The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax Live: Wedding Hootenanny 2017

Aug 25, 2017

Welcome to the annual Wedding Hootenanny — a celebration of your best, worst and funniest wedding stories. Share your story below.

Hello Carolyn - I'm the OP whose nephew had been hitting on my daughters. I want to thank you and the comments for your guidance. I printed out all of the responses and showed them to my husband and daughters. I think some of the commenters who shared their personal experiences at having unwanted sexual advances were appreciated by my girls and helped them to recognize that their shame and guilt were not a result of anything they did or didn't do. I told my niece yesterday. She was devastated but it was the right thing to do. She was angry that we waited so long to tell her and I'm glad I had the opportunity to apologize to her for that. We did what we thought best and I hope she will come to understand that. She brought her husband to our house last night for him to apologize to the girls. I still don't think he gets how much of a violation his actions have been. The decision now as to where to go from here lies in my nieces hands where it belongs. Thank you again for your guidance.

Thank you, too, for the update. That apology (or was it, "apology"?) must also have been difficult for you and your daughters.

My brother is getting married soon. My (serious, but fairly new) girlfriend thinks she's not been invited, and that it's because we're lesbians, but actually I've hidden the invite because I don't want to take her. Wow, doesn't sound any better written down, huh. Thing is, I adore almost everything about her! She's kind, beautiful, passionate, clever...and committed to telling the truth no matter who it upsets. If your hair is unflattering, she'll tell you. If your husband is screwing around, she'll tell you. If your father died badly rather than the kind fiction your family have been telling you since you were a child, she'll let the horrible cat out of the bag (at her cousin's wedding!). I want my family to get to know her good side better before putting her in a situation where she's going to risk alienating people by calling Aunt Mary fat (and I might have been less than discreet about some family issues before I realised she was not a vault). Thing is it's so hard to talk to her about it, because she can't budge from 'truth is always best'. So do I take her and risk everyone hating her, keep lying and risk her hating my family, or find some marvellous Hax-like third option?

Um. Do you see it? That you're trying to find ways not to tell her the truth that her truth-telling is too much?

She insists on bluntness, so give it to her. "I don't want to bring you because you don't have a filter. I'm fine with that in other contexts, but not at a wedding when my family is meeting you for the first time."

Let her see what "committed to telling the truth no matter who it upsets" feels like on the receiving end.

Plus, tiptoeing around this trait of hers, and your discomfort with it, is the road to relationship hell. If your pairing can't survive your being open about it, then it can't survive, period.

If it is, please ignore my question! If it's not... I found out a month and a half ago that my husband had a brief affair with a co-worker. We're in counseling now, and we've identified the reasons that led to the affair and are working on how to fix those things. I'm not sure I want to stay with him. I certainly don't like him right now because of what he did, and I'm not sure I love him anymore either. I've stayed so far because we have a young son, and I want to protect our son. So far I've been able to pretend to be happy, and even sometimes be happy. How am I going to know whether to stay or go? Overall my husband is a great father and a decent guy.

Sometimes it takes time to know what you want. That's okay.

It's also okay, if you think you're at that point, to make this decision while separated. 

And while it's good and important to protect your son, there are multiple ways to do that--and many different things to protect your son from, too. One of them is having his parents divorce, yes, but another is to grow up with two parents in a loveless or high-conflict marriage. 

So, again--take your time, but also keep your mind open to the idea that there's no one outcome that's best for your son.

My girlfriend and I just went on our first vacation together. I thought it went well, but after we were home she told me she felt I had been cheap because I wanted to split all costs 50-50. I don't really understand what's cheap about paying half -- I think cheap would be trying to get away with paying less than half. I'm concerned that she and I have fundamentally different attitudes toward money, and also that we have fundamentally different attitudes toward communication, as I think she should have spoken up when I first proposed splitting 50-50, not waited until after the vacation was over. Do you think this is a major problem? We have talked about marriage and now I'm starting to think we're not as compatible as I thought we were.

I'm definitely with you on the communication problem. Yes it would have helped for her to say something beforehand--but also, if she wasn't sure till she actually saw what you meant by "50-50," then that wouldn't have worked, but speaking up on the spot would have: "Hey, when you said 50-50, I thought you meant we'd share expenses--but I wasn't expecting that we'd split every meal down to the dollar." You can have widely varying attitudes on money or faith or nutrition or whatever else, but it's hard to get by contentedly unless you're able to talk to each other when you're bothered by something.

She did eventually speak up, so you have that. Use it by responding honestly with your concerns. Say you wish she had saidsomething as soon as this bothered her.

And, also use this chance to ask her how she would have preferred to have handled money. Maybe she was fine with splitting but wished it had been less rigid--maybe she buys dinner tonight, and you pick up the tab tomorrow.

Maybe there's a big difference in attitude, as you say, which is important to know--but also maybe she has some ideas good enough to change your mind. People bring all kinds of differences to a relationship, and while it's important to keep your essential self intact, it's also a chance to learn other ways to do things and even incorporate a few upgrades into your world view and routine.

