West Coast Wedding Disaster

by admin on February 18, 2013

This is the story of the West Coast Wedding Disaster, as it’s rapidly becoming known in our household.

A little over a year ago, my oldest niece got engaged. “Annie” and her fiance “Terry” began planning a wedding, and last summer asked DH and me if our daughter (then age 6) could be a flower girl. We were happy to say yes, and asked for further details on the wedding. They hadn’t finalized their plans yet, but were planning to get married the summer of 2013, probably in August.

About four months later, in the fall of 2012, we got word that the wedding was to be held in February 2013, on a Wednesday. Now, we didn’t get word of this from the bride, but from my mother-in-law. We didn’t hear anything from the bride at all, so finally we called. Sure enough, she had moved the date of the wedding, and was trying to find a venue in the San Francisco Bay area, for $1000 or less. We gently mentioned that a Wednesday wedding would require our daughter to miss a week of school, because we live on the other side of the country with some difficult flight arrangements, and that we weren’t willing to do that.

We were then left with the impression that plans were still fluid, and Annie would let us know what the plans ultimately were. We privately wondered if she could rent a cardboard box under a bridge in the Bay Area for $1000/day, and decided to wait to hear how things went.

Well, we didn’t hear a thing. We didn’t get a phone call, or a text, or an email. Most importantly, we didn’t get an invitation. In the meantime, my mother-in-law was filling us in with the details for the wedding.

Apparently a venue had been arranged (we don’t know where, just somewhere in the Bay Area). The wedding reception is to be potluck.  Now, this is bad enough, but the Bay Area is a 3-hour one-way drive from where the bride, her family, her fiance’s family, and all of their friends live. We’re not sure what kind of potluck dish will keep in the car for a 3-hour drive plus a ceremony, but at least it’ll be February, and hopefully reasonably cool. That doesn’t include potential out-of-town guests, who I guess were supposed to pick up a basket of fast-food chicken on their way to the reception.

Then we hear that 250 guests have RSVP’d. MIL is panicking, wondering how the bride-to-be can afford cake for 250 people. We are still wondering how a potluck will feed 250 people, but as we have not received an invitation, we decided that it’s not our problem.

At Christmas, the bride’s younger sister gets engaged. We are prepared for the bride to start the It’s My Daaaay routine, but she’s very gracious, and the younger sister plans to get married next December, so crisis averted. Plus by then she will have graduated from high school.  Sigh.

Then the real drama hits. The bride’s mother “Tiffany” gets engaged, and sets her wedding date for two days after Annie’s wedding. She sees no conflict in having her wedding so close to her daughter’s, and in fact claims that she chose that date so that her daughter could attend before leaving on her honeymoon. That’s a beautiful sentiment, but if she’d spoken to Annie and Terry, she would have known that they were leaving first thing in the morning after their wedding, because the groom has to report two states away for military service. There is absolutely no way they can stay. But Tiffany sees no reason to change wedding dates, especially since by that date she will have known her fiance for three months.

Throughout this period, we’ve been getting pressure from various family members to attend Annie’s wedding, although strangely, Annie, who used to regularly text DH, has been silent. We still can’t take our daughter out of school for a week, and new financial constraints mean that we can’t even afford to send DH, which we’d been hoping to do. We do the best we can, and pick out a card and a gift card.

Then we realize that Annie has moved, and we don’t have her address! So DH texts her, and finally gets a reply. She sends him her address, and later that night DH calls and spends several hours on the phone with her. We still don’t have all the details, but apparently invitations were never sent, because they were too expensive. The entire wedding of 250 people was invited by word-of-mouth. She figured we knew everything we needed to know, and was very surprised to find that we didn’t consider ourselves invited if nobody told us the time and place. I’m quite sure she’s just clueless and not malicious, and if we’d shown up she would have been very welcoming. DH ended the phone call on a very friendly note, and we wish her well.

But, I think I’m very glad that I’m missing this wedding. I love my relatives, I really do, but sometimes I’m glad to live several thousand miles away. 0212-13

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

June First February 18, 2013 at 8:55 am

I’m glad you’re not getting entangled in all this drama, OP!

However, I’m trying to figure out why your MIL is panicking, giving you reports, etc. Is your MIL Annie’s grandmother? So, would Tiffany be your husband’s sister? I think I get confused when you talk about “your” relatives, not your husband’s relatives. I realize that marriage brings us all together, but I’m having trouble following. If MIL isn’t directly related to Annie, why is she so invested in the wedding plans?


