“Do We Have to Invite All Our Parents and Siblings to Our Wedding?”

My boyfriend and I have been together almost four years, friends for almost six. He has two kids from a previous marriage and we have a son together who is a toddler. We have been discussing getting married next spring (we’ve been talking about it forever), but have a problem with our families.

His dad is awesome, very supportive and kind. He is Jewish and so is my boyfriend, and they, like me, have a fairly liberal view on the world. I don’t speak to his mother. She tried to physically attack me while I was pregnant, has called my son names, has called me names, and basically has been a horrible person. She is not in our lives or our son’s life (although she is in the lives of the other kids through my boyfriend’s ex-wife).

My family is very conservative and religious. They are also broke and live on welfare in another state. Last year my parents moved while my then-17-year-old brother was staying with my boyfriend and me for the summer, and he ended up having to stay with us for a much-longer period. I helped him get his GED, some college, and join the Navy. Two of my other brothers are not speaking to my parents at all. One has written them off after they repeatedly tried to interfere with his wife and kids, and my other brother is gay and so my dad has basically disowned him. I have two autistic sisters and another brother who live with my parents.

I always thought my dad would walk me down the aisle and be at my wedding, but, after a recent fight, I am feeling more and more like I don’t want them there. Plus, I would have to pay for my parents to come and stay with me. It breaks my heart and I feel so guilty at the thought of not inviting them but also strangely relieved. My boyfriend says it’s my choice, but I don’t think he wants them to come either because all they do is try to convert him and start political debates with him. I do want my sisters to be bridesmaids, but. if my parents don’t go, then they won’t either due to their autism. I don’t know what to do.

I am paying for most of this wedding and I just want a calm and happy day. Can I just not invite my family except for my brothers? Can I have my MIL kicked out if she shows up? How would that affect my step-kids since they are close to her (my son doesn’t know she exists and she isn’t mentioned in our house)? — Under Pressure Planning Guest List

You say you want a calm and happy day. You know that won’t happen if you invite various family members. So don’t invite anyone you think will make the day chaotic, stressful, and unhappy. Just understand that there may be repercussions for having a wedding and inviting some family but not ALL family (particularly parents and siblings). Is it worth having a calm and happy day if the aftermath could be anything but? Is having a wedding at all worth this stress?

If it were I and I already lived with my partner and had a toddler with him and we each had super stressful relationships with various family members who were all but guaranteed to negatively affect our wedding if included, I’d elope. I’d get the kids together, with maybe one or two adult witnesses, go down to city hall, say the “I Dos” and then have a nice family meal together afterward. Calm and happy — just like you say you want.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    Yup, the first thing I thought was, “Yikes, just go elope!” The last thing you need on your wedding day is a bunch of unnecessary family drama being stirred up by people who have blatantly been rude at best up to this point. I’d stick to your guns and only invite those who you want to be there to share in your celebration. (And maybe have a bouncer at the door…)

    1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

      Or, maybe there’s a venue that only holds 5 people tops? A hot air balloon? Sailboat?

      1. How fun would a hot air balloon wedding be? If you only have a handful of people, the possibilities are endless.

      2. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

        I think it would be so fun!!

      3. A hot air balloon wedding would be so cool. My old boss gave us a hot air balloon trip as a wedding gift. That was fun.

  2. I agree. With all the problems that having a wedding may cause, eloping may be the best bet. You can still can plan something small & nice. Leave all the drama at the door. Live your life & take care of your little family. Involve his two kids – they are part of the family too. You have overcome a lot. You can do this.

  3. I agree with Wendy that you should elope with just the kids and maybe a few adult witnesses. If you choose not to do that, then to answer your questions: You do not have to invite anyone you don’t want to. Its a day to celebrate your life with your partner and if there is anyone who is going to make that unenjoyable for you, then don’t invite them. As far as your future MIL, as long as your fiancé is on board with not inviting her, then don’t invite her. If she shows up, absolutely kick her out. Or hire a private security guard (or use in house security if your venue offers it) to ensure she doesn’t come in. And if the sisters keep insisting they’ll bring her… they don’t need to be invited either.
    I’ll be honest – I’ll go to bat for family every minute of every day, but sometimes you have to cut toxic people out of your life even if they are family. You are not obligated by bloodlines when someone treats you and your child like shit.

  4. I agree that eloping is the best option here. Inviting some family members and expecting others to keep a secret is tricky and may not actually work in practice. My friend is getting married and decided not to invite her dad and even though she likes some relatives on that side, it was worth not inviting some and risking news going through the family and either him showing up or dealing with the drama that would ensue. There weren’t many family members she really wanted there, so I think it’s worked out OK, but it was a tough choice.

