Dear Margo: Nutty, Insecure Wedding-Goer

My step-mother-in-law made a fuss at our wedding over a picture; was I in the wrong? Margo Howard’s advice

Nutty, Insecure Wedding-Goer

Dear Margo: This past March I was married in a destination wedding. My husband’s parents divorced four years ago, and his dad remarried last year. Anyway, during our reception this past June, while taking wedding pictures with the family and bridal party, my father-in-law’s new wife, “Nancy,” became incredibly upset and started yelling “this is bulls**t” (mind you, there are little kids around) and throwing a fit because my husband wanted a picture of the two of us, his parents (not standing next to each other) and his two brothers — basically, his family. She said we were disrespecting her for taking that photo.

We talked with our photographer about all of the photos we wanted taken before the wedding date, and we also consulted etiquette websites for guidance and found that what we wanted was legit. My father-in-law and Nancy were in other pictures, though neither of them smiled in any of them.

During the reception, Nancy voiced her not-so-nice opinion about me. My husband and I wrote a letter to his father and Nancy explaining how hurt we were with their actions at our wedding. My f-i-l called and apologized, while Nancy stated that we were the ones who were wrong and sent word that she would not apologize or even talk to us, for that matter. My f-i-l told us Nancy has been yelling at him constantly since the wedding because “he allowed us to take the picture she didn’t want taken.”

My husband is sad because his relationship with his dad has been compromised. I can see that Nancy has self-esteem and jealousy issues, but I am shocked at her behavior. I guess I am asking: Did we do something wrong? — Shocked in Green Bay

Dear Shocked: What can I say? The woman has no manners, no sense and a whopping case of insecurity. If she weren’t in any pictures, she might have something to complain about, but this was not the case. Consider it a gift from the gods that Nancy will not talk to you. And I have a hunch that your husband and his father will be just fine … when Nancy is not around. Also, if her behavior continues like this, Nancy may not be around. — Margo, forwardly

What, Exactly, Constitutes a Good Time?

Dear Margo: I am approaching my 21st birthday. While this is a milestone for many people, I find this birthday filling me with dread. Unlike the majority of my friends, I do not drink alcohol. Several things influenced this decision, including my work teaching teens the risks and consequences of underage substance use. It was also painful during my childhood to watch my father battle alcoholism and, eventually, rehab. And I have an addictive personality and try to avoid anything I feel could be trouble.

This decision has been a struggle because the social scene of my university consists largely of drinking. Until this point, I have always had a bunch of excuses, one of them being, “Sorry, but I don’t want to drink until I’m 21.” However, my roommate recently informed me that she and some friends are planning a 21st birthday bash for me at which I’m expected to get quite intoxicated. While I appreciate their “good intentions,” the thought of this get-together fills me with dread.

I have no problem with others consuming alcohol, but it’s not something I want to do. Is there a polite way to inform these people that they are welcome to get drunk at my party, but it’s not what I choose to do? I also do not choose to spend my birthday in an alcohol-induced haze. — Haley

Dear Hale: You do not owe your pals a night of being blotto just because that’s their idea of a good time. I would plainly say, should anyone inquire, that you don’t care for the taste of alcohol and have decided to be an abstainer. If anyone is gauche enough to push you as to why — or why not — simply repeat that you choose not to drink. You can do a “bottoms up” or make a toast just as easily with water, soda or juice.

Peer pressure to drink is just an unfortunate exemplar of herd mentality, and I’ve never figured out why non-drinkers are a “challenge” to those who do. Oh, well. Props to you for your decision — and happy birthday! — Margo, individually

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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110 Responses so far.

  1. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: Be happy “Nancy” is on the outs with you, and hope it stays that way. You don’t want her in your life, and it’s likely your FIL will soon feel that way about her, too.

    W#2: Stick to your guns, enjoy your birthday. aAnd watch out for any of these so-called pals who try to spike your drinks.  

    • avatar P S says:

      I agree LW1 needs to see the fact that Nancy Shrew wants nothing to do with her as a hidden blessing. Life and civilization would improve greatly if everyone adopted a “no drama, no ‘tudes” philosophy.

  2. avatar snowwhite4577 says:

    LW#1- We live in such a “it’s all about me” society. Why Nancy did not shut her mouth because….wait…it was not HER wedding is beyond me.  I don’t understand why people get attitudes and get angry when they cannot get what they want …..on a day that is supposed to be a celebration for others.  She apparently forgot whose wedding it was and why she was invited.  F-I-L should remind her.  And I have to agree with Margo…if Nancy does not get her act together, Nancy may be an ex too.

    LW#2- I agree with Margo.  Don’t compromise yourself and what you believe because your friends cannot have a good time without drinking.  I did not have my first drink until 21, either.  I never understood why my friends would walk into a party and would hit the keg asap.  You should be able to have a good time without alcohol and your true friends will respect your decision. 

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      “I never understood why my friends would walk into a party and would hit the keg asap.”

      really? nothing about that makes sense on any level to you?

      1) kegs go empty. so earlier = better on getting beer.

      2) drinking earlier in evening is better than drinking later… more control, less driving, etc.

      3) often a line at a keg. getting in line early makes sense if you have to wait anyway.

      4) what you rather they do first? eat snacks? hit the bathroom? what is the right answer?

      so… can you understand any of those? anything getting through?

      • avatar Ghostwheel says:

        Maybe snowwhite like to say hello to the hosts first, or talk with people, or see what is going on. For some people, the booze is not the attraction at a party, so running for the keg line makes no sense whatsoever. They are there to hang with their friends, play cards, watch TV. None of that probably makes sense to someone who is just there to drink and get drunk, or who needs a drink to loosen up, but would make sense to someone who just likes the taste of beer and drinks it like a soda.

        Going to the keg asap only make sense if you GOTTA HAVE THAT BEER!!!!. If you don’t care one way or the other about alcohol or getting drunk, it doesn’t make any sense.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        Not thinking this is sarcasm.

        I’m with you.

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:    I would simply ignore Nancy’s attitude.  You didn’t do anything wrong and really,this is an issue between your husband and his father and stepmother (although I agree she owed you an apology for raising cain at your wedding…that is not going to be forthcoming so consider her the source and forget about ever getting one and move on).  Don’t do anything that would compromise your husband’s relationship with his father (like saying:  your dad can come but she cannot) and let Nancy get over her snit fit (or not).  Don’t let her do any damage to your relationship with your husband by buying into her drama.  If there is drama to be had,  let her be the source of it and not you and support your husband’s wishes on how to handle this situation in the future.   As for her negative comments about you…it is unlikely that anyone who has had significant contact with this woman will buy into anything she says.  She probably senses that trashing your husband might be being  a biotch too far even for her very patient  husband so instead she is focusing her venom on you.  As evil as that is…try to ignore it as it sounds like sshe is looking for reasons to cut you and your husband from his father’s life.  Don’t give her one.

    LW#2:  I applaud you for standing up to peer pressure.  If you don’t want to drink…don’t.  You really don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you choose to abstain…but saying *I don’t like the taste…or *I don’t like the way it makes me feel* are two possible replies.   If a tendency toward alcoholism is in fact, genetic, you are wise to avoid it all together but that is no one’s business but your own.  As long as you are not going about like Carrie Nation destroying bars and bottles in your wake, it really is no one’s business that you choose not to drink…anymore than it would be their business if you choose not to smoke cigarettes.  Good luck and Happy Birthday! 

    • avatar luna midden says:

      The main problem LW2 has is she kept saying she was waiting for her 21st birthday to drink-so her roomie and other friends probably figured if this was her (or his) first night out drinking, they would make it a BIG EVENT. She should have let her REAL FEELINGS out about drinking right away-‘I do not drink’ should have been enough-but she made EXCUSES! She needs to come clean with her roomie about the drinking-and tell that ‘no drinking’ is a personal choice for HER, BUT she is not judging others that do drink (responsibly). Maybe the LW can suggest going out to dinner at a place like TGIF-has a bar for those who do want to drink… and if they still want to drink, they can do so after the lw retires to her room.

  4. avatar Lila says:

    For the 21-year-old: I am also a lifelong non-drinker and know EXACTLY what you mean. Unfortunately, I have no magic bullet to get these sots off your case. I really do not like the taste of alcohol and ALWAYS know when it is in a drink. It’s unpleasant; why pay a premium for something I don’t enjoy? But don’t expect logic to work on their mentality.

    Sorry to tell you this, but your 21st birthday is only the beginning of this stupid phenomenon. The drinky crowd is rude, and just can’t let it go: “Oh, try this, try that, you won’t even taste the alcohol! You’ll like this one! You’ll get used to it! Lighten up! Don’t you want to have fun? You have to get drunk at least once in your life!” Pffft. Who says?

    The pressure was pretty intense well past my mid-20s. Later, by my mid-30s, it declined to a sort of surprise, which still comes up in my… um… current decade: “You don’t drink at all, REALLY? Are you sure?” Uh, yes, pretty sure. “Well, uh, OK. That’s cool.” Still, there’s this awkwardness about it. I try not to be a complete ass about it… unless pressured by asses who don’t know when to quit… So, over the years I have had the occasional flute of champagne to toast a wedding or the New Year, but then it’s back to my standard drink: Coke on the rocks with a twist of lime (humor helps, too).

    Also consider: my generation had it EASY. We didn’t have cell phone cameras or Facebook. There are certain advantages to remaining sober.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      What you said is very true Lila.  For some reason, 90% of the drinking crowd are rude and idiotic when it comes to non-drinkers.  I used to be complete non-drinker and Margo doesn’t seem to understand the lengths these idiots will go through to try to get a non-drinker to drink.  Years later, I’m a big drinker and I still get SO mad when my drinking friends try to pressure my non-drinking friends to drink.  1)  I remember vividly how much I used to hate being pressured when I was younger and 2) why are these idiots trying to force expensive alcohol on people who clearly hates it when I can be drinking it!

      Anyhow, there is no polite way to tell 20 year olds at a 21st birthday party that you will not drink.  I guarantee you that if you are nice, they will try harder, get more people to pressure you and then attempt subterfuge to get alcohol into your system.  You can try to be polite about it the first time you are asked, but you will be asked again, again, and again. I would be polite the first time, but then go immediately to the “My dad was an alcoholic and nearly destroyed my family so I will NOT drink” card.  Even that may not deter the most persistent, in those cases, it’s up to you if you want to endure the constant harrassment or leave the party.

      • avatar Lila says:

        John… I must confess that I can get sorta temperamental especially when I make my wishes known but jerks don’t back off. I would always start of with a smile and “no, thanks,” but… your observations about 20-somethings who like to drink is accurate. More than once, especially when in my 20s, the card I ended up playing was, “I said NO, dammit, what the f*** is your problem??” (Hmm, this was also a repeat of my adolescent years when everyone wanted me to smoke).

        This tends to dampen the mood and make one unpopular. But in those moments, I did not care, and looking back on it, I don’t see how else I could have handled it. My experience of these parties was basically a solid hour or two of group pressure to get me to drink, and nothing else. No other conversation, no snacks, no mingling, no letting me drink my Coke in peace. Just a constant, “Oh, come on… here… you GOTTA…” with a bunch of drinks waving around in front of me. Naturally, when one has had enough of that and explodes in everyone’s face, they are hurt and mystified.

