Wedding Bell Blues
December 12, 2016 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting married next year, and my parents and I had a huge fight about the wedding planning. What should I do?

My family came to visit my fiance and I this weekend, because we can't get time off for Christmas. My parents are from a fairly warm area of the US and don't do well with the cold. My fiance and live somewhere that gets much colder in the winter.

At dinner on the last night of their visit, everyone was kind of in a foul mood. I had been up sick the night before, and both my parents' allergies had been flaring up. They complained to me earlier that it felt like they'd been doing nothing but sitting and eating on this trip, because the weather was so terrible. This is not their idea of a good vacation. (I tried to apologize for that, and my father told me it wasn't my fault, but still, I felt pretty terrible about it.)

So anyway, this trip hasn't been the greatest for any of us. But we were at dinner on the last night, and my father made a comment about how I'd eaten a lot of chicken this weekend. I replied a bit defensively, and my father stated I didn't always need to sound so defensive whenever he remarked on anything. (This is a Thing I do a lot around my parents, often without realizing it.)

Earlier in their visit, my mother tried to ask me about how the wedding planning was going. We're having a very small wedding, about 40 people or so. It's going to be held at a nearby state park. We're also being VERY NONTRADITIONAL. I have no attendants, his brother is going to preform the ceremony, there will be a dinner, wine & beer, but there won't be any formal dancing (or speeches).

The reason for this highly non-traditional wedding is twofold: 1) I have terrible anxiety, and I hate being the center of attention. I do currently see a therapist for it, and it's gotten better, but it's still anxiety! and 2) My fiance and I are what you'd call fairly low-key. We want to have a nice fancy party, where we get married and hang out with our friends and family for the evening. That's it.

I do realize it's our wedding, I'm the designated bride, and therefore, I will be getting most of the attention that night. I just don't want a whole week's worth of it, so no wedding shower, bachelorette parties, etc. I also hate the idea of the Wedding Industrial Complex, where I feel like I ought to have a lot of fuss and attention placed upon myself because that's what the magazines tell me to do.

They seemed very appalled when I said that we'd be doing board games as the main reception activity. I told them they didn't have to play, but was surprised they seemed so harsh on board games (they really like bar trivia, we'd have some card and trivia type games available, etc).

So, on this last dinner of their visit, my father suggested maybe having a cocktail hour activity where we ask people to answer trivia about weddings, maybe for a small prize or something. This was not a bad suggestion, and my fiance and I were pretty receptive to it! Then my father suggested possibly having some trivia about us as a couple, and I reacted badly to that suggestion. I said no, shook my head, and generally started getting freaked out by the thought of having Us: The Game.

...that's when things went downhill, fast.

My father scolded me and told me I was acting childish, the conversation was over, and he was done. I started to cry and said I was sorry, but the latter suggestion was too personal an idea for me. Then my mother swooped in and told me that, as the bride, people would remember what I wore, how I looked, my dress, my nails, my hair, my make-up, and how I should start caring about it. The fact that we were going so nontraditional meant that they would remember my appearance and attitude even more so.

I was still crying, so my fiance stepped in then and tried to tell my parents that I'm generally uncomfortable with being the center of attention, that we wanted to have a simple wedding, and we were trying very hard to plan this together.

My mother blew up and started yelling. She said that my fiance was just going to wear a suit, and that was that. How she was tired of not knowing what to do or what to wear for the wedding, and how many days did we want her to come? Two? Three? Maybe she'd just show up on the day of the wedding and just attend!

I tried to explain that I wanted her there, and I wasn't sure what to ask her to help with (she lives seven hours away, and the wedding is being kept simple on purpose). But I was still crying, so my mother got up, said maybe we'd be better off just eloping then, and stormed out of the restaurant.

My father, my fiance and I all sat there, and no one said anything for about five minutes. My fiance was angry on my behalf, I was trying not to cry again, and my father was furious.

After dinner, my mother said good bye like nothing had happened, and my father refused to do more than give us a wave good night.

So, this morning, I'm at a loss. I feel really hurt about the entire situation. My relationship with my parents is complex... (they gave us $5000 to help pay for the wedding, but don't seem to believe that my anxiety is a real thing). It's like my preferences don't matter if they aren't in line with theirs, and often times, like right now, I feel like they'd very much like their daughter to be somebody else.

But anyway, where should I go from here?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, hi, welcome to my life. Here's what finally worked for me (after the time I walked out of my parents' house after an argument on a summer midday in Phoenix and damn near killed myself carrying a duffel bag two fucking miles down the street to find a pay phone to call a cab to the airport):

"Mom, Dad, you have raised me to be a strong, smart, independent adult. Please trust me to be that person you raised. I appreciate and value your advice. But I have to make my own way, and my own decisions. I'm sorry that I made you feel as though I was dismissing your advice. I'll try to be better with that in the future."

And then leave it to them. If they can't deal with you on those terms, then they'll never be able to do it.
posted by Etrigan at 8:22 AM on December 12, 2016 [14 favorites]

Do you actually want a wedding at all? It sounds like you're planning your wedding very precariously around your anxiety, and that any slight deviation from that that will be very upsetting. Have you considered eloping?

I say this as someone with terrible anxiety, who got into a stress spiral any time I thought about planning a wedding. We eloped last year and it was great. My husband's sister and her boyfriend were our witnesses, and we told the family members who we knew could handle it beforehand, but not everyone. We live in San Francisco so our City Hall is really beautiful and we just did it there. We hired a friend to be our photog so we got great photos. We had dinner at a lovely restaurant afterwards. It was beautiful, fun, and totally stress-free.
posted by radioamy at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2016 [18 favorites]

Ugh. . . you have my sympathies. This sounds like a truly terrible situation.

Its unclear from your telling of the story if your dads stoicism is meant to reflect some concern on his part for your moms inappropriate behavior or as a confirmation of the same problematic attitudes she had demonstrated. If its the former, maybe try talking to him first? I would probably offer them their 5000 back, if only to have them say "no no, it is for you to use as you wish" and then HOLD THEM TO THAT STATEMENT.

Weddings make people act out, and negotiating parental relationships as adults is just not that fun for a lot of us. I can deeply and personally relate to the whole "accused of defensiveness/spiral of aggravating interactions" situation. I'm normally all about being the bigger person . . . but this is your wedding and its not really the time for that. My dad died a couple years after we got married and if he had not been there/we had not been in a good place in our relationship (something that was true a few years before that) it would have been much much worse for me.

I think you need to do two things here (either through your dad or with both of them): a. clearly state that your wedding is not going to be traditional but that is how you want it, and any commentary on how you might change it, or discussion of its nontraditional-ness/inadequacy will not be tolerated. b. address your moms stated concerns regarding her wardrobe and responsibilities. Give her something to do and assurances that dressing in x fashion will be appropriate. Other actionable questions about HER attendance (not the event overall) can be addressed as they arise.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:24 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well, if any part of this question is "am I being unreasonable here," the answer is no, your parents are completely freaking out of line.

As for what you should do - well, only you know if your parents are likely to make a similar scene at the actual wedding. If they are, I might be tempted to just be like "yeah, actually, upon reflection, you had a great suggestion. We're eloping. See you when we're married!" And then just do what you were planning to do in the first place, with people who you actually want to be there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2016 [19 favorites]

Something which also sorta jumped out at me:

I have terrible anxiety, and I hate being the center of attention. I do currently see a therapist for it, and it's gotten better [...] [My parents] don't seem to believe that my anxiety is a real thing

my mother swooped in and told me that, as the bride, people would remember what I wore, how I looked, my dress, my nails, my hair, my make-up, and how I should start caring about it. The fact that we were going so nontraditional meant that they would remember my appearance and attitude even more so [...] My mother blew up and started yelling. She said that my fiance was just going to wear a suit, and that was that. How she was tired of not knowing what to do or what to wear for the wedding, and how many days did we want her to come? Two? Three? Maybe she'd just show up on the day of the wedding and just attend!

