Destination wedding...reception after we return

luvmytbearJanuary 18, 2007

We are having a small problem with my FH's family and our whole wedding plan. We are having our wedding in Barbados in December. We are going to be gone 7 days and plan on having a cake/snack/dance reception the weekend after we return.

His family has all been invited, but are declining to go because 1)They don't have the money to go 2)They don't like flying, boats, etc.. 3)They don't want to travel anywhere. About 80% of the family is planning on going to Disney World this summer (quite a travel distance, we all live in Iowa), but can't afford to go to our wedding. Anyhoo...

They have all basically told us since we are planning this obscure non traditional wedding that they won't attend that they won't attend our reception either. They say "You aren't even going to feed us, you made it so we can't go to the wedding, so we aren't coming".

My FH says it doesn't phase him in the least. This is what we're doing, period and if they don't like it, that's not his problem. I however, feel very guilty. None of my family is going to the wedding itself, but they are all gung-ho about the reception. I don't want to cause a rift between FH and his family, but my mind is just screaming "Grow up, you immature imbeciles and get over it". I honestly think they're just jealous because we've been saving for this for quite awhile and are able to do something out of the ordinary and exotic, something none of them have done. (His family is the "Keep up with the Jones' type). I do get along with them, at least to their faces, but God only knows what they say behind my back!

Is it wrong to just go with our plans? Or should we try to do something local so that his family won't alienate him? I feel so torn!

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My personal opinion is that your FH no doubt has a lot more experience at dealing with his family, so you should follow his lead and not be bothered. If HE's not bothered then it's not YOU causing a rift- if anyone is, it's them and your FH doesn't seem to think there's a big issue, from what you say.
I suspect they may be the kind of people that whatever you planned would be wrong, so you may as well please yourselves, since you're the ones getting married and footing the bill. Stop feeling guilty and enjoy your plans!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 6:25AM
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colleenoz's advice is good, especially about following her fiance's lead with his family.

But I think that the OP is feeling uncomfortable (that's why she's asking for advice. Her last sentence is, "I feel so torn!"

I can understand that. On the one hand, luvmytbear, you and your fiance have been saving up for this romantic destination wedding, and as many people will tell you, it is your wedding, and there is no reason you shouldn't be able to have just what you want.

But you also are feeling bad about your fiance's family's -- YOUR future family's -- reactions. It would have been nicer of them to conceal their disappointment and show up for your reception or at least keep their mouths shut. But you know how they feel. (I would sort of see their point about there not being a meal at the reception ***IF*** they will have to travel to attend it, but not really if it is in or near their home town. If it will be in their town, I think they are just reacting to your being willing to spend money on a trip to Barbados but not on a meal for them, which I suppose might cross their minds but is rude to mention; it is your money to do with as you please -- but then again, so is their Disney World trip money. Anyway,that's not the main issue.)
It is indeed your wedding to plan as you choose. But you can't change how they feel about it, and they seem to see it as you choosing the drama and luxury of a tropical setting over their presence -- and you seem to have an uneasy feeling about that yourself. Families love weddings. Of course they are primarily about the couple, but not solely. It is an important event for both families as well. I understood when cousins had destination or very tiny weddings, and I wasn't mad, but I have to admit I was disappointed.

I think you are wise to consider their feelings, because of course this isn't about a wedding, it's about your future relationship. If you feel that your plans as they stand are jeopardizing that relationship, then you have a tough choice. NO MATTER WHO IS RIGHT; it's important to keep that in mind. It's easy to say things like "It's our wedding, we get to choose," and they will have to live with it, but you can't force them to FEEL the way you want them to about it.

BUT -- that doesn't mean you have to cancel your Barbados wedding. Can you think of something else that would solve the problem of their feeling devalued and excluded? The reception plans aren't accomplishing that -- yet. Is there some way you could ask them to be especially involved in the reception, perhaps making it more about the families than about the two of you in some way, so they will feel it is every bit as much a main event as the Barbados trip? Is there some reason the ceremony must be in Barbados, not Iowa? You could have a ceremony at home, even a very small, intimate one with your immediate families, and save the destination for a honeymoon. If you want to have another ceremony in Barbados, too, why not? Probably none of these suggestions is right on the money; you and your fiance can think of ideas that suit your situation better. The point is that it need not be an all-or-nothing choice.

