Interfaith Marriage
May 26, 2004 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Thanks for all your help with the engagement ring question. I swear, on my MeFi account, it's not me...I'm just the reluctant best friend. I need some more ammo.

My friend is agnostic, his fiance is athiest...yet her family wants her to have a Jewish much so, that they're again applying the pressure, and since she "feels" Jewish, even though she doesn't believe, she's going along with it. See, her parents won't go to a civil or catholic ceremony, and if they don't have a Jewish ceremony, there's going to be hell to pay. But, my friend's parents are staunch catholics, and while they would go to a Jewish wedding, they won't wear yarmulkes, and some of his family won't even attend.

My advice? Either insist on a dual ceremony, or just let her parents have their way, considering they're going to shell out the money. But on top of that engagement ring debacle, I'm afraid he's set too many precedents.

What the hell can my friend say to her parents to get them to lay off? If he puts his foot down, what can he expect from them? From her? Anybody marry into a domineering family? Anybody intermarry Catholics/Jewish?

We all know this is a downward spiral, and if he doesn't put his foot down, next it's going to be Hebrew school for the kids, etc. (oh yeah, they're also doing the "you're going to raise the kids Jewish, aren't you?" thing).

Oy Vey! If the parents just weren't involved, this entire engagement/wedding thing would be simple.


1. My friend said 10,000 is more like three months salary. Jesus Christ.

2. He said it was scary how people were guessing ethnicity and location correctly. Bergen county, definitely...try to guess the town! It's actually pretty obvious.

3. He's a bit shocked by how many people suggest "run", but that's not only impractical, they've been dating for about half their lives.
posted by taumeson to Human Relations (86 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, I only know one other similar marriage -- I won't say whose, but the guy is, though himself not Jewish, from a domineering Jewish family, and the girl is from a Catholic family. There was some *serious* disapproval and a really demanding stance from the guy's parents.

The parents demanded, and demanded -- and finally the girl had to put her foot down and say no more. It caused huge problems, but he had to chose between her and his parents. He chose her, and the parents followed. Parents love their kids and will come around eventually, especially if it's their obstinancy that's casuing trouble in the family and keeping people apart.

Your friend needs to be forthright and honest about the fact that he doesn't like the way he's being treated. Maybe her parents will be angry -- but if their daughter really loves him, they'll have to come around and cope with the choices she's made. The important thing is that she needs to make an active choice, instead of passively choosing to let her fiance take the fall
posted by josh at 10:53 AM on May 26, 2004

One of my ex-housemates would occasionally talk about how some people view relationships as an investment. They value a relationship according to how much effort and time they've put into it independent of the quality of the relationship that their effort had produced.
posted by rdr at 11:03 AM on May 26, 2004

He already capitulated, so he might as well just have the jewish ceremony and wait for the next round of pressure for children and how to raise them. He resigned himself to this fate when he bought the ring. Seriously.

A possible less-pain scenario: he should just have a frank discussion of the situation with his folks without the finacee present. He should tell them "My future in-laws are controlling assholes and my fiancee won't take a stand of any sort, but I love this woman so I am going to marry her. We are going to have a Jewish ceremony, but I am not subscribing to a new set of religious beliefs. I am playing Neville Chamberlain, not actually changing affiliations. Please help me do this."

Also, anyone on either side who would not attend a wedding based on the religion espoused is a major-league asshole and should not be asked to attend.

The real solution is for your friend to develop some resolve and demand a civil ceremony, but that doesn't seem likely.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:06 AM on May 26, 2004

If he's willing to spend 2-4 months' salary on a ring, is there any possibility that he'd spend enough money for a nice elopement? (Run, but take the girl with you.)
posted by picopebbles at 11:07 AM on May 26, 2004

The two of them need to have the wedding that *they* want to have. If any family member ojects or threatens to boycott, they should immediately fire back "I'm sorry you feel that way. We will miss you." Period.

The two of them are going to be creating their own family (even if they don't have kids, the two of them are a family unit) and they need to draw bright lines around themselves *now.*
posted by ambrosia at 11:07 AM on May 26, 2004

return the ring, and exchange it for something much less expensive. take the remaining dollars and pay for a weekend elopement to las vegas. inform the families of the new marital status upon return and let them deal with it.

or run. seriously.

on preview, picopebbles beat me to it
posted by lescour at 11:08 AM on May 26, 2004

He's a bit shocked by how many people suggest "run", but that's not only impractical, they've been dating for about half their lives.

Half their lives and her parents still treat him like this? Oh man he is so screwed. Run. Some more.
posted by falconred at 11:14 AM on May 26, 2004

Your friend needs to decide whether he's marrying his fiance or her parents.

It's fine for him to put his foot down, but it's actually his fiance who needs to have a little heart-to-heart with her parents. That is, if she actually wants to live her own life.
posted by bshort at 11:16 AM on May 26, 2004

Also, you should try and get Matt to give your friend a MeFi account. That way the Hivemind can do its counseling directly rather than second-hand.
posted by bshort at 11:17 AM on May 26, 2004

There are, as I see it, three options here:

1. Grow a pair and tell the in-laws to lick em. Have the wedding he and she want.
2. Threaten to call it off if the in-laws won't leave them alone. This is, of course, a bluff, but he shouldn't tell her that. Make her stand up for the couple. This is a variant of the "run" strategy.
3. Go along with what they want and be miserable forever.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:18 AM on May 26, 2004

Elope! Particularly if neither party is going to have the ceremony that they want to have, weddings are not worth the stress. Elope and put 1/5, or even 1/50, of what they would have spent on the wedding on a big night out with friends and family.