        If anyone out there has an effective way to kindly convince drunk 20-somethings to drop it, I would be interested in hearing it. I am clueless. Exploding Lila was the only truly effective treatment.

        • avatar Sadie BB says:

          Lila – there is a way. Wait 5 years for them to grow up!
          At that point they will probably have experienced a problem drinker who put them in harms way. Or matured somewhat.
          On the other side of the coin I have in my younger years been that pushy person. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, I just thought I was encouraging a college friend to step out of the shadow of her repressive upbringing.She gave me a hurt look and asked ‘why are you pressuring me to do this?’ which shocked me out of the behavior for good.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Sadly, Sadie BB and Lila, giving them five years won’t always work. As a long-time (26 years) recovered alcoholic and addict, it is amazing how even drinking friends in their forties…and older…will try to push the point. Saying, “No thanks” doesn’t work, and often neither does, “I can’t and won’t, I’m an alcoholic”, because then you get, “Well, after all this time just ONE won’t hurt”, even if they have no idea how long it’s been. I’ve also heard “Can’t you control yourself?”. Yes, I can…that’s why I don’t drink, moron.

            As for LW2, I’m not surprised by, nor am I going to hold it against a young person to have said to her party-hearty friends that she was waiting until she turned twenty-one to give alcohol a try in order to back them off while she frantically seeks a way not to seem like a freak (college kids seem to have the mental maturity of kindergartners of late) and be ostracized, while maintaining her integrity. In those days when the Dead Sea was still merely sick (yeah, I stole that, but I love it) when I was in college (my extremely small college town has 28 bars), everybody drank and smoked dope…but it Was. Not. Like. It. Is. Now. No massive parties with hundreds of students spilling into town streets so drunk they’re toxic and in need of hospitalization. No pressure to binge drink (WTH…only moronic Frat Boys did that…and only with beer…and only in their frat houses). Just not the same quantity of student corpses lying around parties, dead from alcohol toxicity, while their oblivious, spoiled peers party on. Or screw their dead bodies (yes, this has happened). I can see how LW2 might be experiencing a serious degree of pressure, especially if she has a room mate who is into the drinking scene.

            So, LW2 needs to tell her friends the truth. No blow-out 21st birthday party with alcohol. And “No” means “No”. Period. End of story. Explain that she doesn’t drink. Doesn’t want to, doesn’t consider it safe, has alcoholism in her family and that she is NOT going there. Forget the “make sure no one is spiking her drinks”, and refusing to be friends with anyone who does it. Ever have a drink (or a joint) spiked with something that shouldn’t be in there? I have…and the last thing you may be worrying about is un-friending whoever did it. You can end up raped, multiple times (yep), with a disease you can’t ever get rid of, or even less-than-cheerfully dead of an overdose, or much, much worse.

            No need to put herself into the situation, What everyone is missing is that there is no need, even at 21, for her to accept her friends’ idea to have a drunken bash. No party. A night out doing something else, sans any chance of spiked drinks or mistakes. If her friends are her friends…they will accept her terms. If not…their loss…though it may feel like hers to her for a while.

            But darlin’, college is a lot like high school. This too shall pass, trust me. To some people, their heyday was high school (which really ought to tell you something…if being the high school varsity quarterback or head cheerleader was the high point of your life at, o, say, 50…maybe evolution wasn’t a big part of your life process. O, ditto college for most), for others, college. But you’ve got a whole life ahead of you, and this will be your first big stand in a world full of people who may not be willing to “Get It”. Starting now, insure that they do, and your life will begin to open up in unexpected ways.

            BTW, I’m no AA, 12-step graduate, and I’ve never been to rehab. I had to straighten out my addictions on my own. DT’s, withdrawal from opiates, alcohol poisoning and all. Don’t do this to yourself. I have no moral or religious stance…if you know you’re vulnerable, stick to your guns even if it’s hard, and your life will be so much better for it.

            Peace and strength


  5. avatar Dan Bingham says:

    LW #2 – It’s time to find a new social scene. Believe it or not, there is tons of stuff to do with other students, even on a weekend, that doesn’t involve alcohol. Look into some clubs that have interests that you share (hiking, dancing, vintage-movie-watching, video games, whatever) and see if they have weekend events that don’t center around alcohol.
    As for Margo’s wonderment about drinkers finding non-drinkers a ‘challenge’, from what I’ve observed, the ones who get offended are usually the ones who drink too much and know they drink too much, but as long as everyone else around them is soused, too, they can pretend it’s OK.

    • avatar Obediah Fults says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking, Dan. Haley needs to find some new friends!

    • avatar John Lee says:

      That’s more of a long term solution.  She’s concerned about her 21st birthday party in college.  Unless her friends are all in the teetotalers club, 99% of 21st birthday parties will involve drinking and the pressure to do so.

      My advice to LW#2 is to say that your father was an alcoholic who nearly destroyed the family and that you will never drink.  Either that or skip the party.

      After the 21st birthday, LW’s friends will likely back off since they didn’t bother her previously when she used the under 21 reason.

  6. avatar Mo Mo says:

    For LW #2: I too am a life long non-drinker, and I’ve found it best to just offer to be the designated driver for all involved, and make jokes about ‘Someone’s got to post this on Facebook when ya’ll start being stupid’. If the ones I’m with are close friends, I do tell them that it’s because I had an uncle spend 40 years in a wheel chair from drinking and driving.

    But the main thing is I’ve never hung out with the drinking crowd – my friends go to the bar sometimes, or they’ll have wine for a particularly trying subject, but mostly we have other interests that don’t involve drinking. As others have said and will say: find others that share your interests, and leave behind the drinkers. Just because you share a room with your roommate doesn’t mean you guys have to run in the same circles!

    • avatar Mo Mo says:

      *they’ll have wine for a particularly trying subject

      Should be ‘subject study session’…

  7. avatar B.eadle says:

    By telling your friends – “Sorry, but I don’t want to drink until I’m 21.” – you kind of led them into thinking that a party on your 21st birthday that would include alcohol would be okay. Of course getting ~mind numbing I can’t remember what I did last night where am I~ drunk is WAY over the line.

    You’ve just got to man up and tell them that although you said you were waiting until you were 21, that now that that day is nearly here, you just aren’t into it. Welcome them to have the party themselves and to give you a toast but that you’ll stick to the soda and, while thanking them profusely for their time and effort in putting together the party, make a quick exit.

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You didn’t do anything wrong. Period. For “Nancy” to be so insecure and stupid as to throw a fit that your husband would want his biological parents to pose in a photo with you as a couple and his brothers, AND mom/dad are standing far apart … she’s completely out of line. It’s telling that you say “Nancy” and your f-i-l aren’t smiling in the photos taken of them. I’ll bet they’re often not smiling — wherever they are. “Nancy” knew your f-i-l had sons before marrying him; obviously those sons have a mother! It’s a real pity “Nancy” chose to attack you; that’s yet another indication of her pathetic character. I’d keep quiet and leave the matter alone if I were you. Let husband and f-i-l find (or re-find) their interrelated level. Absolutely do NOT approach “Nancy” in any manner; she’ll either take the pleasure of cruelly rejecting any overtures of friendliness or she’ll self-righteously view it as your “admitting” having wronged her. Just leave this matter alone.

    L #2: Sometimes saying nothing is the best course of action. I mean that literally. Any explanations or protestations will only fuel their desire to “convince” you — or encourage hassling you about it. And besides, it’s your body. I’ve had 2 hangovers in my life; 1 was enough. And if you do buckle under the social pressure…please do NOT drink and drive. If you do go ahead and party that night, get a DESIGNATED DRIVER. I’ve read/heard too many “celebrating 21st birthday” headlines of crashes and deaths. One such young man spent his 22nd birthday in prison; that was in 1996, and I am certain he is STILL in prison.

  9. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    Haley , I want to let you know my daughter who is 28 this month had the same problem when she was 21 but she made it clear to her friends if they wanted to stay friends they had to accept she did not drink. They were friends so they accepted her on her terms which is what you need to get across to your friends if they can’t time for some new friends.
    Happy Birthday ! and enjoy it on your terms.

  10. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    Re Letter #1
    The situation described in the letter is eerily similar to what happened in our family. I am the wicked step-mother. What happened recently was at the engagement party, not the wedding of my step-daughter and there were no invective-laced comments by me at the party or elsewhere, but other than that, it is almost identical. My husband, her father and I have been together/married for eight years. His first marriage had been very unhappy for years and they had a very acrimonious divorce. To this day, he despises his ex and they have not spoken in years.

    When his daughter announced her engagement, my husband felt that there were a number of issues that needed being discussed. He would certainly prefer to never be anywhere near his ex, but he wanted to ensure that he would have limited contact with her. There were also other issues regarding the presence of an adopted son he has absolutely nothing to do with on account of the fact the son is seriously mentally ill and dangerous. As usual, my husband let it go and avoided discussing his feelings. I had advised him that he needed to be forthright with his daughter early on and not spring anything on her at the last minute, but he chose not to be proactive and the ensuing mess is, I believe, a direct result of this. I already knew that I would be relegated to the role of plus one as his daughter had always been polite but distant with me. For me, I was going to do whatever I needed, to support my husband.

    At the engagement party, it was nice to see my husband’s family and despite the uneasiness of the situation, we actually managed to have a good time. I spent the couple of hours chatting away with his family and our table was at the opposite end of the room from her mother, so all was well. We had posed for a group photo of my husband’s side of the family and there were candid shots as well. Shortly before the party was ending, I excused myself to use the restroom and one of my SILs accompanied me. She wanted to talk about an uncomfortable problem she was having. We were gone from the party about ten minutes. When we returned, my husband greeted me with “you’ll never guess what happened”. He proceeded to tell me that immediately after I left, his daughter called him up for another photo. He obliged and the next thing he knew, he was in a photo that had the bride and groom, the grandparents (including a step), and the groom’s parents and his ex. His ex was posed next to him with her arm around him. He said no, he wouldn’t do it and his daughter insisted. He jokingly said he would be in serious trouble if he did. He was trying to diffuse the situation with humor and of course what he did was make me look like an insecure control freak who would pitch a fit if he had posed for the photo. Instead of telling her that he was not going to pose for a staged photo which was designed to look like a happy family tableau, he shifted it onto me. So, what happened next, I suppose was an inevitable consequence of this situation. When I returned and my husband recounted what happened, minus his comment about being in trouble, my comment to him was that it was his fault for not sitting down with her in the first place and hammering out an agreement that would have avoided such an embarrassment and outburst. I agreed with him that the photo was inappropriate, in the sense that her desire to have a photo with her mother and father smiling with their arms around each other was just not an accurate portrayal 0f the reality of the family dynamic. It was grossly unfair of her to have demanded it and my husband’s fault for not having discussed the situation beforehand. I urged him to tell her that they needed to talk ASAP to clear the air and avoid any further unpleasantness. We said our goodbyes and I observed my husband talking to his daughter off to one side. I thought he was just having a private good bye, but no, he made the situation worse by choosing that moment to discuss his feelings. My husband is a social clod, what can I say. We were leaving and walking out to the car when the groom caught up to us and he started yelling at me and shaking his finger at me. He stated that everyone knew it was my fault and that no one had a problem with the photo except me. My husband interjected that it was his problem, not mine. I told him that I thought the photo was ill-advised and that his daughter was thoughtless to have asked him to pose for it but that it was the extent of my feelings. Truth be told, I was hurt by it, but my feelings were secondary or tertiary at best. I told him that I was in the washroom when this happened but perhaps that was the plan in the first place. The groom stated that it was my step-daughter’s day and that we had better toe the line and do exactly what she wanted including and not limited to posing as a happy family for one day. He made it clear, that any family photos would not include me as I was not a member of the family. He might as well have plunged a knife through my heart.

