taking time off to get married after starting a new job

A reader writes:

I will begin a new job on June 20 and I am getting married August 6. The position is working with college freshmen who, conveniently, arrive on campus the exact day that I am to be married. When I received the call that I was being referred for hire (sometime in mid-May), I addressed this issue but also noted that my fiancé and I had agreed to rearrange our wedding if need be.  The Dean responded with something to the effect of “ordinarily, we do require all staff to be on campus to welcome the freshman and help them get situated. But given your situation, I think we can do without you for a day so that you can get married.”  So with that, we have proceeded with our planning and have sent out the invitations; thus, there is no turning back now.

There are several events scheduled for the days leading up to the arrival of freshman, including a staff retreat.  I do not want to come across as unprofessional or seem as though I am not taking the responsibilities of my position seriously, but I also need time off to prepare for the wedding.  I am getting married in my home state, so it is not as simple as taking one day.  I need to leave no less than 2 days beforehand and I of course would need a day to travel back.  So I am looking at no less than 4 days off and I would prefer to have another day if at all possible.

Do you think it looks unprofessional to ask off during with such important things going on? Also how and when should I approach the issue about the length of time I need or would like to take?

Ouch. Here’s the problem: It sounds like the dean told you that you could have “one day” — the day of your wedding — off.  You might figure that anyone who’s attended a modern-day wedding knows that you’d need more than that one day off — but he said “one day” and you didn’t push back.

Ideally, you would have thought this through before finalizing the date and realized that even with the wedding day itself off, you’d still need more time before to prepare and also to travel back afterwards. You then could have rescheduled for a date that worked better with your new job, while it was still an option. Or you could have said up-front that you’d need a full week.

I’d be a little annoyed if I were your boss and you came to me now to say that rather than needing one day off at what sounds like your job’s most critical time of year, you now need four and you’d prefer five. I’d be wondering how you didn’t realize this earlier.

However, assuming you can’t change the date now, you might not have any other options at this point. Call up your boss-to-be (your direct manager, whether that’s the dean or someone else), and say, “I’m in a sticky situation and wanted to talk to you about how best to proceed. When I was first hired, I raised the issue of my wedding happening on August 6 and was told it wouldn’t be a problem to take that day off. However, because the wedding is out of town, I’m realizing it’s going to be really hard to do this without a couple of days there right before, and one day afterward for traveling back. I realize that this is our busiest time of year, and I really don’t want to put you in a bind, so I wanted to talk to you about what the options might be.”

You might find out that it’s not a huge problem to let you have those additional days off, or you might find out that it is. But you won’t know until you raise the issue. Be straightforward, candid, and apologetic. Mortified wouldn’t hurt either.  Good luck!

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. Belle-Lettrist*

    Wow, letter writer! You certainly are in a bit of situation between your wedding date and new job.

    The possible scenarios that Alison A.K.A. AAM laid out are pretty much all you have at this point. It’s true that your direct supervisor might be annoyed, but the sooner you tell him and see what alternate plans can be made, the better it will be for everyone involved– especially you as the frantic bride-to-be.

    One suggestion that I would make is to heavily rely on your existing support system of family, friends, wedding planning professionals, etc. to help take some of the burden off of you. If your family (mother, siblings, aunts, etc.) could confirm things for you, maybe you could try and work ahead in your new position to alleviate any misgivings about your absence on Aug. 6 and the surrounding days.

    Please keep in mind that you’re better off to be honest with people now than delay the news of the time conflict and possibly cause irreparable damage to your standing at this institution. Most people are sympathetic to all the time, energy and resources that go into orchestrating and participating in a wedding, particularly for a blushing bride.

    Good luck with everything and remember to enjoy your big day!

  2. Jamie*

    I agree with Alison 100% – mortified definitely wouldn’t hurt.

    I don’t know if the letter writer is a man or a woman, and I know this is a sexist stereotype, but it’s possible if you’re a man they did assume you would only need the one day. I know many men are involved in the planning of their weddings – and that’s amazing – but my husband can’t be the only one who just wore what he was told and showed up when scheduled.

    Hindsight being 20/20 the total amount of time should have been negotiated when the job was accepted. So as it is now I would think throwing yourself on the mercy of your manager is your best bet.

