The Carolyn Hax Wedding Hootenanny! (Friday, August 23)

Aug 23, 2013

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, August 23, at Noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hello, ladies and germs. I'm not sure I can do the usual hour of Q and A before the wedding Hoot because I am buried in your wedding hell. Seems fitting, really.

I actually have cold feet for this chat, for the first time in years; I'm not sure I'm up to the volume. I have been reading for hours and I've barely made a dent.

So with that ... oh, and there's a party already underway in the Turntable room (link). If that link doesn't work for you (you need to sign in to get there) you can go here--link--for an account.


Hey there. I am the letter writer from Monday's column. Just thought I would send in an update. It seems like ages ago that I wrote in that question. A lot has changed for the good, though I know we still have a ways to go. I do have to say that some of the comments can be brutal. I have been seeing a counselor, which helps me to have a place to voice my frustrations and moving toward getting some guidance in how to approach things with my spouse. Spouse no longer checks out after dinner, and helps with bath, and bedtime. Things are definitely moving in a better direction for now.

Thanks, it does sound as if you've made progress. Congratulations--I know it's not easy, especially when your partner has strong, immediate incentive not to cooperate. 

Carolyn, This may be incorrect for the wedding Hootenanny but I did want to share based on your letter this week about the very nice spouse who wanted his overweight wife to excercise. When a person is overweight and not working out or eating correctly to do something about it, no amoung of asking nicely, asking rudely, or nagging will fix it. If a family member is concerned taking that person to a therapist or psychiatrist to understand the root causes of why they refuse to take care of themselves is probably much more useful. Everybody knows how to lose weight. Less calories, more excercise with an emphasis on the former. If people of reasonable intelligence aren't doing those things, there is more at play here than familial pressure can fix. I wish there was more of an emphasis on the psychology of weight loss instead of the actions of overweight people. I have had family members do and say all kinds of things over the years and understanding that food represents a whole lot of mental calculations and processes for me has really been helpful !

Thanks for this, though isn't it emphasis on the -latter-? Obviously if someone is calorie-loading with high-calorie foods, then cutting back those numbers is important, but I've also read quite a bit lately that dieting doesn't work, to the point that having dieted is a reliable predictor of future weight gain.

This is where "Everybody knows how to lose weight" becomes problematic; does everyone know to cut back processed foods, but not necessarily to go low-cal or low fat? Does everyone know that what one person's body does in response to weight-loss efforts is not the same as another's? Does everyone know the body fights to keep extra weight once we put it on? Or that different bodies gain weight in different ways? Or that sometimes meds cause the lethargy and weight gain, and it's not always the oft-implied reverse, that lethargy and excess weight create the condition that requires meds?

I say all this even agreeing with you that other culprits need their due consideration. What underlies it all is that the person with the condition needs also to be the source of the motivation. External motivation is basically no motivation at all.

Sorry for the delay; I have a technical quesiton for Bethonie.

Carolyn, I need your help. I'm married and considering having a fling with another man... I love my husband deeply and I don't want to leave him for this guy or anyone else. I'm in therapy and have discussed this with my therapist extensively and though I know the potential fallout from this could be devastating, I still can't seem to let the idea go. I've controlled myself up to this point, and I haven't discussed it with my husband because he's been cheated on in the past and I know that even talking about it will magnify his insecurities. I don't want to ruin my marriage, but I can't seem to control my fantasies about this other man. For what it's worth, my husband and I have been together for 12 years (married for 6) and I've never considered or come close to cheating before. Please help.

I think you need to treat this not as an emotional interest in another guy, but instead a compulsion, along the lines of an addiction. If your therapist isn't qualified to help you do that, then you need to find one who does. Look at the hallmarks: obsessive thoughts, knowingly self-destructive (almost) behavior, a preference for doing the right thing that is being overwhelmed by impulse. Seek the extra help, please. Consider engaging your husband in this process, too. If my spouse were struggling as you are, then I'd want to be able to understand and, if possible, help.

Hi Carolyn, One of my close friends is smart and funny. She also loves to be the center of attention, and will often loudly talk over others (she either doesn't notice or doesn't care that she's interrupting) or embark on long, discursive stories that leave no room for outside input. I love my friend and think she's a good person, but being frequently interrupted or sidelined is frustrating. I'm not sure how to bring this up since it seems like I'm the only one who notices/is bothered: She's the most extroverted in a group of generally introverted people. Mentioning it when she does it seems like some sort of public humiliation, but it also seems weird to bring it up out of the blue later. Generally what I do is wait until she's finished with her spiel and if the topic hasn't changed too drastically by that point, continue with what I was saying. Any advice? Or do I just need to grow a spine?

I think you need to figure out exactly what  you want here.

I don't normally get into this stuff, but I've noticed this question in my queue for several weeks in a row. I skipped over it because it just didn't seem that serious, and/or it didn't inspire in me a very promising answer for public consumption. Basically, I was thinking you either accept this as the byproduct of your close friendship with her, or you pull her aside "out of the blue later" and say you've become frustrated by what you perceive as her talking over you when you're in groups. Or, you say nothing and just try to see her more one-on-one and less in group settings.

But the repeat submissions got my attention. If you have in fact gone out of your way to submit it several times (allowing for some other technical reason for its being there, just in case), then the thing I think you need to wrestle with is why is this so far under your skin.

So, back to my opening question. Are you losing interest in her friendship? Does she bring out something in you that you don't like, and do you feel that it would be wrong to "punish" her (i.e., end the friendship) for something that's really your own internal struggle? Has she or you changed to the point where you're trying to make an old friendship mold fit where it no longer does?

