#949: “Wedding dis-invitation.”

Captain,

My partner (he/him pronouns) and I (she/her) have been together for 7 years and are getting married this summer. Our wedding will be a week away in a different state than we live, and we are so excited to spend the time with our family and friends. My partner’s sister is an alcoholic and drug addict with many coexisting conditions. She is abusive to my partner when she feels he isn’t “there for her,” and he went no-contact a while ago and told her to get sober if she wanted a relationship with him. She tried to kill herself on a camping trip with us one summer, and someone nearly drowned trying to save her. We cannot have her at the wedding. She is a danger to herself and others when alcohol is involved, and we do not trust her not to drink. She has made no efforts towards recovery and just last month got a DUI. She has been hospitalized multiple times in the last year on involuntary mental health holds, and was arrested for attacking a nurse. In our state, she has gotten off relatively easy. The state we plan to marry in is much less forgiving. If anything happened over the week the family is staying, she would be stuck very far from home and possibly imprisoned. She trashed her last apartment and was evicted, but was taken in by their mother. Due to her living with mom, we have seen her on rare occasion. At the last family gathering, she spoke as though she was coming to our wedding, and not wanting to rock the boat at their mother’s engagement dinner, we did not correct her. I feel some degree of manipulation is involved, as she was *not invited to the wedding*. Now we plan to write a letter to her laying out the reasons she can’t come along, but she will be crushed and angry. We intend to word it in the most respectful terms possible — on one hand we are dealing with a textbook addict, but on the other we have a family member with severe mental health issues that we want to be sensitive to. I am also afraid of the fallout. Mom wants to do a family sit-down and give it to her, but that seems cruel to me as there is nothing up for discussion. I would rather she process our decision on her own. How do we break it to her?

Signed,
Just want to relax during my wedding

Dear Just Want To Relax,

I’m usually all for direct sibling communications without a middle-mom but I would probably love your Mother-in-Law forever if she would be the “Honey, I’m sorry, but they didn’t send you an invitation and that means you aren’t invited” news-deliverer. Since she’s requesting a family meeting to handle this, I’m guessing…no? There’s no chance that the lack of invitation can stand as “you’re not invited” without a letter or follow-up? I mean, it’s not a surprise that she didn’t get an invitation, and it’s not a surprise that her brother said “Let’s talk again if you ever get sober...”

…Yikes. Welp, my younger brother thought an invitation to my wedding was also an invitation to perform the ceremony at my wedding even though a) we’ve talked less than 5 times in 10 years b) I don’t share his religious beliefs at all and he was fixin’ to go full pastor-mode c) I kept saying “we’ve got that covered but thanks for the offer” until I had to say “I DON’T WANT YOU TO PERFORM THE CEREMONY OR TALK AT ALL DURING THE CEREMONY.” (The dude delivered a 30+ minute extemporaneous “testifyin'”prayer at my Grampa’s Catholic funeral and yes, I’m still mad).

You might want to run this by someone at Al-Anon (an organization for families & friends of addicts, different from AA) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (free helpline) first but here’s my take:

There’s no good way to say “We’re so sorry, we can’t invite you because we know that it won’t be safe.” Her feelings will be what they will be (hurt) (possibly an excuse to rehash every old disagreement and slight) and your decision will be what it will be (the right one for you), so, keep it short and keep it from your Partner (a message from ‘the both of us’ sound will sound patronizing even though that’s not what you intend). Skip listing all the reasons (she lived through the reasons and telling her about them will only make her feel bad or give her ammunition to try to negotiate). Instead, focus on communicating the decision:

“Dear Sister, I haven’t invited you to the wedding because I know that it won’t be safe to have you there while you’re still using. I’m sorry, it hurts to think of not having my sister there, but I know this is the right decision. I wanted to tell you directly so there wouldn’t be any confusion.”

I think this can be handled in an email or text or a phone call – something about sending a letter on the good stationery to disinvite someone from a wedding is too much like a wedding invitation. If she hates that it’s an email or text, she would have hated it just as much as a formal letter, trust me. I wish you all the luck in the world with composing that message. Also all the luck with figuring out a plan B for if/when she shows up anyway.

If you do send a letter or email (or text), send it to her so that she can read it alone and process her feelings alone. Trust your gut on this one! Make sure her mom knows when it’s coming (ugh, poor lady). Absolutely no family sit-down for two reasons:

  1. Your partner is lo- to no-contact with her and you’re right, it would be cruel to re-open that just for the sake of rejecting her from a family event. Cruel to your partner, too!
  2. There’s nothing to negotiate here. She’s not invited. “Talking through it as a family” won’t change that.

Also, if her mom has access to sister’s mental health professionals and thinks it would be good to call in the cavalry, it probably would be.

Finally, if it makes you feel better, my younger brother wasn’t at my wedding and I’m okay with that. (He’s not a drunk driver or a danger to himself and others, he’s just really irritating and bad at boundaries and we are not close at all.) There’s a temptation to play happy families because “wedding!” but you do not have to. Your partner has enough information to make a good decision about including his sister, so, trust his gut and your own. You don’t owe people infinite chances or the benefit of the doubt when they have a track record of getting into dangerous situations.

My heart breaks for everyone involved here but I hope your marriage and wedding day are as happy as can be.

 

105 comments
  1. Yolanda B. Cool said:

    LW, everything the Captain said here is good.

    Additionally, I would not go anywhere near a “family meeting to discuss the un-inviting” because that just smacks of the possibility for Partner’s Sister (and maybe Mom? ) to argue/manipulate you two off of your position and into inviting her. (I’m getting an enabling vibe from Mom taking Sister in, but that just could be me reading my own stuff into your letter.)

    Even if there’s no manipulation/enabling agenda in play, the only thing that could come from this proposed family meeting is an imperial f*ckton of drama, and that’s not good for anyone involved.

    Additionally, consider hiring professional security (even just one or two people) for your ceremony in case Sister shows up uninvited. You guys don’t need that stress on your day, and it’s going to be way easier for two emotionally uninvolved professionals to deal appropriately with Sister, than it is for Mom or friends or family, who should be able to enjoy your day without Sister’s train wreck behavior.

    Best wishes to you on your life together!

    • Yeah, the only purpose of a meeting is for them to try to change your mind. This is a one-sided conversation. You are informing.

      I am very sorry you are facing this very difficult, sad situation.

    • Marthooh said:

      It sounds to me more like Mom is trying to combine “Come to Jesus” with “Stay away from the wedding”. Which, yes, adds up to one f*ckton of drama (imperial weight).

      • SFC said:

        That was my reaction, too. Half “not invited” talk and half “intervention”. Which, noooooooooope.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          Me too.
          I give MIL the benefit of the doubt, that she’s thinking that a gentle family gathering is the kindest way of delivering the news, but it won’t be gentle or kind, because that not how these family chats work out, and you do not need your wedding to be Exhibit A in an “intervention”, planned or spontaneous.

          And really, if involuntary holds and getting arrested haven’t worked, missing her brother’s wedding won’t do it either.

