Help me manage wedding drama before it becomes wedding drama
May 23, 2016 9:19 PM   Subscribe

My partner proposed to me yesterday! Hooray! We will be planning a very small wedding (under 20 guests). Here's the thing: neither of us like the woman my brother is dating.

Long story short, my brother has been in a relationship with a woman for 3.5 years, so obviously (I think?) the invite is mandatory. However, this is someone who emotionally abuses my brother, and has threatened on several occasions to break up with him, because she doesn't approve of his level of ambition.

Does anyone have any experienced or advice for me? This is not someone I want in our wedding pictures, or really, at our wedding. If I don't have a choice, I don't have a choice.

My only solution was to only take "direct" family pictures, but I would be sad to be leaving out the man that my sister is with, because he is darling.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Your partner proposed to you yesterday.

I propose you ignore this non-issue. Don't have her in your wedding party. Have your photographer keep her out of the photos as much as possible.

There is no problem here. Move on.
posted by jbenben at 9:26 PM on May 23, 2016 [13 favorites]

Congratulations! Small weddings are great.

Does your brother know your feelings about her? There's no polite way to avoid this that doesn't involve upsetting him (and certainly her).

It sounds like you're mainly worried about the photos rather than her general presence at the wedding. If that's the case, I would try to wrangle it with the photographer so that she's on the outside edge in photos - hopefully she can be easily photoshopped out if/when they break up. Definitely get both "direct" family and "extended" family photos so she is not in all of them.
posted by Paragon at 9:28 PM on May 23, 2016

You don't have to invite her but neither does your brother have to show up without her. If you send him an invite that doesn't include her, while presumably all the other SO's will be invited by default, you're creating an opportunity for a rift between you and him.

If both:
1. you don't feel comfortable sitting down with him and talking to him about this
2. There are other SOs in your family who will be invited by default,
Then yeah I think you have to invite her. Make sure to hire a photographer.
posted by bleep at 9:35 PM on May 23, 2016

Yeah you're going to need to eat this one unfortunately.

Congrats though!
posted by bitdamaged at 9:42 PM on May 23, 2016 [14 favorites]

If the photographer is any good at all, you will have many, many shots to choose from. Explain the situation and tell him you want to make sure that there are a lot of family photos that she won't be in. In other words, to have a selection where she's in some so she doesn't feel excluded but ultimately when it comes to picking the final shots, you'll have enough great ones without her in it at all and it can be like she was never there.

If it's fairly informal, there will be enough mingling that you can get moments with family together to get a photo or two while she's talking to someone else and hopefully she doesn't even have to be aware that she's being deliberately excluded. Don't mention it to your brother, it's unnecessary drama. Enjoy your wedding day, and this is only as big a deal as you make it.
posted by Jubey at 9:59 PM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

Cousins of mine had a very small wedding ceremony combined with a larger reception and party. It was done simultaneously in the same building, so everybody who wasn't invited to the ceremony was eating yummy food and having drinks and chatting while the marriage was happening in a very small room upstairs. I'm a first cousin and I wasn't invited to the ceremony. Afterwards the newlyweds descended the stairs in the big historic house this was happening at to raucous applause and congratulations.

The photos happened like this - throughout the afternoon and evening as the party went on downstairs, small groups of people were called up for photocalls upstairs, where the ceremony had happened. (It really was a small room, would have fit maybe 12 people max.) So I was in the "extended family" photos and the party candids. Other friends were in different groupings. My cousin and his new wife plus his sister and her husband were in one photo, but there were also lots taken where is was just the blood relations plus new spouse and so-on. Since everybody was called up and sent away in small groups, it was confusing (but not TOO confusing) and plenty of people in attendance didn't have photos taken beyond party candids. I bet in your situation nobody would put two and two together and determine at the time that this girlfriend was being deliberately left out of the photos.

