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The Dear Prudence chat is on hiatus this week, so in the meantime, we’ve collected some of the best wedding letters from the last few years’ worth of chats. June, already usually the wedding-est month of the year, received an additional matrimonial boost with the Supreme Court’s ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. One thing remains as true as ever: Our understanding of marriage may evolve, but the drama remains the same.
Q. No Marriage: My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and just moved in together. We’re both 30 years old and have no plans to marry. My boyfriend’s parents won’t take no for an answer, and after we move in together they asked us when we wanted the wedding. We told them we weren’t getting married, but they complained that we were being ridiculous. This crazy argument went on for a few weeks when his parents upped the crazy by a notch. They’ve booked their church for our “wedding” for next year and have also reserved a ballroom at a large hotel (deposits are due at the end of the week). They want us to decide on a band, flowers, food, etc. We told them that they can hold the wedding, but we won’t be there. My boyfriend’s mom also gave her travel agent my phone number and she’s already left a couple of messages asking when I can come in to plan our honeymoon. This is beyond weird. What else can we do to convince them that we are not getting married? My boyfriend has been as forceful with them about this as I have, so it’s not a case of us sending mixed signals.
A: I don’t have a subscription to Brides magazine, so I don’t know if they’ve covered the ins and outs of a ghost wedding. There’s probably not a lot that’s been written about the etiquette of the non-bride who is not getting married whose boyfriend’s parents have become (non)in-lawzillas. What your boyfriend does is tell his parents that sadly they will lose all their deposit money if they go ahead with this farce. If they become monomaniacal on the subject of the wedding colors and floral arrangements, your boyfriend might have to tell his parents you two aren’t communicating with them anymore until they come to their senses. If they go ahead without you, let’s hope that at the last minute they can find an engaged but broke couple on Craigslist who would love a wedding extravaganza and can step into your gown and your boyfriend’s tux.
Q. Possible Cousin Marriage: Over 20 years ago I had an affair with a married woman who became pregnant with my child. She reconciled with her husband and they raised the boy as their own. I have not had any contact with my biological son, at the husband's request. No one in my family knows I have a secret son. Two weeks ago I found out my niece (my sister's daughter) is engaged, and the groom to be is none other than my biological son! Prudie, I am livid that my son's mother and her husband did not stop this relationship in its early stages. "No, Bobby, you can't date that girl because she's your biological cousin" is all it would have taken. I contacted the woman and she swore she didn't know our son was marrying my niece since my niece has a different last name. I asked her what she planned to do to stop the wedding and she said she's doing nothing! Our son doesn't know anything and according to her, cousin marriage is harmless! Prudie, how do I bring this up with my niece and her parents? I have never had any contact with my son and I don't think I should approach him about it. He doesn't know his father is not his biological father. I don't want my niece to live in incest because of my past mistake, Please help.
A: This is an opportunity to repeat my frequent reassurance to fathers: Dads, a statistically significant percentage of you actually have sired the children you think are yours. There's no reason to doubt the mother of the groom when she says she didn't realize the bride was related to you, especially if there's been no big family gathering to celebrate the impending nuptials. You think you have a simple, easy way for the mother of the groom to stop the romance by saying, "Bobby, your father is not your father, and your fiancée is your cousin!" But if you think this through, explaining all this will entirely upend his family, and now yours, and at this late date in the wedding planning you can understand that the parents want to stick with their original plan to keep quiet about Bobby's biology. I do think that people are entitled to know their origins and keeping these secrets has the potential for blowing up, as you are now seeing. But as it stands only three people know you're the biological father of the boy, and while it may take all your will power, I think it should remain that way. Cousin marriage is common in much of the world and I think the remaining laws against it in this country should be repealed. Yes, there is an elevated risk of passing on genetic disorders, but in absolute terms it is very small. Two young people are in love and planning to make a life together. I think you should let that be.
Q. My Husband Is Not Invited to My Niece's Wedding: I am one of four siblings, all in their late 50s/early 60s. I am a gay man who legally married my partner of 28 years earlier this year. Two of my sisters are lesbians with one married to her longtime partner as well. The remaining sister, the youngest, is married with five children and is a devout Catholic. Her daughter is getting married soon and the invitation arrived the other day, addressed only to me. My other married sister's invitation was addressed only to her. I don't know what to do. I emailed the niece's mother and asked if my husband was invited and if my niece was registered anywhere. I did not get a response. I'm pretty sure he and my sister-in-law are not invited as my sister does not approve of the relationships due to religious teachings. Now I'm hurt and unsure how to proceed. My husband has known my niece since she was born. My sister has always treated my husband respectfully, though she has dropped a few hints about how she feels. In the past I have even paid my sister's mortgage when her husband was unemployed to keep her and her children in their house. I don't plan to attend without my husband and am not sure if I should just decline the invitation and leave it at that or if I should let them know how hurtful their actions are. What would you do?
