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The Vine: October 24, 2012

Submitted by on October 24, 2012 – 10:15 AM34 Comments

My BF and I were engaged in January 2012 and are planning a wedding for February 2013. We each have one brother. When we asked people to be in our wedding party, we included both of our brothers. My brother, D, is a few years older than me. Despite our differences and his tendency to compete with me, I thought it was the right thing to do to include him in our wedding. After all, he ismy brother.

In May, D got engaged. He is planning a November wedding. He did not include me in his wedding party. I have recently learned that he is going to include our step-niece and step-nephew. He is not close to these children, as they live in a different state. I feel like including them in his wedding and not me is sort of a slap in the face.

I don’t want to be in his wedding, but at this point, I don’t want him in mine. I jumped the gun by including him. Honestly, I thought my mother would be crushed, and my brother would be hurt if I didn’t include him, and it would cause a huge family drama. Similar situations have happened before, with my mother defending him. If I had waited until he announced his wedding party, I could have avoided this whole situation, because if I’m not included, then it would have been no big deal if he’s not in mine.

I know I probably just have to deal with having him as a groomsman at this point. I can’t un-invite him, can I? If I just have to deal, what’s the best way?


Dear Ann,

Congrats! And: yeah, that sucks. No, you can’t un-invite him, and that sucks too. I mean, you can, but…you know. It’s one of those “it’s not that you don’t have choices, it’s that you don’t like any of them” situations. Leave him in as a groomsman, say nothing, and seethe because you tried to do the “right” thing and got stuck him, while he did what he wanted and suffered no consequences? No good. Disinvite him, create a big drama, wound your mother, and have that hanging over both weddings? No good. Call him up and say, “D, I know we don’t have the closest relationship, and I’m not asking to be included at this late date, but it does sting that you put the Steps in your wedding party and not me, when 1) we’re siblings and 2) you were included in mine”? No g– wait. That might work.

But: it depends on your definition of “work.” What do you want to happen here? What exactly is the source of the irritation? Do you want your mom to stop siding with D on everything? Do you want to work on your relationship with D and make it less adversarial? Both? Something else? The thing with weddings is, they bring all these conflicts and historical hurts to the fore and then inflate them like crazy — but then it’s basically the worst time to try to address or fix them, because the wedding is not about those things.

Reminding yourself that this is true, that weddings churn up all that shit every single time and you’re far from the first person to find herself in this sort of situation — that could help you breathe through it. It is just one day (well, two days), and it isn’t anything you didn’t already know, or feel, about your family dynamic. That said, it’s okay to feel hurt or irritated or defeated by it. Let yourself have the feelings; ask yourself what you would like to see change in the future (not for nothing, but since there’s apparently no “winning” with D and your mom, you might try not playing the next time); separate it from the wedding. Reassure yourself that you did the best you could, and that you behaved graciously if nothing else.

It’s going to keep bugging you periodically, and again, that’s fine; let that happen for five minutes, then move on. But one more thing to keep in mind, as many TN commenters have noted over the years, is that your wedding day is a super-packed whirlwind, and if your brother is not an out-and-out asshole or the kind of drunk you have to “manage” at events, his presence will probably not factor much into the day itself — but may even pleasantly surprise you, and you’re off the hook for a bridesmaid’s dress.




  • Alison says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m far from sentimental, but does this even have to bother you? You’re not in a wedding party — hurrah! That’s less work and less commitment, and you can attend the wedding and have a nice time. Does it really matter that you’re not in the wedding party? I ask that sincerely, not snidely.

  • Jenny says:

    yeah, I would just suck it up and leave him in your wedding party. Boys/Brothers are weird and even if you had a great relationship he might not have included you for some stupid boy reason. And you never know what part his fiance played in the decision.

    Look at it this way, now all you have to do is show up to his wedding without any responsiblities. Go, have fun, and have a few drinks. :)

  • Sara says:

    I have to disagree, here: couples who bend over backwards to make jerks and people they don’t like happy on their wedding days are just plain doing it wrong. Clearly this LW’s brother isn’t going to be closer to her because she’s extended this olive branch, and it doesn’t sound like their relationship could get meaningfully worse if she tells him he’s off the hook. My guess is that he’ll be relieved, and she and her fiance can choose to include someone who will be supportive and kind and motivated rather than a grudging placeholder.

