Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Q & A: Staying Connected with Our Nearest and Dearest

Reader Question: Weddings tend to be a sore subject for me. I was pregnant when my husband and I decided to get married. Plus, we were broke and although I thought eloping would be simple and romantic he felt that we needed to involve family. My mom graciously paid for everything, but it was her wedding not ours. 

Now back to the reason I'm writing...We've been planning a vow renewal basically since we got married. We figured it would be our time to include everyone that we wished could have been at our wedding. A time to publicly commit to one another with our friends and family all around. (The guest list was mostly mandated by my mother as well and we couldn't even include some of our nearest and dearest.)

Reading you blog has really spoken to me. In talking with my wonderful partner we share a lot of the ideals you talk about on your blog. There's only one problem. We've been married for three and a half years and have since lost a lot of valuable relationships. We live in Arizona with only our parents nearby. We never intended to lose the communities of people we grew up with, but somehow in all the craziness that is life instead of merging those communities we've really missed out on a lot.

I've already made a resolution to begin immediately. (I don't see much significance in waiting for a new year there is no time like the present.) I want to take the first step in reconnecting with the people that used to be so dear to us. I plan to send out an invitation that invites everyone to share their lives with us and to partake in ours. I want to put forth the effort to cultivate new beginnings, but I don't know what to do beyond the initial contact.

I've thought about a family newsletter. Scheduling times to call everyone. Getting together a list of emails. But I guess I just need some direction to get started. Do you have any suggestions to remake and then maintain relationships with family and friends?? Any advice is appreciated.

What a great topic to address! I think you've already got some great ideas.

Over the years, I've accumulated a lot of friends in various locations (e.g. high school, college, a summer of working at Space Camp, Summerbridge Cambridge, AmeriCorps, Teach For America, a seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for Humanities, KIPP, YES College Prep, a self-subsidized sabbatical, our honeymoon sailing trip around Greece, etc.). 

For several years, I sent a monthly e-mail message called the Friends & Family Update. I would write about all of my adventures and misadventures for the month. I would also write about questions I was grappling with, books I had read, movies I had seen. Different people would respond to different updates. For example, one of my long-lost friends from high school e-mailed me in response to my complaint about trying to hold my dog's leash while we run. He suggested that I instead connect the leash to my waist. Brilliant! The list has kept me in touch with so many scattered friends.

I think the trick to any sort of mass communication (either e-mails, holiday letters, or newsletters) is authenticity and candor. Generic fluffiness is boring and contributes to the distance people already feel. The holiday letters I most appreciate are the honest ones. The ones that speak the truth about relationship struggles or insecurity or grief or sheer pride and excitement.

Other ways to stay connected include starting a blog (I use blogger, which is very user-friendly) or finding/communicating with friends through Facebook and Twitter. (Digression: You can now follow me on Twitter if you're interested!)

Also, there's nothing like the power of the telephone. I find that I'm personally more consistent about staying in touch when I designate specific times to call people (like calling a different person every Monday while driving home from work or every time I clean the house). 

Birthday cards are another nice way of staying in touch. I used to look at my calendar at the beginning of every month and write birthday cards to all my friends/family. I would then put a sticky note on each of them that specified which day I needed to mail them during the month.

As I write about all of the things I used to do, I'm realizing that I'm letting myself fall out of touch with my nearest and dearest. It's easy to do when your inner circle is complete. Now that Matt is in my life, so many of my needs for companionship and comfort are satiated.

But you've reminded me that I don't want to lose touch with all of my scattered friends and family. Life has more vibrant color with them in it.

Thank you!

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits: How do you stay in touch with far-flung friends and family?

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Micco and Jillian said...

I have to say that the monthly newsletter always feels a bit pompous to me. My aunt used to send one out and my brutal family would always mock it openly and have a dramatic reading of it at dinner. I know this sounds awful but my aunt is VERY overdramatic and the newsletter always read like a Lifetime Movie.

Unknown said...

I never thought I would say this, but Facebook has helped me to keep in touch with people that I would have otherwise completely lost touch with. It's less intimidating than calling someone you haven't talked to in a year- and now that I've initiated that simple "hey, long time no see!", I would call a lot of them without hesitation. You could start a Facebook group for all of you to drop a line here and there. Good luck!

megan said...

Facebook or a random text. I'm not a phone talker, but will be if someone calls me.

My friend suggested that the easiest way to stay in touch with people is to call a different person once a week. That way, you talk to 4 people a month that you might have otherwise "forgot." Although I love this idea, I'm the world's worst about procrastinating, and that's not fair to my long lost friends and connections. Here's to a new committment during the holiday season!

jamie said...

