Our son and his fiancée, both 24, are getting married next summer. The bride’s mother has commandeered the planning. When the kids express an opinion, she gets huffy and overrules them. Early on, she asked my son, “Are your parents splitting the cost of the wedding with us?” Flustered, he said yes. But no one told us! Now, the mother of the bride has planned an extravagant affair and sent us a spreadsheet with “our share” of the costs. We can’t afford it. I think she is way off base. My wife wants us to take out a loan. Your thoughts?
FATHER OF THE GROOM
No question, the bride’s mother comes off poorly here. No one likes a bossy wedding planner. But it’s your son who takes the cake! Why on earth would he commit you to paying half the (unknown) costs of a wedding and not tell you? I understand being intimidated in the moment, but he’s probably had months to straighten this out.
I sympathize with your wife’s impulse to make good on your son’s promise, but I beg you: No loans! Incurring thousands of dollars of debt for a lavish party you can’t afford is unwise and may even jeopardize your financial security. Before you do anything else, decide with your wife the amount you can comfortably contribute to the wedding (if any).
Then go to the bride’s parents — with your son. Tell them you learned only recently of his commitment on your behalf, but unfortunately you can’t afford it. Share the amount you can contribute. Hopefully, there is time yet to modify or cancel plans. Do this quickly: If the bride’s parents reasonably believed your son was acting as your agent, you (and he) have a duty to mitigate as many of the resulting costs as possible. Still, this aggravation may be worth it if your son learns the important lesson here: Never spend other people’s money!
Legitimate Gripe Over Trivial Pursuits
My husband and I lead hectic lives and look forward to unwinding with friends on trivia night at a local bar. We put together a good team. Recently, a childhood friend of my husband moved back to town. He is lonely and said he was good at trivia, so we invited him to join us. Big mistake! He often arrives drunk. He treats the game as an afterthought, chatting with people instead. And when he blurts out answers to questions, he is usually wrong. He is ruining our night out! How do we handle this?
Well, you gave your husband’s lonely pal a fair shot, which was kind of you. But he clearly doesn’t share your trivia ethos. Just because you invited him to join you once doesn’t mean you’re stuck with him forever — though it does require a gentle conversation to give him the heave-ho.
Before the next trivia night, you and your husband should decide who is better suited to the task of telling his friend: “We don’t think you’re a good fit with our trivia team. We’re more focused on the game than you. Let’s make plans to see each other another time instead.” Then, make sure to follow through, possibly when you can introduce the lonely newcomer to other friends.
Easy as Taking Candy From, Well …
I had a baby this spring, and luckily she gives me nothing to complain about. She sleeps well, hardly cries and loves day care — which has allowed me to go back to work. Several friends have babies the same age as mine and tell me how they struggle with sleep issues, separation anxiety and bad moods. How should I handle these talks without coming off as bragging about how easy my baby is so far?
I think it’s great to be sensitive to friends who are struggling. In my experience, people who are having a rough time often want to vent freely and without guilt more than they want to compare notes or take advice. So just listen!
Nothing you can say is likely to cure a baby’s colic or ease a parent’s anxiety about going back to work. You can be a supportive listener, though, and give your friends plenty of encouragement to express themselves. It would also be a kindness to avoid talking about your super-easy baby during these conversations.
A Legal Obstruction
We live across the street from a nature preserve. Our picture window gives us a beautiful view that we love to enjoy. Our neighbors, with whom we are close, have frequent visitors who park in front of our house and obstruct our view, even though there is plenty of room in front of their house. We know we don’t have a right to prohibit parking on public streets, but can we address this issue with them?
As long as you really, truly mean it when you acknowledge you have no right to police open parking, there’s no harm in speaking up. Say: “Can we ask a big favor? We’d be so grateful if you asked your visitors to park in front of your house, so they don’t block our view. We love to sit and admire it.” They may oblige you, but if they don’t, it would be silly to fall out with good neighbors over their guests’ legal parking.