Carolyn Hax Live: Wedding Hootenanny 2015

Oct 02, 2015

Welcome to the second annual Wedding Hootenanny - a celebration of your best, worst and funniest wedding stories.

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Hello, everybody. I'll send out some regular Q and A then, then get to Hoot'n around 1.

I hope today's letter writer can see that her mother is trying to get her to reject her extended family, maybe even before they truly reject her. It's a classic isolation technique. Maybe you can't choose your family, but you can choose who to spend time with. Is Mom really worth it?

Good point, thank you. It's a variation on the theme in this column: LINK, where the object for the mother is to remain at the center of everything.

Hi Carolyn and the nutterati, Sorry this isn't a non-wedding question, but don't know where to start with this one, so appreciate your help. I have a male relative who's being physically and verbally abused by his wife. It looks like he's now ready to leave the situation (yay!) but we want to give him additional protections /support. Can you recommend reliable support groups for him pre- and post-leaving? And/or a "sponsor" possibly? He sees a psychologist on a regular basis, but I was thinking he might find more solace with others going through (or have been through) a similar situation. (We tried a few years ago, but the only ones we found were for gay men, and they tried to be helpful and we appreciated it but they didn't have the resources). If it matters, the person is in New England. Thanks.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has improved its outreach to men. LINK. There are other groups that provide services specifically to men, but the Hotline is still a quick way to figure out which of them is available in a given region. 1-800-799-SAFE.

This might be a question for the Philes, but I'd love some varying perspectives on how people have known when to take a career leap of faith. I work in a good, well-paying job. For the past five years, I've been writing novels on the side, with advances that have continued to increase for each of three books. My latest book deal is the equivalent of two years of salary. It seems like a lot of money, but there's no guarantee that this kind of money will be repeated; it could just be a one-time deal (in which case, I'd be in trouble in a few years). And if I leave my current job, the field is such that I will never be able to re-enter it. How have other people known when it's responsible to take a big risk?

Congratulations on your success, especially given the current publishing climate.

I really do look for every excuse to shake the pom-poms, but I would be extremely cautious about betting your livelihood on your books. I have anecdotes, not data, but watching successful author friends suddenly find themselves without a buyer for their work makes for powerful anecdotes.

Since you have a system that works for you right now, and since you seem to have a cushion of money, I recommend staying right where you are as you direct some energy into finding a more flexible day job. Maybe it's something similar to your field, maybe it's something else entirely but allows for part-time or flexible hours or easy reentry after six months off.  

Whatever form it takes, call it a leap that relies a little bit less on faith than just jumping full-time to living off your advances.

I will also post this to Philes.  

My husband and daughter had an argument while she was home (currently lives out of the country). They have not spoken since. I have talked/argued with both trying to get one of them (preferably my husband) to reach out and fix things. What is my responsibility in such a situation? Do I just continue to get along with each and hope they will work it out? Do I keep nagging each of them?

Who was at fault?

How does one make a reasoned choice when picking the possible guardian for a child (should the worst happen)? My husband and I are in the midst of this debate and we can't seem to come to an agreement. We both have our personal choices and neither family is specifically bad, but neither family makes the choices we would want for our daughter. Husbands choice has an older, only child so he feels they could be more focused on our daughter in a time of need , but the family is religious and we are not. My choice has children closer to our daughters age that she might be able to connect with, but the kids spend a lot of time with a Grandmother who openly favors one child over the other. Neither family would be close to our child as we live at a distance to both. Obviously this is a huge decision and one that should be made by more than just nit-picking at people's personal choices. So, how to go about doing that?

Instead of choosing someone to raise your child for you, choose the person who will choose. This is actually closer to what naming a guardian does anyway, but such naming usually comes with a conversation with your preferred guardian to make sure he or she is prepared to welcome your child, so it becomes a de facto home selection. In your case, though, I suggest making it clear that the person you designate is charged with deciding, with the understanding that the best choice might change over time. It's one thing for an infant to be raised far away from home (though other relatives would struggle with that if the family is centered near you), but another for a 10th-grader to be uprooted. So pick someone close to you who is dependable and rational--and also be open to updating your choice as circumstances warrant.

I don't see why the LW said that if she doesn't see her mom, she can't see her extended family. Why not? Surely the rest of the family sees through this troubled woman.

Perhaps, but that's not always the case. Plus, said extended family could live with or near to the mother, and/or be inclined to make LW pay dearly in nagging and drama for having the nerve to challenge the mother. Form does tend to follow dysfunction. 

My wife's great aunt lives in a retirement village. She has medical issues and is also lonely. Our problem is that she talks incessantly once she gets one of us on the phone. It is impossible to end the conversation. She says, "This will only take a minute." But it goes on for an hour or more, often while we are trying to get our daughter in bed at night or hurrying to leave in the morning. She imagines that she has done things to upset her friends. She has all our cell and home numbers. If she does not get an answer at one number she calls the others. We have tried not answering, but when we later return the call she is emotional because she knows we were home and she feels hurt. Is there a decent way to handle this dear old lady? Arnold S.

Yes--appointment calling. Call only when there's an hour to burn (I know, I know) and make sure it's a regular appointment. If there are others in your position, coordinate with them so that she gets a call a day, if possible. If she calls you at an inopportune time, then do keep screening as you must, and simply say that you're sorry you couldn't pick up, you weren't in a position to talk. Hold that line and don't grant that it's an emotional issue, it's strictly logistics--you were on another line, cooking dinner, supervising homework, etc.

