Wedding Drama Is Rarely About the Wedding 

In Depth

Weddings are slow cookers full of potential agitation, wherein family, friends, finances, and fiancés all come together during months of planning and mingle together to create a terrible-tasting mess. Nine times out of ten, this nonsense actually isn’t about the wedding itself. In fact, the more complicated the fuss, the less likely it has anything to do with the bride, groom, or their nuptials.

From Michelle Singletary’s column in the Washington Post comes one such example involving a bride-to-be, her mother, and her aunt. A reader—let’s call her Anne—has a niece, whom we’ll call Catherine. Catherine is getting married and has a pricey registry full of “high-end” items like Kate Spade towels and $200 pots and pans. This doesn’t sit well with Aunt Anne for various reasons:

  • Catherine—who, like her fiancé, is only employed part time—dropped out of college after a year and half and has not been responsible about paying off her student loans, loans on which Anne cosigned.
  • When Anne reached out to her sister Mary (mother-of-the-bride) to express surprise at Catherine’s pricey wish list, Mary told Anne not to bother bother buying Catherine a gift off the registry. Instead, Mary advised Anne to just help pay down the student loans. Anne feels like a loan payment is a “weird” wedding gift.
  • When Anne’s daughter (hell, let’s name her Elizabeth) got married, Mary didn’t give a gift.

Oh, hm—can you guess which one is the real issue here?

Objectively speaking, even if Anne thinks it’s odd to pay off some of Catherine’s debt in lieu of a registry gift, she’d be wise to at least consider it: Catherine’s failure to responsibly meet her financial obligations has hurt her aunt’s financial standing (Anne claims her credit score has dropped 100 points since cosigning on the doomed loans). Anne probably would be doing herself a favor if she got over her ideas of what constitutes a proper wedding gift and made a payment on the loan under the guise of a “gift” and called it a day.

But the supposed issue of this wedding gift, be it a loan payment or a hand mixer, is not the actual issue. Anne shows her hand and says as much herself: “My sister [is] basically asking me for money, when she did nothing—not even a card—for my daughter’s wedding.”

And so here we have a case of wedding-inspired turmoil that has nothing to do with any circumstances surrounding the wedding itself. Absolutely nothing. This isn’t about Catherine and her fiancé. Nope. This is a matter of Anne being a little pissed at her sister Mary for slighting Elizabeth (who probably doesn’t even care about whether Aunt Mary got her those nesting bowls) and still having the supposed nerve to ask that Anne give Catherine cash.

Anne can say this is about registry etiquette, but really it’s just some trifling sisterly nonsense between two grown women. Let it serve as joyless a reminder that so much of what surrounds a wedding is not actually about the union of two people; the celebration of that union is just a prism through which all sorts of familial and social bullshit are dredged up and sculpted into an emotional powder keg that’s just waiting to explode once everyone’s good and drunk at the reception.

Mazel tov, Catherine. Here’s to your special day.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via Shutterstock.

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