Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DON’T EVALUATE YOUR GUESTS’ RELATIONSHIPS--AND IF YOU HAVE TO, TACT AND CLASS MUST BE IN YOUR CORNER (PART III: Q&A)

I received a very good question today from a reader. I thought instead of simply posting the comment/question, it would be more helpful to everyone if I addressed it here... Obviously, there are some VERY difficult situations out there as regards this "evaluation" process I speak of.... It's great ya'll are thinking hard about them--you're definitely three steps ahead of many others!!

Q: Well, now I'm confused?! Perhaps you can give me a little advice...I am only inviting immediate family (aunts/uncles and 1st cousins) and close friends to my wedding. However, a couple of my cousins (who are approx. my age) have younger children. I am inviting younger 1st cousins of mine, but I was not planning on inviting these 2nd cousins. I have been nervous for months about my 1st cousins' (the parents of the 2nd cousins) reactions. Do I need to invite them because I have categorized them out of the wedding? There's only 3 children...will this start a war without words if I don't invite them regardless of them not being in my initial "immediate" family plan? Help a girl out!!"

A: I acknowledge that it's certainly difficult to invite every single person you wish you could squeeze onto the final guest list. You raise a good point when you speak to the issue of RELATIVES, which is a subject I hadn't addressed in my last posts.

I want to reiterate this: it's GREAT that you're thinking about/concerned with this issue, because it means that no matter what you decide to do, you'll handle it better than AverageBride.

As it sounds like you have your reasons why you cannot include the second cousins, my advice is not to try to fit everyone in at your expense (whether monetary or figurative). You shouldn't feel overwhelmed and that the decision is out of your control...The trick here is to handle it in a way that will make people feel like they matter--and that you care--whether or not they're at the event. Here are a few suggestions:

(1) If you live close enough to your relatives (i.e. the first cousins--i.e. parents' of the second cousins), perhaps have a lunch/brunch with them to explain why their children have to be left out... and that you are not happy about the situation and just want them to know you care and have been thinking about it. If the children are old enough to understand, then I would certainly include them in the lunch/brunch, explaining that it's a small wedding, there were constraints, you very much care about them, etc..... Obviously you don't have to "make" the brunch about the issue, but it's a nice way of seeing them and bringing up the subject at the same time.

(2) If your first/second cousins are not in the proximity and you aren't able to visit with them and explain that it's only immediate family, then phone calls are the best way to go. I think your picking up the phone and letting your cousins know--in advance--long before they will receive invitations--is an effective way to handle the situation. If you are open and honest (yet firm--don't let people guilt-trip you if your mind is made up!!!), then you are shielding yourself from people saying you were thoughtless. You DID think--you thought hard about your decision--and it was WITH a LOT of thought when you took the time to explain your decision to people so they wouldn't feel put out.

(3) At this point, I'll give some "don't" advice since this is obviously a delicate issue. Unless you are particularly close with your first cousin(s) and you know they're dying to hear it, don't go on and on (and on and on) about the wedding with them (i.e. wedding plans, what you have left to do, and all that jazz). Try to be as subtle about the event as possible, i.e. the exact opposite of the "it's my day" attitude. It sounds like you won't even get caught in that trap, given that you're concerned with their reaction. All I would say is keep wedding talk to a minimum and take an active interest in how everyone in your family is doing--no matter who is on that guest list or not. My point isn't that you should feel so badly you can't talk about the wedding--but just try not to make it a focal point if there are sensitive issues involved.

Remember that what really perplexed me about my friend's behavior on my last posts wasn't as much what she did--but how she did it (i.e. no phone calls, no emails, and a feeble explanation afterwards). I think that's the important thing I took away from my observations and ruminations...

I hope this has been helpful, and the question is one many may have ... Good luck, and keep us posted if you would like!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to thank you for your detailed answer to my question...I'm the confused girl who might not be so confused after all. My 1st cousin does live close, and I am somewhat close with her. But I'm thinking if I have the brunch and try to explain why her children are not invited, she will be offended just for raising awareness to the issue. SO basically I've decided to keep wedding talk to a minimum. I've already sent out "save-the-dates" addressing my cousin and her husband only. I think this is a good way of giving advanced warning as to who is on the guest list (especially since the wedding isn't until June). She has asked about the wedding and how plans are going, but I've been good about answering the qustion and moving on to other non-wedding related topics. Hopefully they'll understand...as they were once in my shoes...you can't invite everyone! Thanks again for the tips, JR.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from christmas and read the guests' relationships saga.

I agree completely that your friend handled it badly; she should have talked to you about it beforehand, given that you are a good friend.

However, I completely disagree that how she divided the guests (given that she was going to divide the guests, which I think is kind of annoying; see below) was wrong. If they know both the people in a couple, they invite both because they would have invited both had they both been single. If the couple are engaged or married, they have a SOCIETY-RECOGNIZED connection that non-engaged/married couples do NOT have.

This has nothing to do with "evaluating the seriousness" of a friend's relationship, nor does it have to do with a ring. (For that matter, I know several people who were engaged without rings.) It has to do with the fact that you have announced to the outside world that you are a committed couple (whether you are or not).

Otherwise you get into even more trouble with things like "Wait, she got to invite TallGuy, why can't I invite LoserGuy?" "Well, she's a good friend, and they are very serious, so--" "Wait a second, are you telling me that LoserGuy and I aren't serious? Or that I am not a good friend?" No, that way lies madness. Having categories is MUCH better than a random case-by-case basis. If people are hurt, at least they can console themselves with the thought that it wasn't personal. Case-by-case basis, it is hard not to take it personally. What if she HAD let some people invite their non-fiance's, and not let you invite TallGuy? Wouldn't that feel a whole lot worse, and a whole lot MORE like she was "evaluating" your relationship?

Again, I know that it was hurtful, and I agree completely that the more important faux pas was not talking to you about it beforehand.

For the record, I'm letting everyone who wants to bring a guest (and family) to my wedding, as I feel strongly that this is a Good Thing, and have dragged my now-fiance to his share of weddings before he was my fiance. The idea being, if I am not willing to buy dinner for my friend's boyfriend, or if I don't trust my friend's judgement regarding whether she should bring her boyfriend, maybe she's not good enough a friend to invite to my wedding...

Amy said...

FYI, completely off-topic, but can't seem to stop myself - they aren't second cousins. They are first cousins once removed. Your aunts'/uncles' children are your first cousins. Your first cousins' kids are your first cousins once removed (meaning a generation apart). Your second cousins would be the children of your parents' cousins, and therefore the same generation as you. So, this bride's future children and her first cousins' children would be second cousins.

I have a BIG family and am well versed in these things! Sorry to be off-topic.