I have a niece in her 20's. She's been living on her own for years, far from me and her parents. She's become engaged to a man her parents have met briefly. I have not met him. Her parents are very hostile to their wedding plans. I'd like to reach out to my niece in support, but I'm not sure how to go about it. She has moved recently and I don't have her address. If I asked her parents for her address before Christmas it will raise a red flag, but I do want her to hear at least one positive voice over her engagement. If I do contact her, I also risk her telling her parents who will be mad at me. Looking for a safe road through the minefield - CA

If you're not close enough to know how to get in touch with her, then I'm not sure you're close enough to her to be a significant source of support for her right now.

Plus, going into a communication with her for the sole intention of countering her parents' message, and knowing your approach will ping on their BS radar, seems ... well, it sounds as if this is is way more about your feelings toward the parents than toward the niece. 

So I think staying out of it is a fine idea.

That is, unless you are able to get in touch with the niece just to say hi and congratulations, and unless you can restrain yourself enough to stay in a listening role. For this, you can request your niece's contact info without guilt or ulterior motive.

Maybe I'm missing a lot of relevant background info, but from here it looks like you don't know enough to have opinions. Conveniently, "I don't know enough to have an opinion" provides excellent minefield protection. Bonus, you can say it out loud to all the parties involved.

Hi Carolyn, I, like so many others, love your columns and chats, but I'm finding it really frustrating to go to your comments section each day to have to scroll at least 2-3 pages before finding even 1 comment (much less a thread) related to the column; it's always totally full of a a group of fans who have clearly formed their own sub-chat group, talking about the (non-column-related) events of their lives. You all know who you are and I'd like to make a plea to those folks: Can you form a Yahoo or Facebook group of your own and go there to chat about your job searches, families, recipes and other non-Hax stuff? Some of us actually want to chat about the column (I can't be alone in this) in the appropriate forum! Thanks Carolyn!

Hey there -- At noon on Friday, I'm a chat producer but for the rest of the week I'm the comments editor at The Post. So, thanks for the note.

A few months ago, we created a off-topic button so readers can filter out the off-topic discussions on Carolyn's columns. If you have any questions about the feature or how it works, let me know.

Thanks, and thanks Teddy.

Just posting this as a reminder for everyone to use the OT button--both when posting off-topic and when trying to avoid off-topic posts. It's an elegant solution for people who all belong at the comment-section party but who want vastly different things out of it. Thanks muchly.

If you're accepting non-hootenanny questions today. My husband and I recently moved from a rural town to a city that is also a major airline hub and natural stopping point for people driving cross-country. In the year since we've moved, we've had way more than our usual rate of house-guests - which is great. We truly welcome seeing folks, and I have always taken pride in hosting people well when they visit. However, we are struggling with how much we are obligated to "host" in situations where it's ambiguous whether someone is visiting us or using us as a stopover. We are generally pretty introverted people and our weekends are spent catching up on exercise, house chores and quality time together. A recent guest (crashing between conferences) really strained my patience - my husband had to work one weekend day, and while I told our guest that I wanted to spend Sunday morning doing yard work and some cooking for the week, I still felt awful that I was "wasting" her vacation time. Our house is a bit in the 'burbs (not the fancy part), so a lot of guests don't feel comfortable taking public transit to go explore on their own (which I sort of think is ridiculous and a little racist, tbh). Basically, to what extent am I "allowed" to tell a house guest that I'm going for a two hour bike ride, or really need to get X boring house chore done this weekend, or just need a freaking hour either to myself or just with my husband so we can make crass jokes in peace? I don't mind hosting people but also want to reclaim some semblance of what feels like a weekend to me. How do people balance this? How can I tell if I'm being rude in telling a guest they're on their own for a half-day?

On the mini-theme of bluntness today, I lean toward wide-open disclosure as soon as people mention they'd like to stay with you: "We'd love to have you, and our guest room is yours. Just one caveat: You'll be on your own during the day*. If you'd like us to help you plan some activities or sightseeing, let us know ahead of time and we'll see what we can do."


*or, mornings, afternoons, x hours per day--whatever time you need to block off for yourselves.

How can I approach the idea of my DH's best friend maybe not being such a friend after all? Said friend couldn't communicate with DH for a year up til the wedding while he got his shit together, and now after one lackluster phone call I'm supposed to think all is well. I appreciate their history together but still resent the man for not actually being there through multiple giant life stages (unemployment, moves, engagement - the good and the bad) and am having trouble reconciling my now husband's desire to re-paint this man as his best friend when, from what I've seen, he's largely missed out on changes in life. Mind you, I wasn't there for the growing up stage. They had that together and I respect it. I just also know it was a stage where they encouraged each other to be their worst in many frequent, criminal and dangerous ways. How can I support my hubs while he attempts to rekindle a friendship I can't really approve of, but will always have to deal with? Online only, please.

Transparency is your friend. Resentment is most definitely not.

"I want you to have your best friend back. I don't want you to have a friend back who still encourages the kind of boneheaded stuff you did as kids. So I'm with you on this as long as you're smart about it."

What you don't need in this calculation is all the bean-counting about which of your husband's life stages this friend was or wasn't there for. For one thing, that's your husband's calculation to make. He, not you, either forgives the guy's absence or doesn't forgive it.

And, friendships have ebbs and flows, especially long ones, especially long ones from childhood between two people on markedly different paths. They can be grateful for where they are without dwelling on how they got there.

Again, that's between them. The boundaries for this friendship within your marriage are where you get to have your say.

