Help can't suddenly grow strings, nor does it buy the right to insult.
September 10, 2010 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Parentzillas! My folks seem to have lost all manners when dealing with our wedding plans. I understand being upset at not having the level of involvement they prefer, but their behavior has become downright childish. I want them at the event, but they seem to be working hard to make that intolerable.

It's reaching critical mass. My family and I have wildly varying expectations; the fact that we chose the venue without their initial approval, met some vendors on our own, and aren't choosing to have more traditional overtones for the event, means that they've been feeling free to be as rude and insulting as they like. It's not like we're keeping them in the dark about our ideas. There has been a lot of communication about the direction we prefer.

We have tried making compromises - but for example, the fact that the caterer they want makes great food took precedent over the fact that he insulted and lectured me and my guy in front of them. It's been hard to agree on anything, especially with so many hurtful things said and done. My father keeps saying that he is embarrassed to invite his friends to "a dump" (which is amazing), that I am not his daughter, etc. He's saying this publicly to other people when I'm standing next to him. I can't understand this level of disrespect, for choosing what my own wedding is going to be like. It doesn't scale.

But, they're upping their use of past financial help as leverage, and this has been harder to deal with than anything else. They have been very generous, and I don't want to seem ungrateful. I just don't know where to draw the line when it comes to invisible strings tied to this generosity. I'm not asking them to pay for any part of this wedding, and helping me with money in the past can't actually mean they're paying for it now. That doesn't scale either. I want to express somehow that I appreciate them immensely, but I'm no longer living under their roof and under their rules. Some demands (and actions) just won't fly.

Fiancé and I are planning on visiting them today after work (they know we want to stop by), bringing a bottle of awesome wine to show we have good intentions, and sitting down to talk everything over. What could I say to salvage our relationship, but at the same time stand up for myself?

(As a note, my guy's family has been an amazing source of support during all this, and have gladly let us plan our perfect day with minimal demands and tons of excitement. They are wonderful people that are unfortunately several thousand miles away. I can't wait to visit them again.)

(As another note, my parents have previously treated my fiancé as a long-lost son. Most of their nastiness is still directed at me, but he's being a constant witness to it. And he's understandably pissed off at being treated like he's not there when they start putting me down. He starts defending me and shortly after either they or we leave. It's like they can't bring themselves to address him directly.)

It's a mess of a situation, and advice from people removed from it would be helpful beyond belief.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Human Relations (57 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"I can't understand this level of disrespect"

Sounds like a great way to start. You are being disrespected. You want that disrespect to stop. You want to involve your parents but you cannot do so when they are not acting like adults.

They will object to this characterization. You will feel the need to either back down or escalate - resist both instincts as hard as your can.
posted by muddgirl at 11:51 AM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm not asking them to pay for any part of this wedding

So you get to plan it. If they're emotionally abusing you and holding past financial support over you now there's no reason to think they won't continue to do that in the future. I think you need to draw the line on their involvement, if they need placating you can offer to let them put on a separate party later on to impress their friends or whatever.
posted by ghharr at 11:51 AM on September 10, 2010

To make yourself feel a little better, read some of the horror stories on Indiebride.

Then, when you meet, tell them this: I'm not asking them to pay for any part of this wedding, and helping me with money in the past can't actually mean they're paying for it now. That doesn't scale either. I want to express somehow that I appreciate them immensely, but I'm no longer living under their roof and under their rules. Some demands (and actions) just won't fly, changing pronouns as appropriate.

Good luck. As a last resort: elope.
posted by rtha at 11:53 AM on September 10, 2010

Whew! I had a few parentzillas, but geez. I feel for you. (For the record, one of our parents is still mad several years later, because she wanted to plan the whole thing with me and boo to the groom.)

This is something I usually say to anxious brides, but it might work for your parents: "Don't worry. At the end of the night, we'll be married, and that is what's important." Also remind them that you are making the choices you can afford, and it will be fine, and no one will think badly of any of you for how it comes off. Their friends are relatives are kind people, not petty people. There will be food and drink and a new beginning! Let's keep this in the spirit of a celebration, not a competition. Marriage is not all about the wedding day. Etc. Will any of that help calm them down?

It might also be helpful to view this as your parents' last-ditch effort to keep a hand in your life before you become a truly, for-real (in their eyes) adult with your own family. At least this part of it will be over soon.

Congratulations, by the way.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:53 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

They have been very generous, and I don't want to seem ungrateful. I just don't know where to draw the line when it comes to invisible strings tied to this generosity...

Dude, if they're not paying for the wedding, then you need to make it perfectly clear that they get absolutely no say in your wedding that you're paying for with your own money. Your parents, especially your dad, are being ridiculous. Telling people that you're not his daughter because he doesn't like the venue where you're getting married? Not okay.

Weddings make some parents crazy because they feel the rest of the attending family members are judging them, not you, on its outcome. Territory becomes murky when the parents are paying for it, sure, but yours aren't. I doubt they care all that much about money spent on other things in the past and they're simply using it as leverage to pressure you. They have no, I repeat, no right to disrespect how you and your fiancé get married, and they especially aren't allowed to publicly disown you because they don't like the venue. Tell them so in no uncertain terms.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2010

Sorry that your folks seem to have thrown their marbles out the window over wedding plans :(

Honestly, I think you said it pretty well here - any chance of copying your question (maybe minus the small text at the end) more or less verbatim and e-mailing it to them? Maybe you haven't made it clear to them how hurtful they're being?

