Your Rehearsal Is My Reception!

by admin on September 30, 2010

I have been considering entering this story into the bowels of etiquettehell.com for some time now, and as my husband and I’s anniversary draws near, I am reminded of this story from those days of heady excitement and familial clinical insanity, ah, yes, those ‘engagement days.’

My husband has a younger brother, whom I will call Jeremy.  Jeremy, who is two years younger than my darling husband, had been living with a woman, whom I shall call Lara, for some time, about seven years.  (They were not married, much to the disapproval and ire of both my husband’s parents and her family, both being devout in a traditional faith and pining for a grandchild.)  In any case, my husband and I had met shortly after New Year’s, fell in love, and became engaged the following October. (My husband wishes to note that our courtship and engagement was atypically fast for this day and age, however, he wants me to note that we, being traditionalists, wished to follow that age old poem, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes living together, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”)

Originally, we had wanted to hold a very, very small wedding during a weekday at our church, however, being the eldest of his generation, my fiance’s parents were eager to have the “whole shebang” wedding.  We finally agreed and, after consulting both families, we chose a lovely day, away from any major holidays, birthdays, other anniversaries, church high holy days, etc., that was a little under a year away.  This was, as I understood it, a typical amount of time between his perching on one knee and exchanging those knee-knocking vows in front of a packed congregation.  Everyone invited to the wedding received (what has lately become de riguer) a printed card notifying them of the aforementioned date of the wedding, informing them to “save the date”, thus giving our world-wide spread friends and family a good deal of notice to discuss the date, plan for travel, save for expenses, and the like.

We sailed along, joyfully planning our wedding, our heads in that hazy fog of love, and Christmas time arrived before we knew it.  We gathered at his parents’ house on Christmas Day, and of course we were enjoying the holiday with my husband’s parents, Jeremy and his live-in girlfriend, the aforementioned Lara, and my husband’s sister.  We had just enjoyed a lovely Christmas dinner and the traditional present opening, and my husband’s family and I were relaxing in front of the fireplace, sharing embarrassing childhood stories and fond Christmas memories, when, out of the blue, Lara announced that she and Jeremy were going to be married the Friday immediately before our Saturday wedding date, following with “since your fiance’s family will be in town, we may as well get married then, too, and save them a trip.”

I was absolutely gobsmacked and began to choke on a sip from my glass of wine.  My husband and I exchanged looks that could best be described as shocked horror, as did his parents, whom had not even known that Jeremy was thinking of marriage, let alone actually asking Lara for her hand.  After I managed to recover, I simply stated, “We have booked the church for our rehearsal that Friday, and we have already booked a (rather large, as we had many out of town/country guests, which, according to our beloved etiquette, should be invited to the rehearsal dinner) banquet room for the traditional rehearsal/thank you supper.”  Lara thought for a split second, then said, “It’ll be great, and your rehearsal dinner can be our reception.”  Again, I protested at this, stating that we simply couldn’t afford to pay for their (plethora) of friends and her family as well as our own. (We were paying for the wedding entirely on our own.)  Lara then suggested they be married on the Sunday after our wedding.  Again, I had to tell her that we had already planned to leave for our honeymoon in Mexico on that date and it simply could not be changed, as we had already purchased non-refundable airplane tickets and had arranged to stay at one of our friend’s parents’ beach home.  Trying to appease her, I added, “And since we’ll be family, we really would like to be present at your wedding, it’s very important to us.”

Lara’s face began to turn red with anger (I had always assumed that rehearsal/rehearsal dinner was held the day before the wedding and the couple left for the honeymoon the day after the wedding, and that it was pretty clear that this is the way weddings tended to go…)  Sensing that she was about to throw a fit and being the chronic people pleaser that I am, I even feebly suggested we have a double wedding, which she quickly and angrily refused, saying that “that was the stupidest idea I have ever heard.  If you can’t be at our wedding on that Friday, you’ll just have to miss it!”  At this, I retreated to the bathroom and started sobbing.  My husband-to-be made a lame excuse and took me home, depressed and with a bloated, tear-stained face.