No Wedding February 18, 2013 at 8:58 am

Even if you invited everyone to your wedding by word-of-mouth, don’t they need to know the time/place? They shouldn’t have to track you down to find out when they are supposed to be there for your wedding!


Casey February 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

Sheesh! I’d love to hear a follow up on how the wedding actually goes. A potluck destination wedding? No actual invitations? Mother of the bride getting married while the bride is on the honeymoon? Recipe for disaster! Glad OP could see it coming from a mile away and is staying out of it 🙂


Lola February 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

Young people and their potluck weddings. My personal opinion (and nothing more) is, if you can’t host, don’t host. If the young couple can’t afford a wedding, but want their closest friends and family there, sure, have a potluck for a dozen or two of local folks (or a novel thought, elope & do the courthouse thing.) But 250 yes’s, including out-of-staters, indicate a wider circle of invitees who are deemed good enough to bring a gift but not good enough to feed. Very inhospitable.

Also my personal opinion is that word-of-mouth invites are fine, but they need to be spelled out very clearly. No reliance on second-hand gossip: the whens, wheres, and whos all need to be 100% clear.

P.S. Tiffany sounds fun. I’d like to hang out with her.


Laura February 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

Scary! And the trip to Stamford, CT to tape an episode of Jerry Springer is when?


Ashley February 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

“Wow….” is the only word I came up with after reading this whole thing.


Library Diva February 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I sort of see Annie as a victim of the wedding-industrial complex. She fell for the whole “need” to spend tons of money she doesn’t have. Now she’s trying to scale back, and not very effectively. Possibly because we have this one template held up to us all our lives, through TV and movies and the example of most of the people we know, that when it doesn’t work for us, it’s hard to know what we’re supposed to do now.

A well-run potluck could easily feed 250 people. I’ve seen it in action when my orchestra performed with a chorus and we had a potluck dinner before the concert. There were easily that many people there, and there was food left over because everyone budgeted a dish that would feed about six or seven people. This doesn’t sound it will be like a well-run potluck, though. Mostly, I just hope everything works out for this bride. I feel for her, because I’m sure she’s not getting the event she wants and with having to throw everything together, it doesn’t sound like she’ll be getting the event she could have afforded had she just planned to go smaller from the beginning rather than trying to retrofit a large wedding into a tiny budget.


Anonymouse February 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Word of mouth invitations, eh? It’s funny, I was just explaining to my fiance why we couldn’t do those for our wedding… Some people.


CaffeineKatie February 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

The only thing I keep thinking–“please please let them postpone having children until they grow up themselves”


postalslave February 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Pls send us an update on Tiffany’s wedding lol


Lola February 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

YES, please — we all want that story more than Annie’s! 🙂


Jane February 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Yes, updates, please! 🙂


Jared Bascomb February 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I want to hear more about Tiffany’s marriage to a man she’s known less then three months.

IMHO, this whole family has some serious issues.


StephM February 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm

This sounds like a disaster wedding. I’m not sure if word-of-mouth invites are worse than those “Help us buy the wedding of our dreams!” websites.


Lakey February 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Potluck. Venue in San Francisco area for under $1000. Can’t afford invitations.
I sympathize with this couple, but there are ways to have a proper wedding reception without spending a ton of money.
Cut the guest list. Instead of spending a lot of money on a venue, have the party at parents’ home or back yard. Serve punch and appetizers, or platters of ham, pasta salad, and so on prepared by family.
I know people who have done this and it was very nice. One friend of mine was from a wealthy community and garden weddings where there was just champagne punch, appetizers, and cake were common. The other was a niece whose future mother in law did a wonderful job.


Melanie February 19, 2013 at 2:10 am

Hi, lakey! Every time I see your name, I wonder if we’re related. That’s my last name. Smiles to you!


Ellen February 18, 2013 at 4:27 pm

So, they have 250 people who RSVP’ed to the wedding….but they didn’t actually INVITE anybody?
Never mind the flaky couple, I want to know who these 250 people are who can RSVP by ESP! That’s better than the “Men Who Stare At Goats”.


