Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Under Advisement #2

Wedding Woes

The following pleas for advice are plagiarized adapted from "Annie's Mailbox," written by Marcy Sugar and Kathy Mitchell, which appeared in The Oakland Tribune (and other fine periodicals across the nation) on Tuesday, May 25, 2004. You can read the original here; I thought Marcy and Kathy's advice was great, they offer kind advice in conveniently-sized doses, but I had more to say on the subject (and I have more space in which to say it), so here we go:
    Dear Annie Marlénè: My husband and I were married recently, after we each lost our first spouses at a young age. We had a wonderful wedding and invited a lot of people to help us celebrate our joyous occasion.

    Most people were exceptionally generous with their gifts, but there were several guests who never honored our union with so much as a card, let alone a gift. I am not a materialistic person and would be appreciative of the smallest gesture from any of our guests, but no gesture at all? These are people whom I see on an ongoing basis, and, quite honestly, I almost don't like them anymore.

    What can I do to enjoy their company in the future when the fact that they never gave us a wedding present or card is always lurking in the back of my mind?

    — Confounded Bride

    Dear Confounded: Before I get to your problem, Confounded Bride, I'm going to get up on my soapbox about gay marriage. Aside from the legal question (which is not really a question, because there is no reason based in law to deny marriage rights based on gender), I don't think it's very likely that I will fall in love with someone with whom I will want to spend the rest of my life; but if I did, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and we were "allowed" by the government to get married, and we decided to indeed get married, would I get any payback from all my inumerable relatives for whom I have spent lavishly on wedding gifts? Will my cousins cluster 'round, helping with the flowers and the food for my nuptial reception, as I have done at theirs? Not bloody likely.

    So I guess, Confounded, I don't feel a great deal of sympathy for your problem. And lacking that sympathy, you will not be surprised to hear me tell you that you are indeed materialistic and you need to get over it. Your friends showed up at your wedding, they witnessed it; perhaps they even danced, and toasted your happiness — that is a "gesture," and that is all they are really obliged to do. Their lack of gifting, or even carding, is not necessarily a reflection on whether or not they like you or wish you well... it just means they don't observe the same wedding-gift paradigm as you. So just get over it, okay?

    Try seeing it from their point of view: many people think of wedding gifts as necessary only in first weddings... and as you said, this is both your and your husband's second marriage. You probably have a home, and china, and sheets, and all the other material objects that young newlyweds are assumed to need as they start out into adult life together. Your friends probably assumed, as is the case in so many second weddings, that gifts weren't really necessary; you aren't young people starting out in adulthood together, nor are you divorcees recently fleeced by rabid attorneys and starting over from scratch... you are young widoweds who probably still have all the towels and toasters and chafing dishes you need, left over from your first trips down the aisle.

    So lighten up, Confounded. Your few giftless friends simply assumed that you didn't need another waffle iron or crystal cake-stand, and that turning up at the church and the reception to, as you put it, "help us celebrate our joyous occasion" was all that was required of them.

    You seem to think that even a small material object like a card or a houseplant is required, and that assumption does indeed make you materialistic; and I believe from the tone of your letter that materialism isn't a trait you value in yourself. So just forgive and forget, and remember all of us who will probably never get so much as a pillow sham no matter how legally married we are.

    — Trust your (slightly bitter) Auntie

    Dear Annie Marlénè: I am getting married in August. I asked my brother's wife, "Marge," to stand up in the wedding, and now I am regretting the decision.

    Marge is less than enthusiastic about the event, has made wisecracks about being a bridesmaid and does not feel she should have to pay for her gown. When I confront her, she backpedals, swears she really wants to do this and reassures me that it's all right.

    I don't think so.

    I'm becoming depressed over Marge's attitude, and the thought of her participating makes me queasy. How do I gently release her from this task without bringing down the wrath of my family? I want my wedding party to include only those people who are truly happy for me.

    — A Bride-To-Be in Alaska

    Dear Alaskan: You need to lighten up, too. Like so many brides-to-be, you are getting all wound up about your wedding plans and it's making you unhappy. Trust me, if it weren't Marge's attitude upsetting you, it would be something else threatening to mar the perfection of Your Special Day... and trust this, too: as you get closer to the date, more and more things will pop up and threaten to mar that perfection.

