My Sister Won't Come to My Wedding

Dear ESB;

   My sister and I have had a strained long distance relationship for many years. I moved to a city 20 hours away from my home town to attend university, and have been living here ever since. I come from a hugely dysfunctional family and since moving away I have made many wonderful friends and met my amazing fiancee. I don't have a lot of contact with my family but I love them and miss them and want them to be a part of my wedding.

   My fiancee asked me to marry him more than three years ago and we did not start to plan the wedding until recently. At the time my fiancee first asked me, I told my sister that she could be the MOH. I figured that even though we are not close and she has never been my biggest cheerleader, it was the thing to do. When I began planning the wedding my sister didn't really want to discuss it (I feel that she is probably very jealous) and it became increasingly difficult to feel good about the event with no support system near by or over the phone. She was so negative and nonsupporting of any of the choices I was making, and acting almost as if I was obligated to cater to her opinions and not my own.

   I had no idea how hard it would be to plan a wedding without my family close to me. Going to dress shops alone and seeing the pity on the salespeople's faces when I said, no, my mother will not be by to see the dress. My FI and I decided fairly early on that we were not going to have a traditional wedding party, as I hate the matching dresses stuff and we didn't want to single any friend or family member out as being more important to us than another. We decided that it would just be a MOH and a BM, as we needed them to sign the paperwork. Throughout the preliminary planning stages my best friend stepped up to do all the bitch work with me with a positive attitude, enthousiasm and support. I decided that I wanted her to be the MOH because she is physically and emotionally here for me, and she is so excited. This decision was not a slight at my sister, but the best choice for me and my wedding. After all, there is no MOH internship, and I can't expect my friend to do all the work without giving her the honour.

   My sister lost it when I told her. I do accept that I let her down and that I hurt her, and I truly feel bad about that. Just because we chose not to have a wedding party does not mean that I did not include my sister in the ceremony, and always intended to do so. She, along with my brother and my fiancee's two brothers were asked to carry the chuppah at the start of the ceremony, which all have accepted with pleasure, except my sister.

   She has been pleading with me and guilt tripping me in extremely abusive and manipulative ways to try and get me to change my mind. She has pulled every dirty trick out of her bag and thrown it at me, always relating the source of her hurt feelings back to her experience of this event and the sad fact that she believes I don't love her. I said that no role I gave her in the wedding other than the one she wants will make her happy and she needs to get over that because it's not going to happen. It also boggles my mind a little because she has never bothered to try and get to know my fiancee, so why does she care so much about our day?

   Last week, she sent me an e mail stating she would not participate in the ceremony because the custom “meant nothing to her” and that she will not attend the wedding. She also expressed that she no longer wanted to have a relationship with me and closed with “see you at the next funeral.” Frankly, after all the drama, I think I would prefer for her to not attend. (I have had a couple of dreams where she misbehaves at the wedding that have freaked me out a little. In one she threw a glass of red wine all over the front of my dress.) If the tables were turned and she didn't include me in her wedding, I would respect any decision she made and help out in whatever way she needed me to. I don't need to be her MOH to know that she loves me, but I guess she needs a title, a bad dress and some flowers to believe I love her, and that to me is truly sad. This situation has definitely put a cloud over the event for me but in the end, I just want her to come and celebrate with us. It is going to be a great party and I think the only person who is going to regret her choice is her. I do have a feeling that at the last minute she will decide to attend and everyone (my family) will praise her for being such a good sister for showing up. I feel like this is her last attempt to try and get me to change my mind, but I'm sticking to my guns. At this point she has caused me so much pain over my own wedding that I don't want her to stand up for me because someone who loves me would accept my decision with grace.

Do you think I did the right thing?


  1. Before I weigh in, I have a question: how are you 20 hours from your family? Did you go to college in Antarctica? Are there no airports? (This is relevant for judging the level of separation at play before this all started.)

  2. @Mouse - I'm thinking driving distance?

