Um, when and where the hell is your wedding happening??
January 7, 2015 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I've agreed to be the MOH at an old, cherished friend's destination second wedding this year (after the couple secretly eloped), but unfortunately, the bride and groom can't agree upon an actual wedding date and location. As of today, this wedding is potentially either 5 or 8 months away but still up in the air. Which is beginning to interfere with the ability of the guests to plan their lives this year... snowflakes below...

One of my best girlfriends from adolescence is planning a wedding this year. The groom is a man I've never met before, and who frankly, nobody in our friend group likes. This will be the second marriage for both the bride and groom, and they are both in their late 30s, and have been together for 2.5 years. She asked me to be the MOH, and I very happily accepted.

This past fall of 2014, she sent an email to the bridal party setting forth the date and location details -- saying the wedding will be held in a major city in Europe this summer 2015, and she wants all of the wedding attendants and our partners there for 5 full days of fun wedding-related events (which FWIW is about 3 days more than is typical for this group). The entire bridal party lives in North America, so she knows it will be expensive and logistically hard, particularly for the people with children to arrange childcare, as kids are not invited.

She moved from North America to Europe last spring, right after she and her groom-to-be secretly got married in front of a magistrate, for immigration purposes, and I'm the only person who knows they have eloped and are actually already married. The groom is really afraid of his mom finding out that he eloped. The bride hates that she has to keep her marriage a secret.

Since the time of her fall wedding party email, she's shared with me that she and her fiancé/husband have been having some financial problems as well as some disagreements about where they currently live. She would like to move closer to downtown and work, but they cannot afford to move, nor even agree about whether he is willing. Also, they are having trust issues in their relationship: he has been looking through her personal things in a way that crossed some major boundaries for her, and recently accused her of infidelity (which is laughable and ridiculous; I know my friend). They have been fighting, and he sleeps a lot, and is a professional but can't hold down a job for long, and they don't like to vacation the same way, and they are different religions and nationalities which is also causing conflict. Long story short, I've recommended both individual and couples therapy and thankfully, my friend is actively looking for two different therapists.

In a recent turn of events, the groom unilaterally decided to change the wedding date and place to North America (a Canadian city nowhere near where anyone else except his sibling lives), and he booked a wedding venue for the fall of 2015. They also still have a deposit on the first venue in Europe booked for the summer of 2015. The bride wants the first date and place -- they can't agree. And this is getting ridiculous.

Today I got a call from a mutual friend of ours saying she's about to book her and her husband's flights to Europe for the summer wedding, but the bride is not responding to her calls or texts and she just wants to confirm the summer dates before she books not only their travel, but also the travel needed to fly her aunt out to their home to watch their kids for a week. Holy hell. I felt terrible and told her to hold off on booking anything for now, and then I immediately called the bride and made her call this friend back ASAP, which she did. WTF?

This is turning into a real shit-show. My Type-A-personality-having self is having a hard time not knowing where I am supposed to be, wear, do -- throw a bachelorette party or not, and the type of toast I need to give this summer or fall... or, or whenever.. or not?? The uncertainty sucks, and is not fair to everyone involved who plans to travel. I'm also disappointed and a bit worried that the bride has not reached out to her other friends to tell them not to book anything for the summer, and that they are calling me because she is choosing not to communicate with them. But probably most of all, I am worried that my friend is in an unhappy (secret) marriage, far, far away from her entire family and friend support network here in North America.

Oy vey. What's my best course of action here?
posted by hush to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you've already figured out that her new marriage is already in serious trouble. If you're comfortable standing up as her MOH but not in spending a fortune to get to a wedding venue abroad, then tell her that you've decided you can't afford to travel further than ___ (a 2-hour drive from your home, a $300 airplane ticket, - whatever you're comfortable with), so you'll have to decline. Then let HER figure out the next move. My bet it's going to end up in a quiet divorce.
posted by summerstorm at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Apologetically extract yourself from this using whatever reasons you need. They have bigger problems than the wedding date. Time is precious and they're holding yours (and everyone else's) hostage.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2015 [24 favorites]

I would un-accept being MOH "sorry I'm so busy lately" or "your plans keep changing and I can't keep up, call me when you have something specific you need from me" and leave her to drive the show. Then back away from the drama.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:45 PM on January 7, 2015 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Everyone should go about their lives as they want. If the bride and groom get their life together enough to actually send out specific invitations they just have to deal with the fact that not everyone they invite will come. It is unreasonable (straight up crazy even) for them to expect anything different from their family and friends.
posted by Swisstine at 12:45 PM on January 7, 2015 [35 favorites]

I would tell her that you're having concerns about the wedding and are considering declining being her MOH because of the uncertainty.

Maybe having her best friend on the verge of backing out will prompt her into doing what is necessary to come to a decision about this.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:49 PM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

Since when does either party get to unilaterally decide major changes to a wedding when not delegated to do so? For that and the other reasons you describe I agree that this marriage is in serious trouble already.

