My Whole Family Is Skipping My Wedding (but Going to My Cousin’s)

I didn't realize we were competing until they made it obvious

bride standing alone outside

Q: My family lives on one coast, and we’re getting married on the other. I’ve lived there for years, my partner grew up there, and his family still lives there. But it has meant that one side of my family is simply not coming to the wedding.

I’m not angry at individuals, but more angry at the feeling that I’m not valued by this part of my family on a larger scale. My partner and I have also really made the effort over the years to be present at family events—red-eyes across the country, scheduling important work trips to coincide with weddings, spending a lot of money on hotel rooms and tuxedo rentals—and it’s very hurtful that, once it’s our turn to host the celebration, that effort is not being returned. I was really, really looking forward to seeing these family members, and was excited about them meeting my partner’s family. These family members are also a group of people that I’ve always wanted to impress, and so maybe have some baggage going into the wedding about finally gaining their approval. I feel like even when I’ve done everything right (wonderful partner, fabulous career path, happy), it’s still not enough to get them to show up for me and be proud of me.

It turns out a cousin is getting married just before me, and every single one of the family members is going to that wedding. According to the family grapevine, she was infuriated with the fact that I got engaged before her, and deliberately planned the wedding ahead of mine. At the time, I was like “Eh, whatever, as long as it’s not on the same day.” Now it’s becoming apparent that it really is a direct competition, and that family members who are making the trip to her wedding can’t also take the time to come to mine.

How do I keep up a relationship with this family, who have obviously shown me who they like and value more in a fairly obvious and public way?

—Alone on the Gold Coast


Dear AOGC,

Don’t jump straight there! It’s easy to assume that if they’re coming to the wedding, they like you, and if they’re not, they don’t. But weddings are rarely that simple. My gut says it’s got zero to do with you being valued less, and everything to do with complex family politics—this aunt went to the weddings of my kids, so I have to go to the weddings of her kids. That sort of thing. And that’s apart from all of the regular reasons people don’t go to weddings—they had prior commitments, they couldn’t get a sitter, they couldn’t take the time off work. There are lots of possibilities that have nothing to do with, “We just don’t like you.”

None of that fixes that this is a disappointment. No matter what I say, your family isn’t coming to your wedding. But maybe knowing that it’s likely not personal can take some of the sting away.

The other thing I can’t fix is how shitty it was of your cousin to rush and plan her wedding first. But it could also mean there are even more logistics at play for your would-be guests. Is she closer geographically? Did she send her invitations first? If this wedding was anticipated for a while, she may have had verbal agreements about different wedding responsibilities or roles. You know, more of those family dynamics I mentioned above.

Or, maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe your family just sucks. Maybe this one cousin isn’t alone in some shitty behavior, and the rest of them are all just as weird and selfish. You had hoped to make them proud, and the way you say it kind of signals to me that they might have been cold and withholding before now. If that’s the case, hopefully you’re seeing that it’s not about you. And if you’re not, let me say it for you loud and clear: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. Having everything lined up perfectly in your life won’t change things. After all, these are the people who should be showing up, being proud, and loving on you even when things aren’t perfectly lined up.

It’ll always hurt a bit when people aren’t who you expect them or want them to be. But don’t make the mistake of adding to that hurt by assuming it reflects anything about you. Because it doesn’t.


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  • CMT

    That really sucks :( I’ve gone to a whole slew of cousin weddings and graduation parties and I know that that side of the family is never going to return the favor. It’s disappointing for sure, but I do know it’s not personal. They all live in the same state, but I grew up and have always lived a few thousand miles away. Only one aunt has ever visited. I know that they’re closer to each other than they are to me because they live closer together and see each other more, but it’s still a bummer that they’ll never make my big life events as much as a priority as I’ve made theirs. And a bummer that I just don’t have that close family relationship with them.

    • sofar

      I feel you — my extended family is also concentrated in the same city they’ve been in for generations. I travel back for so much, but I know they’d NEVER travel for my wedding if I had it anywhere but in my hometown. It doesn’t hurt me though, because I know, from their perspective, I *chose* to leave home, and that’s the price I have to pay.

      • joanna b.n.

        I mean, everyone’s family is different, but my half-siblings DID make an effort to fly cross country for my wedding, despite the fact they’d never visited before. You just never know.

      • Margret

        This. I grew up in super rural Alaska, family from out of state almost NEVER came to visit, but would be miffed if we didn’t plan a summer trip to see them. Now I’m back in slightly less-rural AK (and more of a touristy spot) and, well, really only parents and friends who work for airlines come visit. And when we got married in Eastern WA–none of his east coast family came. His dad was the only one out of this whole huge family who lives in a state that doesn’t boarder the Atlantic.
        My point in all this being that I don’t think you should take it personally, I think what you’re experiencing is a very common dynamic when there’s a large family all centered around a place, and you’re the one who is elsewhere. Super common. For sure, it’s super frustrating and completely unfair! But it really doesn’t mean they don’t love you or that you’re less valued.

        • CMT

          Another Alaskan! I also grew up in a very rural town and now live in a bigger one that more people have heard of and more people visit. My aunt came to my high school graduation (and college and grad school down south; she’s great), but none of my other family has ever been.