    Also, I'm glad I don't have a sister. But on TV, they always seem to be able to work these things out

  3. I had a similar situation, I asked my sister to be MOH because, well, she's my sister, though I am actually closer to many friends. The thing is, it's really just a title. My best friend (who will end up helping much more than sis) understands, as she has a sister too. We started with a bridal party and then decided not to have them walk/stand. If your sister had married first, she might be more understanding, but as it is, is the title really worth risking the long term relationship? Surely your friend would understand? and you could show your appreciation for all her work in another way?

  4. I don't have any sisters, but if I did, I might cave because they are FAMILY. They aren't disposable friends. I'd just suck it up and have two bridesmaids, don't give either the maid of honor title.

    And yeah, giving someone the maid of honor title and then stripping it from them after the fact (especially if they are your sister), is a mean thing to do unless that person did something particularly heinous. And it doesn't sound like she did. It doesn't matter that she isn't particularly wrapped up in your wedding. She obviously sees the importance of being at your side during the day of, but doesn't care about the planning of it. Not everyone likes wedding planning.

  5. I was with you pretty much until you "fired" your sister from being your maid of honor. The rule of removing someone from your bridal party (family or not) generally goes something like, "If you're going to do it without a SOLID reason, it means you're ending the relationship." I completely get the badsister relationship thing -- I've dealt with my own for the better part of 24 years -- but even though your sister wasn't being supportive, you're the one who's going to go down in history as the one who took the action of removing her from your life.

    Which isn't to say you shouldn't if she is a truly toxic influence, but really it just sounds like she's a brat and you don't want to deal with her. You made your own bed when you asked her in the first place against your own better judgment.

    Now for the good news: Your maid of honor matters exactly up until the wedding ends. And then it doesn't matter who your maid of honor was anymore. At all. What does matter? The relationships you've severed. So while right now it seems like a really big deal to give your friend the "trophy" of this title, it's not. I'm betting she helped you because she loves you, not because she expected to be compensated.

    Can't you just have them both? I think it would save you a major headache later on. And you still wouldn't have a "traditional" bridal party, whatever that means anymore.

  6. To follow up, it sounds like you are using the MOH title as reward and punishment. It's not a reward or a punishment, and treating it like that is immature and petty.

  7. You absolutely made the right choice! A week after your wedding titles and roles will be long forgotten. When your sister grows up she will understand, if she really wants a title ask her to be your flower girl.

    Personal anecdote: my best friend was to be her sister's MOH and was kicked out of the bridal party for very petty reasons. After the initial hurt and anger faded they both got over it and moved on. They now have a very close relationship.

    Such is life...

  8. I don't have sisters, and I don't understand family ties because most of my friends feel more like family than any of my actual family ever have.

    So, I think you did the right thing. If you need assurance, talk to your mom about it. Otherwise, it sounds like your sister won't be at the wedding, and at this point, that's probably a good thing.

    Honestly, if you did give her back the title, would that really fix anything? Is her behavior at the wedding going to be all that great, given that she knows now the only reason she has the MOH title is that she guilt-tripped you? I guarantee that giving back the title isn't going to make her feel any less slighted, but it will show her the power she holds over you. I get that she's family, but I wouldn't budge on this one. The damage has been done, and now it's up to her whether or not she'll be able to show up & behave.

    Bottom line is this: you had good reasons to do what you did. You now need to enforce your boundaries. Be kind. Apologize for hurting her feelings. Assure her in as many ways that you can that you do, in fact, love her. But continue to enforce your boundaries. This is NOT the personality type that you want as a MOH standing with you on your wedding day.

    Side note: we didn't have any bridal party at all. We chose our mothers to sign as our witnesses, but they did not stand with us in the ceremony.

  9. um, co-MOHs. duh. avoid the family drama, honestly. Just let her have the title, and you can feel better that the co-MOH (your friend) is the there too.

  10. i say just get rid of the MOH title all together. tell her that. ask her to continue to support you, be a bridesmaid and stand by your side at the wedding, that your intent was to include everyone you love and make everyone happy by following a convention (MOH role) but instead you alienated people you care about over a role that means nothing to you compared to sisterhood & friendship(even if you don't think you messed up, sometimes when i deal with the irrational people in my life i take blame if its easier)

    and if she isn't happy with no one having the title, with your apology over your mistakes and your attempts to smooth things over, then she doesn't have to show up and you don't have to feel guilty. you tried to make it right. oh and maybe ask her to come spend time with you pre-wedding, even if its not wedding related, to try to get to know your fiance and yourself a little better.

