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by Abigail Van Buren

Low Income Family Can't Give High Dollar Wedding

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Jenny," is engaged to marry a nice young physician. It's going to be an elaborate "black tie" affair in a castle in Europe. The young man's family is enormously wealthy, and his siblings are all doctors or lawyers. Some of the wealthiest people in the world will attend the wedding.

On the other hand, our combined income is less than $30,000 a year. We pay our bills on time, but we have nothing extra at the end of the month. The good news is that the groom-to-be's family has contributed a lot of money toward the wedding. The bad news is that they're asking me why we haven't contributed any. Our daughter mentioned that some of her friends' parents have taken out a second mortgage on their homes so they can give their daughters their dream weddings. (We live in an apartment.) Jenny hasn't lived at home for 12 years and makes more money than I ever will.

Abby, what is expected of me and my family? How can we explain to Jenny that we are happy for her and love her, but cannot and will not use our small retirement savings to pay for her elaborate extravaganza? As it is, we will all have to travel to her castle, and pay for hotel rooms, tuxes, plus give them a lovely gift. We need your expert advice -- and fast! -- NOT EVEN CLOSE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK

DEAR NOT EVEN CLOSE: Do not allow yourself to be stampeded. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Under no circumstances should you mortgage your future to pay for a wedding. A wedding is a gift, not an obligation. Your daughter has chosen something that's beyond your means.

If the groom's family is unaware of this fact of life, please waste no time in explaining it to them. There should be no shame in doing so. It's reality.

DEAR ABBY: I am miserable. I am married and the mother of two children. I don't know how to get out of my marriage. My husband is so volatile he hollers, throws things, and is loud and verbally abusive to me. He also acts this way with the children.

I do not love him. I married too young and for all the wrong reasons. When we argue, he goes running to my family and tells them a sob story, and they blame me. When I try to talk to them, they refuse to listen and push me to stay with him.

I don't want to have to walk out on all of my possessions, but I will if I have to. I am willing to do almost anything to get out of this marriage.

The last time we went through this, he wouldn't leave. Now he is saying he will and promises he will not contact my family. However, I'm afraid to trust. Please help me. -- CONFUSED AND UNSURE IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR CONFUSED: Since you have already decided that the marriage was a mistake and not worth trying to save, consult a lawyer who specializes in family law. He or she will counsel you about what each of you is entitled to and how to ensure that your husband leaves.

Establish how you will support yourself and the children when the time comes. Do not depend upon your family for emotional support and you will not be disappointed. It is said that "breaking up is hard to do," but your lawyer can help you through the process. No one comes through a divorce entirely unscathed -- but it's better than remaining in a loveless marriage with a volatile, verbally abusive spouse.

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