Monday, July 22, 2013

Destination Wedding Etiquette?

Dear Jocelyn,
We are planning on having a destination wedding in the Bahamas. We are requesting no gifts as our guests will be responsible for the travel fare and accommodations. Is this acceptable? Lastly, we do not want to invite people who we have either never met or met only once. This means that one or two spouses would not be invited. I am well aware what the wedding etiquette says. Is there a way around it if we explain it to our guests? I am a very private person and if it was my way, I would get married to my fiancé with a couple of witnesses and then have a separate party for everyone.
-Destination Bride

Dear Bride,
There are quite a few issues popping up in your letter. The biggest one is that it seems as if your wedding is not really turning out how you would like. While I do not believe having a wedding gives a bride carte blanche, and she must compromise with her groom, frequently brides end up being pulled in multiple directions by their mother, mother-in-law, and friends.  You said that if you had your way, you would get married with a few witnesses, and then throw a separate party.  Is it your fiancé who wishes to have a different wedding, or your family? If it is your fiancé, then I understand the compromise. If it is your family, then you and your fiancé need to have a serious talk about what you want, and how to set up boundaries with your family.

You asked if it is acceptable to request no gifts; while Miss Manners would say no (even acknowledging that someone might bring a gift is tacky to her), I think a simple note on the invitation saying, "We appreciate the effort everyone is taking in coming to our wedding, and that is enough of a gift to us!" or something similar would be fine.

You also asked about not inviting spouses.  While I defended the rights of couples to not give everyone a "plus one" in a previous post,  spouses are very different.  When you marry, you become one with the other person, and I believe that makes you a single unit. You said you know the wedding etiquette in regards to this, so you should also know that there is no way to explain this in a way that makes it acceptable.  If you cannot invite Susie's spouse, then you cannot invite Susie. If you wish to have Susie come but haven't yet met her husband, you simply must invite her husband.  

Lastly, I cannot end this without a word on destination weddings.  While these are becoming more popular, they pose many problems and are quite a burden on guests.  I do not know your reasons for having a wedding in the Bahamas; perhaps your guests are excited to join you and this makes everyone happy.  However, if you aren't positive about this, consider an alternative: marry your fiancé in the Bahamas with a few guests you fly out.  When you come back, throw a party for everyone else you wanted to have join you.  This will solve the problem of gifts and not inviting spouses (after all, it is not as big of a deal to invite someone you haven't met to a party versus your wedding).

In giving this advice, I have had to make several assumptions from your letter.  Please forgive me if any of it was incorrect, and please write back or comment to let us know what you decide.

No 'I Love You'?

Dear Jocelyn,
I have been with my boyfriend for 18 months, and he still has not said "I love you" to me. He finally met my two daughters after 14 months of being in a relationship with me. His actions certainly do speak louder than words, as he tries so hard to be my confidant. He is always trying to provide for my children and I, always tries to make me smile, listens, is affectionate, however he has a difficult time even saying "I miss you". What is going on? Should I just assess the unspoken love? I know it seems petty, but I need to hear it, just once!
-Craving Those Words

Dear Craving,
I recently responded to a reader with a similar question here. It certainly seems by his actions that he does love you, which is important.  However, it is completely normal for you to want to hear him confirm that with his words.  It is quite possible he simply does not express his emotions with words very well.  In that case, I would recommend talking to him about how important it is for you to hear certain things from him - "I miss you" or "I appreciate you" in addition to "I love you." If he makes an effort to say these things more often, then it is probably just that he struggles with putting his feelings into words, and you will have to help him with this during the course of your relationship.  

If, however, he is resistant to saying "I love you" after you talk to him, then you need to find out the reason.  Is he waiting until he proposes? Is he unsure whether he loves you? It would be fair to have a conversation with him asking where the relationship is heading, especially if he is still unsure whether he loves you after 18 months.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How Do I Keep the Size of My Wedding Under Control?

