My Dad and My Wedding

We’ve talked pretty extensively on APW about the pain that can come up during wedding planning when you have a parent who is emotionally absent, or when you have a parent who has died. But what we haven’t discussed is how to move forward if you have a parent who you’ve chosen to not have as part of your life. This is an issue that’s near and dear to me personally, and I think it is so important to discuss without shame. As I always say, the real difficulty with a wedding is it puts how we wish things were into conflict with what is. That can be deeply painful, but it can also lead to healing. Here is wishing you more of the latter.

Sometimes, when I read about all you lovely ladies struggling to figure out how to cope with absent mothers, or how to honor your parents who are no longer with you, I start to feel guilty. It’s a guilt that I’ve carried around a long time. My roommate in university whose mother passed when she was young, the friend whose father left her and her mother and never kept in contact but would do anything to have a relationship with him, friends whose parents won’t attend their LGBT weddings: I feel the same around them.

Like I had everything they ever wanted and threw it away. My father is alive. He has not been in my life since I was thirteen-years-old. He certainly won’t be at my wedding. That is, and remains, my decision.

Trust me, when I say it is not an easy one. Long story short: my father is not what I would consider Good People. He has a temper, a dangerous one, and I was on the receiving end of it one time too many. The blow ups might have been far between (thank goodness), but they were progressively getting worse. As a child, there is nothing harder to reconcile than the fact that your father is supposed to love you, and yet the displays of how he feels are very violent and intense and… well, the details don’t really matter, do they? Just that it got to a point where it was no longer physically safe to have him in my life, and I needed to not shake in bed at night or be afraid of saying the Wrong Thing at the Wrong Time.

When friends complain about their parents being too in their faces about wedding planning, or parents who aren’t living up to their financial commitments or who hate the venue or guest list and are doing nothing but judge, I listen and I tell them “I know it’s terrible, but she’s your mom and I know she’s important to you and you want her there.” There are a few, who look at me and say “Well, your dad is your dad, right? It’s the same thing.”

Here’s the thing, though. Sometimes, it’s not the same. A father who takes out his anger on his children is not a father in the same way. And yes, there’s a big part of me who wishes I had a father in my life. That’s a relationship that I wanted more than anything—but that’s not the relationship I had with my father. The relationship that I had with the man who was my father at birth is not a healthy parental one. It’s not a safe one.

My wedding will occur almost twelve and a half years exactly since I stopped talking to my father. He will not be getting an invitation to my wedding, and that may be the single most conflicted decision I have ever made. There is a part of me who like any Daddy’s Girl wants nothing more than a father to give me away at my wedding. Who wants to see his eyes well up with tears at how beautiful and grown up I am.

There’s part of me that screams that I can have that and all I have to do is pick up the phone or send out an invitation. There’s a part of me that wants to do that. My father is not dead, he has not closed the doors on me—if I asked him, I have very little doubt that he would come.

Sometimes, the hardest thing about planning a wedding is re-examining the hard choices that I’ve made in my life and realizing that, painful though they are, they are the right ones. I don’t want to spend my wedding day shaking in my boots with fear—and if I invited the man who is my father to my wedding, that’s what would happen. My wedding is a new beginning, a chance for a lot of things. There’s a part of me that would love to use it to extend an olive branch to my father, to start again, rebuild that relationship. Some relationships, though, are too broken to repair. As easy as it is to say it’s my choice and he’s my father and he should be there, as much as I’d like to be able to say those things, I won’t.

I may have been the person to cut the ties, but I was not the person who broke the relationship. While sometimes the decision hurts—and thinking about my wedding it hurts more than it ever has before—I know in my heart of hearts that the decision is the right one.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

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  • Meghan

    I’m not sure how to articulate this the way I wanted to, but I remember that the main reason that my husband chose not to invite his father to our wedding (who wasn’t mean or violent, just emotionally absent and walked out on the family when my husband was 16, but is now making a feeble attempt to be in his life again) was that it upset me so much that my father, who died suddenly in 2008, was not going to be there. In my mind, how unfair was it that my dad, who was just a spectacular person, was taken away so soon, and my FIL would get to assume that place of honor on our wedding day? I was afraid that the whole day I would see him and be sad that my dad wasn’t there.

    Awesome piece.

  • Alicia

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been thinking through a lot of similar emotions and it’s comforting to have someone be able to put it out there so eloquently.

  • Nicole

    Two years ago, I did not think my father would be at my wedding. He walked out on us when I was 19 and my siblings were 17 and 11, leaving his 25-year marriage (and my beautiful, amazing mother) for a woman just 5 years older than me. In the last year, we’ve gotten to a much, much better place, where I can now stand to be in the same room as him for more than an hour, and I’m grateful for that. But I can relate to the decision you’re making. It’s so hard to be caught between how we’ve always imagined things/what the WIC tells us we should want/have, and the way things actually are. You’ve made a very brave decision to remain true to yourself and your feelings. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jennie

      I’m in this position now, except my dad left my mom 8 months before our wedding. I had wanted him there after things began disintegrating until it was clear that he was not in a place to be honest or even communicate with me. He has created an incredible amount of pain in my family and to have him at my wedding six months from now feels too painful and scary. The hardest deciscion I’ve had to make about my wedding is deciding not to have my father there. I very much hope that one day I can be in that place of feeling like I can be in the same room for more than an hour, but I can’t imagine even wanting to see him now, let alone the pain and stress of having him there on a day I want to be filled with happiness and joy for the baby family we are starting.

  • Such an important post. A lot of times, I think people are quick to say “But he’s your father” or “Family is important” or “You’ll regret it if you don’t have him there.” But I’m in full support of deciding not to include people who are hurtful and dangerous and have not demonstrated a significant change in their behaviors. It might sound cold, but if someone has been abusive or cruel, why include them on a day in which you’re supposed to be surrounded by love and support? If they change later, that’s great. You can work on developing a relationship slowly. But there’s no reason to cause yourself undue stress by having someone there who has significantly hurt you.

    • Jamie

      “But I’m in full support of deciding not to include people who are hurtful and dangerous and have not demonstrated a significant change in their behavior.”

      This. Exactly. This is why my fiance is not inviting his mother to our wedding. Although, all of the important family members are completely okay with this decision.

      To the original writer: thank you for sharing your story.

  • You have the power and the right to choose who is in your life. Always. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but often it’s easier than the alternative.

    There are family members who I won’t speak to, and I think one of the hardest parts is not being able to let go of what it could be like if they would just change.

  • Rachel

    I applaud you for going with your gut! People will always have opinion on what you should do with family, but only YOU know what it best for you emotionally. My relationship with my father ended basically on mutual terms. At a young age, I realized the kind of person he was, stopped making contact, and he has never reached out to me since then. We’ve seen each other two times in the past 10ish years, both times at funerals, and to say it’s uncomfortable is an understatement. I have been shocked at the number of close friends who have asked if I’m inviting him to my wedding. Like you said, I think people assume that “your dad is your dad,” and so why wouldn’t I invite him to the wedding? My answer is always a firm no, and when pushed (which I am!) I simply tell them that it’s not in my best interest to invite him and have him show up or invite him and have him decline. Either option would be an emotional disaster.

    • I;m a big believer in the idea that family isn’t a given- just because they raised you or share your biology doesn’t mean they can do whatever and eventually you forgive them because they’re family. I know not everyone agrees with this and I think many of those people may be of the “blood is thicker than anything” camp. Family can and will break your heart, and is entirely your decision of how you will handle that and if you will let them back in your life.

      • Class of 1980


        Also … I don’t understand why people support a woman to leave an abusive marriage and never look back … but expect the offspring of that abusive marriage to remain in contact with the abuser!

        What is it about the title of “father” that merits such an expectation of self-sacrifice?

        • Second this.
          Thankfully its not something I have seen in my life, or any of my friends lives, but I fully support any person who walks away from an abuser.
          If the OP and her father had started making inroads to a new relationship, then yes, it could be possible to have him there. But when there is no existing relationship and her only emotion in relation to him is fear? Not worth having him there.
          And if he knows why she broke off the father-daughter relationship, then really, its up to him to apologise, make some form of emotional reparation and start trying to fix the relationship, if thats what he wants. For her to start it would be opening herself back up to new heartache, which is not worth it.

        • There was a very interesting article about the legal system that allows that (in the UK) called “Losing the struggle for another voice. The case of Family law”, by Carol Smart. This idea that “it’s the couple that divorces not the parents from the kids”many times leads to children continuously being exposed to abuse. It is really disheartening and it should be changed.
          Here’s a link to an abstract of the article (it’s feminist jurisprudence)

        • That’s an argument I’ve heard – made – before in the past, and it never ceases to amaze me how people don’t see the correlation.

