What are my options for this family dilemma?
April 22, 2016 1:27 PM   Subscribe

I am getting married in August. I'm very excited to be married, have not much enjoyed the planning process. I am at a loss for how to proceed with my parents after a wedding related disagreement and would like to get some feedback on possible responses.

I live in West Coast City, my very large extended family lives all over the country, and my parents live in East Coast suburbia. My large extended family comes in all ages and income brackets, from very rich to very poor. My parents are middle class. As a couple, we are early 30s.

In an effort to be inclusive, I invited all of very large extended family to my wedding. We are paying for and planning the wedding ourselves. I encouraged my parents to give me an invite list and told them that they could invite some friends. We invited <10 guests that are purely my parents' friends as a nice gesture.

Late last year, my mother offered to throw me a bridal shower at their home in East Coast suburbia. I emailed back and said thanks but indicated I would prefer a relaxed picnic or barbecue instead. There was a weekend when fiance and I would be on the East Coast already, so I indicated that we would drive up on Sunday. The picnic would be Sunday evening. I told my mother that they could "invite anyone they want." I am strongly regretting that wording now.

Without my knowledge, my parents have proceeded to discuss the picnic with relatives from all over the country. Relatives from all over the country were invited to the picnic, which is to be at their home about a month before the wedding. My mother indicated that these invitations were extended after people expressed an inability to get to our wedding for financial or schedule reasons. I was not party to these conversations and feel completely blindsided.

I feel strongly that suggesting the picnic as a cheaper alternative to my wedding [without discussing this with me or my fiance] was completely over the line. Particularly since it would've been so easy to discuss with me, and because my parents are not hosting the wedding in any way. Suffice it to say that my mother has implied I was selfish to have wedding in West Coast City (where I live...) and I "told them they could invite anyone they want." After a few emails failed to be productive, I stopped responding.

Assume that I will attend the picnic for the sake of the people that have already bought plane tickets. What are my rules/approaches going forward in dealing with the parents? Fiance has been kept aware but will always defer to my judgment. He is not pleased at what my parents have done, but he will support me in what I choose to do going forward.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total)
I guess I'm not clear on what exactly is upsetting in this scenario. Your parents are hosting a party to celebrate you as a couple. There are some relatives who may not be able to attend your wedding, but who will be able to attend this celebration. That sounds kind of nice to me, but maybe I've missed something?
posted by goggie at 1:33 PM on April 22, 2016 [95 favorites]

Is it that you think the bbq party will overshadow the wedding in terms of how grand and populated it is? Because that's silly. One of them is your wedding and one of them is a party your parents are throwing to celebrate. Having a big pre-wedding celebration isn't going to make your wedding any less wedding.
posted by phunniemee at 1:35 PM on April 22, 2016 [16 favorites]

Absent your parents' attitude about this, I think it's actually pretty normal to have a larger casual gathering like this before or after a wedding, especially if the wedding is relatively small. You have every right to be pissed at your mom if she's going around calling you selfish and telling people who you didn't invite to the wedding that they were snubbed, or whatever, but the majority of the people at this picnic won't have any clue about this behind-the-scenes drama and probably just want to see you and wish you well.

If this is part of a larger trend of your mom disregarding your wishes and calling you selfish, then that trend is something you should totally address (though probably after the wedding); if not, I'd chalk this one up to wedding-related insanity on her part and try to forget about it. (From the way this is written, though, I suspect this dynamic isn't exactly new...)
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Understand you don't like being blindsided, but I think the way to proceed is to be gracious about this because it enables some friends & relatives who won't make it to your wedding to help you celebrate. For people who live closer to your parents than they do to you, the picnic IS a cheaper alternative, and sounds like one that (for some) matches their schedule constraints better than your wedding date.

Your mother means well, sounds like a bit of a busybody, and I understand the irritation. I would encourage you to suck it up, let her plan the picnic, you do the wedding, and just look at it as an opportunity to include more people in your celebrations.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:37 PM on April 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hey, congratulations on your wedding! I have to admit, I think it'd be a good idea for you to take a step back here, and think of it this way: it sounds like the people who are coming to this picnic are people who weren't going to be able to get out to your wedding regardless, so perhaps you can view this as the best way of sharing the love and excitement with those family members in person?

I honestly don't think this sounds like something that is taking away from your wedding in any form.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:37 PM on April 22, 2016 [30 favorites]

I feel strongly that suggesting the picnic as a cheaper alternative to my wedding [without discussing this with me or my fiance] was completely over the line.

I feel like from what you have described here this has not actually happened? You will get to see and celebrate with relatives who are unable to attend your West Coast wedding but can swing the picnic, so this feels like a win-win.
posted by lalex at 1:38 PM on April 22, 2016 [21 favorites]

Oh, I see. You invited all your relatives to the wedding; some relatives can't attend said wedding due to finances/scheduling. Your mom offered to hold a bridal picnic for you at her home, and marketed said picnic as an alternative wedding experience to all the relatives who had to decline the invitation to your wedding because of Reasons. You believe this was a passive aggressive dig at your desire to have your wedding on the West Coast rather than on the East Coast where your parents and extended family are. I get it. This is crummy and it's not ideal.