The more ways you can address this too, the better it'll be for all of you, most likely. For example, if your daughter is old enough to talk via Skype, the long talk sessions could be good for her vocab, social skills and sense of family/community, while easing Auntie's loneliness and allowing you to catch up on the dishes. If you can also mix in some visits and/or low-maintenance field trips, and again share these among other family members, that would ease the pressure on the phone calls. Etc. 

It's really just applying stitch-in-time theory so you aren't hit with nine right at bedtime.

I've got friends who had creative side pursuits/careers - writing, musician, artist etc. In each case they kept the day job, with the associated benefits, until the income from ROYALTIES equaled their take-home. I would invest the advance so that it is also producing income . . . not quite totally on point, but there's a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad and it talks about how to use your money to make money. One you've got a cash flow equivalent to your living expenses then you can quit your job (retire) and do whatever you want.

I think there are always people who say "why doesn't she just cut her mom out," etc. when dealing with a toxic parent. Often the people who see these as easy decisions didn't grow up with a toxic parent and don't know how it emotionally cripples and manipulates people, even when they become fully formed adults. Something that seems an easy choice from the outside is never so easy after years of emotional manipulation.

Absolutely, thank you.

I thought you were going in a different direction when I read your first line and I was poised to agree with you there, too--so since you didn't say it I will:

 "I think there are always people who say 'why doesn't she just cut her mom out,' etc. when dealing with a toxic parent" ... but this really needs to be treated as a last resort for plainly abusive people. Severing ties with someone generally well-meaning, even one who was/is objectively a bad parent by anyone's standards, can haunt that banished person for life. All parents are flawed, often profoundly so, but are still human.

If cutting someone out seems like the only sensible choice, at least do two things first: try to find out whether there's a safe distance from which you can remain in touch; and try to imagine how you'd feel if your own children refused to see or speak to you before you removing this parent from your life.

If you try this and you're still confident that your mental health demands removing this person from your life, then so be it. It will still be extremely difficult (see above) but at least you'll know you aren't acting lightly or in haste.

I'd just like to show my support for this person. There is still a lot of stigma and lack of seriousness about male domestic abuse. I was verbally and emotionally abused by my former fiancee for years and many people laughed it off when I talked about it. How can a man so much bigger than a woman be abused? It's not a laughing matter and it does happen, probably more frequently than people think. I'm thankful to the people who helped me get out of my situation and wish the best for this person too.

Thank you for this. I agree that it happens a lot more than many realize.

In part the scoffing at men as victims is to blame, but also I think some blame goes to stereotypes of male-female relationships (or just couplehood in general). The she-nags, he-says-yes-dear trope often allows bystanders to write off controlling women as normal, when in fact a dynamic where one half of a couple exerts its will over the other half through pressure and threats is bad regardless of how the X's and Y's are distributed between them.

Apropos of nothing weddingy, this is what I always think of now when anyone mentions pompoms: LINK. Must read to the end.

My partner is seemingly addicted to her phone (browsing, playing games, etc) and it's driving me batty. I've convinced her that it's rude to use her phone at meals, but it invades any time that the two of us spend together. If we watch a TV series together, the phone is in her hands the whole time, and who knows how much she is paying attention. She doesn't see why it should bother me, since "we're just watching TV"... But if we choose to follow a show and watch it together, I'd like her to actually participate and not have to explain everything that happened. More so though, it's about her being present with me. I'm not sure I can keep complaining about this and get nowhere, any ideas? Do I just need to accept the third wheel in our relationship?

Or opt out of the relationship. Or, if that's not possible or humane for some reason, take it to counseling, since it's apparently not enough to impress her that you're lonely while she's sitting two feet away.

I don't think I'm making too much of it to say this is the issue of our time. Too many of us aren't present even when we're present. Woody Allen's "80 percent of success is showing up” needs to be updated to "80 percent of success is having undivided attention.” 

Hope your garters are Gore-Tex, because here we go ...

My sister/bridesmaid locked me out of the bathroom on the morning of my wedding and screamed through the door "not everyone is going to be looking at you!".

We could quit here, mission accomplished.

My uncle is impractical. He is not suffering from mental illness or dementia. He is charming and kind but impractical. The day before my wedding, he got lost. My husband-to-be and I had invited anyone in town the day before the wedding to join us at a free event happening near the hotel where most of the wedding party and guests were staying. We'd included directions by car, train, and foot along with the invitation. It wasn't a wedding event, just something fun to do for people in town early. My uncle, of whom I'm very fond, asked if he could walk with me and my bridesmaids. I explained that we would love for him to join us but added it was a half mile walk and the weather was predicted to be very hot and humid. I mentioned some other family members who'd be traveling by train. Since he has some serious health and mobility issues, I figured he'd decide not to walk after all. I also offered to meet him for a drink at the hotel bar that afternoon. Nope. He wanted to walk. That morning we left early, went slow, stopped to rest, and brought water. But the walk was just way too much for him. My best friend suggested she and my uncle stop at a cafe to cool off and rest and catch up with us later. About an hour later I got a text: have you seen Uncle? Apparently my friend stepped out to take a call from work and when she came back my uncle was gone. The restaurant staff hadn't seen him leave. She'd been looking for him since. I called him and got no answer, so several of our friends and family left the event with me and my husband to join the search. We walked every side street between the cafe and the hotel and the cafe and the event. We stopped strangers to show them his picture from Facebook. We called and texted him dozens of times to no avail. After two hours, we started calling hospitals. By then I was pretty sure my uncle had had a heart attack or fallen and was lying somewhere injured or unconscious. My best friend's wife had to take her back to the hotel because she was sobbing uncontrollably in her certainty that my uncle was dead somewhere the day before my wedding and it was all her fault. About an hour before our rehearsal was scheduled to begin and after almost five hours of searching, my cell phone rang. A number I didn't know. Is your uncle wearing an orange shirt? Yes! One of the strangers I'd stopped on the street had seen him. This hero in a McDonald's uniform chased after him and convinced him to wait with her until someone came. My husband was there five minutes later. Apparently my uncle decided that he was being unfair to the bridesmaid waiting with him and left the restaurant to take the train to the destination. He'd gotten off at the wrong stop and had taken some time to figure out exactly where he was. He had silenced his cell phone before leaving the hotel that morning, so he hadn't known we were calling. He'd thought about calling us but didn't want to be a bother. He had also stopped for frozen yogurt. We invited the lady from McDonalds to the rehearsal dinner. She had to work.