          • Margret

            I mean, you don’t really expect people to come visit you when you literally live in the middle of the tundra in a place only accessible by bush plane, but we saw the same thing play out about travel to Spokane. Air travel just isn’t part of their culture the same way it was for us out here (where you can’t cross multiple states a day in a car), and there’s also this kind of underlying idea about there’s just a couple of you v. ALL of them, so it’s just “easier” if you go there. I see this play out SO frequently up here that I just can’t encourage OP enough to see this as human nature instead of taking it personally. (Also, SEAK ftw! I’m never going on a summer vacation again if I can help it!)

        • sofar

          Yeah, I really don’t take it personally. Hence the decision to get married in home home town. I know my family, I know they’re staying put, but I wanted them at the wedding, so we’re bringing the wedding to them.

    • joanna b.n.

      And, this is my life.

  • LJ

    Have you considered talking directly to the family members who aren’t coming and telling them that you were really looking forward to seeing them? It seems like you’re making a lot of assumptions without verifying a single one other than that yes, seems like your cousin is a **** with crappy social skills. It doesn’t mention once that you actually approached Aunt Jane and said “hey, I got your RSVP and I’m sad you can’t make it. I was really looking forward to seeing you at the wedding.”……. you literally have heard nothing from their side.

    • Violet

      I see what you mean, but this could possibly backfire. We’re big proponents around here that an invitation to a wedding is an invitation, not a summons, and that “No” is a full sentence. People should not feel they have to justify their declines. I’m concerned that given this relationship may already be strained, if LW reaches out to say she feels sad, they might interpret that as her as trying to make them feel guilty for not having the money to travel, or whatever their reason is. I’m just not sure the potential benefit of hearing their side outweighs the potential risks, given the already tenuous relationship.

      • LJ

        That’s fair, with the very limited information the LW gave. I just can’t help but think that well, she assumed a no means “I don’t like you” when a no could mean literally anything (can’t afford/precommitted/airplanes make me sick/work won’t let me off/etc.)…. if it’s bothering her enough to right to a random blog then surely it’s bothering her enough to bring it up with the family in a tactful and delicate way? She doesn’t even know if she’ll be able to have a future relationship with them based on the last sentence/paragraph of her letter….. there are super sensitive ways to address this with the other party, I just don’t know why she hasn’t even considered one of them…

        • Aria

          Responded above. Some people had understandable reasons (not mad at all), others gave no reason, and most didn’t bother to respond at all and had to be tracked down, which was part of why it was so hurtful and stood out so much. Attention was unnecessarily drawn to the issue because there was this big chunk of people we had to call and badger to get a no!

          • LJ

            god I don’t envy this part of the wedding planning process. Much sympathy.

      • Aria

        Hi! LW here. A big part of me writing this email was that people simply hadn’t RSVP’d! So then we had to track down all these relatives who weren’t kind enough to let us know one way or the other. Some reasons for not attending were totally understandable (of course, no ill will there), some offered no reasons at all, and some gave reasons that were eye-rolling. So it goes.

        • Violet

          Argh! Insult to injury. I am so sorry. : (

        • Eh

          Ugh This really irked me too. I hated following up with RSVPs. Most of the people that weren’t going to RSVP so we had to follow up. It was so frustrating when a whole side of the family said that they were traveling (the same distance in the opposite direction) to my cousin’s son’s birthday party instead of my wedding.

        • Lisa

          I completely feel you on this. We had our wedding in a city within driving distance of most of my relatives because many of them are not in a position to afford plane tickets to where my husband’s family lives. So many of them didn’t respond to our wedding invitations, and my husband’s family all enthusiastically bought plane tickets and came from as far away as Alaska and the UK. I put my parents on the case, and one Saturday, I stood in their hotel room in my wedding dress as my dad read aloud a list of all of the relatives who weren’t coming to the event. I cried thinking how much I’d taken them into account while planning and how they’d chosen not to come. My own godparents refused to make the three hour drive in. Excuses included things like “We don’t like driving in the city” which made me really upset because we specifically planned a wedding to be accessible to most of our guests. (Chicago – good airports and public transit but no more than 3-6 hours of driving roundtrip for most of my family)

          It’s a really tough place to be in, and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. :(

  • Ashlah

    Oh, letter writer, my heart hurts for you. My step-grandma (mother of my step mom), who has been in my life since I was a toddler, told me shortly before our wedding that she and her husband wouldn’t be attending because they’re old and they’re “just not wedding people.” I really didn’t mind too much–they’re elderly homebodies who wouldn’t enjoy themselves at the wedding, so it’s fine if they send their love from afar.

    And then. Two of her biological grandchildren, one of whom is my half sister, started planning weddings. And oh my god, she was so excited. She was so involved. She attended both weddings wearing special outfits and special manicures she got just for them.

    “Not a wedding person.” Right. It hurt. For years, I’d felt subtle hints that I wasn’t as important to them, but I always brushed them off. Here was my obvious proof. Letter writer, I’m so sorry that a whole side of your family is doing this to you. In your case, I really do hope it’s a matter of finances or distance or anything really, other than lack of care, and it certainly sounds like that is possible (though your cousin sounds like a piece of work!). Can you talk to any of your family who aren’t attending to express your disappointment that they can’t attend? Maybe they’ll have an innocent explanation. It will still suck that they aren’t coming, but maybe it doesn’t mean anything larger for your relationship. And if you get some sort of proof like I did about your second-rate status, well…I’m sorry. Personally, I’ve chosen to pull away emotionally from my grandma. I’m polite, but for my own emotional well-being, I will never expect or seek a close relationship from her, and I’ll fulfill myself with love from family members who I know love and value me. Best of luck.

