I live on the West Coast, and my brother, sister, and other extended family live on the East Coast. My parents and grandparents are deceased. My only daughter got married very recently. Of course, we invited all my East Coast family. Right after the engagement was announced, many of them texted, called, and assured they would attend the wedding. As the wedding grew closer and invitations were mailed, I noticed texting and calls from them began to stop. My husband made a couple of phone calls encouraging them to come and how important it was to us to have them present for the wedding.
Not a single person on my side of the family came for our daughter’s wedding. I do not believe it was financial, as they have good jobs. I was devastatingly hurt, and my daughter was hurt. However, it was not as bad for her, as all of my husband’s family came. She also had both her siblings there and both parents. For the past 15 years, we have made trips back to visit them at great expense, time, and effort. This is not reciprocated, as they do not visit us here.
When I tell people about this, they are shocked and say they don’t understand. I’d like some insight. Already decided we are no longer traveling back there every year after this. Not sure how to handle this, though, overall. It’s like I don’t mean much to them, [nor does] our family out here. They did mail gifts, cards, and cash to my daughter, but all we wanted really was their presence at the wedding.
Dear Devastated Mother of the Bride,
Congratulations to your daughter and new son-in-law! But it is indeed sad that so many of your family mysteriously could not come.
It certainly seems callous of them to talk of coming and then to renege without any explanation, but clearly there is more to the story than we know. I have some thoughts and suggestions, so see if anything strikes a chord:
One consideration, perhaps, is that to them, sending gifts and money was a heartfelt expression of love. I’ve written before about the five love languages, discovered by Gary Chapman, a minister and relationship counselor who realized that many of his married client couples were doing their best to express love to their partners, but the other was not receiving it. The five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
Each one of us has a primary language that makes us feel most loved. So, for example, if a husband’s primary language is quality time, he might want his wife to spend evenings with him. But if her primary language is acts of service, she might focus on doing all kinds of things for him, not realizing that what he really wants is just her presence. You can take an online quiz to find your primary language if you don’t already know.
Regarding your family situation, I wonder if perhaps quality time is the primary love language for you and your daughter, while some of your family may prefer gifts. So they may have put a lot of love and care into generous gifts, not realizing at all how much more you wanted them there. This probably won’t explain all the absences, but it might be a factor in some.
Something else to consider is whether, for some reason, they did not feel comfortable coming. One reason that occurs to me is COVID-19 vaccination status. Could a differing perspective have caused some of your family to skip the wedding? If so, perhaps they were trying to be tactful by not telling you so as not to cast a cloud over your daughter’s celebration.
There are a number of other sensitive political and social issues that are currently tearing many families apart. Do you think any of these might be at play? An issue for all families to consider is how members with different views are treated. While it is certainly fine and good to discuss and debate politics in some situations, it can be very tricky to talk about these sensitive topics without escalating emotions leading to frustration and antagonism. Ideally, families should be able to put aside differences to celebrate and mourn together, and support one another, but this is not always the case. Etiquette should dictate that sensitive issues are not discussed at a wedding, but these days I’m not sure one can always count on good manners.
Do you think concerns about being targeted for their views could have kept some family members away? Also consider the influence of spouses. Even if your family is warm and welcoming and never discusses sensitive issues, if a spouse has a different view, they might try to limit their family's contact with yours because they don’t agree with your values. It is a sad truth these days that some people today don’t want a connection with family or friends who have different perspectives on certain issues. I hope this is not the case in your family, but it should be considered.
For some family members, could there be issues beneath the surface that kept them away?
Alcohol consumption is one possibility. During the pandemic, substance abuse became more prevalent; are any of your family members dealing with this? If so, maybe they are embarrassed to say anything to you and are afraid of how they would behave at a wedding. Or perhaps they didn’t want to attend an event with temptation.
Also, could embarrassment over weight gain or mental health issues be a reason why some family members decided not to come without explanation? Perhaps some are dealing with issues but don’t want to say anything.
It could also be that some in your family are simply more selfish than you previously realized. They simply care more about their own lives and plans than about celebrating family milestones. I truly hope this is not the case, but it is also a possibility that should be considered.
Of course, the only way to know for certain is to inquire. If, in time, you are able to find out the reasons why each family member chose not to attend, it might help bring healing and closure to this painful event. My suggestion would be to wait to speak to them until you feel less devastated.
And one final thing to consider: I was taught long ago that a conflict between individuals or groups is an opportunity either to pull farther apart or to grow closer together. To me, it seems that you care very much about your extended family, so perhaps you can use this opportunity to get to know them better. If sensitive issues are what kept them away and they don’t want contact right now, keep them close in your heart. It is my understanding that dark and malevolent forces are manipulating these issues, with the express goal of causing division between good people. If you want more on this, read The Epoch Times’ editorial series “How the Specter of Communism Is Ruling Our World.”
If some members didn’t come because they are not doing well, then perhaps they could use some extra support. If they didn’t come due to selfishness, then you have an opportunity to see more clearly what kind of people your family members have become, and you can set your expectations for them accordingly. But at the same time, let us not fault them too much for selfishness, because we all fall prey to it. Also, women generally have more emotional sensitivity, so when it comes to matters like this, your brothers might just be clueless. They might have thought they were doing you a favor by just sending a nice check and not making you pay anything to host them.
If this is the case, just try to appreciate their good intentions, and know that sometimes men and women simply place value on very different things and we need grace for the other gender’s way of thinking.
And truly, whatever their reasons for not coming, and whether you can know the reasons or not, I think the most important thing is to find grace for them, because this will give you peace. I believe that most people are doing their best with what they have. We can never truly understand all the forces acting on others, shaping them, and we are not all equally able to shape ourselves. So sometimes, the most powerful thing we can do is wish goodness and light toward someone, hoping that this will strengthen them so that they can overcome and become better and stronger.
If you are inclined to a spiritual perspective, perhaps their not coming was a cry for help, telling you that they are drowning—even if they don’t consciously realize it—and need your love and support more than ever. Or perhaps it was a spiritual test for you. Can you use this opportunity to grow stronger in love?
It seems to me that your commitment to family is above average, which is a truly beautiful thing. Your family bonds will be different going forward. But if you can continue to keep them well-tuned, as you apparently have been, then you are truly a blessing for your family, whether they appreciate it or not.