Boiling Mad, how to handle?

linda117117June 13, 2007

My SIL has been living with a guy for 10 years. He has a son who will be getting married at the end of June. My DH and I were invited to this wedding, even though we really have no relationship with his son,we basically felt like we were invited for the "cash". We've seen him at birthday parties and Thanksgiving if its at their house, but he doesnt come to family functions if they are at other relatives houses etc. My SIL expects the family to treat this kid like we treat her two boys. Sorry, I can't do that, I have relationships with them, they are family to me, they act like family. This kid doesnt even say hello unless you say it to him first. Anyway, we are unable to attend the wedding. She had called about a week before the response card was due and we had told her we wouldnt be able to make it. I admit, I was late in sending back the response card, it came without a SASE and I just never seem to remember to go to the Post Office. Anyway,a day after the response card was due, my SIL calls and asks if we are going to the wedding. Again, I said, No, Diane, I told you we would be unable to make it. Now this gets me and I had to rush her off the phone before I exploded, she says, so if you arent going, ARE YOU GOING TO SEND SOMETHING?

Please give your honest opinions on how you would handle this. I NEVER give gifts for weddings, and always give money. But this time I really feel like sending a gift of something useless like a platter or a coffee pot or something. (They dont drink coffee).

What does everyone think?

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The groom has been your sister's family for 10 years.

She may be blind to how little he matters to you, bcs he matters pretty big to her. And I get the impression that she has been trying for several years to make him matter more to you; she's not going to suddenly quit trying to integrate him w/the rest of her family, just because he's getting married.

in fact, this will be when it's MORE important to try (in her eyes), and it's a perfect opportunity, bcs weddings ARE big events.

If you hadn't been invited, wouldn't you be even LESS likely to want to make any effort to get to know him? LESS willing to consider him a "step" nephew?

So she couldn't NOT invite you; that would send you the message that you aren't part of his family. And she WANTS you to be part of his family, and him to be part of hers. I get the impression she always has. Because HE is part of HER family.

She may also see this time--his wedding--as a way for her own family to BECOME more visible to him. And, her family is sort of "on display" to the rest of the groom's family. (and the bride's family)

I know in my in-laws' family, there's a sort of "family honor" that gets upheld at wedding times. So we got gifts from people I didn't really know well, and that my DH didn't know that well.

It wasn't given to us bcs of those people's relationship with US. It was given to us as a way to honor the giver's relationship with my husband's PARENTS.

Giving her "step" son a gift is a way for you to indicate that you take HER relationship w/ the boy and his father seriously. That's what she's asking, perhaps.

Mail back the stupid card. (do you really have no stamps in your house? can you buy them at the grocery store in your town? I know my mom can; and I can buy them at newsstands)

Send a card, and a small cash gift. Not as much as you would give her kids, but something. $20 or something.

And try not to get really mad over this sort of thing. Think of the "family honor" and the general good will that people getting married need to receive from the folks around them.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 10:49AM
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I don't usually respond on the forum but I just can't help myself. You are boiling mad! If I were your sister I would be boiling mad. I really feel sorry for this young man. His dad has been involved with someone for 10 yrs and the family still doesn't accept him as family? No wonder he doesn't say hello unless someone else speaks to him first. This is your sister's stepson, her bio children's stepbrother. I would send exactly what I would give one of her bio children if they were getting married.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 1:27PM
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There were definitely people at my (first) wedding which were invited by my parents & in-laws whom I (or the groom) didn't know well or at all. And now that I'm of that age, I get invited to weddings of friends' kids. I'm friends with the parents, not with the kids. Since when did wedding invitations get limited to only those who are friends with the couple themselves? Parents of the couple usually invite their friends. And in this case, not even a friend, but a family member - I assume she's your DH's sister. How could she NOT invite y'all? It would be extremely insulting not to, I think.

On the other hand, I think the idea of asking for a gift is the height of rudeness. It definitely takes nerve. But that's her faux pas.

So at this point it comes down to: what is the right thing for YOU to do? Regardless of her rudeness on the gift issue, she's still your SIL, still family, and as such, so is her stepson.