In the end, however, my future husband spoke with his mother, begging her to try to talk some sense into Jeremy, who, as it turned out, was as surprised as we were that he and Lara were marrying–he had never spoken to her about it and never proposed!  My now mother-in-law finally spoke with Lara and convinced her to change the date–not by appealing to her sense of etiquette or sense of basic kindness–but by convincing her that she would get more/more expensive presents by marrying at a different time!

I know that nowadays many brides feel they “own” her wedding month, or even her wedding year–but seriously, the night before?!  The day after?!

And having us pay for our rehearsal dinner as their reception?  Uncouth doesn’t begin to cover it!  I truly shudder to think what will happen when we have children.

P.S. Jeremy and Lara did end up getting married–three years after our wedding!  And holy cow, that’s another entry for your site… (Oh, and just for the record, it was her second wedding–and, as can be expected, we are still waiting for a thank you note…two years later.)  0216-09

I would have guffawed laughing at the ridiculous suggestion and then deadpanned, “I cannot accommodate your request.”

{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

etimodnar September 30, 2010 at 6:27 am

oh Admin, your hypothetical response brightens my evening! :D

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Diane September 30, 2010 at 7:40 am

If only your future brother in law would have found his tongue and said something along the line of….”we haven’t talked about this at all! I haven’t asked you to marry me!”. That would have just put the cherry on top of this story. Glad your nuptials didn’t suffer by the night before/day after barge in. Best of luck.

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beckstar September 30, 2010 at 7:41 am

My best friend and her husband got married exactly a week before my husband and I did (mine was planned first!) I wasn’t too annoyed as she and her husband had to marry quickly because her mother was unwell. Our weddings were in different parts of the country, but becuase we have a lot of mutual friends we had a lot of the same guests at both weddings, and many of those guests were annoyed that they had two consecutive weddings (needing two consecutive hotel stays, two consecutive gifts and two consecutive sets of smart clothes). We were each other’s bridesmaids and did all of our own flowers etc, so the organisation was manic – neither of us really slept for two weeks. She had to delay her honeymoon. We coped, but it wasn’t ideal – I cannot begin to imagine how two weddings in two days would work, and I’m so glad that despite the trauma of your Christmas day conversation, you got to enjoy your big day!

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HonorH September 30, 2010 at 7:43 am

My gob, it is smacked. “Oh, since you’re already paying for the rehearsal dinner, why don’t we invite all our friends and my family and make it our reception? Which you can pay for! And don’t forget to give us a wedding present!” I’m afraid my response to her suggestion that their wedding be the day after would’ve been, “Well, enjoy yourselves! We’ll be in Mexico!”

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Shannon September 30, 2010 at 7:49 am

I could not imagine being blindsided like that. Lara figured she’d corner the OP, who was probably still getting her sea legs with this family, and put her in a position where she couldn’t say “no.”

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Threepenny September 30, 2010 at 8:00 am

I would laugh – if only at the OP’s lack of grammar and attempt at prose (does the length of the courtship really matter to the situation? Also, the overuse – and misuse – of “whom” nearly did me in; I could barely read this).

That being said, the situation is ridiculous, the brother and his fiancee are ridiculous (though how does it matter she’s been married before?) and I love Admin’s response.

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Chocobo September 30, 2010 at 8:09 am

I don’t really see why the fact that she was a live-in girlfriend, or a divorcée, bears mentioning. Or, in fact, why OP’s husband feels it is important to emphasize that they chose another path. That really doesn’t have anything to do with her etiquette faux-pas, and the whole story smacks of cattiness to mention it.