NostalgicGal February 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Sounds like a multiple level trainwreck, lots of duck and cover going on (things are NOT going according to plan or budget so let’s see what we can float here) and. Sounds like the middle of the week time is a non negotiable because of the military bit….

I think at this point it’d be grab two witnesses, go to the courthouse; after getting back toss a bit of a gettogether and call it good.

Almost 50 years ago my mom planned my theme wedding to the n-th degree (her wedding she didn’t get to have for many reasons) and over 30 years ago when I became bride fodder I had many a round of sticker shock and even more of her reality check bouncing over there was no way that her plans were going down just because it was over 10X what dad was willing to borrow and costs were still mounting…plus waiting another 8 months. The bridal fantasy on my end quickly crashed on the rocks of my college student poverty/practicality(within 3 weeks of engagement I refused to spend that much for (fill in blank) for this or that)… and as for the wedding, it happened, I’m still married to the same person, and still glad my dad did NOT take out a loan or loans for those plans.

Looking at the OP’s post, looks like the relative of what I went through… where plans outstripped reality and they got too far along before it got yanked down to what is possible.

I’d love to hear the ending of this plus the MOB wedding a few days later… very few soulmates are worth marrying at 3 months to saying first hellos…

I take it this is niece on OP’s DH side, so the MIL is the grandmother to the niece Annie, and the Mother of Tiffany, DH’s sister… who is the one getting married two days later.

It is a little strange that the MIL is being the pipeline of information also…

Potlucks for a few hundred can work, but you need organization and people that actually bring to feed a few more than themselves (not like my aunt TADA and her quart bowl of potato salad and her family was 5 total) and a backup plan in case of lack of food donations…

Wish them well. About all anyone can do.


Agania February 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm

HAHAHAHA!!! (Wipe away tears of mirth!). OP you just gotta send an update – of all the weddings! And whether they actually went ahead or not.


Jen a. February 18, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Wow. What a time…

Honestly, I don’t get people who want to do potluck weddings. Even setting aside the dubious etiquette of asking guests to bring food to your wedding it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I mean, what if everyone brings meatballs? You have to make sure there is some salad, main course, bread, dessert, etc. And what if everyone arrives needing an oven to heat up the food? Or they need more outlets than are available to plug in their crockpots? I love potlucks, but only if it involves a few people and there’s a sign up sheet. A potluck involving 250 people (and counting) is a gong show. And the thing that worries the MIL the most is whether or not there will be enough cake? Honey, that is the least of your worries…. I mean, is Tiffany her daughter (I really need a family tree, with birthdates, for this group)? Is she going to deal with her wedding too?


JH February 19, 2013 at 11:05 am

A potluck for 250 people does sound like a disaster in the making. But what if you’re going low-key? Go to the courthouse with your two witnesses, then instead of a reception, you just have 20 or so friends and family members over for an after-wedding shindig. Given people’s diverse dietary requirements, I think a potluck would be a solid choice for that kind of informal affair.


Jen a. February 21, 2013 at 6:26 am

I agree! It’s a perfect idea for a smaller celebration, mostly because you can control things a bit more. Someone could organize what everyone brings… Also, I think if you do something like that the bride and groom (or their families) should have something basic already prepared for the main, like a lasagna or something. Or have all the extras, like bread, drinks, or dessert.


Libby February 19, 2013 at 1:34 am

My son and his wife moved their wedding date up unexpectedly when they got married 10 years ago. I had promised him I would make their wedding cake, so I had to scramble to get it done, but it was a “labor of love” for me and I was happy to be able to give them something beautiful. They did the courthouse thing, with family and friends filling up the courtroom, and had a potluck reception in the basement of the bride’s grandma’s church. There were about 50 family and close friends there, and it was a really nice wedding. Lots of laughter and love, and I still remember it fondly. They are happily married still with two children. My favorite picture of them is one I took as they were coming down the courthouse stairs laughing, with bubbles swirling around them (guests had those little bottles of bubbles with bubble wands instead of rice). It was the best wedding I ever attended.


Lo February 19, 2013 at 8:11 am

None of this planning makes any sense for the wedding of the size she envisions.

Would love to hear how it all panned out. If I were invited to a potluck for 250 people I’d bring a dish to serve 8-10 and also eat beforehand because no way is anyone at that wedding going to get enough to eat with that much room for error.


