Monday, May 16, 2011

My little sister is trying to upstage me

Dear ESB,

I've already tweeted at you about this, but I decided it was time for some straight up no-nonsense ESB advice.

So, my younger sister and I do not have the greatest relationship in the whole world, but we are ok most of the time. I didn't ask her to be my bridesmaid because that's not really her cup of tea and also it just didn't really occur to me. But I thought it would be nice to have her involved in the wedding so I asked her to be my witness to our marriage. It was important to me pick someone close to be my witness and I hoped she would honoured. She told me she was.

I have subsequently discovered that my sister is planning to wear a full-length, very pale grey evening gown to our daytime wedding. I am rather upset about this. I think that, at my wedding, I should be the only one wearing a full-length, pale-coloured dress. Moreover, it is a daytime wedding, and everyone else will be wearing smart daytime outfits. She will stand out, which I presume is her intention.

If I hadn't asked my sister to be my witness, I would be pissed off yes, but ultimately would decide that if she wants to make a fool of herself in front of all of our friends and family, by attempting to upstage the bride, then that's her problem. But I did ask her to be my witness, and I feel her decision to wear a pseudo-wedding dress to my wedding, shows that she is unsupportive of me and my marriage, not to mention self-absorbed and self-aggrandising, and if that is what she is going to do, I don't want her to be my witness.

I am not sure what to do. I have written to my sister, explaining that, for various reasons I feel her choice of outfit is unsuitable (I was I hope, tactful and diplomatic) but have had no response. Should I tell her that unless she wears something else I will have to ask someone else to be my witness? Should I just let it go for the sake of family unity and to reduce drama? I feel this is my usual tactic with my sister - just let it go, but this time...I dunno.

Thanks, as ever ESB, I know you will cut to the chase.


I was just about to tell you to suck it up when I remembered I always get the sister ones wrong.

So I emailed my lady Celia (the big sister of all big sisters) to ask if she would offer her two cents. She sent back A WHOLE DOLLAR'S WORTH:

Hey there, Older Sister!

Me thinks the best way to approach this is to give you some no-bull shit, sisterly advice. So, let's pretend for a minute that I am also your sister; your older, wiser sister who's already married and been through all the drama of planning a wedding and dealing with her own sister brouhaha. Here's what I'd say to you...

1. You asked your sister to be your witness, in other words, NOT IN YOUR WEDDING PARTY. Totally fine. Being your sister doesn't mean that she automatically gets to be a bridesmaid, or even win the coveted MOH role. That being the case, just like you can't control all your other guests' attire, you most certainly can't tell your sister what she can or cannot wear. You do have every right to voice your opinion and suggest that she wear something else, but ultimately, it's her decision. You may think that "everyone else will be wearing smart daytime outfits," but unless your wedding will be a spread in some J. Crew catalogue, there's always going to be one jerkface who shows up in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt. That's the guy that should be embarrassed.

2. I'm assuming your sister hasn't responded to your email because she thinks you're overreacting a bit, and you kind of are. BUT, in your defense, you're planning YOUR WEDDING, and what's wedding planning without a little insanity mixed in? Everyone gets wrapped up in the madness of creating the "perfect" day, and it's hard to not let something like your sister's outfit make you go batshit crazy. She also might not be responding because she's wondering why the f*ck you EMAILED her regarding this matter. She's your SISTER. If you can't grow a pair and CALL her to give her a piece of your mind, then who can you do that with? That's exactly what sisters are for. They're the only people we can unleash the fury on and know that all will be forgiven in the end. You should be taking advantage of this. Please note: voicemails and text messages also don't count.

3. I know a lot of brides are scared of someone stealing their thunder at their own wedding, but unless she shows up in your exact gown, wearing a veil with her hair all did, holding a bouquet, and walking around with that natural bridal glow, there's no way she'll upstage you. Your guests are there to see YOU, and everyone else will just fade into the background. You think this girl* stole the show? Nope, she most certainly did not.

4. I keep going back to the part where you say that your sister's decision to wear a "pseudo wedding gown" means she's "unsupportive of [you] and [your] marriage". That's kind of a weird thing to say. Umm, call me inappropriate, but I'm getting a gut feeling that this whole situation has very little to do with a dress, and a whole lot to do with some other underlying issue. Maybe *that's* what you should be talking to little sis about. But, revoking her role as your witness is childish and way uncool. It's not like she's some girl you went to junior high with who's all of a sudden gotten on your last nerve. Friends come and go, but little sisters are forever.

