Monday, August 6, 2012

with strings attached


[I just deleted this Dear ESB at the request of the writer-inner, but I like the photo too much to take the whole thing down.]

Photo by The Selby

36 comments:

  1. That is an amazing solution! Plays into the FMILs love of etiquette, since that's usually their domain anyway, and gives her free reign, while the bride has total control over the wedding, and one less thing to organize. Love ESB!

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  2. Yikes! Yes, great idea to give the rehearsal dinner to the FMIL. I always feel kind of bads for mothers-of-the-groom at weddings, they're definitely (in my experience) in a "lower ranking" position, as opposed to the mother-of-the-bride and other bride related people.

    Also, it should be your fiance's job to tell him mother the new situation. I generally subscribe to the idea that everyone has to be in charge of their respective parents, but I think in this situation it's especially important. Let your fiance break the news first and then you back him up at a later date.

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  3. I'm so sick of hearing about parents pretending to be all relaxed and donning the "whatever you want will make us happy!" attitude, only to completely manipulate their children later in the planning process. What the hell? Why is this so common? My parents AND my FH's parents gave us money for the wedding, but neither side has pressured us at all to go against our own ideas or manipulated us into inviting more than 40 people. I'm not saying this to brag, I just seriously don't understand the weird power trip that so many parents put on their ADULT CHILDREN (especially in their 30's, in this case!) when they get married.

    So, no, I don't think that just because they contribute funds to the wedding that they get to have the most input. ESPECIALLY if they said the opposite when the money was given. Argh.

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    1. Come on. This has happened enough times in the history of modern weddings that anyone taking money should be on notice that their parents/FILS MIGHT do this and proceed with caution. It really should NOT be a surprise to people any more.

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    2. Yup. This is exatly why we are NOT accepting money from the in-laws.

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    3. Right, so, obviously I understand that this happens (read my comment), but it's precisely the sentiment that "it should NOT be a surprise to people any more" that is irritating to me. So we should just accept and expect that our parents, who initially give money expressly "with no strings attached," might get two-faced and manipulative as the wedding gets closer? That just sucks, plain and simple. All I'm saying.

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    4. Yes.

      We should expect to be grown ups and pay for our own weddings or expect that whoever is bankrolling it might have an opinion on something. I don't see what's so crappy about getting money to do something with a few guidelines.

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  4. ugh.. I disagree with ESB. You can't give "no strings attached" money, and then suddenly start attaching all these strings. that's some bullshit, right there.

    That being said, sic her on the rehearsal is a brilliant idea. Tell your dude to grow a pair and talk to his mother too. Shit.

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  5. Disagree with ESB. The only things the bridegroom's family has input on is the rehearsal dinner. This is the bride's party, no matter who pays for it.

    Agree with KellyB. No strings attached and then they change the rules? No. That's beyond bullshit.

    The FMIL gets to be involved in her own daughter's wedding with all her input, not yours. I don't care how much she's given you.

    Yes, tell her you've got it all covered except for the rehearsal dinner, and let her have free rein. She just needs a project.

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    1. I think this is completely unfair -- if the groom's parents are helping to pay they definitely get a say in the wedding. Just because it's the son getting married, doesn't mean that they don't get any input. This is the 21st century, no? We have weddings with two grooms, two brides (yay!) and how are your silly gender stereotypes supposed to work then.

      Sorry, but this comment made me really mad. What if FMIL doesn't have a daughter? She never gets a role in the wedding planning?!? Please, wake up and move away from gender stereotypes.

      That said, in this particular case, you either have to deal with the drama or maybe put her on the rehearsal dinner. But it's because the person writing in wants FMIL off her back, not because she's the groom's mother.

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    2. "What if FMIL doesn't have a daughter? She never gets a role in the wedding planning?!?"

      Never a role in planning SOMEBODY ELSE'S WEDDING?!? Oh, the humanity!!

      Actually, I totally agree with you on the trad. gender-based parent roles, but the phrasing made me laugh.