    Weeks have gone by, there were a series of nasty emails and their strained presence at Christmas. I have never received an apology. My husband tried to discuss the issue with her, but she won’t. Most of what she has written indicates her contempt for me and I now know for certain she dislikes me and blames me for much. As for my husband, he has stated that since she refuses to discuss the issue maturely and she is behaving like a bridezilla, he is prepared to attend the service and not the reception.

    Did I mention that my husband, his ex wife, the groom’s parents and both the bride and the groom are lawyers. I am the only one who is not. While they have all wrapped themselves in quasi-legal arguments, they have forgotten to be human in all of this.

    So, here are my thoughts in general. A wedding is but one day. A marriage is a long journey that begins that day. The important thing is the ceremony and the rest is a party. Brides should be mindful when planning their special day that having the wedding of their dreams should never be at the expense of any of their guests feelings, nor should they expect someone to do something that would make them uncomfortable. Guests should be good guests and ensure they behave well. They should not over-imbibe nor cause any disturbance and within reason, accede to the couple’s wishes. As for families, that is a more difficult nut, but my feelings are, be flexible if possible, be considerate and be open and honest. For my part, at least I know where I stand with my step-daughter, so I guess I should be grateful that the veneer of politeness has disappeared.

    So my thoughts to Margo and all the readers here is that you have heard the bride’s version of events. Perhaps if you heard the step-mom’s version, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle. On a final note, as a step-mother, I am sick to death of being portrayed everywhere as the villain of the piece. I did not break up the marriage, I have tried to treat my step daughter the same as I treat my own son ( in fact I treated her to a summer in Europe, that my son didn’t get) and most of all I make her father happy and I adore him. I have turned his finances around and have made his firm profitable. We love each other dearly and please if nothing else, be happy for us as we are for you.

    • avatar mmht says:

      Lisa, I’m sorry for the issues that you have had with your step-daughter. It does sound like there were several mistakes made with this on your husband, his daughter, and her groom’s side. While I agree that we are only hearing the LW side of the story, there are differences in your story than with the LW that makes you question the step-mother’s behavior. First, the step-mother was not cut out of all of the photos, just one. Secondly, the father and mother were not placed next to each other all lovey dovey like they were a happy little couple. Finally, the LW didn’t have grandparents, her parents, or her grandparents in the photo specifically only excluding the step-mother, as your step-daughter did.

      That being said, I also don’t agree with the groom choosing to exclude his step-mother. She is, whether he likes it or not, part of his family and excluding her from a family photo like that, in my opinion, was disrespectful. I don’t know why he did it, but I don’t think that photo should have been taken.

      Either way you look at it, her behavior was outrageous and inappropriate for the day. If she was angry or upset it should have been brought to the bride and groom’s attention quietly and after the reception. Like you advised your husband to do with his daughter. Not cursing and screaming at the reception, causing a scene.

    • avatar mayma says:

      Oh, dear. Oh, this is so sad. Sad for the bride. I say this with love, but I think you and your husband made some big mistakes here. I could recount them, but I feel that would not be a welcome comment. It’s so sad for her dad to punish her on her wedding day (i.e., refusing to attend the reception! wow!) because of his own unwillingness to forgive. No matter what happens, bride has a mother and a father. At some point, they made a mutual decision to have the child and raise her. Is it really that hard to fathom that bride would like a photo with her mother and father on her wedding day?? Those are her parents, no matter what happened. If you love each other dearly, why is a simple photo so threatening!? Oh, so so so sad. At least her fiance is sticking up for her.

      • avatar mmht says:

        mayma, did you even read what Lisa wrote? It wasn’t a parents photo, it was a family photo where the mother and father, who despise each other, were put next to each other with their arms around each other as if they were still married. No, the bride and groom were too dunce and too much in the “its my wedding” mentality to get how inappropriate that photo was.

        • avatar KL says:

          I’m with Mayma here. I don’t think it’s asking much for two parents to put aside their anger for each other for 5 minutes so one of their CHILDREN can have a happy memory, especially on something like a wedding. And I’d say the same for other big family events — birth of a child, holidays, etc. It’s sad that they can’t even do this. And I also agree with Mayma that I think the stepmother is way out of line here. It’s just a freakin’ photo for crissakes!

          And if your husband is so uncomfortable, then he shouldn’t have taken it. But he did — he was able to do it for 5 mins and the step mom should be okay with that. Accept HIS decision. Sadly, the husband is a weakling who can’t establish appropriate boundaries. He either should have stood up to his daughter and said he was too uncomfortable (which, frankly, is a little ridiculous) or stood up to you, stepmother and told you to get over yourself because she’s his DAUGHTER and it’s important to her, regardless of how much he hates his ex now. Wow, people, take a step back and think about others than just yourself.

          • avatar mmht says:

            Yet again, did you actually read what Lisa wrote? SHE never had the issue with the photo, it was the husband that did. The husband put the blame on HER b/c he wasn’t willing to admit to his daughter how uncomfortable the situation was. How the daughter could be so blind to the fact that this would make her parents uncomfortable, I don’t know. Why she was trying to fake this happy little family photo when the parents hate each other and apparently from the letter never had a good marriage, I don’t know. But to say that the family has to be uncomfortable and take fake photos so the daughter can fake this happy little family seems ridiculous to me. I just got married in September and my parents are divorced and despise each other. I would never dream of forcing a photo that made it seem as if they were still all lovey dovey and happy with each other (i.e., the arms around each other). Why would anyone take that photo knowing what a huge farce it was? Everytime you look at you’ll be reminded how fake everything about it is.

          • avatar KL says:

            mmht — yes, I did read ALL of what Lisa wrote, I just disagree with it. Wedding photos aren’t documentaries. And you’d think somewhere in both of the parents is a little love for their daughter on her wedding day — and so that would be genuine. It isn’t a documentary on the family’s happiness or their dynamic, but a statement about being happy for their daughter, despite their crappy-ass marriage. The wedding picture includes the family, but the dynamics or relationship between the family isn’t the focus of such pictures. You’d think they could put aside their acrimony for 5 mins for a photo.

            And I certainly think the husband is the most at fault for being a spineless weakling, but Lisa is also butthurt too — so let’s not pretend that doesn’t affect the husband and his actions. The fact is that she doesn’t have to be all hurt and feel disrespected. It’s not like the point of such pictures is to disrespect the stepmother, but to honor the bride and groom. And it’s not like she was left out of all the pictures, but just one (just like “Nancy” in the letter).

            She could have diffused the situation and told her husband it was fine if he took such a picture — that they’re all happy for his daughter instead of focusing on the fact that it’s a “farce” or the acrimony with the ex-wife. But instead she chose to focus on her feelings of being hurt and disrespected. I think that’s crappy. I can understand her feeling that way, but a bigger person would rise above them.

          • avatar KL says:

            mmht — “I agreed with him that the photo was inappropriate, in the sense that her desire to have a photo with her mother and father smiling with their arms around each other was just not an accurate portrayal 0f the reality of the family dynamic. It was grossly unfair of her to have demanded it and my husband’s fault for not having discussed the situation beforehand.”

            That’s ridiculous. Grossly inappropriate? Grossly unfair? Really? This is why I think Lisa is absolutely ridiculous and WAY out of line.

            They’re her parents and she wants an engagement photo with them smiling and being reasonable. That’s not grossly inappropriate or unfair to request. That’s pretty frickin’ normal. Not everything forever should revolve around the parents, their divorce or acrimony. Sometimes you should put that aside for others — like on your daughter’s wedding day or engagement party, or perhaps the birth of a grandchild, Christmas, etc.

            I’m sorry but to focus just on the parents’ divorce and acrimony makes the husband and Lisa crappy people — it’s not about them!

          • avatar mmht says:

            KL, I disagree with you. Being a recently married bride and a child of a very bitter, ugly divorce that was beyond ridiculous (on both my parents part) I guess I just have a different take on the situation. For me, asking them not to act like jerks to each other for a 12 hour affair was enough. To ask them to then put their arms around each other and act happy about it is just out of line in my opinion. Your right, you don’t have to center on the divorce on that day, but to act like it never happened or that the family is a different dynamic then what is, in my opinion, is just wrong and dishonest. It was made very clear to Lisa that she wasn’t going to be allowed in any family photo and that photo wasn’t just of the parents, it was the WHOLE family excluding Lisa. That’s rude. Sorry, but it is. The daughter clearly doesn’t want a relationship with Lisa, which is her choice, but she can’t be upset when her father is upset about it.

            I do agree with you that the husband is at fault her. It was HE who had the issue all along and never addressed it with his daughter. it was HE who blamed his wife for the issue. And it was HE who chose a very inappropriate place to discuss it with his daughter. That being said, I think the daughter is acting out of line b/c from the letter, she’s not willing to even discuss this. Just acts like a child and pouts.

          • avatar KL says:

            mmht — I guess I see a photo with the bride and groom and their respective parents not to be out of line. It’s not acting as if the divorce never happened, but it also doesn’t mean that the acrimony from the divorce has to divide their children forever or be the gating issue at every family event for the rest of time. I totally understand that some people can’t rise above for their children’s sake, even if it’s only a few days a year. But I think that’s a shortcoming of the parents, not the children (absent serious issues like abuse — but if just general dislike/spite/anger/etc — get over yourself, especially when it’s YEARS later).

            You’d draw the line at a reception, I think if you’re willing to ask that of them, 2 extra minutes to have nice photo isn’t that much more and certainly not out of line. But you disagree. Okay, we’re allowed to think differently.

            And it wouldn’t be acting happy. The photo isn’t about the relationship between the parents — but should be about their mutual happiness for their daughter. That wouldn’t be fake. Or shouldn’t be. If it were a photo of just the two of them, yeah, that would be inappropriate. But one of the bridal couple, the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents — that’s pretty darn typical and normal.

            Lisa didn’t have to take this as a slight against her. She could have just seen it as a natural desire of a bridal couple. But she didn’t. She chose to focus on just herself and her feelings, make it into a slight, and that makes her crappy in my opinion.

          • avatar KL says:

            Lisa was in other photos — photos with her husband’s side of the family. She just wasn’t in EVERY photo. Sorry, but the only difference between her and “Nancy” is that she didn’t yell. Otherwise, the sentiments seem pretty darn similar.