    And I would absolutely go out of my way to be extra helpful and productive when you are there – so there’s less resentment while you’re off.

  3. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    Ok, this makes no sense to me. You work in education in some capacity or other, so you know that if you get one of the jobs you’ve applied for you’re probably going to be starting when schools start, which is generally August/September. So even before you got an offer, why would you set August 6 as your wedding date? That’s just asking for this situation. But maybe you figured that if you didn’t get an offer you wanted to get hitched sooner rather than later. Ok. But when you did get the offer, if it would still have been possible to change the date, why even ask the new employer about time off? I can totally understand bringing it up if you’d gone past the point of no return in your planning before you got the offer, but you weren’t there yet when you got the offer. And even if the employer says yes ahead of time, it’s a wedding. Things go wrong. I don’t know why you would want the stress of starting a new job piled on top of the already stressful act of planning and then getting married.

    Also, how do you not know from the second you choose to have a large event like this out of town that it is going to require you to be out of town for more than one day? When you raise this issue with your prospective new employer, how do you not mention the fact that the event is out of town? Because even if you’re too dense to think of the traveling time until the last minute, I feel there’s a good chance the prospective employer would think to ask whether you’ll also need time for travel if they hear the words “out of town”.

    Nothing about this situation makes sense to me. At all.

  4. Kate*

    I got married in July of 2007. I was preparing to move jobs, and when I was finalizing the details of the new job, I said, “If you hire me to start in June, I will need to take two weeks in July to get married and have a honeymoon…. or I can start in August.” And with that said, they wanted me to start in June, so I took my two weeks. Little did I know that they were about to hire a new EVP as well, who saw me start my job and then take a long vacation (she started the week before I left), and when she was reviewing the staff for who to “weed out,” I was immediately on her list to get rid of because I “wasn’t serious about the job.”

    I have a new hire who is going to start next month, because she is also getting married, and we decided that it would be best for everyone if she just started after the wedding to avoid any start/stop annoyance in her training. I greatly appreciated her being up front about when she could start.

    In general though, I most employers I know think weddings are nuisances that tie up their female workers. I know my male boss was very dismissive of the new hire’s wedding plans.

  5. Nellie*

    I agree with the responses thus far. The way you communicated the situation the impression your supervisor (also presumably a man unclear about the planning that goes into weddings) was left with was that you would only take one day. It’s not clear to me whether you didn’t realize at the time that you would actually need several off, or if you assumed he realized it would mean more than a day.

    I know I have heard of miscommunications about time off and other timeframes in the workplace when one person uses language like “take some time off to move out of my house” (does that mean an afternoon in a few days?) or “the paperwork needs to be submitted significantly before the event” (does that mean a week or a month?).

    Which has taught me that in order to deal with these situations I need to be as specific as possible as soon as I know these details, and ask for clarity when someone is not being clear with me. Just last week I was stuck in a bind when all of a sudden a deadline was sooner than I knew it, because neither the person giving it to me nor I had been clear on the exact date.

    And agreed, all you can do is throw yourself at the mercy of your supervisor. Being mortified would definitely help, but perhaps also being clear on why the miscommunication happened (my plans changed since we first spoke, my mother isn’t as able to help with preparations before I arrive, I didn’t know about the staff retreat until after I set the wedding date). Hopefully your supervisor will understand that a wedding is a one-time event and this won’t happen in the future, but like AAM I’d be wondering what else you wouldn’t have the foresight to consider on the job.

    You may also want to consider how much you’re willing to sacrifice to keep the job (what if you literally only get one day off? two?) since it could be that your supervisor’s response will not leave you with the best options.

    On a slightly encouraging note, the fact that you brought this issue up in the interview process, you don’t start for another week, and by the time you’ll be needing to take this time off you’ll have been there for a few months all may bode well. I had to take off days to move right when I started a new job, and luckily my supervisor was accommodating, but I knew it didn’t look good to ask for time off on what would have been my seventh day in a new position.

    1. Mike C.*

      It’s his/her wedding, how much should be sacrificed for a job? Are weddings simply not important in the “highly competitive business world”?

      1. Jamie*

        I didn’t read that attitude in any of the comments.

