June 8, 2007

Destination Wedding

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I happened upon this thread in some forum about “destination weddings” and had a few observations to make.

A destination wedding is when you plan your wedding far away from where you (or any of your guests) live.

In this specific case, the bride is upset because her future husband’s family is saying that if they can’t attend the wedding they’re not going to attend an informal (i.e. no dinner served) reception party that the newlyweds plan to have upon their return from the honeymoon.

In my opinion, the in-laws are being unnecessarily spiteful in refusing to attend the after-the-fact local reception. However, I think the bride is missing the some of the point — she’s snubbed the local families with her plans and ought to expect that they know what their decision means. I applaud her for wanting to have a party for them (albeit, a cheap one) when they return, but recognize that these sorts of decisions come with a price.

Brides and grooms: the wedding reception is not really for you. It’s for your guests to have a chance to celebrate your new union and share in the joy. The marriage is for you. The honeymoon is for you. And nobody says that you must have a wedding reception for your guests, but that’s what people expect. And when it doesn’t happen as they expect, they feel they’ve been snubbed, no matter what your motivation was. In fact, they have been snubbed.

One of the commenters in that thread said it well:

Since you and FH have made a decision that means their attendance is very difficult and comes at a high price, they are figuring it means they are not particularly important to the two of you, and that their attendance is not something you much care about.

While the in-laws are being spiteful, it seems to me that they at least have some cause to feel hurt. And, as it turns out, the groom admits that part of the reason he wants the wedding far away is that he didn’t want his family there. So these folks have correctly understood that they are being snubbed.

It cracks me up when, later in the thread, the bride says “I think so-and-so hit it on the head” (so-and-so was the one person who told her simply “stop feeling guilty.”)

If you want to go to Barbados to have your wedding, it’s your decision. But what you’re doing is basically asking people to come on your honeymoon with you. That’s not really fun for them. It’s not their honeymoon; it’s not their planned vacation. It might not be feasible or convenient for them. Expect people to tell you “Have a good time and we’ll see you when you come back.” Don’t try to guilt them into coming and don’t expect that the ones you didn’t want to attend in the first place won’t figure it out.

If there are people who you wanted to attend but they say they can’t, don’t be surprised. You can’t just tell people to fly off to Barbados and put their life on hold, no matter how happy they are for you. You chose to be isolated for your wedding, embrace it.

And, local families: if your loved ones want to go off to Timbuktu to get married, let ‘em go. Explain to them that you hope they have a good time and suggest a party when they get back. Yeah, they’re leaving you out of the ceremony, but celebrating with them when they get back shows that this is what was really important to you.

What do you think?

Posted by James at June 8, 2007 8:51 AM
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This is why we invited NO ONE to our wedding (are we even really married? only a lone judge and some chipmunks and birds in CA can tell for sure). No matter what you do someone will be unhappy. So we just made everyone (except us of course) equally unhappy. Of course they returned the favor by inflicting a family party/reception that we didn't want on us when we got back.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at June 8, 2007 10:05 AM

No comment on the reception thing.
I'll just note that my brother had his (third) wedding on Santorini a few years ago, just because he and his wife wanted to. There were five of us there: my brother and his wife, her father, her sister, and me.
'twas very nice.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at June 8, 2007 11:02 AM

I don't have any problem with you (or anyone) wanting to have your wedding your own way. But you didn't try to guilt other people into being in CA with you for the wedding. That's my point; if you're going to do something out of the ordinary, do it for yourself and don't expect others to up-end their lives.

Heck - you didn't even put them in the awkward position of having to decide if they could come. I respect that completely.

And they got their party, so it sounds all good to me, all around.

Posted by: James at June 8, 2007 11:05 AM

Gotta disagree with you on this: "Brides and grooms: the wedding reception is not really for you. It’s for your guests to have a chance to celebrate your new union and share in the joy. The marriage is for you. The honeymoon is for you. And nobody says that you must have a wedding reception for your guests, but that’s what people expect. And when it doesn’t happen as they expect, they feel they’ve been snubbed, no matter what your motivation was. In fact, they have been snubbed." Disagree wholeheartedly, even.

