Dear Wedding Maven,
My father is getting married this summer to a women with whom I get along (she's much better then other women he's had in his life). Without anyone asking me, I was told I was going to be a bridesmaid, which is fine, but I'm also 20 and have never been in a wedding before (meaning I don't really know how things are supposed to go). Despite the fact that they are both over 40 (my dad is 55) and now entering their second marriages, my dad and soon to be stepmother, have chosen to have a very traditional marriage ceremony. Big party, big dress, big everything. This weekend is the big bridal shower. My dad expects me to contribute $155 to this party.
Something to keep in mind -- My soon to be stepsister (who is also a bridesmaid) lives at home with my dad and soon to be stepmom. She has contributed heavily to the ceremony, planning and organizing. She also doesn't have a father, so I am sure this is a very exciting time for her. I however (along with my real sister) have a great relationship with my mother.
I don't want to seem like I don't care about their marriage, but I just don't think ethically I should have to fork over $155 for this woman. In addition, I will also have to get them a gift. Should I be spending over $300 on a marriage I am not in anyway invested in? I don't live at home any longer and rarely visit.
What should I do?
Baffled in Boston
The way things normally go is that brides ask women to do them the honor of being a bridesmaid. It is not usually a job assigned to you by your father, or anyone else. It’s also not generally seen as a job for someone who isn’t invested at least a little bit in the happiness of the people involved. In terms of bridal showers, usually the bridesmaids get together and discuss what sort or bridal shower the bride wants and decide together what they can each afford to contribute.
You’re absolutely right that it’s bizarre and rude for anyone to inform you that you need to pony up $155 to throw him or his fiancée a party, let alone for that person to be your father.
That being said, I get the feeling that there’s a lot that’s not being said here. You say you get along with your stepmother, but you also damn her with faint praise (she’s better than the others) and make it pretty clear that you don’t want much to do with either your father or “this woman,” as you call her.
Your father is joining a new family, one with a built in daughter (possibly around your age) who actually lives with him and wants to be helpful. You have a great relationship with your mom, and now you’re watching her (and possibly yourself) be replaced. You’re clearly trying to be positive, but it’s natural and normal that you would feel conflicted and less-than-happy about the wedding.
I wonder if it’s possible that with your mixed-emotions some communication has also gotten mixed and confused.
Is it possible, for example, that your future stepmother did try to ask you to be a bridesmaid, but when you didn’t respond, your father just informed you of your role? Is it possible that because you didn’t want to discuss plans you just said something like, “Whatever, just tell me what I need to do.” Which was then interpreted as you being willing to go along with whatever you were assigned (including forking over cash)?
I can tell you what is “usually done” and what I think is acceptable, but I’m not your dad. Like it or not, visit often or not, this is your dad. What’s more, “this woman” and her daughter are now part of your family. Because you don’t mention not being able to afford the $155, I’m going to assume that your problem with this runs deeper than just being asked to write a check. If that’s the case then neither writing nor not writing the check is going to solve the problem.
Difficult as it may be, you're actually going to have to sit down and talk to your dad about your feelings about him, his new family, the way he treats you, and his wedding. You'll also have to listen to how he feels about your behavior and your relationship. Hopefully, once the two of you have had this conversation your decision about the $155 should be clearer.
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