But no one should be expected to make a serious commitment of time and money for an event that may not even occur. I agree with others that you should politely demur on the grounds of the chaotic planning, but you should also tell the bride that she needs to wave everyone else off of making commitments since her own situation is so much in flux, because you're being put in an awkward situation because of her lack of comminucation.

I'm sorry for your friend's situation. I hope things improve for everyone soon.
posted by Gelatin at 12:52 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm sure it's really embarrassing for her to have to back off an announcement of when and where her wedding will be, so I would offer (as part of being MOH) to communicate for her to the rest of the wedding party if she's having trouble saying what needs to be said.

I would also give her a deadline. For example, "The wedding party needs to know this week (I'll tell them if you would rather it comes from me) that you will confirm the date and place for sure no later than March 1, otherwise none of us can reasonably book travel and everything else necessary to make this happen."
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:54 PM on January 7, 2015 [22 favorites]

Best answer: Be honest. "Sylvia, I love you and I want to be with you for all of your life's important moments. I want to support you in whatever you're doing. Please put the wedding on hold until your marriage is sorted out. I know that folks are planning, and there's pressure and things aren't working out like you expected. Planning a wedding now just doesn't seem like a good idea. Postpone it until next year. That will give you a chance to sort out jobs, houses, and everything else that's going sideways right now. If you want, send me the guest list and I'll call everyone for you, or send out a blast email. Right now I don't feel comfortable committing time and money to this with things being so chaotic. I love you. Let me know what I can do."

If she doesn't collapse in a puddle of tears and a flood of relief, I'll eat my hat. The furry one from GUM in Moscow.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:56 PM on January 7, 2015 [61 favorites]

Leave aside all your reservations about the marriage for now.

Say the following:

"I can't commit to being the MoH until you give me a date and a location for the wedding, and if you can't give me x months notice, I won't be able to do it at all. Until you decide what you're doing, please just leave me out of the planning for it, I'm too busy to handle it right now."

If anybody asks you about the wedding, just tell them to talk to the bride in question and that you don't know anything more than they do.
posted by empath at 1:05 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Just to offer some additional support for Ruthless Bunny's suggested approach...

There are two different but overlapping issues going on: the apparently bad relationship, and the clearly chaotic wedding planning. I would say that that one of your biggest duties as MOH is to make sure that the second issue doesn't make the first one worst.

Specifically, I would watch out for two things:

1. If her friends buy tickets and undergo various other expenses to travel to the wedding, the bride is going to feel substantial pressure to go through with it. And once she has a big public wedding (that her friends spent fortunes to attend), she is going to feel pressure to stay in her marriage longer than perhaps she should. By contrast, if she has just had the secret private magistrate wedding, it will be much easier to have a quiet divorce and walk away. (Obviously, it is possible that her marriage is healthier than it appears, and that sticking with it is the right decision. I just think it will be easier for her to make right decision, whatever it is, if she doesn't have the added pressure of the big destination wedding.)

2. If you get angry at her over the chaos, you risk making her feel like you are pushing her away, which might make her less willing to turn to you for the help she will need if she is in an abusive relationship (or even just a mismatched one.)

Fortunately, I think that Ruthless Bunny's suggested language (or something in the same spirit) gives you a way of avoiding both pitfalls. As long as you can combine honest concern with loving support, I think you will have done all you can do. After that, it will be up to her.
posted by yankeefog at 1:28 PM on January 7, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: The bride and groom don't even know where the wedding will be, so how can they expect any guests to be booking flights?

Gosh - what a predicament! I really feel for you and the Bride... quite obviously this is a distressing time for her.

What's my best course of action here?

I think your best course of action is to have a very frank conversation with your friend. As people are suggesting above, it may well be best for them to postpone things until they can come to an agreement about where the wedding will be held. (although honestly, that sounds like the least of their worries!)

I'm very concerned that the Groom booked another venue, on another continent and put another deposit down when his wife has made it clear she prefers the first venue and wants to be married there, especially considering she's told you they have financial worries! One of those deposits is gone forever!

Currently, I think you need to take a step back from the MOH duties and really take a step in as her best friend and be there for her (which it sounds like you are). Are you secretly wishing your friend was not already married? because I am - and I don't even know her!

She probably needs your support as a best friend right now. That's what I suggest you focus on.
posted by JenThePro at 1:29 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You need to have a heart-to-heart with her. People are going to be buying very expensive tickets very soon and she can't be asking people to spend thousands of dollars while this is all so uncertain. And, it's a second wedding? The marriage needs to be sorted before an elaborate wedding (which it sounds like they can't afford anyway) takes place. Be supportive and kind, but let her know that she can't just dodge calls and ignore the issue.