I believe in the religious importance of wedding ceremonies, for sure, but for an agnostic and an atheist to have to sweat all this in a way that sure to please only one set of parents? Elope! It will set a good precedent.
posted by blueshammer at 11:18 AM on May 26, 2004

Dating half their lives? This woman sounds a bit young to me, still under the control of her parents. Has she ever lived outside their house / influence?

It sounds like she needs to sit down with *her* parents and have a frank discussion with them. "This is my life" and all that. But from only hearing one side of this story, it doesn't sound like she's so much in love with your friend as she is with the idea of getting married.

Have your friend and his fiancee already decided what they want to do about how to raise the kids? Where they will live? How they will handle money? What kind of ceremony they want? Because if they have, none of this should really be an issue. If they haven't...

Serious talks necessary, all around.
posted by vignettist at 11:19 AM on May 26, 2004

We did a somewhat agnostic Korean Buddhist / Jewish ceremony which was a big success. Email me if you are interested.
posted by luriete at 11:27 AM on May 26, 2004

You have a few options here, I have seen this happen to a bunch of relatives, including my own parents. My mother didn't exacly subscribe to her own faith, so she converted for the sake of the kids (i.e. me). Other relatives had a duel ceremoney, which I think is the best idea, most people get everything they want out of it.

Your friend really does need to get things straight with her. Choosing to send your kids to hebrew school should be a choice you both make, and from experience, hebrew school sucked. Save your money and take the kid to a theology class and let him decide.

If you decide to elope or do a city hall wedding or something similar, the jewish parents might be mad for a little bit, but eventually they'll get over it.

I'm going to be pissed if I actually know these people. Bergen county.... pffft!
posted by Derek at 11:29 AM on May 26, 2004

It sounds like your friend and his betrothed are way too concerned about what other people think. You can't make other people happy--that's their job. Your friend and his bride-to-be aren't responsible for anyone else's expectations about what their wedding or their engagement ring should look like. If her mom loves her daughter she'll go to whatever wedding ceremony they dream up. If she's too selfish for that, then who wants her there anyway?
posted by vraxoin at 11:31 AM on May 26, 2004

Your friend's girlfriend's parents really do not want to see your friend marry their daughter. They've played the economic inadequacy card and are now making religion into an issue. If they've really been dating for half their lives, the fact that this stuff was not hashed out before they got where they are is a little disconcerting. But the girlfriend seems to be more than willing to accede to her parents' demands, and your friend should really reevaluate the situation at this point and think about what, exactly, he is getting himself into. Do your friend and his girlfriend live together? If they don't maybe they should do so for awhile without a set wedding date and live in sin until the parents are willing to give in a little and start seeing the girl as your friend's future wife as well as their daughter. Or maybe your friend and his girlfriend could get the parents to cave on either the issue of the engagement ring or the type of ceremony. But he needs to set some boundaries before he gets in WAY too deep. These problems are going to take on a lot of nasty new twists if they wind up having children.
posted by alphanerd at 11:31 AM on May 26, 2004

since she "feels" Jewish, even though she doesn't believe, she's going along with it.

Your friend is a pushover to his fiancee who is in turn a pushover to her parents. It's tough to turn pushovers around, especially if they sympathize. My advice is to make a choice, stick to it and learn to be happy. Things to consider: Will they be living near her family so this will be an ongiong issue forever? Is your friend so sure that this girl is "The One" that all this hassle is totally unquestioningly worth it for him? Does his fiancee have a sense of humor about any of it?

If your friend's g'friend is angling for a wedding that your friend's family won't go to, that sucks and should be nixed. OTOH if they want a "Jewish-y" wedding and your friend's fiancee is atheist [as an atheist Jew, I sympathize with the feeling but my wedding wouldn't be Jewish] she needs to come clean with her family about the appropriate level of Jewishness for the ceremony. I have been to plenty of Jewish-y weddings that are accepting and inclusive of other traditions and her family is going to need to suck it up that she's not marrying a Jew which can be hard for some Jewish families to accept. Let me guess: Hackensack? Tenafly? Englewood? I hope they're not my relatives. I have known people who have gone to extremes and had two weddings [maybe an early "legal" one for the Catholics and then a later religious one for the Jews?] or eloped or found other creative strategies. Your friend will want to do some introspection and figure out if it's going to be okay with him to constantly have these discussions with his fiancee and in-laws. Some people don't mind this kind of conflict, but it would give me the fits.

Or, more simply put, she needs to talk to her parents and maybe go to bat for the two of them over this. That will set a better precedent for future familial pressure to come.
posted by jessamyn at 11:33 AM on May 26, 2004

Other relatives had a duel ceremoney

posted by mookieproof at 11:33 AM on May 26, 2004

I'm an agnostic, and I think it's kind of disrespectful to "pretend" a religious ceremony means something to you when it doesn't. I would suggest they have a civil ceremony or elope. People will eventually get over's the "tear the band-aid off" school of cutting the apron strings.

