A first dance is not unreasonable!
September 11, 2012 5:29 AM   Subscribe

A problem that isn't one but still is: my partner and I are planning on getting married next fall. YAAAY! But I feel like I'm getting made fun of constantly by my sister for it...

- I'm in my early 30s, my boyfriend is in his late 30s
- I'm the youngest of three kids, all women
- I will be the first of us to get married
- my family all approve of my relationship with my partner, they all like him, so no issue around that
- my middle sister is in a long term relationship with a man but not married and they don't particularly want to marry. They are very happy together though. I do NOT believe there is any element of jealousy in this.
- my eldest sister is single, has been single for basically her whole life, doesn't date (to my knowledge), and communicates an ambivilance towards marriage (but has expressed some interest in being in a relationship)
- my dad is very pro-my marrying my partner, but he would be fine with it just being a quick and dirty thing with like 4 people there and that's it.
- my mom is very pro-my marrying my partner too, but thankfully she is on board with basically everything my partner and I have been discussing and she is the only one in my immediate family that is fine with the cheesy stuff.

My family is close, but not at all the schmatlzy touchy feely type. For whatever reason *I* am, but they aren't. It is to the point where I still feel a little uncomfortable using the word "love" around my family and I feel uncomfortable showing physical affection around my family as well WITH CAUSE. The first time my sisters met my partner I gave him a brief kiss and hug outside at the car when he left. My middle sister saw through the window and made fun of me for it, not in a kind way but in a "give me a break" way. I'm sure she felt it was harmless but it just reinforced what I was already scared of, namely that any display of affection, no matter how innocent, would be mocked.

Before you ask, yes, there is a long history of my sisters (especially my middle sister) being very mocking and unkind towards me. I always sought the approval of my sisters as a kid but never got it. Instead I was purposefully excluded. My middle sister even went out of her way many times when we were kids to try to humiliate me in front of friends. It went beyond normal sister behaviour, her behaviour was often cruel, and it was a major concern to my parents. It wasn't until my mid/late 20's that she and I have managed to have any sort of normal, grown-up relationship, but it is a little strained and there are still emotional wounds that I carry. I know I need to let is go, I doubt they are even aware of the baggage I carry (I've tried to bring it up a few times but am instantly declared to be way off base, exaggerating, and dismissed), but I definitely have baggage and it still hurts. Irritatingly, I still catch myself doing things to try to get my sisters' approval and I am often crushed when it is denied.

So back to the wedding...

My partner and I want to have a small-ish (50-60 people), not too fussy, non-religious wedding, with the ceremony occuring out doors on my parents property. We're keeping things fairly inexpensive and simple, and I'm not hung up on anything apart from just ending the day being married to my partner. BUT the problem comes from our wanting to include some traditional/schmaltzy elements. Stuff like my walking down an aisle, my partner and I having our first dance, etc. As an example, when I mentioned to my father something about ceremony he said something along the lines of how we don't need an aisle because I obviously won't need to do that. Um, what? yes, I want to walk down an aisle!

So here is my issue. My partner and I intend to include elements in our wedding that I know are going to be mocked. The fact that I am even getting married has garnered some comments, and my middle sister recently went off on a tirade about how weddings are a sham and a waste of money. I don't think she meant it directed towards me, I think she forgot that I am here trying to plan my wedding, I think she was just making a general statement (possibly because she is feeling pressure to get married herself). It still really bothered me.

So I am worried that my middle sister and to a degree, my father are going to spend the whole wedding rolling their eyes and making fun of the fact that my partner and I dared have a first dance or had a cheesy romantic photo taken. God FORBID I include a heart ANYWHERE in the wedding. I have already decided that my cousin is going to be my maid of honour and that I'm not going to have bridesmaids. This is mostly because my cousin is the closest person to me (aside from my partner) and I love her dearly and is the only person I want to be up there with me, but also in part because I don't want any push back on any of my plans. I know my middle sister is almost definitely relieved (though I think my eldest sister is disappointed). I also have not been talking to either of them about the wedding or any details that my partner and I have been planning because I don't want to deal with the jokes and mockery.

So how do I keep from getting upset and bothered every time I get made fun of for doing something the majority of people would think was totally normal? How do I not let her disdain of anything romantic not ruin the fun of planning the wedding, or the day of the wedding, or ruin my memory of the wedding by making fun of me for it after the fact? The only thing I have come up with is to send an email out to my whole family (not just her), saying "Look, I get it, you guys don't really buy in to the romantic touchy feely stuff, but my partner and I do so there are going to be some elements in our wedding that you're going to think are stupid. Please don't joke about them or make comments or anything else because that will just upset me and I know you wouldn't want that.", but doing a pre-emptive email like that seems like overkill and, to be honest, I would probably be made fun of for sending an email like that out...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing I have come up with is to send an email out to my whole family (not just her), saying "Look, I get it, you guys don't really buy in to the romantic touchy feely stuff, but my partner and I do so there are going to be some elements in our wedding that you're going to think are stupid. Please don't joke about them or make comments or anything else because that will just upset me and I know you wouldn't want that.", but doing a pre-emptive email like that seems like overkill and, to be honest, I would probably be made fun of for sending an email like that out...

