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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q & A: Do I Have to Invite My Family?

Reader Question: I am emailing because I am estranged from my family. I have come to realize that they are a toxic force in my life and it is better for me to just disengage. I am fortunate that the love of my life's family treats me like their own and I am blessed to have wonderful friends that have proven to be better than family. My question is, do I have invite my family? I fear two things: 1) they will upset me on my special day and 2) they will embarrass me in front of the people who have been my family. Thoughts?

The short and simple answer to your complicated question is: You don't have to invite anyone to your wedding, even your family.

The longer answer, however, is that before you make any final decisions about who's on the list and who's not, you should think through the consequences of your actions. What will be the outcome of your decision in ten minutes? Ten months? Ten years?

Matt and I had to make some tough decisions regarding our guest list because we wanted a smaller and more intimate wedding, we wanted to be able to spend quality time with everyone, and we wanted to save money. That meant that we didn't invite friends of our parents (unless they were legitimately our friends, too), and we didn't invite colleagues unless we still planned to be friends with them once we left our positions. In the short-term, some of those decisions stung a bit. There was definitely awkwardness and a bit of anger at the ten-minute mark. But for us, the awkwardness and anger definitely dissipated by the ten-month mark, and most certainly will be a distant memory by the ten-year mark.

But your immediate family is a different story. I imagine the ramifications of your decision will still be around by the ten-year mark, so you should definitely make your decision carefully (although I still support whatever decision you make!).

There are different ways to deal with the messed-up-ness of our families. First, we can completely separate from them, as you're suggesting. Or, you can make a decision mentally and emotionally that you aren't going to let their "stuff" bother you. You can cultivate duck feathers, if you will, and let all of it just roll right off of you (easier said than done!).

The two reasons you cite for not wanting your family at your wedding sound like things that are in your realm of control. Although you can't control what your family does to upset you, you can control whether or not it actually upsets you. The same goes for the embarrassment issue. You can't control their actions, but you can control your response to their actions. Besides, your guests are going to have lots of other things to think about (like how happy they are for you).

But like I said, the choice is definitely yours to make!

I wish you the very best...

Wondering whether you have to send Save the Dates? Wondering how to build an equitable partnership? Wondering how to handle pressure from your parents? E-mail me your questions, and I'll take a stab at answering them!

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Anonymous said...

This post came at such a good time for me! My wedding is in less than a month, and I'm really struggling right now with my decision to not invite my mom for very similar reasons. For me, it was never really a question about whether she would be invited or not, but what this decision of mine means is very painful. She knows I'm engaged, but doesn't know I'm getting married so soon, and my way of dealing with it will be to write her a letter in the next few weeks before the wedding to let her know, and then mail it to her afterwards. I felt like this way, I can emotionally process what I need beforehand, send it out after the fact so I don't have to worry about her showing up and crashing the wedding (which she would, and it would be terrible), and still let her know that I got married. I think I will use this letter-writing to process some of my feelings towards her that I've never articulated to her before, which is something I've felt the need to do for a long time.

Thank you both for this post...it is nice to know that I'm not the only one struggling with a similar situation. How have other people dealt with this kind of thing?

Alotta Lettuce said...

My husband and I did not invite any family at all, outside of our parents and his brother.

That means my grandmothers, my estranged sister, aunts, uncles, cousins - none of them were invited.

We did this because a: we had a very small budget for a very small wedding, b: we wanted our guest list to be comprised ONLY of those people who know us best and love us most, which - for us - is our family of choice, rather than our family of origin, and c: all of them live out of state.

This decision was a contentious one, indeed, but nearly 2 years later, I'm still happy we had the wedding we did, with the guests we did.

We informed our parents of our decision to not invite any extended family members early in the planning process, and they all seemed fine with it.

Months later, however, my mother in law came to have a problem with it, hoping to have her 11 siblings (and their spouses) invited. My guess is that as the wedding neared and she spoke with her siblings about generalized plans, they began to make comments indicating that they assumed they'd be invited, and she didn't know how to tell them that they weren't.

I think she also got excited about the prospect of having something of a family reunion, which is understandable, but was not at all compatible with our budget or the logistics of our wedding, which was held in the backyard of some good friends of ours. Adding 22 more people to our guest list would have been a 50% increase in guests and would have required us to have a completely different kind of wedding in a different (likely more expensive) place, which wasn't a realistic option for us.

As for my sister and grandmothers - I haven't seen or spoken to my sister in 12 years, and my grandmothers are far too old to travel out of state, so it was a no brainer that they wouldn't be there.

Anonymous said...

If your family is truly toxic, then I would suggest you not waste your energy trying to control your response to them, nor should you feel bad about not inviting them.

I did not invite my father to my wedding, and I do not foresee ever regretting that decision. It was a difficult decision, but ultimately it was the only decision that felt fair to me.

Lauren said...

I am not inviting my father to the wedding as he is no longer in my life. This is something that his family does not approve of. At first I wanted to invite my aunts and uncles and grandmother from that side however one of my uncles was very antagonistic about my decision to not have my father in my life or at the wedding. Only you know what you can and cannot handle emotionally and it is up to you to decide what is best for you. I made the decision that I did not want anyone at my wedding who would not be happy for me and supportive. This meant that none of my family on my father's side will be there. While it was a difficult decision to make I feel much more comfortable knowing that they will not be there. There is a huge difference between family being annoying (which you can let roll off you) and family being toxic and emotionally damaging. When people's actions put them into the toxic category I feel strongly that it is better to protect and distance yourself. Good luck with your decision.

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