I'm so glad I married a Unitarian.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:38 AM on May 26, 2004

taumeson, I hope you are keeping in mind that this is his wedding, not yours, and that he doesn't need your approval for the way he's doing things. Getting ammo from MetaFilter doesn't strike me as a very nice thing to do on your part. If you're the best friend, I hope you will love and support him/them whatever they decide to do.

That being said, there is one thing that concerns me, and that is that the fiancee doesn't seem to be very ... present in all this. If she wanted the $10,000 ring, then fine. But if she wanted it in order to please her parents, then not so fine. Similarly, if she wants to have a Jewish wedding, then fine. If she wants it in order to please her parents, then not so fine. It sounds like she is effectively choosing her parents and their wishes over those of her fiance, and that's a very dangerous precedent. My advice is that the fiancee needs to figure out what she wants, and then have good, open communication with your friend to see what works for both of them. If it's her heart's desire to have a Jewish wedding, then I trust your friend could work with that more happily than if it's her parents' desire.

Bottom line, the wedding is all about the couple. The parents need to accept whatever is important to them. But that means that the couple has to be very firm and conscious about their own choices.
posted by widdershins at 11:38 AM on May 26, 2004

What picopebbles said. This is a textbook example of "WHEN TO ELOPE."
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:40 AM on May 26, 2004

I suppost it's too late for him to claim he's Santeria and if they want a religious ceremony it'll have to be half Jewish, half animal sacrifice? Besides, animal sacrifice is sooo Old Testament!
posted by jfuller at 11:44 AM on May 26, 2004

People, people, don't you know that a wedding has absolutely nothing to do with the actual couple involved?

Seriously, though, Catholic/Jewish weddings are not a big deal. If the amount of literature I found while researching interfaith weddings is any indicator, this is the most "typical" combination. There are a ton of resources out there, here's an example. I can't imagine reasonable people wanting to shut the other side of the family out of the wedding ceremony, so not knowing more than what you have told us, I would assume that both sets of parents would at least be receptive to this.

If neither the bride nor the groom feel strongly about the kind of ceremony they want, they may as well just make her parents happy. If they do care, though, one or both of them is going to have to take a stand.
posted by Jugwine at 11:45 AM on May 26, 2004

Re: a Jewish-Catholic ceremony -- my sister is Catholic and her husband is Jewish by heritage (though not in practice). They had a co-officiated wedding held outside under a chuppah. The ceremony itself was rather nondenominational, consisting of secular classical music, an exchange of vows, and a blessing by the rabbi and the priest. Nice and tidy, about 20 min.

Finding a rabbi for the ceremony was no problem, but they had a hell of a time finding a priest who would do it. In fact, the priest they finally got was a complete stranger to them, and still seemed rather uncomfortable about the entire thing.

BTW, Jewish heritage is passed down through the mother, IIRC, so the kids are definitely going to be a point of hot debate for this post's couple and the extended family.
posted by Sangre Azul at 11:53 AM on May 26, 2004

ok, some stuff.

1. elopement. his mom suggested it, but he had to say no, cause it would kill her parents.

2. religion. it's not about religion. it turns out her mom is a huge atheist..more so than her daughter. it's about the jewish culture.

3. yes, they're going to live near the in-laws. currently he even works for them. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA he's so screwed.

4. in-laws. they love him, have for years. it's just now that his life is intertwining with theirs, they're becoming annoying.

5. she's weird. she's naive about life, but she's studied abroad and in other parts of the country, so you'd think she'd know a little more. but she was ultra sheltered.
posted by taumeson at 11:53 AM on May 26, 2004

I'm finding it pretty hard to judge the character of these two people, but assuming RUN! still isn't an option -- and the fact that these problems are coming up is a really bad sign for the future -- I still have a hunk of advice:

It's their wedding, not the parents', or even the families'. They should sit down and decide to do what they like, and anyone who cannot or will not attend the wedding of their own choosing probably isn't someone who should be welcome there in the first place.

As far as I can tell, it seems like this woman's family has no respect whatsoever for her, and railroads her at every turn. She should thank them for stating their preferences and sit down and arrange her wedding any damned way she pleases.
posted by majick at 11:57 AM on May 26, 2004

He should grow some bollocks. She should develop a spine. if he/ they pander to the parents' every whim, they are gonna have a shit married life.

If they're not mature enough to stand up for themselves in something as vital as this, they're way too young to marry.
posted by Pericles at 11:58 AM on May 26, 2004

Honestly, your friend needs to live his own life. See him needing advice. But, are they sure their marriage will last. That is a question that only time will tell.

They should seek a marriage counselor, or just grow up by living their own life by taking the responsibilities for their actions. As it is sounding now, their marriage is a forced issue.

Think about it, will you be helping to name their child too?
posted by thomcatspike at 11:59 AM on May 26, 2004

WTF? Is taumeson the new Keyser Soze? Get a blog or a new friend.
posted by mkultra at 12:02 PM on May 26, 2004

If it's all about the culture, then an interfaith ceremony might be the way to go. While non-traditional, they are usually high on the cultural elements of the wedding and low on the religious ones.

Keep in mind, folks, that weddings (and other large events) can turn normally reasonable people into crazed maniacs. It is possible that this couple can have a well-adjusted married life even if they let her parents dictate the terms of the wedding.

Also, I can't help but feel that we are not getting the whole picture here. I assume you care about your friend, but seriously, if he needs help he's got to seek it out.
posted by Jugwine at 12:06 PM on May 26, 2004

This is a divorce waiting to happen.

