The drama-minimizing guide to not inviting family members to your wedding

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons.

Ug. This is a post no one wants to write, but that definitely needs to be written. Most of us really do wish our weddings could be sweet celebrations of love and family, commitment and community. Unfortunately, for a whole bunch of legitimate reasons ranging from addiction to abuse, crime to communication problems, some of you are going to face the challenge of not inviting certain family members (or ANY family members) to your wedding.

It's going to suck. Obviously, no one article can work for every tangled family situation, but let's see if we can help you make it suck a little less.

Be sure

We're not going to get into why you're not inviting given family members. We're just going to assume that you feel you've got a really, truly legitimate reason. It's not our place to judge the legitimacy, and ultimately it doesn't matter: if you feel it strongly, then that's your decision to make. You just need to be sure. Really, really sure. Talk to your partner. Talk to your friends. Possibly even talk to a counselor. This is going to be hard, so you need to be completely solid in your decision.

Be accountable

Once you've made the decision, you need to hold yourself completely accountable. This is not about what the other person did to you. This is about you feeling like you're making the best decision you can for yourself and your wedding.

As always, you can't control other people or their behavior. You can only control and take responsibility for your reaction. If not inviting family members feels like the best solution for a toxic situation, that's cool… but don't make it about what they did. Own your reaction, and be accountable for the fact that the decision not to invite family is going to hurt people's feelings, full stop. (Even if you think they hurt you first, it doesn't matter. The decision not to invite someone is all on you.)

Be honest

The worst thing you can do when there's drama approaching is propagate it by not being up-front in addressing it. Yes, it's going to suck, but you can't put it off. You need to confront the situation quickly and directly. Don't put it off, and don't use platitudes. You likely do not ever need to contact someone to tell them they're not invited to your wedding, but if they or another family member ask you about an invitation, we suggest you use straight-forward, un-charged language. Here are a few examples:

  • "I'm not comfortable having you/them attend our wedding. I'm sorry, but my decision has been made."
  • "I understand this will probably be upsetting, but I've made the difficult decision not to invite you/them to our wedding. I'm just not comfortable with you/them being there. I'm sorry."

If you want to discuss why you're not inviting the person, by all means do — but make it clear that the decision is final. We also fully support just drawing a boundary:

  • "It's hard for me talk about the reasons behind the decision, because they're emotional and painful. At this point, my decision has been made and it is final. I'm sorry. I'm done talking about this."

Stand your ground

When other family members hear that you're not inviting someone, they may threaten not to attend your wedding. As one Offbeat Bride Tribe member shared:

Do not cave to emotional blackmail, do not cave and fight with people over this — this is your choice and you have to stand firmly by it. "I'm sorry you won't be there but that's your decision" is your mantra, your rock, your hard place and your go to reply. If you can't not cave, don't start this. I cannot stress that enough.

My policy is to discuss my decision once with a person — and then no more. If someone presses, I give them a warning: "I am not going to talk about this any more." Then end the conversation if the warning is not heeded: "Well, I have to go now. Love you, talk to you later."

Refuse to fight over it

If someone starts debating your decision, give them a warning that it's not something you want to discuss. If they don't respect that, then politely end the conversation. Don't get triggered into arguing or rehashing old wounds. It's not worth your time. If your decision has made, then all fighting over it accomplishes is wasting time and energy better spent elsewhere. Be loving, but be firm.

If someone starts fishing for an invitation, politely refuse to do battle. Simply state that the person will not be receiving an invitation, and then respectfully decline to answer further questions.

  • "This has been a really difficult decision, but it's one I feel very firmly about. I don't want to talk about it any more, I'm sorry."

Focus on the family you ARE inviting

In getting ready for the wedding, focus on the people who you DO know love and support you. Find friends and family who you can count on and spend some time thinking about how awesome that is. Thank those who are involved in your life and find ways to recognize what they mean. You could even add a bit to your ceremony telling them that if they were there, they are family.

Try to minimize times that would highlight your family not being present, if possible. Be aware of all wedding moments where both families are usually included, and find ways to feel good about your friends and/or partner's family stepping in, or consider to minimize the family moments.

Allow yourself to grieve

It can be hugely valuable to take the time to acknowledge and grieve the loss of an important relationship (or any huge disappointment), regardless of how it happens. Yes, make this wedding your own and celebrate what you have, but also acknowledge to yourself that you are grieving some lost relationships, and that grieving will be an important part of letting go and moving on.

Be compassionate

Yeah, this is going to suck. Yeah, you're going to find yourself in truly awful conversations that could dredge up a lot of painful family history. But challenge yourself to find as many ways as possible to be loving, appreciative, and gracious in your conversations about not inviting family.

If family members push to come to the wedding, consider whether you're open to repairing your relationship with them separate from them attending the wedding. Obviously, estrangement is always an option — and in some situations, it may be your best option. Ultimately, there are relationship dynamics here that are much larger than just a wedding invitation, and it's worth considering carefully whether, once your wedding is over, you want to leave the door open to reconciliation.

Seek help

In certain situations, there may be issues like restraining orders involved. In some cities, the local family court may have helplines or a help desk where you can ask for legal advice related to extreme situations like restraining orders.

We'd love to hear from couples who've got through this challenge — what methods did you use to minimize drama? What language did you use to talk to both those who were not invited, as well as those who WERE invited and upset by your decisions?

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  1. This, times a millionty. I am currently in a situation that may lend itself to a hard decision in the future. It would be extremely helpful to hear how others handled this, so I can see and know to expect a realistic amount of backlash (what type, how hard, etc). Although every situation is unique, it is helpful to know that these decisions have been made in the past, and that (for better or worse) others have survived.

    30 agree
  2. I didn't invite my mother to my wedding. Luckily our relationship had deteriorated years before I was working on invites and everyone in the know knew what to expect. I did worry that she would just show up anyways–I had to take extra precautions in communications with my sister and on social media–but everything otherwise was drama free. I agree with the article in that it is important to take responsibility and not blame the actions of the other party. That act in itself is freeing and helps to ensure that YOU are moving forward.

    34 agree
    • I had the same issue with not inviting my mother. Although I wasn't in communication with her I was worried old mutual friends on Facebook would let it slip, and I wasn't prepared to have her show up at the wedding. Instead I decided to keep all talk of it on social networks to an absolute minimum until the last minute, although I still expected her to show up.

      Totally agree with this whole post – if you don't want someone, don't invite them. It's your wedding! I had to stand my ground with the in-laws coming up with a crazy long guest list and just told them straight, this isn't 'informal' or 'small' as we wanted and that was that.

      15 agree
      • I needed to read this today and see that others have been there. Thanks!
        We are 1.5 weeks out and I am having to police facebook daily just to make sure that no one mentions the wedding date. My greatest fear is that my mother will show up and ruin our day. I can't really talk about this to acquaintances or friends who don't know her because they just don't understand how I could have a wedding and not want my mother there.

        28 agree
    • How did you say this? I am not inviting my brother or sister to my wedding but am my dad and step mum. They've already made noises about not getter an invite (prob should have dealt with it earlier so I haven't helped). Thing is it's all about them and my sister loves a drama. Not seen my sister for 18 months and my brother the same, even then it was a fleeting encounter. Would really appreciate the advice.

      2 agree
  3. I am in the situation where I have people not attending because I invited one person that they don't think should be there. There has been so much manipulation already that it is exhausting, I've debated about eloping multiple time because if it. The suggestions for this post is actually almost word for word what I have said, so thank you!

    27 agree
    • I dealt with that to a certain extent. I invited my half-sister, things are weird with her and my mom. I didn't know she existed until I was 12, but as adults, she's invited me to her baby shower and some other events, so my husband and I invited her to our wedding. I'd like a relationship with her and my nephew. My mom threatened to faint or throw up, and then lost a ton of weight (like, unhealthy low weight) just before our wedding. She guilted me about it a lot, but I wasnt willing to offend my sister simply because my mom doesn't like her. nothing happened at our wedding, my mom and dad went over and said hi. I'm glad we invited my sister. you and your partner have to make the decisions about who to invite together.

      16 agree
  4. I needed this article SO bad today, along with the one for accountability for your decisions.

    Just a few days ago, I decided that our wedding was NOT the place for my whole family to meet my brother's new girlfriend. I'm trying to get rid of any possibility for drama to occur.

    Now, I'm the bad guy, to my brother and my parents. How did that happen? No idea.

    I've just got to learn to stick to my decisions, and stand my ground.

    26 agree
      • You would think so, right?
        Nope, it's not that important to him, for some reason. His girlfriend is important to him, but the concept of her meeting his family isn't important enough to make the time to do it at a different time.
        Priorities, huh?

        11 agree
    • This is just my opinion, but I'd be really hurt if you excluded my significant other just because they hadn't had a chance to meet the family yet. I agree with the poster who said that your brother should take responsibility and invite his girlfriend over for dinner or something- I mean really, how hard is it to get together at a restaurant if it's that important to him? But in the end, your wedding day is a celebration of love between two people. If you exclude your brother's girlfriend, you are basically expecting him to come celebrate your love while ignoring his. This woman could feasibly be your SIL some day- I think you'd want to start off on the right foot with her. I understand not wanting strangers at your wedding, but couples are a part of a social unit and should NEVER be split up unless the significant other has physically threatened you, stole from you, tried to break you up, etc. Not knowing them isn't a good reason. I just think this is a really weird hill for you to want to die on.