Perhaps you could say, "Mom, I love you. I am upset with how you handled the invitations to the bridal picnic and am upset you didn't run those invitations by me because you marketed them as a cheaper alternative to attending my actual wedding. I am going to attend this picnic, but please know I am disappointed in how you've decided to throw said picnic and am not okay with you bullying me into doing something just because you resent that Partner and I chose to have our wedding on the WC. Got it?"

Or you could take the path of least resistance, attend the picnic and shower your extended family with thanks and love, all the while thanking God your mom doesn't have her hands in any other parts of your wedding (unless she does; maybe rescind those duties now if you feel you really can't stand her decisions).
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2016 [23 favorites]

I think this may have been a miscommunication, initially. Your "invite whomever" must have been taken as an implicit invitation to have this alternate wedding. I bet it just sort of evolved, maybe with one or another guest suggesting they couldn't make the wedding for xyz reason (is it more expensive or impractical for your dispersed family to make the west coast-bound trip?), and conversations going from there - I bet the thing just took on a momentum at a certain point, just got away from her.

Although, maybe, at the same time, your mom discovered, incidentally and without foreknowledge, that she was happy to find a space for herself to take a more traditional MoB role. Introducing you as a couple to the community, taking back dues paid for weddings she's attended as a guest, etc.

Families go a little nutty around weddings for all kinds of reasons. I think you can treat this as a one-off, and not a statement about your relationship. Even if it is, maybe, deal with it after the wedding.

FWIW, bridal showers are more community-oriented in my world, while bachelorettes are more for the bride's closer group. Maybe plan a more casual and carefree (and private) stagette at the beach, for your friends?
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think some responses here are interpreting this line differently than I did:

Suffice it to say that my mother has implied I was selfish to have wedding in West Coast City

I read this as, "when I emailed my mom to talk about this, she then specifically implied I was selfish to get married in my city in her response email." Others seem to be reading it as "I interpret my mother's actions as implying that I am selfish." OP, could you get a mod to clarify this?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Engagement parties were, once upon a time, a thing. In your shoes I would consider this an engagement party, enjoy seeing family I had not seen in a while, and enjoy the day.

Your parents are trying (however ineptly) to do something nice for you and for your family. Accept this gift to you in the spirit it was given.

If you can be clearer about what is upsetting you about this, then perhaps you can get better advice, but in this case you told them to invite whomever they want, you told them you wanted a relaxed picnic and they have given you both things. Essentially, they took you at your word.
posted by anastasiav at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2016 [12 favorites]

I don't get what you find wrong. One of my nephews got married in the islands, we could not make it, and the bride's family threw a mini reception at a restaurant many family members could drive to a month or so later. I thought it was a nice gesture and was happy to meet my nephew's bride and her family.

Are you annoyed because you think some of the friends and relatives are choosing the picnic at your parents rather than traveling to the West Coast wedding? Some people cannot afford destination weddings, some cannot travel, some have other commitments. They may really want to wish you and your fiance well, but really cannot get to the wedding.

Your parents should not have called you selfish for having your wedding where you live, that was your choice to make, but it seems to me that the picnic is a good solution to including east coast folks who could not make the wedding. Relax and enjoy it, and then enjoy your wedding too.
posted by mermayd at 1:45 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

There isn't really anything to be upset about in this situation, IMHO. Just enjoy the day!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:47 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it that you think people who might possibly have attended your wedding will leap at the cheaper alternative as performing your dues and thus not come to your actual wedding? I also am having difficulty understanding the problem.
posted by corb at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Would it help to reframe your thinking about this. Without your mothers' (unwelcome) suggestion that relatives attend her shower instead of your wedding, youre family and guests would have had to face the difficult choice between disappointing you with their non-attendance, or spending money they didnt have out of a sense of obligation. Its far from the only way to view the situation, but it might help to think that for everyone who took your mom up on her offer at least some of them were spared the unpleasant choice you would have "forced" upon them (through the totally normal and gracious gesture of inviting them to your out-of-town [for them] wedding).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

It's not selfish of you to hold your wedding in your west-coast city, but it's also unfair to expect all of your large, extended family to travel for it. It seems like a great compromise to me to offer a local party where they can celebrate and wish you well.
posted by handful of rain at 1:49 PM on April 22, 2016 [31 favorites]

You feel how you feel, so make peace with that feeling. It does not mean you have to do anything but acknowledge the feeling. Now you told your mother to invite whomever and she did that, but not how you would have liked her to do it. The party sounds like a good compromise and I agree that your mother should have discussed this in general with you. I am not sure what more there was to discuss if someone says to your mother they can't afford to come to your wedding but can get to the picnic. What is there to ask you at that point?
posted by soelo at 1:50 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

wait, don't you WANT to see the people who can't come to your wedding? now you will get to and you didn't have to lift a finger to do it! if you don't, i'm not sure why you invited them in the first place (and maybe they weren't sure, either!)
posted by listen, lady at 1:52 PM on April 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think I understand but correct me if I'm wrong.