‘Lara’ is obviously selfish and tempermental, and ridiculous to make such a request. Even worse is that she is so offended when her wishes aren’t granted. I could forgive someone coming up with a “bright idea” out of innocent ignorance that what they are asking is unreasonable. I believe there was a similar story of the “surprise double-bride” some time ago where a bridesmaid thought it would be great to show up in a bridal gown and do a double wedding the day-of, but didn’t seem to initially understand why that was a terrible idea. Clearly this is not the case with Lara, since when she is corrected, she reacts like a petulant child.

It should have just been left at that.

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Jillybean September 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

Um…wow. Yeah, you’re correct, you don’t own the month and if she wants to get married the night before, she can plan it, pay for it, send out invitations and get them all back as declined because people already have plans (namely your rehearsal). I can just imagine the fit she would have thrown, “No one is coming to MY wedding!!!” Good job for Jeremy’s mom backing her off (even if it took greed to do it), but why the heck didn’t Jeremy just tell her no? As in, no, I’m not marrying you the night before my brother’s wedding, as I didn’t propose to you.

On a side note – Happy Anniversary OP.

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lkb September 30, 2010 at 8:47 am

I would have loved to have heard the discussion between Jeremy and Lara Christmas night or shortly thereafter.
I also wonder how the OP gets along with Lara these days. If it were me, I’d have a difficult time.
Family, gotta love ‘em (much as we shake our heads and wonder why sometimes).

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IrishNinja September 30, 2010 at 9:09 am

I really wanted to be on the side of the submitter. However, I could smell the judgment through my computer screen. I would have been so angry at Lara’s behavior had she left the information about the wedding and how “traditional” her and the husband are compared to the people *gasp!* living in sin. The length of anyone’s relationship, their living situations, and views on sex should really have been left out.

It makes me wonder if Lara was trying to upstage the submitter for her obvious judgment? No matter how you look at it, what Lara did is inexcusable. However, if she felt constantly judged by the submitter, her husband and family, it is easy to see how Lara could decide to pull a stunt like this.

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Laura Lives in Sin September 30, 2010 at 9:27 am

I laughed at (and agreed with) ThreePenny’s response.

“…we, being traditionalists, wished to follow that age old poem, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes living together….

I’d like to point out that cohabitation is not against “tradition,” and I’m a little offended when people get judgmental. Historically, (and particularly on the early frontier) many couples wanted to get married, but the circuit minister’s visit might have been several months away. Why wait? That’s what common law marriage is for. It was more commonly recognized prior to 1753, when England abolished it for most religions. Even Ben Franklin set up common-law marriage with Deborah Read in 1730. As far back as 1634 in the Americas, “bundling” was popular, which meant the young men stayed overnight in the same bed as the young woman – sure, someone was supposed to wear a chastity bag, but according to one source, whereever there was bundling, there were an awful lot of children “born unto the state” (Stiles 1871, p. 50–53).

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Louise September 30, 2010 at 9:42 am

Lara’s suggestion was outrageous and she sounds like a real number (changing the date based on the wedding gifts? Eeek!). I’m glad that the OP’s in-laws managed to talk her down, and I hope she behaved at the wedding.

But, like IrishNinja, I don’t side too much with the OP because of the self-righteous tone of her post. Lara’s gall and faux pas aren’t made worse just because she’s living with Jeremy before marriage, and the OP isn’t the better woman just because she followed a more traditional path.

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DGS September 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

Yes, Lara was tacky, inappropriate and rude by trying to hijack OP’s rehearsal dinner for her own wedding reception (and quite possibly had the case of the big green jealousy monsters at not being the center of attention), but OP’s holier-than-thou self-righteousness and judgment turned me off this posting right away. Whether one chooses to cohabitate before marriage, get married after knowing one another a month or ten years, or has sex before/after he or she is married, is one’s own personal business. So OP might consider not being as judgy-wudgy of poor sinful Lara and hapless Jeremy. Their lifestyle choices might be different, but neither is better or worse than the other, and OP seemed to wallowing in cattiness. I can just imagine what will happen once OP and hubby have kids, and Lara and Jeremy have kids – “Honey, I don’t want you to go play with cousin X – your Aunt OP is too self-righteous”, “Sweetie, I don’t want you to go play with cousin Y – your Aunt Lara is too trashy”, etc.