      As a personal example, my boyfriend's mother got married a couple years ago. We had been dating I think a little over a year at this point, so I had definitely been around a while and had met most of the inner family, but I had never had a chance to meet their close-knit but out-of-town extended relatives. As she chose to keep invites to mostly family and close friends, I'm sure she wanted the day to be very intimate, and she could have used that as a reason to exclude me. But she wouldn't hear of me not attending and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet some of my boyfriend's relatives I wouldn't typically have a chance to see. I don't think it took any of the focus away from his beautiful mother or her wedding day. If you decide to push this issue, I think you are unnecessarily making your wedding day a point of contention between yourself, your brother and girlfriend, and other family members.

      33 agree
      • Normally, I would agree with you. But my brother has vocally said that he doesn't feel that it's necessary to introduce us to her before the wedding. It's not about not having the chance, it's about not feeling the need to.
        And to that, I completely disagree. If I'm important enough in his life to have her come to the wedding, I'm important enough to get introduced before hand, so that the wedding day is NOT made all about meeting her.

        40 agree
        • Eh, I can see both sides of it, but I do agree with you. He sounds like he's being really ridiculous for no good reason!

          I think I'd still invite her for the sake of keeping the peace, but I'd be pissed about it too. And I feel really bad for his girlfriend- I'm sure she feels weird about him refusing to introduce you, and if she came to the wedding, she would have the added stress of meeting a bunch of family on an already emotionally-charged day! I hope your wedding goes well and you don't have to deal with any more silly drama 🙂

          8 agree
          • Yeah, the decision's been made. I've told him how I feel, and told him that if he wants to come to the wedding to share in the joy of the day with us, then he's more than welcome to.
            If he feels like he HAS to come just cause he's family, I honestly don't want him there.
            Anything that will make the day easier for me and Mike will be for the best.

            10 agree
          • I've received invitations from friends that includes "and guest" without expectation of any kind whether or who might accompany me–boyfriend, sibling, or coworker.

            I've also been "not" invited by a sibling to my sibling's 2nd and 3rd weddings, as well as that of my sib's child. My question is how or whether to acknowledge these "family" weddings.

            1 agrees
      • I totally agree that your wedding is just that – YOUR WEDDING – and you should not have to invite anyone you don't want to – plain and simple. This is especially true if the person paying for the wedding (in my case, not me) is determining that certain people will not be given a "plus one" and others will…that is the person's decision who is paying! I'm blaming it on that person! For example, my fiance's sister's boyfriend is not invited, but none of my fiance's siblings were given a "plus one" by the person paying…so I refuse to feel "bad" about it.

        5 agree
        • My niece had a very small wedding and no Aunts or uncles were invited. 3 days before the wedding she had a cancellation an I got an invitation. I told her I wouldn't feel right going without my sister being included. Turns out she had already been invited along with her daughter (over 30 years old). My sister hid that fact from me and I was devastated. I declined to go as the invitation did not include my handicapped husband. The longer it goes, the more angry and hurt I get. Am I wrong to feel this way?

          3 agree
          • The premise of the decision not to invite a good family member is that the person who made the decision had a legitimate reason for not inviting that person. Here, the niece's "legitimate reason" for not inviting you and your disabled husband appears to be that she wanted to keep the wedding small, perhaps because she and her fiance did not want to incur the expense of additional guests. Assuming that there is no other more legitimate reason for not including you (and your husband), then I would conclude that the niece's decision reflects that she feels closer to your sister than she does to you (and your husband). But that's just a guess. There may be other reasons at play. Do you care what those reasons are? Do you want to know, for example, that your husband's handicap makes your niece uncomfortable? If you want to know the reasons, I'd ask her. You may not get a straight answer, but you can assess whether the answer appears to be truthful or not. If, however, she just feels closer to your sister than to you, and even less close to your husband, and she just needs to draw the line somewhere to avoid incurring another $100 for the reception dinner, are you okay with that? I'm sure that will hurt at first. On the other hand, in time you also might need to admit that there are some relatives you like better than others. Were I to receive an invitation from a niece to her wedding that excluded my wife, I hope that my answer would be to decline by saying, "I'm not comfortable attending your wedding without my wife. It just wouldn't be very much fun. Enjoy your wedding." When my daughter gets married and I'm paying for it, I know where to draw the line to avoid expenses I'd rather not incur.

            1 agrees
      • You say "significant other". I saw "girlfriend." There is a WORLD of difference between those two terms. Yes, I did lose a friend because I refused to invite "boy/girlfriends" to a wedding. We only invited *fiances* because we agreed that this was a wedding, not a casual party, & we refused to have a wedding album full of people we either did not know, &/or who would have disappeared within a month of the wedding. And our instincts were correct: the "friend" I lost was only trying to bring this guy because she didn't want to have to "show up alone" to our wedding. When she tried forcing the issue by insisting on how much he LIKED me (after our 7 minute meeting at a casual party), I told her to come with other friends who were invited, but she just simply decided not to show up. After telling me she would. And the "serious boyfriend"? She stopped dating him within weeks of being told she couldn't bring him. The Voice of Experience is telling all you couples out there: stick to your guns, it is *your right*!

        5 agree
  5. I did not invite about half of my mom's side of the family to my wedding. Two of my aunts were becoming toxic with their anger with the side of her family I get along better with. Long story short, I chose to invite the people I got along with better, and not invite others who I was concerned could cause drama, or had caused drama in the past.

    It was TOUGH. It meant not inviting younger cousins that I wished I could have invited, but their parents were not welcome. It meant not having my biological grandmother there, and it meant saying no.

    I didn't get a lot of guilt trip about it, my mom agreed whole-heartedly with my decisions, which is great. But not sending that invite to someone who helped raise you, who's children you helped raise… that's tough. I'm still sad that their issues and my feelings about them made all this happen.

    9 agree
    • This is the same situation I'm getting ready to be in. Once I get ready to send invitations, most of my mom's side of the family won't be invited. They are almost all back-stabbing and conniving, and I'd rather not have them there. They all live several states away, so we hardly see them anyways, but I'm nervous about how they'll handle it. I think the only people from that side that will be invited are my grandparents and I don't know how my mom's 9 brothers and sisters will handle it. Any advice?

      3 agree
    • I'm in this situation now where my fiancĂ© and I have decided to exclude family members from my moms side of the family. Yes they will be hurt and I accept that but not at the price for having to babysit the drama on my wedding day. I cannot have people there who are fake or live through the past. I'm looking for small and intimate with people I want. If you can't keep my mouth shut and you stir the family drama pot don't be waiting by the mailbox. I will be using these tips if I have to talk to the excluded and especially with a cousin who feels it's her duty to give input on everything. Glad I'm not alone and others have similar situations.

      6 agree
  6. I haven't even sent out invites, just mocked up a guest list and have already encountered trouble. I only want a small ceremony with friends and immediate family, and when I told my mum where we were thinking of going for the ceremony she got upset because my grandparents live not far from the venue. That was just a suggestion for where we could go, and already there was tension and tears and arguing. I kept getting the line "But I'll have to explain why you don't want them there, I'll have to do that" to which I said "Tell them to call me, I'll explain." But that wasn't good enough apparently. I've changed all my plans, which I think has sort of turned out for the best, because of that conversation. This has really helped. If we have any other troubles, I will definitely be referring to the wording here.

    8 agree
  7. I didn't invite certain family members to my wedding and I'm soo thankful for that. The day was drama free and full of happiness.

    17 agree
    • My niece is getting married and inviting no one from our family. Her mother is a drama queen who falls out with everyone every six months or so, and her daughter is taking a cue from her. I don't care that I'm not invited, but it is a very nasty thing to do to my 85-year-old widowed mother; this is her first grandchild to be married, and the little darling exploited my mother's generosity for years. She hit my mother up for tuition money by telling her a sob story, and my mother is not rich. She and her fiance are putting on airs, they think they are society folk now. It may be "her day" but it's also rather pathetic.

      2 agree
    • I also was not invited to my niece's wedding, and that was fine with me. I detest weddings, and my sister is also a drama queen, so I avoid her as much as possible. I don't hold it against my niece.

      When I got married 35 years ago, it never crossed my mind to invite certain people, including my sister. That was just not what I wanted my wedding and my marriage to be about. She was probably hurt, but drama queens are hurt by every little thing.

      Reading these comments, I feel the need to point out this article is supposed to be showing you the DRAMA-FREE way to exclude family/relatives.

      Just do it.

      1 agrees
  8. I'm not having toxic relationship drama at all, but more of a meh-i-don't-care-for-them drama. My father's sister is nice, we have gone to their place for many family christmasses and she has always sent me birthday gifts. However I have never really spoken to her husband, and my two cousins are, frankly, quite odd. I don't want to be saying my special vows in front of them, but how could I just invite my aunt without the drama of not inviting the rest of her family?

