Love the fiance, love the in-laws

March 17 2009 | arielmstallings
Wedding Cards to Your New Mother and Father in-Law
Whilst I can't wait to marry my fiance, I can't stand his family. The idea of his parents being at our wedding makes me feels sick, and I haven't got a clue how I should be involving them.

Any ideas how we can include them in the wedding without making it seem contrived or forced? I understand they're his family, and he loves them, but does that really mean I have to?

-Anonymous

In a word: yes. When you marry your partner, you are marrying their family — even if you don't like them. These are the people who made the person you love, even if that just meant they gave your partner something to rebel against. Like it or not, these people are a part of the person you love, and they're going to be a part of your life.

So, that's the short answer: yes. Unless you and your partner are ready to write them off completely (which is a totally valid option), you should find a way to include them in the wedding, and bigger still: you have to learn how to include them in your life.

Find ways to include your in-laws in a few simple but meaningful ceremonial responsibilities. I asked my father-in-law to ring in our wedding ceremony with a large Tibetan bowl. I asked my mother-in-law to act as our "ring boy" and bring up our rings.

Not knowing much more about your wedding, it's hard to make suggestions … Could they pass out programs? Present the guestbook? Read a poem you selected? Be in charge of tossing some dried lavender as you exit the ceremony? Look for small but visible ways to feature them in your wedding day — it's important.

Your wedding is a metaphor … and these people are going to be a part of your family, so think of finding loving, simple, but meaningful ways to involve them in your wedding as the first steps toward finding loving, simple, but meaningful ways to involve them in your life.

  1. I think there needs to be a caveat on this post. It's one thing if it's just dislike but they're still actively and regularly involved in your fiancé(e)'s life. It's another thing if they're horrible nasty people that you're both better off without. I'm a big fan of reconciliation but every now and again estrangements happen for a valid and worthwhile reason.

  2. Anonymous, I totally agree with that — however in my experience, estrangement is the exception for in-law drama. This advice-seeker made it clear that her partner loves and is in touch with his family. It would have been a very different answer if the question had been "My husband is estranged from his family and hasn't spoken to them in 2 years — do we have to involve them in the wedding?"

  3. This is a good post, Ariel. Thanks. I actually LOVE my in-laws, but I do think sometimes we forget that for some families, and in some traditions, weddings are seen as a big celebration of family, not just a joining of two people. I was shocked and not a little annoyed when my own parents had some extremely strong opinions about what should happen at our wedding, and then my mother in law started chiming in with her thoughts too. I had to take a deep breath and realize, "hey, this is about them too," and really concentrate on what they were asking for and how I could incorporate them in meaningful ways that ensured that they felt included and loved and essential to the ritual of our wedding.
    I know this is not the case in every family, but I definitely realized that for our two families, the wedding is definitely not just about us, and also that playing my cards right at the wedding (in terms of involving and opinion asking and attitude) would be a great way to set myself up for future harmonious relations with my in laws!

  4. thanks for addressing this issue. My fiance also has a strained relationship with his family. they are coming to the wedding this Saturday and I am nervous! Being an Interracial couple adds to the stress. I got to know the Brother and sister and we get along fine. Yet, it can be difficult. This post helps put things in a proper perspective…

  5. I really only have the Mother In Law to deal with really (his dad buggered off when he was two and hasn't seen him since, good riddance!), but me and the MIL get on like a house on fire! His uncles are nice to, though I don't like the way they casually take the mick, but he just shrugs it off and gives it back!
    FH does get a bit ansy around my mum (who can be a bit much sometimes), but generally he gets on really well with my family. I'm really lucky actually!

  6. obviously they have to be invited, but traditionally it is the brides family who put on the wedding, hence invites saying Mr & Mrs Bride invite you to the wedding of their daughter ___ to ___

  7. I am a big believer in the power of the corsage. It's just a small thing to wear, but it lets everyone know: "Hey there, I'm someone special–I'm related to the Groom!"

