Will Our Families Be Upset With Our Friends-Only Wedding?


AAPW: We've friend-zoned our guest list

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

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Q: My partner and I decided to tie the knot (yay!!), which means we’ve been starting to solidify our ideas about what our wedding should, must, and might include. It might include our lazy dog, it definitely must include a mimosa bar, and we feel it should include only our closest friends, no family. Being the introverts and “odd sheep” in our families, we are seriously considering limiting the guest list of our elopement-esque wedding to our closest friends (ten to fifteen people). While we have lots of love for our families, neither of us is very close to them. Our friends feel more like our family, and we’re more comfortable and more excited about having the witnesses to our dedicated partnership be those closest to us. So, have any of you had a friends-only wedding? If so, how did you deal with negativity from family who were surprised (and hurt) by your “friend-lopement”? Did any of you regret your decision?

—Ashley

A: Dear Ashley,
I promise I’m going to muster some of the solidarity and support you probably were hoping for when you wrote in. But, first, we gotta talk about some things.

You acknowledge that your family might be hurt by the decision to exclude them. And yeah, elopements hurt feelings sometimes. Weddings hurt feelings sometimes. We can’t always make wedding decisions in hopes of never hurting anyone ever. My concern is that, “You chose them over me,” or “You like them better than me,” is a very deep, special sort of hurt. Particularly when it comes to the people who feel they love you most, or are closest to you. I’m worried that “just friends” carries more sting than “private” or “alone.”

I try not to play that mom-card too often, but if I put myself in those shoes in a hypothetical place several years from now, I think I could scrape together some understanding of my son’s elopement. It would be much harder to try to understand why he wouldn’t want me there, but would want someone else.

I’ve mentioned before that a selective guest list can make an unintentional statement. When you’re considering pointedly singling someone out and excluding them, it sends a message. The message I’m concerned you’re sending your parents isn’t that you’re adults, that you’re forming a baby family, that you’re setting boundaries. Instead, I’m afraid this decision would say, “We like these other guys better.” And that isn’t a statement about your relationship with your partner as a pair of grown-ups. It’s a message about your parents that could change your relationship to them for a good long time.

Weigh that a bit. Consider what that sentiment would mean to the folks around you and how it would impact your relationships as you move forward in your marriage. I’ll concede that I don’t know the full dynamic over there, and all I’ve got is an email, so maybe I’m way off.

If you read all I’ve said and still think, “Yep, got it, thanks. Still inviting just friends,” I’ll open it up to our readers for thoughts on how to handle the aftermath. We’ve got some good words about elopements and family over here and here by smart ladies who’ve gone before you. My advice would be to remember that you’re only in control of your own decisions, and in trying to carry those out with great care. How your family chooses to respond isn’t your responsibility, and voicing hurt (within reason) is their right. I’d make an effort to be gracious and compassionate if and when it’s voiced.

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Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Stacie

    My initial reaction is that this is an awful, hurtful idea that could damage your relationship with your families permanently. It’s one thing if your families of origin are so dysfunctional and unhealthy that you have already cut ties to them–in that scenario you certainly don’t have to invite them. But that’s not what the letter says.

  • Jen

    Now that my closest friends are starting to have kids, I understand my parents much better. I think its important to remember that your family has history that you most likely do not remember. I am not talking about vacations, or other photographic moments, but the everyday moments. Again, I do not know much context, but your family likely has memories that may mean nothing to you but mean the world to them. Although a wedding guest list will always be a bit of a snap shot in time because relationships do change, your family’s (especially your parents’) snap shot may be a bit of a wider frame because of that history that only they hold dear. If you do decide to do a friends only wedding, Liz is correct that, at minimum, be prepared to emphatically explain your decision and answer questions. Good luck!

    • Jen

      empathetically not emphatically. Need coffee over here!

      • Jess

        I think you definitely have to emphatically explain a decision like not inviting family too! (though it would go a long way to be empathetic about it)

  • Molly

    Something about this seems really… bratty. I don’t know the backstory either, but I feel like the letter writer is missing a key point of the whole “wedding thing” — celebrating the development of the two people’s lives that led up to the point of marriage. That may not be the dreamy, Instagrammable mimosa hangout the writer has in mind, but there’s something to be said about accepting who you are and where you come from, and celebrating who your partner is and where he or she comes from. I think no matter how close or distant you are to your families, unless there are people at risk of ruining your wedding, it would be foolish to exclude people whom you love and who love you (and raised you!) just because you don’t see them fitting into your dream aesthetic.

    • Liz

      I’d like to nip this in the bud right quick before the comments pile in. Questioning if the LW’s idea is a good one seems within fair bounds, but calling her “bratty” doesn’t.

      • Kayjayoh

        One of the many reasons I love APW is this right here.

    • Jess

      We all bring our own baggage into weddings, and for me, I don’t really see a wedding as a celebration of the development of two people’s lives or think that it has to acknowledge their past. I see it much more as an act of commitment and a celebration of that act, and a step to moving into their future and who they want to be.

      This said, I definitely agree that it’s healthy to learn to accept where you come from and how you got to where you are now, even if you don’t want to celebrate it or include it in your wedding.

      It would be interesting to dig more into where the LW is coming from, the reason for wanting what they want – aesthetics vs toxic situations vs just not really caring – and how much they are willing to estrange themselves from family (as a number of other comments have already brought up).

  • ruth

    Oof this is a tough one. Our families drove us nuts throughout our wedding planning – and yet looking back I’m really glad they were there on the big day. I think the key issue here is why the letter writer doesn’t feel close to their family and why they don’t want them there – we’re closer to and feel more comfortable with our friends is world’s apart from a family situation that is abusive and toxic. While my husband and I sometimes lovingly complain about our parents / siblings, truth is, they’re pretty good folks – but a friend of mine who has been horrifically emotionally abused by her family of origin is not inviting them to her wedding – a decision I deeply respect. So everything hinges on the why. I will say that, if the writer thinks their relationship with their families is decent enough to want them in their lives in the future, I’d reiterate that the wedding is just a day, the marriage hopefully a lifetime- and it’s important to create the type of relationship you want with your families during your married life. I think wedding planning can be a really great vehicle for boundary setting – deciding what decisions you’re willing to compromise with your family on (like adding extended family to the guest list, for example ) and what ones you’re not willing to compromise on (like changing the religious affiliation of your officiant! ) If you plan to have kids and want their grandparents to play any role in their life – or even if you dont, but you’re planning to see your families again after the wedding and maybe spend a holiday together – I think it’s worth sharing your important milestones with them, and doing the difficult work of setting boundaries now, rather than avoiding it and having the same issues pop up later with greater magnitude

    • Eenie

      I agree. Relationships change over time. Not inviting your family to your wedding would be a permanent asterix on the relationship for forever. I guess the letter writer needs to be prepared for the backlash and ok that this cements the non relationship for the future.

    • raccooncity

      Yes, this seems like one of those defining moments in a relationship. I think any decision is valid on their part (although not if the parents are putting money into the thing, which seems like an obvious thing that’s not happening, but I have relatives who would totally do that…), but it will very likely define the relationship with family going forward.

      My parents told me they would be very hurt if I didn’t invite them to my wedding, so I did. My second cousin said the same thing and I was like “meh”.