    What was accomplished by trying to avoid huge family drama here? Sadness and stress for the woman who should be the very happiest of all! Cut the dramatic family loose by telling them: either you show up and get happy for me, or you stay home and I’ll be happy with people who can behave like adults. The great thing about getting married is that it’s a step toward building YOUR CHOSEN family, not the family you happened to be blood related to because the universe is a cruel and arbitrary place. If blood relations are dramatic jerks, this is your chance to take steps toward distancing yourself from their nuttiness.

    One thing Sarah’s right about: wedding days are whirlwind days, and they can either be whirlwind days you spend with the people you love most and who love you back, or they can be whirlwind days managing other people’s crap and feeling lost because the people who surround you aren’t pulling their weight. Pick the first one.

  • Shari says:

    If you think you can have that conversation with your brother you might be giving him the option to bow out of your wedding. At this date I don’t know if that would be more inconvenient for your planning but it seems that if he doesn’t want you in his wedding party he probably would prefer not to be in yours. Let him know the decision is his.

  • Anne says:

    I feel like there are circumstances where the brother may not have done this to be hurtful. e.g. Are the step-relations in a junior groomsman/bridesmaid or ring bearer/flower girl part of the wedding party because there are no other younger close relations for those positions? Could their parents have mentioned how they often feel second class in the larger family because they are just “step niece” etc., so your brother is doing this to smooth hurt feelings on that side of the family? Or does the bride-to-be have a ton of close sisters/female friends already to include in the party, hence no room for a SIL she doesn’t know well?

    Or it could easily all be driven by the soon to be sister-in-law’s agenda for a picture perfect wedding photo, and/or a brother who just doesn’t understand the tit-for-tat approach for being in wedding parties. I am close to my brother but I was never hurt by not being invited to be in his wedding party. That’s just the way things work out.

  • Maria says:

    I’ll take the unpopular side that it’s up to each couple to decide what kind of wedding they want to have. You two clearly felt you wanted your brothers in yours, your brother and his fiancee clearly had their own ideas about what they wanted. I am certain you both put a lot of thought into it. I don’t really see the problem.

    I guess if you are that angry at him, you could call him and talk it over. Let him know you had an expectation. See what he says. Maybe his fiancee is really weird about some things and this is the setup that made her most comfy so he went with it for her. Maybe she just felt like she didn’t know you well enough. Maybe they both just want it small and simple, and this seemed the best way. If you talked about it, you might understand more.

    Should you ask him if he feels burdened being in your wedding? I guess a lot has to do with how he behaved when you asked him. Did he seem happy about it? Or was he resigned or even a little bitchy about it? It is definitely not too late to ask if he wants off the hook for some reason. But I would put it out there as a belated concern for his wishes while there is still time to fix it, and not a petty tit-for-tat about his own wedding. Let’s face it, had your wedding been overwith before he and his fiancee planned his own, you would not have to consider ditching him from yours.

    I think weddings used to have a lot more “shoulds” attached to them, and people have grown weary of that and gone on to have the weddings they think they would be easier or more pleasant. I hope you will be able to find it easier and more pleasant to be just a guest at his wedding. You guys are older now, and going your own ways. Don’t fight it, KWIM?

    I hope your day is lovely in every way, and that you and your husband will be incredibly happy together for a very long time.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I would take comfort in the knowledge that I had acted according to my idea of what’s right. D’s issues have nothing to do with you — I mean, they’re about you, but if you had a choice he wouldn’t have them, so it’s not your fault that he does. If he’s so weird about you that he got engaged and rushed his wedding so he can get married before you AND not ask you to be an attendant (which he totally did, right? I’m not crazy for seeing that?) then he can just… do that, and you can be over here, having a healthy life and keeping the lines of communication open for if he ever gets over himself.

    There’s really no good point to be proved by kicking him out of the wedding party — no one’s going to learn any lessons about how you want to be treated, they’re just going to think you’re a pouty little bitch — and everything to be gained by being better than everyone else in your family. (This is not a good primary reason for doing something, but it can help soothe the ego when it’s feeling a bit bruised.) And hey, who knows: the next step in D’s one-man foxtrot may be to drop out of the wedding party for some obviously contrived reason, in which case you can do a little of the martyr business but otherwise stop worrying about him and his whatever.