They should not marry until he finds someone else to work for, preferably at least half a continent away from her parents. The wedding is simply a symptom of the greater problem, which is she is still firmly attatched to the apron strings. Trust me, it won't get any better.

I'm an only child, and it took living a long way away from my parents for over a decade before I felt comfortable drawing boundaries.
posted by konolia at 12:09 PM on May 26, 2004

See, her parents won't go to a civil or catholic ceremony...

Definitely, in that case, have a civil or catholic ceremony.

Seriously, this:

(oh yeah, they're also doing the "you're going to raise the kids Jewish, aren't you?" thing). a huge deal. I'm not sure that your friend realizes how huge of a deal this is. As someone who grew up Jewish (in a family less concerned about Judaism than hers), let me tell you.

As far as jews are concerned, the jewish-ness passes through the mother. So the kids are going to be jewish, as far as the grandparents are concerned, and to not give them a jewish upbringing will be seen as not just undersirable but wrong.

Then, they are certainly going to hebrew school. That could mean evening classes for two hours, twice a week, plus on Sundays. There will be bar and bat-mitzvahs, which means lots of study at a time (12 years old) when the kids feel rather strongly that regular school study is too much already. There will be youth groups. There will be indoctrination about Israel. There will sure as fuck not be any remotely christian imagery of any kind, anywhere in the house. There will be a mezzuzzah nailed to the front doorway.

The kids will be discouraged from attending church, even with their paternal relatives, and if they end up going anyway, that will be seen as a failing on the parents' part. If the kids are at all inquisitive, imaginative, or intelligent, they will ask their father difficult questions about theology all throughout their youth, and as far as the maternal grandparents are concerned, he will damn well toe the line, or he risks screwing up everything. They'll bring the holocaust into it.

The kids will never take communion. They'll never be "saved." And don't get me wrong, I don't think they should be, but this is one way of deciding for them.

Hear me now while you still have the chance, friend: This shit will come to pass in your house. And someday, you just may have a young adult child like me who comes to you and says "I don't identify as a Jew, and I really don't think I benefitted from being raised as one. Why did you force me to go through all that?", and your answer will have to be: "Because that's what your mother's parents wanted." And oh, the respect they will have for you then!

You can pretty much count out a christmas tree too.
posted by bingo at 12:12 PM on May 26, 2004

It's actually fascinating to watch people predict this couple's demise based on someone's second-hand account posted to a closed-membership message board. The fact of the matter is that we have no idea who these people are, and the one person who does (taumeson) seems to have a strange desire to see the couple broken up.
posted by Jugwine at 12:18 PM on May 26, 2004

I recommend your friend and his fiance check out It's been very helpful to me in planning my own non-traditional wedding. The kvetch boards (which are down for maintenance right now) are especially helpful.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:23 PM on May 26, 2004

Me: Third generation atheist. Dad apostate Jew, Mom apostate Catholic.
Her: Apostate Catholic, parents holistic/mystical. Grandparents Catholic/Armenian Orthodox.
Wedding: Alchemical/Hermetic, gongs and burning and mixing stuff.
Relatives: Slightly confused, but the setting was nice and the food good, so no problems.
Result: Bliss!
posted by signal at 12:24 PM on May 26, 2004

The best advice I got was "Do what makes you happy. It's your memories, its your day."

From the sounds of things, and naturally we don't have the entire picture, his future in-laws are going to be involved in everything. Someone needs to stand up to these people, and it should start with the bride.

I think he's in the deep end of their pool now and it doesnt sound like they are compromising lifeguards. He either treads water or finds the ladder.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:24 PM on May 26, 2004

It's their wedding, not the parents', or even the families'. They should sit down and decide to do what they like, and anyone who cannot or will not attend the wedding of their own choosing probably isn't someone who should be welcome there in the first place.

Putting aside the larger issues here, the greatest myth ever propagated about weddings is that it's about the bride and groom. As someone who came through (entirely lovely and amicable, in terms of in-laws) an Italian wedding, I can tell you it's a ceremony for the families - especially if that family is paying for the wedding.

Three options (aside from running): Suck it up and do what her family wants; pay for the wedding themselves and dictate the terms; elope.
posted by jalexei at 12:25 PM on May 26, 2004

See, her parents won't go to a civil or catholic ceremony, and if they don't have a Jewish ceremony, there's going to be hell to pay. But, my friend's parents are staunch catholics, and while they would go to a Jewish wedding, they won't wear yarmulkes, and some of his family won't even attend.
Elope...may not be the best answer, besides who cares what everyone else thinks.
Look at the problems:
Her parents will only respect him by the marriage ceremony. His parents won't respect others, no yarmulkes. Then on top of it all, he works for his fiances' father.

Has your friend every said to you; can't quit my job or break up with my girlfriend because it would ruin my career and or relationship. Sounds like he bought the ring because his boss influenced the descion by being whom he is.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:27 PM on May 26, 2004

Is the bride-to-be an only child? (I'm one too btw.) Because if so then that might be some reason why her parents have so much sway - if she has some siblings she could always say "look, go arrange so-and-so's wedding/life, I'm planning my own."
(Jinx - konolia got there first.)

If it comes to "we're paying for this" - definitely elope.