    • emmers

      This makes me angry on your behalf. She is a selfish asshole, and I’m sorry you have to deal with that. You should be impressed with yourself for how you’re handling it. It sounds like you’re being very adult, protecting yourself as best you can, and generally doing a good job at being an awesome human. Major ups to you.

      • Ashlah

        Oh, thank you. It helps that I have a pretty big family, so there’s lots of love to go around! Mostly I just can’t believe how blatant she was about it.

    • Lisa

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. I was disappointed my grandmother didn’t attend my wedding, but it hurt slightly less knowing that she hadn’t attended any of my cousins’ weddings either. I can’t imagine the hurt of being passed over like that.

    • joanna b.n.

      Yes to talk to the people you care about who aren’t attending – as in, GENTLY feel out their opinions on the topic. “Oh, we got your RSVP, so sorry you won’t be able to make it,” and then close your mouth and see what they say. And listen.

      • Sara

        I guess this situation could be different because it’s family in this case, but I regularly RSVP “not attending” to events that make me uncomfortable or downright bored, like baby showers and female-only wedding/bridal showers (I do send gifts and congratulatory wishes). I don’t ever offer an explanation and would very much resent being asked for one or here, prodded for one. I see it as no one’s business why I am not attending, and unless the LW’s absent family are her parents or siblings (i.e. direct/immediate family), I don’t think they owe her an explanation either. The RSVP is what it is.

    • laddibugg

      Yeah. that sounds like a case of ‘saying too much’. A ‘No thank we won’t be able to attend’ is all you need to say.

      • Cellistec

        No joke. A close family friend RSVP’d no to my post-elopement wedding reception and told my mom, “If it were a real wedding, we would come.” Not only did the friend say too much, but then my mom told me and that was also saying too much. It would have been nice to be spared that slight.

  • Jess

    I’m so sorry.

    Your words struck a familiar chord in me – wanting to impress your relatives, looking for people to be proud of you, the family grapevine explicitly telling you that your cousins timing was based in jealousy (why would you feel the need to make that known, family members?)

    I hope that your family members have valued you in other ways, at other times in your life. If not, they suck.

    Go with the last bit of Liz’s advice, tell yourself how very much this is NOT ABOUT YOU or your inherent worth, and focus on the people who will be there for you.

  • Amy March

    If you are going to interpret them not coming to your wedding as a sign they don’t like and value you as much as cousin, do you not expect them to take your having your wedding close to your fiance’s family as a sign of who you like and value more?

    It sucks when people you hoped would come can’t, but does it really change your relationship with them? Before this, it sounds like you were feeling like you needed to show off for them and maybe like you resented a touch how much money you had spent on them over the years. After this, basically the same, plus a jerky cousin. You have “wonderful partner, fabulous career path, happy”- do you really need “feeling valued by extended family who sound kinda sucky” too?

    My family moved far away from our extended family. It was the right decision for us, and I’m sure has been the right decision for you! But it helps nothing to pretend like physical distance doesn’t contribute to emotional distance.

    • emmers

      It could also be money. Cross country flights can be hard. It doesn’t make it suck less, since it sounds like LW has made the visiting-effort over the year, but my first thought was that maybe money has something to do with this.

    • Yeah, I’m glad you touched upon the money thing. APW usually does, eventually. Even when we think our relatives (or friends or whoever) are well-off, we don’t actually know their finances! So maybe, even if you think they have tons of money they actually don’t.

      Or maybe they’re all just assholes. Who knows.

    • laddibugg

      I just want to say I always look for your response to these letters. Your answers are always so well rounded, and touch on all sides of the issue.

    • Aria

      Hi, LW here! Honestly, I was worried about our nearby friends not being able to afford the trip! So when we were deciding where to have the wedding, my thoughts were somewhere along the line of “Well, family is going to come no matter what (like every other family wedding), but I really want my friends who have less disposable income to be able to celebrate with us!” Oh well. I think the feeling of not being prioritized in wedding considerations definitely played into some of this attitude, but I was surprised it manifested so clearly and directly.

      But my overall feelings towards this side of the family probably do need to be hashed out in therapy. One thing that was a great comfort was turning to my (now husband) and saying something to the effect of “Well, at least this pattern of disfunction stops here. None of our siblings are this mean.”

  • sofar

    My fiance’s family and mine live on other sides of the country. And when we decided to have the wedding near my family, a lot of my fiance’s family was miffed, as if we were “choosing” one side over the other. And that may be *part* of what’s happening here. Sooo… we’re having the wedding by my family and planning a big reception by his family a month later. It’s extra money and work, but my fiance’s parents really want a chance to celebrate with *their* family. Plus, I KNOW that my family would have been miffed if we’d had the wedding near my fiance’s family. You can’t win, and I bet our more far-flung, mobile society is creating lots of situations like this.

    • LJ

      Yeah. My mom was initially miffed that I didn’t get married in my hometown, where she was born/married/currently lives. Despite the fact that my fiancé and I have never lived there together and he knows literally no one there. We will get married where we live because that’s WHERE WE LIVE. Both sets of parents were temporarily yet tangibly saddened when they learned that we wouldn’t move our wedding to either of their cities. It’s ridiculous, but it happens. Great point.

