Her Sister's Destination Wedding Is Gonna Kill Dad and Bankrupt Mom

Comments

1

have TWO weddings

2

dad ain't a verb
feel Free to delete

3

Just because LW wrote in for confirmation, I'll add mine to Dan's: Yes, your sister is being an asshole.

Even without the whole Covid crisis going on, it is horrible that she allowed -- not even asked, but allowed -- your mother to pay for anything when she makes ~ $35,000 a year. That alone is assholey enough. I'm infuriated just reading this. It's a shame we can't DMTFA some of our family members without also causing a whole bunch of extended family drama.

4

"Kill" Dad is the missing verb....

5

Fixed it just as I was posting!

6

This whole bridezilla thing has really gotten out of hand. She sounds way too immature to be getting married, period.

7

I cosign Dan, but also also add: now and for the foreseeable future is the time to elope (and livestream if you wish). I know it sucks, but adapt or die has always been how life works.

8

Dan is correct: the sister is an asshole. The wedding industrial complex encourages them--unfortunately for, well, everyone involved who doesn't own stock in a related company. The whole thing is such bullshit it makes me crazy. The quality of a love is not correlated with the expense of a wedding. (Unless it's correlated negatively...I sometimes wonder.) And if the expense is harming her family--what does that say about the quality of her love for them? LW, definitely tell your sister that this is beyond bad--write it in an email/letter, if you're too afraid to have the conversation one-on-one. And then don't go.

9

There have been three destination weddings in my family, close enough family that I would have gone to the wedding if it was held somewhere I could reasonably drive to.

But because my family aren't monsters, when I said "Sorry, won't be able to make it" they answered along the lines of "That's OK, we love you". I mailed them a gift card that cost a whole lot less than going to the weddings would have, and everyone is happy and satisfied and fine. Two of the three have told me privately that while they really did want to have the wedding in the nice place, they also didn't really want to have a big wedding, and since they knew hardly anyone would come, that was a bonus.

This family doesn't sound so much close as enmeshed, and that's not a compliment. Doing things that are really against your better judgement because you don't want to confront a difficult person is no way to conduct your personal life - it's bad enough that so many of us have to do this for our jobs.

10

My mom attended my dining-room wedding via skype. And that was ten fucking years ago when travel was fine. If sis cannot handle being confronted about this, she is a hugely immature person and should not be supported in this in any way.

11

Well duh dept. Surprised that Dan bothered with this one.

12

yeah, totally don't bankrupt yourself or die for someone's destination wedding, regardless of how close you are with the person. and if that affects your relationship with that person, well, yeah... that's how life goes sometimes.

13

Mr. Vel-DuRay and I got married in a "chapel" off of a parking garage in Vegas. In attendance were a friend of mine from high school, her husband and their fourteen year old daughter. After the ceremony, we went out to dinner. That's all the wedding we needed,

14

LW the problem you have isn't the problem you think you have. The real issue isn't your sister, but your mother who's willing to bankrupt herself for your sister's whims.

Is she being an asshole? Yes. But Mom is being a hell of an enabler and I have to wonder if she's put this much effort into your wedding, or for anyone else for that matter.

Sis can have her destination wedding but she should have to pay for it. Mom needs to close the checkbook and she's the one you need to talk to.

I don't know if you can get through to her.

15

What the fuck is it with certain women and their weddings? Like they're the only people who have ever gotten married in the history of the world! The bride is being an asshole. Not surprising given Mom's obvious enabling of said asshole. If your parents choose to go to this wedding and end up getting sick and dying that is their choice. We can't stop people from being stupid. Best case is to get the groom to be on board with calling the shit show off (if he's the kind of guy who might not be interested in murdering his in-laws). Otherwise, oh well. I'd stay home and live my life, the key word being LIVE. There is no guarantee that any of them won't get sick and/or die.

16

Completely agree that this sister is the asshole in this situation but I don’t know that telling her this is going to change a damn thing. Ultimately her parents are the ones who have to come to the realization that hey! I don’t have the money to help with this or hey! going to this wedding will probably kill me. Telling your sister she is an asshole is only going to cause drama and it certainly won’t change her mind (she was already willing to put them in harms way financially and literally before COVid madness). Talking to your parents and telling them they need to start taking care of themselves might not work either but you at least have a chance.

17

OLW you should have, tounge-in-cheek, held a destination baby shower and demanded that all of these family members attend. Even a mini one in a neighboring city might have put a spotlight on the ridiculousness of the whole "destination" event business.

