Inviting Relatives That I Don’t Want at My Wedding

AAPW Lightning Round: Can we avoid this unnecessary family drama?

Q:I know that everyone has some relations that they just have difficulty putting up with, but they can suck it up for one day for the sake of family harmony. Generally, for the sake of having other family members that you like attend your wedding, I agree with the “suck it up for one day” advice.

But one of my first cousins is really a piece of work. She’s frequently making nasty, disparaging remarks about her in-laws, her brother’s wife, one of her brothers, my sister (and MOH), and my fiancé. She’s also caused a family rift with one of her sisters-in-law so that she no longer speaks with one of her brothers. She’s not the brightest ray of sunshine—but generally I have been able to tolerate her at family functions as we used to be closer as children.

A couple months ago, a video of her (admittedly cute) toddler was posted to social media and you could hear her making disparaging comments about me in the background. Family drama ensued, followed by yet another rift. My parents are hoping that I’ll just be able to get over it before I’m supposed to send out the invitations, but I’m thinking this is the last straw with a toxic person that I don’t really want in my life.

But I could see this all going horribly wrong and having half of my family decide to boycott my wedding. My parents and fiancé want me to suck it up and invite her. But I really don’t want to. Should I stick to my guns? Or take one for the team?



It sounds like you’re right on the money in ditching the toxic relationship. But, really, you can do that whether you invite her to the wedding or not. Deciding whether or not to invite her really comes down to: which sucks worse? Yeah, you’ll be taking one for the team if you invite her. You’ll have to see her terrible face on your wedding day, maybe even force a smile and some small talk (though the last two bits aren’t mandatory). That would all suck in its way.

Or, you can stand your ground and skip inviting her. You’d save yourself the postage and the energy, but it won’t necessarily suck any less. You’d still have to endure the family upset that comes as a result. For a minute, ignore what everyone else is saying and think about those two options. Which do you prefer? Dealing with one day of this awful lady (and possibly mostly ignoring her for a day), or putting up with everyone else’s ruckus when you exclude her?

Answer that question, talk it over with your partner, and then make the call.



Q:I always dreamed of eloping because the time, thought, and money required to plan a wedding are things that simply don’t interest me. When I got engaged to my very traditional, wedding-having fiancé, I resigned myself to compromising on most things wedding related because at the end of the day, we’ll be married and that’s what matters to me. We’ve figured out the things that mean most of us as a couple: a budget (we are paying for everything ourselves, minus a no-questions-asked small contribution each from my parents and his father), a venue that can navigate the majority of details, and the guest list. Great!

Our problem? His mother’s side and their expectations regarding the guest list (parents are divorced). We have two aunts, one on my side and one on his, that we are simply not inviting. We thought long and hard about it, and decided it’s for the best, for very different reasons, and ultimately we do not have a relationship with either female relative. My family reacted in a wonderful, supporting way; there are no hard feelings and a mutual understanding.

His family exploded. His mother called sobbing (we thought someone had died), blabbed to the rest of her family, and we’ve been receiving several guilt-inducing emails from Gramma and other aunts. We explained our reasoning to only his mother, firmly but politely: we have seen said aunt twice in seven years, neither of us think we could pick her out of a crowd, and we brought up the fact that she wouldn’t come anyways (she didn’t attend her sister’s second wedding three years ago, or my fiancé’s sister’s wedding last year). We are being harangued from his other aunts with requests of “Why can’t you just invite her? She won’t attend anyway, and you’ll just get her card?” or “If one of my children [fiancé’s cousins] can’t come, can we invite Auntie in their place?” and the ever-guilt-inducing, “This is heartbreaking. It is a family divider.” (It’s not, by the way. Cancer is heartbreaking. Not receiving a party invitation, not so much.)

We’ve responded to one of these emails with a polite one-liner, “Thank you for your opinion. While we don’t expect that everyone will agree with our decisions, we do expect both our families to respect our decisions for our wedding day and our lives together.” However, we are still being harassed for explanations for why she’s not invited, which we’re not sure if we need to provide to the extended family since we explained it to his mother very clearly. Do we:

A: Suck it up and just invite her (we doubt she would come anyway)? Initially we felt very strongly against this, since why would we invite someone we don’t truly want there? But our resolve is shrinking.

B: Request that his mom explain our reasoning to her relatives and we stay silent?

C: Extend our reasoning to the rest of the family harassing us, but overall stick to our guns?

D: Ignore it entirely?

I’m particularly not dealing with this well because in the back of my mind, I keep thinking, “Well, if we just eloped and pissed off everyone at once, we wouldn’t be dealing with this.” But our deposits have been made, so it’s too late to back out. I feel resentment toward his family, and it’s not a feeling I want to start our married life together. Is this normal?! Please help!



Dear Anonymous,

Just invite her.

If you’re inviting other aunts and singling out this one, you’re making a Statement and sending a Message that I don’t think you intend. If she hasn’t hurt anyone, there’s no sordid past or specific issue, then it’s really probably not worth any of this drama.

Other than all the usual family politics, it also sounds like the family just flat out wants to see her (they’re even offering up trades?!). And by inviting her, you’d be making a trade of your own: sending that one invitation in exchange for a lot less fighting. You may see this invitation as minor, but your family doesn’t. And frankly, it’s not up to you to determine that “this isn’t heartbreaking.” You don’t get to decide what’s important to people. You do get to decide how to respond. A terse email that dismisses concerns (rather than expressing that you’ve heard them and value them and have just decided otherwise) isn’t going to deescalate the situation. It’s just going to fuel the fire of that drama.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of enduring some drama in order to stand your ground, but we’re talking about choosing your battles, here. Is this one worth fielding all of the family’s phone calls and crying and emails? Maybe save your fight for something you have a passionate stance on, rather than just, “Meh, we haven’t seen her in awhile.” By holding your ground on this point, you’re making a very clear statement. But that statement isn’t about your new baby family, or about your boundaries. All your new in-laws are hearing is that you don’t like this aunt, and you don’t care about the family’s feelings. That’s not a great foot to start on.

Besides, you said she probably won’t even come.

If you would like to ask APW a question please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! 

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  • Lauren

    We asked ourselves some of the same questions as LW2 when we were figuring out our guest list. I have several relatives who I have zero relationship with – aunts, uncles and cousins, who I haven’t seen in 10+ years, don’t speak to, and a few who I also would not recognize on the street. I would have loved to just invite the family members who I do have a good relationship with, but that would have meant singling out one of each of my parents’ siblings and not inviting them. My parents reacted rather… poorly? when I asked them to not invite coworkers of theirs who I didn’t know, so I figured that not inviting relatives would go over about 10x more poorly, and that minefield was -not- worth it to me. I am a bit disappointed that our wedding won’t be as personal as I had originally wanted it to be, but there are enough stressful factors without adding this particular conflict into the mix.

    • Lauren from NH

      This dynamic is SO difficult! I get the sentiment of parents wanting to invite their friends and relatives, I really do! It’s a big moment in their lives as well and they want to share it with lots of their people. BUT! Friends/relatives you have never heard of, or never met, or never see, or you do see but clearly don’t give two shits whether you exist or not….you want me to invite them?! We made concessions on a few of this type of guest to avoid WWIII and that will have been worth it, but once again I find this dynamic infuriating.

      • emmers

        Not sure if this applies at all to your situation, but we were faced with this, the battles over people WE care about versus people our parents care about. We limited some of their invites, but I remember there being some contentious conversations. I couldn’t really understand why it was even a question that we’d invite my mom’s people instead of ours. Thinking back on it (maybe from conversations with my mom and others on APW?), I think part of it was that these people my mom wanted to invite actually did care about us, but through my mom.

        Basically, they’re people my mom has shared about us for the past few years, and people who have asked my mom about us, even though we don’t actually spent time with them nor actually talk to them. So, we ended up inviting some of them, but not others. Some of the folks we didn’t invite probably would have really loved being there. I get the sense that for my mom and her buddies, they’re all rooting for each others kids. That was kind of apparent in some of the nice gifts we got from these not-very-close people.

        • Erin E

          Yes exactly to this. My Mom felt the same way about inviting her friends, and also mentioned – as you said – that they talk about and root for each others kids. My Mom has helped throw wedding and baby showers for her friend’s kids, and now it was kind of “her turn” to have her friends to my event. I felt a little weird about it, but you know what – her friends are lovely. They had a great time, it meant a lot to my Mom and they also brought nice gifts. So, really, no one lost in the situation!

      • Lauren

        I think it’s also a generational thing. It was very important to my dad to invite some of his cousins, because they had invited them to their children’s weddings years ago. To me, this just seems weird, like trading invitations to someone else’s wedding, but I think it’s just how things operate in his family in that generation and it was important to him to participate in that.

        • Lauren from NH

          Oh there is certainly a generational(/cultural) thing going on. There is the wedding as community event perspective and the wedding as personal event perspective. It’s actually kind of a spectrum. So I think a lot of weddings are a bit of both. I think most couples value both, but sometimes valuing them means keeping them separate and/or putting different effort into one or the other. For example, couples that elope or do a destination wedding, but choose to have another gathering when they return to bring in more of the people they love.

        • Lauren from NH

          I meant to also add, perhaps cultural/generational, we have had a lot of arguments with family over the value of inviting more family vs inviting our friends, and even the value of inviting more family vs inviting their kids (say 10 and under). It has been somewhat revealing about who is valued in their concept of community vs our concept of community that’s for sure.

        • R.

          I’ve been pondering this. Do you think our generation will see it differently in a few decades, when our kids the ones are getting married? My parents and my fiance’s parents have such strong feelings about our wedding: who we invite, what food we serve, etc. This surprised me because I went into it thinking that the people getting married are the hosts of this thing. It’s been a slow, challenging realization to understand that our parents see themselves as the hosts and thus entitled to be a big part of decision-making.

          I’ve already vowed several times, “If I have kids and they get married, they can do whatever the hell they want!” and I hope to stick to it :)

          • Sosuli

            Hahaa… my future MIL says she had the exact same thought after her wedding, which was entirely organised and paid for by her mother…. now her first-born son is engaged, it hasn’t exactly held…. :P

          • Marcela

            Part of the generational shift also has to do with the fact that traditionally the parents have been the hosts. They were the ones who paid for it all way back when. Now that that age of first marriage is shifting and more of the cost is being shouldered by those who are getting married, it makes sense for there to be a bit of a tug or war there.

          • Lauren from NH

            I don’t think I will be able to fight off the desire to help out in some way, but where it comes to guest lists and almost everything for that matter, I don’t think I would take it personally if my own siblings or best friends didn’t invite me to their weddings. I have boats loads upon boats loads of sympathy for the drama people go through and I would not add to it for a second. “You do you” has become my life motto for all things lol. 90% of other people’s choices are not personal, I think, so I choose not to get hung up on them. They probably still love me and I definitely still love them.

