Ask Team Practical: Managing Family Grudges

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.

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  • A-L

    Unfortunately, I too had to deal with this. Several people in my family don’t exactly get along with my dad, but one of my sisters has a particularly frosty relationship with him. I placed them several lanes apart for the bowling rehearsal dinner (Dad actually chose not to bowl at all) and on opposite sides of the room when it came to the reception. And I was actually really proud of my dad because even though there were a couple of incidents that happened that would have usually had his temper flare up (and caused major scenes), in each of those instances he chose to act like the mature person and ignore it so that the wedding would remain unblemished. I’m still really grateful for that. So a lot of times people will act better than you think. Good luck with your wedding!

    • MEI

      I’m sorry you had to go through that, but it sounds like you (and your dad) handled it amazingly well.

      But really, I wanted to leave this comment to say “Holy crap, a bowling rehearsal dinner. F’ing genius!”

    • That’s great that your dad was able to keep his cool. Have you mentioned that to him? I bet he’d appreciate hearing that you noticed the effort he put into making/keeping everything nice that day.
      Also, bowling? Awesome.

      • A-L

        Thanks for the idea. I’m sure he would appreciate it. After all, everyone could use some more nice comments! And by the way, in case anyone is wondering, the bowling went over really well too!

  • “I am expecting everyone to be pleasant.” Best. Phrase. Ever. Can we have t-shirts printed with that?

    I haven’t had to deal with major family drama like this myself, but a friend got married a couple of years ago and she wasn’t sure if her father would actually show up. (There was a LOT of drama there.) He did show up, but she had to prepare herself for not having him there. If S’s grandfather won’t relent, there’s the possibility that he might threaten not to come. It’s an awful thing to do, but S shouldn’t have to sacrifice her other family relationships to make her grandfather feel better about his grudge. Sticking with “I want to have everyone there and being pleasant to each other” is the best way to go, and most people have a hard time arguing against that.

    • Kate

      Oh man, can we please make these shirts?

      But anyway, I think this approach is a good, everyone else has pretty much said what I’m thinking. It’s a day for you and your family to celebrate your future, not your past, and your grandfather should understand that.

    • No, I need that t-shirt made ASAP. I love, love, love it.

      The motto of our wedding is “Toast with whatcha got!” As in, deal with it.

      Every wedding needs a snark motto, no?

    • kyley

      APW Fundraising Shirts, anyone?!

      • Ciji

        Yes! yes yes yes!

    • Sarah

      I’d buy that shirt!

  • Rachael

    Wow. This is just so hard. And it will always be hard. But I think you are on the right track. Even though he isn’t acting like one, you still have to treat your grandfather like an adult and tell him what is going to be happening at YOUR wedding. Then you have to let it go, and hope for the best. (But in all that hoping-nobody-makes-a-scene, you appoint a badass posse of awesomeness to handle it for you if anything goes wrong).

    When I was planning my wedding, there was all sorts of family drama. From all sides. My parents have been divorced for about 10 years, but there is a mistress/new wife situation that makes everybody edgy. Husband’s parents were right in the middle of a divorce (we announced our engagement and they announced their divorce in the same month). It was the nastiest divorce I have ever seen, just truly remarkably un-adult behavior. So what do you do? You cry as much as you feel like (seriously, fiance’s and best friends are Godsends), put together your badass posse of awesomeness to give you peace of mind, and then you get married. And your wedding day will be lovely. And then everybody calms down (a little).

    Sending good wishes your way.

  • Zan

    I still remember my utter amazement when, growing up, I realized that adults did not always behave themselves. It was like having NASA confirm that yes, the moon really WAS made of cheese.

    And as usual, Alyssa is bang on the money.

    • Heather

      But the flip side is that as an adult, doesn’t it also feel so much better/relieve pressure to know that you don’t always HAVE to behave?

  • Oof. My parents had been separated for about 6 months at our wedding, and “for the sake of the family” that was traveling and to avoid drawing attention to their situation, they both wore their wedding rings and sat together for the ceremony. We took family pictures with both of them – in retrospect I wish we had taken some with just each parent, because now the pictures seem like a lie. But at the time we hoped that it was temporary (it’s not).

    I think your approach of “we expect everyone to be pleasant” is awesome. At one point before the wedding my dad said he didn’t want to go without his wife and I said, “Look, this isn’t about you. It’s about my family being there for me on my wedding day – I need your support,” and he looked startled. But he showed up and was supportive, and continues to be supportive.

    I think this is really tough, because it’s so personal and so complex and no one really has the right answer, but as with so many other APW-discussed issues, the answer is: Do what feels right for you, and trust yourself. Stand your ground. Good luck!

    • Sara

      “Look, this isn’t about you. It’s about my family being there for me on my wedding day – I need your support,”
      I’m adopting this as my new mantra! Thanks!

    • The photos aren’t a lie- they’re still your parents and raised you together into the (clearly) thoughtful person you are today. I’m sure it meant a lot to them to have some final, formal pictures of you all as a family.

    • “in retrospect I wish we had taken some with just each parent”

      dude. have you heard about that amazing thing called photoshop? miraculous.

    • I made insisted on having a picture that included my mom, my bio dad and my stepdad. None of whom are actually together anymore. It’s totally not reflective of what our family looks like, but fuck it. It’s what MY family looks like. Even if they aren’t working together anymore, as long as they both are involved in your life, then that’s what your family looks like.

    • My parents have been divorced for 20 years, and I still make them take individual and full “family” shots at big things like weddings and graduations. They ARE both MY parents, and it’s nice to be able to set out one picture that has everyone in it. Plus, their subsequent spouses are no longer around, so I’m happier to have pics with just my ‘rents than just separate photos of each with their SO of the moment.

  • Abby C.

    I think the approach of firmly maintaining your, “I expect everyone to behave” is wonderful! Keep it up – that’s tough.

    Maybe after you have your big talk, though, if it seems like that wasn’t enough to smooth things over, perhaps your mom should also talk with your grandad. After all, if she can be pleasant with your dad, then she should expect her father to be pleasant as well.

    Tough situation, though, and I’m sorry you have to go through it! ::hugs::

    • meredyth

      I definitely agree. It was what I was thinking as I read it. That is, if S’s mom can be pleasant with the dad. I mean, if she has really moved on enough to be pleasant without the wedding coercing her into pleasantness. It would probably go a long way in convincing the grandfather to back down. Even if she can’t always be pleasant with him, it might help to have someone else saying “It was 20 years ago. Behave for the sake of MY daughter on this really important day”.

    • My grandma (mom’s mom) still has it out for my dad 20 years after the divorce, and has been known to make snippy comments (but not to his face). I had my mom run interference to make sure she behaved pleasantly our wedding weekend, using this same idea – my mother has obviously moved on and has a happy life, so my grandma needs to get over it and make sure not to make me worried/anxious on my wedding weekend.

  • Alyssa’s advice is so sound. Difficult and perhaps painful to enact, but really, really spot on.

    And if grandpa refuses to act like a rational, loving human being, well, that’s why you stash a taser in your bra. Pew! Pew! (Not just for activating shame blasters!)

    • Paranoid Libra

      And this is a reason why i LOVE apw soooo much.

  • I am so worried about this. My parents got divorced six years ago and it was incredibly nasty. I still want my father to be at my wedding, but my aunt and grandfather on my mom’s side literally will not speak to him, and my mom constantly reminds me in subtle ways how painful it will be for her to have him there. Meanwhile my dad’s girlfriend (the woman he left my mother for) is paranoid and convinced that I am secretly scheming to get my parents back together. If I don’t invite her, there’s a chance he might not come. If I invite her, my mother and aunt probably won’t come.

