Help me not ruin my sister's wedding.
January 24, 2013 12:10 PM   Subscribe

My younger sister is getting married, and there are a million ways this could go wrong for me. Help me not ruin her wedding.

My sister is getting married this summer. She's decided I'm going to be a bridesmaid (she lives in another country, so maid of honor isn't really a possibility), so I'm more or less obligated to go. The tickets are bought, the plans are made - and I'm scared as hell. There are a couple reasons:

* The wedding's in her country, so I won't know anyone but my family. Which means...

* She's inviting my father to the wedding. Which is her prerogative, but is also a problem. She keeps in touch on and off, but I have not spoken to him in approximately 8 years, with good reason. (basically, when I turned 18 and was no longer legally obligated to because of divorce mediation stuff.) The most contact I've had is curt emails every few months, and one of the last times we spoke was him yelling at me because I didn't respond to an e-card soon enough. This is pretty much the norm; he's, for lack of a better term, a drama queen, and every time my sister or I would go out with him it would turn into a fight. I don't see an open bar making this less likely, either. The thought of having to hold a polite conversation with him is terrifying, but it will probably be unavoidable. It might not just be him, either - according to my sister he's trying to invite a lot of people, which may or may not include whichever new girlfriend he has, who judging by what I know of him lately may or may not be my age. Unsurprisingly, there are few people I want to meet less.

* While we're on the subject, this probably should not bother me as much as it does, but you know, she's younger than me, which makes me feel kind of like a spinster aunt or the lead in The Taming of the Shrew - and not the cool Kat Stratford version, the actual shrewish version. She's marrying really young (22), and everyone involved knows it (it's in part so she can stay in the country), but still: our family dynamic was always that I was the smart one and she was the pretty/popular one, and given that it is probable that I'll still be extremely single by then, it doesn't do much for my self-esteem. I can't even imagine how my mother must feel.

So yeah. My mother and sister pretty much already warn me daily not to make a scene or ruin her wedding, and I really, really don't want that to happen too. But the whole thing honestly terrifies me and is just getting closer. How can I not fuck this up?
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You are not responsible if your dad makes a scene. Remind both yourself and them of this. If they are worried about you responding to his attempts to start a fight, the focus needs to be on his responsibility not to start fights at his daughter's wedding.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:13 PM on January 24, 2013 [13 favorites]

You say your mother and sister have been warning you daily not to make a scene, which implies to me that you are the type of person that would likely do just that. You might want to give that some thought in a broader sense than just for this one day.

But how to not ruin her wedding? Avoid your father (as much as possible) if you can't keep it to the casual generalities of conversation (how are you, how's work going, the weather sure is great here, etc.) But most of all, remember that this event is NOT ABOUT YOU. Try to focus on your sister and be happy for her. If something bothers you, ignore it and smile: it's just one day. Remember, this event is not about you: suck it up, smile, be nice and gracious, then go home when it's all over and scream into your pillow if you have to.
posted by Eicats at 12:14 PM on January 24, 2013 [26 favorites]

Prepare for the worst and improvise some humor/perspective-maintaining props. For example, you and a sympathetic cousin could try out a "wedding disaster bingo" game that involves drunken rant, questions about when YOU are getting hitched, other likely snarky comments by great-aunts, etc. Additionally, I'd try to find things that I would really enjoy, like focusing on your sister (maybe bring her some keepsake that would mean something special to her? that you give her privately? or write her a letter to read later?) and her happiness, or researching Foreign Country so that you can do some sightseeing in the gaps in the schedule. Or maybe you can try to find two cute groomsmen to flirt with. Whatever you can to make it an Event You Were Glad to Be At, rather than merely a Crisis of Doom and Gloom.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 12:16 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

(not threadsitting but I just realized I forgot to point out - it's "daily" because she just made her engagement official and started planning in earnest so it's kind of THE major conversation topic right now, I assume it'll taper off later)
posted by dekathelon at 12:16 PM on January 24, 2013

My opinion, the best way to avoid a scene at the wedding is to get the scene out of the way. Meet your dad for coffee or a drink the night before or the day before. It may well suck, but you will get all the drama out at that meeting then you can ignore him at the wedding. Takes the pressure off.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:18 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

It sounds like your primary worry here is your dad, and the potential for him to make a scene or otherwise make life difficult for you. Here's what I'd do:

1) Find out from your sis the extent to which he's going to be around (rehearsal dinner, wedding itself, reception, brunch afterwards, other things)

2) Have a chat with your sister about the fact that you personally have an issue with your dad and would prefer not to have a blow-up with him and ruin your sister's day. You say she warns you daily not to mess up - explain that your dad is a trigger (as you likely are to him) and see if a solution can be reached. Maybe he needs to be "distracted" during the wedding, or maybe you need to be! Stay busy so you are focussing on other things than your fraught relationship with your dad. See if a male relative will keep your dad busy talking throughout the night.