All the psychoanalysis aside, here's my REAL advice to you: If come wedding day, you're still so preoccupied with this pale grey dress, then you're missing the WHOLE point of your wedding and what it truly means. You're committing yourself to the person you love in front of all the other people you love most. Not to get all hokey pokey on you, but it will be the most amazing, mind-blowing experience of your life. Believe it or not, all the pinwheels, fabric photo booths, or even inappropriate formal gowns worn by clueless sisters in the world can't even come close to touching that shit.

xo- Celia

Hello Coachella Photo: Daniel Kincaid, Styling: Alexandra Sherman, Model: Chelsea (Photogenics), Makeup & Hair: Sunnie Brook Jones for fashion lane via PAPERFASHION via Jodie Askyou via because im addicted

*I have a feeling that linking to the royal wedding is making ESB cringe, but I love her like a sister, and pushing buttons is what sisters do best. ;)


  1. Celia, can you be my big sister?

  2. RIGHT ON! celia and esb you guys are a tag-team from heaven. there is just nothing else to add to that perfect advice.

  3. Get over it. It's not a big deal and you wont be out-staged.

  4. yea-yah! tag team from heaven. this one was good.

  5. I heart you both, Celia and ESB.

  6. letter writer here.

    you guys are right.

    I think wedding planning has made me lose my mind a little bit.

    I don't really think that my sister *will* upstage me. I know that she can't. But I think she'll *look* like she is trying to and therefore look a bit daft. I don't really want her to look stupid. She knows perfectly well not to wear an evening dress to a wedding, we were brought up by the same mother after all.

    My sister don't really have a great relationship - historically we can drive each other nuts. But I wanted to make a gesture towards sisterly unity by asking her to be my witness and I suppose I hoped she would take the gesture in the spirit in which it was intended. When I found out my sister was wearing this wildly inappropriate dress, which I know she knows is unsuitable, it did feel a little bit like a slap in the face.

    But you all are right. I should just suck it up, move on and forget about her dress and just chalk the whole thing up to... I dunno, wedding stress.

    Anyone else finding wedding planning not so much the joy filled meadow of rainbows and butterflies you had hoped, and more of pain filled pit of despair?

    5 weeks to go and this stress headache isn't going anywhere...

  7. ok pain filled pit of despair is exaggerating. A bit.

  8. Families can totally suck during wedding planning. My older sister decided to move to a new apartment and also scheduled a trip abroad for the two weeks before my wedding, and I'm completely convinced it was because she wanted to avoid having to face helping me with anything and wanted to have something to brag about at my wedding because she was feeling jealous of me and feeling self conscious about being single and feeling like my wedding highlighted what she had yet to do. And we have a good relationship.

    But she has a pattern of pulling that crap at my big moments. So it can suck, because even though I'm compassionate towards her, I also felt kinda disrespected and abandoned by her at the time. But I don't think raising a stink or pulling my old passive aggressive stuff would have helped. I'd still be annoyed that she was wanting to pull the same crap and she'd still be dealing with the anxiety/self-esteem issues that make her pull that crap in the first place. So accept that she's going to be who she is at your wedding and everywhere else. And you will always love her and hate her for it.

    But also, other people's weddings are a great excuse to wear fancy clothes you can't wear all the time. I mean, I like to use them as an excuse to wear something I can't just wear to work, so if she's dying for an excuse to wear a long fancy dress, give her a break. People expect that wedding parties and immediate family will be extra dressed up for these things. I mean if she wants to wear a veil and walk down the aisle after you then complain, but otherwise, take a zen approach.

    And pit of despair is a normal part of wedding planning for many of us. Take a deep breath. Accept it isn't all in your control. It'll be wonderful. And at the end of the day you won't fucking remember what your sister was wearing nor will anybody else.

  9. hey, anon 7:23, it's her pit. i assume she knows what it looks like in there.

    sis, you've done your due diligence. since you've explicitly told her you think the dress is inappropriate, everyone's as close to being on the same page as they're going to get here; if she decides to go forth and wear the wackadoo dress, she'll deserve every "oh, how sad for that girl who had the poor taste to be all bride-adjacent at her sister's wedding" look she gets. not your problem; float it down the river of zen.

    on pits of despair, i spent the last few days leading up to my wedding vomiting in fear every six hours or so. i then went on to have a wonderful time, in spite of and because of my crazy family. you will too. hopefully without the booting.

  10. letter writer again
    hey thanks lauren and anon 7.46 you are both right. and it is really good to read your and Celia's words of wisdom. It really helps.

    anon 7.23am was me as well actually, reminding myself not to get too over the top with the whole pit of despair thing. I mean, this has all been far more stressful than I anticipated, but still, at the end of it I get to marry the person i love most and I have to remember that. Especially while driving myself crazy about what my sister wears, which is just self-created drama and stress.

  11. To LW: Maybe your mom (or aunt or grandmother) could talk to your sister? I bet your sister would reconsider if your mom said, "You're wearing what?! But that will look so silly at a daytime wedding!" You might say the same thing to her but because you're the bride, she'll automatically think you're being a bridezilla.

