Carolyn: My only sibling, my brother, is getting married in a few months. Our father passed away a few years ago, and since then, we have gotten really close. When I get married, I plan to have my brother walk me down the aisle.
I recently learned that his fiancee, whom I have befriended, and who has lived with me, is not asking me to be a bridesmaid. She is having several bridesmaids in addition to her sister, who is the maid of honor. Her reasoning is that she has obligations to friends who have had her in their weddings. Also, she and my brother reason that if I’m a bridesmaid, her brother will have to be a groomsman.
I am deeply, deeply hurt and embarrassed. I know it is their day, but shouldn’t family come before obligatory friends? I feel really alone. My brother is my only natural choice to give me away when I marry, but if I am excluded from his wedding, then I will, in turn, exclude him from mine. Call me petty, but not including me will do irreparable damage to our relationship. Am I wrong for feeling this way? – L.
You have been excluded and you do feel hurt, so there isn’t much room to be wrong on those counts. You’re entitled to your feelings.
What you aren’t free to do is ascribe motives to your brother’s actions, or to his fiancee’s.
You see inclusion in a wedding party as the last word on family – who’s in, who’s out, who matters most, who’s disposable. But that doesn’t mean your brother and his fiancee also see it that way.
So, yes, of course, being your brother’s only family does matter more than manufactured obligations to friends. And that’s exactly why you can’t let your sense of family rest on such a perverse, shallow and ridiculous institution as wedding party selection. Poll a bunch of 20th-anniversary celebrants – hell, make it 10th anniversary – and see how close they still are to the attendants at their weddings.
Then take the results of your informal poll, and project 20 years into your future: Will you feel good about succumbing to a “petty” impulse to punish your brother? About declaring your bond “irreparably damaged”?
Do tell your brother your feelings are hurt. But before you do, please realize that wedding parties aren’t the blood oaths of modern American life – they’re nothing more (and often less) than what the bride and groom make them. Try to see the wedding party through their eyes, and then decide if you still have grounds to be miffed. If you do, then frame your complaint in those terms.