3) Resolve to be zen in the face of your dad's drama. Let your dad be the drama-lama that he is, and let it all roll off you, like you're watching it on TV or something. Plan and practice some deflecting phrases for when he gets in your face.
posted by LN at 12:18 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. If your dad's a drama queen, it's not going to be you who "ruins the wedding". Though I would ask politely not to be seated near him, and I would concentrate on avoiding him as much as possible.

2. Your feelings about your younger sister getting married before you, and smart one vs. pretty one, and your self esteem are yours. I think you can probably handle them on your own without taking them out on your sister at the actual event.

Just don't fucking make a scene. If you don't feel it's in your power not to make a scene, or if you can't easily feel out the difference between making a scene and not making a scene, this is probably something you should be talking out with a therapist.
posted by Sara C. at 12:18 PM on January 24, 2013 [29 favorites]

Actually the fact that your father is inviting a lot of people may be a blessing in disguise - because it could distract your father sufficiently so that he'll have little chance to talk to you.

Other than that - can you bring a friend as your "date"? If you can, make it someone you trust, and have them check in on you now and then to make sure that you're doing okay, and use your date as an excuse to get out of conversations and away from people if necessary.

If you can't - well, whatever it takes to get yourself away from things for a while if you just can't take it; there was a moment at one of my cousin's weddings where I was just feeling old and spinsterish and single and left-out and miserable, but the wedding was at my aunt's house, so I snuck inside the house and went up to the attic and read children's books for about 20 minutes to calm down when I could tell I was getting a little worked up about "if one more person asks me about whether I have a boyfriend I am going to shoot someone in the head". It wasn't rollicking fun or anything, and I was a tiny bit miffed that no one really had noticed I was gone, but it kept me from having a meltdown in public (and I realized that the reason no one had noticed I was gone was because there were a huge ton of people there and everyone probably assumed I was just somewhere else in the crowd).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:19 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some ideas...

a) Have fun stuff planned both before (maybe massages for you and your sister?) the festivities and after (quick departure for some sightseeing elsewhere in the country) so you have "legitimate" reasons to separate from the group;

b) Organize a group tour of the local sights for all the out-of-towners so they are engaged in structured activities that give them things to talk about besides family drama;

c) Deputize somebody else to babysit your father and, perhaps, your mother; you'll be "too busy" helping your sister.

d) Bring a buddy.

e) Ask yourself why your sister and your mother both think it's you who will make the scene. Are they right and what can you learn from that about what you need to avoid during the visit? And if that's what they think, can you use that to set their expectations correctly, e.g., that you won't be a constant presence?

Good luck!
posted by carmicha at 12:19 PM on January 24, 2013

BRING A DATE! And by date, I mean a supportive friend. Having someone there with you will keep you from feeling like a spinster (you're sister is getting married really young, so you shouldn't feel that way, but feelings are feelings), your dad might back off, and you'll have someone to talk to.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:21 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Meet your dad for coffee or a drink the night before or the day before.

This is not a great idea, because what will happen if your family is anything like any family I've ever known, is that you and your dad having it out the night before the wedding will possibly be the murmured topic of conversation On The Day, or if not, it will be something that is hanging like a shroud over the whole thing. Nobody wants that.

Just get through it the best you can without letting your dad trigger you. Zen is probably the key word.
posted by Sara C. at 12:22 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

We often fall into the trap of assuming that our emotions are like jackals, leaping out of the shrubbery at random to terrorize us, and that our emotion-driven behavior is something that cannot be altered - that we are, to continue the jackal metaphor, basically just screaming and shrieking and somehow defending ourselves by letting ourselves lash out as a result of our emotions.