I wouldn't be even slightly surprised if your mom has near-crippling anxiety of her own which has gone untreated her whole life. From this brief bit of info (which I could be interpreting totally incorrectly), that's sure how it sounds. It does run in families.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2016 [59 favorites]

You were all tired and on edge after a weekend that sounds stressful for everyone. You can turn this into a referendum on your wedding and your parents love for you as their daughter (?) or you can acknowledge nerves on all ends were frayed and move forward with your sensible plans without turning your wedding into a psychological drama.
posted by kelseyq at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2016 [14 favorites]

So sorry, OP, this should be a time of happiness.

If I were in your shoes, I would give back the $. I've seen this situation on multiple occasions; if you accept the money, they are likely to expect to have a say in what you do. Don't pollute this and do your wedding, as you and your fiance envision.

Not now, but later, I would send a card to your parent. You would be honored to have them at your wedding. I would not involve your mother in helping/planning - I don't think the understand what you want and might be confused/bothered by it.

Re: looking at your nails, etc.(?) The way that I look at it, this is a very diverse world and people approach situations from many perspectives. Do some pple look at that? I guess. Do you? Or your friends? If you don't , who cares. Do the wedding that you want. FWIW, your weddings sounds fun to me.

I've been to many weddings - traditional, nontraditional. I usually walk away and remember how happy everyone looked, or how great it was to see the circle of friends. My guess is that this is what most people remember.

And congrats on your upcoming marriage.
posted by Wolfster at 8:27 AM on December 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

Any chance your mom also has some anxiety problems herself that she and your father ignore or shift blame? It sounds like she's worried about what is expected of her, or at least blaming her anxiety surrounding the event on not having a script she can refer to.

I don't suggest this as an excuse for her behavior, but as a way for you to reassure yourself that if it wasn't this, it'd be something else. If you were having a traditional wedding, she'd be anxious about the number of bridesmaids, or the DJ, etc. So don't focus on her reactions or managing them, focus on trying to manage your own anxiety.

(On preview, what showbiz_liz just said).
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

You're not alone in the family drama with the wedding thing. I think most women experience this in one way or another. As difficult as it is, you'll need to do one of two things: Put your foot down and say, "This is what it is, please show up and be nice but we got this" or just elope and avoid the drama all together. All of this truly depends on how you want to remember your day.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 8:30 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your wedding sounds great! Actually your wedding sounds similar to my recent ~40 person wedding, only we didn't have games (just people chatting over a long meal). And people were lovely about saying it was nice and relaxed, and if people didn't have fun, they sure didn't tell me.

The main thing for us was to be accommodating of other people's needs, and then decide what we wanted and communicate that all clearly to others. So what do you want? If you want your parents there, tell them that. If you want to elope, go for it.

I liked the idea of eloping, but I also knew I'd really regret not having family there. As a fellow anxious person, folks were mostly talking among themselves, not paying attention to me. And it wasn't my favorite day ever, because it was fraught, but then I kind of expected that, and am still very glad we did it with family in a low-key way. Your mom's anxieties about what other people will think isn't your responsibility to manage.
posted by ldthomps at 8:33 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sounds like it is about more than the wedding.

For one thing, you're assigning culpability to yourself for things your parents are doing (e.g. chalking up the comment about eating too much chicken as "This is a Thing I do a lot around my parents, often without realizing it." -- no. This is a reaction to a thing your father does to you, where he makes comments that he should know from experience will upset you, and then makes it your fault for reacting).

For another, your parents seem to be basically refusing to acknowledge that you have anxiety, and in fact are doubling down on it in ways that are making you more anxious.

I think the number one thing you need to do as you go forward is to make it clear to your parents that (a) you appreciate their assistance but (b) you are an adult and (c) this is your wedding and therefore (d) you're going to do this wedding the way that makes you happy and comfortable, and you're not going to put yourself through something that will make you dread what should be a happy day just to do the things they would do if it were their wedding.

Having a talk with your therapist about ways to engage with your parents to help them stop both upsetting you and minimizing your real anxiety would also be a good plan.
posted by tocts at 8:34 AM on December 12, 2016 [13 favorites]

I agree with Wolfster: return the money and do it exactly as you and your fiance want. Your parents obviously have serious issues of their own, and you should not let those issues ruin your wedding. If they "just show up on the day of the wedding and just attend," everyone will survive. Trust me, very few people will particularly notice or remember what people wore; they will remember if a good time was had and the two of you were happy. So have a good time and be happy!

We're having a very small wedding, about 40 people or so.

That's small, but not very small; I had under ten at mine—that's a very small wedding.
posted by languagehat at 8:35 AM on December 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

OP here, so feel free to direct private responses this way, if that's your thing.

To clarify a couple of things real fast:

Eloping isn't off the table, although I would like to have a small wedding! I've been to two or three weddings that are along the lines of what I have in mind for ours. I actually like planning small parties.

My father is very talkative generally, so when he is quiet, it's not usually a good thing. Also, my mother is actually my stepmother in the most technical sense, but she's the only mother I've known.

Also, the last comments are probably a bit harsh, but this is not new behavior from them. Right now, it's about my wedding, but insert: Prom, graduation, Thanksgiving, [other traditional event here], and this is a rodeo we've gone through before.
posted by Juna at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I think your mom has some anxiety. The wedding is still a year away and your mom is stressed out about all these "expectations"? Or maybe it's closer than that but still. Weddings stir up different emotions in people - things they may not be prepared for or have any idea that they would feel so strongly about [thing]. A mother and a daughter are supposed to have a special bond on her wedding day. "Supposed to." I can see both sides of this emotional issue. Maybe once you have some distance from this weekend, take a deep breath and sit down with your fiancé, make sure your wedding plan is what you want to do and then try to reconnect with your mom and just see what she says about her vision for your wedding. Who knows? She may surprise you. And while it can be weird to be the bride at a wedding, just know that the spotlight is not actually so unforgiving. People love love. Keep your eye on the prize - a heartfelt commitment to your spouse with the loving support of your community and you'll find your way.
posted by amanda at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Personally, I'd give back the money, elope, and then have the celebration party of my choice.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:38 AM on December 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

I think a huge part of this issue is that your parents gave you $5,000 for what sounds like an afternoon picnic for 40 in a state park. They're trying to get a sense of how this money is being spent and for what, etc., because that's a LOT of money for what you're describing.

Your dad's idea about having a group game is fun and I think that you're acting disproportionately to the trivia game where the guests guess things about you and your betrothed. I mean, these people are guests at your wedding. Presumably you know them well enough that they can have fun guessing the name of your first pet or whatever.

Your mom's outburst sounds like she was trying to figure out what kind of wedding you're having and where does she fit in and to some extent, how you're spending this money.

I know it's hard to do all this planning with anxiety, but your mom has a point: even though the day belongs to the couple, people often have wedding parties for their families and friends. I see what she's saying. People WILL be focused on your happiness and want to celebrate with you.

If you would prefer not to have a day where people focus on you, then do a City Hall wedding.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:42 AM on December 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

Where I come from, yelling at someone who is already crying is bad form, be it a toddler or a bride.

