Who Do I Invite From A Poly Squad?

Am I required to invite all three of my cousin's partners (plus the eight children between them)?

Q: I am just starting to build the dreaded wedding guest list. Long story short: He’s Colombian. I am Greek. We got FAMILY. Lots. Plus, we want kids there, and even if we didn’t, we aren’t exactly from cultures where it would fly not to invite them. And, of course, we want our friends to come. So it is going to be a big wedding regardless, which makes this next part even more nebulous to my mind.

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My cousin is in a polyamorous quad. I am not really privy to the details of their arrangement, and frankly, as this is one of my thirty-seven first cousins (and one to whom I am not particularly close), I haven’t really needed to know. Here’s my problem: For a wedding that will already have upward of nine hundred guests, am I required to invite all three of my cousin’s partners (plus the eight children between them)? Because frankly, that seems a lot. Especially since everyone else really is getting one date. Can I invite my cousin, “plus one,” and her bio kids?

Am I being mean? Unfair? This is my cousin, but not a cousin I am close to. I’ve met her family (aside from passing by each other at my aunt’s house), maybe, four times tops.

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

First, wedding planning with one hundred guests can feel overwhelming, so let’s take a moment to give yourself credit for the fact that wedding planning for nine hundred people is a feat unto itself, and it’s going to be whatever is beyond overwhelming. I imagine you are feeling the swirl of everyone’s (nine hundred people’s) feelings, expectations, and needs as you try to balance them with your own. And that’s no easy task.

So let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? Your first question: Are you required to invite all three partners and eight children? Nope. You aren’t required to do a damn thing. I would venture to say the real question here is are you expected to invite the whole quad. And because polyamorous relationships are way less common than monogamous ones, there aren’t clear social “rules” or etiquette developed yet, so no one really knows what to expect, or what the proper, polite thing is to do. And this is where the gravity of answering your questions begins to dawn on me. We are literally creating the “rules” right here and now.

Your next question: Can I invite my cousin, “plus one,” and her bio kids?

I’m gonna say no. Obviously, you can. But as a polyamorous person, that would be hurtful. I don’t know the full details and nature of their quad, but if they themselves identify as such, I’m going to assume a high level of love and commitment: they are a family, regardless of whose children came from whose eggs and sperm and bodies. It’d be like saying to another family member, “Okay, there are too many of you, so just pick one-third of your family to come to my wedding.” There are barely any legal protections for polyamorous families. Polygamy is illegal, so partners can’t get married to more than one person, and multiple partners trying to legally adopt their non-biological children doesn’t fly, either. They cannot legally attain the “proper designations” required to be fully seen and recognized as a legitimate family. A wedding invitation that includes just one partner and bio kids is yet another reminder of how “invalid” your cousin’s family is.

Which brings us to your final questions: Am I being mean? Unfair?

Yes, it’s unfair. Are you trying to be mean? No! You are trying to plan a wedding with an already astronomical guest list and wondering how to squeeze in this family of twelve you barely know. I get it. And yet, it feels unfair if everyone else gets invited to bring their “normal” families and she has to choose a part of her family in order to come. You feel me?

In short, you can invite your cousin and her whole family, or not invite your cousin. Both are totally valid options. And nine hundred people is a whole lot of people, and nobody is going to judge you if you need to pare down the guest list. But you need to pare it down in a way that respects that some families look different than others, but that doesn’t make them any less valid.

—Leah Tioxon

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