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Plan wedding, stick to plan

Fri., Oct. 3, 2008

Dear Carolyn: I have never been a drinker. My mother and two groomsmen have drinking problems, and I do not like to be around them when they drink. My fiancee’s family has about half a dozen people who get falling-down, shout-at-the-deejay drunk at most weddings. The all-time loveliest, happiest, coolest wedding I ever went to had zero alcohol on the premises. I casually mentioned this to the bride and her family.

They tried really hard to be civil, but it was a thinly veiled combination of ice storm (father-in-law) and hurricane (mother-in-law). I didn’t even get to explain my reasons before my fiancee left the table desperately trying not to cry. I did explain in an e-mail after everyone had cooled off for a few days.

I am paying for the food and flowers. My parents generously offered to pay for the ceremony site. The in-laws-to-be offered to split the alcohol tab with my parents and me, if we had an open bar. I strongly prefer zero alcohol. My parents talked me into a conciliatory gesture – buying beer and nice wine. The in-laws-to-be were really upset that I would consider something short of open bar from 4 in the afternoon until 2in the morning.

My fiancee is miserable and frantic unless everyone is really happy. I do not want to bring up a point of disagreement unless I have a solid, smooth solution. I am really struggling here. – Muddled in Madison, Wis.

I’m flirting with self-parody here, but I’ll say it anyway: This is not about alcohol at weddings!

Really. You’re trying to keep everyone from drinking, and your fiancee is trying to keep everyone from fighting.

Dry wedding = flask smuggling.

Trying to please everyone = pleasing nobody.

Assuming responsibility for others’ behavior = carrying the family baggage.

Apparently, you both come from households where alcohol got the last word. That’s a famously difficult emotional legacy, even when the drinkers have long since gotten help, which the drinkers here apparently haven’t.

The resources for families are famous, too, Al-Anon foremost among them. Less obvious is when we ourselves might benefit from them. Please consider a meeting to see if it helps your perspective on the open-bar debate. Or just browse the Web site, Al-Anon-Alateen.org.

As for the wedding itself, you probably know in theory that you and your fiancee alone have the last word. So, put it into practice: Tune out everyone else and then figure out, together, how to meet each other halfway.

And finally: the deejay. He might be grateful for a heads-up.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

 

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