          • Alison O

            I am interested to see how this plays out with my parents. My grandma hijacked my mom’s wedding, to the point that very few of my mom’s friends were able to come. What’s worse, years later my grandma asked my mom why she had her wedding in her hometown instead of where she was living at the time and where her friends where. Grimace… My mom is very non-confrontational, so that contributed to the situation.

            I am interested to see my parents’ approach to my wedding. They are very hands off in general–they’ve provided a lot of financial support with no strings attached about life choices re: school, jobs, relationships, etc. So I’m curious to see how much they’ll have to say (and to pay, ha).

      • Alison O

        I feel like nowadays if parents need motivation to see their longtime friends, etc., they should think about throwing their own party…birthday, anniversary, just-because-you-want-to-reunite party/family reunion… Unless the potential invitee was integral in my life or my parents’ experience of parenting me, I don’t feel like the “they’re important to us” reason is that great of a reason for inviting them to my wedding specifically. I think a lot of people just have a dearth of special events and connection in general, and weddings facilitate getting in touch with people you’ve neglected to keep in touch with over time.

      • Sarah

        We ended up inviting 10 people that fit this description (10% of the attendees, now)…6 are for my mom, and 4 are four my fiance’s grandmother. They requested it after we already sent out all of our invites, and it was a pain in our ass to wait for some no rsvps and then invite them when we could fit them (and I was stressed as all hell waiting to see if we COULD fit them, space wise). But, I did it for my mom because I love her, and ditto to my fiance’s grandmother. This wedding is for them too, and it makes me feel good that they will get to share our family’s happy day with people who are important to them…regardless if I’ve ever met them.

    • msditz

      We knew our guest list had to be about 150 people, so we just divided it up evenly: My husband and I got 50 people, my in-laws got 50 people, and my parents got 50 people. This way everyone really had to think about who was most important to them. My mother-in-law ended up not inviting one of her siblings who she hardly sees because she wanted a co-worker there instead. Since this was her decision, she had to explain it and defend it. There was a little drama (When all was tallied my parents ended up paying more than anyone so I think they were a little bitter, my in-laws tried to increase their invites a bit at the end, etc) but it mostly worked really well for us. I realize that this couldn’t work for everyone, but I consider everyone at least try it out and see how it goes!

  • Anka

    We invited some relatives that we didn’t know well (great aunts and uncles), but since my family is pretty scattered across the country, people who didn’t have a close relationship with us were unlikely to pay to fly to our wedding location. Whereas the family we’re really close to was happy to make the effort to be there, so it sort of solved itself.

  • Alyssa M

    Oi, this stuff is tough. I felt much the same way about inviting most of my extended family as LW2 does about this one aunt… And our solution was simply have a VERY small wedding and limited our extended family invites to grandparents and two of his aunts that are actually constantly in our lives. The ONLY reason that worked is because the exceptions were the invited ones, not the excluded ones. I stand by my decision not to invite those 30+relatives… however, when it came down to the wire and my brother in law and friend wanted to bring two random last minute strangers, put my foot down and said no, and THAT is actually my biggest wedding regret.

    In hindsight, even with a tiny wedding (35 people), two people wouldn’t have made much of a difference, except making my people happier… a random aunt you barely recognize is seriously unlikely to matter to you, and it sounds like it’ll make the family really happy.

    • Sosuli

      We’re taking the same approach for my extended family. If we went for the invite all cousins and aunts and uncles there would be 60 people – almost the size we’d planned for the whole wedding. I think it can soften the blow to make everyone aware that they shouldn’t expect an invitation because it’s going to be a small wedding, and then just make a couple exceptions. I’m interested to hear though – did you have any complaints from the relatives that weren’t picked out as invites?

      • Alyssa M

        Eeehh… through the grapevine, kind of? My grandma told my mother who told me that my aunt had already been looking at plane tickets… but just like LW2 and the controversial aunt, I’m just not close enough to any of them to hear if they were upset. The exceptions were actually made on his side of the family and there wasn’t a single word from any of his other 7 aunts and uncles.

        • Sosuli

          Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m expecting. Apparently my mother has had a snide comment or two from an aunt on my dad’s side, and my sister has had a cousin express his interest in coming… but I think it’s telling I’m not close enough with either of these people for them to actually come to me with that information.

      • Marcela

        I heard some through the grapevine stuff about one of my husband’s cousins whose family wasn’t invited. In there case, they were more upset about the fact that they lost their excuse to visit our city and the tourist attractions therein.

        • Sosuli

          Yeah this is what my mum has said too, that some relatives are going to be upset they don’t get an excuse to have a holiday to the UK. Well… make the effort to keep in touch and come visit another time, we just can’t afford and don’t want a huge wedding.

        • EllsUK

          So ridiculous! If you have any interest in a relationship with these people maybe they’d enjoy a trip to visit anyway and it could be a good place to start from?

          • Marcela

            I’ve never met them and my husband had met her once on the occasion of her wedding 15 years ago.

          • EllsUK

            Doesn’t mean that they’re not nice people or that you couldn’t have a relationship in the future? This assumes that you might be similar ages or have something in common that might mean a good relationship could be created but obviously if there’s unlikely to be anything then just ignore me :)

          • Marcela

            It’s one of those in-law weird family dynamic things. If they were my cousins, I’d invite them to visit or make sure to give them a call if I saw they were planning a visit nearby. His family doesn’t do that sort of thing, very insular. It’s tough because we’ve had some success with some of his cousins who are in his hometown, but overall there’s a lot of “we don’t talk to them” over things that happened decades ago with past generations. There’s only so much pushing I can do as a relative outsider.

          • EllsUK

            Yeah I understand that, sounds like it’s not worth the trouble. I find those relationships based on decades ago facts ridiculous though. Perhaps see if your husband has any interest in a relationship and if not don’t worry about it?

          • Marcela

            It drives me batty. He’s used to the dynamics and doesn’t really question it much, but I’ve been able to make some headway with one of his aunts and her kids to the point where we make it a priority to at least try to see her whenever we’re in town. This has pissed off my MIL, but considering the aunt is the nicest to me out of his whole family, I don’t really care.

          • EllsUK

            Good for you :) I say keep at it.
            It’s really not something I understand. I just find people that hold grudges like that confusing.

    • This is great to hear. We want to have a small wedding too and this seems like a good approach. My extended family is huge and, while I love them, it is just not that important for me to be around EVERYBODY on my wedding. We would feel much more comfortable surrounded by a small circle of our closest friends and family. Glad to hear this (mostly) worked out for you!

  • Lisa

    LW2, I totally get it. My mom is one of 9, my dad one of 11, and my husband’s mom is one of 6, his dad one of 5. We have aunts and uncles and cousins to whom we’re pretty close, not close, and couldn’t pick them out of line-up. We picked a line (all aunts and uncles, only cousins aged 18+ with whom we have close-ish relationships (which ended up being about half of 60+ people)), and that’s how we decided who would be invited.

    I get your line, I do, and I understand why you want to stick to it. You get to choose to whom you extend invitations, and you are totally within your rights. I’m tempted to say that you shouldn’t send the invite to the aunt because I’m stubborn like that and feel kind of like it’s rewarding bad behavior. However, it sounds like this is causing you a lot of stress and friction, and there is even the possibility that it will continue to do so down the road. (Think: people might dredge this up every Christmas/Thanksgiving/whatever holiday for the next several years.) Unless you have nerves of steel, I’d say that, to save you that time and grief, it might be worth it to just invite her. Speaking from the other side, I barely remember some people at my wedding and was surprised to see them in photos later. Even if the aunt does come (which it sounds like she won’t), you probably won’t even notice.

    • Lauren from NH

      Haha! We have straight up been told, we are going to be shit talked to our faces for about a year for not having an open invitation wedding. I just feel like bring it on. I think it will be very revealing as to who cares about us and who just cares about their bruised ego.

      • Sosuli

        I feel the same way about our invite list as you, Lauren. I have a million aunts and uncles, and we’re getting married abroad. So everyone has been told not to expect an invite to the proper wedding, but that they will be invited to a party at home that same summer to celebrate the marriage. Apparently my mother has already had to deal with grumblings about this from my dad’s side (my parents are recently divorced, so this just confirms to me we’re right in not inviting them). We’re now inviting select aunts and uncles from both my parents sides, so picking out one or two I’m closest to, rather than singling out a few who I’m not in touch with. Both my dad and I have told my mother any relatives not from her side who complain to her should be directed to us.

        • Lauren from NH

          Yup yup. Send ’em our way! They can say it to our faces, but they don’t need to go around shaming other people in the family behind the scenes.

          • Sosuli

            Exactly. And I feel like it says something if they don’t come to you, or even for instance congratulate you on your engagement, and still complain about not getting invited.

          • Lauren from NH

            YES! That’s what really gets my goat! People who it’s so freaking obvious that there is no love lost between us and yet they act the same level of hurt your mother* reasonable should were she not invited.

            *assuming not a toxic relationship

    • Jules

      Yep. The tradeoff isn’t worth it – especially when there’s little animosity, just no familiarity. I get wanting to keep it to people you know, but family is one of those cases where uniformity goes a long way (all cousins, no cousins, all kids, no kids….). Otherwise people internalize it as a reflection on them. I would never approach someone about not being invited, but I would feel slighted if there was no clear line and I was just excluded.

  • RMC

    Liz is spot-on as always! Whenever you have people whom you are excluding as an exception, it’s very painful, very quickly. Unless you have a concrete reason that it would make you deeply unhappy to have those aunts there, this doesn’t seem like a battle worth fighting… especially if, as you say, she probably won’t come!

    I struggled with making stands for the sake of making stands during our wedding planning and those are moments I regret the most. This might sound a little harsh but I am only phrasing it this way because I had a few of these moments myself :) So here goes: are you holding on to this because the off-chance that this aunt might come will actually compromise the integrity of how you want your wedding to feel? Or are you holding on to this because you made a decision, realized that you hurt fiance’s family, and now are feeling embarrassed and stubborn because it’s easier to stand by your original decision than consider that it was a somewhat ill-advised decision? In wedding planning, the principle can feel SO important – but at the end of the day, as in so many cases, real life is more than the sum of your principles.

    • Juliet

      You hit it right on the head of that nail. I spent way too much of my wedding planning energy taking “stands” on things that, at the end of the day, I didn’t have strong feelings about in comparison to the person I was taking the stand against. The question I learned to ask myself was “Is the ‘principle of the thing’ here something that actually, tangibly, matters to me?” If the answer was ‘no,’ I generally caved so that I could better stand my ground when the answer was a big strong ‘yes.’ This meant we invited 40 cousins we had no plans of inviting, but it also meant we held all of our ground in regards to the ceremony and menu. So, so, worth it.