  • fletchasketch

    I totally get this. My family is very religious and judgmental (and large!), and I love them, but family events are always a not-fun slog and don’t fit in with what should be a fun celebration. Liz’s advice is spot on: you have every right to do this, and they have every right to be hurt. Good luck with whatever you choose!

  • Tiny Wedding

    My fiance and I are having an *almost* friends-only wedding in about a month. We have invited about three dozen friends… and my little brother, and his two sisters as well as his brother-in-law. Here’s who is not invited: both of my parents, both of his parents, my two older brothers, and my older sister. The reason(s)? My mother cannot come because she is in a long-term care facility and know longer understands who I am. She would be terrified to travel and be surrounded by strangers, even with her nurse. So, we will be visiting her privately after the wedding. I am estranged from three other members of my family on the advice of multiple counselors because I’m a survivor of child abuse. There is sadly a restraining order in place against my sister because her bipolar disorder has caused her to threaten to kill members of my family. Finally, my fiance’s parents are not invited because their marriage imploded about 24 months ago and they cannot be in the same room together. He loves both of them, but he spoke to them about it and they agreed it would be best, considering everything, for us to have a friends-and-siblings-only wedding. My little brother and I have a warm, respectful relationship that we have nurtured as adults and he is supportive of our decision. So, here is my advice for you, letter writer: I think that if you and your fiance have families where everyone loves you and protects you as we all hope family would, well, then I bet they would want to be by your side as witnesses to your wedding vows. If there is more to your story, then by all means please do what is right for you and your fiance. But if this decision is only about shyness and not feeling particularly close to your families who do love and respect you in their own way, well, I say welcome them with open arms.

    • macrain

      So well put. Hugs to you.

    • Eenie

      I think this is a great example of how to do a friends only wedding without drastically changing the current relationship with your family. It sounds like you’ll be surrounded by some awesome people on your wedding day!

    • Sally

      I agree that this represents very good reasons to omit family. If you have an estranged relationship with anyone and don’t want them in your life, don’t invite them. If someone is not able to travel or mentally be with you on the wedding day, don’t invite them. If the only way you can invite someone is by not inviting someone else, talk it through with them and make sure this is the case (then, like tiny wedding, maybe don’t invite these guests). But don’t omit family just because you don’t feel especially close to them. The nature of family is that the relationship is always changing but ideally always one you can go back to.

      • AnneBonny

        “The nature of family is that the relationship is always changing but ideally always one you can go back to.”

        Wise words!

    • Emily

      this. It is a really under reported phenomenon for childhood abuse to extend into adulthood. If LW needs her family not to be there in order to feel safe and well, more power to her. That said, she described herself as a black sheep which is kind of really different.

    • This all makes sense. The LW on the other hand didn’t mention any such good reasons for her plan.

  • Amy March

    I think this plan is custom made to completely destroy any positive relationship with either of your families going forward. This is how you behave when your family of origin is abusive and must be cut out of your life for your own protection. If that’s not the case for you, and you envision a future where your parents meet your children, and you celebrate holidays together, and you exchange birthday greetings, I think you need to seriously reconsider.

  • Jamie

    My husband’s family is super toxic, so when we planned our tiny destination wedding we just included my dad and brother along with a half dozen mutual friends. When my MIL found out we eloped, she seemed OK with it. But when she later realized we *did* have a handful of guests, she went bananas. It definitely has “defined” our relationship with her in many ways, and things certainly haven’t improved. That said, we simply did not want his family at our wedding, and we have zero regrets about not inviting them.

    • Amy March

      In terms of hurt feelings, I think there’s a big difference between actually eloping- just the two of you because you just couldn’t wait a minute longer to be married, and having a very small wedding. Not that I think the way you handled it is a problem at all, but if Ashley really wants to elope I think not having other guests is really key to minimizing the hurt to their families.

  • ruth

    P.s Also, just wanted to add – I have no idea how old the letter writer is – I got married in my twenties and am now in my thirties. When I was in my twenties I thought my friends were my family – we were insanely close – we talked every day – I thought these people would be in my life forever. Truth is now, there are some friends I haven’t seen since my wedding – and others I still feel deeply close to, but we talk maybe once a month or two now, because of jobs, grad school, kids, etc… In my 20s i thought my best friend was my soul mate – now this person isn’t even in my life anymore. I never could have predicted this in my 20s. Meanwhile my family – while we have little to nothing in common and don’t always even get along – has stuck with me because, well, because they’re family – and we’re stuck with each other for life (I define family as people you love, even if you dont like them.) And in my 30s I find I really appreciate this. Oy, I feel old even writing that, lol.

    • Amy March

      My experience has been very much the same. Turns out my sister is actually pretty important. And while I love being “auntie Amy” to my friend’s baby, at the end of the day her actual uncles come first.

    • Lisa

      So much this. I had some really intense friendships in undergrad and grad school that I thought would make the transition into real life; these people were my family in new situations and really grounded me during that time in my life. Only a few of those friendships survived into the real world, and as you aptly pointed out, some of my best friends and I only communicate once every month or so. During the time those friendships were developing, I was further away emotionally from my family than I had been, but now my sisters are my best friends, and I call my parents on a regular basis for counsel and support.

      I can understand the temptation of the LW to cut down the guest list to people to whom she is closest right now (haven’t we all had the moment during wedding planning where we wished we’d eloped?) but think the only way to continue to have a relationship with the families afterward is to invite them to the wedding. This doesn’t have to be everyone and his brother, but immediate families, barring any abuse or toxic relationship issues that you wouldn’t mind losing forever, are pretty nonnegotiable to me.

    • laddibugg

      I”m still friends with my core group from high school, but we all realize the friendships aren’t as intense as they were then–we’ve gotten married or had babies or just work a gazillion hours. And we low key realize these relationships might not last for the next 20 years.

    • Roselyne

      This has exactly mirrored my experience.

      There are still friends we’re close to and see often, and some of these are the people I thought of as ‘family’ when I was 22 (and some of those I haven’t spoken to in years, so… mileage may vary). Family, though? Unless there’s a good reason (abuse, etc – there are absolutely good reasons to decide that family should not be in your life), family sticks around, even if you don`t have much in common with them.

      Also, I’ve found that as I grow older (I’m 31, and man, I feel old writing about ‘as I grow older’…) people I used to have NOTHING in common with are following a similar life trajectory, and so we now have things in common to talk about. Life changes, basically.

    • Sarah

      Yup, friends can be very important but there’s no replacing family (obviously not in the cases of abuse, extreme venom on either side, etc). And I hate to pull the “when you’re married/older/have your own kids” card but as you grow you realize why family can be so important.

    • Anon

      Just a thought – I wonder if it’d be possible that your wedding be a chance for your immediate family to see how your friends appreciate and love you, and through listening to the toasts and speeches, come to know you better. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but one of the most magical things to me about my wedding was that my sisters came out of it with a closer relationship to each other. Somehow spending all this time together in a joyful setting together helped them realize they were grown up and had grown out of many of their old differences. Of course there may be many valid reasons to not have family, but if the only issue is that you’re not very close, I’d encourage LW to consider having immediate family, and letting them be there to hear about you and see you in a context that they normally don’t have a chance to witness.

