It's a wedding, not a frat party (long)

My little sister, KHespos, is getting married next month. To date, I’ve pretty much avoided giving my opinion on various aspects of her wedding plans. I’m not a big “wedding person,” so I’ve pretty much given my sister advice ONLY when she’s directly asked for it.

Last night, I gave sis a call just to check up on her and see how she was doing. She quickly became semi-hysterical on the phone. A little background before I get into why…

My parents separated after 30 years of marriage and, this Friday, after a five-year legal battle, they’ll finally finish executing the terms of their legal agreement. This has been a tough several years for my family.

My parents are very close to friends they made back in college. When they were a couple, they would socialize all the time with other couples from their college years. However, over the past ten years, these couples have broken up. It’s the same story every time - The man asks for a divorce so he can move down to Florida and hang out with the other divorced men. The women are, of course, devastated. My parents were pretty much the last couple that this happened to, but my Dad apparently decided at one point that spending his winters in Florida enjoying his retirement was more important than his marriage.

Now back to my sister… She was torn in many different directions in putting together the guest list for her wedding. Only after my phone call to her last night do I realize the extent of the bullshit she had to go through with my parents. First of all, my father insisted that all his college friends be there. My sister doesn’t know these people well at all. In fact, she considers many of them to be total scumbags because they left their wives to go party it up down south.

My sister told me that she protested when my father insisted on inviting his friends. She doesn’t like many of them, but there are several that she DOESN’T EVEN KNOW. When I talked to her last night on the phone, she told me that she had to cut several of her own friends from the guest list, including several former roommates, to accommodate my father’s friends. She told me last night that she protested, saying she wanted to invite more people that were close to HER and HER HUSBAND. My Dad told her that he had every right to insist that his people be invited, because he is paying for the wedding.

Predictably, my mother insisted that HER friends attend as well. These friends are the ex-wives of the people my Dad is inviting. My sister is about as familiar with most of these people as she is with my Dad’s friends. She DOESN’T EVEN KNOW many of them. Several of them haven’t seen her since she was very young. But, according to my Mom, these people have a “right” to be invited to the wedding because their ex-husbands are going.

So my sister and her husband conceded. Invitations went out, but my sister insisted that divorced friends of my parents could NOT bring guests. This is very important to her, as the seating arrangements are difficult enough with all the ex-couples. She doesn’t want to even ENTERTAIN the possibility of a drunken conflict or the notion of someone making a scene at the reception, so she insisted on this one point.

Apparently, after the invitations went out, my Dad changed his mind about making this concession to my sister. One of his friends called him, demanding to know why he isn’t allowed to bring his girlfriend. My Dad told this friend it was okay for him to bring a date. My sister protested again and was once again reminded that my Dad is writing the checks.

My mother is deeply upset. She’s right to be upset. Now that the precedent has been set, it will only be a matter of days before my Dad caves in to his buddies and lets them bring their girlfriends. This will, of course, make everything extremely uncomfortable for my mom’s friends (their ex-wives) and will throw a giant monkey wrench into the works, a mere month before the wedding.

My sister is broken up about this. She is unbelievably worried that something will happen at the wedding and there will be an unpleasant situation. On top of all this, she is dealing with having to tell HER CLOSE FRIENDS why some of their other friends won’t be attending the wedding and why many of the people who WERE invited can’t bring dates. It’s all to make room for my parents’ college friends.

This extremely selfish tug-of-war between my parents is going to ruin my sister’s day. I just know it. Even if there isn’t a catastrophe, everyone is going to look back on this day and remember that it was a party for my parents and not an occasion for my sister. I can’t believe how selfish my parents are and how little they care about my sister’s happiness as compared to their own “competition” over who gets to have more friends present at the wedding. How fucking ridiculous…

Tell your sister to elope. This is absolutely ridiculous.

If I were your sister…

I’d cancel the whole thing. I’d then go find a place I could have my own bloody wedding & reception, something I could afford on my own. Even if I had to do it a a friggin’ PARK or somebody’s backyard, it’d be worth it.

I’d then call everyone who got an invite and either:

1 - tell them the wedding/reception had been changed to a very small affair due to “unforseen circumstances” and as such, please disregard their invitation. We’re very sorry, but blah bleah bleah…

2 - tell them the wedding/reception had been changed to a very small affair due to “unforseen circumstances” and as such, please join us at <place x> for the reception.