    • Nelalvai said:

      Pro security would do the trick, but if that’s not an option, maybe some thick-skinned friends/relatives that can swoop in and escort her out?

      • Julie B said:

        +1 on the pro-security / designated bouncers.

        • Lori G. said:

          If nothing else, they can guard the presents (Don’t bring presents to the wedding! Send them to the couple’s home or work, so they’re not stolen!)

      • Maggie said:

        Another +1 for that. We had designated bouncers at our wedding. We didn’t need them, because my mother chose not to come to the wedding, but we had my wife’s brothers on standby, ready to remove her (or anybody else, but we were only expecting problems from her) at the first sign of trouble. We lined that up BEFORE we made the decision to invite her, in fact–if the guys had said no, she would have received an announcement after the fact but no invitation (or information about the wedding at all).

      • Clarry said:

        Yes to hiring an off-duty police officer or one time security officer from a temp agency to act as a bouncer. You can make the arrangements you like meaning that you can ask the officer to be dressed appropriate for your wedding, not in uniform. You can tell the officer how you want the bouncing to be handled should it be necessary. One possibility is to have the officer tail the sister (should she show up to crash the wedding) acting like a friend and be ready to escort her our at the first sign of misbehavior. Another possibility (I favor this) is to have the officer just deal with her the second she shows up, get her out and bar the door to her.

        I don’t suggest asking the favor of thick-skinned friends or relatives because it’s not fair to them. It’s bad enough that people are invited to weddings and expected to help with everything from the photography to the wedding cake to the clean up. But ask people to don formal wear and be prepared to get into a fist fight with an angry drunk? I’m pretty thick skinned, but if someone asked that favor of me, wanted me to work in that capacity as part of attending the wedding, I’d decline the invitation, and my future friendship with the person extending the invitation would be a strained at best. (I would however help cook, bake, and set up chairs, but that’s me.)

        • okrysmastree said:

          I think this is what Ask-A-Manager would call “context dependent” – if the unwanted guest could become violent when confronted, then yeah, unless your friends are military or martial artists or something that’s too much to ask. If however it’s just a matter of needing someone to be willing to put on an intimidating-I’m-in-charge-here-and-you-aren’t-welcome posture and handle the awkwardness and possible verbal sparring of telling someone they need to leave, I don’t think that’s inappropriate to ask of a couple key friends or family members.

        • Rhoda said:

          Yes, this. There actually was a similar question posed to another advice columnist a while back, from a bride to be who wanted to bar a relative who’d already managed to ruin her sister’s wedding. The advice columnist actually suggested that the LW put this sister to work policing the relative at her wedding. So, as if it wasn’t bad enough that the poor sister had her own wedding spoiled by the drunk relative, now she couldn’t even relax and enjoy being a guest at someone else’s wedding.

        • Raptor said:

          I think it depends. My friends flat out volunteered for it. It might be because they were work friends, and the crasher I was worried about was my Super Creepy Coworker. The friend coworkers had already seen the creeping in action, and were kinda mad about it.

          • I concur that it depends. I’ve been the thick-skinned friend before, and being asked to bounce a wedding we were worried about an unpleasant ex-boyfriend showing up to was basically just another day for me. But I’ve also worked as a bouncer, so maybe that makes a difference in how I saw the request.

            Still, it sounds like others are suggesting that a pro might be the better option, and I can agree that at the very least a pro will let you not worry about possibly irritating your friends.

            I hope your wedding is generally uneventful. 🙂

        • I’m not 100% on all this, but another reason to get a pro/off-duty cop is porential legal liability issues. She’s already got one DWI–if she shows up to the wedding pre-drunk, a pro is a much better option for someone who might already have been DWI just to get there.

          Ask around; somebody always knows somebody who knows a cop, and if you explain the situation, I don’t think you’ll have trouble getting someone who is willing to help out.

    • Daffodil said:

      Seconding the suggestion for security or at least a well-designed plan for dealing with her if she does show up. My father in law was uninvited from my wedding, and there was some concern that he might crash it. Our solution was to invite a friend of the family who was also a former FBI agent and good at handling people. He was briefed on what to look out for. In the end the FIL didn’t show, and we all had a lovely day. But knowing that a plan was in place was part of making it lovely.

      • stellanor said:

        Knowing how to delegate is so helpful.

        If I was worried about a guest getting out of hand at some event I was hosting I know the very cousin I would have a quiet word with. He is the sweetest thing on two legs but he’s also an enormous slab of muscle, and has no problem gently propelling people out the door. (Mostly they go quietly because he’s 2+ of them, but if they don’t he assists.)

  2. I disagree that a text is in any way appropriate for this kind of conversation. The dis-invitation won’t be taken well no matter how you convey the message, this is true, but there is no reason to add insult to injury. Hand her a letter (I would hand it, not mail it if you go the letter route), send her a well-thought out email as per the Captain’s instructions, but not a text.

    • Drew said:

      If texting is the only reliable method of communicating with Sister, texting is what they should use. It also has the advantage that you can often see when the other person has received the text, so there’s no chance of “Oh, I must have missed that email/butt-deleted that voice mail/used your handwritten letter to clean up cat doo.” It might make etiquette mavens’ shoulders go shooting up to their ears, but in emergency situations (AND THIS IS ONE), making sure the message is delivered trumps all considerations of appropriateness.

      My temptation would be to rip off the plaster and call Sister so you can have the conversation in real time but not in person, but I might chicken out in the moment. The text, once sent, is SENT.

      • Commander Banana said:

        Yup. Ambiguous or nuanced info is tough over texts – YOU ARE NOT INVITED, FULL STOP is not ambiguous or nuanced. I don’t buy the whole text is an impersonal and bad medium argument. I conduct the bulk of my communications with friends/families/lovers over text, because it’s almost like our communication methods are evolving as our communication technology does!

        Ultimately, if someone decides to have a problem with HOW the information is sent (we’ve all heard from the “but I shouldn’t have found out about it through text/Facebook/email/the phone, only a letter on good stationary with calligraphy counts!”) that’s on them.

        • HindsightGraduate said:

          Third-ing my support of text-based communication. It’s harder for partner’s sister to claim she “didn’t get” the message because partner will get a sent receipt and she has to consciously avoid opening said text. Heck, they can do the text AND an email AND a letter. If you two run into problematic sister again and she mentions something about seeing you at the wedding, I do recommend correcting in-person, though.

          • techiebabe said:

            My phone pops up a preview of the text. That’s the way my text message app notifies; at that point I haven’t opened it so no read receipt would trigger.

            If I get a nasty unwanted text you can bet that I’ll sit on it for a while before deciding whether to open, ignore or just delete. The app I use also mutes certain senders so I won’t know if they’ve messaged me until and unless I choose to check that inbox specifically.

            I use this app to avoid messages from a certain person popping up and triggering me, and just check that inbox occasionally when I’m feeling strong. But the point is that OP’s SIL may well get a preview of the message and opt never to open it, especially if she doesn’t like what it says.

