

  95. Okay, we just got married earlier this month, so LOTS of thoughts to share, but I will try to limit them a bit! First though I want to thank the Captain for the comment about not shaming people whatever direction they go. I’ve seen a lot of people who think that their way is *the* way and everyone else is doing it WRONG, and I want to pull out my hair. I mean, these are mostly NOT moral issues, and doing major budget wedding vs. major expensive wedding, or having your honeymoon right after the wedding vs. a few months later…. Why do you care about someone else’s choices about this???

    So a few practical details that I found helpful. First of all, one of my least favorite pieces of “advice” about getting married is, “It’s only one day; focus on your marriage, not the wedding!” Which, yeah, that’s true and all, but I’m also not hosting my entire extended family and a huge chunk of my friends over for a fancy party and meal for my marriage, so a little bit less work needs to go into my average marriage-day vs. my wedding day. But I also think it’s bad advice because planning a big stressful party involving family and friends and traditions and lots of money… gives you a chance to work through a lot of those issues together with your soon-to-be spouse, and I found it to be a great way for us to grow closer on some of those issues (or find out where we were different and start coming up with strategies to compromise). One of my favorite ideas was the following: if one of us had taken point on a specific task/decision, the other person had 3 options in response. You could help a lot (with making decisions), help a little, or give unconditional approval after decision-making was over. So for example when I was looking for wedding invites, I scrolled through all 200+ on The Site, and picked my top 30 or so, and from there my top 3-4. I told my fiance that his options were: a) Look at my top 30 (if he was really interested in invites) and we could narrow it down together; b) look at my top 3-4 (if he didn’t care as much but still wanted some input); or c) have no input at all but then when they arrived in the mail his one possible response was, “Oh, those are amazing, honey; I love them!!” The one option that I left firmly off the table was d) let me do all the work of deciding and then complain about the results afterwards. This made it a lot easier on both of us, and definitely helped with couple harmony (and we both had once or twice when we went with option c and were fine with that).

    Another thing that is the flip side of not taking advantage of your people is: accept (and ask for!) help. I had a hard time with this, but I couldn’t have done everything by myself, or even just with me and fiance. For example: I hate decorating, hate it with a passion. I had a few friends who enthusiastically volunteered. I picked the one that I had known the longest, and that I knew I could trust to go with a vision of what I personally wanted, gave her an approximate budget, and then (with their permission) sent her the email addresses of the other friends who had volunteered to help decorate so she could organize things. They were wonderful and amazing and everything was beautiful and *I didn’t have to figure it out*. My sis volunteered to look at dresses with me and I HATE clothes shopping so I let her take that on and she texted me something like 30 different links and then I picked my top 3 or 4, and then another friend (who is good at knowing what shapes and styles look good on different body types) helped me pick which one would flatter my figure (the style I was going for was *not* one that is in stores right now so I had to order it online which was nerve-wracking but ended up working out). And so on. On the day of most of my bridesmaids were on “guard duty” to keep people from approaching me with questions someone else could deal with, and they were incredibly successful. There were also a few guests that could have acted out, and they kept an eye out for that just in case (nothing happened, but I felt relieved knowing they were on top of it).

    I also absolutely swear by a break between the ceremony and reception. We had about 3 hours in between the two, and that gave a) the decorating crew time to tear down at the church and take decorations over to the reception venue (the church had no reception hall to speak of…); b) gave us time to get all of the pictures we wanted without missing half the party; and c) gave guests time to relax between the two. (On our wedsite we gave people ideas for places to go between the two if they wanted suggestions.) It had the added benefit of giving those who could only make it to one or the other the chance to slip out or slip in more unobtrusively. I got this idea from my cousin and the 3 hours between her wedding and ceremony (hanging out in the hotel with my extended family, swimming and playing cards) were some of the best hours of the weekend.

    And last, have a time when you are Done With Details. For example, I have a regular Friday night hobby that I do every week. I told everyone (including myself) that I was going to go do Hobby the night before the wedding, and that anything that wasn’t done for the wedding by 8:30 (the time I have to leave for Hobby) was not getting done, or at least not by me. I planned and executed things so I could drop everything (or have it already delegated) at about that time, and then my planning/prep work was done. I went, enjoyed Hobby, came home, and went to bed. An added bonus was that since this was my regular weekly schedule I actually dropped off to sleep almost immediately because I was doing my usual Friday evening rituals, so I got about 7 hours of sleep the night before I got married). It can be whenever you need it to be, but having it the night before for me meant that I enjoyed my whole wedding day since I had given up control of all the details as of 8:30 the night before. (On the morning of, my bridesmaid who had agreed to do my hair was taking me upstairs to start, and I got a whole bunch of text messages right in a row. She snatched my phone out of my hands, announced, “You don’t need to worry about that any more,” and marched it off to another bridesmaid who handled whatever it was [I never even knew]. Such a good friend!)