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Mother of a Bride September 30, 2010 at 10:14 am

I can understand the OP’s judgmental remarks about Lara because what Lara did was inexcusable. Sadly it’s not that uncommon, I’ve heard a lot of similar stories. My own sister’s future sister in law did the same thing to her, only she planned her quickie wedding one month before my sister’s. Of course, many of the elderly relatives on her husband’s side couldn’t bear another trip so soon after the other wedding and some of their mutual friends didn’t attend because they couldn’t afford another gift. It was upsetting to my sister and her future husband since they had already moved the date more than once because of his sister’s temper tantrums. Yes, they were doormats and NO the relationship with the spoiled sister has not improved–more than 10 years later. She’s still the queen of one-upping and they still struggle with what to do/say when she pulls another stunt. I keep telling my sister to smile and ignore her. Taking the high road and living life well is the best revenge when dealing with a drama queen who sees you as the competition.

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essie September 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

When Lara announced she and Jeremy were going to be married, that was Jeremy’s cue to say “What’s this ‘we’ business?”

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Giles September 30, 2010 at 10:23 am

As same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in 1983 when my future husband and I moved in together, we didn’t have anything in the way of a ceremony, but I remember one of my cousins losing her mind at me because he was moving into my apartment in the same two-week span her wedding was taking place and it was “going to anger God to doom her marriage.” My mother tells me she was very, very close to giving her a spanking for the first time since she was seven.

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June September 30, 2010 at 10:31 am

Toss Lara into Ehell for her selfish and frankly bizarre behaviour–but throw the OP in there right along with her, for being so judgemental!

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Lisa September 30, 2010 at 11:36 am

It goes without saying that the suggestion of using the rehearsal dinner as the reception was utterly ridiculous.

What irritated me more about this story was the emphasis the LW places on how they did things “the right way” and as if it wasn’t bad enough Jeremy & Lara tried to hijack their rehearsal dinner, they were **gasp** living in sin! AND depriving the parents of grandchildren! The horror!

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Lizajane September 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

Thank you, LauraLivesInSin, I was going to post similarly but yours was much better because you know more about the history than I did. Thanks for the interesting lesson. I love stuff like that.

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Wink-n-Smile September 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

How about if Lara paid for the rehearsal/reception, and you paid for your reception? If she had made such an offer, it would have been a financial windfall, and major stress-reliever, and probably have brought the family closer together. After all, it WOULD be significantly easier on the guests.

Of course, she’d probably want a rehearsal dinner, on Thursday, as well. . .

You know, if you elope to Vegas, you don’t even have to rehearse!

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Laura September 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm

While Lara’s behavior was reprehensible, I can’t imagine that the OP is a rose to deal with. If she talks in real life like she writes here, I don’t think I’d spend much time with her. The judgemental and sanctimonious way she wrote this is a real turn off.

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Nuit93 September 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I’m in agreement with IrishNinja. If I were Lara, I’d get annoyed at the snide “we’re so much better than you because we’re TRADITIONAL” attitude of the OP, also.

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Calliope September 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I’m with ThreePenny and Laura. What Lara did was rude, but it didn’t merit this judgmental and excessively long story. It doesn’t matter that Lara had been married before, and it doesn’t matter that she and Jeremy were living together out of wedlock, even if their poor parents were “pining for a grandchild.” It sounds like the OP is pretty high on that horse of hers.

Since this isn’t a writing site, I’ll leave the problems with the “prose” alone.

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--E September 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm

The person I first felt sorriest for was the brother. He married that self-centered jerk. But if he wasn’t the sort to immediately say, “Uh, honey, could we step outside for a moment and talk about this?” then perhaps he’s married to exactly what he deserves.