I think your plan to sit them down and talk straight to them is a good one (the peace bottle of wine is a nice touch). Maybe they're feeling like their little girl has grown up way too fast, and is soon to be out of their protection, and are kind of going nuts about it. Try to include a lot of phrases about how important they are to you. And try to subconsciously reassure them that your marriage doesn't mean you're going to cut them out of your life. Or I could be misreading the situation.

Weddings make some people just lose their shit for some reason - I've seen it happen - try to take it with a grain of salt. Chances are that the sun will rise on the wedding day and everyone will be sweet and happy again. Congratulations to you and your guy! And best of luck.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2010

Best answer: Many - not all - but many parents lose all proportion when it comes to a wedding.

If it were me, I would say, "Mom, Dad, I am so grateful for your financial support in the past, when I was struggling. It enabled me to X, Y and Z. I cannot thank you enough for your very real help in that area.

I know our wedding is an important event for you, but it's our wedding, and we're not asking you to pay for it. I know you disagree with some of our choices, but it's our wedding. I know you feel that [Caterer] is excellent, but I can't possibly agree to work with someone who was so rude and disrespectful to me and [fiance]. I know you don't like the venue, but it is quite literally our dream location for our wedding, and means the world to us.

We are not making these choices to be hurtful to you, we are making these choices because they are meaningful to us. We want you to feel proud and happy to come to the wedding and invite your friends to celebrate with you, but we aren't going to let the caterer announce us as Mr. and Mrs., have your choice of officiant, or use a string quartet [insert your own traditional overtones here] because we don't want those things for our wedding.

We'd like to be able to talk about your feelings in an adult and respectful manner. Can we do that now?"

And then let them vent. Listen, and do a lot of mirroring. "You said that..." and also use as many "I feel" statements as you can. "When you tell people that I'm not your daughter, I feel as though you're ashamed of me."

Mostly, your parents are seeing your rejection of their suggestions as a judgment on them. If I had to guess. So they're reacting badly. Plus, some parents just react badly when their kids get married.
posted by micawber at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2010 [18 favorites]

Well for starters, while the venue you've chosen is totally chic, if your parents were expecting something more traditional--or just less urban--they might simply not get it. It would not at all surprise me if their tastes simply aren't sophisticated enough to appreciate the style you're going for. I mean, exposed rafters are cool and all, but hotel-style even space this ain't.

It might help if we knew how old your parents are.
posted by valkyryn at 11:59 AM on September 10, 2010

So, you're getting married, because you both want to, not because your parents want you to, right?

Ask yourself: are we having a big wedding because we both want to, or because our parents want us to?

If the answer is "because our parents want us to", sit down with your folks and say this: "I love my finance, and we're going to get married no matter what. However, we've realized that we only want a wedding because you expect us to, and it's really obvious from the way you've been treating us that you think of this wedding as yours, not ours. So if you want this wedding so badly, you need us to show up to it -- you either stop treating us so badly and let us have the kind of wedding we want, or it's your wedding and we won't show up to it."

If the answer is "because we want to", sit down with your folks and say this: "I love my finance, and we're going to get married no matter what. However, we want this wedding to be the wedding that we want, and you've been treating us really badly and acting as if this wedding is about you. So we really appreciate the money you're willing to spend, but we don't want it. You can go ahead and keep your money, and go throw yourself the huge party that you want and pretend it's a wedding, but we won't be there. Meanwhile, we're going to have the wedding that we can afford on our own, even if it's teacups and paper plates in the backyard, and how you behave going forward is going to determine whether you're invited or not."

Tough love? You bet, but if you're really kicking off a life together, doing so under the thumb of your parents' boorish behavior isn't a good way to do it -- and I'm assuming you've tried bringing this up more gently, previously.

An alternative if you really don't want to set boundaries: hire a wedding planner. My mother-in-law was not unlike your parents, and she seemed to have a pathological need to have things her way -- she literally could not agree with us, she always had to propose and push for a contrarian thing. After the wedding planner stepped in, the conversations went like this:

Us: We want [thing]

Her: Absolutely not, that's a terrible idea.

Wedding planner: Actually, I think it's a good idea.

Her: Well, I guess that's not so bad. Okay.

So we got what we wanted, she didn't have to agree with us directly, and we didn't have to deal with her much at all. She even paid for the wedding planner. YMMV.

ps: my parents got married with a few close family members in a small chapel near their home, and were together until my father passed away last year. They had fond memories of the ceremony, and always pointed out the chapel when we drove by. By contrast, my wedding was epically huge, and I barely remember any of it, and the location isn't in a place I can drive by and point at to show my kids. The important thing is that, at the end of the ceremony, you're married and happy.
posted by davejay at 12:01 PM on September 10, 2010

"This is my wedding. This is not your wedding. On top of this, you have been insulting and disrespectful to me, simply because I have different tastes than yours. If you can't be respectful of MY wishes for MY wedding, then I don't feel it's in anyone's interest for you be there."
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:01 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is nutty! I'm sorry you are dealing with this. My fiance and I are very lucky that our parents haven't made any crazy requests despite the fact that they are paying for the whole thing. However, we've been very straight forward with them from the beginning about how we are budgeting and what we want. Considering that they aren't even helping you pay for the wedding, I don't see how they'd even consider having a say. What was their wedding like? Were they able to do everything they ever wanted? Or did they have to compromise what they wanted because of money or time constraints?