Meanwhile - and others have already said this - in the end getting married is about the two people who are most concerned - the bride and groom. (If the family tries to boss them around and the bride and groom don't want that - then they can tell them to back off - people do have free will in this y'know.) If all the others trying to orchestrate things and tell them what they should do and what society expects of them are making their lives miserable - elope. Especially elope if everyone gets involved in a tug of war - which is sounds like is already happening. Parents can then have a nice reception/party and show off whatever they need to show off. Frankly I'm kind of sickened that they'd go through the farce if neither of them believes in what's going on. It would be different if at least one of them believed and had some sentiment about it - but that they'd both participate in a sham to please people they aren't getting married to - I don't get that. That the parents would be so uncaring or unaware of the bride and groom's feelings is also sad - don't these people talk to each other? Is everything just for show in their lives????

I mean, I know we're dealing with only a few facts here but it sounds pretty damn sad.

He is not marrying her parents (no matter what they think - unless they're all going to live together, which is another thing altogether), he is marrying her. She does not have to have her parents complete agreement on everything she does in her life - she needs to wake up and realize that. If she doesn't she sounds either completely whipped or really really young/immature.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2004

Find a rabbi from a branch of Judaism that is supportive of interfaith relationships - that would be, most especially Renewal and Reconstruction.

Call the rabbi and explain the whole deal - see what advice they have to offer. The issue of assimilation is a big deal for a lot of older generation Jews, who want to see their traditions preserved, and witnessed the Holocaust. It may be a lot more than a control thing.
posted by jasper411 at 12:44 PM on May 26, 2004

If they've been dating half their lives, as you say, then her parents, to some extent, probably still think of him as that pimply teen who wanted to boink their daughter after the prom. Perhaps they need to send a signal that they're adults now and should be in charge of their own affairs. However, if your friend is still a little pimply and she's still saving it for the wedding night, then I'd say he's lost, whipped beyond recognition, and he should simply submit for life and minimize his pain.

Then we can start talking about the end of your friendship with him, and how you can start dealing with it. It certainly sounds to me as if it's in dire jeopardy, if you disapprove this much of his marriage and come here seeking ammo to use against him.

Do you really think you're going to make him come around? Even with our help?
posted by scarabic at 12:45 PM on May 26, 2004

After reading what scarabic said - if you really want to keep this guy as a friend I'd let this be the end of it - after filling him in on this thread, have a few laughs over it and then just keep quiet. After they're married you don't want to be remembered as "the guy who was against it all" - especially if they end up living happily ever after (after moving away from her parents). In real life I try and keep my mouth shut about friends and their future mates - you can get into big big trouble. Especially if they ask you "what do you think about my fiance?"
Never answer that question.
It can get you into the same kind of trouble in the long run as the wrong answer to "do I look fat in this."
posted by batgrlHG at 12:54 PM on May 26, 2004

My friend said 10,000 is more like three months salary.

they're going to live near the in-laws. currently he even works for them.

So they know exactly how much he makes, and they still insisted he buy a diamond worth three-month's pay?

I wish I had some positive advice here, but this looks pretty hopeless.

they've been dating for about half their lives.

In other words, they've never really dated anyone else--at least as adults.

This marriage--if it happens--is going to end very, very badly.

He ought to call off the engagement--saying he's not happy with how things are going. It will crack open a hornet's nest, but at least getting all this shit out in the open will give the relationship half a chance of working.
posted by jpoulos at 12:57 PM on May 26, 2004

Oh. I just saw the part where you said he works for her parents. Yeah, he's screwed. And apparently he likes it that way. Buy him some kneepads for a wedding gift.
posted by bingo at 1:07 PM on May 26, 2004

Well, fuck 'em then.

1) Her folks are going to dictate what culture they'll live in and how the kids will be raised.
2) She has zero skill at moderating her parents wishes.
3) He caves too easy.
4) Everyone involved is skilled at somehow rationalizing all that.

We can debate this forever, but in the end they're going to marry according the her parent's wishes. And then get divorced in two years. Done and done. Live and learn.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:08 PM on May 26, 2004

The wedding is often a big problem for any couple. They'll sort it out, and you shouldn't worry. It's the other things you've disclosed that are much scarier.

He works for her parents? Then he's set up for a lifetime of dependency on their patronage. No doubt in time they will help buy the couple a house, close by so they can see the grandchildren often.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:25 PM on May 26, 2004

This relationship is going to end in tears, and he knows it.

There's only one hope for them: elope to Perth. That's the only chance they have of breaking the interference of those annoying parents of hers. Don't send a change of address form to them.

Otherwise he's going to have to kiss his balls goodbye. Every aspect of his life is now under her mother's control. He will never, ever have a choice again.

Either is a valid option. One may lead to greater personal happiness and fulfillment than the other, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:38 PM on May 26, 2004

He's marrying her, not her parents. Why would it be acceptable for his family to miss the service, but not hers? (That's a rhetorical question, but maybe one your friend ought to think about.) He stupidly bought a ring he can't afford, and if he lets the parents get away with this, he's going to buy a family who will never leave them alone. They will never make any decisions of their own, they will never be in control of their own lives. If he wants to hand his balls to his mother-in-law now, then go for it, but if they ever want to have some reasonable expectation of mommy and daddy keeping their noses out of their business, he needs to either a) make it an intractable point that they will have a civil wedding as suits *their* religion (and pay for it, too, because you don't get to take the money and not take the directions that go with it,) or b) break up with her now. Sucky choices, but they are choices.
posted by headspace at 2:11 PM on May 26, 2004

is this for real?
posted by andrew cooke at 2:20 PM on May 26, 2004

is this for real?

yup...i'm on the phone with him now. i've sent him the link to this and the engagement ring thread.

it's not that i want them to break up...i love them both. i just want, as somebody already mentioned, for her to grow a spine and him to grow some balls.
posted by taumeson at 2:23 PM on May 26, 2004

I didn't say it in the ring thread, but RUN!

