Carolyn Hax Live: Wedding Hootenanny 2019

Sep 06, 2019

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax answers questions and responds to comments about a father caught in the middle, potluck weddings, a son's childcare demands and more. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Start pregaming, everyone--I'll do a regular Q and A session for a bit, then Hoot. Not as many regular Qs as usual today. Either we've all got caring fatigue and just want to get to the party, or ... actually it's probably just that. Right?


Can you give me some direction on how to better keep my resolve? I'm single, 40ish, and I swear, daily I wake up saying, "I'm going to read for an hour tonight," or "I'm going to make a healthy lunch for tomorrow," or "I'm going to do those stretches tonight." And I get home and end up having a glass of wine with the dog in front of the TV and that's that. I'm in a rut carved out over years, I'm in a routine--so how do I change it? How do I follow through on my promise to read or cook or stretch? I'd like to eventually expand to engaging in broader social activities, but I need to start with just being more active in a positive way in my own home first. How do I actually follow through on what I want to do? (PS--Doing these things before work is a non-starter. I am a night person through and through.)

There's resolve, and there's what you actually want to do. The latter is so much more effective.

If what you actually want to do is sit on the couch with wine, dog and tv, then you will find ways to do that and resolve doesn't stand a chance.

If your health (physical, mental, emotional) indicates a departure from the couch, or if you just want more balance, then make the couch time your reward for ... let's say 10 minutes of X, with X being stretches or reading or food prep. That's it. Ten minutes, then couch.

Or 5 minutes even. Every day. With couch bliss as your reward.

If it works well enough that you do this consistently, then hike the time by 5 minutes. Just 5.

Try for a few weeks and write back.

I see the dog as a shiraz kind of guy. Good guess?

Since I think it's the wedding hoot and you just answered a kids at weddings question, I was wondering - is it ever appropriate to comment on someone's decision to exclude kids? My cousin has decided to only invite his nieces and nephews to the wedding. This sounds reasonable, but we grew up more like brothers than cousins - his mom died when he was 10 and my mom stepped in a lot, so she is especially offended at this exclusion. Including my kids would not open the floodgates; I'm the only cousin of his with kids so we are talking about two extra kids from his side. As it stands, my kids will be the only ones at our large family holidays who weren't invited (which feels especially relevant since the wedding is in the middle of holiday season and my family ALWAYS hosts!). They're old enough to feel left out but too young to understand the logic of why. All that said, I don't want to push him to invite them. I just want to make it clear that this is hurtful and might affect my wife's ability to attend (all of the people who we trust to babysit for that long will be at the wedding). The wedding has been planned quickly and I think there's a chance that he just hasn't thought it through. But I know weddings are tough and I don't want to be that guy. What say you?

I say drop it, and here's why.

A lot of couples make mistakes with their guest lists. Like, all of them. I could expand it to hosts in general. Some are big, surprising oversights; some are attempts at principled stands that backfire; some are just byproducts of pressure (financial, family, logistics). Ask just about anyone who threw a wedding or milestone party a decade or three ago, and I think you'll get a story from every one of them about a person who was included and then never mattered again, or someone who was excluded and is now central to this person's life. Maybe I'm overstating it, but it's just so common.

And especially when it comes to kids, missing this one thing--even a big event--is (in most  cases) just not as significant over time as it feels right now. Oops, they blew it, your kids stay home, and maybe your wife does too. It's a bummer but it's the kind of thing you can leave behind you and never worry about again *if you choose to.* And the choice whether to dwell on it or shake it off is entirely your choice to make.

If instead you bring it up with your cousin, sure, maybe he'll say, "Yikes, I didn't think of that, sorry--of course your kids can come." More likely, though, it will put him on a spot either real or imagined. Say, they decided this because other people you know nothing about have pressured them to include kids, so they drew a hard line as nag-proofing. Whatever. So say this is the case and you bring it up, and your cousin then has to manage that request, at a time when that things-to-manage inbox is full. Then he's the one who has to choose whether to shake off this bummer or dwell on it. See the difference? Now you're not in control of how this affects your relationship, he is. It may come to nothing, but is it worth even going there?

Your kids' feelings are not a reason to consider taking this on. You are the one who sets the tone there: "They love you to pieces, it just didn't work out this time."

Carolyn, my son got married in October to his long-time girlfriend. The wedding was fabulous, but more importantly, my son and his wife appeared to be blissfully in love. He called yesterday to say that it was over--she had been unhappy since the wedding and finally moved back home to her parents. He said that she felt she had lost her identity, that her career was secondary to his, and that they only were friends with his friends. What's odd about this is that he lives 2,000 miles from where he grew up--but they live in the only city she has ever lived in. Her family, friends, high school, college, and career are all still right there. It makes me think that there is something more serious going on. I was so blindsided by the news, and I'm so terribly sad. Before anyone says that this isn't about me, I totally get that, but I'm grieving nevertheless. I don't know if the hootenanny is the time for advice, but I'd sure love advice on how I can move on from this, while supporting my son. ~Sad former mother-in-law on the other coast

Of course you're grieving. It's a sad time for all of you, and you don't need to apologize for caring. 