Whatever the reason, you need to make it clear that it is you and your future hubby's special day. You appreciate that they want what's best for you, but the two of you have the perfect day in mind and have every intention of making it happen. Allowing their demands would really take away from your overall happiness/satisfaction of your wedding day, and that's not something that a parent should ask of their daughter. Tell them that they are welcome to come along to meet vendors (if that's what you/they want) on the condition that they keep their judging comments to themselves. You are an adult, presumably a responsible one, who can make these big decisions on your own. Tell them that you are willing to accept requests to a degree, but they must know that you may not be able to make them happen. Overall, be calm, courteous, but strict on how much input/say they are going to have in the future. There should be no arguing. It's a matter of "No to so-and-so request, because of so-and-so, and that's the end of it" not, "We'll think about it it" or "No (without reason)".

For example, my fiance and I are not inviting children to our wedding. My mother is slightly upset, but we simply do not have the money/room/patience to deal with 15 screaming children at our venue. My mother tried to give me several reasons why we need to invite children ("Oh, but everyone will need to get babysitters!" "Everyone will want to see the kids dancing!" "They're so cute in photos, you'll regret not having them there years later"), but we simply said no. No, because we don't have the room/money/patience, and that's the end of it. No more about this topic.

Good luck!
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:04 PM on September 10, 2010

Don't get trapped into arguing over details, like whether or not the caterer or the florist is really any good. The response to "but MY florist does a better job," is "Sorry, we've already made our choice."

Don't address their past financial help; I'm sure you have already thanked them for that and you don't have to keep thanking them in perpetuity just to stay on their good side. By bringing it up, you're connecting it to your wedding. If they constantly bring it up, make a plan to pay them back and tell them you'll be making your own decisions now that those strings are cut.

You need to get at whatever's ultimately behind this meddling, which seems to be a need to look good in front of their friends. I'd engage them on that level. Ask them what is more important, having a happy daughter or having friends who think less of them for attending a wedding at [less expensive venue].
posted by desjardins at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

I would make sure they understand that your relationship with them is so much more important in the long run than a wedding, so the focus during the planning should be on familial harmony rather than discord. But that being said, you only intend to marry once and making this the day of YOUR dreams, not their dreams is the goal.

It sounds like they are resisting letting go of you and their parental rights over you. Even if you've been on your own for a while, getting married apparently symbolizes more of a cutting of the apron strings with you than any past actions for them based on their behavior.

Good luck!
posted by cecic at 12:07 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

To echo what stoneweaver said - when hubby and I got married, my Mom (while not a 'rent-zilla by any means) had very strong ideas about how the wedding should go, where we had very different ideas. My strategy was to drill beneath the surface of the "NO" response to the underlying concern. Once that was out in the open, I would often counter-offer an idea that would be amenable to all.

For example, I love Celtic music, and wanted it for the ceremony. Mom freaked and said no way. Once I got past the initial reaction, it turned out she was concerned that the ceremony would not be sufficiently "respectful" of the church tradition - she was afraid I'd have a bunch of drunken louts up there flaking out tunes. I was able to reassure her that I would choose music that would be appropriate and respectful, while still being Celtic. And roped my uncle the organist in to play. Mom calmed right down, and in the end, it was no big deal.

Good luck!
posted by LN at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feel for you, but I also understand that they don't get the appeal of the raw loft wedding space (I live somewhat near there). I think you could explain why it suits your taste, etc.--most people of their generation think hotel or country club. It's different taste. Explain to your father about edgy hip trends and that his friends will think he's a wild man--ala the Rat Pack.

If they're not paying, then they don't get any say. But I think you can probably find some happy medium--they're your parents and are always going to be. I wouldn't have any big talk, but pick the hill you want to die on. I'd rather have a great caterer even if he didn't kiss my ass (temperamental chef! Oh no!)

Personally, if you don't want to be all Bridzilla, then don't act that way with the Parentzillas. Smile, listen, and do what you want. I wouldn't give them any details that they don't need to know about, other than where to be when and what to wear.

No one has a perfect wedding. No one gets everything his or her own way.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2010

Try to talk about your feelings versus their behavior:

I love you, but comments like ----- make me feel very stressed and upset.

It is really important to me and [groom] that we plan our wedding to be the way we want it.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your past financial support. I would so like your emotional support for the choices we are making for our wedding.

I am so happy with this location because x, y and z.

It can help to talk about how you perceive their feelings too: I know you love me and you want my wedding to make you proud. But don't you want most of all for me to have the wedding I want, and feel as little stress as possible while planning it? It would mean so much to me if you could stop saying negative things about it and support my choices.

And if you absolutely have to, tell them that it would break your heart if they weren't at your wedding, but you need them to decide what to do -- chill and let you plan this as the two of you want it to be, or make other plans for themselves that day.
posted by bearwife at 12:15 PM on September 10, 2010

Just one guy's opinion (having been run through the wedding planning machine myself):

In my world, the second dad said "You're not my daughter" in public like that, he goes on the "You're no longer invited, and I'm hiring bouncers to throw your ass out of here if you show up" list. There are some things that just don't get done, and that's pretty high up on the list, there.

