Dear Miriam,

My sister is getting married this year and we are all looking forward to the wedding. However, there is a big shadow over the whole thing. My parents are separated for years and although my brother and I have a good relationship with our father, my sister does not. It’s not like they have had a falling out or anything, she just doesn’t have much of a relationship with him.

She insists that he isn’t invited to the wedding but instead of just hurting our father it is having a ripple effect.

My aunts (his sisters) are really put out and are now saying that they won’t go. I can’t even mention the big day to my father because he gets so upset. I understand it is her wedding day but can’t she see that she is upsetting so many people in the process?

Stressed Sister

Dear Stressed Sister,

Thank you for your email. In an ideal world, a happy occasion like a wedding should bring a family together but that is not always the case. I can understand why this might be hard to understand, especially when you personally have a good relationship with your dad. I can also understand why you and your dad would be very upset about it, not to mention the fallout with the aunts too. In one way, you’d almost want to plead with her to reconsider her decision for the sake of keeping the peace and also in case she comes to regret her decision down the line. On the surface, at least, it would make life a lot simpler for a lot of people.

However, from your letter, she obviously feels very strongly that she does not want him there on the day (it’s telling that you use the word “insists”, for instance). Whatever her reason, I am assuming she has thought long and hard about it and is at peace with her decision.

Ultimately, it is her decision. Remember that it’s one that she is responsible for and not you. So while you might feel torn between two sides, you must remember that this is really between your sister and your dad. It’s not a problem that you need to solve or take upon yourself to fix.

But look, I am a realist and I know it’s hard not to want to play peacemaker when you care for both your dad and your sister. If you do want to try to help both parties to find a compromise, it might be worth talking to her one last time, but approaching the topic from a place of compassion, rather than telling her that she is upsetting people, which is likely to drive her further away or cause even more division. You could say that you know that it is her day and her choice and you respect that but that you are also aware of the stress she is having to deal with (eg the backlash from the aunts) and is there some way that you could support her in finding a solution? For instance, would she consider the possibility of having your father at the church/ceremony section, even if not at the whole event?

Perhaps she might consider a compromise like this – but I am keenly aware that I don’t know why your sister has come to this decision.

I reiterate again that it is her decision. Ultimately, you have no control over that. What you can do is continue to nourish your own relationship with your father and involve him in your life and in the occasions that are important to you.

I hope that this is of some help and that the wedding day goes as smoothly as possible in the circumstances. Best of luck. CL

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