Ask Team Practical: Should I Invite Mom?

Mom + drama, or no mom at all?


Q:My fiancé, J, and I have been struggling lately. We’ve been dodging this because of all the feelings it brings up, but in light of our wedding next year, we have to address it. My mother disregards our relationship’s validity. As a woman who has (slowly) been addressing past abuse by my mom, along with getting over constantly seeking her approval, it gets confusing for the both of us to discuss how much she sees our relationship as pointless and idiotic. My childhood with her was destructive to my self-esteem and outlook on life, and I’m just now trying to pick up the pieces.

J has shown, in innumerable ways, how much he loves and respects and cares for me and other members of my family, but she won’t have any of it. During this past Christmas, she drove us to the point of leaving my grandparent’s house and staying with his parents. I’ve tried the lunch talks, the long phone conversations, even therapy with her, and nothing sticks. Despite all of this, and despite the pain she’s put me and J through, I still have this desire for her to accept us and happily attend our wedding. Another part of me screams how unreasonable it is, and how it’ll never happen. I’m just not sure where to go from here, and whether or not I should leave her place on the seating chart blank. Am I irrational for still wanting her there?


A: Dear Anonymous,

Not irrational, no. Incredibly normal.

Typically, this is where I’d encourage you toward some introspection, thinking about what she could have against your relationship, weighing whether it might have any validity.

Skip that.

If your mother has demonstrated repeatedly through the years that she does not have your best interests as priority, her opinion is of little value. The rest of your family and friends—the ones who’ve shown that they care about you with love and honesty—look to them for a healthy view of your relationship. This means that as much as you’d love her consent and approval, you’ve got to harden yourself against the idea that her opinion has that much value. Seeking approval from someone who recklessly stomps all over your self-esteem doesn’t often land you in a healthy place.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t invite her to the wedding.

Know that inviting her won’t magically fix her skewed opinions, won’t repair any broken parts of your relationship. It just means your mom, with all of her drama, will be at your wedding. So, that’s the question I can’t answer for you. Is it better to have no mom and no drama at the wedding, or to have mom there with whatever trouble she assuredly brings with her?

Frankly, that might be the sort of decision you’re stuck making for a while. Unless Mom drastically changes her perspective (and I mean, she could, but let’s admit it’s not that likely), this is something you’ll be dealing with for a long time. At every holiday, every family gathering you’re going to have to decide: mom+drama or no mom? And then, you’re going to have to brace yourself for the fact that she might not even show.

It’s easy easy easy to think that if she comes to this wedding, it’ll be perfect and peachy and like so many glossy magazine wedding photos. In the same way, it can be easy to imagine that if you could just get her to accept your relationship, it would undo some of your terrible history together. Neither of those are all that likely. If you can come to terms with that idea that maybe mom and your relationship to her will always be this way, you’re going to be making steps toward being able to involve her in your wedding (and marriage and life) without setting yourself up for a world of hurt. And if you can’t come to terms with that, or can’t come to terms with that yet? That just makes you incredibly normal.

And, this may be a little obvious, but if you have a chance to practice self-care by getting yourself some therapy? Do it.

TEAM PRACTICAL, HOW DO you decide when to include loved ones and when to exclude them? How do you make sure to keep realistic expectations of your relations?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: 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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  • rabbitdarling

    Oh, my dearest darling Original Poster. My heart aches for you, and for all of us who have a destructive, crazy-making parent or loved one in our lives. I’m reading here (please correct me if I’m perhaps reading too much of myself in your words) that yes, your mom is a nexus of drama and unpleasantness; but what concerns me more is something that concerns me most in myself: the seemingly unquenchable desire to have it all turn around, for her to be the mom you want to love, and deserve to have, and to have the clouds of whatever psychosocial milieu have so long obscured her vision part, sunshine illuminating her Totally Amazing and Resilient Daughter in her eyes for the first time. I feel you, girlfriend. Hard. (Only, dad.)

    I think the question to ask here might not be “Mom+Drama/no mom + no drama”, though I think in the vast majority of parent/child frictions, Liz is correct there. I think maybe an additional question for you to ask is, “Can I let this desire go on my wedding day?” and, more long-term, “Can I let it go permanently?”

    There are people who can say yes to those questions about a damaging parent. They can take an honest look, amend their expectations, and wall off the parts of their hearts that said damaging parent is prone to, you know, deploy tactical carpet bombs upon. They feel annoyed, but it isn’t Dresden (see attached image) at the Thanksgiving Table. They can do holidays and dinners and lunches and weddings and just regard this person as Another Adult with Maybe Some Pretty Serious Problems. I cannot express my wide-eyed appreciation and admiration for people who can do that.

    Ihaftatellyatho: I am so not one of them. And that is okay, I think. Finally. Maybe. Okay probably. It’s okay. Let’s commit to it being okay.

    And no matter where you fall on that spectrum of response and capacity? That place is okay, too.

    Because this isn’t just dramatics. It is drama, for sure. But it is also abuse, by your own history. And it is so, so okay to be like, “Hey, you know maybe inviting my abuser to my wedding doesn’t have to be a thing that I do; but it is also okay for me to mourn that my abuser is my actual living mom, and I had always hoped things would be different.” It is equally okay to be like, “I am fairly certain I can partition off the parts of myself that this person attacks on the regular, probably with some help from my Total Boss Fiance Who Is Awesome, and develop some criteria and strategies to help me feel safe, happy, and joyful even if she decides that my wedding day is the day she wants to tell me ___[blanket awful statement meant solely to injure and degrade]__. ”

    I don’t know which of those decisions is the right one for you. But given that you’ve acknowledged the destructive long-term impact of your mom’s behavior, I might urge you to consider a safeword for your wedding if you decide to invite her, and a squadron of people who 1) Know, as they say, What is Up; and 2) Have some Serious Backbone. The idea being that if your mom crosses a boundary (set up by you, possibly discussed with her if you think that has an effect), you can go to a member of your safety squadron and be like, “Dude. Safeword. Do it.” And then your mom, and her behavior can be very politely, very quietly, and very solicitously escorted the f*ck out while you, my dear one, have a nice glass of something delightful and dance with your lovely shiny spouse.