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  6. The advice that you should shut up and take it in the @$$ just because your parents are helping pay for the wedding is lame. There may be plenty of couples out there who bankroll their own weddings, and good for them, but MANY couples cannot do that and their families would be downright offended to not be contributing.

    Traditionally- at least for Catholics- the groom's parents are responsible for planning, bankrolling and hosting the Rehearsal Dinner/party (also known as the Groom's Dinner). They get no input in the wedding day itself unless the bride and groom ask for their opinions or help. The bride's parents are expected to contribute both money and time to help plan the wedding day and are looked at as the "hosts" of the wedding.

    If your FMIL is unaware of this tradition, perhaps your future husband needs to have a polite but frank conversation with his dear mom explaining that she's stepping on some toes by inserting herself into the role that really the parents of the bride are supposed to fill. Tell her you guys really appreciate her willingness to help but that everything is under control and you would rest easier at night knowing she's putting all her energy into the Groom's Dinner- because no one else is heading that up so you NEED her for that.

    Basically, blame it on tradition so she doesn't take it personally. ;)

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    1. I agree that in this case you can blame it on tradition, just to get FMIL off your back.

      But please, we hate all these silly, senseless traditions, right? Am I the only one that wants to get away from the birthright having two X chromosomes or a Y chromosome gives? Please tell me feminism isn't dead (and I don't even like that term)!

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    2. If we're going to speak traditionally, then the grooms' parents shouldn't be contributing at all to the wedding, right?

      So traditions don't really help since it's already a non-traditional situation.

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    3. I agree, Sarah T. Traditions can be a drag/sexist. But sometimes they come in handy because they create structure/a blueprint to guide us through huge life events that are full of emotion, details and difficult decisions. Why re-invent the wheel when it already turns on its axle just fine.

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  7. I hope ESB's suggestion works, but my guess is that it won't. Money for weddings should ALWAYS be considered to have strings attached. While the FMIL might not be handling the situation well, if she gave money towards the event, she should have some say in it (even if it SUCKS that she said she didn't care).

    My advice: have the groom sit down with his mom and let her know that while her help is desired and appreciated, the way she is going about it is stressing BOTH him and his bride out. Lay the foundation for what she can help with, and how she can help. This is the time to set the boundaries for their entire marriage, so it's good practice.

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    1. Agree on all points.

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  8. This sounds *exactly* like my MIL before our wedding. My in-laws insisted on contributing financially (which we were grateful for), but then she wanted her say in every little thing..... We did just what ESB suggested: gave her free reign of the rehearsal dinner and I gave her a couple little DIY side-projects to keep her busy. She'd ask for my opinions about her little projects and I'd give her the thumbs up (because I honestly couldn't care less if the linens for the rehearsal dinner were white or cream or what flowers were on the tables). My husband was in charge of telling her all this so I could try to maintain a pleasant relationship with her, and as Amanda said above, it's exactly the time when boundaries are set for marriage.

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  9. Try the "go robot" approach. Pick a neutral statement like the one ESB suggested ("Thanks! We really appreciate your concern, but I've got this one handled") and then just politely, calmly, lovingly repeat it over and over to any request, side argument, or passive-aggro tactic she throws out. If you start arguing with her or justifying your decisions, you already lost that round. Just repeat your phrase like a polite robot until she relents.

    Also, I'm just going to say it because you wrote to ESB, so I think you can handle it. There's a lot of self-pity in that letter and a lot of whining and poorly-disguised digs at your fiance's family. You're setting patterns with these people right now, and you need to up your game to ninja-level if you don't want them meddling in everything else (like when they help you with the down payment, grandkids, etc). That means accepting that they are who they are and learning to handle them like the graceful mid-thirties creative adult lady you purport to be, not a sulky teenager.
    (My husband's family sucks so I feel for you. But you have to be a big girl and accept reality here.)

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    1. I think I knew you in a different internet place. (is that creepy to mention?) Your advice is as awesome here as it was there.

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    2. Haha totally! Nice to see you again!

