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

Posted by
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 reader 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 separately from their 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?

Meet your new BFF wedding vendor

Trending with our readers

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

  1. I’m dealing with this shit myself right now. I have an aunt that is extremely self-absorbed and only cares about herself and her kids. I cannot stand listening to her go on about how “perfect” her kids are and how they can do no wrong. I’ve spent the entire day being guilt-tripped into inviting her by one of my other family members and I’ve just about had it. I’m so fed up and so close to not inviting any of them.

  2. My fiance and I are planning our wedding…it will be our second marriage.

    We were planning on only having our children (from our first marriages) and an officiant to marry us; we had thought about having a small outdoor luncheon afterwards with a small amount of invited guests.

    I have a sister who has been a toxic influence in my life for the past few years, but I was planning on inviting her and her husband and children to the outdoor luncheon; even though she has said terrible things about me, and I have not spoken to her for a year.
    Recently she has told my father that if I don’t invite her, but invite my parents, she will lash out and close their accounts and never speak to any of us again; my father had given her Power Of Attorney a few years ago and is now trying to control all aspects of their lives.

    I do not appreciate this threat and feel that this is unfair for my parents; my dad even said that perhaps it’s best if I don’t invite him and my Mom if I am not going to invite her, which is only contributing to her controlling nature. My fiance and I are now considering only having the ceremony and no reception

  3. I found your website and I’m just seeking some insights because I’m feeling terribly distressed right now. My younger sister, the mother of the groom unloaded on me by text accusing me of inviting my adult children to her son’s upcoming wedding in January ’22. She said I do not have permission to contact the bride or her son about their wedding reception plans. She further elaborated that she is paying for half the wedding reception, and that she, not the bride and groom, get the final say on the invitation list. And she was upset that I would upend plans and invite more family when they are on budget. She wouldn’t take my call when I tried to discuss, and only would text me. My sister has previously informed me that only my husband and I are invited, and we live 2000 miles away. I called my sister last week asking if their reception was still “a go” as it was moved back a year because of Covid restrictions on reception size.. We still haven’t received an invite, and I need to plan for airline tickets and lodgings for 5 days (our extended families all live back East, and we want to visit family too). My sister informed me to call the bride myself, and confirm the reception and hotel details. I had a wonderful phone call with the bride and my nephew, and the bride shared me that she was excited that all of us were coming, and when I inquired who was “all”, she said my oldest daughter and her fiance are invited too. The bride has become friends with my daughter through FB. I informed the bride extending her invite to my daughter was appreciated, and yet, I said it was no “big deal” if she can’t extend invites to my daughter or her sisters as I know myself weddings are expensive, and decisions have to be made on a limit of family and close friends due to budget considerations. Through my upset sister’s texts, I learn that the bride casually informed my sister that she spoke with me, and that my daughter and her fiance are coming to the wedding too. My sister didn’t ask the bride if I had asked her to add my daughters to her reception, and I didn’t. This fact doesn’t seem to matter to my sister. She informed me I’ve created drama, that she needs to inform her son and bride that she is paying the bill and decides who is invited, and lectured me about budgets., My sister’s communication to me was horrible. It didn’t matter that I apologized, that she had her story wrong, and that I had no intentions of inviting extra family. I informed her I love them all, and am excited to be invited to their reception. It doesn’t seem like my side of the story mattered. She curtly texted me that I may only text her about any further questions about the upcoming wedding. No compassion or care…I’m devestated:(

Read more comments

Comments are closed.