Q: My parents and I have had little to no contact for the past two and a half years, and there’s a very good chance they won’t be attending our wedding celebration. In a practical sense, I’m glad they won’t be there, but I’m having a hard time dealing with the idea that I’m going to be the girl whose parents don’t come to her wedding. Have there been any posts dealing with that? The closest I could find was the one about not choosing between relatives… but that’s hard to do when you yourself comprise one of the “sides.”
A: Dear Anon,
This is some hard stuff, there’s no way around that. I ache to have something perfect to say to make it easier, but I don’t think those perfect words exist.
I do, however, want to make sure that you’re not slipping into some easy mistakes. Don’t blame yourself, for starters. When relationships erode and you get to the point where someone is missing a big life event, it’s easy to think, “What should I have done differently?” or “How can I fix this?” But, no matter what’s transpired, there’s a point at which your parents are deciding for themselves not to come.
It’s near impossible to not be impacted long-term by conflict with our parents. But that doesn’t mean it defines who you are. You’re not “The Girl Whose Parents Didn’t Come to Her Wedding.” No matter how sharp and painful this is right now, there will be so many other things that define your wedding day, let alone who you are, for the rest of your life.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Don’t box yourself in.
I know this may be hard to internalize, especially from some stranger on the Internet. You’re facing a hard thing, the emotion is raw. That’s okay. Because it might help (and make you feel less alone), I asked Lucy to chime in with her own thoughts from a similar experience:
There were few points during the planning process where I entertained the notion that my mother would attend our wedding, but I tried to invite her despite our estrangement. She declined in the week leading up to the wedding, while in the meantime her open invitation led other family members refuse to attend because of their own conflicts with her. In hindsight, I know I only offered her an invitation because, emotionally, I didn’t want to be the “girl without a mom” on her wedding day. Would I invite her if I had to do it all again? Logically I say no, but emotionally I still say yes. It’s an impossibly hard thing to fight against—that fervent hope that, maybe, this time your parents will show up for you. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s a hope you have to talk yourself away from.
Practically, I would suggest this. If there is some specific event or task that you are worried about within the wedding that’s going to highlight you as “The Girl Whose Parents Didn’t Come to Her Wedding,” then set your mind on altering it for the better. You don’t have to walk down the aisle by yourself, you can have an uncle-niece dance, you can fill family portrait time with silly friend photos. For me, this meant making portraits with my “surrogate moms”—my stepmom, aunt, and grandmother—a priority after big group photos were done. Where your parents might fail, put your trust into those loved ones who have supported you and let them fill the gaps.
Team Practical, how do you cope when parents distance themselves during the wedding?
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!