    We are also letting all immediate family on both sides walk down the aisle–that way everyone gets a moment to be noticed and included, but we the ceremony is just us and the officiant.

  8. Disagree that "you have to include them in your wedding." I don't dislike either of our families, but this is *our* day. I'll be happy to have them there and celebrating with us, but I certainly feel 0 obligation to include them any more than pleases us.

    If either of our families was paying for the wedding of course, my views would be different.

  9. I think this is the kind of situation that makes the "this is my/our day" philosophy not make sense to me. I mean, yes, it totally is–but I think the subtext is "and my/our day only" which is only true if you're eloping and never telling anybody about it. I mean, it's your life, but that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want without any repercussions.

    I'd expand Ariel's statement–"you have to include them in your wedding" IF you want to include them in your life, and you have to include them in your life IF you want to include your fiance in your life. Which you probably do, what with the marrying him bit.

  10. I agree with this, but what can you do when your future mother-in-law HATES YOU, and is completely and entirely phony and fake to you? I want to include my fiance's mother in the wedding, but it is so obvious that she doesn't like me, the plans we have for our wedding, or the fact that, partially due to geography, he and I are both very close with my parents, who love him very much. I think that just because you happen to dislike your fiance's family for whatever reason doesn't mean you have the right to cut them out of the wedding, but it's pretty impossible to invite someone to participate when they clearly don't like the fact that their son is marrying you, and that he's doing it a thousand miles from where they live. I've tried everything I can, but it's no use – she really, really hates me, and I can't pretend to be someone else just so she likes me.

  11. Hmm, this is a tricky one. I think you should only include them as much as you feel comfortable with. Yes, the day involves family too, but in the end it is for the two of you and you have to be happy with how things are going and what people are doing. Sounds like Ariel struck just the right compromise -presumably the Tibetan bowl and ring boy were things she wanted anyway!

  12. Well stated and so true. family is usually always going to be in both your lives, so including them in the event that starts off your lives together is a good first step in cementing a positive relationship. I am lucky enough to get along well with my soon to be in-laws, and my Fiance gets along with my fam, but i've heard stories… my dad's parents didn't like my mum at first, but it didn't take too long before everyone coexisted happily

  13. We also haven't heard from anyone who perhaps the fiance doesn't like/get along with their family. If that is the case, surely you wouldn't include them anymore than he/she wanted.

    In my case, I like my in-laws quite a bit though I am not extremely comfortable with them and don't think they are completely warmed up to me. They did offer right away to host the rehearsal dinner and went crazy with the food when I suggested a "picnic" lunch with bbq from a wonderful place near their house. There was a row of crockpots with fantastic smells and several homemade desserts flanking the ends. We also put them in charge of bringing the gear and setting up the picture slideshow as fiance's dad tries to be as much of a geek as his sons.

  14. I'm in an entirely different boat… my in-laws love me and my family adores him, and while our parents get along crackingly well…

    What if the other family does not speak English, and one only does? There's some bilingualism on both sides, but you're talking rural Quebec and rural France meets rural England and rural Canada. Besides that, both families are intensely snobbish – which means the wedding is very expensive and we are not footing the bill – and proud of their heritage and language! Our extended families have been extraordinarily important to raising us and know us both very well.

    It's not a matter of getting along with them (we're both trilingual), it's a matter of actually having the two large, proud families communicate with each other. Both of them believe that their culture is the best and on a point of pride refuse to communicate, even to say Bonjour or Thank you. We thought about each coaching the other family to say easy words or emphasising the music and ceremony – so that they are listening or watching rather than talking. Or building in some sort of activity to prevent any kind of segregation…

    I mean, it's the same thing – if you don't feel your in-laws will get along, then what are your options? Two weddings? Elopement? Private – friends only instead of family?