This is untrue.

When I've been in similar situations, I've tried to keep three things in mind: 1. I can and WILL control my emotions and acts, 2. Be kind, and 3. It's Not All About Me, Or Even PRIMARILY About Me.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:22 PM on January 24, 2013 [43 favorites]

Or, since I see it's in another country and it might be hard to find someone willing to make the trek, do you have a cousin who will be going who can be your designated wedding buddy?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:23 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

adding to the importance of "friendly guy as your date" - my own plus-one for my brother's wedding was a guy I'd dated 10 years prior, and a really good friend, and was invaluable with helping me with some of those "I'm still single and my little brother's getting married before me and I'm gonna be single until I diiiiiiiiie" feelings, and he was also social and gregarious enough that he was able to step in and charm the rest of my family if he could tell I was getting a little overwhelmed.

(Plus he's an amazing dancer, so during the reception I kind of got to have a turn impressing my family for a little while becuase "wow, EC, I never knew you could dance like that!" And then I think my aunt tried to hit on him.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:26 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can do this for your sister. Repeat this to yourself one million times.

I'm not saying check yourself into therapy, but Google Dialectical Behavior Training and read up on what it offers for emotion regulation. It will talk about "skills" to use to get yourself through stressful times. It'll be handy for when your dad starts getting stupid; smile sweetly and say, "Gosh, you should stop, or you'll ruin Sister's wedding." Then walk away.

As for feeling like the spinster sister, cast yourself instead as the wiser older sister. I got married like a moron at 22. I have no idea if it bothered my older sister. Now she's got a great husband that she took her time to find and I have an ex-husband. Not saying it always happens, just saying it like this: your sister is getting married and the only way to get married first is to elope with the next thing you see in pants. Bad idea all around, so let it go.
posted by mibo at 12:29 PM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

From the worries expressed by your sister and mother, it sounds like you need to learn how to ignore your father's baiting. This is important not only for the wedding but also for the rest of your life, perhaps also for managing conflict with other difficult people.
posted by ptolemy chennus at 12:30 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

What kind of wedding are we talking about here? How long do you actually need to stay at the reception? How busy will you be? How many people will be attending?

Mr recs: avoid your father (and whoever else you need to avoid). This doesn't mean refusing to acknowledge him or staring through him or whatever, it means, if you see he's on one side of the room, you stay on the other side. If you get into a conversation with him, you break it off and say, "Oh, I promised to check on [sister], did you try the stuffed mushrooms? You should get some, that guy over there has a tray of them." Unless one of you makes a big deal about it, no one else will notice. And you're not going to make a big deal out of it because you don't want to ruin anything. And if your dad does want to make a big deal out of it, that's on him.

Also, take 20-minute bathroom/smoke breaks whenever you feel like it (people will not notice you're gone), interact with the people you like interacting with (fun cousins? hot groomsmen? kindly bridesmaids?), don't drink (ideally don't drink at all, certainly don't drink to excess).

I sympathize - my younger sister got married two weeks after I turned 30 (single) and a lot of her friends were people I had an uneasy relationship with and I was barely speaking with my mother at the time of the wedding (and, indeed, didn't talk to her again for six months afterwards), but I actually had a good time at the wedding. It helps that I like my cousins. Also helps that my mother is more likely to give me the silent treatment than to attempt to make a scene in public.
posted by mskyle at 12:30 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't drink.

Consider pretending that you've got some kind of pesky intestinal virus. Just put some vague word out that you've come down with something. Assure people that you're not contagious, but that you might need to use the restroom a fair amount on short notice. Then, whenever things start getting weird, get a sick look in your face, apologize, excuse yourself, and then walk quickly/urgently in the direction of the restroom. You can use it for timeouts and no one will question you about it or try to stop you, particularly if you vaguely hints about how difficult all the throwing up has been.
posted by jasper411 at 12:33 PM on January 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

At my brother's wedding, my cousins and I (despite our ten year age-gap) bonded in an awesome way by sticking together. My older cousin is a bit of a drama-bomb and my younger cousin nearly took my brother's best friend home with her (to my hotel room) but us drunken cousins held ourselves together and made it through the wedding intact. If you can, reach out to your family. I'm incredibly grateful that I did, because now me and drama-bomb cousin are actually way closer. Sometimes the people you're related to end up being actually kinda cool....sometimes.
posted by nursegracer at 12:34 PM on January 24, 2013

Dude, it's a party, not a commentary on your life, how you live it or anything else.