      • anon, too

        Word. Our wedding served as a catalyst for my sister to get out of her terrible marriage. We had not been particularly close for years before the wedding, but she said that experiencing the love from our community of friends helped her find the courage to go after the life she wants. We’re now growing closer in our adult relationship with each other. That’s probably an extreme example, but on the whole I’d say my extended family (who I rarely see) got to know me better on my wedding day than they have over the course of my whole life, and it felt so good to share some pieces of the best parts of my life with them.

      • joanna b.n.

        This happened for us – we had a wedding in our town, full of our friends, and designed by us, and it allowed our families to get to know us better, and get to know us as adults. Huge win, totally unexpected, for building up those family connections after living across the country from them for several years.

    • CMT

      Even if the LW is in her 20s, that doesn’t make the super close, friends-are-her-family feeling any less true or valid. Circumstances change, but that doesn’t make old feelings wrong.

      • tr

        It doesn’t make her feelings any less true or valid, but what people are saying is that she needs to realize those feelings will likely change in the future.
        I truly loved my high school boyfriend. Those feelings were real, and they were valid. They were so real and valid that to this day, I care deeply about him, and he knows that if he was ever in a true crisis, I’d be there. However, that doesn’t mean that 32 year old me is in love with him, or that marrying him would have been a good idea. Just because your feelings are true and valid doesn’t mean you should plan your future around them. Relationships, by their very nature, are pretty much guaranteed to change.

    • Nell

      YES. I actually made a list one day of people who I would have chosen not just to attend my wedding but to be bridesmaids at age 18, 22, 25, 28, and 30 (when I actually started planning my wedding). OMG those differences were stark.

    • K.

      Do we all think this shift is inevitable for most people? I ask this because as I’m moving (much) closer to 30 than 20, I really feel this shift happening. Blood family obligations and needs are becoming tenfold what they once were on top of our own needs as a new nuclear family, and it’s harder and harder to make time for friends, even though our wedding vows promised honoring our chosen family as much as origin. Maybe it was overly idealistic to think that it was possible to honor three types of families equally (including our baby family) and at the end of the day, most of us are so societally conditioned to prioritize our blood ties, even if being a blood tie is the only reason to value their relationship over, say, a best friend from college.

      Sort of depressing, actually.

  • No family at all strikes me as an extremely strong move, especially when you characterize your relationships with your families as “not that close to them”. Not inviting them at all makes sense when your family is abusive, bigoted, 100% not supportive – but just not close to them? I think doing this will be perceived as a signal that you don’t want your families in your lives – at least that’s how I would perceive it. Is that the message you want to send? If not, then maybe you should rethink this strategy. You don’t have to invite your entire extended family, but even immediate family sends a better signal than none at all.

  • KM

    I would probably characterize myself as “not that close” to my family, although that phrase can mean SO many different things. I have two sisters who both had me as their MOH, along with the other sister who wasn’t getting married. So, I knew it would have to follow, unless I wanted to seriously ruffle some feathers, that I would have them as mine. I begrudgingly did this at first, but in the end I was happy I did. As much as I might be closer to some friends of mine, they are still my sisters. We don’t always get along (in fact- weeks have passed since I spoke to one of them), but the sister bond ended up meaning a lot more to me than I expected when I got married.
    Spot on advice, Liz!

  • anotherladyface

    This was advice that was given to me in regards to selecting at wedding party – Think of who will still be there for you in 10 years. Who do you want to be there in 10 years? Who will actually still be around and a part of your life? Usually, the answer is your family! But, that’s not always the case. You alluded to the fact that you have a tough relationship with your family, and that there might be other issues going on there. If you decide that you don’t want to have much involvement with your family in the future, that is up to you. But, if you still want your family to be a part of your life going forward, you might be better off truly eloping to Vegas (or wherever), inviting no one else (or maybe 1-4 witnesses), and then have 2 ‘reception’ parties after (one for friends and one for family). That way, you get the event that you want (party with cool friends), your family gets to celebrate with you, and feeling might not be hurt as much. Good luck with your decision!

  • Sosuli

    I’m in agreement with others here that this should be thought about very carefully, and how it will impact on your future relationships with family. But I did want to add that I know of one couple who had a friends-only wedding, but this was because the couple were getting married on a quick schedule in the country they lived in (neither family also lived there). I think they tried to make it out as not that big a deal to their families, and that it was just going to be a small cake and champagne reception with friends, so no point in families flying over, rather than a “we’d rather celebrate with friends than you”. There were still hurt feelings, that took some work to patch up – for instance the bride’s mother asked to throw a big christening party for their first child at her house with all the family involved, which doubled as a second wedding reception.

    Take away from that what you will. If you still decide to go with “friends-only”, perhaps try and frame it in a different way and not make it about who’s closest, and be prepared to listen to the hurt feelings. And perhaps even arrange some kind of event to give families a chance to feel included and celebrate with you.

    And really, you never know… if you do decide to include your family you might end up realising they’re closer to you than you thought. I’ve started a whole new correspondence with one of my aunts after we invited her to our wedding and her messages about how much she’s looking forward to it have both surprised me and brought us closer.

  • Laura C

    I assume they’ll be hurt, but I’m much more positive about the idea than Liz or most of the comments. You know your relationships with your families best, and it may just not be right for you — because something is the way most people do it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, and a lot of the “oh, you’ll regret it” comments strike me as being how we feel about family because we’re generally responsive to our culture’s narratives about how we’re supposed to feel about family. And not everyone does. And that’s ok.

    As for how you deal with the fallout, I dunno. So much depends on your families, what they would have expected, how they respond. I do have one thought about a possible compromise, though: could you entirely leave your families out of the planning, as in not let them know you even are planning, and then invite a very few (maybe parents only, even) of them as guests like any other? It seems to me that so much of the hassle with families and weddings comes in the planning, so if they weren’t putting pressure on you during planning to conform to what they wanted, it might be easier to have them just arrive and be there as guests and have less to resent later. So you’d get a wedding that wasn’t dominated by family either in planning or on the day of, but they would have less to be mad about.

    • A.

      I don’t know that they’ll necessarily regret it, but they should be aware that it’s very possible (though not certain, of course) that their families will be responsive to that cultural narrative and that the consequences of that might be further reaching than just disappointment over not attending the wedding. If they accept that, then that’s fine. There’s no moral imperative to invite your family to your wedding.

      But there’s also no guarantee that the “negativity” will only manifest as “hurt and then over it enough to resume status quo”–the decision to exclude family entirely may permanently shake up the status quo, to the tune of significantly more distance and/or estrangement in more extreme cases my husband’s family probably would have responded that way, for instance). Only LW and her partner know if A) that’s likely and B) whether that’s something they’re willing to accept in order to have the wedding they want.

      • Laura C

        For sure, it might permanently shake up the status quo. I just wanted to push back against all the “you will regret it for yourself because family is forever” stuff. Not always! Yeah, you’ll be related to them forever, but that doesn’t actually mean you have to have a specific kind of feeling for them or relationship with them.

        • Anon

          Agreed. You might also regret not following your gut on excluding family. My family’s values just don’t line up with ours and trying to included them often made planning miserable, but I thought it was the right thing to do. I bought into the narrative and thought that after the wedding it would all be worth it. They raised me, they do truly care for me, just in their own way, is what I believed. Now it’s after, we compromised in major ways to include their values and they still aren’t happy and are making like they are the victims and we are disrespectful. My partner pointed out this level of drama is characteristic of toxic people, I just wish I could have seen that as clearly from the start, when it felt precisely like “we just aren’t that close.”