    • NolaJael

      We knew that choosing one person’s hometown/state over another’s would ruffle feathers – so destination wedding! Ha! Joke’s on you guys, now you all have to travel.

  • OP, how much notice did your family have on the wedding date and location? Both my husband and I live far from our families, so we gave everyone almost a year’s notice on the date & location, so they could save/book flights early/etc. Even with all the notice, I was still worried that most of my family wouldn’t be there, because I know their financial situations.

    Either way though, I so sympathize with you. It’s so hard to not feel slighted and not valued when literally no one from your family is willing to reciprocate the effort that you’ve made to attend their events. And your cousin being so petty and upset that you got engaged first…how horrible.

    • Violet

      I’m not sure notice lead time is a factor here- LW says the family *is* “making the trip” to her cousin’s wedding, which sounds like the same factors (money, vacation time, scheduling) are present as well. And the cousin’s wedding is scheduled to occur before hers, and they got engaged after LW did. So whatever lead time LW gave the family, her cousin must have given less, yet they’re traveling for that one. I think that’s the part that hurts.

      • z

        Well, it might not be as far or expensive a trip. And travel planning time start when you give people an approximate destination, not when you get engaged. they might not have realized the wedding wasn’t happening near them, so they wouldn’t have started saving until the location was announced.

        • Violet

          All true, which is why I said I’m just not sure.

          • Aria

            LW here. Oh, plently plenty. Save the Dates sent out 6 months in advance knowing it was important to give people time.

          • Violet

            As I suspected. I was having a tough time thinking of a scenario where a reasonable person was upset people couldn’t come, but didn’t give them sufficient planning time to do so.

  • Rebecca

    Have you considered throwing a second reception after the wedding on the other coast? I know that costs time and money, but it could give you an opportunity to have some of the experiences you wanted. It’s not a perfect solution (e.g. Your husband’s family won’t be there for them to get to know) but, it would give those who really can’t come because of money and logistics a chance to show you that they care. And if they don’t . . . That’s a different problem.

    I’m sorry you’ve been hurt by your family on this issue. I’m often in your boat.

    • ender1687

      I had lots of extended family on both sides attend the wedding, and I don’t think other than my parents and his parents, they really mixed at all. Each side was more excited to hang out with the rest of the family that they don’t see super-often. It’s a nice idea, but I doubt much mingling would happen.

  • anony

    Maybe this is harsh, but this reminds me of a truism husband and I had to learn during our wedding planning – people just don’t care about your wedding as much as you do. That doesn’t mean people aren’t glad you’re getting married and found someone who can make you happy, but it’s just that, sometimes, weddings can be an imposition, especially when great distance, time and money come into play.

    (On the same token, I realize that one’s wedding isn’t an imposition, and you should have the wedding you want but accept that nothing is perfect and things just don’t fall out the way we want them to all the time).

    It does suck that apparently you’ve put in more effort to be present for this extended family than they are willing to put in for you, and maybe you should weigh that against how much you want to let their absence bother you. And I wouldn’t immediately jump to this idea that they are choosing favorites. Sometimes, it’s just like that.

    • laddibugg

      I believe weddings can appear as impositions if you don’t know that they don’t have to be.

      • LJ
        • LJ

          I wrote that I think this link is relevant and some people may enjoy reading it, but when I posted it the words disappeared.

          • Cleo

            love this. thanks!

            really puts the worrying about inconvenience in perspective :)

        • tr

          I seriously never understand the people who feel compelled to complain about when someone plans their wedding for–if a Friday wedding isn’t worth taking a vacation day to attend, then don’t go to it. If you have something way better planned for New Year’s Eve, go do that better thing. Odds are, the bride and groom are not going to miss you ~that~ much! (Unless you’re a member of the wedding party or something. In that case, once the couple is out of earshot, feel free to whine about the timing all you want. Because really, being in a wedding party is so absurdly inconvenient and expensive that you’re more or less allowed to whine all you want as long you make sure it won’t get back to the bride and groom.)

    • No, that’s not an excuse in this case. Of course people don’t care about their wedding as much as you do, but the LW’s family is choosing to care about the cousin’s wedding. I understand that it’s hard for people to travel but if you can still acknowledge it, apologetically decline and send a card the week before.

  • Alexandra

    A similar thing happened to my brother! Their wedding was one weekend ahead of my cousin’s wedding. Cousin came to my brother’s wedding, but brother didn’t go to cousin’s wedding. It was a snub (legitimately; husband’s wife didn’t like the cousin and didn’t go to the wedding, which was only a few hours’ drive away, because she was mad at the cousin for planning her wedding only one week after theirs)! Oh the drama! Sister-in-law was quite ruffled about it. I hate to admit that I enjoyed the juicy drama, as someone who was a bit envious of both weddings (I was single as could be at the time and dearly wanted to be married.)

    I went to both weddings and was stoked at the timing because I could knock out two weddings with one extended vacation. But lots of our family only went to one or the other. The ritziest, richest part of my family didn’t go to my brother’s wedding. They had a graduation that weekend. More drama for shameful Alexandra to enjoy!