Dear Jocelyn,
fiancé and I are getting married in June. I come from a family of divorce and both my parents are remarried. My fiance's mother passed away when he was a child and his father is now remarried. This makes both of our families rather large. I am trying to keep our guest list to 175. I decided that all guests under 21, unless married or living together, do not get a plus one.

fiancé's stepsister, who is 18, has been with her boyfriend on again, off again for 3 years. I have decided not to invite him. Not only may they not be together when we get married but I feel that they are young and I would rather use his spot for one of my friends. His stepmother is very upset about this. Should I go back on my decision? My stepbrother who is the same age is not getting a plus one - and neither are any of our cousins who are all around the same age. I felt like this was such a small issue but now it has escalated into a larger issue than it needs to be.

Dear Confused,
You are right, this is a small issue; however, judging from the amount of mail I get about this, a surprising number of people don't seem to feel the same way! If she were the only young person with a boyfriend, I might say just make an exception just to keep the peace. However, with so many other teens attending, it would not be fair to make an exception just for her.  The only way to let her bring someone without letting others is to perhaps change the rule to allow immediate family members (such as her and your stepbrother) bring a date - however, you would have to decide if this would be worth the trouble, or if you would just be opening a can of worms.

To keep this from getting out of control (and to attempt to preserve your relationships with your new in-laws!), try first to talk to your fiancé's stepsister, face to face, and tell her your reason for not inviting her boyfriend. Gently say, "I'm so sorry, but I need to keep this wedding under 175 because we simply can't afford any more. I've already told everyone else (list a few people by name) that they cannot have dates, and it would be unfair of me to let you bring someone, and not them." As for his stepmother, let your fiancé explain the reasoning to her.  He knows her best, and can hopefully reason with her. If neither of them are understanding about this, then it might be time to accept that you are likely to have a rocky relationship with them in the future.  As I have written before, marriage is just the beginning for these kinds of difficult relationships.  Whether the issue is wedding guests, where to go for Thanksgiving, or how to raise your children, you are likely to have disagreements with family members. It it wise to learn early on how to handle these issues gracefully, but firmly.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Do I Not Invite an Abusive Cousin to My Vow Renewal?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am having a vow renewal in 2015 (its a part of my religion). I invited all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, as well as my husband's family to our wedding. For the 2015 vow renewal, I want to have my younger cousin on my mom's side in my bridal party, and I absolutely cannot invite my older cousin on that side (bad history of abuse with me as the recipient). 

However, only my mom, my husband, my therapist, and now you know this. My aunt is a wonderful woman and my godmother, and I desperately want to invite her and her younger daughter, without having to explain why or creating a rift. We are not inviting any one from my dad's side except my grandma. We are inviting all of my husbands side (he doesn't see them often, and there aren't many of them). Thanks for any light you can shed.
-In An Awkward Situation

Dear Situation,
What a difficult situation! I'm sorry you are facing this. As you probably know, it isn't really an option to simply not invite the older cousin and not say anything. So I think you have three options:

1) Email/call/sit down with your aunt and say something along the lines of, "I am very much hoping you and (younger cousin) are able to come to the vow renewal, however, I am unable to invite (older cousin). I cannot share the reason and I am sorry about that. I understand if this means you cannot come, but I very much hope you still can." And if (and when) she asks for details, simply say, "I really can't go into it. I know that is hard, but I can't."
2) Consider telling your aunt what happened. Since you know your family dynamics and the details of the abuse, only you can decide if this will cause more or less trouble than not telling her. If you do share, it will (probably) help her understand better why you cannot invite him. 

3) Don't invite anyone (or hardly anyone) to the vow renewal.

None of these are perfect options. In the first, you leave your aunt wondering about this secret, and she will likely press you for details. It might also strain your relationship, since she will know you are keeping a secret from her. The second option has you opening up about a very personal matter to the mother of the man that hurt you. It is quite likely that she will feel defensive for him, and she might not even believe you. The third option will help you avoid sharing that you do not want to invite your older cousin. While it will make your vow renewal a significantly smaller event, your aunt will be none the wiser about your secret.

I am sorry that I didn't have an easier option. You have quite a challenge ahead of you - best of luck.