As for dealing with your dad, treat him as you would an obnoxious ex. Smile, be polite and cursory. When you meet his girlfriend, "It's a pleasure." Smile, shake her hand, and then say, "Oh gosh, I see Mom over there needs me." Then be off. If he chooses to make a scene, when people play, "Who's the asshole, it will be your dad." If he doesn't make a scene, then minimizing contact will work in your favor.

Why do you care if your sister is getting married? Are you sad you're not married? I doubt seriously that you are. That won't keep people from making rude remarks, so have some light statements ready for them.

They: So, when are you getting married?
You: Just as soon as I find the right person. Know anyone? (Smile)

It's annoying, but people are just trying to make conversation. They're not implying that there's anything wrong with you, they don't know you very well, and they're fishing for something to say. Make it easy on them, ask them a question or two, "what should I see before going home?"

As for you, rise above it. At the end of the day you're there for your sister. Be of as much service to her as possible. This isn't anything except a horrible party that you have to live through.

Don't drink, don't say anything nasty to anyone, and don't pull a face.

Be gracious, be adult and get over yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:34 PM on January 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

If all else fails, there is no shame in getting through the wedding and then apologizing that you don't feel well and skipping the reception. Migraine, upset stomach, what have you.

From your description, it appears that one of two things is happening:

1. Your family has jerks in it who like to blame you for drama you do not cause, berate you for your dad's failures, guilt you despite your willingness to go be a bridesmaid in some other country, and also make you feel bad about your looks, or:

2. You are an out of control person who causes fights and drama at family events and that's why everyone is giving you shit.

If it's number two, well, you probably won't be helped by anything we say here until you get some therapy. You don't sound like that kind of person from your post, but what do a bunch of Internet strangers know.

If it's not number two, then you have to accept that your family is what it is and you only owe them So Much. How much is up to you, especially if you realize that no matter what you do, no matter how Good you are, someone is going to be giving you shit about it. Your dad, but your mom and sister sound like they have been at you as well.

So: honor your bridesmaid committment, and then if you can't handle the rest, bail. If the stuff leading up to it is upsetting you, it's fine to just keep responding blandly, as in "I will not be making any scenes, but what Dad does is up to him." Or just refusing to respond to anything not related to scheduling or travel plans.

You didn't make your sister invite him or let him bring a lot of buddies. You didn't insist your sister make you a bridesmaid. You are only responsible for your own behavior. Let everybody else do whatever crazy thing they are going to do and just act sanely and politely.
posted by emjaybee at 12:38 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

It doesn't even matter what the details of this situation are, you are in control of your own behavior. You're an adult. Just don't make a scene. Don't even come close to getting involved in any kind of discussion that could turn into A Thing. Smile, be pleasant, and get up and leave if you have to. There isn't anything to worry about - your own behavior is 100%, completely controllable.

Caveat: don't get drunk. Not even a little bit. No drinking.
posted by something something at 12:39 PM on January 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

This may vary depending on the size of your sister's wedding, but all the weddings I've been a part of have had a TON of logistical stuff to take care of during the event- stuff like bustle the bride's dress, de-bustle it, see where the flowers went, wheel Grandpa Bob in from the limo, OMG-find-the-caterer-cake-cutting-was-supposed-to-be-20-minutes-ago, etc. This was kind of annoying at the time, because it meant there was a lot of running around behind the scenes handling stuff instead of dancing and socializing, but it also means that if you wanted to keep busy, not have to chat much, and avoid introspective downtime, then it might be really easy to do so.

As the wedding approaches, try asking your sister for lists of stuff that needs to be done the day of- and volunteer for everything you can. Doing so will not only make you a star bridesmaid, it'll give you a great excuse to be up and away and flitting about busily during long high-pressure conversational segments of the event. And if you've got a long list of tasks to accomplish, that may help you focus less on yourself and how you feel, making it easier to avoid scenes and/or threatened breakdowns.
posted by Bardolph at 12:44 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Actually, i second the "get dad a babysitter" advice -- I forgot that I actually did that for a "problem personality" at my own wedding: I assigned a member of my half of the wedding party to just keep an eye on him, especially when the drinks get flowing, and try to divert him from any conflicts with other family members et al. Somebody in the wedding party might be willing to do that for you, even without bringing your sister into it.
posted by acm at 12:44 PM on January 24, 2013

Some of it, you've just got to suck up, like being single when she gets married younger than you. You just have to resolve to make this day about her and not about you, as other people have told you. What you are having is (I say sympathetically) a petty thought, and you have to recognize it as a petty thought, roll your eyes at it, and move on. That's all it deserves.

