“Can I Bring a Babysitter to a Wedding?”

My brother is getting married this summer and asked my 4-year-old daughter to be the flower girl. There will be one other child in the wedding party, but all other guests have been asked to not bring children. The wedding is three hours from my home and the majority of guests will be staying in hotels nearby. My MIL offered to stay in the local area to babysit so we might enjoy the reception. She is not expecting an invitation and is happy to help.

I asked my future SIL, the bride, if this was ok. She did not seem happy and said she’d think about it. Am I being unreasonable by asking? I want the day to be about them but also feel I’ll be missing out in celebrating by having to leave early to put my kid to bed. Plus my daughter won’t have anyone to play with since there is a strict no kid policy. Should I just book a room for my MIL or suck it up and plan on leaving the reception early? — Mom of the Flower Girl

I’m confused – you are asking the bride if it would be OK if your mother-in-law swings by the reception site to pick up your daughter to take her to a hotel where she can babysit her and get her to bed while you stay at the reception and enjoy yourself and the bride is saying she will think about it? This… doesn’t sound like her decision to make? What is it that she is supposedly thinking about? It sounds like she is thinking of your daughter as if she is wedding decoration and her absence will mess with the “look” of the wedding?

Regardless, this isn’t even a question for your bride to answer. You don’t ask her if it’s OK if your 4-year-old leaves the wedding at an age-appropriate time so she can get some rest and you can enjoy yourself, knowing she’s in the good hands of your mother-in-law; you inform the bride (and groom!) of this plan and leave it at that. If they have an issue with this plan, oh well – that’s their problem, not yours.

It sounds like you have a wonderful and thoughtful mother-in-law, so take advantage of her generosity, pay for her hotel room, let her swing by and pick up your daughter after the wedding ceremony, and enjoy the reception guilt-free.

I have a dear friend of more than 25 years who lives about 1000 miles away from me. She lost her husband about four years ago and we have been talking more regularly since that time. We usually talk on a weekday evening about an hour after she’s done with work and sometimes right after she has had therapy.

Something I have noticed, from even before the loss of her husband (but when he was very sick), is that when I talk to her on the weekends, she is like a different person on the phone. She can be overly effusive, sometimes in tears, and she repeats certain things over and over.

The most recent incident: I sent her a text on a Saturday evening, and her reply was unintelligible. It almost seemed like an Internet bot was turning out word salad, rather than my friend, who is usually very self-aware and conscious of what she is doing.

My only deduction is that she might be drinking way more on the weekends because she doesn’t have to worry about issues with work. I am not sure if she is truly an alcoholic, but I am concerned that she might be turning to drinking as a coping device in her free time.

I do not think she has a lot of friends in her own area that she does things with, and that might be part of the problem. Between the loss of her husband, a possible lack of associates, and the pandemic, I am concerned about what I assume is weekend drinking. And being 1000 miles away, I am not even sure how to approach having a conversation about it with her that won’t end in her being defensive or embarrassed, neither of which will help the situation. — Concerned Across the Miles

Your deduction may be correct… or it may not be. Either way, I think you’re right to be concerned about your friend and also correct that this is a delicate situation that you need to navigate carefully so as not to put your friend on the defense or alienate her when she probably needs a friend the most. I wonder: Are you connected with anyone else in her circle you can trust – mutual friends or family members of hers? If so, I would start there. Reach out and see if they, too, have noticed the same thing you have. Maybe they even have an explanation you haven’t considered.

Next, talk to your friend about your concerns. There is a LOT of advice online about how to talk to friends about their drinking. I like the advice here. Basically, you have to accept that your friend may not be receptive to what you have to say and may get angry and defensive, but that isn’t a reason to avoid talking to her. What you CAN avoid is an “intervention”-style confrontation (no need right now to partner with someone else to talk with her as that may make her feel ganged up on), being critical or judgmental, and using words like “alcoholic.”

