It’s Friday, so it’s Ask Team Practical with Alyssa. Today she’s tackling a difficult question: dealing with long seated family grudges in the context of your wedding. But, to me, she’s really taking on a much bigger issue; the fact that, like it or not, our wedding puts us in an adult role in our families. It gives us the responsibility to talk directly to other adults, as equals, and to tell people when we have a problem with their behavior. It’s hard and complicated stuff, which might be why we get to wear such a pretty dress to celebrate it.
My parents divorced when I was ten years old, and for the last nineteen years, my grandfather (my mom’s dad) has hated my father. This hate has poisoned my family, and made for very uncomfortable family events. To give you a little back story here, my parents are in long term relationships and the whole family doing fine these days. My father was at fault in their divorce, but since then we’ve all moved on and are happy. My mom’s father has chosen to hold on to this anger at my father with a vengeance.
At my grandmother’s 80th birthday party, my grandfather pulled me aside and asked me who I was planning on walking me down the aisle. I responded that I hadn’t given it much thought yet, but probably my Dad, maybe my Mom, maybe both of them together. My grandfather told me that my father should not walk me down the aisle and I should have my mother do it, because when my father left she took care of us. I was shocked and blindsided and tried to remain respectful. I told him, “You know my father is going to be at the wedding and I am expecting everyone to be pleasant,” and he just looked at me.
I was hurt, and now I’m really angry. I am hurt because my grandpa is choosing to ignore the fact that my father and I have a good relationship and only consider that my father hurt his daughter nineteen years ago. I can appreciate my grandfather’s feelings but I do not think expressing them to me was appropriate at all.
I have known for years that my wedding would be a difficult event for my family. I was just hoping that a 79 year old man would be able to ignore my father and his feelings of hatred for my wedding and just be happy for me.
First off, big hugs and warm thoughts from us. You shouldn’t have to be going through this, and I’m sorry.
Now, here is the part where I give you the hard-to-hear- news: you’re going to have to have a talk with your grandfather. He’s still harboring ill will over an event almost twenty years old, and initially with good reason: your father hurt some very important people in his life. However, what he’s not getting is that while he doesn’t have to like your father, he does not get to dictate how your father appears in your life. You’re 30 and you’ve been a full-fledged adult for a while, he may not have fully wrapped his head around that.
Your grandfather may well be someone that you respect and do not want to disappoint. However, his grudge is not yours. It isn’t even your mother’s at this point. This might be hard for him to understand, but you have to have the conversation with him. This will have the most impact coming from you, since it’s your wedding, and will go a long way towards having your grandfather recognize you as an adult.
First, talk to your mother. Not in order to have her run interference, but to gauge her opinion on what you think the best way to deal with this is. You know your grandfather, but she knows him even better and might be able to offer some insight.
Then it’s time for you (and maybe your fiance, that’s up to you) to talk to your grandfather about your father’s role in your wedding. Sit down with him and explain that although you completely understand his feelings for your father, they are not your feelings. Ask him to set his differences aside, this one day, for you. Just let your grandfather know how important it is that everyone in your life be there and be as present and happy as possible for you.
Worst thing that can happen? Nothing changes. And, in the end, if your grandfather decides not to change his attitude, it’s not your problem. What you can expect, however, is for people to behave their damn selves. Do not waver from your statement “I am expecting everyone to be pleasant.” (Which, by the way? YOU GO. Being able to look an authority figure that you respect in the eye and tell them to behave is amazing. Be proud of yourself!) So, stick to your guns.
The only thing you can do at that point is what you’ve been doing – loving your family the best way you know possible and planning the best wedding for you and your partner. Oh, and put someone in charge of smacking your grandfather upside the head if he misbehaves on your wedding day (like your mom, maybe). You know. Just in case. And you know what? Team Practical and I wish you the absolute best.
Alright ladies, did you have to deal with family conflicts such as this? How did you deal with it when long-held resentment threatened to carry over into your wedding?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). Seriously. We love sign-offs. Make your editors happy.