        Personally I wouldn’t care if they needed time off for a wedding, or any other pre-planned event, it’s the communication which is at issue.

        It isn’t harsh for the business to want to know this information for scheduling purposes.

      2. Dude*

        The statistic is something like 50% of marriages end up in divorce. In hindsight, I would have sacrificed a lot less for my wedding :-/

  6. Mike C.*

    Advice notwithstanding, I find it a bit disturbing that “attending your own wedding” could be seen as “unprofessional”.

    It’s your wedding. You are, in front of your families and friends announcing and cementing a bond that should last the rest of your lives. I was a frosh once, and I’m sure they’ll get along just fine if you aren’t there the first few days or if you don’t go to some employee retreat. I’m sure you’ll work extra hard to catch up and in a few weeks it will be as if you never missed those days.

    Yes, I understand that it’s a bit of an imposition, and that maybe the OP should have been more clear, but the Dean should have understood (like a reasonable person) that weddings take longer than a day.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think anyone is saying attending her own wedding would be seen as unprofessional; rather, it’s about the communication around what amount of time she’d need off that’s the issue, because she asked for one thing and now needs to change it. The situation is complicated by the fact that the wedding is right at a crucial time for her new position, making it all the more important to have gotten it ironed out right originally.

      1. Mike C.*

        Perhaps, I just feel that something like a wedding is on the short list of things that is somewhat excusable. The date is a bit off but there are a million good reasons why that’s the case.

        Could communication have been better? Yeah, it could have. I’m seeing folks that are being overly critical, and in my mind a wedding qualifies as something that should be forgiven. Business isn’t everything, and I’m guessing those first year students will get along just fine.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A wedding is absolutely on the excusable list. I think the issue here is just why she only asked for one day off to begin with, and does having to correct it now make her look like she’s a poor planner/disorganized/etc. since she didn’t think this through originally, especially since it’s their busy time.

          1. Dawn*

            “…having to correct it now make her look like she’s a poor planner/disorganized/etc. since she didn’t think this through originally, especially since it’s their busy time.”

            This is exactly the impression I got. Not a good way to start off a new job.

          2. fposte*

            Right. And if she does take more time off, some of the people who will be affected by that that are her new co-workers, who will likely have to work extra hours to cover her since they’re doing seriously time-sensitive stuff for freshman arrival and orientation. So that means some of them are going to lose hours with *their* families, during the last period of time before primary/secondary schools start, when they may have hoped to have weekends clear for their own personal lives.

            Not that that makes the OP evil or anything–I’m just pointing out that hers isn’t the only personal life that would get impacted by an unexpected schedule change at a big event. It’s really not as simple as just her personal life vs. The Organization. It might even be worth her considering an approach to co-workers where she offers to cover somebody not long after because she knows that they’re going to have to put themselves out to cover her absence.

            1. Emily*

              I really have to agree. I don’t even work in The Academy, but I do specialize in academic marketing, and I hesitate to schedule so much as a coffee break during the weeks leading up to and following the beginning (or end) of the academic year. I like to think I’d gladly pitch in to help cover for a tried-and-true colleague, someone who’s already demonstrated their commitment and value, who needed time off for a major life event, but I’d be extremely confused if they scheduled something as important as their wedding for that time of the year. I think I’d actually be more understanding if they were a member of someone else’s wedding party because at least I’d know the date wasn’t their call. Since you won’t have much opportunity to prove yourself to your new colleagues beforehand, aren’t they going to be confused *and* resentful?

              I’m sorry—I hate to leave comments that aren’t constructive and I agree with the principles that a) your wedding is one of those excusable events (and you even offered to change the date!) and b) it’s too late to change the date now. What if you took one or even two days off during July and traveled home for a long weekend to pre-prepare? Would spreading out the time off ease the burden on your coworkers by affording you more time on the job closer to freshman orientation and allowing you to attend the staff retreat?

  7. Anonymous*

    I’m female, and even I would think that someone who started a new job then immediately took a week off for a wedding — at a critical time for the new employer — is not very serious about the job.

    I suppose if it was me, I would change the date. Wedding dates change, even after invitations go out. Or I’d just head to Las Vegas and save myself some big $$. The Star Trek Wedding Experience sounds like fun….. :)

    Good luck. I would definitely apologize frequently and profusely to all my new coworkers, at the very least.

