Should I just tell my parents to go to hell?
August 31, 2009 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Should I just tell my parents to go to hell?

I am looking for your opinion and possibly some words of encouragement.

I've been planning our (my fiance and my) destination wedding in Europe (Italy) for the last 4 months. It is happening next June. Our peer group, her family, and some of my extended family members are thrilled. My parents have been less than enthusiastic. I want to stress that they do love my fiance'. When I originally approached them about the idea, I was presented with a laundry list of "reasons" that it was a bad idea and why they didn't want to go. Most of those 'reasons' were very irrational and should have been easily to deal with. I sat them down and tried to address their fears as best as I could. I thought I did a good job, because they actually shifted their answer of 'no, we aren't going, to a 'we'll see'. In fact, my dad even approached me and my 2 siblings on the side and said that he actually wanted to go and that it was a good idea. He'd "try to turn my mom around". So, optimistically, I continued the planning, booked the venue, booked the honeymoon (which jumps off from this European city) and kept them in the loop the entire time. My updates were met with (what I perceived to be) enthusiasm. Yesterday, the situation with them really deteriorated.

They sat me down to talk and all of the "reasons" they had cited before were brought up again. Here they are to help you understand what I am dealing with. What they (mostly my mom) said is in quotes.

"We can't leave the animals alone." (even though we take care of our neighbors dogs all the time and they would no doubt do the same for us.)

"They don't speak English there." (even though, people do speak English there because the city is full of expats, tourists, and many Europeans KNOW ENGLISH!!!!!!!!)

"I don't ever want to leave the country, ever! You know that! I don't want to leave the United States. "

"It is too far." (an 8 hour flight compared to an 18 hour drive they make to Florida?)

"We aren't interested in that place."

"It is too extravagant, NO ONE else we know does this, EVERYONE we talk to thinks it is selfish and a bad idea, and we don't understand why you couldn't just have stayed home."
(That doesn't change the fact that I have already made the commitment to go, sorry your social circle is limited, because certainly not EVERYONE thinks that. They don;t understand why I can't have my wedding like they did in a local church and the reception in the basement or at the VFW.)

"That place is full of crime and we will get robbed by gypsies who target tourists."
(By that logic, we shouldn't ever leave the house.)

"Your {17 year old} sister can't go. Because she will probably get kidnapped."

"You know I can't sleep in hotel rooms. If I'm tired, I am going to ruin the wedding."

"Your dad only pulled you, your brother, and sister aside and told you all that he really wanted to go because he didn't want you to be mad at him." (Dad, is this true, even though you said you'd be willing to go, and that mom was wrong for not wanting to go, you don't really feel that way?). "Right, I don't want to go."

"I hope that you realize, that by doing this to us, you are changing our relationship forever". (Mom, when I started to suggest this to you before, you screamed at me that it was manipulation, and how dare me. Now you are saying it to me?) "Well, it's the truth."

"It is too expensive." (even though now I would pay for their housing and all they need to do is buy 3 plane tickets and bring spending money. They can, for a fact, afford this.)

"What do you expect us to do, not buy gas? Not buy food?" (Mom, you just offered me a wedding gift of X dollars. I would like you to use that money to come to my wedding.)
"Well, that's not the gift we want to give you." (Mom, shouldn't you give me the gift we want, instead of the gift you want to give?). "Well we're just not going."

.......with every reasoned, logical response of mine to the above garbage met with, "In your eyes." / "Well that's just your opinion." My head just about exploded.

I left. I then got point by point summary text messages from my younger sister about how my mom is calling members of my family to tell them what a horrible son I am, how I am leaving our family for 'her [my fiance] and her family' and how I don't care that no-one on my side can come to the wedding.

Bonus sidebar: Throughout my life, my mother has resorted to childish name-calling and/or retorts like "well that's just your opinion' when "arguing", so a lot of this isn't surprising. She has been on and off of antidepressants (currently off), and my dad doesn't have the guts to stand up to her - about anything. She has driven her siblings and her friends away with her behavior, so I am reassured that I am probably not being a horrible ungrateful child. I'm 27 and currently live with them (temporarily - moved back to save $) and am just about to buy a house and get the heck out. ASAP.

So some of the other my mom/dad/parents are horrible help me get over it threads have been helpful. I am having my wedding. It doesn't seem like my parents are going to come. For ridiculous reasons. How do you just let go?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (104 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Have your wedding. Invite your parents. Don't argue about it with them, just say "This is our wedding, and we'd love it if you could make it, but if you can't, that's too bad."
posted by Oktober at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2009 [36 favorites]

You know, my parents think I'm like a world traveler because I've been to the East Coast and Canada. Some people are just homebodies and nothing you can do will drag them to some far-flung country. I've had to accept that they'll never get on a plane and that their idea of an exotic vacation is driving from Southern California to New Mexico.

Can't you just stage a honeymoon in Italy and a wedding domestically? A lot of other guests might not really want to pay airfare to Europe. Heck, I thought it was asking too much when my San Francisco friends held a wedding five hours south in Bakersfield.
posted by Kirklander at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is your wedding, not theirs. It sounds like they have the means to join you on this very important day, but they have made the choice not to be there. It kinda sounds like your mom is freaking out because this situation is beyond her control. I wouldn't worry about the type of impression that she's making with your extended family, since they've probably all grown up with her and take everything she says with a boulder of salt.

The next time your dad pulls you or your siblings aside to tell you that he wants to be there, tell him that he is welcome, with or without your mother.
posted by scarykarrey at 1:06 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whenever they say something obviously insane, you just ignore it. it's like they never said it. And if they tell you they can't come, just say "That's too bad. We really want to have you there with us."

Their (her?) reasoning is irrational and so there's no argument that can be made. Let it go. People can be irrational and something they're also related to you. She's trying to wear you down. Her mind is made up. It's a game you cannot win so do not play it.
posted by GuyZero at 1:07 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's not a reflection of any kind on your worth as a person. It is a reflection of how fucked up they are.

Commit that to memory and it will be helpful throughout your life as you interact with difficult people doing hurtful things.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:07 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I had a very similar situation with my wedding. My parents didn't like the idea (theme wedding), and I got reports of my mother badmouthing me across her group of friends and relatives.

We went ahead and did it anyway. She was not paying for the wedding, so she had no say in its plans. She tried to dissuade us in every manner possible, including hurling horrible insults at my now-wife. We labored ahead.

It was the wedding we wanted and the happiest day of both of our lives. Parents be damned.

Do what you want. It's your wedding (hopefully your only/last wedding). Make it yours.
posted by arniec at 1:08 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

p.s. Or you could go the dual-wedding route, like some people I know who had a big show-offy wedding in Tokyo and a humbler affair Stateside for the older folks who didn't feel like jetting to a foreign country.
posted by Kirklander at 1:08 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

It's your wedding.

The most important people that have to show up are you and your partner. The next most important is the priest/lawyer and some official witnesses, whatever local law requires.

The rest are up to you and your partner, and nobody else. The wedding is for you guys. So is the celebration afterwards. Everyone else is simply invited to celebrate with you.

So all psycho-analysis of the situation aside - what really matters here is whether you are willing to get married without your parents present.
posted by TravellingDen at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2009

Yeah, whatever you do, stop letting yourself get dragged into arguments about it. Let them know that you've stated your case, that you love them, that you want them to be there, and that you'll do whatever you can to make their trip safe and comfortable. If they choose to decline, that's up to them.
posted by hermitosis at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2009

Your wedding. Not their wedding. Invite them, say "We would absolutely love to share our day with you". And then go ahead and do your thing. From what you described, there is simply no logic or reason here, so not even worth an argument. Your wedding sounds wonderful and congratulations to you!
posted by meerkatty at 1:11 PM on August 31, 2009

Okay, your mom's scared -- you get that, right? She's freaked out by overseas travel. My mom's freaked out by her computer mouse. They're moms. If your question is, is it okay to plan a destination wedding and ask your close friends and family to go: I think "Europe" is a little more "destination" than I would personally expect from a destination wedding (assuming you're in the US), but I am not very glamourous. I think it's a lot to ask from your guests, but it sounds like they're all into it and excited about it, so that's great, and you'll have this cool memory and that's fantastic.

Whether or not your parents have the money for it, or could resolve any of their complaints by other means, isn't your battle to get into. Part of having adult boundaries with your parents means it has to work both ways -- you're not going to want to deal with that kind of argumentativeness when they're trying to convince you to try for your fourth kid or whatever because you totally have room in your house or your brother did, so you have to as well. You don't want to indulge in arguments like that, even when you're right, because it sets a precedent that will never freaking end.

So, the subtext is, mom is scared and the basic deal is, mom doesn't want to go. So, given that everybody else is super-psyched, and they're not on board, this is what I would do: I would get married the day prior to flying out with my fiance, my mom and dad, in a simple ceremony at their house, and then everyone goes out for a great dinner. I can tell from your post you've got that wicked pissed streak that's probably the length of all the years of your life, and you're going to have to trust me when I say, believe me, my friend, I get it. But they're you're parents, and they will annoy you upside down and sideways for ages until you start to think it's funny (if you get lucky, it will someday be funny.) Do what you can to make life good for everyone, you won't regret it.

(And don't tell any of your other guests, or anyone else, about the secret pre-wedding, wedding.)

Congratulations. And I feel your pain.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2009 [34 favorites]

Worst case scenario: you have the wedding without your parents and sister there. Sad, and they'll definitely regret not going later, but it's your and your fiancee's day, you're paying for it yourselves, and it sounds like it'll be beautiful.

More likely better case scenario: you go ahead planning, making it clear that This Is Happening with or without them. Your mom (since it sounds like she's calling the shots here) realizes that she might miss one of the biggest days in her son's life and gets on board quickly.

If your sister were 18, I'd recommend figuring out a way to pay for her plane ticket yourself, but since she's a minor that would definitely just create more drama. Maybe she can do some stealth work for you, though? Like, maybe she could do some research about the beautiful places she'd see in Italy, drop some (subtle and not whiny) hints about how much fun you would all have there.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2009

Realize that all their excuses are not made from logical reasoning, they are products of irrational emotion. However much you try to reason with them logically and intellectually, it's not going to change their feelings about your wedding. If they were really enthusiastic about coming, no financial or logistical difficulties will be an obstacle.

You should hear them out, listen to their concerns and be sympathetic. Maybe all your parents want is to have some input/ control on your wedding, and your decision to have it in Europe deprives them of this control. This doesn't mean you have to change your plans -- all you have to do is listen.

Lastly, I would just have two receptions to make my parents happy. Is a small reception in a local church too much work? Especially considering you will have your parents help, and it would be near your home.
posted by moiraine at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think most people who have destination weddings like this expect most people not to come (for whatever reason--money, difficulties traveling, etc.) and know that going into it. It's a shame that your parents can't overcome their resistance to going to Italy, but it sounds like they want you to change your mind because of how it makes them uncomfortable. They've evaluated their priorities and being at your wedding is lower than some of those things on their list. That is their choice.