  15. Great post, Ariel. My future in-laws are so very different from me that it is easy to see them as annoying, weird, boring, etc. They're really not. They love my FH and they have done a lot to make me feel part of the family. I am doing what I can to include EVERYONE in both families!

  16. I disagree–I don't think it's the bride's job to figure out how to include her inlaws in the wedding. It's her partner's job to figure out how to include his or her own parents. It's not my job to take over mediating my husband's interactions with his parents just by virtue of marrying him. I manage our interactions with my parents and he does the same for his. I'm not the social secretary.

    Now sure, you can't just freeze your inlaws out unless they are legitimately cruel and estranged, and maybe that's what you were getting at, Ariel. But instead of focusing how Anonymous can steer the inlaw boat for both her and her fiance, why not focus on the kind of role her partner wants for his family in the wedding, or the role he wants his family to play in their life as a family, and how she can help them both move toward that?

  17. Oh absolutely, m: ultimately it's up to both partners to plan ALL aspects of the wedding together. I wasn't intending to say "It's your job alone to figure this out," but rather, "it's your job to accept your in-laws because your partner loves 'em."

  18. I disagree. Take your lead from your partner. And, your partner should be supportive of your feelings. It's nice to think that we're only marrying our boychick/girlchick, but the truth is it really is also a union of families – even if only as defined by their absence. If the two people uniting their lives don't consider each other's needs in this, too, it doesn't bode well for the future, I think.

    But, considering the other person's feelings doesn't mean giving in one way or the other.

  19. My partner and i are getting married in less than a year, and we still haven't figured out the invitation situation. My family is spread across the country (Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Missouri) and his are for the most part in Kansas, where we both currently live. He is the black sheep of his large family and my extended family (except for 4 people) couldn't care less about what's going on in my life.

    That being said, we don't want to elope and we get along fine with each other's immediate family members. We've decided to keep the ceremony very small (6 other people as witnesses). Also, we are both very individualistic people and are having no officiant (thank goodness the state of Kansas allows common-law marriage), we are declaring ourselves married on that day in accordance with our beliefs. This would offend his extended family anyway, so it's for the best that they won't be attending the ceremony.

    So, who do i send reception invites to? We are planning two wedding receptions: one in Kansas and one on the west coast (where my decent family members live). Can i just make an announcement of our marriage after the fact? What about registries? Do i have to give it up?

    Thanks, and i hope that wasn't TLDR >_<

  20. I would love to say that I get alone well with my future husband's family but the thing is, he does not like his family and there is a lot of bad blood between them. He gets alone well with my family enough. I would like to include both of our families on our wedding day however he does not. How would you go along planning a wedding without his family being involved or even attending the wedding? I don't want there to be any hatred between his family and I but at the same time, I do not want to go against my fiance's wishes.

  21. I get married in three weeks, and until the announcement of our handfasting, his father and I got on amazingly! Because we're 18 (the fact we've been engaged for two years is completely ignored) his father, along with his grandparents, and even his great grandmother, have all been VERY vocal about the fact they don't want it to go ahead, which has included calling me every name under the sun. Because of the fact his father has been so nasty and horrible (lying, stirring, you name it hes tried it), we are yet to send an invite until he pulls his head in. I know my partner loves his father, but he doesn't want the drama and doesn't really want his father there knowing he will start something. He has blatently said he doesn't want to come, but still demands an invite. What do we do?!

  22. I thought I'd offer the perspective of someone who does not get along with their inlaws at all and DID try to include them.

    When my husband and I got married, we tried to do the right thing and make sure my MIL was included in the planning process. It backfired completely on us.

    My MIL had made it very clear, prior to the wedding that she despised me (including phoning my mum to tell her how much she disliked me), and took everything I didn't do exactly as she wanted as a personal affront. Including her in the planning caused a lot of extra stress on my husband's and my parts, especially since a lot of her demands were things we felt were not reasonable for us (such as changing the date because she didn't like it, wanting me to convert to another religion, wanting a different venue/colour/officiant, etc).

