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Dear Care and Feeding,
I recently torpedoed my close family when the topic of my cousin’s wedding came up. My cousin is getting married in a foreign country at a five-star, all-inclusive resort. Guests are required to stay a minimum of three nights. My family wouldn’t normally choose a very expensive all-inclusive hotel as our vacation of choice, so we asked if we could either stay at an Airbnb off-site, or simply fly in for the wedding itself, but not stay for three nights. We were told no. The couple wants the family there for the full three days.
I think the conversation would have been tense, but not catastrophic, if the topic of the wedding costs hadn’t come up. My cousin was explaining that her out-of-pocket costs were going to be around $500 (because all food is included at an all-inclusive, and I guess she is getting the venue for free), and I said that it sounded like the guests were subsidizing the wedding and that the way it was presented to us, it was a really expensive ask of their guests. The conversation exploded. They accused us of being cheapskates. We accused them of trying to get a wedding for free off the backs of their guests. It was ugly. Now no one is talking to each other, and it’s getting to where we’re talking of canceling upcoming family events just so we can avoid each other. Despite how all of this went down, this is close family, and I don’t want this to be a permanent rift. How do we heal after this?
I hope there’s more to the story than what you’ve laid out here. If not, then your cousin and her future spouse could be two of the most self-centered people I’ve come across in a long while. Who plans a wedding in a foreign country in the middle of a global pandemic? Who makes guests stay for a minimum of three nights at an expensive resort in said foreign country? Who is dumb enough to brag about spending $500 for this while pushing the rest of the expenses to the guests? My head feels like it’s going to explode.
When people show you who they are, believe them. It’s beyond unreasonable to ask this of anyone even in “normal” times, but certainly not now. Your cousin is showing a blatant disregard for your well-being and your financial situation by not taking a shred of ownership in this debacle, and that’s extremely telling. I’m not saying that you should cut all ties with her, but you may want to ask yourself if that kind of person is someone you’d want to have a close relationship with. I know I wouldn’t.
As for how to “fix” this: You could apologize for saying hurtful things to her, and mention that you’re willing to attend the wedding, but stand firm on the fact that you’re unwilling to spend money to stay at the resort. Hopefully she would be reasonable enough to compromise in order to save your relationship. If not, then this could be a clear illustration that you don’t matter as much to her as she does to you.
Also, I can’t believe that you’re the only one who feels this way about the wedding. Maybe if you found others who felt the same way you do, you could approach her together in an effort to prove that you’re not the lone party pooper. In any case, I think it’s important to stand up for yourself and not give in to ridiculous requests. Hopefully, she’ll see the error in her ways, but if not, you have to be at peace that you did what you believe was right for you and your family.
More Advice From Slate
My partner and I are expecting our first child soon, and we know our friends and family will want to send us gifts. Because of my partner’s job, we move internationally every 2–3 years, and while his job will pay to move our things, we still have to curate our material possessions very mindfully as there is a weight limit, not to mention the hassle of deciding what to take or leave with every move. With this reality in mind, do you think it would be poor etiquette to somehow communicate to our friends and family to please ONLY purchase items from our online registry, and not to send us anything that isn’t on it? I don’t want to seem ungrateful for their generosity, but we have a few relatives (or possibly a mother-in-law or two) that I predict will abandon all inhibition at Target. I wish to avoid the potential avalanche of onesies and pacifiers. If you think it’s OK for us to disseminate this message, any ideas how we could do so without coming across as entitled and picky?