Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Q & A: Family Drama

It's going to be a marathon week of wedding Q&A. I have so many great questions that are backing up, and I really want to get them out to you! (Although we also have a contest coming up!) Without further ado...

Reader's Question:
I love your practical advice for wedding stuff--was hoping you could help me with my own little issue. I did not envision any real drama at my wedding as my large
extended family gets along fairly well, and I couldn't foresee anything popping up. Then something did, that puts me right in the middle of my divorced parents.

My parents met and married out of high school, and divorced about 20 years ago. My mum, about 10 years later, had a fling with one of my dad's
best friends from high school (who had been a mutual friend back in the day) that was short-lived and the guy was not super cool (bit sleazy). But my dad seemed unfazed and continued to be his friend. Right after the affair, my mum met the man who is now her fiance and most solidly her life partner. But he knew about the affair, and as a lovely but slightly insecure guy, prefers to not even hear his name (I mentioned the man's recent wedding to my mom last year, and he left the room. Ugh.)

Anyhoo, my wedding venue has a limited capacity, as does our budget. We are lucky because all our parents are helping out. However my dad got some advice from friends at work that because he is pitching-in, he is entitled to invite some of his own friends. It means some of my people can't come, but I suppose that is the price for accepting money and that's fine. But guess who he insists on inviting? This old friend (and his wife). Don't like the guy, he treated my mom poorly and my stepdad-figure will be possibly upset on the day (for better or worse). I have mentioned to my father this fact (he and the stepdad get along just fine) that there could be problems on the day, and he basically said that he doesn't care and he wants his friend there. Had to tell my mum, she is not happy, and their up-to-now civilized relationship seems shaky. I don't want the guy there, because I don't want to be looking over my shoulder on the day making sure that all my parent figures are getting along.
Do I have the right to put my foot down? I have expressed my opinion only to be rebuffed. Can I use an excuse such as numbers? I have to compile my invite list soon...ugh. Thanks so much!

I try not to think in such a black-and-white way if I can help it, but in this situation, I honestly see only one right answer: the "sleazy" dude is not invited to the wedding. Period. Case closed.

You're right when you say your dad "is pitching in" and so is therefore "entitled to invite some of his own friends." You hit the nail on the head when you say "that is the price for accepting money."

But seriously, it is not okay for your dad to play the money card by inviting someone who literally makes you and other family members uncomfortable. Even though he is his contributing financially, it is still your wedding. It's your opportunity to share your love and commitment with your nearest and dearest. If your dad wants to spend quality time with his friend, he can invite him out for dinner 364 other days of the year. If he wants to share your wedding with his friend, he can bring along the photos.

I don't mean to sound so negative. I am just a wee-bit outraged that your family members are putting you through this. It's stressful enough to coordinate a big party and maintain your other life priorities and battle the Wedding Industrial Complex and placate a zillion people with a zillion different opinions--without having to fight with your father about something so asinine.

I say, stick to your guns. You know your dad better than I do, so I don't know the best way to communicate your resolution to him. Maybe you need to be more aggressive and resolute? Maybe you need to cry and let him see how much this situation is hurting you? Maybe you need to beg him to change his mind?

(P.S. If it ends up not working and the guy gets invited, don't fret about it. Seriously. I know I just ranted about how the battle is worth fighting (and I hope you win). But if, for some reason, it doesn't work out and the guy gets invited, do not worry about it. I repeat: Do not worry about it. Let it go. You are not responsible for the discomfort that your step-dad and/or mom might feel. You are not responsible for diffusing the tension on your wedding day. Your job is to do your best to create a good situation and then let it all go and actually enjoy the day. Immerse yourself in it. Bask in it. Do not let family baggage take any piece of the pleasure away from you.)

Okay, I am officially stepping off my soapbox. Please, 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, chime in. Your insight into the last Q&A was so delightful. You all are so, so smart and helpful!

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April @ Stylish Events said...

I couldn't have put it any better. Great advice! Don't invite the "sleazy" guy....it's YOUR wedding day and you should be able to make all the final guest list decisions.

megan said...

If your dad continues to be stubborn about it, don't accept the money from him. He'll realize then how serious you are about not inviting some sleaze to your wedding. You might want to reverse the situation and bring your step-mom's(if you have one)feelings into it. He might get it then.

I like Sara's idea about just putting your foot down. She is 100% right about inviting him out 364 other days a year. It's nice that you're putting family before friends anyway, so ztick to your guns.

A-L, said...

I agree with the advice here. But if you do have to invite him, make sure to do a seating chart and place him as far away from your mom and her fiance as possible.

Stephanie, from A Bloomin' Wedding said...

I think putting your foot down is actually probably the last thing you want to do after all other avenues of diplomacy have fizzled out. I've been watching a friend of mine deal with her family during wedding planning and they are reverting back to a teenager and overbearing mother dynamic despite my friend living out of the house for, oh, 12 years.

It is possible that you putting your foot down will just remind your dad of when you were 4 and you would say "no" and he would say "yes" and he would always win because he was The Dad. So, as much as you can, I think you should approach this in as mature a way as possible and remind him that you are an adult. Were I in this situation, I think I'd ask to go to lunch with my dad (or make a time to talk to him on the phone) so that he knew that this was an important issue that deserves time to talk about. Then, I'd let him know that you feel uncomfortable with inviting Mr. Sleazy, but you want to talk to him to know why he feels so strongly about inviting him even when you don't care for him. Are they really the best of friends and he can't imagine celebrating his daughter's wedding without the buddy? Or is he really doing it to piss off your mom? (Note that if this is the answer he will dance around it for a long time...)

Eventually, if your dad's answer is that he can't imagine the wedding without Mr. Sleazy, then you should invite him and just let it go. Otherwise, I would really impress on your dad that you are giving up inviting your own friends so that he can invite some of his buddies, and even though you want him to have a nice time and you even don't mind if he does invite some of his friends, that you would prefer he selects friends who are tied to you in some positive way.

Jennie said...

I think parents respond well to mature one on one conversation. If you sit your dad down and explain to him why you would feel uncomfortable having this person at your wedding, he will most likely agree not to invite him. You may have to be firm and put your foot down, but putting your foot down doesn't mean you have to be argumentative.

In the end - it's your wedding day. I don't believe that parents earn the right to add people to the guest list just by helping you pay for the day. It's nice if they can have a friend, true, but you don't 'owe' it to them!

Newbie and the Murr said...

talk to your dad and explain your issue. i think it's totally reasonable. your family & close friends come first, and they should all feel comfortable and enjoy your wedding day. if your dad is unwilling to budge, perhaps talk to your mom. now that she has a life partner, she may not raise issue with this guy there. i mean, i'd still seat them far from each other, but she'll be wanting to celebrate you and still be surrounded by family and her close friends, so it may not be a huge problem. but don't keep it to yourself - you'll just go crazy that way!

Marina said...

I agree with Stephanie! As I was reading this, I was wondering why on earth your dad wants this guy there so strongly, even when he knows it would upset you and other members of your family. Is this friend really that important to him? There's no one else he'd rather have at his daughter's wedding? I think you should find out more about what's going on in your dad's head.

I also agree with what Sara said about if he does come. Your parents are adults, and you can't take responsibility for their happiness. They can make their own choices about how to deal with the situation.

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