Dear Carolyn: I’m a single mom in my 40s with three girls. My longtime boyfriend and I are discussing marriage. The question is about timing and logistics. We have an existing issue of how well he and my children (9-15) can live together, given their loudness, their friends coming and going, and his need for quiet. We acknowledge we need a good amount of square footage in a shared home, and perhaps a soundproof home office, to make it successful. That, though, we can work through with honesty and humor (and possibly with a marriage and two homes for a period of time).
The issue that has come up recently is about the actual wedding ceremony. He comes from a very, very small family and has a few close friends. I have a very large family with many more friends, plus an entire church family. His mother is agoraphobic with additional social anxiety, plus health problems, and wouldn’t be comfortable even at a relatively small wedding or reception. He also wouldn’t feel comfortable having a wedding ceremony with all of my family in attendance, but not his.
I am not looking to be a bridezilla by any stretch, but I would like to share this with my family and friends who stuck by me through the tough times with the end of my first marriage.
It will be his first wedding, so I’m totally willing to bow to his wishes and just have it be us and my daughters and a Justice of the Peace. But, would it be tacky or hurtful to have a wedding celebration party later, knowing that his mother can’t/won’t come?
A: I’m struggling to answer your specific question because all I want to do is ask you this: Are you sure you’re ready to marry into the Control Family Robinson?
He needs silence and order, his mom needs to be protected from being included in celebrations and excluded from them, and is it even conceivable that’s all there is?
My unsolicited advice is to step back, enough to take in the whole scope of your life with this person, and decide whether the plainly social you really wants everything you’re about to sign up for.
Take your time – either long enough for your youngest child to finish growing up and leaving your nest, or, if you run out of patience, in the separate marital homes you hint at. I can’t imagine being the 9-to-15-year-old kid who gets served the crud sandwich of losing a boisterous family home to one where merely having friends over risks offending a high-maintenance stepparent’s sense of order.
You’re an adult, you can choose this for you, but choosing it for your children? But that’s not what you asked me. No, it’s neither tacky nor hurtful to host a celebration after your little capitulation of a wedding. Just consider not calling it a reception, and do invite the mother, even expecting she’ll choose not to come.