I think any kind of wedding is fine and should NOT take into account your guests. It is your day, not theirs. Aunt Gladys should be less focused on having to sit at table x and more focused on wishing the couple a happy life, etc. Heck, if she's anything like my relatives she should focus on being happy she was invited at all, the old coot.

I can't tell you how many weddings I've seen ruined because of trying to please a bunch of relatives instead of the couple.

Destination weddings sound like a fabulous idea to me. Should honey and I ever take the plunge, ours will be a destination wedding. We have also decided to only give two weeks notice, so the two moms can't ruin the day by fighting with each other over wedding plans that have nothing to do with them - they can just show up. The two week notice also means a smaller wedding, as less people can come on short notice, which appeals. Only the ones who matter most to you will be there.

Posted by: leslie at June 8, 2007 11:39 AM

I disagree with you leslie. If the bride and groom want the wedding to be only about them, they would do what B.O.B. has done.

Also if you want the ones who matter most to be at your destination wedding, you really need to give them more than 2 weeks notice. Not everyone can take off from work and afford to spend lavishly to join you. If you really want these people there you need to consider their situations since they are the ones who matter most.

Posted by: Sara at June 8, 2007 11:57 AM

two weeks isn't very realistic in another way. you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a liscense. It's different everywhere you go and you need to line up someone to do the ceremony. So even an elopement takes a little planning, unless you're planning on doing it in vegas.

A clarification, it SHOULD be about the bride and groom but the minute you decide to invite others, especially family members that changes. Believe me I'm sure there were many family members that were not happy about how we did things, but as I said they got their revenge.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at June 8, 2007 12:09 PM

It doesn't take long before the whole thing turns into a pissing contest and you have 300 people there who you haven't seen since the last wedding or funeral that you "had" to invite.

I have a low tolerance for BS, and that isn't what I wanted, so I didn't do it. (And I was paying for it anyway.) I kept it small, intentionally.

If you want to have things done your way, get married (again) and do them that way :-)

Posted by: Anonymous at June 8, 2007 12:13 PM

I went to a destination wedding and loved every minute of it. Hubby and I got a chance to go somewhere we probably wouldn't have gone to if left to our own devices, had fun people to hang out with (or not, as we chose), got a nice vacation out of it, and got to attend a wedding of a good friend's daughter all in one fell swoop. They may not work for all families and all situations, but I don't think they should never happen or that they're all about the Bride and Groom.

On the other hand, I couldn't get my immediate family to attend my wedding, which was merely on the other end of the state. This even though they had a year's notice and inexpensive trasnportation and lodging available to them... and there was no interest on anyone's part for party for our wedding in my home town.

And if people wouldn't attend a party if they weren't able to attend the wedding, none of my Mormon Tabernacle-wed cousins would have had receptions at all!

Families are funny, and every family's got its own dynamics. Such is life.

Posted by: mjfrombuffalo at June 8, 2007 12:35 PM

I think the main point is that if you want people to share your day, you have to be accommodating. If you don't want to, then fine, but you can't have it both ways.

I've been misfortunate enough to have MORE THAN ONE family member pull that kind of crap. One got married out of state, planned a wedding right on top of my sister's, and then got ticked when we didn't have the money to attend the out-of-state wedding. We did travel 5 hours to attend the "closer" reception but were informed that didn't count because "it was for the people we really didn't care about."

Number two decided it was a great idea to have a wedding. On a Sunday night. In a state NO ONE lived in. The weekend before school started. I hired a sitter for the weekend at great expense, drove there with kids, and drove home all night to make sure Beanie didn't miss her first day of school. My sister, who had just moved cross-country and whose husband was already committed to something he couldn't get out of, was expected to either fly herself and her kids cross-country for the wedding (kids, of course, not being invited to the reception) or leave her children in a state with no parents and no family there that they'd moved to two weeks prior.

The bride still isn't talking to my sister. /insert eye rolls!

Posted by: pippa at June 8, 2007 1:09 PM

I think the main point is that if you want people to share your day, you have to be accommodating. If you don't want to, then fine, but you can't have it both ways.

Excellent summary of my feelings, pippa.