I don't think this needs to be about "something more serious going on," though. No doubt you're right that her explanation and the facts don't line up perfectly well. However, it also seems possible that she just held all this stuff in and told herself different things to make it okay and it all never really felt right (to be expected, if she wasn't being honest with herself) and now it's all just tumbling out in a pile of messy feelings and logical inconsistencies.

Here's a common version of what I'm trying to describe: She kept telling herself that she and your son were right for each other because they were together so long ... and kept tuning out the little voice telling her otherwise, because hitting the brakes was so painful to think about. And once the wedding plans were under way, ugh, so painful and now *public* to stop the runaway train. But finally it was too hard to deny that she wasn't happy. That feeling is no less than a sense of not being oneself anymore. That part of her explanation I bet is dead-on accurate.

Anyway. I'm throwing this all out there in case it helps you make sense of it, but the basics are the same regardless: She had second thoughts, she acted on them, your son is first among you in facing a drastic and painful change. But: If her heart genuinely is no longer in this marriage, then your son will be better for her decision to get out. In time he will recover, and so will you, and a life that fits him better will be there for him when he's ready.

Dear Carolyn, My husband's cousin is having a destination wedding in Argentina in a few months. His cousin and wife have been pushy about our attendance. We're uncertain about going for a few reasons: kids' school still in session, my husband has to give finals to his college students, plane tickets are costly, just to name a few. Might I add, this will be their third wedding. The first was a city hall wedding then the second a jewish ceremony. Just last night, my husband's aunt (mother of the groom) sent out an email to the first cousins expressing her disappointment over our decision not to attend the wedding. The RSVP deadline is a few days away. We feel like we're being guilt-tripped into attending the wedding. This is creating a lot of awkwardness in the family. How can we deal with this in a diplomatic manner without hurting anyone's feelings?


Diplomacy demands, "We regret that we are unable to attend." That's it.

Not hurting anyone's feelings is a state of being that exists only in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

I'm sorry your husband's aunt is being a jerk about it. Her being so, however, does not incur any further obligations on your family's behalf.

I completely relate to this. Some quick suggestions: focus on one and only one thing. Your letter mentioned goals in a number of areas that you wake up creating for yourself. Carefully choose *one* are of your life (reading, healthy eating, stretching, OR NOT AND something else) and make that your daily goal for a while. Also, there is a tip I gleaned from (I think) One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer: When you are trying to create a new habit, make the first step RIDICULOUSLY small until the habit is established, and only then bump up your daily whatever to a level that will lead gradually to your desired results. RIDICULOUSLY SMALL. Like, make your initial goal to eat one leaf of romaine with lunch. Or just do one arm stretch (from your couch where you're watching TV). Or read one page of a book while you sip wine. And that's it! That's all you expect of yourself for now. But do it every day. Then, when it has become a habit, you can expand it to something more, and then more, little by little. Good luck. The journey of a thousand miles and all that . . .

Yes, you and I have apparently done the same reading. Though I found the microscopic steps to be unnecessary in my circumstances, and miniature ones were small enough. YMMV, so, if one lettuce leaf is how it is, then that's how it is. Thanks.

It's their wedding, their decision. And they may have other reasons why they don't want kids there. You are perfectly fine to decline the invite if you are so upset by their decision - that's the downside of not inviting kids.

I just did a full read of the queue and, with the exception of some Qs I'd rather not tackle in a chat, it is all booze and bouquets. 

Give me a sec to put on my T-Rex suit and I'll start the Hoot.

I've been waiting for over a year to post this story. My lovely wife (then fiancee) found some fancy designer wedding gown on sale but it only came in this really small size and she was something like two sizes bigger so she had to lose weight to fit into it. The problem being she wasn't overweight at all to begin with and had to literally starve herself to fit into this gown which had me worried since she looked great before this liquid diet she went on. She kept telling me not to worry. By the week of the wedding she was able to fit into the gown and was thrilled and her sister kept telling everyone at the rehearsal that they had to see this incredible gown - it was a *some lady's name* original. Unfortunately the church was really warm and she hadn't had any solid food in over a week and while we were exchanging rings she passed out cold. It was horrible at the time, I was so worried but she was fine after some cold water and a sandwich someone found for her, she was able to complete the ceremony - sitting down. We can both laugh about it now but I wish she'd just gotten a regular gown in her real size. She insists it was worth it.

It was for us! Thank you.

My grandmother disapproved of all of her kids’ choices of spouses — and expressed her feelings by wearing black or gray funeral dresses to their weddings, and sitting in her car during the vows. One of her daughters planned to get married in my grandmother’s yard, and my grandmother recinded the invitation on the morning of the wedding. When we arrived to the nuptials, ushers were waving people to another house down the street where a neighbor had agreed to host the wedding at the last minute. Also, she tried to run over my boyfriend with her car when I was a teenager. Good times!