OP believes that her parents hijacked the folks OP invited to the wedding on the west coast, by offering the picnic as an alternative to going to the wedding itself. She thinks her mother deliberately siphoned these guests from her wedding to their picnic giving them the impression that this is a 'mini-wedding' on the cheap.

OP, honestly, I don't think this is the case. I think this gives people a chance to celebrate with you who might not otherwise have had the wherewithal to do so. It may come as a surprise but a lot of people would prefer not to spend money and vacation days to come to your wedding, especially if it's really far away.

The alternative to attending the picnic would not be that those folks would then come to the wedding, but that they would send a gift and stay home.

I think you might want to think really hard about what this wedding means to you. Is this a way for family and friends to celebrate your marriage? If so, who cares where they do it, and at what cost?

If the reason you're angry is because the folks attending the picnic won't show up on the day of the wedding to fill the church on your side, see you at your most beautiful in your gown and veil and who won't be wowed by how beautiful your event is...I think you know where this is going.

If we're honest, the picnic will probably give you a better opportunity to interact with your friends and family in your parents's neck of the woods. Weddings are blurs and people spend money and travel great distances so that you can acknowledge them in the reception line and then not see them for the rest of the event. It sucks, but it's true.

My recommendation is to choose to see this in the most charitable light, apologize to your mother for the misunderstanding and enjoy the event.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:57 PM on April 22, 2016 [22 favorites]

I feel like there's probably more backstory here around your parents passive-aggressively indicating they disagree with your life choices. Having been on the receiving end of a more than a few "oh, you're doing it that way, that's... interesting," - I get it. But there's no way to win here by arguing. Any objection will just provide them with more evidence that you're "selfish." So, I'd go with just removing the bridal shower from your thoughts all together. Maybe tell your parents something like "I have my hands full between planning the wedding and [work, etc.]. I'm excited that I'll get to see everyone at the bridal shower, but I would love if you guys could just handle all the planning and all we have to do it show up. That would be an amazing gift to us - to have a celebration of our marriage that we can just enjoy rather than plan." And then check out until you arrive at their house for the party.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:01 PM on April 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you want to, you can just roll with the idea of it being a second wedding bash.

If it were me, I'd probably also be a little annoyed at first but (eventually) love the chance to wear two fancy white outfits. Or a pretty beaded flowing thing for the main event, and a Bianca Jagger pantsuit or silk shift for the other. Or or or, so many ways to go. That isn't your point at all, but there may be a silver lining, is what I'm saying
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:03 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

You're not wrong to feel annoyed, because what it sounds like is that your mother has orchestrated her own "version" of your wedding to her liking on her terms, and more of the family will be attending this party (which she planned) than your actual wedding which is on your terms. If you're someone who is planning and paying for your own wedding because you didn't want her involvement there, I can see how this is particularly insulting and/or deflating. And because it is going to be so populated by those who are not attending your wedding, it's going to feel like an alternate to your wedding, especially if there are people who had both options on the table and are now choosing the more convenient/cheaper option rather than the one that means more to you. This party doesn't mean anything to you, so it sucks that your family members are making the choice to attend it instead of your wedding, for those that are making a choice.

So yeah, I get that this feels sucky. I'm not sure why others do not. That being said: This horse has left the barn. You can definitely choose to just show up, enjoy your wedding shower (because that's what this is), and not be emotionally invested in the planning, outcome, or anything. None of these people are going to have your wedding to compare it to except your parents and you. If you want to minimize the awkwardness and try and keep it light and more like a shower, you can actually ask your mom to do MORE, like to please plan shower games. That will help you keep the mindset that this is not an alternative to your wedding, and what mom who has already expressed some control issues over this is going to turn down your special requests for wedding shower games?

If you let her shine at this party she's planning, she will feel less inclined to try and shine at your wedding.
posted by juniperesque at 2:05 PM on April 22, 2016 [22 favorites]

OP, let me say I think a lot of these comments saying "I don't see what the big deal is" are not fair to you. I understand why you're upset.

As I read this, you invited family from all over to your wedding, understanding many of them might not be able to come, but thinking that it would be awesome if anyone could swing it. Then your mom went and basically told everyone the invites to the wedding for just for show, there was not really an expectation anyone should show up, and she was throwing an east-coast shindig they should attend instead. For your family from east coast city who couldn't have attended the wedding anyway, fine. But it sounds like maybe you have relatives flying in from some third location for this party, and then skipping your wedding, and you are angry that your mom basically hijacked your plans and redirected your family to her party without telling you. I would be really pissed.

