“I Don’t Want to Invite my Alcoholic Mother To My Wedding”

My boyfriend and I recently decided we want to get married in May when he’s on leave from the Army before he deploys. We had talked about an intimate wedding on the beach near our hometown, just the two of us and our witnesses, and then when he gets out of the Army we could have a big ceremony with all our loved ones. Now my boyfriend is mentioning that he wants his parents at our intimate wedding. Which is great! I love his family and I would be happy to have them there. The only problem is, if his family is there, I would have to invite my family. I would be fine with my dad and his wife being there, but my mom and her boyfriend are alcoholics. My mom showed up drunk to both my brother’s and sister’s college graduations, and I wouldn’t put it past her to show up drunk to my wedding. Unfortunately, she always acts out in some way and completely embarrasses me. And if I invite them, there will be so many other people that will feel they should be there. I told my boyfriend this and he said it could just be the two of us if that’s what I really wanted, but I know he REALLY wants his family there and I don’t want to take that away from him. I’m so torn and I don’t know what to do. — Wedding Bells are Ringing

You say you wanted an intimate wedding, just the two of you, and a big ceremony later when your boyfriend gets out of the Army. Were you planning to invite your alcoholic mom and her boyfriend to the big ceremony? Or… were you secretly hoping that once you had the small intimate wedding with just the two of you, the desire for a ceremony would sort of dissipate and you could avoid the whole wedding drama completely? You need to be really honest with yourself here. Whether it’s at your small intimate wedding on the beach or at your big ceremony later, you have to face whether or not to invite your alcoholic mom and her boyfriend. It’s ok not to! But I think it’s fruitless to try to avoid hurting her. If you exclude her from both a small, intimate wedding AND a big ceremony, she’s going to be twice as hurt. If you exclude her from a small, intimate wedding because you’re afraid she’s going to embarrass you, you have to understand that the potential of her embarrassing you at a big ceremony is just as great.

If I were you, unless I really wanted the big ceremony later, I’d probably have a small, intimate wedding only and invite immediate family. I would NOT invite the alcoholic mom and her alcoholic boyfriend, and I would set the boundaries of my adult life early, letting them know that the kind of behavior they exhibited at my siblings’ graduations would not be tolerated at special events in my life. I would tell them that until I know they’re sober and I feel confident they won’t disrupt special occasions, we will do our celebrating privately (over a dinner, maybe)… or not at all. This rejection from you is the price your mother has to pay for being an active alcoholic who has disrupted her children’s special occasions. She may get hurt and she may blame you and it may affect your relationship with her, but you have to remind yourself that this is a choice your mother makes by not getting the help she needs. You have not done anything wrong. You do not owe your mother an invitation to your wedding when she has proven that she can’t behave well at such an event.

You need to invite the people you want to be at your wedding and accept that, by not inviting the ones you don’t want there, you are setting a tone for the years to come. This will be both a blessing (no alcoholic moms ruining special events) and, unfortunately, a heartache as you figure out what it means as you navigate an adult relationship with your mother.

I read your column about a woman who was set up with someone who told her he has an STD and I am writing in regards to a similar topic. A guy I like has an STD. I found by accident when he needed to go the doctor. We have never dated nor shown directly to each other that we like each other, but there were many indirect signs. And then he got an STD from a girl he had an on-and-off relationship with for years. Like I said, he did tell me but only because I accidentally found out. In other words, we were not that close for him to have told me that, but I think we got close when he did and, then, in his vulnerable state, I even found him more appealing.

Anyway, I wanted to go out for a drink with him but did not present it as a date — just a drink. He was up for it but then asked to reschedule since he worked late and had to go the doctor the next morning. After a few days, I mentioned when I was free and he said it all depended on the test results the next morning. Then when I ran into him, he said that the doctor gave him more medicine and he still needs to heal. Since then I have only run into him once and he was busy, so I can’t tell if he feels embarrassed by his situation or was just busy.

I’ve never been in a situation like this and would love to give him a chance. But I talked to a guy friend who said if he were taking antibiotics, he would not go for a drink and certainly would not try to impress a gal he likes. I also heard that people seem to have trauma after an STD, that sometimes after that they have arousal problems, and, or course, they do not want to date during that time because they don’t want to pass the STD on to someone else, etc.

Can you please let me know how I should behave? — Finding his Vulnerability Appealing

Yeah… this guy is giving you clear signs that this is NOT the time to pursue dating him. Frankly, I’m surprised you’d even need a sign. I mean, shouldn’t “I have an STD I’m being treated for right now” be enough of a signal that perhaps this isn’t the best time to go out? It makes you look desperate that you’re pursuing him right now — like you see a window of vulnerability, or a time when he isn’t pursuing someone else, and you’re trying really hard to take advantage of that. Slam on the brakes, sister, and give the guy some space. If he’s interested in you, he knows where to find you and can always use the excuse of wanting to reschedule that drink to reach out to you. If he doesn’t, then it’s safe to say he’s not interested.

