Dear Amy: My oldest daughter (age 26) is engaged to be "married."

In a casual conversation with my other daughter, I learned that the prospective bride and groom don't plan on getting legally married. They have found someone to officiate, but no marriage license will be obtained.

My husband and I met with our daughter. She was vague about her reasons, and became defensive, leaving us feeling that this is not her idea, but his.

He is quite wealthy for someone his age and makes his money through online gambling. We encouraged her to think about beneficiary issues, Social Security standing and next of kin issues, among others.

After over a month of no further discussion, she asked me if I would want to help check out caterers.

I asked her if it was a wedding or just a party. She indicated she didn't understand why that mattered. It didn't really, but I knew then that their minds had not changed.

Since I don't support this faux wedding, I asked for the return of the money I had given to help with the wedding, until there is a real wedding.

At this point she said she would send me a check, and all conversation stopped. All of this makes us extremely sad. Am I missing something?

Amy says: You and your husband have pointed out some of what you see as positive aspects of being legally married, but you seem to be missing the entire "downside" of being legally married to a professional gambler.

Depending on where they live, your daughter could be on the hook for some of the debt accrued during a marriage.

There are also legal issues regarding his taxable income. Does he declare his winnings?

Are you sure it is wisest for your daughter to be legally tied to him?

Regardless of whether they legally marry, you might urge her to plan for the downside and get a prenuptial, reducing her liability for some of these financial and legal issues.

Otherwise, if you had previously agreed to help pay for a party, in my opinion you should make good on your promise. Make sure she understands that this is the only reception you will help to finance.

Privately, you might be relieved that this marriage isn't quite legal.

Give couple a nudge

Dear Amy: My wife and I have two friends who have been married for almost three decades. I'll call them "Fred and Ethel."

Our friends recently decided to end their marriage and part ways. While this is very sad for them (and us), of course we accept their decision and don't want to interfere.

Well, Fred recently confided in me that he regrets the path he and his ex-wife took toward separation and divorce. He sincerely believes that he and Ethel could work things out.

At the same time, Ethel has confided in my wife that she also wishes they had not given up on their marriage.

One key to our ongoing healthy friendship is that we are extremely discreet. My wife and I are torn about divulging these confidences, but wonder if we should. What do you think?

Amy says: Before breaking a confidence, you and your wife should each encourage your friends privately to be brave enough to communicate directly with each other.

If they lose their nerve, then yes, I would provide a nudge: "Ethel told Joan that she regrets breaking up, too. Dude, get on it."

What happens next should be entirely up to them.

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