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Originally published Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Wedding planning brings family baggage to forefront

Carolyn Hax reminds a 38-year-old bride-to-be that she and her boyfriend are old enough to make decisions about their marriage without family involvement.

Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: My boyfriend (45) and I (38) have been discussing marriage. I suggested elopement because my family is nuts, especially my mom. Currently she is not speaking to me — neither is the rest of the family, or she will stop speaking to them — because (a) I refused to give over to her or my sister a modest inheritance from my grandmother (my plan was to use it for the wedding), and (b) I asked her to stop posting passive-aggressive comments on my Facebook wall in reference to the inheritance.

My boyfriend is close to his family, so eloping would hurt their feelings, and they are super nice and welcoming to me. I can’t, however, take the chance of my family ruining such an important occasion like they have ruined high school, college and Ph.D. graduations; grandma’s funeral; sister’s wedding, to name some.

How do we tell his family we want to elope so I don’t burn bridges with them, but not make my family sound like the nutters they are? Yes, my boyfriend is OK with eloping; it’s in breaking it to his family that we find ourselves in a pickle.

— C.

DEAR C.: “But not make my family sound like the nutters they are”: That ship has sailed. Stop worrying about how your family appears to others. They’re not you.

“So I don’t burn bridges with them”: You either have a wedding and let the nutter chips fall where they may, or you elope. If you choose to elope, then your boyfriend alone tells his family, or you and he tell them together, that you’re ready to get married now, so you’re going to. You’re free to mention here that your strained family situation would make a wedding difficult at this time — and you’re also free not to say that. Also assure his family that you will have a post-wedding party, on your dime of course.

That is, if this all sits right with the two of you. You’re a combined age of 83. You can do what you stinkin’ want. If his people withdraw their affection over a decision that’s a couple’s business alone, then the bridge already had kerosene on it, and any spark was going to consume it. Truly.

DEAR CAROLYN: My 15-year-old daughter is bright, funny and smart. She is, however, an introvert, not willing to plan things, waiting for her friends to call. The problem is they don’t call often. How can I, an extrovert, parent a child who is fine in her own company and does not have my social needs?

— Accepting

DEAR ACCEPTING: You can follow her lead. And, you can be the parent you’d want: Do you think you’d appreciate being 15 and hearing from an introverted parent, “Why don’t you stay home for once? You never give yourself time to think”? Or would you prefer your parent to understand and respect that you are energized by being around people?

You have the right (within the bounds of decency), and presumably sufficient maturity, to figure out what works for you emotionally; your daughter has this same right and will gain the maturity, ideally with your help. Give her the freedom and gentle boundaries she needs to find out what makes sense for her.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living.

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