And yet, I bet you're going to be getting a whole ton of responses from people telling you to do exactly this, becuase it is NOT overkill. And the thing to do if they make fun of you for sending out that email is to get good and pissed at them, because for the fuck of shit, this is your wedding and it is extremely important to you, and they need to get over themselves and respect that.

Seriously, go get mad at them. You don't deserve the way they're treating you, and they need a good righteous telling off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [55 favorites]

To further add -- they can think whatever they think about weddings, but this isn't THEIR wedding, it's YOURS, and they need to SHUT UP about it and let you have the wedding you want. If they think first dances are stupid they can go ahead and have a wedding themseles where they moon people during the first dance or something, but this isn't THEIR wedding, its YOURS, and they need to grow up and let you have the wedding that YOU WANT TO HAVE.

And you can tell them I said that they're acting like god-damn brats, too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [19 favorites]

Don't talk to them about the wedding planning. Talk to your cousin or friends or fiance or mother or any other supportive people. You're just (unfortunately) setting yourself up for failure by expecting a positive response from your father or sisters, no matter how you present the information to them.
posted by jaguar at 5:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]

Wow, so sorry to hear that your family is not supportive. That's sad. And wrong.

I'm not at all a romantic type but my wedding was a beautiful day I'll never forget. Not primarily because things like pretty flowers and nice music, and not even primarily because I was getting married, but because it was one of those rare situations where EVERYONE looks incredibly happy and feels very warm inside. The air was full of love, peace, and harmony. That's what made it such a special day for me.

You need to explain that to your family and lay down the rules: this is your day, and if they dare mess it up for you, watch out. That's all you need to do...you absolutely have no obligation to explain anything further than that or justify anything. Make things crystal clear to them and be proud about your plans.
posted by Dansaman at 5:44 AM on September 11, 2012

Also, it doesn't sound like they actually have made fun of the wedding, just that you're worried they're going to. I understand you have good reason to worry, but stop defending yourself against stuff that no one is actually saying and stop trying to read their minds.

Really, I think the most helpful thing you can do for yourself is surround yourself with supportive, excited people and ignore your family. (The weddingbee forums are great for virtual support, too.)

And I would question whether you might consider changing the venue to a park or something, too. Having your family host is probably adding a layer of complications to these relationships that you might be better off without.
posted by jaguar at 5:45 AM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Totally agree with Empress Callipygos. The one other point I'd make is to be very sure not to say "if you don't like it, don't come", because you want them to come, and, unacceptable as their behavior is, this certainly needn't escalate. So concentrate on the "you're being unbelievably bratty" and not on the "my wedding & I can do what I want". Those are both true, but one is a more tactical approach to getting some basic respect and a happy wedding day.
posted by ambrosen at 5:48 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sibling dynamics are fun, aren't they? Just being in the presence of siblings seems to make many people regress to being 12 again.

Enlist the help of your partner, your bridesmaid (and possibly your father, and possibly your mother): establish a secret code - whenever your sister mocks you or offends you, you do the secret signal, and do their return signal. For example, you fake a yawn and look at your secret compatriot, and they scratch their eyebrow. That'll be your boost to rise above their pettiness.
posted by at at 5:49 AM on September 11, 2012

Get your mom to run interference for you. This shouldn't be your job and you shouldn't be worrying about it when you have a zillion other things to worry about.

Talk to your mother and let her know your fears. Ask her to bring down the hammer and make sure that absolutely everyone in your family knows they need to be on their best, loving, supportive behavior during the wedding. They can think whatever the hell they want in private, but it is absolutely unconscionable to ruin somebody's wedding day with snark.

God, my heart breaks to read this letter. I'm hardly a softie but I wanted to cry when I read it. I think you're totally within your rights to feel fearful and worry that you'll be hurt. Use your mom as an ally.

PS. Congratulations! Best wishes for a long and happy marriage!
posted by Sublimity at 5:50 AM on September 11, 2012 [14 favorites]

Weddings are rites of passage, they are meaningful and important. You have nothing to be ashamed of or to apologize for. Anyone who mocks you about your wedding is an ass, and you can tell them I said so.

Weddings are very personal, they join two families together and mark a milestone in your life. I honestly don't know of any way NOT to have schmaltzy wedding.