What is your opinion of someone who goes to lunch with a friend and says nothing as the friend grabs the check and pays the bill? No offer to pay, no "thank you," no words spoken at all.

My opinion of any non-extreme weirdness, once, is that it's always possible the person felt awkward and froze.

If it happens multiple times, then my opinion becomes that the recipient of your generosity is either an ingrate or highly socially awkward. And then you have to make a decision: Is this person's company worth the price you have to pay for it, literally and figuratively?

(Actually that's always the question, but it can be helpful to walk ourselves up to it.)

Testing--I just realized my entire greeting message never published. 

We're spinning wedding and related songs, both good and bad, over at Come join us! :D

My heart goes out to you. I was in the exact situation as you several years ago (affair with co-worker, young child in the mix). I am so sorry. It is absolutely fine, as Carolyn said, to take your time making a decision. See how therapy goes and how willing your spouse is to do the necessary work to regain your trust. It will take action on his part, not just platitudes. You may want to consider asking him to look for a new job. My spouse stayed at his job as did his affair partner and it has made for some challenging circumstances over the years. You will get through this in time and the answer will become more clear.

My first anniversary is coming up and I haven't sent thank you notes. I know. I know. But -- I really have been busy. I lost my job a month before the wedding. I was focused on finding work and then I got a job (a temp position) and then was focused on finding a permanent job, which I did and then was focused on keeping that one. Plus I work a second job and have a side hustle too for extra cash. I've tried several times to finish. All I managed to do was print out a form letter to send everyone (which offered a generic update on our lives and is now out of date) and hand write thank yous to 5 people. Should I just give up? Send them out? I literally don't have a free night or weekend for 7 more weeks. My husband has offered to help, so that's not the issue. He helps with the side business so he's just as busy. I've thanked people locally in person and brought them back gifts from the honeymoon as thanks, but there are others who were not local. What to do?

Make a list of the non-local gift givers whom you have not thanked, split the list in half between you and your husband.

Offered to "help? Pah. The gifts were for both of you so you both say thank you and you don't position yourself to be the social load-bearing entity in your marriage because that idea is so tired and tiring.

But: Yes. Just send them. Email if you have to, at the rate of one a week if that's all you can manage. To speed it up, use a template: "We're not ungrateful, we're just late," or some such. If you need updated addresses, ask someone to help--a sympathetic friend, parent or sib.

Okay, well: There was an intro, and you would have laughed! and cried! and felt warm all over, but, alas, it resides in oblivion.

In it I mentioned that I'm off next Friday and will resume chatting after Labor Day.

And I mentioned that in Part 2 today, we Hoot. So let's have our fun at the idea that any event can come out as planned.

I had a backyard wedding for my second wedding, and one of my sisters announced that she would not be attending because we weren't renting a dance floor and she was worried about ticks and Lyme disease. I told her that those dance floor rentals only cover a small area which would still be surrounded by Nature in all its horror. I also joked that she could come and watch the wedding from the driveway and she said "That's a good idea, maybe I'll do that." She came, sprayed so much bug repellent that it was actually dripping from her clothes, and said, "Your hair looks weird," while I was getting dressed. My other sister's husband just laughed and gave me a glass of wine.

Of course the first thing I wondered is whether your hair actually looked weird. 

Many years ago, when I was just out of college I was in a friend’s wedding. She decided to have a rainbow wedding where all the bridesmaids wore different pastel colors. It all turned out to be a pain – often literally. First there was the fight over the colors; no one wanted to wear yellow so I eventually volunteered just to get out of the dress shop. The dresses parted in the front enough to show our ankles and the bride's mom insisted we get a certain type of pantyhose which cost 3X more than I was used to paying for pantyhose at the time. Not to mention the dyed shoes we had to pay for which didn't come in wide widths and rubbed my feet raw. The kicker was our hair - the bride, Betsy, was paying for us all to get our hair done the morning of the wedding. I knew there wasn't much that could be done with my hair since it was long (past my rear), very straight, thick and fine so I planned on just asking for a French braid. Betsy had other ideas; she wanted us all to have our hair piled on top of our head and sprayed with colored glitter that matched our dresses. It took the poor hairdresser an hour to get all of my hair up and she secured it with hundreds of bobby pins and more than one can of hair spray. I was washing glitter out for three days. I noticed the other girls were tipping their hairdressers and since she’d spent so long on me, I felt I had to as well so I gave her the last bit of money I had in my wallet. But 30 years later I still have a funny story to tell.

And pictures, please tell me you have one you can share.

We were invited to a destination wedding this year on a Caribbean island. The wedding is at the very same hotel where the bride's parents honeymooned on what would have been the the exact date of these parents' 35th wedding anniversary...except the parents had an incredibly messy divorce a few years ago after it was revealed that the father had been cheating extensively. So to be clear-- the bride is forcing her mother and father to reunite on their anniversary where they honeymooned. We all figured this must be a meaningful destination for the bride and groom to chose this situation-- but no, the first time they went was on a trip to plan the wedding after it was already booked. There are more insane details, but I can't even bring myself to get into it. Luckily, we have a young child so we are not attending-- but a really evil part of me wants to go just so I can witness this disaster. You can't make this stuff up!

There is a heartening takeaway here: If it's possible to find a new way to flip someone the bird, then people will find it.

Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for doing this wedding hoot! I love the we're-all-in-this-crazy-world-together vibe that the hoots always give, and finally I have a contribution of my own. Got married this summer, second marriage for both of us. We wanted a laid-back party with family and friends - we had a fantastic food-truck caterer, plenty of booze, and an open-door policy on invites. Come one, come all! Totally do-able, especially as this is taking place in Australia, which starts out 40% more laid back than America. Really there were just two things we didn't want: a wedding singer and a karaoke machine. You and the Nuts know what happened. My sister-in-law rented a karaoke machine, and my mother-in-law hired a singer without telling us. When I saw a huge speaker set up in the marquee, I asked why and my niece-to-be said "there's going to be live music." I replied "No, there's definitely not!" She looked hunted, said "Um, Nana hired someone..." and scurried off to safety. My partner sighed and said "It's too late to do anything about it. We'll just drink more champagne." (He's a very wise man.) Fast forward to the reception. The caterer introduces himself as Roberto and takes the mike to make comments on the evening's menu. As he starts speaking, I think "that's a fake Italian accent. Hm. But whatever. The food looks great." And then. They've started serving food, everyone's eating and drinking merrily, and "Roberto" takes the mike again, to tell us a story about his dear old Mamma and Papa from the Old Country and ask if he can...SING a SONG. Why does the caterer want to sing?? (Yeah, we're slow on the uptake.) But ok, so he bursts into cheesy fake Italian classics. The moon hit our eyes like a big pizza pie and so forth. And just when it's dawning on us that he's got a really nice baritone and is maybe, just maybe, not the caterer, he switches to opera. And sings some things that were the favorites of my partner's dad, who died last year. Followed by pop standards! It was poignant and hilarious and surprisingly talented and utterly, utterly Looney Tunes. Particularly the part where "Roberto" admitted, halfway through a song, that he was in fact Dougie from Ipswich and resumed his regular Australian accent. I have a great photo of one of my dearest friends gaping in utter bafflement at this "Italian chef" bursting into song, with the crowd singing along and waving napkins for some reason. It was madness, my mother-in-law deliberately ignored our wishes, and it all turned out just fine. (The karaoke machine was a hit, too, especially with the young 'uns.) Sometimes you just have to lean into the crazy.

My next dog: Dougie from Ipswich.

One of my oldest and dearest friends was married outside in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin in 2016. The bulk of the storm fortunately had passed on the Thursday and Friday before the wedding, but that Saturday was still windy and drizzling. They did not have a rainy day alternative for the ceremony. When the officiant (her colorful father) lit a unity candle, he spoke at length about how it symbolized ever lasting love, hope for the future, etc. Problem was, it kept blowing out. The audience giggling became louder and louder each time. Finally, he yelled "F*** the unity candle! Let's just get this party started!" It's a joke in our circle of friends to yell that when you're having a day where nothing goes right.

My wedding led directly to my brother's divorce. Our wedding wasn't fabulous or over the top but we did have a church wedding with all of our friends and family present and a reception at a beautiful lakeside inn. It turns out it was my ex-sister-in-law's dream wedding. She was one of my bridesmaids and cried most of the day. She had been told by my brother that they couldn't have that kind of a wedding because it was impossible. The excuses he made that she told me later were all really lame. He finally admitted that his first wedding was big and elaborate and he just didn't want to go there again. But with our wedding my sister-in-law found out it was possible if both people really wanted it and was crushed that he wasn't honest with her and didn't even compromise a little bit but insisted on a courthouse wedding. My wedding was the nail in the coffin for them. They separated 4 months and were divorced a year later. Kind of puts a damper on our anniversaries.

You didn't kill your brother's marriage, you euthanized it. Maybe that will help.

The "other family" accused us of filching their (apparently very fine) cookie sheets post-reception. After denying this with the appropriate amount of dignity (Really? Really? Come on.), we of course discovered them in our stuff. So we had to be the bigger people...and sneak the sheets into their hotel room. We never got an apology, can you imagine...

Hoots are extra work and I'm always teetering toward not having them, especially since they hit during times when I'm most pulled toward family--end of summer, Christmas, February break.

But then a post like this comes along and I get to be reminded that there are people out there sneaking emotionally radioactive cookie sheets into their new in-laws' hotel rooms and suddenly it's all okay.

So, thank you.

A few years ago, my nephew and his bride held a destination wedding in the mountains. Prior to the wedding they provided to invitees a link to a "gift registry" travel website. The website listed various suggestions for gifting to the couple pieces of their planned honeymoon to New Zealand, e.g., paying for a moonlit dinner, a kayak trip down the river, a hike with a catered picnic, etc. As can be imagined, the couple had a nice trip to New Zealand. About three years later, the couple split up. (I don't think they had actually spent much time together.) I later found out that the marriage had been a ruse. They had not signed any marriage documents, so they had never been legally married. But, they got a nice trip out of it. We were scammed. I want my money back.

If the wedding's buffet and open bar weren't a ruse, then the wedding wasn't a ruse, just the marriage, so it's okay. Ish. 


My husband and I celebrated our wedding at a reception site that looked like a castle. I was getting ready in the women's locker room with my two attendants and my mother and mother in law when my future sister in law asked to bring her two children, 5 and 8 year old boys, into the room to see me. I said no, and we all thought it was weird. Ten years later, she's not speaking to my husband and me, in part because I wouldn't let her boys into the women's locker room that day. :)

Okay I'm totally lost, and mostly wondering why a castle has a locker room.