Whether you give a gift is up to you based on what you think is right. I'm with talley sue, send a small cash gift.

In any case, no matter what the circumstance, although it's all too uncommon it should be common courtesy to RSVP within the alotted amount of time. Even if you didn't have a stamp, maybe you could have called or emailed?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 4:09PM
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Thanks for the advice all. im still not sure what an acceptable gift is. We are usually pretty generous at weddings but I just don't have it in me for this wedding. I should have mentioned that the invitation only came 3 weeks ago and the RSVP was due back in 2. Its a shotgun wedding, and I was originally told by my SIL a month ago that only "Immediate' family was invited. (That meant not us). So on top of feeling like we were only invited for the "cash", I also felt as if they had gotten back so many "no" responses, that they had time to send out a second batch of invites. I thought wedding invitations went out way earlier than 4 weeks before the wedding. (They knew they were getting married in FEB)

In any case, no matter what the circumstance, although it's all too uncommon it should be common courtesy to RSVP within the alotted amount of time. Even if you didn't have a stamp, maybe you could have called or emailed?

I guess you missed the part where I said I had told her twice we would not be attending. Once was a week before the response card was due back, once was a day late. Also, I didnt feel it was her business to begin with. The card wasnt being mailed back to her house, and it didnt come from her house. As far as I can tell, she didnt have anything to do with planning this wedding. I spoke to her "boyfriend" about a month ago and mentioned his son getting married, he said, "yeah I guess thats whats going on". HUH?????

Isnt it still proper etiquette to send the response cards with a SASE? I thought it was odd for it not to be included. Since she mentioned that "half of the people" didnt respond, I think this was a huge problem.

And no, I really didnt have stamps in the house. We pay all our bills online, I hardly have a need for stamps anymore except for the occasional b'day card or something like this.

I should ask, what is the proper gift amount these days at weddings? I appreciate everyones input.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:13PM
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Unless you don't care about any of them or what they think of you, do something. I don't know what's typical in your family, but in my circle $20.00 is graduation stuff for children of cousins. I'd make it $50.00. Don't go to war over this. Don't use the occasion to announce your attitude about it to them via an inappropiate gift.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:48PM
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Gifts, including money, are given based on your budget and how well you know the bride or groom. If you have a substantial income and can afford $50, then give that amount. If, however, one is on a strict budget, a gift of $20 may be all that can be afforded.

I do agree that your SIL was out of line to mention gifts at all. If you choose to send only a card with your regrets, that is your decision and none of her business.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 10:12PM
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I agree with the other posters. This is your husband's sister, not some random neighbor or something. I can't believe the only reason she would invite her own brother was to get a check for the couple. I think it would be a huge mistake to snub her by snubbing her SO's son.

The only thing I think she did that was wrong was to ask whether you are sending a gift. Yep, that was rude. But it didn't really hurt you, after all -- just bad manners. Do you really feel you are entitled to punish her -- in fact, to punish the stepson -- for that?

We recently received an invitation to the wedding of a young cousin of my husband's. It included two registry slips, which I find really, really off-putting. It took all my self-control not to keep that in mind when I chose and sent a gift! I just made myself think what I would have done had they not enclosed those slips; they probably just don't know any better.

And that is what I think that you should do. I get the feeling you might not be too crazy about this SIL in the first place; that makes it harder. In fact, this is your husband's sister, so let HIM decide what to send. All the more so because you are "boiling mad." Sending something that you are certain they wouldn't like would be very childish.

You also asked:

Isnt it still proper etiquette to send the response cards with a SASE?

Actually, it never was. People are supposed to respond -- in writing, by the way -- without being prompted or provided with stationery and stamps. Hosts include response cards, often stamped, as a courtesy to the guests, and also to encourage prompt replies.

Having invitations outstanding right now, I see the wisdom of the "in writing" rule -- I run into people and they tell me they are or aren't coming in some situation in which I cannot write it down, and then later I can't remember exactly whether they said they weren't sure or definitely weren't coming or what. Maybe that is what happened with your SIL, too.