It was an awesome wedding party, and I loved that we didn't all have to sit around for the ugh boring ceremony parts or move locations or sit through poetry readings or something. I highly suggest doing this combo of teeny ceremony and larger but casual feeling party with sneaky photos in pretty separate locations. Too many times have I had to sit around bored as a plank while the exhaustive professional photos were being done. This all happened simultaneously and was a great experience for all the guests.
posted by Mizu at 10:08 PM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's pretty customary to get lots of photos with a variety of people including some with "blood" family versus "in-law" family and friends, and girls only, and father and daughter and on and on. Speak to your photographer about your wishes and the people you want and they'll be the ones calling the shots (pun) for group photos. I had a variety of photos from my (very) small wedding that my dad (a photographer) took and even in my few selection of photos we had many different groups of people.

Unfortunately, it seems like something you can't NOT invite her to. But do what you can to manage what you can control and then just chill and let her roll off your back the day of.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:53 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are they living together? At our wedding we only invited +1s if they were cohabiting with the person we were primarily inviting (we were in our early twenties, so lots of our friends were loosely dating).
posted by brokkr at 5:46 AM on May 24, 2016

It is entirely possible your brother may marry this woman. It's even entirely possible that he will marry her and they will stay married and have kids. It is even entirely possible that they will marry and have kids and she will continue to be emotionally abusive to him and for whatever reason he will stay with her for decades. If he seems to be happy in the relationship - even if you can't wrap your head around how - you invite her, you include her, you act with her the way you always do.

The fact is, you don't look at your wedding album all that often in the (hopefully) long course of a marriage. You pick your favorite shots and display them - and there's no reason not to take "just with my siblings" or "just immediate family and spouses" groupings in addition to shots that include her. People who aren't married are generally understanding of that. And you get to choose what gets framed and displayed - those are the shots you'll actually be seeing regularly.

In five years, if they're still together, taking only photos with her on the outside edge or cropped out may be a sore spot for her that drives a wedge between you and your brother. On the other hand, if they break up, having photos with her in them is something you have in your album that you can point to and say "remember her? Wow, what a trainwreck," while only displaying the photos with your brother that you like.

TL;DR - Like it or not, she's a part of his life. Containing her in the record of his life won't hurt you down the road if they're still together, and won't wreck your memories of your wedding day if they're not.
posted by Mchelly at 7:26 AM on May 24, 2016 [11 favorites]

I think the invite is necessary unless you are going to try and have an across-the-board rule of not inviting any SOs who aren't married -- I do know some people who have had this type of policy, but be aware that it will still cause hurt feelings and it might mean excluding some people who you would want to be there (but at least it has the benefit of not singling her out). On the plus side, having a super small wedding could mean you have more leeway to make really deep cuts like that -- although I would still expect there will be some drama around it, which maybe is not the best use of your time.

As far as photos, with such a small group, I would definitely take at least a few group photos with EVERYONE who is present -- we did that even with a 100-person wedding, and I think it's nice and makes everyone feel included (plus, the photos are awesome!). But for the family/wedding party photos, I think it is perfectly fine and normal to do only family and people who are actually in the wedding party. In fact, that's how we did it and we have absolutely no ill will toward any of the significant others -- it was just the focus we wanted our photos to have, on immediate family and the people we had chosen to be in our (small) wedding party. I think we may have taken a couple of photos with the spouses of our wedding party, but didn't end up doing many because not everyone had a spouse/partner. I don't think anyone will be offended if you do the vast majority of your photos with immediate family/wedding party only and then take one or two that include SOs. You can also take some with your sister and her partner separately if you like. The way we did it was that our photographer had a list of all the groupings we wanted for formal and candid photos, and she made sure they happened throughout the night. As long as you hire someone experienced, I think they can totally handle it -- this is way less than some of the wedding drama out there around things like parents who can barely be in the same room as each other! You can also ask your photographer to do her best to keep the girlfriend out of candid photos when she can -- with such a small group, she will no doubt be in some, but it can be minimized. Keep in mind you're never going to get ALL your photos printed -- I think we got 1000 photos back, so we didn't even print all the ones we liked! As long as you get a good variety, you can just not choose to print or put in the album those you don't prefer.