          • avatar mac13 says:

            I guess I see a photo with the bride and groom and their respective parents not to be out of line. It’s not acting as if the divorce never happened,

            A picture with their arms around each and smiling does make it look like the divorce never happened. You must have been a heck of a bridezilla. Just because its a bride’s wedding day doesn’t give her any right to force an acrimoniously divorced couple together. None, zero. The bride should have been thrilled to have her picture with her parents on opposite sides of her. But no, like a petulant child she stomps her feet and gets her way.

          • avatar A R says:

            Lisa wrote:

            “His ex was posed next to him with her arm around him.”

            It doesn’t sound as if the bride necessarily requested this. I’m thinking the uninvolved, neutral wedding *photographer* might have come up with this arrangement not being familiar with family dynamics. Just sayin’.

          • avatar mac13 says:

             I don’t think it’s asking much for two parents to put aside their anger for each other for 5 minutes so one of their CHILDREN can have a happy memory, especially on something like a wedding.

            I don’t either, but the request was not just to be in the photo. It was to put their arms around each other and cheese for the camera like the qhole world was perfect.  That is too much to be asking.

          • avatar KL says:

            It was unlikely that their arms were all around each other like a lovey dovey couple shot. Have you ever seen wedding pictures where they pose the bride’s/groom’s parents like that? C’mon. They pose the bride and groom like that, but not the parents. More than likely (and Lisa can confirm), it’s the bride and groom, their respective parents on either side or slightly behind and the father’s hand/arm was around the ex’s arm. It’s a slightly warm, formal picture. It’s not a lovey dovey, oh look how in love the bride’s parents are (despite that nasty divorce and the dad remarrying). You’re really stretching here. C’mon!

          • avatar KL says:

            Mac13 — (ran out of replies). You really think two parents on either side of the bride and groom — the bride’s parents on her side and the grooms parents on his side is inappropriate? Should they have split up the grooms parents because the bride’s parents can’t get along? Or just put one parent on one side and then all the rest of the other parents on the other side?

            If I saw a picture with the a bridal couple and their respective parents I wouldn’t think one way or the other about the parents’ relationship status. I’d expect them to be smiling because they’re happy for their daughter, not as a statement about their own relationship status. Because they had a crappy marriage/divorce, they can never be happy again or smile because that would be like acting as if the divorce never happened? That’s just ridiculous.

            I’m sorry, but if you can never smile in a family photo for the rest of your life because you had an acrimonious divorce, that’s just sad. Sad for you, sad for your children, sad for the rest of the family. Bitterness is not becoming. The best revenge is living well. Smile on your daughter’s wedding day. It really shouldn’t be that hard to do even if you despise your ex — at least for 2 mins for a photo because your DAUGHTER asked for it.

          • avatar mmht says:

            Yes, I have seen photos like that, MY wedding photos. My dad and stepmom were posed with their arms around each other. I was also posed with each parent with my arms around them. Along with my sisters. Its not that she asked for her parents to be in the same picture, its not even that she excluded her step-mom (which I don’t agree with), its how they posed the divorced parents. She had them posed as if they were happily still married WHILE ALSO excluding the step-mom. Anyone would feel uncomfortable in that situation. Particularly since the rest of the entire family was in that photo, including step-grandparents. Everyone BUT step-mom was allowed in that photo and the father was understandably upset. No matter how you slice it, that’s wrong. The couple purposefully excluded an important member of their father’s life and then went all wedding-zilla on them when he got upset about it.

          • avatar KL says:

            So, anyone that has their arm around another automatically means that they’re happily married? Really?

            Why can’t the interpretation be that the parents are gathered around the bridal couple and that’s why they’re happy? Why is that such a stretch?

            You don’t know if the groom’s family had any step parents because Lisa doesn’t say — it’s totally possible that they left out a stepmom and stepdad over there too. And I don’t think anyone would be upset about this — there are plenty of people that wouldn’t be upset.

            There is a reason that the evil stepmom is such a common archetype throughout cultures and myth — because it’s so often true. Have you ever seen a stepdad complain about this? If you reversed the roles, do you think a stepfather would care about being left out of ONE photo, while being included in plenty of other family photos? I highly doubt it.

          • avatar impska says:

            It was incredibly inappropriate to ask her parents to pose like that.

            I would never in a million years ask two people who were not in a relationship to engage in physical contact for a photo. And after someone says it makes them uncomfortable: I find it horrifying that this guy’s daughter guilted and cajoled him until he caved and agreed to it.

            And as a child of divorce, I would never in TWO million years have asked my parents to do it! Sure, a photo with my spouse and our immediate parents is fine. No reason to even wait for the stepmom to go to washroom. It’s so reasonable a request that the bride could have felt free to tell her right to her face that this photo was not going to include step parents.

          • avatar KL says:

            What I see is the bride asked for a biofamily photo (likely it was the photographer’s instruction on the pose and not the bride) and the father complied. If he didn’t want to do it or didn’t feel comfortable, then he should have said so — end of story. You can’t fault someone for making a request, especially one like that that is so reasonable — hey, how about a picture of the bio family with the bride and groom?

            If you don’t like the request, then don’t accept it. But don’t accept it and then bitch about it later. That’s so cowardly and manipulative.

            I’m so sick of people not taking responsibility for their choices and instead blaming others for asking/stating a need. It wasn’t an unreasonable request. It was HIS choice to agree or not agree. We’re all adults. Take some responsibility for your own life and your own choices.

          • avatar mmht says:

            KL – I agree with you to some extent. I agree that the father shouldn’t have done the photo, however, Lisa says that he immediately said he didn’t want to do it, then “jokingly” stated his wife wouldn’t like it, then caved and did the photo. He shouldn’t have caved and said he would, or he should have said “I don’t mind doing the photo but I don’t like the arrangement. I don’t want to be next to or touching my ex-wife.” Maybe that sentiment is immature, but that is how he felt and he should have insisted that his feelings were taken into consideration. Also, I don’t believe he should have brought that up with his daughter on that night. He should have waited, cooled down some, then called her and explained his feelings and ask that his feelings be taken inconsideration for the wedding. I agree that 95% of what ensued was his fault.

            That being said, the daughter and the rest of the family never should have pressured him into the photo when he clearly stated he wasn’t comfortable with it. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I just got married. When I met with my photographer right before the wedding I had to sit down and explain to her what photos I wanted and who should be taken with whom. My husband and I, the only two people that understood our family dynamics, had to explain to our photographer who it was ok to take photos of, who it wasn’t, who it was ok to put next to each other in photos and who it wasn’t. The photographer DOESN’T know or understand our family dynamics which is why my photographer asked us to explain it to her so something like this didn’t happen on our wedding day. You can’t blame the photographer for the arrangement. It was the bride and groom’s duty to stand up and say “No, this photo isn’t going to happen this way.” Instead, they stayed mum despite her father’s obvious protests and uncomfortableness. I think that they also share some of the blame that went down that night and they need to recognize that instead of throwing tantrums and refusing to speak to anyone about it.

          • avatar KL says:

            mmht – I see what you’re saying, but I also don’t think the Dad really cared about the photo or touching his ex. I really do think that he only cared because his new wife would be unhappy about it. If she’d been fine with it, I bet you he’d be fine with it (or at least enough to take the photo).

            I just don’t see men complaining about this sort of thing. Perhaps the father is unusal in that way, but I highly doubt it. That’s why it’s not about his feelings, but about Lisa’s and Nancy’s feelings — and him not wanting his new wife or his daughter mad at him. I’d like new wives to be considerate of this dynamic as well instead of acting all controlling and slighted. Think of their husbands and let it go. It’s not like they’re not being included at the wedding — just not in ONE photo. That shouldn’t be too much to ask — it’s only ONE photo for crissakes!

          • avatar Jay Gentile says:

            “For the CHILDREN!” Oh, deliver me. The daughter wanted to stage a complete fantasy and expected pepole who loathe each to play along. The father made some mistakes, sure. But I pity the fool marrying this girl. She’s a train wreck. She didn’t care about anyone’s feelings but her own. That is going to be one hellish marriage. Save me from the Delusional Brides of the world, truly one of the most vile creatures on the planet.

          • avatar P S says:

            “I don’t think it’s asking much for two parents to put aside their anger for each other for 5 minutes so one of their CHILDREN can have a happy memory, especially on something like a wedding.”

            I disagree. It’s not a “happy” memory, it’s a falsely *manufactured* memory based on fantasy, at best.

            If my daughter ever gets married and she insists I stand next to my sociopath of an ex-husband with our arms around each other, I will refuse. I’ll stand on the other side of her from wherever he stands in the same photo, but I will not embrace that psycho as if we have something good when that never happened. I’m not going to encourage what isn’t real.

          • avatar KL says:

            I guess I don’t understand two parents being happy for their daughter on her wedding day are a fantasy — I’d hope that would be the case. They’re standing near each other not because they’re husband and wife, but because they are her mother and father!

            It’s not about the parents’ relationship between themselves (it’s not an anniversary party for them but a wedding for one of their children), but about their relationships relative to their daughter. They’re on one side because they’re related to her, whereas the people on the other side are related to the groom!

            Even though they’re not together anymore, they are the reason she is in existence, and regardless of how crappy of a wife/husband they may have been to each other, I’d think they’d still treasure some of the results from that relationship — i.e. their children! So they could aside their dislike each other and their relationship as exes to honor their relationship as parents to their child. I really feel quite badly for so many people on this site that thinks this is such an imposition.

          • avatar KL says:

            It’s just a real shame when one’s hate for an ex is greater than your love for your child, especially for such a little thing. Literally 2 minutes of your life to take a photo that will mean a great deal to her! That’s too much to ask? Wow. I’d hate to be the kid of such self-centered, compassionless people.

      • avatar SKY says:

        “he wanted to ensure that he would have limited contact with her. There were also other issues regarding the presence of an adopted son he has absolutely nothing to do with on account of the fact the son is seriously mentally ill and dangerous.”

        This bugs me on so many levels. I understand that not all adoptions turn out like Annie,etc. but to flat out have nothing to do with your adpopted son because he has a mental illness and is dangerous? It seems to me that if he’s well enough to be at the wedding/engagement party, how bad/dangerous can he be? Maybe he’s just angry that this man decicided to adopt him and then check out of his life because of his mental illness, but still be there for his delusional and spoiled sister? It seems like he still has a relationship with his sibling and mom, but Dad just decided to divorce him along with his wife.
        I don’t have all the facts, and could be just projecting, but included with the fact that he thinks he should have discussed with his daughter that she needs to spend her time/focus on making sure he only has “limited contact” with his ex makes him seem really immature and selfish as well. Esp. since he had to tell his wife “you’ll never guess what happened when she got back. If he wants to avoid his wife, then just do so. If he doesn’t want to be put his arm around her fine, but complaining about being in pictures with her at all is crazy. they made a kid together. for whatever reasons they divorced she still should have the right of both of her parents putting thier bickering aside so she can have happy memories of her wedding day. Please note that I do realize his daughter is delusional for wanting to stage a “happy family” photo, but it’s not unreasonable to expect your mom and dad to act like grown ups and not bring attention to their hostile divorce during your engagement party or on your wedding day. If I were the stepmother, I would have told him to just take the picture. It’s not like anyone who knows them won’t know the truth. Who cares what anyone else thinks?