          So thank for for letting me know that it’s not just in my head.

  • Lisa B.

    I haven’t seen my father for about 7 years now. He was always emotionally distant, and put his needs/priorities over the family’s. It was his decision to remortgage the house in order to install central air, which led to the house being foreclosed on right after I graduated high school. He took the opportunity to leave my mom, and figured that I, at 18, would be doing the “adult daughter swing-bys” wherein I would come by his apartment, make sure he had groceries and his medication and that everything was hunky dory. That didn’t happen.

    Then about three years ago, on Father’s Day, no less, I received a phone call from a creditor because he had taken out a credit card, racked up debt, and when they came calling to him for payment, he told them that he had taken it out for me. I’ve also found out pretty recently of some other awful decisions he’s made, and for now, I don’t feel guilty not including him in my life.

    Sometimes I used to wonder if I would in the future, and I do get sad when thinking about the father daughter dance, etc, but it’s not because I want my dad there, it’s because I wished I had a dad who could be there. Like the OP said, I’m the one who cut ties, but he’s the one who created the broken relationship in the first place.

    • Rachel

      “…it’s not because I want my dad there, it’s because I wished I had a dad who could be there.”

      Thank you for putting in writing what I have tried to convey so many times.

    • Exactly, one wishes the impossible: one’s dad to be a different person.

    • Liz

      Just chiming in with another thank you for wording that awful longing-ish feeling just right. I didn’t miss having my father at the wedding, I missed having a Dad(tm).

  • Richelle

    Not the Same thing at all. Save your wedding for your own happiness. If you think you ever might want to see him again, every other day of your future life is available. Preserve and protect yourself first. Be happy. And for what it’s worth, which isn’t much, your analysis of who broke the relationship (him) seems dead on to me. Keep your head up, you deserve happiness. Hugs

  • K

    Thank you for this post. My fiance’s father will not be present at our wedding for very similar reasons – and it is absolutely right that you should be able to stick to your decision. I have been very lucky to have both of my parents and it was at first difficult for me to understand his lack of relationship. I’ve learned it’s important to respect that.

  • PA

    “I may have been the person to cut the ties, but I was not the person who broke the relationship. While sometimes the decision hurts—and thinking about my wedding it hurts more than it ever has before—I know in my heart of hearts that the decision is the right one.”

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share this – it’s an incredibly personal thing, and it sounds difficult to write and difficult to put out there! After reading this, I suppose I just wanted to affirm this last paragraph: you were NOT the one who broke the relationship. Yes, you “chose” to shut the door, and it is brave and mature to take responsibility for that choice, but it was HIS choices (either to behave the way he did, or not to seek help and learn new behaviors), when you were a child and he was an adult, that led very clearly to this point. Your choice was sound, based on facts that only your father could have changed – and he chose not to.

    I’m not sure if you’re a hug person, but I wish I could give you one!

  • I relate so much to this posting, so, so much. My father died one month before my wedding, but he had not and was not going to be invited to it for reasons very similar to yours. In my case, his sudden death (he was 56 at the time)filled me with guilt and it took me a year to realize that his death hadn’t really changed anything: he was not turned into a good person,and definitely not into a good parent just because of passing away. Our relationship, as yours, had been broken beyond remedy. I had stopped talking to him 9 months before his death and had spent the previous year so consumed by fear that it took a psychoanalyst 9 months of twice weekly sessions to put me on my feet again. My hair had even started falling due to acute stress.
    You are very brave for writing this post. Protect yourself and your happiness, you deserve it.

    • “he was not turned into a good person, and definitely not into a good parent”

      yes, especially the later. whatever relationship i have with my dad, if there ever is one, he will not have been a good parent *to me* for the past 16 years. i don’t know him well enough to know if he’s a good person. i have this small slice, that seems to be getting smaller, of him as who he should have been my whole life up until i was 11.

      this post and these comments will be ones i revisit as i work out my answers to where his place is in my life and possibly a wedding.

  • melissa

    Re: The people that said, What about your dad? It’s the same thing. Tsk, tsk. How awful. Nothing makes people so nasty as weddings.

  • C

    My wife’s father was not invited to our wedding for similar reasons. She hasn’t talked to him in 15 years and it was definitely the right decision to make. Thanks so much for writing this. It’s important to talk about.

  • Amanda

    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “Sometimes, the hardest thing about planning a wedding is re-examining the hard choices that I’ve made in my life and realizing that, painful though they are, they are the right ones.” So true. So painful and unpleasant but true. My husband did not invite his father to our wedding and only invited his mother at the very last minute. It was the right decision for us and for him but it was by no means an easy one.

    There were comments from my family along the lines of “But she’s your mother! You have to invite her!” which were inappropriate at best. I found that almost always, those people saying things like this had never been in an abusive relationship or had to cut ties with a family member for their own personal safety and emotional well-being. It doesn’t make them saying that any better but I would carefully remind them of this fact in the hopes that in the future they might consider that many people’s situations are not the same as their own.

    • Diane

      “So painful and unpleasant but true.”

      Painful, unpleasant, true, and brave. I would like to think, maybe, that women like you and the writer of this post make all of us safer, all of us stand a little taller, because you show through your deeds that abuse has consequences. In the case of your non-invited parents, the consequence was losing out on the chance to have a real relationship with an amazing adult daughter. I am sending out my admiration and warmest thoughts into the Texas night.

    • Bears fan

      Agreed. I basically had a deadbeat mother after my parents divorced. Try explaining that one to people — you inevitably get the “But she gave BIRTH to you!! You can’t cut your mother out of your life.” No matter what I say, people fail to understand that they’re making a very flippant, inappropriate comment about something personal.

      It’s hard for people to understand this if they haven’t had abusive relatives before. They seem to think it’s just a minor disagreement in a family and the hurt party is being petty. It’s impossible to grasp until you’ve been there yourself. The people who have been there understand without explanation.

      I try not to talk about it, but if I have to, I respond that I already have my mother in my life — my father is both my mom and my dad. He took me training bra shopping in middle school, bought me tampons when I ran out, drove me to 7am practices, helped me pay for college, etc. If they still don’t get it after hearing that, I change the topic.

  • Bravo. You should definitely do what is right for you. This is a great post.

  • Thank you for writing this incredibly difficult and important post. I am facing a similar situation myself, and you’ve just helped me reaffirm that I am making the right decision (for me) to not invite my father to the wedding. (Even that last sentence was hard to type.)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so, so very much for this. I’m trying to rebuild a relationship with my formerly estranged father (not because I want to, but because even when we’re estranged, I get too much verbal abuse from him and thought that maybe having a fake relationship would lessen it) and have invited him to the wedding. Every time he causes drama about the wedding, I wonder if I’ve done the right thing. This came at a very good time for me. But I don’t know if I have it in me to cut him out of it. I keep hoping he’ll make that choice for me.

    For the record, writing out why I’m trying to have a relationship with him really reinforced how idiotic and possibly doomed this attempt is.

    • Good luck with whatever you choose, and may somebody be there to support you. Hugs.

    • Liz

      I’m not totally sure how to say this: You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. You can change your mind. If you decide that having him there isn’t healthy, that’s ok.

      Patching a relationship with an estranged parent is extremely challenging. Kudos to you for trying but, without being overly defeatist, know it may never fully improve. Best of luck. We’re here for you.

    • Edelweiss

      I just want to say I’m in a somewhat similar situation and it is SO hard. Those that understand the depth of hurt question your decision to invite him/keep him in your life, those that don’t understand question how little he’s involved. He’ll never be happy and meanwhile you constantly question yourself.

      Whatever happens – it is not your fault. There is no right choice to make – other than vow to be better to others than he was to you. Assign someone as a buffer between you and him on your wedding, concentrate on the people that love you, and if anything gets rough remind yourself that your past is part of what made you who you are and try to see it as a slight nod to the bad days as you kick-off your new life.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you, you guys. Really, thank you. It’s hard for a lot of people to understand, I think, but not APW-ers, apparently. Thank you.

    • Having tried several times to rebuild my relationship with my father, I can only repeat to you what my psychoanalyst said to me: it takes two persons to rebuild a relationship. The fact that the relationship may be broken beyond repair does not mean that YOU will not be ok without that relationship working. Protect yourself from the verbal (and any other kind )abuse, seek professional help to overcome the scars (at least I needed to), and know that YOU deserve to be fine, safe, happy.

