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The Case of the Blown-Off Wedding

Jul23

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Hi Amalah,

When it comes to etiquette questions, I always feel like you have the best answers, so I’m sending you one.

We have six weddings to go to this summer. I’m not loving the fact that my only free weekend in July and August is my daughter’s birthday weekend (so, therefore, not actually “free” per se) but I think weddings are important. We RSVP’d to all of them. Unfortunately, the other day we noticed that the wedding for this Saturday was actually a June date, not a July date. Oops. My thought is, oh crap, that sucks, we will get them a gift and have them over for dinner and apologize for being confused. My husband, on the other hand, is freaking the crap out over it. The groom is a close friend of his, and has phoned/mentioned a few times that he wants us at his wedding. Additionally, the wedding was clearly fancy-pants, in a fancy park and four-star restaurant, clearly not a lot of people, etc, so our absence would have been obvious. My husband really feels bad that they paid for an expensive meal that we didn’t eat, and wants to somehow “make up for it” elaborately. The thing is, we have a teeny tiny budget for all these weddings because we are le poor. And there are 5 other weddings to buy gifts for/get a babysitter for/travel around for. Can you either tell me that yeah, we should blow our budget cause that’s a sucky thing to do to someone, or give me a bit of backup? I’ll take either.

Thanks a lot.
Annemarie

Ay. YI YI. This is an anxiety dream BROUGHT TO LIFE, right here.

One time Jason and I forgot about some dinner plans with one of his friends and realized at like, 11:00 pm at night that we’d hardcore flaked on them, and oh my God, we were both up and awake and wringing our hands about it for HOURS.

So on the one hand, I thoroughly sympathize with your husband’s reaction, because it’s probably similar to what I’d do: freak out, run around in circles, beat myself up about it, but then be completely paralyzed about how to make the situation right.

On the other hand, I think your solution is pretty much the best and only thing to be done. Get them the gift you were going to give them, plus a nice dinner. Maybe compromise and treat them to dinner out at a restaurant instead of at home, and make awkward jokes about putting “steak or chicken” on RSVP cards and such. Completely blowing your budget on an extravagant gift doesn’t quite strike me as the way to go, because this “snub” or oversight or whatever you want to call it wasn’t really about the money. It was about your missed presence at an important event, and there’s unfortunately no way to give that back to them. Sure, you could give them a Blu-Ray player instead, but I don’t know. It blares “WE FEEL SO GUILTY QUICK HERE LOOK AT SOMETHING SHINY!” And I wouldn’t want good friends of mine to spend money they don’t have on me out of guilt.

But that’s just me. Maybe an uber-nice gift would help smooth over any hurt feelings, or maybe a thoughtful-yet-budget-conscious would work as well. My main advice, probably, would be to NOT LET YOUR DISAGREEMENT OVER WHAT TO DO PREVENT YOU FROM DOING SOMETHING — ANYTHING — FOR ANOTHER MINUTE. It seems infinitely worse to allow your mistake to go on unaddressed and un-apologized for, you know? Instead of arguing about how to make it up to the couple, somebody needs to pick up the damn phone and start explaining, apologizing, and asking THEM how you can possibly make this up to them, if you haven’t already. If they’re still on their honeymoon, make sure there’s an email or note of apology waiting for them when they get back.

The other big thing to keep in mind here — and this probably goes more to your husband, and people like me — is that your focus should not be on YOURSELVES and soothing your own guilty consciences. Spending a ton of money that you don’t have might make him feel better (and that “DO SOMETHING DOOOO SOMETHING!” panic reflex he’s probably feeling, because I know it well), but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make them feel better. Throwing money at problems never really fixes things, as a general rule. Apologies and expressions of genuine remorse for missing the wedding, asking to see photos and hear stories and solemn promises to buy extra calendars and upgrade from Post-It Notes on the fridge might go just as far as an expensive gift will.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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5 Responses to “The Case of the Blown-Off Wedding”

  1. Diana Jul 23 at 10:18 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, horror, oh belly-clenching realization.

    Amy says it all, make it about them, that is right on.

    I feel for you, Annemarie.