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          On the subject of the mentally ill son: as a person diagnosed with a number of Axis I mental illnesses (all controlled through medication and therapy), I object to your attitude. It peeves me to no end when people will not accept that a mentally ill person (versus a person with mental illnesses who responsibly controls them, is accountable, and is mentally healthy…liken it, if it helps, to a diabetic who takes his insulin, eats properly and exercises versus one who refuses insulin, is 200 lbs. over-weight, sits on a couch watching TV all day, drinks excessive amounts of alcohol and eats fast food and candy as a regular diet) can be irresponsible, horribly destructive, endlessly cruel and impossible to be around. Lisa said that the adopted son was mentally ill. I gather that he lives with his mother. She does not say that the adopted, mentally ill son is a CHILD. I am guessing, because he is dangerous, and from the fact that his sister is of marrying age, that he may be an adult. Also, she says that there is an adopted son. but we don’t know if he is her husband’s and his ex-wife’s, or just the ex’s.

          Depending on the disorder this person has, he may be prone to all sorts of behaviors, be extremely unpredictable, may dislike certain people (and that through no fault of their own. A simple attempt to set boundaries can result in a regular, “garden variety” person intensely disliking someone. Now add a personality disorder, or schizo-affective disorder to that…), may not be medicated, may be indulged by his mother, or react poorly to crowds…who knows? But to automatically blame the father…and to act as if a mentally ill person must be some poor, hapless, out-of-control, mentally retarded (I use that in the correct, clinical sense, NOT as pejorative) individual incapable of accountability who must have been cruelly used by the someone in order to be dangerous, or miserable (in the sense of deliberately causing misery toward others) is specious at best. And typical of people of a certain mindset. It is related to the concept that all addicts and alcoholics are poor, sick victims and ought be treated with kid gloves and sympathy.

          By the way, I have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder type I, currently slow cycling, schizophrenia (delusional, with a full range of hallucinatory/sensory affects), additional clinical depression, OCD, non-specified anxiety disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and a couple of fun phobias. My illnesses are monitored and I am mildly medicated, and I am not controlled or defined by them. I’ve known about them since I was a very small child. I did not have parents or family who understood, offered help or support in any form, or even compassion…and I dealt with these in ways both useless (self-medicating through alcohol and drugs, thus becoming an alcoholic and addict, and then becoming clean and sober, again without help, for the last 26 years) and useful for most of my life…until the last 14 years worth of psychiatry, medication and therapy. At the same time, I do NOT consider myself a victim, and I have done my best not to victimize others because of my illnesses. There are a lot of people like me…and a great many who are not.

    • avatar impska says:

      Lisa: I can totally empathize with you about your husband who foists blame onto you when he should simply be honest. It can be difficult to be portrayed as the “bad guy” just because your husband couldn’t just say no.

      But you should be the hero of this situation. Encourage your husband to let it drop, and tell him to attend the wedding and reception. It’s your option whether you choose to go with him. If it were me, I would go. She’s going to be his daughter forever, regardless of her feelings for you, and if he skips any part of this wedding it will only be seen as taking your side over his daughter’s.

      You will get the blame and you will shoulder that blame when your husband finally decides to make nice with his daughter. It will forever be a mark against you that you forced your husband not to attend the reception.

      And I totally understand where you’re coming from. In some recent unpleasantness between my husband and his family, they somehow decided that I was to blame for turning him against them. I found it incredibly insulting and hurtful. And now, at family holidays, I pretend like nothing happened – because it’s not up to me to get in my husband’s way if he chooses to have a relationship with these people.

      There will never be an apology to you. Stop expecting it. They will never see the light and realize they were in the wrong. And knowing that, you can be the bigger person and let it roll off your back while you support your beloved husband.

      And I want to reiterate that a wedding is never the time to take a stand and not attend. It will NEVER be forgotten. My grandmother did not attend my mother’s wedding due to an argument. My mother is twenty years divorced and my grandmother ten years in the grave and my mom STILL brought it up recently as an example of something bad her mother did.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Wow! I thought Lisa’s perspective was well done. She doesn’t sound like she is a drama queen. It appears more she is sad that this played out as it did. The bride & dad will suffer because of this silly photo. I find it sad the bride chose to act this way. I find it more sad that her father didn’t have a conversation about this prior to the party. I thought her advice at the end was well-written.
      Lisa’s hub’s reaction is hard to decipher. Did he really care to be in the photo or did he care more about Lisa’s reaction ? Or was it because he berates himself bc he unable to speak his mind (at a personal level surely not professionally).

      At any rate, the real issue here is the bride’s desire to have her parents with their arms together. That is expecting way too much!!! In this situation I would expect there to be a photo of the bride, groom and her bio parents one on each side of her. Maybe another with her sibs as well. After all, some part of her life encompassed these core people and they ARE blood relatives despite any unsavory history . That being said, I was a bit jealous at my own wedding that they took “family” photos without me. I didn’t say anything because I knew logically & traditionally this followed wedding photo rules. Nonetheless it hurt my feelings because they era excluding me-which they liked to do with language and ethnicity. Still a problem 15 yrs later. Sheesh!

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – Well… kind of led them to believe that when you turned 21 you would drink so now they’re thinking you were good on your word. Lesson learned. Don’t say things you don’t mean. Now you just need to fess up and tell them why you said that and that you don’t plan on drinking. Your next lesson should be the value of saying, “no”. Say “no” and mean it. It will serve you well in the real world.

    LW1 – You did nothing wrong and Nancy is a freak. Keep your distance and hopefully your FIL will wise up soon and Nancy won’t be an issue any longer. We can hope.  

    • avatar mmht says:

      I agree with your assessment on LW#2. She should have been honest from the beginning with her friends and say “I don’t drink and I don’t plan to drink.” If they are true friends, they’ll understand.

  12. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: While I agree that the step-mother’s behavior was outrageous and that the father should have said something to her immediately, I don’t understand why the photo was taken in the first place. As the LW herself pointed out, the photo was a FAMILY photo that excluded her. Whether the LW and her husband want to admit it, they sent a clear signal to the step-mother stating that they did not feel she was a member of the family. I don’t know why the groom did not feel that his step-mother deserved to be in all of the family photos, although from her behavior I have an inkling. Either way, this photo should have been discussed before hand with the entire family. I was just married in September and I am a step-daughter. I never dreamed of excluding my step-mother from photos, let alone doing it without discussing it with her and my father first. The LW and Groom’s lack of communication also led to this issue and I think that’s something everyone needs to keep in mind.

  13. avatar A R says:

    LW1: The heiffer is insecure and crazy! Of course it’s okay to have your bio family take a photo together. Heck, at our wedding my spouse’s bio’s took photos together with us. Step MIL was in others.

    LW2: I’d like to humbly submit a few thoughts.
    The LW suggests a slight fear of alcohol. I don’t think that is a beneficial or healthy attitude either. It’s not something to be afraid of. I mention this because I think the LW is suffering from an “all or nothing” mentality. I’m not sure he or she is aware that it doesn’t have to be addiction OR teetotalling–both extremes. In other words, I’ts perfectly okay to have a champagne on New Years only, while avoiding it the rest of the time. It’s okay to have a drink at Xmas while not drinking other holidays, etc.
    I too had my first drink after I turned 21. It was really underwhelming as I’d never really cared about alcohol one way or another. At 40, I still rarely drink alcohol, and tipsy is not fun for me. I learned early on that a simple “no thanks” is sufficient.
    I’m amazed at the adult heavy-drinkers I know of. I never have quite understood the appeal..

    • avatar John Lee says:

      “I learned early on that a simple “no thanks” is sufficient.”

      Sorry A R, I guarantee you in college, a simple “no thanks” is NOT sufficient.  Once you’re 30 or belong to a teetotaler’s group, maybe, but in college?  No way, especially at a 21st birthday party.

      LW2 has to pull out the big guns.  Go straight to her dad’s battle with alcoholism and her decision to never drink.

      • avatar A R says:

        Well, John… must be sufficient, as I attended college, and it worked just fine for me.

        • avatar Lym BO says:

          Me too AR.
          A few times I lied too and told the pushers it was Coke & Rum or something like that. I do not find it a big issue for her to fear alcohol. It’s not like there is any benefit (aside from a glass of wine a day thing, which will be disproved as most things are in medicine). At 40 something (& medical) I still think if I ever got drunk I may never come back to the real world LOL. And it is much easier to say I never drink than do it sometimes & not others. That is too confusing for the pushers. .

    • avatar B.eadle says:

      Yes – she is afraid…her family has a history of alcohol abuse. For most of us having a glass or two on occasion is no big deal. But…she has a family history, and readily admits she has an addictive personality. Getting clean is so very very difficult in this case, two strikes and you’re out. I’d lean toward better safe than sorry.

    • avatar carol grzonka says:

      ar…i’m encouraging ‘fear of alcohol’ in my son. heartily working toward it, in fact.  you seem unaware of the fact that a child of an alcoholic has a bigger tendency to become an alcoholic.  i have made my adopted son aware that his mother, an alcoholic, drank frequently during pregnancy. imo, this drastically heightens his sensitivity toward alcoholism.  fear of alcohol may be the most sensible fear you can have. no embarrassing episodes, no hangovers, no accidents,  no dui’s, and no loss of good relationships.   trust me, as someone who enjoyed alcohol consumption when i was younger, my life hasn’t lost a thing without alcohol. and i was never even an alcoholic.

      • avatar A R says:

        Carol, I do *not* believe that fear is the best tool with which to work. There are many things in life that could hurt a person, so to me, *respect and understanding* for the thing is a superior tool.
        I am quite aware of research on children of alcoholics. Why in the world would you assume that my perspective on fear of alcohol as a teaching tool means that I’m not aware of modern research? That’s silly and presumptive of you to assume.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Carol: I am an alcoholic and drug addict, clean and sober for 26 years. My mother is an alcoholic who only became sober when she was hospitalized on the very verge of death (I am not kidding, her system was in failure mode) and managed to live through it, and her body lost its physical need for alcohol. Her father and his brother were both alcoholics, as were her two cousins (the children of her mother’s sister, and her father’s alcoholic brother), both her grandfathers, her mother’s brother, her sister…and countless others in the family.

        My husband’s grandfather was an alcoholic who killed himself via decapitation by twelve gauge. His daddy couldn’t tolerate liquor at all.

        And we have a son.

