Dear Hobie & Monk,
I am getting married soon and have included my fiance’s sister as a bridesmaid out of courtesy (we are not close friends). Do I have to invite my sister-in-law-to-be to attend the bachelorette party weekend trip? I am already sick thinking that I will not be able to be myself and really have fun that weekend if she wants to come along, but I feel like I have to invite her.
– To ditch or not to ditch
Hobie: By laying out commonly agreed upon norms for social behavior, etiquette is supposed to make it easier for everyone to be gracious, particularly on those occasions when they really, really don’t want to be. What it’s not supposed to do is create unnecessary opportunities for hurting others’ feelings and stir up controversy.
While you felt it was important to include your fiance’s sister in your upcoming wedding as a bridesmaid — not out of delight but duty — please, please don’t let that decision spiral into unpleasantness.
After all, it was your decision and you are responsible for behaving as a benevolent bride (and more importantly, as a mature and kind future in-law, regardless of whether these behaviors are reciprocated). If you want to spend a weekend celebrating with your close friends, then by all means do so, but treat it as just that — a weekend with friends. Plan a bridesmaid event (a brunch or happy hour) to thank all of the women whom you chose to stand beside you at your wedding — in dresses and dyed-to-match shoes they’ll never wear again.
Monk: Agreed. Inviting your future sister-in-law to be your bridesmaid was a lovely and wise decision, but including her on the weekend get-away could be awkward and consequential. Problem solved (easily) with a bridesmaids’ luncheon that will possibly include additional members of your fiance’s family.
And speaking of wedding etiquette, here’s another great question:
Dear Hobie & Monk,
My (fairly recently) ex and I have been invited to several weddings this year — and next — together. Yes, it’s that time in our lives when everybody is shacking up. A few are friends of one or the other of us, and several are mutual friends. I am not very experienced in wedding etiquette, but I believe the breakup dissolves us of any obligation to the other’s exclusive friends. You can tell me if I’m wrong on that first part, but when it comes to mutual friends, what is the appropriate approach to take?
– Not saving the date
Monk: You should not feel obligated to attend and you should not attend the weddings of your ex’s exclusive friends — unless you want to be there. I would say the same for the weddings of mutual friends and friends that are primarily yours: Go if you want to go.
I suggest you consider each wedding separately and weigh the following factors: 1) When you and your significant other part ways, you don’t have to end the collateral relationships you previously enjoyed together. 2) When both ex’s decide to maintain — individually — relationships that were previously shared, some awkwardness can be expected. 3) There is middle ground here, because you can maintain the relationships you value and not go to the wedding. You may choose to politely decline the nuptials, but find other ways to remain friends. What do you think, Hobie?
Hobie: Exclusive friends now revert to only one of you in terms of wedding attendance. I would suggest quietly touching base with any mutual friends who are getting married to make sure they know that you and your ex are no longer together. Let the bride and groom decide how to handle extending invitations to one or both of you — and possible plus-ones.
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Hobie and Monk are two Alexandria women with husbands, children, dogs, jobs, mortgages, unmet New Year’s resolutions, obsessions with impractical shoes, English novels … and Ph.D.s in clinical psychology. Their advice, while fabulous, should not be construed as therapeutic within a doctor-patient context or substituted for the advice of readers’ personal advisors.