  • attica says:

    Is it possible that he didn’t ask you to be in his wedding because he deduced that you’d be up to your elbows in planning your own wedding to be able to fit in being an attendant in his? If that’s even a remote possibility, I’d cling to it with gratitude. Gratitude for getting out of a chore and an expense, and gratitude that he was thinking of your convenience so generously. Even if he wasn’t, it’s more pleasant to assume the best on such a busy day.

    If being part of his day is super important to you, ask the bride if you might do a reading at the ceremony, or a toast at the reception, or something small-but-spotlighty like that. I suspect that she has more of a hand in the planning of the event than he does, as others have suspected above.

  • Roo says:

    Same thing happened in my family (brother and SIL wanted me but not our other sister, asked her to preserve the family peace, instantly regretted it) and they agonized and agonized to me about how to get out of it and yes, I can definitely say from experience – it didn’t matter. Like Sars said, unless he’s going to do something that will cause you particular problems on your wedding day, it just won’t even tick on your radar. @Sara, I don’t think it’s about giving in to someone who makes her unhappy, it’s just choosing when to have her battles. Does she really want to bomb a family relationship while the high emotions of both of their weddings are going on? I mean, I can’t answer that, only she can, but most people just don’t have the energy for that. There will still be plenty of time for “fuck you”s once things have settled down.

    If you do decide you want to take a stand here, OP, you could go with the gracious “Since you’re planning your own wedding now and I’m sure money is tight, please don’t feel you need to go to the expense of being in my wedding. I won’t be offended!” It gives him an out but it still makes your meaning pretty clear, if he isn’t dense. ;)

  • Jo says:

    Speaking as a woman planning a wedding, the other issue here is that your finance was willing to have your bro as a groomsman, but maybe your brother’s wife for whatever reason didn’t want to be pressured into asking you. Does she know you well? I mean, bridesmaids are supposed to be the bride’s friends. My fiance has sisters, and I didn’t even consider asking them before I asked my bridesmaids. I asked him later if I should have, but when we got engaged, I hadn’t even met his sisters yet. He didn’t expect me to ask them and even though they are prone to drama, didn’t think they would be expected to be asked (one of them is the mother of the flower girl and the other is an artist so she’s designing our invitations and stuff). Nor did I consider asking him to put my brother in his wedding party over his close friends. We’ll have my brother be an usher, but that’s it.

    Anyway, this may not make it seem better because it sounds like I’m implying the bride doesn’t like you, which is something I have no basis for, but if she has enough friends/family she’s close to to fill out her wedding party, it’s kind of unfair to expect her to include you if you aren’t close to her. I have no way of knowing from your letter if your brother tried to get you in to the wedding party, but please keep in mind that the bridesmaids are really the woman’s decision.

    Also: Are the kids in the wedding just flower girl and ring bearer? Maybe he asked them because they don’t know any other kids or they’re just cute. Kids in a wedding party strike me as something different because it may just be convenience. We’re lucky enough to know two adorable kids we really love for our wedding party, but if we didn’t, we’d just ask any kids we knew.

  • Jamie says:

    I think Sars’ advice was quite kind. I was totally thinking what the previous commenters have posted-particularly @Anne and @Sara.

  • emilygrace says:

    If you feel comfortable mentioning it to him, that might be worth it. Especially if you think he might be the kind of guy who could have done something like this thoughtlessly (as opposed to actually considering whether you should be in the wedding party and deciding he didn’t want you). If that’s what happened, it might make you feel better to know that. And if it’s not, it might get him to think a little about how he handles your relationship. Or not. Who knows.
    Also, if you’re doing a fairly traditional wedding, you really won’t see him as a groomsmen any more on the day of than you would if he was just a guest. As your brother he’d still be at the rehearsal dinner, in the pictures, etc.. So if your fiance is ok with him, it really might not be so bad.