18

Here's a few thoughts off the top of my head:

1) there is no law that says the bride's parents have to foot the bill for the wedding, let alone a “destination” wedding that will bankrupt them and possibly kill one of them. Many if not most couples this day and age pay for their own wedding with their family helping without going into debt.

2) there is no reason that the bride and groom shouldn't pay for their own wedding no matter where it is! This is the 21st century and not the Middle Ages. The bride-to-be and the prospective groom do not have a right to bankrupt and/or kill a parent for one day's worth of transient extravagance. If the bride insists on a “destination wedding” then she can just postpone it until SHE and her fiancé have saved to pay for it!

2) A bride price, Bride wealth, bride token, dowery, and all the other customs of money-changing-hands for a virgin bride might still be in practice in many cultures but there is no law (at least in the USA and other western countries) that those customs must be followed.

3) The parents should grow a pair, put the proverbial foot down, and just say no. Why are they indulging this child-woman? If she wants a lovely wedding, there's so many beautiful locations in her own country that won’t send family and friends to the poorhouse.

19

I get that there's a tradition of the bride's family paying for a wedding, but WTF? Your mom is nuts. Bankrupting yourself in the middle of a global pandemic to pay for a destination wedding is completely batshit insane.

My brother had a destination wedding. But he paid for it himself. And it was intentionally a small wedding with a limited number of guests on purpose. He made it very clear that invitees were very welcome to take a pass and send a card instead if they didn't want to foot the expense of attending the destination wedding. His best man was poor, so he paid for the best man's flight and hotel. It was a nice wedding. It's a good thing he paid for it himself. They got divorced 5 years later.

This overplayed tradition of the bride's parents paying should be limited to the expense of a local wedding with a limited number of guests at an average venue. Wedding parties who want to have huge/expensive/destination weddings are total assholes for putting that expense on the bride's parents (unless the bride is Bezos' daughter). Going into debt for a ridiculously expensive wedding is insane, especially given the divorce rate in this country.

20

I think most of us went to dozens of weddings when we were in our 20s and 30s. I traveled for some of really close friends, but wasn't in an airplane more than twice any summer.
As more and more people are having these crazy destination weddings, are A LOT of people traveling to them? And I thought the gig was generally that the venue was free, and the couple paid for the food and drink, at most. My niece got married at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico and I guess the guests basically paid for the whole damn thing. (Weird, but common I'm told)

21

Oh, I forgot the best part. My niece and her husband paid for their parents because they knew the $3K or so would be hard for them. Yeah, I wasn't interested in spending $1500 on hotel plus airfare for four to see her get married on a beach in Mexico. Seemed like more of a honeymoon destination than anything. LOL

22

I feel like the extra layer of selfishness on this extravagant demand is that the parents don't sound like people that have been on any vacations of their own in recent years. But she expects them to go broke so she can be a princess for a day. It's hard to know why she would be so callous towards her parents' limited means and her father's poor health-especially in light of the pandemic. If this is what her true colors are, she isn't ready for marriage or shared finances with a husband

23

Destination weddings are evil. And, @18, however low the bride price might be, it sounds like this one is not worth it.

24

I don't understand destination weddings. Pick a place you've been to before, a place that means something to you, sure. And then for your honeymoon, go somewhere fantastic just the two of you.

25

Whatever happened to having a wedding that guests could actually reasonably attend, then going on a honeymoon? Why do so many people want to bring all their families and friends on their honeymoons? Just stop it!

I agree with MsAnon @14. Talk to Mom and Dad and tell them they don't have to do this, that you (and other sister) are putting your foot down and respectfully declining the wedding invitation and that they should too. If Mom and Dad insist on complying with this ransom demand, there's not much Sister can do (other than recuse herself and refuse to be guilted over it). I like the idea of talking to the fiancé who may or may not be on the same page. If sister is putting her "dream wedding" ahead of her own father's health, she is definitely an asshole. But I do think there is a little of column B. At least PDQ recognises that she may be overstepping. She cannot control the wedding her sister chooses to have. She can only tell her that she thinks it's a bad idea and lay out why, which she's already done, and say that she can't make it. Beyond that, the wedding mistakes are her sister's and parents' to make.

26

Ciods @8, you've nailed it. Cost of a wedding is NEGATIVELY correlated with the length of the ensuing marriage. No surprise there; wanting an expensive wedding shows that one is self-absorbed and not the best relationship material.
https://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/13/living/wedding-expenses-study/index.html

Agony @9, good point that some people may choose destination weddings as a way to exclude people who'd feel bad about not being invited if the wedding were local. For instance childhood friends who are alcoholics and prone to racist rants and starting fights! ;)

SNJ @18, I absolutely agree that society needs to normalise couples paying for their own weddings. If you are grown-up enough to get married, you're grown-up enough to finance it.

