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by Abigail Van Buren

Three Different Weddings Let in Laws' Dreams Come True

DEAR ABBY: My fiance and I devised a wedding plan that pleased both our families. He is the youngest child; I am an only child. We've always been especially close to each of our moms. We wanted to make their wedding dreams for us come true, as well as our own.

The solution? We had THREE celebrations! One for us, and one for each mom. Sound crazy? It's not.

My fiance and I eloped to Santa Fe, N.M., for a private ceremony with only my best friend and my fiance's brother in attendance. We hired a professional photographer to capture every moment for our families. It was a beautiful ceremony in a church with a minister.

Three months later, my mom arranged a 200-person sit-down wedding reception in my hometown. She asked our long-time Presbyterian minister to "bless" our marriage with a small ceremony, invited the guests, ordered the food and hired the band. In short, she gave the party she had always dreamed of for her only child.

Three months after that, my mother-in-law hosted a Catholic validation at a church in my husband's hometown. She was overjoyed to provide the Mass and party she had always hoped for her son.

All in all, we had three weddings, and celebrated our marriage for a year. It was perfect. Both sets of parents attended each other's events, and everyone got to eat, drink and invite whomever they wanted. I didn't get stressed-out like some brides do -- I just enjoyed myself.

Abby, I highly recommend this solution to anyone who is trying to please everyone. You can have your wedding cake and eat it, too. -- WE DID IT OUR WAY

DEAR WE DID IT: Providing all the in-laws can afford it, your solution seems amicable for everyone. It's an original. My congratulations to all of you.

DEAR ABBY: I was disappointed in your answer to "Disappointed in Arkansas," who was hurt because her brother didn't share the full amount of money he received on a piece of property he had rented from her. You should have suggested that this family use a local mediation service.

Mediation is a process that helps people discuss issues and settle problems. Mediators give people a chance to talk about the situation -- and ways to solve it -- with a neutral third party (the mediator). Mediators do not take sides, tell people what to do or make decisions. All decisions and solutions come from the parties themselves.

Mediation provides people a place to talk about issues in a safe environment, conducive to working together, rather than in a courtroom (which is much more expensive and adversarial).

Many communities have mediation centers. Remember, there are at least two sides to every story, and through mediation all sides will be heard. -- VIRGINIA MAN IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Thank you for an excellent letter. Mediation (dispute resolution) is a much less expensive solution than going to trial. I'm sorry I didn't think of it.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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