    I will say that I have some very ritzy family (mentioned in the first paragraph) that I spent my teens and twenties trying to impress. Then therapy and time helped me grow out of that. They are nice people but they have their own lives. I don’t think they think about me much because that’s just how people are. Out of sight, out of mind. Some of them made it to my wedding, and others didn’t. By that time I had learned (truly) not to take it personally. I’ve said this before: weddings are actually a crappy time to socialize, if you’re the person getting married. You really won’t miss them. You’ll be too busy to notice their absence.

    Also: often family who don’t make it to the wedding give the nicest gifts! But YMMV, and that might be a recipe for disappointment, so forget I said anything.

  • MB

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I am in a similar situation – a cousin of mine who, along with that branch of the family, lives in another state, recently started planning a wedding that will land a week after my own, thus (apparently) preventing any one from that family from traveling to attend our celebration. Though I’m sure it wasn’t malicious (just oblivious, which is kinda par for the course unfortunately), I’m incredibly disappointed. It’s really tough when you get those emotional wake up calls that folks aren’t always going to fit in to our own ideas of a ‘close-knit’ family, especially when we’re dealing with all the other emotional tangles that come with the whole wedding-planning deal.
    Lots of solidarity hugs to you, LW!!

    • Sosuli

      For a moment I wondered whether you were the LW! Strength and grace to both you and her in dealing with a situation that is bound to feel bad.

      • MB

        Thank you <3

    • Eh

      Ugh! That sucks. My dad’s side always talks about how family comes first and how close of a family we are yet none of them came to my wedding because my cousins had his son’s second birthday party on the same weekend in another city. My dad’s side (excluding my immediate family) travelled (some people over 700km) to the birthday part instead of our wedding. We gave nearly a years notice of when our wedding was, and the kids birthday was two weeks before. I’m pretty sure my cousin is just oblivious but I have a hard time not thinking it was malicious.

  • Emily

    THIS WAS ME almost precisely. And I just want to push back for a second on the folks here who are brainstorming with sympathy for your extended family (was there enough notice? was travel an issue? is this just an unfortunate coincidence? etc. etc. etc.) and say, from someone who’s been riiiiiiiiight there, that sometimes family is SERIOUSLY JUST SHITTY and does not have good intentions, good excuses, or good reasons. Sometimes they are awful, political, dramatic, petty, immature, and mean. That might not be yours, but it is definitely mine.

    And you will be okay, and your wedding will be okay, and your whole life will be okay anyway. For me, the wedding allowed me to let go completely of my desire to impress them or connect with them. While planning, I had often imagined my extended family at my wedding and wondered what they would think of it. And then they didn’t show up – literally, none of them showed up. (Obviously there is a longer background story here!)

    In the end: my wedding was so fun. The people I love most in the world were all there. I didn’t once think about my snobby aunt or my rich uncle or my cool older cousin (the one whose wedding they all rallied to attend), not once the entire day. This need not ruin your celebration. It will still be so good!

    Ultimately, it was freeing. Five years later, I care not at all about their opinion of my life choices. I don’t feel compelled to subtly seek out their approval or compare my career trajectory or secretly compete. My marriage and life are truly, deeply good and that’s all that matters.

    It’s true what Liz said above that this is about them, not you. If they want this world of petty drama, that’s their choice. But you can step away from the empty unhappiness and futile frustration and just choose into peace and joy, both at your wedding and going forward.

    • LJ

      Damn. PREACH, LADY.
      I’m not inviting any extended family because some of them are ridiculous narcissists and if I invite one than I have to invite all 30 and nope nope nope
      Sometimes it’s about realizing your relationship with family members will never be perfect and finding some sort of peace in it.

    • Aria

      LW here. Thank you for your kind advice. Most of this letter was dashed off in a flurry of stress and frustration, and now that I’m on the other side, everything is totally fine. The wedding was amazing and perfect, and just like you said. And now I can just relax and think, “They missed out!”

    • EF

      Just seconding this. My brother met his now-wife after I had gotten engaged…and scheduled his wedding for just a few weeks before mine (with christmas in between)…after I’d sent out save the dates and invitations.

      the entire family went to his wedding. And MAN it stings. It’s a year and a half later and still stings. I wish I’d never invited them, so I couldn’t be so disappointed now. They also didn’t buy any gifts, send cards, or acknowledge me in any way.

      So, like, yeah. this shit blows. And what I learned at the time is that this isn’t, like, crazy uncommon. It was comforting to not be alone in the family-sucking category. It happens. We pick ourselves up and carry on.

      • Basketcase

        Ouch. My husband’s siblings and parents were the only relatives on his side that came, and they ALL complained about having to be there. They tried to tell us that it was ok because “very few” relatives came to their weddings, they didn’t realise till they got to the ceremony how many less we had (and none had a good reason for not coming). We couldn’t even fill the family table on his side – had to add friends.
        6 years on and it still hurts.

    • orienteeringirl

      This happened with my husband’s extended family. We live on the East Coast, but he’s from the mid-West. There was plenty of advanced notice about our wedding. We were engaged for two years, sent save-the-dates out 9 months before our wedding and invites with plenty of lead time as well. But in the interim his cousin got engaged and set their wedding date for a few months after ours at a city much more conveniently located for his family. We knew from the beginning that it was very likely that the “NO” RSVPs would be much higher for his family, but as they rolled in one no after another, it was hard not to feel like it was some sort of unspoken commentary on the way that our relationship was valued by his relatives.