27

Of course, it doesn't matter what we think weddings should be like, what the asshole sister should do, or the LW should say. This stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum, or out of nowhere, and we all know that.

Sister would not be such an asshole in the first place if anything anybody could say would possibly make a difference.

28

You can't fix people like this, you can only protect yourself and others from them. And hope life fixes them.

29

The only person you can control here is yourself. You can't stop sister; you can't make your parents stop enabling her. (You can try, but it probably won't work). Decline the invitation now, state all your reasons ONCE if you haven't already, and then drop it. All further conversation on the matter is closed. "You know my reasons for declining and that's not going to change. I won't discuss this further."

Couples have every right to have a destination wedding if that's what they want, and THEY pay for it. They do not have the right to demand anyone else's attendance, or give guilt trips for not attending. They certainly don't have the right to expect their parents or anyone else to pay for it. You pay for it, and you accept graciously that part of that price is that fewer family/friends are going to come than if you had it locally. That's the true price of destination weddings. If you aren't ok with paying it, don't have one.

30

I had to deal with Bridezilla, her fucking sister accomplice, mom-from-hell, and coward hubby.

It wasn't destination. But it did cost me money. Too much. But the friendship was worth that. Haven't spoken to ex-friend since.

When the divorce is final I'll send a bill. If it never is final -- well knowing how their life is will be satisfaction enough.

31

Sounds like a lovely place to get married. Enjoy! Our thoughts will be with you but we won’t. We look forward to seeing the photos after, and if you kill our parents, I’ll eat your liver with a nice chianti.

32

@PDQ
I'm so sorry about your dad's health, and about COVID. But everything has a bright side, at least COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into your middle sister's selfish plan. I wouldn't think of asking everyone to fly somewhere for me even if I was paying literally every penny of everything for it.

Perhaps her unrealistic fantasy has to do with the cultural messages which lead some dim people to idealise marriage like an event in a fairy tale to construe it as something which can ease their gnawing insecurities.

33

LW, clearly everyone agrees that your sister's decision is bizarrely self-absorbed and your parents decision is painfully destructive -- me too. But if your ultimate goal is to change your parents' plan rather than be vindicated, you may want to take a slightly different approach than one more argument followed by a boycott.

As I see it, you're going to get best results if you take the focus off the sister's selfishness AND the bad money choices AND your parents' enabling behavior -- those are losing issues and distractions right now. Put it squarely on your father's end of life priorities and the family's future beyond his death. I also think you'll get better traction with your mother (and father!) if you can begin by listening a little more rather than leading with outrage and concern. In your parents' place, many people start thinking about things like "the last family milestone my husband will be here for." If that's the underlying drive here, you need to know.

Also, do you know what your father himself wants from this situation? Are they both in denial, or is he thinking that attending his daughter's wedding is worth shortening his remaining time? Are they both having trouble thinking about any future beyond his death? You don't like the decision they are making, but your protests haven't made a difference. Respectful listening first can soften things up. Once you've done that, I think your best argument runs along these lines:

"I understand that now more than ever, it feels so important to share a joyful occasion, whatever it costs. I know that sister is really attached to the details surrounding her marriage and has a little bit of tunnel vision right now. But please understand... it's unlikely that my baby will remember it's grandfather. I want our family to go forward, and have the opportunity to have more joyous times. When you talk about doing what you're doing, I fear my baby will end up with no chance to know either of my parents -- and as a new parent, I know I need to protect the future of our family myself, by avoiding travel."

"We can celebrate sister in a way that doesn't endanger the future of the family, and that permits us to share as much time with Dad as is possible. I know it's hard when desires are so intense and so conflicting. I understand there's no decision to make here that doesn't result in the temporary unhappiness of one or more of your children, at a time when you need family harmony more than ever. But I really hope the two of you will reconsider going forward with this decision that is so costly and could jeopardize so much."

34

If you have a destination wedding, where is the honeymoon? Another fantasy destination? (entitled much?)
Or, the destination wedding IS the honeymoon and all the guests are invited? Including dear old elderly failing health dad?

Who is paying for this divorce? I hope mom isn't on the hook for that too.

35

“No one can take advantage of you without your permission.” — Ann Landers

"[S]he's gonna continue to be an asshole for as long as the whole family lets her get away with it." — Dan Savage sitting at Ann Landers's desk

Timeless advice.