  8. Anonymous*

    As a bride planning a wedding in the Fall, I’m shocked at this. I’ve been at my company for four years. We are very lax about PTO. I still communicated many times over the last two years (we had a long engagement) that I would be taking two and a half weeks off come Fall.

    In fact, I put in that time before we even scheduled our honeymoon because I didn’t want to risk anything in this world (everything?) going wrong and not being able to take that time.

    You must must must address this before you start (like call your manager right this moment). What happens if they won’t give you the time off? I manage someone and I have to say, if one day turned into one week, I’d seriously question my decision to hire them.

    This would make me question a number of things…judgement? Team player? Communication? Responsibility? It wouldn’t bode well for my new hire.

  9. Anonymous*

    The way this whole situation has been handled (by the OP) seems completely unprofessional.

    You’re getting married? (I hope) you are old enough to have proper time management skills and to know that if you are being hired for a job then want to disappear for a week during a seemingly important job.

  10. Dawn*

    As a manager, I would never have an issue with a new hire taking time off for their wedding ****IF**** I knew how much time off the person will need ahead of time. I would be pretty peeved if I hired someone and suddenly they needed a week off, rather than just the one or two days we had arranged for ahead of time. Having said that, though, why the heck would the Dean think a day would be sufficient? I can see if you’re going to town hall or something, but one day? The Dean could have asked, “How long do you need?” But, OP should have said, “I need four days off,” as soon as she heard the Dean mention one day. Now she’s in the unfortunate postion of having to possibly deal with the fact that she might not be granted the time she needs.

  11. Cindy Lou Who*

    It sounds as though the dean gave his response to the OP, she heard what he said, and she wimped out of telling him that actually, she’d need more than one day off. Now she’s trying to figure out how to make this request, after the fact.

    So yeah, it looks weird – you should have brought it up AT THAT MOMENT. It’s what adults do.

  12. Interviewer*

    He stated up front that he’s giving you one day for your wedding and looking at the calendar, it looks like you have that Saturday off and nothing else. Basically he’s letting you know what your priority should have been, and that was rescheduling the date so you could be at work. So when you committed to sending invitations, you knew you had one day off for your wedding. Why did you stay with that date?

  13. Nathan A.*

    I think, based on where the OP is in her decision process, stating to the dean that she needs an extra four days could be a deal-breaker. I wouldn’t be thinking about what should’ve been done so much as how the situation could be salvaged:

    I don’t think it would be possible to move the wedding date as it’s closing in pretty fast and most guests probably have solidified their schedules for the event.

    I would brace for the dean looking at you in a less than optimum light and possibly retracting the offer for even asking, but that’s just me playing the cynic. Then again, if you have enough money to get married, you have enough money to hold out on another opportunity should the dean decide that five days under less-that-professional circumstances warrants passing you up as a new hire.

    1. Nathan A.*

      I deleted part of my post:

      I would be up front with the dean immediately and underline that the reason why you didn’t indicate this the last time you talked with him involved a temporary lapse in judgment (because it happens to people). Use specific reasons why you would need the extra time – itinerary, logistics, etc.

  14. anon*

    Hmm, when did the dean say it would be okay to take off a day? Before the offer was finalized? I’m wondering if the OP didn’t want to ruin the offer by requesting more time before the offer was finalized, and now that s/he accepted the offer, then s/he feels better about asking for more. Maybe I’m acting too suspicious, but I don’t understand why else the OP didn’t push back right away, unless s/he requested for the day during negotiations.

    In anycase, I would try to compensate in any way possible before leaving for your wedding. That means spending extra time doing prepatory work for the event, taking other peoples responsibilites off their hands etc. In addition to what Allison said, perhaps mentioning, “I can print out all those fliers and fold them in the envelopes so Sue doesn’t have to.” Show some keenness in compensating in a proactive/eager way.

  15. Anonymous*

    I started a new job a few weeks before my wife and I got married. During the interview process when we talked about start dates, I said that I was getting married and taking a honeymoon in a few weeks. Since I wouldn’t have earned vacation by then, I asked about taking two weeks unpaid, and my boss said that would be fine. We invited several co-workers, and my company bought us a very nice wedding present.

