Your wedding day is a special celebration of you and your significant other’s love. The day is all about you and should reflect only what the two of you want.
This includes only inviting the guests that mean the most to you and who you want to welcome into your celebration.
Of course, narrowing down your guest list is easier said than done. Navigating the fine line of who makes the cut is difficult for any future bride and groom. Should you invite that coworker that you sometimes get drinks with? What about your cousin’s daughter, who you haven’t seen in a year?
However, perhaps the most difficult decision comes for couples who have immediate families that are estranged. For example, they may have had a falling out with their mother, father, brother, or sister. Depending on your family dynamic, the term “immediate” can extend beyond this, including aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
So, what should you do if you’re in the position of debating whether to invite an estranged family member? Read on for tips.
1. Revisit why you grew apart
When you get married, there are a lot of emotions that come to the forefront. You’re excited about the future and also reminiscing about the past.
Say you’ve had a falling out with your mother. Try to objectively look back on the issue and see if it still resonates as strongly with you today. For some, the issue will still burn as fiercely today as when it was initially discussed. For others, time may have provided some clarity and space for reflection on the importance of the conflict.
If you’ve softened your position toward your loved one, it may be worth it to reach out and have a conversation. From there, you can decide if you want to extend an invitation or not.
2. Weigh the pros and cons
When deciding who to invite, many people feel a sense of guilt about the people who don’t make the list. This is even more true for the people closest to us.
While still keeping in mind the reason for your falling out, consider what it would mean to not invite this person. In twenty years, would you regret not having your parent at your wedding? Would not inviting them to cause irreparable damage to the relationship – making it much more difficult to reconcile in the future if you decide you want to?
At the same time, consider what the person’s influence on the day of your wedding would be. If your brother doesn’t approve of your partner, for example, would he make a scene at your reception? Would your partner or their family feel uncomfortable?
Also, think about this person’s behavior in general. Maybe your falling out had to do with them having a serious drinking problem, and they refused to get help. If that’s still the case, they may get extremely intoxicated at your wedding and embarrass you and again, potentially make your other guests feel uncomfortable.
Make a pros and cons list and write down any other aspects you can think of that would push you toward extending an invite or refusing one. Feel free to include your significant other in this process, as well as a family member who you are still close to that is also very familiar with this person. (For example, your sister could provide insight on if she thinks you should invite your mother.)
3. Have they changed?
Say you haven’t spoken to your father in four years, because of his drinking problem. Maybe in the last year, he’s sought help for his addiction at a residential treatment program, like The Exclusive Hawaii.
You still haven’t spoken with him because you don’t know if you can trust that he’s really changed. However, your sister has let you know that he’s making an effort and wants to reconnect with you.
In this case, it’s probably a good time to reach out and set up a lunch to chat. See for yourself how he is now. Is he apologetic? Sincere?
After spending a few visits together, you’ll likely get a better idea of the person he is today. If you decide to offer an invitation, you can add conditions to it: “If I find out you’re drinking again, you won’t be allowed to come.”
This condition incentivizes your father to maintain his sobriety, while also providing a boundary for your wishes and mental health to be respected. Remember that planning a wedding is a very emotional, stressful experience – you need to make sure you’re looking out for yourself as well as everyone else.
4. You’re offering them a way back in
Sometimes, when deciding whether to invite someone who is estranged from us, we decide to just take our chances and invite them. Now, we’re being the bigger person – extending the olive branch and offering them a chance to be part of our lives once again.
Some people will jump at this opportunity – it can be the beginning of rekindling this relationship in your life.
Others, however, will happily come to your wedding… only to disappear from your radar shortly after. In this case, you won’t have to experience any regret; you tried to include them, and they chose to go about their life without you. You’ve done what you can to salvage this relationship, and now you can move on with your life.
5. Think about the stress it’ll add to your life
How much thought have you already put into if you should invite this person to your wedding? Take a moment to check in with your body when you consider this. Are you stressed just thinking about it? Anxious? Angry? Sad?
Know that this feeling is not going to simply go away after you send the invitation. If you decide not to invite the person, the feeling will likely still be there, but it at least will go to the back of your mind as you’re busy with other wedding planning.
If you do invite them, expect that this nervous feeling will be there whenever you think of your guest list – you’ll be left wondering, “Will this person behave? Is this a mistake to invite them?” If these are the thoughts you’re feeling now, even before deciding whether you should invite them or not, you may want to add this to your pros and cons list.
This is your day – you don’t need to add any unnecessary stress to what should be one of the happiest days of your life.