36

these chicks and their weddings, lol

37

While "I Hired Someone to Seduce My Sister's Fiance" sounds like an episode of Jerry Springer and I can't imagine giving such advice in real life, it could in a computer simulation turn out to be the most effective means of harm reduction.

38

I’d tell mom and dad that you’re pulling big sister here, and all bets are off. That this virus is not a joke, and that they, your parents, aren’t planning any trips Into the future. Then inform your sister. Whatever happens then is up to your sister and whoever is stupid enough to indulge her in such a climate as this. Millions out of work, people on bread lines. It’s your parents you want to protect, then focus on them only and leave your sister to her fate.

39

One of the few good things about the coronavirus is that it's making it a lot easier to identify who the assholes are.

40

Americans are encouraged to identify with a higher economic class than they actually belong to. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rituals surrounding marriage.

43

The couple could do what my cousin did--she and her husband did a destination wedding, by themselves, then threw a lovely reception here in the States.

I know a couple who did a lavish destination wedding--and paid the costs of all the guests, so all could attend without any financial strain.

If I were the groom, I would want to get married somewhere that allows the ill father to participate with ease, whether in his hospital room/hospice, or home, or church/reception hall/etc.

But it wasn't the couple who asked for advice. It was the sister of the bridezilla.

If I were in her shoes, I would politely decline to attend, say why, then let it drop.

44

The only thing that could possibly make this couple look any worse is this: they have already been living together for a few years. I do not understand making a big deal out of what is essentially paperwork after you've been living as married. When people got married much younger, with less life experience, still living with mom and dad - getting married WAS a big fucking step. You were about to embark on a new life and things were about to change in a big way - ceremony seems appropriate. Now? Most people have mortgages and kids - THEN they get married. At that point what is new besides legal status? In this context, people seem even more self absorbed: wanting a big event because three years after moving in together they signed onto the pre-nup on the state's terms aka marriage.

45

Jeebus Fuck. Why are you labeling yourself "drama queen" when the term so perfectly applies to your horribly self-centered Disney princess, strike that, Monegasque princess wanna-be sister?

Best part of Dan's advice: go behind her back to the fiancee. If he's not all in with derailing this shit-train to Hell, they're both assholes and your family is well rid of them if they get pissed off and decamp over the cancellation.

46

@44 Good point. We got married in our living room with out teenage kid as ring-bearer. It was mainly done for the legal benefits.

47

Coming in late here, but I've now read all the comments and don't see any mention of the vendors and advertisers who are the real beneficiaries of the trend towards destination weddings. If you follow the money, that's where the money will lead you. It's to the wedding planners who are in cahoots with the caterers, the travel marketers, the hotels, etc. all the way down to the photographers, the florists, the folks who do the hair and the make-up, and on and on. It could be that the sister dreamed all this stuff up and demanded that the mother pay for the dream wedding, but I think it more likely that the trend towards more and more elaborate potlatch weddings got its start with the vendors. It's not entirely potlatch since the guests are expected/coerced into spending for the benefit of the wedding planners/marrying couple, but that's the general idea. Also, it's not a new trend. Look at the 1950 Spencer Tracy/Elizabeth Taylor "Father Of The Bride".

That's my rant. I came here to give advice to the letter writer. PDQ, butt out. Don't get involved in this. At the very most, you can tell your mother that you're worried about her finances. You can say that you can be counted on for a certain amount of caring for your father but that you're unable to contribute to your mother's retirement needs. Offer to set her up with a financial advisor. Then step aside. At some point it's likely that your mother and middle sister will put the screws on you to allow Mother to move in with you and that baby so you can support her for the rest of her life. It's important for you to make it clear right now how much you can contribute financially to Mother's upkeep. Don't put any of this in terms of the sister or the wedding. In fact, don't say another word about Sister and the wedding.

I wonder if "close knit" in this case actually means "dysfunctional" and "boundaryless." My first thought was the letter should have gone to Jeanne Phillips who now writes Dear Abby, but now I'm thinking that Captain Awkward would be a better choice since she's the master of problems having to do with personality disorders and lack of boundaries.

48

I've never 'got' bridezillas. If you can't afford to pay for your own opulent wedding, you really shouldn't be bankrupting your parents. A simple wedding makes a lot more sense; save the money for a house or your kids-to-be college fund.

If I was the groom in this story, I'd be fucking scared. If you think Bridezilla's going to change, you're delusional.

49

@41. “ can’t say shit if his baby lives or dies?” What sort of ‘whose body did this embryo get embedded in’ statement is that. You know where you can go.

50

@41 There’s no baby. It’s a collection of cells and you as father at this point has contributed sperm. So fuck off out of women’s uteruses with that attitude.