My husband and I were married a few years ago, and after a reception and after-party with lots of alcohol, two of our friends were left without rides back to the hotel. One was a groomsman, the other a bridesmaid - coming from two totally different friend groups. It was late and we were tired, but my husband and me decided to give them a lift back to the hotel. My husband was driving, I was in the passenger's seat, and our friends were in the back. Everyone is talking and re-living the night, and we decide to make a quick stop by Wendy's, because that reception food wore off fast. But as my husband pulled up to the fast-food joint and turned on his blinker, things got quiet. All of a sudden, we hear smacking sounds coming from the back of the car. My husband and I look at each other, and...That's right. Our friends were making out. In our backseat. While we drove them around. On our wedding night. We still make fun of them for it.

I certainly hope so.

My parents, three siblings and I are all living in different countries. My younger brother got married in the same country where my parents live and they funded it entirely. The photographer refused to give digital copies of the pictures but gave contact sheets with tiny thumbnails where we could select from among the thousands of photos and print them through him. My parents made a copy of every single one and gave them to their new DIL, but wanted to be selective with which ones to print out for themselves and for close family members. Since their eyesight isn't that great, this tremendous task (and a magnifying glass) was given to me. Every time I visited my parents over the next several years, I was tasked with continuing this arduous process and it became the family inside joke that any time any of us would get together, the activity of choice would be to "do the wedding pictures". The task was never fully completed and it seemed that I would start the process all over again every time (with months passing in between). My brother's divorce was finalized this week. I blame the lack of wedding pictures - - if there are no pictures, did the wedding ever happen? I joked with my mom that I can start "doing the divorce pictures" now.

Not sure if I have a hoot a brewin', but one of my bridesmaids texted me this morning that she can't be part of the wedding anymore because she can't afford the dress. This is the groom's sister and I totally understand having financial difficulties, so I'm not going to push. We are both trying to handle it graciously - but is the first bump in the road of wedding planning? For what it's worth, the dresses we were looking at were in the $150 - $250 range and I was going to try and negotiate the price down once a decision was made. The wedding is in April, I'll have to fill everyone in next year!

No no, this is not a Hoot runway, and no, you don't "try" to be gracious, you just be gracious. If the dress was too much even at $25 then it was too much. You say her presence is what matters to you and of course you understand, would she like to be involved some other way? A reading or something else? Or would she be happier just as a guest? And then no hard feelings or second-guessing.

That's how not to star in a future column.

When I was very young I traveled some distance for the wedding of one of my fraternity brothers. I didn't understand that they had different customs so I put a cash gift into a card as my family had always done for weddings. At one point in the reception I handed the groom my gift but later noticed the card sitting on a table. I was worried it might be stolen so I retrieved it and once again handed it to him and his new bride. When I advised them to put it somewhere safe they asked me why anyone would bother stealing a card. I explained that the envelope contained my gift and the bride laughed and asked very loudly how a wedding gift could fit in an envelope. She thought I was joking. I was dying of embarrassment since people were listening in by then and tried to quietly explain that it was cash. She handed the envelope back to me and told me that if I hadn't had time to buy them a gift, I could do it later and send it to their house. I took back my gift and slunk back to my seat. The next week I sent them something off their registry on advice from my girlfriend.

Ugh. Cash was not a faux-pas, the bride's reaction to it was.

Next time, though, if there's no collection point for cash envelopes, take yours home with you and mail your gift later in check form. And don't bring any other kind of gift to a reception. That's just begging for the gift to be lost. 

My brother was thrilled when he was asked to be Best Man in our cousin's wedding. Less so when he realised that the bridal party was either married, related, or our 8 year old step-sister. Apparently he'd had big plans for the traditional bridesmaid/best man hook-up. We told him to stop being gross, had a lovely wedding (apparently, I question the long homily about the Deacon's cat and its late night trips but sometimes you just have to lean in). At the wedding my brother disappears for a weirdly long period of time and I was sent to find him before he missed the speeches. Turns out there was another wedding, and he'd gone and found a bridesmaid from THAT bridal party to sully in the restrooms. They dated for a while but disappointingly broke up when she realised he was...well...a bit of a glassbowl!

Resourceful, though--you have to give him that.

A wedding I went to years ago was an unmitigated disaster, start to finish. First, the huppah almost came crashing down during the ceremony. Then there was a problem with the Torah. Then the people carrying the bride during the chair dance ended up lifting the back & lowering the front, so the bride flipped off the chair. Luckily, she had been a gymnast, and landed in what I can only describe as plank position. It was really rather impressive. The last straw, however, was when the power went out during the reception. By the time the band got us all to sing some standards, the bride was in tears in a dimly-lit hallway. Of course, I picked that moment to tell her it was a great party (it really was; guests took everything in stride, and were just happy to celebrate, and she landed In. Plank. Position. in a wedding dress!). My genuine compliment obviously sounded sarcastic--a problem I have--because both her parents glared at me and she started wailing. I'm still mortified, well over a decade later. But it was the best wedding I've ever been to.