    4 agree
    • You can't. You can invite your aunt and her husband but not cousins if you're not inviting other cousins. But, baring some major reason, if you invite someone, you need to invite their spouse. Feeling "meh" about them is not a reason to invite one but not the other.

      22 agree
      • Agreed. Short-term boyfriend or girlfriends are a gray area, but spouses are a package deal to weddings, unless there is a big issue with one.

        18 agree
        • Anyone who considers themselves a couple, in a relationship, needs to be invited with their significant other. This means that your friends who have been dating for thirty years and your cousin's girlfriend of one month. Who are you (not you personally, you in general) to judge how valid someone else's relationship is? My parents dated for 8 years before they got married, while my aunt and uncle got engaged after 3 months of dating. Based on some people's stupid "no ring no bring" policies (or the "well if they've been together X amount of days/weeks/months/years, then it's fine" mentality), my aunt and uncle would have been split up at their 2 month dating mark, while my parents wouldn't have, even though my aunt and uncle were clearly much more serious about each other at that point.

          12 agree
          • I partially disagree with you on this. Our wedding is being kept very small, and me and my fiance decided early on that if you aren't in a relationship at the time we create the guest list, then we aren't making room for a plus one that we don't have room for, especially if it's one that we've never met. It's not that we are judging whether someone's relationship is or isn't valid, but that we are drawing the line on who we feel comfortable inviting to our wedding. There are several different reasons why a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend may not be invited and a simple black and white rule that ALL must be invited is a tad unrealistic. Of course, if you're not inviting someone's significant other, then there should be some kind of valid reason, I would agree with that, and not just because they haven't been dating very long or aren't married (that is unrealistic as well, given the day and age we live in).

            For example, my mother's boyfriend is not invited to the wedding. I know him, but I also know that he isn't exactly someone I would want to have at my wedding, because of several things that I won't get into here but also because of the above rule that we set. I've taken ownership of this and have flat out said he's not invited (similar to the wording above), and am dealing with the potential that she won't come to the wedding either. I am standing my ground, however, because he is not someone I want there.

            25 agree
          • Again, I must disagree with you; no one was a *right* to be invited to anything. And if a couple sets rules with which they are comfortable, then it's easier for all concerned. Anyone who takes a non-invitation based on certain rules as being a personal rejection is the one with issues, not the bride & groom. What you call "stupid" other people call wise, especially since it is a common sense idea. Just because you know people for whom it did not apply doesn't mean most people's relationships don't work pretty much that way.

            8 agree
          • I don't agree. I am having a small and intimate wedding. Only 30 people all together. I don't want everyone's boyfriends or girlfriends there if i am not sure that they will still be in the picture 5 years from now. I dont want to look back at my wedding albums 20 years from now and go: 'who the hell is that dude?'. I had to tell my mother now that her new boyfriend isn't invited. First off. She's still married (even though her current husband hasnt been here for 10 years, she's still married) and dating other people. 2ndly, I am only inviting very intimate family, and very intimate friends. The new boyfriend isn't in that circle. I dont have a clue who he is, I don't know him @ all. 3rdly, i cannot garentee they will be together for another year (like i said, you dont want to look back on your photos and wonder who this guy is). 4thly, my mother has a place @ the main table, he cannot sit there! Where will he sit? He knows no-one else @ the wedding. 5thly, my fiance and I are paying for the wedding ourselves, my mother isn't paying. So sorry, but if she doesn't want to come because it is *her right* to bring a plus one and i should grow up, then it really is her own problem. Getting married is a decision of spending a life together, *till death do us part*. I firmly believe in that. Even if nobody still does that today, i still walk the line God wanted everyone to walk. Nobody can force me to invite girlfriends or boyfriends just because of the 'morale' standards (which i see as very low standards) of modern days. It is my wedding, and I have *the right* to decide who i want there and who i dont want there.

            8 agree
    • It all depends on how you word your invitation. Are the cousins older, like over the age of 18? If that is the case you can just exclude them from the invitation. Please keep in mind that excluding her spouse would be extremely rude, especially if other people show up with their spouses and her invitation was just for her.

      What my husband and I did was on our RSVP we printed the recipient's name and how many guests they were allotted.

      "Mr & Mrs. John Doe
      ___ of 2 attending"

      We only had one person call to say, "hey, I need to bring my grandson…" and then they canceled at the last minute.

      13 agree
    • I see some comments saying you can't do certain things certain ways, regarding who not to invite.
      I think there are some decisions that may not be nice according to a lot of us, and some decisions that many would think do not have a good enough reason behind them. In the end though, you can still decide to do whatever it is that YOU want.

      It might be seen as mean, it might make a lot of people mad. It might be seen as selfish or cold.

      OR maybe those not invited will be "meh" as well.

      Whatever the case, as the post mentions – you'll be accountable. So think very hard on it, and make those decisions wisely.
      Do it your way, but own the outcome.

      28 agree
  9. We have been going through this decision making process with my deceased fathers family. The relationships have been tense, to say the least, for about a year now. We had been waffling, him not wanting the there but me not being ready to nail the coffin shut. This all culminated with a grandparent medical issue over the weekend which led to a 30 minute phone call where I was just slammed from top to bottom. It truly is a grieving process. I needed this post so much today. 🙂

    6 agree
  10. Thank you for this. We're likely going to be going through this with my fiance's family (specifically his mom) – my Fiance cut off contact with her earlier this year but I expect there to be some form of drama when it comes time to have the invitations come out.

    So bookmarking this.

    1 agrees
  11. I love almost all of this advice, but I'd like to include a word of caution about some of the wording, namely the inclusion of "I'm sorry" in the boundary-setting statements. The words "I'm sorry" are very powerful, and carry a lot of connotations depending on the situation in which they're used. In my years of work on myself, I've learned that they're sometimes overused and for the wrong reasons.

    Depending on the audience, saying "I'm sorry" can imply that you don't really mean what you're saying. And, really when you think about it, if you've decided the toxic influences in your life are to be excluded *for a reason*, there's no need to apologize for the decision, but there will be *plenty* of reasons to mean what you're saying.

    I think in the west, women at least are taught to not be 'mean' by apologizing (preemptively?) for causing upset. But ultimately, we're not responsible for someone else's feelings. If you're making the decisions that are best for you and your Significant Other, there's no need to apologize for that, except maybe in cases of accidental injury (i.e. "I'm sorry we accidentally landed on you in our Sky Dive to the Wedding Site! Get well soon!").

    Perhaps instead of "I'm sorry, but the decision is final," some folks would be better served by "The decision is final, and I hope you can respect our wishes even if you disagree," or "I don't intend to discuss this any more, and I hope you can be sensitive to my reasons even though I won't go into detail about it." It sets a clear boundary and rather than undermining the speaker's determination, reinforces that the decision was a personal and sensitive one that probably took a lot of thought.

    134 agree
  12. We had some trouble of this sort at our own wedding. But, in our case, we had a to tell my father in law that he couldn't invite whoever he wanted without asking us. None of our parents invited their cousins, and he decided to ask some of his cousins that he hadn't seen in many, many years. Having the conversation explaining that our wedding wasn't a family reunion was hard, but it needed to be done. It was especially important seeing as the invitations had been out for months, and the guest list was full.

    I also had a friend who made it very clear that she wasn't joining us because someone she had a conflict with at our work was in my bridal party. If I chose to not include her in the wedding, she would be happy to come. I had to tell her, calmly, that her personal feelings had nothing to do with our day, and what she decided to do was her business. Because I refused to omit one of my closest friends from my bridal party, I lost a friend who refused to act like a grown up.

    24 agree
    • I believe weddings should be family reunions. The wedding creates a reason to get the family together. I think the "my day" thing is just terribly selfish, and very short-sighted. When you marry someone, you marry their family – a wedding should celebrate the formation of the whole new family, not just the couple. It has to be limited by finances, of course; but picking and choosing one relative here and one there is incredibly rude. You cannot sanitize the rest of your life. It will be remembered by the whole family, not just the uninvited. You may be burning more bridges than you know. Many people may see you as the problem in the relationship. If you are mature enough to get married, you should be mature enough to stand a little "drama" for the sake of future family relationships.

      4 agree
  13. Thank you so much for this. I'm not inviting my brother to my wedding. My parents would very much like to make up some elaborate excuse as to "why he can't come even though he was totally invited." I'm sticking to my guns about being honest about it. I'd really rather tell the 40 or so members of my family that attend some variation on "he wasn't invited" than have them ask me questions about his life that I frankly can't answer because I don't care to know.

    This just gave me some extra and needed support.

    14 agree
    • Laura M, I agree with you. There is no reason to lie about why he's not there.