He needs to get a new job and dump her.

She needs to spend a few years alone and grow a spine.

If they're still interested, then they can get married.


He's a bit shocked by how many people suggest "run", but that's not only impractical, they've been dating for about half their lives.

Dumbest reason to stay together #3.
posted by callmejay at 2:25 PM on May 26, 2004

If the parents would get the hell out of their lives once they were married, I'd say make the concessions now and bear it out to keep the peace. From the looks of it, however, I have a faint suspicion that these parents are going to make married life even more hellish for this poor man than they have already made the end of his single life.

Solution #1 here is to grow some balls, stick it to them now and set the precedent, and live in enmity with them for the rest of their lives.

Solution #2 is to RUN, because I fear solution #1 will not work.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:32 PM on May 26, 2004

taumeson: it's not that i want them to break up...i love them both. i just want, as somebody already mentioned, for her to grow a spine and him to grow some balls.

So unlikely as to be beyond possibility, based on your description of them... I say buy him an industrial-sized tub of Vaseline as a wedding gift and tell him he might as well bend over now, it's going to be a long, unhappy life... Oh, and be prepared to lose him as a friend, too. Once the wife gets bitter enough about the circumstance they've created - which oughtn't take more than a year or three - it's bye-bye to everything in his life as he's assimilated, Borg-like, into the collective...
posted by JollyWanker at 2:33 PM on May 26, 2004

Yo taumeson: watch yourself. Your concern for your friend is admirable. However, if you, for the best of reasons, bust them up, he may never speak to you again.

Your role, I think, is to soberly and clearly express some concern, once. Thereafter, you be supportive, refrain from saying "I told you so" if you are proved right", graciously say "I'm so pleased I was wrong" if you were wrong, and generally be a brick. People have been punched in bars for interfering far less than you seem to want to.

I mean, I LOVE this. But you're his mate and this is dangerously close to going of the meddle line, if it hasn't already.

*ahem* I cannot resist observing that you have now explained why the parents want the expensive ring. The guy's paying for it with their money.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:35 PM on May 26, 2004

Tell your friend not to worry. Have the wedding the way the in-laws want, and once it's over, his new married life will belong solely to him and his wife.


From the sounds of it, he's marrying a symbiotic host-parasite, not a woman in her own right. He gets the daughter's body but it's mom upstairs working the levers. She's the host for her mother's parasitic dreams and aspirations.
There will be more than two people in that marital bed (and, no, not in a good way).

This is going to be the pattern for the rest of his life. Pushy mom dominating her daughter, and through her: him.

By going along with it, he's digging a stream-bed, and that stream will turn into a river, and down the line, he'll find it incredibly hard to change its course. He has to act now, or forever be a slave to his mother-in-law's will (or at least until he legs it). Change the pattern of interaction now, and set precidents that are healthy for himself and his wife-to-be.

And he can't do that without his finacee changing herself. He really can't fight both his in-laws and his finacee. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

She needs to commit to the relationship fully by letting go of her mother's wishes, or call it all off. And in the end, it's up to her. She's really the problem here: the door can be closed on the mother-in-law's demands only if they're not perpetuated within the walls of the relationship.

She's the one that needs to make the change. And if she doesn't, I wouldn't like to be in your friend's shoes, either when the kids come along, or for the rest of his married life, with mom-in-law calling all the shots.

He will have to either enlighten his fiancee, put his foot down, both or resign himself to a soul-destroying, spirit-depleting, neutered existence always playing second fiddle to 'mom', who seems to care little about their happiness, and is likely to carry on that way unless she's shown how to behave.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:38 PM on May 26, 2004

Back to your duties as a friend: he's in this situation because he wants to be, maybe for reasons he can't fully express to you. If he changes it, or leaves it, it will also be because he wants to. You've exceeded your duty already, now it's up to him.

I say this because I made a number of poor decisions in my 20s, which have had far-reaching consequences for me and my family. I was advised against them by people who meant well. Well, I don't take advice well, and I thought I was different. This caused a big falling out with said people. Now, I wish I had been bigger about it, and I wish I'd taken their advice, too. But, um, anyway, the advice was not really effective, so I reckon you might as well pull your head in now.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2004

One of my ex-housemates would occasionally talk about how some people view relationships as an investment. They value a relationship according to how much effort and time they've put into it independent of the quality of the relationship that their effort had produced.

Actually I would say this underlies a fair number of long term relationships, even if not consciously acknowledged. The fear of having to start from scratch can be pretty daunting after a lot of years together even if things are bad now. Of course, properly taking a relationship as an investment would mean cutting loose if things turn bad and not throwing good money after bad.
posted by biffa at 2:47 PM on May 26, 2004

Wow. I can't believe you showed him this. I can't presume to know how your friendship works, but I certainly would not appreciate a concerned friend crossing the line into meddlesomness by enlisting symathetic opinions and then treating me to them. Don't forget that the basic definition of a friend is someone who sticks by you and helps you. "HAHAHAHAH he's so screwed" is hardly friendly.