      • Lauren from NH

        That can be so tricky though. Sometimes it’s not the “thing” that matters in the disagreement, but rather that the person who disagrees accepts your right to set boundaries, your right to say no.

        • Juliet

          Totally valid point, and I think this is generally great life advice, but I think in terms of a wedding, sometimes real life rules don’t always apply, especially with family. Because EVERY little thing can be magnetized above and beyond reason (I don’t get into heated discussions with my mom about place settings every Thanksgiving, for example) we decided, for the wedding, to actually make it about the “thing” the disagreement was about. This cut through a lot of general tension, and kept everybody sane and feeling heard.

          And I don’t think this sets a bad precedent for future interactions- once the wedding is over and everyone’s back to real life, real life rules can apply again. :)

          • Lauren

            The precedent-setting aspect of it is something that I’ve worried about some. Like, if I don’t enforce my boundaries now, will my parents/other family members expect me to bend my boundaries to make them happy later too? Obviously a very different question from family to family, and I think it can be a legitimate concern depending on the specific people involved and their dynamic.

          • Liz

            They might, but don’t freak out about it. It’s never too late to start setting boundaries! I don’t think its a question of THEY’LL NEVER RESPECT YOU OTHERWISE.

            Sometimes couples think, “If we can just get through the wedding, we’ll never have to worry about butting heads again!” Which is sadly untrue, which I think is why the idea that you might as well start that boundary-setting process now! is reinforced so much on this site.

          • Meg Keene

            Exactly. And the flip side is, “You’re about to have a lifetime of having these same boundary arguments. If giving in now will make things easier… it’s ok to do that.”

          • Anon for this

            I was married just over a month ago. Originally, we were going to have a private ceremony just us two on the beach, and then a big party a few days later. We tried to stick to this, but the crying and emotional manipulation from our parents got to the point

            where we knew we would no longer be able to enjoy the day if we did it on own own, knowing how upset they were. So we invited them, because ‘it was the right thing to do’. And I regret it so much. Instead of getting ready together with my husband, his parents turned up 3 hours before the agreed time and took him away. They changed the location of our ceremony because they didn’t feel like walking on the sand in heels (we got married in the beach carpark instead). My mum asked us to repeat our vows because she wasn’t listening properly the first time. I felt like I was on ‘show’ the whole time, and I felt like we totally lost the intimacy we both wanted so much.

          • Alison O

            Aw, I’m sorry. :( I think I’d have to call mulligan and do it the way I originally intended.

          • I’m sorry too! I know it can’t change the past, but perhaps it might be worth considering creating a special intimate one-year anniversary plan for yourselves that no one else has a say in as a way to try to honour your desire for an imtimate celebration of your marriage (even if it won’t undo your regrets)…

          • Lauren from NH

            Though I am a little confused as to how, I am glad that worked for you.

            I think for some people who need to kind of break up with their parents as authority figures, these battles big or small around wedding planning are super important. Yes, often times you do still need to pick your battles and keep in mind that some of the “my way!” insistence comes from a loving place, but I also think it is good and reasonable to be a stubborn ass if that’s what it takes to get your parents to respect your authority in your life and your family. If item X really doesn’t matter then why can’t we do it my way? For some people their wedding isn’t just a coming out for their baby family, it is a coming out for them as an adult in some ways also. Like the other Lauren, I think wedding planning often sets some significant precedents for boundaries and decision making with your families of origin. I for one have found sticking to my guns so far to be very empowering.

          • Juliet

            I think ultimately one needs to approach the wedding battles in the way they feel best serves their goals, and this of course will really vary from couple to couple. I think using a wedding to begin to set boundaries with your family could be totally effective and productive. I also think feeling like your wedding is your Family Boundary Defining Event is a loooot of pressure, because boundaries can always be renegotiated.

            To be clear, I certainly stuck to my guns on the Big Stuff, but I also picked by battles- that’s where the “Is the ‘principle of the thing’ here something that actually, tangibly, matters to me?” question came in real handy. I also did a lot of nodding and smiling. And some pretending I forgot something my mom suggested. At the end of the day, for us, it was about everyone showing up to our really fun party with enthusiasm for the day and generally good attitude, and it worked out great.

          • Lauren from NH

            “I also did a lot of nodding and smiling. And some pretending I forgot something my mom suggested.” << Haven't we all? haha

          • Danielle Antosz

            Yessss to ‘forgetting’ suggestions. lol

          • Meg Keene

            I put my longer thoughts above, but I think here, item X really DOES matter, right? Just not to the person getting married. And that’s the compromise piece. If you want people to respect you on issues that matter to you but not them, you need to back down on issues that matter to them but not you sometimes.

            Having been through all this, I think… wedding planning sets some precedents in decision making, but less than you’d think. The real precedents are the ones that start getting set after the whole thing is done. Your family knows that, and that’s why they’re acting scared. Because right now they MIGHT be able to win a few more. But they know that once it moves on to, “YOU WILL NOT DO X WITH MY CHILD” (or whatever, children are not required for this to get serious), they will never win in the same ways again.

          • “I for one have found sticking to my guns so far to be very empowering.”

            i agree with meg’s pick your battles, and i agree with your the importance of sticking to your guns. because the thing is, for those of us who are still learning to fight our own battles, every little defeat erodes away your willpower.

            yeah, those family boundaries will continue to be negotiated for the next decade, but if so, maybe it’s time to practice fighting now.

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah, but as always, you need to pick your battles on this. And you’re going to have a lifetime to work it out. Also, you don’t want other people to be collateral damage in your trying boundary setting. IE, if your MIL is difficult and has a hard time hearing you say no, that doesn’t mean that this Aunt deserves to be cut out of the wedding, even if you don’t know her or care about her much.

          I mean TRUST ME, I really really really empathize with where you’re coming from, I really really do. But I also know that A) That fight will be with you for years (sorry about that), and B) You can’t win the war by winning every battle. You have to pick your battles, and learning to pick them is actually part of the growing up process. (Which… sucks…) So that means that sometimes you have to say “Fine, you can invite your sister,” and “Back the FUCK away from my wedding dress. You don’t get to pick what I wear on my body.” But you have far less leverage on battle #2 (which really matters), if you’ve spent all your powder on battle #1 (which you might not even be right about).

  • Nell

    I had the opposite problem: I ultimately decided not to invite an aunt and uncle because they no longer speak to my parents, and it felt like the wrong moment to try to mend that bridge.

    I think the advice to both letter writers is spot on – because it’s the same advice: Your wedding isn’t the moment when anyone is going to change their philosophy on family. I really, really wanted my wedding to have super family restorative powers. . . but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

    • Lisa

      I completely feel you. There were a couple of aunts and uncles that my parents specifically asked us not to invite (hurt feelings, crazy people), and we put my parents’ feelings above our “invite all immediate aunts/uncles” rule. I dislike inequality, but these were people with whom we weren’t as close, and it mattered more that my mother and father were comfortable at the wedding than trying to mend those bridges. I hope you were in a similar situation, but if not, I’m sorry you had to make that choice.

      • Nell

        Yup, sounds like we were in the same boat. I tried to leave family inviting decisions up to my parents. I don’t have many relatives that I have an independent relationship with, and so I don’t feel obligated to invite anyone on my own. I WISH I had a pile of relatives that were super psyched to get an invite to my wedding, but the reality is that I don’t. So I’m prioritizing my parents and my only sibling, and trying to make sure they have the best experience possible.

        • Eh

          That’s a really good attitude. We had to have the attitude of celebrating with the people who were present. It was very upsetting for us that a large number of people didn’t come (we invited 165 people and we had about 70 at our wedding). We only invited people we considered we were close to. No one from my father’s family (other than my father) came to my wedding (half of them went to my cousin’s son’s first birthday that weekend in another town – this annoyed me since the kid’s actual birthday was the weekend or two before our wedding and we sent out STDs 10 months before our wedding).

          • EllsUK

            What a horrible thing for the cousin to do. Although I guess it depends if the cousin was invited to the wedding.

          • Eh

            He was invited. Everyone on my dad’s side at the party was invited. So not only did the cousin decide to have a birthday party for his son instead of coming to our wedding me made other people decide between our wedding and the birthday party.

          • Marcela

            Then he is a jerk.

          • EllsUK

            Then absolutely – horrible thing for the cousin to do. I guess it just shows you who you will continue to make an effort with (or not) in the future! Sad for you though.

          • Eh

            He didn’t reply to our invitation so I emailed him a couple days after the RSVPs were due. He then told me about the birthday party (no one else at the party told me that they were going to the party instead of my wedding, I found out after when I saw the pictures) and sent me a rant about how important family is and how much he regrets not being able to make it. This is someone I used to see a couple times a year since he was in a group of cousins who only lived an hour away (all my other cousins live far away). More or less I won’t be making an effort with them. They came to my sister’s wedding last summer (her wedding was also close to where they live – unlike mine which was 5 hours away – but even that was a headache for my family). For example, a few weeks ago I announced that I am pregnant to my extended family but I didn’t tell him. I told his mother and I figure she will tell him.

          • EllsUK

            Well done you! It sounds like you’re being extremely adult about it and there’s no point adjusting your like or making an effort for people like that. If he gets in touch with you or invites you to something then maybe something can be salvaged.

            I’d be annoyed with all the other guests that went to the birthday party too though. I tend to err on the side of believing the best of people so maybe they couldnt afford to travel to the wedding or something and wouldn’t’ve been able to come anyway but still it sucks. Sorry for you. I’m sure you had a lovely wedding though :)

          • Eh

            Exactly. When I got all of the “no” RSVPs from this group of people I erred on the side that the other relatives couldn’t make it because of travel (it was 5 hours for most of them) or something else. The birthday party was local for most of the people that went (one relative did travel just as far for the birthday party as she would have had to for my wedding).

            My wedding was a great day (we actually had a ton of family drama leading up to it and a week before we decided to ignore/not deal with all the drama and enjoy our time). It was better that they didn’t come – they were very needy guests at my sister’s wedding (unable to deal with directions or accommodations on their own, leaving early because they decided to go home that night instead of staying in a hotel, constantly taking obnoxious pictures to share with a relative who was unable to make it, and one person in this group last minute told my sister that she was separated from her husband and was bringing her new boyfriend to the wedding instead).

          • EllsUK

            The more I think about this the more I’m just like WTF? Such a knob.

          • Lisa

            That is awful. :( I had the same feeling about our wedding and the people who chose to attend it on my worse days. (We invited ~150 and ended up with 80.)

          • Eh

            We actually had about 80 people RSVP that they were coming and then we had about 10 no shows the day of (well three told us after our final numbers had to be to the caterer). So that made us feel super awesome that people we thought we were close to couldn’t even bother to tell us that something came up and that they couldn’t come (one of the people that did tell us a couple days before hand knew weeks before that she had an exam that day, the other two were an elderly couple and one of them fell a week before our wedding and was in the hospital so it was a bit more understandable).