    I’m still close to my parents through all of this, but I am close to them separately. I have no idea what it will be like to have them in the same room, plus other family members who hate my father now.

    When I graduated from college, my father couldn’t be there because of this rancor between my aunt and him. I had no luck with putting my foot down, asserting that my graduation was about me, not them, or saying things like “I’m expecting everybody to be pleasant.” On everybody’s part, it was just too emotional for logic.

    I know that there are some things you can’t change and you just have to deal with them. But, more than anything, this is what worries me about my wedding next year: that other people’s grudges might not allow all the people I love to be together with me, sharing happiness, on the day I get married.

    • I don’t have any suggestions for you (hopefully other Team Practical members can come through), but I just wanted to send you a big virtual hug. You situation must be so difficult. I’ll be thinking about you and hoping your family members can all act like adults for you for one day.

    • SpaceElephant

      Are you having assigned seating? It seems, if everyone is well aware of the hurt feelings, that if you did your very best to keep everyone as physically far apart as possible and everyone agreed to stay away from each other (and why wouldn’t they?), then at least they could be there for part of it. Sitting as far apart as possible for the ceremony, then your father and his girlfriend split before the reception with the promise that you and husband will celebrate with them specially later? It sounds really cold and calculating, but if you put limits on the possibility of contact and the time that everyone will be in the same room/area/zip code people might feel more comfortable.
      I’m so sorry, I know it’s tough.

      • We are definitely going to do assigned seating. In fact I might put up some electrified fences between certain tables.

        • we found a sectioned, tiered garden setup, and let people know that they could claim a “territory.” voila. no seating chart necessary.

          … it required some outside-the-box thought and a little searching, but it worked really well.

    • Jo

      Dan Savage recently said that when it comes to inviting broken up couples, you just invite them both and let them sort it out. If you do everything you can about having assigned seating and being careful to not favor one or the other, it’s really their choice whether you or their pain is more important.

      Hugs–I know it’s crazy hard. Fingers crossed they make the right choice.

      • Fingers crossed here too. There comes a point when you’ve done all you can do and you just have to release it to the universe. Keep letting them know what you expect and hope for and then let them be responsible for their own behavior. Worrying about it when you can’t fix it will do more damage to your mental health than what the actual outcome wll probably be…

        • “Worrying about it when you can’t fix it will do more damage to your mental health than what the actual outcome wll probably be”

          word. been officially married for 28 days, and I’m just getting over the steady stream of illnesses that queued up for my attention after. and that was *with* a zen mantra.

      • Yes. This. My mom and uncle (who’s very much an important figure in my life) weren’t speaking at the time of our wedding and my mom had concocted some imaginary drama about how my uncle’s new wife would steal my thunder by being pregnant and at our wedding.

        I ignored it. I invited everyone (after many discussions letting everyone know in advance that they would be there and telling my mom that my uncle would be singing our first dance song) and I just hoped that everyone would behave. And they did. Or if they didn’t, I don’t know about. And I’m just as happy either way.

        If and when they begin speaking again, I know I will be happy that I respected my relationship with my mom and my uncle, even if they can’t respect each other. It sucks and it’s REALLY hard, but I think it’s good for your soul in the end.

    • JEM

      “But, more than anything, this is what worries me about my wedding next year: that other people’s grudges might not allow all the people I love to be together with me, sharing happiness, on the day I get married.”

      Say this to them. Tell them this. This is good for them to know.

    • I can absolutely relate. My parents have been divorced for much longer, but I’ve dealt with similar emotional turmoil from my mother for a long time. She would constantly say negative things about my dad and expect us to be on her side anytime she brought him up. (Their divorce came about, as far as I can tell, because my dad wasn’t involved enough the family and traveled for work a lot.)
      You start to feel like they’re forcing you to choose, because they are. They want to feel right, and vindicated, for whatever happened between them.
      I sat my mom down months before we were even engaged, and I told her how I felt. My dad has always made an effort to be a part of our lives despite what happened with them, and he’s always helped support us financially, which doesn’t always happen after a divorce. So I told my mom I sometimes didn’t even want to have a wedding because I was so worried about how she would react to being in the same room, and I told her the cold, hard facts were that my dad wasn’t going anywhere and would always be a part of my (and my sisters’) life. At the time, it didn’t seem like she took it well, and I was worried that I hadn’t had an impact. She fought me on it and tried to bring up things from their 15-years-ago divorce.
      The second part of my plan of action was to make all parties aware of each others’ presence at things – no surprises. I told my mom my dad would absolutely be at my engagement party when I announced it. I even reminded her several times in casual way. I made sure my dad knew should would be there (he’s actually totally fine with her, but she scares him a little with her anger). My mom actually said hello to him at the party and was completely civil, so something must have made its way through.
      I think you may have to sit them down individually and say “I understand that this is difficult for you, and I know where you’re coming from because I witnessed everything. But I want you to know that I feel like you’re making me choose between you, and I refuse to do that. I’m happy to arrange seating so that you don’t have to make chitchat with each other, but I intend to invite dad and his girlfriend/mom and her family, and that’s the end of it. You mean the world to me and I would be devastated if you didn’t come to my wedding. I hope that you’ll be able to civilly ignore each other for a few hours so that I can have everyone who’s important to me participate.”
      If that’s too much to say out loud without losing it (I’ll admit that first conversation with my mom involved a lot of crying), write them a letter. That way they don’t have an opportunity to get defensive or accusatory with you, and they’ll be able to take some time to think about it.
      If there’s still rancor after that, try as hard as you can to focus on your friends and family that do get along and are excited for the day, and send the absent family member some pictures after all is said and done.
      That’s my long-winded advice! Good luck!

      • Another note: even if your family isn’t the “sharing emotions” kind of family, still give this a try. Mine certainly isn’t.

      • meredyth

        When my mom would say passive-agressive insults about my dad to me I finally told her “he’s my DAD. I know he hurt you and I am really angry about that, but at the end of the day he’s my dad and it really hurts to hear him insulted.” It made her realize that even though she’d been hurt by this man I have a very different relationship with him and I love them both. I can’t be pulled in different directions and it isn’t my place to be her girlfriend and lend an ear. I don’t think she’s said a truly negative thing about him in my presence since (other than the small little shared jokes everyone has about family members, past or present).

        My dad remarried, to the woman he left my mom for, and my mom has remarried too. My mom and stepmom have even met, which I think will go a long way in smoothing things for the wedding. My stepmom has been in my life long enough now that she’s family and I wouldn’t have NOT invited her, even if it’s hard for my mom. It helps that she’s remarried though. Now all I have to worry about is a brother who believes remarriage sends you straight to hell. Awesome.

    • Rachael

      I got some very sage advice about this. If anyone gets in a tiffy over who is invited, say very calmly that you and your fiance are in charge of the guest list and say who is invited. If they are uncomfortable with the guest list, it is THEIR choice not to attend. It is not their choice to decide who is invited to YOUR wedding. Then tell them that you will miss them if they decide not to come. The end.

      That way, everyone is responsible for their own choices.

  • SpaceElephant

    I am right there with you. My family history is not without its complications, and the biggest one has to do with my ex-step-father of 13 years (yes, you read that right. Mom is now remarried to her third and hopefully last husband). Our relationship is strained at best, but when it came time for invitations to go out it occurred to me that whether or not I invited him would probably be a dealbreaker: if I didn’t include him, that would probably be it for our tenuous relationship. And I wasn’t ready to just write someone out of my life so cavalierly. I sort of hoped he would politely decline but he is coming and excited. Which, I guess, is nice and I should feel lucky to have people in my life who are excited for my wedding.