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  10. Here's what we did, which might help in a kind of modified way: we took some parental money, and we asked the parents *at that time* if there were specific traditions or people they wanted to include. They said no. Of course, they later came up with people they wanted to invite (all my dad's cousins), things they wanted to do (toasts), and ideas of what's appropriate (which, considering my dad's planning to wear shorts, is a little ludicrous). But when those things came up, we could go back and tell them we'd planned based on their original requests, and adding 30 more people now just wouldn't work. We also left a little room in the budget so when someone decided that WE MUST HAVE WHATEVER we could accommodate them the first time.

    If for some reason ESB's advice doesn't work (like you're not having a rehearsal dinner) you could try getting your fiancé to have that kind of sit-down with her. Ask her what expectations she has for the wedding, make a list, ok the innocuous ones, and tell her you'll do your best with the other ones. If you or he *can* communicate directly with her about this, tell her you're dealing with a lot of different people's needs -- yours, your folks', your community's, theirs -- and you'd love to defer her involvement until you have a clearer plan and can ask her for more specific help.

    Finally, about the emotional fallout: once this is over, you never have to go in on a giant logistical production with your in-laws again. You'll be able to keep a little more distance from her control issues (which are almost certainly not personal) when this is over.

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  11. What about a compromise: put her in charge of one or two aspects of the wedding (ideally ones you don't care too much about) and keep her busy on those things, and out of your hair on the rest?

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  12. My partner and I are paying for the majority of our wedding, but his parents contributed some money because they wanted to, and so we accepted it. One of the first things I did was find out their expectations, especially with guests they expected to be there and others they would like if possible. We have tried to accommodate accordingly, but have been able to draw the line. It's important to clear these things up at the start to avoid surprises. Because my FMIL and I have a good relationship and she likes to be involved where possible I have given her a couple jobs which she can focus her energy on. It has worked out well. I think the best way to proceed, to save your sanity is to clear the air and determine what exactly they expect and then clearly state what you are willing to give in on, and what you aren't. And yes, get your fiance involved, he should be leading these conversations with his parents.

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  13. Here's what we've been doing that, depending on the parents involved, may or may not help.

    "I had planned on x, y, and z. If ABC is REALLY REALLY important to you, we can incorporate it. We didn't want to/had planned it a certain way because yadda yadda yadda. So, I wouldn't prefer it your way, but how important is it to you?"

    That might sounds confusing but for example, my dad really wants to invite his co-worker buddy. I told my dad that if he REALLY WANTS TO he can, but we hadn't yet because I'm not close to him, we're at our guest limit, and he didn't invite us to his (he got married last year). My dad decided after hearing those reasons to not invite him. He's also less butt hurt about it because he had a choice.

    I think all a lot of people want is consideration. Make your FMIL feel like you're really considering her feelings. Incorporate some, do others your way. I think it's only fair she gets SOME input about things that REALLY matter to her: certain family traditions or whatever.

    It doesn't mean she gets to dictate what you're doing or in any way affect Your Vision. It's your wedding and just because she gets a say doesn't mean it gets to be hers.

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  14. Also, if you need to put your foot down, your fiance should 1) be fully informed of the situation. 2) Fully understand what you're feelings. 3) sit down with mom and explain it to her.

    You aren't being overly demanding or unfair, SHE IS. And sometimes all it takes is someone telling you to back off.

    I give everyone the benefit of the doubt (and am naive) in that when people are misbehaving, maybe they don't realize it. We all make mistakes in the moment and don't always know how it's coming off. But a kind word to inform us of our bad behaviors is enough to fix it. SOMETIMES all you have to do is ask nicely to get what you want!

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  15. This is *exactly* how I solved my quite similar situation. Everytime she'd be bossy/annoying, I would just steer her back to the rehearsal dinner.

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  16. Half the time I think this isn't about money giving someone a *legitimate* claim to having things done their way (because, really, who is arbitrating in the real-world court of objective wedding planning arguments? (ESB totes has the online court locked down though)) - it's about navigating the feelings of those who you are going to be dealing with as family (or 'in-laws' whatever) going forward. And the #but I'm paying x amount# thing is just a peg to hang the feelings of left-outness and/or wanting control on.