          Family isn’t a universal good.

    • Anon

      I had a similar thought, more along the lines of inviting at least close family so as not to create the rift many here have described, but also not having a wedding that is super-family-involved. If you weren’t going to have family there anyway, then you’re probably not invested in the family-involved traditions (everything from aisle-walking to parent-child dance to whatever). You can invite family and still throw a friend- (or couple-) centric party.

  • pajamafishadventures

    This is something I truly struggle with. There are less than 10 people from “my side” I actually truly want at my wedding. One is my brother and the rest are friends. I’m not close to my parents, not close to my extended family, and I want a fun party that meets my vision, which I know I won’t get if my parents are involved in the planning and probably won’t have if they’re there. I will have to listen to them complain about all the things my friend did “wrong” when they attend her wedding in a few weeks (they’ve already started: her invitations were glitzy! she isn’t offering a chicken option!), and when I try to explain that they’re making me not want to include them in my future day the point is lost. Just like “friendsgiving” has been a more delicious and enjoyable holiday than anything I’ve ever spent with family, a wedding with just friends sounds like a much better time to me.

    • april

      I’m a little worried about the conflation here (and subtly, in Ashley’s question) between a wedding and “fun party.” Should your wedding be a fun party? Sure, absolutely, if that’s what you want. But it has a lot more meaning than just a party (or a Thanksgiving, for that matter). It’s a major life event – and excluding family members from your wedding cuts a little more deeply than excluding family members from a simple party/holiday celebration. That’s not to say there aren’t sometimes really good reasons to exclude some or all family members from your wedding, it’s just to say that you should be really conscious of the hurt it’s likely to cause and really confident that your reasons outweigh that hurt. If the issue is really just that you think your wedding celebration would be more fun without your family members, maybe have the ceremony with your friends *and* family, and a “friends only” celebratory party a couple of weeks before or after …

      • pajamafishadventures

        Of course it’s a major life event, which makes me feel- even more strongly- that it should be celebrated with people you feel close to and awesome being around who will help you remember the day fondly. For me that’s not my parents or my extended family.

        • Amy March

          Which I think is a perfectly fine call to make, as long as it’s done with the understanding that it might turn out to destroy any chance of a relationship with the family going forward. Whether or not that’s worth a fun party is entirely your call.

          • pajamafishadventures

            Yes, that is definitely something for anyone considering this to keep in mind. For me personally, I’ve tried many times over the years to move forward and have a closer relationship with my parents and extended family, but since no one is willing to return the effort I don’t really care about putting the nail in that coffin. It’ll be different for everyone though

        • Jess

          This is a really interesting thread for me to read through, because I am in the same situation of not having many people I actually want to be at such a meaningful, important occasion (including the mother complaining about how other people do EVERYTHING).

          We’re doing the bigger, invite extended family that I haven’t seen in ages and family friends, because 1) it got R the kind of wedding he wanted and 2) we didn’t want to hurt our parents, even though they make me uncomfortable. I’m mourning my tiny wedding that I could have had hard.

          I don’t know yet if I’ll regret this decision, but I can say that it’s made wedding planning so far more an exercise in resignation than a delight.

          • JenC

            With you on mourning the tiny wedding. Thankfully, our bigger wedding is coming with wine included. That’ll certainly help us!

          • Jess

            Wine! It fixes everything!

        • Anon

          Agreed. As the Anon from above with regrets, you don’t want to come out the other side and realize a couple self absorbed people were able to steal huge chunks of your happiness (for us during planning, day of, and the aftermath) during a unique and special time in you life that you don’t get to do over. Were it comes to life events versus parties, I’ll take a disappointing party any day, a disappointing holiday? Sure! over a disappointing life event.

          I know there are some families that put very little effort into remaining bonded. Is it really so surprising then, when you already aren’t emotionally present, for people to think you don’t need to be physically present?

  • Jen

    I have no idea if this will help, but I would like to share my story:
    I got married about 1.5 years ago. We had a small wedding of about 35 people. My husband invited entirely family. I invited my immediate family of 3 folks, my dads best friend, and my uncle on my mothers side. The uncle chose not to come (which is neither shocking nor offensive). So all together four members of my family attended my wedding. The rest of my list were friends- 9 of them all together. I know the ceremony meant a lot to my family, so for them I am glad they came. However, the people I will remember from my wedding the most are my friends- the ones who helped me plan and put on the wedding. Our officiant was a friend, one of our two speakers during the ceremony was a friend, my maid of honor was a friend, the people who helped serve cake were friends, the people who made my bouquets were friends, the people who did my hair for hours were friends… and I could keep going. I truly feel like my friends are my family and I am 100% grateful that I made the guest list choices I did. I would do it all again. So do what your heart tell you is right and your gut tells you that you will be happy with.

    • Jen

      Also, I know I won’t always be friends with everyone who came. In fact, that has already happened. And yes, if I got married today, my list may look a tiny bit different. However, it doesn’t stop me from remembering how grateful I was to all of them the day of the wedding, how amazing everyone was and how supported I felt- even if we aren’t friends in twenty years. I celebrate the past for what it is and I strong believe that the vast majority of these folks will be in my life for a long time :)

      • Jess

        Yeah, friendships change so much, all you can really do is be grateful for the people that were in your life at the time and that’s awesome.

  • Jordan Kennedy

    As it’s been said already, I don’t know the complete story but I say do what you feel is right. Will this impact your life negatively in 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years? If you strongly feel that it won’t do what’s best for you. I’m getting married next month and while a majority of family was invited there were some that I didn’t invite because they haven’t been a part of my life for years. We’re having an adult only wedding, the only children present will be our ring bearer and flower girls, and that caused a bunch of commotion on my side but I honestly don’t care anymore. This day isn’t about my family, it’s about my fiance and I beginning our life together. It’s hard to make those decisions especially when it comes to family. People who are super close with their families have a hard time wrapping their minds around this but it’s all about you and your situation.

  • laddibugg

    I have to wonder if there is this huge rift between each person and their families, or if they are simply ‘not close’. I feel like if it’s the latter…just invite them. Obviously if they were abusive in some way, that’s one thing, but if it’s just that you only talk once a year…..they’re still your parents.
    Unless you want to terminate your entire relationship, it’s probably best to invite them. Just them–not your entire family.

  • Bothering

    I am much closer to my family than he. We are going to “elope” with one person a piece. My child and his parental figure. A friend taking pictures. We wanted his sibling to marry us, but he might not come at all. So we are having a friend.

    That evening we are having a reception with friends, the next weekend one for family. There will be a little overlap but not much. Alcoholism is a problem in my family.

  • Kelly

    I’d say people are generally more comfortable and excited about spending time/celebrating/sharing life events with close friends than with distant family members. You’re friends are your people and they totally get you and you life and they’re so fun and easy to be around! But as a life event, a wedding carries more weight than being just a fabulous party, so I’d advocate for including a least a couple people who have known you for your whole life (who aren’t toxic or abusive). Will likely be worth the price of a little awkwardness or having slightly less “fun” than you would with just friends. You also say you’re both black sheep, and I’d just add that including your parents/siblings could be a great way to show off your community and give them a peek into how great and happy your lives are and the wonderful people you’ve filled it with.