Weddings are, on some level, an official affirmation that you, as an adult, now have your own family, and you get to be the shot-caller. Let them know straight up, learn to behave, or they'll never know their grandchildren. I've seen that threat straighten some people out (particularly moms), but some are beyond reach.

I've found that the things that happen now are the things that define how you're treated decades into the future. Make a forceful stand now, or it's going to be like this for a long, long time. It's much harder to change later than sooner.
posted by Citrus at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I'd say tell them that you're including them because you thought you would appreciate your input, but they have been nothing but rude and disrespectful, and if they aren't going to be pleasant about it, you won't include them in future planning efforts. Thank them for their past financial support, and remind them that you (and your fiance) are paying for the wedding, and that this is your day.

Really, you have no reason to include them in any of the plans, so if they're not being decent about it, don't include them. My wedding was spiked with moments of parentzilla which is still brought up by my wife. We're all on good terms, but those unasked-for bits of input to our day made it less about us and more about parentzilla, even if it was for a fleeting moment.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Also: seconding that a comment like "You're not my daughter" in public would result in Dad being threatened with non-inclusion in the wedding events.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

a comment like "You're not my daughter" in public would result in Dad being threatened with non-inclusion in the wedding events.

I think this is very poor advice. Threatening your parents this way just escalates the crazy. If you want to not invite them, that's your choice, of course, but it should be communicated calmly, not during an argument.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your parents only have to be at the event. And then only if you wish them there.

They don't need to know anything else about your planning but location and date.

If they object to that they have only themselves to blame.

(That having been said it is all too easy to imagine and plan what your children's weddings will be like. Hopefully this is temporary insanity on their part and not an ongoing practice of overcontrol.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:22 PM on September 10, 2010

My father keeps saying that he is embarrassed to invite his friends to "a dump" (which is amazing), that I am not his daughter, etc

Why would his friends even be invited? (and why would he be inviting them?). If my dad said I wasn't his daughter right in front of me I'd say "well I guess you aren't invited to my wedding then, I'll have to ask <insert name of father-figure here - your partner's father perhaps> to walk me down the aisle.

It sounds like your parents left 'reasonable' about 3 exits ago - I'd just not involve them in the planning at all any more. Tell them they're invited on the day but they're no longer going to be included in any of the planing. Don't threaten it - just state it as a fact. They are no longer involved, end of story. Then get on with it and plan your wedding the way you want it without having to constantly threaten them every time they get out of line. Given how out of line they've been so far, I doubt a little sit down and a nice bottle of wine will change their behaviour enough to turn them into reasonable adults
posted by missmagenta at 12:26 PM on September 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

(PS-I don't care how good the food is, if a caterer were rude to me, he's history. Plenty of people can cook and be civil at the same time.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:28 PM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry. The "you're not my daughter" remark is IMHO intolerable. Best of luck talking to them.

If things don't go super smoothly but they still want to attend is there someone who could help insulate you from them on the actual day - like a sibling or a good friend who could be their minder? Someone who could help them get to the venues - help them find their spots get them their flowers or whatever? That could help not stress you out on that day.
posted by oneear at 12:28 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

My parents weren't behaving in a jerky way, but they (esp. my mom) were kind of annoying about wedding stuff not being the way they'd envisioned it. I have a really good relationship with my folks but this got kind of stressful -- I think transitional stuff often brings out issues with the passage of time. I.e., I was almost thirty when I got married but despite having been on my own for years, my parents* were still having a tough time with my being grown up. We actually did go to counseling as others suggested upthread & it was pretty useful, primarily b/c the therapist basically told my parents* that they were out of line & that they really needed to accept that I'm my own person & fully capable of making my own decisions, even if they're not decisions they necessarily like.

So maybe it might be helpful to go to a couple sessions with your folks if you think they'd be receptive to that sort of thing. It's a tough thing for some parents to deal with their increasingly reduced role in their child's life & I know my parents* didn't really realize how they were behaving until it was pointed out to them.

Also, it helped that I sucked it up & included my mom in some aspects of the planning. It sounds like you're already doing that, but if you think you could stand to deal with more involvement, it might help -- but actual involvement where you work with them rather than delegating something to them that you don't particularly care about anyway.

Alternatively, it might be helpful to just not involve them altogether -- this is what I did with my grandparents (adore them, but they are OPINIONATED & SHOUTY!!).

* again, mostly my mom.
posted by oh really at 12:31 PM on September 10, 2010

While I would be tempted to respond to the father's comment with "Who is my father then? I need him to walk me down the aisle", I think just a calm wide-eyed "Wow" would stop him in his tracks without escalating the situation.
posted by juggler at 12:33 PM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't think you have to threaten, but set limits and consequences. If Dad continues like this, then (consequence). Don't say you'll do X, then back off. Do what you said you would. Works with kids, and if your parents are acting like children then treat them as such. Maybe start excluding/consequences with a small thing, maybe not the whole wedding itself, to let them know you're serious. "Dad, that hurt my feelings. If you continue like this you will not be welcome at the cake tasting."
posted by ShadePlant at 12:37 PM on September 10, 2010

elope. allow them to throw you a reception. this is how we did it and i wouldn't have it any other way.
posted by nadawi at 12:41 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

So, how much do they want to be paid back from this past financial help to let you get on with the current event? If they're going to blackmail you, the least they can do is be honest about the list of demands.