Good luck! I'm sure whatever you decide, you'll make it work.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 1:47PM
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They may also be genuinely hurt.

Weddings are emotionally heightened, high-profile events. There are all SORTS of little "communications" going on, and everybody's got their radar on overdrive. Emotions are close to the surface.

Your FH's family members had intended to attend the wedding of their brother/nephew/son, but its being held in Barbaros has made that difficult. They are seeing this as a piece of "communication" or "evidence." They are looking for the meaning behind it.

Since you and FH have made a decision that means their attendance is very difficult and comes at a high price, they are figuring it means they are not particularly important to the two of you, and that their attendance is not something you much care about.

Plus, when it comes to something they COULD attend, and the hospitality you ARE going to extend to them, you have chosen to spend your money at a level that isn't particularly generous toward THEM (hence their saying "you aren't even going to feed us"). They feel like an afterthought, an obligation to be met w/ the least possible expense or trouble.

For most weddings, the reception (which is where the hospitality to the guests is expressed) is 50% of the budget; they are used to feeling that the guets are an important part of the weddings they go to. If you seem to be spending more on the parts of the wedding that only you & FH will get to enjoy, they will assume that they, as guests, are much less important to you.

(you may not be spending as much as they think, but I'm betting their perception is that you ARE spending extra money to move the event away from them. )

This may make them feel that you--either "you the couple" or "you the bride"--don't care much about them--so they'll "not care much about you" right back. They're HURT, not selfish. They're picking up subtle clues--ones you may not even realize you're sending.

You picked a place for the ceremony that indicates, "your attendance is not the most important thing to me." (if it WERE important to you & FH, you'd have the wedding somewhere that made it easy for them to attend) They're responding to that, and they're hurt.

True, they're all planning to go to DisneyWorld, but they may have been planning that trip for quite some time--especially if it involved the larger extended family, they've been negotiating schedules and saving money for more than a year, I bet; they may have been talking about it for several years. And just because they can afford that trip, and want to travel that far (and spend that much money) on a vacation that will bring enjoyment to everyone in the family, doesn't mean they can afford (or want to spend the TIME on) ANOTHER trip. (actually, it may mean they have LESS money available and less TIME and ENERGY available).

(it also may mean that traveling to Barbados is not something they care about; they don't value that trip for anything other than the opportunity to be at their brother's wedding--they're entitled to not give a flying leap about Barbados)

And since their brother doesn't much care whether they DO come (or else, he wouldn't be having his wedding half a continent and part of an ocean away), then why should THEY care whether they're actually there?

They're hurt. They feel excluded. They feel unimportant. And they want to make sure you and FH feel unimportant in return.

Also, you have chosen something different, and not for a reason that they can understand (say, if you were from Montana and wanted to marry in your own hometown; or you both lived in Austin but grew up in Iowa, and were marrying in your NEW town). So perhaps they feel you are ONLY doing this to be out of the ordinary and exotic, which means, to them, you're sort of implying that their previous decisions, or their expectations, aren't "good enough." (this could be quite heightened if they truly are "keeping up w/ the Joneses" types--you've essentially implied that the Joneses aren't good enough to keep up with). And so they probably feel judged and found wanting; the things they think are fine for weddings are "not good enough" for you, is probably how they're reacting.

I don't think you're wrong to go ahead with your plans. But I think you are unrealistic to think that planning a destination wedding won't cause some problems like this, or that they won't be hurt, and feel "left out." Some members of your family, I bet, are not in love w/ your Barbados idea, but are properly holding their tongues. They'll never tell you, but I bet if you pressed them, they'd tell you they wished you were marrying locally.

Destination weddings are very popular, etc., but especially when "we all live in Iowa," they have a VERY HIGH probability of making guests feel that they are being deliberately excluded. Or that they must pay some extra price to even be able to attend the ceremony.

Your FH's family's reaction is actually not untypical. Destination weddings are LEAST likely to cause problems either when almost everybody has to travel anyway; when the wedding site has a strong emotional connection (it's one family's summer home, or the couple met at that college); or when families are really used to spending a lot of money and time traveling for pleasure.