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summer September 30, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I am always amused at the posters who hate it when people are “judgmental”. Do we not judge people and their actions every single day on this website? How else do you decide what is proper etiquette and what is not if you are not judging?

And yes, cohabition is against many people’s “tradition”, and some would even say not proper etiquette. It may not be where you come from, and thus you can cross it off your list of traditional habits, but it is for many, many people in many different religions, or otherwise, and nor does it have to be a long time tradition to actually be a tradition.

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Shayna September 30, 2010 at 1:15 pm

>>

I laughed at (and agreed with) ThreePenny’s response.

“…we, being traditionalists, wished to follow that age old poem, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes living together….

I’d like to point out that cohabitation is not against “tradition,” and I’m a little offended when people get judgmental. Historically, (and particularly on the early frontier) many couples wanted to get married, but the circuit minister’s visit might have been several months away. Why wait? That’s what common law marriage is for. It was more commonly recognized prior to 1753, when England abolished it for most religions. Even Ben Franklin set up common-law marriage with Deborah Read in 1730. As far back as 1634 in the Americas, “bundling” was popular, which meant the young men stayed overnight in the same bed as the young woman – sure, someone was supposed to wear a chastity bag, but according to one source, where ever there was bundling, there were an awful lot of children “born unto the state” (Stiles 1871, p. 50–53).<<

Growing up in a very conservative church, I used to believe that common-law was a huge no-no, so I have to say that I tended to be quite judgmental toward common-law couples in my younger days. As I’ve gotten older and started questioning some of the beliefs that I grew up with, I’ve come to realize that civil law is of man, not God. I don’t really think it’s necessary to have your union “blessed” by the state for it to be acceptable in God’s eyes. That is, of course, if you bring religion into it at all. As bad as it sounds, I had a former, rather devout Christian, friend once tell me that she didn’t believe my marriage was valid because I was married in a civil ceremony rather than a religious one. Who do you think divorced a year later? Yep. Her. And who is still married nearly 7 years later and going strong? Yep. That would be me. Valid my patootie.

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Susan September 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm

The writer left me at I’s. Since when is that a freaking word?

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Susan September 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I mean lost me. Lost me at the word I’s. Can’t she say my husband’s and my anniversary? Huge pet peeve of mine. Or I’s.

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redneckgravy September 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I think Lara was beyond rude ! (unique special snowflake)

Although the whole story smacks of cattiness and embellishment.

“…we chose a lovely day”

“Originally, we had wanted to hold a very, very small wedding during a weekday at our church, however, being the eldest of his generation, my fiance’s parents were eager to have the “whole shebang” wedding”

followed later by “we were paying for the wedding entirely on our own”

“…which, according to our beloved etiquette, should be invited to the rehearsal dinner”

“Uncouth doesn’t begin to cover it! I truly shudder to think what will happen when we have children.”

Did the PP mean when they (Jeremy & Lara have children?) or when she herself gives birth ?

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Fox September 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I’m firmly of the opinion that NOT living together before committing to spending your lives together is just begging for trouble. The traditionalist idea that you both enter this blissful new life is both naive and impractical – and it assumes that a large part of marriage is about getting the other person to change their ways. How on earth are you going to know that you’re signing yourself up for a live, decades-long production of the Odd Couple if you’ve never lived together first?

Anyway, suffice to say that I agree with other commenters who disapprove of the judgmental tone in this piece. Lara’s behavior was completely ridiculous, but knowing that her entire family of in-laws are sticking their noses up in the air at her makes me feel a bit sorry for her. And she and the OP’s brother seem to have a committed relationship that lasted years before they tied the knot – who are you to scoff at their relationship because they haven’t gone through a ridiculously expensive ceremony to make it acceptable to stuffy, old-fashioned folks like you?