    • Kelly

      I’d also just add that if you have a larger group of friends who you feel excited about and comfortable with, and a small handful of people you’re just kind of “meh” about being around, the small amount of “meh” feelings will likely be outweighed by your excitement for your friends and their excitement for you. Unless you feel like your parents/siblings/distant family person is going to actively dismantle your joy, they’ll probably just have a neutral impact on your wedding experience, whereas your wedding experience might have a heavily positive impact on them. Such was our wedding experience as introverts with friends who feel closer than family.

      • joanna b.n.

        THIS.

      • Jess

        I really really really really really appreciate this perspective.

  • Jamie Peñaloza

    Here’s a simple, WIN-WIN solution I have witnessed before: Hold TWO separate ceremonies! — The family one being a very simple dinner or luncheon. It’s a small gesture that takes off a huge emotional burden, does NOT cost much money and may even repair some ties.

    My friends Terry and Ray did this with huge success; they wanted a cool, fun and crazy wedding in Bali with close friends who’d spent more waking ours witnessing their relationship over the years. There was no way they’d want to invite the old-timers and distant relatives, but they knew it would hurt a lot of feelings.

    So, a few weeks after their big Bali wedding, they held a buffet dinner for the oldies. Terry and Ray wore their wedding-day finery to recreate some of that magic and even played a slideshow of the Bali wedding ceremony photos, so the old folks could share some memories of that wedding day and feel a part of the action.

    The old folks were not offended they weren’t in Bali; first of all, they wouldn’t have wanted to travel so far anyway; secondly, this gave them a gracious way to acknowledge that they are not as close to the young couple as the friends are, but they felt respected that they could still be a part of it even if in some small or secondary way.

    Win-win!

    • joanna b.n.

      SImilar thought, different execution – What about having an elopement ceremony, just the two of you and an officiant, and then a post-elopement “we’re married” celebration party with local friends? It’s not a wedding that you’re not inviting people to – bonus points if your friends (help) host the party.
      Then, if your family wants to celebrate your marriage after the elopement, they can always reach out and offer to help plan a marriage celebration party with family. If they don’t, no skin off your back (and maybe they are ok with the distance just like you are)!

      • Eenie

        I think there are lots of solutions for the LW, but she and her partner are ultimately going to have to make the decision for what works for them. I personally really like the idea of truly eloping and then having the chance to celebrate with your chosen family and blood family separately.

      • We’re eloping with 5 of our friends only, then having an elopement party, and then a second wedding on the East Coast where the majority of our friends and family live. We want to elope for the epic photos and are choosing to have some friends there because the desire to celebrate. Where we are choosing to elope doesn’t scream family to us so we decided having three celebrations will give us the best of all worlds. I do hope our family members aren’t hurt by not being invited to our “first” wedding aka elopement!

    • Lizzie

      I was going to suggest the same thing. That way you can customize each wedding for the group you invite: a daylong bash for friends, and a shorter, more structured event with family, for example.

  • Mrrpaderp

    May I suggest a bit of a “test” for LW? Did you call your families to tell them you were engaged, or did you let them find out on Facebook or through the grapevine? If you’re close enough to your family to pick up the (smart)phone and reach out to them personally, then I think you should invite them to your wedding. But if you don’t have a close enough relationship to tell them you’re engaged, I don’t think they should be shocked that they’re not going to be invited to your wedding.

    I’m not inviting my father or his (adult) children to my wedding. They haven’t been in my life since I was 5. I reached out to them 10+ years ago and we chatted for a couple of months, but they sort of faded me out. I hold no ill will against any of them, and the door is open if they want to reunite, but my wedding is not going to be when that happens. It’s too much pressure. I worry that I would have all these hopes (expectations?) that the daddy and siblings (I could have a SISTER you guys!) I’ve never had would suddenly want to participate in this super happy moment in my life. And I KNOW they would let me down, and I KNOW I would be bitterly disappointed on what’s supposed to be a happy day. So let’s not set up any of us for that, mmk? Basically, I don’t see excluding them from my wedding as drawing a line in the sand; I see it as protecting all of us so that we can have some kind of relationship in the future, if they want it.

  • Stephanie B.

    I find it interesting that the LW specifically says in her letter they “have lots of love for our families,” but still would prefer to not have them at their wedding. Those two ideas don’t seem to mesh, for me. I agree with a lot of the other commenters that of course you can have the wedding you want, but it stands a good chance of irrevocably damaging your relationships with the families you say you have “lots of love for.”

    • Laura C

      Sometimes it’s easier to love at a distance.

      • Amy March

        It might be, but what’s the point of having lots of love for people who have cut you out of their lives because you’ve done something really hurtful to them? You don’t get to decide for them that it’s ok to take the easy road.

        • Laura C

          So anyone excluding their families from their wedding has to understand that there may be a long-term effect on the relationship … but it’s still a decision they can make. It’s not illegitimate. And loving from a distance can be about how you feel, about not subjecting yourself to the realization that you wish you didn’t love them. As in, the alternative may be what anon said below: finding out that “we just aren’t that close” actually means “when I have to deal with them on an emotionally loaded event, I can’t possibly do enough to please them and learn that distance had been disguising their toxicity.”

          • Stephanie B.

            All we can go on is what the LW wrote, and she didn’t mention anything about their families being toxic or abusive. All they really said is that they are introverts and “odd sheep” and that they have “lots of love” for their families but aren’t that close to them.

            While the LW isn’t obligated to disclose any painful details on abuse or toxic relationships, absent the mention of same, I’m taking the letter at face value: they aren’t that close to their families and would rather have a wedding with their friends and maybe their dog. That is, as you said, a decision they can make. Absolutely. But it’s an action that seems contrary to having “lots of love,” in my opinion.

          • laddibugg

            @amymarch:disqus It’s almost like they are going out of their way to profess how much they do love their families. That is what strikes me as odd.

          • Laura C

            Right, we can’t know. But what I’m suggesting is that hesitation to get closer to people, even family, can be because of a gut feeling that we can’t quite identify until we wish we hadn’t had to. That’s a very common phenomenon outside of family, and it’s got to be a possibility considered here along with all the absolutist “you will regret it once you’re a grown-up like me and you realize that family is the most important” comments I’m seeing here.

            If it were me, I’d probably go with an in-between. I’d invite my parents and siblings if I had any in the way I was inviting the rest of my guests, not letting them be part of the planning but not completely excluding them. Or I’d have two separate small events. But I’m also super close to my parents and it’s hard for me to imagine wanting other people there but not them, so I recognize that I can’t put myself in the LW’s shoes on this one.

      • Violet

        Distance is good for many things, including keeping sanity or preserving a sense of self from destructive people. But I’m of the opinion that is love is not just a feeling, it is actions. If someone told me they loved me but never called or visited or interacted with me, then I frankly would not want their love. They could keep it. Love is a two-way street. Can you imagine
        a parent in a custody arrangement saying, “Well, I won’t visit my child; I’ll love them from a distance”? Maybe that makes sense to them, but to the person supposedly receiving this love, it’s… not gonna feel like love.

        • Amy March

          Having a wedding and including friends and excluding parents isn’t going to feel to many people like “oh, she’s loving me in her own way from afar.” It’s just not.