None of these apply, so having a destination wedding for the sheer fun of it is not going to appeal to many of the people you are inviting.

If you were my friend, I'd tell you, "Have the wedding locally. Don't alienate his family from the two of you. Go to Barbados for your honeymoon. At the VERY least, have a buffet dinner w/ dancing here afterward--find a way to afford it."

Since you're made your decision, you would be perfectly fine to simply proceed. And never discuss, cajole, whatever, w/ the folks who have expressed their displeasure. Invite them, and when they say, "we aren't going to come," simply say, "we would miss you; I hope you'll change your mind," and then MOVE ON--chances are, they'll come anyway. They're trying, right now, to make it clear how excluded they feel, and they are trying to pressure you into changing your mind.

Your role now is to simply act as though there IS no rift. There's simply an event (well, two), invitations, and a family. Set the example: YOU aren't reading any great emotional significance into their refusal to come, so they shouldn't read any great emotional significance into your decisions about venue, place, menu, etc.

If anybody brings it up, you simply refuse to acknowledge any tension (sort of like ignoring the bad words 2-year-olds say), and act as though no bad feelings ever happened. You aren't exluding them, your feelings aren't hurt, there's no argument, the relationships in the family are "business as usual."

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 1:54PM
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Talley Sue gives great insight. I think she is right on. I have seen destination weddings work great for 2nd marriages where only a few guests are expected and for those who come from families and circles of friends who are well off and have no qualms about spending thousands to attend someone's wedding. You must understand that you are asking your guests to spend an awful lot to attend this wedding. While they would love to feel they could afford to do so, they also feel the price and distance keep them from attending. And they know you know how pricey the whole event will be for all your guests, yet you chose to do it anyway. Thus, they conclude, their attendance was not that important to you or you would have been married locally. It is the price you pay for destination weddings--many friends just cannot come to celebrate with you. Do what you want, but understand the reality many families face in living within their budgets.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 9:59PM
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Thank you all for your advice. I think colleenoz hit it on the head when she said that no matter what we do, his family will not be pleased. That's just the way they are. If we were to plan a local wedding, I'm doubtful that even half of them would show up to that. If they DID, the location would be wrong, the decor would be "not they way *they* would have done it" etc...

I've attended several weddings in his family (he's the 3rd youngest of 10 children and has 46 nieces and nephews, including "greats"). The last two I've attended, I would wager that 3/4 of the family didn't attend the locally held ceremony. They'd show up at the reception and that was it.

I talked to FH more about this, and he says that is why he wants to have the destination wedding. He says they won't go to a local ceremony, and if they did (which he doubts) they would just cause trouble and ruin it for us anyhow, as they have in past weddings. At the last reception the family had, his 14 year old nephew was busted sneaking alcohol from abandoned beverage glasses and a huge fight occured.

I still don't feel 100% right about this, but FH is adamant that this is how he wants to do it. I guess he knows his family better than I do, so I should respect his wishes and just go with it!

I am so glad I found this forum. You all are very insightful!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 1:48PM
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Sounds like he has some good reasons and suggestions. Go for it and put all the nagging thoughts behind you. Some families are best loved from a distance!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 6:40PM
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luvmytbear, your last post sure changes the picture!

I thought Talley Sue's post was excellent, as usual. I was afraid to be as direct about it as she was, but I agree with what she said: destination weddings send a message that the couple doesn't care very much about having guests attend (at least less than they care about a fancy setting), or else that they think everyone should be happy to shell out a lot of money to do so. Sheilajoyce's addition about second weddings (when the couple feel funny having a second big wedding and people don't so much expect to be invited) was a good point, too.

BUT! Your fiance really DOES prefer not to have his relatives attend, and not because he prefers to indulge extravagant fantasies. He dreads having them attend, because of the way he has seen them behave at other family weddings. That is very sad, but very understandable, and it makes it all seem different.

To me. Of course, it won't make it feel any different to THEM -- they would only be more insulted if they knew the truth. But I think that although your relationship with his family is extremely important, your relationship with him is even more so, and this means a lot to him for very personal reasons, so you're doing it.