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AS September 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Lara’s suggestion is annoying, and I am glad you MIL stood up for you. Glad it worked out in the end for you. I think it is good of Jeremy not to publicly confront his girlfriend in front of his whole family, though I hope he did it privately.

Like other posters above, I too have to add that you (OP) seemed very judgmental. I think the second and third paragraph, and most part of the 4th paragraph could have been said in just 2-3 sentences. I love my boyfriend, but as much as we want to, we cannot get married anytime soon as we cannot pay for it yet (both of us are in grad school which is hectic with very little pay). But we do stay together so that we get to spend the time together after work (we usually work long hours on weekdays as well as weekends) and yet do regular house-hold work, and also save on rent. Anyways, as long as someone does not inconvenience others, how they live is their business, and if you don’t like it then it is your problem. I have no sympathies for Lara – her behavior is bad even if she had some reason to behave that way like @IrishNinja (post 10) hinted. But it would have been better had you left the judgments behind while posting the post. You had lost half my sympathy before I even got to the actual story. It would have just sufficed to say something like ‘she been living together for 7 years Jeremy, but chose just your rehearsal dinner paid for by both of you to want to hold her reception’. I’d not have thought of Lara any differently had you not mentioned all you and your hubby’s “traditional values”, but I definitely think of you differently, in not a positive way either.

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Xtina September 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The OP’s thoughts about Jeremy and Lara aside, I take less issue with the fact that she was going to plan her wedding for around the time of the OP (that *could* possibly be struck up to not knowing any better or being selfish, even though most people SHOULD know far better) than the fact that she was going to try to party-jack the OP’s rehearsal dinner as her reception. I mean—well, what do you say??? That is thievery, pure and simple.

I would have laughed in her face and told her that there is no way I would allow her to ruin my event and for me to pay for it on top of that; that she could go out and provide her own reception. That is absolutely preposterous and horrid.

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Yarnspinner September 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Am I the only one who thought of the infamous Southern Mom whose daughter married the (gasp) Yankee?

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Sharon September 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Some of you have been offended by the fact that the OP mentioned that the other couple had been living together before they had gotten married. I get you. I really do.
Perhaps the OP was just trying to convey the fact rude to jump into someone else’s plan. If they had already lived together and were happy all that time, why pick that very time to get married? It is not like the couple that had already been living together had set a date and the OP was horning in.
I think that Ms. Lara saw that OP and her brother were getting some attention and Lara might have realized that she wanted to feel special and have people celebrate the fact the she and her sweetie loved one another and want to be togerher, too.
The hero of the situation is that MIL. She helped both young women without making anyone angry or rejected. And, it gave Lara a chance to have her very own special day. I hope those two young women appreciate the gal that they have been given for a MIL.

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jen September 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I do have to agree with ThreePenny, Chocobo, IrishNinja, and Laura Lives in Sin. There was an awful lot of snarky judgement coming through that post. Lara and Jeremy’s lifestyle choices aren’t the issue – Lara’s infantile behaviour was.

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The Cat Whisperer September 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Wow.

I hope someone presented Lara with a gift certificate redeemable for counseling or therapy, because if she seriously expected her suggestions to meet with approval, she needs help; and if she did what she did to try to ruin her sister’s wedding plans, she needs even more help.

FWIW, I don’t think it’s much use trying to get seriously disfunctional people to understand that etiquette applies to them.

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TheBardess September 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I think the reason the OP mentioned the fact that Lara and Jeremy lived together (and had lived together for so long) was to point out that they didn’t seem to feel any pressing need to get married, and thus it was just that much stranger (and more presumptuous) to suddenly come out with “Oh, we’re getting married the day before you!” Wait a minute, you’ve lived together for the better part of a decade without evincing any desire to tie the knot and then suddenly you just HAVE to get married the DAY BEFORE your brother and his fiancee? I mean, obviously, it would have been inappropriate no matter how long Jeremy and Lara had been together, but it just sort of seems to be that much weirder when its coming from a couple who has been together for a long period of time with no apparent desire to get married.

