Attending a wedding ought to be a joyful, festive affair; if it doesn’t jive with you, it’s cool to pass.
Another day, another wedding invitation lands in my mailbox. Today’s is from a high school friend whose daughter is getting married next month. I can’t help but wonder how many more invitations I’ll have to dodge in the coming weeks.
I miss the pandemic days when I could use COVID-19 restrictions as a valid excuse to avoid social events. As an introvert, it was heaven. But now, society’s back to normal, and it’s the dreaded “wedding season.” My fellow wedding haters and I can’t catch a break.
In our culture, parents, not only the bride and groom, send out the invites. They often finance the weddings too, to fulfill their parental duties, boost the family’s social prestige, and create a solid foundation for the newlyweds.
Indonesian weddings showcase our nation’s cultural richness. From simple one-day affairs to week-long extravaganzas, they’re quite the spectacle. Sure, they’re beautiful, but only if you’re attending by choice. That being said, there’s undeniable pressure to attend.
I’ve felt obligated to attend weddings since I was a kid. I was that scrawny child with thick glasses (unusual in the 1970s) that almost everyone commented on, as if I couldn’t hear them. Pro-tip: carrots don’t fix myopia. This might explain my aversion to weddings.
But there was a golden time — a brief window in my 30s when I enjoyed attending weddings, particularly those of colleagues or clients. Why? The food and venues were usually top-notch, and the atmosphere was electric.
Moreover, since few guests knew me personally (and vice versa), I was spared those cringe-worthy personal questions, like, “So, when will it be your turn to invite us to your wedding?” or, after I married, “When will the baby come?” Oh, the never-ending questions!
For a while, attending the weddings of friends and family seemed like a breeze; I managed to swallow my dislike for weddings, which may be similar to today’s millennials’ reasons for hating them, ranging from feeling left on the shelf to being reminded of their own unhappy marriages or relationships.
But those carefree days were fleeting. My relationship with weddings evolved, as did my personal life. Being divorced, raising my child alone, and choosing to stay single raised a few eyebrows and added to the challenges of attending weddings, though at least I never had to hear the never-ending question, “So when’s your turn?”.
At a certain point in time, a close family member held a wedding ceremony for her daughter, and I adore them both. So, I begrudgingly relinquished my freedom for a week (yes, it was a week-long wedding extravaganza, if you can imagine) and attended the ceremony in my hometown. It was a beautiful event, and I was happy to be there to support my loved ones.
However, some intrusive personal questions and conversations with unfamiliar family members and guests pushed my patience to its limit (which, I admit, is quite low).
It was then that I decided to ditch societal pressures and embrace my own choices. From that point on, I realized that weddings might not be my cup of tea. It’s okay to decline invitations.
I’ve since become more selective about attending weddings. I prioritize my well-being and choose events where I feel more comfortable and am less likely to face awkward questions. To strike a balance with cultural expectations, I do my best to be respectful and considerate when declining invitations.
It’s not always possible to avoid disappointing or straining relationships with the families who sent invitations. It’s not up to me how they react. That’s just the price of being pragmatic. After all, I can’t have it all at once: my well-being and perfect relationships with everyone. That’s how I cope with the situation.
I don’t feel alone in this. I believe there are many millennials and parents like me who, for one reason or another, struggle to accept wedding invitations.
Some may be grappling with emotional changes due to past traumas, relationship issues, or family dynamics. Others may have social anxiety about attending large gatherings or personal beliefs that can’t be compromised, such as religious differences or concerns about the environmental impact of large events.
Some might decide to prioritize family and social expectations above their own beliefs and challenges. To them, I tip my hat in admiration.
To those who dodge the majority of wedding invitations, I offer my sympathy and camaraderie. Let me assure you, it’s perfectly fine to sidestep nuptial celebrations and prioritize your own well-being and principles. Keep in mind that attending a wedding ought to be a joyful, festive affair; if it doesn’t jive with you, it’s cool to pass.
There’s no shortage of ways to shower the couple (and their parents!) with love and support without actually being present, like sending a heartfelt gift or card. Ultimately, putting your mental and emotional health first and making choices that align with your values and convictions is key.
I whipped out my phone and replied to my high school friend’s invitation. I crafted the most polite and heartfelt message I could muster, apologizing for not being able to attend his daughter’s wedding, all the while hoping our relationship would remain unscathed.