      Though I don’t know who is or isn’t going to be at his cousin’s wedding (I should say that this has nothing to do with how we feel about his cousin and her FH. We’re thrilled for them and can’t wait to celebrate their day!) I have a feeling that many of his family that didn’t make it to our wedding will make it to theirs. While it was legitimately not manageable for some of his family, we also got some pretty lame excuses, like because our room block was filled up the cost of a regular room was too much (even though there are well over a hundred hotels in our metropolitan area.) We just kept reminding ourselves that everyone is an adult and its their choice to make and we have to respect that (although, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still a little miffed about it.)

  • joanna b.n.

    Also sometimes people don’t come to your wedding, but they still support you, love you, and even find ways to honor you besides being there in person on that day. If you can, I’d wait to take away too much from all this until you see how it plays out – who finds other ways to be present for you and show support. If you’re feeling particularly gracious, you might even opt for suggesting a little mini-celebration when you’re back in their area (engagement party? etc.) for those who can’t travel but want to participate. See if that’s of interest. They might surprise you by really showing up when it doesn’t involve cross-country plane tix!

  • Sara

    I think I am less sentimental about stuff like this than most – but I can count on one hand the people whose weddings I would fly across the country for. I do, granted, have a very small family. But if this cousin sent her invites out first and people committed to her first (however shitty of her that was), they unfortunately are bound by common etiquette to uphold those commitments. And I don’t know about everyone else, but I definitely am not granted enough vacation time to take 2 cross-country trips in one year, especially when they are for other people’s weddings and not my own relaxing vacation of choice. This sounds like an unfortunate “it is what it is” scenario. Your wedding day will be amazing and memorable despite their absence.

    • “And I don’t know about everyone else, but I definitely am not granted enough vacation time to take 2 cross-country trips in one year, especially when they are for other people’s weddings and not my own relaxing vacation of choice. ”
      That, combined with “no one is as excited about your wedding as you are” are two pretty key bits of knowledge to consider.

      • Amy March

        Yes, agreed. I’ve flown to LA from NYC for a wedding without taking any vacation. A late night flight Friday from NYC that gets in after midnight in LA, which feels like 4am, and then returning Sunday morning, having done nothing but wedding-ed, is really just horrible. I wouldn’t do it twice in rapid succession even if I could afford it in $$$ terms, and I probably would pick the wedding of the person I’m closer to and, to be honest, not feel particularly bad about it.

        • Sara

          As you shouldn’t, and as any reasonable bride (or groom for that matter) would understand.

        • Jenna

          Of course. I think the letter writer’s conundrum is feeling bad that she is not the person they are closer to, not that they made the choice to go to just one wedding.

  • Katie

    One of the best lessons I’ve learned over time is that is OK to put the same amount of effort into relationships as the other person. I live as far across the country as you can possibly get from my extended family, and have ever since I went to college 15 years ago. Not a single one has ever, ever, visited me. At first, I put in SO MUCH EFFORT. Phone calls every week, visits several times a year, attendance at all Traditional Family Functions. But as I got older, and as I realized that they were always happy to be on the receiving end of my effort, but not all that interested in reciprocating, I was able to start to let go. Now I send emails every now and then, and I try to visit every other year. No one is offended, or even notices that things have changed, I’m less put out, I have more time for other people, and more money to spend on other things!

    This might be the start of a similar lesson for you. It’s a hard one when it’s family, I know.

    • Ebloom

      I so hear this. It reminds me of my relationship with my cousin. We used to live in the same city and when we’d see each other at family functions she would say, “let’s get a drink sometime!” So I’d wait a couple weeks and text her about meeting up, and she would never respond. It hurt, but finally I was like, whatever. Her invites were obviously superficial. She moved to New York without any notice, and a few years later she had the nerve to include my email address in a message to our entire family about needing money for acting school. Point is, one learns that they can only reach out so far before it becomes one sided. I wish her the best, but I’m not going to try to have a relationship if she’s not going to try either. I don’t count form emails asking for money trying.

    • raccooncity

      Agree. My husband and I are the people who visit. It’s what we do – we go to you. I started getting tired of it and realized no one cared if we resented visiting because no one really cared all that much about seeing us. I don’t mean that in a terrible way – they were always delighted we’d visit – but they weren’t so sad if we weren’t making the trip because they understood they weren’t doing it either. (that said, i do have one immediate family member who makes a big stink about us not visiting enough and has never once visited me, so people can be dicks about it)

      But yeah, we go visit people if we want to take a trip to that place and that’s it. We make exceptions for people who make an effort to visit, like Mr. RC’s parents who make the long trip to visit us as much as we go the other direction. You really can only visit people for your own pleasure, not as some sort of down payment for future visits from them. You’ll be disappointed.

    • Jenna

      THIS. THIS SO HARD. In the end does it even matter what they think of you? Stop trying to impress them – it’s OK to put the same amount of effort into seeing them as they do to see you, and show up when you want to, not when you feel you have to.

    • Eh

      I had my wedding close to where we live (where my husband grew up) to force people to come see us (that didn’t work, but planning a local wedding was easier for me). I had lived here for four years at that point and my dad was the only family member to come see me and only two of my friends had come. After we sent out our Save the Dates I got a lot of complaints about our wedding not being where my extended family lives (a place I last live when I was 6 years old). That has set the tone for my relationship with a lot of my extended family. I was in the city for a funeral (24 hour trip) and made an effort to go see some people but I will not be making special trips there (it’s very out of the way and expensive).