51

Hachacha @41: ok, if you're gonna be a whiny MRA you need to go somewhere else. While the future BiL probably won't appreciate being dragged into it, no one's demanding he "control his woman" or any nonsense like that. Dan's just saying that he should be brought into the conversation.

Personally, I think if the parents won't put their foot down that's their own doing and nothing the sister does can change it. If Mom and Dad keep insisting that this is ok, Bride isn't going to listen to sister on the matter. Sorry, but that's just family hierarchy for you.

52

In various commenters' experience- is it still a norm in US (or western?) culture for the bride's family to pay for the wedding? And if so, is there some cultural/demographic thing going on here?

I don't know anyone in any generation (older or younger than me) who expected the bride's family to pay for the wedding. People who come from better off families, in my experience, tend to get assistance for their families to pay for their weddings if they're the sort of family that values things like that, but I don't know of any tendency for it to fall mostly on the bride's side.

I thought this was a by-gone tradition, if it was ever real beyond the wealthier classes. In India, still alive and well, though changing among younger urban people. In the US though, I've never seen this.

Agreed with all advice above, especially about the parents' role in this. Also I agree with a few people that the problem isn't with having destination weddings (which can often be a practical choice for some couples) but with the expectation that others will pay for it and that others will inconvenience their finances/health to attend. Most people I know who had destination weddings either did it on their own or else planned it with a close network of friends/family who all enjoyed it as a shared vacation. As hachacha says, we don't all have a central place where we / our friends / our family can easily gather anyway.

53

@Fichu's advice is also very good though I'd lean in more regarding the health of the father. But it's really fucking important to be absolutely clear from the beginning about what financial/emotional/physical support you are going to offer aging parents on your own terms and be clear with everyone in the family about it because it does come back to bite you in the ass. I've spent years of my own life in this situation, and it's been much easier with the side of the family that we were able to be firm with. On the other side, you can get sucked into other people's drama endlessly, going about in circles on other people's decisions, then they affect you. It's much better to eventually realize you can't do anything to make them more responsible/thoughtful. All you can do is make sure everyone hears your own boundaries- loud and clear- and then go forward with enforcing them which, yes, people will claim YOU are the one being selfish. This is just a feeling you have to learn to live with. A sister behaving this way now and a mother going along with it- neither are likely to change. They are living beyond their means. Mom and Dad's expenses are going to increase as they get older, if they are having trouble with money now, a low income, and they're going to waste it on a party- well you need to make clear what you are willing/able to offer them in old age so that they understand the longer term implications of their choices.

54

@48 Mr.B You couldn't be the groom in this story because you find the woman's behavior scary. Obviously the real groom in this story either thinks the behavior is normal/acceptable/desirable or he's a fool who doesn't know anything about his own wedding. No one is holding a gun to his head and making him marry the sis.

55

I am no fan of bridezillas, but where is the agency of mom and dad in this? They are adults, let them do what they want. It's not really the business of LW to control them.

56

True cbu @55, except the middle daughter is trying to control the parents, especially her mother, thru the Marriage script. These are not normal times, and the sister is untethered from reality. A year from now who knows what our health and economies will look like. The LW is the eldest child, she has authority in the family. I recommend she use it.

57

Us citizens might find they won’t so easily get into other countries, due to the explosion of the virus there. No guarantees any sort of antidote is found within a year. There’s still no vaccine for HIV, which some scientists say this virus mimics in ways. That’s another aspect bride to be isn’t factoring in.

58

@57 LavaGirl
"US citizens might find they won’t so easily get into other countries"

This is /so/ true; being that the US let itself become infested with COVID, other countries would be wish to close their borders tight to us in the US.

59

Lava @38, as the oldest sister, I laugh at the idea that there is some sort of "big sister card" that one can play to force older and/or younger family members to do what you want them to do.

Scrawny @45, she is not "labelling herself" a drama queen, she is asking whether she is behaving like a drama queen, which, if more people asked themselves that question, the world would be a much better place. Jeebus fuck yourself.

Lava/Traffic @49-@51, don't feed the troll, who may or may not be Sportlandia, back and making some minor attempts to be more civil. Regardless, that comment @41 was clearly not written in a state of sobriety. Hachacha, you've shown your true colours now.

EmmaLiz @54, a lot of grooms just go along with whatever the bride plans, especially if he doesn't have to pay for any of it. Hell, he's getting a free vacation and all he has to do is put on a suit and sign some papers. I agree, though, in this case he should be trying to talk the bride out of putting her father at risk. If he is not doing this, either he is afraid of her (which hints that she is abusive) or he too is a selfish asshole. Talking to him alone may reveal which.