    It’s hard, right? Because getting married means transitioning from belonging to your family of origin (wrinkles and bullsh*t and all) to forming this new family with your Person. It is often the case that doing so means there will be some instances of “Hey, you know… you don’t get to do this anymore. That behavior isn’t a part of my life any longer, and I won’t permit it.” How we don’t permit it (not inviting, inviting but partitioning off our hearts, safewording, whatever) is up to us. But I know this: You deserve nothing but joyful celebration and the heart-warming presence of your truest and best loves as you get married.

    I wish you all of the best, truly, as you face your decision. Honor yourself first. Everything else will follow.

    • Alyssa M

      As someone who has been given the job of being on the (step) mom squad in a future wedding, I definitely second that advice if you and your partner decide to include her. I also suggest it can go even further. Those trusted people can form a boundary between you and your partner (it sounds as though she is rather abusive to him as well) and your mother. If they are made aware of exactly what behaviors need to be avoided and what those get-her-out-now dealbreakers are they may be able to keep her (and her drama) on the sidelines of your day, and keep as much of the drama out of your knowledge as possible.

      • Original Poster

        I think that’s the biggest thing. Having a silent (or maybe even not so silent) force being able to handle any issues, without bringing them to me. I wanna sip on my apple ale sans anxiety.

        • Meg Keene

          YES. And you know what? You deserve it. If it had to be dealt with by you, that can come the next day or the next week. But on that day, you get married, someone else deals with crazy.

          • Anonymous

            As another mom-squad veteran, I can add: It’s not much of an imposition on your friends. Dealing with your own parent’s issues is heart-breakingly hard; dealing with a near-stranger’s issues is a piece of cake. On the the scale of wedding-related favors I’ve done for friends, it rates about equal with manning the guest book.

          • Meg Keene

            But more emotionally rewarding. Knowing your protecting a friend from her mom on her wedding day is the best kind of having someone’s back. Knife in the teeth!

    • River

      Thank you for this, Rabbit. I really needed to hear this about my dad-drama (basically very similar boat, although I’m pretty sure he won’t come even if I invite him). I hope the OP gets as much out of this as I did.

      • rabbitdarling

        We are all in this together, darling. Sometimes, the kindest thing people can do is Not Come.

    • Original Poster

      Thank you, thank you, and thank you. It was rough initially because the first questions me and J started asking after we got engaged were “is your mother going to be there?” And “how are we going to handle her if she is there?” Now I realize that I don’t have to handle her (by passing on the invite, or by having those who can deal with whatever nonsense she throws around. Trust me, I’ve formulated a battle plan just in case I send that invite out to her).

      My other family is incredibly supportive and loving. Not as many of them acknowledge how destructive my mom really has been to my life (mostly because they’re in the dark, she won’t admit to her abuse being abuse of course, and I’m not one to shout it from the rooftops), but it’s neither here or there because they know not to pester me about who will and won’t be coming when I haven’t even figured it all out yet.

      I’ve battled with the yes and no of desiring her approval and acceptance and all around Hey I Am Very Happy and Proud For You and Your Fiancee, because at rare moments it seems like a hole peeks through those clouds, and most times it seems like a goddamn Category 4 hurricane up there. I cling on to the former, not the latter. I’m in my infant stages of therapy, and that involves heavily just letting go. Letting go and being okay with letting go. I’m a big guilt breeder. And I just want my mom to be mom.

      Knowing that she will do as she pleases promotes me to do the same though. My therapist reinforces that to me a lot. She’s the one little pressure point and that’s gotta be toughened up. A lot.

      Sorry if this ran on forever, but thank you again for sharing. Stand strong in the light of being A Totally Awesome and Badass Woman (not letting any of that abuse define you).

      • rabbitdarling

        *Fist raised in solidarity* We walk this path together. <3

        • River

          This makes me think of the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from Carousel.

      • stella

        My therapist told me that the most addictive form of ‘gambling’ is when we don’t know when rewards will come. When you do something and get a reward every time, or know when the reward comes, it is pleasant but not that addictive.
        When you do something and don’t know what the outcome will be, and you do it 7 times then get a reward, then 16 tomes, then 38, then 2…. That’s when it becomes more compelling. We aren’t sure when the ray of light will peek through the clouds.
        This was said in association with doing things that you know are silly, (ie expecting your mum to be able to be a normal mother and your relationship to be magically fixed)… Why do you keep doing them? Because like you said… SOMETIMES, that occasional once on a blue moon, and you never know when, it pays off and you get some kind of response or feedback that you’ve been hoping for all along.
        Don’t feel bad about wanting things to be different, most of us do the same. I wish for strength for you! Xx

        • Jules

          Fact. Variable ratio schedule of reinforcement produces high and sustained rate of responding! Maybe it’ll be this time….ok, no, maybe this time…..well, one more time….it’s coming….