            I’d back up anything sent with text message, with a dead tree version. Or just send the dead tree version – a card, which she has to sign for, so you know it was received.

        • monologue said:

          I think this is a bit of a cultural thing. Presumably partner knows his sister well enough to choose the type of communication (call, text, email etc) that makes the most sense between the two of them. I think the captains point here is having a family meeting may not be good and sending an invitation-like formal letter may also not go over well.

    • Commander Banana said:

      I don’t see why this couldn’t be handled through a text – I personally would send a text or email, precisely because the person I’m sending it to can’t try to argue me out of my position if we’re not talking on the phone or face to face. If the Partner wants to follow it up with a phone call to make sure sister received/read the text or email, fine.

      Personally, I don’t see why conveying information through text or email is considered insulting. I’ve heard all the arguments for face-to-face breakups, and having gone through enough break-up convos where “We need to break up” is heard by the other person as “let’s have an hours-long conversation about why I don’t think we should,” I’m 100% in favor of the email or text breakup.

      It gives me a chance to organize my thoughts, be clear and concise and polite, and I would rather get bad news over text or email than in person so I have a chance to compose myself before replying or not.

      • vivinator said:

        100% seconding that a text is an excellent method of presenting information if you are concerned that the recipient will try to argue out of your position. I broke up with a particularly argumentative boyfriend via text after he had argued me out of breaking up with him the first time I tried face to face. Not pleasant.

        Plus, depending on sister’s age and other factors, texting may be her preferred mode of communication anyway. I know it is for my sister– phone calls just make her feel uncomfortable and she never checks her email.

        • Commander Banana said:

          Yup, I’ve had that happen to, and walked away from what was supposed to be a break-up conversation still in the relationship, with “What just happened?!” playing in my head. Especially since I’m female and have unfortunately internalized the soft breakup all too well.

          If I need to have a tricky conversation with someone I’ll do it in person because tone doesn’t translate well over text, and I’ve noticed that if I’m tired/angry/snappy I interpret received texts through the lens of my mood at the moment (like assuming someone is angry if their text is short because I’m angry, or whatever) but I’m giving someone information that is final and not up for discussion, I find text works better for me.

        • walkingwhilefemale said:

          ^This.

          I was rules-laywered and cowed into staying by a manipulative ex while trying to do an in-person breakup. I thought that was the “right” thing to do/way to do it, and that he “deserved” the courtesy. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. He argued and physically intimidated me into backing down, and I ended up sticking around for another year and a half. I didn’t know what to do – breaking up in person was “right” but how I could I make it stick without putting my safety at risk?

          When I finally reached my true breaking point, I dumped him over the phone while he was away on vacation. I felt that there was enough physical distance as well as time before he returned for me to circle up with Team Me and get my affairs in order. Plus, I could just hang up on him! He tried calling back immediately several times, but I blocked him after I realized he wasn’t going to respect my no. Wish I had just done it over text, but the internalized bullcrap about how women should be “nice” and deliver bad news in a soft way got to me. He wasn’t going to take the news well no matter how it was delivered.

      • Nanani said:

        THIS.

        I strongly suspect a big component of the push against text is the desire of manipulators to keep their best chances of manipulation open by insisting on real time communication.

    • Anxiety Cat said:

      I agree with Drew above: use the most reliable method of communication that Sister has used to reach out in the past. Probably covering your bases with ONE additional method would be a good idea (such as Email or a written letter), but pick a method that Sister has used before.

      Sister is going to be upset no matter what the medium. It’s possible she’ll use the communication method as part of her (erroneous) list of reasons of how Partner has wronged her (“They didn’t invite me to their wedding, and let me know about it over TEXT, it’s so rude!”), but even if LW picked the most perfect respectful medium possible, Sister is still going to be upset (“They didn’t invite me to their wedding, even though Mom was invited!”)

      LW, don’t worry about trying to do this perfectly. Sister will be upset no matter what, but that doesn’t invalidate your decision to keep her out of the wedding so you can actually enjoy the day. Pick a medium to deliver the news that you know she uses (text message, email, Facebook, Twitter DM, carrier pigeon, snail-mail, icing on her favorite cupcakes, etc), back it up with another reliable method if you know of one, and wash your hands of it.

    • thathat said:

      I don’t really like the idea of literally handing someone a letter with that news. Like, it seems disrespectful–or more that it could be perceived as disrespectful. You are literally right there, and instead of talking to them you hand them a letter.

      I mean, I get that speaking face to face with people about big scary things can be awful, but if you’re actually there…yeah, I think that would backfire.

    • Vicki said:

      A hand-delivered letter is opening LW or her partner up for a huge fight, because the scenario is going to go something like

      *ring doorbell*
      *sister opens the door*
      “Hi, Sister. I have a letter for you.”
      “Oh, what does it say?”

      If he tells her, he either has to have the conversation that follows “it says you’re not invited to my wedding,” just as if he called or showed up without a letter and said “Hi, Sis, I love you but you’re not invited to our wedding,” or a related one that involves her shouting things like “What do you mean I’m not invited?! Come back here, you can’t just walk out on me after saying something like that!”

      Alternatively,

      Sister: “Oh, what does it say?”
      Fiance, holding the envelope out: “It’s all in here.”
      Sister: “Come on, you can tell me.”

      Even if she reflexively took the envelope out of his hand, she might drop it on the floor and demand that he tell her in person, or just stare at him. Or she might ask him to come in and have a drink while he’s here, while holding the sealed envelope. It doesn’t seem likely that she would say “Thanks, see you later,” go inside, and then read it.

      Hand delivery is used in certain legal contexts because it means the recipient can’t deny having received the document, but this isn’t a court proceeding, and being able to swear “I handed her the letter” isn’t going to help any, if she shows up on the day despite knowing she’s not invited.

      • DameB said:

        Yep. Also, if he’s lo- no-contact, then he would need to, you know, *see* her to hand her the letter. I did the break up by letter thing once and handed it to him when I was young and can I just say that standing there watching him read the letter was the most awkward thing I’ve been through? Handing it to her and then walking away is not more certain than an email or a text — she’s likely to ignore the letter to follow the brother down the sidewalk, too.

    • Lori G. said:

      My 2cents is to have Brother talk to Sis by phone. Reading and re-reading anything is likely to give Sis something to drink at and wind herself up over.

      And tell Mom it’s a done deal, and not to talk with Sis about it.
      It would be a kindness if Mom minimized the wedding event chatter when around Sis, or changed the subject.

      • Lori G. said:

        ETA: Every re-read will land in Sis’ head as a new incident. Your justified, “We don’t want you” letter will effectively be recieved by Sis tens, maybe hundreds, of times as far as the addict is concerned. Transported to the car, destination liquor store, then wedding. It will be seen by her as justification for her choices.

        • But – this isn’t LW or Partner’s issue.

          If Partner will rest easier knowing his conveyed information in a way his sister will not be able to reverse, then a written medium is necessary.