As for your dad, absent very extreme circumstances that you cannot possibly do anything about that would probably result in his being thrown out (your dad screaming at you and attacking you for no reason in the middle of the room), it takes two to make a scene. I'd practice saying "This is [Sister]'s day." Just that. Those words. If he asks you why you don't call, why you don't answer, why he hasn't seen you: "Dad, not today. This is [Sister]'s day." If he tries to bait you, walk away. If he talks about you to someone else and you hear about it, ignore it. You're certainly not the first person to have to tolerate a parent's date you're not crazy about; you have to be courteous and polite to her; you do not have to make small talk with her. He may well know how to push your buttons, so if he does, just say to yourself, "That's him pushing my buttons, and I'm really glad that I don't have to respond." Be superhuman in your maturity; it shows you are in control.

And I agree 100 percent with this advice: You may well be tempted to drink. Do not. All the other advice will not matter if you cannot use your good judgment.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:45 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

1. I'm the youngest of three sisters and I'm getting married first, this summer. Neither have said it outright, but they seem to have a similar "I'm old and a spinster and my baby sister is marrying before me!" thing. To be blunt, it sucks for me. Their anti-wedding, "well, I don't want to get married anyway, hurumph" attitudes hurts my feelings. It makes me feel like I'm somehow wronging them my marrying the man I love. I feel GUILTY for God's sake. That is not what I should be feeling about my wedding. So for real, try hard to suppress that when you're with your sister.

2. In regards to your father, I would:
a) not drink any alcohol at all at any times when you may be in contact with him.
b) be really busy. If he tries to talk to you or stir things up, diffuse by being TOO BUSY TO TALK and get the fuck out of there. Keep yourself from being in a situation where his behaviour is going to set you off.
c) avoid the heck out of him. If you have any cousins/relatives that understand and know your situation, touch base with them. Explain how you're worried about how your and his interactions (and frankly, him alone) might negatively impact your sister's wedd. Try to have some people lined up to run interference.

3. Weddings can be both awesome and awful, in equal measure, at the same time. It is okay to have mixed feelings about all this. Just remember it will be done and overwith relatively soon and then you can get back to your normal life.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:49 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't have much to say about the Dad and younger partner. If you don't feel like talking to him, don't. Bring a wingman who can be trusted to head him off at the pass. Avoid, avoid, avoid. If he corners you, smile and say, "Pardon me," and walk away. If he asks you for something (a dance, a drink, a meeting) fall back on the always useful "That won't be possible," and walk away. Rinse/repeat.

You said that to you, your sister is marrying young at 22. Ok. Why does it matter if you're not married, if she's marrying young? More broadly, why should it matter that she's marrying first even though she's younger? My sister got married relatively young around, oh...six years ago? She's still married, to the same guy (yay) and I (the older sister) am still unmarried.

I didn't give a shit when she got married six years ago, don't care any more about it now. There is not any sort of marriage race where whoever gets married first wins. And, if SHE thinks of it that way, spend some time thinking of how it must have been growing up with the dichotomy you describe - where you're the smart one, and she's not. "Oh...she might not be as smart as OP, but isn't she a nice girl? And pretty, too!" Feel some empathy for her always having to define herself in the places that you aren't. If she feels like getting married sooner gives her the win in the marriage sweepstakes, congratulate her in a loving, supportive way.
posted by arnicae at 12:50 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mother and sister pretty much already warn me daily not to make a scene or ruin her wedding

Are they saying this in the context of you dealing with your father, or have they expressed any other concerns regarding this?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:00 PM on January 24, 2013

(another clarification -- when I mention "make a scene" it's specifically in the context of my father, I think. same goes for the drinking thing -- that applies to him, he drinks a lot.)
posted by dekathelon at 1:07 PM on January 24, 2013

There's plenty of good advice on avoiding drama, so I'll stick with your second concern.