  5. Stillrunning says:

    I’m with the elope crowd. Take the money you’ll save on airfare and hotels for various family members, a bouncer, and a therapist to help you deal with the aftermath, and have a great honeymoon.

  6. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I agree with eloping. Don’t announce your plans in advance to anyone. Get the kids together and a few friends and get married. Have a happy day with the people who will be truly happy about your marriage. Having a formal day with formal invitations will be a miserable event so why bother.

  7. I wanted to elope, but my husband was insistent on a wedding. I picked and chose family I invited because most of my family is toxic so it ended up only being an aunt, uncle, and cousin. I don’t think you have any obligation to invite people you don’t want. If they’re toxic people, they’re going to feel hurt no matter what you do, and if they’re not, they should understand why you aren’t able to invite them. If I were you, I would invite just friends for a casual reception. I’m also glad I decided not to elope and still had friends to be there.

  8. I understand the desire to have a traditional wedding, but take deep breaths and focus on the big picture- spending your life with your fiance. My vote is for you to elope.
    My favorite elopement story:
    My oldest cousin married a man she’d been dating for 10 years in a big, beautiful wedding. The were divorced a year later when she found out he’d been cheating on her for god knows how long. A couple years later she started dating an old friend who was also divorced, they moved in together, and had a baby (now they’ve got 2 babies!). When their kid was about 6 months old my whole family (her parents included), got an email from her saying they’d just tied the knot at the courthouse. At the end of the email it said ‘sent from my verizonwireless blackberry’. I was mentally high fiving her for doing what was best for HER instead of bowing to family pressure (my family can lay the Catholic guilt down HARD). Ultimately, though, no one batted an eye. She’s super happy, and so we all are too. And if anyone isn’t happy for you? F* ’em.

    1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      That is freakin’ awesome.

  9. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From the LW:

    Thank you for responding so quickly. I did take into consideration eloping but my boyfriend did that with his ex-wife and he is insistent that we celebrate this and have a real wedding. After talking with my brother, my boyfriend, and a good friend I decided to deal with the repercussions of not inviting my parents. I will send an announcement and letter to my sisters as well as honorary bridesmaids gifts. Should my parents miraculously come to their senses, I will let them be there. My son will walk with me down the aisle. As far as my boyfriend’s mother, I expressed my concerns and he has assured me (and I fully believe him) that should she show up, he will personally and quietly remove her himself. He wants her around probably less than I do and so he is going to deal with his family so I don’t have to worry. We are also going to have my step kids mom be there to help with them in case of any issues. Despite her letting them see their grandmother, we have a fairly easy relationship with her that is cordial and I do not feel that her presence in any way would cause me discomfort. This is my plan for now. I obviously don’t know the future but should everything be as it is now, this is what I have decided. Thank you for your advice and for your quick response.

    1. Anonymous says:

      You’re having a baby walk you down the aisle?! This is 2015–walk yourself down!

  10. Instead of doing an elopement, do a surprise wedding. Where you and your boyfriend know it’s a wedding, but none of the invitees know it’s a wedding. Play it off like it’s a housewarming party (but stress the importance of the invitees to come). That way, your MIL won’t try to drop in to cause drama, since she won’t know that there’s a wedding going on.

    1. I really, really love this idea. Eloping, hot air balloon, and surprise wedding are now my top choices if I ever get married.

      1. We talked about a surprise wedding. But more that we would be the ones surprised. That would have been interesting, much less stressful.

  11. Avatar photo call-me-hobo says:

    I think that one of the best ways to have a “real wedding” feel with still doing the courthouse style elopement is just deciding to splurge on some of the traditional things that a lot of elopements decide to forgo.
    Hire a professional photographer to take pictures (a lot of them offer a discounted courthouse wedding package). Buy a fancy, lacy dress and rent him a nice tux/suit. Get your hair and makeup professionally done. Splurge and get a super fancy bouquet and boutonnieres. Go to a really fancy restaurant for a sit down meal. Look on pinterest for courthouse weddings.
    Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean that you can’t have the fanfare that your fiance wants.

    1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

      Some friends of mine had their wedding at SF City Hall- and they were able to rent out an area of the inside for a ceremony and have maybe 25 guests. It was out in this marble-lined area with columns and was very picturesque. (I only saw the photos.) Could be an inexpensive option for a small ceremony, if your local city has space and allows it!

    2. Sunshine Brite says:

      Agreed! I almost think of that first now vs what’s actually more traditionally thought of as an elopement. I wouldn’t really go outside of the kids and best friends and just do it.

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