          • Hannah said:

            I agree that it’s not their issue, but LW specifically said they want to handle this in the gentlest way they can, so thinking about the sister’s reaction isn’t totally irrelevant.

            Yes, if it’s important not to be “reversed,” then sure, do a letter or email or text. But this isn’t a concern the actual LW has raised, it’s something that’s come up in the comments. I think we are all sort of assuming that the sister should know she’s not invited, and is trying to manipulate her way into the wedding. And she *should* know, because Partner has gone low contact and she hasn’t been explicitly invited, and she totally might be manipulating. But, alternatively, she could also be assuming that weddings are special enough to break the low-contact rule and she just hasn’t gotten an invitation yet, or thinks she’s lumped in under mom’s invite. So I can see that it would be reasonable to be as kind as possible in the first explicit “you are not invited” communication. If sister continues to manipulate after that, then yeah, it’s time to stop worrying about her feelings.

            IMPORTANT: I’m presenting this as a possibility. Not knowing sister, I think it’s very possible she’s trying to manipulate her way to the wedding, but also possible she’s just (by way of a lot of magical thinking) unaware that she isn’t invited. LW and Partner might have a stronger sense of which they think is happening here and can factor that in.

          • Hannah, what isn’t the issue of the LW or her partner is how his sister might go on a bender if she keeps rereading a text or email.

            Sure, be kind if you can. If you can’t do necessary thing kindly, then you can’t.

    • okrysmastree said:

      I’m strongly against the idea of a letter just because she’ll probably assume it’s an invitation at first, which will make the news even more of a blow. Email/phone/text is less likely to be initially misinterpreted in that way.

      • Manattee said:

        Yes! A letter also feels like making a real production out of all of this when what is needed is de-escalation if possible.

    • Jack V said:

      The way I usually phrase the advice is something like, “use the most formal method of communication you (or rather, the recipient) regularly uses”.

      For me, that’s email. Most of my life is in email. Because my partners are often long-distance, even important heart-seeking conversations are often in email. A letter (or god forbid, flying to a different state in order to have a 30-second conversation “you are not invited to my wedding”) would seem unbearably ostentatious. Whereas, say, facebook messenger would seem callous, like you didn’t really care.

      For other people, a stream of texts back and forth IS how they communicate. Using email, let alone a letter, would be weirdly formal.

      For many other people, a letter is normal communication, and email or text is really informal, only used for top-up utilitarian information like arrival times. In that case, using text for an important communication is quite rude (either very justified, if you need “get me out of this without an argument” or unjustified if you just got bored of your partner and don’t care how they feel).

      I think it varies by region/country and generationally, and I don’t know what’s normal for which people.

  3. Robbie said:

    I am so sorry you are going through that. It is really tough when it is close family that is causing heartbreak, especially when it comes to special occasions like a wedding.
    I agree that sending a simple email, that doesn’t spend time judging or presenting all the past events that make it clear that his sister is not safe to be around when using. A text seems too informal, but a hand delivered letter almost seems too much, if that makes sense. You are not opening it for debate, or willing to open up a box of drama.
    As a side note, is there anyone in the wedding party you are able to give the news about his sister to? It doesn’t need to be a detailed history, just “Jane is not coming to the wedding, and we have decided she is not welcome”. The wedding party, depending on the people included, may be excellent resources in making sure that his sister is the last thing on your mind, including keeping an eye out for her and giving you the emotional support necessary. I am using my bridesmaids to help with that emotional labour, it may be worth looking into.

  4. Whichever method of communication you use, you may want to consider taking steps to filter communication from her (have her emails go into a hidden folder, block texts and calls…) for a while to avoid potential lashings-out, which can be incredibly painful. Having things filtered out will give you the chance to create the emotional space to deal with her response, if she has one. (And even a reasonable response can require a lot of emotional energy— relief is pretty draining!)

    I dis-invited my father to my wedding after an abusive wedding planning process. I sent an email to him, set his emails to go into a hidden folder, and that was that. We roped in a few close, trusted wedding guests (not family members from either side) to escort him out if he did show up. That didn’t happen, but it was a comfort to know I had a plan just in case.

    From your letter and from my own experience with this, I know that your fiancé is incredibly lucky to have someone so supportive on his team. Congratulations and I hope your wedding and marriage are fantastic!

    • Mrs. Loki of Asgard said:

      My husband and I had issues with his mother during the wedding planning. She tried to threaten not to come but when that failed to get the reaction she wanted from my husband she then started threatening to come and ruin the wedding. My husband, in very clear language, that while we loved her if she caused a scene at our wedding we would have her forcibly removed and it would be the last time she ever set eyes on him again. She wasn’t happy at our wedding…but she was there and she kept her damn mouth shut!

  5. I agree that a text isn’t really appropriate, but I agree with the Captain that email is MUCH better than a letter.

    Whichever method, you may want to consider taking steps to block communication from her (filter her emails into a hidden folder, block texts and calls…) for a while to avoid potential lashings-out, which can be incredibly painful.

    I dis-invited my father to my wedding after an abusive wedding planning process. I sent an email to him, set his emails to go into a hidden folder, and that was that. We roped in a few close, trusted wedding guests (not family members from either side) to escort him out if he did show up. That didn’t happen, but it was a comfort to know I had a plan just in case.

    From your letter and from my own experience with this, I know that your fiancé is incredibly lucky to have someone so supportive on his team. Congratulations and I hope your wedding and marriage are fantastic!

  6. HindsightGraduate said:

    Partner’s mom may need to have a meeting with her daughter, but that should be separate from your wedding “don’t come” message and not include you or her son, who has decided on his own to go no-contact. She may be a good source of backup when you give your “don’t come” email/text, but only you and your partner have a say in who gets invited to your wedding, and your partner’s boundary needs to be respected.

  7. JB said:

    You know, of course, that she’s going to show up anyway. So make a plan for that.

    • Anxiety Cat said:

      Agreed. In my wedding (which was blessedly free of high-stakes drama like this), several of my friends were assigned to keep my partner and I from having to deal with stressful things. Truck with tables and chairs is an hour late? “Here, have a cookie and a swig from the flask.” Don’t know where the parents are? “Don’t worry about it, we’re calling them right now, you go sit over here and enjoy the lovely breeze.” Etc, etc.

      Pick 2-3 friends who are reliable and comfortable with confrontation (and who don’t have another job for the wedding already), and assign them to the task of “Door Greeter” or “Usher”, and let them know about Sister’s history (in broad strokes) and that she is under no circumstances to be allowed in the building. Enlisting Mom in this might work, but I suspect she might cave over a desire for harmonious family-reconciliation wedding.

      If you can afford professional security, all the better, but friends work well in this situation too, esp. those who you trust to stand their ground.

      So sorry you’re dealing with this headache, LW! Please have a great wedding day, and congratulations!!