        We don’t keep any alcohol in the house. Rusty doesn’t care for the taste…and I can’t and don’t want to drink. We have explained to my son that alcoholism runs hard in both families, and the potential devastating consequences of taking up drinking. He has watched A&E’s “Intervention”, which shows just how low alcoholics and addicts can go, and how hard it can be to crawl back up again. And how people suffer for it…and not just the addict. We’ve talked about what an inexorable force peer pressure can be, about the insanity of binge drinking, about alcohol toxicity (I know about that one first hand…and I told him the truth…which is not pretty). About black-outs, and what can happen during them. About being accused of rape…when you don’t have a clue what happened…and neither does she…but being male, he’s much more likely to suffer grievous consequences in a he-said, she-said. That it can be FUN to get trashed with your friends…until someone flips a car at 90 mph, and one is dead, one has no face left, and the drunk walks away without a scratch. My sister missed a ride like that by about three minutes when she was nineteen…lost a dear friend, had another’s life changed forever (23 sugeries to put her face back together), and saw three families’ lives shattered. Getting drunk can feel GOOD, wipe out your problems and stress…and when it becomes something you HAVE to do to get through the day, when you spend your last dime on beer, vodka or wine instead of rent, lose your job because your sick, hungover, or still drunk at 9 am, or kill someone’s family because you’re okay to drive when you’re three times over the limit…it not good anymore.

        My grandmother was regularly molested by her drunken, alcoholic daddy. My mother verbally and emotionally abused me every day of my life, since my earliest memories (from when I was about three), and was a bloated, screaming hag by the time she was forty. My grandfather cheated on my grandmother, and I am very certain molested his two older daughters, and doted on my mother like a virgin wife. I nearly died of alcohol poisoning.

        But my son isn’t afraid of drinking. He’s fourteen. I know, and so does his dad, that saying “Don’t you dare” is like waving a red flag. Saying, “This is what WILL happen to you” is nearly as bad. Because he’s very smart, and daring smart kids is giving them a challenge. I think more smart kids get pregnant, screw up their lives and do incredibly self-destructive things because they know they’re intelligent, and think they can figure out how to beat the odds. So, we’re using his intelligence. We are educating him. Gradually. He asks (yep, the lines of communication are, remarkably, still open…even about girls. And sex. And drugs and alcohol. And the world and Serious Matters) and we answer honestly…even if it is personally difficult.

        He knows about the contract. He can always call, no matter the time, to bail out of a bad situation…rather than letting someone drive when they’re drunk. Or driving drunk. Or staying somewhere when things are getting hinky and weird. Or there’s potential for really ugly trouble. We won’t ask questions, we’ll just come and get him. Later, we might talk, depending on the circumstances. We’ve told him to “never say ‘never'”…and then stick to your convictions. And be watchful, alert and careful.

        This isn’t about being religious, hovering or being over-protective. At some point, he’s going to achieve terminal escape velocity. Fear won’t help him. Knowledge, responsibility, and accountability will.

        I hope.

  14. avatar KL says:

    Mac13 — (ran out of replies). You really think two parents on either side of the bride and groom — the bride’s parents on her side and the grooms parents on his side is inappropriate? Should they have split up the grooms parents because the bride’s parents can’t get along? Or just put one parent on one side and then all the rest of the other parents on the other side?

    If I saw a picture with the a bridal couple and their respective parents I wouldn’t think one way or the other about the parents’ relationship status. I’d expect them to be smiling because they’re happy for their daughter, not as a statement about their own relationship status. Because they had a crappy marriage/divorce, they can never be happy again or smile because that would be like acting as if the divorce never happened? That’s just ridiculous.

    I’m sorry, but if you can never smile in a family photo for the rest of your life because you had an acrimonious divorce, that’s just sad. Sad for you, sad for your children, sad for the rest of the family. Bitterness is not becoming. The best revenge is living well. Smile on your daughter’s wedding day. It really shouldn’t be that hard to do even if you despise your ex — at least for 2 mins for a photo because your DAUGHTER asked for it.

  15. avatar Quigley-chan says:

    Margo: If LW1 ever needs someone to commiserate with, please feel free to pass her my contact information.  A similar situation happened at my destination wedding, only my FIL elected to support his then-gf and dump his son and me accordingly.

    In our situation, my FIL’s girlfriend contacted us three weeks before our destination wedding to ask if we wouldn’t mind if they had a fake wedding – oh, I think they called it a commitment ceremony – during our trip?  After all, they couldn’t get married because her ex’s alimony was too large, but the whole familiy was already gathered.  We said no and they agreed.  We thought it was the end of it.

    Three hours after our 12 PM wedding ended, we were horrified that they invited us to a tacky fake-wedding on the 2nd-floor balcony directly below our third-floor hotel room.  When I heard the minister announce that it was the second wedding of the day, my heart and stomach dropped, and I walked out.  My husband, bless his heart, followed.  The next day, the girlfriend cornered me in the elevator lobby and, in what she called an apology, laid a heavy guilt trip on me and accused me of being selfish to invite the family to a destination wedding and then not allow her to have her time to shine as well.  She used the ruse of a sick family member in attendance, the family already being gathered, and our general selfishness for having a destination wedding.  It was clear that she expected me to apologize for my selfishness at inviting her to my wedding.  I walked out.

    We later learned that they had also contacted our minister, videographer and musician to hire their services without telling us.  The girlfriend attempted to intercede in our cake-cutting pictures of the two of us, requested to keep our ceremony’s flowers, and she was upset when I didn’t throw my bouquet.  (Who was I going to throw it to?  I only had 3 friends at my wedding, and I wish them all happiness equally.  It didn’t even cross my mind that she’d want it.)

    When we returned from our honeymoon, my FIL accused my husband of my continued selfishness and demanded an apology from me for storming out of his wedding as well as from his girlfriend’s so-called apology.  He said that I was selfish to not let them have their 15 min and that our day was already over.  We realized that he had been manipulated by his girlfriend’s sordid perspective on events.  My husband hung up on his dad.

    It’s been three years now, and we’ve essentially been cut off from the family.  While we’ve tried to keep our mouths shut and realize that this is just between us and my FIL, they have played victim and to the family, accuse of cutting off contact.  Family members periodically push my husband to make up to his dad and just move past it.  We haven’t cut off contact, we just have our boundaries.  We prefer to not have someone so dramatic and selfish in our lives, and we’re puzzled that my FIL has abandoned his only child for such a self-absorbed gal.

    It’s sad to say that we’ve moved on.  My husband and I support each other greatly and also have the support of everyone around us.  A marriage counselor helped us work through the family issues from the beginning, so in some ways, we’re actually stronger than we would have been had this not happened.  Still, it’s a painful subject.  My husband never dreamed his dad would abandon him for a girl, particularly one so self-absorbed and inconsiderate.  I never dreamed I’d marry into a family that would consider it acceptable for us to share our wedding day with a Vegas-style minister, a fake wedding, and my in-laws.  On the plus side, I’ve walked away from this with a much greater understanding of what we define as “family” as well as a much stronger sense of boundaries and of self. 

    Anyway, Margo: if you’d like to put her in touch with me, I’d be happy to support her.  I know all too well the challenges a clueless step-MIL can play at a wedding, unfortunately.

    • avatar KL says:

      Wow, that is pretty bad. I don’t care for bridezillas, but I’ve never heard of someone trying to ride the coattails of someone else’s wedding — especially when they aren’t actually getting married! Wow, that’s horrible on so many levels. Your FIL must be very lonely to be with a woman like that. Sometimes you just got to call the crazy as you see it and accept the consequences.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      Wasn’ this a letter on another advice column recently?

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      that is one crazy wedding story.

      of course, you could have just said “i think it’s really tacky and strange, but you’re grownups and you can do whatever you want” in the first place and there would have been no problem.

      i totally understand why it’s inappropriate and weird for them to do that, especially since her alimony is a main driver. horrible.

      but in opposing her, you created a big problem. all you had to do is get married, then disappear on your honeymoon-time. that’s it. no problem. you could have completely ignored that entire ceremony, and it wouldn’t have existed to you. and your husband would still talk to his dad.

      so i know you feel righteously indignant and all that… but realize that basically you caused this problem. some crazy woman wanted to do something that had nothing to do with you. you created a big problem by trying to control her, instead of doing your own thing with your new husband, like you should have been. Why are you talking to ANYONE 3 hours after the wedding?

      you put a lot of energy into caring what someone else was doing, instead of worrying about yourself. mind yer business, and yer husband still talks to his dad.

      so yeah… i understand why you did what you did. but it was still the wrong decision.

      • avatar mmht says:

        “Why are you talking to ANYONE 3 hours after the wedding?” What bizzarro world do you live in chuck that you find this odd? I talked to people up to 5 hours after my wedding, its called a reception! And your blaming her b/c her wacky f-i-l and his girlfriend hi-jacked her wedding and reception to throw themselves a commitment ceremony? Again, I’d like to know what bizzarro world you live in that you find that behavior not only reasonable but that its the bride and groom’s fault b/c they are upset that someone just took over their day?!

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          i didn’t blame her because her family did anything. nor did i say she shouldn’t be upset.

          nor did i say the in-laws were reasonable. in fact, i said they were horrible.

          i’m saying that her trying to stop a crazy person from being crazy caused a big problem, and eventually led to her husband being estranged from his dad.

          i understand why she would be upset. i also understand that she could have easily ignored the whole thing and it would not have caused a problem. she chose to cause a problem, and that had ramifications for her husband, which is sad.

          why expend so much energy trying to control what someone else is doing, when it doesn’t really affect you?

          why shouldn’t she have been enmeshed in whatever she was doing, rather than trying to keep tabs on her in-laws?

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          the more i think about it, the more it bothers me… she purposefully forced her husband to choose between her and his dad, over simple selfish stubbornness.

          look at it this way… the GF was going to be tacky regardless. the LW tried to stop her, and it didn’t work… she was STILL tacky, she STILL made a scene, etc… the only thing the LW did was make it a big issue between her husband and his dad… 2 people completely uninvolved and who likely didn’t care one way or the other. that’s really sad and ironic.

          her reaction to the tackiness not only didn’t stop it, it made the entire situation much worse overall for everyone, and nuked a relationship that wasn’t even hers. how can anyone possibly defend such objectively terrible results?

          All because she wanted to stop someone who wanted to do something silly. on HER day. with HER photographer. something she could never stop, only make worse.

          that’s not right. she’s 100% wrong. all those people supporting her are wrong.

          her husband is suffering because of her selfishiness, and that’s the truth.

          the reason he’s not talking to his dad is not her tackiness, it’s the LW putting herself in the middle of it. if the GF had been allowed to be unrestrictedly tacky… what difference would there be today, other than he would still be talking to his dad?

          • avatar mmht says:

            Why would he still be talking to his dad? His father allowed his girlfriend to ruin HIS wedding day. Don’t forget that this was HIS day too! I”m sorry, but I think you either completely misread the letter or you are just as insane as that girlfriend. The bride and groom COULDN’T have ignored it, the father and wacko girlfriend called everyone AWAY from their wedding day activities into their room so everyone could witness their “commitment ceremony” on his son’s wedding day! They stole his son’s day away from him! Additionally, they hi-jacked HIS SON’S wedding reception to make it all about them! To believe that it could have been ignored and that the bride ruined her husband’s relationship with his father is asinine. If the father and girlfriend had done this the day after their wedding, that would have been different but they tried taking the spotlight away from his son’s wedding day and put it on them. Its pretty clear to me that this father had ABSOLUTELY NO love and respect for his son. He doesn’t deserve to have a relationship with him.

          • avatar Quigley-chan says:

            Lisa, yeah, I mentioned in on Annie’s Mailbox at one point.