Hi Carolyn, just got a call from the bride of a wedding that I'm attending in July. We are not close so I was surprised to get an invite. Bridezilla just told me that my invitation is because she needs to round out a table due to the latest breakup of a immediate family member and her on again off again boyfriend. I plan to show up and enjoy an open bar on Bridezilla's tab. Does my status as table filler give me the right to give the happy couple a cheap and crappy gift?

Wait--this was submitted back when the link first went up. Are you there? Update? Photo upload of gift?

Dear Carolyn, My husband's cousin's son is getting married in the fall and we got a Save the Date in the mail. My question is none of our kids, they are grown, got one and our youngest daughter who is the same age as the groom, they do know each other, did not get a Save the Date and expressed her feelings at not getting one. Am asking you if it would be against etiquette to ask the cousin about adding said daughter to the list?

It would be against etiquette in all forms, possibly in all species. Sorry.

I got married a few years ago and this is one of my favorite stories. As I was getting ready in the chapel with my bridesmaids, we happened to see my dad go running, yes running, by the chapel holding about 5 pairs of black pants. We all sort of look at each other, giggle at the pant legs flapping in the breeze, and go back to make up and champagne. Turns out, my husband's youngest brother forgot the pants for his suit. Normally not a big deal, but the wedding was in FL and the pants were in PA, and his only other options with him were shorts and swim trunks. My soon to be husband called my dad an hour before the wedding and started with "Uh, Alan, it's Michael, I have a problem." Not what the father of the bride wants to hear shortly before the ceremony so my dad responded in his deepest, sternest, don't-screw-with-me-today voice, "What's the problem?" My parents lived close to the chapel so my dad brought several of his pairs of pants hoping that one would fit. They were a success (though I've always thought this would have been a better story if BIL ended up wearing the swim trunks with his jacket and tie). My favorite part is that three years later we were at another family wedding and BIL gave us the wedding card that he had stuck in the pocket of his suit pants for safe keeping. Because, you know, he definitely wouldn't forget those!

Reminds me of the old saying, It's only funny until someone shows up with pants. 

My fiance and I are paying for everything ourselves, mostly to sidestep certain relatives thinking they have a say in our wedding plans. That hasn't stopped his mother from sending an e-mail to us about how "concerned" she is that we might be leaving certain people off the guest list. She included a list of who these people are (Fiance hasn't heard of half of them). At the end of the e-mail, she graciously extended us permission to invite anyone from Fiance's father's side of the family that we see fit. She's also trying to get us to marry in her backyard - something that is just not going to happen, because a) we want to be welcoming and inclusive to Fiance's father and that side of the family (a bit difficult to pull off if the venue is his ex-wife's backyard), and b) my family is Italian Catholic and therefore just a bit too large to be hosted in a space that can hold up to 35 people. So far she's only burst into tears once, thank goodness. Meanwhile, my mother's response to us setting a date was "You don't expect me to pay for this, do you?" - and, later on in that conversation, "I think my gift is going to be some of that old stuff down in the basement". (I assured her we didn't really care about gifts one way or the other, and her presence would be our present. She insisted that it was proper to give a gift, and reiterated that she would be giving us "some old stuff from the basement". Bless her.)

I think Crate & Barrel has a bar code for its registries, Some Old Stuff From the Attic. In case you want to coordinate.

Something to consider when posing for wedding photos: Bride and groom up on a wrought iron balcony with all the guests arranged underneath - Nice in theory. But if you have a wide-skirted dress and hubby is in a kilt (which is traditionally worn commando)... well, let's just say any guest who looked up got more of a view than we bargained for. P.S. Ladies, if you are fortunate enough to encounter a man in a kilt, please don't "check underneath" unless you (and he) are prepared to proceed directly to an NC-17 rating!

My education continues, thank you.

As a best man I noticed the bride about to faint at the alter. I stepped around to catch her and then proceeded to carry her, train and all, back down the aisle. Bridesmaids and Moms afflutter. After she cooled off I then walked her back down the aisle and gave her back to the groom.

Wait--did the groom just stand there while you carried the bride out? 