Then you call all the friends who were previously nixed from the list in order to make room for Dad’s Asshole Friend #7, and invite them.

Next, tell your parents that each were invited to the new location, but none of their fucking friends were welcome. Nobody your sister doesn’t know and want at her wedding is welcome. Sorry, Dad, that we screwed you out of your deposit money, but you were being an asshole.

Weddings are difficult. I put my foot down at my wedding, and told my parents that noway, nohow was I going to invite anyone who I didn’t know. This was MY day, not theirs. Luckily, my parents are sane, and even though they footed the bill they agreed that it was OK not to invite people I’d never heard of. I’m pretty sure that I pissed off some people & relatives, but there was no way I was going to play guest list calculus at my own wedding.

Wow that sucks, sorry to hear it.

Unfortunately your sis is sort of stuck. The crappy thing is that your dad has a point. Technically, he’s throwing the party, not your sister, so he can invite whomever he pleases.

Also, it is really crappy to invite an adult to a wedding without a guest, no matter who it is.

What I don’t get though, is why your sister has to not invite her friends. Rather than making a somewhat spiteful decision to not allow her parent’s friends to have guests, why didn’t she negotiate with your dad to have him spring the extra cash so that her friends could come too?

In the end, I sympathize. It is so sad to see parents use their children as pawns to play out pathetic sandbox power struggles.

I would suggest that sis go back to dad and tell him she’ll look the other way about him inviting dubious guests if he’ll pay for her friends to come too. That way she can have fun with her friends and ignore the petty fued going on in the corner.

I hope this all works out for you, my wife’s parents are divorced, but thankfully they were very grown up about our wedding.

Wow.And I thought I had wedding problems because my mother threw a fit when I told her CG and I were paying for everything ourselves in order to avoid the hickiest wedding of the century.:open_mouth:

Thespos,I would take Athena’s advice and tell your sister just what she said. Fuck your dad’s friends and their girlfriends and the ex-wives a nd the crappy seating arrangements and everything. A WEDDING is supposed to be about two people who are insanely in love and want to celebrate that insane crazy-ass love they have for each other by making a public commitment to each other. What your dad and mom are doing are really hurtful to your sister and I doubt that they realize how hurtful it is and how much they are affecting her state of mind right now.
Tell your sister I said to give your parents a huge FUCK YOU for me for being such extrodinary asshats.
I hope everything turns out…well…if not perfect, then less stressful than the situation you’re descriping in the OP.
Goddess bless.


Holy Shit! This just makes me all the more thankful for burundi and my sets of parents, who have basically told us, “Here’s some money; let us know if you need any help with planning the big day.”

Although we’ve both bitched about relatives trying to invite their own friends to the ceremony (we’re doing a relatively small wedding, not even inviting coworkers or anything, and our guest list is necessarily tight), this makes me realize just how good we’ve got it.


Man, no kidding, throw me in on Athena’s bandwagon as well. Having a fairytale wedding with everything just the way she always wanted it to LOOK is not anywhere near as important as allowing her to FEEL the way she wants to FEEL on that day.

Poor thing. Man. Your parents are being really jerky and I’m sorry. It would be so nice if she had the freedom to say, “If you’re footing the bill it’s because you OFFERED to, but it’s MY wedding and if BOTH of you don’t cease your BULLSHIT, neither of YOU will be invited any more EITHER.”

I kind of see where you’re coming from with this, racekarlbut I just wanted to add: paying for a wedding is no grounds for blackmail. It blows my mind that a father would do something like that to his daughter, regarding her wedding.

Wedding Day = “Bride’s Day”… not “Whoever is paying for this thing Day”

(note: I don’t think you are condoning the behavior or anything like that, racekarl, I just wanted to add my 2 cents on the subject)


I disagree with this - it’s one thing if the couple is married, but there’s no indication that any of these fellows are. It’s bad enough inviting people who have never met the bride, without adding people who don’t even have a history with the wedding’s host (i.e., her father). Weddings aren’t like proms - not every attendee needs a date.