Express regret that they will not be attending and leave it at that. If that are that against it (and working really hard on getting you to change to make them happy), there's nothing you can say. Accept the situation and go and have an amazing time anyway.

Congratulations by the way! I hope your wedding is all that you hope for!
posted by Kimberly at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I agree with Oktober. You've made your plans and you should go through with them.

I would suggest having a small reception back home when you return from your honeymoon. You obviously want them to be a part of this, and your father and sister want to be there for you. I am sure that your mom does as well, even if she is making this extremely difficult.

Congratulations and best wishes to you and your fiancée.
posted by YFiB at 1:14 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah you really just need to make it clear to them that it's their choice whether or not to attend -- and if they don't, it's their decision, not yours. It sounds as if you've been gracious and communicative thus far.

And when this gets thrown at you again (as I'm sure it will be)

"I hope that you realize, that by doing this to us, you are changing our relationship forever".

make it clear that if your relationship does indeed "change forever," that'd be mom's decision, not yours.

Your mother frankly sounds pretty histrionic and I have a feeling that even if she does refuse to attend your wedding, and spends a bit of time feeling sorry for herself about it, she won't consider the two of you estranged -- who is she going to complain about without her ungrateful son around, after all? I realize that sounds pessimistic, but it's pretty much been the rule in my family.
posted by trunk muffins at 1:15 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I guess I'd say tell them to go to hell, but do it with class: "Mom and Dad it would mean so much to me and (insert fiance's name here) if you would come to our wedding. This part is optional: If you need help purchasing tickets, I can afford and am willing to chip in x amount. If you can't make it, we'll understand and send lots of pictures." Love, anonymous.

Then, the ball is officially in the court and you don't need to worry about it anymore. They'll RSVP or they won't.
posted by bananafish at 1:15 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm 27 and currently live with them (temporarily - moved back to save $) and am just about to buy a house and get the heck out. ASAP.

Oh, jeez, yeah, I just saw this: you guys sound like you have family boundary issues and you're right, God, get out of the house.

Everybody needs to transition to the idea that now, you're all adults. That's a really hard transition for some families to make, because they're in the habit of acting the child and treating others like children, and they don't know how to break out of these roles they've had their whole lives, but it sounds like this is kind of a moment where you and your parents can define your relationship differently -- or at least, you can -- so you're not eating Xanax by the handful at Thanksgiving dinner.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:17 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

HEre is the thing you cant expect your parents to want to travel all the way to italy to see your wedding. You should have known that people might not come since its all the way in italy. Going to another country takes a lot of planning including having to get a passport and things like that.

Keep that in mind. Unless you plan on paying everything for them then you cant be upset at them not wanting to go. A european trip from the US can be awfully expensive considering the euro is doing better then the dolalr right now.
posted by majortom1981 at 1:18 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

"I hope that you realize, that by doing this to us, you are changing our relationship forever"

I recommend this response: "Mom, that's not necessarily a bad thing."
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:20 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

She has driven her siblings and her friends away

my mom is calling members of my family to tell them what a horrible son I am, how I am leaving our family for 'her [my fiance] and her family'

Sounds like she is terrified that after you leave, and maybe your sister, she will have no one. The fact that you're getting married so very far away from "home" makes this seem even more real.

She'd probably prefer that you don't get married at all, but she's sane enough to realize that's not an option. She's throwing up any roadblock she can.

That doesn't make it right, but you might try making it clear that you're much more likely to visit or call her if she doesn't act like a crazy person.
posted by amtho at 1:20 PM on August 31, 2009

Have the wedding you want. At this point you seem to be too far down the road in planning to back out now. Have you put deposits down on venues, purchased tickets, etc.? Have your other guests booked time off work, purchased tickets themselves?

How is your fiance' going to take it when your mother torpedoes her wedding? At this point if your mother manipulates you into doing what she wants, your home life will be hell. You would basically be illustrating to her that your commitment to her may, in some things, be subservient to your mother's interests. She will probably feel that she has to take on the task of resisting her negative influence over your lives, pitting her against her directly. You will have lost control over your relationship with your family.

If you show your fiance' now that you are willing to take your mother on and deny her control over your lives, she will probably allow you scope to continue managing that relationship yourself. Even if your mother decides not to speak to you after you denied her what she wants, at least you will still be able to take the furtive secret phone calls from your father and siblings that will no doubt come, and you will be able to maintain control over any eventual reconciliation with your mother that may occur.
posted by rocketpup at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've seen similar situations with people who have driven their siblings away; there's little that can be done to sway them. As you already know and will probably hear in other replies, most of these objections aren't based in reason but in emotion. I'd call some of them passive-aggressive and manipulative. So kudos to you for trying to reason them out, even if reasoning is a lost cause.

It's unfortunate that this is happening during what should be a special time, one where you'd hope friends and family would be supportive and encouraging. But there's nothing like a wedding to bring out territoriality, inter-family jealousy, pettiness, and more in healthy family units and otherwise. Couple that with leaving the nest and you have a recipe for emotions to boil over. There's not a lot of compromising that can be done here; I mean, changing locales is probably right out. However I would suggest that you make the following attempts to accommodate some of the less emotional objections, then call it a day if they still won't come around:

See about getting them accommodations in a Bed and Breakfast as opposed to a hotel.

See if there's any money to offset the cost of their transport so they can get the present they want.

Offer to board the animals.

If they don't seem amenable to help on these fronts, wish them well and say how much they will be missed at your special moment. This level of obstinacy isn't going to be satisfied with anything other than getting things their way.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:23 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to give my parents trips to places they'd never been, using my frequent flyer miles. They were thrilled to go to Hawaii, loved California, had a great time in NYC, and thought the American Southwest was the bees knees.

Then, after some discussion, I gave them first class tickets to Europe. Suddenly, they (particularly my Mom) had a lot of problems with long distance travel. There were even more problems when I followed up with a full service ground tour package that was to take them through 7 countries in 21 days, by custom coach tour. The closer it got to tour departure date, the less enthusiastic, and the more fearful my Mom sounded in phone conversations. I didn't get it, but eventually, they did go, and had a grand time, making some long term friends from others that they met on the coach tour.

It was some years later that my Mom explained to us all what was really behind her reluctance. She'd been adopted, as a young girl, about 1926, and as a result, she didn't have a birth certificate acceptable to the U.S. State Department for issuance of a passport. Despite having been a Federal employee for over 20 years, with security clearance, she didn't know, until a few days before that European trip was leaving, that she'd be able to go. Finally, she was issued a provisional passport, good only for that trip, and that was the only time she ever left the U.S. For all her life up to then, and for years after, until, for other medical reasons, she finally told us of her circumstances, she had felt it disloyal to her adoptive parents, to admit she wasn't their daughter.

So, I relate this, simply to say that there may be other issues at play, that you simply don't understand, that are causing your Mom to try to avoid this trip. Accordingly, don't tell your parents to go to hell.
posted by paulsc at 1:23 PM on August 31, 2009 [10 favorites]

Amazing how close the words your mom uses are to those mine uses. I didn't have your situation with the destination wedding, but I have had many, many conversations with my mom trying to convince her to go traveling with my dad overseas (he's retired and would love to see the world; they can afford to do it; they never go anywhere, rarely even take vacations).

I suggest moving forward with everything as planned. I have a suspicion that when she realizes that you really are going ahead with it with or without her, she will actually end up going too. And, if this doesn't happen, then you have to be OK with her/them not being there. But I hope and suspect that she will have a change of heart when she realizes that her manipulations are not working.

The badmouthing of you to other family/friends is hard to swallow, I can understand that, but remember that they probably know your mom well enough to know the things she's saying are not 100% true.
posted by rio at 1:24 PM on August 31, 2009

I'm 27 and currently live with them (temporarily - moved back to save $)

It's easier to stand your ground as a self-sufficient adult when you are not dependent on others. While it may not cost them much to provide your room and board, it gives more weight to their financial concerns. You are saving money in part (I assume) for a destination wedding in Italy. They are helping you save money by providing room and board. So in a way, they are subsidizing your wedding.

So yes, you can tell them to go to hell, but have your bags packed beforehand.
posted by Houstonian at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

I don't have kids but if a sibling wanted to have a wedding in Europe I'd think it was overly-extravagant and ridiculous. I wouldn't want to go. I wouldn't want the trouble or the expense. But, I would not expect that to affect the plans of anyone but me.

The extent of the drama here is a sign to me that you have not yet separated your life from your (manipulative) mom and (wimpy) dad. If you are getting married, it is high time you do that. Continue to say they're welcome to come, and shrug off any argument. Their decision is to go or not go. Nothing requires you to engage in any more of these arguments. Simply decline to do so.

[on preview] Oh god you moved back in with them at 27? Well no wonder. Move back out. Screw buying a house. Become a self-sufficient adult first. Then take my advice. THEN get married. If it's planned for next June you better get busy.
posted by fritley at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm with the Llama...she is scared about traveling outside of the country. People are allowed to be scared to a certain extent even though most of her arguments are complete garbage. You seem to be focused on her obviously false arguments but not addressing the root cause that she isn't comfortable about world travel. Some people like the unknown and think it is exciting, for others this is a source of unending dred. Just read through Ask Metafilter about people who don't like new/different/exotic/unknown cuisine. I don't really have advice for you how to mitigate this problem but I do advise you to be empathic about her concerns.
posted by mmascolino at 1:28 PM on August 31, 2009

To put it mildly, your question does not paint you in a very good light. To hell with your parents? Seriously?

If you want a destination wedding then have a destination wedding. But you need to accept that a destination wedding means that a lot of people that might otherwise attend your wedding are going to be unwilling or unable to: won't/can't travel, too expensive, too much time off, etc. Your mom has no desire to see Italy nor even, apparently, to ever leave the US. That's her choice. And 18 hours in a car is much different than 8 hours in a plane. The latter, for some, would be absolute hell.

All you need to do is say "Mom, Dad, I love you and I hope you can come to the wedding but I understand if you're unable to" and leave it at that, without getting into further arguments where you try to rationally dismiss her objections.

Also, those second fake weddings for the sake of people that couldn't make it to the real one are lame. Only bringing that up because someone already mentioned that.
posted by 6550 at 1:31 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Families (and social groups in general) breed contradictions of needs that can be extremely difficult to navigate. There are many different ways to approach these contradictions: the compromises that some people are suggestion (two weddings/change the wedding venue but leave the honeymoon) are one way to go. Adherence to abstract hierarchical models of family (filial responsibility) is another. Prioritizing one's conjugal/personal needs over parental needs is another.