  • jen says:

    I can’t tell if your brother’s actually trying to one-up you with his wedding or what, but I suspect that the thing that’s chafing here is that you think your mom would have given you a rash of shit if you hadn’t asked your brother to be in your wedding, but she’s not giving him any grief for not asking you to be in his. It’s normal to want your mom to take your side, it’s normal to want to be the favorite child or the good child or the good sibling or whatever; it’s normal to want vengeance of a lifetime of not getting to be or have those things. (Which is what it seems like this might really be about, like, “Why can’t mom have my back THIS ONE TIME, ffs.”) But here’s the thing. If you’re old enough to be getting married, you… kind of already know how that is going to shake out, probably, consciously or not.

    I think Sars is right: the only way to win is not to play. When I stopped basing my life choices on my desperate need to get my mother to like me, I… stopped feeling like my mother didn’t like me, and I stopped hating myself (quite so much). Depending on the timing, I think you could totally go to your brother and be like, “Look, dude, with you getting married too, now, would you rather not have to deal with also being in our wedding? We’d be so sad (ahem), but we’ll totally understand,” and leave the ball in his court, but in the end the most drama-free course for you might be to just sigh and say, “Well, okay, lesson learned. Next time, we do what we’d prefer, and practice saying, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ a hundred times in front of the mirror.” The power of that phrase, calmly delivered, is not to be underestimated.

    Anyway. I’m sorry you’re going through this. Good luck.

  • Abigail says:

    Ugh, weddings, with the feelings and the families.

    Hey, if it makes you feel any better, could he be including them (the steps) because they are children and you aren’t? People seem to be determined to have little flower girls etc. around for weddings. I know there is history with your brother, but is it possible this is that innocent?

    But overall I’m on the side of – if you can deal with the fallout, and there is enough time, and it really is going to shit on your day, say something.

  • ferretrick says:

    I can sort of understand, if there’s a long dynamic of your brother being favored over you, where this is coming from. But, still, for a multitude of reasons, you are picking the wrong hill to die on.

    First, it’s possible your brother is just obtuse and doesn’t even get that this is a big deal to you. Frankly, many straight men I know could give a crap about the finer details of a wedding and think about the actual ceremony as little as possible-as my brother in law said, “Honey, you can have whatever you want as long as all I have to do is show up in a tux.” Yes, it’s an honor to be asked blah, blah, blah. Well, that sentiment is not universally understood, and much more common among women than guys. I tend to think your brother might just not get it.

    Second, I think it’s the bride’s choice who she has and doesn’t have as bridemaids, and the groom’s choice for groomsmen. If I were straight and getting married, I wouldn’t want my bride forcing her brother on me.

    Bottom line-no one has a right to expect to be included in someone else’s wedding. I can understand your feelings, and you are entitled to them, but I think you do have to just deal at this point. Just remind yourself that the day is about you and your fiance, not whatever issues you have with your sibling.

  • Anon for this one says:

    Jo beat me to the punch here. I think this would be a different question entirely if you were dealing with yours and your sister’s weddings. But unless you each stand up on each others’ side (i.e. your brother stand in line with your bridesmaids and you stand in line with his groomsmen), including each other isn’t just about the two of you – it’s about your respective fiances, too. I really can’t fault your brother’s fiancee for not asking you to be one of her bridesmaids. FWIW, I didn’t feel like I had a choice as to whether or not I included my SIL in my group of bridesmaids – everyone in his family just assumed I would and there was no graceful way out of it. We’re good friends now, but we weren’t at the time and it was not a great part of the wedding. She had her nose out of joint because she wasn’t the center of attention and acted like a total bitch for the whole day. That was, admittedly, worst case scenario and I don’t in any way think you’d give your SIL-to-be a hard time were you in the wedding party. But I’d cut her and your brother some slack for what could really just be a matter of her not feeling the kind of closeness with you that she’d like to have with her bridesmaids.

    As a total sidenote, I have no idea what your relationship is with your stepsiblings, but maybe consider dropping the step- designation for the niece and nephew and just think of them as…your niece and nephew? I say this as a stepdaughter/stepsister who has always greatly appreciated the various aunts and uncles I acquired through my dad’s remarriage who just think of me as their niece without the disclaimer.