60

BDF @59: Fair enough re: Hachacha.

Re: the groom, he's probably just not interested in getting involved with inlaw drama. The best rule for marital harmony is to let each S/O deal with their own family. Also, he probably doesn't know the exact details of the in-laws' finances. Seriously, how's the conversation going to go?

Groom: "Hun, so your sister came up to me, and she's really angry about the wedding. She says your parents are spending too much and that your Dad can't travel."

Bride: "My parents and I discussed the budget and we're all on the same page there. If they want to change it, they'll let me know. As for Dad, he wants to make the trip. Sis just never could let the sibling rivalry stuff go."

Groom: "Oh. Well, ok then."

61

This is a tight knit family remember Fan, big sister may have authority, if not then assume it. Interesting idea re @41.
In normal times yes, LW goes or doesn’t go to the wedding and leaves her parents to make their own call. Given the unknown aspects of any part of where things are really going, thanks to the virus, making such plans now and paying any money over for any of it, to me would be foolhardy.

62

@38 LavaGirl
"pulling big sister here"

OMG my experience too, as the eldest sibling in my nuclear family, is that in my family there's no 'eldest sibling' card. I found that out in a few situations I thought I might be capable of helping someone if there was such a card.

One can try to lead, but it of course takes someone willing to follow for it to work. Everyone has their own unique ideas in this world (which I admit absolutely drives me crazy sometimes), and woe betide anyone who expects otherwise.

@61 LavaGirl
"a tight knit family"

So I could have had such a card in a different family? (Wow, that sounds extremely helpful. It boggles my mind to imagine pigheaded humans respecting one's 'card'; in families where such a card exists don't people resent the heck out of it?)

And what about the 'parent card'? It would've been nice to have a mother who lived up to such a card, or even one who knew how far that was from the case.

63

The more I look at the letter, the more I want to rewrite it without what I'm seeing as extraneous information. I get this:

My mother has never made a lot of money, but until recently she was able to get by. Now with the coronavirus and my father's debilitating and terminal illness, she's gone nuts with spending. She's being taken advantage to spend on a family member, is quickly running through whatever savings she had for retirement, and she's making less than ever. I'm worried she'll end up homeless after my father's quickly impending death. What should I do?

Answer: Do what you can to set her up with a financial planner so she can hear what's good for her from someone else, not you. Be clear about what she can expect from you. If that's no money, then it's no money. If that's letting her seek charity, let her know that. She may lay on a guilt trip, but it's not selfish to decide you can't take on a liability like that. If you tried, you'd only end up homeless yourself.

Emma Liz-- Tell me what you mean by leaning in more in terms of helping to take care of the father. We may agree, but at the moment I don't understand you.

64

"big sibling card" disappears as soon as you're all too old to be able to solve arguments via headlock, and you can't bribe them with driving and/or beer.

65

@63 Fichu
I like your idea of recasting the letter. One quibble about this sentence of your rewritten letter:

"Now with the coronavirus and my father's debilitating and terminal illness, she's gone nuts with spending."

I re-read the letter and see no sign that mom's spending decisions have changed with due to the factors early in that sentence of yours.

/Break/
My take is that mom's being influenced by factors such as her acceptance of cultural norms around who pays for weddings, and cultural norms around weddings being a big fucking deal. And who knows middle sister might be her favorite.

@64 Traffic Spiral
Credit where credit is due, that made me laugh!

66

Fichu nothing so mysterious, sorry for sounding vague. I was saying that overall I agree with your advice that LW should butt out of the wedding conversation while being very clear - more generally - about the financial situation and what she's willing to do in the future, then let her parents make their own decisions with this knowledge w/o getting involved in the drama of the current situation (if that is a good summary of your advice).

I was just saying that given the very serious implications to Dad's health, I would not be able to butt out entirely- I'd have to press on that point further. I don't know what more she can actually do, but if it were me, I would explicitly state to Mom, Dad, bride & groom that Dad is ill and flying to a destination wedding during a pandemic could kill him, regardless of the fall out among the family and regardless of the outcome. At the very least, I'd want the peace of mind to not regret holding my tongue if something awful did happen.

67

RE: the groom

I understand the desire to stay out of in-law drama but I think it's absolutely foolish to act like a disinterested third party. You are marrying into a family and their finances/health/drama is going to affect your own life for decades. I agree with the idea that a partner should handle their own family etc but this only makes sense if the couple themselves are in agreement on whatever situation they are handling first. The couple should agree on how to proceed, then each deals with their own family within this context. Otherwise, you will end up sucked into family drama by default, sometimes with your own spouse on the other side of your interests and the stakes are high.