Your answer, I believe, is in the bigger picture.

Hi Carolyn. I'm seeing a guy who I get along with really well -- he makes me laugh, he's smart, we do fun things together, etc. But there is one problem--he seems to have a lot of bittnerness about his job (he doesn't like it, he works long hours on short notice, is in danger of being laid off pretty much all the time). My job is more secure, pays better, has a flexible work schedule, and I'm not required to work long hours like he is, though I often do, and have been promoted quickly as a result. I feel like his bitterness gets directed at me because my job situation is a lot better. In a nutshell, if I talk about work, he makes comments that imply that he thinks my job is  a cakewalk, and I'm not allowed to say anything bad about it. I like to vent about things that happen during my day, laugh about them, and move on, but I get negative feedback when I do that with him. At this point I just avoid talking about work when I can and try to give him a break because I know he's miserable at his job. I'm wondering if I should say something or just end things because he seems to have a lot of scorn for my job (and, by extension, me).

He's funny, he's smart, he's fun, but, wow, he's a big baby.

He -snarks- at your job because he doesn't like his? Please. And you're already changing yourself to please him, which is actually even worse.

How about this: "You know what? When you say nasty things about my job just because you hate your job, I don't feel sympathetic. I feel irritated that you're putting your problem on me. If you'd like my help or just moral support for finding a new job, count me in, but if you just want a punching bag, look elsewhere."

Carolyn -- thanks always for your wisdom and no-nonsense advice. I need you and the nuts to smack me upside the head. I was dumped last week after dating a guy for five months. It came as a huge shock, as I thought things were fine and I could see myself marrying him. He told me that while he loves me, he couldn't see himself ever getting to the point of proposing. I really appreciate his honesty, but do people really know that quickly if they can see themselves marrying someone? We're both 31. In addition to the incredible sadness I feel about not having him in my life anymore, I'm kinda freaking out that I'll never find someone. I know 31 is not that old, but it feels like it, especially when it feels like everyone in the universe is settling down and moving to the next phase of life, and because I want to have a couple of kids. I love being in relationships and being giving and having someone to care about. As a result, I often get into relationships with guys who aren't right for me just so I have someone. I know in principle that I shouldn't settle, but it feels better than being alone. During my relationship with this most recent guy, I didn't feel like I was settling, but in retrospect I guess I was. He made me happy and I was willing to overlook some things that should have been red flags (basically his immaturity and financial issues) because I thought relationships were about compromise. My friends say I need to become happier just being me and being content being single, that I am a catch and once I stop trying so hard and stop needing a guy, I will find the right one. This all sounds well and good in theory, but how do I do that? Chat only, please. Thank you!

"it feels better than being alone": Why?

"I love being in relationships and being giving and having someone to care about": Why does this only apply for you in romantic relationships? Why can't you derive satisfaction from giving and caring in other contexts?

"I thought relationships were about compromise": Wait--I thought they were about giving and caring. Where is the line, for you, between healthy compromise (remaining who you are while forgiving others' faults) and giving yourself away (compromising so much to please someone else that you're letting go of kep elements of who you are)?

Here's how I'd put what your friends are telling you: A happy relationship is a bond between two people who like and love each other as they are. It is -impossible- to get there unless both of you like -yourselves- the way you are.

Right now, you seem to like yourself only when you're with someone else, and so there's essentially no such thing as a pure version of you that you know, understand, are proud of, can stick up for as needed, and can someday (if and only if you meet someone who fits) give to someone else as a MUTUAL gift.

I realize this is still theory to some extent, but it's theory with a clear set of instructions: Dust yourself off from this breakup and start living your -single- life with the clear purpose of understanding how you most want to live it. Do you like to go out a lot, stay in a lot, rise early, rise late, save meticulously, spend freely, gaze at one picture in a museum for 15 minutes just because you can because no one's behind you sighing about wanting to leave?

The person you discover in this process is the one who will be qualified to decide who's a good match for you. Without this knowledge of yourself, you're not qualified to judge, and this is coming back to you in the form of false starts and hard breakups. Deep breath, let go, be you. Good luck.



Hi Carolyn, Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed that you have been getting a lot of questions lately from folks wondering if they should say something about X or do something about their friend's Y. Something I said at work the other day gave me a perspective that I thought might be useful for those people. A colleague and I were debating about some new work policy that we felt was boneheaded and/or would bring some serious repercussions for our organization. It ended with me saying, "Yeah, it sucks, but it ain't my problem." That may sound like me just having a bad attitude, but what I meant was while I may be disheartened with the outcome, but since I have no actual direct say in the decision, it is something someone else will have to worry about. You have people writing in about what they should do on something that is, quite literally, someone else's problem. I understand their good intentions, but sometimes just taking a second to say to yourself, "How is this my problem, exactly?" might be a useful perspective. Unless you are directly affected AND have a direct say in affecting the outcome, this isn't your problem. Or, to paraphrase a philosopher of our modern age, you got 99 problems, but that ain't one.

Yes to this, yes. I had a similar epiphany years ago--15? more?--that changed my life, and you've all been reading the results to some degree in my column. It was a passage in Anne Tyler's "Breathing Lessons":

Passage from "Breathing Lessons" by Anne Tyler. (Pardon the highlighting; those are just the search terms I used and was too lazy to fix.)



Okay, you Turntablers kill "Under the Sea" but not this?


Feeling Hooty, anyone?

