Wednesday, May 4, 2011

People Will Let You Down

Even harder than when logistics and wedding plans go wrong is when people let you down. And they will. Some rude jerks won’t show up to your wedding, despite their RSVP, and they might never provide an explanation. Some people won’t write cards or leave gifts (gifts, I understand. Times are hard and gifts aren’t the point. But when those same people didn’t write a well-wishing card, it hurt.) And some people may be selfish and awful in ways you’ll probably never forget. People who should know better. People who matter.

It’s one thing to understand that people are limited, and to even know their particular limitations before the wedding. But I kept thinking that people would rise above who they are for a wedding. And some of them will. Most of them will. The majority of people at your wedding will blow your mind with their generosity and joy. But your wedding is more important to you than it is to anyone else. And your wedding won’t miraculously make people become who they aren’t. And someone may behave in a hurtful manner. Perhaps even a really hurtful matter. It’s not necessarily personal, it’s probably just selfish and limited. But it’s still really a really hard thing to experience and deal with at your wedding.

But you have to deal with it. Or, more specifically, you have to put it aside. Up until the night before the wedding I was dealing with the small pains, trying to make people happy. Trying to fix their issues. Trying to smooth things over. Trying to be a great hostess and ease our way into a wedding day in which everyone was happy and joyful. Well... that’s impossible because some people were simply set on being miserable. But I tried my hardest and, once I’d given it everything I had to give, I could absolve myself. It was no longer my fault if someone was unhappy, it was their own. And since I clearly couldn’t fix their issue, I allowed myself to stop thinking about it. Their small-mindedness no longer mattered to me. I woke up on my wedding day and it was no longer my problem. When their selfishness made an appearance at the wedding, I decided I felt sorry for them, washed my hands of the emotional blackmail, and turned back to my joy.

If you can’t fix it (and often, you can’t) then you have to stop worrying about it. I tried to fix it up through the night before the wedding. And then I let myself sink into the joy. I didn't let them touch the important stuff. 

The glorious flipside to the truth that “people are limited” is that “people are generous.” For every person who let us down, twenty more above-and-beyond surprised us in incredible ways we didn’t ever dream possible. Their enthusiasm, out-of-their-way assistance, generosity, and raw expressions of joy will crowd out and overwhelm everything else. Let that happen. Focus on that and hold their love close, because that's where the real soul of your wedding resides.


  1. Thanks so much for this, Becca. I'm in the middle of dealing with really horrible wedding-related behavior from none other than my father (complicated, of course, by the fact that he is paying for most of the wedding and has a history of using money for emotional blackmail). Every time I think about the wedding this week it gives me such anxiety I just want to cry. When the people who are really important are also really limited, it's hard to see that so many other people have gone out of their way to express their joy and excitement. I'm so glad you were able to let go of making people happy and just soak up the joy from everyone else. Need to start focusing on doing the same.

  2. 10 months after our wedding, your words are so encouraging. This post eloquently articulates the hard bits about the process of hosting a wedding. We went through a lot of the same things when my mother-in-law pouted her way through our wedding because she was upset about our guest list and the people we needed to cut to keep the numbers small. It was tough, like you said, it hurt, it sucked, it still makes me a bit sad to think about. Thankfully, you're right when you say that for every person who lets you down, twenty more will lift your spirits with their kindness. Love this post!

  3. It seems like weddings bring out the best or worst in people. There isn't a lot of middle ground.

  4. "It’s one thing to understand that people are limited, and to even know their particular limitations before the wedding. But I kept thinking that people would rise above who they are for a wedding. [...] It’s not necessarily personal, it’s probably just selfish and limited."

    Giant exactly to this. This is what I went through with a close friend, my maid of honor in fact. I knew her limitations and her tendencies, but I thought she would reel them in on my wedding day, not get worse. On the day I was able to push her negativity aside and just realize that it was her, it wasn't personal, but it really hurt. I never really addressed it with her - I didn't think there was any point because we can't go back in time - and I've let it go, but I can honestly say I will never forget how she behaved.