Also, your father needs to have it made very clear that the "not my daughter" thing can go as far as he wants it to, up to and including you having your event coordinator bar him from the venue on the day. If he doesn't want that, he knows that he needs to start coming correct.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2010

Best answer: Aargh, sorry you're dealing with this mess, but this is the perfect time to put your foot down and establish your independence. There's a lot of symbolic weight to a wedding, so use it to your advantage. (Also, the longer you give in to your parents, the harder it will be to make them stop. Look at all the AskMes about grandparents interfering with raising the kids.)

In addition to the good suggestions upthread, I wanted to offer an idea for dealing with the previous financial assistance being used as leverage. It may be a little too harsh and high-stakes for you, but it works if you can pull it off. First, think carefully about whether you can afford to pay them back somehow. If you can, tell them you will pay them back. Say it calmly and look them right in the eyes, and have a payment plan all worked out. Monthly payments, interest, the works. They'll hate it because this is their last and greatest hold over you, and they'll probably explode - but it can't really get much worse than their current behavior, can it? (C'mon, how can they top "Not my daughter"?) Nothing says you're serious like putting your money where your mouth is, and independent adults pay their debts. It shifts the scene from Mommy + Daddy + Little Girl to a group of grownups on more equal footing.

Sadly, you can expect a few rocky months or years ahead - parents often react badly to their kids' marriages for a whole slew of reasons. Their baby's all grown up, they are not needed in their longtime roles any more, they suddenly have to confront their own advancing age ... it's a whole lot of change triggered by one major event. It's a lot to swallow in a very short time, and a lot of parents don't handle it well. Most parents eventually adapt to the new order of things, given enough time, so cut them a little slack. Set your boundaries and stick to them, but give your parents a chance to redeem themselves occasionally. They'll probably settle down eventually and you can all be grownups together. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 12:48 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not asking them to pay for any part of this wedding

Then I'd suggest you stop discussing the details with them. You've tried to include them in the planning and they've responded by being disrespectful and pushy. At the very least, stop discussing details with them in a way that implies you are unsure or are seeking their input: they've shown that they're input is ugly and toxic, so don't invite it. Keep your comments along the lines of "We've decided on avenue we absolutely adore, we're so excited!" not, "We're thinking of doing it at this venue we really like, what do you think?"

You don't owe them access to the details of your wedding plans, and you certainly don't owe them a say in your wedding plans. Don't threaten, just give a consequence appropriate to the situation--not severe, not vindictive, just, "It's not working for us to collaborate on these wedding plans. We're fighting all the time, and you've said some really hurtful, ugly things to me. I'm not willing to do this anymore."
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:49 PM on September 10, 2010 [12 favorites]

What could I say to salvage our relationship, but at the same time stand up for myself?

Start by getting them to agree to principles, then get down to specifics. That means you say I need a few minutes to say how we feel about things. If they try to interrupt, tell them they agreed to let you have your few minutes first. They can reply later. For example:

"I know that you and Mom support me and agree that this is my wedding and that you want me to be happy on the most important day of my life." "I know you agree that this is the most important day of my life and is about me and [insert name of fiance here]." Let them say yes or nod, if they don't continue on.

"[Fiance] and I have decided that we will have final say on the most important day of our lives. I'm certain you agree that this is the only way this can be, and that we have to do what we feel is right in our lives. We have appreciated your input, and have taken it into account during our decision-making, but we will be making the final decisions in this wedding."

And if those fuckers can't take it, they can go to hell. Seriously, its their choice if they want to come or not.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:02 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

To add, what will salvage the relationship is them understanding where your line is drawn and understanding that they will lose you if they don't respect that line.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:03 PM on September 10, 2010

a comment like "You're not my daughter" in public would result in Dad being threatened with non-inclusion in the wedding events.

I think this is very poor advice. Threatening your parents this way just escalates the crazy. If you want to not invite them, that's your choice, of course, but it should be communicated calmly, not during an argument.

I agree that it needs to be brought up calmly and ideally not in public, but if they claim to disown you over some wedding kerfuffle, they don't need to be there.

It's sad to say, but it's a good thing that all this (public disowning, siding with a caterer who insulted and lectured the bride- and groom-to-be) has happened, because it can now be something to reference as things that will Never Happen Again, with the option that your parents are not included in the wedding celebrations. This is not a pretty route, and one best attempted in some private neutral ground (shouting "get out of my home" won't help anything).

There's disagreeing with wedding event and detail choices, and there's being disrespectful in public. Disagreements are expected in wedding planning. Disrespect is not.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:09 PM on September 10, 2010

If they are not paying for the wedding, there is no need for their input at all. Now is the time to assert your independence in every way. You will save yourselves a lot of grief by leaving them out of the planning, and reinforcing a lesson that obviously needs to be learned--that they don't own you. Citrus has it.
posted by uans at 1:11 PM on September 10, 2010

Best answer: Oh, hello, you've fallen into the generation gap.