          • Lisa

            We had a moment where my uncle who was reading said two days beforehand one of the uncles my dad asked me not to invite would be driving over with him for the ceremony. Bad uncle ended up not coming, but there was some massive panic around that revelation!

            My second cousin also offered the week of to drive my 85-year-old great aunt up to the wedding. We did not invite the cousin so it was kind of weird, but I was also happy that my aunt could attend when she would not have been able to before!

          • EllsUK

            Yeah exam girl? – not cool. Elderly couple? – completely understandable, shit happens. I think when the hospital is involved you can’t hold it against someone.

          • Eh

            The elderly couple told us as soon as they knew which was greatly appreciated (he fell the day we had to have our numbers in so it didn’t make much of a difference). Other people never even told us at all (even after our wedding). Three of them made a point about being invited. My MIL’s friend was insulted she wasn’t invited to my BIL’s wedding so my MIL asked that we invite her and then the woman asked to be seated at a table with specific people. Another was the husband of my MIL’s other friend – my MIL forgot to tell me this friend was married (I repeatedly asked my husband if this person was married and he never checked either) so he wasn’t on the guest list or the invitation but his name magically appeared on the RSVP but he didn’t come to the wedding (my MIL’s friend did though). The last one was another family friend on my husband’s side – I wasn’t told that these two people are always invited to things together and I only invited one of them (I had never met either of them and the second person’s name wasn’t on the guest list). (BTW my MIL checked the guest list and confirmed that all of the information was correct before we sent out invitations.) I was asked if the other person could come and I said yes since it was clearly an oversight that he wasn’t invited. but then he didn’t show up either.

          • EllsUK

            People are dicks!

    • Juliet

      My husband decided to not invite his biological father to our wedding, but it was a challenging decision. Ultimately, he decided the value of the gesture of inviting a person he is working to repair a relationship with was outweighed by the anxiety it would likely cause the parents who raised him to have him there.

      To state the obvious, the way weddings can really put a spotlight and an artificial timeline on family dynamics and tensions can suck.

      • Liz

        Someone close to me made the very same decision. It’s tough!

    • Eh

      “I really, really wanted my wedding to have super family restorative powers. . . but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.”
      My cousin was hoping that her wedding would help bring our family together (her father doesn’t talk to either of his siblings – the only people in our family that came we me and my sister since we are not part of either feud since my mother, who was her aunt, passed away before the feuds started). She was very upset that her parents did not allow her to invite my aunt or her children, and that she was allowed to invite our uncle but that he declined (she at least got a response from him, he didn’t reply to me or my sister’s wedding invitations).
      I came into wedding planning with the idea that our wedding wasn’t going to fix any relationship problems between family members. We decided to invite everyone and let them work it out. My wedding was the first time my aunt and uncle had been in the same room in about 5 years (they were also in hotel rooms right next to each other too). The next year at my sister’s wedding my uncle’s family refused to come if my aunt’s family was there because they said being at my wedding was too awkward. That was very upsetting for my sister (again, not thinking that it would fix their relationship but because they couldn’t suck it up for a day and they put her in the middle of their crap).
      My BIL’s family also did not get along with my husband’s family leading up to our wedding. A lot of crap ensued leading up to our wedding (they were using our wedding as a statement about how poorly they were treated and using it so they could cut ties with the family). They decided to not come to our wedding which was very upsetting for my MIL (who likes to pretend that she has the perfect family). The day of our wedding my MIL went to my BIL’s house crying and begged him to come (my SIL hadn’t booked the day off so she couldn’t come and my BIL could only come for the ceremony because their daughters were sick and they couldn’t come). That was the turning point for our relationship. My SIL saw how hurt my MIL and realized that they had to make an effort for the relationship to work (up to that point they assumed everyone else needed to do things for them but they didn’t need to do things for other people). A year and a half later things are better but sometimes it’s still pretty bumpy (like this week were they double booked themselves and flaked on a family birthday party that they said they were going to).

  • Katie

    Both of these situations reared their heads in our wedding planning experience. DH comes from a huge family: his mom is one of 6, dad is one of 7. He has many many aunts and uncles he has not seen in years, and a few first cousins he has never met. We invited them all anyways. Most declined the invitation, a couple CAME which was MIRACULOUS as far as my in-laws were concerned, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM sent DH and I Christmas cards with personal notes this year. Our in-laws were shocked as they haven’t gotten a Christmas card from the same relatives in a decade. A few even linked up to us via social media, and there’s a chance there will be a casual family relationship in the future.

    We did NOT however, invite my brother. He is legitimately terrible. He has behaved absolutely appallingly, and spoken to me in ways I just do not allow. I choose not to have a relationship with him. My mother financially supports him, and I think she dreams of me pursuing a sibling relationship with him, but it’s not going to happen. And she really wanted me to invite him to the wedding, but there was no way I was going to do that. It’s one thing to invite family you have neutral feelings about, or even family who can be difficult but with whom you still wish to be in a relationship with, and another thing to invite people you actively detest for valid reasons. I appreciate the desires of a senior generation, but wishing can’t change everything.

  • guest

    My cousin sent me a save the date, but no invitation. He explained to me that they had huge families and it turned out they couldn’t have them all. Other family members explained it was a money / changing the venue issue. But our only other mutual cousin was a bridesmaid in the wedding. And my dad was given a “guest” for the wedding. My dad asked me to come as his guest, but I thought that would be humliating. I acted very kindly towards my cousin over the whole thing, but it absolutely changes our relationship and changes his relationship with my father and my grandma. And even more than that impacts views of his new wife. Unless there is a good reason, its not really cool to divide amongst family at the same level.

    • Amy March

      And it’s really not cool to have someone save the date and them not invite them family or not!

      • Liz

        (This is why I hate the things.)

        • K.

          YES. One of my first pieces of advice to any of my friends getting engaged in the future? Save the Dates are the WORST idea, unless you are sending them out only to your absolute VIPs. We’re actively regretting sending out three of them to people who have proven themselves to be toxic, selfish, and just genuinely awful people. They aren’t even family or really close friends, so if we hadn’t sent Save the Dates, we could have easily gotten away with simply letting the relationship go and not inviting them. But now we have to be “good people” or “responsible adults” and deal with them on one of the most intimate, special days of our lives thus far.

          Seriously, beware the STD.

          • Marcela

            Upvoting for “Beware the STD”

          • CCT

            If they were people you want to continue a relationship with (i.e., friendly acquaintances that you might choose not to invite for space or money reasons if you had to do it over again), I’d be all for following the etiquette books. Honestly, though, if they’re really toxic AND not close friends, does it matter if they get mad about the lack of invitation? Let the relationship go now, and give yourself permission not to deal with them at your wedding. (Of course, if you’ve sent the invitation, I guess it’s too late. I just hope you don’t put unnecessary stress on yourself in the name of politeness in this case.)

          • K.

            Unfortunately, they are my fiancé’s co-workers. Not close proximity co-workers so that’s why it wouldn’t have been a big deal if we hadn’t sent Save the Dates (“Small family wedding” blah blah blah), but now it could become an issue for him down the road professionally if he doesn’t invite them.

          • CCT

            Oh, that does make it stickier. I’m sorry that he has lousy coworkers! I’ll cross my fingers that they’re busy that weekend. ;)

          • Natalie

            On the other hand, STD’s totally saved me when wedding invitations were lost in the mail. We emailed STD’s, and a couple weeks before the wedding got a phone call from a dear friend who lives across the country and we hadn’t seen or heard from in a while, asking if she was still invited to the wedding because she was planning to come, but hadn’t received an invitation. I was SO glad we had done STD’s in addition to invitations, because if we hadn’t I wouldn’t have known that she hadn’t received an invitation until it was too late for her to buy a plane ticket.

          • Jules

            So, also on the plus side: the STD’s gave us a chance to test mailing addresses. Two people gave their addresses to me without the apartment number (Come ON, guys) and when I asked if they got the STD’s, the answer was no.

            Gave me a chance to fix the address before our invites went out at $1 a stamp and in an envelope we couldn’t afford to redo.

          • Jules

            I am SOOOO glad that we didn’t send STD’s to everyone. We only sent them to immediate family and bridal party. Our guest list morphed a lot and we were glad we had the flexibility to drop some acquaintances simply based on lack of space. I also thought that my fiance got a bit overexcited and invited everyone he could think of rather than people he had a meaningful relationship with. After reflection, the list was quite different.

            AND we only had a 5 month engagement. I can’t even imagine it changing over the year…

        • Kayla

          Save the dates were really helpful for us! It meant we had to finalize our actual invitee list, which meant we had a max head count, which meant we knew approximately what size venue we needed, and we could start doing more realistic budgets for rentals/catering/drinks/etc.

          We had almost nothing figured out until those darn save the dates forced us to get it together. And for that, I thank them.

        • Glen

          Since most of our family and a number of friends live far away from where we got married, sending STDs about 6 months in advance allowed people to start making travel plans. But this only works if you’ve already locked down your invite list and your venue.

      • Alison O

        Save this date so you’ll be highly aware on the day of my wedding that you are not there, since there’ll be nothing else to occupy you!

    • Meg Keene

      This is why Save The Dates suck.

    • Lawyerette510

      Wow that’s incredibly bad taste to send save the dates to more people than you send invites too. Talk about your cousin doing it wrong, and especially if he or she left it to other family members to explain the mess.

  • Jess1216

    “Close” family you never see is so tough. I was in the same boat and didn’t want to invite cousins I hadn’t seen in 20 years. My parents (who were giving us a generous check) insisted they be invited and we had a giant weeks-long fight about it, but I eventually caved. Because we had a small wedding, my 5 cousins came at the expense of some friends I had originally wanted to invite. And my mom was right – it *did* bring my cousins and I closer. They flew in early, we hung out a couple times before the wedding and at the after-party. I’m glad I finally caved on this, but it was probably the hardest battle with my parents/myself of the entire wedding. But that’s not saying that it couldn’t have gone the complete opposite way and I’d be sitting here a year later upset that some of my less-close friends were excluded at the expense of cousins I never heard from again. I think every decision like this comes down to what you can live with after the event.

  • I was really big on inviting only important people who have impacted our life, and I put my foot down about inviting only his (huge) immediate family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) and not any more distant relatives for the sake of them being ‘family’ if they weren’t actually close. I mean, we had been together for over 5 years at that point – if I’d never met this relative or heard of them, I couldn’t believe they were integral and important. My family in this country is tiny (parents and sibling), so his side was almost exclusively family, my side was almost exclusively friends (who are my chosen family). We had also recently attended a huge (200+ person wedding), and while it was lovely, beautiful, and expensive, it was totally nothing like what I would want. It seemed super important to only invite people who had been friends for years, people whose absence I would feel.