Perhaps consider taking Talley Sue's advice about having a bit more of a reception, though, to avoid making anyone feel that you don't hold back on things that are just for the two of you but are trying to entertain them as cheaply and easily as possible. It won't be the wedding itself, so if the obnoxious relatives poop the party, it won't be as bad (especially if you just think of it as for them in the first place).

Your very unease in this situation indicates that you do care a lot about family, and you will be a good in-law to them in the future, even if they do behave badly! They are lucky to have you.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 9:54PM
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I agree with you when you say your FH knows his family. And I think you probably should follow his lead here.

It's funny how your description of his "family" really changes things. When people say "his family" to me, I think of mom, dad, 3 or 4 siblings at most, maybe a first cousin or two. That's what my family always was. I had more than a cousin or two, but they didn't live nearby and I didn't consider what they thought.

When the family gets to be as big as your FH's, even if those are niece and nephew rank, it gets harder to please them all, and I think that sometimes people get more "disconnected," much the way my cousins are.

And if alcohol fuels bad behavior in his family, then maybe the low-key reception you describe is better--your FH would know.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 9:50AM
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Ah ha... they come for the free food, music & drinks... Not the wedding -- the party afterwards... Previous weddings certainly show their behavior..

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 5:06PM
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they come for the free food, music & drinks... Not the wedding

which is probably why they're complaining, "you're not even going to feed us!"

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 1:40PM
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Oh, come on now, be fair! It would be different if this were just a simply wedding and the hosts weren't providing a meal, period. But I can understand someone feeling a little less than like an honored guest if they felt that the bride and groom spare no expense when planning the Barbados trip -- which only the two of them get to enjoy -- but when they are planning as hosts for others, they suddenly have no money to spend. Sort of as if they gave a dinner reception at which they were served steak and lobster, but the guests got hot dogs.

I'm not saying that anyone (and certainly not the OP and her fiance, with their particular situation) has to serve a meal at their reception. I just don't think it's quite fair to accuse this guy's relatives of only coming for free food, music, and drinks. I don't know why some of them only attend receptions, not ceremonies, but there could be other reasons -- uncomfortable with religion, for example -- besides just being mooches!

Wow, that IS a big family. But even without a lot of close relatives, some families are big. I have only one brother and not very many first cousins. But in our family, distant cousins, great-great aunts, etc., all feel close, and although we understand when someone has a small event, we all love to come together, especially because we live so spread out, I guess. At our last event, when all the out-of-towners at the "night before" dinner were introducing themselves and saying how they were connected to us, we were all laughing at the attenuated relationships that feel so close to us. Like my uncle's ex-wife's widower (he came hundreds of miles). We joke that our family is a black hole -- once you're connected to us, even if not quite technically by blood or marriage, there is no escape. If you were a childhood camp friend or my late cousin's law school roommate, you're probably in the family photo. So for us, Talley Sue, "just the family" means a LOT of people. I guess it is really important to remember that families vary SO much in this regard.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 10:33PM
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So for us, Talley Sue, "just the family" means a LOT of people. I guess it is really important to remember that families vary SO much in this regard.

I married a man who, although he has only 1 sibling, has a family culture that puts 250 people at a SMALL wedding. So I do understand the idea that a big family can feel close--it's just that I instinctively assume "my fiance's family" (esp. when they're commenting on the wedding plans) means a much smaller group. I often need someone to DEFINE their family as large, before I truly realize that's what they mean. My immediate assumption is based on my own family's experience.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 5:54PM
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I'm sure we all do exactly the same thing, Talley Sue (make assumptions based on our own experience) -- I know I do. It's human nature, I suppose. I hope you didn't think I was criticizing you -- I really wasn't (you know how much I respect your viewpoint!), your post just made me realize how true exactly what you said is.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 1:34PM
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Talley Sue has some excellent points. I want to add that we have gone to destination weddings for my husband's family and my own children. We can afford it, and look forward to going to a wedding in Ireland or Italy. We travel overseas very casually.But these people's previously planned trip to Disneyworld from Iowa with a bunch of relatives was going to be the high spot in their summer. Luv complains that they claim they can't afford to also go to Barbados.
Gee, I wonder why a family with kids would rather spend money on a trip to Disney World with all their cousins than go to a wedding in Barbados. A chance to see Luv in her dress with flowers or going on the Matterhorn, see the Haunted Mansion, etc.?

