Q: Dear APW,
We started planning our wedding before… 2020 happened, and after a few months of uncertainty it looked like we’d be ok. The ceremony was always going to be outside, the venue has a lot of outdoor space, and we could cut our guest list down to 30 (current UK restriction on wedding receptions) with a minimal amount of upset—it was originally going to be about double that, and we haven’t actually sent invitations yet.
Then last week, my dad decided he was done with my mum, and left. No warning, no attempt at reconciliation, just ffft, gone. She’s gone all to pieces, of course, and my siblings and I have stepped up to be there for her.
I cannot imagine having this man at my wedding, now. Granted I’ve had to take time off work this past week because I’ve been in too much of a blind rage to focus, but even once my brain wraps itself around the fact that this is how it is now, how could I? How could he walk me down the aisle, give a speech, celebrate my marriage when this is what he’s done to his? How could I ask a small gathering of my nearest and dearest to put up with having him there, knowing what he’s done? How could I possibly ask my mum and siblings to do that?
My mum understands how I feel, though reminds me that I might feel differently in six months. My partner, siblings, and close friends all agree that if I don’t want him there, that’s that on that.
I need help working out, firstly, if I’m overreacting here, and secondly, if I do decide he’s not coming, how do I handle that? Last he heard, we were debating over whether to move our date, so he doesn’t actually know when the wedding is. Part of me wants to wait until he feels the need to ask about it, and then ask him why he needs to know. But I’m still very angry and need a more level-headed perspective.
A: Poor form, Papa. Poor form.
Are you overreacting? No. I imagine underneath the blind rage is hurt and confusion. Feel your feelings now; it’s wonderful that you could take time off work to support your mother and gather your thoughts. If there was ever a time to recognize the need for a support system and self-care, this is it. I hope this self-awareness is a family trait, and your mother and siblings are able to do the same for themselves as you navigate this unforeseen hurdle.
As for what to do about the Old Man’s bad behavior, your mum is right: you might feel differently about this situation in six-months. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that a lot can happen in a short amount of time. If you wanted to wait until the actual morning of your wedding to choose whether or not to include your father, you have my support; nothing must be decided today.
If your dad truly doesn’t know the actual date of the wedding, I encourage you to embrace this time as an opportunity to get real about your relationship with your him, and what you imagined about his role at your wedding. His behavior—while offensive—suggests that he might be open to a new level of honesty; when is the last time you two had a long talk?
Lastly, it doesn’t have to be “All,” or “Nothing.” During this exploration process, you may discover that you feel strongly in one direction or another about the walk down the aisle or speech. Together with your fiancx, you may be able to create other meaningful ways to acknowledge your family relationships, if the traditional pomp and circumstance no longer feels appropriate.
Whatever you do, don’t let this family drama eclipse the wonderful day you and your fiancx deserve. This is ultimately about the two of you and the intentions you’re setting for a life together. Make it how you want it to be, and your true friends and family will be there to support and celebrate you, no matter where your father is in the equation.