"Weddings aren't for the bride and groom," my friend said a month beforeher wedding, exasperated when I suggested that if she didn't likeChicken Kiev, then by gosh, she shouldn't serve it at the reception."They're for the families." I nodded my head as if I understoodcompletely. But I didn't. Not my wedding, I thought to myself. No way.

A few months later I got engaged. Reality dawned.

My now-husband, Aron, and I have an abundance of in-laws. Our parentsdivorced, and each has remarried. His parents have children from theirsecond marriages, and there's a step-grandmother on either side. Thetally of our combined immediate families: 22 people. What they all havein common: Intelligence and sensitivity; New York residence at one timeor another (aside from my grandmother, who's from Alaska); and, ofcourse, they each love us and have our best interests at heart.

What they don't: Personality type (some are easy-going, others proudlyjudgmental; some vivacious storytellers, others "live in the mind");Religious beliefs (Jewish and Christian, believers and atheists);Musical taste (including opera and baroque classical; the RollingStones; Ani DiFranco; and for my new pre-teen brothers-in-law, theMacarena); Financial means (some solidly middle-class, othersupper-class); Political views (some die-hard feminists and gay-rightsproponents, others religious and social conservatives); and, of course,what exactly our "best interests" are, and how to most effectively guideus towards them.

All of this diversity creates two things: Spicy dinner conversation and, ohyes--total and complete chaos. For me, at least. I don't know how orwhen it happened, but I've fallen prey to the scourge of womeneverywhere: wanting to please. The confluence of the insanity of ourcombined families and my own personal insanity reached a gloriouscrescendo in the planning of my August wedding.

It all started innocently enough: After we announced our wedding plans,an offer was lobbed our way by Aron's father and step-mother to give usan engagement party. "Great," we hastily responded. It was a bash: A lotof family and friends, loud music, excellent food. It was the kind ofparty that Aron's dad and step-mom are great at putting together. It wasnot, however, the kind of party that either my mother or father, orAron's mother's family, is known for. That difference resulted in theGreat Bombardment of '98: Offers from these families started pouring in."Why didn't you tell us you wanted an engagement party?" was thecollective cry. "Now what can we do?"

Now, mind you, these were not specific offers. No one volunteered toaudition bands for us, and I never received stationary samples in themail from my mother, like my friend Mary's mom did for her. "Tell uswhat to do," they said. Not wanting to shirk their responsibilities orfall beneath the standard that had been set, they also didn't actuallyhave anything in mind.

The only way each of our families was going to feel important was if wedemonstrated how desperately we needed them. So roles were parceled out:Aron's mom would do the rehearsal dinner; my two parents would pay forthe wedding and be the official hosts of the reception; Aron's father'sfamily would take care of the band and the liquor. And I called mymother at least every other week for wedding dress consultation. Sooneveryone was placated, even if I was spending entire workdays on thephone.

By the time the wedding day arrived, I felt like I was planning a UnitedNations summit. My sister's Orthodox boyfriend needed a hotel withinwalking distance of the ceremony site because he couldn't drive, sincewe were getting married not quite long enough past sunset on a Saturdayfor him to consider Shabbat officially over; my soon-to-be step-motherin-law wanted to know exactly what all of the "other mothers" werewearing, so they wouldn't match or clash; my own mother introducedAron's sister Jessie-his father's daughter-to his maternal grandmotheras "Aron's half-sister, Jessie," which though true, is a faux pas withinthe family (and let's not mention the fact that Aron's maternalgrandmother couldn't remember her grandson's half-sister's name); myfather wasn't sure if Aron's father was paying for just the wine, or ifhe was also picking up the tab for the hard liquor; Aron's mother got ina fender-bender on the way to the rehearsal dinner, which she had spentmonths working on, and finally made it only to see Aron's namemisspelled on the customized menus. Typical wedding stuff, but lots moreof it.

When I drove up to the wedding site on the big day a few hours beforethe ceremony, the sky was overcast. "I don't want to alarm you, butthere is a considerable chance of life-threatening thunder andlightning," the maitre'd whispered in my ear as she guided me by theelbow under the tent. All of the families were arriving, to change intotheir clothes and rehearse
. "I don't think we're going to be able tohave this wedding outside," she continued. It was 90 degrees out and theindoor facility wasn't air conditioned. I didn't hear another word shesaid as I pulled away from her. "If my wedding is a disaster," I thoughtto myself, "then that's what it is. It'll be over in a few hours, and Iwill go on to live a rich and exciting life." I wanted to cry.