Hi Carolyn! Long time reader, married 10 years, and every year I curse the fact that I forgot to send this story in. So, my wedding was VERY chill. Kegs, bottles of two buck chuck, lots of hanging out. We decided that instead of having a more typical rehearsal dinner, we would get a bunch of deli trays and all hung out in a hotel room suite the night before the wedding. The maid of honor and the best man, being the awesome people that they are, show up with a pinata to the hotel room. An Optimus Prime pinata. And, because no one was planning on a pinata, we have no bat. So someone hands me an empty wine bottle. I swing, and I knock the pinata off the string, across the room, and barely dent the pinata. (No one seemed to realize at the time, that this was a bad sign). So of course the best man gives my now-husband the wine bottle, holds the pinata OVER HIS HEAD, and ducks down. Carolyn, the love of my life swung this bottle like it was his chance at the world series. And... the bottle flew out of the foil wrapper that was around the neck, and across the room. It missed my mother, her best friend and her cousin by inches. All of the pictures from the rest of the night show my guy looking a little green, and clutching a glass of scotch. In good news, we're still happily married, and no one died! (And yes, there IS video of the whole thing)

When my husband and I got married, my mom's out of town cousin asked repeatedly if they could bring their dog (a large standard poodle) to the wedding. We said no (it was a church wedding and indoor reception), but that they'd be welcome to leave the dog in our yard that day, and figured it was settled. Of course, cut to after the reception, this cousin came up to me and said, wasn't it so great that Fluffy had been there??? Thankfully I hadn't even noticed, but didn't know what to say and walked away from her stony faced without responding. My husband told me later that he had seen the dog in one of the church pews before the ceremony and decided to block it out because he had enough to deal with. Naturally, our photographer didn't realize that the dog was an uninvited guest so we got plenty of photo evidence of Fluffy being there. When my brother got married years later, I warned him repeatedly to confirm with them that the dog wouldn't be coming. He said he had done so. Guess who showed up.

I want the kind of mind that can block out a dog in the pew when that is too much information to process.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended the wedding of one of my cousins. There were five speeches: father of the bride, father of the groom, maid of honor, best man, sisters of the groom + groomsman. This dragged on for well over an hour, all without food in front of us and the bar closed. The feeling was mutual that we were being held hostage in this large room. Sparing details, another cousin recently got out of jail. Well thank the higher powers we have a cousin group chat [that recently free cousin is not part of], because the question du jour during this 1+ hour of speeches was "Do you think [free cousin] would rather be back in jail, or at this wedding?" 2019: internet memes, group chat, what a time to be alive. Group chat/meme was shown to free cousin after the speeches concluded and we haven't seen him laugh this hard ever/in at least 10 years. All in good fun. Future brides and grooms on this chat take note: no wedding guest wants to sit for over an hour listening to speeches. If you need to have four or more, break them up throughout the evening, or AT LEAST LET THE BAR REMAIN OPEN.

My husband and I got married while we were both working on our dissertations. We made a deal: I'd write the thank-you notes, and he'd address and mail them. We moved recently and I found a box. I opened it. Inside were all the notes, un-addressed, un-sent. We got married in 1992.

Please tell me you mailed them.

We invited one of my wife's co-workers to our wedding. He's a great guy, but he had this problem: He tended to drink too much at wedding receptions (and other similar events) and often removed his pants and danced on tables. As concerns go, this was a small, but real, one. On our day, his wife kept a firm grip on his belt, and he didn't drop trou. Pretty much everything else went wrong (bad food, terrible bartender, kids barfing, members of the wedding party tearing into each other after too much hanky-panky the night before, a horrifying news event occurring at the same time as the reception, etc.), but we survived. And whenever we face another disaster, we always say "At least we still have our pants on."

A pantsless guest dancing on tables sounds like the perfect distraction from bad drinks, bad news, barfing and brawling, but maybe that's just me.

I know people have budgets and everyone should have the wedding they can afford but years ago I went to one where the effort to save $ was a little extreme IMO. It was held in the bride's mom's house which was not big enough for the crowd. We had been directed to park in a lot 5 blocks away that charged $15 an hour. The walk to the house all dressed up in July heat was brutal. The house only had AC in the front room where the older family members had parked themselves and everywhere else you were sweating. The wedding was at 6 PM and the food for 50 people was one six-foot sub sandwich cut into appetizer sized portions, 2 small containers of coleslaw, and one of those jello salads. The only thing to drink was an incredibly sweet punch served in tiny plastic cups. I had to get water from the kitchen sink. The line for the one bathroom was so long that some guys were sneaking out to the back yard to relieve themselves. The cake was too small for everyone to have a piece and the rest of us were sharing one box of those small powdered sugar donuts. The coffee was instant that you had to stir up yourself. I was glad I wasn't in the wedding party because later one of the bridesmaids told me they had to set the buffet up and then later clean everything up, including vacuuming and carrying out the trash. I love these friends and they are still married 14 years later but I smile to myself when they tell people how much everyone loved their simple little wedding.