      We were in the opposite situation – we wanted my husband's brother and his family to be at our wedding but we do not have a good relationship with his wife (she is toxic and everyone in the family knows it). She told us that we only invited her to our wedding because she was married to his brother (well that is true since we wouldn't know her otherwise). That said we did want her and their kids at our wedding as they are family and family is very important to us. We worked for months to mend bridges with them. Each time they found another reason to be mad at us (I think that the longest truce was two weeks before they brought up something else that happened months earlier to be mad at us about again).

      A few weeks before our wedding things blew up. We didn't even know what was wrong because they flat out refused to talk to us – my FIL had to tell us. My husband talked to his brother and SIL on the phone (we live an hour away) numerous times in the weeks leading up to the wedding and they kept refusing to come to our wedding unless we worked things out with them (his brother was our Best Man). We tried to set up meetings with them in person and things never worked out (they usually made excuses as to why a certain day or time wouldn't work and then we scheduled a meeting and they "forgot" about it and were double booked so they couldn't make it). Three days before our wedding we were told that they were just going to stay out of our way for the weekend so we could enjoy ourselves. Their parents were pretty upset about the situation (in the month leading up to our wedding my husband was ordered to apologize for something he didn't do many times by his parents just to get things patched up, he had already tried apologizing and they refused to accept his apology). My MIL is very much about appearances and was wondering what people would say at the wedding and wondered what she should say if people asked her wear her other son was. (His parents agreed on saying that something came up – I thought that this line was BS since for a sibling to miss a wedding the "thing" that came up would have to be very serious – family emergency, a death in the family, serious illness). In the end, his brother showed up (alone) for the ceremony and he didn't go to the reception. He's in some pictures so my MIL is happy. No one asked about where he was because everyone knows how his wife is.

      3 agree
  14. this whole topic is a big contributing factor to why i want to have a private ceremony with just my love and i and our officiant when i get married.

    28 agree
  15. I agonised over family issues. I had anxiety attacks over people being mad at me. I had people come to my wedding 'in secret' (fun fact – every body knows). And what was remarkable was the total lack of fallout. Maybe people were a bit butthurt because I invited some cousins and not others. If they were, I didn't hear about it, nor have they expressed it to me by being pissy at family events that have happened since. I think *gasp* they maturely accepted that I have stronger friendships with some cousins than others, owing to having more in common with some than others. Were there some people I invited that I could have happily left off the list? Yes. I think the biggest lesson I learned was choosing your battles. If you know you family like I do, you know who will cause the biggest drama and you minimise that. At least that's what I did. It was bad enough I didn't have certain members in my wedding party, so I made sure they at least got an invite to the reception. One of my great aunts made a big deal of not wanting to go the reception around my other great aunts, so none of them were upset when they didn't get invited.

    Of course the irony of the whole situation is that the person I thought would be most judgey about my wedding died a week before. Which, you know, sad and all. But ultimately saved a whole lot of anxiety really.

    9 agree
  16. Great advice! Both my sister and I are planning small weddings and having a hard time with our mother not understanding why we wouldn't want to invite all of our extended family members. We get along with everyone and know people will be disappointed, but firm in our decisions. This posts and comments is really helping with not only what to say to extended family (who have all assumed they are coming), but also what to start saying to our mom about it too.

    7 agree
  17. I dealt with this partly by not inviting any family except for our parents. I didn't want people complaining that I'd played favorites by inviting this relative and not that one, so no one got an invite. One person confronted me, but everyone else just talked about me behind my back.
    But the truth is, the people you want at your wedding are the ones who are going to say, "You don't want me there? Okay, that sucks since I'd like to be there, but I support whatever choice you make and that includes excluding me. I'll get to see pictures, though, right?"

    18 agree
  18. Thank you so much for this! My issues concern old friends who I don't feel a connection to anymore for various reasons, but who may expect invitations. I dread the idea of explaining, but will use this if the need arises!

    4 agree
  19. YES. Yes! Yes!
    I am currently holding my breath, hoping my mother will not notice the absence of some of her nephews and nieces from the guest list; one of them is an asshole, the others I have not seen since my grandfather's funeral (which was TWELVE YEARS AGO, just sayin'), and I could walk by them on the street and have no clue who they were. All the same, I have a sneaking suspicion she is going to be angry, since we're inviting all my FH's many cousins (his family is super tight-knit and wonderful) and nearly all my dad's sisters' kids (also my folks are divorced and not really cool with each other). SO I know I'm playing with fire here, but this accountability business is great advice.
    With that said, I am inviting my stepdad, who doesn't like us and vice versa. My ardent hope is that he will be graceful and find somewhere else to be on the day, though I by no means expect that from him. I just really hope that not wanting to be anywhere near him isn't going to affect the way my mother and I are together on my wedding day. But like someone else said, yes, spouses are a package deal, and if it does, well, that's all I can do.

    3 agree
  20. We had to disinvite a family member from our wedding. They had sent an email, mistaken to another member of the family, asking inappropriate questions and stating that the situation made them want to "upchuck a little". For context, we're a same-gender couple.

    I left it up to my now-husband's discretion, as that is how we handled the guest list. He made the decision to not pursue the situation further and inform said relative they had made their opinion clear and that they would not be receiving an invitation. I supported him 100% in this decision (after talking it through and forthrightly telling him about my own lack of shock for reasons outside of context here).

    We informed his parents of our decision, and were supported. His sister was less supportive, as "family is family" in her words, but he stuck to his guns. He told her, point-blank "they're not supportive of us and so we've decided not to invite her. I'm not fighting with you about this. It is not your decision." Word spread quickly on that side through no effort of our own and, we found a lot of support for the decision we made.

    Estrangement looks like how everything is going right now, as there's been no movement towards an apology and we have no interest in soliciting one.

    It was incredibly painful to watch it all happen, but I can say it brought us closer together and made us a better team. Even if it was a shit situation.

    37 agree
    • Next time someone wants to guilt you into taking ABUSE (& that's what it was!) from a family member because "family is family", tell that person to "Tell it to [the abusive family member]!" How horrible that your sister-in-law didn't quite grasp that.

      13 agree
    • What you did is miss an opportunity to change that person's mind. Few would not be moved by witnessing a lovely, love-filled ceremony. And the truth is that some who support you intellectually may still feel some emotional qualm because of cultural background. He may just be more honest, if poorly spoken. Be generous – your actions will be judged by more than the uninvited.

  21. The Mister and I have decided my brother isn't welcome, in short, he scares me. I would feel uncomfortable and unhappy having him there. This is going to be difficult, as this puts unnecessary stress on my mother. She still believes someday everything will be alright. I'd feel like a huge prick making family cry but if he's there, -I- might cry. Thank you for writing this, I'm going to save it and stick to my guns.

    15 agree
  22. Oh gosh my situation I want to elope my partners family bag me and run me in to the ground. Meet them once and hes been told im not good enough. I have advoided them at every cost since.

    4 agree
  23. I didn't invite half of my mother's side of the family to our wedding. It was a little easier for us, as we only had 18 guests, so it was pretty easy to say, "Look, I'd love to invite you guys, but I really need to keep it small." There was a little fuss up, but as a pre-emptive strike, I called a younger family member on that side (who I also wasn't inviting) and explained things to him. I think younger people are more accepting of the idea that wedding conventions are changing, and so don't have as many established ideas of who should be invited. I just explained that I couldn't afford and didn't want a big wedding, that we had decided to do this quickly, and weren't interested in finding a big venue. I said I hope his feelings weren't hurt, and that I'd had trouble deciding where to draw the line between family members, spouses, etc, and just decided to have a firm cutoff. He was really helpful and communicated this to some of the rest of the family better than I could.

    To help smooth things over a bit, we threw a HUGE, casual get-together at our new place, and invited basically everyone. It wasn't expensive, because it was an outdoor potluck, nobody had to get dressed up or bring a present, and everyone had a terrific time. Most of the immediate family members who had been at the wedding didn't come to the party, some specifically to avoid the people who couldn't have been at the wedding in the first place (lots of family issues …), but that was ok, because they had been at the wedding.

    It worked well for us. Actually, axing a LOT of people is probably easier than axing a few … but I think the after-party was really helpful, too.

    11 agree
    • This is what we're planning to do as well. Small ceremony and reception. Only our closest friends and family and then a big ol backyard BBQ next summer for everyone else

      3 agree
  24. Thank you for this article. My FH's family is wonderful, and although not perfect (who's is ?) their respect and love shines through to anyone in contact with them. I am blessed to become a part of their family. My family on the other hand thrives on drama, addictions, secrets, bullying and borderline emotional abuse to keep the family together. I have worked hard to try and find peace within my family. When I was younger I tried to fix them, but like the article says you can't control others behaviours only your reaction to it. Then I tried to 'fit in' and found myself emotionally drained (to say the least). Then I tried to communicate with them about my feelings, they wouldn't have a bar of that. Then I tried to set reasonable boundaries, I was slammed and bullied for that. I have said that if they can't respect my boundaries not to contact me, my nan sister and mother haven't contacted me since. So now I am engaged it looks like we are only inviting my father and brother to our wedding. Thanks for giving me some words to go about navigating all of this!