      • SOG Wrangler said:

        Regarding the rogue guest potential – agree. My mom and dad are not close. Mom can’t stand dad, dad doesn’t mind mom. At my wedding one friend who knew them both was assigned the job of “FOB wrangler” in case he tried to start a conversation with mom. If there is someone who she knows and is otherwise unassigned a role (and can’t be partner’s mom either, she’ll give in), dub them SOG wrangler so they can escort her out. If you have a professional planner or day-of coordinator, their staff should also be given a few copies of a recent photo (I wouldn’t ask a friend coordinator to take this on, though – they are already doing enough).

      • I did this for a friend years ago, and highly recommend it… A lot of it is just dwaling with minor miscellaneous crap, although there were 2 ‘memorable’ moments:
        1. This was at the same time as when I was a volunteer safety worker at racetracks. Some genius decided to dump their drink on to a lit candle, causing a huge gout of flame. Next thing everybody sees is me running in (in 3 inch heels, no less) with a full size fire extinguisher primed & ready. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed, but ….

        2. My friend had 2 uncles, both in their 60s and natives of Munich (Germany). By about halfway, I was dead on my feet and just found a good place to sit when one of them sits down next to me, then asks me a question about some political grafitti he’d seen (he didn’t know what ‘flim-flam’ meant.).

        Older German men can sometines be a bit much for those not familiar with the type. However, I’m the child of a native-born German father plus 4 native grandparents, so it doesn’t even register with me. In fact, they were both great guys and I had an absolute ball talking with them the rest of the night.

        Couple of weeks later my friend calls me to thank me for helping out with everything, and says, “And thanks for running interference with my uncles, too.”

        “What are you talking about?”

        She thought I’d deliberately tried to distract them, when I was just having a good time talking with a couple of guys who reminded me of various relatives. We still get a laugh about it.

  8. Nopetopus Cowgirl said:

    Captain is right. There is no graceful or easy way through this.

    Have you ever watched 28 Days with Sandra Bullock? If you feel your resolve crumbling or are getting a lot of flak from family or even from sister herself maybe recommend that they watch it.

    This is the scene you are trying to avoid. Not out of malice or lack of empathy but out of a healthy sense of safety and self-preservation. You are effectively saying that treating this like a normal situation where one invites one’s sibling to the wedding is effectively enabling sister and you cannot do that again.

    • Anxiety Cat said:

      +1 to this. The scene from 28 Days was playing in my head while reading this letter!

    • I think I got my movies mixed up because the 28 days one I know has fast zombies in it

      • Emmers said:

        I wouldn’t want those at my wedding either!

  9. e271828 said:

    LW, how awful for everyone. I suggest that you both text her and email her the same short message, which cannot be twisted or misunderstood. “You are not invited to our wedding. We do not want you there.” And make it clear to her mother that this is the case, so Mom doesn’t try to negotiate or soften it.

    You also need to have a backup plan for what happens if she shows up anyway. There is a nonzero possibility of that happening. Possibly tell her mother that if the uninvited guest shows up, her mother is going to have to take her home because you cannot accept the liability this person represents. This gives Mom a reason to actively support the decision beforehand, knowing there will be consequences.

    Good luck, peace, and happiness.

    • Miaz said:

      I know people who have had security at their events for the sole purpose of escorting a specifically-not-invited person away from the event. They were given photos of the potential crasher, in advance.

    • I disagree with telling the mother(-in-law) that she will be responsible for removing the sister(-in-law). If relying on M is the plan, what happens when she decides not to join up? If LW and her fiancé require a bouncer, get a pro.

    • techiebabe said:

      Then the mom can say “she will be fine, I’ll keep an eye on her”….

  10. Oh LW, this situation is distressingly familiar to me from my own family. And I want to advise you to be prepared for pushback not just when you tell sister she’s not invited, but also when it gets closer to the wedding itself.

    I have three nieces. D, the middle one, is a mess. She’s a compulsive liar, a user, and an abuser to those around her. My entire family has cut off contact with her. Her older sister L stopped being willing to deal with her shit even sooner than the rest of the family.

    When L got married a few years ago, D was specifically and explicitly not invited to the wedding. And yet, the morning of the wedding, my sister got a call from D saying, “so, remind me again where the wedding is? I can’t wait to be there!” My sister, to her credit, a) told D directly that she wasn’t invited and so no, she wouldn’t be telling her where the wedding was, and b) didn’t tell L about the call until after the wedding. But still, the specter of D possibly showing up hung over the wedding a bit, marring what was otherwise a perfect day.

  11. Miaz said:

    “…. while you’re still using…”

    I would skip this language in the your-not-invited letter, because it’s a qualifier. She can wake up that morning, not use that morning, and think…well, this means it’s okay to go.

    • Seconded. She’s not invited, Full stop.

      And I agree with the Captain; there is no need at all for explanations when everyone involved knows why.

    • B. said:

      I agree. I think it’s better to send something more like:
      “Dear Sister,
      I wanted to let you know that you are not invited to my and LW’s wedding. This is a painful decision to make, but it’s the right one for us. I hope you are well and wish you all the best,
      Partner”

      The Cap’s line about informing her directly so there wouldn’t be any misunderstandings is very good, but I dislike adding any kind of reasons or explanations to the message. There’s no way to soften an “I don’t want you at my wedding”, so I think it’s better to be clear and trust her to be able to handle the information.

      • B said:

        I had the same thoughts about captain’s letter; still too many reasons, alas! I think this one works as well as anything can.

        • B. said:

          Thank you! 🙂

  12. L. said:

    This is also one of those things that is Not Your Problem. This is your partner’s family. It’s good that you’re supportive, but the bulk of the emotional labor of managing this situation should fall on him.

  13. Greg M. said:

    There was something in the letter that makes me want to point this out. You are not responsible for her self harm. You need to make the decision that is best for you and same for your partner. I get the jist she may try to manipulate or emotional blackmail with self harm or substance abuse, that is on her no on either of you.

  14. can't remember my username said:

    Just a little note – I found “keep it from your Partner” initially confusing because I thought the Captain meant, “don’t tell your partner about this.”

    Then I realized she meant “have the note to the sister be signed/from Partner”. At least, I think that’s what she meant…

    • JenniferP said:

      That is what I meant. “Make the note be from Partner.”

      • m said:

        I thought the sister is the partners sister? Then shouldn’t the note come from partner as it’s his sister? Maybe I’m just super confused…

        • JenniferP said:

          I don’t think you are that confused. Yes, the letter should come from the partner, since it’s his sister.

      • Alice_Fraggle said:

        That threw me off at first too. Thanks for clearing it up Cap!

  15. thathat said:

    Worth doing–make sure the bridal party knows who she is, what she looks like, and that she is not supposed to be there. One of my friends was very worried that her father would show up, despite their estrangement and him not being invited. He didn’t, but all of us in the party knew that he was Not Invited, and had a plan for what to do if he did show up (it mostly involved getting the matron-of-honor’s husband, who is a large imposing man who looks not unlike a vintage mobster when wearing a tux, to escort him back out).

    You and your fiance shouldn’t have to be running interference if (heaven forbid) something happens on your Big Day.