    We paid for the entire wedding ourselves (though both sets of parents gave us generous checks after-the-fact, and husband’s family paid for a rehearsal dinner (that I would have otherwise not bothered to have)). This basically meant that I didn’t see anyone but us having a say in the guest-list. My in-laws and parents were really great and respectful about that – but I almost feel like we didn’t give them a choice or any room to interject a different view on how our guest list should be.

    There were some people I would have liked to invite – they were really awesome and I like them a lot, but it would have looked unequal to invite them and not others who were somewhat technically in the same space relationship-wise to us, but not as close. Ie, the friend who I’ve taken several amazing group vacations with (met her on one of said trips, she was another friend’s friend), who I think is the bomb. But there’s another girl in the exact same position (i.e., mostly know her through these trips and close friends with the first girl), who I like a lot, but didn’t have any interest in inviting. So I avoided any unequal-looking situation by not inviting either. Didn’t invite any recent friends (who I’d met in the preceding year of starting grad school) because I didn’t feel like the wedding couldn’t work without them, and because I wanted to err on the side of including friends who were very important to past me (even if present me had grown apart) rather than newer friendships who had no expectations of being invited.

    My wedding ended up having about 90 guests. In retrospect, relaxing my views on who to invite and having slightly more people would’ve changed nothing (except the cost of the wedding). I asked my parents if they wanted to invite anyone (and regretting that as soon as I asked) – they mentioned some distant relative I hadn’t seen in at least 8 years, plus their closest couple friends, who I’m not close to. So I kinda took the question back – after emphatically stating that I wouldn’t invite a stranger just cause he’s technically related (I think my mom just had a moment of insanity), I actually do think it would have been nice to let me parents have their closest friends there. They did have some friends – who were parents of my good friends, and who I felt close to. Also, we ended up adding a friend invite at the last minute – someone in my friend circle, who I felt like I wasn’t super individually connected to and thus didn’t invite, but over time it kept feeling like an intentional non-invitation: he’d be at gatherings where all the other friends had been invited, and it felt awkward and like I was making some statement by not inviting him, so we sent him an invite and he came and I’m glad of it.

    I haven’t heard of any hurt feelings (though … guess I wouldn’t even if they were there), but what worked for us was basically not talking about the wedding at all on socially media, or with people we weren’t inviting. I’m part of a big, wonderful, friend community, and it truly was the case that there were some people I had been friends with for years and years and interacted with and liked, but didn’t feel particularly close to (like their presence would matter at the wedding). I didn’t invite them, but I think it worked because the relationship was mutual (i.e., we like each other, but don’t feel like we’re super close). Anyway, I realize that this entire comment is basically about friends and not so much family – just goes to show how I operate. I don’t really abide by the nebulous concept of ‘family’ – my people are those who I choose, who support me and who I support. I don’t do obligation relationships (yep, this certainly causes tension with in-laws, why do you ask?).

    • Sosuli

      I agree with this on so many levels. Our wedding is still a long way off, so we’re just going through some of these conversations. We want to keep the wedding relatively small and our venue only has a licence for max. 80 people for a civil ceremony (yay UK bureaucracy), so a lot of my extended family is not being invited. They would have to spend a lot of money flying in from overseas, so we’re phrasing it as a “we don’t expect you to spend that much money on our wedding, we’ll celebrate with you later”. But my FH came kind of out of the blue saying he wanted to invite his great aunt and mum’s cousin who I have not met in our 7 year relationship. I was kind of upset by this, seeing as we’re not stretching to that much of my family, but he is actually closer to these people than I am to many of my uncles. So I’ve accepted it, with the provisio that I actually meet them at some point before the wedding!

      • Yeah, it’s complicated. Some of his aunts/uncles/cousins I had met like, once, and my husband hadn’t seen in years. It frustrated me a bit to hear him saying ‘These people need to be invited’ when it seemed to me like you would be seeing/calling people who are so important to you more often than that. But I had to learn to accept that we do have different views, and that he had history with his family that I wasn’t privy to. I don’t really consider his family to be my family even now that we’re married (especially the extended family, especially the ones who don’t speak much english), but I do feel like one of my jobs as a partner (his too, obvi) is to encourage him to keep the friend/family relationships strong. So talking through all this helped a lot! His statements bugged me a lot when I felt like he wasn’t giving things much thought, just going with what is standard/expected, so hearing his reasoning/emotions helped me be fine with things. Good luck!

  • Kate M

    Liz is spot on as usual. Family dynamics matter, and while your wedding is just the kick off of navigating them, starting on a bad foot is setting yourself up for ongoing strife. Like it or not, family members you don’t get along with, come with your new baby family. You can limit the amount of interaction you have, but you will run into this woman for the rest of her life at family events.

  • pajamafishadventures

    If I had it my way, my side of the wedding would be friends-only. The only family member I care even a little bit of enough about to want there is my brother, who is a package deal with my parents (most of my family I don’t have actual issues with, just no relationship outside being facebook friends). My thinking is that I only want people there who I feel know me (and my relationship) well and who have been fully supportive of me in my endeavors- lots of friends filling those categories, no living family. On the other hand, he has a large family and wants to invite alllll of them. I think we could probably get away with a 100% “no family, just friends” ceremony, but not one where we invite one half’s family and not the other

  • Laura

    After much discussion between us and my husband’s family, we decided not to invite one of his uncles. This was a person who was in business with my FIL, didn’t pay him for two years during the financial crisis, and then dissolved the business, took the remaining assets, and started a new business minus my FIL (still without compensation for his work). And committed all kinds of unethical business practices.

    But, we made that decision knowing full well that by cutting his family out of our wedding, we were pretty much cutting them out of our lives entirely. That’s why it was so important to have my husband as well as his parents on board. Our decision to invite or not invite the uncle was not just our own; it strongly impacted my FIL’s relationship with his brother as well.

    We haven’t spoken to the uncle since. My in-laws still live about a mile away from the uncle and his family. I don’t think any of us regret our decision, but sometimes weddings draw permanent battle lines. It may just seem like a party invitation to you, but the interpretations of your immediate or extended family members may differ.

  • Marcela

    For both these letter writers who may end up inviting some people they do not want to their wedding, it might not be bad idea to give your photographer/videographer a heads up that maybe you don’t want a ton of photos of those people. It was surprising to us how many of our photos came back with the same few people over and over again. If you want to be able to just ignore that person-x was there it would be best if they don’t show up in half the pictures.

    • K.

      That’s smart! I love that idea. Wish I could up-vote (guess I’ll need to make a Disqus soon…)

      This is especially helpful if there’s any chance they’ll be on the dance floor a lot or hamming it up in any way.

      • Marcela

        Or if they have babies/little children. At the last wedding I went to I think there were more photos taken of the two littles attending than there were of the bride and groom!

    • Lauren from NH

      Haha my condition for caving on inviting a “family friend” who is literally a mistress, was that she is not in any group shots. That’s just some bad juju.

    • Lisa

      Yes! Such a great idea. I, too, was surprised that one of my good friends was in almost every picture, and when I mentioned it to her, she said, “Wedding photographers love me because I make goofy faces and am not ashamed to make a fool of myself on the dance floor. I end up all over the place in wedding photos.” It’s not something I had ever thought of before, but it makes total sense!

      • Kelly

        Ha! So true. We didn’t invite any +1’s to our wedding, but one of my husband’s friends from out of town brought his girlfriend who nobody had ever met before. She was literally the only person at our wedding who was not a friend/family member of ours. Not a super big deal, she seemed great and we were happy to have her, but she is featured prominently in our wedding photos! We don’t even remember what her name is…

    • SoontobeNatalieN

      A good note, but also be careful about who you tell that too. Speaking from experience, it gets back through the grapevine. my FSIL “assigned” one of her guests the responsibility of keeping someone out of the wedding photos, and it got back to that person (because the guest she assigned that responsibility liked the person better than the bride) and was pretty hurtful.

  • Bernice

    This is so hard… We’ve started a practical family feud over this. My parents are both one of four, his mom is one of 6 and his dad is one of 5. We have over 40 cousins between us, most of whom we don’t have a close or good relationship with. We’re both introverts and I originally wanted a wedding with only 50-75 people. When we sat down to write our guest list, including all the aunts, uncles, and ridiculous number of cousins, we were at 250 people. We knew ourselves well enough to know that this was not going to be a wedding experience that either of us would ever remember fondly. We seriously considered eloping at this point. But when we looked at the list, we knew that a huge chunk of the problem was extended family with whom we have no real relationship. I have a few extended family members that I actively dislike and avoid because of how they’ve treated me for years. My FH moved away from his home state 5 years ago and has been very disappointed to find how few of his extended family members have kept up with him now that he’s 2k miles away and not conveniently down the street. So, the decision we made was that the people that should be at our wedding should be people that are actively important in our lives on at least a yearly basis and whom we couldn’t imagine our wedding without. We started our guest list over. We reached 160. This was still pretty high for me, but we’re going to end up with about 90 guests total, which I think is going to feel pretty intimate.

    Our families went crazy over our decisions to make distinctions at the same family “level”. But this is our wedding. We’re only going to do this once and we truly knew that a wedding with 200 or 250 people would make us both miserable. For me, having to face cousins who have made me miserable for 20+ years at every family holiday was not something I was willing to do on my wedding day. For my FH, establishing his independence and authority as a adult from his mother was important. Nearly every decision we made was challenged, so we basically felt that we had to stand our ground on a lot of things for the sake of proving that we would.

    I think a lot of the advice out there is that you have to keep the family peace and do what your family wants on your wedding day. This is really tough for me and I’m a little disappointed in APW on this one. My extended family has caused a lot of hurt by refusing, year after year, to be supportive, or to recognize me for who I am. I’ve had so many conversations with my grandmother about the fact that I’m an introvert and “no I’m not avoiding people I just can’t spend 14 hours with family I need my space during the holidays”… I cannot count the attempts I’ve made to get them to understand me as I am. My wedding should not be another opportunity for my family to hijack my life and make it their show. Our baby family should be deciding what we want, what is happy and healthy and good for us. Yes, weddings are about families, but unless you want your wedding to serve as a family reunion you shouldn’t be conscripted into doing so. My mantra has been: all of our favorite people in one room. For an couple of introverts, that’s what I hope will help us get through the stress of a very long and overwhelming day.

    • EllsUK

      I havent finished reading the comments but I don’t think the advice is saying completely disregard your own feelings in order to keep the family peace. From what I’ve seen it’s more “if you’re ambivalent then invite them”. If they actively upset you or make you uncomfortable then don’t invite them. You are your husband know yourselves and knew that you couldn’t do the large wedding but the advice seems to be for people who aren’t sure on what to do. It sounds like you’ve made the right decision for you and hopefully that’s what the OP’s will do as well – only each person can know their situation in enough detail to make that call.