You're getting married in a warehouse. *I* would want to get married in a warehouse, and my mother would have been hip to that, but she got married in an orange micro-mini so, you know...

Two things I think need pointing out. One, while it is your wedding, weddings are by definition a family event. It actually isn't all about you. Presumably your family and family friends will be there; these are your parents peers, and your wedding is a major event on their social horizon. Spare a thought for their social comfort. (I am not suggesting you change a thing; I am pointing out that your father has been very articulate about his issues.)

Two, many people in this thread have suggested you toe the line by telling your parents their treatment of you is disrespectful. You will need to consider if that dialogue will actually communicate anything in your family culture. In my family, that would be a red flag to a bull; respect is something you earn, and you do not earn it by dint of being old enough to wipe your own arse.

My suggestion would be that you not go in there with both guns blazing and laying it on the line that you're an adult and this is your wedding. Instead, recognise that ultimately, you have the upper hand and are going to get what you want because it's your dime. Therefore, regard and compassion may be a better approach.

I would start with an apology. Tell them you understand they are disappointed with the decisions you've made and that you're sorry they are unhappy with the way you made them. Tell them you understand that this very urban, LA wedding you're planning is very different from a country club or hotel reception they may have envisioned.

You don't need to defend your choices because they are made. This is the way it is going to be, regardless or what they say, so you do not need to engage with them about it.

Then offer them an olive branch. Something. Tell them that if they'd rather plan and throw you an engagement cocktail party for their friends, that might make them happier, but you'd still like them to attend the wedding you are planning because that would make you happy.

In other words, you don't have to be a hardass about the fact that this is the wedding you're having: you just need to have it. But you do need to be aware that this could go very, very wrong for you and it is entirely possible for your parents to decide not to come if you give them no where to go except "my way or the highway."

To me, it would not be worth it, and I would be looking to broker peace above all else.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:12 PM on September 10, 2010 [23 favorites]

You've gotten great advice on the words to use.

My wording on this was, "Mom, I want to share this with you, but not if it becomes a fight." and if it became a fight I calmly and quietly got off the phone. In your case, if they are disrespectful, leave the room. If it continues, leave the house/restaurant, etc. Keep emphasizing that you love them, while not tolerating the disrespect.
posted by theora55 at 1:15 PM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

My suggestion would be that you not go in there with both guns blazing and laying it on the line that you're an adult and this is your wedding. Instead, recognise that ultimately, you have the upper hand and are going to get what you want because it's your dime. Therefore, regard and compassion may be a better approach.

Yes, I came back here to say just that. You are their child, but you are no longer a child. The age difference, how you've been treated, which child you are (first, last, only), what sort of help you've looked for and received in the past, and their involvement in your life now (beyond the wedding stuff) shapes these viewpoints. Your parents will always be older, and may always think they know what is best for you. But you may realize there is some point where there is no more compromise, that your wedding must become their wedding for them to be happy. I do not wish this upon you or them, but this is a possibility. Agree with your fiance what this line is, and how you will draw that line with your parents. Talk through all the possibilities with your fiance and other supportive folks, then talk to your parents.

Sorry for the guns blazing, knives on fire, hatchets wielded opinion without elaboration. I'm on the sidelines of another family wedding where ideals are clashing, and I'm ready to fight. I'm sorry I brought some of that here. Good luck!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2010

One idea....

I think your fiance (Husband) needs to speak up before you do at this meeting, politely and forcefully. Your parents sound traditional... maybe they will hear him where they can't hear you?

"You are the parents of my Wife (to be). I believe I have always treated you with affection and respect. However, the way you have treated filthy light thief, and by extension me, during our wedding planning process is near appalling. We're here to talk this out now. You won't ruin our wedding day if you can't see reason, but you will damage your relationship with me and my Wife far into the future if you refuse to treat us with the dignity and respect we've shown you."


Here's my other idea...

Sit down, open wine. After the pleasantries are taken care of, ask them seriously, "What are your objection to our wedding plans?"

Then plaster a smile on your faces and listen. I mean actively listen. To every ridiculous complaint and criticism. Listen with grace.

When they are done talking, thank them for their input. You DO NOT respond directly to anything they've cited.

Then you or your fiance explains that you love each other, it's your day, and you are both thrilled with your choices. Tell them they will not be consulted in the future on decisions because it upsets them and both of you too much. Tell them you'll hope they come to celebrate the wedding and have the best time EVER.

Then I think your fiance calmly explains what I outlined above, how awful they've been to you (& via extension him) and how they've diminished themselves in your (his) eyes. Again, polite but clear.

Thank them for their understand and go home happy.


I'm not sure why your parents need to put their stamp all over your day. I bet if you asked them why that is during this meeting - they wouldn't even know what you're referring to. So don't ask them to explain themselves directly.

Just... listen to their complaints, nod, then explain how it's going to be from here on out.

My thought is if they are forced to give you a laundry list, they may hear themselves. Upon reflection they may come to understand how unfortunately they've behaved. Maybe a few days later they will approach you and your fiance with a sincere apology and a change of heart regarding their behavior. That's my hope


Oh, Hey -- Congratulations! Marriage is wonderful.

PS -- Good luck with your parents.
posted by jbenben at 2:20 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: Every person's answer, and I mean every single one, has had a gem in it. Thank you thank you thank you.

