Their Children Weren't Invited to a Family Wedding. In-law Issue or More?

Dear Veronica,

I'm so excited i came across this site! I need advice ASAP! My husband's father's girlfriend of 5 years has been nothing but horrible, rude & mean to me since pretty much the beginning. I've been with my husband for 7years. To sum it up the girlfriend's daughter is getting married tomorrow & i assumed my kids would be invited - to the ceremony at least. When we called to double check that it was ok the response was "what happens if they act up - what will you do?" making us feel incompitent & disrespecting the fact that we wouldn't be able to handle our own children. I was hurt & insulted & was at the point where I don't want to go to the wedding now - i know for the sake of my husband i need to be there to show good "face" and be the supportive wife. However, we will not be bringing the kids (which i'm mad about) and i would LOVE to have some choice words with this girlfriend - but should I refrain myself? Should I ignore her completely at the wedding? I wish there was more time to explain my whole relationship with this girlfriend as we don't like each other much, but I always make the effort with her because it makes my FIL happy. HELP - what should I say,do, or not say or not do tomorrow....

-Anna

Dear Anna,

I think we may have one of several different issues going on here. So, I'm going to go through all of them. And then I really am going to give you my best advice on how to handle this.

First, let's discuss wedding etiquette. Normally, a wedding reception is an adult affair. It's usually a sit down formal dinner and a celebration afterwards which goes on later into the night. This is not conducive to children's normal time tables and leads to cranky, tired, children that literally have nothing to do at a formal party. It is common for there to be loud music, dancing, lots of alcohol consumption, people letting loose, not people popping in a Bobpants Square Whateverthehellthatthing is DVD's. It is not the atmosphere for children, or for adults to best be minding children. It is the rare exception that children are ever included to a normal formal reception. If the invitation does not specifically state that it is to your children, your children were not invited.

Exceptions are day receptions, especially outdoor very informal events like a barbecue kind of reception. But for the common formal evening dinner reception, children are not commonly included for all the very obvious reasons.

I've had the misfortune of throwing holiday parties and dinner parties where invited guests showed up with their uninvited children. It's happened a few times to us, and it's always the section of his friends/family that are... well let's say, socially inept. Who in their right minds assumes their children are invited to an evening event where there is nothing for a child to do, I have no idea. I think some people just aren't raised knowing, but I also think some people just lose brain cells when they have children. They think everyone wants to be around their kids, or that it's no big deal to just show up with their children to someone else's house or party or event. And it's not.

The mother of the bride's reaction of, well what if the children aren't well behaved, doesn't sound to me like an attack on your ability to handle your kids. It sounds like a hostess organizing a huge event, and being thrown a monkey wrench at the last moment, which she's trying to deflect. Part of why socially it is not the norm to have children at an event that goes on past their bedtime or "good" time, where there is nothing for children to do to keep them occupied or entertained, is because they are going to act age appropriately, with the added stress and angst of being bored and tired.

I remember my husband's friend's son who ruined one of our formal holiday parties, running around like a lunatic, sticking his hands in food, crashing into people, and the parents said "Oh look how cute, he's having fun." He stained and ruined an expensive French wool rug, and his parents never even acknowledged it. They were like, "Oh that's part of having kids." Yeah well, I don't have any kids. I have expensive French wool rugs. And I did not invite your kid. You brought your kid to a party at night with all adults why? So it's not "Oh well," it's You will never be invited to my house again.

The bride's comments or her mother's comments (Are they one in the same? Either way, it makes no nevermind) sound like something any evening formal event hostess might say, or at least be thinking, to any invited guest that thought it would be alright to bring children to a wedding reception. Granted, maybe could have been worded better or kinder, but still not really out of line. 

Now, if that was the issue going on, then that's an easy one. Children aren't automatically invited receptions. When you're invited anyplace, if your invitation does not say "and family" or your children's names specifically, then they weren't invited. Your were not picked out and excluded. It's not something you should take personally. It's not a commentary from the bride or her mom to you.

However, I don't think that's the issue. I think you're kind of aware of this, as you even stated you thought the kids would "at least" be invited to the ceremony. That "tell" lets me know that you aren't unaware of what's socially acceptable regarding children at late night formal affairs.

The only way your specific concern about the wedding invite holds any water is if other children who are the same age as your children were invited and yours were excluded.