  • Thank you for this. I hope that you’re proud of yourself for the courage you showed at a young age to do what was best for you, and to stick to it.

    My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, which has translated into a whole lot of emotional abuse for me. I have struggled over the years to realize the level of toxicity she brings into everything and recognize that I can and should protect myself. My husband and I spent many hours debating the merit of cutting off ties with her because of the wedding or not cutting off ties with her because of the wedding. We chose no, but the question is still on the table going forward, and many of the issues you mentioned hit very close to home as we worked through our wedding.

    Weddings present endless opportunities to plug into instant validation with other women. So much shared experience! It can be heartbreaking when some of those assumed similarities are….well…not so similar. This can happen when people assume you’re getting married in a church and you’re actually getting married in the park, or that you’re having a full bar and you’re actually just having homebrew. It can also happen around the strong and prevalent romanticized social narrative around “family.” I don’t exactly fault others for assuming the best about my relationship with my mom; I’m generally very private about my mom, and it’s easy to imagine our own experiences are the same as other people’s. I will say the hardest part was when I did open up to folks and they’d stay on the validation train and say something like, “Oh yeah, my mom can be so annoying, too.” This is not annoying or a tiff. This is a lifetime of abuse. We are talking about different things.

    Thank you for this brave post and furthering the conversation about assumptions (WIC-perpetuated or otherwise) around weddings (and life).

    • Amanda

      Just wanted to “exactly” the “lifetime of abuse” part of your comment again! (Not in a good way, more in a “you are not alone” way) People who have not experienced it have a really hard time comprehending the depth of emotional abuse one can suffer at the hands of a toxic parent. My husband’s mother probably has un-diagnosed borderline personality disorder and his therapist describes his condition as PTSD (from his childhood). Heavy stuff.

      • Class of 1980

        I’m pretty sure that my father also has Borderline Personality Disorder. His behavior ticks all the boxes.

        Of course, he remains undiagnosed since he never sought help, even though he had moments of clarity when he told my mother he needed help. Those were the times when his own behavior freaked HIM the hell out.

    • Bears fan

      “I will say the hardest part was when I did open up to folks and they’d stay on the validation train and say something like, “Oh yeah, my mom can be so annoying, too.” This is not annoying or a tiff. This is a lifetime of abuse. We are talking about different things.”

      Yes, this exactly. My estranged mother has the same disorder. I’ve heard the same comment from well-meaning friends. It makes me never want to mention her again to people.

  • Ashleyn

    This post is not safe. We should have been warned! But it is so amazing that it is making me comment after almost a year of lurking. I am currently pre-engaged and I have been wondering for quite some time what I would do about my father and my wedding. Reading this is like reading my own thoughts almost.

    My father was emotionally and physically abusive throughout my childhood, and since my parents divorced when I was sixteen I have been trying to find a way to come to terms with the fact that he will never be the father I need and deserve. Our relationship has steadily deteriorated even more since then with him every couple of years doing something to remind me why I’ve barely spoken to him in those years, like marrying someone whose name I don’t know, or throwing my mother out of a funeral, or essentially disinheriting my brother. As much as I have cut him out of my life, he has cut me out of his, but goes around telling people a sob story about how much he misses me, he doesn’t understand what he’s done wrong, etc.

    I really don’t know what I will do when I really start to plan my wedding. It’s hard for other people to really understand what it’s like to have a parent, but to not REALLY have one. There have been many times when I have wished that my dad was gone in a way that people could understand my being angry at him, my not wanting him to be a part of my life.

    This post is incredibly brave and I want to thank you, and APW for being a place that isn’t just about the fluff.
    Phew, my first comment was a biggie.

    • Karen

      Good job for your first time! :-)

      When the time comes you will know what to do. My personal belief is that you should only have people at your wedding who absolutely believe in you and want only the best for you. The wedding day itself will fly by but the work leading up to it can be exhausting. How you spend your days is how you spend your life.

      • HH

        “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

        love it.

    • Anon.

      Are you me? I’m pretty sure that you’re me. Because everything you wrote is exactly what’s going on in my head right now. (And your comment inspired me to finally comment on this blog that I so dearly love.)

      This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Same story as you, pre-engaged, father who absolutely can’t be bothered to be any kind of father figure (at least not to his “first” family), sobs to everyone how much he misses me. But this is the man that cheated on my mother for years, beat my sister and I, and generally is an asshole (sorry for language folks, but he is).

      It does help to know that someone else out there has the same story, that I’m not the only one with this situation. That, and the line I read earlier in the comments about coming to terms with not having the dad you wish you had. That’s such a powerful statement, and it rings so true.

      I can’t offer any other advice that that, and I wouldn’t deem to. I hope you figure this out in the way that works best for you (and then maybe share it with the rest of us!). Good luck, and I’ll be thinking of you every now and then.

  • I can’t seem to dig up the words to respond articulately to this. But please know that it moved me, and reminded me of some important lessons I’m trying to learn. My heart goes out to you in sympathy, in admiration, in joy.

  • I feel like this is slapping a bandaid on a broken leg and calling it fixed, but if you want to let a parent know about the wedding but not be invited or attend, you could always send them a wedding announcement after the fact (and if you don’t want them to know where you live, don’t include a return address). I mean, that may or may not open up a host of other issues, but it’s an option.

    I’m sorry about your father and I’m sorrier that people forget that having a happy childhood is a privilege, not a given.

  • Lynn

    This rings true. My father has since passed, but I made the conscious choice to remove him from my life, just as I have made the conscious choice to remove my brother from my life. Before he died, it had been 6 years, and I was not sorry. The mental illness is not something I can handle…mainly because I fear getting sucked into their destructive cycles like every other person they have touched. Bi-polar type schizophrenia is nasty, and I can’t risk the devestation–emotionally, financially, physically. I also can’t risk the normalization of that behavior. My step-mother was a productive, smart, together woman who descended into madness right along with my father. I just can’t go there.

    My brother reached out to me a year and a half ago, right as I was preparing for my PhD graduation, and I never responded. My fiance, who works with the mentally ill, asked a few times if I didn’t think that perhaps maybe I could give it another shot…that maybe this time he really is on meds, and maybe the graduation was an opportunity. The answer could only be no. It remains no with the wedding fast approaching as my brother is reaching out again, using the same manipulative language and tactics. And my fiance says he understands, that he tells patients, “Your family doesn’t have to keep putting up with your shit just because you’re family” but that he felt he needed to ask, to make sure I was making a solid decision.

    Just because someone is family doesn’t mean we have to allow them to be a part of our life. We have this whole narrative that says we have to love our family, we have to accept our family…going against that is difficult and often right.

    • “I also can’t risk the normalization of that behaviour” and “Just because someone is family doesn’t mean we have to allow them to be a part of our life. We have this whole narrative that says we have to love our family, we have to accept our family…going against that is difficult and often right.”EXACTLY.

      I was the only one in my family who was estranged from my father, and was blamed as guilty of “being in the line of fire when he had his outburst” because “that’s how he was”. Nobody questioned the fact that ” how he was”was NOT ok.

  • Lturtle

    I can really relate to this. Our wedding is only 3 months away, and my dad’s 6th wedding is only 2 weeks after. He is not interested in being a part of my event because it’s so close to his.
    But what is really difficult right now is my mom. We have been estranged for about 3 years, ever since I caught her hitting my kid. I have very limited contact with her and it’s always stressful. She isn’t allowed near my kid, my partner or my home. Obviously she is also is not invited to the wedding. I am getting so much pressure from the rest of my family to invite her, include her in planning or otherwise use this “opportunity” to reconcile. I don’t want to reconcile and my wedding is not an opportunity for her. It doesn’t help that she is trying to persuade my other family members to boycott the wedding unless she is invited. Thankfully, most of them will probably come anyway.
    I really appreciate that this is a safe place to post and talk about this and other hard subjects. I feel like I can’t express to my family how hard it is to plan a wedding without either parent involved, because it’s my choice my mother and I are estranged.

  • Anon

    My best girlfriend struggled with this too. No one understood, and kept pushing her to invite her father “because she’d regret it if she didn’t.” Bull. It was hard. She wrestled with it until the last month, particularly because he’s the sort of person to show up and make a scene. She almost invited him, just to cut off the possibility of him surprising her at the wedding and maknig it about him, in the ugliest way possible. And THAT was when she realized that he shouldn’t be there, because he was still controlling her, even in his absence. She ended up hiring two plainclothes security guards and having them pose as guests, just in case he came. It turns out, the security firm had done this before. You are not alone. You are brave and strong and thank you so much for sharing your experience with the complications of difficult parents and weddings.