The point is that this groom, for whatever reason, is fine with or even desires expensive destination weddings that they, the couple, cannot afford. If he's under the delusion that they can afford it, then he's unaware of their own financial situation in life which might make him sympathetic but it certainly means he's either extremely immature or foolish. The more likely explanation is that he, like his chosen partner, desires a fancy expensive wedding that he can't afford- or at the very least- thinks it's acceptable that they should have this because she wants it. In either scenario, he is not an innocent bystander being led by the nose by his meanie bride.

I think Traffic's imaginary conversation is pretty common- depressingly likely. I don't see how this absolves the groom of a full 50% of the responsibility in the situation. Either his values are in line with hers enough that he says "oh ok" and goes along with it in which case they are compatible in their feelings of entitlement, or his values differ from hers but he can't stand up for himself which does not at all bode well for their future.

68

@66 EmmaLiz
"I'd want the peace of mind to not regret holding my tongue if something awful did happen"

Sometimes it feels like most of what I do ends up serving little purpose more than that.

But it could be about a little bit more than me ending up with that peace of mind; it could also be about them having been given the good advice they didn't heed (and perhaps them learning from that, or who knows even some karmic effect for all I know [regardless of whether there are any, I like to behave /as_though/ there were cosmic scales my behaviors are weighed upon, because that's what I believe in living up to]).

69

And...

70

...I donate this one to curious, to do with as you please. I'm sorry, feel better.

71

Thank you cocky I appreciate you saying that. I in turn offer it collectively to everyone who can use it, which I'm pretty sure is absolutely everyone right now.

Honestly, if someone didn't need it right now, they'd probably need it more than anyone!

72

@Curious, best case scenario, saying it explicitly for all responsible parties to hear would lead to them making the more responsible choice- the outcome is that you are considered a hysterical busy-body spoiler but Dad stays alive. More likely scenario, you make this statement, wedding carries on anyway, Dad is fine, everyone sees you as a shit-stirrer, especially if you choose not to go. Worst case scenario, Dad goes, gets sick or dies, and you at least do not have to live with the guilt of wondering if you could've prevented his suffering/death.

The only advantage I can think of that staying silent would bring is preventing a clash with sister (and probably mother) which will lead to resentment and drama in the future- but really it seems that this is going to happen regardless to a certain extent. If you are sure that speaking your mind would be futile, then perhaps it's worth it to keep the peace instead, but if the worst case scenario were to happen, I'd personally spend the rest of my life wondering if I could've saved him. Though I can see how one could argue that a healthier attitude towards a family dynamic like this would be to accept what you cannot change and absolve yourself of any responsibility in the matter since it was illusory in the first place.

I tend to make decisions like this based on my ability to deal with the various worst case scenarios of each. I don't know if it's the best approach. As for cosmic scales, I just live according to an assumption that we're all dust because it's such a drag to consider infinite ethical considerations of various courses of action that if there was some prove they exist, I'd just give up altogether.

73

@72 EmmaLiz
Wow, I loved how much I could treat @72 like I was a cat with a ball of string to play with.

"lead to them making the more responsible choice...you are considered a hysterical busy-body"

True. But I can't be responsible for or care what irresponsible people think.

"at least do not have to live with the guilt of"

I see your construction of it, but me, I do what I think is right, not to avoid later guilt.

"If you are sure that speaking your mind would be futile, then perhaps it's worth it to keep the peace instead"

I do eventually (slower than most) get there, and when I do get there...

" I'd personally spend the rest of my life wondering if I could've saved him"

...fuck if I'll give a shit, by the time I finally become convinced it's futile that's on them. Sure I will be angry at them for killing him, but I won't feel even the slightest the most microscopic bit guilty. Or, as you far more healthily put it, I'll have reached the point where I:

"accept what you cannot change and absolve yourself of any responsibility in the matter since it was illusory in the first place"
...

"decisions like this based on my ability to deal with the various worst case scenarios of each"

And I have a close family member who makes decisions on what /feels/ better.

For me it's simpler; I believe (which my family member can't accept) that one can know what is 'right', and then I just bloody do it. (Curiously, the main way I think one can know what is 'right' isn't about thinking, but about looking inside to what 'feels' right, so maybe they have the same method without understanding it.)

"infinite ethical considerations of various courses of action that if there was some prove they exist, I'd just give up altogether."

