should I stay or should I go
April 20, 2015 12:18 AM   Subscribe

My cousin is getting married abroad, and I don't want to go. I can't come to a decision. It's not a big financial/time strain, but I don't want to go, and don't know how to respond.

I live in North America, and my cousin is getting married in Europe this summer. His fiance's family lives abroad, so it's less of a destination wedding and more to help be convenient to relatives who can't travel to the US. This is what I'm weighing:

- cousin is not a best friend, but we're moderately close, live close by, see each other fairly often
- his parents have almost been like second parents to me, as mine are both deceased. i'd want to support cousin, but also their incredible parents
- it's not a huge financial strain
- i can make the time
- there will not be a US reception or celebration
- there's a planned scenic travel tour after the wedding
- cousin seems to be having a difficult time getting people to attend. one of his own siblings is declining to travel.
- one of MY siblings is attending, so as a relative of the same distance, I don't have an 'out'

Don't go:
- will require a 2-leg plane trip, one of which will be around 10 hours. I really don't want to spend 10 hours on a plane. I'm not one to be able to just sleep it all off.
- the country they're getting married in is great - the particular city/location is not. this was so it could be convenient for fiance's family. there is no other reason why I would ever want to visit this city. i understand the restrictions for fiance's family, but feel they could have at least piked a better location *within* the country, if some of us are to travel thousands of miles.
- i'd rather save my travel for later in the year, for a different trip I've been interested in taking.
- they are planning on doing a more scenic "tour" after the wedding. sounds nice, and with lots of great sights to check out, but tours are not my travel style at all. as an introvert, spending a week traveling around with others is not my idea of a good time.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just tell them it's not possible for you to attend. You are way overthinking this. Send well wishes, get them a gift, be polite like that. Whether or not other people in your family attend has nothing to do with your choice here.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:25 AM on April 20, 2015 [17 favorites]

I don't know, it sounds super annoying. I mean, that's very kind of them to accommodate the fiancee's family, but going to a dull part of a foreign country for a wedding, with all the attendant expense and fuss? I wouldn't go, I think.

But! I understand you want to show your cousin and his new partner some love, as well as his parents. Would it be feasible or fun for you to host a post wedding North American welcome home/reception?
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 12:25 AM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Go for the parents if you go for anyone. The bride and the groom will be too busy to know or care when you get to event itself. I made the effort to go to a childhood friend's wedding in Munich because his parents had been so good to me as a child. I was hesitant, but they were absolutely delighted that I went-- which made it all worth it in the end. Only you can judge how happy it will make them.

If you decide to go, why don't you skip the tour? I'm bad with jet lag myself, but I almost have an easier time with it if I'm only in the different time zone for a few days. That way you make them happy and you still have the days for your vacation later in the year.
posted by frumiousb at 12:30 AM on April 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

I like the idea above of offering to host a US post-wedding party. In your shoes I would do that, plead pressures of work that mean you can't travel, and send a big gift plus a telegram or big bunches of flowers (if appropriate) on the wedding day.

And if you do decide to go, definitely tell then you can't stay for the tour. Then go and enjoy a few days somewhere of your choosing. Travel within Europe does not have to be super expensive.
posted by rpfields at 12:31 AM on April 20, 2015

Just to say that hosting or organising a North American reception/party sounds like a great idea to me too.
posted by frumiousb at 12:31 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Go to the wedding and then tour around on your own for another 7-10 days. If you really, really don't want to go, just tell them, "no thank you" and have that be it. It's a lot to ask and it's fine to say no.
posted by quince at 12:32 AM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

When people have their wedding in another country, they (should) expect that many people won't be able to attend. It's not a big deal not to go. As above, send nice card and present and yeah, host a little dinner or big party, whatever they like, in their honour when they get back.

I'd go because doing family-duty is important to me and because I love traveling and find everywhere exciting and interesting.