Going to Barbados means you have to have a passport as of this year--and it is expensive, its a foreign country. I would be surprised if they could afford both trips.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 9:29AM
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I just wanted to clarify the Disney World thing. What I was trying to say was that their reasons for not going to our wedding(expense, travel distance, etc..)were hypocritical in the light of their trip to Disney World.

They were catty enough to share how much they're spending to go on this trip and it is roughly about $800 more per person than it would cost to attend our wedding. The travel distance required is only about 40 minutes extra on a flight. The cruise ship takes us the rest of the way.

I feel that if they (when I say they, I mean his mother, 4 of his siblings, their children and even some of those children's kids) REALLY wanted to "share our day" they would want to reschedule their Disney trip and use that money to go with us. I think they just want to be buttheads (sorry, I can't think of a better term! lol) and play the "boo hoo" card to make FH feel guilty.

I'm not begrudging them their trip or asking them to do both. That's their business how they want to spend their time and money. I just don't think it's fair for them to complain and try and make us feel guilty, whining about cost and distance, when they have a choice and they're choosing not to go. They could if they really wanted to. They obviously have the resources and time. They want to go to Disney World instead. That's OK with me, but I don't want to hear the whining and endure the guilt trips. Does that make sense at all? It's sometimes hard to put thoughts into text!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 2:04PM
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You say, "I feel that if they. . .REALLY wanted to 'share our day' they would want to reschedule their Disney trip and use that money to go with us." I imagine they're thinking, "If they REALLY wanted us to 'share their day,' they would want to have it in a location that would be convenient for us and not force us to deprive our children of a promised trip to Disney."

And etiquette says that we don't get to determine how other people spend their money, just like they don't get to determine where you hold your wedding.

But please understand that many people feel that a destination wedding is an indication that having the "perfect setting" and "exotic destination" is more important to the bride and groom than sharing that important event with the people who have been close to them, loved them, and supported them throughout their lives.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 6:07PM
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it's pretty sad when the only reason people attend a wedding if for the free food and can sugar coat it all you want but that seem to be what's expected...God forbid you have a reception with light refreshments...

do you know why they lean so heavy on pasta and starch at most wedding dinners? to keep the guests sober...

do what f/dh wants...enjoy your wedding, and serve what you can afford!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 6:42AM
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luvmytbear, are you reading the posts people are putting up here for you?

If I understand correctly, the Disney World trip was already planned before you decided on a Barbados wedding. Even if it wasn't, it is harder than you think to reschedule, especially for a large group, and more important, I think mammavan makes an excellent point about the perspective of the others. Read it carefully and try to see their point of view.

Look how many posters made the observation that (without special circumstances) a destination wedding says "we value a fancy setting more than we value your presence."

You can have a destination wedding. For that matter, you can refuse to send thank you notes. You can cut your sister out of your wedding party. You can put "cash please" on the invitations. You can invite the cousin you like but not his brother. You can have a reception with music that everyone but you and your pals hates. You can do whatever you want! It's Your Special Day!!!!!

But you can't insist that everyone feel the way you want them to feel about it. Your new family feels excluded -- well, they are. Trying to explain to them that they should prefer to spend their money and vacation time on YOUR idea of a vacation, not theirs, is not going to work. As Talley Sue wisely points out, your family probably feels pretty much the same way about this plan; they are just being better sports and more polite about it. Consider that their disappointment means that it is important to THEM to share your wedding with you -- I doubt you would want them to feel relieved, not disappointed, that they can't come.

Your original question was:

"Is it wrong to just go with our plans? Or should we try to do something local so that his family won't alienate him? I feel so torn!"

Well, although it would solve some problems to have the wedding locally and save Barbados for the honeymoon, it definitely isn't "wrong" to go ahead with your Barbados plans. What would be wrong would be to refuse to accept that some people will feel hurt, to insist that they see it your way, to dismiss their plans for a family Disney World trip, and to blame THEM for making YOU feel guilty. If you feel guilty, maybe it's because you really aren't as comfortable with your choice as you wish you were.