In this case, your parents are prioritizing their personal/conjugal needs over their child's needs. They have not approached this in a forthright or compromising way (for instance, by telling you one has a crippling fear of flying or that their finances are about to take a bit hit from a bad investment or something). They are not treating you with respect or compassion. So, you should feel perfectly justified in prioritizing your own needs and those of your wife's-to-be over theirs. Without guilt or malice, simply say that you wish they could come, but it's too late to change the plans you've made. Offer them whatever consolation you think is appropriate (from "we'll have a live internet feed of the ceremony" to "we'll bring you a souvenir when we visit on our return'). Ignore what they say about your lack of filial love/loyalty etc. Know that in a family where one person has driven away a multitude of others, those others are likely to understand where you're coming from.

Be open to your feelings of love for them, and don't let resentments spoil your day. I find "these are the parents I have" to be a helpful point of meditation on parental behaviour (that is, don't focus on the parents you want and how they should behave, focus on the parents you have and what you can expect from them). Try to frame the negativity they are bringing to this event as sad for them (they are missing out on this) rather than as your responsibility to fix.

Congrats on your wedding, and I hope it all goes beautifully.
posted by carmen at 1:34 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

fritley: I don't have kids but if a sibling wanted to have a wedding in Europe I'd think it was overly-extravagant and ridiculous. I wouldn't want to go.

If my baby sister told me she was getting married on the moon I would steal a space shuttle to get there.

Some folks just aren't into travel. It sounds from your post that your mom has some underlying issues about "her family" "stealing" you from your family. That's sad and rough all at the same time and there isn't a whole heck of a lot you can do to change that.

Have the wedding you want. Otherwise you will have the wedding your mom wants and you'll end up resenting her for it. And, down the road, when you and your mom are both old and ornery you'll keep bringing it up over and over again and your grandchildren will roll their eyes over the creamed corn at Thanksgiving.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

What can I say? "I don't ever want to leave the country, ever! You know that! I don't want to leave the United States. " Have your parents ever been out of the country? Out of the state boundary? Out of the City Limits? Ok so only 23% of you have passports and only 10% actually use them to leave the country. I can see why a wedding in Europe would be quite a big deal. My father didn't attend my wedding and for me it really was not a big deal. It sounds as if the problem here is that you have built it up to be very important deal for you.

I think maybe you are going about this the wrong way and your parents feel like you are putting a gun to their heads and like children are trying to show dominance by saying no. You sound way too caught up in each others lifes. If it is important to you maybe think about the things about the location that might appeal to your parents. Do they have any interests that they can combine? Maybe it would be a good thing if they realise there is a world outside of the US and guess what, it actually functions ok on its own. If it really is important they are there then do a PR job on the location. Sell it to them and get them excited about it. In the end though, if they dont want to go and are determined to be stubborn then dont let it affect you. It is your day and about your future life with your partner of choice (unlike family that none of us get to decide). Good luck.
posted by numberstation at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to shut up after this, I swear:

Some of their discomfort may come from the fact that you're living with them to save money, yet spending a crazy amount of money on your wedding. They may feel a little taken advantage of, and since you don't get along all that well, that situation is probably no fun for them either. So they're already making a sacrifice on your behalf and maybe they feel like you're throwing it in their faces.

Also this:
Mom, shouldn't you give me the gift we want, instead of the gift you want to give?

I wish. But no. That's how I keep getting salad spinners every third year from my mom, who forgets about the other salad spinners. The gift is the choice of the giver, not the other way around.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2009 [17 favorites]

You're in a tough bind, and I feel for you. I know that it's your day, but weddings, even the very happiest ones, are frequently about compromise, especially if you want all your loved ones included. Is it possible that you could elope and then have a separate reception at home? That might take some of the burden off of your strained family dynamics.

IANATherapist, but it sounds like your mother is very uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, which is a very common and understandable. Big international trips, especially if you're not used to them, are very stressful. Weddings are very stressful. Dealing with upset family members is also stressful. All of these combined are going to amount to a massive headache, which may very well permanently damage your relationship with your parents. It doesn't sound like that's really what you want, especially if you're living at home, so I would say try to find some middle ground. It sounds like finances may be a concern here as well, and while I know you have requested their presence in lieu of a gift, that can make some people very uncomfortable, and you don't really have the right to make demands on how they choose to spend their money. I know it sounds silly, but it's still not your choice to make.

I know it might not fit in with your "dream wedding", but, speaking as someone with an enormous, very difficult to manage, family, sometimes you have to choose what matters most to you. Maybe you really want to go to Italy, but down the line, you may seriously regret not having your family with you. Italy will still be there, but, sadly, this is the kind of thing that can drive families apart. You shouldn't have to change everything to suit your mother, but if you want to maintain a relationship with her, it's important that you don't dismiss her concerns out of hand. If you're okay with breaking ties with your mother, then proceed as planned and don't let her get to you, but if that's not what you want, then you should proceed carefully.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2009

Take things into your own hands. Stop expecting them to take action (buying tickets: expensive and stressful) in order to make something you desire happen.

The best case scenario would be to make them believe that they want to come to your wedding. You haven't been doing very well so far in making it happen. Maybe you could ask your fiancée to help out with persuading them, especially since you said they love her? At least it wouldn't be the same argument you seem to be having with your parents over and over again.

What about just buying a set of tickets for your parents and your sister and calling it a done deal? I imagine they'd have a pretty hard time rejecting your invitation then. You can use the money gift they give you to pay off the tickets.

If nothing else, definitely go ahead and buy a ticket for your 17-year-old sister. I'm certain that she would love to attend, and she's by all means old enough to travel by herself at this point (also, assuming that she's a "good" kid, your parents ought to let her make these sorts of decisions by herself by now--and she'll most likely be 18 by next June anyway).

Disclaimer: I see destination weddings (unless family is spread across multiple continents) as pretentious and immensely inconvenient, so I'm playing devil's advocate here. Having said that, I'll never understand a parent who won't do anything in their power to attend a child's wedding.
posted by halogen at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ok, your mother's absolute ridiculousness aside...

Any halfway compromise in having an at-home reception when you get back, something casual maybe at your new home where you can wear your wedding clothes again, share your photos, and invite everyone (even those who went to Italy, along with those who couldn't make it) and just have something to eat, etc? Low key, nothing outrageous. You could even have a officiant there to renew your vows in front of friends. Might soften this blow for your mother.

Your mother seems daunted by the unknown aspect of the whole thing. She doesn't understand the destination wedding. She's also worried about losing you to your future in laws. There might be some jealousy and insecurity there. And if I were to guess, she probably doesn't like your future inlaws much for one reason or another.

Personal anecdote...

I'm having a destination wedding, within the continental US. It's stressful, I'm tired, I just want to have a simple wedding somewhere nice on our terms. If people can go, fabulous! If they can't, we understand. So far, both of our immediate families are attending.

Just... I don't think my dad is totally onboard with it. I think the only salvation is he's not paying for it, so that was music to his ears.

I think he probably doesn't really understand it really. You're eloping somewhere and telling people about it and inviting them? It's just not something his generation did. You either eloped or you got married at an Elks Hall. Out of my enormous family, just one cousin did a destination wedding and it was about 12 years ago. I think it's just foreign to his family, given their age and upbringing.

He hasn't approached the nonsense your mother has thrown at you by a long shot. Not all all. And God bless him, but my dad just doesn't have that internal mental thing that stops you from saying something to someone that you shouldn't.

For instance, he told his siblings, who are invited, that they were only invited "out of courtesy" and we "don't expect them to go." Everyone loves thinking they are getting a pity invite, amirite? And then he tells me that he's communicated this to people, as if he's bracing them for the horror of a destination wedding and also sparing me the need to send invitations. Then I tell him to stop saying stuff like that, that it's not nice to say to people, that they are still getting invitations, and I go home to take an Ativan.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2009

6550 and a few others who have suggested that this question is merely the OP bellyaching that his parents won't come to his wedding may have misunderstood the question.

What I have gathered is that, not only is his mother refusing to attend, but she also seems to be telling him that he's a terrible person for having made the decision to have a destination wedding, and it sounds like this might be her running M.O. for situations that are out of her control. Maybe I'm more sensitive to this type of situation because I've grown up with a similarly difficult parent, and it's possible that I'm reading meaning into it that isn't there, but it seems to me that the OP is asking more about how to reconcile the fact that his parents are treating him badly over his decision, rather than complaining about them not attending the wedding.
posted by scarykarrey at 1:42 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is a really good time to realise you can't make people want what you want them to want. No need to fight about it anymore, but you and your mother have different feelings about travel. You like it. She doesn't. You can't change her mind. She can't change yours. This seems pretty simple. What's making it difficult is that you wish you could change her mind, and she wishes you could change yours and for the same reason, so that she could be part of your wedding. So knowing that opinions will not and can not be changed for this purpose, accept it, and go on with what you want to do. Every time you think to yourself, gee, I wish the parents were coming, respond to your brain with the same statement, whatever makes sense, maybe "it would be nice, but I know they're not. Now, onto something I do have control over - should I register for a lawn mower for a wedding gift or not?"
posted by b33j at 1:42 PM on August 31, 2009

Should I just tell my parents to go to hell?

posted by Ironmouth at 1:43 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh god you moved back in with them at 27? Well no wonder. Move back out. Screw buying a house. Become a self-sufficient adult first. Then take my advice. THEN get married. If it's planned for next June you better get busy.

This. Your question sounded very complain-y and immature to me, almost like two high school kids who want to run off and get married, but have no idea what marriage is about.

They're your parents, and they're supporting you, financially? Take their fears/wants into serious consideration. Or pack up and leave home.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:45 PM on August 31, 2009 [11 favorites]

Half of the reasons your mother gave would be equally valid if you were getting married in some out-of-the way domestic spot. Would she not come if you were having the ceremony in your fiancee's hometown of East Bumblefuck, Wyoming? The woman is unstable.

If you could afford it, I would say to buy tickets for your family, give them to your dad, tell him that you hoped to see them all there on your special day, and then wash your hands of it. This is sort of a dickish guilt-trip move, but your mom is not open to rational dialogue.

If you can't afford that, and you've made a good faith attempt, have the wedding you want to have. Move out as soon as you can. And if sis is 18 by next June, at least buy her a ticket. Your mom does not get to hold everyone hostage to her whims.
posted by vilthuril at 1:49 PM on August 31, 2009

I didn't read all the comments here, so I may be repeating someone else's.

Last year, I introduced my girlfriend from Japan to my family. This was also the time when my parents decided to have a fight and to divorce. I can tell you how thrilling that was. (Note the sarcasm.)

My father was the one to cheat on my mom, while she was the one who left our home for work. Since that day, my mother has been acting without thinking, using my words against me, and blaming me for taking sides (while I'm trying hard not to).

There are also a lot of fighting and many other problems in both sides of my larger family which I was stuck in the middle of for my entire childhood.

