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QUESTION: I have a very large extended family with five aunts and uncles and numerous cousins with families of their own. We try to get together several times per year, which usually means I host everyone. My parents and I have a home at a lake near our houses where we let family stay. We cook and provide entertainment as well. Even though it is a lot of work for my parents and me and does get quite costly, we have a good time and enjoy the time with family.
Now my oldest daughter is getting married. Her wedding is coming up, and invitations have gone out, but RSVPs are not coming back!
I did not extend an invitation to the family to use the lake house for this event because I will be extremely busy with the wedding and don’t have time to prepare it or take care of guests for the weekend. Now my family’s response is that they will not be coming to the wedding if it is just for one afternoon.
I am extremely hurt that they will blow off my daughter’s big day like that. It is not a matter of money. They all have the means to make other arrangements. They are just used to me being the host for an entire weekend, which I plan to devote to my daughter this time. I should also say my mother said she would offer to host them, but that would take her time away from my daughter’s wedding activities also.
How should I handle this? My first instinct is to say, “Fine, don’t come, but you are never invited back again!”
Have you let them know how much it would mean to you to have them there? If so, I can understand thinking “Fine, don’t come, but you are never invited back again!” But try not to think that way. The day will still be amazing for you and your family no matter who is in attendance.
Your family seems to be lacking a lot of empathy and appreciation for you in this situation. How terrible that they would miss your daughter’s wedding because you’re not available to entertain them. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do differently here. You have already made the right choice to focus on your daughter and her special day. Let them decide what they’re going to do on their own; you’ve already said what you can and cannot do, which is good.
After the wedding, when emotions aren’t running so high, you can then decide whether to invite them back. You’ll have to make a choice between welcoming them to family dinners because you enjoy the get-together and their company as family or not having them back at all. A third possibility is to get these families involved in sharing the cost or the preparation of the meals. In the meantime, don’t let selfish relatives ruin a wonderful occasion.
Hopefully, by now, the relatives are all coming to the wedding, staying in hotels and are showing some happiness for the bride and you! It is ridiculous to think that they would not come if accommodations were not available at the lake house. They should be able to find a hotel near your house so they would be able to help you in any way and to be able to attend events surrounding the wedding.
If they don’t get there, listen carefully to their excuses. If you decide that it really is because the lake house was unavailable, then remember that going forward. Next time, everyone needs to pitch in with meals and entertainment. It is important that everyone base all aspects of the visit with you and your parents on mutual respect. Good luck!
GUEST’S ANSWER: Kathy Walker, local volunteer and community leader:
This is an unbelievable scenario. Jaws are dropping around the response you have received from your relatives concerning their displeasure over the accommodations for your daughter’s wedding.
I would immediately send them a list of hotels in your area and an itinerary for the wedding festivities along with a letter asking for their response as to whether they will be able to attend the wedding. I might even ask whether some of them might be available to assist you on the day before, or after the wedding, with small duties such as gathering family members for photographs, running errands for the mother of the bride or assisting with something else that might surface during the wedding.
Depending upon the responses you receive, I would then reassess whether your gatherings at the lake house are about family getting together to share or about self-centered opportunistic guests who only think of their own pleasures.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.