My former mother-in-law scurried around after me at my casual wedding reception, bumping into me, repeatedly unhooking the bustle on my train as I walked by (which forced me to stand still while she rebooked it), and fussing about the dress dragging on the floor (which didn't bother me, as the pictures were done and I just wanted to talk with friends). I did my best to deal with her politely and by the end of the reception, thought that she had stopped interfering. I was surprised, then, to see staff from the neighboring school walking through and looking for the kitchen. It turns out that my mother-in-law had sent someone to the school and invited the staff to take all of our leftover food, and that’s exactly what they were doing. I had paid for the entire wedding and reception myself, and had planned to store and enjoy the extra food with friends during the next couple of days before I left for the honeymoon. Instead, I just stood there in shock and watched it carried out the door by strangers as they congratulated me. You can just imagine how respectful she was in dealing with other things, such as my children, and you would be right.

My sister converted to a very conservative religion after a...colorful adolescence. Let's just say the new high necked long sleeved outfits covered a lot of tattoos. Her wedding day was very fraught for her - she felt like her "old" family and friends might not make her look good to the "new" side. Anyway, new and old, we were all broiling under a desert sun doing formal pictures, and tempers were getting short. My husband muttered something like "damn it," and she lost it. She screamed, at the top of her lungs, "SHUT UP! THIS IS SACRED #$%@! GROUND!"

If it hadn't been before, it is now.

My wedding was great and I loved it, but one funny thing did happen. The minister forgot to tell the guests to be seated, so almost everyone except for a few initiative takers stood for the entire (Prostestant-brief) service. I was almost shaking with laughter at the altar. It did allow me to get one laugh line off after we were introduced at the reception, "Please be seated." :-)

Over 20 years ago, I was fired from being a bridesmaid (by a bride who I admittedly didn't know all that well and who I think asked me because she was a difficult person who had trouble making friends) after being told that my "job and purpose as a bridesmaid was to make our [bride and groom] lives easier and getting work out of [me] was like getting blood from a stone." This after I bought the hideous polyester dress that was hot pink, shiny, shorter in the front than in the back, had puffed sleeves, and an ENORMOUS butt bow. 1994 wasn't that behind the times, people.

I think the enormous butt bow is poised for a comeback.

Did I ever post my pink-bridesmaid's-dress picture here? Or was it just on FB?

Not really a hoot, just a plea for help! I want a very very small wedding - 30 people max. I also have a large family. Nuts: how can I pull this off inviting only my closest family and friends without completely insulting the rest of my (and my fiance's) family. I don't know how I can invite Aunt June but not Aunt April, HELP!!!

It's not a hoot, but the hoot can help. Hang on a sec ..

My fiance and I wanted a tiny, low-key wedding. We thought that by keeping the guest list small-- just our parents, the friend who introduced us, and the friends who were letting us use their space for the wedding-- we would avoid family drama. HOW WRONG WE WERE. Uncle Hoosiwhats was deeply displeased to learn that he was not invited to the wedding. He deserved to be there. He certainly deserved to be there more than some of the other guests, and we should have invited him instead. (Instead of our...parents? Were we supposed to make the friends who were hosting us sit outside during the ceremony?) The problem was me. He was no longer willing to deal with my "issues" and my "drama" (his use of quotes, not mine). He knew enemy action when he saw it. It was three strikes, and we were out. (I guess the third strike was the non-invitation, but we honestly have no clue what the first two were.) He was never speaking to us ever again. WE WERE THROUGH. So..............yeah. Wow.

I had a very small wedding Aug 1st, inviting only the closest people in my life - those we see on a regular basis. This means I didn't invite my 4 step siblings (and their large families - which would have been a 20% increase). My step dad expected my mom to change my mind and get me to invite them. I told her I would be happy to talk to him myself about my decision but wouldn't be altering the guest list. His response was to berate my mother for weeks and boycott the wedding (after inviting his children without my permission). None of them showed up, my mom came alone and it was probably the best thing that could possibly happen for everyone except my mother. The next time I saw him he pretended none of it had ever happened.

The message being, proceed with compassion, and assume there's no amount of compassion that will make everybody happy.

My Step-Mother has been making wedding cakes on the side for 15+ years, so when it came time for my wedding she asked how she could help. We asked if she would make our wedding cake, and she said yes. Due to some dietary restrictions of the bride, the cake had some very unique ingredients, but otherwise was straightforward to make. Fast forward to 3 days before the wedding and my Step-Mother throws a temper tantrum and refuses to talk to us about the recipe or even acknowledge our presence in the room. No reason was ever given for the tantrum. We gave up trying to figure out what was going on and just make the cake ourselves. My dad was able, with the help of his sisters, to get my Step-Mother to at least decorate the cake. Said Step-Mother also decided that our menu for the wedding rehearsal didn't have the right food for kids, so she bought a 5 lb bag or french fries and 5 lb bag of chicken nuggets for 6 kids, SIX!!!! This was against our express wishes, as the brides family refuses to feed their kids that kind of food.

You can't eat regular cake? You expected kids to eat non-chicken-nugget products? Clearly you are those foodie radical types.

I was in my early 20s, living across the country, with three younger brothers, when my mom began dating a man with two sons. The older son happened to be one of my best friends from high school and college and the younger one was similarly close to my middle brother. When the parents decided to get married, they planned a low-key but elegant New Year's Eve wedding in our home. They invited about 90 people but, on the day of the wedding, something like 130 people actually showed up because I and my brothers/stepbrothers started inviting all our mutual friends. And mom had gotten a tequila luge ice sculpture. At the end of the night, about two dozen 18 to 23 year olds slept over on couches/floors. Two of middle brother's friends got so drunk they threw up all over middle-school-aged youngest brother's room and youngest brother had to sleep with mom and stepdad. Fortunately, our parents took the whole thing in stride, cooked everyone pancakes the next morning and were just thrilled we were all so happy to be family.