    12 agree
  25. I chose to invite almost none of my father's family to my wedding. He died when I was a teenager and most of his brothers and sisters either stopped communicating with us or went out of their way to be as rude as possible. His mother informed everyone present at my uncle's wedding that I'm not welcome to be part of her family, since I'm more like my mum than I am like her.
    My fiance also has a large but disconnected family, many of whom are not invited simply because he hasn't seen them since he was a child. A couple of whom are not invited because they asked if they could only be invited to the reception, so they could have the free food without having to "waste time" attending the ceremony.
    We chose to have a small guest list with only the people important to us (and their significant others) invited, and told everyone that we had decided to celebrate with "those who supported us during our engagement."

    6 agree
  26. I'm not inviting anyone from my family except for my mother, brother and father. Everyone else has been out of my life, and would cause major drama for my fiancé and I. So, they're not welcome. If they have a problem with it, and ask about it later on, I'll tell them that I didn't need the unnecessary drama that I know will already be at my wedding thanks to fiancé's brother's wife.

    3 agree
  27. I'm not inviting my Grandmother to my wedding. She is incapable of behaving in a socially appropriate way at family events and functions in which she is not the center of attention. I've witnessed her behavior at my Mom's wedding, at my own birthday party or dinner when I was younger and any other family oriented celebrations and it's extremely embarassing and hurtful to the people who host the events. I want to protect myself, my finace and my guests from her.

    I'm having a hard time with my Mother on this. She supports my decision but she won't let me write a letter to my Grandmother explaining what's going on. She decided that I couldn't and that she herself wouldn't expressly tell my Grandmother that I had gotten engaged and we have begun planning. I'm living 1,500 miles away from my family and this is all extremely taxing.

    I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person on the planet who has crappy family dynamics that make important life events difficult to navigate.

    2 agree
  28. I like the direct approach. I ended up inviting all of my family even though I REALLY didn't want to. Ultimately I decided I could spend the day with the people I wanted while my cousins pretended they didn't know me, which would make my mom, with whom I am extremely close, happy (so, I invited these people because I knew it would really hurt my mom if I didn't).

    A few days before the wedding – maybe a week – my mom's younger sister sent me this nasty text about how she was so insulted that her daughter's boyfriend was not invited to my wedding. I really, REALLY wanted to respond in kind. My mom's family expects big hoopla weddings with froofy white dresses, DJs and sit-down five-course dinners, so I sort of understood where she was coming from. On the other hand, I greatly dislike this particular aunt and I can't stand her daughter, let alone her gross boyfriend who I barely even know. My husband and I had been VERY explicit about our feelings on plus ones, basically saying we worked hard to keep the gathering as small and intimate as possible and that we only wanted very close friends and family at the wedding. I mean we really were saying that right from jump street! I don't think we could have been any more clear.

    Anyhow, on to the directness bit, I ended up texting back: "I'm so sorry you feel that way, but we really wanted to keep it to close friends and family only. None of the cousins were allowed a plus one unless they were married, so please don't think we've singled you out. Similarly, it wouldn't be fair to the others if we allowed Mike to come. I hope you understand!" She never responded, via text or in person (which means that this is discussed endlessly behind closed doors), but it also totally diffused any drama that might have ensued otherwise.

    5 agree
  29. AHHH thank you for putting this up! My wedding is going to be smack-bang in the middle of a whole pile of family dramas – both a court case against my grandfather and my parents' recent separation. We will not be inviting my maternal grandparents, my fiance's parents (although he has never met his dad so that won't be an issue), and now he has told me he doesn't want my father to be invited.
    I would seriously consider just eloping if I wasn't required to do six months or so of marriage prep with my priest… I know it will be okay in the end and we will be married and can start a new baby family and leave all the crap behind but GAH so much stress and hurt and confusion!!

    1 agrees
  30. Thank you for this post! I am in this situation right now!
    My sister, who was my bridesmaid, is refusing to come to the wedding because my mother (who I've been estranged from for over four years) isn't invited. She keeps giving me the "she's your only mother" line and lacks the maturity to respect my decision or keep our relationship separate from her and my mothers or mine and my mothers.
    We are both pretty stubborn but I am adament that I won't be changing my mind. I've gone four years with no contact, my wedding is not an appropriate place for a reconciliation, even if I wanted one!
    I love the advice in the post about what to say, except I won't be apologising. I will respect her choices when it's her wedding and all I expect is the same courtesy in return.
    This does out my dad in a awkward position but I doubt he'll want her there either!
    Right, off to get a replacement bridesmaid – great timing sis, there's only 3 months to go..!

    6 agree
  31. I have a question pertaining to a tangent to this. My fiance and I are having a really really small wedding, just parents, siblings, and each of us our best friend who is closer than most of our families are to each of us respectively. I am really struggling with ways to tell my grandparents that we want to keep it really small and are having a reception afterwards for extended family (including them). I love them but we want the wedding to stay small for a lot of reasons and since inviting one set of grandparents means inviting all of them (another nearly 10 people) and that turns our party of 15 to a party of almost 25 (I told you it was small). We are a fairly quiet couple, we are each very private shy-before-crowds/dislike public speaking people. We are already bearing our souls to eachother in front of 13 other people, which is going to be hard for us, even if they are our closest, nearest, and dearest, it will be hard for us, and while we love our grandparents, it is overwhelming to think about bearing my soul in front of even more people. There are other reasons, such as the location requiring a small party and that the wedding is themed and we were providing all the costumes so no one else would have to, to name a couple, but the reading our very emotional and personal self-written vows to eachother in front of nearly double the amount of people (no matter how much we love them) is probably the biggest. What should I tell them? How do I handle this? Please, any advice at all would help. Has anyone else been here or somewhere similar?

    2 agree
  32. We chose not to have my 3 aunts at our wedding. They were all set to come, but right before invites went out they started legal proceedings against my mother. My father emailed them to tell them they wouldn't be invited. My parents never married and my dad lives out of state, so he was more than willing to deliver the message. He got the brunt of the reactions, but since it was all through email, he just ignored it. My now-husband spoke to one of my uncles and asked that they leave us alone. It mostly worked, I only received two nasty phone calls which I ignored. It was still upsetting, my family had not been getting along for while and everyone was thinking my wedding was going to help mend some of that.

    3 agree
  33. I chose not to invite extended family – specifically on my mother's side of the family – mostly due in part that they are crazy and full of family drama. Especially since my grandmother is getting her affairs in order due to her declining health – and we could not invite her due to location. She would not be able to attend by flying out in her condition.

    I didn't really have to deal with any inquiry into this. I sent them engagement announcements and not save the dates. That way if they wanted to have any contact they could. Only one of my aunts did contact me. Which was okay. My mom did get inquiries and she fielded them for me really – she just told them that it was a small wedding and that we'd only really be inviting close friends and immediate family. I don't think anyone really had issue with it, and if they did – I never got wind of it, nor would I really care if they did.

    1 agrees
  34. My family is really small and my mocked up guest list is only 55 people. My fiancé came up with 55 people that were JUST family. I started going down his list, asking him "when was the last time you saw this person? When was the last time you talked to this person?" When he realized that he hadn't seen or heard from 2/3 of his guest list since he was a child, he marked them off on his own lol

    1 agrees
    • I totally relate to this!

      I have a large family (that is spread across the country) that I am very close to so there was no question that we were going to invite them. A has a smaller family and they aren't as close (even though they all live within an hour of each other). While A was making his list I realized how little he knew about his extended family. He didn't know some of his cousins' spouses' names or their children's names (or even how many children they have). His mother reviewed the list and kept adding names to it. I kept asking how they were related to A, and then I asked when was the last time he saw them (usually the answer was when he was a kid). Due to a number of factors and family dynamics most of the people his mother added were invited (we set the limit at great-aunts and –uncles, but none of their children, etc.). These factors included that we were inviting even more people from my side (how can I say no when I already have 20 more people on my guest list), my father's philosophy about wedding invitations (he calls it your "Christmas family" – anyone who you would invite to Christmas if you were hosting it and there were no restrictions – that said, these probably aren't people we would invite for Christmas since I didn't even know that they existed), the fact my in-laws were hosting wedding related events (and it was clearly important to my MIL that these people be invited), and the drama that resulted when my BIL got married the year before and didn't invite some people due to financial constraints.

      In the end we invited 155 people (that includes a large number of children) which is more than I would have liked but it wasn't worth the drama to make the number smaller. In the end, just over 70 people actually came to our wedding which was a good number.

      1 agrees
  35. I was never going to invite a nasty aunt of mine. Unfortunately, my father (her brother) said that if I didn't invite her he wouldn't come. So I decided not to invite any family members other than my parents and my siblings. My FH wasn't keen on having his extended family invited either so he's happy to do the same.

    I'm not particularly close to my extended family anyway and I figure I'd rather have our friends there- people we have chosen to have in our life.

