Q: My fiance and I are planning a small wedding next year. We are a young couple who decided that home ownership is more important than an extravagant wedding, and we are making sacrifices on the guest list, venue, wedding dress and decorations to make sure we can afford this wedding and our mortgage payments.
My main problem is my fiance's family. His family comes from Vietnam, and he believes that his family will feel that they will lose face if we do not have a catered seven-course meal with black-tie waitstaff, like his siblings had when they got married.
We are paying for this wedding ourselves, and I do not want such a huge expense, plus I feel like my own blue-collar family, and I as well, would be very uncomfortable with something so formal. Whenever I try to explain this to my fiance, he tells me I am being culturally insensitive, and that I cannot understand because I am not Vietnamese. Should I allow us to take on an expensive extravagance for the sake of being culturally sensitive?
A: Your "main problem" is not his family. It's that you and your husband don't agree on how to handle your cultural differences. And that includes the failure of both of you to recognize that the "for the sake of being culturally sensitive" imperative applies to both of you. He is just as obligated to agree to an informal wedding that would make your family comfortable as you are to agree to a formal wedding to make his family comfortable.
Neither of you has any claim to cultural primacy here, and I don't like your chances until you're both ready to see this — or until one of you decides you just don't care enough to hold your ground and defers to the other's way of handling appearances.
You've got to see the long game here. Figure out your priorities, then hold whatever ground you must.