  • Jo says:

    Anon: We had two close friends get married a year ago, and the groom’s family pressured him to force the bride to ask his sister to be a bridesmaid and it was SO. MUCH. DRAMA. I’m not even sure the sister was interested, but her mom and other brother thought she should have been included, so the bride and groom were pressured into it. It wasn’t that the bride didn’t love her future sister-in-law, she just wanted her wedding party to be HER sisters and best friend. (For that matter, I forgot to mention in my original post that my fiance was a groomsman in his sister’s wedding and at the time, he’d only met the groom once. He says it was really awkward, which, along with our friends’ aforementioned drama, is part of why he didn’t expect me to ask his sisters to be in my bridal party).

    However, ferretrick has a good point that it could be something much more innocent, which is that straight men are dumb about weddings. It might not even be that the issue here is that the brother’s future wife is controlling her own wedding or that the brother is being a douche. It could just be that the letter writer’s brother is a guy.

  • Amy says:

    I agree with other posters that it’s possible that the brother’s fiancee had a hand in the wedding party selection and wanted bridesmaids that she was close to. When I got married, the bridesmaids were one of my sisters and the cousin I’m closest to. I had asked my other sister but she didn’t want that kind of role in the wedding and instead offered to be the “wedding coordinator” for me on the big day. My husband’s groomsmen were his brother and best friend. My brothers acted as ushers (I have a big family). My nephews were the ring bearers and I asked a friend’s daughter to be the flower girl. My husband didn’t really know any children but I have a lot on my side of the family and among my friends. Point being, sometimes the bride gets a say in things, and sometimes the groom picks.

    I’m also not a fan of the “expectation” factor of asking people to be in weddings. While you may be MY closest friend, I may not be YOURS. I might only want a maid of honor, while you may have 12 bridesmaids. It’s all about the wedding couple’s pesonal choice, not about what is “expected” of them. It’s their day, not anybody else’s.

    Annoyed didn’t even ask her brother to be in her wedding because she truly, wholeheartedly wanted them there. It feels, to me, that she did it because it was the “right” thing to do. Perhaps Annoyed’s brother went with what he wanted, and not what was expected. But again, it may have been the brother’s bride that dictated the bridesmaids.

    With all that said, it sucks that Annoyed would’ve gotten crap for not including brother but brother won’t get crap for not including Annoyed. However, this is a family dynamic that is probably best left alone for the duration of the wedding season. This isn’t just about weddings – it’s a family issue that clearly runs deep. Trying to address it right now, in the midst of the familial wedding season, is just not the time nor place for it. Annoyed should just focus on her own happy day and let sleeping dogs lie for now. If she truly feels it’s necessary to talk to her brother about this, I would suggest doing it after all the weddings are over, and to approach it casually and not too accusingly. Just let him know, “Hey, it sort of stung that I wasn’t included in your wedding party” and give him a chance to respond. But leave the step family out of it – I think that’s really just a matter of needing kids in the wedding party and hey, here are some kids.

    [Side note: I have two step-nephews but I never refer to them that way. Those are my nephews, plain and simple. I love them as much as the kids I’m related to by blood.]

  • flora says:

    Isn’t it relatively common to include children in the wedding, for the sake of having flower girls and ringbearers? As opposed to bridesmaids, who are usually the bride’s closest family and/or friends? (Also, are there people who really want to be in the wedding party? I’ve always been delighted when I’ve gotten to be a guest instead of a bridesmaid–it’s always more fun to be a guest!) It seems like there’s a lot more going on here than just whether someone’s in the wedding party.

  • Jeanne says:

    I’d let it go if I were you. I don’t know how my sister-in-law felt about me being in the wedding, because I spent barely any time with her on the actual day. Unless your brother is the sort that would cause a scene I don’t think you’ll have to deal with him that much.

    My brother’s wedding was interesting because my brother insisted on planning it with my sister-in-law, he was in on every decision and handled some details by himself. His feeling was that it was his day too and he and his family ought to have equal representation with SIL’s (which is something he’s had to fight for for during the entire relationship but that’s another post.) This included having me and a good friend of his as bridesmaids. SIL had her brother and a male cousin as groomsmen so it went both ways. And I thank God that my brother’s friend was a bridesmaid, otherwise I’dve had no one to talk to the morning of the wedding. The other bridesmaids completely ignored us all day. And I’d met them all previously and knew them fairly well, so there was really no excuse for the freeze-out.