A: If there is anyone who grew up knowing that there's nothing wrong with being gay, it should be this young bride. So go directly to her. She is an adult and is responsible for her invitations. Tell her, "Maureen, I'm thrilled you're getting married. However, I just got the invitation and saw that it was addressed only to me. I hope that was an oversight and that my husband, your other uncle, is invited. Your Aunt Cynthia also mentioned that her wife was left of her invitation. So we need to clarify whether our spouses are included." Then hear what she has to say. If she says she left the spouses off because of her mother's feelings, you should tell her that she is old enough now to make her own decisions. If her decision is to not invite the spouses of her uncle and aunt, then you need to explain basic etiquette to her. You say that wedding invitations are one of those things that are extended to both parties in a couple. Tell her that if she isn't including your husband, then you wish her all the best, but you will not be able to attend. And if that's the case, I wouldn't worry about where this couple is registered.
Q. Should I Let My Husband Marry His Dead Fiancée’s Ghost?: Before he met me, my husband was engaged to another woman who passed away only weeks before their wedding. Her mother contacted my husband with an upsetting story of her daughter appearing in her dreams repeatedly. The mother believes the spirit of her daughter is tormented and unable to “pass over” because she has unfulfilled business, namely the wedding which never occurred. The mother has asked my husband to take part in some creepy spiritual wedding ceremony so that her daughter can find peace and enter the afterworld. After he said no in the nicest possible way, she has continued to pester and plead with him. Now he thinks he should just do it for the sake of putting an elderly grieving woman at peace. While I don’t believe in such superstition I find it weird and plain wrong for my husband to “marry” another woman, even if she has been dead for years. We have been fighting over this insane issue. Am I being stubborn or am I right in thinking this is twisted and inappropriate?
A: You can have all the compassion in the world for this grieving mother, but I agree with you that having your husband engage in a spectral wedding is not the answer. Of course, this woman will always mourn her daughter, but it sounds as if she may be experiencing complicated grief. That is she is stuck in the rawness of her loss and it’s not her daughter who is unable to move on, it’s her. Since your husband is in touch with his late fiancée’s mother, I think he should gently suggest she find a therapist who deals specifically with this issue. He needs to say that he understands her wish for a ghostly ceremony, but it is not healthy for anyone to go along with it.
Q. Breast Job Getting in the Way of Wedding!: I recently got engaged to my wonderful fiancé. Immediately after announcing the engagement to our families, my future SIL sat me down for a serious chat. She says she is currently saving up for breast implants and doesn't want us to marry until she gets them done. She told me she wants to have one family wedding album where she looks perfect and will be heartbroken if I got married against her wishes. The trouble is, my fiancé says we should hold off the wedding for this reason, too. He knows his sister will cause so much trouble and doesn't want to deal with the family drama. He thinks since we live together there is no hurry for marriage, anyway. I know how much he detests conflict and it's true we are pretty much living as a married couple, but I feel like this is so wrong to postpone the wedding. He says the other option is to pay for his sister's breast implant ourselves! Am I crazy for marrying into this family?
A: I've heard that people want others' wedding dates moved because of their pending reproductive plans, or because it's their anniversary which they think should be commemorated like a national holiday. But this is the first time I've heard that starting a new life should be put off until someone can afford new breasts. I often tell brides to stop making themselves nuts in an attempt to create the "perfect day." But it's really something that your sister-in-law thinks the point of your marrying her brother is that she can show off her perfect breasts. I have every confidence that right now she can afford the most jumbo set of falsies. That means that's when it's time for the photos her chest is front and center. Your fiancé should be saying, "Yeah, Stacy has always been a handful. The fact that she wants us to delay our wedding until she's more of a handful is an escalation of the crazy, so let's just ignore her." Instead he is actually considering footing the bill for the boobs, which is rather extraordinary. It's often the case that one family member is so impossible that everyone just gives in to make life easier, but it's a little concerning that your intended "detests conflict" so much he's incapable of telling his sister she's being ridiculous. The advantage of this whole thing happening is that your fiancé wants to postpone your wedding. So that gives you time to explore just how you two will handle this and other inevitable conflicts, which is crucial information you need before you tie the knot.