    Apropos of nothing except that you'd likely need to deal with the same issues if they hadn't offered the supposedly string-free money (and if you would then have said "you didn't give us money; you don't get a say" then why not say "it's not your wedding; NO."? neither are politic or really kind).

    I'm not above the pragmatic use of tradition to say no to inlaw suggestions. I'm also quite a fan of taking the time for discussion and listening to unsolicited 'suggestions',nodding politely (albeit sometimes fuming inwardly) and then explaining why *we* (not just me) want to go a different way and then taking the initially planned route. (Or, heaven forfend, even taking a suggestion on board on occasion;) -- this might be a pragmatic approach for the letter writer?

    I think wedding planning might be designed to give us a trial run at working out how best to deal with each others families (and, of course, our own) as a team.

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  17. whats with people in mid 30s getting married without having money to do so? will you buy a house if you can't afford it? Then why have a big ass wedding if that's not in YOUR OWN budget. It seems like that the bride couldn't even manage to have a small simple without the help of the parents. and how is it ok to take money for wedding and use it for down payment?

    So you are ok with the whole thing as long as someone else pays and you can have a party of your choice & be selfish?

    FMIL is also in the wrong here but the problem is your own creation. My own MIL is enough bossy & controlling for me to completely understand but lady nothing in life comes for free!!

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    1. Having a wedding you cannot afford is not the same thing as buying a house, because a house is private property and when you get married a lot of people tend to take a stake in it. I was in my late 20's when my partner and I got married, but our parents contributed some funding so we could invite our extended relatives (aunts and uncles). If we had paid for it alone, we would have had a small, private wedding -- and personally, we would have preferred that small, low-key wedding. But our family really wanted to be there -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

      You can't assume someone is being selfish just because they don't have the money to cover a big wedding and yet they want input on the details of the wedding. Details are a matter of taste.

      Also, when people offer money for big events, it seems rude to turn it down. Th

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    2. Ditto to anon 9:31.

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    3. aah well.. i do get your point..and to some extent i agree with the fact that there is nothing wrong with parents helping out kids.
      But if people have a life long dream of some kind of wedding then there is that entire life to save up for it as well. and the parents attitude is usually not a surprise. Usually you know what your parent's level of involvement/ interference in your life is, which must be considered before accepting the gift. If its rude to turn down money offer from people then I think that refusing it now would be downright insulting!
      No offence meant for Anon 9.31 or anyone else. Just stating my point of view.

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    4. this is exactly why my boyfriend and I started a joint savings account for our wedding thats probably 3-5 years away. if i've learned nothing else from this blog it's too elope or pay for it myself.

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  18. Ugh - you are in your 30s - pay for your wedding yourself.

    You take money - you accept strings. You are just lucky that your parents haven't requested them too.

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  19. Just remember that this is the first time you and your fh are communicating as a unit to your new in-laws. What precedents are you setting in the way you're handling this?

    Just something to think about. Also do whatever will leave you with the least regrets.

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  20. I've seen this happen so many times to my friends. They start planning the wedding they want but the paying parents' warp it into their vision and preferences. For some reason because its their kids, because its a wedding, the money thing becomes "well I'm paying for it so if I want Uncle ___ to come it's at no expense to you" and then that sentiment spirals into the other details of the wedding. It's understandable because it's a lot of money, and as a parent they feel like the wedding of their children is partly an expression of themselves. Your wedding reflects on them (so they feel) and they also are probably coping with the emotions of 'officially' letting you go. This is probably the last time they will 'take care of you' financially, or present you to the world, so to speak. Further, sometimes if you refuse money on grounds of maintaining creative control of the wedding, parents get extremely hurt (especially if a parents way of saying 'I love you' is through gift-giving).

    I don't really have any advice. In some cases I think the hurt in unavoidable and you have to decide whether to fulfill her wishes to keep the peace in your relationship or whether to stick to your guns and stand up for what you want at the possible expense of tension in your relationship. Neither is the wrong choice, it's just about what you want.

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