It seems to me that there is a general lack of coping skills all around the table, certainly on the part of your parents who seem to be unduly concerned by a lack of entertainment and a surplus of chicken, but also on your part. So here is a hint: you don't have to make final decisions around the table at a restaurant. You can say, "we'll think about that" and let the subject drop.

Try to keep in mind that while it's a really, really, REALLY BIG DAY for you, it's a big day for your parents as well. A lot of what goes on at a typical wedding is for the benefit of the guests (Look at the happy couple dancing?). Consider the needs and preferences expressed by others, and do what you can, consistent with your own desires.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:42 AM on December 12, 2016 [18 favorites]

Your wedding plans sound lovely, and not that non-traditional. And FWIW, I really only remember much about how one friend looked at her wedding - it was more recent, we talked about how her sisters made her get more done up than she planned, and there's a particular photo of us from the event that I really like. Otherwise, I remember they looked happy, and that's it.

I can imagine my mom saying something very similar to yours, however, and I'm pretty sure that in mine it's about protecting me from the judgement of others rather than personally thinking I'm doing it wrong (I grew up in the South, there is still a "right" way of doing things and people do gossip). Would getting your mom more involved in a limited way work? Send her pictures of dresses you try on, ask her opinion on shoes (or whatever issue you don't feel strongly about)? Help her pick out her outfit for the wedding? Ask her about her wedding? You shouldn't have to help her manage her emotions, but if you feel like she generally tries to be supportive, it might be worth it.

Is there any chance your parents are irritated that you're not spending "enough" on the wedding after the gift they gave you? Mentioning to them how much beer, park permit, etc. cost may help (even if y'all usually don't talk about money).

I went to a wedding where questions about the bride and groom were on a paper table runner, and answers were underneath - making it less of a big group activity could let you use your dad's idea without having to be the focus of attention so much.
posted by momus_window at 8:51 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think a huge part of this issue is that your parents gave you $5,000 for what sounds like an afternoon picnic for 40 in a state park. They're trying to get a sense of how this money is being spent and for what, etc., because that's a LOT of money for what you're describing.

I don't think so at all. $125 per person, to cover dinner/wine/beer for 40 people, plus venue rental fees, plus whatever other random little things like flowers or centerpieces? That's not expensive at all for a large event, wedding or not.

If you would prefer not to have a day where people focus on you, then do a City Hall wedding.

The OP can do whatever the hell she wants, she didn't come here to be told that her choices are invalid for a second time.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2016 [56 favorites]

Right now, it's about my wedding, but insert: Prom, graduation, Thanksgiving, [other traditional event here], and this is a rodeo we've gone through before.

Yeah, I think you're going to have to find a way that you can comfortably brush them off. Whether that's out right ignoring a temper tantrum, being non-commital (that's an interesting thought, we'll think about it), or being direct (that's not what I want, let's talk about something else).

My sister gets anxious about being the focus, but her husband wanted a wedding. So they had a small one. She had one meltdown when she felt she was being pushed. Guess what we didn't do? Yell at her. We stopped and listened, then moved on (it was something that needed to be done, she just didn't want to do it right then, there was some gentle teasing that was in retrospect poorly timed).

Her wedding was a lot like yours. It was fun! My parents are much more laid back, so she didn't have to deal with that, and she just didn't engage in attempted stress-making from her MIL. She answered questions thoughtfully once (that's a good point, I think....) and then wouldn't engage further (we already decided X, we told you last time).

If you think it's about the money, you could offer an accounting of it or return it (I think that's around what my sister spent for a similar event). But based on the follow-up, if it's not one thing it's another. And if you were having a traditional wedding, there'd be something else to nitpick.

I also enjoyed eloping. So either way, I think you'll be happy with your decision. Just don't let your parents bully you.
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:59 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm also in the throes of wedding planning, and boy do I feel your unease.

One thing I've learned over the course of our very long engagement is that there is value in the traditional wedding--namely, that people know what to expect and what is expected of them. So when you make your own traditions, there is uncertainty. And some people don't handle uncertainty well.

Another factor to consider is how far people will be traveling to your wedding. We were going to have a non-traditional "party" after eloping, and then we thought of my partner's brother schlepping two small kids across the country for just a party. They're flying many hours, and taking time off work and putting in a lot of effort for us. So I figure it's fair to organize a thing that will make it worth their while.

To advise on your final question: It's like my preferences don't matter if they aren't in line with theirs, and often times, like right now, I feel like they'd very much like their daughter to be somebody else...But anyway, where should I go from here?:

Honestly, I would just re-state that to your parents: "It feels like my preferences don't matter if they aren't in line with yours." Also reiterate that your anxiety is real. Ask what they would ideally want for your wedding, listen thoughtfully to what they describe, and see if you can't find some commonality to build on.
posted by witchen at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

PS I have been to a bajillion weddings and I can't think for the LIFE of me what anyone's fingernails looked like. I think your mom is grossly overstating that, but it does shed light on her personal anxiety re: appearances.

PPS I'd keep the money if it was freely offered. Even a low-key wedding is expensive as balls and there's no reason to pile on financial hardship.
posted by witchen at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Sending you lots of wedding woooo...this sounds tough. But, your wedding sounds AMAZING and like it will be a really fun event. I wouldn't elope unless that is actually what you prefer.

I agree with folks who posted above saying that it sounds like your mom is having a lot of anxiety here too. There is a LOT of cultural baggage around weddings, especially around family members. I remember my sister and I having a weirdo blowup around her wedding because of planning around the bachelorette party, which was a) totally uncharacteristic of us, and b) stupid because she was having a totally relaxed wedding (quite similar to yours!) and it really did not need to be a big thing. Looking back on the situation, I definitely overreacted -- I think I just had this weird moment of "Oh, but the wedding industry tells us the MAID OF HONOR must plan the bachelorette party, and double-so if the MOH is also the sister!" -- even if this was dumb and really did not fit with the logistics of the situation. Despite myself having had a non-traditional wedding and her being the same way, I still got caught up in all this stupid cultural baggage. I just say this to point out that it is HARD to escape this stuff even when you're aware of it and actively trying to escape it, much less if she's not in that boat!!

So, I would look at what YOU want here--do you want to use the creation of this new family with your fiance as the opportunity to stake out some new ground for yourself and draw a line in the sand/weaken ties with your family of origin? If so, that's your call -- I would return the money they've given you and do the planning on your own and try not to involve them. For some people that is definitely the right choice.