Since I met my girlfriend and decided to move in with her in a few months, I decided not to give my phone number or address to anyone in the family. Frankly, I've been pestered and stressed for too long with family problems and I really want to spend some time "growing up" (in the adult way) with my girlfriend.

Your parents' attitude somewhat reminded me of my family in general. They accepted my girlfriend and are willing to visit her country, but it's all the problems they have that I've decided to reject for a while and that have been holding me back for so long.

All I'm trying to say is live your own life. Do what you have to do; or rather, do what you want to do, and come back to them a bit later. This may be your best option.
posted by remi at 1:49 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

moiraine: "Maybe all your parents want is to have some input/ control on your wedding, and your decision to have it in Europe deprives them of this control. This doesn't mean you have to change your plans -- all you have to do is listen. "

They have no reason nor right to expect any amount of input or control, as they're not paying for the wedding. If they were paying, whether in part or total, I can see where their input should matter, but they're not. With that said, all their irrational reasons for thinking the wedding is a bad idea should fall on deaf ears. If they want to skip out on an important day in their son's life because they're unable to come to terms with logic and reason, then they should be excluded entirely.

No child has an obligation to put up with any amount of such nonsense from people who are supposed to love them unconditionally. All the calls to family for bad mouthing purposes are proof that the mother's feelings toward others depend upon whether or not they act as she believes they should, and that's utter bullshit. A parent like that is best left forgotten until they're able to mend their burgeoning sociopathy. The father sounds as if he's either whipped or simply resigned to his fate as the husband of an irrational, illogical control freak, so he's obviously going to be of no help. If he's too cowardly to make a stand, especially in this instance, he's not worth the effort either.
posted by Wasabunchi at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your mom is irrational and frightened, possibly phobic. This is her issue to deal with. Your reluctance to just be an adult and say, "Here are the details on our wedding plans. We would love it if you would join us. I'll be happy to help you navigate the process of getting a passport and put you up at this beautiful old hotel/bed and breakfast if you'd like," is reflective of your issues with establishing and maintaining boundaries.

This wedding is yours and your fiancee's. Your parents, presumably, already had theirs, and if not, they're welcome to plan one for themselves anytime. Without asking your approval, I might add.

If you cave in and hold a separate wedding just for them, expect that to encourage this same manipulative behavior in the future, because you'd be rewarding the behavior you're complaining about. If you expect logical arguments to persuade someone against irrational fear, you're likely in for a lot of disappointments in your life.

I'd suggest you talk with dad. Lay it out there. Ask if he knows of any reasons (such as lack of documentation) that your mom has been reluctant to share with you. Offer to help with any that you're able to (passports, phrasebooks, etc.), and let it go. The choice of whether to attend is ultimately up to them, and what others think of you is likely not going to change significantly because your mother starts calling you disloyal for having your wedding in a place she's unwilling or unable to go.
posted by notashroom at 1:51 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Further advice on making your parents want to attend:

Also, if you do sic your fiancée on them, have her pick up a couple of travel guides on Italy or the city you'll be going to and bring them over to your parents.

Also, create and print out (make it look official) an incredibly detailed itinerary, including things like which airline has the most convenient flights, what kind of transportation they will be taking from the airport and from the hotel to your wedding, and what sort of tourist activities you have planned for them for each day of their trip. What restaurant the people recommend for dinner, even, and what dishes the chef is famous for. It's very easy to do it with the help of a travel guide (most of them will have suggested itineraries). Spend some time browsing the web and find out what the local events/festivals will be going on and make a phone call or two to find out how to get tickets for them.

Include details like when they have to apply for a passport, give the closest location to do it and list application fees. Even copy the health and safety concerns section from the back of your guide book. Make sure that they know that you will have taken care of everything. Show them that you have put thought into it.

Even though the itinerary might not be exactly what your parents will end up doing while in Italy, you can paint it as something tangible and concrete. Right now, an overseas trip seems like something scary and unknown, at some indeterminate point in the future (and your mother does appear to be anxious about the unknown). Handing them something as simple as a piece of paper could help change that (speaking from experience and as someone who loves to plan trip itineraries).
posted by halogen at 1:53 PM on August 31, 2009

Devil's advocate:

Keep in mind that you'll be doing this wedding in Italy, and for some people, that may be a lot for them to see you take on, and so they're going to worry about how things would go - would it be some sort of vacation disaster, or a great time? Hard to say, especially for people who aren't in your immediate social group and haven't seen you be an adult like your friends and colleagues at work...people like your parents.

I think some of your parents' fears about this are rooted in both a lack of control and just a lack of knowledge about how things work. Do you have Italian speakers on your team of people helping you get set up over there? Caterers, the venue, the clothes, the hotel, transport in town,'s a lot to plan even in your own hometown. There's just a lot of unfamiliarity for them to navigate. And for your first trip abroad to be your son's wedding...that's really, really a lot to deal with. It also sounds like your mom feels like she won't be able to have as special a role at the wedding as she would were you to get married at City Hall or the local parish church or something.

So while I totally, completely sympathize (I've been living abroad for three years and I'm finally getting a family visitor in a few days!), I guess I have to say that confronted with an extremely complicated, unfamiliar, expensive thing like this, what would you say - at their age, with their lifestyle?

They say they don't know anyone who's had a destination wedding. Of course not - how many people 25 years younger than them do they hang out with? In their day, getting married was a much simpler affair than today, and probably far more rooted in a local community.

All that said: Dad and your sister should come while Mom defends the homestead. They both sound like they'd have a better time with you than with your mom, frankly, and while it totally sucks to have to divide them up, I think you should do anything and everything in your power to get them over to Italy.

Best wishes to you and your family!
posted by mdonley at 1:57 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I ever get around to getting married, I'm definitely leaning toward a destination wedding. I'll invite some people, but I'll be completely understanding if they can't (or won't) make it. It sounds like your mom is being a bit dramatic - and I think it might have more to do with "losing you to her" (despite their liking your partner) then anything else - and chances are you'd run into some static if you were having a local wedding.

Have a great wedding - Italy will be a great place to have it!
posted by backwards guitar at 2:03 PM on August 31, 2009

You really need to buy your parents and sister the plane ticket. It's really "nice" of you to offer a hotel room and turn down what would be your wedding gift just to get them to come, but honestly, if they don't want to go to Europe, I don't see why asking them to foot the lion's share of the bill is appropriate just because they "can" afford it (and to a lesser extent, you feel entitled to this money already). If I were you, I'd even fill out their passport applications and cover those fees.

Your parents might be totally insane, but they are also very generous to let you live with them at the ripe age of 27 in order to save money for your future. You should try being a little more generous with your attitude and your money if you want them to be on board.

I personally think a destination wedding is pretty insane, but if you're going to spend that much money on a wedding anyway, you might as well give your friends and family the chance to see Europe! Perhaps this would be a good line to try on them.

If they really won't go even after you've made clear you're going to make this so comfortable and fun for them, you should probably hold a mini reception before you go for anyone local and include your parents. Normally I'd just say "it's your wedding day, do whatever" but I think in your circumstances they have been pretty generous and deserve that in return.
posted by shownomercy at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

You really need to buy your parents and sister the plane ticket.

On second thought, this is a good idea. If that's too expensive for you, you shouldn't be buying a home or having a destination wedding.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:09 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

Have your wedding. Enjoy it. Offer your parents and your sister the plane tickets, paid, and hotel expenses, too. If they still won't bite, let it go.

By frame of reference, my mother -- a very kind, sweet, funny, pleasant woman -- has yet to visit me in California (she's in the midwest.) It's been ten years. She has four-year-old grandchildren. Her excuse? "I don't like to fly alone." Last week I presented an option of me flying to get her, her flying back with me, then my wife flying her back on her way to an unrelated event in the same city. Her response? "I'll think about it." Which, of course, means no.

I know she loves me, by the way, and she loves my wife and my kids. She's just that kind of a person, where she has irrational fears and/or a deep-set laziness, and all you can do is make it as easy as possible for them to accept (ie pay for everything) and if they won't do it, let it go and enjoy your wedding without them.
posted by davejay at 2:19 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Heads up to your fiance. The wedding is the easy part.
posted by notned at 2:20 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't tell your parents to go to hell until / unless you have somewhere else to live and house all of your worldly possessions starting the second after you tell them to go to hell.

Otherwise, you will look like a spoiled eternal boy-child and not a grown man, sorry.

If you can refrain from telling them to go to hell, just invite them to the wedding with an official printed invitation and carry on with your plans.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:26 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I feel badly for your dad and sister. It sounds like they would want to go. It stinks that your dad won't put his foot down with your mom. But, I bet he's putting his wife's feelings ahead of yours. Sometimes that happens in marriages. Just like you are putting your and your fiance's feelings ahead of your parents and sister.

I feel most badly for your sister that still is under the care of your parents and really has to do what they say. I'd hate to be forced to miss a sibling's wedding.

Just another lesson that our actions come with consequences that affect other people. Don't write your family off - even if they threaten to write you off. Be the bigger and better person. Have compassion that they have real issues that prevent them from coming. It's too bad you didn't know about this before you planned your big day.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:27 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

my mom is calling members of my family to tell them what a horrible son I am, how I am leaving our family for 'her [my fiance] and her family' and how I don't care that no-one on my side can come to the wedding.

At this point it is pretty clear that travel to Europe, for a wedding or for any other reason, is not something your parents are capable of. They tried to tell this to you before but you weren't getting the message. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, there is simply no way they are going to do it and they've made that clear, right?

Your mother probably perceives herself as unable to travel to Italy. Not unwilling, but unable, just as unable as if she'd had a medical condition and was not allowed to fly, just as unable as if she had a criminal record and would get turned around at the gate. Despite this you've gone ahead and booked a destination wedding that she will be unable to attend. In that light (from her perspective) it is reasonable to feel slighted.

Should you tell her to go to hell? Personally, I think you should plan a destination wedding in the US instead; there a zillion great places you could go that would give you the dream wedding you want and that your parents would love to attend, and Italy will still be waiting for you when it's time for your honeymoon.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:27 PM on August 31, 2009

I agree with Oktober. Have your wedding. Invite your parents. Don't argue about it with them, just say "This is our wedding, and we'd love it if you could make it, but if you can't, that's too bad."
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:31 PM on August 31, 2009

Somehow I suspect that you could have predicted the wedding abroad would cause conflict and that you've repeated this type of struggle with your parents (mom) throughout your life. Living with them again has sucked you right back into your respective roles as ungrateful son and martyr mother. Honestly, is it really so suddenly shocking to you that she is xenophobic? You had to have grown up around this attitude, it doesn't just form overnight. If you have been living with them, rent-free, you do realize that you are now burdened with the psychic debt to your mother for putting you up, feeding you, doing your laundry, etc... I'm exaggerating to make a point- regardless of whether or not she did your laundry, she definitely feels that you owe her. You really have to free yourself from the neverending transaction entirely or decide that, maybe, you should give a little ground on this, not because her position is fair or reasonable, but because she is who she is (she'll never be the way you want her to be) and you accept it because she's your mom and you choose to have a wedding that she will attend. I support the former choice, personally, but I can understand making the latter...
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Please consider paying for the plane fare for your sister. At 17, she's old enough to go by herself and I'm sure that not going would just devastate her! I'm speaking as a little sister here: if my brother had run off to some fancy place to get married and I had to stay home b'c our mom was being unreasonable, I'd have developed a powerful resentment against Mom. Save your sister from that heartache and make it possible for her to go even if Mom refuses.