        • Rachelle

          I was going to say basically the same thing as Jules. This is actually a dog training technique! Once they get a trick (or whatever behavior you’re trying to reinforce) you stop giving them a treat every time and that makes them respond to commands better… because maybe, just maybe, this is the time I get a treat!
          Not trying to compare human thinking to that of animals, but just saying that it has been studied and proven :)

          • Violet

            I mean, humans ARE animals… ; )
            Variable Ratio 20 is the most addictive reinforcement schedule! Slot machines are often set to VR20 for just that reason.

          • Oh man. That is fascinating.

    • Whitney S.

      Can I just give you a high-five? This right here is a lot of hard personal work.

      • We are all basically high fiving all the damn time. o/*o
        I got you.

    • Meg Keene

      It’s so funny, because I have some variety of talking about the safe word in the book (described, sadly, in a less poetic way). I talk about having crazy guards for yourself as needed so you can be all, “If X happens, girllsssss, you know what to do.” Because crazy shouldn’t be your problem while you’re getting married. You can deal with it and sob the day after, but on your wedding day, it should just be REMOVED from around you, so you can get back to getting married.

      We get so many questions like this one, and my internal response is always a version of what you laid out. It’s so easy to think, “This is a wedding problem.” (Actually, particularly when the problem is NOT in your family of origin, but you’ve realized, say, your FIL is acting totally out of control.) But the hard truth is it’s not a wedding problem. Weddings are one of the places we can’t avoid dealing with these problems. Weddings are also often the FIRST time we’ll be the target of this behavior from our partners family (because now we’re family, isn’t that sweet). And I think the best (and hardest) thing we can do is open our eyes and realize, “Shit. This is our new family life problem. Life is long. Now how are we going to approach it.” Because if your SIL can’t respect your boundaries about X really important wedding thing, and your partner is frozen at the idea of saying no to her… that problem is going to come around again. And again and again. Might as well start practicing drawing boundaries around our new family.

      • It’s tough in situations where abuse is 1) long-standing and 2) still under wraps, or not fully disclosed, as the OP describes, and people will often refer to it using (to my ears) pejorative language like ‘drama’ or ‘insanity’ or ‘chaos’ and like, you know, it is totally those things. Child of a Narcissistic Parent up in here, confirming that yes, all of those things are accurate. But in a situation where there is abuse and it’s covert the way OP describes, it is so so easy as the target of that behavior to do what you’ve been trained to do by your abuser — blame yourself; take responsibility for their behavior; trivialize your experiences; compare your abuse to other (sometimes media-constructed) abusive situations and minimize your own pain in favor of ‘appearances’. Because you know, this person raised you to protect them from the consequences of their behavior, words and choices. That’s how abuse is perpetrated over time.
        So I love the solidarity and love I’m seeing for this OP, but I also want to sort of gently prod the idea that we can resolve issues by treating an abusive parent the way we are inclined to treat a merely inappropriate parent? It’s a tough balance to strike, and not everyone is fully trauma-literate, and I don’t always know how to address it? I hope I did okay here.

        • Meg Keene

          Oh girl, trust me, I’m feeling you.

          I’ve seen this play out several ways in my life, and this is the internet, so we’ll leave it at that. But I’ve OFTEN seen the child of the parent not be ready to draw the firm lines that other people around them might. In that case, I think the parent has to be treated as inappropriate, to take care of the child. Because forcing someone to do something they just can’t yet is often just furthering their victimization.

          IE, in my book (and I’m not saying it’s the right book or the only book) you get to call it abuse when the victim calls it abuse. Till then, it’s “drama” or “intensity” or “craziness” or whatever term they’re using. All while you try to point out that NO, none of this “drama” is your fault. You can call into question the construct while still using the words people are comfortable with, and sometimes you have to. (I’m not saying this is the only approach, but it’s usually what I’ve found least damaging.)

          • Exactly. Exaaaaaaactly. Letting people name their experiences in a way (and with the people) they choose at their own pace is so, so crucial. Because hey: Empowerment is self-generated (usually). I think the idea that there are multiple ways to address unhealthy parent-child relationships is a really good way of approaching it, and that the person who knows best is usually the person who is, you know, in the situation and living it. I agree whole-heartedly with you that tailoring how we phrase and execute our support to where the support-needing-person is emotionally is absolutely the way to go about it.

            TL;DR Yes. Meg Keene for Prez. (P.S. please write the forward in my forthcoming book entitled, ” ‘That’s Not Helpful,’ and Other Responses to Misdirected Well-Intentioned Care”.

          • EF


          • It’s coming. Slowly, but surely. I’m hoping once I transition careers (Come on, 2015!) I will be happier so I will 1) write more and 2) be surrounded by teenagers who need strategies on how to say ‘That’s Not Helpful.” I’m putting up vignettes from it on le Blog starting next week!

    • Penny7b

      OMG this: “Hey, you know maybe inviting my abuser to my wedding doesn’t have to be a thing that I do; but it is also okay for me to mourn that my abuser is my actual living mom, and I had always hoped things would be different.”

      I made the decision not to have my abusive mother in my life over 15 years ago. And while it has been sad at times I have never for one moment regretted that decision. But there was still a tinge of grief about not having a mother (a theoretical and entirely fictional concept of a mother) at my wedding.

      But I am still very glad that I said: “Hey, you know… you don’t get to do this anymore. That behavior isn’t a part of my life any longer, and I won’t permit it.

  • Ali

    My family is abusive, so I feel for you, anon. It seems like when your family has deep problems, sometimes the only solutions or answers you are left w/ are difficult and unsatisfactory ones.

    I have made the choice to not have my parents at my wedding. I made the choice to cut them loose and save myself. I want to save my new family from their toxic influence.

    But it’s so hard. And it’s sad. And that choice may not be the right one for you. B/c of course you want your mother at your wedding. You want her to be the kind of person who would be happy for you. I think maybe we will always want that. B/c we deserve that.