The purchaser of the tequila luge surrenders the right to be shocked.

Here goes for us...2013: week of the wedding, grandmother is hospitalized, in a coma, no one knows if she's going to make it (she did, and is in very good health for 82). We all insist family staying home and not traveling the 6+ hours to my home town for the wedding is ok - husband is still hurt, but working through that. Problem? My mother-in-law has been telling her friends and extended family that the wedding didn't happen! We got a Christmas card this year from a cousin who is so looking forward to our fall 2015 wedding. We've contacted those we can to confirm that yes, we did get married and are quite happy. Still have to deal with the m-i-l though.

Right. MIL or it didn't happen.

After our wedding, my brand new MIL posted the standard "congrats" announcement to her Facebook wall. Standard except that she mis-spelled my first and last names (both are really short and pretty common), and the picture was of my husband and his attendant, who is a childhood friend and a very beautiful woman. The thing is that my MIL is actually a sweet lady who likes me a whole lot, she's just really flaky. So we had a good laugh, but my husband did tell her to fix her post.

My best friend’s wedding was a lovely affair at a historic mansion with a wonderful food and booze-filled reception. It was getting time for the bride and groom to leave and the photographer wanted one last perfect shot. So he lined up the guests outside the main house entrance, laid down the aisle runner, and handed out the sparklers. Turns out, giving sparklers to rows of drunk people standing on paper is not the best idea. Picture the 'I Love Lucy' grape-stomping, but instead of Lucy, you have drunk revelers and instead of grapes, it’s fire. The damage? Several shoes, one uncle’s pant-leg, and one very charred aisle runner. If only I could get my hands on those photos…

When my sister got married, it was like there were three families there. Her husband's family is divorced and remarried and they do NOT speak to each other or get along. The reception was held in a space that had terrace seating as well as indoor seating and it was almost like a battle line was drawn. You had the groom's mom's family, his dad's family, and then our family. It was one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever seen.

Someone needs to pioneer Venn diagram wedding venues: a separate wing for each warring party, connected by a central overlap area for the few people who get along.


You're welcome. 

I was at a wedding this summer where the father of the groom ended his toast with, "I hope they stay together." We should have known it would go downhill when the wait staff cleared the champagne glasses before the toasts were over.

I guess he could had said he hoped it wouldn't last.

My husband and I were married by a priest we had only met once, and only for a half hour about two days before the ceremony. My church was undergoing a huge shift in personnel around the time of our wedding, and this fellow was the only game in town. I had never seen him in action (I generally went to a different priest's masses -one who moved), and he was out of the country visiting family for the six weeks leading up to our wedding. He met with us briefly ahead of the wedding, but didn't show up to the rehearsal. I had asked him not to use any "obey" language, but that's about all we had really communicated about. On the big day, he started with a rousing anecdote from Fiddler on the Roof (a fine play that I've never seen; it's not really in the Catholic cannon), the point of which was that I was supposed to have many, many children. Then he looked straight at me and said, "you promised." I would never, ever make such a promise, and certainly hadn't talked to him about it. While I was trying to compose my face after that nugget, he launched into a long lecture about how "the feeling of love is dead" and now "love is a choice." I think what he was trying to communicate was that we might encounter rough patches, and we would have to choose to work through them, which is a fine sentiment. But my husband and I had been together for four years at that point, and the feeling of love certainly wasn't dead. It still isn't. Years later, people still talk about our wedding ceremony. It was pretty memorable. And my husband and I still joke constantly about how the feeling of love is dead. Also, still no children. Although we did get the DJ at our reception to play most of the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack.

I'd say something about children and the Catholic cannon, but I suspect I'd get in trouble.

My daughter is a wedding planner. She had a groom who wanted to make his entrance on an elephant and wanted to get a permit to shut down Michigan Ave in Chicago for this. No dice on that one. Then he asked for a monkey to hand out escort cards at the reception. He thought people could come up, tell the monkey their names, and the monkey would hand them the place cards. He had to be told it would be possible to have a monkey, but not a monkey who could read.

For no amount of money?



That did it. Tears.

Just because you've been good.

My parts are all aflutter re: the best man who caught the fainting bride. This is actually a Rom Com starring Patrick Dempsey, yes?

So, did the groom just stand there? Don't tell me I have to watch the movie, because there are limits to what I'll do for this job.

I work in a clothing alterations shop and I can tell you that the butt bow is coming back. It's making some people very sad. The great thing is, it can be easily removed after, so if you like the dress, hate the bow, you can have it inexpensively altered after the bridesmaiding.

Or you can do what I did and get a dress with a butt bow that snapped on and off, and snap it off and just wear it around with the snaps showing, because college.

At my wedding, the best man, a very charming and handsome guy, hit on everyone and hooked up with one of my bridesmaids. Found out later he was also hooking up with my now ex-husband.

This should bring some perspective to those suffering from butt bow sadness.

