E. Jean Relationship Advice – Throwing a Big Wedding

Dear E. Jean: I’m engaged. He comes from old money—and all the dust that comes with it. We are planning on having a child, but first we must marry or the child won’t be eligible to receive the family inheritance governed by a trust drawn up more than a century ago.

My boyfriend does not like weddings. (He called off a previous engagement because he was traumatized by the over-the-top nuptial arrangements.) He’s the sweetest man in the world, but when I bring up the subject, he will not cooperate, and asks, “Can’t we please just go to the courthouse?”

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We both love big parties, balls, traveling to beautiful places, and dressing in fine clothes, so I don’t see why I can’t change his mind about a wedding. Should I just give in and go to the courthouse? —There Goes the Bride

Bride, You Attractive Young Fathead: Auntie Eeee is clutching her brow.

Here we have a chap—”the sweetest man in the world,” who has inherited sacks of old money and wishes to get hitched—and you want to “change his mind”? A big wedding, forsooth!

Hell, Reader, I will marry him, if you don’t.

Stop jabbering about bells and churches. Pay attention to what this excellent man is saying. Remember that this is his wedding too, and get thee to the courthouse. I believe that the two of you—although you will be absolutely stinking rich—have as great a chance at happiness and all the domestic blessings as anyone.

P.S. You may start planning your three-year-anniversary party with your 467-
person guest list, Jamie Oliver catering, vow-renewal officiated by Rihanna, etc. when you return from your honeymoon.

This letter is from the E. Jean archive.

Don’t Make Me Spend My Holiday Weekend at Your Wedding

Holiday weekends: They’re filled with many dreams — dreams of all the errands you’ll finally get done, how many lazy hours of Netflix you’ll catch up on, and exactly how much Seamless a human can have delivered over a 72-hour period. They’re truly bursting with possibilities.

But an evil force threatens the serenity of those weekends as we know it and it’s the dreaded holiday-weekend wedding. Oh, yes. There are couples among us who would have you believe that paying through the nose to spend your precious mini-vacation doing the hustle with their uncle Larry is something a person actually wants to do. And guess what, if you don’t want to do that, you’re a bad friend who never really cared about them to begin with.

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It’s time for some hard truths.

Holiday-weekend weddings are very, very bad. They can sap your bank account and your sanity even more so than regular weddings, require way too many joint activities with strangers, and are often impossible to attend. I love you, and I want to be there for your big day, but I also have very few holiday weekends a year, and I don’t want to use one of them for your wedding.

I love you and I want to come to your wedding. I also have very few holiday weekends a year, and I don’t want to use one of them on your wedding.

First of all, it’s generally much more expensive to travel over a holiday weekend than other times of the year. When you factor in the already exorbitant cost of flying, the added bucks can put potential guests in a financially perilous position. And it’s not just air travel — hotels and rental cars can cost more too. I really want to come to your wedding but I also really want to pay rent.

And traveling over a holiday weekend comes not just with added financial costs, but stress as well. Airports are crowded, rental-car places are overburdened, and don’t even get me started on hotel check-in. I once attended a Memorial Day weekend wedding in Vegas and the check-in line at the Bellagio literally snaked out the door. Into the Vegas heat! I think I cried, but I’m not sure if it was tears or sweat. I know it’s kind of a goofy thing to complain about — first world problems and all that — but the woman who finally checked us into our room said the previous weekend was a breeze. Empty counters as far as the eye could see! Penny slots for the taking! Craps tables teeming with opportunities!

But nope. I was stuck in the seventh layer of Vegas hell between a bachelor party filled with men exclusively wearing backwards baseball caps. For what team? I don’t know. Probably Satan’s.

And then there are the forced activities of holiday-weekend weddings. I know people think it’s so awesome that you’re spending your holiday with them so they want to make sure it’s action-packed. That’s nice but I don’t want to spend three straight days with a bunch of people who are mostly strangers. Those packed itineraries make the long weekend akin to summer camp from hell. I once had to kayak down a murky river in the sweltering September heat with a groomsman I didn’t know — for three godforsaken hours. Do you understand how terrifying kayaks are and how much I hate them? I fell into the water twice and as soon as we got back, I had to head straight to a necklace-making tent for the next fucking activity. I left that wedding with about 50 mosquito bites and a bunch of ruined swamp clothes.

I don’t want to spend three straight days with a bunch of people who are mostly strangers. Those packed itineraries make the long weekend akin to summer camp from hell.

My long weekend could’ve been spent staycationing in my apartment with my beloved dog and my even more beloved air conditioning, which brings me to my next point: One of the best ways to spend a holiday weekend is slipping into your pajamas Friday night and not peeling them off until Tuesday morning. Add in a steady diet of Netflix and candy, and it’s the perfect way to bliss out for an uninterrupted stretch of “you” time. You know how normal weekends never feel like they contain enough downtime? That’s what three-day weekends are for.

On the flip side, lots of us have long-standing holiday weekend obligations that are nearly impossible to get out of. Memorial Day with mom in Maine and Labor Day at the lake are familial traditions that are generally considered too taboo to break. I might really want to come to your wedding but it might also fall during a completely untenable time.