    • Amy March

      In both cases though it’s not all the cousins or all the aunts or all the church ladies. It’s one person. And I do think that makes a big difference on how reasonable fighting the battle is.

  • Kayjayoh

    I’d say that I agree with Liz on backing down and inviting the “eh, we’re just not that close” relatives for the sake of family peace. But I’d disagree about backing down on inviting the actively toxic relative. Yes, it is just one day, but I think a wedding is as good a time as any to put your foot down and publicly say, “No, I’m not going to put up with or reward this kind of toxicity.”

    • Marcela

      I thought that what Liz was saying in response to the first letter was more about what would be more toxic, having that person there and ignoring them or having to deal with however many months of family drama about this one person you can’t stand (the concern that half the family would boycott the wedding jumps out at me). It really depends on your family dynamics and wedding. I’d rather invite her and ignore her than have to possibly not have people I care about there because of her.

      • Kayjayoh

        No, I got what she was saying. I just disagree with that. I think far too many families put up with toxic behavior in the name of “avoiding drama” when truly more people putting their foot down and saying “No, I’m not having that, you don’t get to be here with me” would probably cut down on a lot more drama in the long run.

        Act like a toxic choad? Don’t get invited to important things.

        • Alison O

          last line: as close to LOL as I can get without making noise in my cubicle…

        • Lauren C

          I completely echo this. We made the decision not to invite some family members on my side, and it’s something I struggled with a bit, but it’s definitely for the best. My father passed away when I was a kid and I’ve had very little contact with two of his five siblings. One is simply uninvolved – I’ve seen him maybe 5 times in my life, the last being 15 years ago. The other, my uncle, exhibits toxic behavior. He has a serious drinking problem, was inappropriate towards me five years ago, and when he was called on it, claimed that I was lying (he sent me inappropriate Facebook messages, so I couldn’t make that up). He has never acknowledged what he did, and I have seen him once at a family gathering since. He and I don’t have a relationship and I absolutely don’t want him at my wedding, for fear that he will cause drama, but mostly because toxic behavior has consequences. Others have tolerated his behavior over the years, and that is their right, but it is also my right to have positive people at my wedding. I am scared about how certain members will react, but I’m also certain that other members of my family will be relieved.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    Ooh I sympathize. I had to invite an aunt and cousins who are pretty horrible to me and my mother and who are the kind of people who would show up at your wedding with 5 dudes they met at the club last weekend. Fortunately I lucked out and they ended up not coming. I feel your pain, LW #1

  • Anne

    I think one thing missing here is that when you have a fixed size (based on venue limitations, budget, or whatever), every yes is a no to someone else. Some people may have flexibility in the number of invitations they send; we do not. We booked the venue expecting a very small wedding and are unexpectedly coming close to our ceiling. Fortunately, I have a small family, and there’s only one couple we’re inviting to the wedding to make my Mom happy. Still, that means we can’t invite anyone from work, even the ones I’ve known for almost 10 years. And fiancé has a big family and comes from a culture with open invitation weddings (seriously–you can bring your friends to someone else’s wedding, and the concept of the RSVP is not a thing), so the fact that we’re not inviting people he’s never met or hasn’t seen in 30 years doesn’t sit well.

    • Bernice

      Yes! “Every yes is a no to someone else”!!! I struggled with this a lot! My grandmother expected me to invite cousins I have a terrible relationship with when that would have meant I couldn’t invite our billiards team who we see every week and at major holidays and a variety of other social events. These were people who weren’t on the very top of my friends list, but certainly people we wanted at our wedding. People I wasn’t willing to cut out for the sake of “family peace”.

    • Jules

      We’ve had FIVE PEOPLE on my fiance’s side alone suddenly develop “serious relationships” and I’m pulling my hair out wishing they’d understand. When we sent out the invites, we sent them to ____ people expecting __%, and if we had known that they planned on bringing someone (who we have never heard of…), we would have cut some lesser acquaintances entirely. There IS a tradeoff; people really don’t get it.

      I’ve left it to him to explain that we’re so sorry, but if we are going to fit in the venue, we just can’t allow additional guests – but we can let them know closer to the wedding if it looks like there will be room. We’d love to meet them, but we didn’t know about them and didn’t account for it in our original numbers.

      • Alison O

        I can’t tell from your comment how upset your original invitees who now have partners are about their partners’ not being able to come, but I would say in my own experience this would not bother me, and it wouldn’t bother my partner either. So if you don’t know their reactions yet, maybe wait and see and they might not be bad.

      • Sarah

        We are doing that now too…we’ve had a couple of “new serious relationship” people we’ve had to tell can’t bring their new partner, and some people who are rsvping with FRIENDS of theirs that we’ve never met let alone invited. I am just going with the space yada yada thing. They absolutely cannot come at this point. I’m honestly baffled that they are rsvping like this and aren’t even asking…just assuming. I’m having to awkwardly text them after I receive their RSVP being like “uhh…so and so wasn’t invited…space issues…etc…” This is my new biggest pet peeve about wedding planning.

  • Gen

    Depending on the size of your wedding, the addition or subtraction of a few people (even people you really don’t like) WILL NOT MATTER. Why? Because you will not have time to spend any considerable alone time with any particular guest. I had a relatively small wedding (100 guests), and I probably got 1-2 minutes of face time with each person. Maybe 5 minutes if I was lucky. Your wedding is a whirlwind of people congratulating you, you thanking people, and you smiling for the camera until your face hurts.
    It’s also very easy to avoid people you don’t want to see on your wedding day because you’re the bride! You’re busy! There are so many people there who want to talk to you! Even if you have to spend a minute small talking with your super annoying cousin, you will be rescued by the 95 other people who you need to greet and thank.
    The same goes for people who are stressing about certain guests who can’t make it. There were a few people that I love dearly that couldn’t come to my wedding. I thought I’d be sad about it the day of, but guess what I was way too busy celebrating with the people who did come to even notice who wasn’t there.

    Don’t over think it people.

    • EllsUK


    • Marcela

      There were people that I thought had left after the ceremony who apparently were there all the way to the big departure thing that I only realized when looking at photos.

    • Libby

      Yes yes yes to this!!

      • Libby

        I didn’t have any severely toxic relationships to worry about so, please note that nothing below applies in that regard. In my experience, giving an invite to a couple of your Dad’s first cousins in 99% of circumstances will not impact your day in the slightest.

        We all have to figure out our own boundaries for the guest list so that it doesn’t get out of control, for sure. But if there are 2-3 people that are not extremely toxic and not inviting them causes someone in your family a lot of hurt, I would heavily lean on the side of “just do it.” Some of them won’t come and if they do, you will go over and say hello and it will be .2 seconds of your night. And since we’re not talking about toxic people here, they will just bring more love, even if they don’t know you that well. Seriously. And you’ll be on such a high you might even be jazzed to see Great Aunt Joan who you haven’t seen since you were 3. Because Aunt Joan is going to be SUPER jazzed to see you, because she watched you grow up in Christmas cards and she loves your father, or your grandmother, or whoever.

        I feel like there is a lot of pressure, even in our community here (maybe even more so), to have only the people who know you on some deep level at your wedding. But keep in mind, unless you grew up with your fiance from like, preschool, there are going to be people at your wedding that don’t know your deepest soul! Maybe they know your fiance’s deepest soul, or something. But in very few worlds will every single person be someone you personally have known for ages. So if that takes a load off a little bit so you can invite Great Aunt Joan and save a little heartache clashing with relatives, I say go for it. It will be a mix of so many different people and SO MUCH love.

        • EllsUK

          Love this!

        • Sara P

          This comment so much. We are inviting my entire family (which is maybe 20 people) so we’re also inviting FH’s entire family – which is a hundred. This blows my mind, honestly, but it’s fine. (Also no toxic relationships to deal with, so YMMV.)

        • Well said! I’m a new aunt and my niece lives very far away, meaning that I don’t see having a close relationship with her. But I adore her from afar, and I would be so sad not to be invited to her wedding!

    • InHK

      This is exactly what I was thinking! My wedding was one big, happy blur. I doubt I talked to anyone for more than 3 minutes.

    • Manda9339

      My question, though, is whether this is a person who will make a scene. If she is willing to post videos of herself saying nasty things for the world to hear, she’s probably the kind of person who will get into a yelling match with someone for the thrill of attention.

    • anon

      If it’s a big-ish wedding this sounds right to me. If it’s a small one, one person really can make a difference. We’re considering a venue with a maximum occupancy of 32, which is a tiny space but a good fit for our tiny budget. Inviting that uncle I haven’t seen in years means that we have to pick a college friend, or grad school roommate, or beloved coworker who can no longer come. In these cases one person more or less can make a big difference.

  • Carolyn S

    Ugh. We had a lovely “immediate family only with one attendant each” wedding all ready to go for the fall and his sister just informed us that she is having twins and cannot come. We knew she was pregnant and so moved the date back initially to accommodate her, but now with twins there are so many unknowns and obviously an earlier due date, and so she is pretty much out unless we do it immediately or in 2 years. This is his only sibling (I have three siblings with partners and children each) and so all of a sudden an immediate family only wedding is actually my family plus his parents… We thought we were doing so well with our victories over setting boundaries and now have absolutely no idea where to go from here…

    • EllsUK

      Doesn’t moving the date back mean that you moved it to after the due date which is now earlier? I’m confused. Perhaps discussing with her a way for her to come for some small part of the wedding would be a possibility? This depends on where you’re getting married in relation to the sisters location etc but may be worth considering? One of my fiance’s cousin’s due date is 6 days after the wedding so she’s told us that she’ll only be coming to the ceremony. (Fair enough) But my uncle and his family won’t be coming because their baby is due a month before the wedding. To be fair they live in Australia and we’re in the UK so fair enough but still makes me sad.

      • Carolyn S

        Ha woops – I meant we moved it earlier. She is 4 provinces over so would have to travel unfortunately.

        • EllsUK

          That’s a shame. Being in the UK I have no idea how far that is/the time involved in the travelling. May be worth chatting to her about keeping the idea open if the babies arrive/don’t arrive can travel/can’t travel? Or you could include her on skype or something similar? Definitely worth talking to her about at least so that you can get her side of what could work? Also you can totally travel with kids less than 18 months so depending on your circumstances on booked in things you could move it a few months?

          Another suggestion if she’s unable to come. Get it all filmed then go over to see her and the new babies when they arrive and share it all with her then? Ultimately I don’t think you should be expected to cancel everything and push the wedding back really far. It’s just bad timing unfortunately.