As to how to handle Mom and Dad? I've got nothing for you, sorry. Best of luck in getting them to see the light. Have a joyous wedding whether they attend or not.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 2:48 PM on August 31, 2009

There's a certain point where you have to parent your parents. With you starting a new marriage and thus forming a new family core, it's now your time.
This means laying down the law despite any and all tantrums based on irrational fear, bizarre bigotry or need for antidepressants.

I have a domestic destination wedding coming this December. I have also had family drama.
I am saying these things to you because I need to be saying them to myself, especially the "manage your mother like you would the two year olds you used to babysit for." Because at this point, your parents are toddlers in the realm of having adult children.

If you just want to discipline them, do your wedding and leave them home but let them watch through a video feed. If you feel the need to punish them, just pay for your sister to go. As a rule, discipline works and punishment usually backfires, so you know.
posted by medea42 at 2:56 PM on August 31, 2009

I've lived in Europe and I'd still be stressed about attending a destination wedding in Italy, especially in this economy. The older people are, often times the more stressful it is for them to travel. If your mother has issues with anxiety, then going to Italy is going to be extremely stressful for her, even if rationally speaking it wouldn't be as hard as traveling across the US.

I don't really understand the concept of a destination wedding anyhow, since.. it's not necessarily a destination of choice for any of the guests, yet they're expected to use their vacation time and savings regardless, and going all the way to Italy is a lot of time and money. It just doesn't seem very considerate of others. I mean, you moved back in with your parents, not because you had to, but because you wanted to - it seems like the least you could do is be considerate here.
posted by citron at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

Short answer, No, don't tell your parents to go to Hell. Tell them it's OK if they want to stay home while you enjoy your wedding and honeymoon overseas.

I like Terrible Llama's idea of having a little marriage ceremony pre-Europe, that your parents can attend, and then embark on the pleasure of the European wedding and vacation.

You do understand that there isn't, and never was, anything to be gained by arguing with your parents point-by-point, right? They just don't want to make the trip, and that's their choice. The reasons are there to try to convince you that their decision is defensible and worthy.

Lots of people don't want to make big trips, or leave their country, for whatever rational or irrational reasons. (I have close family members who have never traveled to see me, several states away, in 15 years -- I visit them from time to time, because I know they don't like to travel, and I do.) Even if everyone else in the world loved to travel overseas, your parents still don't have to defend their decision to stay home to anyone else, and trying to defend it from their son, who sees their reasons for it as 'garbage', seems to have released quite a bit of hyperbole, bitterness and anger on their part. Probably sadness, too. And even if your mother is being childish and name-calling, your belief that she should travel to Europe for your wedding is just a belief, not a universal truth. She has her own beliefs, and they conflict with yours. It happens.

I'm unclear why you're taking it so personally and why you're expending so much energy trying to move these boulders that are firmly attached to the ground. You're getting all worked up, why? Because they have desires and behaviours that you don't agree with? Because you want them to do one thing and they want to do another? You're going to have to learn to overlook things that seem insane and irrational to you as part of being married, so you might as well practice now! :-)

Allow them the grace of staying home and enjoy your trip. It sounds great.
posted by mmw at 3:05 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Please indulge a voice of adult reason.

The long established family dynamics are somewhat irrelevant, as people are what they are. The mother may be a little nutty, but the behavior patterns within the family are long established and aren't going to change, now or likely ever. In other words, this is something that must be "sucked up and dealt with" as are so many things in adult life.

The one aspect of the family situation that is directly relevant here is the fact that a biological, but perhaps not completely psychological, adult is living at home and being financially subsidized by his parents. This subsidy is, at least in part, enabling the happy couple to plan a so-called destination wedding. The point is that the parents, by virtue of their son's incomplete separation from them into some semblance of adult independence, are to some degree entitled to have a say with respect to how their money gets spent, whether it is spent directly or indirectly.

That all having been said, destination weddings are extravagant and, well, a tad pretentious. But as there is no accounting for taste and the current fashion in weddings does trend toward the over-baked, there is little to criticize on this score.

However, from a more sober perspective, destination weddings are selfish and presumptuous regardless of the socio-economic status of the guest list. The couple implicitly assumes that guests will not only be willing to incur a much greater level of expense on their behalf than would be the case with a local affair, but that they are willing and able to allocate a far greater amount of time as well (e.g., vacation time). This might not be the case with small groups of family and friends that routinely vacation together, but this situation does not sound like one of those very rare joined-at-the-hip social groupings.

So, what to do? One of the privileges of adulthood is the freedom to make independent decisions. One of the responsibilities of adulthood is the obligation to live with the consequences of those decisions. If getting married in Italy is really what you want to do, and you can independently afford it, then do it. Just remember that not everyone you invite will be willing or able to attend, and that there may be other consequences to your family relationships (logical or otherwise) that you may have to live with for a long time.

Welcome to adulthood! And good luck!
posted by SuzB at 3:13 PM on August 31, 2009 [13 favorites]

You're adults. It's your wedding. Have your destination wedding the way you want (and I like the idea of buying your sister's ticket, but your parents are her guardians, so I'm thinking they won't be into this). It's for YOU, not them. If you're worried about your relationship with your parents, have another, very small local wedding for people who can't/won't travel. Maybe even have it first so your parents don't feel like they're just getting leftovers. I know lots of people who've done this.
posted by katillathehun at 3:18 PM on August 31, 2009

Our peer group, her family, and some of my extended family members are thrilled.

You're absolutely sure all those people are "thrilled" about spending a week of vacation and thousands of dollars to attend your wedding? Are you going to be "thrilled" if any of this group plan their own exotic destination wedding in the next year, since yours looked like so much fun?
posted by timeistight at 3:22 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

1) Destination weddings are great for guests who love the idea. For those who don't, but who are obligated by social ties to attend, they're incredibly presumptuous.

2) Your mom is clearly in the second group. I don't know the reason, and you don't either, but the idea of attending this wedding has her in a panic. You simply have to accept that she has a good reason for not wanting to go. It may be some strange psychological tic, but, whatever--we all have those and we're not completely in control of them. On the other hand, maybe there is more to it--some kind of legal issue perhaps? It doesn't really matter. Whatever it is, it's very compelling to your mom.

3) Given (2), if you want your mom to be included in your wedding, you're going to have to make some change to your plans. I like Terrible Llama's idea of having a small wedding before leaving for your destination ceremony. Nobody else has to know. But please do it in a spirit of compassion and acceptance. If you do it grudgingly, it will be a bad memory for everyone.
posted by HotToddy at 3:34 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Maybe they can't afford it. Really. You don't know their finances.
posted by kathrineg at 3:35 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

My father was not at my wedding, (27 years ago) because he was actually IN Europe and didn't want to lose the tax benefits of staying there (even though we actually moved the wedding so as not to interfere with this). Incredibly, the world kept turning.

Now the bad news, my relationship with my father, never stellar to begin with, continued deteriorating from that point to where in fact I've spoken to him just once in the past 13 years. This kind of thing can cause huge rifts especially if the relationship is already difficult. It is too bad that they were not honest with you from the start, at which point I would have said that Europe will still be there, but get married here so that your mother can go. Fear of travel is a very real thing; you cannot just dismiss her fears as irrational (even tho they are)-- she thinks it's irrational for you to get married in Europe. It is more important to have your family at your wedding than it is to have a "dream wedding." Unfortunately it sounds like it is too late now, but like I said, she'll survive.

Can you arrange it so that there is some sort of two-way video feed so your folks can "be there?"

Finally, you get to kidnap your sister, because denying her this trip on their part is just mean.

Full disclosure-- I really hate destintation weddings. I have missed the weddings of good friends because it was more important for them to get married on some godforsaken fucking beach than to get married somewhere that those of us without the income or job flexibility could attend. I got the "well I guess my dream wedding just isn't important to you (not at the price of starvation, no), and you're not as good a friend as I thought" bullshit from them as well. That you would choose a destination wedding over having your mother there, and then blame the rift on her does NOT speak well of you. But then, I don't know what else is going on.
posted by nax at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2009 [9 favorites]

my younger sister didnt come to my cross-the-country wedding for a number of similarly stupid reasons. at first I was annoyed, then I just decided to let it go. I focused on enjoying my wedding with those who were there. my relationship with my sister is the same as always. in the long run I think your mother will come to regret missing your wedding but forcing the issue will cause more damage, and risk ruining a happy day for you and your fiance.

also, italy rocks!! (did my honeymoon there)
posted by supermedusa at 3:40 PM on August 31, 2009

Don't tell your parents to go to hell.

Your mom sounds terribly, terribly phobic about overseas travel--not xenophobic as it's usually meant, which is almost a synonym for bigotry, but literally scared shitless about going overseas--and even though she owns that, I doubt that she could change in time to be anything other than a) on the verge of a nervous breakdown for the entire trip or b) stoned to the gills on tranquilizers. Yes, she sounds very manipulative, and should have at least made a stab at dealing with her issues before it came to this point, and may have driven all her friends away, and you absolutely have the right to get married anywhere you have the wherewithal to get you, your bride, and a qualified official, but this is all beside the particular point: when she said, "I don't ever want to leave the country, ever! You know that! I don't want to leave the United States", you didn't have a rebuttal to that particular point, which I'm reading as, barring some further clarification of yours on this point, you went waaaaaaaay out of your way to plan your wedding at a location that you knew your mother wouldn't want to go to. Not to guilt-trip or anything, but this is someone who likes your fiancee and was willing to take you in at 27.

In other words, yes, your mom has to deal with her own issues, but maybe you've got some of your own? Because if this is a case of your using this to "win" a contest of wills with your mom, it doesn't bode well for your marriage.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:58 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

My mom wouldn't go Boston to Sacramento, CA for my first wedding. She kept us guessing about her attendance until the day before, with much hand-wringing and freaking out and no attempt to deal with her phobias about travel or anything. Just a lot of putting us on the spot over and over again.

She didn't get invited to the second one.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2009

Your parents really, really don't want to go to Italy. Don't tell them off, especially as they provide you with room and board. Be as loving and understanding as possible. They object to your choice. But you still get to make your choice.