Start with your Dad and speak to him about how you feel. Perhaps your mom can help with the conversation. "Dad, I know you mean to be light hearted, but my wedding is really important to me. I'm sure you don't mean to upset me but when you undermine my plans or assume that I don't want certain things, it makes me feel unimportant. I know you love me and that you have a different way of showing your love, but as a favor to me, can you please refrain from mocking my plans. I'd love it if you could whole-heartedly join in, but if you can't, then maintain a dignified silence."

As for your sisters, perhaps you can have your Mom step in on this one. Or maybe your cousin.

I might just send that email too.

After you've mentioned it though, let it drop. If they insist on being jerks about it, that's on them. Who cares what they think at the end of the day?

You might want to work on why it is you give two fucks what these people think. Clearly you'll never be on the same page as they are about stuff like this, and you and your fiance should suit yourselves without regard to what anyone else thinks.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on September 11, 2012

If you look elsewhere for validation, you'll certainly find it. Then maybe you can see your family as the odd ducks they are rather than authority figures. You might have conversations with them individually, asking them something like, "So, have you always felt this way about marriage or was there some event in your life that triggered it?"

I would not politely, preemptively ask them to refrain from mocking. I might wait until one of them said something snarky and then respond with a solid, "Sis, I love you, but blow it out your ear."
posted by jon1270 at 5:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fuck 'em.

Fuck 'em, fuck 'em, fuck 'em.

I think nearly every wedding requires a Come to Jesus (or Get Thee Behind Me, Satan) talk. For me, it was the day leading up to my first wedding when my mother, who had steered me toward everything between renting a train and "oh, but you could spend your money SO much better," told her sisters that if I changed the date of my wedding to accommodate said train -- HER IDEA -- they would all skip the wedding and go shopping.

Sometimes I think The Talk is scarier and more personally risky than the wedding itself. You're SUPPOSED to be scared and emotional and cheesy on your wedding day. Nobody tells you how or when to have discussions like "I'm sorry if you're offended that you won't be doing the flowers for my second wedding, but for the love of God, it was SO NOT OKAY for you to get flowers from your public plots at the cemetery and City-County Building, AND YOU KNOW THIS."

Seriously. Some people simply do not have a sense of something that is blatantly, obviously, NOT OKAY -- and they will want to turn it around and gaslight you into thinking that YOU are a rude and unfeeling bridezilla.

--Write down your concerns.
--Bring your fiancé or another trusted ally with you.
--Recognize that they are perhaps missing something that you have, like a magical gene that actually enjoys physical contact. Isn't that just the saddest thing?

It is YOUR DAY. Yours, yours, yours. You are asking them to stand there and be polite people for a few hours. That's all. If they can't do that, that is a reflection on them. Not you.
posted by Madamina at 5:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't let yourself get upset, it will take away from your special event. I think that your family is on the whole is completely uncomfortable with the ultimate show of affection (aka getting married.)

There is something about middle children. I am the oldest and my middle sister thinks everything is completely unfair. She is my mother's favorite child. My mother bought her the house she lives with her husband and three kids in. My mother also purchased ALL of the furniture, window treatments, dishes, sheets, blankets, towels...I could go on but you get the idea. At the end of the day, I wished her a happy and peaceful home and to tell me what I can get her for her beautiful house. Her response was, "well, my house is still cheaper than your apartment." I live in NY and she lives in FL. A parking spot here costs more than her house, there is no point or reason to her statement. I really don't remember my mother paying for anything in my home the way my sister's was (and is.) I don't know if it is jealousy, she just enjoys complaining. So, to make a short point long, I think you ought to just let her relish in her new opportunity to complain. You enjoy your planning of a beautiful event and she enjoy the complaining about everything under the heavens.

You're going to be busy, if you haven't already noticed. Whether it's 1,000 guests or 20, it is still busy and detail oriented to plan a wedding. Concentrate on the things you need and want to do. There is no reason to let anyone suck the happy out of this all, it's stressful enough to plan the day.

Most importantly, congratulations!
posted by Yellow at 5:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with The aforementioned EmpressCallipygos.
And I hate weddings more than God hated his firstborn son. I hate getting dragged to them, I hate the simling cheesiness and all...

But I am not a dick. I am happy for the people involved, and I do not rag on their choices.
And my tact is not high.

If you think you can, let them know how you feel. Not specifics, just concerns about how important the ceremony is to you.

if they are as I think they may be (as I can read), they'll roll with it, even if they save a grab-bag of snark.

But I hate weddings, and I have been to all sorts of stupid ceremonies from handfastings to quickies to full Catholics, and I am respectful because.
posted by Mezentian at 6:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Hi there, I feel the same way about weddings as your sister (they are lame as hell, I really can't think of many elements of them I like at all) and our family is as about affectionate as yours. I think you need to tell them to STFU because what they are doing is poor form and very childish and ugly.