Wait!! She wrote to me beforehand. I'm sorry, I did my best: LINK

My husband and I had a small wedding at an outdoor venue famous for its lilacs and I styled the wedding around them. I asked my 3 bridesmaids to pick any dress in any shade of either purple or green, knee length to ballerina length (my gown was white and ballerina length.) My younger half-sister, the ultimate drama queen, moped and carried on about how much she hated purple (every shade) and that green was a “nothing color”. After my stepmom told me I had to let my sister chose what made her feel confident and beautiful and not be such a “bridezilla” I told her to pick any color she wanted. She ended up with a strapless floor length red satin gown. The morning of the wedding she had a panic attack about wearing her chosen dress and was texting me every 5 minutes changing her mind about whether or not she was going to show up. She finally did show up to my mom’s house an hour late but at least she was dressed. Then she cried, literally cried, when she saw that her bouquet was white (I had white lilacs for her and the bridesmaid in purple and purple lilacs for the bridesmaid in green. She decided the only bouquet that complemented her dress was my larger mixed lilac bouquet and threw a tantrum when I wouldn’t give it to her. My friend in green finally traded her the purple bouquet so she would shut the **** up. It’s been three years now and whenever she looks at the wedding portrait in my front hall she laughs and says it looks awful and when she gets married she’ll have the “guts” to tell her bridesmaids what to wear.

This is perfection.

I am the anon advice giver in this column: l I thought a few details from the wedding were fun. The public garden we used was at the Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria. Our wedding day is the same day they do Braddock Day: French & Indian War, so we got married next to costumed interpreters dressed in clothing from 1755. They were in character the entire time. They were very respectful during our 2 minute ceremony, but before and after they were cheering us on and talking to us in, for lack of the proper technical word, old English type sayings. They were also roasting a chicken, it smelled delicious and I think we all ended up eating chicken for lunch. Our only regret - not getting pictures with them. We were so worried about leaving before their event formally started we didn't think of it :( And the drama -- we only had immediate family members at our ceremony because the garden is small, with one exception, I invited my childhood best friend. She and her husband were the only non-family members. When my narcissistic mom found out our plans she threw a fit that it should be family only. She threatened to pull the money she had told us they would contribute and that she wouldn't come. My entire family begged me to dis-invite my friend and apologize to my mother. We didn't speak for a month and I refused to do either of those things. My amazing friends helped me make alternative plans at one of their houses and we worked out food, everything. I called my parents and told them that they were, of course, welcome to attend, but we'd be moving things to this friend's house if they were serious about pulling the money. My mom backed down said that we didn't need to change our plans. The day went off without any incidents, but I know my mom didn't enjoy herself the way she could have. My advice to that poster was very personal, my mom made the mistake she was going to make. I hope she didn't. And my mom knows the friend I invited and loves her, so I'm still not really sure what it was all about. I suspect she felt like she was losing control over me and was trying to regain it by making a fuss about something big that would prove she was totally in control of me. Backfired, after that incident she's essentially held no power over me like she used to. And a funny last comment - last year that column was posted days before my anniversary, so I put it up on FB. My mom commented, and I quote, "I could never be that mother, when I was the mother of the bride from all accounts I was a pure delight!" I did not comment back though it took all the strength I posses.

In the news business, we call this "burying the lede."

A few years ago, my husband and I went to a really fancy wedding at an historic mansion where the bride had chairs for the very short ceremony but then at the 4 hour reception had arranged for only 2 tables for immediate family plus a head table for the bridal party. The rest of us, about a hundred people, were wandering around the mansion trying to find ANYWHERE to sit and eat. People were sitting on windowsills, the stairs, anything they could find. They had elaborate food that required a knife and fork to eat so you can imagine it was precarious. The bride later said more tables would have cost more money and it just wasn't important to her and she wanted people to be "up and walking around the mansion".

I went to a version of this wedding. (So the bride wasn't even original, ha.)

Several years ago, I attended the wedding of a cousin who got married at a gorgeous, historic mansion on a beautiful September afternoon. The ceremony was held in a large courtyard surrounding a fountain original to the estate. The minister was an elderly gentleman, so elderly in fact, that he claimed he no longer purchased unripe bananas. And for some inexplicable reason, he decided to perform the ceremony teetering on the edge of the fountain with the crowd looking on cringing and gasping as he struggled to stay balanced. In the meantime, the bride’s grandfather, recently diagnosed with dementia and deaf as a post, was making loud and inappropriate comments about anyone who caught his attention despite his wife’s desperate hissing and shushing. And next to me sat my brother with his baby daughter on his lap. My brother is an avid rule follower with an almost phobic fear of causing issues and the wedding was not suppose to include children. His wife had insisted on bringing the baby though and my brother was on high alert to make sure she did not cause a scene. Halfway through the ceremony, the baby let out a tiny peep, seriously you could barely hear it, but it was enough to set my brother off. He bounded out of his chair and took off running across the lawn like his head was on fire, the startled baby bouncing in his arms. He, of course, slipped in his slick bottomed dress shoes and slid on his back down the slope of the lawn, the baby held stiff armed above his head. This set Grandpa to hollering “What in the Sam hell is he doing?” which toppled the precariously perched minister into the fountain. After the minister was fished out and my brother slunk off inside with the baby, things proceeded smoothly albeit a bit boringly. I had to redo my eye make up from laughing, but it seemed a small price to pay for all the fun.


