I have read all sorts of takes on how to make the proper guest list and dealing with parents’ guests, but I have a different sort of problem: How do I deal with my mother nixing relatives from our guest list?
I come from a very small family—you could seat everyone I’m related to at an eight-top table and have room to spare; my fiancé’s family, however, is enormous! My family is very important to me, and I had planned on inviting everyone because you invite family—that’s what you do. I suppose that there is also an element in there where I just want to show that I have this big happy group of people that care about me, too, even if it’s not as large as my fiancé’s.
The issue is probably that there are few families that are really a “big happy group of people,” and mine is no exception. My uncle is not a nice man, and there’s no love lost between us, although I had still planned to invite him. My cousin—his daughter—is my only cousin, and we get along fine. However, neither of them get along with my mother at this point in time. To rub salt in the wound, my cousin did not invite my mom to her wedding a month ago.
The worst part about all of this, for me, is that my brother got to include all of these people in his wedding a few months ago, when the relationship wasn’t sour. My bride-addled brain is bitterly jealous—while they aren’t my favorite people, I feel I would lose out not having them present. My mother has told me she’ll take the heat for them not being on the guest list, but I suspect that they’ll blame me anyway, and that this will be the end of my relationship with them.
My parents are footing the bill, which means my mother will have the final say on the guest list. I am trying to give her as long as possible to decide, but she’s told me she’s almost positive she will demand they be removed from the list. I love my mom, and want to respect her wishes; however, I feel this move will damage my relationship with them much more than it will hers. Can I fight her on this? Is it the right move?
Depressed Reader And a Mother’s Anger
If you want them there, you want them there. I can’t encourage the whole, “I want them there so it looks like I have a big happy family,” thing. You have the family you have. That’ll be the case whether you fake it and pretend everything’s peachy or not. Pretending you don’t have quirks and drama in your family isn’t going to get you anywhere.
But, you want them there for other, legitimate reasons too. Love-tolerating them is enough of a reason. So make sure they’re there. Preserve that relationship, however strained it may be.
So, gulp, yes. That means you need to talk to your mom about it. You can try to reason with her, here. Ask how she’ll feel about this decision a few years from now. Does she expect to always hold this grudge? Does she simply not want them there out of a tit-for-tat, I wasn’t at your wedding, you can’t come to mine, sort of thing? Whatever the case may be, and however reasonably or emotionally she responds, the point is that she’s putting you in the middle of her argument. It’s not your argument; it’s hers. It’s not her wedding; it’s yours. This isn’t the time for her to make some sort of principled point. Forcing you to get stuck in this situation that doesn’t concern you is flat out unfair.
When you have this chat, she might make it all about loyalty. It’s not. No matter what she says, you’re not choosing your uncle over her. You’re choosing them both.
When you have this chat, she might make it all about money. It…well, sort of is. Ideally, if anyone covers the cost of your wedding, they’re willing to pay for whatever choices you make. But often, “I have the cash,” means, “I hold the cards.” You have a few options. Offer to pay for the cost of your uncle and cousin and whatever dates would accompany them. Tell her you’ll pay for the wedding yourself, if she’s really that opposed (I’m guessing this isn’t totally feasible). But your main thing here is to hope that logic and reason win her over. Let her know that Mom, I love you, but this isn’t my fight.
Team Practical, how do you decide who stays on the guest list when family conflict is a factor in the equation?
Photo by APW sponsor Kelly Benvenuto
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!
Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.
The stories we're told often look a hell of a lot different from the stories we're living. So next month, let's talk about the place where expectation meets reality. (Reality is often much more interesting.)