          • Violet

            Right, which goes back to the point that if it’s truly an elopement and no one’s invited, everyone in the couple’s lives can say, “Okay, this is not a sign of their love for me, but rather, how they wanted the focus of getting married on them.” Once you start inviting some people, then you can’t use the logic of “I love you, I just don’t want you at my wedding.” It becomes, “I love some people and want them there. Other people I don’t want there, so, you do the math…”

  • Meredith

    Invite your family. Just because you don’t fit in with them, doesn’t mean they’re bad people who aren’t happy for you getting married. If it were me being left out of a child or siblings wedding I’d be very hurt.
    Not -the same, but a little related: One of my close friends just got married in a small ceremony outside the country. I didn’t think I’d be invited because it was small and out of the country, but she made it a thing and kept telling me “oh it’s just family. It’s not a big deal.” Now I see pictures and there were about 6 non related girl friends there. I’d rather if she hadn’t told me it’s just family all along, because then when I saw it wasn’t, it hurt a little.

  • sara

    I think this depends a lot on what your reasons are for not wanting to invite parents and siblings. If it is because these people are toxic and abusive, and you want/need to cut them out of your lives, then I think this plan is fine — you’re just emotionally protecting yourself from people who do not have your best interests at heart and would cast a bad shadow over the entire day. If it’s just that you don’t talk much, I would think really seriously about the decision, because it may very well have the effect of cutting folks out of your life or at the very least creating a serious rift. If you want that rift (because these are bad people who shouldn’t be in your life going forward), fine; if you don’t, then don’t create it!

    I think the “we’re having a very small wedding” justification is a fine way to explain not inviting extended family — for example, in our case JUST first cousins/aunts/uncles was about 80 people because we have huge families, and obviously that would not work if we had wanted a small wedding! But it doesn’t really explain cutting out immediate family because it’s just not adding that many people. If you’re in a Duggar situation with a ton of brothers and sisters, at the very least parents could be included without seriously impacting the “small wedding” vibe. Basically I would look at this as a gift you’re giving them, even if having parents there is not your number one priority.

  • TeaforTwo

    I don’t know how LW defines “family,” but I think there are different degrees.

    My aunts, uncles and cousins might have been disappointed if we hadn’t invited them to our wedding, but it would not have been the end of the world or our relationships. If we had cut our parents off of the guest list, that would have been another story altogether.

    I agree with Amy March’s example below: if you spend Christmas with your parents, you may wish to spend your wedding with them.

    Not inviting your parents sends a pretty clear signal that you don’t want them in your life. Which you may be fine with, and it’s your right to send that signal. Just know that you’re sending it.

  • Violet

    There are different ways to view a wedding- one consideration is whether you view it as something that celebrates the couple within their community, or something that celebrates mainly the couple. Weddings are great for the first view, and who you choose to invite largely is a statement on who you consider your community. People who don’t get invitations feel that exclusion. That either stings a lot, because they thought they were “your people,” or less, because they didn’t really view themselves as your community, anyway. Elopements are great for the second view of weddings, because no one is being excluded; you’re just choosing to focus on the couple getting married as opposed to the couple-in-community. Inviting some people but then calling it an elopement doesn’t exactly work. I see you’re trying to strike a middle ground,
    but people not invited are going to view it not as an elopement with some friends, but as a wedding without them. I’ll bet even the friends you invite will be considering it a wedding too, albeit a small one. They’re not gonna say to themselves, “Yeah, I got an invite to the elopement.” They’re going to think, “I was important enough to get an invite to a very small, intimate wedding.” So take that thought and reverse it for those not invited.

    There is also another distinction between whether you see the wedding as a party (main goal: Have fun) or a life event (Main goal: Acknowledge momentous occasion). People in your community aren’t invited to all the parties all the time, and that’s normal. But when you think you’re in someone’s community but don’t get invited to a life event, that is something else entirely. While you may view your wedding primarily as a party, the very fact that you’re aware people might be upset and you are writing in to see if people had regrets indicates you KNOW some people will see it as a life event. And their feelings will be hurt accordingly.

    You are inviting community to your wedding. You seem aware this is a life event, or in the very least, others will consider it as such, however much you are choosing to focus on the party aspect. What message do you think it sends that you don’t want your family, who you have “lots of love” for at a life event where community is involved? They will get that message. Decide if you want to send it, and go from there.

  • My grandpa died less than a year after my wedding. At his funeral, I saw some family members I hadn’t seen for years before my wedding, and haven’t seen since, six years later. But it was so, so nice to have some conversations at a sad occasion that started with, “Your wedding was so beautiful.”

    Weddings have repercussions. Even if you consider a wedding more of a fun party and less of a life-changing event, likely some members of your family do consider them a big deal. If you think your family members are people you will see at future events such as other family weddings, funerals, or holidays, your wedding will come up as a topic of conversation. Not inviting your family isn’t going to be a one-time conversation, unless you don’t intend to go to other family weddings, funerals, holidays, or other events.

    • Lisa

      Yes to this. Almost the entirety of my husband’s family came to our wedding from all of the far flung places (including Alaska and England) because they viewed it as a type of family reunion, and it was a happy one instead of the sad occasion they’d all last been together (his uncle’s funeral). People still bring it up anytime we all get together about what a great time it was and what a great opportunity it was to celebrate something joyous as a family.

    • Lily

      A thousand times yes to this. I could have written this comment, except it was my grandmother rather than my grandfather. My husband and I almost planned a wedding that my grandparents probably wouldn’t have been able to come to because of travel/age/mobility issues and I am thankful every day that, in the end, we planned the wedding around making sure they could attend. My memories of my grandmother at the wedding are among the last really present, joyful memories I have of her.

  • CMT

    This is exactly the kind of wedding I’ve always envisioned.

  • Alyssa

    I agree with Liz and many of the others in this discussion; if you want to have a relationship with your parents after the wedding, elope privately or invite them along with your friends. The alternative is almost certainly going to hurt them…and if you don’t want them in your life, that’s fine…but if you do, don’t think this can easily be smoothed over.

    I had a relatively small wedding (40 guests), and though my husband are fairly private people and were uncomfortable with expressing our love in a deeply personal, intense way in front of people we weren’t close with, on that day our stage fright disappeared. YMMV, but for us, being surrounded by positivity and love was surprisingly powerful and made us not even notice anything negative or scary. Three years later, I regret not inviting more family, because even though some of these folks are people we see once a decade, it hurt my mother-in-law that we didn’t prioritize family, and I hate that there are lingering negative feelings around our wedding.

  • JenC

    I’ll start by saying that I’ve assumed the relationship with your families isn’t toxic as you seem upset about hurting them. I think that maybe as a rule of thumb, those family members who you don’t want to upset are those that should warrant an invite. The ones who say they are upset and you find yourself mentally shrugging, apologise and say budget/venue was tight and as a pair of introverts you weren’t expecting so many people to want to experience your day with you. If inviting extra people causes your guest list to jump up, it’s hard to feel like you’ve lost your intimate day. Originally we wanted about 20 people and that quickly grew to about 60. This big increase causes me to wish we were doing it differently, smaller, less traditional, cheaper. I wonder this quite a lot and I’ve even done a rough calculation of how much it would cost to do it the way we’d prefer (including lost deposits). In the end, I have to just think “wow, we’re awesome – 3x as many people as we initially thought love and care about us enough to buy a hat/suit/ wear Spanx/stand in the (potentially) freezing cold/whatever that’s pretty cool”. I know we’ll enjoy it on the day.

