Help! If I Invite My Brother, My Parents Won’t Pay—and Other Wedding-Season Conundrums.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 11 2013 5:47 AM

The Long Walk to the Altar

Prudie offers wedding advice on family estrangement, inappropriate toasts, and an extravagant bride, just in time for summer.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I am getting married to the love of my life next summer, and my parents have graciously offered to pay for our wedding. But if I ask my brother's fiancée to be one of my bridesmaids, I'm worried that my parents may refuse to pay. My parents and brother are estranged, and have had very limited contact for several years. Their relationship is tumultuous, and I've done my best to stay out of it, but frequently I do something that makes my parents think I've formed some sort of alliance with my brother. These "infractions" have included attending their daughter's birthday party, taking photos with her and posting them on Facebook, and going out to dinner with them. This has caused me to also have a somewhat strained relationship with my parents for the past year or so. I want my brother’s fiancée to be a bridesmaid and their daughter to be a flower girl, but that also has the potential to cause a big problem. How much say do my parents have about our wedding? I love them all very much, but I'm at a loss as to how to move forward.

—In the Middle

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Dear Middle,
As you will likely see, the people who control the purse strings have the power to tie you in knots. Maybe there’s a justifiable reason for the parental estrangement from your brother. But your parents come off in a very poor light if the problems with their son have them cutting their grandchild out of their lives—and wanting you to shun her, too. Yes, you are in an “alliance” with your brother—it’s called being siblings. and you are entitled to have a good relationship apart from whatever craziness affects his interactions with your parents. You may discover that having both the wedding of your dreams and control of the guest list are incompatible because the checkbook will snap shut if you brother and his family are included. So address this early on. Tell your parents you appreciate their offer and want to make clear that your brother and his family will not only be at the ceremony, they’ll be in the wedding party. If your parents balk, I hope you decide that the perfect dress and filet mignon are less important than the people you love. Tell your parents that if their money comes with the condition that your brother’s family be blackballed, you will put on the wedding you can afford by yourself. I hope you discover that being able to start your new life without being manipulated by your parents means that, if need be, a trip to City Hall and a barbeque is preferable to a fancy affair. Do invite your parents and tell them you hope they’ll be able to put aside their differences with their son and attend your happy day.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Can you mention that wedding toasts should not be roasts? I recently attended a family wedding and was quite surprised at a toast given by a member of the wedding party. I'm sure a number of people were just trying to keep smiling and hope it wouldn't get worse. More than the bride and groom were being disparaged, and you just don’t say things like that around grandparents. It could be that the person who gave the toast had been drinking too much and got emboldened, but who knows. I later heard a story about an inebriated best man who embarked on a story involving a trip to Paris with the groom and a prostitute and the groom got up and stopped him by saying he’d had too much to drink and would be embarrassed in the morning. I hope that there can be more awareness of what is appropriate for wedding toasts, and what is best saved for bachelor and attendants parties. Maybe we don't need to find any occasions for unkind and derogatory humor.

—Say Something Nice

Dear Say,
I agree with you that a wedding is not the time for people to hope for a breakout performance on a Comedy Central roast. Sure, the best wedding toasts are both amusing and warm, and anyone who knows the couple well should be able to come up with a charming anecdote or two that will cause laughs. But if the person giving the toast has no gift for humor, it’s better to go with sappily sincere than tastelessly obscene. After the best man or maid of honor sketches out the toast he or she should imagine saying it directly to Grandma or Grandpa. That should be enough to edit out hilarious reminiscences about sex workers, STDs, and one-night stands. Toasts tend to be remembered for the feeling they leave, not the specifics of their content. People holding a glass while holding forth should make sure they don’t become the toastmaster whose outrageous words will never be forgotten.

—Prudie

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