When my husband and I decided we were going to get married, we had some ambivalence about how my certifiably Grade A bat poop family would handle it. My poor dad (divorced from my mom for nearly 20 years) was simply relieved we were getting on with it, Mom was ecstatic imagining her starring role as Mother of the Bride, and Grandma was furious that I was betraying our Amazonian sisterhood. Simultaneously, Mom and Grandma hadn’t spoken to each other in at least six years over some long-forgotten sleight, and both announced that they didn’t know how they would handle being around The Hated Other. Grandma immediately began a six-month campaign to convince me I was ruining my life by getting married before ultimately boycotting the whole thing. This period featured regular text message barrages such as, “How does it feel to have all your decisions undermined and to never be alone in your own home?” and, because my husband is Latino, questioning his resident status, his motivations for marrying me, and concern-trolling over whether my new surname would prevent me from getting a job. Mom, though, fully embraced this magical period in her life, wherein she was doted on by her friends, honored for her daughter’s matrimonial conquests, and showered with filial adoration. Except, because I didn’t play along with the fantasy, she started displaying all the signs of bailing three weeks before the wedding. (“Just not sure if it’s in the cards… we’ll see how it goes...”) Heartbroken that my mother was evidently planning to skip the wedding, I called Grandma in tears and told her what was happening. She didn’t say much then, but called the next day to say that the idea of my mother skipping the wedding had disturbed her so much that she couldn’t sleep. From what I was able to piece together after the fact, my perfectly able-bodied grandmother--who, again, was in no way planning to come to my betrayal ceremony--called my Mom for the first time in years to tell her that she was too old and frail to travel by herself, so she’d be traveling with Mom, and could she please give her the travel plan? Grandma then waited until Mom booked her flight and hotel before breaking the news that she ‘wasn’t going to make it after all’. By the morning of, Husband and I were completely over the whole wedding thing and were ready to just be married. Mom was in rare form: she reduced my older sister to tears within half a minute of entering the building, loudly elbowed my younger sister out of her way during communion, and picked fights with my long-suffering Dad (who kindly told us to leave for our honeymoon and “forget the rest of us exist”). One bright spot: our photographer was particularly astute about the family dynamic. As a result, I have a pair of cherished photographs: in the first, I appear to be a doting daughter, gazing adoringly at her mother as they share a special wedding day moment. And the next, a personal favorite, in which I stare into the abyss with unmasked horror.

I'm going to use that to send my kids off to school in the morning. "Have a great day. Forget the rest of us exist."

So, it's been 42 years this month, and I still remember this one. My Honey and I had a very small wedding, very small. Total of 80 people, including the bride and groom (my wishes), the total split evenly between the families, 35 for each side and 10 for our friendsd, ourselves included in the ten. On the morning of the wedding, MIL's neighbor woke up not feeling well, so rather than advise MIL and send her husband alone, husband brought a friend of his, someone none of us had ever met. OK. I can think of many worse grievances, but this glassbowl was the first person to sign the guestbook! The first name I saw and still see is his. Not a big faux pas like your many other readers' tales, but irritating. I almost included his name in this post, but I will just let it go, glassbowl neighbor and guest! Ahhh... that feels better now, so I will let it go. .. and simply recall my father handing me $2 and telling me, the bride, "Go get me a daiquiri!" I'll save that tale for another time. Love these hoots.

Back atcha.

My father and grandfather were ministers. I loved watching them perform weddings. Ironically I never married. Even after catching 17 wedding bouquets! Apparently once you reach a certain number of bouquets you ensure singledom. In case you were wondering.

I was, thank you.

Dear Carolyn, Some years ago I traveled cross-country to attend a dear college friend's wedding. It was held at her parents' lovely home, in the backyard. Sounds lovely, yes? In theory, yes, in practice, no. What I didn't fully comprehend before that day was that her parents were "keeping up appearances" types, and were hell-bent on making the wedding look like a $100K event while spending maybe 3% of that number. Thus, self-catering (yes, I was asked to make food after I arrived as we're other out-of-town guests) with hired servers (for the 2 hour dinner hour), a constructed dance floor (yes, I was asked to help with that as we're other guests) that was to be taken apart and returned to the hardware store after (no, I have no idea why someone would think grass stained plywood was unused), purchased place settings (to be cleaned, scraped, etc by yes, you guessed it, guests), and someone to direct traffic/parking (guess who). I missed most of the wedding (all but the kiss), thanks to her glassbowl father's insistence that so-and-so would need assistance parking & direction to the backyard. This is, unfortunately, no exaggeration and only the tip of the iceberg. Needless to say, I rearranged my return flight home when it became apparent that the price for my ride to the airport was helping dismantle the wedding tent, dance floor, chairs, tables, & doing the dishes created by the wedding (150 guests). My friend has since had a few children that I admire from across the country. As a side note, I think she was unaware of much of her parents' glassbowlery but I hope to never lay eyes on them again.

"My friend has since had a few children that I admire from across the country."

I'll keep this close to my heart.

My sister and I once got into an argument about the location of my wedding, the guest list, and other stuff. I am not engaged. I have never been engaged. I am not in a relationship. Bless those who get through weddings without murdering those close to them.