As to the rest of it -

Practically, if THespos’s dad is paying for the wedding, then he gets a say in who gets invited. As a matter of common decency he should only invite people who will appreciate and contribute to the solemnity of the occasion. Obviously, he has done the exact opposite - inviting folks who don’t particularly care about the bride and who will likely cause chaos.

At this point (1 month prior), I’m guessing that there’s not a whole lot THespos’ sister can do about the reception being “hosted” by her father. My suggestion would be to go through the ceremony as normal, but to do everything she can to make her father’s reception short, and get away from there quickly. Then escape to a separate after-reception party, planned and hosted by the bride and groom or close friends thereof and to which all of their friends and none of their parents’ friends are invited.

Oh, he’s paying for the wedding so it’s all about him now? Nice. You and your friends should make a showing “Hi all!” then just leave for a nice big bar where you can party. Your dad and mom can both enjoy their little party with their little friends.

I find the whole big reception thing just a pile of nonsense anyway, it gains a life of its own, and becomes less and less about the bride and groom.

Technically, the wedding day is the couple’s day, but I’m sure LilShieste meant that. :wink:

Implore the bride to either elope (perhaps accepting a reception paid for by the parents/her dad later, to whom they can invite whoever), or refuse money from her parents and pay for her own scaled-down wedding herself. That way she has total control over the guest list. My husband and I had a lovely, scaled-down wedding, and we set out to pay for the whole thing. When his father-in-law would gripe about something, we would pull out the “who’s paying for it?” card if it came down to that. He eventually calmed down, and asked to pay for the cake and flowers, which he did (and even chose a wonderful cake).

According to etiquette, weddings aren’t “and guest” affairs. If the person being invited has a spouse, life partner, or a serious boyfriend/girlfriend, then that partner should be invited by name on the invitation.

Oh, and regardless of what happens, your sister should sit down and write letters of apology to her friends who were “snubbed”, or call them up and explain what hell she’s been put through. Friends will understand.

karl, there’s nothing spiteful or crappy about not allowing "and guest"s that you don’t know. If a couple lives together or is married or engaged, etiquette dictates inviting them both, but there’s no law or rule that says the flavor of the month should be invited.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that, as a man, you’ve never really been in the thick of planning a wedding. Your wife probably did most of the planning. This sort of problem, or a variant of it, is depressingly common. Go hang out on a wedding MB for a while; you’ll see.

What has probably happened is this: Dad announces he’s paying for everything, but he’s set the budget at X amount. He also demands full veto power over every single detail. Catering contracts get drawn up for Y number of people, which falls within the budget but doesn’t leave room for a lot of add-ons. Then it comes time to firm up the guest list, and Mom and Dad pull their little stunt.

There’s no room in the budget to add all these people, and Dad won’t give them any more money, so somebody else has to get cut off the list. Since Dad insists on inviting people the couple has never met or actively dislikes, they have to start cutting their own friends. The more strangers, asshats, and "and guest"s he adds, the more actual friends they have to cut.

It’s a shitty fucking situation, and there are rants about just this kind of bullshit damn near every day on I have to say, hanging out there helped me appreciate the relative simplicity of planning my own wedding.

I have to agree that sis should tell Dad to stuff it (she can add any specifics she pleases about where he stuffs it) and cancelling this whole police report in the making. You can have a beautiful, meaningful wedding on a shoestring budget. Ours came in at under $500 for the ceremony itself, and that’s counting the our clothes, rings, flowers, everything. If she wants any advice on how to stretch a wedding budget, the ladies here and at UW can help her on damn near anything she wants or needds.

Oops, in my quick skim of the post, I missed the one month deadline. At this point I’d say either elope, or go but ditch the reception ASAP, and bring your friends with to some restaurant or something. And apologize to any friends that got hurt in the process.

I feel for her.

We had a small wedding with no reception (just dinner in a nice restaurant) partly because I wanted to avoid this kind of thing. My parents don’t care about inviting people, but my inlaws are part of a group of friends who go to all their kids’ weddings and baby showers and stuff. So we allowed my in-laws to throw us an after-wedding party a few months later. They did the whole thing. It was THEIR friends, THEIR menu, THEIR choices for catering, etc. We just showed up and smiled. My inlaws got to entertain whom they wanted in the style they wanted.