    • Niki

      My brother got married about 4 months ago, to hear the words “we are having security at our wedding because of Mom” most people can’t even fathom being torn between having to decide to invite a parent or hire security. In my family it’s a necessary precaution for the healthy, safety, and well-being of everyone.

      Ugghhh….. Now it’s my turn. I hate this!

      Nobody seems to understand but they all have opinions…. The soon to be in laws say:
      It’s your mother!
      She gave birth to you!
      How can you not invite “the mother of the bride”

      How about She is a raging abusive drunk!

  • Stacy

    I’m always so relieved to read about other people with dysfunctional families, especially others who have chosen to cut ties with them. The “blood is thicker than water” narrative is so pervasive in our society, people often just don’t understand, so it’s easy to feel like you’re alone with these issues. I end up feeling like people think I’m a spoiled brat because I can’t get along with my family. It kills me when people say things like, “Moms are so awesome” or “Dads just always know what to do” when mine decidedly are not and do not. So, thank you for speaking out. It helps all of us to feel a little more connected and a little less alone.

    I’m currently pre-engaged, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how I will deal with my family when our wedding finally arrives. My parents have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as do many of my extended family members. This makes it impossible to have a real relationship with them, and their disorder has cause a lot of damage that I will probably be trying to work through for the rest of my life. They hardly know me, they only see me as a reflection of them. The process of letting go of how I wish my parents were has been long, and even after 10 years of therapy I still have to fight that resentment sometimes. I actually decided to work on that issue specifically as my sacrifice for Lent this year.

    I believe I’m in a place where I can have my parents present without expecting them to be something they are not. I definitely see it as a favor to them to allow them to be there. It’s for them, not for me. My extended family, however, is out of the question. This will actually be my second wedding (I was married and divorced in my 20s), and they behaved HORRIBLY at my first wedding. I’m not putting myself through that again. I suspect that my mother will complain about this choice, and she may even threaten to not come herself if I don’t invite them, but I am preparing myself to set those boundaries clearly.

    It makes me really angry sometimes that I somehow got stuck with these awful people, but I’m proud of the support network I’ve assembled for myself. Those people, who I call my “real family,” will be there. They’re already excitedly buzzing about our wedding, even before we’re engaged. I’m grateful for that. Those are the people I want to focus on for our big day.

  • Oh man, I can relate to this. I never had a great relationship with my father, and it took many, many years for me to come to grips with that. Once I grew up and could see the situation as an adult, I was finally able to separate the father I always wanted from the father I actually had. I was always measuring him against the standard of what I thought he should be, and was bitterly disappointed when he didn’t live up to it. Finally, I realized that’s just not who he is. I was able to see him as a person, just like me, who didn’t fill the role of “father” as well as he probably should have, but he was his own person and did it his own way. That has helped me to forgive him his shortcomings. He passed away about six months before my wedding, which saved me from having to decide whether or not to invite him. Before he died, we’d been estranged for about 2 years, and I have no regrets about that. He was an unhealthy person, through and through, being around him or even talking to him on the phone was incredibly hurtful for me, and I decided to save myself and cut ties. It was hard, but it was the right thing to do. Choosing to not have a parent in your life or any of your life events is a tough one, and those who haven’t had an abusive parent just don’t understand. So what? In this situation, only you can decide what you can tolerate and what you can’t. GO WITH YOUR GUT. You don’t have to explain or apologize to anyone. Wishing you well.

  • Class of 1980

    Except for the fact I’m not planning a wedding, I could have written much of this. And if I do ever get married again, I will be in the same boat.

    I’m not sure that what I feel is “guilt”. I think it’s regret.

    I regret that my dad grew up in an abusive household. I regret that even though he hated the way his father acted, he duplicated his actions. I regret that his childhood made him emotionally and mentally sick. I regret that in spite of him having several moments of blinding clarity that he needed help, he never got it for himself.

    That’s the worst part; that he never made the slightest move towards getting help. And because of that, he tortures everyone in his life. This leaves his children to have to choose between mental/emotional stress or the comparative peace gained from severing the relationship.

    • Emily

      That’s an awful lot of baggage to be carrying around considering you couldn’t control any of what you listed as regretting. You can feel sad or empathetic or angry, but the way your dad grew up, the way he behaved, existed long before you. That’s his baggage, not yours.

      I have a difficult relationship with my mother and she sounds a lot like your father. I have recently come to a place where I have released my anger towards my mother for how she treated me growing up. I feel empathetic towards her now because she treated me the way her mother treated her. I’m taking a stand and finally breaking the cycle. I am also choosing what type of relationship I have with her because I am not obligated to fill the ‘daughter’ role she expects of me.

      The only thing you can change is yourself and your own emotions. Carrying around other people’s baggage, or living in regret, only keeps us from moving forward and being happy in our own lives.

      I wish you all the strength and courage in the world to understand that you are wonderful, regardless of what your father did to himself and to you.

      • Class of 1980

        Oh, I am aware that I am in no way responsible. My father and his own parents have a lot to answer for. As far as the word “regret”, I was thinking of it as feeling grief for the circumstances; not that I was the cause.

        At the same time, the tricky thing about mental/emotional illness is that it’s not usually self-inflicted. Studies show that a child’s brain changes in response to abuse. The brain can become impaired and not function in a healthy way.

        Sometimes I wonder if walking away from my father is like wounding someone again who is already wounded. But then again, I think it’s more like walking away from someone who refuses to acknowledge he is wounded and get help.

        I did tell him that if he didn’t stop certain behavior, that I would stop talking to him. And he said he wouldn’t stop. Clearly, he had a choice.

        I KNOW I made the right decision and I even think he needed the consequences. However, it’s only led to a relative peace. It’s certainly better than the constant dread I used to feel, but I still have moments of anger, sadness, … the whole gamut.

        I don’t think there is a cure for my emotions. They come when they come. ;)

  • Ms. Neptune

    I was also 13 when I asked my dad to stay out of my life. He wasn’t abusive, per se, but he is mentally ill and his actions and behavior terrified me. Even at that young age I understood that I would feel safer and happier without him than I ever felt with him in my life, and I was right. 14 years later, I’ve seen him a handfull of times, at the weddings and funerals of his extended family. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to invite him to my own wedding. His siblings and my cousins on that side of the family are all invited, and it seems awkward and difficult not to invite him too. But I know that just having him there will give me that sinking, painful feeling in my gut that I always get when I see him. I fear that it will make the day more about my relationship (or lack there of) with my father than about my relationship with my future husband.

  • Victwa

    One of my best friends is completely estranged from her family– they don’t even know where she is. This is fully the right decision for her, and when she got married, her parents were absolutely not present. The people who came to her wedding where people who loved and supported her– her chosen family. Do the right decision for YOU. I am glad this post is up, because so much about weddings focuses on tensions that happen because family members are present, with the assumption that it’s better to have everyone there, even if there’s tension, but sometimes it’s truly better if they are not. I fully believe that– and I have seen it work for my friend. Another friend decided after having children, that he could no longer maintain contact with his father, because his father was so abusive and he could not even imagine hurting his children the way he was hurt. I wish for you a beautiful day filled with people who love you and support you. And I’m actually quite sure that this post made a few peoples’ eyes well up with how beautiful and grown up you are, because taking care of yourself and making a hard decision is a grown up thing to do. And courage is always beautiful.

  • HH

    This post and the comment thread choked me up and gave me chills. I know I’m fortunate to not have to personally cope with this kind of pain, but I’ve held the hands of many friends who have.

    I can’t get over how wonderful this space is- to give people a safe haven to discuss this.

    To the poster, and all the commenters dealing with this emotional stress, you are so brave, and so strong, and I wish I could hug you all. I’m in your corner, rooting for you.

  • Karin

    I feel like I could have very well written exactly the same post. I cut my father out of my life unofficially when I was a freshman in high school, and completely cut him out 3 years ago for what seems like very similar reasons to why you did. It’s especially hard for me because I have a sister who is a year younger than me and is very close with our father, because the two of them had a VERY different relationship than the one that he and I had. I was often the scapegoat for his problems and she was the apple of his eye.

    The worst part for me about not inviting my father to my wedding is that everyone says to me, “You’re going to regret that one day, and look back and wish he had been there.” I really don’t think it’s anyone’s business and those who are closest to both me and my boyfriend understand exactly why he will not be there and not only do they respect that, but they support our decision. I feel lucky to have a family who understands, but it’s still incredibly difficult, especially with my sister’s wedding being this June. I know that there will be a part of me that will instantly want me to change my mind when I see her walking down the aisle on his arm. Knowing that I won’t have the same experience is hurtful, but I keep reminding myself that it would not be the same experience for me as it was for her because it would be fake, uncomfortable, and would lead to tears (and not the happy kind).