One of the worst wedding stories I have ever heard was my own. First wedding to nice guy who made the mistake of having a cigarette to "calm his nerves" five minutes before the wedding (and no, he was not a regular smoker). During the wedding - yes right in the middle of the preacher talking he barfs all over the floor (thankfully and quite miraculously he missed my dress.) He ran out followed by the best man, all the groomsmen, his father and the preacher. I was standing there wondering what the hell to do. Somebody came and cleaned up the floor and after what seemed like an eternity he came back along with the others. He turned and faced everyone and said "I think I'm ready now." Some light laughter although most folks were too completely in shock to react. So preacher continues and gets to the "in sickness and in health" line and at that there was some hearty laughter. So I married him but it only lasted a few years (and with that kind of beginning can you blame me?) Found a wonderful man a few years later and we've just passed 20 years of marriage. Had a nice very small wedding in a restaurant and it was just the way I like weddings - nothing crazy! -signed, An Unusually Long Memory for Trivia

Last year, I said the gracious takers of "no" for an answer are the friends to invest in thereafter. Then I amended that: The ones who clean your groom's barf off the altar as you stand there like Carrie at the prom are the friends to invest in thereafter.

I'm not sure what I wrote in 2013, and I'm too lazy to look it up.

I should add, about a dozen of you were kind enough to post that to the queue, and I had read and deleted about six of them, mystified, before it occurred to me to check last year's transcript to see why I had an old post turning up so many times. 

I was getting married in a chapel at Christmas time and wanted a velvet dress, because I had never been able to afford one. Took my mother and sister shopping and found the perfect burgundy Scott McClintock. Then my sister asked to try it on. I said she could not buy my wedding dress. She said "I won't wear it to your wedding". I said I did not want her to have the same dress and she said we don't live in the same city, so we would never wear it to the same place. I said I don't want you to have this dress! She said that was silly. I RAN down the mall to a wedding store and bought a full white lace gown. Guess what she wore to my wedding?

Before our wedding, my mother asked about flowers for the groom's female relatives: order at our florist or do they want to handle it themselves? He passed on the question; response was "We'll handle it." Come the wedding day, no flowers for groom's female family members, and somehow it's my fault. Mom and I scurried around getting flowers from attendants and organist so the ladies would have something to wear. Later in the receiving line, MIL hissed that I'd "ruined her life." Later at the reception she informed me, "I've raised my children, I don't intend to raise yours." Worst day of my life; in fact, my father stood at the back of the church with me and said, "You don't have to do this; you can bail right now." It was so bad that I don't celebrate the anniversary, even 40+ years later, in any meaningful way. Husband turned out to be worth it all, but MIL died still hoping he'd come to his senses and leave me.

I’m an unintentionally bad fairy of weddings. Curses include: The wedding of a college friend at the Jefferson memorial on a hot summer day. Thoughtfully, the couple had an ambulance parked nearby – in case someone got heat stroke, I supposed. About 20 minutes after the wedding was scheduled to start, the bride arrived, looking more harried than radiant. She and the rest of the party hurried down the aisle. No groom. Then a couple orderlies opened the back of the ambulance and pulled out a stretcher. On it lay a mummy in a bowtie – no face visible under the bandages and full body cast. Apparently, the groom had gone skydiving for his bachelor party a couple of days earlier. After the wedding, everyone except the mummy went to breakfast at a small banquet hall on campus. I had a mimosa and mini muffins with raspberry butter. One couple served a baked Alaska instead of the traditional wedding cake. All the guests gathered round for the cake cutting, children in front. The caterer was having trouble getting the Alaska to flambé. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion and the wall behind the caterer erupted in flames. The ambulances came soon after – several people, mostly children, were taken to the hospital. The rest of the guests milled around, unsure what etiquette required in this situation. The caterer appeared, one arm of her white chef’s jacket burned off. “We have another cake! We have another cake!” she assured us. We tried to get her to go to the hospital, but eventually gave up and ate the other cake. We found out later that everyone who was hospitalized was recovering nicely, and no one had been badly burned. I was a bridesmaid at the fairly elaborate wedding of a childhood friend. She went all out – horse-drawn carriage for herself and the groom, limos for the bridal party, and a fireworks display for the guests. The reception hotel was on a lake – after dinner all the guests gathered onto the small spit of land between the lake and the hotel. The fireworks were being shot off from a raft moored in the middle of the lake. For a couple of minutes, everyone oohed and ahhed. Then the fireworks started shooting directly into the crowd. It looked like people were being targeted by extremely determined meteors; the only means of escape was a narrow wooden stairway behind the hotel. Fires burned across the lawn, and people in evening dresses and black tie were running and screaming as if they had been dropped in the middle of a particularly lethal game of dodge ball. Eventually everyone managed to get back inside – we huddled well away from the lake-facing windows, the panes of which would occasionally shatter, while the hotel staff stamped out small fires. I passed the mother of the bride slumped in a little gilt chair, whispering to herself, her head in her hands: “I begged her. I begged her not to have fireworks.”

The bowtie!

Please, please check in again next year. 

So, not sure how wedding hoot this is, but a life hoot for sure. I'm pretty sure the joke will eventually be on me. We got married this spring - paid and planned, everything ourselves, with some token gift amounts from my mom and his parents. Consulted parents on guest list, and kept them in the loop on big things. His mom wanted to know EVERYTHING that was happening, so she could "plan accordingly" - fine we can tell you the color of the napkins to make sure you don't clash. Of course none of this stopped her from offering her EVERY opinion. Which we could roll with pretty well, she wasn't really trying to force anything of us, but MIL is very, very different than both me and my husband. So we were pretty good sports until one day, my husband just could not deal any more and calmly noted to her "Mom, this is our wedding, and I am really getting tired of everyone telling us their every opinion about it." As you can guess, she was none too thrilled and exclaimed "OH, you think I have opinions now, just WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE CHILDREN." Looking for jobs overseas as we speak.

Good luck.