    My opinion is that actually your wedding day is about more than just you and your partner. I wanted to buy my dress of the internet, I was so anxious about going dress shopping but my mother has paid off her mortgage and is in a position to not only save but buy me a more expensive dress than I’d have orginally bought (the budget was huge and Im nowhere the upper limit). She’s so proud of herself for that accomplishment and being able to buy me a “proper” dress from a shop has made her so proud. That outweighs getting my ideal dress. Its weighing up the positive emotions of just having friends verses the negative ones of potentially upsetting people. If you do decide that just friends is a deal breaker and it outweighs everything else, then I would recommend that you speak to your family and your partner speak to theirs. It’s important that you present it as option that you both want to your respective families and for them not to blame your partner (or vice versa). You might also have to give them time, explain your reasoning but if you want them to listen to you, you’ll need to listen to them, so things might rumble on for a while.

  • laddibugg

    Ok, now I realize what’s bothering me about this. I know the APW editor probably choose the title of this letter, but the same sentiment is reflected in the actual letter. If you have to ask if someone will be upset about something, chances are they probably will. And if you’re asking, that means you care. And with both of those emotions…why would you deliberately do something that has a high chance of hurting someone you do love? Abuse and other forms of neglect are an entirely different issue.

  • Alice

    Just to throw it out there, my parents did this when they got married. My dad’s parents had a horrible divorce when he was a kid, and couldn’t be in the room together without shouting. My parents understandably didn’t want that at their wedding. Their solution was to invite no parents. I think my dad’s parents were hurt but couldn’t really argue that my parents made a reasonable decision call, and were mollified by the fact that my mom’s parents hadn’t been invited, either. My mom’s parents were a little sad, but not offended after the situation was explained, and threw my folks a party a few months later. This obviously depends a lot on the family, but for what it’s worth, both my parents get/got on well with their families after their wedding, and thirty years later none of the remaining grandparents even bother mentioning it.

  • LW Ashley

    Hi APW! I can’t possibly give you enough thanks or show enough appreciation for you all sharing your experiences, opinions and thoughts about this matter. I truly appreciate it. We will be certainly be mulling this over for a while. In attempting to articulate more clearly the kind of relationship I have with my immediate family (oof I can’t imagine trying to articulate my partner’s), I hit some major roadblocks that require a pint (nay, a gallon) of ice cream and some therapy to get through, so I won’t go into it here. But as many of you noted, coming together as families, and showing each that they support our union could help mend relationships (or at least not break them) (Thanks, Kelly!). Since we are private folks, we have not shared/announced our engagement, and won’t until we reconvene & decide together where to go with this whole shebang. Since it seems the planning stages tend to provide the most opportunities for negative emotions & histories to present themselves, I really like the idea of including parents & siblings as purely guests. To Liz and the commentariat, I really appreciate it. Thank you!

    • Violet

      Kudos on the engagement, and best of luck!

    • Jess

      Congratulations on the engagement and best of luck to you two trying to navigate all of this!

      Family stuff can be super stressful. Hopefully you find a solution that works for you and sets you up for the best possible family relationships in the future!

    • Lisa

      Families can be stressful and complicated in the best of times, not to mention during emotionally fraught periods like weddings. Thanks for jumping in to reply to all of us, and best of luck to you! I hope you’ll come back during a Happy Hour and tell us what you’ve decided at some point.

      (And btw, the mimosa bar sounds awesome! I hope that becomes a thing and turns up at the next wedding I attend.)

    • Lawyerette510

      Congrats on the engagement. I’ve been on vacation without Internet and so am a few days late to the party, so not going to read all the comments, but I’ll say this: family can be hurtful, damaging and complicated and it can be wonderful and valuable, and usually a mix of the two. Your wedding isn’t only about you, but you should make sure you feel emotionally safe during it. So, here’s how my husband and I handled it (he having fine relationships with his family but not that close past the immediate family and one aunt, me having had front row seats to generations of strife on both paternal and maternal sides plus my own issues with my parents and their divorce). We opted for a 60 person wedding that was mainly very close friends but also our immediate families, one aunt/uncle couple from each of us (included by choice because we wanted them there) and two cousins of mine who we are actually friends with. It upset many aunts/ uncles and cousins as well as my parents, but it was what was right for us. Another set of friends went the route of about 10 of us were on vacation together and they surprise-wedding-Ed us and then went home and told everyone and later had a more inclusive celebration and mended fences that way. You’ll find what’s right for you as a baby family in the context of navigating your future dealing with your families of origin together. Good luck!

  • KPM

    I know that venue! It was my wedding venue :)

  • Anon this time

    My sister and her husband did this and it killed me. When I heard they’d eloped, I was bummed to miss out but got it. When I heard there were actually lots of their friends there, I was pretty heartbroken. This falls into the category of “your wedding isn’t just about you.” Don’t do it.

  • Kara Davies

    If you want a small group of people to attend, by all means have a small group of people. I’d advise to really put yourselves in your parents shoes. How would you feel finding out your kid got married and you weren’t even invited? You’d be pretty gutted right? If my kid went off and got married then told me AFTER the fact, I’d be pretty damn upset! One of the first dreams you have as a parent is your kid getting married and you being there to witness/partake in said joyous event.

  • StevenPortland

    One other avenue of consideration is if you end up having kids. Consider what type of relationship your kids will have with your family. You should think carefully about causing a family rift now that you will need to explain for years to come to your own kids. My dad and his brother had a falling out before I was born. I remember growing up and having more conversations about that lack of relationship than talking about relatives we actually knew and saw. Because of my dad’s problem with his brother, I was prevented from having my own relationship (or choosing not to) with my uncle.

  • HKay

    Honestly, my initial reaction was feeling so bad for your parents. And after thinking about it a bit more, I still feel bad. We had an “almost friends only wedding”, that is our immediate family and our friends. Unless there is something broken in the relationship, not inviting parents and siblings sends a strong negative message that will be very hard to overcome.

    At least the parents, especially if you have a good relationship with them, should be invited. It almost feels like ingratitude. For most decent parents (even ones that made big mistakes), they invested so much of their life into bringing you to adulthood. This emotional effort is never clear until you put it in yourself. I almost have tears in my eyes thinking my daughter or my son at some point in the future would want a wedding with her friends but not me.

    • HKay

      I would also like to echo what others mentioned. I had a time in my life when my friends felt like my family but once kids came into the picture, friendships changed. The only constant has been family. I still love my friends and maintain my relationship with them but the ones that truly have your back are usually your family.

      Imagine a life-changing event of a negative nature, like being diagnosed with cancer. Who will come to your side? Friends will be there one way or another but it is highly unlikely that they will restructure their life to be there for you.*Usually* (not always) it is the immediate family (who you may not be close to at the moment) who will truly be there for you.

  • R

    I know I’m late to the game but I’m hoping someone at least will read this comment. My grandparents are essentially this couple – they love their family but their friends have always come first. They didn’t go so far as to do things like this, but over the past 50-odd years they have consistently chosen their friends over their family, which has resulted in a lot of family heartbreak.

    Before I was born, they moved across the country, away from where their three sons had decided to settle, to live near their friends in a climate they preferred. It’s not that they had a particularly bad relationship with anyone in the family (other than several tumultuous years when their youngest son announced he was gay and had to leave his wife and daughter, during which they chose a relationship with their granddaughter over their own son) but it is hard to build a solid relationship with someone you only see once a year or less.

