Ask Amy: Should I invite my estranged cousin to my wedding?

Comment on this story


Dear Amy: I have begun the arduous task of compiling a guest list for my upcoming wedding. While discussing this with my parents, I made it very clear that I was not going to invite my first cousin, “Anna.” For background, my aunt (Anna’s mom) died of cancer in 2019. It was devastating for the family. It was especially hard for me as I took care of her as she got sick (something Anna did not do).

My uncle remarried 18 months later. Anna is very angry at her father and also blames our family for “choosing his side,” even though it’s not like we could stop him from remarrying. For this reason, she has gone “no contact” with us. This was also devastating, as Anna is the only relative who lives anywhere near me, and we used to be close.

A few months ago, I attended the wedding of Anna’s sister. Anna was the maid of honor. She refused to acknowledge my presence or even say a word to ANY of the family. My parents want me to invite Anna to keep alive the possibility of reconciliation. They also just feel it’s the right thing to do, as we’re inviting the entire rest of the family, including her siblings. Additionally, the family believes that she is struggling with bipolar disorder (her mother also suffered from this).

My parents are paying for the wedding, so I feel I should defer to their wishes, but this is an issue that has caused me so much emotional grief over the past few years, and I feel so personally hurt over her silence.

Bride: Leaving “Anna” off your guest list could place her other immediate family members in a very tough spot. Her siblings, for instance, might also feel compelled to stay home. Excluding her would send a message to her that you are absolutely done.

I used to believe that wedding invites are meant to acknowledge those relationships that have remained healthy and close over the years. Over time I’ve come to understand that invitations can also serve as an optimistic signal for what might be. Weddings, after all, are aspirational family events.

I’d ask you to imagine yourself 10 years from now. Imagine that Anna continues to struggle and continues to adhere to her “no contact” choice. Given this worst-case scenario, would you look back and say to yourself, “Wow — I’m so glad she is the only family member I excluded from my wedding!”

Or would you say to yourself, “In the name of family harmony, I tried to be inclusive and to reconcile. I wish it had worked.”

To some extent, this is a test of your own character and of your capacity to rise above a very challenging family situation. If you invite Anna, there is some likelihood that she will decline to attend, but at least you would have opened the door.

Dear Amy: My friend “Sarah” has recently entered into a serious relationship with “Bradley.” Before this relationship, we often planned and took “girl trips,” along with other women friends.

Boyfriends and husbands have never accompanied us on these vacations. Now Sarah wants to include Bradley when we go on these vacations. This is causing a divide within the group.

I know that she is excited by this new man in her life and the whole group is happy for her. Is it unreasonable to ask her to leave Bradley out of our travel plans?

Wandering: I receive enough questions about “girls’ and guys’ trips” that I found myself wondering if they are a recent phenomenon, but I believe these gendered experiences have actually been around in various forms for a long time. (When I was young, my mother and her sisters went on trips — with kids — but without husbands.)

I believe it is legitimate and reasonable to continue to plan an experience that has a specific character and purpose. In my opinion, your group should convey: “We understand that you want to bring ‘Bradley,’ but — it is important to us that we keep these trips women-only.”

Dear Amy: Recently you ran a letter from “Tempting Trainer,” a total jerk of a man who was bragging about his conquests with his female clients.

I can’t figure out why you waste space on garbage like this.

Upset: Jerks sometimes inspire some of my most memorable flights of outrage. I’m here for it.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.