    4 agree
  36. I've been stressing myself silly about this very thing for the last couple of months and I still am struggling so much with it. My FH and I are working on finalizing our guest list so that I can start hunting down addresses to mail save the date cards in the next 3 weeks or so and I really don't think that I want to invite my father and his wife. He was cheating on my mom while she was delivering me and they divorced a few months later and while he did end up with visitation in the divorce.. that's really about as good as our relationship has ever been. He's a very manipulative person and he doesn't seem to care about anyone unless he wants something from them, typically money, which is why I'm finally trying to find my adult voice and put my foot down. His wife has problems too numerous to even get into, but alcohol pretty well sums it up.

    He knows I'm getting married this year, so just not telling him about the wedding isn't really an option since he already knows it's a thing. I would feel better not inviting him, and here and now saying this is a relationship that can't be fixed and then moving on with my life.. my FH is a little more like "let's just invite him to save you the stress of telling him he isn't invited" .. if we've never been close, is he really owed an explanation?

    3 agree
  37. My relations with my brother and his wife (and one sister and her husband) are a bit strained. I am the youngest of 4 and they have always had sarcastic, judgmental opinions of everything I've ever done. Ever since I got divorced (from a guy that I am still friends with), my brother has barely spoken to me because "Every time someone they know gets divorced, he has to explain to his girls that it won't happen to them." Forget the hypocrisy when I tell you that my brother was cheating on his wife regularly for years, and everyone knows about it.

    I am getting engaged this year and am dreading wedding planning. All of my family are in Philly, I am in Boston. My mom can not travel, neither can my second sister who has young kids, so I'd love to have it near them. But I'm also not sure I want to have it in Philly, since I'm in Boston.

    To complicate matters further, most of my friends are in Los Angeles. (I just moved to Boston a few years ago.) So, between my family and my friends, I'm not sure who would make it out to Boston. My family already begrudgingly traveled to Los Angeles for my first wedding, so I can just hear the complaining if they had to travel anywhere for a second one. I feel so stressed out and I haven't even gotten engaged! Do I just have it in Philly? They would probably be relieved if I didn't invite them, but that wouldn't keep them from complaining about how hurt they are for not being invited. I feel damned either way. Any suggestions?

    For the record, most of my fiance's family and friends are in Boston & New Jersey.

    2 agree
    • I would say just have it where you and FH want it. Feel free to send out invites, so that family cannot complain about not being invited. If they don't want to travel they don't have to accept your invitation. Maybe you could look into live streaming your wedding, or recording it home video style and offer to send it to family that wants to witness the event but not find a way out there and make note of it on the RSVPs?
      You know, something like:
      "We know that having the wedding at X place may make it difficult to attend, so we ask that if you would rather watch our special day from afar please let us know so that we may send out the footage from our wedding for your viewing pleasure right in the comfort of your own home!"

      3 agree
    • I just want to do a follow up here of what happened in the end. We had our wedding in a public park. Just me, him and his 2 daughters, and Justice of the Peace and a photographer. The weather even warmed up to 60 degrees so we were comfortable standing outside for it! We said vows to each other, then individually to the girls. I wanted them to know that I am not just marrying their dad, but they are part of my commitment too. After, we went to a restaurant where 20 friends were waiting. They didn't know about the marriage, just thought that it was an engagement celebration. The host announced, "Please welcome the new Mr and Mrs T!" and everyone congratulated us. We had an amazing dinner. Such a great day. The following week, I called my 82 yo mom and told her all about it. She was so understanding and gracious, I wasn't sure she was my actual mother. She is too frail to travel and understood. After that, I emailed my siblings, who were also very congratulatory. So, this story at least had a happy ending and I'm so grateful we did it the way we wanted. I hope this helps give faith to anyone doubting their convictions about their choices!! Good luck!

      9 agree
  38. I'm struggling at the moment with a cousin of my other half. She's just not a very nice person, we only see her at family events and even then it's a nod hello. Neither of us like her, and her drama queen of a partner is one of the most irritating people I've met in my life – I'm sure she was off her face on drugs the first time we met. She didnt come to our engagement party (or decline the invite!) or give us a card or even a verbal congratulations. The problem is, he only has a few cousins and all the rest of them will be invited. We don't see any of the rest of the cousins on a regular basis but at least when we do they talk to us and are friendly. Either way, we need to invite this cousin coz she'll be the only one left out. I get annoyed every time I think about it but I guess I just have to suck it up.

    1 agrees
  39. My fiance and I just got engaged and I really don't want to invite his brother's fiancee to the wedding. She has had me banned from his brother's house. Let's just say we moved across the country to get away from her and her drama. I want to invite his brother but I do not want to invite her. My FH says he doesn't want to invite her too but he wants his brother to come.

    1 agrees
  40. I have this very problem with inviting my father to my up coming wedding. He and my mum separated when I was very young. He was in the US and I was in the UK. I rarely heard from him and he never remembered my birthday, where as he always remembered my older sisters birthday etc. We eventually reconciled when I was 21(after I had my daughter) and we were on good terms for a few years and we visited him every year. Then due to a very nasty email over some very small things and some dredging up of the past, we fell out.

    Now whilst we talk again, my relationship with him is not good, he sent me a Christmas card and my FH name was wrong in it (we are Friends on facebook so its not like he doesn't know or couldn't check).

    So due to all this and more, I don't want to invite him, it would be uncomfortable and wouldn't really mean anything to have him there (my mum said she won't come if he does).

    So I am now I am trying to find the words to tell him he is not invited – it's hard and I feel some guilt because he is my father…but I know I have to do it

    2 agree
  41. I know this thread is older, but since people are still replying, I feel the need to reply too. I have a lot of family drama, both with my husbands immediate family and my family. The expectation in my culture is to have a large wedding and reception. However, the drama on both sides has only gotten worse over the years. I am an event planner by profession, and after many arguments and drama among ourselves as we tried to figure things out and run through scenarios of what would or would not work, we said enough was enough. We realized we were spending too much time trying to please everyone else and minimize drama on what was to be OUR day. Yes, the parents, close friends and family want to share in the joy, but ultimately, it was OUR day. (also of note, we were paying for it ourselves, 1 because we wanted to, and 2 because we didnt want anyone controlling aspects of it by saying they were paying for it – even if that meant cutting things from the budget). We wanted a church wedding. So we did that, but pretty much 'eloped' as much as you can in our religion. I still planned it all, the church, a dress, hair/make up, flowers, dinner, a small cake, decorating our car, photographer, videographer, – all the basic elements of a wedding, but for us. We had our maid of honor and best man there, but in my religion they play a role in the ceremony and have to be there. They brought their six year old son because they had no one to watch him (they were from overseas) which was a lame excuse and i don't think exactly true, but it all worked out. The biggest drama of the day was the hotel didn't steam my dress correctly and I was ironing it myself the morning of my wedding! Then we went with our maid/bestman on a cruise for 7 days in the Caribbean as a sort of fun trip/semi-honeymoon (we hope in a year or two to save and take another trip just the two of us). One the one hand it was odd having no one there, on the other hand, it was the best decision ever. no drama. No worry of my mother (who would not have been invited) crashing the wedding. No worries. Instead, we enjoyed OUR day. We are so happy and it shows in our pictures and the video. We have started telling people. Some are hurt, but overall happy for us. Others are responding with great joy. The reactions are varied. I thought I always wanted the grand event with flowers and bands and Djs and dancing. I realized that that is NOT what I wanted. That is what society tells me to want. When it came down to it, what i wanted was to get married to the man I love. Yes, celebrate. But to stand at the altar and become one with my now husband – that beats ANY reception. Brides – do what you feel is right in your heart and in your gut. Do not stress yourselves over this life event. It is not worth it. ironically, the more people I tell, the more I hear, "Gosh, i wish i had the courage to do that! It would have been so much better! I could have done without all the hoopla." Do what you want on your day, invite who you want, and tell people to shut the F up if they start drama. Surround yourselves only with those who love you and care for you and have your best interest in mind. My favorite quote is by Aristotle, "A true friend is the man that in wishing me well, wishes it for my sake." Best of luck to all of you!

    2 agree
  42. I think I already posted a comment, weighing in that I'm not inviting my dad or my oldest brother.

    The reason I'm posting again is that lately when I've been figuring out the finer details of this whole wedding shebang, I've hit a bit of a snag. My dad, sister, and three brothers live in the same house. I want to invite my sister and the two younger brothers, but not dad and the older brother. I don't know how I'm going to do invites for that household…. Would I just verbally invite the sister and two brothers? Maybe do individual, specific invites for them? There is the other (less pleasant) possibility where I just invite the whole household and hope dad and my brother don't show. They probably wouldn't anyway, but I really feel like the time to extend my hand in friendship is over, and I need to be definite in my dealing with them (mostly for my and future hubby's sanity).

    Gah, I don't know what to do! Any people with ideas please feel free to give me your two cents 🙂

    1 agrees
    • Bernadette, I am going through a similar situation with my brother (see my post below). He still lives in the house with my adoptive family, but he is my only blood relative. I was extremely close with him growing up and would hate to look back and regret not having him at my wedding, but the chances of him not dropping the dime are super slim. I have been contemplating the idea of calling him the day before the wedding and asking him to meet me somewhere for "coffee or dinner" (depending on how formal we decide to go), and in reality giving him the address of the venue. No time to reach out to anyone else. That might work for you, however you would have to know there would be fall out after the day if they mentioned it to the other family. That would really let them know you are no longer extending the hand in friendship, but might also make the siblings you are inviting feel like they were bamboozled into hurting your dad and brother. Only you know what your relationship can take. I wouldn't want you to alienate the family you do have a relationship with if you think thats how this would go down, but its a suggestion. Hope it helps get you thinking at least!

