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Heavy Meddle: Am I Obligated To Invite Distant Relatives To My Wedding?

I want the day to feel intimate and joyous, but if my whole guest list is comprised of obligatory family members, there won't be room for those closest to us. (flickr)
I want the day to feel intimate and joyous, but if my whole guest list is comprised of obligatory family members, there won't be room for those closest to us. (flickr)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to advice@wbur.org. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,
Steve

Dear Steve,

In this day and age, what (if any) is the social etiquette norm for families and wedding invitations?

I ask because my partner and I are getting married next year. We have a small (but workable) budget. I have a very large extended family who are close to each other, but not necessarily to me (in some cases because of my sexual orientation).

I want the day to feel intimate and joyous, but if my whole guest list is comprised of obligatory family members, there won't be room for those closest to us. What's the best way to preemptively avoid hurting anyone's feelings?

PHOTO

Signed,
Invitation Only

Dear Invitation,

Stop feeling guilty! Please. Just stop.

You’ve got it exactly right here: your wedding should be exactly what you want it to be. Which in this case is a joyous and intimate occasion for you and your partner to consecrate your love. Period.

People view weddings in all sorts of ways — as is their right. For some, it’s a public performance and/or a ritual of familial obligation and/or a display of family status and/or an expression of family unity. And so on. And so on.

But this wedding is yours. And with any luck (and hard work) it will be your only wedding. One of the beautiful things about living in the modern age is that marriage no longer has to be an economic or tribal arrangement. It can be about two people who choose each other. And when they choose to marry, those two people can choose to make their own happiness their central obligation — not cousin Victor’s feelings, or great aunt Pam’s pride.

You deserve to get invited to a wedding because you love and support the people getting married.

If you are worried about those people feeling slighted, you can always try to explain to them why they weren’t invited — that you’ve chosen to have a small ceremony because of budgetary limitations, etc. If that will help assuage your feelings of guilt, go for it. Find some nice stationary (on sale!).

But I don’t see that you even have to do that. The best weddings are ones in which the couple gather around themselves all the people who they love, and who they consider their community — the folks who are going to help them as they take on the challenge of marriage. That does not include extended family with whom you haven’t talked in a decade, especially if they disapprove of your sexual orientation! Those aren’t the people who are going to support you. They’re the people who are going to buy you a Cuisinart and complain about the appetizers.

I realize I’m sounding a bit dogmatic here. But I just think we, as a culture, have suffered too long under the deluded notion that you deserve to be invited to a wedding just because you have the right last name or bloodlines. You deserve to get invited to a wedding because you love and support the people getting married.

So, Invitation, I hope you get exactly the wedding you want — and the marriage you deserve.

Mazel tov!
Steve

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

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