  • rab01 says:

    I completely agree with Jo. Selection of bridesmaids is often a bigger deal to the bride than selection of the groom’s party (other than the best man) are to the groom. When I got married, my two groomsmen were my brother and her brother. Her bridesmaids were one of her sisters and her closest friend.

    That said, other people’s suggestions of giving him a chance to bow out of your wedding party are quite valid. In this case, you can let passive aggressiveness be your friend. For example, an email like —

    “Hey, when I asked you to be in our wedding party I hadn’t factored in your own upcoming nuptials. Not being in your wedding party brought home to me how much extra work it is to be in someone else’s wedding while planning your own. If you want to back out on being a groomsmen at my wedding, just let me know. Thanks”

    — would handle most of your goals without having to own how annoyed you are at him.

  • Lis says:

    I’m going to chime in here with another question of “are the step-niece and nephew the ring bearer and flower girl?” I can tell you I had to ask a friend of my step-father to have his daughter be my flower girl because at the time I got married literally everyone I knew with kids had boys and I felt I needed a flower girl… looking back I could have skipped the whole thing entirely but at the time it seemed like something I HAD TO HAVE.

    I did have my sister in law as a bridesmaid but we are close, and when she got married a year later she did not have me as a bridesmaid because her husband wanted me to be a grooms-lady (we’ve known each other for 20 years) but I wouldn’t have been offended if I hadn’t been asked to be anything. I have had several friends get married and not been in any of their weddings but had them in mine because either theirs was first and we weren’t as close then or because they had only their sisters as a bridesmaid or any other reason.

    If you think you could do it without a fight and you really DO want an answer you could bring it up in a non-adversarial way asking brother why you weren’t included, or, like so many others have suggested, you could just feel grateful you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on being in a wedding party of someone you’re not particularly close to. I’d go with option b myself, but I’m really not into the whole “it’s an honor” thing. Sorry, it’s NICE to feel like someone thinks you’re that close or whatever but at the end of the day it’s a gigantic pain in the butt. It’s not an honor, it’s a favor.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I’m in the camp of let it go, for a few reasons.

    1) As Sars and many posters have said, your brother isn’t a crisis management problem (at least from your letter) in that you need someone to babysit him away from the bar, etc. He didn’t abuse you growing up or anything like that. So it’s not like he’s going to raze your day to the ground and dance on the smoking remains, or whatever. The problem is self-contained in the whole “I asked him/he didn’t ask me” and the bad feelings that set off.

    2) I have a feeling both you and your brother have a lot more going on with your mom then with each other. You seemed more upset that he didn’t get “in trouble” with her for this, while you would have had to deal with a shitload of grief for not asking him. You mention a lot of competition between the two of you; is any of that fostered by your mom? Not to lay all the blame on her, it’s just a vibe I’m getting.

    3) It is a reasonable possiblity that as ferretrick said, he’s just leaving the whole attendants thing up to his fiancee and she’s got a lot of people she wants in her “dream wedding.”

    Lots of reasons to take a deep breath. Why not just fake it for a couple of minutes, and say to yourself “My brother meant nothing offensive, it has nothing to do with me” a couple of times. Just to see how it feels. Does it relax you at all? Do you feel like the competiveness you’ve accepted as part of your bond as siblings evaporated a little bit?

    I’m not saying this is the time to rework all your family dynamics, Lord knows. But wedding time is such a stressful period, maybe just faking it and letting this one thing go, just this once, would be better for you.

  • MizShrew says:

    I agree with the others that Brother is probably totally clueless about any supposed “right way” to do the wedding thing. He may not even be all that clued in to the idea that his mom tends to back him over Annoyed. I know my husband was truly shocked to discover that his sisters felt their mom always favored him. He didn’t always see how his mom treated them, and so had no way of making a real comparison.

    So, I’d just leave it be. Keep Brother in the wedding party unless you think he’ll pee on the cake. Feel good about making your mother happy — it will probably pay dividends later on anyway. Enjoy being a guest at Brother’s wedding and not having to buy yet another one-time-use expensive bridesmaid’s dress. And then, at some point in the future, if it’s still bugging you, go out for a drink with Brother and find a way to bring it up. But if you really want to avoid drama, then you need to… avoid the drama and just move on.