    Stay strong. I know exactly what you’re going through. You’re not alone.

    • Kristen

      “I know that there will be a part of me that will instantly want me to change my mind when I see her walking down the aisle on his arm. Knowing that I won’t have the same experience is hurtful, but I keep reminding myself that it would not be the same experience for me as it was for her because it would be fake, uncomfortable, and would lead to tears (and not the happy kind).”

      It takes a strong and smart person to know themselves this well. Congratulations!

  • SoCal Bride

    This post hit close to home. I didn’t loose a family member but I have a similar issue with both my parents, and my fiance’s birth mother. My fiance and I have been engaged for almost a year now. When we got engaged, my whole family loved and adored him.

    But while planning our wedding, anything you can imagine came out to get us and cause some sort of issue. You name it – religion, guests, wedding date, money, my fiance and I’s financial situation, jobs. All of it. It was like Murphy’s Law wedding style. We both bent over backwards to please my parents so that the issues (that weren’t necessary to begin with) would just go away – and I could enjoy this monumental part of my life. I have not been one of those brides that needs to have the best of the best. I just simply wanted to be happy on our big day.

    So after planning out my entire wedding, sending out Save the Dates, putting down payments, making reservations for our very small intimate destination wedding – my parents decided they no longer support my marriage to my fiance. They think he’s a horrible person (but can’t give you one example of why), we’re living in La La Land for wanting to get married and we’re nowhere near ready for married life because they think we’re immature. We live in Southern California where jobs are scarce and your money gets you nothing. We’re in our mid 20’s and expected to have full time well-paying jobs, because they compare their own starting out – in the 1980s – to ours now. Totally different times and totally different situations. So because we’re like a good chunk of America – poor – and starting our own lives after college, we are therefore crazy to want to get married.

    But with all that said, no matter who was and was not at fault for things going sour, they have decided to cut me out of their life. They don’t want anything to do with my fiance, my life with him or anything at all. A perfectly healthy relationship with my parents and family has been thrown out the window all because my parents can’t seem to find a way to move forward and save their relationship with their only daughter. All because I got engaged.

    And on top of all that, my fiance’s birth mother – who has not had anything to do with his life for the last 20+ years, decided to reappear out of thin air when she finds out he’s getting married. Saying that she can’t wait to meet me, but wouldn’t even be able to recognize her own son if he was standing right in front of him.

    This is all still going on, and it has taught me a lot of things. My advice to anyone with family struggles, is to remember that this is not just your wedding day, but your life. Don’t let people – family or friends – try to take over things or change things to what they want. If it’s about your actual wedding – do what YOU want to do. Or at least find a compromise that you’re okay with. I learned that what is important on your wedding day is who is there to support you and your other half. Not the cake, the location, the flowers or anything else. It’s about the memories. It’s about your happiness of this next chapter in your life. Don’t let flaky parents come out of the woodwork so they can feel good about themselves on your big day. And don’t change who you are because your parents don’t agree with your way of thinking. Your actual wedding day is just that – it’s ONE day. It’s important of course, but you still have the rest of your life in front of you. So what happens to those flaky parents or unhappy relatives after that one day? Do they change forever, or do they go back to the way they were before? And yes, your family is your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to be obligated to do something because it’s blood. Remember to be happy and focus on you and your fiance/spouse. And try always find the best in a bad situation.

    Best of luck.

    • PA

      Blast, I wrote a whole comment and IE deleted it.

      Suffice to say, while I cannot begin to provide meaningful advice for the entirety of your situation, I do have one suggestion, or question:

      Would it help to make your wedding day full of joy to invite two close friends in your parents’ place, NOT to replace them in the role of parents, but instead to provide some balance with their love and support?

      I wish you so much luck in dealing with this!

      • SoCal Bride

        @PA – My fiance and I have no money for a wedding with all of the people we would love to have their – all of his many, many relatives and our friends. So we’ve opted for a small church wedding in a few months when he is doing with his medic program. In a sense, it’ll be treated like an elopement. We are in fact doing just that when it comes to having support. We’re having a small handful of our local friends there, with his immediate family as well, as love and support to see us get married. This whole experience has opened my eyes to what is and isn’t important when it comes to marrying and weddings. Hopefully someone with similar issues will read the comment and hopefully know that they’re not the only ones out there with family issues – as this whole post really does show. Thank you for your luck! It is much appreciated. :)

  • aly

    Awesome post. My sister dis-invited our dad to her wedding after he pulled such shenanigans as prostrating himself behind her car when she tried to leave a meeting in which she told him his new wife/former mistress wouldn’t be in her wedding pictures. Once her fiance took off out of the driveway through the grass instead, our dad high-speed chased them in his car. Then his wife sent out an email to everyone we know calling my sister a disrespectful, ungrateful brat. THEN our dad hired an independent photographer to basically sneak into the church and take pictures for him. It still makes me think WTF after 10 years. Lucky for me, I banned him completely from my life long before my wedding. No regrets or high speed chases for me!

    • Sophie

      WOW. Madness.

      I am pre-engaged and right now definitely do not want my Dad at my wedding. And his former mistress/current girlfriend? Hells no. My parent’s divorce went through a few months ago. My Dad says they had an open marriage for 35 years… but also felt the need to deny and lie to my mother about his other sexual relationships… yeah. I went from having an emotionally distant but mildly pleasant relationship with him to cutting off all communication, for this and other reasons.

      The last two years of the divorce negotiations – which my siblings and I negotiated for them because they couldn’t afford a lawyer – as well, I imagine, as the upcoming year or so of foreclosure and bankruptcy, have definitely demonstrated the worst in both my parents. Both fit the bill for narcissistic personality disorder and whether it’s only the extreme situation that’s making it show up so clearly or it’s been there all along I couldn’t tell you.

      I won’t be getting married for another couple of years. It’s possible my Dad will turn a major corner over those years and come to believe he made serious mistakes in his family life. Most likely he will not, and he will not be at my wedding (and neither will his girlfriend).

  • Katie

    Tears are in my eyes as I realize that I am not alone in this club of dubious distinction. Throughout my life, my relationship with my father was a dark spot. An alcoholic and emotionally abusive, my Dad was more likely cut me down than lift me up.

    When I became engaged in September, he told me he did not want to talk about it.

    Shortly there after, I went to a wedding of a friend who did have a close relationship with her loving father. As they did their first dance together, I cried because it represented all that I would never have with my Father because that is just not who he was.

    When I saw him in December he had softened a little about my engagement, and began to offer some productive thoughts. Even this little tiny bit of progress meant a lot to me.

    In January he passed away suddenly. I find it difficult to express the wide spectrum of complicated emotions that I feel about this. One of the things I realize that I most mourn is more of an idea. The idea that I will never really have that Dad. That loving sweet Dad who will give me away in October and do that whole first dance thing. But I never really had that anyway.

    Despite everything, I still loved my Dad even though he could probably compete with some of yours for Worst Dad Ever. When friends have shown me support over the last couple of months, I almost feel like a fraud accepting their comfort because a big part of me is more angry with him for a lifetime of abuses than is sad for his loss. But it is complicated.

    • Class of 1980

      Katie, one of my cousins got married in 1988 and I wasn’t able to go to the wedding. However, I did get the video.

      Her father (my uncle) was great – intelligent and wickedly funny as all get out. And more importantly, he loved and supported his children. When I watched the part where my cousin was dancing with her father, their obvious closeness, laughter, and joy was blinding. I burst into tears.

      I wasn’t expecting to cry, but at that moment it was just too obvious how much I had missed. So, I hear ya.

      • Lisa B.

        I cry whenever there is a happy dad/daughter duo represented on tv or in a movie. It’s like a sucker punch every.time.

        • Monica

          I can relate to this entire thread, but for some reason your post hit home more than many. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • I wrote a whole long comment and deleted it because, well, telling my background story got off topic. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. Should my dad have lived I’d have had a hard time deciding what to do about him and my wedding. Oddly, I was relieved when he passed away and I didn’t have to make that decision. His alcohol abuse was getting worse and I was at the point of needing to decide how much contact to have with him.

    Hugs and more hugs to you. You’re doing what’s right for yourself and that’s what you need to do. Doesn’t make it any easier but hopefully the support of this community helps a tiny bit.

