Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Help! I Don’t Want a Jerry Springer Wedding!”

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My fiancé, “Tom,” and I are getting married next summer and we are both in our mid 20s. About two years ago, it was discovered that Tom’s father, “Steve,” had been having an affair for over a year. Tom’s mother “Katie,” was also diagnosed with a degenerative disease shortly before the affair was discovered which made a bad situation even worse. They announced earlier this year that they would be divorcing and Steve is currently dating the woman he left Katie for.

Tom and I are trying to stay out of everything as much as possible but understandably Katie’s side of the family and a lot of their family friends have taken Katie’s side and distanced themselves from Steve. Tom is on good terms with both his parents.

Our wedding will be the first event where all parties will be around each other. Katie’s family and Steve have had no contact since the affair was uncovered. Katie’s family is pretty outspoken and with an open bar, we’re worried things may get out of hand. Open bar is already booked with a contract so not having alcohol is not an option. Plus, the food and open bar are the things we’re looking forward to the most for this wedding.

Steve’s girlfriend will not be attending and Tom has told Katie to tell her family that our wedding is not the place for confrontation and he will not hesitate to throw people out if arguing starts. I agree with Tom but I also completely understand Katie’s family’s anger and if I were them in that situation, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold back either.

I suggested maybe setting up a time for Katie’s family and Steve to meet up before the wedding but Tom does not like this idea as he feels it would be setting his dad up in front of a firing squad. Katie’s family is also huge and all over the U.S. so this may not be a feasible option.

Do you and your readers have any ideas to prevent a Jerry Springer brawl at our wedding? Are there any other measures we can take during the wedding itself? Any help is appreciated, I am stumped! — No Springer Style Wedding, Please

I’m with Tom that setting Steve up to meet with Katie’s family is inappropriate and, frankly, not very compassionate. You really don’t know what went on in Steve’s and Katie’s marriage or what led to Steve’s affair. And to allow Katie’s family to basically have at him in a closed meeting before your wedding is basically like saying you side with her, and that’s unfair. It’s not your place to take sides, particularly since you are new to this family, you don’t know the history, and Steve is going to be your father-in-law as much as Katie is going to be your mother-in-law. I recommend continuing to “stay out of everything as much as possible,” and to keep an open mind about your in-laws. You don’t know the whole story — it’s not yours to know anyway — and all you need to focus on in the long run is your relationship with them as daughter-in-law and support of your husband’s relationship with them.

Of course, your focus on the shorter-term is on your wedding, understandably. And if you have reason to believe Katie’s family could cause problems, it’s Tom’s job to speak to them directly (not Katie’s job; hasn’t she already been through enough without having to manage her entire extended family at your wedding?). Tom should speak to the most outspoken members of his mother’s side of the family and express your wishes that they not cause a scene at your wedding. Then, you should both select two or three people you trust who are used to managing others but won’t already have their hands full managing people at your wedding (like, no parents of young children who might be in attendance) and assign them the task of keeping an eye on Katie’s outspoken family. While you are hopefully enjoying every minute of your wedding and making the rounds, these particular attendants can tend to potential drunken outbursts, of which there probably won’t be any, and can separate/remove any offenders and keep them from causing a scene. This special role of managing drunk, outspoken family members can also serve a double function of honoring loved ones who may not fit into typical wedding party roles like bridesmaids or groomsmen. “Wedding bouncer” has a nice ring to it.

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28 comments… add one
  • avatar

    bethany May 13, 2014, 3:06 pm

    If you have a wedding planner or an event coordinator at your venue you are working with, please fill them in. They can be on high alert for any drama and can kick people out if necessary.

    Also, make sure you alert your photographer to the situation, so he/she isn’t trying to get group shots with the Mom and Dad posing together! My husband shoots weddings and he always makes a point of asking if there are any weird family situations that he should know about going into it. So if you photographer hasn’t asked, please tell them! Don’t feel weird about it. Lots of people have these kind of situations.

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    • Jess

      Jess May 13, 2014, 5:41 pm

      These are both REALLY good/important tips. I agree.

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    • possumgirl

      possumgirl May 14, 2014, 7:46 pm

      The attendants should also be responsible for taking down any uncomfortable unintentional faux pas… Like an exuberant DJ…”Can I get the mother and father of the groom to come on down for a dance”, etc.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest May 13, 2014, 3:16 pm

    I actually don’t think its a good idea to assign attendants to keep on an eye on anyone. I would be uncomfortable in that position, and doubly so if I had to actually kick someone out. But you obviously know these people and I don’t, so maybe they would be comfortable with it. I also feel like its kinda telling people there’s family drama which would also be uncomfortable/gossipy to me.
    If people act up, then kick them out yourselves or have the people that work there do so. Hopefully they won’t and this is all unnecessary!