    At this point now they travel to visit one of their sons multiple times a year and attempt to guilt the rest of us into flying across the country to visit them. I love them, they are my grandparents, but there is no real relationship because everyone in our family knows that their friends are truly their family. And this has been harder recently because their son, my dad, passed away suddenly and instead of being able to be there for each other for support they have made things worse by demanding inappropriate medical documents from my mom and further guilting people into not visiting them when we are all just trying to rebuild our lives.

    I am not saying that this is going to be your exact situation, but like so many others have said, unless your family situation is actually abusive and toxic, do not consciously start choosing your friends over your family because you don’t want to look back on your life when you are 85 years old and the only relationships you have left, with your family, are broken and strained due to years of little hurts that eventually became something bigger.

  • Amanda

    Honestly, just have two events. Have the 10-15 friends and ceremony of your dreams, call it an “intimate party” with the people who are in your lives the most (since you don’t live close to either of your families). Keep it local to them, or make it a destination “party.” Tell your family it’s just a party (e.g. avoid hurt feelings, even when you will consider it the wedding). Then have a “wedding brunch” with your immediate families together, with an MOH/best man-type to keep the atmosphere more wedding than Thanksgiving (these people can also serve as buffer). Chalk it up to being introverts or black sheep or whatever you want to call it. If I were you, I wouldn’t knock myself out with the extended aunts and uncles and cousins, but having both sets of parents and/or siblings and/or grandparents–whoever fits into that structure–would be a way to absolve all hurt feelings. A little lip service of “you’re the main event!” goes a long way for the long haul. You & your partner can roll your eyes when it’s over, and also feel good that you won’t upset people for years to come. And you will also have the perfect wedding you want together to look forward to.

    Unless of course you’re talking about abusive relationships, or that your wedding/relationship is far enough outside of family’s cultural mores in some way that will actually ruin your wedding (no body want a loud judgmental aunt in the back row making terrible comments through one of your most important commitments, leave that person out). Leave destructive behavior at the door.

  • Andrea

    My partner and I were pretty set on not ever getting married, but after 9 years together decided that it made sense legally for us to be married. Both of my parents are on their 3rd marriage, my husband had a previous marriage; we had openly and carefully discussed what commitment meant to us outside of the legal context of marriage. When my partner and I decided to get married, we knew that we didn’t want a wedding. We decided to do a Vegas “faux-lopement” modeled after some I had seen on APW. A small group of friends, along with our brothers, were invited. What we made sure to do was to tell our parents very early on in the process, right when we first decided to move forward with this and were starting to make plans. We also planned an immediate family only reception for the month after our faux-lopement and worked with them to help plan that event and make sure that they felt involved. We chose to call our close relatives the week beforehand, so that they could find out before any social media leakage. A great piece of advice that I got from APW was to send out “elopement notices” to friends and family which we sent so that they arrived right around the actual day of our ceremony.

    Basically, the message that we tried to impart was that we wanted something private and personal, but not secretive. For us, taking out the secretive element helped to reduce our immediate family’s feelings of being left out. I’m sure that there are still some hurt feelings or resentment, although a year later no one has expressed them openly or even passive aggressively. In fact, we were surprised at the great amount of support from our parents, our grandparents, cousins, etc and even expressions of relief from our parents about not having to plan a full on wedding!

    I would suggest being as open and honest as possible with yourself and with your family about why you are thinking of not having any family there. And think about whether you’ll regret not having any kind of celebration with your parents. Our family reception actually turned into quite the healing process for my divorced parents, who hadn’t been able to be in the same room together without fighting for over a decade. They both said that having the celebratory fun without the stress of a wedding helped them to spend time together. At the time I was on the fence about the family celebration being so close to the Vegas event, but looking back on it now I am so happy that we proceeded in this way. Good luck on your marriage and your family relationships.

    • This is so solid, in terms of advice. Well put!

      • Andrea

        Thanks! It sounds like your celebrations are wonderfully thought out, personal, and intimate. I wish you the best of luck in your continued partnership.

  • For what it’s worth, my partner and I have made the same decision as the OP. We are getting married in the presence of our five closest friends (in Pennsylvania, you may self marry, and so no officiant is required). Our families will not be present at the ceremony at all, nor the reception afterwards.

    Part of our reason for this choice was that I have planned seventeen weddings to date — all with guest lists of over a hundred. My immediate and extended family is -not kidding – 78 people, excluding my father’s side as he is not a part of my life. My partner, on the other hand, has a very small family (from which his father is also excluded). The things we wanted present at our wedding are not the typical verbiage or milestones many people imagine (we are polyamorous, and I am an atheist, for starters). We didn’t really want dancing. We wanted under 10 people and to enjoy a weekend with them, with our attention focused on each other and our very nearest and dearests.

    We’re having a very small (14 people) pre-ception in December at which our mothers and brothers and chosen family (our guests for the ceremony) will be present and be given an opportunity to make speeches or toasts as they feel inclined, and to give my partner’s daughter who lives far away an opportunity to meet and hang out with our families of blood and of choice. This was my small hat-tip to the more common wedding traditions, and an effort to introduce our families of origin and choice to one another as a symbolic gesture of our union. How other people create that space or that hat tip is up to them.

    At no point have we received real resistance from anyone but my aunts. While my mother was initially a bit sad that she wouldn’t see me make a grand entrance in front of a billion crying people, I explained the wisdom and value of our choice and she now defends my tiny wee wedding -friend zone only- with ferocity against the criticism of my aunts.

    I think there’s something to be said for carving out a space for families of blood and origin, but every family is different. I absolutely see the value (and romance!) of something intimate like what the OP has planned, and I cherish and want to protect their choice to kick off their marriage with an event that reflects their values and desires.

    I’ve seen some pretty serious negativity in this thread and that disappointed me greatly.

    Dear OP: I’m with you, I support you, and I can’t wait to see whatever pictures, thoughts, or feelings you might desire to share in this space. <3
    RD

  • Countess

    We have decided, after so very much debating throughout our two-year engagement, to have a friends-only wedding of 9 people including me and my fiancé. Both sets of our parents are divorced. My father is a cold, polyamorous narcissist who thinks marriage is ridiculous and could muster no enthusiasm for my engagement. My mother slept and cried her way through my childhood, stayed in a shit marriage, and was a generally terrible example of adult womanhood all my life. My fiancé’s mother has borderline personality disorder, and is an emotionally abusive, reptilian monster. His dad, stepmom, and two of his sisters are actually pretty great, though his dad often says things “teasingly” that are deeply hurtful to my fiancé. His third sister is also mentally ill, and prone to extreme, vocal negativity and outbursts during family events. On the day we commit ourselves to each other – a thing we weren’t sure we’d ever be healthy and unafraid enough to do – we want it to be without baggage. Without the painful examples our families set for us our whole lives. Without the spectre of emotional agony, divorce, and shittiness that they’d bring to loom over us. Without making us feel so profoundly uncomfortable and trapped that we spend our whole wedding day strategizing about our families’ mental health and interpersonal relationships. These are the reasons why we’ve chosen to get married with such a small, safe group. We’ve blamed it on our clinical rotation schedules, and have promised to have a small ceremony and reception for family after we graduate. But the day we ACTUALLY get married, we want it to be joy-filled.