I feel much more prepared. We're going to be polite but assertive, and hopefully there will be positive things to update this tread with at the end of the day.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 2:35 PM on September 10, 2010

"Good luck. As a last resort: elope."
posted by rtha at 11:53 AM on September 10

Actually, I would consider elope-ment as a first resort. I think where you're hanging up is in two places:
1. your vision of the wedding as a "perfect day." Ain't no sucha thing, Louise.
2. your respectful and civilized willingness to discuss your plans with your parents. They aren't returning your respect, and are acting un-civilized.
And that they would do so in the presence of your finance is doubly jaw-dropping.
I understand your wish to have family nearby, and it's a shame that his people are so far away. They sound delightful.
So, run away to the nearest Justice of the Peace and make the event a fait accompli.
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:42 PM on September 10, 2010

jbenben: "I'm not sure why your parents need to put their stamp all over your day."

I'm not sure that looking at it as "putting their stamp on your day" is constructive. Again, weddings do not happen in a vacuum; they are typically family events, celebrations with old family friends and cousins and aunts and uncles. Tequilas's parents are not necessarily being crazy controlling because they want to be sure that their tribe is appropriately fed and the venue is not, you know, a dump. That isn't a stamp so much as a standard. Pretending that their daughter's wedding isn't a social reflection on them is the ideal but it isn't the reality as many parents experience it.

All of which sounds like I'm on the parents' side which actually, to be perfectly clear, I am not. I think the parents are being rigid and unimaginative. I think it's a fantastic venue. I think good food from a caterer you love is far better than great food from a caterer who's a douchebag. I am a fan of weddings that are real and intimate and warm instead of formal and stiff and cookie cutter bridal mag-a-gogo.

I can just understand, having been through this to an extent with my own wedding(s), what it is I think these parents are concerned about. My mother in law had a heart attack because our venue had no kitchen and the food was going to be warmed on site by the caterer. Having wine and beer only was a huge hurdle. Our parents were extremely concerned with meeting the criteria they held for hospitality. None of that stuff made any difference on the day but they were huge issues going in and needed to be very carefully managed.

I am pretty sure that if you could shove them in a time machine and fast forward them, Tequila's parents would see that the evening is going to be a fantastic event at which they will be proud to host their friends and family. I am just not at all convinced, with these camps so far apart and no time machine, that they will get there on their own. Therefore, I am suggesting a compromise that will tick their boxes without compromising the vision for the wedding in any way.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:53 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

This isn't the first time you've butted heads with your parents, huh?

Was there a conversation early on in the process where you said something like, "Yeah, <Guy> and I are going to make all the arrangements. … Yeah, we can pay for it. … No, Mom. I've got this. … No, Mom. I don't want your help."? Did you shut them down at the very beginning? One presumes they were looking forward to planning their daughter's wedding and they feel disrespected by your not including them in the decision making. (For the record, I agree with you that the venue is amazing, but I also see why a person with more conservative taste might call it a dump. It's not the Waldorf-Astoria.)

However, I suspect that's not even what's really going on here. Something in the past has lead to this day. None of this happened in a vacuum. So unless you want a lifetime of bitter recriminations, not to mention a bad relationship between any potential grandchildren and your parents, you better figure out, and resolve if possible, whatever has passed between you and your parents that has led to this level of hostility.

If whatever it is is unforgivable, then I'd say don't torture yourself trying to include people who unforgivably hurt you in your life, even if they are your parents. If it was you who did the unforgivable thing, same deal in reverse. If it's not unforgivable, and very little in life is truly unforgivable, then for Christ's sake forgive each other and get on with the rest of your lives.

If for no other reason than so the words "That was forty years ago!" have no cause to be uttered at your mother's eightieth birthday party the way they were at my grandmother's.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:04 PM on September 10, 2010

Don't engage the craziness and do NOT escalate! I think DarlingBri's advice is very good.

Your parents aren't being grownups about this. That means that you and your fiance have to be the adults, even though it sucks and isn't fair etc etc.

Tell them you love them.

Have a conversation about what weddings mean to them. Ask them, what do weddings mean to you? What was your wedding like and why? What would you have wanted it to be like? What was the nicest wedding (not your own, if applicable) that you've been to, and why?

Have a conversation (I think without your fiance, and possibly with each of your parents individually) about what your *getting married* means to them. How did their relationships with their parents change when they got married? How do they think their relationship with you could or should change? What are their worries and what is their advice for you?

Do not have a conversation about the caterer or the venue.

Make them feel heard, like you value their experiences and thoughts and you take them seriously. You might pick up on some things that are really going on, behind the fights about caterers. They might be pacified just by the feeling that you really respect and value their perspective. At the very least, you'll learn something about them and probably about your family history.

And then if you need to say what other posters have paraphrased in various ways. 'We understand that you wouldn't make the same choices that we're making, but we're not making them against you, we're making them for ourselves, and we hope that you'll celebrate our wedding with us.' And keep not discussing the details.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:09 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: ob1quixote, there won't be any grandchildren and that's another argument we're all going to cry over some time in the future. (It's been brought up, and they are not willing to acknowledge the option to not have kids exists.)