I have made a point of sharing all the excitement and joy of my friends getting married and how they choose to do it. Not because I applauded their taste and values but because it is their joy. I also know no one cares what I think of their wedding. I am welcome to incorporate any ideas I have about weddings into any weddings I choose to have.

If 'shut the fuck up' is too harsh for your family dynamic you can always respond with 'Thanks for your interest but we are doing the Y thing X way!' Somehow I feel like they think they can push a tender spot. Don't have the spot anymore. Deflect this crap unambiguously and early (but only once... like Ruthless Bunny said)

(Rereading your question... yes, wait until they say something to you. Until then don't say anything to them. You can pre-emptively raise your concerns with a family ally.)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:05 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Once they say something to you (it sounds like this will for sure be in advance of the wedding), tell them off. Basically, tell them what you said in your proposed email -- but say it to their face. Don't bite your tongue and then later go write an email. My concern with email is that it makes you seem weak and confrontation-avoidant, and you're trying to be and seem strong here while having this confrontation.

It's your wedding, it's a decision you made, and however they feel about marriage and weddings and emotions, it's your wedding and as your family they ought to support you.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sister: [rude remark]
You: Okay, Sister, I'm finally facing the reality that you don't love or respect me, but if I'm wrong about that, please cut it out. Otherwise, I totally understand why you wouldn't want anything to do with this wedding, so feel released.
posted by tel3path at 6:18 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]

Have you considered the possibility of not inviting your middle sister at all? Having that in your back pocket may make it easier to put sensible boundaries in place. Plus, quite frankly, I'm struggling to see how having her there will make the day better for you.
posted by SMPA at 6:24 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I deeply empathize with you and that feeling of screaming into a void when it comes to your family. Your struggles with needing to symbolize the kind of love you share with your partner in a ceremony, but having that need made somehow lesser and unimportant and contemptible is something that happened to me in the planning my own wedding.

Like you, during the planning, I fretted about this and grieved--even made decisions that didn't feel like ones I might have made without out all of that noise because I wanted to avoid the actual day getting ruined.

Here's the thing--you're right. The vast majority of people absolutely expect and enjoy a wedding to be suffused with joy and public affection and symbols of that affection (flowers, dancing, music, kissing, hearts). You are inviting 60 people who likely share that expectation and enjoy that aspect of weddings. Most of us feel like a wedding is a free pass, in fact, to openly enjoy all of the birds and ribbons, and be indulgent and schmoopy--it's fun to, it connects us to something we rarely let ourselves express otherwise.

So on my actual day, my friends wisely sequestered me a bit from those that would be negative. Then, guess what? My negative and deeply cynical family were silenced by the majority. It's one thing to snark and skewer a family member within the circle of the family, it's very difficult to when all of those values of love and celebration are normalized by the vast and present majority. Everyone around them was enjoying themselves, commenting on the happiness and the flowers and the music. While your father and sisters may find it easy within the privacy of the family dynamic to be cruel, it's almost impossible to stand your own beautifully beflowered backyard filled with gushing friends and relatives and claim the bride is off-base.

Recruit your friends, your cousin, your partner to make sure that you stay your own course--to encourage you in everything you want to do and how you want that day to look and feel. Your other guests will enjoy the beauty and celebration, drowning the bitter family contingency. You don't want to regret leaving the hearts off the favor boxes when so many other people will enjoy them (including you). Plan the logistics of the day so you are surrounded with those who support you, while those that don't have other complex jobs. Escape to your honeymooning immediately. They day will be lovely because it was what you wanted, everyone else will enjoy it and enjoy the declaration of your love, and your sisters and day will have no choice but to be silent or scream into their own void.

This tack does require faith and support. Focus some of your planning on acquiring it. This may mean recruiting your partner and his family, your cousin and her family, other friends and letting them know what you're up against and that you need their united front. In my case, my two closest friends and my partner's family helped me plan, along with some back-up from a couple of my aunts and my partner's best man. Everyone knew the score and were glad to help make my day special. And along with their help and the general mood of the day created by all the other guests, my family kept it shut.

You and your partner deserve to have the first day of your marriage to look and feel best to the both of you. Full stop.
posted by rumposinc at 6:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [12 favorites]

Wow you have described my family to a T. The only thing that has ever, ever, worked for me is to stop trying to win them over. You don't want to email them to say don't be meangirls, but you are afraid of the meangirls response. Your sisters, for whatever reason, are meangirls to you. It will never change as long as it matters to you. My siblings and I are in our 40s and still, my older brother and my sister will get a jab in. Seriously, 10 other people in the room could say "what a nice day" and my brother will agree but if I say "what a nice day" he'll say "it's been like this for a week, oh but that's, you're a suit so you're inside all the time." Which is at odds with the hippie left-wing eco-freak criticism I get on other days since I live in the mountains and go hiking a lot, but I digress.