            MMHT and KL, thanks for your support. 🙂

            Chuck, I’m amused by your erroneous assumptions of my lack of support for my husband. It gave us both a good chuckle on a Sunday afternoon!

          • avatar Quigley-chan says:

            …and just to clarify, why were we concerned with what they were doing that night? We’d booked dinner reservations at an upscale restaurant for my parents, my in-laws and the two of us. In the midst of their commitment ceremony and ensuing reception, they completely forgot about their plans to join us for dinner. 🙁 Just FYI.

          • avatar chuck alien says:

            of course she could have ignored it. she didn’t want to. but she could have.

            she could have not let it bother her one bit. she could have been the bigger, better, more loving person and accept and ignore this as a silly act by a silly person. she could realize that getting upset is futile and will only cause more problems.

            they stole his day? really, is that what they did? they STOLE his DAY?

            is that possible? because then he wasn’t married anymore? his day ceased to exist? because the attention shifted from him for an hour?

            again, the father and GF did a lot of selfish, confused things… no argument there. i’m not saying it wasn’t a tacky thing to do. i’m saying it was only really a problem because the bride MADE it a problem.

            you cannot argue the fact that if she had completely ignored the GF, completely not let her nuttiness bother her… then the whole thing would have been over in an hour and everything would now be (relatively) normal in their relationship.

            in this case, she COULD have said “eh, whatever. do what you want. i’m married.” but instead she chose to make a problem. those are the facts. which no one seems capable of refuting.

            because someone was stealing her day. come on, are you children?

          • avatar mmht says:

            I”m still just so confused on how you think this 1.) could have been ignored, 2.) this still wouldn’t have the bothered the groom to the point that it caused an issue with his father, and 3.) this is all of the bride’s fault?

            You claim these are irrefutable facts but they are not. Here are the irrefutable facts: the GF and father became angry at them b/c the left the commitment ceremony and refused to be involved, b/c the bride didn’t throw the bouquet, and the bride got upset that the GF tried taking over their cake cutting. If they had just simply ignored everything, like you claim its so easy to do, then they would not have gone to the ceremony at all, which still would have caused issues. The bride would have been forced to throw her bouquet, just to make the wacko happy, and the bride and groom would have just allowed the psycho to take over their cake cutting and basically the rest of their reception. I don’t know what you think a wedding is, but its more than just the ceremony, it involves the reception too. The GF and father took over their reception, which costs thousands of dollars by the way, to get what THEY wanted, not what his son and new daughter-in-law, the bride and groom, wanted.

            Even if they had gone along with all of these and said “Who cares that I just paid thousands of dollars for a reception that never happened and turned into all about them” there is still the fact that they had the right to be upset and demand and apology. You yourself agree that their behavior is outrageous. It is the father who is refusing to apologize, instead insisting that the son and wife are really the one’s at fault. That is just completely jacked up thinking. It clearly shows that the father is selfish, inconsiderate, and off his rocker. Why would anyone want a relationship with a person like that?

  16. avatar Dani Smith says:

    I’m not getting why anybody would have to write to an advise columnist to ask if it’s okay that they decide what to do with their own, legally adult body?  ??  

    Very confused here.

  17. avatar mud69_98 says:

    Well, I think that “Nancy” was quite out-of-line. But if her husband thinks that his “family” does not include his new stepmother, it’s going to be a fun few years (or decades) seeing how well that turns out. “Nancy” doesn’t need to be accepted as if she’s on equal footing with LW’s husband’s mother. But this was pretty disrespectful. It makes me glad I didn’t seek a series of pictures at my wedding designed to promote an alternate reality.

    • avatar mac13 says:

      I agree, now KL would have you believe a bride is allowed to created any reality (in pictures) that she wants. Its not Queen for a Day.

      • avatar KL says:

        No, Mac13, but I don’t think it’s much to ask for a child to have a picture with just her parents and her groom’s parents, regardless of their relationship status. She’s not excluding the steps from all the photos, but just from ONE photo. She’s not asking them to dress up in clown costumes and juggle flaming hoops. She’s asking them to stand next to each other, not think of themselves for 2 minutes, smile and be happy for her on her wedding/engagement regardless of whether they hate each other or not. Fantasy or not, that doesn’t seem to be much to ask.

        We refrain from saying negative things to people all the time — it’s considered polite discourse, the way society stays together. If you were 100% honest with people you work with, you share your home with, etc. all the time, you’d be in constant turmoil. So, as an adult, you learn to choose your battles. Sometimes you relent or do things for others because it would make them happy and they’re important to you. That’s really the crux of the matter here. And it doesn’t seem much to ask in my opinion.

        • avatar mud69_98 says:

          KL, you’ve missed some of the details. It was not the bride who requested the pictures, nor did this picture involve the bride’s parents. If it had just involved the couple and their parents, there might have been no issue. Instead, the picture involved the bride and groom, the groom’s parents, and the groom’s brothers. The bride says that this picture was designed to represent the groom’s “family.” Well, he may like it or not, but “Nancy” is part of his family now. I hate to imagine the cognitive dissonance required there to accept that his wife is part of his family by marriage but his father’s new wife is not.

          I understand that it’s awkward to marry into a family that is encountering recent turmoil. When I got married, my husband’s parents had only divorced a few years before and his mother had just moved away to live with her long-term boyfriend (they married a year after we did). That was the first time my in-laws had seen each other since the divorce, and it’s been the last (12.5 years since). In the event that I am ever so unfortunate as to have all three of them in the same room, much less the same portrait, in no way would I be rude enough to my stepfather-in-law (or condone the same) as to have him written off the pages of history, as it were.

          You say that life is all about doing little things for others that make them happy, because they don’t cause you significant harm. Why does this apply to the stepmother but not the groom? Frankly, he caused himself infinitely greater suffering by leaving her out of that picture than he gained joy by leaving her out of that picture. He gets the satisfaction of seeing, in perpetuity, a portrait reflecting his “intact” nuclear family, except his father looks like he’s at a funeral. Happy memories, all.

          I’ll reiterate my assessment that I’m really glad I chose to keep the picture-taking minimal at my wedding. It seemed like a major hassle at the time, but now I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with ruffled feathers as a result.

  18. avatar dcarpend says:

    LW2, repeat after me: “No, thanks.” “Why not? Because I just don’t care to, thanks.” That’s it. You need no further explanations. Do not JADE: Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain your decision. You don’t owe anyone a justification or a defense of your desire not to consume any given substance. I’m betting, since you’re in college, that more than one of your friends is a vegetarian, or even a vegan. Do you demand that they justify their dietary choices to you? If you are a vegetarian, do you feel you owe everyone an explanation of your choice? Same thing.

    Nancy Reagan *almost* had it right: Just say “No, thank you.” As many times as it takes.

    And I agree with the poster who said to be wary of people who might try to spike your drink without your knowledge. If anyone tries, they should be off the “friends” list immediately and permanently.

  19. avatar Caramia says:

    If Nancy had been involved in the conception of the writer’s husband, I might see her point. Whether related by marriage or through blood, there is a difference. But in this matter blood relations were what was considered when the picture was taken, and wanting a picture taken with (among others) the one who was responsible for the husband even getting to this stage of life….well, Nancy is the one with a problem IMO.

  20. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    I tried to post something earlier but for some reason it didn’t post. I’ll try again. To all the responses, all I can say is wow! I was hesitant to post my situation because I don’t like over-sharing and to be honest I just want the whole issue to go away. That said, when I read the letter this morning I thought perhaps my step daughter had posted it albeit with a few changes in details. The main difference was the fact she painted a picture of a poisonous, out of control lunatic who spewed foul language and bad-mouthed the bride. I found it hard to believe that there are others going through almost exactly the same issue, but evidently this is the case. My goal was to present the issue from the side of the designated villain, the step-mother.

    As for my situation, to clarify a couple of points, I wasn’t asked my opinion nor was I even present. I was in the washroom. It was not staged by the photographer, it was staged by the bride. I never threw any kind of hissy fit, never sought to discuss it with her, nor did I make any mention of it until I was confronted by the groom in the parking lot. I did chew my husband out on the way to the car for his outburst, poor timing and his inability to man-up and say no without jokingly or otherwise, throwing me under the bus. That said, I still think his daughter was wrong for blind siding him.

    For those who have commented on getting over it, forgiving and moving on, please understand there are issues I can’t go into that make this impossible. As Margo herself has counseled on many occasions, there are times you need to cut people out of your life. This is the situation with my husband’s ex and his son. He would like nothing more than to never be in the same state as them, let alone the same room.

    The reason for attending the ceremony only and not the reception has nothing to do with the photos. It has to do with the son. In life we make choices. The bride has made it clear he will be at the reception (he was not at the engagement party). We cannot be in his presence. Again, this is due to very complicated reasons I can’t go into. We can’t demand she exclude him, but we both can choose not to go. That is the painful choice. As for me, I have no difficulty staying away from the whole thing, in fact I know this is what the bride would prefer. My husband however feels his daughter is wrong to exclude me and he won’t go to the party without me. So he has chosen to go to the ceremony only. He believes that no one has the right regardless of circumstance to make you do something you don’t want to do.

    He has asked his daughter to respect his feelings and not put him in any photos with his ex and exclude me. He believes that she has two families, her mother’s and his. She should take as many photos as she wishes with her mother’s family and with his family separately. If she wants parent photos then they should be separate or if it is an ensemble photo, then I should be included. What she wants is to create a fantasy family which is not the reality. His view is that if she wants a photo with just her mother and him together then she might as well photo shop him in. I realize there are those who think everyone needs to give the bride what she wants, after all it is her day. My husband’s point is that it is always bad form regardless of circumstance to ever force anyone to do something they are uncomfortable doing.

    So it goes. For my part, I will stay away. My step daughter has made her feelings about me perfectly clear and now I know where I stand with her. As for her father, he has made his position clear and he will go to the ceremony only. It is sad, but all of us make choices which have consequences. I sincerely doubt that there will be a global warming in our family but who knows. I do know that I will be completely unreceptive to any further requests for money. My checkbook is now closed. If that makes me an evil witch, so be it.

    He loves his daughter dearly but truth be told, she has little to do with him except when she wants something. My husband was commenting how different she is from my son. My son who lives Korea, sends him birthday, Father’s Day greetings, etc and writes to him regularly (and argues political issues with him). My step daughter has often forgot to call him on his birthday and father’s day, but merely texted him a couple of days later. She has never acknowledged my birthday, nor Mother’s Day, nor our wedding anniversary.

    • avatar sc72 says:

      Lisa, I think your position on the matter sounds perfectly reasonable. Anyone who suggests divorced parents of a child should be able to suck it up and smile together in an effort to act like the family they no longer are at a wedding or any occasion just because they created the child years ago have clearly never been through a divorce. When I got married years ago I was just glad that my parents were civil to each other during the event (and my dad was my photographer so I was also happy that I got a couple of good pictures of my mom and that she smiled in them). Parents are human beings with a right to their feelings too, and any adult child should be able to understand that even if they don’t like what those feelings are. I wish my parents got along better (more so my mom than my dad), but it is what it is. As long as I don’t end up in the middle of some conflict it’s fine with me.