    (I will add that the only book I read [no bridal magazines] was “A Practical Wedding”, written by the same woman who started the website that the Captain recommended. It was wonderful and so helpful, and I recommend it for a hard copy of something to refer to.)

  96. If you do have a backyard wedding in a share house, please invite your housemates or at least have a discussion with them beforehand, rather than kicking them out of the house the night before because “You didn’t respond very enthusiastically to my announcement that the wedding would be happening here, so we don’t have food or a chair for you to attend tomorrow.”

  97. My friend had a very low budget diy potluck wedding and one thing that she did well was to have very organized small tasks for most of the guests. I had help the presents find the way to the present table (not to many presents as they asked for no gifts) and passing out cake. The tasks were small enough that i still got to enjoy the wedding and socalizing but made it easier to have a low budget. Obviously you would have to know your guest list but the guests at her wedding with all happy to help and it helped keep the main friend helpers from getting overwhelmed on the

    1. I’ve gone to a couple of weddings where my partner was a groom’s man and I did not know many people. I always appreciated in these scenarios having a simple task like helping people figure out the seating chart/watch the present table. It helped me not to feel awkward while standing around waiting.

  98. “Let “So sorry, I can’t, but I’d love to celebrate as a guest!” be a good, happy, loving answer when it is the honest answer.” made me so, so grateful my maid of honor didn’t say that, and then I realized: what I had been scared of, 12 years ago, was “but I need a witness to sign the form who is an adult Catholic and not immediate family! and the best man already agreed and isn’t Catholic!”, and that… doesn’t have to be the MOH. That can be someone who follows the wedding party to the sacristy and signs in the appropriate spots. The point of this anecdote: one person does not have to fulfill all the responsibility of a role! You can break things into smaller roles!

  99. During our wedding photos, my mother-in-law held our cellphones hostage to try to blackmail us into having a reception dinner with her (we had other plans which didn’t involve family).

  100. One of the guys I work with recently got married. He got back from his wedding/honeymoon and someone asked about it being a destination wedding. He said no it was an elopement.

    I asked what his family thought and he said they still weren’t over it but they would have to deal. He said (I’m paraphrasing) “my wife gets nervous in groups of 5 or 6 I wouldn’t ask her to deal with 200 people.” Someone asked about a reception later on (I guess someone had done that) and he said “if she wants to”

    It made me really happy to hear that because too many times making family comfortable or happy is prioritized over what is best for the people getting married.

  101. YES to all of this! My wedding came at a really stressful time–partner’s father passed away, mother wasn’t in good health, new job, travel for work right beforehand….The best thing(s) we did to ease the stress were to communicate clearly what we wanted to vendors, nix EVERYTHING that felt unnecessary to us, and delegate point people (and then get them gifts afterwards!) to manage certain relatives. We had a point person on my mother-in-law, and thus did not have to manage her at all. But communicate this clearly–“can you keep an eye on MIL” could mean a lot of different things, so be really clear about the specific tasks (in our case, we needed someone to make sure she was awake in the morning, drive her, get her food, redirect certain conversations, drive her back to the hotel).

    I also second the Captain’s observation that people who work at weddings have seen it ALL before–people who can’t be in the same photo, miserable guests, present-stealing guests….it can be hard to say to a total stranger “look, grandma drinks too much so we’d prefer to keep her out of photos after drink o’clock,” but they’ve really seen it all.

  102. Hi There, I’m a bit perplexed not to find my comment that I posted regarding stying away from weddings if the mix of people is too volatile. I certainly kept to the commenting rules and simply shared my experience,as did many others, yet it seems it got caught in moderation. What an odd thing to do to such an innocuous comment… :-/

    1. Uh, first time commenters go to moderation by default always, a glitch in WordPress sometimes kicks good stuff from regular posters to the trash or spam queue (which I fix as soon as I can). Staying away from a wedding like that is good advice, I don’t remember seeing this comment anywhere in the queue and can’t find it now, so I can’t tell you what happened to it. Either WordPress or I accidentally deleted it. Try it again if you like.

      Comment policies (which spell out that this happens sometimes) are here. Sorry about that and thank you!

  103. I was told: you know something will go wrong; it just will and you can’t stop it. But you can exert SOME control over what DOESN’T go wrong. So pick three “let’s have this piece go right” things, focus on making them go right, and don’t sweat the random other details that slide off the table along the way. Laugh those off.

    One of my go-right things was that I wanted to be a participant, not a project manager, on the day, so I had a giant walk-through handoff mind-meld the day before, designated an official PM (my dad – he ran cross country meets in the past; pretty sure he could handle this), and forbade anyone to ask me anything on the day. When they did anyway, I replied, “Ask my dad!” I’m very glad I played it this way.

    And yes, plenty of my not-three things did go wrong and a couple of those were frustrating, but mostly, I honestly didn’t care, because I knew what I cared about most, and the rest was truly details.