The point is you will never win these people over. They will never say to you "I am SO HAPPY FOR YOU!" They will never say "I'm sorry for being mean to you when we were growing up" because although to the rest of the world you are all adults and probably very nice people, within your family, that adolescent dynamic is stuck. As long as you remain the little sister trying in vain to win your family over, you will stay stuck in that little-kid dynamic.

Try to step back and look at your family dispassionately, and accept what they have to offer you. Maybe that's just practical advice, or dogsitting, or holidays, or whatever. But it's not feel-good stuff. You have to be able to roll your eyes at them, and say to your friends and your partner's family, yeah, my family's just not the warm-fuzzy type. Oh well, they don't know what they're missing.

Maybe you can feel compassion for them, that they are missing out. Or maybe you can be angry at them, for making you feel crappy. But for your wedding and for your own happiness moving forward, you've got to give up on your family for that bonded, warm, safe feeling family is supposed to provide. They haven't provided it yet and they're not going to. How exciting for you that you are getting married to someone who wants what you want! Together you can create the family, and the family feeling, that works for you both.
posted by headnsouth at 6:34 AM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]

Not inviting my sister is definitely not an option. We may not be the touchy feely type family, but we are very close and I do love her. I definitely want her there. It would be much harder on me having her not come at all.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, if she doesn't want to be not invited, she will have to stop showing contempt for the event to which she wishes to be invited.

There is nothing wrong with setting these terms for her attendance.
posted by tel3path at 6:43 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would encourage you to invite everyone you want to be there, but I don't think it's wrong to ask if they want to go or not. When somebody is giving you a hard time, you can just sat, "look, you're making me feel bad and it's not OK. Do you want to come or not?"

If they say they don't want to then you can say you understand, they've made their point and now you are done hearing about it. If they say they do, then tell them you've made your point and now you are done hearing about it.
posted by smirkyfodder at 6:45 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

You have to be able to roll your eyes at them, and say to your friends and your partner's family, yeah, my family's just not the warm-fuzzy type. Oh well, they don't know what they're missing.

Sorry I should have added that you also need to be able to roll your eyes at your sister and say "girl, you do not know what you are missing! This is fun & I'm sorry for you that you're not enjoying it!" and then give your partner a big smooch, or fluff your wedding dress around a bit, or ask for a refill on your champagne. Instead of being sad by wanting your family to support you and feeling cowed by their derision, feel sorry for them that they feel the need to scoff at your joy. I mean really, how miserable does a person have to be to scoff at someone else's joy? That's the kind of situation that "well bless your heart" was made for.
posted by headnsouth at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Tell them you've grown up beyond the mentality where kissing a partner is icky and spreads cooties, and you hope they can conduct themselves in a mature and respectful manner for your wedding. You shouldn't have to say this, except it's obvious that you'll have to tell them. I'm sure you'll find a more diplomatic way of saying it than I just did. What the ever loving fuck?

I'd be tempted to send them sparkly unicorn crystal hearts emails, but I'm unsubtle like that.
posted by SillyShepherd at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2012

Your problem is not that they have one attitude about emotional displays and you have another. Your problem is that they are rude about having a difference of opinion about priorities. They're treating personal taste as fact and not even doing that politely.

You could send an email but I think you'd be better off dealing with this in person. The very next time this rears its head you say calmly and firmly "I know we don't agree about this and I respect your opinion. But when you say stuff like this it's not respectful of MY opinion and it hurts my feelings."

Because they're used to your old dynamic and are selfish and, honestly, human, they're going to want to defend their position and debate it and maybe shit on yours while they're at it. Don't be drawn in. You say little more than "I am very clear how you feel about it, I am asking you to be polite about how you know I feel." Include things like "its really hurtful when you are so mean about things that are important to me."

One of the most effective things a friend ever said to me was when I was being difficult about changing the way I phrased something - a word choice I didn't really have any big investment in - and I stated that I just didn't understand her objection. She said "why isn't it enough just to know that it bothers me?"

If you just can't face having this conversation multiple times - and I understand that - then send your email. But be brief and recognize that you're going to get long defensive responses because they are free to craft them w/o being shut down. I'd use something quick and simple like...

I understand that we don't see eye to eye on a lot of romantic displays and gestures and I respect that opinion. But our wedding is going to reflect our priorities and I'd like to ask you to respect us as well; saying dismissive things about how we choose to celebrate our love hurts my feelings. Your part in this wedding is important to me and I don't want it to be associated in my mind with unhappy thoughts.
posted by phearlez at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

"If you are so damaged that you can't be in the same room with an emotion without being ugly and hateful, you are welcome to choose to be in another room."
posted by Lyn Never at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's rewarding to them to make fun of you because it gets a response - you get upset. I suggest you develop a non-response response that calls out their behavior, which you deliver in a completely flat, neutral tone. If they give you grief about it, keep repeating your phrase. Something like "That's a rude comment." or "I'm not interested in your negative comments."