I'm also wishing that she wasn't already married to this man. It sounds like the relationship has every red flag flying already.
posted by quince at 1:34 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Oh my. Everything here sounds like quite the train wreck, including demanding that people fly to a foreign country for almost a week but not allowing them to bring their kids (!!) I think as both MOH and a close friend, it is well within your rights to have a come-to-Jesus moment with your friend. Let her know that while this is her wedding, she does need to have a basic level of respect and consideration for her guests. This includes making 100% sure that people do not purchase extremely expensive, non-refundable tickets for a wedding that is rescheduled or cancelled.

I like the idea of offering to make calls or draft an email letting guests know they should not purchase tickets right now. I'm sure this is super stressful and embarassing for her, but it does need to happen. And, I would give her a date and say -- "Look, I cannot speak for others, but my budget simply does not allow purchasing a last-minute plane ticket to Europe. I need to know by X date or I will not be able to be there."

Overall, firm but kind. I would be understanding that it is likely super rough on her. But also, this type of treatment of guests is just not acceptable, and I think will probably be friendship-ending if it continues. (I would frankly be extremely put off by the requests made so far -- if I actually purchased tickets and then things were cancelled, I would be super pissed.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: What Ruthless Bunny (and a few others) said. She's likely totally overwhelmed at the moment, swinging wildly between the desire to get her wedding organised and possible second thoughts about the whole thing and knows perfectly well that she's stuffing people around with the arrangements. Having someone else notify everyone that things are on hold at present and nobody should commit money would almost certainly be a huge weight off her already overburdened mind.
posted by dg at 2:25 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: They can't elope and then have a wedding, that's what elopement IS. Avoidance of Wedding. But, I guess that doesn't get you out of this jam.

Ruthless Bunny and rainbowbrite have it.
posted by tel3path at 3:10 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: OP here, thank you for the many spot-on responses. I called her and had a come-to-Jesus conversation with her, incorporating Bentobox Humperdink and Ruthless Bunny's excellent scripts.

In classic shoot-the-messenger fashion, she got mad at me, but yet also thanked me and said she knows how much I care. Now suddenly she and the groom are planning on eloping (??) in the original European city, but next summer. Riiight. She says: "this process has to play out a bit longer and it can only be on my schedule." I think she is being astoundingly selfish right now, and I am done with this.

I'll revisit the topic of my duties as MOH again with her sometime when she has had a bit more time to reflect and figure her shit out, at which point (if the event is even actually scheduled - hope it won't be!) I will politely excuse myself from being her MOH. Thanks again for all of your fantastic answers!
posted by hush at 6:57 PM on January 7, 2015 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Didn't she already elope once?

If she's planning on eloping again, you will be automatically excused from your duties as MOH, since by definition elopements are a matter for the couple and involve the minimum legalities required to legally marry them.
posted by tel3path at 4:09 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think she is being astoundingly selfish right now, and I am done with this.

Agreed. Who the hell makes a friend fly to Europe for a week AND have their aunt flown in to watch their kids? Is she in the 1% or something? Good for you for standing up to her. Her being mad at you is not the worst thing in the world.
posted by Melismata at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

I want to encourage you not to think of the European City thing as a thing she is doing to you or as a "destination wedding." It sounds like she lives in Europe now, so a wedding there is much more convenient to her, and is actually a local wedding, even if Europe sounds exotic to you. Planning an international wedding in a country you don't even live in sounds like hell to me. I would never want to do this. And it sounds like she's trying to have a week of wedding festivities not out of selfishness, but because she may understand that it's a far piece, and wants to make it more attractive to you guys - rather than just a 10 hour flight for a 2 day ceremony.

Also, while I understand your feelings about how it is difficult and expensive for you and your friend group to make it there, it's really important that you not pressure the bride about this. I had this with my friend group when I got married - I lived in NYC, where prices were astronomical, and wanted to hold the wedding further upstate or Long Island, somewhere where it would be easier to get some of my family members there and it was cheaper. Several of my friends in the initial stages of planning talked a lot about how inconsiderate it would be of me not to plan things to make it more convenient for them. I eventually held my wedding in NYC and it was great, but the pressure definitely impacted how I viewed those friends afterwards.
posted by corb at 1:10 PM on January 8, 2015

Best answer: Wait... what? She's eloping? But... but she's already married, right? This sounds really REALLY crazy. I'd back away entirely. Wish her well, but if she asks you again be too busy to accept. Maybe (best case) this will finally turn out to be a great party in some fabulous European location but I doubt it. Even more doubtful is it turning out to be a lasting marriage.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:02 PM on April 27, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks again for the many excellent comments here. Final update: The couple recently mailed out paper announcements finally admitting they eloped -- but completely lying about the actual year, location, and continent on which their elopement took place (by that I mean they made up an elaborate lie about getting married in, say, Paris two months ago, when they actually got married in, say, Toronto 14 months ago). Their formal paper announcement also includes a save the date for a "religious wedding ceremony" next summer in North America. WTF? So many lies. A wedding after eloping? I give up. This is insane, and given all of the uncharacteristic lies and weirdness, I remain extremely worried that her husband is abusive. No way will I be party to this as MOH.
posted by hush at 5:57 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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