I'm seeking some wisdom on where my personal sense of integrity as a pastor and person of faith meets my future mother-in-law's expectation of what a wedding and reception entails in order to "do it right."
I'm 30, the oldest of two girls in my family and the first to be married. My husband-to-be is 30, the middle of 3 boys, and the last to be married. He has Cerebral Palsy so his mother has learned to over-function for him as a result of his disability.
My hopes and dreams for the ideal wedding and reception: Spend no more than $2,000 on a big church wedding inviting people from my home church and church I serve now (they're about an hour apart and the ceremony will be at my home church) in addition to family and friends. That means possibly 400 people in worship followed by cake and punch for an hour in the fellowship hall. Then, take the family and out of town guests out to dinner, spending $4,290 for 100 people to eat. That is a lot of money, but $42.90 per person (excluding alcohol, but including tax and tip) for a nice meal doesn't seem outrageous to me.
Future Mother-in-law's ideal wedding reception: Spend $14,000 at the local hotel for dinner, dancing, bar and DJ for 100 guests ($140 per person).
Future Husband's ideal: Good food, a beer with his brothers, and dance the night away - plus a happy wife and a happy mother.
You can imagine the great joy that comes from being a student of family systems and trying to be an observer in all of the ensuing drama from our conflicting ideals :) Our pre-marital counseling continues to be money well invested (we started before even telling our respective parents the news...) and we're becoming more comfortable in our changing roles in our families and what that means.
My questions for you ladies of wisdom:
1. How far do I let this shin-dig go from my ideals which I consider to be based upon my economic discipleship? Part of the compromises suggested include me just shutting my eyes to some of the expenses (e.g. the open bar) - I'm having such a hard time letting that go without losing my sense of integrity! (The open bar is also a sore subject for me since I'm a Methodist Minister and would really prefer to have a dry wedding...but it is important to my future husband to have a drink with his brothers so I'm fine with serving beer and wine, but why does it need to be an open bar?). I keep telling couples they don't need to wait 5 years to get married because they can't "afford to" get married because I insist that you don't have to spend buckets of money to get married. And then I go and spend buckets of money to get married? I feel like a hypocrite!
2. I once got stuck out of town because I went to a Saturday morning wedding and my flight back that evening got canceled so I couldn't preach the next day as planned! I insist on not putting my other clergy friends in the same situation and want a Friday wedding. We looked for a Friday holiday (so non-clergy wouldn't have to take off work) and landed on Veteran's Day. A holiday widely observed where I live (the D.C. metro area) but not universally so it isn't the perfect Friday holiday...and it also happens to be 11.11.11. That special date means prices have been jacked up at the hotel my FMIL likes - but not at the places I like because they were simple restaurants to begin with, so I'm getting some resentment from her part on the date we selected together. She suggested a Saturday morning wedding and doesn't understand my insistence on Friday (the concept of a "preacher's wedding" doesn't make sense to this family). I'm tempted to give-in and have the wedding on Saturday morning - as long as all of the out of town clergy can come to dinner on Friday in lieu of staying for a reception that might make them miss a flight. What do my fellow clergywomen think? Stick to my Friday preference out of principle? Or, poll my out of town clergy friends to see if it even matters to them?
Thanks so much for any words of wisdom you may have to offer!!
P.S. A final point of contention that my FMIL hates: I insist on an open invitation to the church I serve followed by cake, punch and coffee in the fellowship hall for at least an hour. I worship with these people week in and week out so I want them there for the WORSHIP service when I get married...but she doesn't understand this and keeps suggesting we not invite them and just have a reception at the church following our honeymoon. I don't care about the reception part of it, I care about the worship part of it! sigh.
Mompriest, who blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice writes:
A viable compromise might be: I wonder if your mother in law would be content if she could host a rehearsal dinner, traditionally the gift of the groom’s family? She could plan that dinner anyway she likes and invite whomever she wants. Then you can have the wedding on the day you like with a simple reception afterward. Then if you still want to take family and close friends out for lunch or a simple dinner you could.
OR she could plan a big post wedding brunch for those who are still in town the morning after the wedding. All of her friends and your out of town guests could come.
An open wedding ceremony that includes the congregation is totally appropriate, whether or not your MIL understand this. Your congregation is part of the community that will support you in your marriage. I once attended a wedding that took place on a Sunday morning in the midst of the regular Sunday worship, just like we add a baptism to the service, this couple added wedding vows. It was awesome! And was a powerful acknowledgment to the congregation that they were significant in the lives of these parishioners. (It was a second marriage for each and they met at church). I also attended a wedding on a Sat. of congregation members/friends for which I was not invited to the formal reception but for which we had cake and beverages at the church afterward. It too was lovely and a good reminder that weddings are public events that celebrate the covenant being made between the couple.
Ultimately it is your wedding and should reflect your integrity and desires, even as you try to respect some of the wishes of your future mother in law. I think it’s great that you want to honor your MIL’s desires – I hope she is able to (mostly) fulfill her expectations in a way that doesn’t compromise yours – perhaps by taking over the plans for the rehearsal dinner or a morning after brunch.
From Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness:
I read your letter a couple of times. I have never married so I have no experience of in-laws, but having celebrated many weddings, I offer a few comments: I believe it is traditional for the bride and her family with the clergy to design the wedding. I applaud and support your desire to have a simple celebration.
I also support your desire to involve your congregation because they do become your family and it helps them invest in your relationship with your husband. Perhaps his family can see the community of faith that will support your marriage and their son. And even though I am a ‘whiskey-palian’, I support your wine and beer limitation at the reception.
I am wondering if your fiancé can speak to his mother. It is something he needs to do for the future of your relationship anyway. I know it is hard for a boy to buck his mother, especially when the relationship is as it is. But if he can take his mother in hand it might confirm your relationship together rather than set ‘enmity between mother and daughter-in-law.’
But it might help if you ask your mother-in-law what her wedding was like and what she might have wanted at her wedding that she didn’t get. It sounds like your mother-in-law might be trying to work out some of her own needs in your wedding. If that is the case, see if there is something in her loss you might be able to offer her in yours. I have found parents are often working out their own needs in the ceremonies of their children. Offering her something she can treasure in your wedding may help her bond with you.
My prayers will be with you.
And from Ruth (not a Moabite) blogging at Sunday’s Coming:
You know the bit of the Bible I find it hardest to understand ?– the bit where the daughter-in-law, Ruth, speaks such incredibly tender words of love to her mother-in-law!
‘Wherever you go I shall go. Your people shall be my people, your God my God’ etc...
I find it hard to believe a daughter-in-law can feel like that about her mother-in-law. The relationship between these two women can be the hardest to negotiate in any family.
They can clash over how the husband/son looks & dresses; how to cook; how to bring up children; and – starting it all off: how to get married.
So I have some questions:
- Who is paying the bills? The person paying gets a big vote on how their money is spent, in my book.
- Who is getting married, here (I know the answer to this one, but many grooms can tend to opt out & I sometimes (gently) remind them ‘this is YOUR wedding’)
- Does your FMIL understand your job & your relationship to your church (& therefore your hopes for inviting them to the service) - if not, is there some way to help her?
- Where will the $8-10,000 dollars go if it is Not spent on the bigger wedding? Is there a way of involving FMIL in this?
- Could it be that she thinks you’re trying to ‘deny’ yourself & doesn’t understand you genuinely want the money put to better use & that you really want the simpler day?Is there some way of telling her about it in a way which makes it clear this is positively what you want?
Wishing you happiness, the love of Ruth the Moabite, and the negotiation skills of Jacob, son of Isaac & Rebekah & all the grace God can give.