What to do about it? Well, you definitely have to attend, and you have to realize that the rest of your family is going to this party for you, they care about you, and this is really a great thing. I am getting married next week and my side of the family is six people. Which is fine, and actually great, but if you have a large extended family that will pull together and root for you, you should be thankful for it, and happy to see them, and proud of your family.

Beyond that... I'd try to forgive your mother. It sounds like you've already told her you're pissed, and you have a right to be, but at this point it's not going to help. Just say to yourself, "my mom was really pretty rude about my wedding, but I hope this is the last time I'll have a wedding, so it's not an issue going forward." Weddings are stressful and don't bring out the best in lots of people. Forgive her, let her celebrate you with your family, enjoy your wedding, and enjoy being married.

And congrats!
posted by _Silky_ at 2:06 PM on April 22, 2016 [17 favorites]

Rereading the question, it occurs to me there's some hidden stuff there that may not be obvious. You are hosting and paying for it, they are"not hosting in any way." Were they made aware of that? Do they know that was a deliberate, intentional choice?
posted by corb at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2016

My mother indicated that these invitations were extended after people expressed an inability to get to our wedding for financial or schedule reasons. I was not party to these conversations

I don't think people are seeing this as a wedding on the cheap at all; they weren't able to come and now they get to see you at a picnic. As a member of a large family spread all over the continent I would never, ever confuse a bridal picnic with a wedding.

If your mum basically said "I have to have a big picnic because you planned your wedding on the west coast," well, that was snarky of her but that's really not a family issue. I might be missing some nuances here. Is it that now it's more of a weekend affair? Is it that you didn't want your parents involved in anything "official"?
posted by warriorqueen at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm on your side and I think your mother has handled this badly. Especially if she really has implied that you're "selfish to have your wedding ____" (insert any word). Since your wedding is about YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND, you can have it anywhere in the world you like. Wedding planning is a huge effort, and in my opinion it's sensible to be married close to where you live.

That said, many people do have a separate party closer to home, so their friends and relatives can see them in person around the time of the wedding. Like others have said, I think you're going to have to reframe this party in your mind, and decide it's something that you and your husband always wanted to do. If it was me, I would definitely make it clear that I wouldn't be wearing white, and there won't be a cake.

I can personally vouch that small weddings are awesome. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that your actual wedding might be smaller than you planned (and the friends:family ratio might be higher).
posted by superfish at 2:28 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, I can understand why you're pissed about this. Reading between the lines a little, I'm guessing that many of these people *could* have afforded to attend your wedding, and would in fact have gone, if they weren't presented with a cheaper, easier alternative. Or, maybe they wouldn't have been able to come to the west coast but if they had shared their concerns with you, or if your mom had shared their concerns with you, before planning the picnic, you could have planned a cheaper alternative yourself, on your own terms. Instead your mom took over and in place of the large-ish wedding you were anticipating, you're going to have a small wedding and a big shower which has now outgrown the usual meaning of wedding shower and become basically a family reunion/second reception.

I would say nothing about this to your parents, but try to look at the silver lining: smaller wedding = cheaper wedding = more $$ for you and your spouse to save or to spend on something else you will enjoy. But going forward, after this, I'd try to keep a lot more control over your life plans where your parents are concerned. Like, don't let them invite whoever they want, don't let them plan anything involving you on their own, if at all possible. Just learn from this and move on with a different approach. I don't see realistically how you can change what's been done, or even express your anger without it turning into a useless fight.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:30 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

My mother indicated that these invitations were extended after people expressed an inability to get to our wedding for financial or schedule reasons.

Given this context, I think you should let it go and just enjoy the extra time you get to spend celebrating with relatives. Look -- the reality is that if you are someone (like me!) whose family and friends are spread all around the country, some people are just not going to be able to attend for reasons beyond anyone's control -- finances, child care, they're going to be 9 months pregnant and can't fly, they can't get the time off work, etc. etc. etc. If you had held the wedding on the East Coast, the same would be true because your friends/family from the West Coast or middle of the country might not have been able to travel there. When we were wedding planning, I definitely envied some of my high school friends who stayed in our small town and 90% of their guests were local. But, you can't build your entire life/where you live around what will be most convenient for your wedding. :)

While we opted not to do it, I know several friends who did destination or small or otherwise hard-for-guests-to-get-to celebrations somewhere that was more local to some group of guests, and I think this is a really nice way to include people while making it more convenient for them. Although the way your Mom went about this may not have been the best, keep in mind that ultimately these folks coming to the picnic mostly just want to see you and celebrate with you, and absent the picnic they may not have been able to do that! So despite how this came about, it's ultimately a win-win.