Also, as a reality check, the things you characterize as cheesy and romantic are perfectly normal wedding traditions to the vast majority of Americans. It's not like you're decorating everything with rainbows. You're walking down the aisle, for Pete's sake. It's not over the top.
posted by medusa at 7:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would try think of it in charitable terms. The family structure is changing and this probably makes them anxious so they are resorting to their accustomed ways of maintaining power in the family. I agree with headnsouth; it makes me sad when people see happiness as a zero-sum game which I think is what is going on here. I probably would say, "I know our tastes are different but can you just be happy for me?"
posted by BibiRose at 7:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't do anything by email, and I wouldn't do anything preemtively because that would just blow things up. My advice is to wait until you get snark from sister or father and state "You do know, you're not the normal ones when it comes to showing affection, right"? or "How old are you again? Making ewwww faces and mocking someone for showing affection is pretty pathetic".

I have been very successful in shutting down family nonsense by pointing out how bad their behavior is, and if they don't stop I always make sure I have a way to physically get out. If they don't want to act right, they don't get my company.

As stated above, what someone says in the privacy of the family unit is way different than what's said in public. So leading up to the wedding, if you get mocking or hateful talk just keep letting them know they are acting immaturely and have a puzzled look on your face, as if you can't figure out what's wrong with them. At the wedding, if anyone acts like a jerk, they will be the ones to look like a jerk so let that go and concentrate on having a good time.

Finally, try not to worry about this. I know, it's difficult. But you are stuck in a pattern of taking crap from your siblings and trying to get an approval/validation that will never happen. Aren't you exhausted trying all these years? You can't control their behavior, but you can change yours.
posted by lootie777 at 7:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

"This is my cheesy sham of wedding. Not yours. I know you don't like this stuff and you seem to resent being implicated in it. But this is all important to me. This is my wedding not yours. It is not intended as a commentary on you or your life. You can be a part of this hugely important personal event with kindness or contempt. I need you to not chose contempt because I love you."
posted by French Fry at 7:36 AM on September 11, 2012

Most of all, I think you need to elevator-pitch that they can shut up or ship out, and then avoid getting drawn into any arguments.

You need to take charge here, take a lead. They need to shut their rude faces, or not attend.

The very very hard part is facing the reality that they may value being rude to you more than they value attending your wedding. It will be very hard for you to hold the line if that's the case, because for this to work, you have to be willing to walk away.

I still think it's worth playing a tough game of poker, but if you were to fold over this, I certainly wouldn't blame you (even if it were in any way my place to blame you, which it absolutely is not - all this is easy for me to sit here and say, but it's your life, your family, your relationships, and your hopes and dreams here).
posted by tel3path at 7:42 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get your father on side, talk to him and explain you are concerned that he and your sister are going to roll their eyes and could he please try not to as it would hurt your feelings. Dads will do most anything for their kids and he will probably at least try to rein it in on the big day. Now he's on side get him to intercept your sister for you.

If it was me I would just laugh it off and actually all but force them to get them involved in the smaltz and have a father daughter dance and make your sisters catch bouquets and hand out heart shaped cookies or something. Get them involved in the wedding and have jobs on the big day, it's harder to mock something you are involved in. If either of them start to say anything a firm but polite "Not today sis/dad" to remind them to be on their best behaviour.

Good luck with it all. Families can be awesome, but man family dynamics can suck.
posted by wwax at 7:43 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing all the great advice above and to add that this is a great clear-cut situation to change the dynamics and set boundaries. Because imagine that kind of toxic stuff if you decide to have kids, move to a new place or other big life choices in your future.

I had a sibling tell me I would be a terrible mother and was making a mistake when we announced we were planning to adopt and I didn't speak up to change things, just didn't talk to her about it. She however talked to others and it became a mess and now she is the absent aunt in part for her constant criticism of my parenting, despite my silence about her parenting. I wish I had spoken up and changed things earlier. Actually at my wedding which she also criticised would've been a good starting time!

Have a wonderful wedding filled with many more people who want the day to be a celebration for you and your husband.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

(immediately after a tease): "hey, (sister), I love you, but you need to knock it off. This is my wedding, on my terms, to make me happy. When you get married, you can do it any way you want, but stop teasing me about my choices or you don't get to go, period."
posted by davejay at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think given that you love your sisters and say that you are very close, a lot of the responses above are too mean or harsh. I'm tempted to give you some mean/harsh responses too because it's a maddening sort of story.

I would just stick with saying lightly "oh, if you don't like X aspect of it, you don't have to come!" and smile because you know they'll still be there, or "when you get married, you can definitely do it that way at your wedding!" and smile because you know they'll never get married.