Q. Friends?: I've had a close male friend that I've been secretly in love with for years. We have almost always lived in different cities and frankly, our lifestyles are fairly different to the point that I had all but discarded the idea that we could ever be in a romantic relationship. Aside from a fun weeklong fling over a decade ago, we've always kept it platonic, mostly because one of us was always dating someone in the couple of times a year we'd see each other. Flash forward to this year when I told him my boyfriend and I were getting married. He seemed shocked, but happy for me, came out to help me prepare for the big day and was an all-around champ. After the wedding I talked to my new mother-in-law and was shocked to find out that he referred to me as "the one who got away" in his own life. What? I never went anywhere and he never said anything! I used to tell my girlfriends that he was the one I'd run away with if he ever expressed any interest. Now, two days after my wedding I'm stuck with this thought that we've been mutually and silently in love with each other for years. How did I get stuck in a bad rom-com script? And why would he say that to my new MIL of all people. (She looked at me pointedly when she told me about it later.) BTW, I love my husband dearly and we have a lovely life together. I'm not interested in leaving, nor do I regret any decision I've made. Mostly I wonder how I go on knowing there was a possibility for that other life I always dreamed of but never believed in. Do I ever say anything to him about this?
A: Years ago you tried each other out as romantic partners and decided to keep it platonic. Maybe this is a classic O. Henry kind of story where you were each mutually misreading the other's signals that you were the One. But if your communication is so bad that neither of you could say, "You're the one," then you don't belong together. I don't find it a charming plot twist that your friend confesses to your new mother-in-law (!) that you're the one who got away. Instead it is rude and passive-aggressive. Yes, it's possible he blurted this out to your mother-in-law after too much to drink, and by way of praising your charms. But it doesn't have that feel, does it? Presumably, he thought she would pass on this tidbit, thus putting a pall over your honeymoon. That's not something a friend does. There's a reason your dreams of this guy never became reality. As he's demonstrated, in reality he sounds kind of manipulative. You go on by realizing that every life is full of possibilities not taken. But that thank goodness you took the one that was right for you. In keeping with his backhanded way of getting a message to you, I think you should just act as if you never received it.
Q. Two Wedding Rings: I married in my early 20s and had two kids. Their father and I are now divorced, and we haven't heard from him in more than a decade. I know this is unusual, but I've worn my wedding ring even after the divorce. It's a reminder of the short period of happiness I had, my two great kids who resulted from my marriage, and the many life lessons I learnt from both the marriage and divorce. I am now about to embark on my second marriage in my 40s and I want to continue wearing my ring. My fiance doesn't understand this and thinks I should take it off. He isn't enthusiastic about the idea of me wearing two wedding bands on my fourth finger. We've had a lot of debates over this. He thinks I should respect his wishes, I think he should respect mine. Who should give way?
A: I'm wondering how someone who goes around wearing a wedding ring succeeded in the dating pool. Normally a wedding ring sends a flashing "Do Not Enter" message—except to those looking for flings with married people. Of course you love the children that came from your failed marriage. But since your ex has disappeared from their lives, and apparently has neglected to even send a check to help raise them, your time with him is not an interlude worth permanently memorializing on your left hand. Marriage in this country is a one-at-a-time proposition. I agree with your intended that it's bizarre and undermining for you to continue to wear the ring of the rat who took off years ago. Stash the old ring in the sock drawer and consecrate your new marriage with his gold band.
Q. Bait and Switch: I dated my wife for three years before we married. We were both in our 30s and had had all of the important discussions before we decided to marry (kids, religion, etc.). At the time, she told me she was agnostic, and not really into "the whole religion thing." Now, less than six months into our marriage, she tells me she's joined a church and expects me to join her for Sunday services. It's only now that I learn that she has extremely right-wing, religious views. After talking with some of her friends, they couldn't believe I didn't know this about her. I asked them why they wouldn't have mentioned this when they found out we weren't having a church wedding and they told me that was probably done for my benefit. Now, instead of our not wanting any kids, she wants at least five and maybe more. Instead of no religion, she wants strict adherence to her religion. I feel I've been duped and that she's lied to me about herself. Is there any way out of this short of divorce?
A: This sounds like the idea for a follow-up to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, because you've got a wife who rivals Flynn's in the unreliable narrator department. In your case either your wife is completely crazy or you've decided to concoct a crazy letter. I hate to think I'm being duped, but if this is an accurate rendering of the first months of your marriage, I don't understand why you're writing to me on how to avoid divorce. Your question should be something along the lines of whether you should go directly to a lawyer or trying a stab at therapy first. I get a lot of letters about couples with differing religious views. Almost always if there is deception, it's on the part of the person who is having doubts about their faith but who doesn't want to upset the believers around them. I haven't heard of the devout who want to keep that under wraps in hopes of snagging an atheist to convert. Marriages can be annulled when entered into fraudulently—I think you've got better grounds for this than did Henry VIII.