    All the cards on the table. No problem.

    If you haven’t said “I do,” you can always turn back. Just because you’ve sent out invitations and you’ll lose face doesn’t mean you can’t turn back.

    At this point, I’d look into a flight out the day before and a flight back the next day. Enlist your family back in your home state to help with the rest of the planning.

    If I were your boss, I’d have an extremely negative opinion of you if you now come to me asking for an additional 3 or 4 days off. That’s tough starting a new job with a huge strike against you. You’ve sat on this information for a month! That shows incredibly poor judgment on your part. I’d wonder what other surprises you’d try to hide from me as long as possible.

    Figure out what you need to do in order to leave Friday and return to work on Monday.

  16. ObserverCollege*

    OP, you’re not getting married in your hometown on August 6. Your offer was contingent on being available for the start of school. You don’t get to pull a “bait and switch” on the Dean; there are PLENTY of other people who will happily take “your” job.

    Now, the Dean said you COULD get one day. You could take the last flight of the day on August 5, or the first one on August 6. Hop in, get married, take some reception food to go and fly back ready to work on August 7.

    Or, you could arrange with a high-level IT consultant to video-conference in to your wedding in your hometown. The advantage there is you don’t knock yourself out flying back and forth. The disadvantage, if you’re a traditionalist, is that you’re not there “in person” for “your” day.

    Or, you could delay your wedding until after the semester. If you get married in December, you’ll still get tax benefits for 2011.

    But if you want to actually have, you know, a JOB, you stick to your commitment. You beat out the other finalists because you gave in on the wedding date. You don’t get a “do-over” on that.

    1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

      Ok, the video conferencing is kind of stupid and ridiculous, but otherwise Observer is right. The writer agreed to one day off. Asking for two extra days, possibly three, now is going to either give the dean a very poor opinion of this person from the beginning, or get the offer of employment completely rescinded. If I were the writer, I would either find a travel plan that works with only the one day off or I would change the wedding date

    2. Got married in the 80s*

      Observer has a good point. OP could write out a task list for friends and family who are local to where the wedding is and depend on them to get everything done, skip the “spa day” with the bridemaids and moms, postpone the big honeymoon, and just show up on the big day. It’s possible — it might not be ideal, but having a good job in this economy is more ideal. However, only the OP can make that call for herself.

      OP needs to recognize she’s making a big choice: picture perfect wedding (1 day), or picture perfect start to her career (rest of life).

  17. Anonymous*

    OP, you do realize that it’s much easier to cement a good first impression than it is to change a bad first impression? You’re starting at a new position. This is the time to impress your boss and co-workers, so that they look back in a few months and say to themselves, we’re happy the OP was hired. Not, oh, yeah, she’s the flake who said she needed one day off for her wedding, then waited til the last minute and said she needed the whole week off. I suggest you start flying to your home town on weekends and take care of as much of the wedding arrangements as you can, or lose the deposits and change the date. You only get one shot at creating that good first impression at your new job.

  18. Dan Ruiz*

    Change the date. It wouldn’t be the first time it has happened. People will forget all abou it three months later when you finally walk down the aisle.

    On the other hand, starting your new job on the wrong foot will follow you until the day you leave.

    Family and friends are MUCH more forgiving than coworkers.


    1. Interviewer*

      You could send super cool postcards to everyone announcing a new job, that you’re both very excited, and the wedding will be postponed until Winter 2011. It happens, it won’t be an issue to anyone.

      Keep in mind the college freshmen arrive next year around the same time. So that means you will never get vacation time to celebrate your anniversary. You will always be working with college freshmen on your anniversary weekend.

      So my vote is, change the date now, avoid the constant loss of fun later!

      -From the girl with a wedding anniversary two weeks before Christmas, which is usually “celebrated” at the company holiday party. SIGH.

  19. anonymous*

    While I agree that she should have pushed back, I’m actually surprised by everyones comments and how serious people perceive this. Could it be possible this person can redeem herself? Honestly, I’m surprised people are suggesting to move the date of the wedding! Really? You can always get another job, but moving the date of the wedding may have worse consequence on a personal life.

