1. Winifred Rosenburg

    I’ve become convinced by my husband’s brother “James” that my husband’s other brother “Tom” is married even though he hasn’t told anyone that he’s married. We have several reasons to think so. To give you an idea, one reason is that Tom’s fiance “Rita” came here from Hong Kong over a year ago. They plan on getting married in the summer of 2013 in Hong Kong. Every time we ask how the immigration issues work, Tom and Rita say that Rita has an engagement visa and then find an excuse to walk away from the conversation. It turns out engagement visas last a maximum of 90 days. There are many more pieces of evidence like this one.

    My question is how we should behave regarding their upcoming “wedding” when we have reason to believe it’s not really a wedding? I suspect the reason they haven’t told anyone is they think they’ll get better wedding presents if people believe they are at the actual wedding. They are planning on having a wedding in Hong Kong and a second (or third) wedding in New York. My husband and I were planning on going to the Hong Kong wedding so we could see his brother get married for the first time, but in light of this information we’re not sure if it’s worth it to travel halfway around the world to see a fake wedding. For that matter what sort of gift do you give a couple who’s secretly been married for a while? We all agreed we would have understood if they had a small, courthouse wedding for legal reasons and then got a blessing later on where they could have done all the usual wedding stuff, white dress and all, but the secrecy is rather offensive. What are your thought?

    • Alicia

      I would have your husband ask his brother how the imigration stuff is going? Then I would have him say ” So did you guys go to the justice of the peace for your marriage within the 90 days?” (ie assuming that was what happened ) and then see what brother tells brother

    • Country Girl

      It is a shame that many couples are forced to legally marry in a rush for “political” reasons. (An example, I have more than one friends in the military who were rushed to marry earlier than intended, not only for huge financial benefits, but also the benefit of not having to be transferred away from their fiance.)

      It seems a technicality such as this may be the case here? Perhaps brother in law was not left any viable option but to legally marry before intended to or risk losing his fiance. If this is the case, that is truly very sad for him. Perhaps he sees the upcoming ceremony in front of friends/family/deity not as a “fake wedding” but as the true wedding joining of he and his wife. I obviously don’t know his personality, but devil’s advocate; there are so many personal reasons, besides getting better gifts, that brother could want to keep low about what might be an unfortunate forced technicality. Perhaps he is aware that his family and friends, as you said, either may choose not to attend, or wouldn’t feel joyful to attend, his actual ceremony?

      • Winifred Rosenburg

        If they were honest, none of us would begrudge them having the full wedding experience, but right now we feel like we’re participating in a hoax. The reason I suspected their motivation was gifts is this isn’t the first time they have indicated an eagerness for gifts. They turned down an offer from my mother-in-law for a small, family engagement party and insisted on a large party inviting friends they haven’t seen in years complete with registry information on the invitations. They flat out told me the reason why they’re doing the Hong Kong wedding before the New York wedding is because Rita’s family would give them more money.

        • Country Girl

          Yikes! Undoubtedly they have already set the stage for skepticism and the fact that they are just using guests. I’d be hesitant to attend as well just based on what you’ve just mentioned alone, not even taking into account if they’d already been legally married. That is an expensive trip to make for someone who has made it obvious that they are more interested in gifts than your presence.

    • Zakafury

      How deplorably complicated.

      I think the distinctions people make about what can and cannot be called a wedding are absurd. If someone were having two big ceremonies, it would be tacky. If someone wanted to file taxes as a unit six months before the official family bonding ceremony, why should that matter to any of the guests?

      When I go to a wedding I’m there to celebrate the “I do” moment…not the signing of the license.

      Has anyone discussed the possibility that they aren’t married, and so they dodge immigration questions because she’s now illegal?

      • Winifred Rosenburg

        She recently got a social security card so she’s here legally. When my husband was still living with his parents and brothers they had a friend who was an illegal immigrant live there for over a year and no one minded. No one in the family would look down on her for being an illegal immigrant and they know it.

      • Jerry

        Zakafury: I’m with you 100% on the ceremony thing.

        Marriage is both a creature of the state (legal marriage) on the one hand, and a presentation of the union before God and a coming together of families (social and religious marriage) on the other hand. That a couple has had a legal marriage does not mean they can’t also have a big formal ceremony no matter what Miss Manners says.

          • Jerry

            I hope you don’t think I was attacking. To your narrow question, “how should we behave,” you should behave as you normally would. There’s no reason to change positions. There are very few people for whom I would travel half way around the world to attend a wedding (or 50th birthday, or 25th anniversary, or whatever life milestone). You need to decide whether it is worth it to travel to attend this party.

