Turn distaste for wedding plans into compassionate assistance
Q: My brother, 22, hasn't always made what others would call the best life decisions, but I've tried to offer guidance and give him room to make mistakes. Last month I found out that his girlfriend was pregnant and they were getting married. I took this news much better than my parents and am truly excited that I will soon have a little niece or nephew. My brother has loved this girl since he first saw her at age 13; they likely would have married anyway in a year or two.
The issue I'm having is that my brother and his fiancee are really poor, expecting, and having what I consider to be the tackiest wedding I've ever seen.
They are getting married in a church (when she will be five months pregnant), are inviting over 150 people, and have now upped the number of bridesmaids/groomsmen from three to seven (now totaling 14 people in the bridal party). They wanted to print photo greeting cards for the wedding invitations and use artificial flowers for the bouquets, and they have picked a bridesmaids' dress that is way too short for a woman of 30 (me) to be wearing in a church wedding.
My parents and I have started to contribute money and advice to make this appear a little classier. Really, it seems silly.
I feel the responsible thing to do at this point is either have a tiny church wedding or a simple civil ceremony. There, I said it. I feel awful that I have such strong opinions about how these two should live their lives. What do you think?
A: I think this question took one of the stranger turns that I've seen lately.
The letter I thought I was reading was going to conclude with "It upsets me to watch them burn their money on this wedding when they'll soon need it for more important things, like food, shelter, health care and the child's education."
But even after I rub my eyes, the letter I'm actually reading concludes with concerned family members throwing more money into the nuptial shredder, in order to ensure the overkill is tasteful vs. tacky.
I do agree that a small ceremony would have made more sense. But once the couple opted for the 150-person show, the clock started ticking on your duty to embrace fake flowers and photo-mill invitations — or whatever else kept the costs down without compromising the guests' comfort (hives triggered by polyester peonies don't count).
Besides the few dollars you'll spend having a tailor lengthen your skirt, any cash from this new family's benefactors needs to be spent in the best interests of the child-in-progress, who's coming despite not having received an engraved invitation.
That said: If no 529s, 401(k)s or other sensible priorities will be harmed in the making of this wedding, and if the couple welcome your fresh flowers, then I take most of it back; the trick with taming strong opinions like yours isn't to pre-empt them (good luck with that) but instead to channel them compassionately — which is presumably as you would have others channel them unto you.