    I really do wonder if this is the majority of peoples perception, or just a few people. Am I alone in thinking this isn’t a tremendously terrible situation to be *so* annoyed at, that one would suggest moving the date and even teleconferencing yourself in? Am I being naiive in thinking people will eventually forgive the situation eventually granted you do a great job later? ( Real question) Really, if I didn’t read a lot of these comments, I’d just follow what AAM said and just be done with it. Don’t stress about all the other comments, bc reading it makes me feel sorry for the OP that may be freaking out about the perceptions here.

    1. fposte*

      She herself noted that the wedding date was movable only a few weeks go–commenters aren’t coming up with that on their own.

      I think people are concerned because you *can’t* always get another job (and if you’re funding a wedding, pounding the pavement for another year or two may not be an option), and because the OP really made a mistake here, which it’s not clear she realizes. Most people aren’t saying Alison’s wrong–they’re just explaining the mistake and offering options if the dean’s response is “No.” And frankly, when you’re asking co-workers you’ve never met to work evenings and weekends to cover your time off (which she may not even technically have after fewer than 60 days employment), that does actually take a while to overcome, and it’s certainly likely to affect her first year’s performance evaluation. And if she leaves within the next couple of years, it may well affect her reference, too. If she gets the time off, she needs to actively address the problem her mistake created; if she doesn’t and she can’t afford just to walk away from the job, she needs to actively address the wedding situation. We’re just tossing around aspects to consider on those fronts.

      1. Liz T*

        I’d also like to add what some people are missing: this is falling during the MOST IMPORTANT time at her job. It’s like getting cast in a play and announcing you have to miss opening night. You could have an understudy later on, but opening? If you can’t do that you can’t do the show.

        (Sorry, theatre person here.)

        1. Jamie*

          What a great analogy. In my head I was equating it to being hired as a DBA and then missing the week where your ERP goes live.

          The message is the same – some jobs have certain periods where it can be that damaging to be MIA. Not to mention that when it rolls around next year, the OP will be in the position of not having the previous years experience under her belt.

        2. Anonymous*

          Not only is it the most important time to be there, the OP hasn’t proven herself yet. She’s a new hire. Had she worked there a couple years, getting time off at the last minute might be doable. Not so much when you’re new on board and would need more time just to get up to speed on the job.

  20. Hypatia*

    I’ll give the OP the benefit of the doubt here. I work for a college that is on quarters instead of semesters. Therefore, our “orientation” aka busy time is actually in late September. I planned my own wedding for mid-August. If I was moving to a new job at a different college, my wedding date would likely conflict with their orientation week schedule.

    I’m led to believe though that the OP is having a small family affair though by the fact that it seems like s/he was finalizing the date in May and the wedding is in August. That is a very, very, short amount of time to be planning a wedding unless you’re doing the “backyard bbq” version. If the OP gave that impression to the dean– that this was a quick affair– (We also don’t know if this is a first? second? third? wedding… that may factor into the assumed lavishness of the affair), then it would be reasonable for the dean to assume a day would be enough. If the OP didn’t explicitly give that impression (Which I think s/he did by offering to move the date. People don’t typically do that for lavish affairs that have taken months of planning) then I’m wondering if the dean was speaking off-handedly but meaning more than one day.

    In any case, the time to have discussed this was when the offer was on the table and before it was accepted. But, what’s done is done, and I think that people will understand…

    ….(unless this is wedding # 3… or #4… or #5…. (I once knew a woman who was married 7 times and who had the nerve to be upset at her relatives for not taking time off of work for the ceremony. Sheesh.))

    1. Megan*

      I think one other thing to keep in mind is that there are young people out there who’ve not only never been married before, but are also the first of their friends/fam to get married and thus have a huge learning curve about what weddings entail. I say this as a recently engaged person in this situation. I have a few friends who have gotten married, but for a variety of reasons I’ve had little idea of what planning a wedding really involves. I’ve started to figure some of it out, but it occurs to me that a) there might be other, even worse scheduling issues that make August the best time for their wedding, and b) it’s possible that OP for some reason really thought somehow she’d be able to make it work in one day, forgot about travel, didn’t think the Dean was being literal, etc.
      Just thought I’d put that out there. It’s possible that’s not true, but I know I’ve been really surprised at how much time some wedding-related things supposedly take (months to order and alter dresses, etc.)

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