If you do go, don't feel obliged to go on tour with them afterwards. Go do some exploring on your own or with your sibling.
posted by stellathon at 12:44 AM on April 20, 2015

I was your cousin; my spouse and I married in a European city without any major tourist attractions because we live in Europe and the city was convenient for his family. My family is completely US-based and I was 100% okay with them skipping the wedding, especially my aunts/uncles/cousins. Even if you have the means, it takes a lot of time and effort to travel that much for someone else's wedding, and reasonable people understand that. You can simply let them know that it isn't possible (they don't need to hear your reasons), send a card/gift, and optionally see if you can treat the couple to a special dinner when they get back to the US.
posted by neushoorn at 1:17 AM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would probably skip it, but I make most introverts look extroverted. You can find ways to make it up to them if you need to. For instance, if the money it would cost you to go is not the problem, send them a present worth that much money plus the amount you would gladly pay to avoid that much travel bother and so on. You won't be there in person but they will notice your present. Maybe just give them the cash. How much would you pay not to feel guilty about this? Enough to fly your cousin's parents over to Europe? Plus a little more? And your excuse could be a secret. "I really want to attend, but I can't, and I can't tell you why. No, it's nothing bad, it's something good, but it's just a secret." Now you sound like you really wish you had been able to go, you have added a bit of juicy gossip to the family ("What is that [anonymous] up to that no one can know about?"), and you have paid them enough to make your presence felt long distance.

But if you go (and maybe you should: "it's not a huge financial strain" + "i can make the time" + "his parents have almost been like second parents to me"), start off with a day or two of wedding (eating, dancing, drinking, meeting new relatives, having secret sex with at least one of them, etc.) and then get out of that town and have an interesting solo trip.

For example, bring hiking boots, or buy a simple bicycle in the wedding town, and set out on an interesting hiking or cycling route to some interesting places. If you chose a bike, sell the bike before getting on the plane, or just give it to a person in need. Turn this silly wedding trip into "My lovely [hiking|bicycling] trip through [place]". Just remember to pack accordingly. Bring a pack, not a suitcase, for example. Mail some stuff home before you set out on your hike or ride, or wear your nice wedding clothes when you stop at places along the way on your trip.
posted by pracowity at 2:11 AM on April 20, 2015

one of MY siblings is attending, so as a relative of the same distance, I don't have an 'out'

You're making this needlessly hard on yourself. Of course you have an out. Reasonable people understand that everyone has different situations. Just say that you couldn't make it work. No one will give it a second thought.

This is the gamble that people throwing destination weddings make, they know most of their guest list isn't going to come.

Go or don't: it won't be as big of a deal as you are catastrophizing.
posted by inturnaround at 2:16 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, as an American citizen who got married in Europe, I'll nth that your cousin should have very low expectations of who from his family is going to attend. If he does expect a big turnout from extended family then I think his expectations are skewed and you still don't have a responsibility to go.

And if you do decide to go, do what quince said and make a trip of it, by yourself (just say you want to see Austria and Germany rather than Holland and Belgium, or whatever). Of course the wedding is going to be somewhere convenient to the fiance's family. Would you get married in NYC, although you live in, say, rural Pennsylvania, just because it's more convenient and more interesting for out-of-town guests?
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:17 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

My own family is scattered across continents and whenever there's a wedding outside of our home country, there's precious little expectation that someone will fly ten hours to attend. Money, visas, time, etc etc.

So, there. You have my permission not to go.

However, being kind and going the extra mile because you want to make your loved ones happy is something you might want to consider. I personally like going to parties and would relish the thought of attending, would certainly look forward to discovering a new country and, more important, I would like even more the smile I'd see on my aunt and uncle's faces because I took the time to be there for their son. Such moments in life are rewarding.
posted by Kwadeng at 2:49 AM on April 20, 2015

You've stated that you don't want to go, and I don't see any compelling reason that you "need" to go either. Judging by what you've written, you may or may not enjoy the experience.
The thing is, and this is the thing: you're never fully in control of events at weddings. As an introvert, I can't stand the shepherding around from one thing to the other, and on top of that, this tour sounds like an awful thing for an introvert.

So don't go.