  5. Such wise advice, Becca.

    The silver lining is that you do find out a lot about the limitations of your relationships, about who will have your back and who can't see beyond their own grievances. And sometimes, you will receive confirmation that someone you don't like but have had to tolerate is, in fact, a jerk. (I was so relieved to realize that I wasn't just imagining it!)

  6. I think a good deal of growing up is seeing people fall from their pedestals. Realizing that they aren't the mature grown-ups you thought they were. For me, this wedding has been full of these major revelations. And I think I became a better and more mature adult when I tried to address issues, realize there was nothing I could do because that's just the way these people are, and move on to celebrate the joy.

    I'm very proud of you Becca for not letting these people drag you down on your wedding day. I hope I can allow myself to focus on the joy and the people who do come through for me like you did.

  7. The truth is, weddings bring out a whole slew of emotions from people that are often hard to reel in.

    Some people just suck, but others are just fighting their own personal battles.

    For example, I remember on the day of one of my closest family friend's weddings, I spent most of the day crying because my dad couldn't be there (he passed away a few years early.) I think I kept myself mostly reeled in and didn't let it affect anyone else, but I might have come across as a little more removed because of it (since I was trying so hard just to stay composed.)

    As far as the cards and the gifts, last year we went to eight weddings, and for all the weddings that were of my friends and family, I took care of gifts and cards months in advance (because hello, eight weddings, need to stay organized). For the friends and family of my fiance, I waited for him to take care of the gifts. And waited. And waited. Finally I gave up and got one couple a gift, and he still hasn't gotten anything for the other couple. I know it sucks, but I wouldn't read too much into it. Your friends are not trying to hurt you in any way, they are just being a little flaky and irresponsible with the cards. (Plus, some people take the whole I have a year to send a gift thing very literally.)

    Anyway, I understand that there are people who genuinely let you down. And probably you didn't want to go into too much detail. And there are people who do actually suck. But if these are people that you genuinely love and have loved for years? I would try not to judge them too harshly.

  8. @Ms Bunny: "I think a good deal of growing up is seeing people fall from their pedestals."

    Oh man, this is so true. And it can be really tough, even when not related to weddings.

  9. Becca, I really really appreciate this. So often wedding blogs can't discuss this because of anonymity.

    I'm working on MY reaction to people. I know exactly what my family is going to be like, which of my sisters are going to say horrible things that will make me cry. I am going to avoid that as much as possible. "I am a duck, they are water." I know some friends are going to make stupid patriarchal jokes, or won't show, or whatnot. I am just trying to focus on us, not them. Sigh--when we try so hard to make it about people, and not our day, it makes it worse when people let us down.

  10. This post is SO WISE. I wish it had been around before my wedding. And so true - for everyone that lets you down in a huge way, so many more will go above and beyond and make your cup runneth over. :)

  11. Ugh yes. I definitely had some startling realizations about certain people in my life in the midst of getting married. Some people I didn't know that well turned out to be so full of support, while friends I had had for a long while really let me down.

  12. I hear ya. There were some disappointing people that hurt me too, but as you said, the generosity and warmth of others helped shadow the few that were making my heart beat faster from anxiety. I'm so glad you were able to put those feelings aside and celebrate with joy!!!

  13. interesting...and truthful. I would say roughly half of our guests didn't give us gifts or cards ...they were all my family members (including my grandparents!!!) strange huh.

  14. I'm so glad you mentioned you were upset about not even receiving a gift card. I was so upset when my new in-laws didn't even give us a card! Its not a huge deal but I'm glad I'm not alone! Thx

  15. Just an extra thought:
    I know that before you're wedding you posted about how it won't be 'blog worthy' well please let me tell you that YOU are totally blog worthy and what your sharing of your wedding is just exactly what I want/need to hear on a blog.