There's nothing wrong with being the smart kid. Imagine the inverse where you're the one being told that you're the dumb one, so let's hope your looks don't give out on you. Thank god she's getting married, since she definitely needs a partner to help to keep her life together. When is she going to pop out kids, since she doesn't have the brains for a career?

Life isn't a competition. Her successes do not reflect poorly on you. Praise for her is not about your shortcomings. As a second child, you have always been the first yardstick she measures herself against, even more than we all judge ourselves against our peers. Let this be about her. Isn't it great that your sister is so lovable and outgoing, she found that special someone so young? Your priorities and strengths and interests have been elsewhere, and it has led you to be happier.

Sure it's easy to think "of course I'd be happier with a life partner who will love and adore me". But that's not what she's getting. She's getting the payoff of years being the social butterfly, meeting and sorting through tons of imperfect dates. I don't know about you, but as a bookish introvert with social anxiety, that would have been a living hell for me. And I wouldn't have had the time to build all the things I love about my life.

Also, weddings are the weirdest mix of folks. You will find orphans who only know the bride and groom, who are too busy to mingle with them. Distract yourself from your father by befriending them and making sure they don't feel so alienated.
posted by politikitty at 1:08 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, weddings are the weirdest mix of folks.

Seconding this - I went into another cousin's wedding not knowing anyone outside my family, and was wandering around bored for a while during the reception until I ran into these two guys (a couple my cousin knew) who were similarly bored, so we ended up all bonding over some outrageous stuff that I'd actually be a little embarrassed if my cousin knew we were talking about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re: Feelings of jealousy and inadequacy: Fake it til you make it. I'm sure you're a rational human being and you know that this about your sister and blah blah blah - but feelings are irrational. Just don't let your irrational (but understandable) feelings express themselves in the wrong way.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:18 PM on January 24, 2013

I'd suggest emailing your dad and saying, "Look, we obviously have our issues, but my sister's wedding is not the place to have a big scene. Let's agree to keep it civil, and let her have her special day." He'd have to be a spectacular dick to say no to that when he's sober, and if he gets drunk and starts turning nasty, you can say, "Father, remember, we agreed to keep it quiet for the sake of the bride and groom?"

If he still blows up at you, point out again that it's not the right time or place for for an argument, and walk the other way. Nobody there is going to think you were the asshole.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:18 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Look, we obviously have our issues, but my sister's wedding is not the place to have a big scene. Let's agree to keep it civil, and let her have her special day."

I don't think a guy who yelled at her for not responding to an e-card fast enough is going to agree to this even when sober. I think the best would the earlier suggestion upthread about not taking his bait, remaining professional, cool and excusing herself after some small talk is the best strategy.
posted by Aliera at 1:35 PM on January 24, 2013

Find something to do. The advice to bring a friend or a date is great, but with the wedding in a whole other country, I'm guessing that that is probably not going to be possible. So what you need is a job. And at a wedding reception what's a great job? Video. Make it your job to go around and get everyone's wishes for the happy couple, that kind of thing. If your dad won't leave you alone after you take the great advice up thread about just smiling and reminding yourself and him that it's your sister's day, well, you can turn on the video camera and see someone that you've got to catch so you don't miss anyone.

If that's not possible, just - find things to do. There will probably be kids there - play with them. Offer to hold babies so that their mom and dads can dance. If there's older relatives, stick with them and make sure they're comfortable, that they have plenty of whatever they want. If you're worrying about other people it'll help a lot.
posted by lemniskate at 1:36 PM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's really easy, if you don't want to make a scene, than you don't. If you've been apart from your father for so long, than why do you need to make polite conversation. Just treat him as you would treat any of the other guests: Be polite and move along. Unless he is going to chase you around the venue, it is easy enough to just keep yourself moving about with a good distance between the two of you. If he does end up chasing you around and yelling, than you just keep your composure and don't say anything other than "It's my sisters wedding, and I would like to keep it a special day. We can discuss whatever is on your mind once the event is over". At that point, if he keeps making a scene, everyone will see that it isn't you who is causing the problems.
posted by markblasco at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2013

The fabulous advice blog Captain Awkward has a post about a problematic father at a wedding. Other wedding-related posts include reminders that even when a friend's/sibling's upcoming wedding may result in unavoidable and sometimes unpleasant conversations (with others or even ourselves) about our own singlehood, the bride and groom are not getting married AT us in an attempt to make us feel crappy. But our feelings are our feelings, even when inconvenient and unexpectedly intense. Maybe a friend can be a designated "ack! wedding!" phone call buddy when you need to vent but don't want to fluster your mother or sister.

