Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes: My long-time boyfriend and I are planning to be married. We are both lucky to have large families and friend networks, but we have a very limited budget (after finishing graduate degrees). Many of our friends in their early 30s are getting married too, and we're getting regular invitations from people we hadn't planned to invite to our wedding. How can we handle this tricky etiquette situation?
Don't change your plans or blow your budget. It's nice to receive an invitation but that doesn't oblige you to send one in return. When we got married, we only invited people we both knew personally. You need to make a rule that makes sense to both of you and stick to it. It's your day, and you pay, so it's your way - and don't feel guilty!
- Lindsay Storie, Winnipeg
A simple call
"It is not a tricky etiquette situation at all," my wife says. Yours will be a small family affair. If the weddings of your friends are larger and grander, so what? Be happy to celebrate with them. When you get married, call them to share the good news and that the wedding has been limited to close family only.
- David Homa, Ottawa
Scare guests away
The most effective way to handle the situation and protect your limited budget is to not get married in the first place. Getting married is expensive. And getting divorced is even more expensive. But failing that, you can thin out the number of attendees by doing some or all of the following: State that you're only having immediate family plus the best man/maid of honour; choose a small venue that can't accommodate a large group; inform everyone that the dinner will be alcohol-free and vegan; have the wedding at clothing-optional beach.
- Peter Stern, Toronto
The final word
I got married last year and here's what I learned: People don't care. That is, they care about you; they will be happy for you and they will, given the opportunity, lustily impart sincere congratulations and wishes for many years of joy. But what potential well-wishers do not want, when it comes to your nuptials, is as follows.
They do not want aggravation, any more than you do. They do not want to feel that their presence at your wedding constitutes a kind of compensation - a debt repaid. They do not want to feel herded, cattle-like, into the chapel to celebrate your union by the harried, nervous ranch hands represented by you and your family as you obsessively count heads, ensuring anyone who could possibly be offended by their exclusion is in attendance.
I spent so many years in terror of "making it legal" because the expression rang all too true - the wedding ritual struck me as nothing but a flowery front for the fulfilment of countless, tedious contracts and obligations. You wear the dress for his mother and the cufflinks for your father, you hold the damn thing in a church for your pious grandparents, you let Aunt Marjorie give the reading because god knows Aunt Marjorie can't be expected to keep her mouth shut in a crowd beyond 15 minutes and you conscript your bridesmaids into a sophisticated SWAT-operation tasked with keeping your brother away from the hard liquor. Exhausting.
Then one day it hit me: Truest friends, god bless their hearts, could not care less. They love you, they're pleased you're getting married and, ultimately, they don't give a fig how you get it done. So just get it done in a manner that is both pleasing and affordable to you, and throw an intimate post-wedding potluck for your pals in finest grad-student style (matching cutlery, cloth napkins … the whole nine yards). No one expects a young couple in your position to pull a Will and Kate, and those who do - well let's just say the fairy-tale wedding true believers haven't been keeping up with the real-estate pages of late.
Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy, with another one currently in the oven.
Next week's question
A reader writes: My girlfriend and I, both 50, have dated for two years. We live an hour apart by plane, and I do most of the travelling, as she has full custody of her boys, aged 14 and 17. She initially spent some time with my nine-year-old son (I have shared custody), but now avoids it. She says he is spoiled and badly behaved, and that he has two loving parents and therefore she doesn't need to get involved, and that being around him would sap the energy she reserves for us. I agreed to these terms, but I don't know if I can continue. I help her with her teens all the time. Is it realistic to be in a relationship with a woman who doesn't want to be involved with my child?
Let's hear from you
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