  11. Is this worth severing the relationship with your sister,and the resulting *years* of family drama? For me, it definitely would not be worth that.

    Forget the matching dresses and flowers. Do the grown up thing and call them both your MOH or bridesmaid or whatever the eff, and avoid the drama!

    Because she might be being a dick right now, but you were a dick to cut her out of the wedding party.

  12. Apologize to your sister, offer co Maid of honor. "weddings are so emotional, caught up in stress, so sorry to hurt you, understand if you're still mad... Blahblahfeelingsblah."

    That way you're reaching out to mend family bridges. And if she decides to keep being a bitch at least she'll probably feel too guilty to pull bullshit drama at your wedding.

  13. How in gods name is rewarding the sister's childish behavior the "right" choice? People throw the word "family" around and act like everyone has to love the people they grew up with or they are terrible. Family only means you had the good/bad luck to be born into a specific group of folks. And who says she wants to preserve the relationship - it doesn't sound like she's getting anything out of it but a hassle. I say, fuck it whether its your family or not. If you don't want her standing up there, then don't have her up there. It sounds like you'd rather she didn't show anyways and I guarantee you won't miss her if you don't like her to begin with.

    And as for dealing with the loneliness or sadness of wedding planning sans-family? DO what I do, when I start to feel sad and lonely during planning - I think about what it would be like if one of my terrible family members were there and then I smile, glad I don't have to put up with their bullshit. I'd rather do it alone than in pain.

  14. I can totally get where you are coming from. My sister is mych older than me and recently got re-married to her husband. I live far away from her and couldn't be there as much for her as I guess she wanted me to be so she replaced me with one of her friends as MOH. This would've been fine except she didn't tell me and I found out on the day of the wedding party from my Aunty. Awkward.
    My fiancé and I got engaged after their first marriage and as they were planning their wedding party. I instantly asked my sister to be MOH. I am now regretting it as her behaviors been completely off the radar recently and I know she will cause drama on the day.
    I just don't want her to feel as shit as she made me feel by asking her to stand down.

  15. Hi.. i have many sisters.. none which i have been chosen to be the MOH until recently and to be honest i didn't think that she would choose me. I always thought that you choose your maid of honor because she is always there for you not because she is your sister. I think if your MOH is not there for you whether she is unavailable or chooses not to, you as a bride have every right to change the order. In my opinion, because there is so much in planning a wedding the MOH should help lower the stress not make it more complicated. Now how you choose to tell your sister she is no longer MOH, that can be a whole other story.

  16. Probably too late, but...

    You gave her the title of MoH knowing she lived twenty hours from you and wouldn't be involved much in the planning of the wedding. Then you take the title away from her because other people have done more to help with the planning? That's just dumb, and you shouldn't have asked her in the first place if you were going to act like this.

  17. you totally did the right thing.

    i know this is after the fact, but i don't know why these post are mostly unsupportive.

    if she needs to understand why you made the choice, just highlight her own actions for her.

    if she didn't want to be there for you as MOH, and you asked her years ago, anyway...

    it's obviously painful, but if she's the one being horrible, and refuses to accept it and instead takes it up a notch by getting angry at *you* for calling her on how *she's* acting, well... that's just more of the same from her. it's *your wedding*, for goodness' sake!

    and now that the wedding has ended, regardless of what went down, you always have the fact that you asked her to be MOH and tried to stick it out as long as you could until you had to make a better choice for your day. and she always has the fact that she was unsupportive, uncommunicative, and unwilling to get over those things to be there for you. maybe she will realize that and you two will reconcile. maybe you can send her a photo and write her a letter saying "wish you could have been there," and hash it all out, or invite her to come meet you now. i'd say you are in a much better position now to deal with her and develop something lasting than you would have been otherwise; it was obviously just pain.

    you had your wedding on your terms and you should be proud of that!