Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Aunt is hijacking my wedding

Dear ESB,

I never thought I would be writing to you, partly because I'm pretty sure you would kick my wedding's ass (it has cupcakes and pinwheels) and partly because I just never figured anything would go THAT wrong.

Allow me to set the scene: my west coast Canada wedding is in 4 months, my extended family on my dad's side is mostly in Ontario except for one aunt (let's call her Aunt X) and my grandma. My mom recently informed me that my Aunt X was planning to pay for a lot of my extended family from Ontario to come out for my wedding, namely my Uncle and his family and my Grandpa and his girlfriend. Not only is she planning this, she's already spoken with the parties about it.

While it does miff me that she's basically invited people to my wedding when I haven't sent out invitations yet, what worries me more is certain family dynamics that she has ignored or not considered. My dad has a very tumultuous relationship with my Grandpa (his dad), as well as with my Uncle. And my Uncle and my Grandpa have a very tumultuous relationship of their own. My Grandma and my Grandpa are divorced and while my Grandma is much better for it and much happier, I'm not sure if anyone has told her that Aunt X is paying for Grandpa and his girlfriend to come out. My dad is now really worried that my Uncle and Grandpa (both of whom enjoy their booze and aren't exactly happy drunks) might cause a scene at my wedding, and personally I'm a bit worried too. Even though I was planning on inviting both my Uncle and my Grandpa, I wasn't expecting them to come out because I haven't seen either of them in over 15 years and only talk to them at Christmas time when we phone them.

So my question is, how do I ask tactfully Aunt X not to pay for their plane tickets?

Family Issues Bride


If you didn't intend to invite these people, you could gently ask Aunt X to butt the fuck out. But you CAN'T earn points for inviting the extended/estranged family and then turn around and forbid your aunt to pay for their plane tickets.

It's none of your business who pays for the plane tickets. If you don't want them there, don't invite them.

(Photo of Maggie Gyllenhaal by Alice O'Malley for T Magazine via That Obscure Object)


  1. Moral of the story I'm hearing is not to invite people just because you assume they can't come. It's a bad idea all round.

  2. jeez louise. i get this, i really do. weddings are so touchy + family members are known get their panties all in a twist about not being invited.

    that being said, i'm going to have to agree w/ ESB on this one. my dad's family wasn't invited to our wedding... mostly because they're a bit on the nutty side of town. (this was, however, my dad's call. he didn't really want to deal with the crazy). if you don't want them to come, don't invite them. that's the only way you can tell your aunt not to fly them down.

  3. Yeah, man. I get it. I'm organizing a west coast canada wedding also, family issues abound... and I feel like a terrible person for both feeling obligated (by my father) to invite all of my extended family, but also being told (by my father) to expect that they won't come. What a weird double standard! I am close with some of my relatives, and not with others... and if it were just me, having a party, I would sure-as-hell only invite the ones I have an actual relationship with and would want to be at my party. Except that my Dad wants them there, and since he's asking for very little else from us, I gotta throw the man a bone (meaning two brothers, their wives, and six kids).

    However, my family are not mean drunks. And in your case, your Dad doesn't even want them there. Your obligation to keep Aunt X happy is trumped by your obligation to keep your Dad happy (not to mention your future self). And you have a nice, tidy little out:
    Don't invite them! But also call Aunt X and explain your reasons... just to tone the drama down. Say you're 'keeping the wedding intimate'. End of discussion. Bridges may be burned with the Grandpa and Uncle, maybe even with Aunt X, but it sounds to me like they did the burning a long time ago.

    Good luck!
    ESB rules.

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  5. Yup, I agree w/ Anon above. And w/ ESB, of course.

  6. Only invite people you want there. The rest can take care of itself.

  7. ugh, I hated the insistance to invite random relatives because "they won't even come" ... those effers will come. If you don't want them, skip the invite. Then tell Aunt X so she can stop making plans.

  8. I agree w/ ESB, but if you do invite people who may be a problem when drunk, you really should put some thought into having some good-hearted relative of yours be on discreet drunk-babysitting duties for them, someone who can gently and quietly extricate them from the situation if they forget themselves and start making a scene. We had a woman (friend of my parents) at our wedding who got drunk and began groping all our male bridal party. I still see it as a blemish on my memories of my wedding day. You can avoid that with some careful, tactful planning.

  9. Sadly, yes. All you can do is invite who you want to be there and let them work out the rest.

    And may I suggest some seriously thought out seating arrangements, should family members decide to take Aunt X up on her offer? A bit of space might be the only buffer you can offer - hopefully the adults in your family can behave like adults for one night and respect it.

  10. Rule number one of invitations: don't invite *anyone* you don't want showing up. Period. End of story.