OR, do you want to take this opportunity to try and build stronger connections and healthier relationship with your parents? If that's the case, I would try to meet them where they are, and have a serious conversation about their anxieties and concerns about the wedding when everyone is in a better mood. I would not be surprised if your mom is just feeling leftout and sad that you guys don't have a closer relationship. You could probably do a lot to make her feel better about this by really clearly saying: "Our choice of wedding style has nothing to do with how I feel about you -- I love you and really want you to be involved! I would love it if you could plan to fly out on X date before the wedding to help with final preparations." Then decide which parts of planning you can fully and joyfully welcome her into, within the parameters of the wedding you guys have decided on. For example, this could include:
--coming dress shopping with you, or just sending her pictures of some of the options as you're deciding
--coming to a food tasting with you, or having a time when you buy up an bunch of possible types of wine/beer that you might serve and doing a tasting/selection of those
--scouting out the venue and deciding how the chairs/tables will be set up (this is a good one because it does have to be done, even at a super-casual venue, but it is a PAIN. I did not care at all, and happily delegated it for my wedding -- I think it would help your mom feel involved without compromising your vision of the wedding).
--handing over some other responsibility you don't much care about -- I don't know what this is for you, but maybe it would be flowers or invitations or figuring out what plates and cups you'll use at the reception -- the key being, your mom can basically make whatever choice and it will be fine.
--giving your mom a responsibility in the ceremony, such as doing a reading or singing a song (depending on her talents!)
--saying "Hey, I really don't want to do the personal details trivia thing, but I love the idea of general wedding trivia! Will you help me come up with questions to include?"
--helping to put together wedding favors, name cards, or other small crafty things
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

1. people would remember what I wore, how I looked, my dress, my nails, my hair, my make-up

... No, I don't think this is true at all. People remember two things, in my experience: the vibe - like was it overall happy, or boring, or too hot; and any exceptional experiences (did someone faint, vomit, shoot off guns, dance on a table.) That's it. I agree with whoever above suggested that this remark of your mom's suggests that she herself suffers from undiagnosed anxiety. Which brings us to...

2. Your parents are trying to figure out what role they play. Your dad liked his couples-trivia idea (and keep in mind that if you HAD done this, he would have had a major role to play, as the expert on earlier periods of your life.) Your mom has some sort of vision for her role (probably as the expert advisor on dress/nails/hair/makeup, since that's what she believes is a priority) and is bewildered and disappointed that you're not going to let her play it.

So if you want to keep the peace, try to put yourself in their shoes a bit. Their girl is getting married. This is a big deal for them. Try to figure out what you can do to make them feel, not just involved in the wedding but like their input matters. But, don't kill yourself here. If they can't be positive about your choices, then that's on them.*

*just typing this reminds me of how I asked my mom for help with a non-traditional thing I was planning for my invitations and she shit all over it because she didn't understand my vision, and I wanted to strangle her in that moment as much as I ever have. I feel you! Hugs!
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I got married in October, and there was similar family drama - we wanted a small thing, our way' my mom wanted...not that.

Every single concession I made for my mom has caused nothing but grief, from the moment we started talking about the wedding to even now, almost 2 months later. She still wasn't happy, and we were miserable. And my mom and I are still on not-great terms because of everything.

The stuff we did our way is what we remember fondly. The stuff we did for her we're working hard to forget. And she wasn't happy regardless. Make your decisions with your spouse-to-be, and do what you want to do, full-stop.
posted by okayokayigive at 9:32 AM on December 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

Unless they attached strings to this money, I'd quit talking to them about the wedding at all, until it's planned. Like, "Well the contract for that is signed. It's not up for discussion, but thanks for sharing your thoughts with me."

A generous interpretation of your mom's outburst is that she's really uncertain what to do/wear and how she fits into the wedding plans and she's feeling anxious about that. I think that's plausible. After they've had some time to cool off, could you talk to her about what role you imagine she'll play in the proceedings? "Mom, I just need to you to show up the day of and support me by smiling and taking pictures. There will be a seat at the front reserved for you."

Pretend your dad never suggested trivia about yourselves (socially anxious introvert here who is also horrified by this idea) and just

Does your dad want a role too? Will you be having toasts? A dance? Clarify what you want from him the day-of as well, if you can.

If on the other hand, the money came with strings, give it back and proceed with what you want.
posted by purple_bird at 9:52 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mainly here to add my sympathy. I fell out with my parents worse than I have ever fallen out with them during wedding planning, it was just awful.

A friend went through similar, and she mentioned something which helped. She said something like "when I fell out with my folks, it brought me and my now-husband closer together, because we responded as a team. I don't feel like things will ever be quite the same, but I am married now and he and I come first, so perhaps that's as it should be".

It chimed for me, because my parents and I are close. I think our argument was partly my father reacting (without realising it) to this big change in my life. People of his generation often can't express themselves properly because there was no "you have anxiety lets help you with that" or "here's some therapy for that bad thing that happened" when they were growing up.

So, from the other side, I guess I hope the above helps, and memail me if you want sympathy from someone who was there too.
posted by greenish at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Years ago, I had some acquaintances who were getting married, and it was all very seeet until the families got involved. They ended up eloping, then doing the family event as a sort of crazy theater, because they had already done the part that was important to them.

Not sure if that's suitable for you, but if your main concern is the stress and anxiety, doing the deed in secret then having the bigger event where you have to act (but not act and get married, too) might take some of the stress out of it for you. It's worth considering, and it would be a way you could really enjoy your party.

To another point -- I know your parents were stressed and all, and parents will always think of you as being about nine years old, but that doesn't mean you need to tolerate bullying and other bad behavior. I'm sorry this is being hard, and I wish you a joyful wedding, no matter how you chose to have it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe the origin of your anxiety is your emotionally abusive parents. They sound like massive assholes. Whining because you eat too much chicken? Berating you for not having the type of wedding they imagined? Storming out of a restaurant in a tantrum? WTF?
posted by medusa at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

I mean this seriously: Can you move up the wedding? I say this because I did NOT want any sort of engagement period/attention/etc, so we told the very few invited guests (immediate family only) 30 days before that they could show up, or not, wearing whatever, just bring daffodils and bubbles if they do come. We did not tell ANYBODY else.

The 30 days was all I could handle.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:01 AM on December 12, 2016

The only thing you need to say is "We have provided for the comfort and well-being of our guests. I realize some parts of the wedding are non-traditional, so everyone will be told what to expect and what, if anything, we need from them."

Alllsooo... I wound up going to therapy after my wedding, because the wedding exacerbated a lot of stuff for me. I think you should look into going now! Therapists can give you some help dealing with stressful family situations.
posted by Hypatia at 11:17 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have anything to add but: you are totally not overreacting to the idea of a trivia game focused on you and your husband. I would *viciously* hate that; even thinking about it makes me cringe.
posted by Archipelago at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2016 [16 favorites]

I too do not like to be the center of attention, and wanted a low-key non-traditional wedding. I'm a cynical Gen X'er, who grew up in the punk scene so I really had a lot of contempt for most wedding "tradition" crap.

I'm also an anxious person who has sought therapy and treatment, and the daughter of an extremely anxious mother who has not sought any help and has always used her anxiety to control the family. My wedding planning did get a a little rough.

My mom attempted to undermine so many of my decisions (no attendants, my sister did the ceremony, I wore a bright red knee-length dress, and so on) and also sulked a lot because I didn't include her in enough (because she undermined me whenever I tried to talk to her and she's not reliable on her best day anyway and I was tired of trying to manage her emotionally.)

I wanted the wedding I wanted. I did a ton of reading and research and made my decisions on the setting, the size, the caterer, my dress and so on and I stuck to these things with amazing stubbornness. I took no money from anyone because I had learned much earlier in my life how my relatives love to use money to control people.

I had my first mani/pedi and had my hair put up with ribbons in a salon, but did my own makeup. I had my red dress, and my lovely sister do the ceremony in a garden. I called up someone who was NOT invited who I had heard planned to attend and told her she was not to come and was not welcome (that was hard!) Some feathers were ruffled on both sides of the family, but I'm not sorry. We didn't have speeches but my of course my boor father-in-law made one anyway, but things were mostly done by then and I was too happy to care.