You're absolutely right though, this is not just happening out of nowhere. It's been an on-going, life-long process that is reaching its breaking point right now, where I have to figure out just how much negativity in my life I can actually tolerate. This conversation will probably be about more than just the wedding.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:12 PM on September 10, 2010

One nugget of advice I got from my supervisor at work has helped tremendously in other areas of my life: You should only say you're sorry if you actually did something wrong.

I don't see that you have wronged your parents, here. If you do, "sorry" away. Otherwise, "it's unfortunate that you feel this way" or "what a shame that we don't seem to be able to agree," or "I understand you would like us to do this differently, but..." is more the line I think I would take. It puts the burden back on them. THEY'RE the ones with the problem, not you. I don't see anything in your question that you need to apologize for.

Good luck, let us know how it turns out!
posted by That's Numberwang! at 5:17 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: This is soon-to-be Mr. Tequila Mockingbird. For those of you who are curious as to what happened, here is a retelling:

The evening started off with us handing them a bottle of wine and opening up with a very elegant and awe inspiring speech by myself, well, not really, but I did start it with a very friendly little introduction to the topic at hand and then asked them for their opinions and feelings on the subject.

That's about where the civility ended. They started going on about mistakes that they thought we had made and then painted the vendors we'd hired as horrible, horrible people. One vendor made a joke about Russians liking vodka, at the time they had just laughed and smiled but, they now made it seem like it had been a hate speech against them. They then went on to talk about how horrible and traumatic it had been for them to see two guys kissing at the venue. And I quote "We can't make these gays happy by giving them money." That's when we decided it wasn't worth salvaging. There was more after that, all of it from them (we talked for about four minutes combined between us), but it was along the same childish and bigoted lines.

At this point I think it's safe to say that they're not invited to the wedding. Or... anything... ever.

Thanks for all the advice, we both read and appreciated every post.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 9:32 PM on September 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Wow. They chose an incredibly stupid hill to die on.

Thanks for the update. Hugs to you and your bride.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:51 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow. I'm so sorry to hear that.

I wish you both a happy wedding, and an even happier marriage.
posted by rtha at 10:39 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: *slips back into account*

We just walked out after a certain point, because there was little we could say. I started saying "We love you and it's unfortunate that you're unhappy with our decisions," but at each pause after each sentence they inserted rude comments. This wasn't about reaching a compromise, it was about expressing their disgust and disappointment.

However, now that we fully understand the levels of toxicity we're dealing with, it's easier to shrug off and go on planning an awesome event.

My mother threatened to not come if we have "American food." WTF lady?
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 11:58 PM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear that, y'all. Good luck in your new life together.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:37 AM on September 11, 2010

As a peace-loving, compromise embracing, pacifist middle child, I say: fuck that noise. That's insane. If nothing else, you now have clarity and can plan exactly what will make you happy. I hope you have a great wedding.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:46 AM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry it went the worst way; on the other hand, now you have a clean break which might allow them to cool down and rethink their anger against the price they just paid for indulging in it.

And now you can have a stress-free and joyous wedding day.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:46 AM on September 11, 2010

Another thought, along sad lines: I remember some similar stuff happening during my first wedding. It became clear that all this negative emotion was less about the things they were purportedly aimed at, but obviously a general unhappiness that there was a wedding going on at all. In the end I realized that what was getting up their nose was me being happy - not choosing their path, not being the favorite kid, broken marriage on their side - at heart, I think, they felt that I didn't deserve to find the happiness they hadn't. Which is sad for them, and one of many reasons I haven't spoken to them for a very long time.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:56 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you have just given yourself a gift. To say my father was controlling and abusive doesn't even scratch the surface. Removing myself from his home and him from my life was one of the best things I ever did. It opened up a huge space that was filled with people who loved and appreciated me for me. Enjoy your wedding with friends and family who are there with love in their hearts.
posted by Majorita at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2010

It's really awful to hear that it went so poorly, but now you can put it behind you and move forward. Your wedding venue looks absolutely lovely, and it sounds like your event is going to be fabulous, and exactly what you want. Which is wonderful! Mazel Tov!!!
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:18 AM on September 11, 2010

Ouch. Well, in a way it's good that it was so bad - no ambiguity, no doubts, no wondering if you really did the right thing by walking away.

I didn't say this before because my first comment was long enough, but the balance of power has already shifted. At some point in the last few years, you began to need your parents less than they need you. After you stopped needing money from them, after you found a mate to build your own life with, after you realized that you liked his extended family better than your own, Mommy and Daddy started to become unnecessary. Meanwhile, they are getting older and some day they will need you to take of them in their old age, and they need you to give them grandchildren (I know you don't want kids; my point is just that they can't make grandchildren themselves so they need you).

This is kind of terrifying, even if they haven't thought it through consciously. Fading into impotent irrelevance is a horrible feeling, particularly for overbearing people who've been flexing their clout for decades. They're fighting it tooth and nail because they're scared, and fear has brought out the worst in them.

Maybe some day they'll make peace with their new peripheral, even dependent, role in your life. Even if they don't accept it gracefully, they need you more than you need them. They have no hold over you any more and you can walk away when they behave badly. Like you just did, and doesn't it feel like a big weight has been lifted from your shoulders? Good luck and have a wonderful wedding!
posted by Quietgal at 9:06 PM on September 11, 2010

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