Dear Prudence

My Mother’s Complaining Is Ruining My Wedding Planning

Prudie offers advice on wedding woes.

Woman looking exasperated covering her ears.
filistimlyanin/iStock/Getty Images

Welcome to the newest addition to the Dear Prudence lineup: the Friday mini-column. At the end of the workweek, Prudie will answer two more questions from the mailbag. This week’s theme: wedding woes.

To get advice from Prudie, send questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion. Or call the Dear Prudence podcast voicemail at 401-371-DEAR (3327) to hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,
My mom is a complainer, to the point that I wonder if she has some kind of victim complex. She is the queen of sending her food back to the kitchen. What’s worse is that she can’t just politely send her dish back—she has to give the server an extended thesis on what was wrong with it. She has moved every year for the past 10 years, each time claiming her new place is great and the old place was a rat hole. I once intervened at a store because of how she responded when the cashier offered to sign her up for a store credit card. She simply can’t keep her mouth shut. She recently came over to my future mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and declared the turkey undercooked. I was mortified. I’m about to start planning my wedding, and while I know everything can’t be perfect, I don’t want my mother whining all day, especially when she’s going to have be in close proximity to my father, whom she hates. Is there a decent way to tell her to just keep her awful comments to herself because her complaining drives me nuts and ruins everything?
—Mom the Complainer

“Mom, please keep any complaints to yourself, because they drive me wild and take all the fun out of [event].” That is a very decent thing to say! My guess is that you actually meant “Is there a way to tell her to keep her complaints to herself that won’t unleash the Biggest Complaint Tirade of All Time,” and the answer to that is probably no. But that is because your mother is a profoundly unreasonable person who barely ever gets challenged, not because there’s some better way of phrasing this request that we’re both missing. If her response is some variation of “I’m not a complainer; I’m just uniquely unlucky, and the world is full of monsters who can’t meet my standards,” then your only option is to hang up the phone, leave the room, cut the conversation short, and minimize the amount of time you spend talking to her. Either she’ll eventually get the message and learn to vent somewhere else or she won’t, but at least you won’t have to listen to the constant low-level drone of her deliberate misery for as long as you plan your wedding.

Dear Prudence,
I’m recently engaged, and some family friends offered to throw an engagement party specifically for other family friends who won’t be invited to the wedding. They’re sensitive to the fact that our budget is limited but want to create a space for people who’ve known me my whole life to celebrate and get to know my fiancé. I am completely overwhelmed by their generosity and will likely take them up on it, but I know common etiquette dictates that it’s greedy to invite nonwedding guests to an engagement party. And since I won’t be the one sending out the invitations, can you think of a way to make sure the intent is clear, so that it doesn’t just look like a grab for presents?
—A Nice Problem

There are very few wedding traditions I think of as non-negotiable, but inviting everyone who was at the engagement party to the wedding itself is definitely one of them. I just don’t think there’s any way to finesse such a thing so that it’s anything but rude. As sweet as the offer may have been, I think you ought to decline. If this took place after the wedding itself, that would be different, but having a pre-wedding celebration for people who might later (reasonably) expect an invitation and be disappointed on not receiving one would cause unnecessarily hurt feelings. People might wonder if they’d said or done something at the engagement party to offend you and got knocked off the wedding invitation list! If you want some of your family friends to get to know your fiancé, try to schedule a brunch or non-wedding-related event with them in the next few months.

You say you’re probably going to say yes, so if nothing I’ve said here inclines you to change your mind, the best thing you can do is to communicate to the host that you will be having a small, budget wedding and aren’t expecting gifts, and hope that they’ll be able to (tactfully) pass the message along to the invitees. Good luck!

Catch Up on This Week’s Prudie:

Help! I’m Worried My Deaf Son Is Being Used as “Inspiration Porn.”
Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Nervous Jokester
Dear Prudence Podcast: The “Up for Sitting Down” Edition