Many many people who attended told me it was lovely and perfect for my husband and I, and maybe I'm sounding like a jerk, but I'm still so glad I knew what I wanted and didn't let people like my mom undermine me and make me deviate.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:29 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Man, there is a lot in this question. As you say, it's complicated. On the one hand they give you $5K, which is two month's salary for a lot of people, but at the same time they are calling you "childish" and yelling and storming out of restaurants. Both parties have their emotions high when a wedding is on the way, and many people's expectations are then doubly high when they are basically paying for the reception or some substantial fraction.

It sounds like what happened was a difficult conversation that got underway when all parties were not feeling their best, with multiple stressing factors: wedding, weather, illness. Not the best conditions for a heart-to-heart. But I have to say your parents' behavior was inexcusable. For your mom to leap onto your appearance when things were already painful for all involved is deliberately provocative, at best. It sounds like they don't know, at all, how to disagree without being disagreeable. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who says, "It was really difficult dealing with my parents when I was a young adult, but now we get along great." Parents have a long history of behavior and that relationship is one of the very hardest to change. If it helps you to understand and tolerate them, I kind of feel sorry for them; they sound really unhappy, for mostly self-imposed, petty reasons. Sure, they legitimately want to know when they should show up and what to wear, and I hope you can give them a firm answer in a timeline that allows them to make the necessary plans. But your wedding is not their wedding, not even if they are paying for it, not even if they know The Right Way to have a wedding. Hopefully you can find a way to allow them to participate, since it sounds like they want to, without driving yourself up a wall. But you know yourself, you know them, maybe that's not possible. I've been to a bunch of parties with trivia games, and from the guest perspective they are a blast, but Us: The Game is not something you can enjoy. Similarly, you already know if your parents are the kind of people who would be great to have around for a whole week before the wedding, or if they are miserable after three days. Yes, in a perfect world, family would come together, help with the pre-wedding tasks, celebrate togetherness and enjoy each other. I've been part of gatherings like that and they are some of my fondest memories. But not everyone has a family that is capable of that. You know, already, in your heart whether that's a realistic thing to expect from you and yours. Feel free to mourn it.

I am so happy that your fiance supported you, though. The fact that he was angry at your parents for the way they were treating you is a real clue to his character. In-laws can be very intimidating, and he was on your side. That says more about the kind of relationship you'll have, whatever the challenges life presents.
posted by wnissen at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

So sorry! The line that worked well for me was "I don't want to have someone else's wedding". Figure out how to say that in your own words (I'm ... a bit blunt), and keep repeating it.

In my case, we eloped, mainly because of drama queens in the family; what I meant was, I don't want to have my wedding be just another stage for their drama. It was really important to me, and us, not to start out our marriage that way, on someone else's terms.
posted by Dashy at 12:39 PM on December 12, 2016

My MIL did this with our wedding while my parents were MIA for much of the planning. For MIL it was much, much more about how other people were potentially judging her than it was about us and what would make us or our guests happy. Here's the thing; that was the same dynamic as had always existed in MIL's relationship with her son, and had always existed in my relationship with my parents. It added stress until I decided not to let it. I drew a line in the sand on the things that were important to me (brief, informalish ceremony with most of the crowd standing, no "official colors," alcohol served to guests). I delegated jobs to people who were willing to help. We ended up with a day that was a bit nontraditional, but that reflected us as a couple and that every single person said they really enjoyed (maybe they were fibbing, but why bother?).

This is one of those "high stakes" events that dredge up all kinds of the worst in our family dynamics, and trust that you'll visit them again when you make decisions about moving or have children or have any other kind of life event. I am right now swimming in a sea of MIL's expectations of the upcoming holidays that we are sure to fail to live up to once again. What has helped is talking over how to set appropriate boundaries (therapist would be really helpful here). Line up self-care as the stress will keep coming for the next year on and off. And, most importantly, talk to your partner about how you're going to handle this as a team. The worst of our parents affecting us throughout our relationship has come when we're not working together as a team. It might mean keeping them busy with something else, it might mean you stand up for one another verbally, it might mean agreeing to cut a visit short together. Whatever you need, when you have each other's back it makes all the difference.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! FWIW, I think your plan sounds like absolute bliss and I'd be thrilled to be a guest at a wedding like that.
posted by goggie at 12:46 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh my god I got flashbacks reading this question. I completely understand where you are coming from, right down to freaking out about the "getting to know the couple" trivia. I have a similar attitude and demeanor as you - I was so uncomfortable wearing a wedding gown, marching down an aisle, dancing, and generally being the center of attention so I didn't do any of it.

I'm sorry that your parents are being so difficult. Your wedding sounds really fun, and it seems like you have thought it through so that you are having the party you want to the best of your ability without making yourself uncomfortable.

I think you should send your parents an email that empasizes: you love them, you so appreciate the generous gift, you feel very uncomfortable being the center of attention but you very much want a party to celebrate the day with them and your other loved ones. Could you be really frank with your parents? My parents were confused at first but ultimately really supportive. I told them "I can't handle walking down an aisle or wearing a wedding dress because I will freak out. Can you help me come up with another plan so that it is still wedding-y but less traditional?" Try being super honest with your parents and still ask for their input.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:40 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

HUGGGS!!! weddings have a way of bringing out every minor rift in families and magnifying each one until they're a series of tectonic fault lines. it sounds like your mom had a lot of expectations that she was perhaps not even aware she had (for example, that she'd be asked to help, or that you'd have your hair and nails in a particular way, or that she'd be asked to come exactly 4 days in advance to help cut out paper doilies, or whatever). for your mom and dad, these expectations are being confounded, and they aren't coping well. (if that's a lifetime pattern, it's hard to break.)

when i was planning my wedding, i was talking to my mom one day on the phone and she asked if i was wearing a veil. a VEIL? i said. no way, hadn't even considered it. "oh," my mom said, "i'm disappointed. i thought you'd wear a sheer, fingertip veil." never before in my life had my mom ever even mentioned the word "veil" to me.

agree with the above posters about sending a nice email explaining your reasons for making the decisions you are. maybe you could give them each a specific task to help with-- maybe you could outsource some annoying planning stuff to them? your mom could be in charge of finding some great hairstyle ideas for you?

i also totally get the urge to elope. if it seems like the right choice, go for it. as for me, i can tell you that even with all the wedding stress, i was glad we did it, because it ended up bringing some family members together in ways they hadn't before, and we loved being able to be with people from all walks of life. godspeed.
posted by airguitar2 at 2:19 PM on December 12, 2016

> Your dad's idea about having a group game is fun and I think that you're acting disproportionately to the trivia game where the guests guess things about you and your betrothed.

This is ridiculous (and eponysterical). If the dad wants a fun group game, he can do it on his own time with his own group. The bride has no obligation to, nor should she, agree to anything that will diminish her enjoyment of her own wedding day in the slightest.
posted by languagehat at 2:19 PM on December 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

Your parents sound awful. Seriously, yelling at their crying kid? Storming out of a restaurant in the middle of dinner? That honestly sounds emotionally abusive. I would feel terribly anxious too if I thought my parents might treat me like that. That is some bullshit and I am sorry you are dealing with it.

Do whatever feels right to you. Your wedding plan sounds awesome, like my dream wedding, but if you'd rather elope and save yourself a heap of anxiety, you are totally justified in doing so. Or if you feel like giving the money back to your parents and telling them you'll do it your way and to please treat you like a fucking adult, that would also be justified. Give it a few days for everyone to cool off before you do anything.
posted by beandip at 2:57 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hello fellow engaged lady who lives far from family! We're having an almost identical wedding (small, intimate/simple, non-traditional). I'm just going to go through this thing by thing.