I think, you have a problem with this woman, and you're using this wedding excuse to show you've had enough and you don't want to take it anymore.

You've been in your husband's family for longer than she has. Therefore, you have more of the "Carmella from the Sopranos" or "Caroline Manzo from The Real Housewives of New Jersey" role. What I mean is, you are the matriarch, or the center, or the one that knows the most. It may be something very subtle. It may not be big, obvious, and dramatic at all. But there usually is one woman in an extended family that sort of decides who will host a holiday, or when the family reunion or vacation will be. Even if it feels like all the women get together and discuss these things, usually one has an edge. In a fair, supportive and loving family, it's pretty much invisible. But usually there really is one Mama that the others turn to for advice, guidance, help, support, and direction, just a little bit more than anyone else.

Your father in law's girlfriend doesn't have the ground you do. Maybe either she's challenging your place, or you're perceiving her to be challenging your place. You said she's been horrible, rude, and mean to you since pretty much the beginning. That could have been her coming in on the attack or that could have been you setting up some defenses. So, there could be that.

Or, there could be just normal dislike. Obviously there are people that just rub us wrong. For whatever reason, definable or not. But usually within a family people that find themselves constantly butting heads with another family member will usually make an effort to act professionally instead of casually toward the other person. In general most people don't actually want conflict and will avoid it if they can, especially in their homes.

But in your situation, one or both of you may be perpetuating some kind of stand off over disliking each other. If this feels like it might be the case, think about what it is that you two just can't see eye to eye on. For example having differing politics would be a huge reason. Another would be the children factor: if she doesn't have or like children, and you read that in her thoughts and actions all the time you would absolutely translate that as a personal attack on you and your life. Another biggie would be religion.

And of course there is just the plain average no-frills chance that she isn't a nice person, isn't bright enough to want to keep peace within the family, and she just doesn't like you for no real reason at all. Yep, that happens. It's the least likely of the options I'm throwing out there, but it is a possibility. And if that's the way it is, that's tough, because logic and love won't fix it. It's something you just have to live with and let go of as much as you can.

What I'm curious about here is what your husband has to say about this, and how his father reacts. I noticed in your note that you very specifically used a singular pronoun. You said, the girlfriend has been shitty to YOU, not "us." But, when you were explaining how you had interpreted her response to your call to check on the wedding invite, your interpretation was very much "us." That it was a commentary on both of your ability to parent.

This tell in your words suggests that it's you having the problem with this woman. And that you're projecting it onto your husband or bringing him into it. Does he try to diffuse it? Does he say, "Oh I doubt she meant it like that," or "Yeah that was rude of her but let's just be the bigger people and let it go." If you think about it objectively, is this your conflict? Or is this actually a family conflict, where the men are involved and everything.

Anna, this was a lot to think about. But no matter which way you think this goes, my answer and my advice would be the same:

1 - The wedding is the bride's day. If you think she's doing it wrong, or that her mother is doing it wrong, that's your problem, not theirs. It's the one day where everyone has to give in and let the bride have her party her way. It's not fair to her to make this an issue, or to bring it up at the event. If you decide to have choice words as you said, which I think is a bad idea regardless, definitely do not do it at another woman's wedding. This bride gets to have her day. If you can't accept that, don't go.

2 - Kill 'em with kindness. I am dead serious. If this woman really is annoying the hell out of you with rudeness and meanness and horror, I swear this works. If you SHOW her - not just tell her but show her - that you will not sink to that level, that she doesn't affect you, that she can't live rent free inside of your head - then you win. If you are always smiling, everyone around the two of you will also see and there will never be sides, and questions, and opinions. Walk away, don't say anything, smile and shrug, or smile and say, "How about them Dodgers!" and change the subject completely, you will absolutely drive her insane. This sounds simplistic, it sounds too easy. Well it's not easy. It's damn freaking hard to bite your lip and smile when you want to bash somebody's skull in. But I guarantee you, you will win.

Good luck Anna. Thanks for your question.

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8 comments

KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

I agree it is the brides day - what she wants goes. I also agree that if you do need to speak out about it that the day of the wedding is not the time. You have given some excellent advice.


Veronica profile image

Veronica 6 years ago from NY Author

Thanks KoffeeKlatch Gals. Confronting the bride, or the mother of the bride, will damage the bride's day. That's not right. You can either decide to celebrate the bride's day with her, or not. You don't get to do so on your terms. This is her special day.