Mom, I hope you'll decide to come to Italy for the wedding; we'd be devastated if you weren't there.

"We can't leave the animals alone." I know you hate to leave the animals, but I hope you'll still come; Bob would be happy to take them, and he's a great petcare provider.

"They don't speak English there." Lots of people know English, especially in hotels, restaurants and tourist places; you'll be able to be understood. And you can get US newspapers, and teevee in English

"I don't ever want to leave the country, ever! You know that! I don't want to leave the United States. " I know, but I still really, really want you at our wedding.

"It is too far." It is far, but I think you'll end up loving Italy.

"We aren't interested in that place." Well, there will be lots of people there you know.

"It is too extravagant, NO ONE else we know does this, EVERYONE we talk to thinks it is selfish and a bad idea, and we don't understand why you couldn't just have stayed home."
Yes, it is kind of extravagant, but we have our hearts set on it. Oh, please come, it will be so much fun, and we want to share it with you.

"Well, that's not the gift we want to give you." People get to choose what to give you. it's a gift, not an order that you place. You're living with your parents, but want to tell them to go to hell? Nope. You are welcome to plan the wedding of your dreams, as long as you pay for it. Your Mom is welcome to attend, or not.

You aren't listening to their (her?) genuine desire not to leave the USA and go to Italy. Accept her fears as being just as valid as your wish to have a destination wedding. If her fears keep her home, you'll miss her. Your wedding isn't until next June? Time to lighten up a lot.
posted by theora55 at 5:04 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think you knew very well what kind of reaction you would get when you planned a destination wedding.

To answer your question: No, don't tell your parents to go to hell.

A wedding is meant to be a public celebration of the joining of two into one. Having a destination wedding-particularly overseas, particularly with the economy what it is right now, and particularly when, let's face it, many USians are a little leery of foreign travel because to them it doesn't feel safe-well, I think it was more than a tad selfish for y'all to come up with this in the first place unless you guys all have the last name of Du Pont or Kennedy or something.

Your mom feels-rightly in my opinion-that your plans are equivalent to you giving her the finger. And you are, you know. Now, it's not right for her to act the way she is either, but from my viewpoint it is entirely understandable. So, since you are still planning your wedding in Italy, I think the proper attitude you should have for your folks is compassion and maybe just a little bit of guilt for putting them in this position to begin with.

One other thing. I'm sure others feel the way they do-but your mom is honest enough to let you know it up front.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:14 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

It's your damn wedding. You're paying for it, places have been booked, and thus you call the shots. You've even offered to pay accommodation costs.

Since the "destination weddings are selfish" drum has been beaten repeatedly and because I just luuuv projecting, this: I am leaving our family for 'her [my fiance] and her family'...

makes me think that your fiance's family doesn't live in the same country/continent as your family does. If that's the case, then it was going to be a destination wedding for one family or the other, and your mom needs to realize this.

If that doesn't get them to back off, you still don't need to tell them to go to hell:

As an American who's been living in Rome for the past 11 years, and up until recently was planning a destination wedding thanks to a multi-continental family guest list, I will be more than happy to explain why Italy (nor indeed any country) doesn't really need close-minded Reluctant Tourists like herself.

Dollars to donuts, it'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy of having a shit trip and guess who gets to hold their hand while simultaneously trying to juggle last minute wedding stuff?

Auguri for your wedding, hope you and the wife-to-be have a lovely time here & on your honeymoon, and leave the Reluctant Tourists at home.
posted by romakimmy at 5:15 PM on August 31, 2009

Just because he is living with his parents temporarily to save money, doesn't mean he is freeloading off of them. He may very well be contributing monetarily and still saving up for a house. His parents may also "enjoy" having him around! I don't think we can assume he is "not an adult yet" or that he "owes his parents" anything. I'm just saying.

And no, I don't live in my parent's basement.
posted by orme at 5:19 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I personally don't understand all the votes for buying their tickets. My brother got married in Hawaii, which when you are from Australia, isn't the cheapest place to get to. Though I was a student at the time I wasn't offered any help, nor would I have accepted. I had enough notice to save money away for the trip, and I had a great time. As did everyone who went.

My Aunt and Uncle had a few arguments about whether to go or not. My uncle sounded like your Mum, my Aunt wanted to go. In the end she came by herself and she really enjoyed it.

But yes, when you plan a destination wedding, you have to accept some people won't be able to make it. For whatever reasons. Very sadly this might include your parents.
posted by Admira at 5:24 PM on August 31, 2009

Although I can't imagine turning down a chance to go to Italy, I have to second the opinions here that both sides have problems with boundaries.

It's your wedding-- have it where you want and enjoy yourselves.

But accept that by having it in an inconvenient place, many people you'd like to invite just won't or can't go. Unfortunately this includes your mother. Stop trying to make her come. It's not your decision and you're not entitled to put her on an airplane when she doesn't want to go. (Nor are you entitled to decide what your wedding gift is.)

When your wedding is far away from many or most potential guests, it's a nice gesture to have a reception or a party or something in their area, to formally introduce your spouse. This could go a long way to defusing all the tension.

If you're lucky, backing off on the pressure might give your mother time to warm up to the idea. But really back off; in this situation even polite reassurances will come off as more pressure.
posted by zompist at 5:31 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have your wedding, and ignore the absurd accusations of being "selfish". They aren't paying for the wedding, and they aren't the ones getting married to begin with. Just be willing to deal with the consequences.

Tell your parents you would love for them to come, and perhaps help out with the cost of the tickets. Tell your mother than calling you essentially a bad son and a traitor is what has forever changed the relationship.

kathrineg: Maybe they can't afford it. Really. You don't know their finances.

You don't know if he knows their finances or not.
posted by spaltavian at 5:36 PM on August 31, 2009

One other thing. I'm sure others feel the way [your parents] do-but your mom is honest enough to let you know it up front.

posted by lalex at 5:38 PM on August 31, 2009

The two choices aren't "cave in" and "tell my parents to go to hell"--the best choice is always going to be "state my own position clearly, attempt to understand their position, and then do what feels right to me."

Also, I wish I could remember where I heard this: "Your parents are great at pushing your buttons, because they're the ones who installed them."

If it's more important to you to have your wedding in Italy than to make sure your parents are there, then you should have your wedding in Italy, enjoy it, and let your parents--who are adults--make their own decisions about whether or not to attend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:41 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

Maybe your mom doesn't want to up and say "Being in planes really freaks me out, and I don't think I could manage being on a plane for 8 hours without dissolving into a nervous putty, never mind the fact that at the end of it I'd end up somewhere where I can't understand anything and the culture is different from anything I've ever known." If they'll drive 18 hours to Florida, I would take that as another sign that flying is perhaps not on the top of her list of favorite things to do. But I doubt any parents want to admit to their children that they're afraid of things.

You can let it go by realizing that your mom is just not up for it. It's going to upset her if you have it in Italy and she can't go, because she loves you in her way, even if that way is a bit controlling and stressful. If she's been on and off anti-depressants maybe she just never found one that particularly worked for her, and means she still could be depressed, and depression is good at convincing people that things are impossible and everything is going to go as wrong as possible. I think you have to realize that while it's not your fault, it's not really your mom's fault either. You have to decide how important your relationship to your mother is, determine how likely this is to ruin your relationship with your mother, and then figure out the best course of action. Maybe the wedding is worth it, maybe it's not. But you have to realize that your mom doesn't want to go, and it's not because of you, and irrational excuses are often a sign of something deeper and harder to say. And even fears that people realize are irrational can still very much be there.
posted by that girl at 5:57 PM on August 31, 2009

Have your wedding, and ignore the absurd accusations of being "selfish".

Destination weddings are inherently selfish. A wedding is not just for the couple. If it were, you wouldn't have guests to begin with. To inconvenience people by making them spend thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, plus dressing up and a gift... well, it's selfish. Doesn't stop it from being a popular trend, but there it is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2009 [14 favorites]

To inconvenience people by making them spend thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, plus dressing up and a gift... well, it's selfish.

My boyfriend and I just got back from his brother's destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta.

It was the single best vacation we've ever had together, we loved every refreshing minute of it, and we fully intend to go back to stay at the location they booked -- a gorgeous, private, and astonishingly affordable villa on the ocean we would have never heard of otherwise -- as soon as possible.

It wasn't selfish of them. Frankly, they shared with us a wonderful gift by inviting us along.
posted by scody at 6:42 PM on August 31, 2009

Just to give you another point of view from your mother's perspective. I had battled anxiety and depression successfully for years before deciding to go on my first overseas trip to Europe. A trip I could afford, where I had total control over the itinerary, and that I WANTED to go on.

I had never been out of the country before, except to Canada. I was in my late 20's.

As excited as I was, as IN CONTROL of all of the arrangements as I was, as used to flying hither and yon all over the U.S. as I was (so it wasn't the "being in a plane" thing), and even being on anti-anxiety meds? I still had a meltdown complete with tears and freaking out three days before I left. I still couldn't tell you why. I had an amazing time and have been back many times since.

Fear does crazy things to people. Your mom is scared. Doesn't mean that you shouldn't get married--in Italy--if that is what you want. But she's freaked out.

Also, are you the first one in your family to get married? Because, like it or not, parents can see weddings as an opportunity to "pay back" all of the friends and extended family for the times when your parents were guests at weddings that THOSE friends and family hosted. Your wedding in Italy may mean that your mom is getting snide comments and nasty calls from Great Aunt Marge or those three family friends from the old neighborhood. Combine the either real or imagined bad vibes from disappointed acquaintances over not getting to attend the wedding with intense fear over international travel? Well, hello nervous breakdown and strained family relationships!
posted by jeanmari at 6:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, those second fake weddings for the sake of people that couldn't make it to the real one are lame.

Says some random internet person. For what it's worth, I, another random internet person, disagree. I hope that balances out.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:56 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider: from some of your mom's comments, it sounds like she's very sad that your wedding won't involve a significant number of family and friends. I can't imagine that everyone in your extended family and social group, let alone her social group, will be able to attend.... I'd doubt you even invited everyone who probably would have been invited, had you had your wedding in your own neighborhood.

It may be that your mother has imagined for years what it would be like when you got married, with all these images of a church (or other place) filled to the brim with people she knows and loves. She may have envisioned it as a great party, where she got to be the proud mother-of-the-groom, presiding over these festivities that a whole community participates in. She may want to show you off, or she may just want to share, or she may want all the symbolism of your marriage ceremony to presented to everyone who is most important to her.

Does any of that sound like it might be accurate?

If so, you may want to talk to your mom about some sort of secondary ceremony (as others have suggested). If you can have something planned that will let your mom feel like you're sharing your wedding, not just with your immediate family, but with everyone else who would have been attending had the wedding been closer to home, she may be happier with the whole scenario.