They complained to me earlier that it felt like they'd been doing nothing but sitting and eating on this trip, because the weather was so terrible. This is not their idea of a good vacation.

Traveling to visit your child who lives in a different part of the country isn't really the same thing as going on a vacation. I think this can be a pretty frequent source of stress (my parents loved coming to visit when I lived in NYC, which is their idea of a good vacation, but now that I'm in Los Angeles, it's like pulling teeth and I always worry that they're not having enough fun). Your parents came to see you, not to Go On Vacation. I get that this isn't something you can force them to understand, but ultimately it is not your responsibility to act like their tour director for a visit like this, or worse, manage their emotions so that every second of the visit is Fun Fun Fun.

They seemed very appalled when I said that we'd be doing board games as the main reception activity.

We are doing the same thing! (Seriously, are you me?) I've definitely noticed that when I tell people about this thing I think is going to be an extremely fun part of our wedding reception, they do not seem to be as excited about it as I am. In fact, I've noticed this the whole time. Me: We're having a food truck that serves brunch food!!!!! Reaction from other people: stone faced.

My takeaway on all of these interactions is twofold:

1. Honestly, people don't really care that much about other people's weddings. I think this even extends to parents and close friends/family. I mean, people say they care, and they might care about one or two things. But they don't care that much. My mom wanted to talk dresses FOREVER but gave only the mildest positive reaction to BRUNCH FOOD TRUCK, GUYS. Brunch. Food. Truck.

2. People really don't know what to do with non-traditional wedding information. Most people have a picture in their minds of what a wedding entails. Father of bride walks bride in big white dress down aisle to the dulcet tones of one of 2 or 3 classical pieces. "Do you take, etc." Chicken or steak. Open bar. Father Daughter dance, Mother son dance. Best Man speech. Champagne toast. Cake smashing into faces. Drunkenness? Send-off with sparklers/confetti/etc into fun vintage vehicle. Wedding complete. If you are doing literally anything I didn't just type, people will stare at you in bafflement. Not because they hate it, but because they don't understand. Will they understand on the day, when you're like "board games!"? Sure. But during the planning phase, unless you say "I'm thinking of walking down the aisle to Pachelbel's Canon in D instead of the Wedding March, HOW NONTRADITIONAL EH????", nobody can really psych themselves up for any of it. Meanwhile my one friend who went to the bridal store on Say Yes To The Dress gets CONSTANT gushing about it.

I've really been moderating the way that I talk about the wedding planning and also my reaction to other people's reactions to the wedding planning in light of these realizations. I think everyone is going to have a great time at our non-traditional wedding! I also know that people kind of don't care/don't get it at this phase, and that's fine.

My father scolded me and told me I was acting childish, the conversation was over, and he was done.

OK so clearly you parents do not give half a shit about your anxiety or know how to deal with it when it manifests, in any way. I'm really sorry that is happening to you. Your dad's reaction was really unfair. Especially over something so petty! You don't have to do "Us: The Trivia Game" if you don't want to, and neither should you have to pretend to want to in order to manage your dad's emotions about your wedding plans.

Then my mother swooped in and told me that, as the bride, people would remember what I wore, how I looked, my dress, my nails, my hair, my make-up, and how I should start caring about it.

This is wrong. Not only was it mean and unfair of your mother to say that to you/focus on that in light of your anxiety about that very thing, but also, she's just wrong. I'm 35. I've been to a shit ton of weddings. At least one a year since I was college aged, and several before that. As a woman of childbearing age, many of my friends, colleagues, and female relatives are married, and I have looked at many wedding pictures from weddings I did not attend. (Not to mention all the wedding blogs and pinterest boards examined as research for my own wedding plans.) And, you know what? ALL BRIDES LOOK THE SAME. This isn't to insult anyone about whether they were special on their special day, but just, seriously, the whole point of wedding style for brides is to look identical to what a bride is supposed to look like. People *might* remember a little about how you wore your hair, whether you wore a veil (and maybe what type, if it was distinctive), and what basic style of dress you wore (especially if it was distinctive). They will remember that you looked gorgeous (which you will). The rest? Honestly unless you deliberately try to subvert Western beauty ideals by wearing combat boots on your feet and a Satanist amulet around your neck, dipping your hands in tar, letting your dog shit on your face, etc. nobody will notice. A friend of mine just recently said something to me about her own wedding dress, which I have seen pictures of semi-recently. If you asked me to describe the dress to you right this minute, I couldn't do it. But she looked so pretty! I attended the wedding of a close family member less than 2 months ago. I couldn't tell you whether the bride wore her hair up or down. But she looked so pretty!

Bottom line, nobody gives two shits what specific things you wear or do to your body for your wedding, and everyone will think you are gorgeous, and remember that you were gorgeous.

I actually think weddings are not really focused on The Bride at all. I think weddings, generally, are about brides, generally. Which are two very different things!

Also, I have to tell you, that I also deal with a lot of anxiety (not medically diagnosed as such), and I am anxious about exactly the same things as you, which is also why I am having the wedding I'm having. If you EVER want moral support, please feel free to PM me.

But I was still crying, so my mother got up, said maybe we'd be better off just eloping then, and stormed out of the restaurant.

Look, honestly? Fuck your parents. On all of this. They behaved like gigantic babies. You are in the right. They are in the wrong. Please know that.

(And I say this as someone who would have eloped, except I'm the only daughter in a big Southern family which has Expectations about Weddings. Like 99% of the pared down and simple wedding we're having is for my mom, who of course hates pretty much everything about said wedding that we are throwing for her, not for me, the bride.)

It's like my preferences don't matter if they aren't in line with theirs, and often times, like right now, I feel like they'd very much like their daughter to be somebody else.

YAAAAASSSSSSSSS, queen. I feel your pain on this, so hard. Because it's exactly my own situation. The bottom line is that my family -- or more specifically, my mother -- wishes I was the kind of person who wanted a big traditional wedding with all the trimmings. Wishes I was stressed about losing weight or my nails or getting my eyebrows done or something. Wishes I would just do the whole thing by the book even though they know I hate all that stuff. Because, really, despite everything your mom is saying about the wedding being All About You, and everyone focusing on you, etc etc etc. It's really not. It's about, like, the collective ego of everyone you know, all mushing together with cultural traditions (many of which might not even be particularly important to your particular family/social circle as individuals!), into this huge ridiculous, stressful, and expensive mess. Your wedding is not for you, which is a thought that has been simultaneously infuriating and freeing. Especially as literally every person you talk to about it will keep telling you that the wedding is for you as if they honestly think it is true/will help with anything.

Seriously, please PM me anytime you want to vent. Normal human people trying to just be a family with the person they love, and not trying to be a cardboard cutout, FOREVER! And let me know if you ever figure out what to do with your monster family, because I could use that information myself. Fuck 'em, is basically where I'm at 90 days out from my own wedding.
posted by Sara C. at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

I so feel you because my divorced parents, who normally register a 4 on the Richter Annoyance Scale, are like a total 11 with the addition of smallish non-traditional wedding planning. My mother has called me "selfish," yelled at me, "But who from MY FAMILY will be there?" called several of my plans "ridiculous" while simultaneously demanding that she be more involved from 1,500 miles away. My dad sends me daily Yahoo! News briefings of every kidnapping/assault/murder in Mexico no matter how many states over it is from the wedding as a "joke." Everyone who has said that weddings bring up some primal stuff is 100% right. That doesn't mean you have to take on their anxiety that if you had the choice you'd pick different parents. (That is my guess about how they feel because they don't recognize themselves in your wedding plans, just like you don't recognize yourself in their suggestions and actions.)

