Asking Eric: Aunt banished to the cousins table at wedding

Dear Eric: About five years ago, my sister’s son was married. When we arrived at the wedding, the bride and groom had set up three special tables. One was for the bride’s parents and their siblings and children, a smaller family. The other two were for the groom’s parents and their siblings and children. Imagine my shock and surprise when all of my siblings and nieces and nephews were sitting at the two tables for the groom’s family, and I was seated at a different table with our cousins. In my place at the sibling table was one of our cousins.

So, I spent the wedding sitting with my cousins, and one cousin sat at the table with my daughter and sister and my sister’s kids. I was shocked and hurt, and have never received an explanation from the bride and groom for this extremely hurtful slight.

At this point, I have never discussed it with them. I found out my sister-in-law discussed it with them about a year ago. So, they know I’m very hurt by this slight, and neither have said anything to me about it. Do I bring it up to them at this point? It still hurts my heart when I think about it, and once and for all, I would like to understand why they would do that to me and my husband.

– Seating Arrangement Estrangement

Dear Seating: It’s amazing how much turmoil a name card on top of a plate at a family wedding can cause. I’m certain that thousands of years in the future, we’ll still be sorting out seating arrangement strife. (Well, we won’t, but various proprietary AI bots will be squabbling about it in perpetuity.)

Even the happiest weddings can lead to stressful moments for all involved. And the seating assignments sometimes call to mind that age-old determinant of social standing – the cafeteria table. When we don’t get placed where we think we ought to get placed, it can hurt or confuse, as it has with you.

But, you weren’t banished to the corner table of the proverbial cafeteria. You were still with family. It could have simply been a matter of physical logistics – you and your husband were a party of two and it sounds like your cousin was a party of one. Maybe there was only space for an additional member at the big tables and the bride and groom thought you’d enjoy catching up with cousins. Maybe the name cards were mistakenly switched. You can certainly clarify this point with your nephew, but I think everyone, yourself included, will be happier if you let it go.

They should have reached out when they found out you were hurt by the seating. It was impolite and caused more harm, but you have an opportunity to release yourself from this now. It’s been five years and, from your letter, it doesn’t sound like there are larger conflicts between your house and theirs.

I grant you this: it’s a little weird to not be at a table with all of your other siblings. However, weddings are weird – we all had to choose our dinner option months earlier like psychics, a DJ is telling us when we’re allowed to dance like it’s the “Footloose” town and sometimes cake is smashed in faces. Decide to let the weirdness stay in the past.

Dear Eric: We’re hoping you can advise on which would be the best behavior during bridal/baby/etc., shower games, when I am (humbly) very good at winning everything.

While some of these fun competitions are chance, many require knowledge and skill, and I could take all the prizes, but after winning the first round, I defer my next win to someone else, and let them take the loot, honor, and glory. Sometimes, I busy myself with helping the hostess, and avoid playing all together.

My girls, and sister, are divided on the issue. Some say set the bar high, and don’t hide my skills. Others think that I should just let the others have the fun. What do you think?

– Gold Medal Baby Bingo

Dear Gold Medal: ABBA may have crooned “the winner takes it all” but in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers in “The Gambler”, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” If there were Showcase Showdown-style prizes being given out at these showers, I’d say run up the score. Go home triumphant! But no-stakes fun-and-games stops being fun when no one else has a chance to win. I think your strategy for self-selecting out of game play is right (and generous) here. Knowing that you can take it all is prize enough, anyway. You and I (and Kenny Rogers) will always know who the real winner is.

Send questions to R. Eric Thomas at [email protected] or P.O. Box 22474, Philadelphia, PA 19110. Follow him on Instagram and sign up for his weekly newsletter at