Lastly, even if everything I've said above sounds inaccurate, this much, at least, seems completely true: your mother is scared. Responding with reason to her strange list of complaints won't help at all -- instead, you need to look beyond what she's saying to find the root cause of her fear.
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:08 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a remarkably similar argument with my parents when I decided to hold a holiday event (that I've hosted for more than a decade) in another location. All logical reasoning was ignored. They eventually employed some pretty nasty guilt trips and nonsensical reversals-of-logic. They hurt my feelings and those of dear family friends.

I did as most people here are suggesting. "I'm sorry you feel that way. I really want you to be there, but I'll understand if you're unable to attend." We had a lovely holiday celebration without them, though we were sorry they weren't there. I called them to wish them a happy holiday, they acted a bit tender and tentative while being utterly self-absorbed and tone deaf. *sigh* I do think i did the right thing, though, both in sticking to my guns regarding the arrangements and my approach when I realized they were unwilling to be convinced.

I'm very curious to see how this holiday will play out this year, with the arrangements back to normal. It doesn't affect my day-to-day relationship with them, but it's sad to have seen that side of them.
posted by desuetude at 7:08 PM on August 31, 2009

I know your mom is being manipulative, but maybe you could try seeing her with more compassion, as someone who is terrified of traveling to Europe, possibly of flying, instead of someone who is getting in the way of your fun. She is diagnosed with depression, and depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. Does she ever fly or travel far (besides the Florida drive)? Driving is a lot different than flying in that 1) you control the timing of everything, 2) you/spouse drive the car, 3) you can stop whenever you want to eat, pee, etc., 4) You are not in the sky flying tens of thousands of feet over the ocean at hundreds of miles per hour... You get the picture. A lot of people are scared of things but act really defensive about it rather than seeming vulnerable.
Personally, I've never understood wanting to take the stress and expense of a wedding (even bare-bones ones can get costly to regular folk) and multiply it times the expense of European travel and dealing with people abroad to plan your event while you're here. Have a wedding here and a sweet-ass relaxing honeymoon abroad, I say. But that's just me.
Also, I know if I had a destination wedding abroad, my mom would be PISSED. She got married in a church and had the reception in a neighbor's backyard. It's just not something people did. I don't think your mom is unique in this way.

The fact that you're living with your parents to save money means if they weren't letting you live with them, you would not have as much money for your wedding, right? Unless your fiance or her family are paying. Y'all are in your late 20s, can't you move in with her, barring some religious or cultural reason? Hey, if you mom's Catholic, you could always tempt her with a side-trip to Rome and the Vatican.
posted by ishotjr at 7:18 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

To inconvenience people by making them spend thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, plus dressing up and a gift... well, it's selfish.

Count me among those who don't believe anybody HAS to do anything in regards to attending a wedding, including attend if it is a financial hardship. Also, if a couple is paying for their own wedding, then they are beholden to no one as to how it will have to go down. People who choose to have destination weddings do so because they have decided that that is how they wish to spend one of the most important days of their lives. If you've known people who are douchey and make you feel bad about not spending the money to be with them on that day, that speaks more of them than the entire subset of people who choose to celebrate their weddings in that manner.

Also, making the generalization that weddings are for the guests/families rather than the bride and groom is pretty damned antiquated. Who are any of us to judge the intent behind a destination wedding with what little information we have in this post? Or are we just using this as a platform to air some grievances that would be better directed toward the formerly-referenced douchey friends or family?
posted by scarykarrey at 9:18 PM on August 31, 2009

I live in the USA. I have had two sets of friends who got married in other countries and had a simple ceremony and small reception/dinner in the United States also for their friends and family who couldn't go overseas. I think it's a good compromise - you get the wedding you and your fiance want and you get to have a ceremony that your parents and sister can participate in.
posted by gt2 at 10:13 PM on August 31, 2009

How do you just let go?

By getting tired of this shit and deciding not deal with it, because all that negative energy brings you down. You're not at that point, yet. Notice how you're not only living, but reliving the drama and letting it get you all worked up? Don't do that. I have no idea why you're still so enmeshed in your mother's drama, she clearly has quirks. Accept them and continue loving her, but there's no reason to repeatedly let this stuff bring you down.

Look, you're 27, you don't need your parents permission for anything. If you want to have your wedding in Italy, then do it. If someone else, parents included, doesn't like it then that's their issue.

That said, don't tell your parents to go to hell. Just remind that you're an adult now, you're getting married in Italy and you'd like them to be there, but if they chose to miss your wedding, well, that's their choice.

Congratulations and have fun.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:03 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Something else from my own experience worth mentioning, though i bet my parents are significantly older than yours:

Look, parents get older. Eventually, they're going to be old, for real for real. Sometimes these sort of semi-paranoid or irrational tendencies can start to magnify. It's not a happy thing to think of your folks as people who are going to age and die, but in my own case (see above) I feel like i got an inkling of possible bad stuff to come. Luckily, i also get signs that my parents continue to think and be willing to change their mind and wish to stay engaged and positive.

I remind you of this because I think being sympathetic (if resigned to disappointment) is gentler on your psyche than being angry. And also be a bit on guard for little bits of irrational fear that could possibly be mitigated with a kind word.
posted by desuetude at 11:46 PM on August 31, 2009

How do you just let go?

By getting tired of this shit and deciding not deal with it, because all that negative energy brings you down.

Seconding this. You certainly can't control your parents, and you may not be able to disengage from parental drama 100%, but you can certainly minimize it by choosing not to invite it in.

I'll give an example that's not exactly the same, but may be instructive nevertheless. I have had goofy, ongoing, and often fair-to-partly mysterious health issues most of my life. (In medical slang, I'm a confirmed zebra, several times over.) My parents love me and certainly care about my health, but at the same time whenever I have a health crisis they are rarely supportive in any way that has been helpful (whether practically or emotionally) or reassuring. They usually respond to the oddities and ambiguities of my health issues with impatience and frustration, as if their exasperation will help me get better faster. (Other times they simply go straight into denial and disappearance mode.)

So, fast-forward to a couple of months ago. For reasons that are still unknown, I started having an upper GI bleed in the middle of the night. I called my doc, who sent me to urgent care, who sent me to the ER, who admitted me to the hospital for a few days. Tons of tests and procedures later (plus some awesome meds), they released me -- stabilized, but without a clear diagnosis as to what happened and why.

A few hours before I was discharged, I was talking to a friend on the phone from the hospital, and she said, "well, I should let you go so you can call your parents to tell them what's going on."

"Oh, I'm not calling my parents," I replied matter-of-factly.

She was floored -- even a little angry. Her argument was that I owed it to my parents to keep them in the loop, period, end of story. My argument was that history strongly suggested that doing so would cause all of us distress without any positive consequence. Feeling bad already, I simply chose not to invite anything in that would make me feel worse.

However: my refusing to tell them was not out of malice or disregard or disrespect; it was out of a clear understanding of what their limitations are. It's not that they don't love me; they do, and I love them. But I have finally learned -- or, at least, am learning -- that I cannot expect my parents to be who they are not, especially as they get older and their own frailties become more magnified. I cannot expect them to bear the stresses and ambiguities of my health crises with much empathy or equanimity. Therefore in times of vulnerability or need, it is in my best interests simply to seek that empathy and equanimity elsewhere. I don't demand of them anything they can't give; they don't have to feel put out, and I don't have to feel disappointed.

It's not the ideal parent-child relationship, maybe. But for some of us, this is the best we can hope for.
posted by scody at 12:18 AM on September 1, 2009 [7 favorites]

Another thing to consider: from some of your mom's comments, it sounds like she's very sad that your wedding won't involve a significant number of family and friends. I can't imagine that everyone in your extended family and social group, let alone her social group, will be able to attend.... I'd doubt you even invited everyone who probably would have been invited, had you had your wedding in your own neighborhood.

It may be that your mother has imagined for years what it would be like when you got married, with all these images of a church (or other place) filled to the brim with people she knows and loves. She may have envisioned it as a great party, where she got to be the proud mother-of-the-groom, presiding over these festivities that a whole community participates in. She may want to show you off, or she may just want to share, or she may want all the symbolism of your marriage ceremony to presented to everyone who is most important to her.

Does any of that sound like it might be accurate?

This is a really good point.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:46 AM on September 1, 2009

"It is happening next June."

UM, HELLO! You're not ready for marriage if you're this flummoxed by Mom's drama almost a full year before the wedding.

Man-up and move out. Support yourself AND save for a house. Show some maturity. Only splurge on the destination wedding if you can afford it.
posted by jbenben at 4:57 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

You know, assuming that a "destination wedding" is "inherently selfish" is, in itself, an inherently self-centered statement. I can only assume that the people who are saying this come from families and have married into families long established on this side of the Atlantic. Not all people in North America can claim the same. Many of my friends who have married in Canada where they, their friends, and their immediate families life, have had a major contingent of guests who had to take trans-Atlantic (or Pacific) flights to get there, in some cases more than half of the wedding guests have come from outside North America. Sometimes every choice is a compromise that puts somebody out.

There are different ways of viewing marriage. In some places it is a union of two families, or even four families. In some places, one of the individuals leaves their natal family and is adopted into the family of the spouse. In Canada and the US, the most common model is that it is a union of two individuals who both leave their families and create a new one.

Of course, these map out some very broad ideas, and there's a lot of overlap. But I think that taking some of those ideas about what marriage is, and figuring out what you, your wife, and your parents (hers too) think of them might help to figure out where people are coming from and what potential explanations/compromises exist. If you both think of marriage as individual and starting a new family, then that's great. If there's some differences in how the two of you see marriage and its relation to your extended families, then sort that out between the two of you first. Once you are on solid ground with your fiance and know what both of you expect the role of your extended family to be in your future, you can start thinking about what compromises and concessions make sense to you. You could start asking, either directly or indirectly, what your parents think marriage should be (and be prepared for the idea that they may have one model of marriage for themselves and a different model for you). It won't solve everything, but it might give you a way of talking about things in terms that take a step back from the difficulty of the wedding and give you a chance to discuss your parents feelings in more general terms.
posted by carmen at 7:06 AM on September 1, 2009

I was about to say that your parents are being very rude, until I read this comment:

"If you want a destination wedding then have a destination wedding. But you need to accept that a destination wedding means that a lot of people that might otherwise attend your wedding are going to be unwilling or unable to: won't/can't travel, too expensive, too much time off, etc. "

If I decided to have my wedding overseas, my mother couldn't afford it (she's retired) and neither could my sister (works part-time) and her children (either studying or working in low-paid jobs and without passports). If I decided to have it in a different part of the country, it would be difficult, and I'd have to help out and probably would tell my mum she didn't need to buy me a present as getting there would be enough for now. She would do everything to get to it, but it would make things difficult for some of my family, and it would have to be taken into account. There's a trend over here for hen parties that take place overseas - that means £200 or so on hotel and travel to get there. My flatmate is unhappy that a family wedding takes place on a Friday, because some of the family are teachers and cannot take this time off. Unfortunately you do need to take other people into account, as a wedding is a social occasion like any other. (Personally, if I get married, I want to do it on a whim, tipsy, and without concerns about what Great Aunt Madge thinks of my green dress. But then I'm really selfish. I'd end up being told to book Brighton Pier and plan menus.)