  16. This is... THIS is exactly what I was trying to say in a post I wrote after my wedding... and I ended up writing some lengthy, rambling diatribe about not getting gifts that made me sound like a total materialistic jackwad.


    It doesn't seem like it's fair. But once you remove yourself from their problem(s), it ends up being okay.

    I'm so glad you were able to disentangle yourself.

  17. Since I got engage I have been reading your blog religiously, and I really think it's going to help me maintain my sanity. Your posts are so insightful and remind us of what is really important. One of my best friends is getting married tomorrow and she was complaining about poor behavior from her mom and dad that was really stressing her out. I read her this post and I think it may just make all the difference for her. Thank you for being so generous with your time and advice for all of us brides-to-be!

  18. Maybe coming to your wedding and being present to support you on this life-changing day was the gift? Just a thought.

  19. @brigitta, sammy, others who mentioned gifts - to clarify, we made it clear that everyones' presence was present enough. Especially for people who traveled or are going through rough times, the physical presents aren't the point - sharing the day is. So it hurt when we didn't get an acknowledgment of the day, like a card, even unaccompanied by a gift. We got cards alone that made us cry. We had other people who physically helped or made things as their gifts. Those moments and cards really reminded us that people cared. I think we just wanted to feel like people cared beyond showing up. A card would have accomplished that.

    @petitechablis - It was both a relief and slightly awful to realize I wasn't imagining it. But it was also amazing to find out the depth of support we had from our friends and family.

    @ruchi - I've forgiven people their limitations but not forgotten those who crossed a line. I can be a selfish pain in the bum too, and I've probably done an imperfect job of hiding it at another happy occasions, so I'm well aware of human fallibility and external circumstances. But there were some incidents that I won't ever be able to fully put aside. They changed things. They had nothing to do with gifts. It is what it is. It hurt. We learned. We gained in other ways.

  20. "It’s one thing to understand that people are limited, and to even know their particular limitations before the wedding. But I kept thinking that people would rise above who they are for a wedding. [...] It’s not necessarily personal, it’s probably just selfish and limited."

    Yes, yes, yes. I wish I had been able to understand this prior to and even after my wedding in January. I had this happen with my MOH, sister-in-law and mother-in-law. It was hard! And I agree --- if you can't fix it, you have to move past it. Focusing on the support system that were so, so happy for D and I helped us. :)

  21. Yeah, I figured there were bigger incidents you didn't feel comfortable talking about. I just think I suddenly realize now that I'm getting married stupid crap I did at other weddings that was thoughtless and stupid and not-understanding-of-what-it-means-to-be-getting-married, but was definitely not intended to be hurtful!

    Like, for example, when my best friend got married, I arrived in town three days early to help her. I went on Michael's runs, I remembered stuff that had been forgotten, I helped her look for crap she needed, I slept over when she needed me to, and I woke up at the crack of dawn to drive with her to the passport office because her passport hadn't arrived yet and she was supposed to leave for her honeymoon the day after the wedding.

    BUT, the morning of the wedding I was so exhausted from not getting any sleep the night before that I over-slept and didn't make it to her house in time for my hair appt (an appt I had said I didn't want and didn't quite understand that I had, but whatever.)

    Now, as someone engaged in wedding planning, I can't BELIEVE I was so thoughtless. I mean, now I recognize fully that actually she paid for someone to come and do hair and make-up and that even if I didn't want to get my hair done, I should have just said fine if she wanted me to have it done because, hey, her wedding. But like, at the time, I didn't quite get how wedding planning worked and I didn't fully understand that I had a time slot and that getting my hair done was what was expected.

    Anyway, my friend was annoyed with me (especially because her sisters also refused to get their hair and make up done so SHE had to get her hair and make-up done at the butt crack of dawn since no one else would), but forgave me pretty fast, thank God! And she was right to be mad at me, because that was irresponsible. But I'm glad she never read any further into my irresponsibility. Because there are some things you just don't fully understand until you are getting married.


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