    In the end, she showed up over two hours late and missed our ceremony, would not allow any pictures to be taken, caused a scene at the reception, and finally left in a huff. My husband was heartbroken because, for reasons I don't understand, he always expects the best from his family. If we had it to do over, we would have excluded them, as we have done with any functions since.

    It's worth weighing if you don't like your inlaws because they're a little odd or they make you uncomfortable because they're different from you or if you are truly concerned that they're going to cause a scene. We should have taken that into account, rather than just doing the "right thing".

    If you're in this situation, have a serious talk with your fiancé as to why you are uncomfortable with his family. It's very easy to overlook something because someone IS family and that can lead to a lot of trouble. It's worth a couple frank discussions, rather than years of resentment.

    For what it's worth, my inlaws have not spoken to me in four years and have not seen me in two, but my husband and I remain happily married. It is possible to be with someone and not like their family!

  23. I truly wish it was that easy… I have to say that I have the same issue here. My fiance's family is great; really. His little brother is somewhat friends with my own, being the same age. And his mom is so nice and friendly. But his dad? …
    Oh, geez…how to put it nicely.
    I'll just be honest. His family stopped eating dinner together when my fiance was 8 years old because his father is so mismannered, inconsiderate, and a foul-mouthed idiot that they couldn't deal with it anymore. He has a horrible case of diabetes, can't take care of himself, is an avid smoker, and an alcoholic. He doesn't even CARE that he is just killing himself.
    Now I am one of those "God's last name is NOT dammit" kind of people, and I glare at those who purposely curse, especially when they use swears incorrectly. The "F" word is a verb, not an adjective. >.>
    His father is a good guy, I'm sure. But he's also the reason why my fiance's mom is unemployed. Their entire family has to take out their own social security to feed themselves everyday. And of course, they end up spending it on video games and televisions. >.>
    His mom takes care of his dad, making sure that he doesn't suffocate when he passes out in the bathroom. He has a reserved space at the local hospital because he's there nearly twice a week.
    I want to say something positive, but even my fiance (and the rest of his family) don't appreciate anything he does, because there's nothing to appreciate.
    I also can't stand the smell of smoke. My little brother is so against it, he would yell at you for it. But my fiance's dad has actually tried to influence him to smoke and drink–as a minor. My fiance is still in high school…he graduates this year, but he's only eighteen.
    But he knows I will dump him faster than the speed of light if he ever picked up ANY kind of drug. He has his stupid video games; it doesn't need to get worse.
    I feel so…resentful for not wanting his dad there…I wish there was an excuse for him not to go. T~T If he can't be around his own family without being a hassle, then why should I want him at my amazingly-awesome wedding? I KNOW it's his dad, but I have THREE dads, and only one of them is probably allowed to come!
    Is this such a horrible thing to do? T~T

  24. I can actually relate to this quite a bit. For the most part, I cannot stand my fiance's family. It's a very long story, but let's just say his sister and I have almost come to blows a couple of times.

    I did what I had to do, his sister is in the wedding- as a groomsmen. Pretty much as far away from me as possible and she still has her "privilege". His brother and father aren't even invited (his choice, not mine). His mother and I are really close though, so she's helping to keep the peace. All in all, you're marrying him and that includes his family. I know how much it can suck, believe me. But if you're really wanting to make it work you might have to be a bigger woman and find a place for them.

  25. This kind of thing seems to run in my family. My father's parents openly disapproved of my mother because he's a doctor and she isn't a nurse *eyeroll*. My mother's father threw a fit because they didn't want to invite the kids he'd had with the woman he left my nana for…and didn't even show to their wedding. Now, it's my turn to deal with my FH's family, who always seem to get the wrong end of the stick about every arrangement made with them, treat FH like he's still five, and come with a healthy dollop of trying to convert us to Christianity (we are agnostic/pagan). I wish I could do the whole wedding thing without having to fret about them disapproving and/or screwing up the logistics!

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