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Ask Team Practical: Choosing Between Relatives

The relationship between my mom and my uncle has been on the rocks for some time, but right around the time of our engagement things were looking up. They had reconciled and our family was feeling a bit more whole for the first time in a while. My uncle and I have always been close, and one of the first decisions my fiancé and I made was to have him sing one of his original songs (he plays acoustic guitar and sings) as our first dance. Fast forward to almost a year and a half later, and some crappy actions on the part of both my mom and my uncle have left them not-so-much on speaking terms. It’s pretty messy and raw between them at the moment, and since our wedding is only a few months away, I don’t see it getting better any time soon. It’s gotten to the point where my uncle has suggested that maybe it would be better if he just didn’t come at all (which I kind of told him wasn’t an option). I don’t worry about them causing drama at the wedding, but I do worry that giving my uncle a special job at the wedding will upset my mother and cause her to have a bad time at the wedding. At the same time, I don’t want to revoke the request to have him sing at our wedding and then regret it if/when they reconcile in the future. Am I being selfish for wanting to bestow wedding honors on both of them, ignoring the fact that they kind of hate each other right now?

Sincerely,

Stressed About YoYo-ing Uncle Not Crooning Like Expected

SAYUNCLE,

Your letter has a few hundred readers putting down their coffees and leaning closer to their screens right now. I hate it, but this situation happens more than it should and is awful for everyone involved. The best thing you can do is to navigate carefully; protect yourself and make sure that your wedding isn’t being used as a chance for one family member to get back at another.

Whether it’s warring parents, close family members or distant cousins, wedding tend to bring out the RAWR in relatives. One of the worst things you can say to someone is, “Well if ______ is going to be there, I’m not coming.” Really? Because what you’re really saying is that you can’t be grown-up enough to behave yourself for six hours and think about someone other than yourself and your feuds. Unless there is criminal activity or severe emotional distress involved with a family member warranting the other person’s absence, manipulating a bride or groom to choose is just plain childish and mean.

Which doesn’t mean that it never occurs, nor does that mean that it’ll resolve itself on its own. SAYUNCLE, your uncle is doing a very nice and noble thing for you, but in the long run it doesn’t help anyone. You want him there and it sounds like you need him there—you’re close and it would hurt you if he wasn’t at your wedding. If he doesn’t come to your wedding, two things can happen. If he’s being vindictive, he gets to be the martyr in the situation and bring his bowing out of your wedding up in future fights with your mother. If he’s actually trying to help, he’s hurting himself by not being present in an important milestone in your life. A few things can also happen if your mom finds out he’s removing himself: she can feel guilty about it and try to mend fences, she can feel guilty about it and resentful of your uncle for making her feel that way, or she can not feel guilty about it but become even more angry at your uncle for making you sad with his absence. Or all of these feelings and reactions could occur at once because we humans are a tricky little bunch with our multiple motives and feelings and whatnot.

What you need to decide is what’s best for you. If you need your uncle there, tell him you appreciate his gesture but you’re rejecting it and he needs to start tuning up that guitar. He might protest or use this as an excuse to get some mom-bashing in, but steer the conversation back to your wedding and how much you need him there. Reassure him that everything will be fine and make him promise he’ll be on his best behavior. And don’t let it turn into a “I will if she will,” conversation. His actions are independent of hers and retaliation will only hurt you the most. (Does this sound like you’re talking to a child? Hmmm… family. Do all of this respectfully, but firmly. Their behavior may seem childish, but your relatives still deserve the respect they’ve earned from you.)

You’ll also need to have a conversation with your mother. Remind her that while the day isn’t just about you, it’s about her too, you still dearly need your uncle there. And more importantly, you need your mother on your side. Don’t mention your uncle’s offer, no matter how tempting—it could put her on the defensive. All she needs to know is that you love her and you want her to be happy, but you also love your uncle and want him to be there.

And as for your behavior, just make sure that you stay out of the feud, no matter how much they try to bring you in. Weddings are stressful for everyone involved, so be mindful of that as your date gets closer. If they slip, just reiterate what you’ve already told them; you love them both and you want them both there. End of story. If one starts to remove themself from your wedding, let them know how much that hurts you but you understand. (Even if you don’t.) In the end, it’s their decision, and if they think that hurting you and themself is worth more than having to be in the same room with their “enemy,” there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. There may be a last-minute change of heart, so don’t give up their seat at the reception just yet.

As far as logistics, make life easier for everyone involved. Plan seating arrangements to minimize contact. Involve other relatives as buffers, but for goodness’ sake make sure they are neutral; you don’t want to invite more trouble. If alcohol tends to stir things up, don’t have it. (I don’t want to hear it. It can be done, and if it helps keep everyone a little less murderous, it’s a small price to pay.) Also, remember that this is the start of expanding beyond your family of origin. Focusing on the joy that will come in your life will help drown out some of the cantankerous relatives’ noise. And lastly, learn from their mistakes. Know how you’re feeling right now? How about you never make someone else feel like that, m’kay?

Hey, lookit that, they just make you a better person! Guess something good is coming out of this, huh? No? Sorry, sometimes the silver lining isn’t bright enough yet. But it will be, promise.

******

Alright, Team Practical. Y’all are chomping at the bit to share your own stories on this, I know it. Help SAYUNCLE out and let her know how you handled family strife. And if you’ve ever been the wedding boycotter, let us know why and how it turned out. Do you regret it?

Photo of reader Christine’s wedding from the APW Flickr stream by uplift photography

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.

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