    • notquitecece

      I’m sorry! We had something similar happen (not twins, though!). We found out in August, moved the wedding to January, and it worked out — but clearly we had a little more time to work with. I hope you find something (whatever it is!) that works for you guys.

    • Lawyerette510

      Oh this is a big bummer, but if y’all are ready to be married, I’d encourage you not to wait 2 years because she is pregnant with twins so may not be able to come. 2 years is a long time, and who’s to say that 2 years from now she won’t be pregnant again or another key family member won’t have something that prevents them from coming? Plus 2 years is a long time to wait as a couple if you’re ready to make that commitment now (and to go without the legal protection and benefits of being a married couple).

    • We have something similar too. We have a super-small wedding, so every non-attendee (pregnancy, break-ups, illness) shakes up the balance. I said in another comment below that sometimes I can’t help wishing we’d had the wedding when we were still pre-engaged, but at this point, it is what it is… waiting another year or two would only introduce more unknowns.

  • MG

    This. I am marrying an Indian man and my great uncle once called him a terrorist (in a serious way, not that it could ever be a joke…). I refuse to invite him to my wedding and my mother supports me. No one else does (except, of course, my fiancé). I don’t understand why it is my random relative’s business, and when I explain my perfectly reasonable reason, I still get crap for it. Like, “But he’s family”. Yeah, family who is incredibly offensive and whom I never want to speak to again. I struggle with remaining calm and repeating my answer.

    • Marcela

      See I feel like the badness of racist cancels out the goodness of family, making him a stranger and why would you have a stranger at your wedding. Good riddance! Stay strong!

    • Liz

      I feel like “calls the groom a terrorist,” might be a good bar.

      • Meg Keene

        I just choked.

        New rule.

    • EllsUK

      If this was me I would feel the need to talk to my great uncle and question the terrorist comment. Obviously racism is terrible but there are generations that are completely unaware of the offense they cause and they cannot unlearn that without it being talked about. I obivously don’t know the details of the situation or context of the comment but I think it would need further discussion if it was me.

      • Amy March

        No. Nope. There is no generation or time in which calling someone a terrorist was in any way acceptable.

        • EllsUK

          Yeah ok fair point. I meant more generally really. As I said lower down I often lean towards believing the best of people and not knowing the details or context was just trying to bring that point in.
          Obviously if great uncle stands by his statement then completely get my vote for no invite but if great uncle realises the error of his ways then I believe there is room for forgiveness and growth.

          • EllsUK

            This also comes from a place of assuming a good relationship before the comment.

    • Lauren from NH

      Say your piece if people ask. Then say it is not up for discussion. I know how much this sucks and the excuses get old real fast.

    • Lindsay Rae

      Including a person/ second cousin or two to keep the peace within your family or make your parents happy is one thing – inviting someone who obviously and outrageously does not support your marriage is absolutely non-negotiable.

    • Lilly

      Your uncle…. called an INDIAN man… a terrorist. Not only is he a racist and a bigot, but the most ignorant type of racist/bigot. How does India have anything to do with Muslim terrorists in the Middle East (which I’m assuming is the certain group to which he was referring).

  • Laura C

    I have to say, on LW1’s cousin, if she’s caused family rifts and is nasty to a lot of people and everyone heard her trashing the LW on video, anyone in the family who can’t understand why this person wouldn’t be invited has issues themselves. Part of me feels like oh, hell, invite her, whatever, one nasty person isn’t going to ruin your wedding and you’ll get to claim the high road for basically the rest of your life. But part of me feels like if there are people in the family who would go to bat for that kind of behavior, might as well smoke them out and say good riddance to them as well.

    But then, I’m exhausted and a little hungover and don’t have any family to speak of, so I may not be the person to listen to. But I guess I’m also someone who wishes I’d stood my ground on a few more things related to my own wedding so who knows.

    • Kayjayoh

      Seriously. When a person knows they can be nasty and rift-causing and shit-talking and still get invited to all the important family milestones, what possible incentive do they have to change their behavior? Not that this is about getting her to change her behavior, but when everyone she knows has to roll back their boundaries just to “keep the peace” the peace is still not kept (because of the toxic behavior) *and* boundaries are broken.

      Standing ground and saying you aren’t going to be there for that is a good thing.

    • I have to agree, i’d be digging in on not inviting this cousin. I don’t think it should be on LW1 to keep the peace in this instance. If doesn’t sound like there is a “keep the peace” in this instance.

    • TeaforTwo

      I don’t think it’s the behaviour that anyone’s going to bat: it’s the person under the behaviour, and the family unit.

      We have one family member who has gone down a bad road in the last ten years or so. He married a toxic woman, and together they can be truly terrible. No one is defending their behaviour: but if they stop getting invited to family events, and we never see them, then what family do they have? I don’t think isolation makes people behave any better, or that cutting someone off makes them any more aware of other people’s feelings – it gives them a new wound to nurse.

      Sometimes it’s important to cut someone off for your own protection, but I don’t think it ever does THEM a favour. Which is why – in my own family, at least – I’m firmly in camp “invite them.”

  • Jules

    Liz, thanks for this: “And frankly, it’s not up to you to determine that this isn’t heartbreaking”. I just wanted to add that I would NOT take the approach of “they won’t come anyway, so let’s not send/waste an invitation”. While I totally understand the thinking, sometimes it’s just nice that the welcoming gesture is extended. Don’t make the decision of whether or not they will come for them if they’d otherwise be on your guest list. Furthermore, when it’s apparent that you’ve been left out (applies more to family than friends), it can really hurt to be cut from the list even if you weren’t planning on attending. Like other people are saying, it can be hard to understand why you’re left out but your sister is invited to your cousin’s wedding…

    I completely sympathize with LW#2 AND LW#1 – and I support LW1 leaving out a toxic relative if that’s what’s best for you, but keep in mind you may burn a bridge. In our case, I had a cousin who was in the process of suing his stepmother (my aunt, for my whole life…despite not being a blood relative) for his deceased father’s estate and was on bad terms with his sister, etc. It was an easy decision to not invite him due to the discomfort it would have caused the entire side of the family and we didn’t plan to keep in touch anyway.

    LW2, we have a few relatives that I haven’t seen in over a decade, but we invited them anyway so that their parents (my aunts and uncles) wouldn’t be offended and neither would they. I’m rather indifferent to these people one way or the other, but it was the invitation that mattered. I’m not saying that other people’s feelings get to call the shots on your guest list, but inviting/not inviting has consequences, and in this case it seems worth it to just send an invitation.

    • Guest

      Yes to this! My fiancé and I both have giant families and a good number of friends we would like to invite. We are trying to stay within our budget and every yes is definitely a no to someone else. Everyone on our guest list is someone who we both want at the wedding. For me, the family members I am not inviting are ones I don’t currently have relationships with, so I’m fine if there are severed ties there (as far as I’m concerned, there are no ties). I would feel worse if we couldn’t invite a friend or someone important to us just to accommodate someone who is virtually a stranger to both my fiancé and me.

  • Lisa Marie

    Wow. I kind of completely disagree both with the advice and the comments. But maybe that has to do with my Irish Catholic grudge holding personality. The more I think about this almost a year after my wedding, the more I think you should ABSOLUTELY have only those who you love and who will shower you with affection on your big day. The people that rise to the top and the people that sink to the bottom will surprise you. We get so caught up in pleasing others, in making our weddings inclusive, and I think that’s a mistake. It’s about the community YOU, your groom and you, want to create. Not about obligations.

    I didn’t invite one uncle. And I had to stand my ground on that as my generally supportive dad suggested and softened and thought I should include him. And one of the first things my dad said to me after the wedding was, “You were completely right not to have him here.” Which honestly annoyed me because I could have used the support all along. (Which we discussed and all is well.)

    I also think about all the people I waffled on inviting, for reasons of dramatics or frienemy status or…some other amorphous ideal, that I ultimately invited who then behaved less than stellar and I so wished I hadn’t invited them, in retrospect.

    Family is always going to have some conflict with how you handle things but them forgetting (constantly, unendingly, still) that it is YOUR day is problematic. Remind them. Tell them that you really need all the support you can muster and not having people there that have your back isn’t what you want.

    Especially to the second letter writer: I was COMPLETELY in your boat. I wanted to run away and do something intimate and ended up with a grand hotel wedding. I know you said deposits are down, but think long and hard about why you are doing it and if you can walk away from that money because I’m still parsing out my feelings on our big, expensive day and wish I’d known my own true self better to walk away and not do it at all.

  • Megan

    I’m circumventing some of these questions about toxic family members by planning a *surprise* wedding in July that is disguised as a law school graduation party for my side and a 40th wedding anniversary party for my fiancé’s parents. Our immediate families (parents and 2 siblings) know but that is it. We like the idea of eloping and nurturing our upcoming marriage without dealing with how to deal with my more difficult extended family, but we didn’t want to miss out on a party with the community we love and who loves us.

    Everyone is getting invites, but we already know that most of the disagreeable ones won’t make the effort to travel. By throwing a party that celebrates these other 2 monumental events in our lives, we know we are getting many of the people who are really there to support us.

    • Lawyerette510

      I went to a surprise wedding about a year ago and it was entirely amazing and awesome and wonderful. Good luck! (and congrats on the law school graduation!)

  • Emily

    Get outta my head, Liz.

  • CC

    What if you are invited to a toxic sibling’s wedding? One who has not spoken to you for many years and was very hurtful and mean when they did? Sibling still hasn’t said a word, save for sending the invite. We suspect we were invited because “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” invite siblings to weddings. Do we suck it up and go, or stand our ground and decline because we do not want sibling in our lives? Our original plan was to decline, but we’ve since gotten flack from one parent and an email from sibling’s fiance saying we are making a “big mistake.” The other part is that it would cost us literally thousands of dollars to attend said wedding. We could afford it, but we don’t feel comfortable spending that kind of money on someone who has not supported our own relationship and has not communicated about or apologized for their past behavior. So how do we keep this from being the thing that rears its ugly head at every family gathering/holiday? Now, we’re the “bad guys” because we are not attending and most of the family outside of the immediate members are unaware of the rift…

    • Amy March

      There is no way to keep this from being the thing that rears its ugly head at every family gathering. If you don’t want to be a part of siblings’ life, then you don’t go. If you don’t want it to be a thing, you do. If you want desperately to have both, you attempt the complicated effusive note/exceedingly generous gift route, knowing that in reality it solves none of your problems.

  • BR

    I dealt with this for our wedding with a couple people. One was my uncle who I see maybe once every 5-10 years who has had drama with his siblings after my grandparents died, and who in generally does a terrible job of hiding the fact that he completely disapproves of my dad’s life choices. I didn’t really want him there, but my dad convinced me that he really wanted to come and that I should invite him, so I did. Two days before the wedding, he backed out and didn’t show up.