I sympathise - a lot of my parents' values don't fit in with mine, and if my dad was still alive I would have not wanted to be 'given away' as is the tradition, and I'm not at all keen on the idea of changing my surname which might cause a bit of consternation. And it's your day. But they're also your parents, and you need to decide whether to explain your side of things with a degree of firmness, or be resigned to them not coming and possibly bringing it up over every family dinner you attend for the next ten years.
posted by mippy at 9:18 AM on September 1, 2009

Oh - and my mum has travelled to quite a few places, but always tells me not to go to America because 'they've got GUNS!' (But mother, they have lots in London. 'Yes, but they aren't supposed to have them here.') Sounds like your mom is thinking in terms of the worst case scenario when it comes to visiting a strange, non-English speaking country...unless she has previously given the impression to you that she just doesn't have time for other nations. Talking may help.
posted by mippy at 9:20 AM on September 1, 2009

Here's my take:

Your mom is your mom, her mind is made up, and it sounds like it was made up decades ago.

If you're going to have the argument with your mom, don't bother disproving everything point-by-point anymore. Just tell her that you've *objectively* disproved each and every one of her arguments, and you don't want to hear them anymore. But, if she just doesn't *want* to go, then she should just come clean and admit it, and stop pretending that she's in any way justified in putting her phobia of foreign travel ahead of her child's happiness.

And, pull your dad aside, and ask him flat-out why he lets her keep his nutz in a jar on her night stand. Seriously, he should stand up to her, and go without her if need be. It may be too hard after a lifetime of not standing up, but you should let him know that this is the kind of thing where it really counts.

I probably sound quite harsh, but I've spent a lot of time beating back both my and my wife's families for being illogical (My own side of family being clearly the worse of them), and I've earned a few combat stripes. Sometimes, "tough love" goes the other way, too. Reveal to them that you know who they really are, and what they're really saying to you, between the lines. They're not fooling anyone, least of all, you.

And, I certainly hope that no one else in your family is buying into any of her complaints to them. That would be sad if you have to play defense by talking to them all yourself.
posted by Citrus at 9:41 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anon has been planning a destination wedding for the past four months. He specifically states that his extended family, friends, and the bride's family are all on board. We don't have enough information to qualify him as selfish or pretentious.

Anon is living at home with parents to save money. We don't have any information on what he is or is not contributing to his room and board at this point or what was negotiated with his parents, or if this arrangement has any bearing whatsoever on the quarrelling.

All we really know is that Mom has made her feelings abundantly clear about the Italian wedding. Anon needs to examine what his parents' expectations might be regarding his wedding plans, his imagined or real obligations to them as a boarder and as a son, and then decide if they matter to him. It would also be wise for Anon to admit that it's not so surprising that his Italian wedding plans are waaaaay out of their comfort zone and that this plan was destined to ruffle some feathers. In fact, Anon states that Mom is historically adversarial and concedes "a lot of this isn't surprising." So, Anon should also consider that he has unrealistic expectations of his parents. And, whatever decision he makes when he's clear-headed, should be without the need for validation from anyone but himself and his bride to be.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh, there you go again hellboundforcheddar - you always say it so much better than me:)

Specific to my comment and yours... it seems the OP knowingly courted this drama with his Mom, not because he chose Italy for the wedding, but by choosing to live at home and get caught up when drama (naturally!) ensued.

I think destination weddings are awesome. I also think the only 2 people who should have any say whatsoever regarding the marriage ritual are the Bride and Groom. Successful couples know this intrinsically.

If OP was appropriately focused on creating a wonderful marriage post-wedding day.... drama with the mama would be a no-brainer.

**The good news here is that OP has 10 months to move-out, man-up for his bride, and prepare emotionally to be the best husband he can be after the Big Day is over.**

Good Luck to the Happy Couple!
posted by jbenben at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2009

Per cent'anni!
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 12:20 PM on September 1, 2009

A wedding is not just for the couple.

Weddings are just for the couple. People are invited for the sake of the couple. Never invite anyone to a wedding who thinks it's anything other than the couple's big day.

To inconvenience people by making them spend thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, plus dressing up and a gift... well, it's selfish.

To be fair, I do hate it when I get kidnapped and forced to put on a suit and attend a wedding in another country, after being kidnapped and forced to buy high-thread count sheets for someone else.
posted by spaltavian at 3:13 PM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

carmen what you're describing is not a "destination wedding." What you're describing is called emigration. (Otherwise, point taken)
posted by nax at 7:19 PM on September 2, 2009

Well, it's not as if you haven't gotten more than enough comments on this already, but I thought I would throw my thoughts into the barrel, too, as I don't think everything I'll say has been said already.

Re: Family
If you (or others reading this) have seen some of my comments on MetaFilter before, you'll know that I don't really buy into the "do it for the family" thinking that is so prevalent in most societies of the world and in our kiss-and-makeup family television. I don't think family is inherently better, more reliable or more important than friendship not bound by blood relation. I don't think that sharing some DNA means much of, well, anything, so I don't believe you have a duty to uphold your familial relationships, simply because they're familial. It's from that perspective from which I'll speak.

That being said, I only believe familial relationships should be dissolved when they are truly strained. No relationship, related or unrelated, that you've enjoyed at some point should be needlessly or carelessly tossed aside. Your mother not wanting to fly to Europe, even for your wedding, is not enough to end your relationship with her or your father. You aren't ending relationships with friends who can't come, correct? I'm guessing not. So, no, "to hell with you" is not the appropriate response to your mother's reluctance to attend your wedding abroad. In fact, it's very immature. But, there's more to this than that, isn't there?

Re: Your Mother's Depression
Your mother sounds like she should be taking medication, when she isn't. There's a reason someone gets prescribed antidepressants. I haven't read all the comments in this thread, but of those I did read, no one took notice of this fact. It is actually hugely important. Though your response may seem immature when it comes to this particular issue, if your mother has mental health issues that she's refusing to see to, and that she's perhaps always refused to see to with any dedication (e.g., the on-again-off-again medicating), you have a lot of baggage when it comes to her. I'm sure that if that is the case, it's affecting your own ability to be rational.

Speaking as one child of a mentally ill person to (possibly) another, you sound like you've grown up with a really manipulative parent. For instance, what sane person says things like this: "Your dad only pulled you, your brother, and sister aside and told you all that he really wanted to go because he didn't want you to be mad at him." That is someone sick who is trying to pit you against someone else or, at the very least, stir the pot. A person that does stuff like that needs help, I think.

This may indeed feel like the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your relationship with her, and, you know, maybe it is. I say it only in regard to your relationship with her, because it doesn't sound like your father has the same sort of negative and irrational reactions that she does; however, it does sound like he readily enables it, which you may resent. I'm sure all of this is stressful, hurtful and annoying to you, probably much more so than some of the other commenters seem to think. If she has indeed been irrational--and vindictive, what with the calling of family to badmouth you--your entire life, maybe you do want to say "to hell with you," but not because of the wedding, and not in those words.

Don't think that such a thing would purely be about the wedding, because it surely wouldn't be. It'd be a culmination of all the heartache and manipulation of the past, and you would need to give it some serious thought and probably seek out some therapy.

Re: Dealing With This
If you have a negative history with your mother, due to mental illness, I'm not one to think there's much use in talking to the person about it. From experience, I've learned that someone who's ill and unwilling to take the medication that will help them is not very open to rational, calm discussion that could lead to healing wounds. Trying will only result in heartache and disappointment for you, so long as she's ill and unmedicated. (She's probably a completely different person on her medication, yes?)

If this is "the thing" that's tipped an already precarious balance that you had going with your mother, then so be it. Accept that, talk to a therapist and distance yourself from her in the calmest way possible. You won't be able to cut ties entirely, because of your father and sister, but cool your expectations, needs and desires when it comes to your mother. Depending on the severity of her depression and any cocktail of other issues she might be dealing with, she perhaps feels the world revolves around her; let her feel that and pull people (like your father) in, but don't be pulled in yourself. She doesn't have to go to your wedding, and nor does your father if he's unwilling to go without her. It won't kill you if they don't go. It won't kill you if she complains about it years down the road. You can just respond to her complaints with "I'm sorry you feel that way. I would have liked for you to come," and then move on to another point of conversation, even if she wants to keep talking about it.

It's easy when we have hard relationships with parents to become childish in an argument. Your post kind of feels like you've reverted to the confused, whiny teen in the process of trying to deal with your mother's irrationality and manipulative behavior. Don't do that now or in the future, for your sake. She's an adult. You're an adult. She has a mental illness that she's not seeing to. Deal with things accordingly; don't get drawn into the whirlpool.

Re: "Destination" Weddings
Regarding all the comments about destination weddings being selfish, take it with a grain of salt. I think that's only true if the destination would, in general, suck for your guests. Think of it this way: Have you chosen a place in Italy that they would normally enjoy visiting, regardless of your wedding? If the answer's "no," then you're being selfish 100%. If the answer's "yes," you're encouraging some friends and family to take a great vacation that they might otherwise never have gotten around to. That's actually pretty awesome, all around. And for those who can't come, realize that that would happen with any wedding. (And no, the wedding isn't really about them, but it's nice if you think of your guests, for sure.)

My fiance and I are having a semi-normal wedding shindig in Vegas next month, and there will be people flying in from all sorts of places. The fact is, as someone else pointed out in this thread, this would have happened, had we had the wedding anywhere. However, by having our wedding in Vegas, our guests have a lot of other fun things to see and do, should they come, and for fairly cheap (provided they don't gamble their life savings, that is). This is one of the reasons we chose Vegas. We knew that some would be traveling far for our day, and we wanted to make sure they had a good stay, not just a good wedding dinner. I hope that you and your fiance have thought of your guests in a similar fashion, because travel, particularly international travel, for a wedding is a huge deal that should not be taken lightly.

Anyway, I know this is long, but I wanted to give you some advice regarding your mother's mental illness, as I don't think it's been well-addressed, if addressed at all. As I've already said, you need to realize this is much bigger than just your wedding and her unwillingness to attend, and you need to evaluate your feelings with that in mind. Good luck with this.
posted by metalheart at 2:10 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your mother sounds crazy. None of the reasons given are logical. It's your wedding, so you and your fiance should do what you want. You are giving your family the option to come, but the wedding is not about them. If family can't accept that, are they really worth your time?
posted by Eastgate at 3:16 AM on September 3, 2009

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