    • April

      this is totally bang on and also can be really difficult to put into practice because sometimes it actually means letting go of a relationship you care about. The unexpected payoff though is that you find yourself with a ton of extra time and energy to build relationships with people who reciprocate!

    • queerflakes

      So glad to see so many comments echoing this statement. I have an ok relationship with my extended family on my father’s side, but it was always weird growing up that we visited them once a year, and only a few times during my childhood did they come visit us. (We lived in different states, about two days’ drive from each other.) This was even more stark because my mother is an immigrant and her family lived across the ocean and practically a world away, so I never even met any of that side of the family until I was an adult. So growing up, I didn’t really “have” an extended family. At times I was sort of sad when I saw how close my friends were to their cousins, aunts/uncles, or especially grandparents. But I also learned to reciprocate accordingly, remarkably so since marrying my husband. His extended family is very close-knit, and even though they live even further away from us (three days’ drive or so), we still see family members at least twice a year, sometimes more. We usually go visit in the summer or fall, and they come visit in the winter or early spring. Marriage has shown me the possibilities of what a different family dynamic might be like, and I am able to let go of any residual bitterness that I had with my own. It helps me think about how I want to shape my own relationships with my parents, my siblings, and my in-laws.

    • Basketcase

      Yes! We visit DHs family at least once a year, and 2/3 reciprocate.
      We don’t make an effort to change plans for the one who doesn’t when we are in town to visit the other 2/3.

  • laddibugg

    I do think it’s a little weird that literally no one will be there. I would wonder if there was a unilateral agreement about whose wedding ‘the family’ would attend.
    It doesn’t matter really why, just a thought

    • KC

      No idea what’s going on in any particular case, but with weddings (or basically any other event with people and other circumstances going on) there can be a weird snowball effect – first you get the people who will come when the only “attraction” is the wedding or the couple getting married. Then you get some people for whom the wedding plus getting to catch up with part of group 1 is enough, then after that, some who will be coming because “all the cousins” will be there, etc. So you can get some very strange family clumping behaviors without deliberate consensus, especially when it’s aggravated by “can only go to one of these two weddings” timeline issues.

      Of course, some people then also sometimes say, as soon as an invite’s out, “okay, so we’ll all be in X for Y’s wedding – let’s have a reunion lunch the next day!” and make it more formal/organized/discussed. But it’s possible to end up with most/all people going to one event (and hence not the other) even without that.

  • Cleo

    “If this wedding was anticipated for a while, she may have had verbal agreements about different wedding responsibilities or roles. You know, more of those family dynamics I mentioned above.”

    THIS. Two family friends of mine are getting married on the same day in different states. One of them is like a sister to me (P), the other I’m not as close to (L). I’m going to P’s wedding.

    L got engaged first by a couple months. From outward appearances, it looks like P is stealing L’s thunder. However, P actually knew the proposal was coming for a while and she and her fiance set the date before L got engaged (including booking the venue). Because P didn’t want to announce her engagement until after the proposal, and what are the chances of L choosing the same date anyway, P stayed silent.

    Everyone feels bad, and there’s going to be several people not going to P’s wedding, but a bigger contingent not going to L’s (out of state travel for L’s too), and it’s caused some drama.

    While those of us who were invited to both weddings were forced to choose, it wasn’t to snub L and it wasn’t because P was sabotaging anything.

    All this to say, sometimes logistics can cause drama and maybe everyone should talk to each other more. :/

  • Ebloom

    Don’t do anything with the hopes of impressing anyone. Do everything because you want to. I had to learn this the hard way with my family. Once I realized that they were not worth impressing, life got easier. Show up when you genuinely want to, be the bigger person, and bundle the people who do show up for you all the more closer.

  • gonzalesbeach

    oh family grapevine. I stopped listening to the grapevine/gossip train because it’s like that game of telephone where all the words get scrambled in the end… and not just words but feelings.
    and yes, people told LW that cousin deliberately did X, but can we give her a little more benefit of the doubt (she might possibly not be a two-headed dragon)? there could have been other factors that went into her and her groom’s choice of day – like perhaps the groom’s family’s schedules/aging family or their chosen location’s/photographer availability. or yes possibly the dragon thing, but maybe just maybe, she’s also just a human person, too.

    • Liz

      This is fair. But I find it sort of unlikely. It seems to me that if the cousin picked such a close date for logistical reasons, she’d call and say, “I’M SO SORRY, we had to because Uncle Gary is only in town that weekend, I hope you understand…”

      • gonzalesbeach

        good point

  • Jenna

    Actually I’m gonna go with they do value you less. If this cousin was “infuriated” and turned her wedding, in a churlish and immature fashion, into a “direct competition” with yours and they chose her…frankly, they probably do value her more, or value you less than you value them (do you really valie them, or just want to impress them? There’s a difference). May as well be honest with yourself about that.

    But that doesn’t mean they don’t like you at all, or don’t care about you at all. And it hurts, and sucks, to feel (or know) you are valued less, but it doesn’t actually mean you are worth less. It means some people don’t see how great you are. There’s no one way to deal with this, but my way, as I too have family members who act this way, is to remain friendly and do all the usual things like holiday cards and seeing them at other events when that happens or Facebooking them. But, I have to be honest, I don’t make an effort to keep in touch with them beyond that. They’re not cut off – what they get is good enough. I still make an effort to show up to family events, when I want to. Because I want to, not because I feel I have to for them. If this means we are a little more distant than we might otherwise have been, that’s unfortunate, but it’s on them, not me. If they valued me more I’d put in more effort.