I'm an extrovert who loves to be the center of attention! I am smart and funny and tell long stories! I know I do this, so I consciously try to listen to others and have a more participatory discussion. But sometimes I get carried away -- it's part of being an extrovert! Please, tell your friend. You can deal with in the moment by gently saying "hey, can I finish?" (my boss's very effective tactic) or "Hey Sally you're doing that thing again..." Or, you can take her aside later. But DO IT. If she's any kind of good friend, she'll appreciate the honesty and try to honor you.

But, first, this. (TOTAL attention hound, uh! JK.) 

I once got really excited about being close to paying off my student loans, and my boyfriend's response was to get all sad about how he's nowhere near that point. I asked him, point blank, why he couldn't just let me be happy about a big achievement without making it about him. He got the message. Point being, if this guy can't realize how unfair it is to dump his baggage all over you - esp. if he's not working on a way to fix it - you don't want that long term. You're entitled to your own feelings, as long as you're being reasonable and sensitive.

... and this. Thx

I got this advice in the context of being female in a predominantly male environment and I was tired of being talked over. I was told to just continue talking as I was before and completely ignore the other person. It was awkward the first few times, but not anymore. It did stop with some people.

And this.

I wish that somewhere in your answer the possibility of talking to her husband about maybe opening the marriage a little were at least raised. It's not the right answer for everyone but it should be on the table as one of the possible options to think about. Yes, LW may be a self destructive mess, but she also may just be someone who needs sexual variety - a couple should be able to at least *talk* about loosening the bonds of strict monogamy.

Yes, but that would have been a very differently worded question. The one I got was about compulsion, not about marital philosophy. 

I see your point with today's LW2. But does your answer change if the parents have previously given largely disproportionate amounts of money to different children? One sibling has gotten thousands of dollars more out of my parents (because they believed it was an investment and he showed much more promise than we did as kids). So when home-buying and weddings come around, aren't those opportunities to right the wrongs? I figure you might say otherwise, but it doesn't change the message of what I experienced.

I think parents should be fair with their money, and if the LW today had brought it up, I would have said so.

My counsel--emphatic counsel--to anyone on the -receiving- end of "largely disproportionate amounts of money to different children" would be to let it go, let it go, let it go. Yes, of course it would affect your relationship with that parent, but I mean let the anger go. Accept that it's the work of a flawed parent, who you regard with pity because s/he is too stuck on playing favorites to recognize what it will cost him/her in emotional connection to all the kids.  

How's that for a tease? Sorry, I just came across all that good non-Hoot material. Now I'm starting. Maybe.

I wrote into your Friday chat almost a year ago because I was dating a man who's 20 years older than me and wasn't sure about the age difference. You gave me some excellent advice to wait until I knew my own mind. Well I took your advice and gave myself some space. Now I'm thrilled to say that I won't be able to read your Wedding Hootenanny of Horrors because we'll be preparing for our wedding on Saturday! Thank you for your wonderful advice on this and so many other things! I'll be sure to read the Hootenanny when we return from our honeymoon. :)

And contribute to next years! Congratulations.

My mother-in-law sent out her own invitations to our wedding. She felt her name wasn't big enough on our invitations. It was exactly the same size as my parents' names and only slightly smaller than the bride and groom's names.

Setting the bar so high on the first post, it almost seems unfair.

I can't participate live because I'll be on a 10 hour flight to my cousin's destination wedding. But I did upgrade to a seat with an extra inch of leg room so I have that to look forward to.

Way to spoil yourself. Updates, please, after you get there. Next Wednesday.

Hall and Oates? You're driving me out of the room. Help.

My mother-in-law wrote thank you notes to all the groom's relatives, telling them I was too ill-bred to write thank you notes on my own, so she was doing it for me. She completed the job and announced this at the rehearsal dinner, before I even saw the gifts.

My co-worker, at a DoD agency, volunteered to do an extra year in Afghanistan to pay for the fancy wedding his girlfriend wanted. I guess it's better than expecting the parents to pay, but yeesh.

Maybe he was earning hazard pay for the wedding, and maybe he was looking for an easier way out than actually telling her the wedding was off.

I was the first of three bridesmaids for my little sister; in the excitement of her post-ceremony exit to the limo, I threw a little packet of rice (net with ribbon to restrain the rice) and totally forgot to untie it! It hit her right in the eye, and she complained for years about the fool that did that! I finally had the nerve to confess I was The Idiot after YEARS!!! Fortunately, she laughed and forgave me.

Nothing subliminal here, nope. 

Carolyn - My wedding was over four years ago, but I still look back and have some nagging regrets. My mom and my bridesmaid were not involved in buying the wedding dress. We told people it was adults-only, but some family friends brought their kids anyway, making it look like we only told my stepsiblings not to bring their kids. I forgot my checkbook and my mom had to cover the caterer (I paid her back the next day). How can I stop myself from going over and over these missteps and just remember it as the beautiful day it was?

Aw honey. This being maybe the second time I've ever called anyone "honey." Your errors are so safely within the margin of wedding error that they almost  qualify your event as perfect. If other people's stories can bring you any solace, then have at them, but also maybe ask yourself whether you're always so hard on yourself or always so beholden to your expectations. 

(And if you are, or are often haunted by missteps even years after you made them, consider talking to someone about a screening for OCD or anxiety or the like.)

Spouse and I were in our mid-30s when we got married (first time for the both of us). Shortly after the engagement, during a conversation about ideas for the wedding, his mother told us "People your age don't have real weddings." We ended up doing a destination wedding with just us, on the other side of the planet.