    If it *happens* that Brother makes some noises about the time/hassle/expense of being a groomsman while he’s planning his own wedding, then go ahead and take the opportunity to let him step away — without letting him know you don’t want him there anyway. “Oh I totally understand, we’ll get GuyX to do it instead. No problem, bro!”

    And congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

  • 'stina says:

    I got married six months ago and I’ve been actively involved in a wedding website’s community of brides, and I’ve seen a lot of wedding party drama on the forums over the last year.

    One thing I’ve learned is that reciprocity isn’t ever a good idea in selecting a wedding party. You had good reasons for including your brother in your wedding. “My brother, D, is a few years older than me. Despite our differences and his tendency to compete with me, I thought it was the right thing to do to include him in our wedding. After all, he is my brother.” THAT should be your reason rather than “I was in his wedding.”

    (The other wedding party related things I’ve learned is “don’t pick your wedding party too soon, and don’t expect much out of the people who do end up in your wedding party.” And the overall “people are weird about weddings.”)

    Every wedding is different and more importantly, every wedding has different people involved in the planning with different priorities. You didn’t say how old the step-niece and nephew are, but it could be that they may fit an age quota for flower girls and ring bearers or similar roles. Not only that, but your brother and his fiance may have different ideas about gender roles of the wedding party, and she may not feel as close to you as she does to three or four other women who are participating on “her side.”

    I didn’t have readers, ushers, singers or any other opportunities to give people a role in my wedding. My siblings, my husband’s siblings, and our dogs were the only ones up there other than our officiant.

    If this is really important, talk to your brother. You can un-invite him if you want to. But you should do it having complete information of his choices and full understanding of what your choice would mean to long-term relationships.

  • IS says:

    Like a number of other people have mentioned, my first thought was that the niece and nephew were included because they’re small adorable children, not because they’re particularly close to the wedding couple. (If you opt to have small adorable children in your wedding party as ring bearers and flower girls, surely you don’t have to put every adult who’s closer to you than the children are in the wedding party too.)

    I like rab01’s script for letting him off the hook if you think you could carry that off. Otherwise, if the opportunity presents itself – if he expresses in any way that being in the wedding is a burden – you can offer to let him out of it. But I don’t think there’s any productive way to kick him out.

  • Kari says:

    I have nothing to offer on the not-being-a-bridesmaid front, since I am still recovering from my latest bridesmaid gig and can’t fathom why anyone would want to be asked, heh.

    But w/r/t having your brother be a groomsman…. There may be some value in having him in the party in name only. If you have yet to relegate duties, you can keep his involvement minimal. You mom is placated because he’s “involved” and his name is on the program, but you can dictate the rest of his (non) participation. I’ve seen wedding parties where the people were little more than props in bad dresses and rented tuxes. Quietly relegating him to “prop groomsman” status might mean he’s even less involved in the whole thing than if you try to keep him at a distance.

  • EB says:

    The irksome thing about it seems to be that he never had the common courtesy to explain to you why he didn’t have you in his party. While there’s no quid pro quo, common sense should dictate to him to say, “Hey, sorry I didn’t put you in the wedding but [insert inane excuse here].” If he could have, at least, recognized the awkwardness his choice created, there probably wouldn’t have been an issue.

    And now you get to wear a really kickin’ dress and show up his bride.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    There’s some merit to the idea that D doesn’t “get it.” I can see him (and/or his fiancee) assuming that she picks maids, he picks men, and if SHE didn’t pick you, so be it and what’s the BFD. I believe my own brother “traded” me to the bride’s side of the aisle because Gen wanted me over there, and it actually made the sides “uneven”? But I don’t know what the conversation was (he did have a groomswoman, it just wasn’t me). I suspect this is more about the mom, and having to manage HER feelings about it, than it actually is about the selection/non-selection.

  • Dukebdc says:

    Hi Annoyed,
    I’ve been in your situation within the last eighteen months. I was married in early 2011 and it was a small family wedding. I have only one sibling, an older brother. Since we didn’t have “attendants” per se, I asked my brother to stand up for me, and my fiance asked his stepbrother to stand up for him. They were with us at the altar, and signed as our witnesses.