I've always hated cake and loved pie so when I got married my aunt agreed to make us a 3-tiered chocolate cream pie. My dad actually built a plexiglass platform to help her pull it off. My mom and sister also baked a dozen fruit pies for the dessert table. My fiance was happy as could be because he also loves pie but my MIL to be was horrified as the thought of no cake. She insisted on buying one of those too sweet, over-frosted things from a supermarket and we said it was fine and did the traditional cake cutting to make her happy. If it had ended there, it would have been okay by everyone but then my MIL stood by the dessert table and forced anyone who took some pie to also take a piece of cake. To this day she tells everyone that she "saved" our reception from having no dessert (because somehow pie isn't dessert??) and claims that people still tell her how good that cake was.

You should tell her that, too. Why not. Shoot the moon.

My ex mother-in-law held up our wedding by an hour, was driven onto the lawn of the venue and deposited directly in front of the door ( impatient smoking cousins and bros-in -law scattered like roaches) sashays in kissing rings and greeting her large family like the godfather, WEARING A BRIGHT RED DRESS AND NEWLY DYED CRAYON RED HAIR!! Mind you, she was a tiny hispanic woman who'd never been prone to coloring her hair. Her reason?- it was a gift to us! Because she wanted to match her new red headed daughter in law. WHAT?? She called me the white bitch to my face as well.

Better than behind your back, I guess.

Flew to a friend's wedding. A wedding that we didn't expect to know much of the people there. They had a hotel block reserved so we took advantage of that as well as the bus transportation the couple had arranged for out of town guests. We were running a little behind but made it last on the bus. We did not know anyone around us but that was kind of expected. When we hopped off the bus, we realized it was the completely wrong venue. After asking, we found that we joined a family reunion going out to a nice dinner.

My husband was a groomsmen at a good friend's wedding, but due some really effective male communication, didn't realize until a week before when a tux arrived at our house.

At my (half-)brother's reception, his father had a heart attack on the dance floor. Bro hopped in the back of the ambulance and rode along to the hospital. Fast forward - bride is outside surrounded by her bridesmaids, crying. I see this and start to feel sorry for her - until she literally STAMPS HER FOOT and wails "HE RUINED MY DAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY". In the background, completely oblivious to this outburst, the zias from the old country wail about omens and how the marriage is doomed (Italian weddings are always the best). Epilogue: Pop made a full recovery and even finds it funny now. Bro had some (wonderful, talented, hilarious, brilliant) children, then got a divorce and remarried a perfectly lovely woman with not a selfish bone in her body.

For as long as I can remember growing up, my mom (a holiday hoot alumnus) talked about how she had no say in her and my dad's wedding, and that she would never tell my sister or me what to do for our wedding. My wife and I got engaged, and she reiterated she would never tell us what to do for the wedding. My parents very generously helped with the wedding finances, and she stated that she was just along for the ride and would never tell my wife and me what to do for the wedding. 3 or 4 days before the wedding, I emailed out the wedding weekend schedule to family and wedding party members. I then immediately called my parents, stated that just because they now had the coordinator's phone number they shouldn't call her unless specifically instructed. My mom told me that I was being paranoid and that she would never tell me what do to for the wedding. [30 seconds later, my phone rings after she reads the schedule] "HOW CAN YOU HAVE THE SPEECHES AT THE END OF DINNER INSTEAD OF BEFORE?" I state that this is our plan. She states that my dad's speech will ONLY work at the beginning of dinner (this wasn't true). I state that we discussed this with our DJ and coordinator. She tells me they are hicks given their state of residence (which is the same state as my wife, and her friends and family). I hold firm. She screams some more and then hangs up the phone on me because I won't do what she wanted for the wedding. We patched things up by the wedding a few days later.

We went to a family wedding a few years back that was uniquely tumultuous before and through the event. First, the venue changed cities just before the wedding, then it turned into a dry wedding because of the new venue. All fine. The strange part came when speeches started. The father of the bride got up and shared a long speech that he had been protecting his daughter from men but now she would learn about the "Monster Under The Sheets" the "Tricky Willy" the "One Eyed Snake" and many, many more euphemisms. Maybe it was for the best that we were all stone cold sober, who knows what would have happened if filters were down!

I hope someone had a hip flask ready for the bride's poor mother--assuming she was there and hadn't fled decades ago to a commune in Berkeley.