And that old chestnut of “The people who really love you will show up no matter what!” is totally unfair. I might really love a person and want to see them get hitched but I often have preexisting holiday-weekend plans with other people whom I also love. That puts me in a tough position. You still need to do what’s right for you but don’t discount my love just because I have a non-refundable Airbnb booked in Hawaii for that weekend. (This is a true story, BTW. I chose Hawaii and wish I could say I was 100 percent great with my decision, but I was also a little sad because I missed the wedding of a great friend from high school. Luckily, another buddy was able to Skype me in for the ceremony so I still got to cry when I saw her walk down the aisle.)

All this is to say, again, I love you very much — but I don’t want to go to your holiday-weekend wedding. I’m pretty sure many other people don’t either, so do us all a favor and plan it for one of the many weekends that isn’t a government holiday. Or don’t! Whatever! It’s your life, and my opinion doesn’t really matter, and you are obviously totally fine with people talking shit behind your back about how inconsiderate you are. JK, JK, JK.

But really. Please stop.

I Refused to Invite My Sister to My Wedding

Growing up, I didn’t have any sisters. I was born smack dab in the middle of two brothers, and while I loved hanging around with the guys, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally yearn for another girl in the family. Someone who could dance around the room with me, burrow through my mom’s makeup stash with me and, yes, gossip about boys with me.

So when my mom introduced my brothers and my 12-year-old self to the man she was dating — who happened to have two daughters who were 5 and 9 years old — I was stoked. I had hit the jackpot. I wasn’t getting just one girl to hang out with, but two. I even remember meeting them for the first time. We went to see Monsters, Inc. in theaters, and as we walked across the street to McDonald’s for vanilla ice cream afterward, we all linked arms and told each other, “I wish you were my sister.”

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Less than a year later, that wish came true. My mom married my now step-dad, and all of us kids bonded as well as any combined family could. We went on family vacations together, played sports together, and held concerts in our bedrooms — makeshift microphones (hairbrushes) and strobe lights (flashlights) included.

I wish I could say that family dynamic lasted. As we got older, we started to drift apart. Not in a serious way at first, just in a “we’re all in different life stages” kind of way. But then hostility started to creep in — my youngest step-sister began saying negative things about my mom, her three kids (myself included), and my step-dad. Her mother fueled the fire, telling lies about their divorce and manipulating stories so they would play out in her favor. But the lies were so absurdly off-base that it was difficult to believe anyone — especially her own daughter — would believe them. It constantly felt like his ex-wife was trying to “win the divorce,” regardless of how it affected his future relationship with his daughters.

As the years passed, I hoped things would settle down and the situation would resolve itself. I told myself it was just her teenage angst — a phase she had to go through, but would eventually get over. After all, my other step-sister had gone through something similar — less extreme, but similar — and she grew up, learned how to tell the difference between fact and her mother’s fiction, and reconciled her relationship with her dad. But my youngest sister just developed more anger toward our family. And when hard drugs and alcohol entered the picture, things got even worse.

When it came time to plan my wedding, I knew she wouldn’t be on the guest list.

By the time Father’s Day 2012 rolled around, the final line was crossed. She called my step-dad up right after he finished walking for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society in their annual Relay for Life. I remember seeing him, the mix of exhaustion and joy coursing through him, as he picked up the phone — and the immediate look of pain that crossed his face as he listened to the teenager on the other end. She didn’t call to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, or even to see how his fundraiser went. She called, instead, to tell him that he was a terrible father and was never there for her, despite his constant child support payments, attendance at soccer games, and phone calls to try and bridge the gap between them. I didn’t learn of what had been said until later that day, but I’ll never forget the crestfallen look on his face as she spoke to this good, kind, respectable man. It was the physical manifestation of a man’s — no, a father’s — heart breaking into a million pieces. And it was then that I knew I wouldn’t be giving my step-sister any more chances.

That was five years ago, and I haven’t spoken with her since. So when it came time to plan my wedding to a man who hadn’t even met this sister, I knew she wouldn’t be on the guest list. All of my other siblings were included, of course, and my other step-sister, an artist, even partnered with my step-dad, a woodworker, to create beautiful signage and various pieces of artwork to be on display throughout my ceremony and reception.

But as I got ready for a private, first-look moment with my step-dad, a small twinge of sadness hit me when I spotted my other step-sister walking across the grass to her seat. It was very brief, but for a moment I wondered what things could have been like if any one of the scenarios of our past had played out differently. Would both of my sisters be there? Would they be my bridesmaids? Would we dance the night away, sneaking outside to talk about how we couldn’t believe this day was actually here?

As idealistic as that sounds, I realized a long time ago that you can’t press pause on your life in the hopes that someone will change. That’s why I gave myself permission to let go of that hostile relationship without regret. It may sound harsh, given that she is my step-sister, but I’m OK with choosing sides. I’m OK with standing up for my step-dad, letting him know that he didn’t deserve to be the target of such hate. And during various moments of my wedding — during that first look, as he helped give me away, and while we waltzed to “A Song for My Daughter” — I simply wanted him to know how much love I have for him, and how wonderful of a father, man, and role model he truly is.

As for my step-sister, I’ve kept tabs on her life — my other step-sister gives me updates here and there — and it seems like, despite many more cycles of drugs, jail time, and rehab, she may finally be on the upswing toward turning her life around. I hope that she is. We may not ever be close, singing into hairbrushes or talking about boys again, but I would never wish her any ill will. And while I don’t regret refusing to invite her to my wedding, I’ll always hope for a healthier, more positive outcome for her future.

*Names have been changed for privacy.