Dear Margo: Nutty, Insecure Wedding-Goer

My step-mother-in-law made a fuss at our wedding over a picture; was I in the wrong? Margo Howard’s advice

Nutty, Insecure Wedding-Goer

Dear Margo: This past March I was married in a destination wedding. My husband’s parents divorced four years ago, and his dad remarried last year. Anyway, during our reception this past June, while taking wedding pictures with the family and bridal party, my father-in-law’s new wife, “Nancy,” became incredibly upset and started yelling “this is bulls**t” (mind you, there are little kids around) and throwing a fit because my husband wanted a picture of the two of us, his parents (not standing next to each other) and his two brothers — basically, his family. She said we were disrespecting her for taking that photo.

We talked with our photographer about all of the photos we wanted taken before the wedding date, and we also consulted etiquette websites for guidance and found that what we wanted was legit. My father-in-law and Nancy were in other pictures, though neither of them smiled in any of them.

During the reception, Nancy voiced her not-so-nice opinion about me. My husband and I wrote a letter to his father and Nancy explaining how hurt we were with their actions at our wedding. My f-i-l called and apologized, while Nancy stated that we were the ones who were wrong and sent word that she would not apologize or even talk to us, for that matter. My f-i-l told us Nancy has been yelling at him constantly since the wedding because “he allowed us to take the picture she didn’t want taken.”

My husband is sad because his relationship with his dad has been compromised. I can see that Nancy has self-esteem and jealousy issues, but I am shocked at her behavior. I guess I am asking: Did we do something wrong? — Shocked in Green Bay

Dear Shocked: What can I say? The woman has no manners, no sense and a whopping case of insecurity. If she weren’t in any pictures, she might have something to complain about, but this was not the case. Consider it a gift from the gods that Nancy will not talk to you. And I have a hunch that your husband and his father will be just fine … when Nancy is not around. Also, if her behavior continues like this, Nancy may not be around. — Margo, forwardly

What, Exactly, Constitutes a Good Time?

Dear Margo: I am approaching my 21st birthday. While this is a milestone for many people, I find this birthday filling me with dread. Unlike the majority of my friends, I do not drink alcohol. Several things influenced this decision, including my work teaching teens the risks and consequences of underage substance use. It was also painful during my childhood to watch my father battle alcoholism and, eventually, rehab. And I have an addictive personality and try to avoid anything I feel could be trouble.

This decision has been a struggle because the social scene of my university consists largely of drinking. Until this point, I have always had a bunch of excuses, one of them being, “Sorry, but I don’t want to drink until I’m 21.” However, my roommate recently informed me that she and some friends are planning a 21st birthday bash for me at which I’m expected to get quite intoxicated. While I appreciate their “good intentions,” the thought of this get-together fills me with dread.

I have no problem with others consuming alcohol, but it’s not something I want to do. Is there a polite way to inform these people that they are welcome to get drunk at my party, but it’s not what I choose to do? I also do not choose to spend my birthday in an alcohol-induced haze. — Haley

Dear Hale: You do not owe your pals a night of being blotto just because that’s their idea of a good time. I would plainly say, should anyone inquire, that you don’t care for the taste of alcohol and have decided to be an abstainer. If anyone is gauche enough to push you as to why — or why not — simply repeat that you choose not to drink. You can do a “bottoms up” or make a toast just as easily with water, soda or juice.

Peer pressure to drink is just an unfortunate exemplar of herd mentality, and I’ve never figured out why non-drinkers are a “challenge” to those who do. Oh, well. Props to you for your decision — and happy birthday! — Margo, individually

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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110 comments so far.

  1. avatar Rain says:

    Dear Birthday Girl,  Please google “acute alcohol poisoning” and see the truth behind binge drinking.   The stories are tragic!  It is especially dangerous for someone like you who has not build up a tolerance for alcohol.  Please do not allow your friends to pressure you into drinking.  

  2. avatar Ar Mo Chroí says:

    LW#2: I was in much the same boat you’re in now. I don’t drink, although once in a blue moon I’ll have a sip of someone’s drink (only if I know they won’t mind) just to see what it tastes like. I don’t actually go out of my way to buy a bottle of booze “just because”.

    For me, I’ve always told people who try to push me to drink that “I’m not interested.” Seriously. It’s the truth. If I get pushed farther after that response, I then say, “I don’t like the buzz.” or (with a smile) “I much prefer chocolate.” That usually shuts them up.

    I agree with the other commenters that you shouldn’t have told people you won’t drink until you turn 21. But hindsight is 2o/20, & you need to set them straight now before you’re dragged into bar-hopping on your birthday. Sit them down & tell them why you don’t want to. If you have to, arrange for something else that’s fun for you to do on your birthday with your friends. If they have a hard time accepting your choice &/or refuse to celebrate your birthday with you because of it, go with another group of friends & have an absolutely wonderful time. :)

  3. avatar Robert Smith says:

    As I’m sure LW2 has heard, the “tradition” nowadays is to consume 21 drinks on your 21st birthday. So be extra careful that there will be those keeping count (they will probably be barefoot).

