This week, columnist Marta Segal Block arbitrates a good old American culture clash.
Dear Wedding Maven,
My mom and two brothers live in a small town in Alabama. I live in Chicago. My mom doesn’t have a car and can’t afford a plane ticket, so I have to pay for her and my brothers to come to my wedding. I will also need to pay for hotel rooms. None of them have had a decent haircut in a long time, and they do not have any clothes to wear to the wedding. If I want them to look decent I have to take them shopping and to get haircuts. It’s going to make me a wreck to try and get all this done the last two days before my wedding (when they’ll be here).
My fiancé suggested that I get my mom’s measurements ahead of time and order a dress for her. When I said this to my mom, she had a fit. She said I was putting too much into how she looks and that I should just hire actors to play my family. She has not been at all interested in my wedding. I want her to be excited for me, but she isn’t.
I’m about to give up and tell them to stay home and just have my six-year-old son walk me down the aisle. Should I?
Venting in Chicago
Try and imagine this situation:
Your mom is getting remarried. She has told you that you don’t have anything appropriate to wear to her wedding because all of your clothes are too “big city” and “chi chi.” She’s worried you’re going to embarrass her. She wants to order you a dress from the local store so that you can fit in. Every time she calls to talk to you about the wedding, she lectures you about how your relatives are offended that you want to stay in a hotel instead of with them. She never talks about how much she loves her fiancé, or how excited she is to have found a new start in life.
So, how excited are you about your mom’s wedding?
As a single mother, you must know by now that family is not always picture perfect. A wedding is not a photo op, it’s a celebration of family. So give yourself, and your mom, a break. Call her tonight. Talk to her about your life and your fiancé, not the wedding. Tell her a cute story about your son or your fiancé, or better yet, the two of them together. Later, ask her if she’d like you to send some money to buy a new dress for the wedding, or if she’d prefer to wear something she already has. If you want to make your brothers a present of new clothes as a gift (not as a prerequisite for coming to the wedding), then make the same offer to them.
It’s possible that your brothers will show up at the wedding looking like ZZ Top rejects. Your mom may wear a purple and teal muumuu, but really, who cares? After all, won’t your guests be too busy looking at you to notice?
Your other option is to reject your family because they’re poor and don’t know how to dress. If you do this, make sure to let your son know that one day he’ll be free to do the same to you.
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