    Now I feel bad for making that whole thing about me, but really it’s meant as a comparison to you and whatever the details of your situation are. It seems to me that this isn’t about the wedding as much as it is the wedding being representative of how they disregard you generally. This is why I am not giving them much of the benefit of the doubt. The tone and wording of your letter gave good reason not to – I actually think you’ve nailed the situation and they are who you are surmising they are.

    Basically, I wouldn’t cut them off but I would not maintain as close a relationship as I might otherwise have liked, if I were you. I’d focus on people who do value me highly and will show up for me, rather than trying to impress people who ultimately won’t. Something tells me they care a lot less about this “competition” than you do.

    • TheOtherLiz

      Reading your comment felt like good therapy for myself! I struggle with parts of my family not meeting my expectations too, and efforts at closeness that aren’t returned. Reading the line “It means some people don’t see how great you are” is so helpful, and I suspect I’m not the only one who needed to read it – I certainly hope it helps the LW (letter writer) too!

  • Jenna

    Also can I just say the title of this post was confusing? The whole family isn’t skipping the LW’s wedding, some people are. And it doesn’t seem it’s her immediate family (that WOULD be shitty), it’s a branch of extended family. “My whole family is skipping my wedding (but coming to my couins’s)” makes it sound like EVERYONE chose the cousin over the LW, including the LW’s own parents. I don’t know if it was worded that way to get clicks or whatnot but it’s a bit disingenuous.

    • Liz

      It’s always difficult to get the vibe of a post across in a succinct, one-sentence sum-up. Take out “whole” and you don’t get the sense that an entire side of the family is unanimously not coming. But “an entire side of the family is unanimously not coming” isn’t exactly a practical title.

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  • Arie

    I have this group of extended family members who have been a disappointment and have really let me know where I stand in their lives over the last 8 years or so. I agonized over what to do with wedding invites. Then I thought about it and realized, I’m going to be stressed and negatively judged if they show up, and I’m going to be hurt/stressed/negatively judged if they don’t show up. I didn’t invite them. It still sometimes makes me sad because even though they’ve shown me in so many other important, crushing ways that we’re not “family” in the sense that I thought we were, I pictured them there. It was the right call, but it’s still also hard not to feel like I’m at fault for not inviting them. This will be one of those things where they justify all kinds of nonsense by saying “whatever, she didn’t even invite all 20 of us judgmental jerks to her tiny wedding.” Except, you know, they probably won’t call themselves judgmental jerks.

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  • C

    Oh man, that sucks. I’m sorry, AOGC. I experienced something sort-of similar, but on a smaller scale. It’s so disappointing when there’s another wedding and you can contrast people’s behavior with the previous/subsequent celebration. Bah.. Glad your wedding was wonderful anyway!

  • Natasha

    I would just like to say that reading this letter made a world of difference to me. My wedding was one month ago, and of the 24 extended family members we had invited from my side of the family, two came. One uncle, and one cousin. What was worse is I had to chase down the other family members to even find out that they were not coming, because they didn’t even bother to send the RSVP.
    I have a complicated history with my family, and they all live a minimum of an 8 hour flight away (some have a 12 hour flight) so I had sent out the save-the-date cards 10 months in advance, and followed up to make sure everyone got them and could mark their calendar and make travel arrangements. My extended family is often petty, self-centered, and passive aggressive, but I still had really thought they would come to the wedding out of perceived entitlement on their part.
    I was surprised at how upset I was that they were not going to come. I didn’t even think I had wanted them to be there that much in the first place. There were no other family weddings happening at the same time, no major vacations, and no good excuses for why they didn’t come, only that they didn’t want to bother. Worse, they didn’t bother to tell me that in enough time to be able to invite extra friends and coworkers that I had wanted to invite more from the get go.
    Luckily, in the fit of sobbing (that surprised me because I never, ever, cry) I went on to APW here to see if there were any articles that would help me feel better, and I found this one. And by the next day, after reading this and all the comments below, I felt a million times better. It didn’t even bother me the rest of the three weeks leading up to my wedding, setting up the seating chart made me laugh instead of hurt, and I was so extra thankful for all the parents and family members of our friends who came to celebrate with us, without being related to us.
    What I realized from reading all the comments below is that their actions didn’t hurt me because it made me feel worthless, it hurt me because it made me feel so alone. But, reading that this had happened to other people, that it was going to be ok, erased those feelings of loneliness. I was able to have the most amazing time at my wedding, and I felt very loved by all the people who did come to be apart of it.
    I’m not sure I would have been able to notice and appreciate all the love and support I got from the people who did come if I had not read this article first. I am so very happy it was here when I needed it.

  • Levi Gray

    You have a new family. Enjoy them — if Old Family are what you describe them as? Good Fucking Riddance. No, really, look at them and say it with me: “Good Fucking Riddance.” They have not shown up for you before, they will not show up now, and they will not show up in the future. Reconcile yourself to that fact, and do what you have to to get past the hurt of it. Embrace the family that has been showing up for you — your fiance’s family. They obviously love them some you.