Basically I think there is no real dilemma here. Sure, you are annoyed with your mother, and I think it's fine to express that (sounds like you already did, but if you feel the need to say something along the lines of "Look, it will be great to see cousin Fred and Aunt Jackie at the picnic, but I want you to know that I am really hurt by the way you went about this" then go ahead and say it). But say what you need to say and then try to release that so you can enjoy the day with your family who ultimately is just there to see you and have a good time, even if it is not 100% what you envisioned. I'm not sure what else there would even be to do at this point -- as you say, refusing to attend is not really an option, and I don't think it's something that would make you happy either!

If it is possible given the structure of the event, I would also suggest that your fiance attend -- one of the cool parts of our wedding was my husband getting to meet all my relatives so he has an actual person to connect to when I tell him family stories.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:30 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have no idea what to tell you about any of this. I'm just starting the wedding planning journey, myself. I've already had conflict with my mom about her desire to invite openly racist family members to my wedding to a biracial dude who A) deserves a say in whether proud white supremacists get to be there, and B) deserves to be insulated from a group of people who will not be a presence in our lives together. So, yeah. I totally feel you.

As to what to do in this situation?

I mean, going forward, you need to make it crystal clear that you have both advance guest list notice AND veto power. Even if you say something polite like "sure, invite anyone you want!" That's, like, a nice thing to say, not a biblical mandate.

For the time being, with this event scheduled, I would probably just try to make lemons out of lemonade. Your parents hosting this event will actually take the pressure off of you, both in terms of the guest list and in terms of general parental input on the wedding. They're throwing this thing. If they want extra family photo time, a DJ, cornhole, passed mini quiches, whatever, they can do that at the picnic.

Also, I've learned already that if my mom wants something to happen at my wedding that I specifically don't want, I have to say an unequivocal no. Dithering results in this sort of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 2:47 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just go to the picnic, which she arranged according to your instructions on your schedule at your convenience and at her expense. Do not make a big deal out of this.

Make a mental note that future communications need to be clearer and need to account for some social dynamic stuff where mom will try to win the social pecking order crap if given any opening. You might also consider journalling and/or therapy. The degree to which you are upset about this implies a bunch of back story that you couldn't possibly lay out in a single ask.

Presumably, you live on the opposite coast in part because of this friction. That makes it relatively easy to further distance yourself in the future. Just keep chipping away at it until you have distanced yourself enough to not feel suffocated from and manipulated by your mom.

But I would try to be gracious about this and try to focus on "Thank you mom for arranging this at your expense and in accordance with my expressed wishes and convenient to my schedule. Sorry for the miscommunication and sniping. Wow, are weddings stressful! I mean, you hear that all the time, but I never really appreciated it until now."
posted by Michele in California at 2:53 PM on April 22, 2016

I'm guessing that the majority of the answers here are and will be some flavor of, "let it go." On the surface, this doesn't seem like a terrible turn of events, especially when compared to a lot of the horrors that happen when weddings are being planned and families have conflicting ideas. That said, I'm sure that there must be some backstory and history of your mother manipulating situations and keeping you inappropriately in the dark about things that directly involve you. This is probably just another thing that she's done to add to her list of passive aggressive greatest hits. It is crappy for your parents to have undermined your wedding by presenting this party as an alternate. But, it's done and from now on, your parents can just be left out of having enough time and information to do this sort of thing again. If this is how they manipulate situations when they're given lots information and benefit of the doubt, then they don't get to have those things anymore. I don't think you'll get far with a Come to Jesus talk with them about this and how it was crappy of them to frame the event the way that they did. They feel entitled and they'll poo-poo your reaction to it (bridezilla is so stressed!) and minimize their own manipulations. That's hard to fight. The only way to fight it is by restricting how much info and rope they get in the future.

I'd focus on the following: the people coming to attend the picnic likely have no idea that your parents have made this event into their own thing for their own reasons. The guests have no reason to think that this doesn't have your blessing and that you were kept in the dark about how it was presented. These people want to celebrate with you and don't have a clue that they're in a web of your parents' making. Enjoy your friends and relatives and visiting with them in a relaxed setting. Also, since this has been turned into a gala event for reasons that have to do with your parents wanting it their way, feel free to do absolutely nothing to prepare for/help with the event. Show up in some nice togs and have a great time and then leave when you want. After all, you have to save your energy for the real event a month later! Congratulations!
posted by quince at 3:11 PM on April 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

Well, I don't know. There seems to be a lack of clarity of the specific issue in your question, which might be why you are getting so many 'just have fun' answers (which would be mine, too).

That being said, IF it is actually taking away from wedding guests, and if you are paying for the wedding, maybe this will free up some money for you to do something super indulgent or extravagant or fun at your wedding that you wouldn't otherwise be able to?
posted by Vaike at 3:35 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I feel strongly that suggesting the picnic as a cheaper alternative to my wedding

You make it sound as though you think your mom is having a competing event and stealing your guests. It seems much more likely that people said, "Sorry, but we're going to miss the wedding because of costs." Mom said, "We're doing a shower here if that's better for you."