Or you could just, you know, pay the cost of the dress. (In the great scheme of the wedding that's costing you thousands, this is nothing. And none of the other bridesmaids need to know.) This is your fiance's sister. She'll be in your life a loooooong time. It's worth paying for some goodwill. Trust me - my sister was the definition of a difficult bridesmaid, I let all of it slide, and 8 years later we have an extremely close relationship that probably wouldn't exist if I'd approached it differently.

Or you just buy her dress (and maybe all your bridesmaids' dresses). $150-250 is probably a drop in the bucket of the cost of your wedding, and she's going to be your sister-in-law! Then be prepared for her to be unable to participate in any lead-ups to the wedding, such as bachelorette parties/weekends, if those are expensive.

A simple plea to future brides: if you decide to get married on a public beach, pay attention to the hours during which dogs are permitted on the beach leash-free, and perhaps avoid those times for your ceremony? Unless, of course, your dream wedding INCLUDES a grumble of pugs running through the ceremony and jumping up to lick the faces of your flower girl and ring bearer, and strangers in speedos running in to pull them off. Actually, that WOULD be MY dream wedding, but for the bride in Dewey Beach last year, apparently not so much.

And my new band name: Strangers in Speedos

A couple of years ago my boyfriend was a groomsman in a wedding held out in a meadow/field, whatever you want to call it. The groom insisted on his dog being the ring bearer. It went okay at first, the rings had been put in a little satin pouch and the dog carried them up the aisle just fine. But when the best man went to grab the pouch the dog decided to play keep away and was soon running all over the field with the groom, best man and my boyfriend chasing him. The more they chased the more he ran. And then more people joined the chase. After I don't even know how long but it seemed liked hours and the bride was nearly in tears, my boyfriend finally tackled the dog, got dirt all over his rented tux but saved the platinum wedding rings. The bride and groom made a toast to my boyfriend at the reception but didn't offer to reimburse him for the cleaning bill. Lesson learned: let the dog be the flower girl!

Unless your dog is already the organist.

[Helps to train one's dogs, too.]

My sister just demanded that I stand up my best guy friend 'Mick' at his wedding. I'm a...groomsmaid? Apparently she dated 'Mick' a couple of times a year ago (I didn't actually know it) and now his wedding is an ongoing insult aimed just at her. She called it a hate crime. I thought she was being over-dramatic for effect at first, but she's acting like it really is. I'm betraying her by attending the wedding, and unless I back out 'I'm not her sister!'. She's dragged our mom into it, made weird, petty efforts to 'run into' the bride and be snippy to her, and has literally just posted a letter to the groom that I can only assume is full of nuts. The thing is? SHE'S married. She was married when she dated my friend, that's why it didn't work out. So far I'm going to the wedding. I've been fitted for a really severe tailored sheath dress AND sat through a special striptease from a drunk friend who thought it was really unfair I missed out on the strippers at the stag (he should not quit the day job), so I am not missing out on the free food and hanging out with my friend. If she wants to cut ties with me over that, well, good luck explaining that to her husband.

At my cousin's wedding last year, we had to listen to 7+ members of the wedding party give a toast to the bride and groom before we got to eat. They all said exactly the same thing: the couple was perfect together, the groom had always known he would marry the bride, etc. What would have made me slightly less bitter about having to wait to eat though, was if one of the toasts had mentioned the time the groom broke up with the bride because he wasn't sure she was the one- or that he had dated the bride's twin sister in high school. Alas it wasn't to be. Other things we had to endure at that wedding included a full Catholic mass, a homophobic tinged joke in the father of the groom's toast, a video where the groom said that in marriage he was most looking forward to the wedding night, and listening to the bride sing like a cat in heat.

I was with you till the cat aria, which actually sounds like it was worth the price of submission.

Our wedding insanity began with the invitations. We included the names of my wife's mom and her dad and step-mom. They were paying for the wedding. My mom got very upset she was not included and didn't talk to me on my birthday as a result (she's apologized). My aunt was so upset that come wedding time, she flew in from across the country to prevent my grandpa from coming to the wedding (she needed to stay with him at home because he had Parkinsons. He went to my brother's wedding the next year). The day of the wedding my uncle and brother got the stomach flu resulting in us dropping my brother off in downtown Detroit so he could use a bathroom and go to his hotel. Neither made it to the reception. In fact of 3 siblings and various extended family only my twin brother, mom and 1 grandma made it to the reception. At the reception one of my friends' dates kept pulling a Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl and a bridesmaid got hammered and disappeared (we feared she fell into the nearby frozen lake) and didn't return any calls until 2 days later. In was a disaster, but almost 11 years and 3 kids later it is still one of the best days of my life because my smart, loving, beautiful wife and I committed our lives to each other that day.

Wait--where'd the hammered bridesmaid go for two days?

Our caterer was supposed to supply our bartender, and they did, except...he really wasn't a bartender. He didn't know how to make any drinks, the first thing we ran out of was grenadine because he put it in everything, including the martinis, and when my aunt tried to explain how to make the drink she wanted (nicely, she claims), he fled the reception. Two of the groomsmen took over the bar, but proceeded to operate on a "drink for you, drink for me" basis. Their toast later was...something. After they had to be driven back to the hotel, another groomsmen and one of the bridesmaids ended up behind the bar. They eventually started making out, and when my bridesmaid got worried that people were watching, the groomsman said, "Nah, we're behind the [waist-high] bar." Of course, they eventually fell over in a drunken pile, so I guess he was right. Weddings aren't complete without great stories! I say now.