    The issue comes with my sister and MOH, who wants nothing to do with him and doesn’t want him near her 5yo daughter (he met her once). I just know he’s going to want to meet/spend time with the little one and say hello to my sister, and I don’t know how she is going to react. I feel like I need to talk to one of them. So do I say “XSD, Sister wants nothing to do with you and also needs you to stay away from her daughter” or “Sister, can you just be civil to XSD and let him say hi to Niece briefly?” Seems like a lose-lose.

    • Jo

      Or maybe there’s an option 3 and you don’t have to do anything? Ask your sister to please be an adult, and if she wants to set limits with the ex-stepfather, she can do it before/outside of the wedding?

      • What Jo said. Tell Sister in advance that he’ll be there and tell her that it’s up to her to make sure that stuff doesn’t go down on the day. If that means she has to call him on the phone now and say that she doesn’t want him to talk to her daughter, that’s fine, as long as they get it sorted out ahead of time.

    • marbella

      My opinion would be that as your MOH, I assume you are close enough to your sister to have a talk with her about your feelings. If the relationship with the step-father is tenuous already, that would be a more difficult discussion. I would broach the subject with your sis and hope she is supportive enough to just make it easy on you.

    • Kate K

      No way! I have an ex-step-mother who got back together with my dad (for years), and they just split (for good, it seems). It is so awkward dealing with ex-step families. They were/are part of your life, and then…not so much. How do you respect your parents wishes and complicated lives with the people you’ve known a really long time. There’s just no “fair” to be had.

      Spaceelephant…recommend you follow the “I am expecting everyone to be pleasant” advice form above. Also, for the MOH / sister issue…not your problem. You are not responsible for their feelings or happiness- that deal is all on them. So long as your guest list is more than, oh, 12, I’m sure they can avoid or see each other as much or little as acceptable.

  • I think that wedding planning and getting married are important parts of growing up (not that you have to get married to be a grown up), and that part of growing up is seeing some important people in your life fall from their pedestals. It’s difficult to realize that these people you’ve always looked up to have flaws, sometimes major flaws, that they can’t put aside for the wedding. It’s been really difficult for me.

    I can only send my most heartfelt virtual hugs out to anyone else going through family drama. I’m with you in solidarity.

    • Jo

      I agree, I think this has been the hardest part of growing up for me–realizing that there are things I think are dumb, but they’re so big in other people’s heads that the issues are more important than me. Weird! :) It just comes out in huge doses with the wedding because we so rarely get opportunities in life to show what’s important to us…and provide the opportunity for them to overrun it.

  • Arachna

    I have to speak up a bit on the side of the grandad.

    I don’t think he’s being irrational or not loving. I agree with everyone that he should absolutely behave himself civilly at the wedding.

    However I feel like people’s reactions on here are as if the grudge the OP’s grandpa holds is one for your dad cussing your mother out. A discrete incident that happened over a decade ago. And though, clearly I have no idea what actually happened, from your grandad’s words it sounds more like, what your dad did made almost a decade of your mother’s life very difficult and not what she would have wanted because she choose to take care of you. That’s a whole different ball game – and not something I would forgive anyone doing to someone I loved. And then to have the person taken care of behave as if that sacrifice was not valued and the person who abandoned part of their responsibilities is just as welcome and loved (your grandpa’s perspective perhaps, I’m sure not yours) – that would seem wrong.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m not someone who really believes that children owe their parents or that material help equals love. However I also think that abandonment of a child (and I don’t even know that’s what happened! I’m just speaking generally) is not something anyone should forget. Behave civilly sure.

    But to be frank if your dad did not take care of you it didn’t only affect you, it affected your mother and it quite possibly also affected your grandad’s everyday life – what your dad did in that case is not only against your mom or you it’s also against him.

    It’s your wedding and your decision and I think you’re entirely entitled to have whoever feels right to you walk you down the aisle. However I also think your grandad is entirely entitled to express his feelings on the matter.

    I wasn’t going to put in this part because I do not want to imply that the OPs situation is anything like this (it isn’t) but Spaceelephant’s comment (into which I’m doing some reading in – it’s not clear that what I’m writing about applies to her situation either) led me to put this part back.

    Civility sometimes gets elevated above all else and I think that’s ethically wrong and damaging. For example, everyone knowns that Uncle did some “wrong” touching and makes that particular cousin uncomfortable but everyone should be civil! let’s invite him! Most victims who have been molested by family members get pressured to be civil to their attackers who never face jail time – that is not okay. IMO rapists should not be invited to events where their victims are going to be, same for other type of abusers. When it comes to the OP’s situation where there is no abuse (as far as the post says) it is much grayer IMO and she should invite who she wants but if her father hurt certain other people incredibly deeply you can’t ask them not to feel a certain way – or not say anything to you – though you can and should ask them to not cause a scandal at the wedding and not to keep saying something to you.

    • I believe the biggest problem is not the grandfather’s grudge; he’s entitled to feel whatever he wants. The problem is when he’s the only one who is carrying a grudge when the other parties involved, the true victims of the behavior, have moved on. He may be mad at the father for hurting the ones that he loved, but at this point her grandfather is the one who is doing the hurting.

      Your last paragraph brings a completely different issue to the table, and one that I don’t know that anyone else brought up. While it’s a valid opinion, I really don’t think it’s relevant. When you introduced criminal behavior into the mix, it’s a WHOLE other issue and would elicit a completely different answer.

      • Arachna

        You’re right about the last paragraph being an entirely different issue.

        I guess one of my points of contection is the idea that the grandad is not one of the “true victims”. If I had a child right now and my husband left me and didn’t support/take care of the child IMO my mother would be much more a “true victim” than the “child”. My mom would suddenly find herself doing half or more of the childcare of an infanct, supporting me emotionally, at an age where that’s going to be hard on her and foregoing the financial support from me she might have expected – the infant on the other hand won’t care until much much later, at which point they might well have a good relationship with their father. IMO my mom would be a true victim.

        • Even if that were the case in this letter, I think I’d still have written the same response.
          Again, the grandfather is entitled to his feelings and S. should respect them even as she tells him that she is doing what is best for her at her wedding. However, when the people that the father left, the mother and daughter, have moved on and the S. says that her grandfather has been poisoning her family with his hate for years, it’s time to let it go.

          I guess you just have a moer sympathetic heart than I do! :-)

      • suzanna

        Arachna, you bring up a really good point that I think some of the rest of us are dealing with (sounds like this letter doesn’t have anything to do with abuse, though).

        I’m dealing with it myself–some family members are totally perplexed as to why I’m not inviting abusive people (to be precise, they’re not the ones who committed the abuse, but they did blame me for it afterwards–in a way, worse than the abuse itself). The whole “civility” thing isn’t civility, it’s cowardice. It’s people pretending like everything’s fine when it’s not.

        They’re hiding behind this etiquette thing, where you “have to” invite everyone, and telling me it’s “the right thing to do”, as if it’s my responsibility to make it all better by inviting these a-holes to witness the biggest promise I’ll ever make. Hoo doggie, it sucks. Luckily, I’ve had years of experience with this very issue, and I’ve got some solid boundaries. And a supportive fiance.

        Alyssa, your advice is spot-on, and I love that you point out the big difference between people behaving poorly and actual criminal behavior.

    • Jo

      I get what you’re saying. My father was very abusive in every way during most of my upbringing. I have zero contact with him. My parents are divorced. For my younger sister’s wedding, he was invited (after she was pressured by her in-laws–classy.) and while I let my sister know I was available to run interference if necessary, I did NOT question her decision or tell her my feelings. She knew them, just as this questioner knows her grandpa’s feelings. I had to let her make her decisions. My emotions had no place there.