So actually, you are the one with the etiquette faux pas when it comes to the response. It's not a huge big deal, but it is still surprising that YOU were angry at HER when she called to ask, even before she asked about the gift.

You also asked,

I should ask, what is the proper gift amount these days at weddings?

There really is no one size fits all answer to that. In some communities, people give hundreds of dollars; in others, a small gift like a little vase or an apron is fine. Some places, cash is THE gift; other places, it's considered impersonal. It just depends upon so much: community custom, personal budget, relationship to the couple, whether you attend, etc. A wealthy family of 6 attending the wedding of a close relative will probably give a bigger gift than a broke young student will give to an office-mate whose wedding she does not attend.

I do think that a cash gift of $20 to someone who is for all practical purposes a nephew would almost be like leaving a waitress a 5 cent tip: a nasty message more than a gift. If financial circumstances are such that that's the budget, that's fine, but I'd get or make a $20 "thing" gift instead of sending $20.

What message do you and your husband want to send to his sister and her family? That you don't like them? That you refuse to accept them? That they deserve to be punished for asking if you were sending a gift?

Wouldn't you feel better about yourselves if you just sent a message of "Sorry we can't be there; we wish you every happiness"?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 10:16PM
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Okay, usually I hang out in the stepfamily forum, but this is too good to be true. Seriously-GET OVER YOURSELF!!! How do you know why you were invited? How do you know you were invited just 'for the cash'? Maybe this kid had a connection with you at one point and truly felt like inviting you. I think you are carrying around WAY too many preconcieved ideas about this situation. Consider the invitation a compliment. Send a gift, don't send a gift, whatever. QUIT making this about you.
As far as the SIL asking about a gift-I'm not saying it's appropriate, but I guarantee you that my brother and sister and I ask each other all sorts of things that may or may not be 'in good manners'. She calls about her period, He wants to know how painful waxing his back is. I call and yell at my brother over the dog scaring the stepkids. SO WHAT!!! That is just how siblings are. At least on my planet! Maybe some of this just spilled over onto you.
In my opinion you should be at the wedding. If this wedding is important to your SIL, it should therefore be important to you and your husband.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 1:54AM
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Ok, Ok, I got the message. However, I think alot of you think there is more of a "family" here than really is with this groom. This groom has been around since he was 15. He has never bothered with anyone, believe me, he's been invited. He lived with his mother, he's been around maybe 2x a year, and thats if the occassion was at my SIL's house. He has never gone to any family function at anyones house and there are 7 siblings. My SIL isnt the one planning the wedding HIS mother and the brides mother are.
She has ALWAYS been about "what are you giving", yet she hasnt sent anyone else in the family childrens gifts EVER, for anything. My husbands other brothers and sisters are constantly saying, what is her deal. I was just venting when I said I wanted to send a coffee pot or something, but I am mad that she had the nerve to ask what or if we were sending something.

I get the feeling you might not be too crazy about this SIL in the first place; that makes it harder. In fact, this is your husband's sister, so let HIM decide what to send.

He is the one that wants to send "the gift" not the cash. I have to agree with the poster who said $20 would be like leaving a waitress a .05 tip. $50 is much less than we usually give, but I think in this case, its appropriate.

Thank you all for your responses, I hope I didnt get anyone too heated. :)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 8:51AM
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"She has ALWAYS been about "what are you giving", yet she hasnt sent anyone else in the family childrens gifts EVER, for anything. "

If you think of gifts as tangible expressions of love and acceptance, she sounds really insecure.

It sounds as though she really wants to *matter* to other people, even if she isn't that worried about letting other people know they matter to her.

And in fact, no thining of expressing her affection, etc., by GIVING gifts lines up w/ the idea of her being so preoccupied with RECEIVING attention and validation that she's oblivious to the idea of giving it.

For many people, the reason they are all about "me, me, me" is that they are WORRIED about "me, me, me." They feel incomplete, inadequate. And they think they are the ONLY ones who need to feel validated by others; they assume that everyone ELSE always feels comfortable w/ themselves, w/ their standing in the family, with their importance in the world, etc.