    I should have better parents than I do. I should have parents that wouldn’t humilate me at my own wedding, who wouldn’t try to punish me on that day (of all days). But that’s not what I have.

    I would feel better being sad that they aren’t there, than being on edge and upset that they would pull something at my wedding. Or god forbid- they actually do pull something and then I’m really upset.

    The question is for you, anon– which of these bad choices would feel the least bad to you and your future spouse? I wish you well. It’s tough, but you can do it.

    • Original Poster

      I feel you so much on this. I feel like my mom should just not be so… the way she is. But she is, and I didn’t deserve it all. I didn’t deserve her not being happy for me, and neither did you. Doesn’t detract from the sadness of it all, but I suppose it helps to remember it.

      That’s the question though that’s gonna be wracking my brain for the next couple months. Which decision will hurt the least in the long run. Thank you for the support.

      • Ali

        There is a subreddit called Raised by Narcissists that I have found very helpful in talking about my family issues. I don’t know if narcissim is the issue you have from your mother, but it’s a place I can talk about abuse and how to deal with it and move forward. The posters there are very kind and supportive.
        (I hope it’s ok to recommend another website in the comments! If not, I’ll remove. Thanks.)

  • Alice

    Oh, I feel for you so much. I just married my wonderful man a month ago with the same situation, although it was his mother instead of mine. Discussing how to deal with her, not to mention endless upsetting phone calls and trying to explain things to the rest of the family, really took a lot out of us in the lead-up to the wedding. In the end, she chose not to come, and unfortunately did not allow his father to attend, either. There is a long history of damaging relationships there. We were sad about the outcome, but we still managed to have a wonderful celebration. Now that the wedding is over, we are trying to patch things up with her as much as we can. She will not agree to speaking to a family counselor or therapist, and has generally been pretty hateful towards us, but we will keep trying. So, I can’t say that we have a happy ending, but I can say that it’s possible to have a good relationship and wedding even in this kind of situation. One thing we have had to remember is that our mental health and our good relationship is non-negotiable, and has to come first.

    • Alice

      One thing to add is that it has been really hard for me, as the spouse, not to take his mother’s hateful behavior too personally. These issues stem from before I was ever in the picture, and I am merely a convenient coat-hook for his mother to hang the blame on. The problems here are with her and her perceptions of who he is, and who she wants him to be… not with me or who I am.

      • Eh

        Hang in there! Being the spouse is hard. I was blamed for the deterioration of my husband and his brother’s relationship. Before my husband started dating me he would just put up with the abuse from his SIL (he knew that if he tried to leave she would follow him and she would be angry about him leaving). When I eventually recognized her behaviour (it took me a bit) I encouraged him to stand up for himself and leave if she was yelling at him. I even told her that her behaviour was inappropriate (she was yelling at him at a family event) so I was on her bad list. Just before we announced that we were engaged (we were already engaged and announcing it that evening) my BIL and his wife told my husband that I was rude and they were concerned about how I treated him (citing events that happened months earlier, including a joke between me and my husband that was she took the wrong way). My husband took this as they didn’t support our relationship and were trying to break us up. Things continued to get more intense as our wedding approached. We seriously considered ending out relationship with them, but decided to not make that decision until after our wedding. We agreed to sit down and talk to them after our wedding and we have managed to work things out (with some professional help). Though it has taken a lot of work (from everyone involved) and it has been a bumpy road.

        • Alice

          That is such a familiar pattern, the blaming-dysfunction-on-the-fiance/spouse. And maybe, in some cases, there can be some truth to that. But we’re talking about someone who lives 1000 miles away from me and has met me on exactly two visits over the last two years. And we’re talking about differences bigger than guest lists or centerpieces. Her line has been that I don’t want hubby to have a relationship with his family. What?!? Why on earth would I do that to someone I love? She’s the one making ultimatums, writing hubby out of her will, sending hate emails. Sigh. We are just sticking to the ‘we need to talk this through with a counselor’ line for now, and hoping she will change her mind someday and be willing to work with us. Neither of us feels very safe speaking to her right now. Words are powerful.

          • Eh

            Wow that sounds so familiar. My SIL refused to get to know me because I am friends with someone she doesn’t get along with (the wife of our husbands’ cousin). She claimed that since my husband was spending time with me that I didn’t want him to have a relationship with his family (he didn’t have a gf before so his family hadn’t had to “share” him before – this has been a hard transition for his family since we live an hour away and my family lives 8 hours away). My BIL and SIL actually gave us an ultimatum that either we could have a relationship with my husband’s cousin and his wife (my friend) or we could have a relationship with my BIL and SIL (that was about a month before our wedding). I wanted to suggest that we all sit down with a counselor however she would not have taken that well (she was in denial about her mental health issues at the time – blaming her behavior on other people). Luckily she hit bottom (the day of our wedding when out MIL came to her house crying) and a few months before she had met a amazing woman who she trusts who is a pastor. We were able to work things out after my SIL worked with the pastor.
            My SIL gets blamed for a lot too and not all of it is/was deserved so I think she was trying to deflect some of that blame onto me. I have called out my in-laws for blaming my SIL for things that my BIL did/said. Then they claim that he wouldn’t have said/done it if it wasn’t for her. And then I remind them that he has to own the actions and she can’t be their scapegoat.

      • Original Poster

        All of this. None of it is your issues. Abusive, narcissistic, just downright irrational family does crazy things and will (in my experience as well) sling blame onto those who are innocent bystanders of their behavior.