Now, obviously a similar solution isn’t going to work for your sister. Could she do it the other way? That is, perhaps she and her husband could throw a big party later, something casual like a big BBQ, and invite just their friends, particularly the ones who got squeezed out of the original plans?

Big weddings sort of suck anyway, because even though couples go to all sorts of effort to invite special friends, some of whom travel a long ways to be there…inevitably so much time is taken up with photographs, special reception “traditions,” and trying to say hello to everyone that the couple gets very little quality time with the people who mean so much to them.

Ditching the reception sounds good – maybe putting in a quick appearance at the reception, and if anyone asks why they’re leaving, smile apologetically and say, “I had a lot of friends that I couldn’t afford to invite to the wedding, but I want to be able to share the day with them, so I’m going to go meet with them.” Smart folks will be able to put two and two together, figure out why exactly she’s not able to afford to invite them to the wedding.

And thanks, ferret herder for correcting that business about a wedding being “the bride’s day.” I figure grooms oughtta be involved in the process as well.


Just to clarify a few details…

It pretty much happened the way CrazyCatLady described it. The budget was a set amount, and the stunts started once it was time to firm up the guest list.

Incidentally, the advice I gave my sister last night in our phone conversation was similar to what Athena posted. I told her that if she’s uncomfortable moving forward with the way things are going, she can always cancel the big wedding and have a small wedding with her close relatives and close friends.

She told me she didn’t think that she could do that. Too much effort already invested and too much political fallout within the family to risk such a move.

I just feel really bad because I’m close with my sister and I hate to see her twisting in the wind like this. Thanks so much for your suggestions so far.

I wholeheartedly agree with Athena.

This is one of the those circumstances that just seems like a train wreck waiting to happen.

I definitely see part of the motivation of having it on her own being the "go jump in a lake my selfish parents, but the MAIN reason she should plan something on her own (with her own rules) is from everything you have said, I have no doubt that there will be some kind of drunken catastrophe.

Again, only going on what you said, it sounds as though you would be doing her a disservice to reassure her (“don’t worry, everything will work out fine”). I think your advice should be more along the lines of, “I know how much you wanted a big wedding but there is a 99% chance that your day is going to be ruined (because your sister has expressed concern and it seems like it would ruin her day for her) because it probably will turn into a disaster.”

Just my opinion.


There are people who get married to people they don’t want to marry because they feel like it’s too late because they’ve already sent the invitations and ordered the flowers and their parents would just be too devastated.

I know it’s not even in the same BALLPARK to merely change plans for the wedding, but…if she has a very small, self-paid shindig on the same day, her friends will already have scheduled it, and your mom and dad’s friends can just scratch it off of their calendars. There will be difficult family political fallout, but it seems to me that your parents initiated combat in THAT particular sortie when they started forcing your sister to cross her friends off of the list to make room for people she didn’t like and/or know.

It seems as though she feels like their happiness is more important than her happiness in this matter, and that’s simply and completely untrue.

Of course, all of this shit’s easy to say when it’s not MY wedding or MY family or MY sister. :smiley:

I’m not criticizing your sister, but I’m surprised that there wasn’t a way to lessen the expense of some of the wedding elements in order for her to afford to invite the people she loves. Cheaper food, less (or no) alcohol, fewer flowers… something. You’re going to remember who you celebrated a wedding with, not what you ate or what the place looked like (except in general terms). I take it they didn’t tackle the guest list until they’d locked in a caterer and location, etc? I feel for her.

I hope it is a joyful day for her, despite all this.

Well, if she’s not willing to cancel, is there any room in the ceremony site for her friends to come to that?

If your sister is also in the Northeast, I assume she’s probably having the big dinner-dance reception. If so, she could invite her friends to the ceremony and the dance, which isn’t ideal but is better than not getting to be with them at all because of your parents’ asshattery.

Alternatively (and this is the option I prefer), she could always drop in to the reception, eat her dinner, cut the cake, and then leave for a party that is actually about her and her new husband. She gets a nice dinner and the chance for a few photo ops she’ll probably want plus the chance to spend the evening with the people she wants to be with, her parents get to hang out with their whiny fucktard friends, and the people horning in where they aren’t wanted don’t get to hang out with the happy couple. Plus, Dad and his penis–er, checkbook, so sorry–waving still get to foot the whole bill. The newlyweds win all the way around.