Pam D. 6 years ago

Hm, I gotta add a second opinion. First, I completely agree with your final advice. Second, while I tend to agree that some events are adults only, I don't know if it's always the case in every culture. I'm a first generation kid of an immigrant family, and with us, the kids are assumed to be invited. Growing up, there are always a bunch of rowdy kids playing by themselves in another room. Yes, even at weddings. Or should I say wedding banquets.

It sounds like Anna and her FIL's gf come from different backgrounds with different assumptions of social norms? Perhaps in one family it was common to include children without a specific invite. (To tell the truth, my family didn't even use to send out wedding invitations, it was more of a come-one, come-all. Nowadays my generation tends to go for the invites.)

Having said this, none of it would excuse a confrontation that "choice words" would instigate. So your final advice still goes! But perhaps more awareness of each others' backgrounds may be in order.


Veronica profile image

Veronica 6 years ago from NY Author

Pam D,

Yes!

I'm sure other cultures do lots of things differently. Like I said, I think Anna is using the wedding thing as her final straw or her excuse. She gave a little "tell" in her wording that she knew it wasn't totally that. I went through examples of things that could cause these two people to have constant friction like differing political beliefs, religious beliefs, or views on kids. You may have hit one I completely missed. (And, it is probably the one that I should have hit first since I think it's the case with that grouping of my husband's family and his family's friends that I mentioned.) Absolutely, if they are from different cultures or different backgrounds, there may be constant head butting, miscommunication, confusion, or even judging. Thanks for adding this comment, it's very valuable.


Lala_Lisa profile image

Lala_Lisa 6 years ago

This is another really good piece of advice Veronica. Pam added to it in a very good way. I grew up in NY and worked in New York City as a chef for a very long time. I designed menus for many upscale weddings over the years. I attended many weddings. I really never thought people would bring children to this kind of event. I thought it went without saying. I am not missing the point here though that this isn't the real heart of what's wrong between these two women. You are so perceptive that she used certain pronouns and it does sound like this is between her and her fatherinlaw's gf and that the husband is more being dragged along through it. That must put him in a very bad position since it's his father. I agree with you and Pam D. that a wedding is the bride's very special day. If this woman was really considering having choice words for the bride's mother at the wedding that says alot about this woman now doesn't it. How would she feel is someone decided to pick a fight with her on her daughter's wedding day? How would that make her daughter feel? This woman is NOT very good at thinking about what's right, she just thinks about what she wants, like bringing her kids to a place kids aren't invited and picking some poor woman's wedding to have "choice words" for the bride's mother. I feel sorry for her husband.


WalterS 6 years ago

I realize it's not the point of the article but I too am stuck on the idea that there are people that think they can bring their kids to weddings and receptions. Our wedding was in Buffalo NY, not exactly a big fancy city, but even the people way up here know this and wouldn't pull a stunt like that. If someone had shown up at my wedding with their uninvited kids I would have asked them to leave.

Getting back to the point of the hub, I agree with Veronica and I am with lalalisa on her point too. If this woman is that kind of woman that thinks her kids are invited to things that they are not and she is actually asking if she should confront the bride's mother at her daughters wedding to discuss how hurt she feels, then clearly there is something wrong with her. Newflash Anna: It's not all about you. To even think that you should confront someone at her daughter's wedding is beyond selfish and myopic. Get a clue. I really hope she didn't ruin that girl's wedding day with her own agenda or by showing up with children.


Navy14me 6 years ago

It is amazing how so many different people can read that letter from Anna and come away from it with the same clues as to what's really going on. I got to the bottom of it and saw she was actually thinking about "choice" words for her father's gf at the woman's daughter's wedding and that settled everything. I was confused how she or anyone would assume it is ok to bring their children to an event children aren't invited to. The fact that she said she called to see if it was ok shows that she didn't think they were invited, she knew what she was doing was wrong. But still you wonder with everything she claims has gone on between her and her father's gf if maybe she just was pushed to far. But to see she was actually thinking about "choice words" at this woman's daughter's wedding, well, that cleared up my thinking. You can see from that the way Anna thinks and how really selfish she is.


Veronica profile image

Veronica 6 years ago from NY Author

Thanks everyone for your comments.

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