I'm sorry this sounds so harsh. Having a destination wedding is not a crime. It's disappointing, but not unforgivable! Your future relationship is what's important, not the wedding. You won't ruin it by going to Barbados, but you might by trying to tell everyone else that their feelings are unimportant and that they are cheap and hypocritical. Just do it and let them get over it. Oh -- and if anyone in the famiy someday has a destination wedding, I don't care if it's on MARS -- GO! :-)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 12:15PM
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I'm late as ususal. My thoughts are along the same lines as Tally Sue's. My DS had a destination wedding on St. John. I was not particularly interested in going to St. John. I don't do hot and don't enjoy swimming, snorkleing, diving, sailing, etc. My DS and now BIL love doing those things. It was a perfect location for them for a honeymoon and they saved money by having their wedding there also. No one from his family attended. My DM, DS, DH, DD and I were the only people that attended. I think it unrealistic to plan a destination wedding and expect many people to attend. It was our "vacation" for the year and someone else planned the destination which turned out to be one we would not have choosen.

The DisneyWorld trip might be a once in a lifetime trip. They might have saved and planned for several years to make it happen. I can understand everyone's choice to go to Disney over Barbados especially if there are children involved.

I understand your dilemma. IMHO, the most important thing which others before me have said is your future relationship with your DH.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 9:05AM
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As has been said above, it's your wedding so you and FH get to decide. But let me highlight a few things you've said above:

1. None of his or your family are going. Is that really ok with you?

2. You said God only knows what they say behind my back! and in the same sentence you say: Grow up, you immature imbeciles ... I honestly think they're just jealous . And in a later post you called them hypocritical ... catty ...buttheads . I'm just amazed by the ill feelings you're displaying toward them -- behind their backs.

3. You said If we were to plan a local wedding, I'm doubtful that even half of them would show up to that. Then you say and if they did (which he doubts) they would just cause trouble and ruin it for us anyhow... So which is it, you regret that they wouldn't come or are glad that they wouldn't come?

Anyone who plans a destination wedding where their guests are expected to spend money for air fare, hotel, meals, etc. (not to mention vacation time from work!), have to know that this will mean that they are excluding people who can't/won't spend the time & money to go to a destination they may not be interested in visiting. The disney trip doesn't play into this at all IMHO. If you had a great trip planned to go to Barbados with DH and suddenly your relative decided to have a destination wedding at Disney, would you give up Barbados for Disney? Would you do it happily?

I have to say that it seems to me that the purpose of this post was to get confirmation that you & FH are doing the right thing and that his family is wrong for giving you a hard time about where your wedding will be while at the same time planning a trip to Disney. My answer is, if excluding his and your family is ok with both of you, if WHERE you have the ceremony is more important to you than WHO will be there, or if you're happy that they won't be there, then that's your decision. If you're comfortable with that decision, then just turn a deaf ear to the criticism. If you can't ignore it, if you have to criticize their words/actions in order to justify your decisions, you should sit down and really think about what you're doing before you go through with it.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 3:03PM
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I think that a destination wedding works REALLY well if/when families are scattered all around and 90% would have to travel anyway to go to the wedding. My family is like that. My cousin had a domestic destination wedding and it actually turned out really well - except that she actually had MORE guests than she expected - but it was truly a blast. I think I had to travel further than anyone (from CA to FL) - but it wasn't a financial burden for me, thankfully - just a time one - ugh red eye flight, lol!

So - domestic destination weddings are probably not a huge burden for most people.

But an international destination wedding does pose some issues for most people. My grandmother, for example, doesn't like to fly - she's terrified of flying, so it's hard for her to go anywhere unless it's within driving distance. Other older relatives are the same in that regard... that's just how it is. Plus, there is the whole passport issue.

I agree with the PP who said that you need to search within to make sure that you are really comfortable with this idea - maybe you need to plan for real food at the at-home reception - then at least that 'complaint' of theirs will be moot, softening the effect of the DW.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 12:45AM
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