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david eddie's damage control

The question

My brother is getting married this year. He and most of my family are religious while I am not. He and his fiancée have decided to have a religious ceremony 5 hours out of town one weekend and the reception the next weekend in town. While there are no formal wedding positions (best man, usher, etc.), he has asked me to be a member of the wedding party.

He wants my wife and I to be at both events. However, because we are not religious, their church will not allow us to attend or view the religious ceremony. When I asked my family what we would do while they're getting married, I was told we could wait outside the building until they were married and then participate in pictures and go out for dinner with them. I feel like we are being treated as second-class citizens, because we do not share the same belief system, but we're still expected to pay for accommodations, gas and meals and spend a weekend travelling just to have a few pictures taken after the wedding.

Should I suck it up and go and support them because it's their day, or should I voice my displeasure with the situation and risk damaging my relationship with my brother and his wife-to-be?

The answer

Now I guess I've heard it all.

Normally, when it comes to weddings and situations of this nature, I have a pretty standard spiel:

"It is a measure of a person's spiritual development the extent to which you realize that, if you are not the bride, the wedding is not really about you."

In other words, if you're a friend, relative, even to a certain extent the groom, you should have the humility to realize you're basically an extra - "background action," as we say in TV - in a show called The Bride's Big Day.

Therefore, refrain from throwing hissy fits about accommodations or whatnot, and eschew the creation of unnecessary drama.

(Of course, a little drama is always fun, adds spice to the festivities; but you shouldn't be the one causing it. Leave that to some obnoxious uncle or drunken cousin or disgruntled trophy wife.)

Go with the flow and let everything roll off your back like a greased duck.

But as I say: That's the type of thing I usually say in this type of situation.

However, your case, sir, is quite frankly so bizarre you may actually have forced me to add a fresh footnote to my standard wedding policy: "…unless going with the flow would be completely humiliating and idiotic."

Just so I've got this straight: Your brother wants you to be a member of his wedding party, yet you're not allowed inside the church for the ceremony?

You never mentioned what religion this is. But in a way, it doesn't matter. I find it hard to imagine any God seriously wanting to bar a groom's brother from a wedding ceremony just because the brother is a non-believer.

Could it be perhaps that the (cough-cough so-called, soi-disant, cough-cough) religious figure who claims to be interpreting God's will in this case has in fact gone overboard, is being a little too overzealous and literal and could perhaps afford to bend his beloved rules a little bit in this instance?

Talk to your brother. Try to get him to speak to the (cough-cough self-appointed cough-cough) religious figure who has issued the decree that you should be barred from the church - and convince him to make an exception, issue a special codicil, so the brother of the groom can actually attend the wedding.

If your brother refuses, or the religious figure demurs, well, then, no, I wouldn't go to the wedding. Ten hours driving plus stay in a hotel room to stand like an idiot outside the church waiting for a photo-op commemorating a ceremony you were barred from attending?

I don't think so. Don't be confrontational. Your brother probably has all kinds of problems, issues, arrangements and so forth, coming at him all at once.

Say to your brother: "Listen, I'm sure it'll be lovely without me. I'll come to the reception with bells on."

Give him your best wishes, buy him a nice present - then go to the reception in town, have a great time, behave yourself, and be positive.

In other words, once you've said your piece about a religion so exclusive it bars a man from his brother's wedding, just inhale, exhale - and let it go.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

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