Husband and I got married last September. Everything was planned in 16 weeks (my mom and I are SUPER planners). The reception was held at my parents house in a huge tent, catered food, and DJ. The day was perfect!! Right up until I realized that I didn't plan transportation for my now husband and I to get back to the hotel. Luckily, a few of my friends were stragglers and we got a ride back to the hotel with them. Next morning we wake up and I realize again, we have no transportation!! I also realize, that although I packed an overnight bag, I failed to pack pants!! I basically have two options, sweatshirt and boots or wedding dress (which is destroyed, no shoes and grass makes for a messy gown) and no shoes (because apparently I didn't wear shoes to the hotel!) No cell phone, no wallet... oops!! So, as a newly married woman, I call my mom from the hotel, who doesn't answer because she doesn't recognize the number! I had to call 5 times before my parents answered. I played it off that they should come to the hotel to have breakfast with all our out of town guests. Once I got their agreement to breakfast, I confessed I also needs pants and we needed a ride back to their house.  

It's not a hoot until someone forgets their pants.

They could OPEN for the Strangers in Speedos

My mom pulled my dad out of my wedding reception to tell him how he'd ruined her life. They'd been divorced 17 years by this point. My sister ran point for her to keep me from interrupting the lambasting. After the wedding, she flounced out of my life, saying she'd never come back to my state again. She has yet to meet her grandchildren.

Um. I'm sorry?

This might not be the time to bring it up, but "flounced" is just an excellent word to have handy. 

On a sweltering hot and humid August day in Texas, my brother got married. As my Grandma would’ve said – it was ‘something else again.’ Brother and Mrs. Brother-to-Be (MrsB2B) had a small ceremony in her backyard, about fifty people. All dressed in their Sunday Best, the men in suits and the women slowly melting in the required pantyhose, spanx, and cocktail attire. Pastor Paul of the local Baptist church officiated. The vows were very conservative. Lots of, "Brother, will you be the head of this family and promise to guide the submission of MrsB2B...." Brother repeats his vows and places the ring on her finger. Pastor Paul turns to MrsB2B. "MrsB2B, do you promise to submit yourself to the guidance of Brother?" Silence. "MrsB2B...? You need to repeat after me...?" Nothing. Then She fainted. Straight out, dropped like a rock. Brother caught her round the waist. Pastor Paul looks shocked for a moment, everyone is freaking, then Pastor says "Let's get her inside." He reaches down to grab her legs, but manages to get one MrsB2B ankle and one Brother ankle. Two legs go up, Brother says, "Um that's me Paul!" Paul recovers and picks up the matching pair of legs. Luckily all three did not end up in a heap on the patio. Although that would have made for a much more amusing story. Brother and Paul get totally unconscious Mrs B2B in the house, on the couch with her feet up. We all come pouring in behind. Ice is applied to her head. A voice from the back calls out, "Cover her legs!" What - someone is worried we'll get a flash of thigh? How about "Should we call 911?" Like a marathoner at mile 25, a groggy MrsB2B mumbles, "Okay, I can do this...I can...I can do this..." Anyway, she rallies, the vows are completed (in the comfort of the air-conditioned living room) and the party ensues. She took a lot of ribbing and was a good sport about it, I have to say. 

For our wedding our wonderful friends brought us a fabulous bottle of champagne with them from France. It was meant for us for the reception. We had picked out a reasonably-priced champagne for our guests. I only told my big sister about the French champagne. During the reception she told us that her father-in-law (she made us invite him, long story) wouldn't drink the "swill" we were making our guests drink. She poured us each a half glass and took the rest of the bottle for herself and her father-in-law.

Hi Carolyn! On my wife's and my wedding day, our rabbi was a new father. He fell HARD for the whole fatherhood thing from the start, so he was under the spell of both the absolute joy of new fatherhood and the brain-muddling of sleep deprivation. This resulted in an extraordinarily... "interesting" choice of themes for his sermon to us under the wedding canopy. He explained that he had recently learned that serial killer Charles Manson had fathered several children during conjugal visits while in prison. He linked this to our nuptials by explaining -- right there, in front of us and the entire congregation, during our wedding ceremony -- that if an evil man like Charles Manson could father multiple children while in prison, then good, God-fearing people like my wife and me needed to have EVEN MORE children, so that our good children would outnumber the evil ones being brought into the world by people like Manson. A year or so later, when my wife and I were back in town visiting her parents and we saw the rabbi, I tried to rib him a bit about the wedding speech, and he had absolutely no recollection of it. This is what new-baby sleep-deprivation can do to a person. We laugh a lot about it now, but it wasn't so funny at the time. P.S. While writing this, I tried to Google how many kids Manson actually had in prison, and it looks like the rabbi actually got the story wrong. It wasn't Charles *Manson* who fathered several children from prison, but rather Charles *Watson*, one of the members of his "family" who was imprisoned along with him. P.P.S. Words spoken to a bride and groom have power: my wife and I have five wonderful children. Charles Watson only fathered four from prison. We win!