    In any case, Celia's right. There's no way she'll outshine you.

  12. I love Celia.

    And I totally get letter-writer's issue. When we were wedding planning, my husband's sisters decided his mom should wear a white dress and I had to bite my tongue HARD. It all works out. It's pretty obvious who the bride is :)

  13. I totally get why the bride is annoyed by this - this kind of behavior is annoying.
    But you've done the only thing you can do - tell her you think its inappropriate. Now you just have to let it go and realize she'll do what she wants to do.
    That doesn't mean you can't bitch about her being inappropriate. You totally can. You just can't do anything else about it.

    Don't let her ruin anything for you. Shes the one thats going to look like an idiot. Not you. And if someone asks about her dress at the wedding, you can just smile and say its what she wanted to wear.

  14. I think the fear of being upstaged, while not necessarily rational, is pretty darn normal. Especially with so much emphasis out there on how perfect the bride needs to look.

    At some point during wedding planning, I was fussing about something my little sister was planning to wear (of course I can't even remember what, now) and she basically said "chill out, I'm not going to look better than you."

    Then I realized, why do I not want her to look her best when I would in any other situation? And, who cares who literally looks better, I'll like the way I look and ultimately that's all peripheral. As Celia said, getting married really is an amazing and mind-blowing experience.

    I don't know, wedding planning, and all the attendant business about appearance, family, expectations, etc. is pretty intense, even if you try to be calm about it.

    Best wishes to you!

  15. hey- i DO think that poppit or whatever her name is upstaged her sis, BIG TIME at the royal wedding. just sayin! she looked BOMBASS

  16. This might be one of my favourite ESB posts ever!

  17. "Anyone else finding wedding planning not so much the joy filled meadow of rainbows and butterflies you had hoped, and more of pain filled pit of despair?"

    The planning, not exactly. The family? YES.

    Hugs to you. If your sister wants to make an idiot of herself, let her.

  18. I have to say I've never been one for tradition where these things are concerned. Yellow dress for city hall and emerald gown for the reception. So I guess I fail to see how wearing a similar color gown will really upstage the bride. Brides didn't even start wearing white until the 1800's when Queen Victoria did. White was actually unfavorable before royalty started wearing it.
    And not to sound repetitive but it's true all eyes will be on you my dear not to worry.

  19. Letter writer,
    I consider myself to be a very calm, intelligent woman. I'm getting a doctorate in philosophy. I'm supposed to be reasonable in some sense of the word. Planning a wedding has turned me into a crazy person. I can't talk to my mom without screaming at her because all she wants to talk about is the wedding and make suggestions for how I should do things differently. My patience is non-existent right now. If I have to discuss table linens one more time, someone is going to die. Luckily at this point, my excitement for marrying my FH outweighs the pressure of wedding planning. But I seriously don't know why anyone thinks wedding planning is fun or would want to do it for a living.

  20. Bravo, Celia. I agree completely. Wedding planning was not without drama for me. Mostly family-related.

    But, letter writer, don't let this dress situation drag you down. You will look AMAZING, and sister will look like sister-of-the-AMAZING-bride. Good luck. And congrats!

    p.s. If you're still irked, maybe YOU should wear a royal blue or emerald green gown, and say F*CK THE PALE DRESS TREND a la this bride: xo.

  21. here's the thing people don't realize when thinking about other people wearing white or pale colors or super fancy gowns or whatever: the guests will know what's going on and they will whisper behind the offender's back. You cannot be upstaged at your wedding. Unless Angelina Jolie shows up at your wedding in something with a plunging neckline...then, maybe. But your sister will just end up looking like an you really shouldn't put any energy towards stressing about it. Voice your opinion then move on.

  22. my sister- who was my MOH- wanted to wear a white feather bridal head thing down the aisle at my wedding. As in IT WAS A BRIDAL HEADPIECE.

    I told her no and she got offended saying that she couldn't "upstage me" that "I was the one in white so everyone would know I was the one getting married" etc. and that she should be able to wear it.

    I told her it wasn't about people mistaking who the bride was (I mean, seriously? I could be in green and people would still know I was the bride) it was about her looking like she went all crazy pants and stole my headpiece.

    It's been years and it's still a touchy subject.

    (For the record, no, she didn't wear it. She did do a dress change at the reception though because she said she didn't feel sexy enough. People who don't even know her still talk about how crazy that was.)

    So point being, say your piece, and either she'll listen or she won't (I was terrified my sis would throw that feather thing on the moment she went down the aisle) but luckily it is a gray dress not a white veil. Or a white gown (one of my friends MIL wore a white bridal gown to her wedding.) She'll be the one looking like a crazy lady, while you look beautiful.