Take control. Tell them you can't make it (you don't need to give any reason, so don't give them any excuse at all) and go make plans to do a trip that you will enjoy.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 4:04 AM on April 20, 2015

The tour is not a reason to skip the wedding. You can always skip the tour and travel on your own. Heck, after traveling all that time, you can go anywhere you want after the wedding is over.

Go to the wedding. See you cousin and your cousin's family. Then get a train or plane ticket to a nearby city of country you'd rather go to.

I guess I am not understanding the "I don't want to go" reasoning very well, at least from a practical standpoint.
posted by deanc at 4:13 AM on April 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

Visiting a small non-tourist town is probably a really good way to get a true feel for the culture of a country, and you might really like the family. It would be nice for them to have you there, they may want to meet you (or might be completely horrified that one of them is marrying an American -- always an interesting time). If the smallness of the town is bothering you, maybe rethink that. Yes, it could be boring if all you want to do is see major works of art and speak English, but you could also find the local landmarks, visit them with a sympathetic and enthusiastic family member, and have a completely unique experience.

You might want to talk to your cousin about this; he can tell you how important your presence would be, not us. If you decide not to go, you should probably talk to him anyway, but make sure you say things like "I've been dreaming of going to Munich my whole life, and I think this year might be my only chance", and not "The town is small and sounds boooooring, and I just think if the family really cared they'd have the wedding somewhere fun like Paris". In other words, think about what you might say, and _then_ make the phone call.
posted by amtho at 4:26 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Go to the wedding. Everything in your "Don't-go" section sound like complete non-reasons to me. I can understand if there was some bad blood in your family and that was the reason for you not wanting to go, but that's not the case here. You don't want to go for your own personal gain. Time and money are clearly not an issue, so go.
posted by signondiego at 4:34 AM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

I would go to the wedding, and agree that your "don't go" section isn't very strong. If I were your cousin, and you went on a different, more interesting vacation instead of my wedding, I would not be pleased.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:39 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

- the country they're getting married in is great - the particular city/location is not. this was so it could be convenient for fiance's family. there is no other reason why I would ever want to visit this city. i understand the restrictions for fiance's family, but feel they could have at least piked a better location *within* the country, if some of us are to travel thousands of miles.

European travel distances and cultures are hugely different to North America - for example: if this were in Wales and the cousin's family lived, say, in Barry Island you might wonder why they wouldn't choose to have the wedding a few miles up the coast in the (subjectively) far more beautiful Gower Peninsular. I'd have to point out that the family know their own town/village so better than other locations, even in the same country/county and would be able to hold a much better family wedding locally. It might be that the bride wants to get married in the church she grew up in, for example, or that the bride's parents' family have a wonderful restaurant prepared to host the wedding at cost.

You're coming across as a little entitled and whiny I'm afraid - if it were my wedding I'd prefer you stay away and donate the travel costs to a deserving charity.
posted by humph at 5:21 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would go. You have the time and the money. Go a couple days early and stay in your preferred location--it could even be in a nearby country that is a short hop to destination wedding--and recover from jet lag there/do some independent sight-seeing.

I even like the idea of the tour afterwards. There's something endearing about a road trip with family and you'll get a much more personal introduction to the country. It won't be like the typical canned bus tour with random strangers.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:23 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

My cousin is getting married abroad, and I don't want to go.

When someone is having a wedding and you don't want to go, you can RSVP "no" and not go. If you couldn't say no, it wouldn't be an option on the RSVP. You don't need a reason or an excuse because it's a checkbox. Check "no," send a card and a gift, and get on with your life. You're overthinking this.
posted by juniperesque at 5:32 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

You say you "can make the time," but you also seem to suggest that this is going to take away your chance to take a vacation this year. So, really, time is a significant restraint here. Maybe it will help you to decide not to go (since you clearly don't want to) if you think of it in those terms.

On the other hand, it sounds like you sort of do want to go. It's okay to be conflicted. Is there something that can tip the scale in the other direction? Like, what if you go early or stay late, and use that extra time to go visit the good places in the country where they're getting married?
posted by J. Wilson at 5:52 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

People decline wedding invitations all the time, and most wedding parties plan on a certain percentage of their guests declining anyway. Don't worry about it.

