Carolyn Hax: Advice

My family wants a big wedding - I don’t

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I’m newly engaged and having a hard time with others’ expectations for what my wedding should be. I think marriage will be pretty cool, but actually getting married isn’t important to me – no poofy-white-dress dreams. This is my fiance’s second marriage and he doesn’t want anything fancy either.

However, I have a big family and I’m the oldest grandchild, plus my mom desperately wants to wedding vicariously through me. How do I deal with the pressure? Can we just go to the courthouse without feeling guilty, or is the wedding truly “for the family”? Will my mom ever stop texting me white dresses from Pinterest?

Angsty

You need to have a plain and honest conversation with your mother. She won’t get what she “desperately” wants even if you self-sacrifice your way into the full Cinderella – because you won’t revel in it, you’ll be miserable. Plus, it’s not her dream or wedding to have, period.

So be utterly and lovingly straight with her that the fairy tale isn’t happening. No poufy dress.

But what can happen is an intimate exchange of vows followed by a warm and loving celebration with your big family, because that needn’t be fancy at all. Just think party, and, if your mother can swap out “dream wedding” visions for “fun party” visions, she can be instrumental in helping you plan it.

But, again, it starts with talking to Mom, which itself starts with your confidence in who you are. This is a clutch opportunity to be gracious but firm. You’re the woman she raised, after all, so trust that to be good enough once your mom deals with her initial disappointment. Pressure is just the gap between her expectations and yours, so close it upfront.

Re: Angsty: Please don’t go to the courthouse. It will cause more grief than it is worth. What my friends did was let their family know they were getting married in two weeks at X location and they’d love for them to be there. They had a delightful park wedding followed by a dinner at a local restaurant. The weekend before her mom came to Macy’s with her to pick out a dress, Whole Foods to pick out flowers, and a local bakery to get a cake. Her mom felt involved and wedding planning literally took two weeks and was the most low-key, intimate wedding I have seen. It was a lot less drama than eloping.

Anonymous

Good ideas here, thanks.

Party rooms in local restaurants are ideal for this – they handle everything, people can mingle, you can plan it in 15 minutes with their events manager, and it feels like a celebration.

Re: Courthouse: Totally disagree. Talking it out is the answer, but going to the courthouse might well be the result. “Caus 1 / 8ing 3 / 8 more grief than it is worth” is what the mother is doing, not Angsty.

Anonymous 2

It’s not just about the mother, but also the extent to which Angsty wants to include family. There’s a lot of room between “nothing fancy” and “courthouse,” and between poor boundaries and valid disappointment.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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