My comment is not in regards to the question/answer... I saw "Summerbridge" and stopped reading and immediately came to comment! I never meet ANYONE with a Summerbridge connection! I *went* to Summerbridge and then I was a jr. faculty member (there were a few of us who were so committed that they created an extra year for us!). This was all in Louisville... but Summerbridge still holds a special, special place in my heart - even at the age of 27 now. :)

Did you all have YO? I heard someone say "this is your opportunity" the other day and it immediately made me think about "your opportunity" (aka YO) where they had kids go to focus on their homework etc.

wow, lots of memories. anyway... great blog and i'm so excited to find a fellow summerbride-r. :)

Melissa Hall said...

I love sending and receiving old fashioned snail mail. I've traveled a lot and many of my closest friends live thousands of miles away. I definitely e-mail with them, but I love to send them letters with fun magazine clippings or pictures.

A Los Angeles Love said...

I think everyone here outlined a number of great ideas. This is hard stuff, and i'm not great at keeping in touch either. I try to designate email time, phone time (while running errands/coming home from work) random facebook comments and holiday cards. Tis the season, and it's a great time to reconnect with a personal, handwritten message. I've found that people are very forgiving of time lapses - they loved you once and they understand how life gets away from us all.

Emily said...

I try to do birthday cards, but often fail. I do send a personal non-form-letter Christmas card to an expanding list of people and it seems to be appreciated. I get a lot of calls during the holidays from people prompted by the card.
I also have a weekly phone date with my oldest but farthest friend. If one of us can't talk, we know we'll chat again the next week.
IM is also great for people you're nervous about calling because you think it may be to long since last time.
Basically, anything works. Just try it!

Marian said...

My family has a Family Letter that gets sent out every month. Each person, or group writes a letter and sends it to everyone. This lets us know what's going on with everyone. We skip one month a year, because that's when we spend a week at the beach with everyone.

Now I'm inspired to start reconnecting with people. I like the idea of an email newsletter. :D

Anonymous said...

My cousin created a family blog for us. We post about what we're doing, books we've read, meals we've made, plans for xmas, etc.

It's been a great way to stay connected with all of us spread out around the country.

We've recently started having family dinners. We pick one weekend for the month and one ingredient that we all use, and we each make a dish with that ingredient. We invite friends and any family that is nearby and have a toast to those who are far away. Afterwards, we all post what we made and photos, stories, etc.

Marina said...

Facebook. It probably wouldn't work for all families, but even my grandparents are on there! I find out about everything from births, to results of doctor's appointments, to birthday party pictures, to karate black belt tests, to graduations, to NaNoWriMo updates...

I know some families who have used email groups (like with Yahoo Groups) or listservs to keep in touch as well. That makes it easier to have whole group conversations everyone can participate in!

Mia said...

I receive an update from a dear friend once a year : one part with general informations (printed), one part is only for me (hand-written) and there is a picture from her in a different costume each year (she loves traveling).
I really appreciate her letter. But I don't feel forced to do the same for her.

For my part :
- I call while driving (for work)or every time I clean the house ("Mia, are you still washing up?" "Yes but I'm a girl, I do 2 things in the same time")
- I send e-mails
- I send texts
- I use Facebook (private messages or wall, it depends)
- I have a private forum for a couple friends
And :
- I try to organize week-ends with them as often as possible "hey, are you free the XX?"
- I try to have a "strict" schedule during my Paris's time for example (I know a lot of people there)

I agree with Emily "Basically, anything works. Just try it!"

It depends on people :
- I can't facebook my grand-mother
- It's more difficult (and expensive) to call my foreign friends
- My cousin doesn't like texts
You'll have to ajust!

I don't have a planning for thoses things, I just follow my nose :-)

Kate said...

I think that they key to reconnecting with friends you've lost touch with is to just say "I've missed you. I know that I sort of dropped off the planet, but I've been thinking of you and would love to be back in touch."

However you decide to contact them - snail mail, email, Facebook, phone, etc - acknowledging that you allowed things to grow disconnected and that you miss the friendship will go a long way to helping somebody get over possible hurt feelings. People will be happy that you're around again and wanting to invest time and will usually forgive you quickly.

Re - the wedding invite. So that people don't feel like it's out of the blue that they are invited to your wedding without hearing from you in a long time, I'd start with the above conversation. And you can even include some wording on the invitation like "Marriage is more than joining just two people together - it's about joining their communities of loved ones as well. Please be with us as we recommit our marriage and honor all of our relationships in a vow renewal."

Shannon said...

I grew up in a small community in west Texas. Since college I now live in Chicago, and had felt the distance between me and my family and friends. So, I started a blog. I have only really shared it with family and friends, and believe that your right about how important it is for you to be genuine. I have really loved creating the blogs, not only does my family have a clearer understanding of my life, but so do I! For my 93 year old great grandmother, we are now pen pals. It's too hard to talk to her on the phone, and she doesn't know what a blog is. But I will print them out and send them to her, and she loves it!

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