Just wanted to write and thank you. I’ve been an Etiquette Hell reader for several years and have enjoyed your stories – especially those about developing a polite spine. I recently had an opportunity to put some of your excellent advice into practice.
We live several hundred miles away from where the rest of our family lives. We can make the drive in one day, but it’s a very long, tiring day. My husband’s family, in particular, tends to not take our location into consideration when communicating about family events, such as weddings, reunions, etc. As a result, we’ve had the unpleasant experience of receiving a call telling us that something is planned for a day or weekend in the near future and they would “love for us to be there.” This throws us into panic mode trying to change existing plans and make new, last minute plans for a fairly long trip in order not to miss whatever is going on back home (a not inconsiderable effort, we have two kids and both work full time outside the home). I know, don’t say it. We’re wimpy, wimpy doormats!
So, a few months ago, my husband’s Niece calls to tell us she’s engaged and plans to be married soon. We say congratulations and be sure to let us know when you settle on a date so we can be there for you. Months go by and no word about the wedding. We did wonder off and on, but figured they had decided on a longer engagement.
A week or so ago another family member happened to be in our area and asked to meet for dinner. Talk turned, as it will, to other family members, and she asked if we were planning on attending Niece’s wedding. We stated that we hadn’t heard a thing about it. Apparently, Niece and Niece’s Mother had sent out the Save the Date announcement via Facebook. Not sure what their plan was for people not on Facebook or not friends with Niece or if they even had a plan for those people. Whatever happened, we fell through the cracks and didn’t hear about the wedding until it was less than a month away.
My husband and I discussed the situation and decided that enough was enough and we were no longer going to allow failure to plan and communicate on someone else’s part to result in panic and stress on our part. Niece’s Dad (husband’s brother), called us last night to let us know which hotel they had rooms reserved for out-of-town guests. We very politely told him that we were so sorry but, due to the short notice we had received regarding the date of the wedding, we would be unable to attend.
“What do you have going that’s more important than Niece’s wedding? She’d really like you to be there.”
“We’d really love to be there, but it’s such a long way to go on such short notice. By the way, how did that salmon fishing trip of yours go? Did you catch anything?” (Bean dipping! Thanks, E Hell!!)
He tried to pin us down a couple more times and we just kept going back to we’d love to be there, but sorry, short notice, then bean dip to something else. Eventually, he gave up. We sent our love to everyone and hung up.
We don’t have any illusions that things are going to magically change and his family will start taking the realities of distance and geography into consideration when communicating plans, but it sure feels good to know that on the day of the wedding we’ll be sitting in our backyard drinking ice tea instead of sitting at the wedding feeling exhausted from a long, unplanned trip; dreading the equally long, and doubly exhausting trip home the next day; and silently seething because we had, once again, allowed someone else to turn our lives upside down. Thanks!! 0730-14
It’s not just that the Save the Dates were issued via a Facebook status but that apparently you did not receive an actual wedding invitation in a timely fashion either. I think I would have husband call his brother and explain further that it was only by accident that you knew of the wedding at all and that with three weeks notice, that just wasn’t enough time to arrange work and other obligations to travel several hundred miles. Reiterate that you would have loved to have been there but having not received any information on the wedding, you are not prepared to travel 200-300 miles on short notice. And by all means send a lovely card congratulating them on their wedding and give a gift if you would have had you attended. Polite spines are great but family weddings can be a tricky minefield to navigate and sending a card and gift will go a long way in communicating that you still love them even as your spine stiffens.