  • Eh

    I don’t think it’s as black and white as “mom + drama or no mom”. The “no mom” option does not mean no drama. It will also probably lead to drama; however probably less drama on the day than if she was there.

    We had to make a decision about not inviting my husband’s brother and his wife who were the centre of a lot of family drama (a very complicated situation – he is the “star”/favourite son while his wife is the family scapegoat because some people in the family don’t think she is good enough for him because of her past, and she takes that out on my husband). We chose to invite them because we wanted them there (his brother was supposed to be our Best Man – a decision that was difficult to make because my husband wanted his brother to be Best Man but was concerned that their relationship would continue to deteriorate up until our wedding, as it did, but knew that asking someone else would result it in deteriorating faster). They chose to exclude themselves from our wedding (before that, they did ask us to uninvited them and fire my BIL from being Best Man). If we had not invited them my husband’s parents and grandparents would have been furious with us (however that is not why we decided to invite them – we honestly wanted them there to celebrate with us). My in-laws were already claiming that we were not doing enough to patch things up with my BIL and his wife so they would go (then we explained that we set up a meeting with my BIL and his wife and they “forgot” about it and had made other plans so they couldn’t make it – then my in-laws realized that it was my BIL and his wife that weren’t putting in any effort to patch things up with us). My MIL was very concerned about how it would look that her other son wasn’t coming to his only sibling’s wedding (yep, she managed to make this whole thing about her). She even came up with a line to tell people if anyone asked (my FIL suggested that she not make excuses for my BIL and that my BIL and his wife would have to live with the consequences of their decision). On the day of our wedding my MIL went over to my BIL’s house crying and convinced him to come to the ceremony (his wife hadn’t booked the day off work so she was unable to come).

    It has taken a lot of work and even some professional help but things are much better between us and my BIL and his wife. My SIL even regrets not coming to our wedding and she feels bad for how she treated my husband.

    • Meg Keene

      It’s more like mom + drama or no mom + different probably not wedding day drama. But I think the point is more, it’s easy to imagine that MAYBE you can invite mom and she’ll pull it together for one day. But she’s not going to. So for mom to be there, drama has to come. To the actual wedding DAY. And you have to decide you can deal with that. You’re going to be dealing with some level of mom drama always and forever, even if it’s the drama of cutting her out of your life (which I’ve watched happen, and is no easy task).

      • Eh

        I agree. But there is also the drama from other people if you don’t invite her (which might continue on the day). If we didn’t invite my BIL/SIL we would have heard it from my in-laws (I know that my BIL/SIL were hearing it from my in-laws when they suggested that they might not come). I’m pretty sure that my in-laws would have still come to our wedding but they would not have been happy about it. My in-laws were very concerned about appearances and had even requested that my husband pick a new Best Man since they had never heard of a wedding without a Best Man (we didn’t have a Best Man – we requested that his cousin be a witness). Before the wedding my MIL was even rehearsing a line about how “something” came up so my BIL and his wife were unable to attend (we pointed out that if someone told me that the brother of the groom couldn’t make it because “something” came up I would think that there was a family emergency or that someone died). On the actual day there were tons of comments (from my husband’s aunt, uncles, cousins) about how my BIL only came to the ceremony and how he didn’t stay for the reception, and about how his wife didn’t come at all. That said, my BIL/SIL have to deal with those comments and how not coming to our wedding has damaged their relationships with those people. Unfortunately I heard the comments too (I didn’t want that kind of negatively at our wedding). There was also the stress of thinking about that they (specifically she) might show up at the reception out of the blue (since we wanted them there we did order food for them but their entrance would have been a scene even if they didn’t do it intentionally – there is a lot of bad blood between them and the rest of the family). Then there was the fact that my SIL hadn’t booked the day off work so she couldn’t go to our wedding (that one hurt – luckily I didn’t find that out until we left for our honeymoon). So even though they weren’t at our wedding the drama continued (though not as intense as if they were actually there).

  • Nell

    A friend’s rabbi said something to her that really resonated with me: “I don’t want anyone under the chuppah who doesn’t support this marriage.” Granted, if you’re not Jewish you probably don’t have an actual chuppah, but I think the same thing goes for whatever the ceremonial space is for you.

    Weddings can be about your family of origin – but they can also be about your family of choice.

    I’m struggling with the knowledge that my mother is not going to be the “right” kind of mom on my wedding day (according to the WIC anyhow). BUT, there are going to be a lot of other people there who have helped me to grow up. They are no substitute for my mom, but they remind me that I have gotten really skilled at seeking out supportive and loving mentors and friends.

    • Original Poster

      That’s beautiful. The atmosphere at my wedding is the most important thing to me. I want it to be a time and place of love. Which makes me lean towards not having my mother there. Growing up, she pushed me off on other people and that came to my benefit because those people became meaningful to my life, became my figurative mothers and father’s and sisters and brothers and they’re all coming to my wedding to surround me in that love they’ve always given. They’re the family of choice. It’s amazing that similar people will be sharing in it all with you on your wedding day. It makes things that much more spectacular.

    • Meg Keene

      I also think framing it that way is smart, because it means you can include (if you need to) less supportive people at your ceremony, but they don’t belong under the chuppah. So you can create a safe space within the space, as needed.

      I mean, it’s GREAT when everyone there can be people that are supportive. But that’s not always possible, so I think drawing boundaries to create a safe space within that space is so helpful.