    • Lou said:

      My friends had something similar at their wedding. Bride 1’s mom was Not Happy that her daughter is a lesbian, and was actually last-minute *invited* to the wedding, and the whole wedding party had a plan in place to remove her if she tried to make a scene. Fortunately for everyone, mom decided that seeing her daughter get married was more important than being a complete and utter jerk and the Plan wasn’t needed.

  16. Jill said:

    Solid advice from the Captain. Also, is there anyone other than you and Future Spouse who are contributing financially to your wedding? Advice columns are full of people about to be married who are quivering and quaking because Mom/Dad/Grandparent threatens, “Then I wont help pay for your wedding if you won’t have the wedding that I want you to have!!” I’m always baffled by people who cave and give in to the wedding demands of others, even though they know it will make them unhappy and ruin their day, just to ensure that someone else pays for the wedding bills.

    If this is LW’s situation, please consider what’s more important: a fancier wedding with financial help that came with strings attached….or a scaled down, simpler wedding where you and Future Spouse call all the shots?

    And congratulations on your engagement!

    • Alice_Fraggle said:

      Seconded! (The money part and the congrats part!)

  17. Dear LW,

    If you remove “while you’re using” from the Captain’s script it will be perfect for your fiancé to send to his sister.

    May your wedding and marriage be marvelous.

    • Lori G. said:

      +1. Takes a long time for us to reset. “Not using” means months or a year, not just one day after a bender.

      • Thanks for pointing this out! I was thinking “reasons are for reasonable people” and Partner’s sister isn’t reasonable.

  18. Jennifer Kaminer said:

    Hi LW, All the eympathy in the world to you. I had similar concerns at my wedding. That said,

    ***Your Partner’s sister is HIS responsibility, not yours.***

    So HE should send her a text AND email, specifying she is not invited, and if she shows up anyway, even with her friends, there is a plan in place for that.

    That plan might be hired security, it might be guests willing to double as bouncers, it might be both. Sister doesn’t need to know what the plan is, just that if she tries crashing, you’re prepared and it won’t work.

    If Partner doesn’t want to deal with this, that is useful information FOR YOU to have now. It shows he

    1) is unwilling to do his own emotional dirty work

    2) is quite willing to delegate his emotional dirty work to you, and

    3) is willing to risk your wedding being crashed and wrecked.

    I think this is actually a good test. And if I may, I urge you — don’t do his emotional dirty work for him even if you rally don’t mind, even if it’s easier for you than him. It sets a dangerous precedent in a marriage and can so easily turn into a poisonous habit. (Hello, 20/20 hindsight!)

  19. Well wisher said:

    It sounds like a large portion of what the LW is worried about, is the likelihood of the sister getting arrested in the other state, for things she would have gotten away with at home. So it’s not so much the keeping the sister out of the wedding – it is the keeping the sister out of jail. And that’s not something you can solve by having bouncers, whether those bouncers are professionals or not.

    So I want to reassure the LW, that if the sister travels to the wedding location and manages to get arrested there, this is not your fault, and you should not have to feel guilty about it. She got herself in that trouble and has to own it.

    If the wedding location is costly to get to, the financial hurdle might be enough to keep sis away, as long as no one else decides they ought to help her get there, or stirs her up to exert herself. So make sure everyone knows she is not invited.

    If she shows up anyways, perhaps it’s best to just ignore her. Have people assigned to sit on her and keep her quiet and out of your face, if she turns up, rather than throwing her out. Make sure the servers know who she is and not to serve her any booze, the DJ knows she can’t have the mic, the photographer know you don’t want her encouraged to ham it up. Many professional wedding services people, have experience and skills in dealing with terrible guests, that you can lean on. I mean, definitely still make sure she knows she isn’t invited, and make sure mom knows this too. But if she turns up anyways, don’t get involved. Pretend not to see her. Focus on the guests that make you happy. If you kick her out you’ll spend the whole night worrying about what kind of trouble she’s getting into out there. Ignoring her and leaving her to her assigned minder, could be the least-bad remaining option. And, don’t tell the mom you have made this contingency plan – she might think it means it is OK to ignore your stated dis-invitation.

      • Emma9 said:

        I tend to agree; Well Wisher’s second paragraph is the most salient one to my mind. If Partner is trying to get his mother on his side re: not bringing Sister with her to the wedding, ‘it’s going to be held in a place where there may be actual legal consequences for her behavior’ might be a good argument if Mom is indeed the enabling/protective type, but so far as you and Partner feeling *yourselves* responsible for those consequences should they arise: no.

      • WilhelminaMildew said:

        IAWTC

        And I can GUARANTEE that babysitters or no, she WILL end up trashed and WILL cause a scene.

        I have a brother like this person (maybe worse, even.) I’ve been no contact for a decade and low contact for years before that. I am all too familiar with this kind of behavior and can tell you that no lengths are too far for them to go. HIRE SECURITY and have her booted when she shows up.

  20. Mrs. Loki of Asgard said:

    The one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is you can’t have everything. You can’t have her not come to your wedding AND everybody be okay with it. Someone, somewhere is going to be upset about this decision and there’s nothing you can do about it. I nearly always go for what is going to make me the happiest…because frankly, I live with me every minute of every day and I don’t like it when I am upset. I don’t celebrate holidays or birthdays with extended family because they make me feel bad about myself and I don’t like that. In the beginning there was a lot of “but it’s faaaaaamily” but I ignored it and after a few celebrations I didn’t attend the comments stopped. It’s hard in the beginning and LW, you’re having one of those “big” celebrations so the guilt associated with it is always so big. I think CA has great advice here. Stay strong, send an email or text, gather team you&partner around and enlist their help in keeping sister-in-law out, and do your best to feel happiness instead of guilt.

    My grandmother had an issue with something that occurred at my wedding until her dying day (which was many years after my wedding). I still don’t feel guilty for how I handled things. My wedding was beautiful and I truly believe she was angry with me because I refused to let her dampen the joy that day had for myself, my husband or my mom. If I was given the opportunity to do it all over again, I would do it the exact same way.

    Best Wishes on your day!!!!

    • Rhoda said:

      Yes, this. She’ll be “hurt” and “crushed”, and there’s no way around that. Up until now she hasn’t seemed to have learned from the consequences of her behaviour. Maybe this will be the thing that she learns from, maybe it won’t. But nobody is required to walk on eggshells around her to enable her to keep misbehaving.

  21. consolare Garcia said:

    Hire a security guard. Or two. You deserve a worry free day.

  22. Lori G. said:

    LW, best wishes on your wedding announcement ! (Not suppoed to congtatulate the bride, lol.) That said.

    Ratchet the hell up your response to this out-of-control person coming to your wedding.

    Whether musicians or security, wedding guests shouldn’t be “asked” to perform their livlihood; they should be Guests so they can relax.