The moon having been booked that Saturday.

... by the couple whose parent sent out her own invitations.

Got married earlier this year. The day was wonderful, and it went off, well it went off as well as it could have, that is to say we all had a great time. The planning process though.....My mother-in-law had very set ideas about what a wedding "should be." Most of which my lovely wife and I agreed with, but well, it did lead to this conversation: MIL: "So, you're going to have a chocolate fountain right?" Wife: "Mom, you do know I'm allergic to chocolate." MIL: "But....Its what's done!" There was no chocolate fountain.

But it's what's done! Error error error 

My future in-laws made it clear they object to this marriage - they staged an intervention-like event with my fiance. He told them he's thought about their concerns (supposedly my inability to have children, but I suspect they are religious differences). He said he is happy with his choice and told them to drop it. Now they all "happened" to chose black dresses and suits for the wedding. Obviously, a few black suits and a black dress won't raise eyebrows, but this is 12-15 people sitting together in black at an outdoor garden wedding. Initially I was distraught, but that's not my question. My MOH is preparing a tongue-in-cheek toast about it. I trust her to be subtle and witty and for me, to save the day. My in laws may not see it that way, if they "get" the joke. Do I turn her loose, or ask her not to do it?

What, wait--this wedding hasn't happened yet? And you've got a contingent of mourners coming?

I realize this is a statement against my own interests (oh, the crop of material these people will yield), but I want your fiance to disinvite his family. You can't ask this, it has to be his initiative. Absolutely, mouth-agapedly unacceptable, this show they're putting on. Maybe collective outraged mind-beams will make their way to your groom, and he'll be moved to pull the plug on them all.

I'm not sure how I feel about your actual question--what the MoH should do. I don't think you should be any part of it, because that puts you on their level. I do suspect, though, that if I were giving the toast, I might not be able to stop myself from making a nice speech about you and your groom and what lovely people you are, followed by a nod in the direction of the mourners to say they should all be ashamed of themselves.

But that would be about me, and so this is taking me to the point of thinking the tongue-in-cheek speech just can't be about your MoH. It has to be about you and the groom.  Within that guideline, set her free. They're her words to say, after all.


Good luck to you both, and I'm sorry you're getting poked in the eye, particularly given the reason(s).

Four words: North Carolina in July. Turned out to be the hottest day of the prior five years (105 w/ a heat index in the upper 110s), one of the bridesmaids had horrific food poisoning and (almostbutnotquitealltheway) passed out during the ceremony, half the guests were seated outside, the A/C at the reception site could not keep up, and 95% of the photos in our album are pictures of extremely sweaty people. I don't think anyone remembers anything else about the wedding other than the $200 worth of the ugliest industrial fans you've ever seen that we rented three days before the wedding, which turned out to be a huge hit. Great party!

Nothing says "forever" like flop sweat.

At my wedding, the Best Man gave a funny and charming speech, mildly mocking the groom (his best friend of 20 years) and saying nice things about me. Then the Maid of Honor got up and proceeded to absolutely roast the groom and our relationship. Vicious. We kept waiting for the "but really" (like how at the end of every Celebrity Roast the comedian says wonderful things about the target), but it never came. Just stunned silence from 200 people. Four years later it still comes up regularly when a guest says it was the most shocking performance they've ever seen in real life and I grit my teeth and fake a smile and a laugh so I don't cry.

Oh, I'm sorry it's still a cry. What can we do make it funny for you? (I assume this friend is no longer one.) Anyone--can we crowd-cheer someone up? Surely there's a Tumblr here ... or would that just make it worse.

Hi Carolyn, I've recently been invited to three showers, all of which are hosted by the bride herself (did I miss something? when did that become appropriate?). For the first, I've been requested to bring THREE gifts, each from a different registry. One has to be unwrapped to put on display, one has to be wrapped in a specific color wrapping paper (god forbid the gift pile not be color-coordinated), and one has to be for a specific room in her house (in my case, the guest bedroom). For the second shower, the invitation says "no boxed gifts," but then also lists where she's registered. Perplexed, I look at the registry and find that she's only registered for gift cards! Apparently, we can't even be trusted to give her pre-selected gifts. Shower #3 cuts the crap and just provides a link to PayPal the bride money.

Actually, cutting the crap would mean not going to any of the showers. Pretty please. 

I attended a wedding a couple years ago where the bride and groom asked us all to participate in the ceremony by singing an Enya song. A capella. The maid of honor had a nice voice and made a real effort, but otherwise it was eighty people standing on a lawn and mumbling out of tune for several painful minutes. Then, during the reception, the bride's family put on a skit, the main theme of which was making fun of every man she'd ever dated. One of her sisters played the (red-haired) groom, complete with an Annie wig. Naturally, it ended with a lip-synch.

VIDEO. Or else I will stop speaking to you.

Night before my sister's wedding, huge fight breaks out, she (literally) runs away in the pouring rain, my dad chases after her. Groom to be holes up in room, leaving the rest of us (his parents, my family) sitting there awkwardly for two hours while not knowing whether to move forward with wedding preparations or not. about them Yankees?

A perfectly good awful story till you threw in the Y word.

Did the wedding happen? Did the marriage last?