And, you know, you might want to re-evaluate your criteria in a date if finding out someone has an STD is what’s especially appealing to you.


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


  1. LW1: then don’t invite your mother and her boyfriend. Simple. It is your day, don’t make it complicated to you. Keep it intimate with the people you really want there and then.
    You can inviter her later at the big ceremony with full family. Call her and explain her why you act this way. If she showed up drunk at prior important events, she knows that she failed her family. Tell her and she might make an effort for the bigger wedding party. Congratulations!

  2. LW1: I don’t see how you get around this without having a talk with your mother. I have zero experience dealing with anything like this, so I may be way off base, but given that you’re either going to have explain why she wasn’t invited after the fact, or tell her in advance before the wedding, I’d probably try something like this:

    “Mom, after the scenes you caused at the graduations, I have to tell you that I’m really conflicted about inviting you to the wedding. It’s going to be a very small wedding, just me and him and his parents, so if you’re drunk, it’s going to be very obvious. What do you think? Can you promise me that you won’t drink that day?”

    You know her best, you know whether she’s likely to promise to behave and then show up trashed anyway. If she’s so out of control that you can’t trust her to keep any promises she makes, then I think you’re down to the decision between inviting just his parents, and inviting her with the risk that she makes a fool of herself.

    If you do invite her, consider having a sibling or friend on standby, so you have someone to keep an eye on her and take her and the boyfriend home if they’re disrupting the ceremony.

  3. Oh, and LW2: I’m with Wendy. I’ve never heard of someone being irresistible because they have a contagious disease of the private parts. That’s a definition of “vulnerable” I wasn’t previously familiar with.

  4. I agree with Wendy’s advice for both of these letters. I think LW2 might view the friend-zone as a step that can be pushed into more. Enjoy the friendship.

  5. LW1 – What Wendy said all the way. I also have an alcoholic mother. While she actually does a decent job of keeping it together at special events, I finally had to draw the line in the sand with her about 4 years ago and told her, if you want to be in my life, you need to stop drinking. At that point, kids were in my near future and I knew I didn’t want them exposed to the chaos, drama, and instability. I had to endure it as a child and know the life I want to give my children is very different. As a result, my mother has seen my 21 month old son exactly once, and the only reason for that visit was my brother’s wedding. The point I am trying to make is this: Boundaries are all the control you have with her. You cannot control whether or not she shows up drunk, but you CAN control whether she shows up by not inviting her. Some in your family may not understand you decision, but this is about YOU and what you want and need in your life.

  6. When one of my friends was married, she had this same dilemma, she ended up inviting her alcoholic mother to her wedding. They had problems throughout the years but in the end she wanted her there. I was at the wedding and having never met her it was easy to pick out who she was. She was a mess – and it was a giant shit show and everyone was stressed and doing their best to hide the fact that her mom was fall down drunk and causing issues. I felt so bad for my friend. I am not sure if she had a talk with her mom about being sober at the wedding, but in any event, you should. When she thinks of her wedding day – that is what she remembers the most.

  7. dinoceros says:

    LW2: If this is an STD that can be treated by antibiotics, then I don’t think it’s that serious that he’s experiencing trauma or whatever. I think it’s odd that a person would not want to spend time with someone they like if they were on antibiotics. I think that you’re taking something that is a minor medical issue and turning it into a sign that this guy is some sort of brooding, vulnerable guy who needs your compassion. STDs happen, and no one should be a pariah for it. But that doesn’t mean that you should assume that it’s creating a big influence on his personality or emotions to the point where it should draw you to him or judge his interest in you based on it. He doesn’t seem to be that interested in hanging out with you. You’ve asked him a couple times and he made excuses. Let it go. If he wants to hang out, he’ll let you know.

  8. Artsygirl says:

    LW1- I agree with everyone. Do not feel obligated to invite your mother to any of these events. Be upfront and tell her that her behavior is the sole reason she is not invited, do not make excuses as to why she was not invited or avoid telling her before the ceremony. If you absolutely need to invite her to your big event, I suggest hiring a professional bouncer who can keep an eye on your mother and her boyfriend who can discretely intervene if they cause a scene.

    LW2 – You have made your interest known, the ball is now in his court. If he wants to go out, he will contact you but pestering him (especially since he is dealing with personal stuff right now) is out of bounds. Have some dignity and let him work things out in his own timeline.

  9. wobster109 says:

    LW1 – you think you “have to” invite your mom if his parents are there, but you don’t “have to” do anything. It’s fair to treat your mom differently because she behaves differently. Invite your dad, his wife, and your fiancé’s parents. Have a lovely wedding.

  10. strawberrygurl says:

    LW1- After you make your decision, I would suggest finding a good behavioral therapist to talk about techniques to manage your adult mother. Seeing a therapist doesn’t have to be some long ongoing Freudian arrangement; you can say you want to do some short term therapy on techniques to manage a particular situation. Maybe the time between your small wedding and your big ceremony. Dealing with family members is a job, and you sometimes you need specialized tools. A behavioral therapist should be able to help you with that.

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