DEAR READERS: I'm stepping away from the "Ask Amy" column for a week. Please enjoy these hand-picked "best of" columns in my absence.
DEAR AMY: I've been engaged for a year now, but I keep putting off the wedding because of my problem family. My parents are divorced and haven't spoken in years. Although my dad has been remarried for over 20 years, I know my mom would be very upset if I invited his wife. Also, some of my siblings don't speak to each other or my mom or my dad. My fiance's only sister doesn't speak to him or his mother.
Obviously, it's a mess. All I feel is extreme anxiety. I know from experience that I can't trust them to put aside their differences.
I would prefer to have a small, intimate ceremony with just my fiance and his two daughters, and have perhaps two separate parties afterward where we'd announce our recent marriage. However, I'm sure that this would hurt my mom and siblings' feelings and who knows who else's.
I feel trapped. — Sick and Tired (2003)
DEAR SICK: Are you sure there is no way this crowd can hold it together for an afternoon? If not, I suggest that you run. Grab your honey, his two kids, a preacher and do it. But do you have a strategy for dealing with the hurt feelings and multiple opinions you're going to get about what you've done? Might I suggest cheerful indifference?
Your warring families have denied you the opportunity to celebrate your union publicly, and that is a shame; none of this is fair to you, but you still need to learn to stand up to them. The behavior they exhibit now will only intensify if you have children.
DEAR AMY: Last night I opened my cousin's wedding invitation to find only the invitation, no response card. When I called my mom, she told me that for real high-class weddings, you are required to hand write your response. In my opinion it is not high-class but cheap, because they did not have to pay for the response card or the stamp!
Please tell me what I'm supposed to do. I'm not going to the wedding, but how do I let them know? — No RSVP (2003)
DEAR NO: It's called a pen; you place it on the paper and move it around, making letters and then sentences.
You should thank the couple for inviting you, then tell them you're so sorry, but you won't be able to celebrate with them. Sign off affectionately.
You spring for the paper, ink, envelope, stamp and the five minutes out of your day it took to be gracious.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend of five years and I got engaged recently and are planning our wedding in California, where we used to live. We've always known we want to get married there, even though we live on the East Coast now.
The problem is that my mother and father will not be attending our wedding because my mother is afraid of flying. They insist that I get married on the East Coast. That is the last thing we want as a couple, but we also want our family involved. Everyone else would attend except for my parents. What do I do? — Sad in Pennsylvania (2004)
DEAR SAD: First, do this: Get out a map of the United States and make note of the many highways and train tracks crisscrossing this great land of ours. Have you considered helping your folks by booking a cross-country trip to the wedding by train? I've done it. It's fun, as long as you don't mind showering while on the toilet.
If they remain intractable, you're going to have to be a big girl and go with the decision that will cost the least amount of pain for the least number of people. Let this be your introduction to adulthood.
Whichever coast you choose for your wedding, you could take your honeymoon on the opposite coast, with a party to include those family and friends who can't make it to the wedding.