Looking forward to this - especially because my wedding is in two weeks, in Virginia Beach, on the beach, that is currently under a mandatory evacuation...

Aw geez, good luck--and to all of you riding it out. Hope this is at least a happy distraction to those of you with power.

My husband and I got married Aug. 3 on a mountaintop meadow in West-By-God-Virginia. The wedding laugh lines were non-stop: 1) When Husband started crying during our vows, my brother razzed him "[Bride] isn't crying." We all laughed. 2) During my son's devotional he referenced his new siblings. My mother: "Is [Bride] pregnant?" (I'm 50!). We doubled over in laughter. 3) When the officiant said "Who has the rings?" My daughter (who had almost single-handedly managed the whole event) said "Oh shit! Please hold" She kicked off her shoes and took off down the mountain as fast as she could run -- red dress flying behind her -- back to the house. We were in hysterics. When she returned with Husband's ring, we hooted, whistled, and clapped. 4) In a nod to custom, the officiant introduced us as "Mr. & Mrs. [Husband's last name] and my daughter, knowing I am not changing my name, said "Yeah right!". I know it was my own wedding so I'm biased but it was the best one I've ever been too. "Those who can laugh at themselves will never cease to be amused."

My husband and I married at the courthouse. We had to obtain our license in one office and then wait our turn in the hall outside the judge's chamber. While there a woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation - you look nice, are you getting married? is that your husband? etc. Being a little preoccupied, and forgetting there were other things going on, I asked her why she was there. Oh, getting a TRO was the reply. Of course I stuttered and spluttered, but she assured me it was all good. When we came back into that hall from the judge's chambers that lady had everyone in the hall standing and cheering for us. It still make me smile and get misty eyed that she was so caring for strangers while going through her own troubles.

This is so great, and sad, and great.

In rehearsal the minister, in the repeat the vows part, broke the vows into small parts for us to repeat after him. During the actual ceremony the minister forgot to do the small parts and said the whole long vow thing to my groom. Groom tried to say the vows as the minister tried to start over so they were both talking at once for a few seconds. They both stopped and in a loud voice my groom asked "Can you repeat the question?" which was followed by the wedding guests all breaking into loud laughter.

Age 21, still in college, in 1981, with a fair amount of tension between our moms. Wife an Italian Catholic from a blue collar NJ family, me a Reform Jew from a very Yuppie Ohio family, and two moms who desperately wanted a traditional wedding (being the first to get married, in our generation of two large families). Weeks grew into months of wrangling between the respective mom-in-laws. With the urging of my wife to be, the moms agreed to a Sunday wedding in a park, under a gazebo, married by a judge. Then the drama begins: Priest notifies fiance’s mother and grandmother that “she will be excommunicated for marrying a pagan.” Mom is horrified, grandma, confides to fiance “I never liked that priest, so I went for a second opinion, a young priest told me not to worry.” Mortal soul no longer in peril, fiancé and mom try to find an officiant, but can’t find a judge or justice of the peace who will work on a Sunday. They find a Protestant Minister who will conduct a ceremony. It’s a week before the ceremony, and wife’s sister who is an amazing seamstress, is making the gown, and as wife is there for a fitting, she comes out of a bedroom in tears. Apparently big sister made the gown out of a crème color, not white, since we’ve been living together. During this visit, big sister, who admittedly is exceptionally attractive, seems to be hitting on me (please take my word for it). To this day, I don’t know if it was sibling rivalry, or more likely a test to see if I was good enough for her sister. Later this day, mom-in-law asks us about the marriage license (oops). After some phone calls, and a blood test, we do obtain one over the next few days. It’s about this time, that I learn that all five of the groomsmen, have no transportation. The friend who was driving them in his Olds 98, tells me his dad had forbidden him from driving to the wedding (interestingly, this is the only friend who isn’t in the wedding party). They do find transportation, the five of them do a ten hour drive in a tiny Mazda. BTW I’m 5’2” and they are all 5’10” to 6’2”, interesting wedding pictures. Yes, the photographer gets very creative for the wedding pics, and he has a special surprise. We don’t know what it is, that comes later. Time for the ceremony. Procession begins toward the Gazebo, it’s a lovely September afternoon, sun is shining. On comes the Minister, I hear my Mom’s stage whisper from 20 yards away, he’s not supposed to have a collar” He had forgotten. Mortified, she swoons into my dad’s arms (this really happened). We thought we were prepared with the music in the background prior to the ceremony and we’ve arranged for a classical flute and guitar to play, as we know there’s a tennis court directly behind the gazebo (good planning!). As the Minister begins the ceremony, “we are gathered together” twang, “on this occasion,” twang “before God and loved ones” twang (apparently it’s a heated match), twang, thwack “dammit.” The Minister winks at us and continues, good man! At the reception, mom-in-law and photographer have a surprise for us. In the low tech of 1981, he’s managed in just two hours to develop film and create a slide show of the wedding festivities. My mother, who apparently is not quite ready to let go, comes up behind me as I sit at the table, and puts her hand on my shoulder. The show begins, and after a couple of introductory slides, dates, names and the like, there appear two baby pictures. One is of my wife, and the other, well I swear it was the Gerber baby. Despite numerous requests, my mom had never sent the photographer a baby picture of me. As I felt her fingernails dig into my collarbone she hissed “your baby pictures were too ugly.” The rest of the reception was hoot, Jewish family members were surprised and delighted by the first course of pasta and beer, remarking on the exceptional quality of the draft beer (it was Schlitz).