I'm sure you think you're sticking up for the "real" him, but look at reality as it really stands, really-really, right-in-front-of-you-really, and stick up for the him you've actually got.

I think you've got a lot of feelings engaged in this which I hope you're acknowledging and dealing with and taking responsibility for on some level. You need to know when to draw the line, stop expressing your opinion, and start making a positive contribution to the Way Things Are. That is, if you want to be part of your friend's life, anymore (such as it is).
posted by scarabic at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2004

From the ring question. You said, run is not an option which if I have correctly is because they have been dating for so long. Add to, he dating the boss' daughter.
Really why can't he run, does he think he will be alone? Ask because if you can't be happy being alone; why would you think you'd be happy with someone?
posted by thomcatspike at 3:23 PM on May 26, 2004

Make sure you give him a hell of a buck's night, because it may be the last chance to enjoy himself that he ever gets.

Another one bites the dust ...

Also, i_am_joe's_spleen is right - if you think your friend is making a mistake, tell him. After that, don't keep telling him, just accept his decision and try to be there for him when if the whole thing comes crashing down around his ears.
posted by dg at 3:26 PM on May 26, 2004

" if you can't be happy being alone; why would you think you'd be happy with someone?"

thomcatspike, that's philosophy. (And I agree too).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:40 PM on May 26, 2004

"But you're his mate and this is dangerously close to going of the meddle line, if it hasn't already."

With dozens of snarky strangers bashing his love life, I think we pegged the meddle-meter about 100 comments ago.

Marrying the bosses daughter = borderline crazy
Letting your boss's wife talk you into massive debt = borderline stupid
Letting your boss talk you into taking vows in a religion you think is bogus = very bad

If there's a divorce he loses his job. Right? So he can't get a divorce and he's obligated to live his life (including kids, purchases, worship, etc) as his boss dictates. If there's a problem at home his boss will lecture him about it. If there's trouble at work his wife will badger him about it.

And the best man is trying to make it all better by having the entire wedding party read this thread.

I'm calling bullshit. There is no way anyone is this dumb/suicidal/screwed. You're busted taumeson. No way the is real.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:12 PM on May 26, 2004

I'm not even going to try to address the larger issues, but this stuck out at me:
But, my friend's parents are staunch catholics, and while they would go to a Jewish wedding, they won't wear yarmulkes
It's their son's wedding, and the father of the groom refuse to wear a fucking hat? Is it really that much to ask?
posted by kickingtheground at 4:13 PM on May 26, 2004

Man. You better hope that his fiancee never, ever sees this page.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:15 PM on May 26, 2004

Only two people should ever have the say in what kind of wedding will be had. And various parents aren't either of 'em.

Stand firm and establish your backbone now, or forever live with the consequences.
posted by rushmc at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2004

You know, if this is for real - and y6y6y6, I think it is - my advice to YOU, taumeson, is to get Matt to delete this thread and its predecessor before the bride-to-be sees it and the unhappy couple come after you.

On preview, LMC beat me to it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2004

I don't know--maybe the first step of ball-growing is taking his fiancee and saying "here, read this."
posted by LionIndex at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2004

The Jewish issue is a little deeper than perhaps some of you may suspect. I've been told by Jewish friends that the essence of Judaism, the "Jewish birthright," passes through the mother and the father has nothing to do with it. If the bride in this scenario is Jewish, then any children they have will be considered Jewish, thus giving her parents endless reason to interfere and complain about their childraising activities.

On another topic, I married someone my parents didn't approve of and while we felt empowered at the time at our independence from our ancestors, hindsight has shown that it's not necessarily a good idea to say, "Screw you all, we're doing what we want." Better would be to keep talking and communicating with the bride's parents, working on resolving these issues or at least arriving at a compromise all can live with. It's a tough world out there, should either party find him/herself alone again and unmarried down the road, so neither bride nor groom should completely cut themselves off from their families. Also, that would set the course of making the groom and the bride have to take charge of their lives, which they are going to have to do or suffer endless interference from her parents.
posted by Lynsey at 4:35 PM on May 26, 2004

Seeing as how the thread is turning to "how good of a friend is he?", taumeson, I agree with all the advice that you should keep most of this to yourself. Be the shoulder to lean on, offer contructive advice, and then keep your mouth shut. After all, you are not the one getting married here.

Look, a person has an image or definition of themselves in their own mind that they don't necessarily share with the world, including close friends and even spouses. That means that this person must satisfy some need in your friend, that, while you may not be able to see it, it is real for your friend.

Getting married is a big change in someone's life, in the way they define themselves and the way they make decisions. I'm sure most of the married folks here can attest to complaining to friends about this bad thing/that bad thing about their fiancee, but that doesn't mean they want to be told to break up, it usually means that they want assurance that "this too shall pass, and yes, you are making the right decision".

When I got married, I had to dump two friends, one I'd been close to since childhood, one I met as an adult. They didn't like my fiancee, and repeatedly told me to run. They couldn't see what intangible qualities my fiancee had that I needed to be around. Actually, I believe it had more to do with their own issues/experiences than with my fiancee. In the end I decided I was going to go crazy if I continued to spend energy worrying about what someone else thought, while they kept trying to undermine my confidence in my decision. So they got dumped, not the fiancee.