Keep alternating those two responses and eventually they'll get sick of commenting. They really sound immature enough that they could be doing this just because they know it bothers you and they enjoy getting a rise out of you. So adopt the strategy learned by siblings everywhere and just act like you don't care for long enough that you take the fun out of it for them - I bet they'll stop.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look, I get it

This phrase, said directly, goes a long way towards deflating snark. "I get it. You think the first dance is stupid and only stupid people do it. I bet you're going to think this about half the things I'll have in my wedding. It's still my wedding."

Don't send the preemptive email, but prepare yourself to call your sister out, in the moment, when she does it.

Have you ever replied to your sister's comments with something like "when you say stuff like that, it hurts my feelings"? Some people are habitual knee-jerk snarkers, and they just aren't thinking about how it comes across to the person they're making fun of. I was one of those people, and I simply didn't realize what an asshole I was being until someone flat-out told me "hey, that hurts." Maybe your sister doesn't care, but it's worth a shot.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

You know, my SIL and I had very different weddings. Hers was (in my mind) over the top, crazy, expensive, and full of crazy ritual. Mine was (in her mind) cheap, crass, and way too short. But you know what? We still had each other's backs. There were a few naysayers for both weddings, people who tried to bring us down. The response? "There will be cake. If you can be civil, you can have cake. If you can't be civil, you can leave, and not have cake."

That's a bit much for a softie, and I understand! I do! Softies rock too!

You could say, "It's my wedding, and I really want you guys to be a part of it".
You could say, "Thanks for your input, but we've decided to do X!" with a big smile on your face.
You could say, "Please don't say that, it makes me sad."
You could say, "I'd really like you to walk me down the aisle."
You could say, "Mom, could you ask to rein it in a bit? I'd really appreciate it if you could be a bit more supportive."
You could say, "I know you think weddings are dumb, but there will be cake. Who doesn't like cake?"

You could meet with a therapist for a couple sessions to learn about boundaries and expressing yourself, and to learn how to absorb the comments without being driven by them.

posted by RogueTech at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you ever replied to your sister's comments with something like "when you say stuff like that, it hurts my feelings"? Some people are habitual knee-jerk snarkers, and they just aren't thinking about how it comes across to the person they're making fun of.

I agree with Metroid Baby on this. On the other hand, some people don't care if they hurt your feelilngs, and others *want* to hurt your feelings.

Nthing that it's important not to let her show that her snark is working. After you give her the speech others have suggested, any subsequent snark attacks could be dealt with by you looking at her, smiling broadly (that's very important), and saying nothing but "Whatever." Bonus points if you can a) get a pitying look in your eyes and b) sound a little dismissive/sarcastic yourself.

I also agree that it's important to start setting limits now, in advance of the wedding day. On the day itself, agreed, avoid the snarkers as much as possible. Don't expect too much of them, but keep coming back with, "Whatever." If she is rude enough to say something on that day, you still need to respond so she can see you won't be cowed any longer, but because of the day you really want to demonstrate class, you can laugh, pat her on the shoulder, and say gently and lovingly, "Whatever." Don't forget to smile affectionately! This shows you as being patient and makes her look stupid if she's rude enough to do it in front of others.
posted by purplesludge at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2012

It doesn't even matter if this stuff is normal or not. You could want Bolivian sword-swallowers and the appropriate response would be something like "How'd you find them? What a treat!" That's how people who love each other treat each other: they STFU and behave themselves. They don't bully or roll their eyes. They recognize when their personal taste is irrelevant.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ice wall. It's like my only response, and sucks for a lot of things, but for this it's perfect. My family and my partner's family got all jerkward about the religious elements of our wedding (which were important to me, important to my partner because they were important to me, incomprehensible, offensive and awful to the rest of our family). Any time the brought it up?


No response, no engagement, because that isn't what they are looking for. They don't want to have a conversation with me about my faith. They don't actually want to talk to me in good faith. They want to control what I choose to do.

So they'd start, I'd sometimes raise an eyebrow, or frown slightly, or change the subject, but mostly I would remain silent, let them wind down (which is kind of funny to watch sometimes) then wander off if I could, or end the conversation in a terribly blunt sort of a way - "Well, I've got things to do. Bye". They got the point in the end and it had the serendipitous effect of them not actually talking to me about my faith at all now.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:19 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the middle sister thing: I wonder if she may not know at this point that the teasing is hurtful to you. I mean, she may know it academically from when you were kids, but does she know (and own) that she continues to do it?

I'd suggest this is a great opportunity to possibly really fundamentally alter your dynamic with your sister, Dad, and other members of the family who may have gotten into their heads that the way to show PuppetMcSockerson that you care about them is by teasing her.

I'd start by saying (in email if necessary), "I'm really excited about my wedding. Please don't tease me about any of my choices, I respect your choices and your ability to make different ones than me. But I need you to not tease me about them."