My boyfriend and I have already said we know we're going to marry each other. We both know it's a good thing. We tend to tease each other, and sometimes he goes a little overboard, often getting close to crossing a line into upsetting territory. However, I know he's doing this in fun, it's his sense of humor, and I take it very lightly. Lately, he's been making a lot of "jokes" where he will fake propose to me, then when I say anything joke-like, he goes "Nope, you ruined it, we're not engaged anymore!" . . To me, this isn't funny because I'm hoping engagement isn't actually that far off. And he's never made these kinds of jokes before. Do you think he's testing me to see if I'm ready for engagement, or is this just him joking because he knows it will push my buttons? Do I continue to take it light heartedly or do I tell him how I feel about getting engaged?

No, you tell him how you feel about the jokes and crossing the line (not "close to crossing"--you -are- upset, and this is no time to get mealy). 

If this doesn't get resolved to the point of mutual understanding and accommodation, the engagement is a bad idea.

My friend decided to marry a guy whose family was a stacked deck of belligerent crazies. She's half-Thai, and proceedings began with a speech by her MIL at the rehearsal dinner expressing relief that the wedding wasn't "one of those Buddhist things," and asking her to explain, into a microphone, "why our son should marry you." The wedding continued in 100 degree heat with the bride being bitten on the face by a spider. The reception was held around a lovely pool full of candles and lotus flowers. Midday through the ceremony, the FIL slips on the side of the pool and falls in. At first everyone thinks the party was really beginning (someone actually yelled "PARRRRRRTAAAAAAY!" like in the movies) until we realize that not only has he fallen in accidentally but hit his head on the side, broken his nose, and is drowning in a growing cloud of blood. He had to be rescued by another guest, and taken out of the reception to the ER strapped on a gurney, followed in a caravan by every member of the groom's family. The bride and groom stayed, and found that their car had been so deeply vandalized by the groomsmen that it wouldn't start. They ended the night driven home in a stretch limo with the Maid of Honor vomiting out the back window. It wasn't the wedding she deserved. Silver lining is that they say the horror of the day really brought them together as a couple.


I hope that forgotten checkbook is looking milder by now.

I'm an introvert and hate ceremony so I find Weddings to be stressful, expensive, and annoying. But recently for the first time I'm part of planning one and it is definitely one of the outer circles of hell. I used to dread going to the wedding but now I realize the hard part is all the process leading up to it, and all the opinions people have, and all the decisions that have to be made, and all the backhanded judging of the decisions, and then, of course, all the talking about all of it ad nauseum. Does it say anything about how crazy this process is when I tell you I'm not even talking about my own wedding? This has consumed my family's life for the past 6 months and now it's the first wedding I'm attending in my 30+ years on earth that I'm really looking forward to because once it happens the whole thing will finally be over. Now that I've gone through this I will definitely greet new invitiations with more enthusiasim since all I will have to do is RSVP, order a gift, and try not to get sloppy drunk on the dance floor. I can handle that!

Or fall in a pool and sustain a grave injury, or yell PARTAAAAAAY when someone does, or roast the couple with malice and forethought, or vomit out a limo, or bring explicitly uninvited children, or send out your own invitations, or write someone else's thank-you notes, or rally everyone to don mourning clothes, or insist on menu items the bride is allergic to, did I miss anything? Obviously it's much harder to be a polite wedding guest than it might appear. 

At my wedding, during my brother-in-law's best man toast he asked everyone to raise their glass to the happy couple, then said my husband's name and the name of my husband's ex-wife. Lovely...


I'm not quite sure this is up to Hootenanny levels, but when my brother got married they had a 4 o'clock wedding followed by the reception. The only food was the cake, some mints and a chocolate fountain, but they did have an open bar and numerous bottles of champagne. Needless to say, the wedding party was having a good time by the end of the night. When we got back to the hotel we all piled into one hotel room with a big stack of pizzas. Amid the carousing someone noticed the best man amd maid of honor were gone. Not sure who thought to look outside, but someone did and they were making out in the parking lot right outside the room! They hadn't come back with us, so they had no idea we were all in that particular room. Caused quite the discussion as they were both dating other people who weren't attending the wedding. To top it all off my mom thought it would be hilarious to bang on the window and then moon them. It was quite the ending to the night & I'm not sure anyone has ever mentioned this to the bride and groom!

I officially love your mom.

Two of my best friends, Abby and Belle, got engaged roughly the same week about a year ago and had a falling out when they both chose the same month for their wedding dates. Abby chose her date first, after Belle had said she was interested in the date; Belle got all Bridezilla and was upset and wanted an apology. Abby didn't give it. I thought things would smooth over naturally, but instead they escalated. Belle was going to ask Abby to be a bridesmaid, but Abby told her she couldn't come to the wedding, since she'd be on her honeymoon - then didn't even invite Belle to her wedding. They defriended each other on Facebook. Belle has hurt feelings; Abby just seems annoyed by the whole thing and wants an apology from Belle. I'm a bridesmaid in both weddings, which are happening within one week of each other. Now they've both decided to have bachelorette parties on the same night, more than a month prior to their weddings. What's the best, least dramatic way for me to handle the bachelorette party night? Bow out of one, and if so, which one? Should I do half and half? The drama and the havoc these weddings have reeked on my friendships has made me put off planning my own wedding so I definitely would rather not cause more of it.

As with the shower question, the answer to such bad behavior is to have no part in it. Decline both bachelorette invitations. Don kevlar, because it will cause havoc, but it's for an excellent cause: Telling them to cut it the !^&$ out. 

It might be useful to you later to be learning now that your besties are character-challenged.

"Don Kevlar" needs to be a character in something. 