    You need to Hire Security. With the long history of the addict unstopped by any normal controls -losing apartment/don’t trash apt; having to live with Mom; endangering other’s lives not causing change in choosing actions- this addict is pretty far outside your help. You need to hire Security.
    Speaking as a person whose friend (a mother of two children) killed in a Domestic Violence incident, as well as two of my family members suicide over a combination of mental illness and addiction- I’m advocating you spend the extra money to hire Armed Security. Your ceremony, and the addict’s position to it, is a major stressor for an active addict who has proven they must have external boundaries set.

    I get that MIL isn’t reading the situation correctly and needs a reframe. Don’t let it be at the expense of other’s safety or their lives. “Mom, we will have Security on hand to keep Sis away. That is final.”

    • Lori G. said:

      *my friend was killed by her spouse.

      • I’m so sorry for your loss.
        I, too, lost a vibrant wonderful friend, a mother, daughter and sister, that was killed by her spouse.

        • Lori G. said:

      • I’m sorry for your loss

  23. Jen Erik said:

    This is not what you asked about, but I’m wondering about partner’s mum. From what you’ve said, she’s the one that’s going to have to live through the repercussions if the sister acts out because of this. (Not your fault, not your responsibility, but still.) And she’s in a sense your first line of defence – the person that will refuse to bring your partner’s sister to the wedding/ the person that will refuse to fund her to come.
    The wanting the family meeting might possibly be that she wants back-up in the moment where sister hears the news.

    You know her,and possibly she’s very able to cope with it all. But maybe it would be helpful if partner offered to talk things through with her. Does sis have button-pushing strategies that work on her mum? Could they have a plan in place?
    (I’m thinking – sis gets in the car as they are leaving for the wedding, declares she’s going too. Sis threatens to burn the house down if they leave without her. Sis makes another suicide attempt, forcing mum to return home.) I don’t mean to sound callous about sis: I’ve come to think about alcoholism as a disease that is often terminal, and I’m sorry for her. But it’d be nice for both your partner and his mum if she could enjoy the day too.

    If mum doesn’t go to Al-anon, you could suggest that to her.

    Apart from that: I think the advice is great. And I even think this has the potential to be good thing for sis. She may never get better, but maybe being left out of an important family event will be a catalyst for change. (Part of the process of hitting rock bottom.) Personally, I’d be pretty direct about telling her the why: I’d vote for kindly bluntness. I’d also – why not capture a unicorn while you’re about it – try and ensure the message reaches sober her. if you send an email or text, and she reads it while drunk, she may genuinely not know afterwards.

    Hope something there is helpful: apologies if I’ve maundered on.

    I hope both you and partner have a lovely day.

    • meowmeowSILproblems said:

      LW here — “…she wants back-up in the moment where sister hears the news.” This never occurred to me, and it’s totally possible. MIL has been supportive of our decision… but at the same time she is enabling SIL. She is of the “I’ll never throw my child out on the street” camp, and endures a ton of abuse. SIL trying something like you described when the day comes is not unlikely, and now I’m wondering what we can do when it happens. If I can get MIL on board with “OK burn the house down, we’re leaving,” it would be great. I don’t think you’re being callous — this is the exact kind of behavior I’m talking about! Thank you for your comment (and everyone else, too)

      • ll cool bean said:

        If that happens, you’ll have to plan for two possible scenarios: that SIL tries to stop her leaving, or that SIL tries to get her to come back early. What strategy you use for each will depend a lot on how willing the MIL is to cooperate, but hopefully you can work something out.

      • WilhelminaMildew said:

        I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. My brother is an alcoholic & addict and has some serious and non-fixable issues. He is a pretty horrible person who uses and abuses anyone whose life he touches. Our mom was the same way, with the “I’ll never kick one of my kids out!” and the problems that created were severe and long lasting. People like this are not easy to deal with, that is for sure.
        I urge you & your partner to listen closely to all the advice you have gotten here.
        Make the “You Are Not Invited” note as short & non emotional as possible. Do not break ‘no contact’ to give it. I like the idea of using text and email (or text and whatever other method she is most likely to see) so you have a backup.
        Hire security, and ALSO make sure that all key people (wedding party, trusted friends, any wedding, uh, personnel?* that might be there) know who she is- not to handle it themselves, but so they can notify security if/when she shows up. And with someone that manipulative the likelihood of her just showing up is VERY HIGH. Have a plan in place *before* this happens.
        I also like the idea of warning anyone that she might try to hit up for a ride, money, or a hotel room. That way, no one will have to feel bad/guilty at being manipulated by her because they didn’t know better, and if someone goes against your clearly stated wishes and brings/helps her anyway, you can decide if that person gets bounced from the wedding or reception as well.
        It may seem like a little much, but people like this will often go so far beyond rational behavior that it is hazardous to underestimate them and it is much better to take many precautions that you don’t need than end up with a nasty surprise because you didn’t go far enough. The old saw ‘better to be safe than sorry’ was made for people and situations like this.
        I would also suggest that not just you MIL but your partner take advantage of the resources the Captain has supplied-AlAnon and the Mental Health Hotline. Hopefully they can help you come up with solutions to issues like her trying to jump in the car with MIL or threats of destruction or self harm. I really can’t, because #1 I would never let my brother be close enough to me/my loved ones to pull those kinds of threats (I kicked him out of my mother’s house and got restraining orders) and #2 I would not hesitate for one second to call the police in the face of ANY kind of threat of harm, self-harm, violence, or property damage (and have indeed done so) and I would also not feel responsible for whatever the outcome for my brother was, no matter how negative. However I realize that these are the nuclear options; that not everyone is at that point, or will be, or even *should* be. In my situation it is both necessary and long overdue- that is not the case for everyone.
        Given her erratic, violent, and dangerous actions in the past, it really concerns me that if she makes threats like burning down or trashing the house, or of suicide, that she might actually follow through. Or that she might be a danger to your MIL when she confirms that SIL is not invited to the wedding and she will not be taking her. Is this something that your partner fears? He is close enough to the situation to have more knowledge about his sisters behavior. That is the kind of thing that I would suggest he discuss with a place like that mental health hotline, what to do if there is a real danger, or what best ways to call her bluff if there’s not.

        I personally, have been totally no-contact with my brother for nearly a decade now, and was only low contact for years before that (and even then it was limited to stuff like “I will drive you to a rehab that has open beds right now but if not then get TF out of our mother’s house.”) He was not invited to and did not come to my wedding (but there was happily no drama about it.) I stopped putting up with his BS long before everyone else did and it caused some major rifts in my family for awhile from enablers and those he lied to and manipulated. And this was after a childhood/teen years/young adulthood of being very close, best friends even. Alcohol and drugs grabbed ahold of some very negative personality traits he had always had and turned him into a person I could never be around again, even when he was sober. I hope that partner’s sister can overcome her demons and be a better person who truly regret s her past behavior (and it can happen, I know those who have.) But if not, it is ok if partner walks away from it, even forever, and any repercussions she experiences are hers and hers alone- and nobody can shield her from that. Actions have consequences, and if her actions end up with her in jail, a hospital or mental institution, prison, or a coffin remember that they are and were HER actions and hers alone. NOBODY else is to blame, ever.
        Having a messed up sibling can be really hard, not just on a personal and emotional level but knowing that your partner is going to have to deal with it too, even if at a distance -I told my husband OMG I am so sorry that [X] is your brother in law! He sounds like he’s got his head on straight the way he’s dealing with it and you are an awesome partner to have his back like you do. Many Jedi hugs for you and your partner and congratulations as well. And crossing my fingers that everything works out for you!