      I agree that if there’s molestation civility is overrated, but I didn’t have to be civil to my dad at her wedding, I just avoided the hell out of him. The family can too. If you want to brawl, do it quietly in the parking lot. I think civility is mis-filed, like you. It doesn’t mean being nice to that person (or even including him). It’s about making decisions about what you can live with, and then being respectful to the person who’s stuck in the middle.

      I think we’re saying the same thing! :)

      • Anon for this

        There are definitely some cases where the appropriate choice is to not invite someone. I did not invite all of my father’s siblings, nor my father’s mother, though there were different reasons in each cases. For a few, there were not only long-held grudges but a long track record of people behaving badly even when flat-out told that everyone was expected to be pleasant, told after the fact that their behavior was unacceptable, etc. We’re not talking ostentatiously ignoring the family member with whom they are feuding, we’re talking interrupting a eulogy with screaming accusations. Sometimes weddings and other family events are an appropriate time to reach out, try to mend fences, etc., but sometimes doing so is disrespectful, to say the least, to your other loved ones.

        I also did not invite the uncle whose sons molested my sister back when we were all children. Due to distance, divorces, etc., those particular cousins haven’t really been part of the family for years, but their father has still been at several major family events, and it’s very traumatic for my sister, and uncomfortable for my father, to see him. It’s not necessarily his fault – I mean, how does one assign responsibility to a parent in a case like that? But it was much more important to me to have my father and my sister able to enjoy my wedding day than it was to avoid hurting the feelings of someone I’m not close to.

        But this is all very different from the sort of situation described in the letter, as far as I can tell. For starters, these all sound like people she actually wants to have at her wedding. Most of the time, people are dealing with hurt feelings rather than emotional trauma, and most of the time, it is reasonable to expect people to be pleasant.

        • Jo


          I was crazy picky with who I invited, and damn happy that I have built my boundaries in a way that I got to be. I’m very lucky! :)

          • Jo, you’re also very thoughtful and very aware of how your actions affect other people, which I think is even bigger than being lucky–you’ve worked hard to become the kind of person who is able to set boundaries and then enforce them. Well done!

      • jo – we had a similar situation at our wedding. my husband has very little contact with his dad, and almost no relationship to speak of. while he doesn’t seem to harbor much hatred, it’s just kind of a closed off part of his life. therefore, when we were wedding planning, he mentioned that he wasn’t planning to invite his dad. not coming from that situation, it seemed pretty shocking to me. for a while, i considered trying to talk him out of it, but ended up respecting his feelings and trusting his judgement. in the end, we had a wonderful wedding day, and it didn’t seem to affect his dad at all when he found out months later that we were married. these are complicated situations, but respect definitely plays a huge role.

    • Sarah

      Arachna, I have to disagree here.

      Yes, it is the grandfather’s right to hold the grudge. He was hurt very deeply, and watched those he loves be hurt very deeply. It’s totally fine for him to be upset, as long as it’s been.

      What’s NOT fine is that he’s imposing those feelings on other people. Telling S that she should choose her mother to walk her down the aisle is fine as advice, but sounds more like a demand. Dictating how her relationship with her father should go is stepping WAY over the line. In this, he needs to behave.

      No one is suggesting the grandfather feel a different way. Just that he keep it to himself for the sake of his obviously much loved grandaughter, on her wedding day.

      • Arachna

        I guess I don’t really see him as imposing his feelings on the OP, which I agree would be wrong, but I think it would require more than one conversation in which he expresses what he thinks should happen and why for me to think of it that way.

        The OP was really hurt and angry at his saying what he said to her – not at him saying he was going to be yelling during her wedding. It is explicit in the OP that she think he behaved inappropriately just by saying what he said. She think he doesn’t have the right to tell her how he thinks and feels about this issue – and I disagree. I think family, especially family that raised us (I don’t know if this grandad did or not) has the right to say “I think you should do this because of that on your wedding.” And when you say “Thanks, but I’m doing something else” they should shut up about it but they are not obligated to look happy about it.

        I don’t see concern over a scene in the OP I see anger that the grandad can’t/won’t put his feelings/anger aside for her wedding and in discussions of her wedding. Which IMO is a different issue. I agree with everyone that a scene is unacceptable.

        • kristen

          a question for some of the women that posted that they would not be able to forgive someone if “such-and-such” happened…

          why would you allow someone else to steal your joy? unforgiveness is really only a prison for one person – the person who chooses to hold on to the grudge. i realize that sometimes it may take some time, but at some point, you need to deal with your emotions, have the hard conversation with them – and either embrace each other with kindness and humility or let each other go if you don’t think the relationship can be repaired, but with forgiveness.

          this is what grown-ups do.

          • Arachna


            Why would you think that not forgiving someone steals your joy?

            It might be a nice soundbite but I have not seen a single shred of evidence that “unforgiveness” is a prison of any sort. If you have any evidence re this please share. Dwelling on anything negative does indeed tend to decrease anyone’s joy. Not sure what one has to do with the other.

            For the record, being a doormat also tends to steal your joy and evidence for that is available.

          • I think you guys are talking about two different sides of the same horse.

            There’s the option of choosing to forgive someone in order to move on, and then there’s the option of choosing not to forgive because they don’t deserve the honor of your forgiveness.

            Both are valid because they are making a choice and moving forward; the problem would lie in letting someone else’s behavior dictate your emotions and your emotional well-being. And BOTH are freeing because they allow you to be able to heal. Not the relationship, but yourself.

          • kristen

            alyssa – i like the way you put it. the point was made about moving on and not letting another person’s behavior control your response anymore.

            arachna – i definitely don’t think we should be a doormat. that’s part of being an adult – standing up, in a respectful but firm way, for your baby family and the values that you hold that may be different than your family’s.

            i just can’t get on board, however, with the idea that someone doesn’t deserve the honor of my forgiveness.

            it’s too bad that these types of things happen so frequently (honestly I’m shocked that so many deal with this just in regard to their wedding, not to mention other things) – because grudges, unforgiveness, etc. really do affect more than just the two people involved… as we can see from the comments above. then others start to get a second offense because it was their “friend”, “parent”, “lover”, etc. that’s why i said that at some point, we need to do what we need to do to let it go – so that we can emotionally move on and not let it rob us anymore.

          • Beb

            I agree completely Kristen. Forgiveness is liberating – it’s hard, but that’s what makes it so rewarding and freeing. And, Arachna, I think that there’s a distinction to be made here between forgiving someone (i.e., letting go of resentment, bitterness, etc.) and condoning their past behavior. And, if nothing else, I like this quote from Oscar Wilde: “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”

        • z

          I agree that it was not that inappropriate for the grandpa to express a view. If the OP said maybe her mom could walk her down the aisle, the grandpa was endorsing an option that the OP herself had raised as a possibility, so it doesn’t seem out of bounds to me. Because what other reason would there be to have it just the mom, other than the dad’s bad behavior? I dunno maybe it was not what he said but how he said it.

  • clampers

    Geez. I just had to have an incredibly uncomfortable phone conversation with my brother where I basically uninvited him for these reasons.

    There is some serious, serious tension between my dad and my brother (the bro hasn’t really spoken to us in almost four years). I invited my brother partly thinking that he wouldn’t come to the wedding, and partly because I was trying to be polite and do the “right thing.” But then he responded that he was indeed coming, and I freaked out. If he was there, my parents would be so tense and weird…I really need my parents to be relaxed and normal on our wedding day.