I've since come to understand the phrase "A real friend is a friend to the marriage".

And for God's sake, don't send him this thread!
posted by vignettist at 4:45 PM on May 26, 2004

the essence of Judaism, the "Jewish birthright," passes through the mother and the father has nothing to do with it
Think the father still has to be Jewish though.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2004

the father of the groom refuse to wear a fucking hat? Is it really that much to ask?

If my Syrian and Lebanese relatives had a problem with wearing the spiritual garb they associate with a country that's occupied their countries recently, I can't really imagine arguing with them about it. I know they'd show up and be sweet. But don't their beliefs get some airtime also? If it's just a hat, then why is it so important *to* wear it?
posted by scarabic at 5:05 PM on May 26, 2004

Think the father still has to be Jewish though.

Nope. The father is irrelevant.

If it's just a hat

"Just" a hat?! Humph.

I'm sure glad I didn't get married in my 20s. The marriage I got into in my 30s was bad enough. Wait till your 40s, everyone!

Um, but it's obviously too late for your friend. Hang in there and be there for him no matter what.
posted by languagehat at 5:55 PM on May 26, 2004

Diamonds, Jewish weddings, atheists and agnostic.

Are you sure you're not writing a script for

"My big fat JewagnosticAtheist Wedding ?" If so I want my cut ,a big fat diamond maybe ? say she's atheist , yet the family is asking her to have a Jewish wedding ? Mhh..sounds odd as is she really is an atheist she's unlikely to accept to be bound to a man under the rule of some God. What a mess, is she "just pleasing" the family because after all the family is paying ? I agree with you she could use one more vertebra in her spine.

What can he do to reset the situation ? A whole lot of diplomatic discussion on the fact he likes / don't like
wants / doesn't want and a lot of understanding, more more understanding of what he's going into.
posted by elpapacito at 8:03 PM on May 26, 2004

I don't think refusing to wear a yarmulke at a jewish wedding is a big deal at all. At the synagogue I go to, most non-jews aren't asked or expected to wear them anyway. It would be like the jewish family members saying that they'll come to a catholic wedding but they won't take communion.
posted by bonheur at 9:38 PM on May 26, 2004

An older genlteman I know once made a comment similar to one of languahat's, above. He ducked into a debate about two young people about to get married, wherein most everyone expressed doubt that the marriage would last.

He said "Oh, I'm sure it'll be a fine enough first marriage."
posted by scarabic at 10:16 PM on May 26, 2004

Oy oy oy.

prenuptials are advised. Your friend should discuss this with an attorney because his job is involved. When you marry the boss's daughter, it is usually not without expectations. Since it is likely any divorce will hugely impact this situation, some kind of written agreement governing this may be advisable (IANAL).

Scenario: He slaves away for father-in-law. Father-in-law retires or dies. whose company is it now? Wife's? His? If retired, or selling out to son-in-law, what conditions? Very fat retirement for dear old dad, which effectively continues your friend's enslavement?

Children: They're Hebrew because their mother is. What's going to happen to any boy children shortly after birth? Will they be mutilated the usual way? A WASP might shrug this off. An Italian might seriously get upset. The boy might grow up to hate his parents. YMMV

Elopement: Only an option if his job is really not very important, ie, he can land another, equally good position.
posted by Goofyy at 2:31 AM on May 27, 2004

Man, am I so glad that I don't have a religion. And that we paid for our own wedding.
posted by Pericles at 2:54 AM on May 27, 2004

2. He said it was scary how people were guessing ethnicity and location correctly. Bergen county, definitely...try to guess the town! It's actually pretty obvious.

What do you mean, people?? Person. Me. I KNEW IT!

Goddamn, it hurts being this clever.

So, guess the town, 'eh? God, there are so many to choose from. Just as long as it's not Saddle River or Ridgewood, there may still be hope for your friend.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:10 AM on May 27, 2004

Are you sure you're not writing a script for

"My big fat JewagnosticAtheist Wedding ?"

i actually think it sounds a little bit like one of the storylines in The Brothers McMullen. (Works for the dad, marrying the daughter and into a Jewish family, questions about religion involved).
posted by jerseygirl at 10:01 AM on May 27, 2004



oh man, there is no hope for my friend.
posted by taumeson at 10:42 AM on May 27, 2004

Like I said, it hurts being this clever.

So which one? Ridgewood?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2004

taumeson think your freind put himself in a peculiar situation when he took the job. Sounds like the family has thought of him as the son they never had. Who fits the bill better than a son, as he can marry their only daughter.

The ring and wedding ceromony are the icing & cherry on top of the cake; not the warning signs. Think all that has been discussed should have been running through your freind's mind when he took the position under his girlfreind's father. You are right about "run" not a choice: many, many pay checks long ago he should have thought this out.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2004

Who fits the bill better than a son, as he can marry their only daughter.
Add: O0o!
posted by thomcatspike at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2004

posted by thomcatspike at 2:52 PM on May 27, 2004

C-D, you scare me sometimes, you really do.
posted by taumeson at 6:41 AM on May 28, 2004

Ridgewood! Man, everytime I go there I always get the wierd feeling that all these jewish mothers are looking to send their daughters onto me.
posted by Derek at 9:49 PM on May 31, 2004

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