      And you’re right, just because people are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption doesn’t prevent them from being toxic. You have to do what is right for you.

      I wish you good luck in the future and a minimum of emotional fallout from the upcoming bridezilla event. 😉

    • avatar A R says:

      “I was hesitant to post my situation because I don’t like over-sharing and to be honest I just want the whole issue to go away. ”

      Ma’am with all due respect, this is the silliest statement I’ve seen on here in a bit. With this being a voluntary message board, you had every opportunity to put this event behind you without having it dragged out of the laundry and hashed and rehashed by strangers (to your evident dismay).

      Knowing human nature, I’m going to postulate that what you really wanted was to put your side of the story out there, just in case it was your DIL, and to hopefully find a few strangers in cyberspace who would help you work out the tiny, remaining traces of doubt that you’ve had over the years about your (albeit unwilling) role in the fiasco that day.

      That makes you perfectly normal. But….well….own it. There’s no shame in wanting to work out something that evidently still bugs you to this day.

  21. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Haley, I am giving you a standing ovation! Love you and love your moral compass!

    You’re young, 21 years young and this is the perfect opportunity for you to stand in your own truth and show a true sign of maturity.  As I am sure you have noticed among your peers, there is always “the girl” that in the face of racism will say the right thing. Sexism? She’ll speak up. Politics and women’s rights? She will have her say. I LOVE females that aren’t afraid to respect that others have a right to their opinions, but not allow if others disagree with them – to sway their own beliefs.

    When you are offered a drink, be an adult, be a woman and simply say “I don’t drink.” No more, no less. And if they ask and push you on “Why?” Answer “Because it is something I don’t want to do” And if you are like me you may want to throw in a little humor by saying “Because tomorrow morning when you’re wondering what happened last night, I’ll know EXACTLY what I did and said!” 😀     

    Letter #1 – Margo took the words right out of my mouth, with Nancy’s behavior she is not going to be a part of your family for long with her screwed up personality. She isn’t worth wasting precious life moments on worrying about her.   

  22. avatar Susan G says:

    LW#2 I decided in my 20s that I simply don’t enjoy alcohol and haven’t had a drink since. I’m glad now; I like how I feel without it. When I watch drinkers, their so-called high, really looks like a wired, forced kind of fun as opposed to any kind of real joy. Though the years a few have expressed discomfort about my abstinence despite my never making it an issue. I suspect their discomfort is because of their own problems with addictions.

  23. avatar bamabob says:

    LW#2, I find that the minute I give a reason why I don’t drink people consider it a challenge or a negotiation. “you don’t like the taste? But this stuff tastes good. just try it!” “you don’t want to get drunk? then just have a couple and then stop.” I finally learned not to give any reason at all. I just say, “Thanks but I don’t drink.” if someone is tactless enough to ask why I don’t give a reason, I just repeat, “I don’t drink.” and leave it at that. If I don’t give a reason, they have nothing to counter.

  24. avatar Lym BO says:

    I too have never really drank. I’ve never been drunk. I’ve tried part of a drink here & there, but there are four reasons I don’t drink. It tastes disgusting, I like to be control of my actions, I have an addictive personality as does my dad & I too took a drug abuse class in college. Even my parents give me a hard time. I’m not so sure why people thin it’s “weird”.
    People will continue to harass you throughout your life so just be prepared. Basically, I just don’t have too many friends that drink-at least to get drunk. I find drunk people mostly idiotic. My favorite is, as mentioned above, those drinkers who will go all lengths to make a drink that has no taste. No matter if it does or not, I’ll give it a sip & declare how wrong they are and how nasty the alcohol tastes (that always confuses them LOL) (Hence, the I don’t like the taste doesn’t fly well just invites a challenge) .
    What no one has said here is that the reason the drinkers so desperately want you to drink is so they don’t have any sober witnesses to report or remember their behavior later. They also know it’s immature, shows a bit of insecurity (I need a drink to loosen up), and has all sorts of consequences. (I’m talking about those who drink to get drunk or get a buzz, not light social drinkers). I have on occasion responded, with the same look of incredulity as they have, to the “why don’t you drink” with “why DO you drink ?” or “why should I?” . It’s not the popular choice, but sometimes shutting down the conversation is quicker with this response.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Lym BO, the heavy drinkers may well want no one sober at their gatherings, but in this day when it seems everyone has a smartphone with camera (including video), and a Facebook and Twitter account, a picture or video can be taken and posted to the Internet literally within seconds. So much for not having sober witnesses.

      This kind of over-sharing of documentary evidence of one’s stupidity has become quite the trend in recent years and impacts job prospects, relationships, even legal cases. All of our technological progress, and for SOME folks, the result is that they get to blend some of the world’s oldest dumbassery with some of the world’s newest dumbassery.

  25. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Ltr # 2, I drink very rarely, a glass of wine at Thanksgiving or Xmas and that is it.  When people ask me, I am honest and simply answer that alcoholism runs in the family therefore we have to make one of two choices: don’t drink or chance developing a problem.  I chose not to drink and therefore I don’t run the risk of developing a disease that claimed my grandfather, my father, his sister, my brother and most of my great uncles and aunts on that side of the family.  People usually back right off and say that with that family history, I am making the right choice. 

  26. avatar Rain says:

    Dear Birthday Girl,  Please google “acute alcohol poisoning” and see the truth behind binge drinking.   The stories are tragic!  It is especially dangerous for someone like you who has not build up a tolerance for alcohol.  Please do not allow your friends to pressure you into drinking.  

  27. avatar Ar Mo Chroí says:

    LW#2: I was in much the same boat you’re in now. I don’t drink, although once in a blue moon I’ll have a sip of someone’s drink (only if I know they won’t mind) just to see what it tastes like. I don’t actually go out of my way to buy a bottle of booze “just because”.

    For me, I’ve always told people who try to push me to drink that “I’m not interested.” Seriously. It’s the truth. If I get pushed farther after that response, I then say, “I don’t like the buzz.” or (with a smile) “I much prefer chocolate.” That usually shuts them up.

    I agree with the other commenters that you shouldn’t have told people you won’t drink until you turn 21. But hindsight is 2o/20, & you need to set them straight now before you’re dragged into bar-hopping on your birthday. Sit them down & tell them why you don’t want to. If you have to, arrange for something else that’s fun for you to do on your birthday with your friends. If they have a hard time accepting your choice &/or refuse to celebrate your birthday with you because of it, go with another group of friends & have an absolutely wonderful time. 🙂

  28. avatar Robert Smith says:

    As I’m sure LW2 has heard, the “tradition” nowadays is to consume 21 drinks on your 21st birthday. So be extra careful that there will be those keeping count (they will probably be barefoot).

    You asked if there was a polite way to get your message across – the answer is No, there is not a POLITE way. But you have every right to stick to your guns. Do you have trusted friend or two who can head these morons off?

  29. avatar wlaccma says:

    My God I have never read such garbage. Who cares about a few photos if it makes the daughter happy. Smile and go along to get along. This whole mess was caused by the father and his new wife. Do you want to be right or happy?? Have you forgotten that at one time you loved this former wife and had sex with her and produced children with her? The father picked her and now doesn’t want to have his photo taken with her to please his daughter. Who are these people? Now look at the mess you are in with your children. All could have been avoided. I would not spend one day not talking to my two children and grandchildren. Are they wrong at times and do things I don’t like. Sure, but I bite my tongue. I want to be happy. Yes, these things are upsetting but get a grip and look at the big picture. This is all ridiculous nonsense. Now you just might not get to be part of your grandchildren’s lives. Think about that when you are bellyaching about a few photos.

    • avatar KL says:

      Wlaccma — I’m with you. I think huge mountains have been made out of molehills. That some folks have been far too concerned with the “principle” (whatever that may be to them) rather than see the bigger picture. It seems like there are a lot of people here that would rather be right and alone, then letting it go and enjoying albeit an imperfect relationship. They’re just photos, people!

  30. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    Surely there must be some happy weddings out there that takes place with step parents involved, but I guess they don’t write to nor read Dear Margo.

    I guess I was lucky as I grew up in the ’70s when the legal drinking age was 18 in Texas and I cannot remember a single episode then I was urged to drink when I chose not to and I spent many college weekends in nightclubs during the disco age but then again I was the only one with a car.  **Sigh**

  31. avatar Mary Morgan says:

    #2, Just say NO…don’t have to be afraid…just say NO.  and a kind of a funny on that is “What is there about the word NO that you don’t seem to understand?”  but I do agree that you may want to shop for some other friends, if the ones you have ae all aabout wanting to get you drunk.  I’ve been sober years, and after all these years, there are still things I remember doing drunk that make me feel “less than”.  I don’t want to ever feel like that again…so trust your own judgement and just say NO.

  32. avatar Jean B says:

    LW2: They are pressuring you to drink so they don’t feel so bad about their own drinking. I was pressured by my ex-husband, and sometimes members of his family. These people drink too much and when there is a sober person around it makes them feel bad about themselves. I guess they thought because I come from a long line of alcoholics on both sides that I would be “one of them”, too. Surprise! Most of the drinkers in my family were male. With rare exception, the females are not drinkers. I am aware of my addictive personality and choose not to go that route. Like my mother, I would rather be sober and know what I am doing at all times. I will have an occasional drink; a glass of wine with dinner for a special occasion, a glass of champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve, an amaretto sour at home after dinner just because I really like them…..seeing a pattern? ONE glass per occasion, period, and only if I choose to that evening. I can go years without more than one drink per year and some people think I’m not normal. I don’t care what they think, they don’t have to live with the fall-out if I do or say something stupid. I agree with those who said you need new friends. A real friend wouldn’t pressure you like this. Note that my biggest pressure came from my EX-husband……………

  33. avatar christineb says:

    I know I’m a bit late but I’d like to comment on Haley’s idea that the primary social scene at her college is drinking. If she goes to a big “party” school, I would encourage her to look around. I work at a school with that type of rating (we’ve made the Playboy list several years in a row) but I have a number of students with very active social lives who do not spend every weekend drinking. Our university has over 250 student organizations. Yes, some of them are Greek with partying reputations. But we also have a ski club that travels, intramural sports teams (including kickball and dodgeball), an Anime club, and many more. There is truly something for everyone and if not there is a process for starting a new club. I would encourage Haley to step out and try something new. This doesn’t mean she needs to drop her old friends but she might find that surrounding herself with people who at least understand why she doesn’t want to drink will provide her with a better group anyway.

  34. avatar French Heart says:

    #1 Can expect a lot of problems with that self-centered, selfish, classless step-MIY. Poor Dad he’s trapped by a witch-on-wheels.

    #2 If a person’s friends define a good time as getting blotto on B-day…..wrong friends.

  35. avatar April says:

    We’re allowed to be angry about these things now? Sweet. I’m going to call my sister and tell her that my brother-in-law had a lot of nerve to want a formal picture taken with just his siblings. I do not appreciate being made to feel as if am pâté.

    In all seriousness, LW’s father-in-law needs to put his foot down and tell his wife that, while she may have an opinion, she may not continue to harass him about it, nor act like a spoilt child towards his son and daughter-in-law.