Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman rethinking her big wedding, and another who's fed up with her controlling dad.


For two years, my fiance and I scrimped and saved so we could have the wedding of our dreams in summer 2020. Of course, the pandemic put paid to that. Fortunately, although a lot of people knew the date, we'd not sent out any invitations nor paid much in the way of deposits.

We'd originally planned to have a really big wedding and wonderful honeymoon and we've pretty much still got all that money, and have transferred our booking to June 2021. The thing is though, after lockdown and being forced to cut back on everything, I'm now having second thoughts about the 'big day'.

We've had no meals out, no cinema trips, no dancing - those were special treats we allowed ourselves sometimes and I've really missed them. Saving was hard going, and at times I really resented not being able to do the things other couples were doing - but I'm now wondering what my dream day is really about!

What is the point of spending all that money on a huge wedding, paying for lots of people - many of whom aren't even close friends - to come and watch us get married?

I think we'd be better off using the money in other ways, including having a bit more fun. If we keep on saving, we'd soon have enough to pay the deposit on our first home.

My fiance thinks I'll regret not having a 'big day' but I'm not so sure. I am seriously thinking I only want immediate family and very close friends, and that the idea of 30 people at a ceremony seems about right. Especially if it means we could get a home and possibly start a family much sooner.

Do you think he's right - will I live to regret it if I cut things right back for the wedding?

G. C.


It's one of the strange things about lockdown that so many simple weddings have - when they've been allowed - gone ahead, regardless of significantly reduced numbers.

For me, that can only be a good thing, as so many young couples saddle themselves with big debts at the start of a relationship, simply in order to have a 'spectacular' day.

Yes, pledging yourself to another person is something to celebrate - but it's something personal, so why does it have to cost the same as a deposit on a small house?

I've heard of people having their receptions with fish and chips on the beach, or picnics in the park - costing so much less than a posh venue proper 'do'. A special day doesn't have to cost tons of money - it can be special because you make it so.

How you make your day special is very much down to you and the people you love. Scrimping and saving is all very well, but if it makes you resentful and bitter, that's not going to help your relationship.

I would suggest you and your fiance sit down and have a serious chat about what you want from life, as well as the wedding, and how you're going to achieve it. If it's more important to you to have your own home and to start a family, than to splash out on a fancy big wedding, then you need to convince your fiance of this too.

Many grooms may not seem overly bothered about a big day but there may be certain things he's hoping for - and this is a joint decision that you both need to be happy with. Once the two of you have reached an agreement, then you need to reach out to your wider family and let them know. Some people may be disappointed - but the bottom line is that you should have the day the two of you want, at a price you're comfortable with, and that gives you something special to remember. Frame it in a positive way and I am sure people will be supportive.


Every year, my parents expect me to go with them to visit my mum's brother for Christmas because he's disabled and it's hard for him to travel.

I don't live with them anymore - I have a place of my own and I would love to just spend Christmas here quietly with my girlfriend. Yet, for some reason, and in spite of all the pandemic restrictions in place, they still seem to want me to go to my uncle's house with them this year.

I know I'll miss my girlfriend and won't really enjoy it, but my parents seem to think we shouldn't break with tradition. They will be hurt and disappointed if I don't go, but I'm not even sure if it's the right thing to do. Am I right?

B. W.


You don't say where you live, or where your parents and uncle live, but most regions have some sort of restrictions in place. Although the rules on mixing with other households may be slightly reduced for a brief time over Christmas, we all still need to be cautious and sensible. This is especially the case if your uncle, or parents, are in a medically vulnerable category.

In reality, all of us need to think carefully about our plans for Christmas, and whether travelling and spending time with others is worth the risk. Even if technically the rules may 'allow' us to mix, that doesn't mean anyone should feel obliged and just steam ahead - we all still need to think about the health of ourselves and others.

And, how would you spending Christmas with your parents and uncle impact your girlfriend? Assuming a three-household Christmas bubble applies (you and your girlfriend being one household, your parents and uncle being the two others), then your girlfriend would either have to come with you or spend Christmas alone - as if she sees anyone else separately, that's then going beyond three households. I wonder if your parents realise all of this?

I think all this gives you a perfectly valid reason not to go to your uncle's house over the holiday period - however much you think it might upset your parents. In reality though, they may not be as upset as you fear. Often these things aren't as bad as we build them up to be in our minds, and it isn't fair for them to guilt-trip you. Most people are facing a Christmas that's different to usual this year.

For the future, however, and as you've now left home, isn't it time you and your parents had a more flexible arrangement about Christmas? They must realise there will come a point when you are going to want to spend your Christmases with a family of your own, or simply with your partner. That's perfectly natural and it's not 'wrong' of you to want those things.

It's unfortunate that your uncle cannot travel, but your family cannot dictate all your future Christmas arrangements. Having said that, I hope that you find it in you to try to spend a little time with your uncle periodically. Just perhaps not this Christmas with all the restrictions in place.


I am 38 and have just had the best Christmas present ever - I've found out I'm pregnant. It's taken us a long time and we were planning to resort to IVF, but we put that on hold this year. So, to find I've become pregnant naturally is a huge surprise.

We were seeing a consultant before all this and he's now pushing me to have an amniocentesis test. He's practically insisting on it and I don't know why. What worries me is I've heard that a miscarriage can sometimes follow this type of test.

When I mentioned this to him, he said that the chances of this are very small when compared with the very real risk of having a baby with a disability. I don't understand why he thinks disability is a risk, and whatever any test shows I am going ahead with the pregnancy, so why is he putting pressure on me like this?

He rang again yesterday to ask if I'd made up my mind and I am beginning to resent the fact he is spoiling what should be a happy time for me.



Is it possible your consultant is aware of some factors about your pregnancy you're unaware of? Is he concerned about your age? Given your determination not to have a termination, whatever the outcome of the tests, it is hard to explain his persistence. I have no possible way of knowing why he is pushing it, and the only way you can find out is to ask him - so do please ask him to explain.

It might also help if you were armed with a bit of your own background research, so I suggest you look at the National Childbirth Trust website ( There is a huge section on tests, scans and antenatal checks which explains a lot and makes the point, quite clearly, that it's completely up to you whether you have the tests or not. It also stresses how important it is to understand the purpose of all the tests, so you can make an informed decision about whether to have them or not.


My father has always been aggressive towards me and, even though I'm 29, he shows no sign of changing. As far as he's concerned, I have never been capable of doing anything properly.

He frequently intrudes into my friendships and any post I receive. My mum died shortly after I was born, so it's always been just him and me, but he remarried recently and it's not going well. He seems to blame me for that too!

I hate the situation I am in, but as I can't afford my own place, I am forced to live with him.

A. Q.


Your father sounds like a bully, and if he's been like that all your life, I see little chance of him changing too. It's possibly a reason why his marriage isn't working too. Please don't let him lay any blame on you. He is responsible for his life.

If you want genuine independence, moving out sounds like the best solution, however daunting that may seem. I know money is an issue, but you really cannot let your father continue to dominate you like this. The situation is already getting you down; you don't want to lose all your self-respect and confidence.

Could it, deep down, be more than just lack of money holding you back? It's very common for people to remain in patterns that make us unhappy, often because they are familiar and what we're used to. If you haven't already, it might be helpful to talk with a counsellor who can help you process all of these things.

If you can't afford to pay a deposit on a rental property, then perhaps see if you can't find someone to share with. There are lots of adverts on verified property websites, or check with local estate agents. You may have to get used to living on a tighter budget - but think of your current and long-term happiness and quality of life. I know it seems hard but there's really nothing stopping you - except your own fear of change.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.