Some ideas that have helped me -- I took a mindfulness meditation class, I limited the length/frequency of wedding discussions, I gave my mom something lo-pro to work on so she could feel involved, and I got very clear in my mind what I would compromise on (g-d help me, I'm inviting all 5 of her siblings' families and hoping they don't come) and what I would not (sorry, I'm getting married in an inconvenient location, but it's what I want and sorry, but I'm not really into being walked down the aisle, I love you, Dad).

You might call them after they've had a chance to recover from the trip and let them know you're glad they visited and that you'd like a mulligan on that last talk. Make sure that they know you want them there at the wedding (if you do) and that you'll consider all their suggestions and keep them informed of their plans, but at the end of the day, it's your wedding and you need to feel comfortable and happy.

If you decide to go forward with your wedding as envisioned, once the plans come together, they'll chill out, I bet. Mine have to a significant degree (they're like at a 7 now that they have their flight and hotel sorted). Once that's under control, they'll act out less. Good luck whatever you decide.
posted by *s at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Two words: Please Yourselves!

As soon as you figure out what you really want, email your mother with anything that might affect her. If you do go through with the nice dinner, this info should consist of arrival and departure dates, and what type of attire she will need. End of story.
posted by wwartorff at 3:33 PM on December 12, 2016

your parents gave you $5,000 for what sounds like an afternoon picnic for 40 in a state park. They're trying to get a sense of how this money is being spent and for what, etc., because that's a LOT of money for what you're describing.

It's actually not, assuming that OP and her partner are throwing anything like the formality-level that would be expected at even a simple wedding. (E.g. not pizza and a keg with red cups and everyone in jeans.)

I'm throwing a small and simple wedding for 40 in a backyard. The food, drink, cake, and things to eat/drink them from is $2000, and that's after a lot of economizing. The wedding dress I didn't really want but chose in order to make my family happy was $1000 and will cost more to alter to actually fit me properly. Someplace for everyone to sit (see previous AskMe post about how one mustn't have fewer chairs than guests), tables for people to set their food and drinks down, and decorations to make our wedding site look even remotely festive is between $500-1000. Typical wedding items like mailed invitations (very casual, but still printed on paper and sent through the USPS), a bridal bouquet (that I am making myself from seasonal flowers purchased wholesale), a suit and tie for the groom (purchased on sale), etc. bring the total up to, yes, right about $5000.

OP, please don't feel bad based on the fact that some of the people answering your question haven't the faintest idea of how weddings work.
posted by Sara C. at 3:42 PM on December 12, 2016 [17 favorites]

Then my mother swooped in and told me that, as the bride, people would remember what I wore, how I looked, my dress, my nails, my hair, my make-up, and how I should start caring about it. The fact that we were going so nontraditional meant that they would remember my appearance and attitude even more so.

Wipe this from your mind. It does not exist.

Run away! That is, elope. Give back their 5 grand; by doing so, you'll owe your folks nothing; not even an explanation.

No wedding has any business even costing 5 grand!
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2016

You know who was actually acting childish in this situation? your dad. I mean, who sits in a restaurant and complains that they have been eating a lot of chicken? Order something else, dumbass, that's what menus are for. Oh, all you've done is sit and eat, what a shame - get off your butt and go do something. It's clear that he's made everyone else responsible for his happiness, and is acting like a toddler who isn't getting his way. He comes up with an idea and when you don't like it he insults you. I bet your mom is tied up in a lot of knots from having to deal with this for so long. There's clearly a dynamic at play here where he just expects to get his needs met, which then rolls over onto your mom, and onto you. It may help you to stand up to them and do things your own way to remember that they are adults who are ultimately responsible for their own well-being. As you are responsible for your own, and you don't need to sacrifice yourself to make them happy, they are perfectly capable of taking care of their own needs, if they so choose.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:36 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry. I hope you read through this whole comment.

I hate board games. I love dancing. If I showed up at a wedding expecting the traditional dance floor I would be a bit sad and if board games came out I would go text my friends instead or maybe say I had a headache and go for a walk until it was over.

BUT if you were the bride you would never know because...I would still be so glad to celebrate your wedding with you! Your parents are either awful, or deeply missing the forest for the trees. Maybe remind them this is the start of your amazing life with the loving partner of your heart. Not a series of etiquette lessons.

In my case I caved and my mother had her dream wedding. It was fine. I'd do it differently but...I'm never doing that again and I don't care. I got the 22+ years of happiness!

Congrats. Do what you want, be kind but ignore your parents' tantrums. Be married! It's awesome.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:52 PM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Given that this just happened I would do take time for everybody to cool off. Doing a vacation together, where expectations aren't met, and where you're spending a lot of time together, can be stressful anyway. On top of that your family dynamic includes painful histories of communication patterns and a lot of metacommunication (when someone says one thing but they're conveying, and/or the other person is hearing, another message).

Thinking through my answer, I'm noting how much this is already in your question. You appear to understand the situation and the dynamics at play, and what you'd like the end result to be. The only question I didn't see an answer to is what you'd like your relationship with your parents to be like, both in the long term and just in the context of the wedding. So, taking this mostly from things you've brought up:

1. Give yourself some peace and space and relaxing time with your fiance; applaud yourself for knowing what you want, recognizing your limits, planning a wedding you will love, and seeing a therapist for the things you know could be better.

2. Think about what kind of relationship you'd like to have with your parents. And, think about what kind of relationship might be possible. Think about what your limits are and what would make you feel good about it, regardless of how they act or respond.

3. Talk with your therapist about all of this--your parents, your past with them, your anxiety. Bring to the therapist questions that have come up, like what you can say to your parents when their words trigger anxious feelings.

4. Continue to make plans with your fiance for a wedding you will enjoy and that is uniquely, personally "you." Think about how much that involves your family, since they, and the commitments you make to each other, are part of what makes you who you are. For some people this means gladly giving space for family to give input. For others it looks different. Think through how it looks to you. Would you regret them not being involved? What, exactly, would you regret about that?

5. Consider (with your therapist?) your patterns of reacting to your parents. I can hear a dynamic that might be softened by some different language and responses on your part. When your dad made the trivia game suggestion, it reads to me that your reaction is almost one you would have if a parent told you to do something you didn't want to do. But you're both adults, and the most he can do is suggest. I think when you've traveled the path of managing the anxiety, you'll increasingly be able to step back and assess your options; crying is one of them (we cry when we're in pain and I hear you're in a lot of pain), ignoring suggestions is one of them, cutting them off unless they stop making suggestions is one, putting in emotional labor (it's not always a bad thing) by identifying the underlying message and addressing it is another. The option you go with depends on your goals.

If your aim is to keep your parents involved and let them know you appreciate them, for example, you could respond, "Thanks for the suggestion. I can hear that you want us to have a memorable wedding [that you really care about me and want me to be happy with the choices we make] [that you're very excited for this--that's great, we're happy you're excited for us!] We'll definitely think about it." And then don't move from that line. This takes energy and investment on your part. Sometimes we do this labor for the people we love, or because we value something about having them in our lives. You can decide whether it's worth it to you here. And maybe your fiance could also take on some of this labor.

6. Make a decision about the money based on your goals. I'm not sure what the right one is here.

7. At some point, again depending on what you want from this, consider a message or phone call where you (if you want to) build up the relationship again, or follow advice mentioned above, etc.
posted by ramenopres at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

If my partner's parents treated him like that in front of me, my partner and I would have an issue, because just because he was willing to put up with people treating him that way, doesn't mean I am willing to put up with it. (We do have an issue with what he puts up with from his family. It is less bad than what happened with your parents.)