    So I had to make the phone call where I tell my brother that it’s a super small wedding and hope that he gets the picture…I told him that we’re not having music or a gown or flowers or decorations or caterers, there are 10 people on the guest list right now, the whole thing will be about three hours long and then me and my partner are leaving at 3 p.m. for our honeymoon…he “got” it…he said, “I get what you’re saying; you’re saying that I don’t need to come.” And I said, “Yes.” And it was horrible. Uncomfortable. Scary. Really scary. I started losing it and got off the phone, and then I really lost it. The feelings of guilt are overwhelming.

    Then I told my dad about that conversation and he started talking shit about my brother. I just told him, “I don’t want to hear it anymore. If you want to vent about him, fine, but do it in a non-nasty way.” It’s just too much for me anymore.

    Wow. Sorry for the rant. I guess my point with this though is that there are lots of people with family shit and you aren’t alone. But having that conversation that Alyssa suggested is good. I think that you initiating the conversation is key for this situation (the other time, he was the one that initiated). That way you are setting the tone and controlling the conversation.

    • Jo

      Big hug, lady. I hope you can do something wedding-y at some point with your brother? I HATE being in the middle.

      • clampers

        Yes, being the middle man is the worst! Yuck.

    • Chantelle

      That is so incredibly difficult. *hugs* to you for getting through it.

    • Wow, lots of virtual hugs darling.

      • clampers

        Thanks you guys. You know, if things were different in my family, I would have no problem with him there. But the reality of the situation is that it wouldn’t work to have him there. It’s going to be so small that every negative feeling will be magnified 100 times. So I’m being selfish but I think that’s ok to want your wedding day to be nice.

        I honestly don’t really want to do anything wedding-y with my brother. That probably sounds awful. But he hasn’t been the nicest to me either. I don’t harbor things the way my dad does, but he’s also put my dad through a lot more than me.

        Anyway, thanks for the support.

    • meredyth

      Wow. That must have been so hard. Just thinking of having to do that with my brother made me get emotional. I haven’t had to do what you’re doing, or even talk to him about how I felt but this issue + the wedding is a catalyst for how I view my relationship with my brother. I said it above (jeez, I’m commenting way too much!) that my brother would possibly cause tension, but at the end of the day I wanted him there and my SIL and nephew. We’ve all been tiptoeing around his beliefs because we want to be in his life and truly believe he will change his ways, but when I heard about the possibility of him not coming it was the last straw. I didn’t have to, but I was fully prepared to tell him that not coming to my wedding meant “he was not welcome in my life if HE was going to dictate the terms. I would still love him and when he was ready to have a relationship I would be so happy, and ready to have that relationship” but I wasn’t going to stand for him holding this power over how we got to be in his life anymore. Thank god it hasn’t happened yet.

      I know this must be hard for you, but as soon as the wedding is over, you can get the h*ll out of the middle, hopefully! Hugs.

  • Emily

    Ok, so this is just my $0.02, but I think it’s important (and maybe even useful) to remember where the poster’s grandfather is coming from. She’s absolutely right to expect good behavior from him, but it can be much harder to set aside a grudge against a person who’s hurt somebody you love than to set aside a grudge against a person who’s hurt you. He may still be feeling a lot of guilt for not having found some way to protect her mother from a broken marriage and her wedding may be bringing back some of those feelings; if he is a person for whom concepts like shame and saving face are important, the anger he’s carrying may be really important to him on a psychological level and the more he gets pushed to let it go for a day the more strongly he may resist.

    Again, that’s not to say the poster shouldn’t expect good behavior, but it may help if she can frame it in a way that allows her grandfather to create a narrative that he can feel good about too. So instead of just telling him that her father will be walking her down the aisle and he needs to accept it (translation in grandfather-speak: evil ex-son-in-law wins, you have failed again) it might help if she could say that she understands her grandfather has strong feelings about her dad; that even if she doesn’t agree with those feelings she respects her grandfather’s right to have him (some fudging here may be necessary) and that she is not asking for him to change any of those feelings. What she is asking is for him to give her the gift of briefly hiding those feelings so that she can have the wedding she dreams of. She can tell him that neither she nor anyone else will interpret this as a gesture of forgiveness toward her father (and she can make sure her dad knows to steer clear of her grandfather on the day of, or else stick with very formal, polite interactions); rather, they will see it as a gesture of love and sacrifice toward her. This way her grandfather may be able to give himself permission to do what she wants because he can frame it as the act of a loving, strong grandfather who will stop at nothing to make sure his granddaughter has her perfect day, rather than as the act of someone who was forced to humble himself before someone he still really dislikes (and let’s face it, his feelings toward her dad probably aren’t going to change all that much, even if he is a perfect angel at the wedding).
    Good luck–family stuff is tough!

    • Sarah

      THAT is excellent advice. =)

    • Um that is amazing advice! Yes, a lot of getting someone to do something has to do with the way the perceive the request. If you can put a positive on a request, the person is much more likely to actually do it.

    • Arachna


    • Chantelle

      You are my new psychoanalyst guru :)

  • Mallory

    Man, I feel this so hard. I’m dealing with it myself. If you made a diagram of my family’s hatred of each other, it would look like a Pollock. I’m just hoping that I can get through everything without crying, because I’ve had the talks, and people are just immature.

    Best of luck with your family drama. :/

    • Jo

      This just about made me pee myself laughing–from having been EXACTLY there. This last week my bestie and I drew up diagrams of our families (we’ve done this about every year, they’re kinda hilarious/sad to see how they change and don’t change) and we did them in various artistic styles.

      Hugs, lady. Our twisted humor serves us well.

    • I had plenty of family drama surrounding my wedding day. And it was hard. But after months of APW training I focused on getting married to someone I love. All the drama only made me appreciate all the more seeing someone who takes my feelings as seriously as his own waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Being married to him is even better.

      At our wedding I got to feel just how great it is starting a new baby family when I basically used my brand new husband as a human shield in any conversations I thought might be tricky. I still smile when I remember difficult family members having to be atleast semi-polite to him when they never would have been to me.

      Knowing that I’m no longer on my own with all my family drama is so comforting and wonderful.

      Your family may behave badly at your wedding or they may not. You may cry tears of frustration or you may not. You’ll survive it, you’ll be married – that is the point.

      Lots of love to you.

      • Lisa

        I am so glad your reminder found its way in to the comments. The thing is you can tell people your expectations, talk things out until you are blue in the face and hope that things go well. But in the end the only person’s behavior one has control over is their own. The lucky ones will have things work out, and some of us, well, don’t get so lucky.

        If it weren’t for some of those reminders you mentioned replaying in my head the day of my wedding, I probably would have been as miserable as I was the night before at rehearsal. While I hope that doesn’t happen to S., I would encourage her to have those “happy thoughts” at the ready should someone decide to try to dampen the day.

  • We had to have a similar talk with a few of my husband’s relatives before our wedding, and they did well. I think avoidance was key, and while they were family, we just split up the seating so that that those who were “fighting” didn’t have to be in close contact. I have some issues with Josh’s sister, and just avoided her as well during our wedding and it all worked out fine in the end. People will generally pull through in the end, and we gave these family members an ultimatum. If you can’t keep it civil, you will be asked to leave. We love you, but this is going to be a happy day and we’re not going to let it be poisoned with whatever issues you may have going on.

  • Sticky family situations are so stressful! I have one additional piece of advice: if you assign guests to tables, assign your Dad & Grandpa to tables as far apart as possible.

