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?

SUFFER UNWELCOME CONTEMPTIBLE KIN?

 A:DEAR SUCK,

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!

Anonymous

A:

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.

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