Then, I'd say to middle sister (and possibly Dad, though separately): "I love you. And I know you love me. But when you tease me, I feel horribly sensitive and hurt. It brings up feelings from when I was a kid and I feel terrible. I KNOW that you wouldn't want me to feel that way, so I know you wouldn't intentionally do that. But I know habits are tough to break. If you'll try to stop teasing me, I'll be happy to help, too: whenever you accidentally tease me, I'll remind you - I'll just say 'You're teasing me, please stop'. Thanks for understanding! I love you, and I look forward to the ways our relationship will continue to grow.

I am so sorry you're dealing with this, PuppetMcSockerson. Like some earlier posters, my heart really broke for you when I read your post. We're all excited about your wedding, and we think your choices are great. And as someone who participated in a Star Trek-themed wedding (and dressed up, yes) I think whatever you choose - including dressing up as Romulans - is great.
posted by arnicae at 3:59 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to explain that to your family and lay down the rules: this is your day,...
...if they don't like what you're doing, well, you're not doing it for them. You're doing it for you, your beloved, and your OTHER guests, and the rest of you are going to enjoy it. If they don't, so be it.

"This is my cheesy sham of wedding. Not yours. I know you don't like this stuff and you seem to resent being implicated in it. But this is all important to me. This is my wedding not yours. It is not intended as a commentary on you or your life.
I don't want to hear about it, and I don't want to talk about it. If they start, walk away. For every time they diss you, you get to kiss your sweetie. RIGHT IN PUBLIC.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:36 PM on September 11, 2012

Getting married next fall means you have time to change your plans, so plan to get married somewhere you and your boyfriend alone choose, even if it is a state park. No discussion with anyone; they don't even know the date and time until they open their invitations.
posted by littlegreenlights at 7:11 PM on September 11, 2012

I am still quite troubled by your question. Your sisters are high-functioning adults who presumably are able to contain themselves long enough to interact with employers and strangers - they're not unemployed or in jail, after all; they even have partners. So if you ask them to stop insulting you, they should have enough self-control to be able to do that. They should be willing to sacrifice insulting you in order to be able to attend your wedding. Many people treat their alleged loved ones much worse than they treat everyone else - partly because it's hard to maintain good behaviour 24/7, but also partly because they assume there will be no consequences.

I don't think that it's in any way mean or harsh to tell your sisters that if they can't stop insulting you they can't come to your wedding. What's risky here is that saying that will give them an opportunity to be mean to you in a way you'll never forget, and I'm not sure I'd want to take that risk either.

But I write this as somebody who spent an awful lot of my life trying to figure out ways of asking people to stop hurtful behaviours. I bought books, pored over them for hours, carefully wrote and rehearsed scripts, did everything possible to figure out how to get someone to understand that insulting me was hurtful and that hurting me was a bad thing. Well, none of it was ever effective. I either got my carefully and desperately crafted appeals smashed back in my face because it was "mean" or "cruel" to accuse them in that way, or I got flat-out mockery, or I got mocking promises to shut up and then within five minutes they'd cleverly found another way to do the same thing. Being hurt and insulted on at least an hourly basis was a way of life for me, then.

Things only changed for me when I decided that I would only explain something if I honestly thought someone didn't understand something. For example, a lot of men will use the male privilege of pretending not to understand basic social rules that I, as a female Aspie, have never been exempt from. I had to be able to face up and see this kind of thumb-biting for what it was. Now, if I explain, I only do so twice. After that, I enforce consequences by distancing myself or doing something equally unpleasant to the miscreant.

In my opinion, telling your sisters that they can either stop insulting your wedding, or not attend it, would be both firm and kind - to them at least. The problem is that telling them that also gives them the opportunity to be cruel to *you*, and I don't see that as an acceptable risk. I think that if they're truly contemptuous of you and of this important event in your life, it is (sadly, cruelly) better that they not be required to be there, but I don't know if I could follow my own advice in this regard. My feeling is that, if you're as close as you say, they will actually suck it up and attend even if, right up until the last minute, they sneer and snark and offer all kinds of contemptuous resistance.

But you're the one who knows them and can best predict what they'll do and what approach will be the least cruel to yourself.
posted by tel3path at 4:57 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Followup: I went to go visit my parents this past weekend and laid it all out, in no uncertain terms, that I was extremely worried about how my sister was going to be throughout this process and afterwards. I said how I'm more touchy feely and schmaltzy than the rest of them and that they are no doubt going to find some of the stuff we do silly, but I didn't want to be made fun of it forever. I was told by my father that I was being silly and worrying too much, but my mother heard me and said she totally understood and that she'll do what she can to shut people up. She said how this is my wedding and I should do it however I want. So I have an ally and I feel a bit better. Thanks mefi!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:39 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

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