There are seven words no one planning their wedding wants to hear: ‘you could at least offer a soup.’
I’ve helped couples navigate tricky social situations from wayward wedding guests on Problem Pal before, from guests who didn’t RSVP but thought they could still rock up, to guests who took it upon themselves to invite other people to the wedding, but this is the first time I’ve heard of wedding guests who aren’t involved in the planning criticising everything about the wedding – and the bride.
If you have high blood pressure, you might want to give this one a miss. It will make you angry.
Hi Problem Pal.
I’m at the end of my rope with some of my wedding guests and I need a little outside perspective before I wind up saying something I’ll regret!
I don’t know how much detail you need to give advice – I’m sorry if this is TMI!
My fiancé comes from a big Irish Catholic family and I’ve always felt like they were cold to me. His sisters treat me fine but his aunties especially have always been a little off, never treating me the way they treat my fiancé’s sister-in-laws. His mum isn’t as cold but she definitely doesn’t treat me the same either.
Now, I’ve been married before, I have a teenage daughter, and I don’t want any more kids, and I’ve always been honest about that. My fiancé is totally onboard and none of it was news to him. (We knew each other for fifteen years before we got together! He was actually a guest at my first wedding!!) But I think his family don’t like the idea of him marrying a divorced woman who doesn’t want to have babies.
I’ve always done my best to ignore it, but things have gotten a lot worse since we got engaged.
My fiancé, my daughter, and I live in England, and my family live here too, but my fiancé’s family live in Ireland.
We worried that it might be hard for everyone to travel for our wedding since we both have elderly relatives who don’t have loads of expendable income, but we knew they’d want to be involved in the wedding.
We decided the fairest thing would be to have an engagement party in Ireland this year, that was basically a wedding – a three-course meal we’d pay for, everyone dressed up, a dance floor – and the wedding itself in England the next year. We’d invite everyone to both, but if elderly aunts could only travel to one event, they wouldn’t feel they’d missed out.
We thought it was a perfect compromise but my fiancé’s family thought differently. We got so many texts and phone calls and subtle shade on Facebook about it, we decided to just have the wedding in Ireland this year to make them happy.
But nothing is making them happy. They are complaining about everything.
With the COVID restrictions, we can’t have many people at the day so it’s only family and one close friend each. I’ve only invited my immediate family – my mum, my sister, and my daughter – so I only have four guests, but you’d think I’d invited the Mongolian Horde for the flack I’m getting for it. His auntie was telling me I should leave my daughter at home because she ‘won’t appreciate it’ so her son – my fiancé’s cousin – could bring a plus-one we’ve never even met instead!
The straw that broke the camel’s back happened today, though. We can’t have as many guests at our wedding as we’d planned but we’d already paid for everything, so our caterer offered to bump us up to their £100 a head menu. It’s a great deal for us with much better food – think steak instead of chicken.
When we spoke to his family to find out what they’d like on the new menu, his auntie told me I was ‘very inconsiderate’ for changing menus (was I just meant to lose the extra £1000?! Was I meant to ask for the extra thirty meals in doggy bags?!) and she said I should ‘at least offer a soup’.
Soup wasn’t even on the old menu!
I just can’t believe they’re criticising me for paying £100 each for them to have a fancy meal. I can’t believe I’m going to travel to Ireland for my wedding, so they can be 30 minutes away from their house, and I’m going to spend my wedding day surrounded by people who clearly don’t want the wedding to be going ahead at all.
I wish I could just uninvite them all and have our friends there instead, but I know that would just cause a bigger drama.
Is there a way to stop them from ruining the day, or is anything I say just going to make it worse?
I’m so sorry. Your partner’s family sound like awful people.
When critics keep finding issues, it’s because they’re hunting for – or making – them
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, ‘nothing is making them happy.’ Nothing will make them happy. It’s not about where the wedding is or who’s invited or what food you serve. They’re searching for reasons to be unhappy about the wedding because they’re already unhappy about the wedding.
If they can blame their unhappiness, through any kind of mental gymnastics, on the location or the guest list or the soup then it’s your fault. You’ve somehow committed a terrible faux pas and they can openly criticise you for it. Because the alternative is admitting to themselves that they’re being jerks – and they aren’t going to do that kind of self-reflection.
They don’t like you. I’m sorry, but their actions are making this incredibly loud and clear. They just don’t like you.
You aren’t planning your wedding ‘wrong’
They’re never going to fully admit to themselves why – it would take hard work, maybe even therapy, to realise they’re being judgemental snobs – so they’re trying to find justification for not liking you instead. That justification right now is you planning your wedding ‘wrong’.
a) you haven’t, there is absolutely no wrong way to plan a wedding.
b) you have given into their batty demands time and again, and they’ve just found something new to be ‘wrong’.
c) you are not the only one planning this wedding.
Later, their justification will be you wearing the wrong outfit to church, choosing not to go to church, the decorations you put up for holidays, taking the last biscuit, leaving the last biscuit, or living in a street with less than perfect parking.
The twisted ideal endgame of this is that they’ll irritate you so much, you’ll finally snap at them. At which point, in their minds, you become the unreasonable one and they can reassure themselves that they’ve always been entirely justified in not liking you.
No matter what you do, you are never going to make these people happy. Stop trying.
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page
You don’t mention what your fiancé has been doing through this. It sounds like you’re on the front line, making these calls and getting flack from his family. Does he know what’s been going on between you? Have you told him the full extent of how this is hurting you?
If you haven’t, you need to talk to your fiancé about this. Sit down together and explain what has happened and how it’s making you feel. Talk about everything you mentioned in your letter, the way you’re noticeably treated differently to everyone else’s partners, the ridiculous requests they keep making of you, the insults they’re openly giving you.
It’s not an attack on him or his family – it’s you asking your partner for support when you need it.
You need support – are you getting it?
If you have spoken to him, there are some more questions you need to consider. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself but you do need to be completely honest: is he helping you as much as he can? Is he aware of how much abuse you’re getting from his family? Is he protecting you from it to the best of his ability?
And: is this person providing a safe environment for me and my child?
No one can answer those questions for you. Maybe your partner has been completely unaware and, from now on, he’ll shut this nonsense down completely. Or maybe you need to consider if this is the life you want to live. Because it goes past your wedding day.
The soup is not the issue here
They say you’re in a relationship with a person, not their family, but it’s not quite true. Their family will always be in your life.
Is your fiancé close to his extended family? How often do you expect to see these horrible Roald Dahl aunties when restrictions are lifted? Once a year? Every other year, for the holidays? Only for weddings and funerals?
If you’re not expecting to see them often, this could be something you just roll your eyes at. Aunt Spike is at it again. Sure, sure. If your partner is understanding and supportive, you could even laugh about this together – because the requests are laughable.
But if you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, or if your partner isn’t seeing how damaging this toxic behaviour is, this might not be a situation you can safely stay in. These might not be people you can surround your daughter with.
It’s not a nice thing to consider when you’re planning a wedding, I know. But it will only get harder the longer you wait.
Take time. Be honest with yourself. And don’t stay in a situation that damages your self-esteem, your mental health, or your idea of how a normal, loving family works.