MY ex FIL was so bad, he actually advised his guests to reply that they were getting the chicken on the response card. Then, I found out at the reception he told them to order what they wanted (Most, naturally, wanted the surf-turf.) We had prepaid for the meal so basically he got one over on the catering company -- they weren't going to argue with guests but my parents (who paid for the bulk of the reception) were so embarrassed when they found out they wound-up over-tipping the staff.

Just posting this to take some of the hate-weight off mothers-in-law.

A relative of my (at the time) soon to be husband's who was always throwing little jabs at me who asked to see a picture of my dress and when I showed it to her said it was beautiful but also that I better start working out if I was going to look decent in it (as she sat there, 6 inches shorter and probably 50 lbs heavier than me - something I would only point out because of what she had the nerve to say to me). Or, the wedding guest (whom I had never met before and was the date of one of my husbands friends) who, prior to the reception as we were waiting to be introduced, came up to me and first asked me how old I was, and then tried to put her own makeup on me - literally took it out of her bag and attempted to swipe stuff on my face, saying her makeup would look better. I had had my makeup done professionally for the day and loved the way it was done and how I looked. Way to make a bride feel beautiful!

No race, orientation, "too young", or hating-the-bride issues to claim-- the groom's parents merely told their son how disgusted they were with his happiness at getting married.

There we go--we've gotten to the flinty little heart of it.

And that means I'm going to call it a day. Thanks as always to everyone who suffered for our amusement, and thanks in advance for the suffering yet to come.

And for all the couples getting married this weekend with Joaquin crashing the party, I'm so sorry! Be safe.

I let the Hoot down. I tried, I really did, I mean it was a DIY wedding and it involved awkward family relationships, many children, a dog, one pair of guests who'd recently broken up, plenty of alcohol--it should have been perfect. But instead, it was fun, people enjoyed themselves, the broken-up couple were lamentably discreet, and even the dog behaved. I'd say I'll do better next time, but I guess my commitment to comedy has limits.

You've ruined my life!

Lots of little things went wrong with our wedding including worrying all night that the priest had left before we could sign the Marriage Certificate (turns out we didn't have to) and brother-in-law drunkenly playing matador with a minivan, etc, although nothing catastrophic thankfully. The thing I'll always remember most though is that our DJ (who got somewhat drunk and kept hitting on my youngest sister) was supposed to play "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" by Elton John for our first dance. Instead, he played the version from the Lion King movie. The one sang by cartoon characters that ends, "In short, our pal is doomed." The whole room laughed. At the time I was mortified, but now I can see the humor.

A warm-up of sorts for the hootenanny: Just got the invite for a close family member's wedding. It's addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Onename. Which is so many levels of wrong. We're not newlyweds, so it's not a simple mistake. In fact, we've sent them 10+ years of cards with both of our first and last names on the return tags. (And they're younger than we are. So they can't even blame generational sexism.) Anyway, in addition to the lavish gift we've got planned (because family) are we allowed to get them something engraved with the wrong name on it? Or when the inevitable baby comes, do we have your blessing to forever refer to it by their cat's name?


The joys of not having a wedding. My aunt recently had to dispurse my grandfather's estate and kindly asked if I would like to have my grandmother's china. After I replied that I was really touched she'd thought of me and I'd be delighted to have the china I found out the real reason I'd been thought of by my aunt. In her words, "Well cousin 1 got her china when she got married and cousin 2 received her china when she was married. Sister 1 picked out her pattern when she was married as did cousin 4. Cousin 3 is not married but we have high hopes for her, so I thought of you!". -The family spinster

Two stories from our wedding: 1. We got married in a lovely historic home in Tulsa, OK. As part of the décor we had scattered tea lights in small glass holders throughout the reception area, placing on some of the deeper-than usual window sills. Post-ceremony my husband and I were having pictures taken while the guests enjoyed cocktail time. While doing the photos, I started to smell smoke and wondered if the caterer had burned something. As it turns out, one of my husband's guests was a dyed in the wool (or should I say polyester?) Oklahoma cowboy who showed up in one of those great 1970's western-styled leisure suits. He sat down in one of the window sills, somehow failing to notice the flaming tealights that were already resting there. Sure 'nuff, his suit went up in a cloud of chemical smoke! Thankfully the guest wasn't hurt, but the entire back of his suit jacket was melted. He and his wife left very shortly after that. . . 2. My at-the-time 81 year old grandmother had my father, my sister's fiancé, my husband and my mother's boyfriend bringing her drinks. Without any of them knowing that she had already been supplied by one of others. By the time the dancing started, grandma was WASTED. To the point of falling down on the dance floor. To this day (she turns 100 this fall!) she claims she fell victim to a new pair of high heels. But I have photographic evidence that she had ditched the shoes well before taking to the dance floor. My tee-totaller maternal grandmother was absolutely scandalized by the scene. To this day, when I mention my grandmother the family response is "the one who fell on her ass at your wedding or the other one?". We've been married for almost 20 years now. I'm a firm believer that it is the things that don't go right that make for a memorable event!

If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.

Mine happened before the wedding. Because we lived on opposite coasts, the first time my parents met my husband was when we were planning the wedding. They thanked him profusely for proposing to me because at that point they'd given up all hope that anyone would want me and they feared I'd never get married (and give them grandchildren). I was 26 when I met him and 29 when we got married. Oh, and my grandmother started knitting baby blankets for me literally the day after the wedding "Just in case."

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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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