    The other was a girl my husband’s best man had been dating for 5-6 yrs. We never really got along with her and it was clear she felt the same way about us (or so it seemed), so when we found out a month or so before our wedding that they broke up, I was pretty relieved. Then he told us that he still wanted to bring her as his date since we had already invited her and she’d said yes. We tried to gently steer him in the “it’s really okay with us if you decide that isn’t a good idea” direction, but they had already decided to make it a sort of “last hurrah.” She ended up helping out with a lot of stuff (set-up and tear-down) and everyone who didn’t already know her really liked her and got along with her. Those of us who did know her were baffled why she was suddenly acting like we were best friends (trying to win back our friend perhaps?), but at the end of the day, she didn’t affect our enjoyment of our wedding day. There were just so many other people to spend my time and energy on who I actually love.

  • Jennifer

    I’m not 100% on board with the advice. I don’t think we should advise anyone to bow to family pressure and invite someone to a wedding that the bride and groom don’t really want there. I am not of the opinion that a wedding is just about two people- I think it’s about the merging of families- but I also don’t believe in “keeping up appearances” in this way. It’s just so artificial. It isn’t like the aunt in question #2 doesn’t already know the non-inviting is happening, given the hubbub, so what difference does it make at this point? It was the family that turned it into a big insult. I invited an uncle to my wedding that didn’t even bother to RSVP, but that was my choice. My family thought it was silly to waste the postage. And the cousin in #1 doesn’t deserve to be invited. Simple as that. Actions have consequences, and the bride or groom’s family members should understand that. Even though they tend to be a bit theatrical, I don’t think a wedding is the place to pretend. It should be the most authentic act of a person’s life. Shouldn’t it? And shouldn’t a family want that too?

    • Jules

      I don’t consider inviting family that you haven’t seen in years – who you are indifferent about – to really be caving to family pressure. It sounds like the couple thought “she won’t come anyway so it doesn’t matter” and underestimated the consequences of their actions. Now it’s clear. Weddings mean different things to different families; clearly one family was fine with it, and the other thought it meant something big. You can pick your guest list, but you don’t get to dictate how people feel about it. In some families, weddings are family events and not being invited carries bigger implications than the couple intended.

      Whether or not cousin 1 deserves to be invited depends on the specifics of the situation and the direction that the couple hopes their relationship to go in the future. Again, it’s acceptable to not invite her; it’s just that it may be more trouble than it’s worth. I think that was Liz’s point. Either way sucks. I don’t think that’s caving to family either because you’re ultimately basing the decision on what you want for YOU: deal with the drama for years, or deal with it for just the day? Neither is a wrong answer.

      Weddings beyond very intimate ones tend to have a bit of politicking because people kind of come in social groups: coworkers, family, friend groups. My closest friend group from college (ten people) has one girl that I don’t really have a personal relationship with who was invited without question. It didn’t feel disingenuous at all. It was us saying, you’re invited to our celebration – not you’re one of our 100 nearest and dearest – and she knows that. I have nothing against her and couldn’t imagine seeing her in group settings for the next 10 years knowing she was the only one I excluded.

      That wouldn’t have made it wrong to exclude her – she would have understood. However, I don’t think it was “pretend” to have invited someone I wasn’t particularly close to.

  • Jade

    I have literally been warning my parents since I was 14 years old that I would not be inviting their ~150 friends (some nice, some gossipy jerkwads) to my wedding. I totally took a stand on this, on not inviting anyone from my side whose face I couldn’t identify. What resulted was a solid month of guilt trips and pushback and me crying into my pillow because my parents were unhappy they couldn’t invite 25 of their friends to my wedding and didn’t respect my decision to stick to my guns. They also complained because FH invited like 70% of the guestlist; he has a huge extended family here in our city while most of mine are overseas. My parents wanted things to be more balanced.

    In the end I caved. And I felt so much better right after I made the decision to cave, that I didn’t have to deal with their whining anymore. I’m still pissed off at the size of our guestlist but how things turned out are not really surprising. My parents come from a culture where a wedding event is not really about the bride and groom, it’s about two sets of parents merging their families together, so I always have to keep that in mind.

    • CP2011

      Interesting you bring up the balance issue…my parents footed the bill for the wedding and my mom made it point to ensure (or at least make a show of demanding) that my “side” was bigger than my fiancé’s. Ugh.

  • Elizabeth

    Maybe the bad cousin will bring her adorable daughter and you can revel in small-child hugs? I’m looking for a bright side here.

  • re: LW#2, “I’m particularly not dealing with this well because in the back of my mind, I keep thinking, “Well, if we just eloped and pissed off everyone at once, we wouldn’t be dealing with this.”

    This is something I can identify with. It’s hard to care about resolving issues when I feel like some of the issues that come up could’ve been avoided if we’d done things ‘my way.’ I have a hard time telling the little voice in my head to stop going “if only we got married three years ago (when we were still in the agony known as pre-engaged), sister wouldn’t be overseas and she’d be able to make it to the wedding, etc.”

  • Chloe

    This doesn’t apply to toxic or people you actively dislike and not a super small wedding but I would advocate sounding people out before making any decisions on invites that way you can assess how people will feel and save face in changing minds. For example I did not particularly want to invite my aunt and uncle who neither me or my parents are close to and my uncle especially isn’t particularly nice person and when I spoke to my dad (it’s his brother) he was like yup don’t invite him (their parents / my grandparents are sadly no longer with us so there was no drama there). On the other hand FH has some cousins on his side he is not close to and I’ve never met and we considered not inviting but had his mum gently mention to

    • Chloe

      Sorry! We had my FMIL gently mention to her sister (the cousins parents) we weren’t sure we’d have space etc etc and she was not angry or anything but a bit upset at the thought they might not be invited so we decided her happiness was worth having 3 people there we we’re ambivalent about. As others have said I don’t expect to see them much on the day anyway

  • I guess this isn’t so much an issue of not inviting someone we don’t “want” at the wedding, but we decided not to invite really any aunts or uncles to our 50 person wedding, and have gotten lots of flack for it. Our extended family all lives around the US, but we are the only ones living in Texas. This extended family is all doing OK, but not well enough to make the trip to the wedding given how much $$ it takes to travel. Since we are paying for our whole wedding ourselves, we decided not inviting aviuds about 20 “question marks.” in our count, and was worth it. So far, not too many feelings have been hurt, and we are planning a later “reception” in Ohio to make up for it… has anyone else has a similar approach to planning their wedding if it isn’t really in a hometown location and many people would need to travel? I just couldn’t get on board with sending invites for the gesture it shows, knowing they wouldn’t be able to come…..

    • jubeee

      My friend did that for her husband’s family in Minnesota, his closest family (siblings and parents) travelled to Philadelphia for her 50 person wedding) then several months later they had a more down home reception in Minnesota. Everyone seemed fine with it because they couldn’t afford to travel anyways.

  • Juliet Delta Tango

    “Well, if we just eloped and pissed off everyone at once, we wouldn’t be dealing with this.” – oh my lord, are you me? I have had (and voiced! repeatedly!) the same thought process with regards to my wedding because wading through all the nonsense seems ridiculous when we could just elope and make everyone mad, rather than choosing who to make mad.

  • jubeee

    All of this is me right now. I have a cousin who I used to be very close to, now trying to really insert herself in my wedding. We got into a very big fight last year and I sort of removed her from my life, I am going to invite her because I’m not interested in family feuds but I also don’t really want her help. On top of that I am not inviting all my first cousins because I don’t want a huge wedding and because we have a budget. When I told her that I wasn’t inviting several of our youngest cousins she berated me and told me to not invite my friends because family is always there. (the berating is why I don’t want her in my life) I really don’t know how to tell her step off.

  • Kara Davies

    If someone’s attendance at your wedding is going to cause that much drama, just don’t invite them. Period. Not worth your hassle or your sanity. Stick to your guns and don’t budge. It’s your big day where you are in the spotlight. You’ve got a zillion and one other things to attend to, having a dramarama person attending is NOT something you need to have on your plate. Stand your ground and refuse to invite people all you want!

  • Honestly, for both letter writers, I’d just say, don’t invite.

    The ruckus about not inviting the cousin from the first letter? It’ll blow over. Really.

    As for the second letter writer’s dilemma, they’ve already repeatedly said they’re not inviting this aunt. Backing down and inviting her after you’ve already stood your ground very firmly? In-laws are going to learn that they’ll get what they want from you if they scream and cry enough about it.

  • CP2011

    One thing I realize now as a wedding graduate is how easy it is when you’re planning a wedding to see everything as us versus them. When you feel like you’re fighting for your voice to be heard on every little thing, it’s impossible to pick all the right battles. It was my experience that I honestly regretted not inviting some of the people I excluded on the basis of “I haven’t seen them in a long time” or “they won’t be able to come anyways.” It damaged some of those relationships and I feel bad about it now. And one of my friends who I wasn’t originally going to invite ended up being a huge help to me on my wedding day and even regardless of that I was so glad to have her there because of the big role she played in my life as a teen.

  • Finally There

    I just had the wedding to which several step siblings aunts cousins etc were not invited. I expected some backlash or hurt feelings but what surprised me is who it came from. We’re not even close.. age, relationship, distance. My point is that there are some family members who think that blood relation trumps everything, & they will be upset. there is also no drama free guest list, ever. The trick though is to not invite most of everyone that fits into the uninvited person’s category. Inviting all her siblings and not her says a lot. something very strange but true, even unlikeable mean people want to socialize and be included. Go figure

  • K. McCoy

    What if it’s a matter of cost and your fiance’s family out numbers your own family by 39 people? I have a rather small family and his family is huge I’m worried that my family will feel isolated or left out because of their number. By the time we invite both families and our close friends our list is almost up to 200!! I hate the idea of leaving people out but we just cant afford a wedding for 200 guests. There is a big chuck of his family that he has told me he really didn’t want to invite because he can’t stand them, but he feels that he has no choice because if he doesn’t then the whole family will be mad at him. So we ended up taking some precious friends off our list to try and lower the number. It just doesn’t feel right or fair to me.

  • SalubriOutcast

    If you don’t like someone don’t invite them. There are two people who matter on that day. Your partner and yourself.
    If your mum is paying, she backs you up. If someone else is paying, the you might have to break down and invite her.
    If you’re paying, then you can tell her to go fly a kite. She sounds like a horrid piece of work. To quote The Lion King. “There’s one in every family, and they always manage to ruin special occasions.”

    Of course I have to cut down my family list because we have a limited budget and space. And they live fucking EVERYWHERE (far away as Ireland and those are family I’ve never met). Most of them I haven’t seen in years, don’t keep contact on social media and only email once and a while.

    To keep costs down I’m doing a compromise, I’m streaming the wedding for all of those who live more than a day’s drive from where I live.