Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Brother Says I’m Wrong For Not Inviting Our Father to My Wedding”

wedding invitation

My father has never been a father to me or my brothers. He and my mother divorced and he has since married a woman who is an alcoholic. I guess he feels she is better than being alone. Anyway, I was invited to his house for dinner with my fiancé so he could meet my husband-to-be. (I’m 40 and had finally found someone I wanted to marry.) At the dinner his wife became verbally abusive to me and completely embarrassed me in front of my fiancé, swearing at me and questioning my relationship with my father. This was after she drank a whole bottle of wine. She was also physically abusive to my father by pushing him around. I told my father that we were leaving and would not tolerate his abusive wife. He tried to stop us from leaving, but I told him I am an adult and he couldn’t treat me that way anymore.

After that incident I had not talked with my father for three months. Neither he nor his wife ever called to apologize for that incident. Well, my wedding was three months away at that point and I was hesitant on inviting my father’s wife because of how she treated me and because of her drinking. I did not want her at our wedding because I was afraid she would act out again and cause a huge spectacle at our wedding. So, I met with my father and I told him I was not going to invite his wife because of how she treated me and because she never even called to apologize. I told him I would still like him to come because he is my father (even though he never acts like a father).

My father proceeded to tell me he would not come if I did not invite his wife. So, I told him he didn’t have to stay for the whole wedding — he could just come and walk me down the aisle and then leave. But he refused that as well. He would not come without his abusive wife. So, my wedding day came and he never showed up. And now my question to you is: Was it wrong of me to not invite his wife? My brother said I was absolutely wrong in not inviting her, even though she is an abusive person and a drunk. He told me that if I were to ask any “etiquette persons,” that they would agree with him that I am wrong.

It’s been three years since my wedding and I have not spoken to my father. He chose to support his drunk, abusive wife over coming to his only daughter’s wedding and, for that, I am deeply hurt. Is it wrong that I haven’t spoken to him and was it wrong of me to expect my father to come to my wedding even though his wife was not invited for what I believe was a valid reason? — Hurt Daughter

Your brother is wrong. You did the right thing protecting your peace at your own wedding by not extending an invitation to a woman who had proven to be a loose cannon and had verbally abused you the last time you saw her. And while I don’t think you were “wrong” to ask your father to come, and it’s certainly understandable that you’d want on your wedding day for your father to finally act like a father, I’m not sure it was wise to expect him to come. He had never, in forty years, acted like a father to you, so why would he suddenly start on your wedding day — an occasion that is often so emotionally-loaded as it is, and one in which he wouldn’t have his crutch by his side to help ease any guilt or awkwardness he might (rightfully) feel over posing as the dad he never was?

Your dad sucks as a dad. You know this. It doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t love him. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue being disappointed by his gross indifference and limitations as a “father.” But it does mean that, if you want to have peace in your heart, you have to accept that your dad sucks, that this is the card you were dealt in life, and that you won’t let that define you or ruin any of your other relationships by keeping you angry or bitter. Your dad sucks. But I bet you have a life full of people who don’t suck — who value you and show up for you and appreciate you and make you feel like a better person. So continue nurturing your relationships with those people and release the ones that breed toxicity.

As for your brother, tell him that he’s wrong and that an “etiquette person” (and the commenters below) said so. Tell him this isn’t even about him. This is about you and about nurturing and protecting the good in your life from the toxic, and that you hope very much that he will fall in the former category and stop berating you for doing what was absolutely best for you and your now-husband.

***************

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14 comments… add one
  • avatar

    artsygirl June 14, 2016, 8:49 am

    LW – Wendy is completely right and your brother is out of line. In fact, you DID invite your father, you just make it clear that his out of control wife was not welcome. Since he is aware of her problems, it should not have been a shock to him that she was not invited. So long as alcohol was being served at your wedding, you would have had to deal with this drunken aggressive woman. Even if she was on good behavior – you would have spent the entire day worrying. Parents are human, and it sounds like your dad is a very weak one. I am truly impressed that you were able to stand your ground and refuse to have a toxic situation on your wedding day.

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  • avatar

    em June 14, 2016, 8:50 am

    WWS. the rules of good etiquette do not apply to abusive people, who often use the rules of common decency against the rest of us to get away with their appalling behavior.

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    • avatar

      keyblade June 14, 2016, 9:00 am

      This x 1000.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star June 14, 2016, 9:18 am

    I understand being hurt that your dad couldn’t bring himself to show up without his wife, but there was nothing else you COULD or SHOULD have done differently here. Your brother is wrong, and if he were in your situation, I doubt he would want his drunken stepmother ruining HIS wedding, either.

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  • avatar

    keyblade June 14, 2016, 9:39 am

    “Is it wrong that I haven’t spoken to him and was it wrong of me to expect my father to come to my wedding even though his wife was not invited for what I believe was a valid reason?”