    Here's the thing: there is no such thing as a planned perfect day... you can have a perfect day, or you can have a perfectly-planned day, but you cannot plan a perfect day. It can't be done. Magazines and soap-operas will try to convince you that it can, but Trust Your Auntie, you can't plan perfection... it just happens or not, on its own schedule.

    It's terribly sad when brides (and their mothers and family and friends, as often as not) get their panties in such a bunch trying to make the day perfect that they don't even enjoy themselves. In trying to create the Perfect Special Day, they end up having nervous breakdowns, crushing their parents in debt, and making enemies among their families and friends.

    So many weddings are ruined by the bride's attempts to make the wedding perfect that I think there should be a twelve-step program for it. The problem is that a lot of women start dreaming about their weddings when they're small children, and they build up The Perfect Wedding in their minds to mythical proportions of importance and meaning; and then when they manage to snare a man and get the chance to act out this long-cherished fantasy, they start behaving exactly like the small children who first created the fantasy, demanding their own way in spite of all reality and rationality. This is just plain wrong. So don't do it!

    A wedding is a tradition, a ceremony and a party that has profound meaning and which you will probably remember all your life. But that's all it is. It is not the most important day of your life, and it is certainly of relatively little importance to any of the other people involved, so getting your panties in a bunch over the details is a monumental waste of time and energy. You're making yourself queasy and depressed about something you can't control (be it your sister-in-law's attitude or your caterer's sudden flu or your dressmaker's inability to find the kind of trim you want on your gown), and there's no reason to do this to yourself.

    But to get back to your individual problem, you want to know how to get Marge out of the wedding party without hurting her feelings or angering your family. I'm sorry to say, you can't, really. Sometimes in a wedding you have to do the politic thing rather than the thing you want. See, the bride isn't the only one who has a stake in this proceeding... there are sisters and brothers and best friends and parents and extended families all involved. If your family thinks that Marge should be in your wedding party, you will probably have to just suck it up and have Marge in your wedding party, for the sake of peace in the family.

    However, as Marcy and Kathy told you, you will need to have a heart-to-heart talk with Marge about your expectations for your bridesmaids... that they need to be supportive and helpful and pay for their own dresses. Make sure of course that all of your other bridesmaids are also being supportive and helpful and paying for their own dresses.

    (On a side-note, I don't think you should expect your bridesmaids to pay for their dresses; I know it's "done" but it's kind of tacky... and if you do expect your bridesmaids to buy their own dresses, you'd better make damn sure the dress is something they can wear again, and you had also better cough up some really jazzy bridesmaids' gifts.)

    Think of it this way: You and your bridesmaids are working on a project together, the same as a project at work. In a work project, you will undoubtedly get saddled with your boss's favorite, who will be a thorn in your side, but you have to just deal with it... you can nevertheless ask the thorn in your side to please help rather than hinder. You can and should make some exceptions and allowances for your brother's wife, but she should be told (as gently and diplomatically as possible) that her attitude is bringing you down and adding unneeded stress to The Project. It's all about communication.

    Just don't expect Marge to feel the same way about your wedding as you do. If she's even half as bitter and cynical about weddings as I am, she'll never enter into the spirit of the thing. Don't expect anybody else (not even your groom) to care as much about this as you do. And you really shouldn't care so much, either — it's obviously not doing you any good.

    So my overall message remains... lighten up fer chrissakes. August is months away. A lot worse is going to happen before then. But eventually it will all be over with... and you'll still be you, and he'll still be him, and everyone will still be themselves, and all the toes you stepped on before and during your wedding will still hurt. (Besides, three months is plenty of time to engineer an "accident" for Marge... she can't put a damper on your wedding if she's laid up in a body-cast, now can she?)

    Trust your (evilly chuckling) Auntie
PS: I was just now talking to my co-worker JB about the Confounded Bride, and she was rather more sympathetic than I; of course, she would be — the reason I asked her opinion is because she recently married for the second time and would have better insight on the second-wedding/gift paradigm... anyway, she felt that if she and her husband had gone to all the trouble to have the party, the guests could go to the trouble to pony up a prezzie of some kind. It's part of the social contract. But she would not let the lack of gifts color her dealings with these friends.

JB's Advice: Don't invite those deadbeats to your next wedding. That'll show 'em!

I think I will be asking JB to join me on these Under Advisement outings in the future... how many advice columnists squabble with each other in print?

No comments:

Post a Comment