This is the most bizarre wedding event I have experienced (but there are others). My wife's 19 year old cousin was marrying a 32 year old divorced man. We all attended to see who this guy was. When the toasts began during the reception, after the best man's "Druggie" ("May you be as high for the rest of your lives as I know you are right now") toast, the groom gets up to make a toast (which strikes us as unusual: in traditional wedding etiquette, the groom only makes a toast if he is toasting his bride's family; we would soon find out how unusual this really was). He makes the announcement that he is toasting "the second most important woman in my life" (yikes, we think, what is going on in his mind?): "after Mom, my new wife 'Trixie' (name changed to protect the naive)". His new bride--my wife's cousin--just beams. My brothers-in-law disintegrate into uncontrollable laughter; I sadly shake my head. We all wonder how long this marriage will last, and really wonder how long it will last when the groom later on sits on Mama's lap. The marriage didn't last a year, if that long (it was a little over 30 years ago). I'm still waiting for the thank you note for the waffle iron; my wife says that ship has sailed . . .

Keep hope alive, man.

We sent out invitations and one came back Yes + 15! We just rolled with it and fun was had by all, even the 15 people who my husband, and now I, are technically related to but do not know.


I've mentioned this to the 'nuts before, but I got "removed" as a bridesmaid because I couldn't afford to go to the Bachelorette Party in Vegas (it would have involved expensive flights, hotels, etc.). The worst part is, my friend didn't even do it, she had the Maid of Honor announce to me that she was removing me. It came across like I was being fired from a job. Bride and I are no longer friends.

And the MoH is now her consigliere in a violent wedding-planner racket. Probably best you got out when you did.


Our wedding cake was made by my aunt in England. It was of the English type, a dense fruitcake (soaked in brandy for 3 months!) with marzipan and hard icing. She brought it over in two hatboxes, with permission from the US Embassy. She constructed it (two layers with pillars in between), and it was a thing of beauty. The time came to cut it, and there was my husband, poised, knife in hand, with photographers at the ready... he cut, nothing happened. He tried harder-- nothing. He started making slight dents in the surface of the cake and at this point it was just embarrassing. Stabbing and hacking did nothing. That cake would not be cut! Luckily, someone told my aunt and she came running up-- apparently you can't cut it from the top, you have to turn it over and cut it from underneath where there is no icing. If only we'd known, we could have saved that temporary P.R. damage to my husband's manhood!

That's okay, the whole thing was forgotten as the line for a piece of the cake snaked out the door of the reception hall and into the street. 

We were on a super-tight budget when planning our wedding, and struggled to keep it within bounds and still accommodate our (huge!) families. I was shocked to find out my MIL-to-be had "already invited" about 60 people she worked with to the dinner. When we pushed back, she began to cry and insisted it was for our own good, "that's how you get presents!" Of course those people assumed it was a gift grab, I just hope it wasn't me they assumed was doing the grabbing. She later wanted to know exactly who gave what, and I was delighted to inform her that three couples from her list had chipped together to get us a can opener.

But it's top of the line, that can opener, and don't you forget it.

We married in 2008. During the planning, we fumed at all our parents' requests--invite X number of their friends, wear this, serve this food, have an open bar, hold it here, etc. My fiance and I fought big time, the whole time. Then, one day it dawned on us that our moms thought this was a big party for them and their friends. I know it sounds ridiculous, but once we wrapped our heads around this idea, the rest of the planning was smooth sailing. While some may say we gave in or rolled over, we were actually OK with the wedding being for them. They've braved more hardships than we can imagine and we were much happier throwing a party for them than ourselves anyway. Nothing they really wanted was a deal breaker for us, so we just let them have it all, and they stepped up and paid for it. Turned out to be a nice, fancy, night unlike anything we would have done for ourselves, and the moms had a blast. He and I had (and still have) each other.

I don't believe I said anything about heartwarming stories of maturity and acceptance. That's for the Blootenarny. In, um, March.

Let's husband decided to take my last name when we got married, which prompted one of his friends to refuse to attend the reception and instead send a scathing email to him while we were on our honeymoon about how he couldn't just stand by and watch him be emasculated by me. The name change also prompted my husband's mom to throw a major fit at him the moment we walked into the reception, and husband's stepdad to go around saying he gives our marriage five years at the most and that husband was just marrying me for the sex and for my money (really?). My dad refused to wear the vest that was part of his tux, which we only included because he wears his pants pulled up to his neck, and we wanted to cover that. Mom told me she was going to wear crocs with her dress because any other shoes hurt her feet. We didn't realize until just as my MOH was about to walk down the aisle that we didn't have our flowers. My wedding coordinator (who failed the entire day so fantastically) grabbed some unattractive, dripping wet flowers from a vase and tried to get me to use those instead. I decided to locate my flowers instead, so all my guests were wondering why I wasn't walking out after "Here Comes the Bride" played. They all sat looking at each other while I waited for my flowers, which eventually turned up in another bride's room! Mom & Dad were supposed to walk me down the aisle, then each hug me and shake hands/hug my husband-to-be. Instead, as we approached the front, I heard Mom whisper to Dad, "Okay, we have to sit down," so basically in the middle of walking me down, they just suddenly abandoned me and went and sat in their chairs, and I walked the rest of the way alone. Later they insisted they had absolutely no recollection of doing the hugs and handshake thing during rehearsal. A couple of people from my husband's family said they were uncomfortable the whole time because there were people on my side that were of different races. Additionally, husband's stepdad said he has never really been comfortable around me for the same reason. I have much more to add, but better leave it at that just in case this gets back to certain people and causes more problems! With two drama-loving families, it wouldn't take much!

