Dear Wayne and Wanda,
To celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, my sister and her husband are having a second wedding. They expect all of us to come to Hawaii for New Year’s Eve for the big event. They are going all-out. She’s getting a new, expensive wedding gown; they’ve booked a photographer and band; and they are planning to have an elegant ceremony on the beach complete with a full wedding party, and a multi-course plated dinner before an evening of dancing.
My sister and her husband originally married in a modest ceremony when they were just out of college. I recall we had long talks about how she didn’t want to go into debt over the wedding. While their wedding wasn’t lavish, it was personal and memorable. I always thought she loved it.
But as the 20th anniversary approached, she explained she wants a “do-over.” Yes, financially they’re better off now than they were in their 20s, but they also have kids, and a mortgage. It seems ridiculous to me they’re spending all this on a wedding that isn’t even legally binding. She recently lost a lot of weight, and has started posting lots more selfies and photos on social media, and part of me wonders if she isn’t doing this just for validation and attention. I’m very annoyed that we’re all expected to travel to Hawaii during the holidays, using up our own money, not to mention vacation time.
Part of me wants to skip it. Part of me wants to call her out for her motives. I know I should suck it up but I’m really struggling to be supportive. Can you share any advice?
Regardless of the reasons and motives, Wedding Part 2 is happening — and it will happen with or without you. Really, it should be with you. As annoyed as you are, and even as justified as you may be in your annoyance, this is something that’s clearly very important to your sister, and there are just a few times in life when we need to step up and be there for our siblings without complaint, critique, or question: one of those times is a wedding.
Yes, fair enough, she already had a wedding. It might feel gratuitous, and super extra, that she’s going so big on Round Two, and summoning the whole of your family to the Hawaiian islands. But let’s cut her some slack. It’s her 20th anniversary, which is a huge milestone worth celebrating. It’s the only time she’s pulled this — it isn’t like she’s throwing weddings for herself all the time. And while most vow renewals are a more low-key, backyard-type affair, she’s obviously trying to create a very different experience and memory than her small first wedding.
If money’s an issue for you, try to get a mileage air ticket, collaborate with other family members on a more affordable house rental, and skip restaurants as much as possible. If time is a problem, make it a short trip. And try to see the bright side of your situation. You may be annoyed by your sister’s look-at-me behavior and over-the-top event planning, but on the flip side, you get to spend time with family in paradise. It could be worse.
You do realize that we are — maybe? hopefully? — coming out of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that killed millions, changed the world and the way we live, and really messed with our heads, hearts and health, right? Not a lot of opportunities to gather these last few years, much less celebrate with all of our family and closest friends. Heck, we couldn’t even go to Hawaii for a while!
With this event, you have a perfect opportunity to celebrate love, life and longevity, in paradise, with your favorite people, and all you have to do is show up and not be a party-pooper. Yet, you’re annoyed and considering not going. Well, perhaps you should reconsider.
Life is crazy and who knows what the hell is going to happen tomorrow, next month or next year? A second-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Loss of a job. Death in the family. There are no guarantees you’ll ever have another chance to party like this with your people. Of course, I hope you have dozens more — parents’ milestone birthdays, kids’ graduating and getting married, hopefully even a special anniversary dinner or two for you and your partner.
Just don’t take any of this for granted. Is it annoying and expensive to travel during the holidays? Yes. Is it selfish to have a destination second wedding? Sure. But really, what’s the problem here? Celebrate your sister. Celebrate your family. Celebrate being healthy, happy and having the means to travel to Hawaii during the holidays. Celebrate life.