    • Why not mail it to each of them individually, but inside of another envelope? I know from experience that many toxic families can't expect (much) privacy in things addressed to them, but it IS still a felony to open someone else's mail.

    • Invite all or none. Everyone already knows who you like or dislike, but making it formal with selective invitations is a bad strategic move in the long run.

      2 agree
  43. It's been almost six months since our wedding and over the weekend we found out that my BIL was told by his wife that he wasn't allowed to go to our wedding (due to a family feud she refused to put any effort into resolving). My MIL dragged him to our wedding (he is my husband's only sibling and he was supposed to be our best man). After our wedding his wife went to a neighbour's house and said she was mad at my BIL for going to our wedding against her wishes (she couldn't stop him at the time because she was at work). Someone I know was at the neighbour's house when this happened. (Side note: He told us if his partner told him he couldn't go to his brother's wedding that he would go and she would be going too lol going as in gone.) My SIL being mad is more of a reflection of problems in her relationship with my BIL than anything to do with us so it doesn't make me any more upset about how things went down. Though it does explain why my BIL asked that his family be uninvited from our wedding and that he be fired as best man (I am glad we recognized this as him trying to make us look like the bad guys). That said, she previously said that she would not being going to family events on our husbands' side but that he was free to go and he could take their kids, which this situation shows is not true.

  44. I keep coming back and reading these posts for strength to know I am making the right decision. My brother and I were adopted. Let me first say, I have always been thankful for the roof over my head and the many blessings I received by not having to grow up in orphanges and foster homes like where I spent the first few years of my life. I have been unwaiveringly respectful to the people that raised us, but to me they have never been family. I did not have a happy childhood with them and while "most" of the scars I have suffered are not physical, I was most deffinately abused. While I continue to stay in contact with my adoptive family even into adulthood (I am almost 30) I live out of state and only share with them over the phone what I am comfortable sharing.
    My FH and his family are aware of my troubled past and have always been the family to me I now know I deserve. We have been together over ten years now and we have finally saved enough money to start planning our wedding. It has always been the plan between my FH to celebrate our day without family on my side. Suprisingly enough when I shared this plan with my FMIL she was upset. His parents both tried to debate me about why I was wrong. They made me feel extremely guilty for slighting the people who raised me, even knowing the horrors that I escaped. My FH tried a little to back me up, but has never been firm with his parents on anything, or really ever had to. We were both so surprised that this agitated them so much. They even made threats (albeit jokingly) about if they were not invited, something that would have never have happened.
    I will not change my decision, the day should be a happy one that I share with those who truely care about me and my FH and have contributed to our success as a couple. Not those who try to make me feel I am undeserved of such happiness. It just bothers me that I should even have to fight others opinions on the matter. That I should be judged when no one truely understands anyone elses family dynamic. I know I will face this judgement from many others on the wedding day when others realize I have no family there. Some generations will probably judge harder than others, most untraditional things typically are. I don't want whispers of what a monster I am for not inviting them. I know I shouldn't care, but those I invite are those who I care most about if that makes sense. So I am here to gain strength and good wishes from those of you who know what I am going through. Thank you for your stories and suggestions.

    3 agree
    • First off you are not a monster. Second you are not doing anything wrong at all whatsoever.

      It sounds harsh but your inlaws need to understand that your wedding is your wedding. As someone who comes from a broken drama filled family that has to dance the broken family tango every year (at least two thanksgivings and christmases if not more depending on how everyone is feeling that year and that was before I started dating my SO) I can say with utter certainty you are making the right decision. If these people open up mental wounds, who take back years of hard work at putting yourself together into you, or if they just make you feel pain and unsafe then do not let them near you wedding with a ten foot pole. Older generations would often suffer through such issues or they would just ignore that they were there at all. It is somewhat expected by them to keep up some appearance of normalcy.

      Also I've found that people who haven't gone first hand through abuse can't understand the depth of damage that it causes to a person nor do they understand why for sanity's sake you can't let them be a part of your life ('but she's your mom' '….have you not listened to a word i've told you for the last several years about my family????' 'but you have-' 'NO'). That family ties can't 'fix' everything and if there's a problem where on the outside they look all nice and shiny and good you need to be firm in the 'they hurt me so NO'.

      So all that rambling is to say it is your day, you are justified in doing what you feel is necessary, your in laws need to jump on your boat, and you need to keep being the fabulous person you are.

      8 agree
      • "If these people open up mental wounds, who take back years of hard work at putting yourself together into you, or if they just make you feel pain and unsafe"
        Ellie you have said what has been in my heart since I left that life. I still keep in touch with my *parents* out of respect for what they did provide me with. However it is amazing how much of my strength, energy and maturity it takes to build up to a 15 minute conversation once a month or so. Not to mention the recovery time to remind myself that those people can't hurt me anymore unless I let them. Its unbelievable how quickly someone who claims to care so much about you can tare you down in a matter of minutes. I am strengthened by knowing that I am not genetically related to them and knowing that the cycle will end with me. My FH and his family showed me what true love and respect are and I am a changed person as a result.
        "That family ties can't 'fix' everything and if there's a problem where on the outside they look all nice and shiny and good you need to be firm in the 'they hurt me so NO'."
        You absolutely nailed it. It is so easy to look at people who adopt multiple children and think they must love kids and have such patience and good hearts. My parents were great at playing martyr and using my brother and I and our situation to hide what was really going on inside that home. They were obsessed with appearances and they ground that into us. It is something we are still trying to shed. I think that is why I am so worried that my FH's family will think that I am being unreasonable or cruel by not inviting those that raised me.
        My FH thinks that his mother is just worried that years from now I will regret not having my parents there. Oddly enough that is not even a remote thought for me, I am so sure of this decision. I am more concerned about entering into a family relationship with people who don't understand the reasons why I wouldn't want to invite my parents and the judgement that I am any less of a good person for that decision. But you are very right, you can tell people of the horrors you survived a thousand times, if they have not been through it they can not ever really understand the visceral and raw feeling you have from simply being around those who have caused you such pain.
        Your comments made me cry Ellie, in the best possible way because you sound like a happy functioning adult and it is so nice to know there are others out there who have survived to live amazingly different lives than where they came from. You also make me feel much more normal about my family life than I ever do with non *damaged* people! Thank you so much for taking the time to write back and thank you for calling me fabulous, clearly neither of us came from a place where we were told how great we are. You are a good person and that comes across in spades. Good luck to you and your happy functioning adult life!

        6 agree
        • Better to invite than not. Your future in-laws already think less of you for your lack of generosity – how many do you want to add to the list? And just perhaps, you don't really understand your caregivers situation, just as you say other people don't understand yours. And you probably will regret it years from now.

    • Better to invite than not. Your future in-laws already think less of you for your lack of generosity – how many do you want to add to the list? And just perhaps, you don't really understand your caregivers situation, just as you say other people don't understand yours.

    • Absolutely do NOT invite your adoptive parents. Who cares what other people think?? If it takes you that much to get on the phone with them for 15 minutes, imagine how it will ruin what should be one of the best days of your life? My family absolutely sucks. They made my first wedding all about them. When I got married the second time, I didn't even tell them about the wedding until afterward. I live in a different state (by choice specifically to avoid them). Your in-laws are wrong to pressure you. Maybe if you told them some of the effed up things your adoptive parents did or said to you, they might understand. Or just start bawling in front of them and explain how stressed it would make you. I don't know. Some people will never understand you not wanting to talk to your parents, biological or otherwise. Maybe screen the movie, Mommie Dearest, for them and explain that's what your mom was like? Stay strong. Get your FH on your side and have him stick up for you because (I hate to say it) but this is just the first of many times where you will have to tell your MIL to mind her own business. If he can't stand by you now, just imagine the conversations you're going to have with him about you MIL pressuring to have a kid, to have a second kid, etc. I don't mean to stress you out, but that the real issue here.

  45. It's less than 2 months until my wedding, and I find out that my sister's scumbag ex-husband is moving back in with her 3 weeks before my wedding. She already RSVPed for 1. After calling her, I find out that her intentions are to bring him. I acted just as the article suggested (before even reading it) and told her that I would rather him not be at my wedding since he would make me uncomfortable. She then tells me she is no longer allowing my nephew to be the ring bearer. I don't want to argue. I want my nephews and my sister (matron of honor) to be a part of my special day. I physically loathe her ex-husband. I'm also down to crunch time – programs need to be printed, I've already purchased a ring pillow, ring bearer gift, etc. How do I explain this to her without drama?

