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Guest List: Inviting Estranged Relatives

 

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You've written the guest list. Not once. Not twice. But three times, cutting coworkers, adding neighbors and leaving other folks in the "maybe" column until the "A-listers" RSVP. You're comfortable with the final list...with one exception: You're still debating whether to invite an estranged relative. A father or mother, sister or brother, grandmother or grandfather, aunt or uncle whom you haven't spoken with or seen in years. On the one hand, you're tempted to send an invitation because, like christenings and funerals, weddings are family affairs. But on the other hand, why waste a $100 dinner on people who don't act like family as far as you're concerned, and whose past misdeeds still make your blood boil?

Expert Advice

According to Chicago therapist Leah Shifrin Averick, the decision to invite estranged relatives should be based on the circumstances surrounding the rift and whether you really want to renew the relationship. "Yes, it's gracious to mend fences and invite them," Averick says. "But it's OK not to invite them, too -- especially if the circumstances of your falling out were so horrible that you can't forgive the person and you really don't want anything to do with them."

Questions to Ask Yourself

To help you decide, ask yourself these questions:
  • Are you angry about something that would be impossible to forgive? (Examples: Did your father molest you as a child? Did you mother abandon you when you were a baby? Did your uncle steal money from the family business and force your parents into bankruptcy?)
  • Was the rift the result of a minor misunderstanding that escalated into a feud? (Examples: Did your aunt stop speaking to you because your late grandmother left you more money than her children? Did your brother make disparaging remarks about your fiance?)
  • Are you worried about a scene at the wedding? (Example: Is your alcoholic brother prone to verbal outbursts and violence?)
  • How would you feel if the relationship didn't improve after the wedding?

Resolve Differences First

If you choose forgiveness, don't extend the wedding invitation out of the blue. "Resolve your differences first; then send the invitation," advises Gilda Carle, Ph.D., a New York psychotherapist. "The invitation won't solve the problem. Only a candid discussion will do that."

 

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