  104. My best wedding tip: if you have femme dressing people in your wedding party, I cannot recommend eshakti enough as a clothing option. I had four bridesmaids ranging from size 4 to size 18, additionally complicated by one of them being a teenager and one of them being pregnant. I got all of them in matching dresses (with pockets!!) that could be customized to their needs and measurements for the cost of about $50 per dress. They looked beautiful.

    My husband and I were both fat when we got married, and we did have two family members who were not invited that has caused a lasting stink (one from each family). If you have questions about navigating either of those types of situations, feel free to ask! We also had a completely secular wedding despite our religious families and to this day no one has complained to us about it not even once, so I might be able to help out with that too. 🙂

  105. Thank you for leaving this comment! I’m in the middle of an amicable divorce (turns out I’m a lesbian, y’all) and I’m irrationally worried that my generally wonderful family will think my second relationship and hypothetical second marriage is somehow less-than.

  106. I am engaged and so excited!!! My fiance and I have been listing out and discussing some of the most important topics we want to be on the same page about for our marriage. Does anyone have suggestions to add to the list? So far, we have:
    1. Children – Do we want them? How many? When? How do we feel about adoption?
    2. Money – Will we combine ours after we’re married?
    3. Our names – Will one of us change our last name? Will we both?
    4. Location – Do we envision moving somewhere else? Big city? Small town?
    5. Divorce – How do we want to handle it if things get really bad?

    1. I would suggest the money topic be broken down even further–will you combine? If so, how? How will you handle spending money? What about big purchases or financial emergencies? There is a LOT that goes into it. My husband and I settled on a middle ground that works well for us–10% of our income into joint savings, 60% into joint checking that pays mortgage, bills, gas, food, etc. and the other 30% is personal money to be used how you wish. Percentages we like better than dollar amounts because everyone is contributing equal to what they are bringing in. I like having our own separate percentages for personal money too so that I can buy whatever clothes and books I want and he can buy whatever obscure Star Wars action figures he wants and no one has to complain. 😛 Some expenses we keep separate, like cars and car insurance (we both had our own before we were married, so we did not combine those payments), BUT we also have talked about how if one of us has a serious expense with a car or something that is separate we will help each other out. Neither of us intends to leave each other high and dry, but it is LESS stress for us to keep some money separate.

      Other topics you might want to discuss: religion, for your wedding or in which to raise potential children, how you plan to handle big problems like medical emergencies or job losses, how you plan on combining families and what expectations are for engagement with respective families.

      Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!!

      1. The my money/your money/our money plan still results in a lot of negotiations. How do you pay for something for the shared dwelling(decorations, maintenance tools, etc.) that one partner wants and the other partner doesn’t? What about the “pink tax” that means equivalent personal stuff for women generally costs more? How do you contribute to retirement funds? What if there’s a big difference in income, or if one person gets a bonus? Who pays for gifts for mutual friends? Is there any relationship between one’s financial contribution to the household and the amount of housework expected? And so on…..

        Having one partner travel for work can cause a lot of friction and stress for both. We found that it helped to pay for some of the work the travelling partner would do (lawn mowing, minor repairs, pet care, etc.) instead of hitting the traveler with a huge chore list every time they came home.

  107. Oh, one other tip I forgot to add! My sweet maid of honor who knows my propensity to hide in my phone when I’m anxious or overwhelmed took my phone away from me during the reception. I didn’t fight her on it and in hindsight I am very glad she did it. Not only did I find some delightful selfies and pics she took when she gave it back to me later, it did help me be more present in the moment. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hiding on your phone sometimes! But it was good for me not to do it at my own wedding. So, put your phone down or give it to someone to hang on to it for you if you need to resist the temptation to hide.

  108. Coming very late to this party, but curious to hear how any wedding planners here have handled a problem when you WANT to invite your entire family, but you know that in the case of certain aunts and uncles, if they are aware that certain other aunts and uncles are also invited, they will refuse to attend. This legit happened at a cousin’s wedding, with the apply-forehead-to-wall result that … none of the people in question actually came. Try to head it off by specifically reassuring the, um, combatants that they will be seated on opposite sides of the reception? Pick your favorites and only invite them? (Can’t lie, this is tempting, if not the best course for overall future attempts to “get along with everyone” as my particular branch of the family — my dad was the oldest child — seems to be tasked with doing. But if I’m honest, I would much prefer certain of these folks at my wedding over others.) Or just accept that probably none of them will show up if they know everyone is invited and that’s their problem, not yours?

    1. I am assuming nobody in question is an abuser or a Nazi (in which case, don’t invite those people, problem solved).

      Otherwise invite everyone you want to be there. If people choose to self-select out, let them, and don’t try to manage one single lick of it. You didn’t start whatever this is and you don’t have to fix it. If they like their fight more than they like your party, there is not one thing you can do to fix that.

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