A bold claim, winning the Hoot, but "he wears his pants pulled up to his neck" is what I call a contender. 

Plus, my dog just farted, and how. It just seems to fit.

Not so much a horror story as a hilarious one. My partner and I got married in Canada before gay marriage became a legal option in our home state. Some time after we married our friends from my husband's job invited us over for a small barbecue. One of the hosts happened to be a big fan of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," particularly an episode where Larry David unwittingly brought a cake shaped like a male member to a child's bar mitzvah. So as a joke we had a baker friend recreate the anatomically correct cake and brought it to the barbecue. Imagine our horror when they opened the door and yelled, "Surprise! It's a wedding shower for you guys!" Our friends couldn't stop laughing when we opened the cake box. In short, we unwittingly brought a cake shaped like a male member to our own gay wedding shower. Five years later and they still break out the pictures and get hysterical all over again.

As they should. 

My first husband had a cigarette (he was not a regular smoker) a few minutes before our wedding. Can we say that the effect along with his hangover was not good at all - during the ceremony he turned yellow, red, white then green. He then proceeded to throw up right there on the altar. It was a horrible mess. He ran out along with all the groomsmen and the pastor leaving me standing there wondering what to do (I should have run like hell)... I stood there until he came back and said to the crowd "I think I'm ready now" and the ceremony proceeded. There were loud snickers during the "in sickness and in health" portion. Bonus points for me for marrying the dude after that and bonus points for him for missing my dress completely with his puke. The marriage didn't last but I subsequently found a wonderful man and have now been happily married for almost 20 years (and we have two energetic teenagers). Our wedding was low key and not nearly as dramatic but it's lasting. So when you think it's a disaster that the color of the flowers is off or something just remember this story...

Our "it could be worse ..." cup runneth over. Possibly not the image any of you wanted right now.

When we were both 19, my fiance's unit was called up to active duty. We wanted to be married before the deployment, and I planned our wedding on 3 months notice, with no real "adult" supervision. The wedding reception was a classy, elegant affair featuring store-brand cold cuts and hawaiian punch cut with 7-up. Our wedding cake was really the best part of the whole affair- a work friend I'l call "Amy" had volunteered to make it as a gift. It was beautiful and everyone said it was delicious. Fast forward about a year to the divorce- who would have thought a teenage military marriage would fall apart so quickly? My now-ex was handling the breakup badly, and lashed out at me constantly in (usually sucessful) attempts to hurt my feelings. On what would have been our one year anniversary, he called me at work to say he was sitting by himself at home, eating the top layer of the cake that had been saved in the freezer for us to celebrate our first year together. He sarcastically wished me a happy anniversary and I hung up in tears. Another work friend hugged me and I told her through tears what he had said. To my shock, she began laughing uncontrollably. I demanded to know what was so funny and I got the story out of her- apparently, Amy (who no longer worked with us) had had a small incident on the day of the wedding. After getting up early to frost the cake layers, she left them on the table to set and went back to bed. When she rolled out of bed again around noon, she was horrified to discover that her little weiner dog had hopped up on the table and licked the frosting almost completely off of the smallest cake! The wedding was in three hours- there was no time to bake another one. She put the dog outside, refrosted the cake, and headed to the church. She did tell the attendees from work to avoid the cake, but swore them to secrecy. The mental image of my ex defrosting and eating a cake covered with year-old weiner dog slobber is hands down my best memory of that relationship.

Good doggie.


Except when it is.

I was an attendant in a wedding where one of the bride's aunts came up to me after the ceremony said said to me, "I love your dress but I hate your hair." I wish I could tell you I had a snappy comeback but in reality I just stood there agape.


I was at a wedding once and the Mother of the Bride gave a speech about how the two words to describe the bride were "perseverance" and "fate". She went on to say how the pregnancy had been so difficult (many almost-miscarriages, high probability of defects) that all of her friends and family (in the room, mind you!) told her she should have had an abortion. She ended with, "I'm glad I didn't listen to any of you."

I love a happy ending.

So far, one of the stories is from my wedding and one from my sister's. My brother just got engaged (don't worry, I found out from Facebook!), so I'll be sure to write in with the story next year. Considering he has (literally) shot himself in the foot before, I imagine there will be plenty of stories to go around.

Okay, but be careful.

I want a small wedding--guests in single digits. My parents want to invite my dad's extended family, including second cousins. My dad has 18 first cousins, many of whom had 4-10 children. We're compromising on an after-the-wedding party. Is there any way to keep this from looking like a gift grab? No registry? A registry that just goes to charities or asks for donations to a charity of the guest's choosing?

1. People who want to think ill of you will, no matter what you do.

2. You can do everything "right" and end up fodder for some sick WaPo chat on wedding calamities.

Have your small wedding and your consolation party, because that's what works for you, and just be a gracious host at both. That's all the image management you need to do, and ultimately can productively do.

I attended a wedding where the Best Man said the following in his toast to the bride: "{Bride}, someone once told me that men are like floors - if you lay them right the first time, you can walk all over them for years. Well, {Bride}, you clearly laid this floor right the first time - you'll be walking all over {groom} for years." Stunned silence from the room, a few awkward chuckles. All in front of their parents and grandparents.

Yeah, not the time to get that off his chest.

My mom went around the reception telling everyone how much she hated the groom, which was super great to hear from everyone after the fact.

Well, you wouldn't not want that information 100 different times.