It's your wedding. You don't need an excuse for what you want. You don't need to say that you want it low key because you're uncomfortable with all the attention, all that is needed is that YOU want it low key. If they only want their money to go toward their vision of a wedding, return it and offer an invitation to whatever you end up doing (or not, if you're irritated enough.)

You are a grown up. They get to give their opinions like grown-ups who care about you, then they get to back off and deal with whatever you choose. This is what the parents of grown-ups get to do.

So yeah, you get to ask them if their "gift" has strings, and return it if it does. You can do this by text if it is easier, because when people treat you badly I think you get to find the way to deal with it that is best for YOU. And they did treat you badly, and you did not deserve it. It is not the job of grown offspring to try to fill their parents idealized visions of them.
posted by pearshaped at 7:36 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

HUGS! Wedding planning can be so painful and stir up all the worst crap sitting at the bottom of your family's heart.

But I also have a slightly different point of view (hard earned from dealing with not only not own dysfunctional family drama and legitimate budgeting questions but throw in intercultural and interfaith issues as well).

Unless you want to cut your parents out of your life for a few years about this (I thought about it!)-- you need to compromise. This is not your day. This is your day and your husband's day and your family's day and his family's day. The idea that a wedding should be about you two and your cool style is really new neoliberal bs, as far as I am concerned. YOU may be low-key, but your wedding is not! You are committing to someone for your whole life!

I ended up "giving" on a lot of things I originally wanted including what side of the country we got married on and the religion of the ceremony (after my parents pulled their funds-- so I get how much these fights hurt. I am still hurt about this and may always be).

I did not want a bunch of random people there as a status thing for my in-laws. I didn't want to wear a sari. But I did. And, when a bunch of my in-laws friends' moms visiting from India who I had yelled and screamed and cried that I DID NOT WANT THERE came over to make the international sign for "you look so beautiful!" with my husband translating their advice for a long and happy life together-- I CRIED. It was the most beautiful moment of the whole thing.

Get your nails done with your mom, let your dad run a cheesy trivia game about your childhood sports, spend a week on vacation with your husband afterwards in real quiet and play as many board games as you goddamn want.
posted by athirstforsalt at 12:06 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also get the sense that your parents are looking for structure. It will be easier and less stressful for them to get on board once they have a clearer vision of what the plan is and what their roles can be within that. Give them some kind of role within that. They are behaving like hurt babies, but my guess is it's because they don't see a place for themselves in your wedding or your life doing forward.

(I had my parents give a blessing and gave them the opportunity to help decorate and run the rehearsal dinner, the former they nailed and the latter two they totally checked out on, but I think it gave them something to say they were doing when their friends asked).
posted by athirstforsalt at 12:13 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I apologize for sounding blamey and negative -- you should OF COURSE have the wedding that you want and I completely get how anxiety-producing this whole thing is.

I just *wonder* if in your parents' (misguided and anxious and chicken-shaming) thinking, they've given you what they consider to be a substantial amount of money and now they want to know about PLANS and VENUES and CATERERS and MUSIC and FLOWERS and all the other Bridezilla crap.

So they hear state park picnic (which sounds lovely) and don't quite get why anyone needs $5k for that and they're kind of stomping their feet demanding answers. It sounds like from your mom's questions she doesn't have a sense of the wedding day which made her anxious (and also childishly obnoxious).

It also seems like they want to have some input into the wedding, probably since they gave you money. And then your mom threw in the whole bride-as-princess trope (perfect hair! perfect nails!), which is definitely obnoxious and upsetting. I mean, she does have a point -- people will obviously be looking at the bride but she went a bit off the rails. You look however you want because it's YOUR wedding.

It seems like their money is coming with strings attached. Are you comfortable telling them you're thankful for the financial help and you're doing X, Y and Z and that is your idea of a perfect wedding day and that you hope they can back off and enjoy themselves?

Your choices sounds lovely and as to an uncomfortable trivia game where you're the topic, I retract my earlier answer. Your dad is trying to be helpful (he did have one good idea, right?) but if you don't like this other game, then of course you shouldn't do it.

Have a beautiful day and the wedding of your dreams and ugh sorry about your parents (and my earlier answer).
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:17 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I might be more willing to cut your parents a little slack if this was totally out of character for them - but as you said in your follow-up, they've treated you this way all your life. And that is some bullshit, man. Snide comments on the chicken you're eating? Some bullshit. Grousing that they've chosen to come visit you up north, in December and it is cold outside? Some bullshit. Throwing tantrums and making you feel like you're going to be scrutinized even more than you actually are and getting pissy because you only liked one but not both of their trivia ideas? Some bullshit! Refusing to acknowledge that your anxiety is a real thing? OMG SO MUCH BULLSHIT I CANNOT EVEN.

I wasn't going to respond to this question, but I was a little bothered by the number of responses that seem to suggest that you need to just be more understanding of your parents, or accept their trivia games because they're not that bad, or read their minds to realize it's all about the money and so you need to provide them more information about how their money is being spent, and just ... no. In your original question it sounds like you ALREADY do a lot of appeasement as part of your day-to-day interactions with them, and that obviously hasn't resulted in them treating you with compassion. You've probably been raised to read their minds as much as anybody can, and it sounds like you already do as much mollifying as a person really could (which feels like another very worthwhile subject to talk with your therapist about) - so trying to appease them based on what other people think might be wrong just doesn't seem like the way to go. If they're upset because they don't think the money is being spent the right way they can ASK you. If they don't know what their role in your wedding is they can say so (though I would add that your wedding doesn't sound so non-traditional that it should be throwing anybody into a furor). Expecting you to guess what it is that's bothering them and cater to that seems like a recipe for more, not less, stress, and by the powers vested in me as a Stranger on the Internet, I hereby absolve you of that responsibility.

My take is this: your relationship with your parents is already uneasy, and it sounds like it has been all your life. This is NOT your fault, and you're not going to solve it even if you turned over all the wedding planning to them. So trust yourself and your fiance to plan the wedding that suits the both of you, and use some of the very good, noncommittal, neutral phrases offered above in response to your parents in the future. It's easier said than done, I know, but try to detatch with love - they can feel whatever they're feeling, but it isn't your job to "fix" things for them. If your dad goes quiet - okay, that's his choice, and the fact that he is angry isn't the end of the world and it isn't your responsibility to make him happy again. If your mom freaks out because she thinks everyone is looking at your every hair follicle - well, it's on her to address her discomfort over being judged by her people; surely you know your friends aren't doing that to you! Basically, work with your therapist to cultivate an attitude that people are responsible for their own feelings, and you can love your parents without having to jump every time they frown in your direction. Move forward after this ridiculous blow-up by actively honoring your desires and feelings, while giving yourself permission to let your parents manage their own emotions.

And for what it's worth, count me as another person who had a wedding very similar to what you're describing (we had giant Jenga instead of board games, but otherwise pretty similar!). It went wonderfully, and when I look back on it I just remember being surrounded by happiness and the love of dear friends and family members who were there to celebrate with us. A lot of that was thanks to the fact that my wife and I did what felt the most "us;" I think if you and your fiance do the same, you're on the right track.

Best of luck to you, have a wonderful wedding and an even better married life!
posted by DingoMutt at 5:22 AM on December 13, 2016 [15 favorites]

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