Q. My daughter is getting married next month. Her father left 20 years ago and we have not seen him since. I know where he is — we have stayed in touch with his relatives. My daughter wants her aunts and uncles to be at the wedding, but does not want me to invite her father. She wants her stepfather to walk her down the aisle. I’m conflicted. Should we not invite her father at all? Even though his brother, sister, and all the cousins are coming? It just seems rude. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. It’s interesting that you’re concerned about being rude to a man who left you with a child 20 years ago and hasn’t spoken to you since. I find it commendable that you have forgiven him, but it is apparent that your daughter has not. And, even though good ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 5 is “Don’t be spiteful,” and rule No. 6 is, “Don’t hold grudges,” it’s the brides’ day and she invites who she wants.
My answer would be different if your daughter had recently had a disagreement with her father and did not want to invite him to get back at him. Then it would be appropriate to set her straight, but that’s not the case here. Her father abandoned her. Your husband stepped in and has been there for her. Under those circumstances, I’m not surprised your daughter doesn’t want her father there, especially if he has stayed in contact with family members and has openly neglected her. I’m also not surprised she has asked your husband to walk her down the aisle. He has earned the privilege. Her actions are completely appropriate and good ex-etiquette.
If I still haven’t convinced you that it would be good ex-etiquette to leave dad off the guest list, consider your daughter’s state of mind on her very special day. Weddings are lovely, but they are also extremely stressful, especially for the bride. You must ask yourself, what purpose would dad’s presence serve at this particular event? On a day that’s supposed to be full of love and promise, here’s your daughter completely distracted by the fact that the father she hadn’t seen in 20 years is somewhere in the room. It will not help her stay calm.
Bottom line, if some sort of reconciliation between dad and daughter is in order, your daughter’s wedding day is not the day to do it. There are 364 other perfectly good days for them to try to heal their relationship — and it would help if dad was the one to initiate things. Your place is to be supportive of your daughter, don’t badmouth dad (ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 3) because that backfires, and if they need a neutral third party to help work through things, find a therapist, a mediator familiar with these issues, or even a clergy person, but not you. There’s too much emotion associated with your daughter’s hurt for you to remain neutral. Get some help. That’s good ex-etiquette.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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