    I think Wendy stated things really well. I don’t believe you were out of line to protect your wedding and your peace of mind by keeping your father’s abusive spouse away. Your dad might be in an abusive marriage, but you have every right to protect your mental health. It is understandable that you would be upset that he chose not to accept your terms and conditions on your wedding day. I do think he was clear where he stood and it might have been easier on you if you could have accepted it when he told you he wasn’t going to come. But I can understand how you might hope your father would be able to see how important his presence was to you and make an effort to support you on your big day.

    Are you more at peace and healthier not having your father in your life? If so, then I think I don’t think you need to carry around guilt about your decision. It doesn’t matter if your brother agrees with you or not. He has to live his life the best way he knows how and so do you. I would ask your brother not to bring it up anymore. Your brother doesn’t have to agree with all of your choices but he does need to not talk about his opinion on matter that is settled for you.

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  • avatar

    Not A Princess June 14, 2016, 10:01 am

    This was all three YEARS ago, why is your brother harping on this now? Is this a way for him to deflect his own challenged relationship with your father? It’s much easier to blame someone else for ‘the problem’ than to realize that it’s yours to deal with.

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  • Guy Friday

    Guy Friday June 14, 2016, 10:56 am

    was it wrong of me to expect my father to come to my wedding even though his wife was not invited for what I believe was a valid reason?

    Yes, it was. I know people disagree with me, but I think it was. I’m not saying you were wrong not to invite his new wife given what she put you through. But they’re married whether you like it or not, and I think you knew that inviting him but not her would result in him not wanting to come, and I think a small part of you anticipated this reaction and made your choice specifically to elicit this outcome. So while I’m not suggesting that your actions reflect poorly on you or anything like that, I AM saying that your expectation of your father was unfair and unreasonable, and on that one point I disagree with you.

    Let me put it this way: you’re married now, so imagine that at some point in the future you do something to upset a member of your husband’s family. Now imagine that this family member gets engaged and is planning a wedding and wants your husband in the wedding party but doesn’t want you there because you offended him or her. How would you want your husband to respond? Because I think a lot of us, in that situation, would have at least a small part of us want our spouse to say “Look, we’re a package deal, so it’s either both of us or neither of us,” because it means to us that they put us before anyone else. And if you did reflect and ended up saying to your husband “Go, and enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you when you get back,” and you wrote in to talk about it, how would you feel if the collective response was “Well, that’s what you were supposed to do, so it’s nothing special?” You’d feel a little disappointed.

    Look, it sounds like you have a lot of good reasons to be wary of any relationship with your father. All I’m saying is him not showing up to your wedding isn’t one of them when you chose to exclude his wife. On that sole point, I think it’s fair to be empathetic, because it was a no-win situation for him.

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    • avatar

      Ron June 14, 2016, 11:07 am

      A lot of truth is what GF said, which was more reason to simply not invite either of them.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros June 14, 2016, 4:36 pm

      I’d agree that it should have probably been predicted that he wouldn’t come. A lot of people wouldn’t come without their spouse, more so if it’s a guy who doesn’t have much of a bond with his kids.

      On the other hand, the wife’s actions were a little extreme, and I don’t think someone who goes into a rage and verbally abuses their husband’s daughter and her SO reasonably should expect that sort of loyalty either though. (Compared with more mundane reasons a person might piss off a couple getting married.)

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  • avatar

    Ron June 14, 2016, 11:05 am

    I don’t know NAP, can’t tell from the letter, but it wouldn’t surprise if her brother took father’s side in the divorce, while LW sides with her mother. It doesn’t matter. He never really was a father to her. I may be a smaller-minded person than LW, but I wouldn’t have even invited absentee father to my wedding. It sounds like a lot of this was her personal wish or someone selling her on theory that it was ‘right’ and father had a right to walk her down the aisle. That is an archaic marriage custom freighted with tons of tradition from the days when women were their father’s property and this was symbolizing a transfer of ownership. My wife’s family was intact, but we still decided to ignore this hoary old tradition. It didn’t at all symbolize what we wanted in our wedding or marriage.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 14, 2016, 12:37 pm

      We skipped that tradition too. I felt no need for it and my dad has said some years before that the nicest wedding he had attended had the bride and groom walk down the isle together to get married. That’s what we did. The priest who married us like it. He liked the bride and groom presenting themselves as a couple for marriage.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 June 14, 2016, 12:15 pm

    Does your brother fancy himself an etiquette expert? Miss Manners does not condone correcting others. You can tell your brother that Miss Manners finds him rude.

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  • avatar

    Another Jen June 14, 2016, 2:54 pm

    Is your brother in possession of a time machine? Otherwise, I can see little reason for him to be bringing this up three years later. Let him know you’re unwilling to engage in any further discussion on the point and be done with it. He doesn’t have to agree with your decision, but you don’t have to give him an audience.
    AJ

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  • avatar

    dinoceros June 14, 2016, 4:30 pm

    You did the right thing. Inviting the wife would have been a pretty bad idea, since you knew how she’d most likely act, and you are under no obligation to invite someone who treats you in an abusive manner. Your dad is free to make his own choices, and this is what he chose. Your brother needs to find some hobbies if he’s still dredging this up at this point.

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