    You asked if there was a polite way to get your message across – the answer is No, there is not a POLITE way. But you have every right to stick to your guns. Do you have trusted friend or two who can head these morons off?

  4. avatar wlaccma says:

    My God I have never read such garbage. Who cares about a few photos if it makes the daughter happy. Smile and go along to get along. This whole mess was caused by the father and his new wife. Do you want to be right or happy?? Have you forgotten that at one time you loved this former wife and had sex with her and produced children with her? The father picked her and now doesn’t want to have his photo taken with her to please his daughter. Who are these people? Now look at the mess you are in with your children. All could have been avoided. I would not spend one day not talking to my two children and grandchildren. Are they wrong at times and do things I don’t like. Sure, but I bite my tongue. I want to be happy. Yes, these things are upsetting but get a grip and look at the big picture. This is all ridiculous nonsense. Now you just might not get to be part of your grandchildren’s lives. Think about that when you are bellyaching about a few photos.

    • avatar KL says:

      Wlaccma — I’m with you. I think huge mountains have been made out of molehills. That some folks have been far too concerned with the “principle” (whatever that may be to them) rather than see the bigger picture. It seems like there are a lot of people here that would rather be right and alone, then letting it go and enjoying albeit an imperfect relationship. They’re just photos, people!

  5. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    Surely there must be some happy weddings out there that takes place with step parents involved, but I guess they don’t write to nor read Dear Margo.

    I guess I was lucky as I grew up in the ’70s when the legal drinking age was 18 in Texas and I cannot remember a single episode then I was urged to drink when I chose not to and I spent many college weekends in nightclubs during the disco age but then again I was the only one with a car.  **Sigh**

  6. avatar Mary Morgan says:

    #2, Just say NO…don’t have to be afraid…just say NO.  and a kind of a funny on that is “What is there about the word NO that you don’t seem to understand?”  but I do agree that you may want to shop for some other friends, if the ones you have ae all aabout wanting to get you drunk.  I’ve been sober years, and after all these years, there are still things I remember doing drunk that make me feel “less than”.  I don’t want to ever feel like that again…so trust your own judgement and just say NO.

  7. avatar Jean B says:

    LW2: They are pressuring you to drink so they don’t feel so bad about their own drinking. I was pressured by my ex-husband, and sometimes members of his family. These people drink too much and when there is a sober person around it makes them feel bad about themselves. I guess they thought because I come from a long line of alcoholics on both sides that I would be “one of them”, too. Surprise! Most of the drinkers in my family were male. With rare exception, the females are not drinkers. I am aware of my addictive personality and choose not to go that route. Like my mother, I would rather be sober and know what I am doing at all times. I will have an occasional drink; a glass of wine with dinner for a special occasion, a glass of champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve, an amaretto sour at home after dinner just because I really like them…..seeing a pattern? ONE glass per occasion, period, and only if I choose to that evening. I can go years without more than one drink per year and some people think I’m not normal. I don’t care what they think, they don’t have to live with the fall-out if I do or say something stupid. I agree with those who said you need new friends. A real friend wouldn’t pressure you like this. Note that my biggest pressure came from my EX-husband……………

  8. avatar christineb says:

    I know I’m a bit late but I’d like to comment on Haley’s idea that the primary social scene at her college is drinking. If she goes to a big “party” school, I would encourage her to look around. I work at a school with that type of rating (we’ve made the Playboy list several years in a row) but I have a number of students with very active social lives who do not spend every weekend drinking. Our university has over 250 student organizations. Yes, some of them are Greek with partying reputations. But we also have a ski club that travels, intramural sports teams (including kickball and dodgeball), an Anime club, and many more. There is truly something for everyone and if not there is a process for starting a new club. I would encourage Haley to step out and try something new. This doesn’t mean she needs to drop her old friends but she might find that surrounding herself with people who at least understand why she doesn’t want to drink will provide her with a better group anyway.

  9. avatar French Heart says:

    #1 Can expect a lot of problems with that self-centered, selfish, classless step-MIY. Poor Dad he’s trapped by a witch-on-wheels.

    #2 If a person’s friends define a good time as getting blotto on B-day…..wrong friends.

  10. avatar April says:

    We’re allowed to be angry about these things now? Sweet. I’m going to call my sister and tell her that my brother-in-law had a lot of nerve to want a formal picture taken with just his siblings. I do not appreciate being made to feel as if am pâté.

    In all seriousness, LW’s father-in-law needs to put his foot down and tell his wife that, while she may have an opinion, she may not continue to harass him about it, nor act like a spoilt child towards his son and daughter-in-law.