            With respect to the secrecy, where I come from people ask direct questions when they want a specific piece of information. There are ways you can ask without being rude. How about, “Hey, Tom, the rumor mill is spinning and you know how I hate that. We’re very excited to be attending your ceremony on [date,] but were wondering whether you and Rita eloped?”

        • Ashleigh

          I completely agree on the fact that marriages are both legal and social occacsions. There are plenty of couples who choose to have a tiny destination wedding and then return home to celebrate with their family and friends shortly afterwards.

          This, however, doesn’t sound like a “coming together” of anything except checkbooks to buy them gifts. They have already stated that they’re doing a wedding in Hong Kong because they would “receive more money.” That is just plain tacky. You don’t celebrate with ANYONE – family, friend, enemy, space alien – so you can get more money. For that matter, why even have a reception – just send everyone a donation request and be done with it.

          I wouldn’t even find it so repulsive if there were just flat-out having 2 large ceremonies to accomodate their friends/family from each part of the world if they didn’t actually voice the fact that they want money. Really?? Who says that!?

      • Alicia

        Well honestly I would be offended to not be told when the true wedding was. The wedding is when you go from being unmarried to married. I would not be offended by a Justice of the peace followed by two elaborate ceremoneys and parties I would however be offended by thinking I was at the wedding when I was at the ceremoney in celabration. I guess it is about truth and honestly and the lack of truth would bother me immensely. I would probably not attend if I thought UI was being lied to about what was really happening.

        • Elizabeth

          It all depends on how you define “true marriage”. In THIS country, your religious wedding satisfies the requirements for a civic marriage license. (Your cleric has to sign a form, and then you are married in the eyes of the state.) In other countries, the civic and religious ceremonies are totally separate. You have to have a civil ceremony and then, if you are religious and want to be married as a part of a religious sacrament, you have to have a separate religious ceremony. So, again, which one is the “true marriage”? If you are actually religious, then the civil commitment isn’t marriage in the eyes of god.

          Winnifred, I would go if only to visit a far-off and exotic place like Hong Kong with a group of people I know! Your brother has probably been greedy all his life – people don’t just become greedy overnight. In some ways, this fits in with his character perfectly, no? So, you can either go and enjoy this thing, warts and all, or you snub him and potentially harm or ruin your relationship with him and his new wife.

          • Alicia

            I define marriage as when the honest answer to the question “are you married? ” Changes from no to yes. So that means the legal definition or religious definition whichever comes first.

          • Elizabeth

            Well, you are certainly entitled to that opinion, but you should know that it is not universally shared. There are so many reasons in our post-modern world that people have to do things like get married on the quick for reasons like health insurance, deployment, pregnancy, immigration, etc – and I see no reason to penalize people or to gossip behind their backs just because they weren’t able to align the scheduling a big party with their pragmatic needs. I think it’s mean-spirited.

            Personally, I like going to weddings that are big to-dos, and I like witnessing couples taking their vows. This pleasure is not diminished because they had to sign a legal document in front of a justice of the peace some months before because one of them was being deployed or about to be deported. I just want my friends and family to be happy, and I’ll celebrate their happiness with them anytime they’re able to do it and without imposing some outmoded notion of propriety on them.

          • Winifred Rosenburg

            As I said earlier, none of us would have a problem with them getting married for legal reasons and continuing as planned with a full wedding experience. The secrecy is mean though. What I’m wondering is how do they expect people will react when they find out (which they will)? I suppose Tom and Rita haven’t thought this through. Part of being polite is being honest, and I think they will hurt a lot of feelings with their lack of honesty.

  2. Clara

    My boyfriend’s mother has just passed away.

    He split from his wife several years ago, but has never formally divorced. Should I attempt to stand by his side (we now live together) or does the husband/wife relationship trump our relationship and should I step back and let his wife stand by him? I expect many people who will attend the funeral do not know me, or that he and his wife have split.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      You should do whatever will make your boyfriend the most comfortable. If you don’t feel right asking your boyfriend, a fair compromise might be for neither of you to stand by his side and let him stand with relatives of him and his mother.

  3. Alicia

    I would go with neither of you standing in the recieving line. Either could be mistaken for the other causing uncomfortable ness that is not focused on the life of the desceased. Both, only one, or neither of you going to support him at the wakes and funeral based on what would make this hard time easiest for him.
    Hopefully this will spur him to clear up things and either be married or be single.

  4. Clara

    Thanks Alicia. I don’t think being in the receiving line is appropriate either. And yes, one could wish that he would clear up these niggling details. :S

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