  23. I get the whole sister thing.
    Celia is right on the money. You just have to let things fall as they may and she is the one who will look like an idiot, not you.
    Sisters are very touchy. My sister is my bridesmaid but not my maid of honour because she said no, that would be fake! So now I don't have a maid of honour. In my head she is!

  24. I guess I am on a lone island here. It's my firm belief that weddings are not the time to break or mend bridges - you didn't have a good relationship with her before, offering the olive branch for her to be a witness was nice but isn't going to change your dynamic.

    And I have yet to be to a wedding where the bride was EVER upstaged... Pale Grey seems subtle, would you have preferred something ridiculously bright that would draw attention to her? Perhaps you misinterpreted her intentions... sending an email without talking to her seems immature to me.

    And besides I think the whole "the bride is the only one who wears white" is a bit antiquated considering the symbolism is represents is a bit archaic....

  25. this is good advice ...on the other hand, she WILL look like a fool to everyone else so you really don't even need to call her out on it because everyone else will . . .however, people will be talking about her {albeit negatively} and not you, the bride, positively.

    ...and sorry, not YOU, but whomever wrote in, obvs :)

  26. These sister-drama dear ESBs always make me feel so lucky to have BROTHERS. Then again, I remember my husband worrying that my brother's suit was hipper than his. So.

  27. Erika ... ditto. But I'm an only child. So double ditto. It's kind of nice not to have the competition. The Aussie is also an only child.

  28. wedding planning is horrible because it makes the bride look bat-poo crazy. i have to admit, this seems totally insane for you to get upset about. however, i planned a wedding, and i understand how angry, childish, frustrated, depressed and irrational this all can make you.

    so yes, take the advice to just suck it up, but find some understanding friends to vent to about this. even the temporarily insane need to blow off steam, right?

  29. I'm still stuck on this "full length formal gown OMG!!!" thing.... unless you are getting married in city hall or in your back yard, what is the big fucking deal? I WISH everyone would wear full length formal gowns to my wedding. My philosophy is that it's always better to be overdressed than under dressed, ESPECIALLY at a wedding. Wouldn't it be worse if she showed up in some hawaiian print jersey sun dress from old navy? That would be a slap in the face. And grey... PUH-leaze. She is not wearing white, or cream, or even champagne. I agree with Elle- a bright color would have been a lot worse.

  30. letter writer,

    unless you are a total freak of nature, there is little to no joy in wedding planning. you're not alone, so hang in there. and just think, marriage is SO EASY compared to turning into crazy town over your wedding. if you and your fiance can get through this, you're golden. ;)


  31. If you're the one in white (or ivory, or whatever) it will be obvious who the bride is. Grey is a cool alternative bridal color option but not an obvious one. No one watching the royal wedding was confused about who was the bride and who was the sister -even though they were both wearing white.

    I think there's other stuff your sister has done that is being brought up by the stress of the situation. The wedding is probably not the best place to talk about it but you might consider working some of that stuff out with her or a therapist or both after the event.

  32. Loved Celia's post and got a laugh out of BL's comment! I, who am a normally a very laid-back person, had a screaming match with my mom over cupcakes (which I wanted) and cake (after my mom said, "what will people think if we don't have cake?" as if the world was about to end). Wedding planning is crazy-making business. Things that don't matter very much are exaggerated to a level of importance that doesn't make sense. Trust me, you won't be upstaged. I went to a wedding where a friend of the bride wore a white gown and people just gossiped/laughed at her. And it's likely that on the actual wedding day, you won't even care anymore. I realized half of the stuff that I had obsessed over I completely forgot about during my wedding because I was too busy celebrating, dancing and having fun!

  33. I dunno, I totally feel for letter writer. I did not ask my sister to be my maid-of-honor, as we've had a very fragile/weird/touchy relationship. I was initially pissed when my sister showed up to my wedding in a dress so short it almost exposed her crotch. I was even more annoyed when she inexplicably changed into an outfit similar to the photograph above (white short shorts? Why?!?) and started busting moves on the dance floor during my reception. I relate to letter writer because even though I know you can't possibly upstage the bride, I knew it was my sister's attempt to do so. Luckily, I didn't let it bother me, there were to many friends and family around to have a great time with. Try not to let it bother you either ;)

  34. @anon 3:13 ok, that's quite a bit different than a sister who is planning on wearing a grey floor length gown. had YOU written in, i would have told you that it would be perfectly acceptable to beat the shit out of your sister and charge admission for the show. i'd totally pay to watch your sister get her ass handed to her.

  35. Side note: you can't have a family member as a witness on the legal documents. Just FYI.

  36. (as celia mentioned) kate middleton's sister wore a floor length WHITE dress to her sister's wedding and she sure as hell didn't upstage the bride! don't worry about it, girl.