    Take heart & keep the faith that everyone will behave like adults at your wedding even if you have to remind them one million and one times leading up to the event. I worked a wedding where the Mom & Dad had not seen each other since he had walked out on their family & started another one with a younger wife many, many years ago. We knew the Mom would behave but many of her close relatives were not pleased & threatened to say or do things on her behalf. The night of the rehearsal, the Mom & Dad politely hugged & then did their best to stay separate & everyone followed suit. The rehearsal & wedding had zero drama & I wish the same for you. (((HUGS)))

  • Engaged_Ruby

    Just wanted to add my own drama here. My father was absent for most of my life, not mean, just…absent. He showed up when he was sober or he wanted to. He wasn’t at my high school or college graduations. Now I see him a couple of times a year and help him out when he’s got medical issues and such, but still, not a major part of my life. My mom has always been great though and I always assumed she’d be the calm one in all the wedding planning. I’m planning to walk down the aisle alone, mostly just because it feels right to me. My mom however, has taken to telling everyone I know that I’m not involving my father because he wasn’t a good father and I don’t want him around and it’s all his fault and blah, blah, blah. I keep trying to tell her that none of my choices about family involvement are to punish him, or reward her, or make a statement. I’m just to do the things that feel right to me. I have no interest in making my father feel bad. He’s definitely invited to my wedding and I’d like him to help us receive guests. I just don’t feel comfortable with any other involvement. Now I feel like I have to find extra ways to recognize my mom so that she can show off to my dad. And that doesn’t feel right either…Ugh.

    • suzanna

      Ruby, exactly to not making statements or trying to make anyone feel bad, reward/punishment, etc. It’s so hard when people have had years of feeling one particular way, and they suddenly have to behave differently. Trying to see it from your point of view will help your mom out. I don’t think you have to find extra ways to recognize her–I mean, everyone knows she raised you, right? Did she do it so that she could get all the “credit” at your wedding, or because she loves you? Sorry, I’m not trying to give you advice here–I’ve got a similar situation, and am working it out myself. Sometimes seeing someone else spell it out can be really illuminating, so thanks!

  • Libby

    I have feuding aunts. I’m worried that Aunt A won’t come because Aunt B is the officiant. And then I feel bad for having Aunt B as the officiant, because she’s no more important to me than Aunt A, who doesn’t have a major part in the wedding and probably wouldn’t anyway, because Aunt B is officiating, who just happens to also be a minister and spiritual guide in my life, and… It all just becomes such a mindfuck.

    I think I’m finally coming to the point where I can say, I love them both, their feud is their business, and if they choose to behave badly over all this, it’s not my problem. They’re only hurting themselves. Any negativity brought to me about it… IDK. I think I’m going to adopt the slogan. :)

    • clampers

      Totally not your problem. Let them do their thang and do your best to ignore it. People suck sometimes.

  • s~
    first off, you rock. I didn’t have nearly enough huevos to tell a problem family member to step off (in such a respectful grown-up way, no less). I just skulked around the borders of traditional wedding behavior, yanking the elements that threatened to become unruly. rehearsal dinner was the origin of misbehavior at brother’s wedding debacle of ’98?? gone! (nevermind the husby and I ended up attending 3!!! dinners the night before the wedding, instead) how to acknowledge two father figures without hurting feelings??? cut the issue completely! (I walked my own d@mn self down the path deliberately set-up to be un-aisle-like.) parents can’t stand the sight of each other?? no problem. (found a venue with separate entrances, and an arrangement that allowed for never the twain to meet.)

    in retrospect, everyone behaved astonishingly well, and it may have been much easier (on the groom and me) to to have just spoken with the challenging one like an adult. so good on ya’.

    … although it’s still a good idea to appoint a few sober types to intervene if trouble appears on the horizon. when my folks accidentally crossed paths and engaged in pleasant conversation (while angelic choirs of unicorns and leprechauns sang above), it felt much better knowing a bestie was circling them like a shark.

    • meredyth

      HUEVOS. Love it!

      And with that, I’m out. Way too much commenting and too little housecleaning happening. :)

  • Cut Gramps from the guest list. Problem solved.

    • If only it were that easy…

      If I had to cut every immature, grudge-holding family member from my wedding I would have had a lovely ceremony by myself.

  • Benny

    I hope this isn’t too off track, but…does anyone have experience dealing with grudges or ill-will between their partner and a family member (or close friend?) I’ve got a bit of this going on- some awful, unfounded things have been said by my father and brother about my fiance and our relationship, and I’m not quite sure how this is going to pan out. Any thoughts or stories or experiences to share?

  • LC

    I’m sorry, I have to completely disagree with this advice.

    79 year olds who hold on to grudges for decades do not change their minds because you ask. I would just try to minimize the stress and discomfort as much as possible by keeping these family members apart, but a sit-down talk is not likely to change anything.

    • Harriet

      I don’t think the advice is for the grandfather to change his mind–just to change/control his behavior. That is something we can reasonably ask of people, even if they are set in their ways and unable to give it. I do agree with you, LC, that he is unlikely to change his mind, but I hope he is able to be civil.

  • Thank you so much for this post. My heart aches for all that you’re having to go through, S, but you can do it!

    My parents got divorced when I was 10 as well, and even though I’m almost 24, I’m still the baby of the family, and thus get the butt-end of most deals. Just last night I had a discussion/cry fest/upset crazy talk with my mom and sister–both of which have dealt with the divorce in the worst ways and have alienated themselves (and their feelings) in such a way that have caused any kind of communication within to result in confrontation, and then tears. It’s been extremely difficult planning a wedding with them.

    This post gives me hope, though. Everybody has something. Everybody has some member of their family who is going to be the problem child, even if they’re 79 years old. The advice rings true though, we can all do it! It’s OUR day (yours and your fiances). Let’s make people behave to the best of our abilities, and if not, enjoy the day and time away on the honeymoon with your new hubby!

  • Amanda Cowman

    **Being able to look an authority figure that you respect in the eye and tell them to behave is amazing. Be proud of yourself!**

    TRUE THAT!! ESP when theyre the same gender as you. For some reason, its always harder for me. But im learning. AMEN SISTERS!

  • MNBride

    It’s amazing what good behavior some people can pull off once the details are set and the wedding day arrives. My dad and grandma (mom’s mom) have vigorously hated each other for many, many years. I knew they wouldn’t make a scene but I didn’t want their frostiness to make things awkward. The day of the wedding, my dad went up to my grandma and warmly welcomed her. She in turn completed the work he’d done on their house (it was a backyard reception). They have since gone back to their corners of the universe and probably won’t speak again. But there is now photographic evidence that for one day they were able to put aside their feud and be civil. Weddings, man, they can be magical.

  • S

    Thank you for all the comments & support- they have been very helpful for me and our wedding is still 6 months away so I do have some time to work this all out before our big day. I’ve always had a good relationship with both my parents. Truth be told when my parents divorced I was 10 my mother moved us out of state and close to her parents where she grew up so she could go back to work and they being retired could run us to soccer practice and all that teenager stuff so for those years my grandparents were certainly involved in raising my sister and I but we still saw our father every other weekend. There’s never been any type of abuse or anything like that in any of our lives, in general we’re pretty ‘normal’ and everyone gets along fine with the exception of my grandfather hating my father for getting divorced from my mother. Yes my father met another woman 20 years ago but my mother, sister, even my grandmother have all let it go. It was literally 20 years ago and we’re all in good places now. Specifically in the last 12 years since I have officially been an adult my father and I have been very close, he and my stepmother are paying for 75% of our wedding and were the 1st 2 people to show up at our house and take us for drinks to celebrate our engagement. My grandfather’s hatred of my father has made all our graduations akward, funerals awful- we’ve found ways to deal with it like having dinner with my grandparents and then drinks later with my father even at times both my parents together. I was just really hoping for my wedding- my one day- that my grandfather could put his hatred aside and just be happy for me and let me have my day my way. Part of my anger is that I wish my grandfather could respect the relationship I have with my father and he doesn’t.

