General Etiquette > Family and Children

In Laws and Family Event

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Hello everyone! First time posting, long time reader.

I have an upcoming event I would appreciate some perspective and advice on handling.

First some background - I will try to keep it brief as I feel this could get lengthy. As with most families and dynamics, it goes much deeper than this and I will explain as necessary if needed.

DH was born and raised in a small town (less than 2500 residents) in a rural area. As to be expected, he has extensive family from both his mother's and father's sides. He is also an only child. DH and I met and married while he was in the military and moved to his Hometown after he was discharged. We lived in Hometown for several years (during the time I didn't acclimate well) before having the opportunity to move to Awesome state. We lived in Awesome state for many, many years when my DH had the opportunity to buy his uncle's (FIL side) business and last year we moved back. My MIL and FIL live right.behind us and we are codependent on each other - FIL works for DH for little pay, MIL keeps DS - 4 years old for us for free, so I am the only one that works that receives consistent pay.
MILs side of the family is extremely manipulative and has made passive agressive an art form. The self described matriarch of this side is MILs sister, Mary Fay. Mary Fay is 10 years older than MIL and th best way I can describe their relationship is imagine Mary Fay is the most popular kid in school and MIL is the unpopular girl she has decided to pay attention to - think all those cliche movies to get an idea.
Mary Fay's granddaughter is getting married tomorrow. This is to be a big event in a chuch (not my religion) with a reception at a hall. Our anniversary is today (becomes important). End BG.
Everything began three weeks ago. MIL told me she was going to take DS4 home after the ceremony. (We also have three other daughters - DD18, DD15, and DD13). I thanked her for the offer but explained to her I thought it was time for him to become exposed to this kind of situation so be could learn how to handle himself. She again pushed, I again thanked her but turned down her offer. After some hemming and hawing she admitted that she was expected to serve food at the reception (???)and with her agoraphobia (which she doesn't really have but uses to get out of things she doesn't want to do - she's embarrassed about her living situation and doesn't want people asking her about it) she could never do it. I told her I was sorry they were expecting her to serve but be was going and if he needs to leave I will handle it.
After putting some thought into this, I am really against it as I feel I will be - if I haven't already - "volunteered" to take her place. Ain't gonna happen and I will politely refuse all suggestions I serve food.
She has also used our anniversary as an out for tonight as a reason she could t be "volunteered" to help with last minute decorations, even though we already have DD18 keeping DS4 so we can go out.
Ah, but this is not all (this is etiquette hell after all). A week ago (note - 1 week before wedding) my DH tells me he and his dad were just asked to make (special local dish) for the reception. This would require them to miss the ceremony and work cooking during reception. I asked how he replied to his mother when she asked, he told me he said he wasn't sure because he didn't think I'd want to sit in the ceremony with the kids by myself. I suspected he really said yes - he has no spine- and told me this so I would feel bad and tell him to do it. I didn't - I responded telling him to do what he felt best, figuring he's already agreed. I also believe while his mother may have asked him, knowing this side of the family he had been "volunteered" by Aunt Mary Fay and his mother was counting on him not having a spine to say no.
The more and more I think about this and try to look at it objectively, the angrier I become. If my DH does cook, I will sit through a service I am not familiar with (remember I'm a different faith) by myself as DDs will probably sit with their friends (they mostly go to that church) and MIL will sit with Mary FAy and her entourage. I will be very uncomfortable to say the least. And, I am angry that this family is not paying for help (they have the means and I am sure this is just a way for Mary Fay to save money so she can brag later on how much she saved) and expecting family to serve for friends and towns folk.  I am this.close to not even going.

Any advice?

And please let me know if I can clarify anything as I know this type of family is hard to describe in writing - many things are subtle and you have to be there for).

There are many more tales of the other side of the family - FIL, but those are for another time.

Thanks for reading this far!

If I can boil down your question, it is (as I understand it): should I be annoyed/angry that my husband agreed to do some work (that I don't think he should be doing) that would cause him to miss the ceremony, thereby not keeping me company?

My perspective on this would be: he's a grown man, and he should be able to ascertain for himself whether he wants to volunteer some work or not. It sounds like a nice thing for him to do, but if he didn't want to, he should have said no.

For you: why don't you sit with your MIL in the ceremony then? Or with somebody you know from church? During the ceremony, there will probably not be a lot of talking in any case, so sitting "with" someone is probably not strictly necessary. I would advise following along as best as you can (stand and sit when other people do, etc), and wait it out. How long can it be, one hour tops? If you had infant triplets, I could see your needing help, but it sounds like your kids are old enough to mind themselves in this situation with the exception of one son, who you can give your attention to if need be.

As much as I dislike toxic relatives, I think your husband should go through with his chore. because the wedding is tomorrow.  He should've spoken up a week ago so that the mother of the bride could've found another patsy.

 Going forward, he should take steps to install a spine.

rose red:
I'm not sure what advice you are asking for.  How to get DH not to cook?  If you should go or not?  How to not attend without any fallout?  Is the problem that you will be sitting alone?

The only thing I can say is that a lot of people have attended ceremonies where they are not familiar with the religion or culture.  The simplest thing is just sit and observe. 

I think you handled your MIL well with regard to your son. It does sound like she planned to tell her sister "I can't help serve because swij needs me to take DS home." While possibly offering you up as her replacement. If your son was invited to the wedding and reception he should be allowed to go and enjoy them. Like you said, you can take him home if necessary.

As for your DH, it was good that you put the decision back on him instead of telling him to go ahead and cook but I think it also would have been awesome if you'd said "That was so thoughtful of you to worry about me, honey! You're right, I would be uncomfortable by myself. Thank you for telling them no." As it is, he's obligated himself so he should follow through. If you didn't want him to cook it would have been better to be honest. At this point you can't really get upset with him because you told him to do what he felt was best.  :-\

As for advice I think you should go to the wedding and politely decline any last minute pleas for help with "I'm sorry but I need to stay with DS." If someone counters with "Oh I'll watch him for you." you say "No thank you, excuse me." as you head in the opposite direction.


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