A sample script might go something like this: “Lately, when we talk on the weekends, I notice that you sound different than when we talk during the work week. I know you’ve been going through so much and I am concerned about how you’re dealing with it all. It’s understandable if you might be using alcohol more on weekends to help you cope with your heavy feelings, but I hope you know there are other, healthier options, too.” This would acknowledge your concern while centering your friend’s feelings and not making it an “I’m worried you’re an alcoholic!” conversation. It opens the door to discussing her drinking problem without sounding judgmental or overly concerned about an issue whose seriousness you can’t easily quantify from 1000 miles away.

Bottom line: I know you want to avoid a conversation that might leave your friend feeling embarrassed or defensive, but there may not be a way to avoid that. And that’s OK. These are not friendship-ending feelings, nor are they worth avoiding an important conversation that needs to be had. Even if your friend isn’t able to express gratitude in the moment for your concern, reaching out about your concerns is the right thing to do.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Anonymousse says:

    Yeah, I don’t know why you’d ask the bride if that were okay. She would likely never notice your daughter leaving at an age appropriate time. She will be concerned with a thousand other issues and wondering if Grammy is warm enough, you know? She probably made a face when you asked her because she was thinking ahead and worrying if your mother will need a seat, etc all those things. Don’t take someone’s momentary facial reaction as their true feelings on the subject. She has decision overload and you just added one more to her load that really is not her responsibility or her concern, it’s yours. She won’t care, I promise. And if she does, too bad, you’re her mother and you know your daughter can’t stay up until whatever time the partying ends.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I agree that it isn’t the brides decision to make unless you were asking for your MIL to attend the reception or that your SIL pay for her room, neither of which apply here. You do what you need to do as the mother, and leave SIL out of it, it has no bearing on her situation whatsoever. Just tell her that you apologize for bringing her into it, you know she has a lot on her mind, she needn’t worry, you have taken care of the situation. You don’t even need to explain any further.

  2. LW1: Any way that your future SIL misunderstood the situation and thought you wanted your MIL to get an invite to babysit at the reception? Because anything else makes her reaction banana pants. Your plan is a good one. Go with it and have fun at your brother’s wedding!

    1. Anonymous says:

      I was thinking the same thing as you MissMJ. Could the future SIL have misinterpreted the ask? Otherwise, bonkers reaction. Bring your MIL and don’t think twice about it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    LW2: I wouldn’t use this script, at least not the part about drinking, as it relies on your speculations and not factual observation about her drinking. If she is not drunk, she would be horrified. Perhaps she relaxes more on the week-end and becomes much more depressed. What I would do is to propose her a Facetime or zoom or whatever allows you to see her during your conversation. That would be much more revealing. You could also try to meet, visit her or invite her. When she sends a confusing message, ask her if she is OK, what happens? Ask open questions about her state of mind, don’t inflict your hypothesis on her, that is not cool.

    1. I completely agree here. When I began reading the LW description of her friend, I was reminded of myself during some difficult times. I thrive on routine and love my career(not everyone hates working, I look forward to work). When I struggled through some dark times a few years back, I realized that my days off from work were a greater struggle, or days that weren’t filled with “stuff to do”. The down time gave me too much time to think. LW states that she speaks to her friend after work, and/or after she has had therapy. This supports the idea that you and I share. Especially if she’s been to therapy, friend likely funds it helpful. We could all speculate about why LW’s friend bahaves oddly on weekends, but alcohol/substances might not be it. I’ll even go further to admit myself, that I had a family member ask me if I was drinking, and if thats why I was isolating myself and behaving differently on occasion, this was terribly hurtful and strained our relationship. It showed me that they had no emotional intelligence, they ignored the terribly difficult change in my life, and made assumptions about my character and choices. Wendys “script” is terrible.

  4. LW1: It looks to me that the bride thought she was being asked to pay for MIL’s hotel room…

  5. If you can afford to, get on a plane and spend a weekend with your friend at a time that works for you and her. Nothing like seeing loved ones in person and gentle hugs to soothe a lonely heart. Plus you can see for yourself how she spends her weekends.

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