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TheBardess September 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Wow, Fox, honestly your comment- especially the part about “stuffy, old-fashioned folks like you” came across as just as petty, catty, and judgmental as you accuse the OP of being.

But then again, I happen to be one of those “naive, impractical, stuffy, old-fashioned” traditionalists who went around “begging for trouble” by not living with my husband before I married him, so what would I know?

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Louise September 30, 2010 at 4:41 pm

@Sharon

I am not offended that the OP mentioned Lara and Jeremy were living together before they got married. I think that is pertinent to the story. It says a lot about Lara that she tried to shoehorn her way into the OP’s wedding when she could have had her own wedding in the many years she dated Jeremy.

What’s offensive is the OP’s attitude that somehow Lara and Jeremy’s living together augments Lara’s rudeness. It’s not relevant that the parents disapprove of the situation and want a grandbaby. It’s not relevant that the OP and her husband got engaged after several months and are traditionalists. It’s not even relevant that anyone in this story is devout. The only reason any of these details are included, as far as I can see, is to show how different the OP and Lara are — oh, and Lara’s the rude one. Some might call it setting the scene, but it really comes off as self-righteous and judgmental.

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TheBardess September 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Incidentally, Fox- data points to divorce rates being higher among couples who cohabitate before marriage than among couples who don’t. So those of us who waited may not be dooming ourselves to failure as much as you seem to think.

And for all the “non-judgmental” posters- like the OP, my husband and I took the more “traditional” route. We waited to live and sleep together until we got married. And I can tell you from experience that there is JUST as much cattiness, pettiness, and self-righteous, high-horsed judgment directed towards us as there is going the other way. My husband and I were young when we got married and had what many people considered a “rapid” courtship. We were told time and again, by friends and strangers alike, that our relationship was doomed- we were too young, we were moving too fast, there was no way our marriage would be successful unless we lived together first, our sex life would be horrible unless we slept together before we got married to test our “compatibility”…on and on and on. Tell people you believe in waiting until marriage for sex/cohabitation, and suddenly you start getting looks as though you belong to some sort of alien species. You get asked why you think sex is evil. People start assuming that you must have been subjected to some sort of sexual trauma (otherwise you obviously wouldn’t have these kind of unhealthy “hangups”) or that you’re just some poor, pathetic, undateable creature who is simply incapable of landing a mate and thus has to resort to “abstinence” propaganda to make him/herself feel better. And on and on and on.

No, it’s not okay for “traditionalists” to go around with their noses in the air, looking down in condemnation on those who aren’t taking the same route and espousing an attitude of “Oh, well I’m so much BETTER than YOU and MY relationships is obviously more successful because I’m not LIVING IN SIN! EEEW!” But honestly, that’s not an attitude that’s confined to one side of the aisle- it comes from the “non-traditionalists” just as much, and I hate when people act like it’s a one-sided attitude (which is kind of the vibe I’m getting from some of the comments here- “traditionalists” are narrow-minded, judgmental prudes, while “non-traditionalists” are open-minded, non-judgmental individuals). In other words- maybe we could ALL just get off our high-horses?

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Louise September 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

@summer

It doesn’t matter that Lara and Jeremy’s living together violates tradition. This is an etiquette website, not a traditions one, and the fact that the OP is more traditional than Lara and Jeremy has no bearing on the etiquette of the situation. In fact, etiquette recognizes co-habitation: If boyfriend and girlfriend live together, etiquettely speaking, they are social unit.

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Ree September 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I absolutely love ‘I cannot accommodate your request’ – I’m imagining it in sepulchral tones while I fight to keep a straight face. Sadly, since I’m a wedding planner, I’ll have to skip the ‘cannot’ part – mostly.

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kero September 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I can’t believe Lara would hijack the OP’s rehearsal AND announce her engagement without Jeremy knowing! MIL was great to settle the matters but I don’t think getting Lara an expensive gift would help her learn/change the awful behavior in the future.