It wasn't a choice about where the person would attend. It was a choice about if the person could attend any event. If it weren't for the shower, then they wouldn't be part of your wedding at all. Now they can meet your betrothed, kiss your cheek and wish you well.

Thank the guests who attend and thank the hosts who are having a party in your honor.
posted by 26.2 at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

I feel strongly that suggesting the picnic as a cheaper alternative to my wedding

Most of your guests could probably figure out for themselves which destination was cheaper. If your mom actually said to specific people that the picnic was cheaper, that would be frustrating since it seems like a passive aggressive dig at your plans. But unless your family is especially clueless about calculating travel costs, I doubt she siphoned people off from your wedding.
posted by Mavri at 3:48 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

After reading the question a couple of times, I think I get it. OP was expecting a relaxed picnic with local friends; instead, her mom basically duplicated the guest list for the entire wedding and turned into into a giant event, all without telling her. Which, in turn, seems to require that guests make a choice about which giant event to attend. I think those who are saying, "but it makes sense for the local people who can't afford to attend your wedding to go to the picnic instead" are missing that mom invited family from all over the country, not just local East Coasters who had trouble traveling.

That said, OP, it sounds like you've already brought this up with your mom and she's ignored your objections. So... what else are you looking for here? It doesn't sound like it's feasible for her to call off the party or un-invite people. Why do you need an "approach going forward" for dealing with your parents -- are you worried that they'll pull some other wedding-related stunt, or in general step over the boundaries you try to set? If so, I don't know if you can really plan ahead for those things. I think you just need to be really clear about what you need from her, and keep stating it as many times as necessary. "Mom, I'm not happy that you told me you were having a small shower and then invited our entire family from all across the country. I need you to keep me in the loop when you make plans." "Mom, I live in West Coast City and that is where we are getting married. I don't want to discuss it further." Et cetera.

Also, maybe stop emailing and call her, or talk to her about this face to face when you see her. Emailing may be making your communication worse -- it's easier for her to ignore what you're saying, and it's easier for you to misinterpret what she's saying over email.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:08 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I got married, I was a little surprised that my mom took a couple of opportunities to remind me how much guests would be spending, and how much travel they had to take on, to be present. We had a semi-destination wedding, local for us and many friends, but a more significant multi-day trip for our families and some out-of-town friends. I bristled a little at this because weddings are weddings, and the couple does get to choose. But in retrospect, I do appreciate that she was paying attention to some aspects of things that I might have overlooked, and it was a reminder to feel really grateful that anyone we invited was willing, even happy, to set aside two or three entire summer days to travel and participate, put themselves up someplace, dress up nice and bring us well wishes and gifts. It's a lot of work to attend a wedding, which you're really aware of when you're a guest, but not so much when you're the couple.

So take into account the fact that your mom might feel a little bit responsible to family members who want to feel a part of this but can't manage the distance, time, or expense of the destination wedding (I know our typical response is that she shouldn't feel responsible for choices that were yours, but in real life, people do feel like that a lot, especially with some relationships that may have been going on longer than you've been alive). Keep in mind it's likely she got a few hints, or even an earful, from some of the family who felt bad they really couldn't swing attending, for whatever reason. And she may really feel like she figured out the perfect compromise position to make everybody happy - not predicting that the one person who'd become unhappy with it would be her daughter.

Obviously, anyone who can easily attend West Coast Wedding will most likely do so. This isn't going to compete. Your mom couldn't very well only invite the people who were fretting they couldn't afford West Coast wedding. She kind of had to invite the same guest list or it would have looked oddly handpicked and exclusive. Yes, maybe they're still traveling across the country, but maybe the extenuating circumstances are that for the picnic, they can stay with East Coast Relatives rather than getting a hotel, making it a lot cheaper, or something similar.

On your wedding day, and the days after, you're going to be blown away by how caring and generous people were to you. That's worth a lot in the leadup. Don't look back and cringe and how you behaved about the picnic. I'd say, with this one, be gracious. Don't punish your mom for trying to work out a compromise. Try to appreciate what a big event it is in her life, and the family's life, too. It's going to be a really nice, fun picnic and you're still going to have an amazing wedding.
posted by Miko at 7:16 PM on April 22, 2016 [15 favorites]

My niece got married at a place undisclosed to anyone in the family. Just her and her husband. Photos of the two of them, beautiful silhouettes of her gown, etc. And nobody there. I got a card with photos. Their feeling was that there was too many people and too far away, etc., so they decided to elope and get married at a B&B in New England.