Posted by: James at June 8, 2007 1:28 PM

I'm not sure why so many brides decide that a wedding is her "special day" and the feelings of the rest of the people in the world, especially those she supposedly cares most about, are suddenly null and void. This is selfish, childish, and rude. Such a woman, in my opinion, is not worth having in your life.

Posted by: Maggie at June 8, 2007 2:04 PM

I think if you had taken that attitude, dear, I would ahve concluded that you didn't feel special enough that you were, you know, marrying me.

Roll for damage to the ego!

Posted by: James at June 8, 2007 2:15 PM

Let me chime in here. I'm B.O.B.'s wife, for those of you we don't know personally.

I never saw myself in a big poofy gown in a fairytale wedding. Truly not my style at all. The thought of spending vast amounts of cash for one day of my life seemed an obnoxious waste of money. That and I expressly dislike being told by society how I should live my life, so the idea of playing into the dominant paradigm of the "big day" with the "bride's dance with daddy" and all that shit was precisely what I would not do.

We actually thought of having the wedding at our house, but a friend rightly pointed out we'd blow out our septic, so we interviewed a local innkeeper about having it there. Boy, what a turn-off on many levels.

It was during this interview that I could feel my stress level rising and as this woman was going on about us presenting her a list of the elderly people we would like to be allowed to use the "inside" bathroom (as opposed to the one they slapped together themselves out of blueboard in the barn), I said to Bob, "Why are we here?"

We left and decided to invite NO ONE to our wedding in SF.

Wouldn't have done it any other way.

Now. Just before we left, my mother announced she was having a small party for us when we returned. This was a bizarre deviation from her "MYOB" (mind your own business) character, and I told her how annoyed she made me feel. I think she felt it was really more for Bob's family than mine, and I wonder if it's because I have a "stong" personality and she thought that they would think that I was shutting them out or something by not having a wedding they could all come to, but so be it. We had to sit through cake and awful presents with ~10 people. It was awkward in many ways, especially since they brought gifts when there hadn't been a wedding for them to attend, but that wasn't our doing, so it wasn't us who felt awkward.

The secretary at my office at the time bought the stoneware we were given by some members of our new combined family (Stoneware? Me?) and all the ancillary pieces that came to us that Christmas--oy--went to her as well. Her mother, a collector, was thrilled.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 8, 2007 2:17 PM

Exactly what Maggie said- I have nothing left to add. Except that I shall run if I ever am expected to help with a wedding of a bride who si determined to make it 'her day' at the expense of everyone else up to and including the photographer. Gah, bad few months of my life I'll never get back. JP and Maggie are very wise.

Posted by: Cindy at June 9, 2007 10:41 AM

I have been reading the comments posted already and I really agree with James when he states that ... if you want people to share your day, you have to be accommodating. If you don't want to, then fine, but you can't have it both ways.

My brother and his soon-to-be wife have decided to have their wedding in the Caribbean and I do believe that they should have the dream wedding that they want. The problem is that I am a full-time grad. student and my DH and I live off of one income at the moment, not to mention that we also have a young child to care for. My siblings are in high paying professions and like to live a lavish lifestyle, which makes the idea of attending a destination wedding seem like no big deal. It is a really big deal for us and even though my parents have offered to help pay for some of our expenses it is still going to be very stressful and difficult financially speaking. To make matters more complicated, we had previously promised my little boy that we would take him to Disney World next year, which is going to take every extra cent we have just to pull it off AND my brother and I got into a major disagreement about the wedding recently (for which I have already apologized) and knowing him as I do, he will turn my not attending into something about our arguement, which is absolutely not the case.

My family is already making comments about how we should wait a year to go to Disney so that we can put that money towards my brother's wedding, but my little boy would be crushed since it is all he talks about. They have also asked all three of us to be in the wedding, which would cost us even more. To be honest, I don't even really want to go at this point b/c of 1) the financial strain it will cause us, 2) the attitude they have that we are fully expected to go and we will be given grief if we do not, despite our current financial situation and 3) we will have to take our small child to a foreign country or leave him behind with my DH's family, which neither option sounds really great to us.

