Ask Team Practical: Including Family

How do you pick and choose?

Q: I’d love your advice. My fiancé and I are getting married this summer. I have one sister and he has two. Instead of a big wedding party, we’re each having one person stand up with us. I chose my sister to stand up there with me, because even though we’re not super close, for me weddings have always been about families, whether it’s the family you’ve always had or one you’ve made or are making. My fiancé chose one of his close male friends from work. We’ve talked about having readings at the ceremony, and he mentioned having one of his sisters do one. He doesn’t want the other sister to participate in the wedding (although she’s invited) because they’re not close and are actually not getting along at this time. I’m feeling guilty and anxious over this. It feels like an insult to have every member of our immediate families highlighted in some way (all of our parents will be walking down the aisle and giving speeches at some point) except for her. It’s starting off my joining their family on the wrong foot—even though it’s his family, it’s our wedding, so the choice is projected as both of ours. They aren’t getting along now, but what if they get along in the future? At the same time, I want him to be comfortable and happy and honor the people who matter to him. Should I try to convince him to change his mind, or should I let this be his decision?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

Yes, you should talk to him. I completely understand your partner’s perspective. Weddings are, in part, about honoring the people around you! But he may need reminding that sometimes they’re also about honoring the relation you have to those people, if not the relationships.

Put a different way, yeah. Maybe he’s pissed at his sister. But she’s still his sister. He can honor that relation, even if their actual relationship is currently a little rocky.

That “currently” word is an important piece. This doesn’t sound like a relationship that has been terrible in the long term. This isn’t a long, sordid history of awful. There are some relations you just simply can’t fake your way through honoring. But, “not getting along right now,” doesn’t sound like it falls into that camp. That’s the sort of thing you can kinda fudge in the hopes that this current argument will be a temporary one, and somewhere down the line, things will be a bit brighter and better.

It also sounds a smidge like your partner is trying to make a statement. If it’s not just that he thinks he’ll avoid some drama or some discomfort by excluding her, then he’s probably trying to send her a big message by leaving her out. Weddings just aren’t the place for those sorts of statements, because of two of the things you said: 1. this being the beginning of your marriage, his choices are reflected on you, and 2. hopefully someday things will be better between them, and he’ll regret excluding her. There aren’t often do-overs with weddings. We always talk a bit about how weddings highlight how things are in contrast to how we wish they were. In this instance, you and your partner can mourn that without seeking to add further insult.

So, talk to him. It’s awesome that you haven’t tried pressuring him into any decisions regarding his own family and his own attendants. But it’s worth letting him know why you’re worried, and why you think it might be in his best interest to do otherwise. Tell him exactly what you told me—that his decisions concerning the wedding are “our” decisions. But also that you want to honor his sister for being his sister (even if she’s being a pretty awful one right now).

Team Practical, how do you decide which family members to include and honor?

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