I always say that you're never obligated to go to a celebration, which is why you get an invitation, not a summons.
posted by xingcat at 6:07 AM on April 20, 2015

- cousin is not a best friend, but we're moderately close, live close by, see each other fairly often
- his parents have almost been like second parents to me, as mine are both deceased. i'd want to support cousin, but also their incredible parents
- it's not a huge financial strain
- i can make the time

These are, IMO, your strongest reasons for going. I don't get along particularly well with my blood relatives, but I've done 3 destination weddings as a gesture of support and celebration for the people who are lifelong friends and who were my de facto co-families growing up.

- one of MY siblings is attending, so as a relative of the same distance, I don't have an 'out'

Sure you do. Your sibling is your sibling, their life is their life; you are you and your life is your life. You get to make your own decisions about your own life. There's a lot more to this decision than mere distance. Yeah, if you don't go there might be some carping about "X traveled a thousand miles to get there, I just don't see why you couldn't do the same . . . . ." But those people are being simplistic, petty, and judgmental, and they can keep their opinions to themselves. I don't think you should weigh this particularly heavily.

the particular city/location is not. this was so it could be convenient for fiance's family. there is no other reason why I would ever want to visit this city. i understand the restrictions for fiance's family, but feel they could have at least piked a better location *within* the country

1) Dude (generic non-gendered) - not your wedding, not your decision. You should let this go. As you point out, there are lots of practical reasons they're having the wedding where they are, it seems kinda uncharitable to carp about how they coulda shoulda woulda have the wedding in a city you think you would like better.

2) IME, weddings, maybe especially destination weddings, tend to be pretty self-contained to the point where the location is almost irrelevant.

3) You're kinda judging a book by its cover here. I've been to plenty of places where your first reaction would be, "Why on earth would you want to go there?" and yet they turned out to be cool places in their own way and I enjoyed being there. And you know you'll be there with at least some people you know and like, you're not being dumped in the middle of nowhere without a support network. Plus, seconding amtho in that visiting non-touristy places in the company of natives can be a really great experience.

- they are planning on doing a more scenic "tour" after the wedding. sounds nice, and with lots of great sights to check out, but tours are not my travel style at all. as an introvert, spending a week traveling around with others is not my idea of a good time.

Possibly worth investigating, if you don't know the answer already - what kind of "tour" are they really talking about? Because if they mean a tour with a handful of wedding guests plus 50 strangers in a bus with strictly regimented stops at Certain Locations, yeah, that sounds like hell on earth (speaking as an introvert with a distaste for Structured Fun.) But if it's a looser thing with wedding guests only and a more casual approach to getting certain places, you'll probably have chances for alone time to decompress and you could get a really unique perspective on the country. I'd do the second kind of "tour", no problem.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:31 AM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

You should have been there to hear me bitch about the two times I had to go to Florida last year for family weddings, and that was less than a 3 hour flight.

I personally absolve you of any lingering responsibility you feel to go. That's way too big of a trip. Maybe a few months after the wedding when you see your cousin next, take him and the spouse out for a nice dinner, buy a bottle of champagne, and toast the wedding that you would have loved to have attended.
posted by phunniemee at 6:33 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll be the nay-sayer here: you should go to the wedding. The reasons for not wanting to go really don't seem like that big a deal to me, as they pretty much amount to "Well, I'm not dying to go." Of course you aren't, but that's not a reason to skip a family wedding. (My own theory is that most people don't like weddings at all and find them tiresome, but go because they're a big deal; same goes here.) I think this is especially true because you say that your cousin's parents have been like second parents to you; in light of that, I think not going because it's not your idea of the best time ever is actually kinda uncool.

I think it would be fine for your to skip the tour and do your own thing if you want, but I think it's a mistake to skip the wedding.
posted by Button-down sock at 8:20 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was your cousin. I got married in a little town in Scotland (an hour from Glasgow, and it was a TINY town) for basically the same reasons your cousin.