And I suck at chess, let alone /infinite/ considerations. But I don't arrive at any important decisions as much by thinking as by stopping thinking at some point and listening to my 'feeling' of what's right. Which is the opposite of infinite, it's perfectly simple. And simplicity might just be my prime value.

74

Lava @61, I disagree that "tight knit" means "there is a matriarch and it's the oldest sibling." However, on re-reading I noticed a different detail: everyone but this sister lives near each other. The bride lives on the other side of the country. This makes me a bit more sympathetic to the idea of a destination wedding. Unless she flies back to hometown, the rest of the family are gonna have to travel to her. Perhaps the groom and/or his family aren't keen on the idea of flying to her hometown, where they may have never visited, and which may be boring or a difficult journey. Their solution might have been that both families travel to a destination of the couple's choosing. That said, it's time to say nice idea but it's not going to work since Dad is too ill to travel. Why don't they elope, get married overseas, and have a family reception in each of their hometowns? Reckon they're reading?

75

Maybe middle sister sees this as a way to get dad to finally go see the world before he dies (soon), after seeing him be excessively cautious for years? Like, he might as well go out with a bang, since he's about to go no matter what he does.

76

"a destination wedding"

Never need to read past this. If people getting married want a vacation to celebrate their marriage, we have a thing for that already. Don't go, send a cheap gift and congratulations, and ignore (as in block, don't respond, etc.) any resulting tantrums.

77

Two of my best friends just got married (shortly before lockdown) for health insurance (they were dating and living together, but likely would not have legally married were it not for the way we deal with employer-funded insurance). Her brother and I witnessed the certificate in their living room, the four of us went out for a nice dinner, and they didn't tell their parents until a week later, exactly to avoid any wedding drama.

I actually like a wedding reception, but no reception is worth bullshit past a given threshold.

Historically (and across cultures - the specifics differ, but a majority of cultures practice something similar, for clear material reasons), the point of a wedding party, gifts, other people footing any the bills, etc. amo.g all but the nobility has always been for the community to give items (usually owned and used by others before, often for generations) to help the new couple establish the household, as they won't have the capital to establish an entirely new household (since the norm for people who aren't wealthy has been living in the family home at least until marriage). That's not even really still relevant in the normative lower-middle-to-upper-class social positions in present-day USA, as people tend to establish shared households months or years before marrying, so all that's left is the party. Celebrations are nice, but really none of the absurd expenses pushed by the wedding industry are justified.

78

@42: I would not fly to Sacremento for your wedding, either. And people I don't live near aren't really friends any more so much as friendly acquaintences, simply as a matter of logistics. The "I think people should fly in from around the country/world for my party, contributing disproportionately to global warming even for oil-based transit" attitude is a problem no matter where the destination is.

79

@52: The US doesn't really have a homogenous culture. It's normal in some circles, not in others.

In my circles, parents of both partners tend to contribute if they can and want, and since we're not assholes (well, not that particular sort), we don't tend to go for ridiculous opulence. This is true even for those of us with wealthier families: the fanciest wedding I've attended in years was held in a historical lighthouse in a public park - cheap venue, same vegetarian restaurant catering as the cheapest wedding (it's catered the last four weddings I've attended, lots of vegetarians in my circles); most of the expense was flying the bride's family to WI from WA and the open bar with expensive beer/wine/booze. The costlier one before that was at the lodge at another local park, catered by the venue, with the greatest expense being either the open bar or the custom-forged swords for the wedding party. The parents of the grooms paid a majority in both of those cases, as they were the wealthier families, but they weren't expected to, and my friends would have had cheap parties if the parents hadn't offered/insisted.

@75: That would be creepy and controlling. Valuing "seeing the world" is a subjective, individual thing in the first place, and if dad didn't do so when he was in better health, it's not likely he's all that interested now. Plus he could do so more cheaply without having to pay for an entire wedding. If that's Sister's thinking, it's even worse than simply being selfish and wanting a fancy party, because it's consciously manipulative and controlling instead of incidentally such.

80

Every time we visit the Detroit Institute of Arts in the spring, summer and fall my wife and I are compelled to traipse around the Hollywoodesque lighting rigged up and the staging of the wedding party for pictures. Big weddings are just so petit bourgeois, and then look at the disproportionate stress level of who's gonna pay for the big show? Like one of my siblings who was fortunate enough to make 7 digits the year she got married and had a bevy of famous acts to perform in sequence, but who still frets about the six-digit expenditure and hopes her own daughter doesn't insist on one. Pussywhipped men go along with Bridezilla, and I think someone in the wedding party puts overlooks on the marriage bed from wedding day forward. I hope so at least.