    • Danielle

      This might actually be a great (but painful, difficult) opportunity to address something that has been hurting your family for a while.

      An honest conversation between you and your grandpa could lead to some major healing, or at least better understanding.

      I wish you strength!

  • S

    I’ve tried to talk to my grandfather over the years every time a big family event is around the corner when my father and he will both be present and he just says I’ll never forgive your father for what he did to your mother and you girls. So my grandfather ignores my father and shoots him nasty looks making it uncomfortable for everyone there. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, it feels more to me like he was trying to slight my father as opposed to honor my mother with his comment about who should walk me down the aisle. My fiance and I live in the state where my father lives over 2 hours from my grandparents who haven’t at all been involved in any part of the wedding planning which is why I was so blinded sided when my grandfather pulled me aside at my grandmother’s birthday party. It took me so off guard, I thought he was pulling me aside to give me a word of wisdom or something positive. It didn’t even cross my mind that he would need to express his feelings of negativity toward my father involving my wedding. I haven’t asked anything from any of my family but I really think excepting everyone to behave like adults at my wedding can’t possibly be too much to ask. I’m hoping that maybe since my grandfather knows how upset he made me maybe it’s over and he will be on his best behavior at the wedding. Wishful thinking, I know.

    • Have you talked to your parents about this? Even if you can’t change your grandfather’s behavior, you can at least keep your parents on guard and make sure they react well. (Especially if your dad is used to shooting your grandfather nasty looks. No reason to add bad vibes to the day!)

      Whatever happens, I hope this behavior doesn’t dampen your day at all. Love should be focused on you and your partner, with no energy wasted on bad emotions.

    • repeat after me:
      “grandpa, (insert fiance’s name here) and I love you. And I sincerely appreciate the myriad things you’ve done over the years to support sister and me, and help us grow despite circumstances and the behavior of my father. don’t make us put you in a home.”


    • You know… I almost hate to bring this up because it could make it worse, but I have found it to work the one time I did it. Have you tried… yelling? For months after FH and I got engaged, my mother was just downright rude about it, suggesting that we shouldn’t get married, that our relationship wouldn’t last, and on and on with the inappropriate comments. I tried telling her to stop, and reasoning with her, and ignoring it, and nothing worked. I’m usually a pretty quiet person but eventually she said something that really got to me (straw that broke the camel’s back, I suppose) and I ended up yelling at her that we were going to get married whether she was there or not. I think my uncharacteristic outburst finally made her realize how hurt I was by her comments, because she’s stopped, and we’ve had discussions since then that have been much more productive. It’s probably not a healthy way to deal with family conflict but for me, something just had to change, and apparently she needed to push me over the edge to see that I was serious.

  • Lauren B

    I am so dreading this for my future husband. His parents act like children around eachother. His dad had an affair for about 8 years while his parents were married and he used to confide in my sweet man when he was just a boy. They divorced 6 years ago. This has caused a whole bunch of complication in his life with anxiety (i seriously think he might have ptsd) and we’ve had to do alot of real deep work to keep our relationship healthy. I am the ying to my sweet man’s yang which to put simply, I have a more aggressive personality- I don’t take no crap. When we were at my man’s Navy graduation last summer there were a few times I had to step in and say, “Hey! Your arguing stresses Clayton out. He just got done with a very stressful boot camp. Let’s keep this enjoyable for him”
    And even as recently as February there was a drunk dialing incident that they put my boyfriend in the middle of. He has gotten so much better at standing up for himself but I know the dynamic and they really don’t respect him enough to stop. I know it’ll have to come from me. I’m ok with it, but it’s pretty much the #1 reason why we aren’t engaged yet.

  • Ah yes, FH and I are dealing with this too. In our case it’s mostly his family, but the same kind of story – his parents went though a VERY nasty divorce when he was a kid and the two sides of his family have hated each other since. Even worse, FH’s dad passed away a couple of years ago, so both sides of the family will be at our wedding without him there to try to smooth things over.

    I’ve finally become comfortable with the idea that the wedding is going to happen the way we want it, whether or not we have support from whatever part of the family (including my family, which has a host of other insecurities and issues). It hurts to realize that some of them might put their grudges before our freakin’ wedding, but it really gives them less leverage when I can respond to all their BS by just putting my foot down. If they know that the show will indeed go on without them, then they just have to decide whether to support us or not. And so far, we’ve been lucky that everyone has decided to support us (at least enough to not get into a fist fight for one night). FH has a harder time than I do with it, but we try to have all wedding-related discussions together, so we can support each other in not taking anyone’s crap. It helps.

    I feel like this is so important, like we are setting the boundaries and expectations for the way we will interact with the family as a married couple. Which makes it seem daunting, but drives home the point that the hard conversations are too important not to have.

    In conclusion, hugs. It sucks so much but just know that you’re not alone.

  • I had to verbally kick my Nan in the a** at my wedding because she refused to stand near my grandfather for a photo. I’m meaning ONE single photo.
    My grandfather has alienated pretty much everyone in our family. But I still invited him to our wedding because I am his only granddaughter, and chances are he’ll be dead before the next wedding of his line occurs. (he’s not well).
    Thankfully Nan harbours no grudge over me telling her to just get her whiny-ased self over there to balance the photo :)

  • melissa

    Time for tough love, Grandpa. He needs to promise to behave himself, which can include ignoring your father, or he can choose to not attend. He absolutely cannot make your wedding into a stage to seek his vengeance.

    Are you willing to allow him to ignore your father, meaning he doesn’t have to sit by him or take pictures with him? I don’t think he should have to pretend to like him, but just to not make a point of reminding everyone that he hates him.

  • Erin R

    I am so thankful to read this post and its comments. I’ve been engaged for about two months now and am unbelievably depressed every time I think about wedding planning because of some devastating (in the pedestal-crumbling sense) drama that went down a few weeks ago between me and every woman on my mother’s side of the family as an indirect result of starting this whole wedding process. I’ve been skimming through wedding grad posts because I can’t stand to read about bubbly happy family goodness because That’s What A Wedding Should Be (in my head), and it’s looking right now that I’m not even going to have that.

    Wah, wah–the point here is that it is so comforting and reassuring to read all of these testimonies, for lack of a better word, of people who have immature or grudge-holding or crazypants family members that cause drama before and during the wedding and all that good stuff, and you made it (or are making it) through it.

    Thanks, guys.

  • z

    Infidelity and weddings just don’t mix well. There’s just something about publicly promising not to cheat on each other that stirs up all the cheating-related emotional baggage. Not really surprising.