Shoegal February 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

Did they post their invitation on facebook? If no invitations went out – how in the world did 250 people RSVP to this wedding? Potluck no less – it really just sounds as if this couple – the whole family, in fact is just terribly disorganized and would probably want a lovely event but is completely incapable of actually putting it together. If the wedding needs to be budgeted and it really sounds that way – then they probably have more of a problem.


JH February 19, 2013 at 11:01 am

OK … paper invitations are expensive. I get that. But is it too much trouble to, I dunno, put up an event on Google calendar or use some email invite service? Not everyone uses the Web, I know, but you can follow up the electronic invitation with paper invitations for those guests who don’t use it.


Jared Bascomb February 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm

My friends used Evite as a “save the date” notification, followed several months later by formal printed invitations. One had relatives/friends in Europe, so giving those invitees advance notice was imperative for travel arrangements and the printed invitations were the *actual* invitations.


Lerah99 February 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Pot luck weddings can be charming. One of my friends from high school was married in a local park with a pot luck wedding.

The bride and groom were both working part time and attending college, and neither were from families that could offer much in the way of financial support. So they made the invitations themselves. There was no registry.

The bride wore a very pretty sundress she already had. The groom wore khakis and a button down shirt.

The reception was pot luck with the bride and groom providing hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, bottled water, cupcakes (rather than one big wedding cake) and condiments. In fact, the mother of the groom made the cup cakes. And the bride, groom, and their families spent the night before the wedding frosting & decorating the cupcakes.

Everyone else brought side dishes and we had a great time. The groom’s brother played in a band so his band provided music. It was great seeing the familes and friends all pitch in to make the most out of a very tight budget. It is still one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever attended.

OP, it sounds like your husband’s family is prone to a bit of drama. The lack of communication, last minute changes, word of mouth invitations, pot-luck destination wedding all are asking for disaster. I hope this is one of those situations where years from now the bride and groom will laugh about how young and disorganized they were.

Oh, and I hope Tiffany and her beau of 3 months will have a lovely wedding two days later and will also be able to look back and laugh years from now at how crazy everything was leading up to their nuptuals.


Harley Granny February 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Back in my day in rural Illinois, a potluck wedding was done and expected.

There was no “cocktail hour” with just as much food as a full dinner. There were no caterers and waitstaff. Just family and friends getting together to celebrate a young couple’s vows.

When my husband and I got married, we were broke so had the wedding at 2pm. We provided snacks (meatballs, veggie and fruit trays and the like) We also provided punch, a keg a beer and some wine)

People talk about how much fun they had….not how much anything cost.

I think people forget what a wedding is really about.


Angie February 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I would be VERY surprised if all 250 people turn up to this, if it’s being done so haphazardly. My friend’s daughter invited everyone by word of mouth two weeks ahead of her wedding and had tons of no-shows, and she actually had a place and date set.


Tracy February 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Library Diva said: “A well-run potluck could easily feed 250 people. I’ve seen it in action when my orchestra performed with a chorus and we had a potluck dinner before the concert. There were easily that many people there, and there was food left over because everyone budgeted a dish that would feed about six or seven people. ”

But were any of those people coming from out of town? Staying in hotels, without access to a kitchen?


magicdomino February 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I wonder how many of those 250 guests agreed to come as a kind of verbal Save the Date, but are still waiting for a paper invitation. Alternatively, they may change their minds as casually as they were invited.


Bint February 20, 2013 at 6:53 am

This. A word of mouth invitation to a wedding where you’re expected to bring food as well? There’s just no way I’d go!


Daisy February 20, 2013 at 10:45 am

Hoo, boy! It would be fun to be a mouse in the corner for these weddings. I’ve attended large potluck suppers, but they have to be meticulously organized, and there are generally two or three women who end up “filling in” the holes in the menu. I can’t imagine how it would be done with out of town guests, as they can hardly whip up a little something in their hotel room. Perhaps they could use the “wrap the dish in aluminum foil and cook it on your engine block as you sail on down the highway” method.


Jane February 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm

OP wrote: ” She figured we knew everything we needed to know, and was very surprised to find that we didn’t consider ourselves invited if nobody told us the time and place.”

This is seriously my life! My husband’s family every single holiday.

“Are you coming to the Christmas Party?”
“Sure, where and when?”
“Oh, just whenever… you know whatever…”



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