  • Vee

    Wonderful post, that hits home for me in a way… People often say that “blood is thicker than water.” But if there is anything I have learned from having a father whom I have never met – because he chose not to take the responsibility of a father – it is that blood has, actually, very little to do with *family.* You can’t pick the people with whom you share blood, but no one will ever tell me that I cannot pick my family. Stay true to yourself :)

  • anon

    Thanks so much for sharing this – it really resonated with me. I too have a strained relationship with my dad, who was physically abusive and is still an addict. Every family’s dynamics are different, but what makes mine feel so impossible is that my parents are still married, and there is this facade of a relationship there I’m expected to maintain. Everyone pretends my family is normal, which blows my mind.

    I am just starting to plan our wedding and already I am so anxious about it and dreading it. I mentioned offhand to one of my siblings that I didn’t plan on having my dad walk me down the aisle, expecting support, and instead was met with incredulity and resistance , and the admonishment that “I HAD to have him walk me”. Sadly this is probably only indicative of what’s to come. How does a person reconcile their need for emotional and physical safety and being true to themselves, with a family in denial that takes personal offense in not having their facade kept up. Especially when I love the rest of my family and want their support. Its going to be massively difficult, when I wish it would just be easy and joyous.

    • Bree

      I cut ties with my father many years ago after my family and I endured a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse. My mother, who received the worst of it and is still trying to reconcile her happiness (15+ years after leaving him), asked me for years after when I was going to contact him again. She was concerned when I didn’t invite him to life milestones and around the holidays that I would regret not having those years and memories with him.

      It has only been in the last year that this topic has not come up anymore. You need to be open about your need to emotional and physical safety. It took so many years of reminding my mom that a real father wouldn’t have done those things to me. I would tell her that I don’t see this or that as something I will miss out on because, in all honesty, I haven’t missed out on anything. I have spent my lift surrounded with wonderful family and friends who love me and show their love in safe and respectful ways. He is the one who should be missing out on me, since he lost a daughter.

      Now that I am engaged, my extended family has hinted that, of course, I need some male relative (think uncle) to walk me down the aisle. I find it funny that people supposed we females need a male representative to give us away on this day. I have never felt comfortable with this part of any wedding ceremony, which may have somehow led to our ceremony which will involve neither a giving away nor an aisle at all. If I felt that this was important, I would have my mother perform the deed, since she and I are the team that got me to adulthood and to the point I was able to make such a smart decision to date my fiance in the first place.

  • Marguerite

    Thanks for the shame-blasting around the topic of bad relationships with parents. I have one too, and we were estranged for a while as well. I read somewhere recently that severing a relationship with a toxic parent is one of the big remaining taboos. The shame that society heaps on children who do this is enormous. Which is total bullshit, because I found it to be a very self-affirming and healthy decision. Your actions and your post were brave, and an inspiration to the rest of us.

  • Thank you for sharing. My Dad died when I was younger & I wish desperately that he could have attended my wedding. Please don’t feel guilty when you hear or read situations like mine because they are different from yours. You made a brave & difficult decision. Congratulations on your new beginning & may it bring you much happiness~

  • RachelC

    Just, thank you thank you to this amazing post and all these amazing comments. Man, I love APW

  • Christy

    Thank you for posting this. I am getting married in 4 months, and neither of my parents will be there. It’s a long story, but I cut off all contact with them six years ago – which was my choice, not theirs. They don’t even know where I live. I am not inviting my two brothers either – for excellent reasons. No one questions my decision not to invite my parents after the level of abuse I experienced, but I was surprised when several very close friends told me that I HAD to invite my brothers – even though we have very little contact, they’ve made virtually no attempt to maintain a relationship, and having them there would make me stress out all day long about how they might behave. (Alcoholics + open bar = great potential for embarrassing incidents.)

    I don’t have contact with any of my extended family, so my sister will be the only relative there. At first, I thought not having family involved would make things easier – no one to bug me about any of my choices – but I’ve been surprised at how hard it is. It seems like the family I don’t have is everywhere.

    “I may have been the person to cut the ties, but I was not the person who broke the relationship.”

    This is so incredibly true. It sounds like you are making the right decision. Hang in there. I know it isn’t easy.

  • Note From the Author

    You guys? You’re awesome. Every last one of you.

    I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amazing, wonderful and supportive comments. You have no idea how much I needed that today.

    So thank you.

  • Alia

    Thank you for writing this. I was in a very similar position with regards to my relationship with my father before and at the time of my wedding. There was a long history of him putting other people ahead of his daughters and treating us poorly and expecting us to just deal with it without him ever having to apologize or change his behaviour. A few months before my wedding, there was a massive fight between us in which he said some of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me, and cut me out of his life (not for the first time, either, sadly). And I finally reached the point at which I made the decision that if that was how he wanted to treat me, then I was better off without him. So he was not invited to the wedding, and I still maintain that it was the right decision for me to make. We’re slowly trying to repair our relationship now, a year and a half after the wedding, but until my father reached out to me to start making amends, that would not have been possible, and having him at my wedding would only have caused me massive amounts of stress and anxiety. So thank you for writing this and letting me know that I’m not the only one who’s been in a position like this. And kudos to you for making the decision that you need to make, regardless of how other people may try to make you feel for it. The whole ‘oh but he’s family’ argument – UGH. It makes my blood boil.

  • Niki

    Thank you for this.

    So often your posts come just at the right moment.

  • Lucy

    I actually never even contemplated putting my father on the invite list until after the invites were being sent out and my MIL commented. The fact that I didn’t even think of him once during the planning stages was enough of a reason not to invite him from my perspective.

    I was surprised by the reaction of my brother who thought that he should be invited simply because it was a family wedding… I struggled to articulate why I didn’t invite him, but in the end if you don’t have a positive connection at all then why should anyone be involved in your wedding?

    It is a privledge to be part of a wedding – not a right!

  • Anonymous

    Not in a place to very coherent right, now, but I wanted to say thank you, thank you so much for sharing this. I got married last summer, and my father was not present. I had not seen or spoken to my father for ten years, my choice, because of his abuse (the same as you describe – infrequent violent outbursts shadowed by constant terror and when I put it in a letter he denied it all). I know it was the best decision I ever made, but it’s still tough sometimes – especially when the wedding came around – like I was in mourning for the relationship we could have had, even though it would have required him to be someone he wasn’t.

    I don’t know anyone else who’s been in my position, and I can’t tell you how it feels to know I am not alone.

    To anyone who is, has been or will be in my shoes – I wish you the strength to do what you have to do and the peace of knowing you have made the right choice for yourself and your future.

  • Kaiti

    An amazing post, thank you thank you thank you for writing! It really resonated with me because though our relationship is not the same as yours, my dad peaced out on our family about three years ago after exactly 30 years of marriage and 3 adult children. Whoops.

    We’re getting married in September and it’s been a struggle to explain to family and even to my (slightly more “traditional”) fiance, why I will walk down the aisle by myself among other things.

    I realized though a month or two ago that what matters most is being yourself, which includes staying true who you are in your important relationships. Just because WIC tells you that you should have this wonderful teary-eyed moment with your daddy right before you walk down the aisle…if that’s not your relationship then, well, you can tell them where to shove it.

    Your wedding is about honoring you and your partner, about staying true to yourselves, your family, your relationships. It’s not about “pleasing” the industry and some of the wedding “givens” or “norms.”

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  • suzanna

    I’m late to the conversation here (busy week!), but I just wanted to thank the author for writing this, and thank APW for being the kind of place where this gets talked about.

    I’m in the same boat–not with a parent, but with other family members who won’t be invited because of past abuse. It’s a crazy ride, and it really doesn’t help when people (sometimes even other family members) play the “but they’re family” card. It can be so hard to stick to your guns when you *wish* they were good people who could celebrate with you, and they’re just not.

    This is where the good old fashioned “I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s what will work best for my fiance and for me” comes in really handy!

  • MWK

    It’s interesting to read this as the spouse of someone who is not in contact with a parent. I have never met my husband’s father, despite the fact that he is alive and well. He was never violent he just…stopped being in their life when they were teenagers. As the spouse I just let my husband take the lead on how he wants to handle things. We invited his dad to the wedding, because that is what my husband wanted to do although we knew we wouldn’t come. And if I ever do meet him it will be so weird: I will do my best to be polite and kind, which is what my husband would want I respect his wishes there, when all I want to do is punch the guy in the face and tell him what a jackass he is. I was glad he wasn’t at the wedding for that reason (selfish, I know), because I would have been SO MAD at him daring to show up and upsetting my husband. I’d like to think I’d have been loving and polite, but….damn. It would be interesting to read a post about this, I guess is what I’m saying.