This, meanwhile, is all lede.

So my boyfriend and I had been dating for 5 years and finishing up our degrees before getting married. His family (parents and three adult brothers) traveled to our home city a week ahead of the big event, and stayed with the groom in an apartment specially leased for the event so they could have some family time. We had dinners at my parents' house, dinners at the apartment, wedding rehearsal, various get togethers. Our wedding day dawned blue skies and sun, the ceremony went off without a hitch and the minister personalized our vows in a lovely and funny way. The catered buffet was delicious, the guests in a celebratory mood. So my husband and I are each having our dance with the appropriate parent, and THAT is the moment when my mother-in-law chooses to tell my newly wedded husband that she is going to divorce his dad. Husband still can't look at photos of that dance. It put a bit of a damper on the celebration, can't imagine why she would choose that timing to deliver her news with so many previous opportunities, but on the bright side I knew what I was getting into from the starting gate! --Still married and actually did learn to love my MIL


Between the prospective bride and groom, this will be the fifth wedding. The wedding is a few months away and the groom’s father is dying. So the happy couple want a memorial sand vase with different colors of sand representing the dearly departed. They ask the dying father to pour his own sand into the vase. The wedding is in August and will be held outside behind our state capital, with a large fountain and acres of grey granite. Did I say hot? Like Hades hot, everyone is baking and sweating in the furnace of a plaza. A slight breeze picks up and sends a glass vase or two to shatter on the granite. The wedding is over and guests file into the cool of the museum, where the reception will take place. The dual escalators are off and the happy bride wants everyone to take a photo on escalators. So the escalators are load up with two people per step, maybe 20-30 people and it’s too much weight, and it starts to rapidly move down, people are falling on top of one another, the people at the bottom have all spilled onto the floor, knocking over the caterer’s glass, so there are people down and glass everywhere. The emergency brake of the escalator engages and it comes to a sudden stop sending the remaining guests on top of each other. Women in strapless gowns, had dresses pulled to their waists, as the people behind them tried to stop their downward momentum, makeup and self-tanning lotion ends up on the clothes of other guests (think the shroud of Turin). Meanwhile, everyone on the floor is picking themselves up and picking out glass. The catering staff is filling bags of ice to put on bruises and swollen knees, one guest ends up with broken toes and the bride has fled outside crying, because her day was ruined. -Saw all the bruises the day after

Me during escalator: Omg, this isn't funny, someone could have died.

Me after "shroud of Turin": Omg, post this.


Both the funniest and saddest wedding I ever went to was one where the bride, a grown woman, had decided on a “Frozen” theme for her wedding. Her dress was a wedding dress version of Elsa's gown, the reception hall was decorated in the Frozen theme with the centerpieces being creepy taxidermy white owls. When everyone was seated the lights were dimmed. The bride came out with a bright spotlight shining just on her, twirling in her overblown dress, to yes, that ubiquitous “Let it go” song. Her new husband was in the dark behind her since the spotlight was only on her. That was on theme too since she completely ignored him the entire night since it was “her day” and all about her. Maybe other brides feel that way but I've never seen one who made it so obvious. We were friends of the groom and felt bad for him and left the reception immediately after the cake cutting.

Yikes. This groom needs friends.

When I came home after getting engaged my mom came running out to the car. I thought it was for an excited and happy hug, but no. She held me by the shoulders and said that we weren't going to make a big deal about this because my sister just had a fight with her boyfriend. Call me crazy but I would have played it the other way around. As in, can you put on a happy face for your sister and be part of congratulations and the whole welcome to the family thing. Years later this still bothers me, but I'm pretty sure if I mentioned it the response would be, "well it didn't work out anyway (divorce) so what's the problem".

When people come running out to the car and then hold you by the shoulders to tell you who they are, believe them the first time. I guess. Damn.