    Address it personally, write a letter, call, however personal you can make it to tell them you are sorry. But don’t repeat and repeat it, it makes them have to say something to that again and again. Tell them in your own way how sorry you are, and then let them tell you how they feel. Express sorrow at missing their special day, and don’t list the great food or wine you missed (I know you wouldn’t). Just make sure that you are apologizingfor missing their special day, being there as part of the select few, and that you did not mean to disrespect them.

    Wow. Tough shit.

  2. jL Jul 25 at 9:40 pm Reply Reply

    This summer I completely flaked on a wedding that I was supposed to be the coordinator for. Luckily when I got pregnant, the bride relieved me of my duties and I clearly demonstrated that I was not fit to coordinate anyway. 

    I was sure the wedding was at 4:00 and it was an hour and a half away so we needed to leave by 2:00 to get there on time. I was so sure. My husband asked if I was sure and I said – of course I’m sure. We went to lunch with some friends and we joked that the bride was probably walking down the aisle right then.

    We got home from lunch in time to change and I decided to check the wedding website at 1:51. The wedding was at 1:30!!! WHAT???? I fervently searched for the invitation and yep – it was at 1:30.  We decided that by the time we drove all the way there we would just look like schmucks and end up dropping off a gift and leaving so we didn’t go.  

    I felt TERRIBLE. Absolutely TERRIBLE. I had talked to the bride right before her rehearsal dinner and exclaimed how excited I was to see her get married. And then we just. missed. it.  But we figured at the end of the day they still got married and she still looked beautiful and the fact that we weren’t there didn’t ruin anything for her.

    I ended up sending her an email to explain exactly what happened and to tell her bad I felt (and that I had even called my mom hoping she would heap iniquity upon me for my etiquette faux pas – which she did) and then I mailed the gift I had gotten them to her. She said she understood and they noticed we weren’t there and were more worried that something had happened.

    Anyway – I would go with what Amalah said – get the gift you were going to get, take them to dinner, ask for details about their day, their honeymoon, etc and just be honest about the fact that you mixed up the days – it happens – you are sorry – and move on. 

  3. annemarie Jul 26 at 9:18 pm Reply Reply

    Hi! Thanks for answering my question! And we are going to do as you say and call them at once. Also, I will double check the remaining four weddings’ dates and times. :)

  4. Christina Jul 27 at 10:30 am Reply Reply

    I got married a little over a month ago. We had a few people flake. I had a friend who called a few days before to tell me she’d broken her foot and couldn’t drive the 8 hours. Turns out she lied, no broken foot. I got married, it was great, love my husband. My point is – I bet they’re less upset about it than you think, though its nice of you to want to make up for it!

  5. tasterspoon Jul 29 at 5:01 pm Reply Reply

    I had a couple flake on my wedding (they said they were confused/forgot about timing, but it was a two-parter lasting into the evening and they didn’t show for ANY of it). It was also black tie, not cheap, and I did notice their absence, but didn’t dwell – I had so little attention to spend with the people who were there as it was. It was a work-friend and his wife rather than close friends, so I didn’t take it too personally but I did resign them to the “flake” pile and will not be making social plans with them any time soon. (I did have one last minute cancellation that I DID take personally because I thought they cared more than that – so prior relationship is a factor.) So maybe the husband is more concerned it reflects on him as a lack of respect and that it’ll hurt the friendship going forward, which it well could if you don’t make amends – emotionally though, not financially. (I’m a scatterbrain with bad time sense so I have total sympathy, these things DO happen, but there’s no acceptable excuse so you just have to own it.) Give them the regular gift, take them out or have them over, go on about the wedding pictures in excruciating detail and enthusiasm and then just be good friends to them going forward.

    My husband and I received and accepted an invitation to our neighbors’ wedding before receiving the invitation to the wedding of one of his close friends a couple of hours away, starting slightly later the same day. We optimistically accepted both. We attended the first, then guiltily left early and just caught the second as they were ending the ceremony. Made eye contact, so they knew we were late. But we danced at the reception, went to the afterparty and they forgave us; we’ve spent time with them since then and I think we’re all cool but I still cringe to think about it. No regrets about not cancelling on the first wedding, though – it was one of those weddings in the 6 month window before Prop 8 so we thought it was extremely important to be supportive. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re in a bind, these things happen and you feel terrible, but hopefully your friends like you enough to forgive you and you can make the one event fade in the context of your fuller relationship. Good luck!

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