    1 agrees
    • In the long run are programs, ring bearer pillow and ring bearer gift that important? Our best man (my BIL) did not act as best man at our wedding (he sat with his parents) and his wife and children did not attend. We didn't have programs. We kept his name as best man on our website. We gave him his best man gift as we already bought it. And we gave his children the activity books that all the other kids got. They also didn't RSVP so we assumed they were coming and paid for their food. We did have to have a plan B (eg who was going to sign as witness, who was going to walk my step-mum down the aisle, what the head table would look like). Everyone involved knew both plans and we decided which one was going to be in place right before the ceremony.

      In the weeks before our wedding we to work things out with my BIL and his wife but it just didn't work. Dealing with all the drama caused me a lot of stress since it was dropped on me in the month before our wedding and my MIL is about appearances. (My BIL was more or less dragged to our wedding.) For us it was easier to assume they were coming and to try to work things out than worry about what people would think if he didn't show up and how we wasted money on a gift and food.

      1 agrees
  46. @Eh – My fiance and I are not independently wealthy, and we're paying for our entire wedding ourselves. So yes, program cost, ring bearer pillow, etc. are important when we have plenty of other things to foot the bill for.

    We don't have the luxury of a Plan B, as my family is small. I simply would've thought my own sister could have the decency to respect my wish for one day without pulling out an ultimatum and involving little ones who are very, very dear to me.

    I don't care what others think. I care about the impact this will have on my relationship with my sister before and after the wedding, as well as how to juggle this unwanted drama, potential added expense, and my sanity before our big day.

    1 agrees
    • You seem to have made a ton of assumptions about me and my husband. We aren't independently wealthy either. He does not have a large family – my BIL is his only sibling. Having been there it is very unpleasant and very difficult and causes a lot of stress. My husband and I (and my in-laws) really hoped that my BIL and his wife would also have had the decency to not cause tons of drama for us but crap happens (joys of family).

      I was actually suggesting that you save money by not having programs at all. And if you want to have a ring bearer then the cost of the pillow and the gift would be already accounted for in your budget (i.e., it's not an added expense). Make sure that the items are returnable in case you don't have one and you don't want to give them to him. We paid for four extra meals because my BIL's family didn't show up, plus activity books and crayons for the kids, and a tie, pocket square and cufflinks for my BIL. I don't see those as extra expenses since we would have needed those things if they had shown up (i.e., they needed to be accounted for in our budget). And by no means am I suggesting that you invite her ex (as that would be an extra expense).

      I'm also not sure what family size has to do with having a Plan B. For us the Plan B consisted of having someone to walk my step-mum down the aisle (she wanted with my sister's fiancé walk her), having my sister as MOH sit in the front row instead of stand up with me (so it wasn't obvious that we didn't have a best man – we only had a BM and MOH no groomsmen or bridesmaids), having someone else sign as witness (my husband picked his cousin), and having a sweetheart table at the reception instead of having the best man and MOH sit with us (MOH sat with her fiancé – MOH had the venue move the place setting). The Plan Bs were all set before our wedding and discussed with the people who were impacted. On the day of our wedding when we found out that my BIL was coming to the ceremony but not acting as best man (less than 30 minutes before the ceremony started) everyone knew what to do.

      When the issue between my husband and my BIL first started my husband tried to resolve it but it kept getting bigger and bigger because my BIL and his wife were unwilling to resolve it and kept bringing up stuff that we either thought was already resolved or stuff that happened months earlier that we didn't know was an issue. They felt that it was my husband's responsibility to put in all of the effort to resolve the issues but they wouldn't show up to (in-person) meetings that he had set up for the four of us to discuss things (and they demanded that he drive an hour to their house when he doesn't have a car instead of talking on the phone). When my in-laws heard about the issue they were also pressuring my husband to resolve it (at any cost) but when they found out that my BIL and his wife didn't bother to show up at meetings and they kept bringing up stuff that we thought was resolved then they had little sympathy for my BIL and his wife's position. My in-laws requested that my husband pick a new best man because they were worried about the optics of us not having a best man. (They had never heard of a wedding without a best man.) We didn't care about the optics and my husband only wanted his brother to be best man so my husband did not pick a new best man. A few weeks before the wedding my BIL requested that we fire him as best man and uninvited his family from our wedding (this was really upsetting for us). He wanted us to be the bad guys since his wife had told him that he was not allowed to go to our wedding (his mother dragged him to our ceremony on the day of our wedding and his wife couldn't stop him from going because she was at work).

      When we considered what we were going to do and our Plan Bs we made sure that it was considering my husband's relationship with his brother (and also his parents and his cousin). My husband didn't fire him as BM or replace him because we felt that would hurt their relationship. We invited them to all of the wedding related events so they knew that we wanted them to be part of our wedding and our life. Emotions were way too high around our wedding and two weeks before our wedding (the day of last meeting they didn't show up for) we decided that there was no more we could do and doing anything more would cause too much stress on us (i.e., we didn't have time to set up another meeting with them since we both had work and wedding stuff and we lived an hour away without a car). We decided for our mental health that we would have to put resolving things on hold until after our wedding. (My in-laws were hoping that my BIL and his wife would put the grudges aside for our wedding.)

      It turns out that there was nothing we could have done to resolve the issue since they were unwilling to resolve it before our wedding (my MIL's wife was deliberately causing the drama because she was mad at my husband over something that happened at her wedding). My BIL's wife hadn't even booked the day off work – so she had no intention of coming to our wedding. A few weeks after our wedding we sat down with them. Emotions were not as high and we managed to work out a large chunk of the issues.

      1 agrees
    • Be generous! Invite him! Tell your sister that if he doesn't behave, you will but her kids drums.

  47. This is a great article and one I wish I had read before organising my wedding. Luckily pretty much everything I did was along the same lines as suggested. We just wanted a very small wedding, pretty much just actual family or people that knew us for a really long time from when my partner and I got together. One fact was that it involved excluding my sisters partner, but we had made a rule pretty much from the outset which was, apart from our two core witnesses, no partners at all for the wedding or reception due to space constraints, essentially, very small ceremony, big party in the evening. My sister complained heavily that I shouldn't say that her partner could only attend the party, but I explained that we had our criteria and because of constraints it was the best way to get as many people involved in the places that we could and stuck to that line. Ultimately, without budging on our behalf, my sister now doesn't talk to me and excluded herself from the whole wedding and party and I haven't heard from her since, except for her saying not to involve myself at her birthday. It is really painful when you have to come up with a list of people, but when you have constraints and good reasons for what you're doing, as every single other person attending (even one flying from China!), the wedding is about the people getting married and their happiness together, you'll always make someone unhappy by including or excluding so have a reason for who attends and stick to it, if you start to flex it makes a mockery for everyone else and you'll not please everyone, it's a shame that the hurt came from someone so close, but as others have said on here, if mature and supportive they should understand your reasons and support you. The guest list is, I think, the hardest part to a wedding, it was for mine anyway! Good luck to future wedding people. Great article and commenters on here btw!

    2 agree
  48. I NEED HELP! I just got engaged not even 2 months ago. I asked my 2 sisters to be bridesmaids and they both said yes. My one sister has been engaged to my finance's cousin, whom we both don't like because of the way he treats my sister and my finance, for about 7yrs and they have 2 kids together. We just told her this past weekend that he is not allowed to come to our wedding because he does not care about us getting married and he's not going to be there to support us just to cause problems and make us miserable.

    My sister has now decided that she wants nothing to do with my wedding because of this. So now I'm loosing out on my sister and my 2 nephews, one being my Godson, coming to my wedding and it's really killing me. However I can't stand him and I don't want anything to do with him on my day!! Now my father's getting involved saying he's not going to come either. (My Mom passed away over 5 yrs ago so I don't have her either). Granted it's a year and half away and I really hope my Dad isn't that heartless to do that to me but we are not giving in. We find no need to pay for someone to come to our wedding just to mock us.

    Please help me! I feel like we're doing the right thing and all my other bridesmaid's and my in-laws agree with me but for some reason my family isn't getting it. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    1 agrees
  49. I've personally seen a lot of drama at weddings and receptions and even pre-wedding parties, because people say they want the wedding kept quiet about but tell all thier friends, and then it ends up on 4 different social media pages, make it a firm thing with friends and family and guests that NOTHING about YOUR day is to be posted, not the date time place or whatever, and although it will be hard to due, include yourself and spouse in the same firmness.
    Less stress and dramafrom friends and family. especially for those who (like myself) are unsure about inviting certain family members, for whatever reason.
    hope this helps.

    4 agree
  50. Please advise ! It ismy daughters wedding, & she says she will go along with watever i decide , but I cannot bring myself to invite any of my family as they stress me out so much! They r quite posh & not at all alternative, and my daughters family & I lead an alternative lifestyle in many ways, and I feel that they will judge us in a bad way. We have contact with them, but mainly through emails, so to suddenly b at a large party style wedding will b quite an eye opener for them! Part of me wants to be honest & proud of who we are, but then I feel so stressed at the whole idea of them being there, that I don think its worth it.. Do u think I should summoned up courage & invite them or not? (They know she is getting married but we have just said its with close friends.)

    1 agrees
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