  • Aly Windsor

    My short reply because I’m (supposed to be) working: Don’t invite her. Your wedding is about your loved ones supportively witnessing your journey into marriage. Having someone there who does not support your choice will stress you out and taint the day. My sister didn’t support my wedding b/c she’s anti-gay so she did not get invited to it. While our relationship or lack thereof still pains me, I’m glad I took a break from that heartache to truly enjoy my wedding without her glumly staring me down or having the specter of her invitation decline over my shoulder. (But also, I’m sorry your mom is shitty. Shitty family members are the worst.)

  • Sheila

    I think at times of transition or big milestones is when we feel the most loss over the the parent we have versus the parent we want and deserve. My mom is a recovering alcoholic (two times over) and I am familiar with that ache, longing, and absolute frustration. Sending you my very best for your wedding day.

    • Alison O

      It is a similar phenomenon for those of us who have had a parent or other loved one die…the big life moments you always wanted or expected to share with them make the grief more acute even if it happened a long time ago. I haven’t experienced seriously problematic close relationships in my own life, but with the perspective of my best friend whose mother is alcoholic (lots of ups and downs…well, mostly downs), it seems like this situation is in some ways harder than death because the person is still alive; there can still be that hope that things will change, despite the pretty terrible odds, especially when there are glimmers every now and then.

    • Emily

      This is so true.

  • Fiona

    This is not quite the same as a non-family member, but my grandmother
    does not support my choice to marry a foreign national (which is ironic
    because she is a foreign national herself) and especially doesn’t
    support my choice to marry a black man. However, I’ve invited her to
    the wedding because I know it would make more problems not to, and
    ultimately, I do care about her, and the wedding is not just about
    me…it’s about my family and the new transition.I DO think it would be more harmful not to invite her, so I’ve chosen to ignore her disapproval and hope that someday the fences will be mended.
    I’m also the first of 16 grandchildren to get married, and I hope to set a precedent for whatever may come with subsequent grandchildren…

    • Original Poster

      Yeah, if it’s any insight and perspective, my fiancee is white and I’m black. It may be a contributing factor as to why she isn’t accepting, but considering that my grandparents are also an interracial couple, it’s questionable how much it sways her negativity.

      It’s amazing the decision you made. That takes strength. No doubt will you set a big example for everyone that comes after you.

      • Fiona

        Thank you!
        Do you mean your grandmother isn’t accepting as well?

        • Original Poster

          Oh no, I meant my mother. Sorry for the miscommunication.

  • Brooke

    Can you minimize the time you actually spend with her on the wedding day? Invite her, but don’t get ready with her or sit with her at dinner. Give her a seat of honor at the front, but don’t have her process, so she won’t be there to make a comment right before you walk down the aisle. If you’re not around her more than any other guest, she’ll have a harder time ruining your day.

  • bummed

    This is so hard – I did not invite my father to our wedding last month, more because he’s a jerk to everyone else in my family than to me or my husband, but same kind of thing in that he’s so incapable of not being a jerk to everyone else that it would have really put a damper on people’s spirits that day and felt to us like he was not supportive because he couldn’t keep a lid on it for a few hours. He lives in another state and we don’t talk very often these days, so I did not miss his company on the wedding day. I later sent him an email with a couple photos (only showing myself and my husband, as I told him we had a pretty small celebration and didn’t want to show a tent full of dinner tables in the background…) and he hasn’t replied or acknowledged our marriage yet. I’m at a real crossroads with him right now because while our relationship has never been strong, I have not really wanted to give up on it altogether, but now I’m thinking of my baby family and what we need, and there just may not be room for his BS there. I have accepted that it’s not going to get BETTER than this, which took a long time. Now I need to decide if it’s worth fighting to keep whatever THIS is in our life.

    • Violet

      “Now I need to decide if it’s worth fighting to keep whatever THIS is in our life.” That is a great summary. If you’re the same “bummed” I spoke to in a Happy Hour a while back, I remember you were concerned about how your dad would take the news of not being invited. I’m really glad for you in the end that he wasn’t invited and didn’t come. For my partner, our wedding was absolutely his turning point in deciding, “Nah, I don’t want to fight for whatever THIS is.” (We did invite him, but ya know, he didn’t come.) I know for my partner there was a lot of hoping things would change or
      that he could contain the “this.” As usual, the “this” deteriorated, and
      he decided he’d had enough. Even though this is a tough situation, it’s remarkable that at least you know what the question is, even if you’re not sure of the answer yet. *hugs*

      • bummed

        Yep, same person :) and thanks – I am glad about my choice as well, because the whole day was soooo wonderful and relaxed and everyone loved everyone else. That was so unlikely to happen with him in attendance. It’s such a hard but freeing process to understand, like REALLY understand, that you can’t control anyone else’s actions or reactions, only your own. I think being married makes me so much more committed to internalizing that, because I need to focus my actions and reactions on creating a safe, loving place for our marriage to live. Hugs to you and your partner as well.

  • raspberrycake

    Wow, I know it sounds messed up, but it is refreshing to see someone on here that has a similar experience to mine. I have a therapist to deal with the abuse, and I first had to work through the idea that I even had a choice. After I realized I had the option to not invite my family, I immediately chose that route. My reason is that I knew she would make my wedding about her, and constantly fling in my face what could have been done better. I didn’t want that on my wedding day–she even told me she was going to wear her wedding dress, and refused to wear another dress.

    I made it easy on myself by deciding to elope–no one is invited but my future husband and I. What made it hard was that my fiance could not have his family there, because I was so afraid my mom would find out and “punish me”. I still have a lot of childish fear. Thankfully, my in-laws are understanding people. Even though they are sad, I don’t think they hold it against me.

    We did decide to throw a party for all our friends and family, and I did invite my mother to that party–because I knew she would leave after an hour of no one giving her constant attention. That was the hope–the worst case scenario was that she would get drunk and cause a scene. Thankfully she chose the former, and everyone had an amazing time.

