Ask the Wedding Maven: Family Bridesmaid Trouble

by Marta
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Dear Wedding Maven,

I need some advice. My sister is my matron of honor, and she is a very difficult person to get along with in general. Her daughter is the flower girl (2 years old). My sister got very upset that I am not allowing her other child (who will be 5 months old) at our wedding. My fiancé and I do not want any children other than the two flower girls at our wedding. Her plan was to just come to our ceremony with her children and her husband and then leave. She had no intention of taking pictures or attending the cocktail hour or reception. She feels that she is already going above and beyond for me by bending her children's routines. I have been extremely hurt by all of this and I have spoken to her about my feelings.

We are taking our wedding pictures before the ceremony so that my fiancé and I can enjoy the cocktail hour with our guests. My sister asked if it was okay if she and the flower girl were not present for before pictures. I explained to her that I needed her for the formal shots as a member of the bridal party and my sister. I am willing to be flexible in terms of expecting her for the pictures before the ceremony and the ceremony itself (which is approx 2.5-3 hour total time frame). I am very frustrated because it seems like my sister is causing me more stress and is making my wedding about her. She will not find anyone to watch her kids because she claims that the only people she trusts to watch them are my dad and stepmom and they are of course attending the wedding.

She asked if I wanted her out of my bridal party if she could not be there for formal shots. I told her that she needed to decide if she could be in my bridal party based on what I needed from her. I explained to her that I understood that she needed to think of her family situation, but that I am getting married and have to plan my wedding to what I need and want as well. She said that she needed some time to think about what she could do as far as time and the last we spoke was almost 2 weeks ago. I have not heard from her and my wedding is in 3.5 months.

I don't want to come off as the "bad guy," but this is my wedding and my sister is causing me more stress than I need. She does not seem like she is genuinely interested in being a part of my day. She doesn't ever call me and the other girls have been planning my shower and other events with very little involvement from her.

Sincerely,
Hurt Bride

Dear Hurt,
I have shortened your letter a little, but I think readers can still get the gist. Personally, I think that both you and your sister are behaving badly, and that you have probably been having similar struggles for most of your lives together.

You are not the “bad guy” here, but you’re the one who wrote me looking for advice, so I can only deal with your behavior. You are right, your sister is not genuinely interested in being a part of your day. As the mother of a newborn and a two year old your sister is probably not interested in ANYTHING other than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, and possibly a shower. Is it fair to you? No, but there’s also nothing she can really do about it.

Not to sound like a grizzled veteran of the Mommy Wars, but your sister is most likely suffering from severe sleep deprivation, and it affects almost every part of her life. It will get better, but probably not in time for your wedding.

You can’t reduce your stress by changing her behavior, but you can reduce it by changing your expectations, and by getting some perspective.

First of all, a five month old is going to be a lot less disruptive at your wedding (including the photos) then the two year old will be. It’s not like you need to order a meal for the baby, so what is the problem with letting your sister bring him? If you’re worried about crying, just ask your brother in law to sit on the aisle with the baby and leave the ceremony if he starts crying. He may need to do that with the two-year-old flower girl as well, which brings me to my next point.

Expecting your two-year-old niece to actually walk down the aisle, let alone behave well for 2.5-3 hours through pictures and the ceremony, is unrealistic. Resign yourself now to the fact that your flower girl may not actually perform as expected. It will make a cute story -- one day. Obviously, you want your sister and niece to be part of the pictures, and your sister should make every effort to be there, but you can help make it more doable for her.

Explain the situation to the photographer, and have all the pictures involving your sister or her daughter scheduled toward the end of the photo session. Give your sister the later arrival time, and see if that helps. If she can’t make it, she can’t make it. Yes, it will be disappointing, and annoying and probably add fuel to the fire of 25 years of sibling rivalry, but guess what, at the end of the day, you’ll still have beautiful pictures, and you’ll still be married. You don't need to adjust your plans to suit your sister, but you do need to realize that she may not be able to adjust her plans to suit you either.

You say that your sister is usually a difficult person, but I’m wondering if this behavior is typical of her. If it isn’t, she may be crying out for a little help. A newborn and a toddler is a pretty overwhelming combination, especially if she doesn’t trust anyone to watch them so that she can take a break. Maybe your other sister (edited from the letter) could step in here and check on her?

If you don’t want to be stressed by your sister’s behavior, then don’t be. Accept the fact that she is not going to do what you want her to do, but be grateful that you have other bridesmaids, and another sister who are filling in for her.

Good luck.

Curious about other advice from the Wedding Maven?
Here’s what she told another bride who wanted to fire a sister-in-law/bridesmaid.

Do you need wedding advice? Do you have a question about wedding etiquette, relationships, or traditions? Write the Wedding Maven at weddingmaven@onewed.com.