My husband and I got married several years ago. It was a relatively small-ish wedding - the invitees were mostly family, with only a handful of close friends in attendance. The wedding was on a Saturday morning, with some family get togethers and rehearsal dinner planned for the days before the wedding. My brother and his wife made a day-long drive on the Wednesday before the wedding so they could be part of all of the festivities and were staying with family in town. On Friday, my sister-in-law announced to my brother that she wasn't feeling well, was too sick to stay for the rest of the weekend (despite no signs of illness in the days preceding), and that she was driving home that night. She took their car, and left my brother to find his own way home for the 9 hour drive. Now, my family has a pretty typical American level of dysfunction, so I had pre-emptively steeled myself for drama during the weekend, although not from this particular branch on the family tree. So, when my brother told me she'd gone, I resolved not to let it upset my mood for the wedding, since there were so many other loved ones to spend time with. But I was, of course, very hurt that SIL didn't attend my wedding. Several years have passed. She's never mentioned it or apologized, and I've never brought it up. Because, as the Hootenanny teaches us year after year, there are a lot more important things in life that keeping score about things that happen at weddings. This summer, while we were visiting my bro & SIL, a mutual friend brought up the attire of someone at my wedding who tends to express himself in a very colorful (and not always appropriate) manner. SIL chimed in that she "couldn't believe it when [guest to remain nameless] showed up wearing that" and that SIL "about fell out of her seat at the wedding." That was followed by some stunned silence until my brother finally said "But you weren't there." SIL looked at him and said "what are you talking about?!" I guess she studied photos from the wedding so much that she has convinced herself that she was there and has actual memories of my wedding ceremony. I'm not sure whether to be concerned for her mental health or flattered by her attention to photographic detail. I guess its the (after-)thought that counts?!

My mother-in-law's best friend went up to my sister-in-law, who was a bridesmaid at my wedding, to tell her that she looked beautiful and asked her if she had the same hair and makeup done at her wedding as she did at mine. My SIL responded that she did not- she did her own hair and makeup at her wedding. MIL's best friend responded, "I can tell." This same woman told my husband at the reception that she always thought he was going to get married in pull-ups (diapers, in case there's any confusion there). Supposedly, my husband had bed-wetting issues when he was a little kid? She also came up to me right before my first dance and exclaimed, " (MIL) just told me that the two of you met online?! My goodness- how dangerous! Guess we'll see if online dating really works, won't we?" ...we got married, so yes? She really got around that evening.

My future MIL emailed her siblings letting them know that their grandkids weren't welcome at the wedding before we had even sent save-the-dates or decided if we were inviting kids yet. After she told us that she did this and we said that we hadn't decided but were leaning toward inviting them, she told us that *we* needed to reach out to sibs and let them know kids could come. Had a nice chat about whose wedding it was and decision rights after that.

My stepmother told me on my wedding day: you'll never be this thin again. Uh...thanks? How do I get this refrain out of my head?

Not sure why you'd want to, given its retelling value.

At my last job I worked with a young woman who could have been in the movie Mean Girls. She wasn't well liked, but she thought she was the greatest thing ever. I'll call her Mary. One day Mary came to work complaining that her sister was engaged. Most of us knew what was coming and, sure enough, she soon announced her own engagement, with the wedding to take place two weeks before her sister's. The sisters soon started to try to one up each other, and the fits Mary had in the break room when she got an email from her sister or mother where her cake or flowers or whatever had bee "outdone" by the sister were fascinating to behold. But finally the great event drew nearer. We worked in an open floor plan office and one day Mary stood up and solemnly announced that she couldn't ask all of us to the wedding, only a select few. She then went around the office and told everyone specifically why they were not invited. I didn't rate an invite because she knew "I wouldn't feel comfortable at a classy event". Yeah... Well, after she had everybody in the office hating her even more than we already did. she kicked it up a notch by sending out an email with her registries listed on it. All, of course, for the sort of classy places that people like me didn't shop at, so I felt fine not getting her a gift. But the topper? After the wedding, which unfortunately went off without a hitch (we were really hoping for some over the top Bridezilla action), she sent out another email. This one had her wedding album from the photographer attached, and we were invited to buy pictures of her great day, at the cost of $20 a picture. I passed.

When my future husband and I picked our wedding date, I had no idea that it was a week away from my future-in-law's 25th wedding anniversary. So, my future mother-in-law made a point of telling me more than once before the wedding that all the guests on their side were actually coming to celebrate their anniversary and not our wedding.

I went to a wedding recently that was scheduled to start at 2 pm. The ceremony did not start on time, but the open bar opened promptly at 2:30. Four hours and MANY drinks later, the couple appeared to finally get married in front of what has to be the drunkest group of wedding guests in history. To make matters worse, the couple getting married hadn't informed anyone they were supposed to take part in the ceremony, so people were getting announced to do readings/songs, etc. who had no idea they were going to be involved. There were tears, totally botched readings by drunk people who had forgotten their glasses, and one totally annoying heckler in the back (that may have been me - to my credit, I was unaware how loudly I was speaking). Every wedding I've attended since has seemed a bit predictable by comparison.

And the worse for it, for sure.

This story seems like the figurine on the cake, so I'll call it: Bye for now, have a great couple of weeks and thanks for having enough awful enough relatives to drive this bus once a year. Wow.



And a special thanks to Teddy, who moved a lot of material today under challenging technical conditions. 

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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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