DEAR ABBY: I became engaged to a wonderful man five months ago. We have set a wedding date for next year. I'm ecstatic -- thrilled to be planning such an important milestone in my life. I'm the youngest of five girls. Four of us are extremely close. Three of my sisters have graciously offered to help with the wedding planning and preparation. I have included them in my bridal party -- matron of honor, two bridesmaids, and two of my teenage nieces as junior bridesmaids.
There's one big issue: My parents and two of my sisters insist that I include my oldest sister, "Iris," in my bridal party even though she has a mental illness (schizophrenia). She is medicated, but still speaks to her "voices." I love her, but I don't find it appropriate to include her in my wedding.
My matron of honor is supportive and agrees it would be unwise. However, my remaining family is guilt-tripping me because Iris missed out on two of my sisters' weddings due to being in a psychiatric facility. She lives with my retired parents now and requires care and supervision. Am I wrong for not wanting to risk including her on my big day? -- FUTURE BRIDE IN KENTUCKY
DEAR FUTURE BRIDE: Weddings are family events that can sometimes strain relationships. As with all conflict, communication and compromise are key. Discuss your concerns with your parents, sisters and fiance and consider their opinions and advice. Get assurances of their help to ease your concerns and raise your comfort level.
More important, respectfully discuss your feelings and concerns with Iris. Instead of being in the bridal party, she might be happy with a less prominent role while still being part of the celebration. You may not realize how hurt she would be if she's excluded from this family milestone.
Thankfully, you are healthy and stepping into a bright future. It would be wonderful if Iris could share in this joyful occasion. However, include her only if your parents and siblings are willing to guarantee that should her presence become a distraction or disruptive, they will quietly and immediately remove her.
DEAR ABBY: While having dinner with a group of friends, the subject came up about giving Christmas gifts to grandchildren, nieces, nephews and godchildren after a certain age. Some said they stop giving at 18 years of age; others said they stop doing it when the recipients start their own families. A few of us still give to "kids" well into their 40s. Is there a certain age to stop, or is it up to the individual? -- GENEROUS IN ILLINOIS
DEAR GENEROUS: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on the individual, how many relatives there are and whether the gift-giving is creating a financial squeeze.