  • ZWP

    I am just discovering your website and this is the 5th article that I’m reading. I must say I’m amazed to read such meaningful and interesting articles on a website about marriage. Don’t get me wrong , I follow a lot of them, for inspiration, for discovery, because it’s just pretty to watch … :-)
    But as a serial wedding blogs/websites reader, I can see the main direction of each of them, and often reflecting the editor’s inspirations.

    You website is a wonder, every bride and groom who’s got trouble figuring what’s going on and all the questions unveiled by a marriage should have the chance to read your work, it’s truely amazing.

    I love photography but I like to use it to tell stories, so it revolves around the human, and not only about decoration and cake. I love the new twist weddings of nowadays, but I’m really glad and happy to see that people in the business can remember it’s a human story, and the only purpose of decoration or table plans is for the people behind.

    Thanks a lot for everything you’re doing :-)

    PS: I’m adding you on my scroll wedding blog list (where my clients can look for inspiration and good ideas) if that’s ok ?

  • Liz

    Ultra-late to the party, mostly because I saw this headline and knew I wasn’t ready to ready the story & comments right away.

    I never contemplated inviting my father, I haven’t seen him in person for over 20 years, I think we spoke on the phone a few times after that, but it’s probably been 15+ years. I was 5 when the divorce started and was that wise kid that observed & digested too much for her age. I’m still working on issues surrounding my rage that fathers like mine (and so many of yours too) are “allowed” by society to abandon their children. Not all moms are saints, but it’s so rare that you see a woman just disappear from her childrens’ lives. Ugh. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to explain his absence more than a couple times and no one ever tried to harass me about it.

    My husband’s parents are a whole other story. When we met he was still involved in their lives, but over the years he decided he didn’t want them in our lives. Every now & then his mother will try to call my mom’s house and check up on him, but he’s quite adamant that he doesn’t want any contact. I tried to convince him to invite his younger brother to the wedding, as their relationship was never a problem, but he didn’t want to put his brother in the middle because he knows his parents would make him miserable.

    In a way I’m glad that I’ve always been so certain in my choice to not maintain contact with my father, it didn’t even feel like a choice when it came to the wedding. We invited the people we love, the family we choose.

    Gah, this is such a thorny topic… one last note, when my mom walked me down the aisle, instead of asking “who gives this woman” we chose to have my mom & sister asked if they “welcomed this man” into the family. Even in those little moments & details, there’s opportunities to show that family is about those you choose to love, just as much as blood.

  • One of the first wedding fights my mom and I had was about my biological father, and whether to invite him. They’re been divorced almost all my life, and I haven’t been in contact with him for about 5 years. It’s not an acrimonious relationship (on my part), more like on semi-permanent hiatus. I felt that an invite would do no harm, and I was pretty sure he and his wife wouldn’t come anyway – they live a 12 hour flight away. But it dredged up the horrible, abusive marriage that my mom had with him, and she was adamant that not only was I crazy, I was clearly trying to do emotional damage to my stepfather (who I love, and who raised me). And I didn’t even care, deep down, but I really resented being told that I was not under any circumstances inviting him.

    Anyway, now post-wedding, I think it was the right decision, though my mom could have talked about it in a far better way. I will probably see my father later this year, and he will meet my husband for the first time. Our wedding also ended up being about half the size I thought it was going to be at first (65 people instead of 130), and although it wasn’t all the closer half of the original 130 list, just the size made it quite intimate. It was stressful enough with the merging of the families, and adding a big unknown of how my father would have acted, and how everyone would have acted around him, would have been more than what the wedding was for.

  • Katie D

    Wow. I’m right there with you.

    I did invite my dad to the wedding, but I sent him an email and not an invitation. He’s not coming, and in fact I regret inviting him in the first place.

    I had a somewhat good relationship with my dad until three years ago. Three years ago I decided I didn’t want to have anything more to do with his wife. She was manipulative, hurtful and damaging to me for the past 20 years. The last night I stayed with them was the final straw – she started throwing away all her old wedding and college mementos because life wasn’t worth living anymore, and even took about 15 pills to convince me she was attempting suicide because I refused to go on a cruise with her. But I still would have tried to be civil, if she hadn’t told me I needed to prostitute myself to pay her for something that was supposed to be a gift.

    My dad has not been blameless – he stood by and let all this happen to his child, after all – but he’s my dad, and I thought I needed to invite him.

    Unfortunately since I invited him, he replied twice (very rudely) to my polite email informing him of the event, saying he wouldn’t acknowledge or attend, and then saying that he can’t believe I wouldn’t want his wife there, since she hasn’t done anything wrong. Now he is calling his brother (whom I still talk to) to try to disparage me in my uncle’s and cousins’ eyes.

    So I realize I didn’t need to invite him in the first place. The “daddy” I knew growing up wasn’t as good a person as I thought he was back then – in fact he was downright awful to stand by and watch as an outsider insulted and mentally abused his child. I wanted him to be something better than he is, and that was my mistake.

    The bottom line is, do what you need to do to be happy. And what I need to be happy is to not speak to my stepmother. If my dad chooses not to be there, that’s his affair. I have other family and friends and a wonderful fiance, and that’s all I need for the day to be complete.

  • Mrsms

    Someone once said ‘we are the bridges we’ve burned behind us’ and I try to remind myself of that saying in this situation. The same way recovering addicts are urged to stay away from bad influences from their past, sometimes growth can only occur when the detrimental forces in one’s life have been removed.

    The struggle remains whether to use the wedding as an olive branch… But over the past two years of trying to rebuild our relationship, I’m left feeling consistently disappointed (hurt, unhappy, conflicted) by the lack of requitted effort.

    Luckily, the family – both mine and the future husband’s – are supportive of not inviting him. I, however, remain conflicted. No matter how many bad patterns learned from him I manage to break, I suppose a level of masochism always brings me back.

  • KimberlySue

    My niece was married just yesterday and I was not invited to the wedding. The brides father is my brother and my niece and I have had many conversations in the past about the idea that he would not be invited because, well, he’s been a bad father. I, on the other hand have always welcomed my niece into my home and she actually lived with me for many summers while she was in college. She was just like one of my daughters, in fact she and my two daughters became so close that they had “sister photos” taken. We would often sit around and talk about future wedding plans and my niece also told my daughters she wanted them in her wedding.

    She made it very clear that having family at her wedding was hard for her; she has gone out of her way for the last six months to exclude me and the rest of my immediate family. I honestly have little contact with her father and am heart broken and more then a little offended to have her exclude me after I took her in and played the part of Mom for so many years. Am I selfish?

  • CTS

    Thank you for your comments. My husband and I have been married for exactly one month today. I grew up with a fairly good Dad and Mom, but they were unhappy with me marry a man from a different culture than my own. They not only didn’t show up to our wedding, but my Dad went behind my back to talk to our Pastor to tell him not to marry us, stood up in front of the church and gave his reasons why he wasn’t attending the wedding and totally bashed my husband who he only meant 2 times (because they refused to have any part of us) , stopped the rest of my family from attending and since has told my sister who has special needs not to call me. It has been extremely difficult. I am holding onto my faith and asking God for the ability to continually forgive. This past week, my Dad called me to tell me that he loves me and asks for a call back. Honestly, I am so much happier without the drama from him and want to keep it this way. I have emailed him and told him thank you for the call and that I am O.K. I ‘m talking one step at a time, but have this inward conflict of really not wanting to see him or my Mom for a long time.

  • M

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m up, late at night, stressing over this issue and feel a lot better after reading your post and your wonderful readers’ comments. I have an interesting spin on the story… I have tried to get back in touch with my mother for years after she disowned me for reconnecting with my father. Now that I am getting married she’s insulted I am not sending her an invitation. As many of your readers said… that is not the day to deal with it. Thank you.

  • Sarah Jane

    I realize this post is old, but on Sunday I got a call. I have avoided contact with my family for the past three years. My father was physically and emotionally abusive, my mother was “checked out”, my oldest brother sexually abusive and all of my siblings (of which there are six) have had drug or alcohol dependencies and criminal records. When I dropped out of college, I stopped answering the phone and I didn’t go back. One of my sisters found my new number some how and called to tell me that I was a horrible, hateful person for not calling and coming home and that when I was older I would understand what a horrible person I am being and that she had to say that in order for the “healing to begin”. I was mostly quiet on the phone and got off as quickly as I could. My other sister has left multiple messages on my phone about how I should come home and attend her wedding. She even says she’ll postpone the reception and I should just give her a date for my arrival. I didn’t mention that I am legally married now and am planning a wedding for April. I just wish they wouldn’t spend so much energy on a connection I have no intention on reconnecting.

