wedding Etiquette and professional ob
January 24, 2004 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Etiquette question: when weddings and professional obligations clash, what do you do? [more inside]

A very good friend is getting married this Summer and would like me to be in his wedding in Chicago. He is getting married the exact same weekend as the bulk of the American Library Association conference in Orlando. I live in Vermont. I am a recently elected member of the ALA Council and am expected to be at both the Midwinter and the Annual meetings in order to participate in ALA governance. Think "ALA Congress". I am one of about 200 Councilors. My term lasts three years so I will miss 1/6 of it if I miss this conference. On the other hand, I understand that weddings are a "once in a lifetime" event so maybe it's worth blowing off the conference. I don't really know the etiquette in these situations and don't really have an idea of how much you are supposed to sacrifice to make it to a friend's wedding.

Both ALA and my friend would understand, whatever I decided, so at least it's not a matter of kowtowing to whoever is the most demanding. I get no financial support from work for the conference but I could afford to do pretty much either, both, or neither. My question is: are weddings important enough to ethically skip out on a conference for? I never went to a wedding until I was in my mid-twenties so I don't have much of a sense of how people prioritize them in with the rest of their lives.
posted by jessamyn to Society & Culture (14 answers total)
I can not, for the life of me, imagine any professional obligation -- let alone some mere "conference" which is professional in nature but not an aspect of my employment -- which could outweigh the significance of a close friend's wedding, but your values and priorities may differ substantially. To me, job stuff can take a hike any time real life intrudes because what I do in exchange for money has nothing to do with what I do for living. To you, job and career may have a more integrated place in what you consider "real life," or maybe the social event just isn't all that big a deal to you or your friend.
posted by majick at 7:48 AM on January 24, 2004

If you were one of the senior officers of ALA (one of the top 5, or 6, or however many they have), I might say you have to go to the conference (even then it depends on just how close of a friend you are--if it were your best friend in the whole world, I'd still say go to the wedding). But since you're 1 of about 200 councilors, I'd say the wedding is more significant. Especially since it's a "very good friend." (This is just one average person's opinion; I'm by no means an etiquette guru.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:24 AM on January 24, 2004

This isn't really a question of etiquette, or how important weddings are in general. It's a matter of how important your friend's wedding is to *him.* The fact that you're invited to be *in* the wedding party, not just a guest, tells me that he holds you to a pretty important position in his life, and that he indeed does care whether or not you'll make it. Perhaps I'm more sentimental than most, but I'd be pretty bummed if one of my closest friends chose to attend a work conference instead of being in my wedding.
posted by boomchicka at 8:27 AM on January 24, 2004

I think you should go to the wedding too, but if the conference is very important to you, do both--hop a flight to the conference right after the wedding reception (if possible).
posted by amberglow at 8:53 AM on January 24, 2004

I second boomchicka's opinion. If this was a quick, "let's do this so you can get onto my work's dental plan" type of thing, I'd say skip it. But since he's having attendants, it seems like this is the more traditional, "this day is really important to us" kind of affair. Weddings are (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime event, whereas professional conferences happen regularly.
posted by ferociouskitty at 9:33 AM on January 24, 2004

Simply put, what event will be more significant when you're remembering things 5 years from now? If you're like me, you'll have been to 10-20 conferences and maybe only 2 weddings. Professional contacts are important, but doing the friend/family thing properly is more important in the long run. After all, they're the ones that you will be most excited to tell when you are elected ALA president. You can still be elected president if you miss a conference; your friend might be less pleased for you if you miss a wedding for non-hardship reasons.
posted by dness2 at 11:10 AM on January 24, 2004

Go to the wedding, it's your friend. A good friend if he actually wants you to be part of the wedding and not just an anonymous well wisher and gift donor. Even if he doesn't say anything now or doesn't even think that way now missing a wedding, especially if you're part of the wedding party, is a good way to damage a friendship.

Also, as far as the ALA meeting goes at any given time multiple people are going to miss it just like any other governance meeting. That's part of the reason councils are larger, both to represent a cross section of the population and so that when conflicts prevent full attendance progress can still be made.
posted by substrate at 11:35 AM on January 24, 2004

posted by daver at 1:28 PM on January 24, 2004

Another vote for the wedding, based, as others have said, on the closeness of the friend.
posted by JanetLand at 1:43 PM on January 24, 2004

Wedding. Do it. You'll be glad.
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on January 24, 2004

So far as the etiquette of it goes, I believe the only rule that applies is that you must keep your first commitment.

Since it doesn't sound like you committed yourself to being at the conference, and it's a matter subject to your discretion, I submit that the wedding is more important.
posted by orange swan at 4:05 PM on January 24, 2004

Good, thanks all. I have really been going back and forth only because I didn't want people to think I was a work slacker for going to the wedding [which was my first choice personally, but I *always* put personal stuff first so I don't have any perspective on how this might play at work] but the overwhelming "go to the wedding" response has made me feel better about the whole deal. Thanks!
posted by jessamyn at 5:01 PM on January 24, 2004

i'd go to whichever *i* wanted to go to. i think the "how much does it matter to the friend" thing is a bit bogus. the wedding will rumble on with or without you and the idea is that it's a celebration, not an obligation.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:57 AM on January 25, 2004

My vote is for wedding. No offense, Jess, but if you are "200 Councilors", well - is anyone going to really notice if you miss a presentation or two? I've been to many conferences where I didn't exactly attend everything, and no one was the wiser. Is it possible to go to Chicago for the wedding day, then to Orlando that night? It wouldn't seem like you would really miss that much. The flight is only about 2 1/2 hours.
Are there votes and such you would participate in? How about this - maybe you could demonstrate your information professional chops with a high tech solution. Maybe someone would upload videos of the presentations to the web, so you could watch them on the plane. Perhaps there is a way to do some electronic voting?
Anyhow, I would say missing 1 conference in 6 is not too big a deal. Just think, what if you were ill? There could be a lot of other, non-elective reasons you couldn't go.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:51 AM on January 27, 2004

« Older Terry Gilliam's "Brazil"   |   Why is the Kennedy family so often referred to as... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.