Also, that reminds me, if bringing a friend date along to the wedding is at all an option, please do. I was the emotional support date (like a therapy dog but less fuzzy?) for a good friend who was attending the wedding of an ex. Was a ton of fun and I got to wear a pretty dress.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:43 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure this will work, but it's a tactic that might work if you can stomach is for a night.

If he starts something just immediately agree with him and apologize. No matter what it is. You didn't reply to the ecard? Oh my you're right I'm so sorry that was really inconsiderate of me. Etc it'll turn your stomach and there may come a topic you just can't under any circumstances apologize for, but it might cut him off at the knees and he'll have nothing to rage about.
posted by whoaali at 4:10 PM on January 24, 2013

Don't just survive the wedding. Practice being gracious and serene. If Dad needles you, smile sweetly, then say you have to freshen your drink, and go get another sparkling water. Practice feeling delight at your sister's happiness. Be helpful to your sister and your Mom. You don't have to engage with your Dad - distract him, excuse yourself, enlist help from others in avoiding conflict with him. Get a fabulous haircut, do your nails, etc.; be the other pretty sister. You sound so unhappy. The absolute best response it to celebrate the joy of others, and to be your very best self. If nothing else, it will surprise your family, and that's all to the good. Note: it is, in the long run, more fun to be loved than to be right.
posted by theora55 at 5:40 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Swallow your pride for the sake of your sister. The original question makes the idea of you ruining the wedding sound almost like some inevitable event that you'll have to go to great lengths to avoid, like some Bruce Willis rescue movie where you'll have to fire a taxi at a helicopter and take out international terrorists to stop you/someone else from making a scene.

Its not really like that. You go, you have fun, if people annoy you, just smile, stay out of conversations about politics/religion/family politics/gossip other than to say "thats interesting!" and move on. If people try to engage you in drama, do not respond, do not defend yourself, other than to say "this day is about my sister and her husband". Because its true, its not about how your Dad never treated you well and now has a younger girlfriend and how much that annoys you and whatever.

I've been to a wedding where there was a massive scene, and where the person who caused that scene very loudly blamed me for "causing" it (apparently I reminded him of the fact his then wife had dated another man, my best friend, and that was cause for him to interrupt the speeches with his insane rantings). I felt terrible ... but at the BBQ the day after the wedding pretty much everyone talked about how crazy that guy was, and I came out looking classy as I didn't engage or respond to those wild claims and I'm still close friends with the family to this day.
posted by Admira at 6:45 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you don't have a date or friend you want to bring with you (who is willing to do international travel to help you out), ask your sister if she's got other friends who will be there on their own, or find out if any of the other bridesmaids/groomsmen will also be in the position of not really knowing anybody.
At my brother's wedding, his guests were mostly his local friends - our family too, but they're all older-generation, so I was kind of on my own as far as peer-age socializing went, including pre-party, etc. So I ended up "teaming up" with a couple of his grad-school friends who'd come from across the country and also didn't really know anybody. I don't know whether we were shoved together on purpose, but it would have been very smart of my brother if this were true.
posted by aimedwander at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2013

Bring a good friend. If you have to buy their plane ticket, it's worth it. Seriously. You have one sister (it sounds like). Eat the cost if you possibly can.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:48 AM on January 25, 2013

I have to deal with something similar every two years - a family reunion. My oldest brother still has a relationship with our father and he wants him to be there. (In spite of the fact the the reunion is for our mother's side of the family. Yeah, go figure.) At the last one I even had to pick him up from the airport (there won't be room in the car this year, yay, but I digress.)

What I do is treat him as I would treat a weird friend of my brother: polite yet distant. And as others have said - stay away from the booze. If dear ol' pop starts in - the bathroom dodge works as does the having to help in the kitchen dodge.
posted by deborah at 11:25 PM on January 27, 2013

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