  • Bel

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I grew up under the same conditions as you did, but my father (who was a model father, husband and human being from all accounts) died right after I was born and my mother remarried when I was around nine. Like you, my stepfather had a violent temper and took it out on me, beating me and slapping me around, and my mother just stood by and sometimes would add that I deserved it. Like you too, I was afraid to fall asleep for fear I would not hear the alarm the next day and be dragged out of bed sleeping and beaten, afraid of “saying the wrong things”, afraid to go home after school. I was nine at the time. Also had to nanny the five kids they had etc etc.

    Now, many years later, our relationship appears to be very harmonious and civil, but secretly I will always hate them for the constant fear and terror they placed me throughout childhood and I don’t want anything or anyone to ruin what could be the most important day of my life. I am already worried about how to go about it now though I have no plans to marry as yet.

    If I don’t invite them, then I also cannot invite some relatives for it would put them in an awkward position, I think. Also, I would have to inform my mother afterwards that I am married, and then she would go into one of her infamous fits. Just thinking about it makes me glum.

  • Lisa

    Along with everyone else Thank You so much for this article. I have just today made the very difficult decision to not invite my dad to my wedding. I decided to google the topic as I have been feeling like I’m the only person in the world going through this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  • igavehimtwistedfeet

    Thank you.

  • Christine

    I am getting married in 3 days and could not agree with your article more.

  • Jennifer

    I’m going through this right now. It’s four and a half months before my wedding and (to spare the details…) my dad is a Jerk. He was abusive to my brother and I during our childhood. Although he was in the military and not here as much, the times he was here were horrible. Multiple emotional scares remain, i’m a firm believer that the reason I don’t have many childhood memories is because of his abuse and me suppressing so many horrible things. So now my Dad isn’t invited to my wedding. How many times I’ve dreamt of him walking me down the aisle but like you said “A father who takes out his anger on his children is not a father”. My questions for any of you who might read this is…what do I do with his family that is invited? On one end I don’t want any part of him there, even his brothers and sisters but should I punish them for his choice?

  • Monica

    Thanks so much for this post and for ALL the comments.

    I am getting married two weeks from today. My father has been a loud, aggressive, angry, frightening force for my entire life, with intermittent moments of actual heartfelt emotion. I don’t doubt that he loves me, but he is incapable of expressing it in a healthy or acceptable way.

    A month after our engagement, my parents came to visit us, and my dad had one of his very run-of-the-mill temper tantrum meltdowns, prompted by nothing, directed at my mother and me, while my fiance was driving the car. This was the last straw for me. I had been giving him a wider and wider berth for several years, minimizing communication after a decade of “trying to change him.” Trying to explain that I thought he ought to see a therapist. Ha! Trying to rationalize with him, and reason with him. That outburst in the car was all I could take. From that moment forward I have been of one mind: you cannot talk to me that way. No one in my life talks to me that way. And for SURE no one who talks to me (or my mother) that way is going to be at my wedding.

    It has absolutely been the most difficult decision of my life. I am sitting here thinking about him, about how sad and lonely he is, about how he turns 60 just 3 days before our wedding, and how he will likely be reflecting on what the hell happened to him. Suddenly, it must seem to him, his wife and daughter are nowhere to be found and want nothing to do with him.

    My dad has Borderline Personality Disorder, though he is professionally undiagnosed, of course. But the traits are all too strong for it not to be the case. He is an addict/alcoholic, as am I, and as it my brother. He cannot and will not take responsibility for his actions and I cannot and will not continue to take responsibility for our relationship. HE is supposed to be the parent.

    Over the last several months, I have been conscious of how much better my life is without him in it. I know that I have made the right choice in not inviting him to the wedding. But I still do love him, and I still want, wish, hope things will change one day. And I know that I want, wish, and hope in vain, because you can’t teach a stubborn old dog new tricks, if the old dog doesn’t give a shit about learning new tricks.

    I cannot claim physical abuse, and we have not been estranged for years or decades. And I think that makes this even harder for me in some ways, because it’s a fresh, raw wound that most of my family and friends don’t understand. If he had just beat the hell out of me, and my mother, maybe people could see why I don’t want him there. But negotiating a new separation and trying to explain it has been a challenge. Lucky for me I live 2000 miles from my entire family.

    Thanks again to everyone who has posted here. I have returned many times to read and feel better about my seemingly “unique” situation. It is amazing to know there are others like me.

  • EF

    I found this website a few days ago and have been perusing it every since. Finally, finding people who get it, who won’t judge, who are like me.

    And tonight, as I finished an essay and my fiance went to bed early, I turned to the site, wondering if there were anyone in this situation.

    I am so relieved to find that so many people have lived through it and survived. I’m so sad that there are so many of us.

    Most of my family I am not really in contact with. I moved out for good a couple of weeks after my 16th birthday, which coincided with when I finished high school. My family is extraordinarily religious, of the worst sort, and I just could fit into their boxes of what they expected of their (many) children. Nor were there any other adults that would help, in my eyes — the male church leader whose home I ran to in the middle of the night, after my dad physically tore the door of my bedroom off the hinges, when I said I was scared for me and my mom and my brother, he said, ‘your father is in good standing with the church. there is nothing to be afraid of.’ or the female church leader who I went to after being…attacked…by my first boyfriend, when I was bleeding and scared, who made me turn to the high priest to confess and was told that you can’t lead boys on. It was a long, long time before there were any reasonable and actual adults I could trust.

    I’m lucky to have a best friend whom I met when I was 18 and have been ridiculously close to ever since. He came from the same city as me, but from the well-off side. He’d never stepped foot in my neighbourhood. But it didn’t matter, and 7 years later, most people who meet us think we are twins, not because we look alike, but because we’ve spent so much time really growing up together (with zero romantic interest) that our slang and body language is the same.
    Last summer, I was back in the city (that I moved across an ocean to make sure I didn’t fall into the traps of) and my BFF’s family, whom I’ve spent many a shabbat dinner with, invited me along for a day trip to the beach. I had been agonizing over which grad school program to accept — was I really ready for a phd? or just a masters? — all good options. BFF’s dad is a professor and ideal to help me out, and we went over the pros and cons extensively. He finally said, ‘Listen. It doesn’t matter which you choose, so long as it’s right for you. And we’ll love you and support you no matter what.’

    While I have my fiance through a remarkable turn of life events and love him dearly, and he constantly tells me how unconditionally he loves me, I had never heard it from a father-like figure. Later that day, when BFF and I were alone, I teared up over it, and he held me while he knew without my having to explain that a lot of the tears were for the fact I never got to experience that, that I’m happy he did, that I wish my so innocent-hearted baby brother could, that there was nothing I could ever do to make my own father accept me, let alone love me.

    And now, several months and an official engagement later, I’m positive that BFF (who is dude-of-honour) and his family will be joyful and at my wedding. I’m still trying to figure out how to handle my own family, particularly my extremely toxic and mentally…unbalanced father. I don’t know how it’s going to all shake out, I don’t know if I’ll invite my mother (still married to him, doesn’t believe in divorce), and risk him coming too, or leave them both out. If i do that means leaving out half my siblings, which in the end, are all sort of take-it-or-leave-it people. I don’t know what’s best, particularly when my fiance comes from an AMAZING family whom I adore and don’t have any idea of what a disfunctional one even looks like. I worry about being judged or thought lesser for it.

    Today, my fiance told me his mother asked him if he thought I’d be willing to go dress shopping with her. He told her i wasn’t one for the big white dress, and his mother said, ‘of course not. I imagine she’ll want something far more classical.’ which, in the local vernacular, is so true. so maybe I have a mother to help out after all. Slowly family forms. And if you all can get through it, I can too.

  • Heartbroken

    My husband was not invited to his son’s wedding. He was a good dad and he stayed through a difficult marriage for his children. His Ex-wife has managed to poison all his young adult children against him. I’m sure his son did not want to have a scene with his mom, by inviting his dad. His son has taken the easy way out and has damaged his relationship with his dad. You can never under estimate the damage an influential parent can do to harm the relationships of adult children with with the other parent. The adult children think they have it all figured out, but they can make devastating mistakes listening to a divorced parent that does not have their best interest at heart.

  • Sally

    Just….. thank you. I thought that this was supposed to be a happy time but it has turned out to be mostly the opposite.

  • Rubi

    Thank you.