My brother and I decided to drive together to our sister's wedding 650 miles away. It was his idea that we both work the day before and drive all night (we were both broke). The plan was to leave at 6pm, we left at 8. We weren''t out of the state before he told me he promised his wife we'd get a room for the night. The wedding was at 1pm! So I let him fall asleep and drove all night. It was really foggy and I couldn't even see the exits so I pulled over to the side and hopped the guardrail to pee. I get back and he's flailing around in the cab of the truck thinking we were moving with no driver. Again he went back to sleep and woke, refreshed, around dawn. We stopped at a truck stop for breakfast and he ordered what was on the handwritten card on the table "Biscuits with sausage, gravy" When the surly waitress delivered the food, Mr English major demanded sausage since the comma was improperly used. All the truckers and regulars came to her defense and I had to do some fancy footwork to not get our butts kicked in the parking lot. He's 6 years older and a foot taller than me. We finally made it and after one drink at the luncheon I went facedown on the table. Needless to say, I don't travel with this glassbowl anymore

I had a friend, let's call her Linda, whose boyfriend broke up with her right a couple of months before my wedding and I knew she was taking it hard so when she asked for a last minute plus one, I said okay and we squeezed him in. Linda shows up with a younger, look-alike version of her ex and wearing a black leather mini skirt with a two-inch slit up the back. A bit much for a wedding but I shrugged it off since it must have made her feel good about herself. She was about 5'11, thin with very long legs and I said to myself she can certainly pull that look off. Until later that night when my 80 year-old great grandmother asked me who Linda was and informed me that my friend didn’t have the sense to wear underwear to a wedding in October. Yes, because great grandmom watched Linda bend over to fix her shoe and had seen it all for herself. This underwear omission was confirmed the next day at our brunch by several dozen other people.

That's ... a lot of people.

As we tried to come up with song suggestions for the father-daughtet dance, dad threw out Creed "With Arms Wide Open." Bride (me) reminds father that bride HATES that song. Settle on the Hawaiian version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow (as bride and Father have happy memories in Hawaii). Wedding day comes, father daughter dance begins, and halfway through Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's beautiful melodies... in comes Creed. Dad cried through the whole dance. Reminder to all those with impending nuptials, sometimes telling your DJ to use his discretion with song requests leaves room for Scott Stapp.

Aw, but. Dad.

Backyard summer wedding. Several kids and dogs running free. We sit down to dinner, husband puts his jacket across the back of his chair. Dog comes over, lifts leg, drenches back of jacket and sleeve. 

I got married in my parents' loungeroom many years ago. My brother was supposed to make a wedding cake, but he got bitten by a jackjumper on the morning of the wedding and ended up in hospital. My new brother--in-law, who had just got out of jail (for stealing a sheep) came to the wedding drunk and propositioned one of my elderly maiden aunts with the immortal words, 'You're a nice old thing. Would you like a f***?' She giggled, thankfully. I'm still not convinced that she knew what he was talking about.

I keep typing and backspacing comments. So, yeah.

Carolyn! You've scheduled the Hoot on my birthday! I wanted to let you know that I have a lovely white dress I'm planning on wearing, and I fully expect the DJ to stop the dancing to have everyone sing Happy Birthday to me. I will be celebrating by bringing five of my best friends (you don't know them, but that doesn't matter) and will probably get too drunk and pick a fight with the mother of the bride. After all, it is MY day!

Happy to accommodate, but if you're still wearing pants, aren't a dog, or haven't tried to kill anyone, then I'm afraid you need to up your game. 

In anticipation for the anxiety, stress and concerning stories that might flow in today, I just wanted to announce that I just got married on Monday to the most wonderful, supportive and generous man I've ever met! We had an excellent wedding day with friends and family & all the planning and waiting paid off. Even though it was raining all morning, even though my whole face broke out with cystic acne, even tho we lost a few loved ones who were going to attend, even tho one of my bridesmaids completely blacked out and hit on everyone in front of her husband - despite all the things that can and will go wrong, we are completely in love with each other, our friends, our family. I'm still beaming from seeing all these people celebrate with us, who love us so much. Our parents are usually so stoic and they were glowing with pride. Our brothers were joking around and making friends with each other. We could feel the love everywhere - I hope that everyone submitting today make the right choice for themselves and their loved ones. Not everything goes as planned all the time, but the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself! If you don't think you'll be surrounded by love, then do what you need to make it right <3

Awesome. Congratulations!


And one more:

Getting a TRO on OP's wedding day. If Webster's doesn't have a definition for grace or class or kindness, it does now. Crying here.

Hear, hear.


Thank you to everyone who pitched in, pitched fits, or just stopped by--the Hoots need you all. Back to the grind next week, just not on a portable parquet dance floor, mercifully.

Stay safe everyone.


So when my niece was about 4 years old, a cousin was getting married a bit ahead of schedule due to an unplanned pregnancy. My Dad (Grandpa) on the way to wedding kept talking about it being a “shotgun” wedding, an outdated term for a wedding where the groom is forced to show up by the father-in-law with a shotgun for getting his daughter pregnant. After the bride entered and the minister quieted the crowd, my niece leaned over and in a four year old’s idea of a whisper said “Grandpa where’s the shotgun.” The wedding was delayed for a full minutes for all the laughter to die down. My mother just wanted to crawl under the pew.

I saw a groom remove the garter with his teeth. Please don't do this in front of your grandma.

Please don't do this in front of anyone.

In This Chat
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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