    I think it’s important to consider the social norms of older generations. Not that I’m endorsing this system or anything, but there used to be this idea that one couldn’t be “seen” with people who had violated certain social norms. Like how a divorced woman was basically a social pariah, one had to meet certain standards of respectability and there was a lot more snubbing and public expression of boundaries. Gestures like accepting gifts, dancing, shaking hands or breaking bread with someone carried more symbolic meaning, I think. It wasn’t like today where all kinds of heinous behavior is seen on reality TV and tolerated in the name of “honesty” or whatever– there was more of a sense of propriety–even though there was a lot of hypocrisy and exploitation to go along with it. I think it can be really hard for older folks to truly understand that the “rules” are different now and something that seems preposterous and unreasonable to them can seem appropriate to a different generation. The grandpa here may feel that his presence at an event in which your dad is in any way honored conveys some sort of public endorsement that your dad’s choices are acceptable, and he might feel that he is standing up for principles that are important and worthwhile to him. Social exclusion is way in which communities express the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and some people think we were better off overall with a firmer set of boundaries. I’m not, you know, holding those views myself, but I can understand that that was a more common way of thinking about these things in earlier decades. The grandpa might think it’s really inappropriate to do anything in a wedding that implies tolerance for infidelity, and trying to ask the OP to reconsider what he sees as a truly inappropriate choice. Not that he has the right to hassle the OP beyond one respectful statement of his views, and certainly not to create a public disruption over it, but consider that his sense of social norms was formed in a different time and that may lead him to have different views on what is reasonable to expect.

    I also had a friend whose grandfather hated her dad, who had had an affair. She started asking why this was such a persistent issue decades later, and finally it came out that “had an affair” was a euphemism for how he had actually stalked and assaulted someone (he was kind of a weird guy), and the older generations wanted to hush it up and not ruin the kids’ relationship with their dad, but they couldn’t stomach actually being around him either. That’s an extreme example, but the point is: sometimes when people seem irrational, it’s actually just that you don’t know the full story, and they might be trying to shield you from something. So don’t ask if you don’t want to know!

    • z

      Also, some people just don’t get how having certain family members get along at a wedding is really that important, as long as there isn’t a disturbance. When I was getting married, which wasn’t that long ago, it was important to me that people get along and be happy together, but the more weddings I go to the less important each one seems, and I’m sure my attitude will only get worse as I grow older. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a jerk or unsympathetic to the OP, because it was hard for me too, another occasion when I grieved the loss of the imagined happy family that never existed and never will. But I’m just realizing that people getting along with each other is the exception rather than the rule, and it’s painful but not the end of the world, especially compared to all the other really bad things adults do to their family members. So especially to an older person, after many decades of observing all the horrible things families ordinarily put each other through with much, much higher stakes, and having been to a lot of weddings full of people who dislike each other, snubbing someone at a wedding just might not seem like that big a deal. Because looking back, my wedding was THE wedding in my mind, but to everyone else it was just A wedding, just one more in a long string of family events, so why should it have a below-average level of drama and nastiness?

      I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh. Hope it works out ok for you, OP!

  • Lyddiebug

    Oh man, I can relate to this is a big way! My younger sister, whom I love very much despite the fact that she can be VERY difficult to get along with, absolutely HATES my FH. Her anger stems from a ridiculous (in my eyes) incident that happened on Live Journal over 12 years ago, back when we were all in high school together. Basically, FH said something she thought was in poor taste (to be fair, it kinda was), Sister called him on it, drama ensued (angry teens + interwebs = flame war), and she got really mad. She’s held on to this anger for over a decade. When FH and I started to date 4 years ago, she distanced herself from me considerably. She has since opted out of family functions I have brought FH to and told me that she doesn’t even really want to hear me talk about him. If this sounds overly dramatic, that’s because it really, really is. That’s just who Sister is. She’s pulled similar behavior with other family members over the years and is infamous for being overly sensitive and holding grudges.

    I was kind of hoping that she would grow out of it, but when I told her FH and I got engaged she was horrible about it. She actually yelled at me for “choosing” him over her. I responded that I was disappointed in her for choosing a stupid grudge over me and informed her that she would have to let it go or she wouldn’t be invited to the wedding. She’s still “deciding.”

    My other sister, the youngest, is one of my bridesmaids and I really wish my middle sister would get over herself and be in the wedding party too, but I have had to just let myself feel sad about that and try to move on.

    I am comforted by several things, mostly that FH has been amazing about the whole situation. He doesn’t even begrudge my sister her feelings about him. He apologized to her (she basically ignored him when he did) and then said to me, later, that if she wanted to stay mad there was nothing either of us could do. He reminded me that she’s done this with several other members of my family and that no one can force her to change.
    He’s right, of course. I just wish I could have both my sisters there with me on the day like I always imagined.

  • So many great comments and such a great post. My parents are divorced and don’t get along, but that is the least of my worries. My two bridal attendants Hate.Each.Other. I considered not having either of them in the wedding at all because I was concerned they’d start a cat fight at the alter or something horrendous like that. But I like your style – I, too, am expecting everyone to be pleasant. Just because you all swapped boyfriends back in 1997 and it didn’t work out so well (for either of you really…cuz where is that guy now?), doesn’t mean you all need to act like angry children. And family members should be able to keep it together too. Good luck with your wedding!

  • Danielle

    Chiming in a little late here, but just wanted to put in yet another vote for having the uncomfortable “behave yourself” convo with your grandfather. I can 100% relate – my parents have been divorced or separated for ohhhhh 18 years now, and any time they’re going to be in the same room, I feel pukey with anxiety. Their issues (and behavior) have literally ruined most major events in the last two decades for my sister and I. I have to say my sister and I didn’t quite handle it the way we should have – we dreaded events as they got closer, we tiptoed around our parents’ feelings when they arrived, and we wailed to each other about it afterwards, without ever talking to our parents about what needed to change. It came to a head three years after my sister’s college graduation, which was, quite honestly, embarrassing. And suddenly it occurred to me that if I’m having a problem with someone at work, I go right to the source and sort it out like a real grown up. Why would I not do the same with my parents? I won’t say it was fun or that my plea for reasonability was well received. We had about two months of me and my parental units literally screaming at each other – two months of everyone being mad and no one seeming to listen. I honestly didn’t think I’d made any headway, and, as my sister’s recent law school graduation approached, that sense of dread was mounting all over again. But you know what? They were awesome. They sat near each other and behaved reasonably and kept the focus on my sister’s amazing accomplishment instead of on decades-old resentment. And both of them separately said to me, “Are we doing better this time?” So even if you have that awful conversation and get some unreasonable reactions, there’s a real possibility it will result in an actual behavioral change, if only for one day. Best of luck…

  • Expat

    Just to say a HUGE thank you for posting about this, and to all of the commentators as well. I’ve been engaged for a year now and have spent a good deal of time looking for advice like this – advice from people who have had to live the same situation.

    Just thinking about my parents in the same room as each other is enough to make me faint from anxiety, and FH has a somewhat-similar situation. I tried the “conversation” route – it was a Pandora’s box.

    Will somewhat PLEASE write a book for children of divorced parents offering more sage wisdom than the “tell them that this is YOUR day. sit back and enjoy your wedding.” that most etiquette books rely on?

    P.S. I’m planning a Wedding Tour. One civil ceremony, four – yes, FOUR – separate celebratory dinners. It helps that all four parties are thousands of miles apart.

  • La mi-vieille

    As the “hate object” in a fairly well-known family drama, I was shocked to attend a family wedding and discover that I was seated at a dinner table with two close family members (and their spouses) who had refused all contact with me for several years! I tried to finagle a move to another table unsuccessfully. Although I was delighted for the bride and groom and wanted to be there the entire evening, the prospect of 90 minutes in close proximity to anger at my mere existence was too much. I feigned illness and left before dinner.

    Separating the feuding parties definitely gets my vote!

  • Lydm

    I echo so many of the head-nods on this thread and am relieved (and saddened) to read that I am not the only bride dealing with this situation. I seem to be a bit late to this chain of comments, but on this day as I was searching the interwebs for advice on a hurtful and sticky situation for my upcoming wedding in 4 months, it was extremely helpful to read other’s experiences and put mine in perspective.
    Anyhoo, if anyone sees this…thanks for sharing.