That's part of why it eats them up so much that THEY don't feel comfortable in their own skin, in their own social and family circles. They think they're the exception.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 11:44AM
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Tally, you have hit the nail on the head. This is a 50 something year old woman and the family got together about a month after her b'day last year. (Not for her b'day, just as a get together). I must have heard her say at least 3x, wheres my b'day present? How come no one bought me a b'day present? Its not as if any of the adults exchange b'day presents, the family is just too big, thats limited to the kids. You might be right, maybe thats the way she feels loved and accepted. I'll have to mention that to my DH to see what he thinks about it. He said to me yesterday, she used to be the one that was so fun, would help anyone, I dont know what happened to her, she's very different now. I've cooled down a bit from the phone call, I really wasnt angry at having to give a gift, it stemmed more from being asked if I was. I just think that she crossed the line and had no right to ask.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 12:14PM
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true, you guys don't exchange bday presents.

So, she didn't get one, obviously, and is frantic that this means she doesn't matter in the universe anymore. If you all loved her, the reasoning goes, you'd have fussed about her birthday. If she were the person that everybody loves, they'd all have made sure to remember her birhday, buy her something thoughtful.

Also, if she was the one who helped, maybe she's got some "feeling used" leftover from that time period. And that's exacerbating it.

(do you think the fact that she's lived w/ this guy for 10 years and still isn't married to him is adding to that? If she's wishing he'd marry her, and he isn't doing so, that can only make her fear of being unvalued, unnoticed, increase. She came of age in a time when a man who loved a woman would marry her, or so the social programming went)

When she was younger, before you all had your own kids, did her family remember her birthday? Spend more time talking with her, etc.? If she was the "fun one," she may have gotten comparatively more attention from her family than other siblings did. People who were the center of attention a lot, when they were younger, have a harder time settling into the "it's OK to take me for granted now" mindset.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 2:28PM
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Linda, Yeah, sorry, I did miss where you said you'd replied verbally a week before due. I'm still wondering if you should have sent the card back anyway, especially since the invitation was not sent by your SIL.

Of course there's always a whole lot more to the story than what you can relay on an internet post. But I will say, that as far as the boy not being very social with your group since the age of 15 when he joined the family so to speak, is not at all hard to understand. Just the fact that he was a teenage boy at the time probably accounts for some anti-social behavior on his part. And on top of that with how you described his step-mother's behavior, it doesn't sound like she was adept at merging him into her side of the family. Ahhh... family. We're stuck with what we have and that can make for sticky situations.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 1:29PM
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Some wise person on one of these forums once said that weddings and funerals bring out the best and the worst in families. So true!

Take the high road, conceal your distaste and do the right thing to support your sister, even if you think her life is a mess. Good manners and correct etiquette aren't always about being true to your real feelings, they are about being civil. (As a by-product, when you take the high road, you set the tone for future interactions, display a role model for your sister and are above reproach.) Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 2:48PM
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"I think alot of you think there is more of a "family" here than really is with this groom."

I can only speak for myself, but for me, it wouldn't matter that I didn't feel like family to the groom himself. (I send plenty of gifts to couples I don't know at ALL, but whose parents I know.) He is, for all practical purposes, your husband's sister's stepson. SHE is definitely close family, and I would let that dictate my gift decisions.

Her (and her stepson's) behavior, neuroses, and attitude are annoying and take the joy out of giving, but in the end I think you will be happier if you leave all the "merit system" out of the calculus and just send pretty much whatever you would send to any nephew -- maybe the lower end of whatever your range for that is, but not so far below that it looks like you are trying to make a nasty point.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 9:48PM
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The poor guy doesn't have to make the effort to fit in - he's the outsider, it's natural he'd act out or be awkward as a child and now. It's your responsibility (and your families) to make the effort to make him feel special and like family, even if it takes 15 years!

I can admit if I was the "step child" you not coming to the wedding would be a final blow and I'd be sad, but, pretty much cut my feelings off. Does his mom's family treat him like this? Does the poor guy even feel like he has a family?

BUT, for your sister to ask if you're sending money is rude too.

