Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My son is getting married to a lovely woman. She has kindly included me in a lot of the wedding plans and keeps me updated, much more than my son.
When she told me she planned on having black and lilac for her wedding colors, with her bridesmaids wearing black, I bit my tongue. I can’t help but feel like black is a color for funerals and not weddings.
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I brought this up with my son, and he said he doesn’t care what the colors are. I’m not sure this is worth bringing up with my future daughter-in-law, as I do not want to start a conflict. But I am genuinely not sure if she realizes that the vast majority of the guests will associate black with funerals. Advice?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: A vast majority of the guests will associate black with what they wear every day, or just wore to a wedding, themselves.
And the ones who do think of funerals: What harm is coming to them by having to look at black dresses, or to think, “Hmm, I wish they’d stuck with pink”?
Does this nearly imaginary harm even dent the couple’s right to plan their own party without being second-guessed?
These are three of the steps on the ladder to a point I could just leap to without a ladder at all: SAY NOTHING ABOUT ANYTHING TRIVIAL.
Yes, I’m shouting.
Because I can’t imagine anything more trivial than color.
Her inclusion of you? Now, that is huge. People who remain focused on what matters, who don’t fret the little stuff and who let adults be adults are the ones who spend the most time as welcome guests in their grown children’s homes.
Your son might already have made the mistake of mentioning your concerns to his fiancee. I suggest you rectify (or pre-empt) this by telling your son you’re sorry you brought it up at all because it’s such a minor thing.
Even if you aren’t sorry, say it anyway and hope any relief on his face brings you around to the value of saving your opinions for when they’re requested and/or when they really, really matter.
TO ANONYMOUS: Oh God, please leave the bride alone about COLORS. Clearly she likes them. You don’t — but who cares? It’s not your wedding. And I’m sure she’s already got 100 people telling her what she’s doing wrong.
Do you really want to start off this relationship — ideally a long one — as the mother-in-law who badgered her about colors?
— Anonymous 2
DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: Now you’re shouting, too.
How about a moment of reflection to absorb the beauty in not being one of the 100? People we don’t like, we criticize to justify our dislike. People we love, we criticize toward becoming the best selves we know they can be. Total strangers, we criticize to reinforce our own self-images — or just to have something to say.
Repeat after me: “Black sounds elegant — and reusable.” Or, if that sticks in your throat, say this: “.”
And every time you feel the urge to improve someone, try turning it inward.
Sayeth the newspaper person-improver.