    My heart goes out to you, because abusive moms are nothing to sneeze at. I know that you will make the best choice for you and your future. They try, and they try, and they try to ruin us, and we just hatch from the flames again and again. One day soon I will be emotionally ready to kick her out of my life, to heal and find out what family means to me, and to create a safe environment for my future children. You can forgive from afar, you know?

    • Ali

      Your mother was going to wear HER wedding dress to your wedding? Holy crap, that is awful.

      Some people really can’t stand for anyone else to have a moment in the sun, can they?

      I have a lot of the same fear around my parents. It’s not childish. They trained you to be afraid of them and what they would do. It makes perfect sense that it would still affect you.

      It sounds like you made the exact right choices for you, and I’m so glad you were able to enjoy your party!

      • Original Poster

        At least, so I hope. A year from now I hope my coping mechanisms have been developed more.

    • Original Poster

      I know what you mean with the childish fear. I felt the same when I told my mother I was engaged: paranoid she’d come punish me, chastise me, call me the worst of it. She said her words and turned her nose up. Me and J have considered eloping but I decided to ultimately have a wedding because it isn’t fair to leave all of the other people in my life that love us out for the sake of avoiding shit from one person.

      Having an abusive parent is rough. Having that abusive parent be your only parent is also rough. And getting over all of that abuse (that carried on for a better part of a decade) only a few short years later? I’m grateful I have my distance. The scars remain but I can definitely say I’ve improved from being away.

      I feel as if that line needs to be drawn. Not in a vocal jab in the gut to her while greeting the guests or as a speech. But as a more silent solidarity, either by not having her present or having her being Monitored For Good Behavior while she mingles. Getting rid of her, that may not happen then. But a steely defense against what she feels can cut me to the bone? That will be more than present.

  • light0a0candle

    Just know that if you decide not to include your mother, that’s OK to. It ultimately comes down to if you’re OK that she’s not there. If you would be distracted on the day wishing she was there then invite her and let her decide to come/not come. But If you don’t need her there to enjoy the day, know that it is absolutely OK not to invite her at all. My mum didn’t have her parents at her wedding and she was better for it. To me, a wedding is about being surrounded by the people who are going to hold you up and support your marriage, they’re witnessing the commitment and themselves committing to supporting you. It’s a very hard decision but you’ll absolutely feel the love from everyone around you on the day and it will all be worth it!

  • Jeanine

    Just started reading: Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters, by Susan Forawrd, Ph.D.

    I have been waiting for this book my entire life. Ladies, please join me.

  • Steph K.

    Wow- like other readers, so.much.resonates here. We had a very tough engagement because of my mother-in-law (one which brought us to the point of almost calling the entire wedding off twice- twice!). Counseling (couples, individual) is a very, very powerful thing.

    We wondered whether to invite her or not, and we did. We didn’t know until a few days before the wedding if she would show up, but she was there, and we had the “safeword”-type situation ready to go in all sorts of different scenarios (“If she disrupts the wedding ceremony, three of our largest friends will lift her up and get her out of there. Stat.”). It went ok- though in pictures, she looks furious. There were a few cringe-worthy moments (some of which I, thankfully, did not witness), but in the end, on that day, we were glad she was there.

    [And, as a side note, mother-in-law present or not, the day was unbelievably awesome. And being married is unbelievably awesome.]

    However. One thing we did not consider, which my husband just brought up the other day, was the potential long-term NEGATIVE effects of having her there. She still doesn’t consider us married (yeah- because it wasn’t the type of wedding she wanted us to have. It’s awesome.), and instead of calling it a wedding, she refers to it as the “September event.” And she is chock-full of criticism for this event which she so vocally claims she didn’t want to be at. In our current day fights, it is referenced endlessly.

    This is the kind of thing that we should have foresaw, but didn’t. If you’re dealing with someone who will be unhappy no matter what- invitation or not- then it may be something to consider.

    • Eh

      I think not witnessing some of the stuff really helps. My husband and my friend kept me out of as much of the crap with his family as possible (I was on a need to know basis). It was harder for them to control his relatives who would walk up to me and say comments about how my BIL was dragged to our ceremony by his mother or how rude it was for him to not come to the reception or how his wife didn’t have the guts to come to our wedding. On the other hand, my family’s drama was kept to the hotel and I didn’t know about it until later so thankfully it isn’t something I associate with our wedding day. (For example the tension at breakfast at the hotel or how my aunts who don’t get along were in rooms beside each other and one had a party and the other cried herself to sleep listening to everyone having fun in the next room.)

    • Alice

      Wow, the ‘September Event’ really rings true. My MIL declined to come before we even got a chance to invite anyone, but she refers to our wedding as the ‘Trail Ceremony,’ because it was secular and outside. Not that we even had a chance to compromise and come up with a ceremony we were all comfortable with. In her book it was either no marriage or indefinite estrangement from us both (with occasional reminders of how terrible we are). We’re still trying to figure out how to keep her in our lives without giving her any power over us.

  • BeeAssassin

    I’m sorry you have to go through this. My partner’s dad’s widow is very toxic/selfish/manipulative, and after his dad’s death those characteristics were magnified. At one point he wanted to invite her to our wedding as a show of good faith to his father’s memory, despite all her bad acts. So I say this as J’s counterpart – How does J feel about the possibility of having your mom at the wedding? Obviously your feelings are extremely important, but I just wanted to throw out this question since I hadn’t seen it addressed.