At my wedding shower, my MIL gave me a very lovely hankerchief, embroidered with my and my husband's namesandour wedding date. It was accompanied with a very sweet poem about a hankerchief for a wedding one day becoming a bonnet for a baby. This got a chorus of "awwws" when I opened the gift and read the poem. My mother, having a rather different personality, announced that I needed to open her gift next. She gave me edible underwear. In front of many aunts, great aunts, etc. I was fairly embarrassed, but I guess it paints a nice picture of what my MIL mom are like.

Yes, yes it does.

PLEASE tell me that your (now) spouse took care of MIL.

With fire ants?

Throwing it out there.

My cousin is a professional musician who frequently plays for weddings. She has a list of wedding stories that tops just about anything I ever heard. From the wedding where the bride turns to thank her mom, her dad, the guests for all the love and support and her maid of honor for sleeping with the groom the night before and then walks off leaving him at the alter, to the multiple brides who have caught fire when their veil gets too close to candles, to those same candles melting and running wax all over the church carpet which then has to be replaced, to the groomsmen who use shaving cream which ate through the paint on the get-away car which was the brand new car owned by the bride's father. The wedding where the bride was discovered to be pregnant when she fainted from the heat and fell off the porch which was being used for the ceremony and had to spend the rest of the ceremony seated in a folding chair...

Nothing says bad wedding like a bride on fire.*



*Shamelessly swiped from comedian Dave Attell, whose original line was, Nothing says bad vacation like a winnebago on fire.

My best man, obviously very good friend, married his high school girlfriend at the age of 18 in a City Hall ceremony officiated by a judge. It cost less than $50. They are one of the happiest couples I've ever seen, and just celebrated their 40th anniversary. The opposite of a Hootenany!

Indeed. I won't go so far, though, as to endorse it as the express lane to a happy ending. Plus, I think it's a matter of statute that you aren't really married until somebody pukes. 

I was a groomsman in a wedding this past year. During a session w/ the professional photographer, he suggested we do a picture where the flower girl/boy (around 4 years old) run towards the camera, while the groomsmen run behind them. I'm not used to small kids, so didn't realize they'd be so outside my field of vision. For some reason, the flower girl decided to stop running right in front of me and I plowed right over her. There's now a series of about 5 photos on facebook forever memorializing the progression of her takedown.

Well played, sir, well played.

I was in a wedding once where the bride's mother insisted on hosting a bridal shower for 60 at her home. It was a "Victorian tea party theme" and she rented white costumes (with hats!) for us bridesmaids. But just the bridesmaids - all the other guests wore normal clothes. She also hadn't planned to serve any alcohol. As we put on our rented dresses, we sputtered about that and she agreed to serve the only thing she had in the house - red wine. It was a risk in those white dresses, but it was worth it. Of course, I had brought a flask in my purse just in case.

No photographer needed, the mental image will do, thanks.

Cause the MIL who sent her own invitations is narrowly edging out the groom's family in mourning clothes (because it hasn't actually happened). The irony of publically and prematurely correcting someone's manners (re: thank you notes handed out by MIL at rehersal dinner) is good, but the malciousness takes away from the funny.

I always thought the nasty elevated the funny--the irony wouldn't be half as delightful if the MIL were otherwise kind. But, yes, you get to vote. 

My husband and I attended a wedding earlier this summer in the midwest that prominently featured computer generated images of barbed wire on the invitations. Because nothing says "Today I marry my best friend" other than fencing material.

Au contraire. I think a prison theme works well with many of today's festivities.

A former friend of mine had dreamed about her wedding day her entire life. (So, you know, reality can never live up to her expectations.) She was literally the most miserable fiancee, bride, and newlywed I'd ever seen. She spent most of the time screaming at the poor guy -- a guy who I ended up liking more than her! Anyway, towards the end of the wedding reception, I was exhausted. Her snapping and screeching at me wasn't helping, and our friendship was slowly coming to a close anyway. I asked my mom how it's possible for a bride to be so utterly unhappy about marrying the man she supposedly loves. My mom said, "I think this IS her version of happiness!" Good point!

And thus we're back to the origins of the Hoot: expectations aren't pretty.

Sorry, got to vote for the dog slobber. Can I vote again???

I won't tell.

Not to mention "be sure your tetanus shot is up to date!"

Wait! Thread synergy:

I had to save my bridesmaids from a rabid raccoon two nights before the wedding. They were staying down the street from me (I was at my grandfather's house with my family), and the guys, at a low-key bachelor party at my brother's house, were not answering their calls. The raccoon was blocking the door to the house where they were staying, and it was close to midnight. The only defenses I could find were a rake and an umbrella, but I wasn't sure what I planned on doing with them. Fortunately, the raccoon decided to move of his own volition once I got there. Oh, and two strangers interrogated me on the sidewalk about why I hadn't called Animal Control... at midnight. The raccoon kindly did not make an appearance at the wedding itself.

Rabies, tetanus, close enough. 

Today I have to go home and personally thank the three of my five married siblings for eloping! :D

They're all living in your basement?

... because he also called his bride the second most important woman in his life. Could it get better than that?

This is like choosing a favorite child, or pair of shoes, or IPA. It's cruel to ask.

My father in law asked my husband what color I was.

So he could buy furniture to match?

I suspect there's a whole other afternoon of Horrors awaiting me in the outtakes, but I'm calling it.

A big, warm, strapless pink taffeta THANK YOU to all of you for all the hours of suffering you selflessly invested toward making this day a reality. Have a great weekend and type to you here the week after next. Here's rice in your eye.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.

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