        *sorry I know zilch about weddings and what goes on at them, mine was super small & totally unconventional- in a banquet room, no wedding party, no rings even

  24. CCBlooming said:

    LW, I’m really sorry for this situation. I have several relatives who sound like your sister-in-law and, as someone mentioned upthread, you may want ton make sure other guests know she is not invited. In particular, any friends or family members who might give her a ride to the wedding or offer to split a hotel room or loan her money for a flight. If you’ve got enablers in the family or people who don’t quite know how bad things are with her and who might help her get to the wedding if they think she’s invited, you may want to do some preventive leg work. Good luck. And congrats on the wedding.

  25. Because of the near-drowning incident, I think if the fiance/mum can talk about looping in the sister’s health professionals (if at all possible) that is a great idea, because I just had an awful image of the sister lashing out through self-injury or worse on the wedding day. Especially if her support network (which sounds like the mom) is at the wedding. It’s not for the LW to arrange anything or take care of her fiance’s sister, but I think it would be great if the sister has other company/plans on the wedding day.

    The Captain said: “Also, if her mom has access to sister’s mental health professionals and thinks it would be good to call in the cavalry, it probably would be.” I think this is especially a good idea on the day of the wedding itself. Even if she doesn’t show up at the wedding, I hate the idea of the mom coming home to a disaster.

  26. ItsNotEasyBeingGreen said:

    Oh, man.

    As a former addict, I like the suggested script. My opinion is that the way you deliver it doesn’t matter as long as you feel safe, but I would recommend a method where she can’t pretend she didn’t recieve it and there is hard copy evidence you can show to “concerned” family and friends.

    Seconding the advice for professional security who are provided with her description.

    I would also recommend being prepared for a sudden performance of “sobriety”. During which I would suggest being loving but firm in your lack of invitation to the wedding. You could for example offer to meet up with her cautiously, have lunch at the rehab clinic or whatever, but I would not recommend inviting her to a wedding or any other kind of intense social engagement until shes had x amount of sober time under her belt. For me x=6 months minimum but YMMV.

    • Solestria said:

      Meeting up sounds like a great chance for her to try bargaining. “I’m sorry, we’re very busy, but I’m so happy to hear you’re doing well and would love to catch up after X date (which just so happens to be after the wedding)” may be a better response in this case.

      • ItsNotEasyBeingGreen said:

        Yes that’s what I meant.

  27. Manattee said:

    Just wanted to say something about the assumption that as she wasn’t invited this is her being manipulative.

    I am very much of the opinion that it *should* be the case that you can only be considered invited if you receive a named invitation, or there is an explicit +1 on your date’s invite. (And hell, what else can the marrying couple do other than send out specific invitations?) But I don’t think this is a social universal. Where I live, about half the country would consider that an invitation to the mum meant that the sister was also invited. But this is a changing custom and the other half wouldn’t, so it’s a minefield any time my partner’s parents get invited to something (and we don’t even live with them). I have literally had conversations with them that go ‘Are you coming to X’s wedding?’ ‘No, because we’re not invited.’ ‘Sure but you are so.’ ‘But we didn’t receive an invite and only your names are listed on yours,’ ‘But that means the whole family.’ ‘Oh… um…’ Awkwardness ensues.

    I’m not saying this changes the fact that your partner’s sister isn’t invited or that you need to tell her that firmly. But just thought I’d mention it in case the possibility that it’s a misunderstanding rather than a deliberate manipulation makes any of this feel less stressful for you.

  28. Aloot said:

    I would replace the “I haven’t invited you” in favor of “You are not invited.” It’s harder, but it’s also firmer, and very much says “and you will not be invited” whereas ‘haven’t invited’ sounds a little like it comes with a silent “…yet.” There’s also the push of “well, *you* didn’t invite me, but *another person* did! (Regardless of whether or not that person had the authority to actually invite anyone.)” I find it more difficult to argue against “you are not invited” since it leaves very little wriggle room.

    I also wouldn’t include any reason *why.* Telling her that it won’t be safe while she’s there is only going to invoke arguments why that won’t be the case. She’ll do good, or she’ll behave, or she’ll *totally* be safe cause see mother will watch over her, etc etc. Instead I’d say something like:

    “I just wanted to make this clear to avoid any misunderstandings: you are not invited to our wedding. It’s not a decision we have taken lightly, and we need you to respect that.”

    It’s a hard stance, but that may be what’s needed right from the getgo.

    • That’s excellent phrasing

    • I like that phrasing and think it’s kinder in the long run to be very firm and clear. If sister is able to kid herself at all that maybe she’ll be invited or be able to manipulate her way in, it’s just going to suck more when she finally has to accept that she isn’t welcome.

  29. nightowl said:

    Unfortunately I have first hand experience of what happens when someone in a mental health and addiction related crisis attends a destination wedding. One of my relatives was caught trying to steal from people she was staying with as well as acting erratically. She was kicked out of that hotel suite and went to stay in her mother’s hotel. She continued to act strangely and was given sedatives. When she woke up she wanted to be allowed to come back with us to the hotel suite, and her mother was begging us to take her, and I got to be the bad guy who said no (at a late hour when I and everyone else aside from our driver was pretty intoxicated, no less). The next day she was allowed to attend the ceremony and stole from people’s bags as the couple was saying their vows. She got caught, fled, and ended up getting picked up by the cops for her behavior shortly after. They agreed to release her if she could prove she’d go straight to rehab. It was a production to make sure none of this drama negatively impacted the happy couple.

    OP, make it clear that she is not allowed to attend. Let your family know that if they want to support the marriage they’ll respect your wishes. Have a designated person – even a paid bouncer – whose job is to make sure she gets nowhere near the ceremony or reception. Don’t be guilted into letting your wedding be overshadowed by someone else’s crisis, even if they’re family.

  30. sb said:

    This has shades of a fantastic movie called Krisha that is really worth a look for friends and family of addicts and people with severe and unmanaged mental illness. It both functions as a what-(not)-to-do for family and friends and as a way of gaining more empathy and insight into sufferers’ situations.

    I like the idea of a letter – from the partner, not you – but I really, really hope there is no “list” of offences. I think that would be cruel. Keep it succinct.

    What I’m kind of worried about is that she may try to self-harm or act out in a way that puts the spotlight on her during your week away. A week is a long time for someone with MAJOR coping problems to cope with a rejection that they will interpret as severe. I’m not sure what anyone should do about this, it’s not your responsibility to make concessions during your special week but the idea’s a concern for me.

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