    Fast forward to this spring. My brother is suddenly engaged to a young woman who is pregnant, and they quickly planned a wedding for July. She has several sisters and female cousins as bridesmaids, with kids from her side as ring bearer and flower girl. I am not asked to be in the wedding party. My brother asks my new husband, whom he has barely ever spoken to (!!), to be one of his groomsmen, to “even out the sides.” My dad is his best man, and my mother participates in much of the service. I am left alone in the pew for most of the ceremony.

    I was initally very upset, but it became clear to me that my brother was not planning this wedding, and it didn’t cross his mind to try and include me. The bride’s family planned everything, and my brother hadn’t even acknowledged he had a sister (which is a whole other story). Like you, I felt that my brother “got away” with excluding me, but you know what? He’s still my brother, and frankly, this is always how he has behaved-oblivious to how his actions affect the feelings of others. It hurts, but making a big deal over it would only widen the gulf between us.

    By leaving your brother in your wedding party and graciously attending his as a guest, you get to be the bigger person and as you said yourself, “do the right thing.” There is no one-upmanship as far as I can see, so don’t escalate the situation uneccessarily. I have seen wedding drama fracture families for years, so don’t go down that path for something like this.

  • Sarah says:

    It would totally bother me if I had done this thing I didn’t really want to do but had talked myself into because it nominally fell into the category of taking the high road and/or relatedly I wanted to avoid getting a load of grief from my mother, when as it happens, said grief did not materialize in the reciprocal situation. I’m petty like that. Because I’m not good at letting things go, I might try to “let him off the hook” (“Being in the wedding part is a huge pain, especially while you’re planning your own wedding, so I totally understand if…”), but if that doesn’t work, even I would probably just have to eat it. (Because you know that even if you raised it with Mom, all you would get are denials: “Of course I wouldn’t have been upset with you! It’s your wedding! You have to make decisions that feel right for you!” when you know FULL WELL by her previous habits and practices that oh HELL YES there would have been drama.)

    /petty person planning own wedding, dealing with in-denial dramatic family members on the reg

  • LizzieKath says:

    I just want to write in support of those who have suggested you try to feel relief rather than annoyance at the whole thing. I am a first-time bridesmaid for my best friend, who was my maid of honor (but she has a sister). I love her and I am happy to be part of her big day, but there is so much work involved in being an attendant! I’m starting a new job soon and I am so stressed about making sure that I don’t end up with any work commitments that conflict with the bachelorette party, the rehearsal dinner, or the wedding itself. The dress was not cheap, and I probably will need to get new shoes to go. I am going to do a shower, and I’ll have to find a time for that, too, that works with my work schedule and hop on a plane to do it. It’s a LOT, and I’m not currently planning my own wedding to boot.

    … but on the flip side, I also sympathize with the annoyance at the non-reciprocation. My husband’s (male) best friend is getting married in a few months, and he was a groomsman at our wedding. He and my husband have been friends for 10 years and I was quietly annoyed (best friends! college roommates! ten years!) until Friend finally asked Husband to be a groomsman – turns out he’d forgotten to mention it and assumed Husband would just know. Ah, dudes. I just don’t think the annoyance is worth the aggro of rocking the boat right now for you.

  • Adie says:

    LW, I’m asking this genuinely and not snarkily- if your brother is a competitive pain in the rear and your mother consistently takes his side in your conflicts (and why does she know about conflicts between other adults anyway?), why are these two people still in your life? Genetics doesn’t confer additional special rights- if they treat you poorly, stop engaging. Quit putting up with it. It’s not just about your wedding day being your day, it’s about your life being yours. We all have a finite amount of time on the planet. Why waste it on people who don’t hold you in very high regard?

  • Nikki says:

    I would try to let him off the hook if it were me. Of course, I’d also tell him how I felt about the whole thing if it were me (as drama-free as possible, just a heads-up style discussion thing).

    This whole conversation has got me thinking about my brother, who I’d never thought for a second about including in my wedding… and we’re close… and if I’d have anyone I’d have a few “bridesmen.”

    I guess I’m in the camp of “it’s all going to be a distant memory next year when you’re all married.” Maybe think about it from that perspective… “it won’t matter to me in a year.” :)

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