Finally, I would just keep reminding yourself that at the end of the day, you will be married to the person you are madly in love with, and that's the important thing. No matter how well planned things are and how perfectly you envision it, SOMETHING will go wrong. In your case that could be drama/annoyance about having the girlfriend attend, or drama/annoyance around NOT inviting her, or most likely something else that you can't even predict. At the end of the day, you'll still be married, and if you can keep your emotional focus there, I don't think you'll have major regrets when you look back at your memories and photos. That is to say, I think you probably will regret it if you allow your dislike for this woman to take you over mentally, and all your photos are of you scowling at her. But if you can just let it go and all your photos end up being of you looking crazy in love with your new spouse, you may not even notice that she is standing there in the background.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2016

Definitely tell your photographer. You should sit with your photographer (or have someone nearby as the guests arrive) to point out persons you really want a picture of anyway, so you can also calmly ask for as few pictures of Guest as possible. Photographers have heard it before--weddings are weird. You won't be able to keep her out of all the photos, of course, especially if you're inviting your sister's boyfriend into the pictures, but if your photographer knows what's important to you for the photos (and is good at her job), she will do what she can to ensure you have some nice photos without this woman in them. That's what you aim for: some nice photos without her; not "no photos of her".

But that's the easy part of your question. Fortunately, even at a small wedding, you won't spend much time with any of your guests, and you decide which will make those moments easier for you: being friendly but distant, focusing on your brother's need to have her included, or being totally frosty. Fortunately, at your wedding (no matter how small), you always have an excuse to say "I'm so glad you are here! Excuse me, I have to go say hello to Aunt Edna." And if she grabs you to mug in front of the photographer, you needn't select that picture for your album or you can even delete it at a later date.

I always suggest designating a person to run interference for the problem guest. Someone who is willing and able to sacrifice their enjoyment of the event to keep the problem guest occupied in conversation or empowered to have that guests removed if things get ugly. Or a tag team, so it's not too much of a burden on one person. A family wedding included the best man's coked-out girlfriend who got thrown out of the hotel and two bars during the wedding weekend--it was the "job" of two of my aunts to keep the girlfriend away from the bride and to summon the building security to remove her quietly when she started trashing the bathroom. Bride did not know until years later that she had been removed from the wedding.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:01 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can have a conversation with your photographer about minimizing her presence in photos, but honestly the easiest thing to do would be to just take the photos like normal and simply not print out any with her or put them in any albums.

Look: I got married last year. You get hundreds and hundreds of photos. Most of them just sit in a hard drive on your computer, and nobody ever sees them but you, and even you only see them once or twice. You are not under any obligation to display wedding photos including her in your home - this is literally not a thing that anyone would notice. Some people make albums, but you don't even have to do that, and if you do nobody is going to question your choice of photos. Taking wedding photos with her and then ignoring them would be the easiest thing in the world, and nobody would ever have to know anything about it other than you and your partner.

If your relationship with your brother is important to you, however, you do need to invite her.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Weddings have enough inherent drama without creating more. If you want him there, she comes too. He chooses her as his partner, at least for now. My former employers showed up for my wedding, and ended up in a ton of the photos, knowing that they planned to fire me on my first day back from the honeymoon. I do look back at those photos and wince, but it was part of the day, I'm happy now (and it did end up being what spurred me to make major, good changes, so despite them being jerks I won - and am reminded of that positive when I see them in the photos.) Fight the battles you can win.

And as many have suggested, a good photographer will not only be able to negotiate that battle for you, they'll even ask at your first meeting 'who should I focus on getting or not getting into photos' because they are totally used to and unphased by all the family issues under the sun.
posted by AliceBlue at 2:36 PM on May 24, 2016

My youngest cousin brought his casual girlfriend to our out- of - town wedding. She wore a tiny (read: trashy), brightly colored tube dress to the wedding and then joined in on the family pictures. No way to say anything without being tools about it. Really what are you supposed to do when people don't understand basic rules of behavior. So we ignored it. She will always be in our pictures, but I'm glad we didn't add unpleasantness to the day just to make one picture perfect.
posted by mirabelle at 2:26 PM on May 26, 2016

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