IDK if that is an option for you, but by gawd, she made a beautiful bride. And I still love her very much and am not resentful over her choice how to live her life, because she is my special niece who is so cute.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:19 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

My perspective is that this is a fantastic turn of events, because you get 'credit' for inviting everyone, still get to see everyone in a large extended family for this party, but don't have to actually pay for every member of that extended family to attend your wedding. I know a lot of people invite a lot more people than they really want to have attend, with the presumption that people who are far away will likely not attend. My impression was that you didn't really intend for all those people to come to the west coast anyway but just wanted to "make an effort to be inclusive". Which makes this picnic solution seem like the perfect answer, unless you were really counting on the picnic being small - but again, my impression was you weren't counting on the picnic to be small, because you told parents to invite whoever they want, and you invited a lot of people to your wedding, suggesting that you are cool with larger parties (for myself I had about 45 people at my wedding and I would have been happy going even smaller).

So I guess my confusion is whether you're pissed off about the picnic getting big, or whether it's the fact that you actually don't like these relatives, wanted to get 'credit' for inviting them but not to actually see/deal with them, but now you have to see them. When I finished your question I definitely thought the latter, but it seems that many others didn't understand it that way so I could be wrong. Either way, I'd join the chorus encouraging you to accentuate the positive, and just tell your parents exactly what bothered you so much about it so that they will be clear and if there are other aspects about the party that are important to you (like what games are played or how gifts are done or what food is served or whatever), just be extremely clear and up front in communicating what you want and ask them to run things by you before firming up the plans.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:03 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Okay, so, maybe your mom swiped a few of your eggs out of your basket but, those eggs probably would have cancelled on you anyway, because going to a wedding out of town is expensive and not high on many people's priorities list.

If you really want to respond, calculate just how much money mom saved you and donate that amount to a cause that she hates, which would be a passive aggressive response to a perceived passive aggressive attack.

Your best move right now is to rise above it and enjoy this family reunion that has come together in your honor. Your mom did a nice thing for many people on this one. Take it as a nice thing.
posted by myselfasme at 8:09 PM on April 22, 2016

It sounds like, for some attendees, attending your wedding might've been a financial hardship--meaning that either they wouldn't be able to come, or they would come but it would be a great financial burden for them to do so.

Your parents hosting this picnic means that you will get to see friends and family that you might otherwise not have seen at your wedding (or you might have seen them, but they might've been stressing about how they were going to pay for the trip/hotel/taxi to-and-from the airport).

Be happy to see them--it sounds like a great idea on your parents part. Greet your friends and family with warm hugs and smiles, and TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS and GROUP PHOTOS because a few years from now, many of those attending may no longer be around.

Enjoy this day (and enjoy your wedding)!
You are very loved to have so many guests coming to the picnic thrown in your honor!
posted by blueberry at 9:53 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

It is probably projection on my part, but I am struck by how assiduously this post shows that you have taken complete control of your wedding, and how distancing you are to your parents involvement in the exigencies of invitations, hosting etc.

Your family and you repeatedly 'indicate' rather than saying directly confrontational things, and the 'indicating' pattern is that through these wedding enactments, you're struggling for independence.

I reckon you've probably got some backstory/good reasons for that. And, you know, it's 2016, emancipated weddings n all, so it's not like it's a big affront. I did the same when I got married - my fiancé and I did invites, paying, outfit shopping alone because I didn't want my parents to have control like they'd always had. But they wanted it and did a similar kind of dance. Dressing up this as concern but 'indicating' to you resentment and judgment of your adult life choices.

Through her picnic planning you've been trumped in this power struggle for your control over this wedding and what it means to you. And I think you sense, or know, that your mother has responded to the independence of your wedding as selfish wilfulness on your part. Maybe she has passive aggressively and craftily got her own way by mincing your words into Yay-Mother-You-Are-In-Charge, staging her own event to keep control. If she really wanted to give you the floor, she'd have responded differently to the emails you've sent.

Ok sure, it could be simply a nice gesture and meant sincerely - but I don't think you have that relationship, just by reading how you've written this post.

If it was me I'd go to this picnic, be gracious and pleasant. I'd be asking one last time for your mother not to make what seems like an alternate, or a mini-wedding happen. Say that you'll be wearing neat casual suitable for a park picnic, and that's hopefully what guests will choose too, because it is not a pre-wedding. No speeches, no bridal cake, thanks - this is something you want for your wedding day only. You're not going to get that experience, you know that, but hopefully your wedding day is in your control and is a beautiful day reflecting who you are as a couple.

Then keep living on the opposite coast and having a good marriage away from that power struggling arrangement.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:06 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your mom is probably of that generation where their parents planned their wedding for them but their kids plan their own weddings. So she may feel that she missed out on planning a wedding. The attempt to make you feel guilty for having a wedding where you happen to live reinforces that idea. Sounds like this "bridal shower" is her way to compensate for that.

It's not a wedding alternative if she's only inviting relatives from your side of the family - basically it's a family reunion with your impending marriage as the excuse. I'd suggest accepting it for what it is and enjoying the day.

