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Brother’s request tacky

Kathy Michell and Marcy Sugar

Dear Annie: My husband and I married six years ago. The year before, my parents faced financial ruin and the loss of their home. I took it upon myself to cover their legal costs (about $12,000) and managed to save their house from seizure. In recognition of this, my brother, “Owen,” generously contributed $2,500 toward the cost of our wedding.

Now it’s Owen’s turn to get married. The wedding will be at a fancy private club 4,000 miles away. My husband and I have a toddler and a newborn. I stay home to care for them, which has cut down on our income. Nevertheless, we have purchased the plane tickets and made the necessary hotel and baby-sitting arrangements.

Now Owen has asked my husband to contribute to their wedding by paying for a luncheon after the rehearsal, with the costs to be split between my other brother and me. (This brother is also traveling at great expense.)

Annie, when I married, we had no money for our rehearsal dinner, so we invited everyone over for a casual barbecue in our backyard. I suspect this is not good enough for Owen’s fiancee and that she is pressuring him. However, I can’t help but feel that such a demand is pushy and tacky. I know Owen feels we owe him, but at the time, he had the money and offered it freely.

I am really uncomfortable with this request. How should I respond? – Appalled in Montreal

Dear Montreal: We agree that it’s tacky for Owen to demand this as repayment, but it would be nice if you would offer to do something for him. Tell Owen you simply don’t have the wherewithal for a fancy affair, but you and your brother would be happy to host something more modest or make a reasonable contribution toward the luncheon of his choice. Be sweet about it, but don’t let him pressure you into giving more than you can afford. And if you can afford nothing, be upfront and say so.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Not the Land of Enchantment,” who is depressed living in her new town. In your list of suggestions, I’m surprised you didn’t include contacting the local humanist organization or the nearest Unitarian Church, both of which welcome atheists. I bet she’ll find some friends there. – Shelton, Wash.

Dear Shelton: Thank you for the great suggestions. Dozens of readers recommended the Unitarian Church as a place that welcomes atheists. She can find locations through the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations at For information on the humanist movement, she can contact New Humanists at or the Institute for Humanist Studies at

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar.
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