Like others, I thought including the living situation of Lara and Jeremy was unnecessary.

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QueensofAllThings September 30, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Well. For an etiquette website, some rather rude responses.
My take on this is that Lara, having been ‘part of the family’ longer than the OP, was feeling left out – saw that bandwagon, and figured “why not jump on it?”. Which is called hijacking, in most parts of the world. Add the drama that is family Christmas, mix in a little alcohol (perhaps) and there you have it. The OP’s brother must have been wondering what the heck was going on…

And, at the risk of hijacking the thread, I must disagree with Fox. Many traditions, cultures, religions, and age groups still frown on living together. I came of age when everyone was doing it – we didn’t, and are very happily married years later. So – no, it’s not required. Studies show that couples who live together prior to marriage divorce at a higher rate than those who don’t. On the other hand, if you want to – go right ahead. No skin off my nose. Just please don’t judge those who don’t.

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Simone September 30, 2010 at 5:54 pm

For me, the big point of this was not Lara’s behaviour (although it was dreadful) but the combination of these two sentences;

“Originally, we had wanted to hold a very, very small wedding during a weekday at our church, however, being the eldest of his generation, my fiance’s parents were eager to have the “whole shebang” wedding.”

and

“We were paying for the wedding entirely on our own.”

I am not commenting on anyone’s financial status but a “whole shebang” wedding costs a LOT more than a quiet midweek wedding. To encourage your son and future DIL to spend that much extra money at the start of their life together because YOU want them to seems self entitled and inconsiderate to me. Perhaps Lara is a great addition to the family…

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Simone September 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I’m posting this separately because it is a separate issue.

This is an etiquette site. Not a writer’s site. To critisise someone’s writing style, grammar and spelling is unnecessary. They have not submitted their stories for prose analysis. I consider that it’s fine for people to say they were offended by the OP’s judgemental tone because that is an etiquette related matter. But her prose? Not so much.

A rough analogy would be – if someone ASKS you about their hat you may tell them you think it’s ugly. But if they ask if you enjoyed the lunch you don’t say “Your hat’s ugly” do you?

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A September 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm

No one at Christmas asked, “Oh my gosh, when did you get engaged?!” Something along those lines would be the first thing out of my mouth and I have to believe that would have ended that whole conversation right there. (And, if it didn’t, I would have let Lara do the crying and not let her wacky behavior ruin my night.)

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madame-mim September 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Yowza. Sounds like the MIL in this story certainly has her hands full with both daughters-in-law. I hope she doesn’t have to walk that tightrope for the duration of those relationships.

Not that it makes Lara’s behavior remotely acceptable, but…any chance that she intended to pay for her guests at the rehearsal? To me, the story suggests that the OP might have preempted such an offer (as I probably would have done, make no mistake). It doesn’t really change anything, but we may be indicting her here for something she never intended, and if she had been misunderstood in that moment, it would account for some of the awkwardness of the rest of the conversation that transpired.

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AS September 30, 2010 at 7:12 pm

@Summer – “Do we not judge people and their actions every single day on this website? How else do you decide what is proper etiquette and what is not if you are not judging? ” We decide what is proper etiquette based on whether or not people inconvenience others around them, are rude to them, or have an air or self-entitlement (there by bothering others), etc.; in other words, we decide etiquette based on how people behave with others. What they do themselves is no one’s business unless it hurts others in some way.

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Asharah September 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Regarding Ben Franklin & Deborah Reed: the reason it was a common-law marriage was because she was already married. Back then you couldn’t get divorced even if your lowlife husband skipped town with your dowry. Plus Ben brought home his illegitamate son for her to raise. By his own admission, Ben was quite a ladies man before getting married and quite possibly afterwards as well.
And i once heard some kind of stat about something like a quarter of colonial brides were pregnant at the alter. And yes, that does include Puritans.

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