    My heart ached every time I saw my partner’s efforts to reach out get rebuffed, I was angry and, to be completely honest, there were moments where I genuinely hated her for what she was putting him through. I told him that if he really felt like he HAD to invite her for his own emotional reasons, I would reconcile myself to the situation, and we could strategize together how to deal with it, but I was extremely relieved when he made the decision on his own that not inviting her was best.

    As the partner, I really wanted to be there 100% for my partner and his struggles with his family, and to support him in whatever he felt he needed to do for his emotional well-being, even if that meant inviting this toxic person. But as the other person in the wedding, I really dreaded the thought of having to deal with all that negativity on a day that already has enough potential to be stressful and hectic.

    I wish you and J all the best.

    • Original Poster

      J doesn’t want to see her there. He says he doesn’t want things spoiled because her presence causes anxiety and fear on my part, and lots of frustration and anger on his. He told me though that if I honestly choose to invite her and she shows up, he’ll respect that and keep his distance.

      “I told him that if he really felt like he HAD to invite her for his own emotional reasons, I would reconcile myself to the situation, and we could strategize together how to deal with it.” Yes. And yes.

  • Original Poster

    Another question, if no one minds. If I do invite her, should my little mom squad handle her if she makes some guests uncomfortable? I mentioned how the abuse is pretty unbeknownst to about 99% of the people that will be there, and I am afraid she’d go to other people and run her mouth. I don’t want my wedding being spoiled for anyone else. It goes in hand with that mom+drama choice. And like Liz said, there are some doubts in any perspective change over the next year.

    • Satsuma Caravan

      Sure, why not? How about having certain members of the mom squad be especially tasked with looking out for other guests? Probably the most important times for this will be the after-ceremony reception and the partying/dancing after dinner. This is when mom is most likely to be “on the loose”, as it were. So you could maybe ask the mom squad members who you know tend to be less interested in dancing (and prefer having conversations while watching the dance floor) be your lookouts for other guests at this time. This way, the mom squad tasks will fit pretty well with how the day will pan out naturally.

  • Sarah

    There are so many helpful and nuanced comments here! I just want to chime in, as someone who decided not to invite my abusive parents to the wedding, with a slightly different perspective–this decision can be TOTALLY AWESOME. Yes, there were some difficult conversations with other invitees who didn’t get it, and some tears, though those were more about wishing I had parents I wanted to invite than wishing I’d chosen to invite the parents I have. But the rest of the days, 98% of the time? It’s been amazing–planning a wedding knowing I will be surrounded by people who love me, respect me, and treat me well, and value and support my marriage. After the initial fear, this decision has felt light, liberating, and joyous. I love that I don’t have to plan for, fear, or mitigate their abusive behavior. I feel pride about making a decision that protects me and my fiancee, rather prioritizing my parents at our expense. But mostly, I just feel safe, happy, and excited.

    Do whatever is best for you, do it with the support of your partner and friends. That may be inviting your mother. But know that not inviting her won’t necessarily be tragic or A Really Big Deal, is totally, totally allowed, and might just be great.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    My boyfriend and I broke up 3 weeks ago. he started acting strange, he was ignoring all of my calls and won’t speak to me at all, i wanted us to be back together forever and work through things as a couple. I just could not picture my life without him. i felt so rejected when i discovered that he was cheating on me. it made me go crazy because i took him as the love of my life, my best friend, my soul mate, after making some research i found Mr Robinson on the net that he can restore broken relationship and i gave it a try, after using his love spell, my boyfriend came back and since then I definitely believe robinsonbuckler@yahoo. com is real, I must admit, the result was perfect, wonderful, this caster Mr Robinson is real. you can call Mr Robinson + 1 9 7 1 5 1 2 6 7 4 5 for urgent help

  • serendipityz

    I’m misting up reading this; I just got off the phone with my mother and the very same question is running through my mind. While I have thought long and hard about our relationship, I don’t believe she is abusive, just a particular form of Tiger Mom who has always held abnormally high expectations that even straight As and two college degrees could not fix. She has never acknowledged the validity of my relationship with my successful, kind, generous lawyer fiance (for the 3.5 years prior to our engagement) because he is a Presbyterian, and I am a Reform Jew. Our life together is very happy, and we have made the differences in our religion work for us. We even sought pre-engagement counseling with our respective faith leaders to discuss how to raise future children. None of this was enough. The phone call after our engagement was met with silence and hostility. She has blocked conversation with me for weeks. Just now, when I told her that my fiance’s father would co-officiate the ceremony (he is a retired pastor) with a good friend who is a Rabbinical student, she blankly told me that my ceremony would be farce, and in no way would she support it, I am being brainwashed by my non-Jewish fiance, etc. Luckily my father has learned to be on board, but everyone in my life knows this is happening and it’s the big giant elephant sitting on top of all of my engagement joy. The constant desire my whole life to please her and have her be on board with my decisions has crushed me. I know she will come to the wedding if invited, because she could not deal with the social disgrace she would feel people knew she did not come of her own volition. I’m almost numb to the situation at this point. I’m so sorry, OP, that you are facing this. You aren’t alone, and there are many people who love you and want to help shine that love on your wedding day, and all the days leading to it.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking as an engaged lady who also has an abusive mom, girl, I disowned her and it was the BEST DECISION I ever made!

    Your abusive mom is not a mom. Just because she gave birth to you doesn’t mean she deserves the respect of being treated like a mother when she never properly mothered you. Why torture yourself by letting her continue to have opportunities to abuse you as an adult? Disown her, mourn the fact that you never had a real mother and never will, and move on. It’s like mourning a death, which is far far superior to suffering through repeated abuse.

    Plus, hopefully your fiancee has an awesome mom you can borrow as your own on your wedding day.