I had about a dozen US guests (out of about 115), 5 who were family, and out of those 1 is a cousin that sounds like your relationship. I can hand on heart say I would have completely understood if she couldn't come but I was absolutely delighted that she did. BUT she's an extrovert. She got on fabulously with all the Scottish contingent of the wedding guests (possibly too well, I had to shoo away some of the boys I thought weren't good enough for her ;) )

Many of my other US guests went on to travel, either in groups or on their own. One of my friends went all the way up to the northern coast of Scotland all on his own and had an amazing time and took breathtaking pictures back with him. I think you could go off to do your own thing before and after and if they have any sense or feelings no one will complain.

I truly believe your cousin probably knows what a big ask this is of you so will totally understand if you decline even for Vague Reasons. But I also think if you can swing it, please do seriously consider it. I just have the best feelings and warmest thoughts for those that travelled out of their way to be with us on our wedding day and I have a lovely picture of all the 'US guests' and it just makes me smile forever.
posted by like_neon at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Go. Making the effort is an important way to show your family how much they mean to you, especially his parents. You don't get a second chance at being there for events like this.
posted by MelissaSimon at 8:42 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you really, really don't want to go, you don't have to. Just say you can't make it, send them a nice present and a heartfelt card, and go on with your life with a clear conscience.

On the other hand, if you do decide to go, I think you probably will not regret it if you go into with a good attitude. Your cousin and his parents will be thrilled that you made the effort, and my guess is that you will have a good time during the couple of days you spend in Uninteresting European Town, because you will be with people you like and even the most uninteresting town tends to have a few fun things to do, and as someone mentioned above, you will get a real sense of the local culture in a way that you can't in more tourist-centered ways. One of the best trips I've ever had was one where my mother and I visited our distant cousins in a sleepy little town in Europe and spent time doing Real Local Activities, and then we went to some of the bigger cities on our own. Skip the "tour" afterward and go sightsee in some more touristy areas.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:32 AM on April 20, 2015

They're like second parents to you? Just go. They're not going to be here forever.

They probably came up with the tour so that guests would have something else to do. Just skip that and go to the area of the country you're interested in. Or fly right back home.

Alternatively, offer to organize a reception in the US.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:16 PM on April 20, 2015

I don't think anyone is obligated to attend weddings, especially when they involve long plane rides and mingling with lots of strangers (because you know you're not going to get lots of attention from the bride/groom or their parents, who will be super busy with the wedding). It sounds like you feel bad because you don't have a rock solid reason for not wanting to go, but the fact remains that you...don't want to go. It's fine!

I'm getting married this year, and I will say there are some very close friends and relatives who I would be pretty disappointed if they could not attend (and one of those people still can't because of a very legitimate conflict). Beyond that, I'm really happy for all my cousins and friends and extended family who can come, but also not stressing over every single RSVP. Pro tip: Most people don't even put a reason on the RSVP for why they are saying no! A few have communicated reasons privately to me, but many have not. In some cases I can guess the reason, in other cases I assume it's some combination of finances + vacation time + not wanting to travel. Frankly, if the reason is "I'd rather spend my limited vacation days on a different trip," that is totally FINE, but honestly not something I want or need to know. If you are pressed, you can easily say something like "This is a tough time at work and I'm not able to get time off during that week."

If you do decide to go, go in to your doc and ask for a heavy duty sleeping pill for the flight. I did this last time I flew to Europe and it was AMAZING.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:28 PM on April 20, 2015

If you wanted to go to the wedding but skip a lot of family-time stuff attached to it, one easy smoothing-over technique would be to book your trip for the week before the wedding and spend some time seeing the fun parts of the country before you settle in with family for the weekend. "Oh, the scheduling just works out so much better for me this way"
posted by aimedwander at 1:53 PM on April 20, 2015

The second parents thing is the only part that gives me pause. If something happens to them in the next ten years, will you wish you had gone to the wedding?
posted by CMcG at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2015

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