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    • avatar

      rachel May 13, 2014, 3:27 pm

      Well, hopefully if people are keeping an eye on the situation, they can sort of see trouble brewing before it gets bad – for instance, steer the angry looking uncle away from Steve and distract him for a moment. Hopefully it wouldn’t have to go as far as kicking someone out.

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    • Miss MJ

      Miss MJ May 13, 2014, 4:12 pm

      I think it depends on who you’re asking to be the “problem people” babysitters. I’d hate to be the one doing it, but, there are some folks in my family that I know would have just loved the role had I needed anything like that at my wedding. (I didn’t.) And, while normally, I’d agree with you about airing dirty laundry, I get the impression that this is a situation that the guests who would be asked to babysit already know about.

      In any event, if the point is for the couple to be able to enjoy their wedding instead of babysitting Drunk Uncle Phil or Alkied up Aunt Sally, I think it would be better to have a family member or family friend handle any disruptions than to get the facility employees involved. For one thing, if someone gets drunk and belligerent, the employees might just call the cops or other security instead of discreetly intervening. Dealing with disruptive drunks isn’t necessarily part of their job description. And no one wants the cops called out to their wedding.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki May 13, 2014, 4:19 pm

        My grandmother appointed herself as “security” for our wedding because of possible family fights… and she actually ended up kicking 2 people out for me when they were starting a fight with some other family members.

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    • Miel

      Miel May 13, 2014, 4:45 pm

      I guess it’s important to pick the right “bouncers” so they are not uncomfortable with that position, but sometimes they are really needed! I don’t know for the LW’s in-law, but I remember hearing in my family “yes, she will be going to the event with her brother, so he will be able to defend her if anybody becomes violent”. Those situations happen! And you need to be prepared and request help when you need to.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest May 13, 2014, 4:47 pm

        Yea, good points all of you. I guess it depends on the family/”bouncers”
        I’d like to think cmary’s advice will work though, but I guess that’s being hopeful.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph May 14, 2014, 9:57 am

      APW (I love that place!) said once that the purpose of bridesmaids is to keep crazy from getting within 100 ft of the bride at the wedding.

      I’d say rather than assign a bridesmaid to tail crazy drunk Uncle Jim all night, just assign a couple bridesmaids to tail you… and to intercept any drama where you are.
      Honestly, if people get in a knock down, drag out fight in your wedding but you don’t see it, did it really happen? As far as I’m concerned… No!

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  • cmary

    cmary May 13, 2014, 4:08 pm

    But so what if they argue? Will you even notice? My aunt and uncle had a huge blow-up at our wedding and we didn’t know until way later when someone told us. And who cares?
    .
    Yes, weddings are important, but it sounds like there’s some serious stuff going on in this family and it might not be an entirely peaceful evening. It’s not the end of the world. It won’t break up your marriage. Enjoy your ceremony and reception and let everyone else handle themselves.
    .
    I think trusting that everyone will act like an adult will do more for the situation than constantly reminding them not to fight about this big huge horrible thing.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle May 13, 2014, 4:13 pm

      Yeah, at one wedding I went to, Fabello’s friend elbowed him the face (which sounds accidental, but was not) & then Fabello & I got in a drunken fight outside where the cops got called (yeahhh we went a little jErzeY sh0rE on that one? I guess??)
      .
      Anyway, the bride & groom didn’t even know. It’s not a wedding unless there’s drama 😉
      .
      P.S. Sorry I can’t give good advice when I’m busy at work, I don’t know why I even bother haha

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      • cmary

        cmary May 13, 2014, 5:06 pm

        Wait! I get down-thumbed for suggesting adults can behave themselves? And Fabelle gets thumbs up for fighting at someone’s wedding? So not fair. Or I just need to get into some fights!!

        I do not understand the thumbs.

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  • avatar

    Sarah May 13, 2014, 4:12 pm

    Wait, who’s Sam?

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    • Diablo

      Diablo May 13, 2014, 4:39 pm

      Wait, who are you again?

      Reply Link
  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki May 13, 2014, 4:22 pm

    WWS. Also, if you don’t have anyone you trust or that would want to be a “wedding bouncer” you could consider hiring a professional security guard or two. That was offered to us for our wedding through the venue, but we opted out of it. And definitely no pre-wedding sitdown. That’s a terrible idea.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary May 13, 2014, 4:37 pm

    WWS. I bet one of the groomsmen will be happy to at least keep an eye on things. Seat them as far away from each other as possible. Most people (not all) know that weddings are not the time or place for confrontation. I also think it’s up to Steve to avoid any invitation for confrontation. He needs to remain calm and not respond to any provocation. He should try to end conversations or walk away before anything gets heated. A simple “I’m not talking about me and kate’s relationship, it’s Tom’s wedding”. I think most of the time the bride/groom worry about these situations more than they actually come to fruition, but I could be wrong. And who knows, 2 random people could get in a fight anyways but then usually it’s a funny story 6 months later. Weddings get crazy.

