First, I find your blog hilarious. I love reading it (and not simply because it means I don't have to work during those 10 - 15 minutes). Second, I wish I didn't have to write you. But, I feel I've really tried to resolve a few issues that have arisen with my family following my engagement in an emotionally intelligent manner, but it's not worked and I'd appreciate your perspective and advice. Here's the skinny...
My parents have been divorced for 20+ years and my dad is missing in action. My mom is SUPER emotional and where I see everything in black and white, she sees shades of gray. My step-dad is relatively new to the scene, but I've never lived with him in the family house and I only see him 1 - 2x/year. He has repeatedly said he hates weddings and has criticized every family wedding we've been to. My fiance and I live abroad and I have not lived in or near my home town in the northwest for 12 years. He's from the south. We decided to consider venues in our current home abroad, the southeast, and the northwest. However, after looking at venues, we decided we were set on the south. We do not want a big event and I'm not a girl who ever thought about a wedding until I had a ring on my finger. In fact, I think the whole industry is a bit nuts (apologies). [Editor's Note: Why would you apologize to ME?!] We just want to celebrate into the wee hours with friends and family we never get to see and I wouldn't mind doing so in a fab frock. My argument with my family has been going on for 7+ weeks.
After suggesting that we were going to get married in the south, my relationship with my mother really started to break down. She has repeatedly said that she doesn't care were we get married, but while we were trying to book a date, she kept changing her black-out dates. And, every time I'd suggest a potential time of year, she or my step-dad would book a vacation for that month. She's also criticized my ring saying it needs more bling. I was so frustrated with the process (as were my vendors, no doubt) that I finally just booked a date without consulting my mom or her husband and just hoped they could come.
Before I booked the venue, however, she and I had the dreaded budget conversation. She wasn't prepared for the cost of a wedding and said she would reconsider her contribution, agreeing it was too small. When she responded, she said that she didn't think she should contribute more to my wedding than my step-dad contributed towards his daughter. I was a little frustrated with this response not only because my mother and step-dad keep separate accounts (she still works and he is retired), but also because my step sister had 50 people at her wedding, no alcohol, no band, no flowers, no nothing. My mother's family alone is roughly 50 people so I didn't think we were really comparing apples to apples. I suggested as much to my mom by email (outlining our budget) and also raised my frustrations with the never ending vacation schedule.
My step-dad then responded to my email to my mother with an antagonistic email suggesting I was rude, selfish, and vitriolic and that my petty complaints needed to stop (something he wished he'd suggested ages ago). He also referenced his daughter's wedding several times and said that I could essentially copy hers and cut my budget by 50%. I think he is particularly protective of her as she suffers from learning disabilities, is extremely overweight, and has never really excelled socially. He closed by saying that he would delete any response from me. The email left me absolutely gutted. When my parents first got divorced, I paid the house bill with the earnings from my high school job and I've always tried to do nice things for my family. I volunteer regularly and worked with an inner city kid get into private school and eventually college. I like to think I'm kind and have a social conscience and if I don't, someone should have told me a long time ago (and not by email).
I tried to phone both he and my mom and they both ignored me for a week+. When I finally got a hold of my step-dad, he indicated that he could have used softer language but meant what he wrote. My mom does not think there was anything wrong or inappropriate in his message and just keeps telling me to move on. She's said that if I can't move on and improve my behavior, I'm not welcome to come home--my step-dad recently banned my brother from spending the night at their house.
A family member passed away yesterday and my mom yelled at me when she broke the news and then hung up on me.
My fiance has been very supportive. He's not said anything ill about either my mom or step-dad, but offered suggestions for resolving my problem. He's also been super involved in the planning even going so far as to rally casual friends to help me pick a dress. I still don't know what to do. I don't think I want my mom's contribution under these circumstances and though I think my step-dad is a major source of the problem, I don't think I could ever say this. I'm a realist and don't think marriage is a walk in the park. I think we'll have our ups and downs and will need support and kindness from people we can count on to get through the difficult patches. I think my mom and step-dad's negative energy is counter productive to all that.
I'm also sad because as we're moving forward with the planning, I think my mom is really missing out. She's not been involved in any of the decisions so far and I would have liked to have shared this with her. I'm just feeling a little alone in all this. How do I resolve this without eroding the relationship with my only parent? And how do I feel a little less alone?
I suspect there is tension around money with your mom and stepdad, especially if her cash is more free-flowing than his. Unconsciously, your stepdad may be thinking it'll make him look bad if your wedding is more elaborate than his daughter's was.
And they may have other shit going on financially. (The yelling at you over the phone and then hanging up on you? There's something your mom's not telling you.)
Your only recourse is to pay for your own wedding.
Once the pressure is off, you can tell your mom you'd still like her help with the planning. I bet (I hope!) she'll be happy to hear it.
Image: Dan Tague via Charles Hall via 01 Blog