Send something small on their gift registry. You think money is better, but, if they have a registry obviously they want the things on it. Make the guy feel special. You never know what kind of amazing relationship you can be missing out on by not making more of an effort.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kiss Honeymoon and Wedding Ideas

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 9:33PM
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We have a similar situation in our family. My niece's (SIL's daughter) stepson has been ignored by everyone in the family since she married the dad and he brought his 5 yr old "baggage" with him.
My DH and I have always remembered him on his birthdays, Christmas and any other special events. He grew up to be an isolated youth and had had his share of problems.

I often wonder how different he would be today if the family had accepted him.

I feel sorry for this groom. Now is the time he, the bride and baby need help. Extend your hand; you won't regret it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:53PM
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I thought I would update everybody on this since the thread is still pretty high up on the forum. To recap, DH and I felt that we and his siblings were invited to the wedding for no other reason than the gifts. I had wondered if "all" the siblings were invited and specifically asked another sister in law about one in particular (because he has no money.) This particular brother happened to be in town on the weekend of the wedding. (Strictly coincidental) He lives in Ohio, the wedding was in NY. All the family was together on Friday night, the night before the wedding.(nothing to do with the wedding, the groom wasnt even there). Casually, he asked, "so what is everyone doing this weekend". One of HIS siblings replied, "well tomorrow, we're going to the wedding", not knowing that he did not receive an invite.(No one knew) The "rude" sister immediately says, sorry, the RSVP's are already in, there is no seat for you. She tried to minimize things and make excuses, he simply said, its ok, you don't need to explain. I have no doubt now that the invites went to whomever could give a present, it had nothing to do with their "presence". How in the world do you invite 7 siblings and leave one out if it isnt about the money? DH and I didnt attend. I did send a gift. For those that feel sorry for the groom, there is no reason to. He has a family of his own and doesnt feel "we" are his family either.

I talked to my nephew about this entire situation (he's 26) (rude sisters son). He feels his mother pushes too far. He doesnt not feel like the groom is his brother. Never has. They have never lived together. The relationship was not what was in question here, how to handle the rude SIL was.

Her siblings were discussing on that friday night what to do with 'her" (the rude sister). They all feel that she just crosses the line too much and something needs to be said. ewww, I wonder if that will be a tag team or one lucky person will be elected to do the talking. I'm glad this wedding is finally over. Thanks for all who responded.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 10:10PM
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well, if he lives in Ohio, maybe the hostess thought it would be presumptuous to invite him and make him feel that he had to travel so far. And maybe he sees even less of the "step"son than the rest of you do, so she didn't suggest inviting him. Or maybe she did suggest it, and the hostess took him off bcs she felt presumptuous inviting him (for the reasons I gave).

So maybe she left out the sibling who lives so far away. That IS the other way in which he differs from the rest of you--not just that he's poorer. Rememer, he just "happened" to be in town for his own reasons. (If she'd invited him, would you all be complaining that she shouldn't have, bcs she knows he doesn't have that much money, and now he has to spend it to travel to this kid's wedding?)

I think it's just wiser to not spend a lot of time dwelling on the ill motives of other people. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

And why say something? Do you honestly think you'll change her? She's been like this for a long time. Just stop minding. Just stop thinking that she will be some other way. And draw the boundaries where YOU want them, and ignore her when she crosses them. Roll your eyes--there she goes again.

If you want, say something right at the time: "Susie, this phone call makes me feel that you only care about the gift--that seems really rude. Ii hope I'm wrong, because that would be rude." Or, "Suze, we don't buy anybody birthday presents anymore. Chill."

But believe me, she doesn't deserve the wound that being "dealth with" will give her. Even if she is ude. Even if she does cross the line too much. Especially if it feels like she's being ganged up on because a family meeeting. That would really hurt. Please, for the sake of charity, try to talk them out of it.

Plus, she'll just feel defensive.

You can't change her. Stop wishing you could. Accept her for the things she does and is that are good, and forgive her for the rest.

The confrontation won't make anything better, at all. It will only make her insecurity stronger.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 6:03PM
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