You wedding, on the other hand, will be a mix of family and friends from both sides. Maybe there will be a few of your relatives that choose the family reunion over your wedding, but they're probably not people that you will miss at your actual wedding. Your wedding will be fun and beautiful and full of people that care about you and your fiance. Congratulations in advance!
posted by finding.perdita at 3:26 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Late last year, my mother offered to throw me a bridal shower at their home in East Coast suburbia. I emailed back and said thanks but indicated I would prefer a relaxed picnic or barbecue instead.

You probably didn't mean to, but you really gave her an opening here. Other things being equal, a barbecue-- or even picnic-- can easily be construed as much longer and larger scale than a shower and usually later in the day, too. She may have taken that and run with it in a way you didn't intend or anticipate, but it is possible she is just doing what she heard you ask for. Definitely some miscommunication here and maybe some lack of trust but I would not read this as a deliberate hijacking or anything. On her side, she would be thinking, "I offered her a small very gathering and she asked for something bigger so I'm going to go with it and give her my best effort."
posted by BibiRose at 4:55 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

As for what you can do now -- if there are specific long distance family members or friends that you really want with you on your wedding day, reach out to them and tell them how much it would mean to you and what how you can help them with the expense (covering travel costs, accommodation costs, childcare costs, etc.) If it was truly a financial issue (as opposed to when and how much time they can get off work/take away), then hearing personally from you that their presence is truly meaningful, plus the practical assistance, should make sure that anybody for whom the wedding is a real option makes it.

If you're not willing or able to cover costs for some people, then be glad you get to see them at the barbeque and remember that they and you both had to do some emotional and financial and logistical calculations about attending your wedding, and you both came out to the same place.

(And if you've been going to great emotional and financial pains to attend others' weddings when you didn't *really* want to, give yourself a break, and stop doing that).
posted by Salamandrous at 6:59 AM on April 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I get that there must be some hidden family dynamics that didn't make it into the post that would give us context here, but... this is really a net win for everybody? You'll get to see family who couldn't have made it to your wedding and it'll be more relaxed and less busy so you can actually spend time with them. Then you can focus on your friends at the actual wedding.
posted by MsMolly at 8:35 AM on April 23, 2016

As someone who's been a third party to something like this (in other words, part of the "extended family who lives far from the wedding" cohort), I think this may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. A cousin of mine had her wedding at a location that was a coast away from ~50% of the family she invited. She understood it was a PITA and expensive for many family members to attend, and that many family members were on the fence about the decision, but she mistakenly assumed that most people would make the sacrifice and come...because: NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY WEDDING. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and many people (separately) decided against going, thinking "well, I'm sure Cousins X, Y, and Z will go so what does it matter if I skip it" and/or "Well I heard Aunts X Y and Z aren't going so it's ok if I can't make it either"). I was one of the only family members who attended, the bride was pissed as hell, I was a bit annoyed at the time and money it cost, and there's been rocky inter-family fights ever since because she really holds a grudge about it.

It sounds like you assume that if your parents hadn't thrown this picnic, relatives who RSVP'd "No" to your wedding might have RSVP'd "Yes" instead. But the truth is--you care way more about your wedding than any of these people (save your parents). There is no indication they would have made a different choice if the picnic never existed.

Choose to see the picnic as a way to celebrate your marriage with people who would never have come to your wedding in the first place. And while it's terribly difficult to keep rationality in mind in the tornado of wedding planning, try to have a little perspective about the importance of your wedding (not you, not your marriage, but simply the event of your wedding) in the scheme of other peoples' lives.
posted by sallybrown at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

I agree with most of the others that this doesn't seem like an offensive hijacking of the wedding, but more of a nice gesture for those guests who cannot attend yours. But, here's a suggestion, what if you asked her to change the date to be a month *after* the wedding? Would that change things for you? And it might be more fun, you might be able to bring pictures and people who were able to attend the wedding can talk to the other guests about the experience.
posted by like_neon at 1:28 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think your mom's idea to treat this get-together as an alternative gathering for those who can't afford the wedding is 100% a good idea. I agree with you, however, that she should have discussed this with you first to establish the purpose of the gathering, and I totally get why you are upset about this.

Many others have offered advice. I will instead offer my personal experience. My wife and I had a big east-coast wedding. Most of my family is out west. My parents threw a big west-coast shindig, and like yours, it was marketed as an alternative for those who were unable to travel for the wedding (though we did all agree on this purpose ahead of time!). And it was great. We had such a wonderful time with everyone, and just about everyone who wanted to celebrate our union was able to! We had not one, but two love-filled events, and my parents took care of all the planning and logistics for theirs! So great! AND, there was no confusing the "shindig" for the wedding; one was a party, and the other was our wedding ceremony. That was unambiguous, to all involved! Both of those days rank among the happiest in my life.
posted by duffell at 3:05 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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