Relatives fuming over mock wedding

Dear Annie: My "Aunt Valerie" has a 40-year-old son who e-mailed invitations to his destination wedding at a fancy hotel. My parents drove 12 hours (one way), while another aunt and uncle endured a 32-hour drive (one way), paying 250 per night at the hotel.
The day of the ceremony, my mother jokingly asked Valerie, "So he's really going to do this? He's got a license and everything?" Valerie replied, "Actually, this is sort of a mock wedding. They didn't have time to get the license. Besides, they really want to get married by their minister, but he couldn't come this weekend. Nobody's supposed to know."
My mother was furious they'd driven all that way and spent an exorbitant amount of money for a mock wedding. Mom waited until after the ceremony and quietly mentioned the information to my father, who, fuming, told my aunt and uncle. My aunt eventually phoned Valerie and told her none of them had any intention of attending another ceremony back home. Valerie said everyone was overreacting. She got into an argument with my father, flung all kinds of accusations at my mother, and was upset that no one seemed supportive of the bride and groom.
I heard the bride and groom are now legally married, finally. Are we justified in feeling deceived and misled? Or, as Valerie said, are we all overreacting? Please help us sort this out. There are some pretty hard feelings. Niece
Dear Niece: We understand your anger. You were misled, but it doesn't seem intentional. This is the wedding your cousin wanted to share with his family, and he was too disorganized to get the license in time. Instead of canceling, they decided to go through with the festivities. None of you was obligated to attend a second ceremony, but it would have been more diplomatic if your parents had simply replied, "Sorry, we can't make it," when invited to the real thing, instead of saying so in advance. Now we hope everyone will forgive one another and wish the newlyweds well.
Dear Annie: My cousin joined a gang. She's only 12, and I'm so scared for her that when I found out, I couldn't sleep. She's making me so mad. How can I help her? Scared in the USA
Dear Scared: You are right to be scared. The best thing you can do for your cousin is to tell your parents, and ask them to discuss it with your cousin's parents. Your cousin may be upset with you, but you are doing the right thing. We hope her parents will find a way to help before your cousin makes a terrible mistake.
Dear Annie: When I read your column about Valentines for Vets, I got my little honor guard consisting of four kids (sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders), and the school allowed us to have a field trip to the VA hospital in Biloxi.
The experience was a teary eye-opener for me, a retired Navy chief, and my honor guard loved it. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and the kids are still talking about it.
I am a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, and our Mississippi group made Easter baskets for vets at the veterans home in Jackson. I took my 12- year-old granddaughter to this event so she could see the sun rise on a veteran's face. Appreciated in Long Beach, Miss.
Dear Long Beach: Thank you for taking the time to make a difference in the lives of our veterans, as well as teaching the children how much a visit means to someone in the hospital. We hope more of our readers will be equally inspired.
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