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  • avatar

    DesiDad May 13, 2014, 4:56 pm

    One word of advice: Security!

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope May 13, 2014, 5:17 pm

    Maybe you could suggest that they ice him out. Completely ignore his existence. They would still be making a statement without making a scene.????

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    • possumgirl

      possumgirl May 14, 2014, 7:36 pm

      It is in no way, shape or form either bride or groom’s place to tell either parent/parent’s family what to do in regards to the other party. The only thing they need to say is “I expect everyone to behave like adults. Any bad behavior and yer getting 86’ed”.

      These parents are parents for life. End of story. There will be grandkids and shared lives and they need to get the eff over it or stay away.

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  • avatar

    csp May 13, 2014, 5:34 pm

    LW, we had an onsite coordinator and the staff had a designated person to handle all issues and who to confront with this stuff. For us it was more drunk groomsmen. We didn’t end up needing it but it was nice to have.

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  • Jess

    Jess May 13, 2014, 5:44 pm

    I’m hopeful that with the warnings already in place, people will steer clear of each other without prompting. You can expect sneers and whispers but they can go ignored. This also probably goes without saying but I’d think carefully about the seating chart. Not only should they be seated far apart but neither group should be seated near bar or buffet line (which offers more opportunities for crossing paths). Put the most worrisome folks in the most isolated spot you have.

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  • avatar

    tbrucemom May 13, 2014, 6:00 pm

    There are always two sides to every divorce but it sounds like the LW is pretty much in the mother’s camp and I can’t say I blame her. Cheating is bad enough, but cheating on a spouse with a serious disease is pretty messed up. I also had a hard time understanding how the food and alcohol are the parts of the wedding the LW is most looking forward to? Am I missing something? Isn’t it to be with your loved ones while you marry the love of your life?

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  • avatar

    Lucy May 13, 2014, 6:15 pm

    So, we had “bouncers” at our wedding, partly because it was in a public park building and we didn’t want crashers, but mostly because my husband’s family are a bunch of alcoholics with poor judgment and worse manners. There were a couple of sticky situations that they headed off at the pass. I would definitely recommend this in the LWs case; just pick the people carefully. If they’re uncomfortable in the role, or if they drink a lot themselves, they’re not the right choice. In our case, we selected one family member and one friend, neither of whom drink.

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  • avatar

    Carol May 13, 2014, 7:16 pm

    Oh, the special joy of weddings. My sister got married a few years ago and there was a huge thing that my (brand new) ex (who was living with my Mom) was invited. My Dad threatened to throw him out, my step-dad (who was performing the wedding) then threatened to throw my Dad out. Fun times.

    The best I can offer is have your fiance talk with his family ahead of time. The focus of the day should be you two. And then seat them far apart.

    And for what it’s worth, please don’t get too involved in choosing sides. I get it’s tempting but no one other than your inlaws know what happened in their marriage. I do think it says something that your soon-to-be fil is not bringing his new gf. Hopefully that’s a good sign that things can be focused on the happy couple.

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  • avatar

    Taylor May 13, 2014, 9:05 pm

    We had wedding bouncers, it was kind of awesome!

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph May 14, 2014, 10:04 am

    So first things first, if you really worry about alcohol causing drama: a deposit and a contract doesn’t mean you can’t cancel the alcohol, it just means you can’t get a refund. So if you really really don’t want to have an open bar… or maybe want to switch from full open bar to beer and wine only… you can still do it, you just have to eat the cost that you were already planning to pay. Thinking otherwise is sunk cost fallacy at its finest.

    Second… I think that it’s probably true that people can behave themselves and even if there is some drama, it won’t be Jerry Springer level bullshit.
    But as I mentioned above in reply to someone, just have a couple bridesmaids or good friends assigned to keep the crazy away from you. Shouting match in parking lot? They make sure you don’t go outside. Uncle Jim breaking beer bottle over FIL’s head at the bar? They bring you your drink and steer you towards the dance floor.
    You’ll be busy and happy and won’t notice a good 2/3 of things that happen at your wedding… with some strategic bridesmaid placement, you can ensure that the family drama (if there is any) is not in the 1/3 that gets through.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark May 14, 2014, 11:06 am

    Stay out of this. You have NO idea why he had an affair. But happy people in great marriages don’t usually leave them.

    Honestly? If her relatives can’t be fucking civil at a wedding — I wouldn’t invite them. End. Of. Drama/story…

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