Dear Abby: Daughter responds with anger to mom’s wedding question

The woman gets defensive about her decision to tie the knot without a marriage license.

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DEAR ABBY: My daughter, “Heidi,” is 39. She is successful, owns her own business and lives with her boyfriend of five years. I’ll call him Rick. They have two beautiful boys, 3 and 18 months. She has decided to tie the knot with Rick with a nice, somewhat big wedding.

As Heidi has gotten older, she has been changing into a different person. She has become self-centered and controlling, and she puts Rick down cruelly at times. I think he’s a good guy, but maybe just not for her. I really don’t know because I stay out of their lives.

What’s making me uncomfortable is, my daughter has told only me that she’s doing all this wedding stuff without getting an actual marriage license. I don’t even know if Rick is aware. I looked this up and saw that some people are now having what’s called “commitment ceremonies.” When I tried to talk to her about it, she became defensive, cut me off, and then sent me a long, nasty email. So now I just step back.

When I think of the guests (100 to 150), I feel she should be honest and call it what it is. We are presently not communicating because I won’t respond to that kind of email. I won’t argue with her. But I don’t know where to go at this point. I’m worried about her state of mind. She is supposedly seeing a therapist, and a few weeks back I suggested she and Rick get marriage counseling. I would love to hear your thoughts. — TRADITIONAL MOM IN THE EAST

DEAR TRADITIONAL MOM: Your daughter is an adult, and if you refuse to have anything to do with this charade, I would understand. When guests are invited to a “wedding,” gifts are expected. If it’s a production that’s only for show, the couple is committing fraud and taking advantage of the generosity of their guests.

When couples marry, they must first take out a marriage license, which BOTH must sign. No license, no marriage. Unless your daughter’s boyfriend is completely clueless, she won’t be able to slip this by him. Although people do have commitment ceremonies these days, guests should be told that is what they will be witnessing, and both partners should agree on it.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a wonderful man for 20 years. It has been a pretty good marriage. I have tolerated a few of his family members’ rudeness to me, although I have no problem speaking up when I need to, and my husband always defends me as well.

My father-in-law recently passed, and I adored him. For his wake, my two sisters-in-law made a slide show of his life with hundreds of family photos. There was not one single photo of my father-in-law and me. I feel it was the final straw. I have no more room in my heart and life for them. Am I being too sensitive? My husband hasn’t spoken to them since the funeral. I really need your advice on this. — PICTURING IT OVER IN TEXAS

DEAR PICTURING IT: I’m glad you asked. Please accept my sympathy for the loss of someone so close to your heart. But as close as you felt to him, your sisters-in-law had just lost their father. I’m sure they were (and are) grieving and didn’t use his death as an opportunity to slight you. I sincerely hope you and your husband won’t allow their oversight to cause a permanent rift in the family.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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