If we do not go, I not only will have to endure my family's attitude that I snubbed them by not attending their wedding, but I will also be the only immediate family member not present, which of course does not feel great. To be honest, I do resent my brother for putting me in this really tough situation and I do feel hurt that they chose to get married in a way that would cause us to either not be able to attend or put us in serious financial strain.

Before I get comments about it being their wedding and they can do what they want - I fully realize this. However, I love my brother very much and I am crushed that I will most likely not be able to share with him such a huge moment in his life. I understand that their wedding is not about me, but I can help feeling dismissed in this whole thing. It is hard for me to understand since I have always put family first and we were more than willing to make concessions as needed when my DH and I had our wedding.

Any suggestions?

Posted by: Liz at June 10, 2007 6:43 PM

Too bad your brother is making you feel like you have to choose between him and your own child.

My opinion, which is irrelevant and should be disregarded, is that you should skip the wedding AND put off the Disney trip for another year. That will drive home the point that money is short, while depriving your brother of the satisfaction of being able to say that you chose a side. You'll still be able to give that ingrate a nice wedding present, and save up some more money so that your postponed Disney trip isn't such a strain.

As for your son being disappointed, well, I doubt he'll feel so bad when you actually get to take the trip on something more than a shoestring budget. Some kids never get to go on trips, never mind one to Disney. If you go a year later, he'll be able to enjoy and remember more of the trip.

Posted by: Julie at June 10, 2007 8:55 PM

I like Julie's ideas. You could also tell your parents that you can't afford the trip at all, since they asked, putting the burden on them to foot the entire bill or decide that maybe it isn't such a reasonable request after all. Have you already made the Disney reservations? That would also help -- you can say you've already committed that money.

It's sad, but money really does come between people.

Posted by: Maggie at June 10, 2007 9:46 PM

It seems like people are determined to put you in a difficult situation. And it sucks to have people ganging up on you.

If it were my family, I guess that's the way I would communicate it to them. Ask them if their wish for starting this new life is to do it by putting their family members in a difficult situation with painful choices. I think you deserve an answer to that question at the very least.

If the answer is yes, then at least you know the score.

My problem with this whole thing is why you have to be the one to make the tough decision.

Shouldn't they at least explain why they want to make it so tough for you to be at the wedding?

Posted by: James at June 10, 2007 10:20 PM

Thank you for all the suggestions! I like the idea of postponing the Disney trip at least six months or a year. Like you said, that way he can't use that against me.

I was also thinking of telling him that we would try our best to go, but that we will pass on being in the wedding since that would save us a decent amount of money. I am not sure which would cause more grief for me - going, but telling him we don't want to be in the wedding or not going all together.

James - great question! I would love to ask him that, however I think that he would probably turn it back on me and say that I am being too emotional or that I am trying to make his wedding about me. My brother is a young doctor and ever since he finished med school he has been arrogant and he is pretty much dismissive of anyone's views that don't match his own or of anyone who shows any sign of emotion. I know you are probably wondering why I even care, but up until he finished med school, my brother was truly a wonderful person. I am trying to be the bigger person here so that I don't look back in five or ten years after he is a bit more mature and regret any decisions I made today.

UGG!!! : )

Posted by: Liz at June 10, 2007 11:44 PM

Maybe you can ask your brother if you can go with him when he gets the marriage license and be a witness, but not go to the destination wedding. Maybe he would see that you want to be part of his wedding, just not his expensive vacation.

I think what's getting me is that it's a wedding. Nobody's asking you to watch their child while they have chemotherapy, or to get their children off the bus so they can visit their sick parent in the hospital every day, or to cook for their family because they have to fly to see their dying grandparent. They're not asking you for a meaningful favor. They're asking you to go to a very expensive party that doesn't have anything to do with the actual marriage -- trust me. Once again, it strikes me as extremely selfish and self-centered.

If people are this selfish about the wedding, how's the marriage going to hold up? Hopefully they grow up before they have children, and get a little perspective on what's important, and a meaningful large favor to ask, and what's outrageous and self-involved.

Posted by: Maggie at June 11, 2007 7:09 AM

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