It Must Be Mothers-In-Law Hell Week On Ehell!

by admin on September 11, 2013

Over the summer my long term boyfriend proposed to me. We’ve done a lot of planning and now it’s come time to send out our Save The Dates. This is where the problems start. Our venue is very limited in size, because we really don’t want to have a lot of people there, and also because it’s more affordable. We split invites evenly, giving us both 35 guests. It’s important to mention that my fiance’ is not at all close to most of his family. He’s very close with his dad, but believes his mom to be a controlling, manipulative, toxic person. He doesn’t have a relationship with any of his Aunts or Uncles. They don’t try to keep up with him, and he in turn doesn’t seek out a relationship with them.

Due to his relationship with most of his family, my fiance’ has decided he’d rather invite friends instead. His parents are divorced (a really, really messy one too), and when we got engaged the first thing she said was, “I get a guest”. Not “may I have a guest?” or anything of that nature. Just telling me that she got a guest. Okay, whatever. I’m not thrilled with the way she asked, but I can understand it might be hard for her to see fiance’s dad and his wife without backup. I have my fiance’ tell her that we will invite a guest for her, but because I’m not sending out any invitations that say “And Guest” and because the friend doesn’t live with her I will need the friends address in order to send them an invitation directly. She didn’t respond, just changed the subject.

So now my fiance’ and I went down to visit her shortly after. While we were there he asks again “Mom, have you thought of your ONE guest?” and she says “I have. I want Amy, and Stuart, and Ross, and Angie and a friend”. Thomas says something along the lines of “That doesn’t seem like one person”. She changes the subject. The rest of the visit goes by uneventfully.

Now my save the dates are printed, so I asked fiance’ to send her a text asking for the friends name and address. She replies that she wants six invites now. If you’ll notice it’s gone from five to six since fiance’ has last talked to his mom. He tells her a generic “I cannot accommodate that request” line. She goes on to say that in her family people just assume their invited, and people are already planning on coming, and that she has never even heard of a closed door wedding. Which is ridiculous, because fiance’ has a cousin that got married over the summer and we didn’t receive an invite. She then asks my fiance if he will call all of his aunts, uncles, and cousins and INFORM them they are not invited!

So I need a bunch of advice. First, how do my fiance and I get it through to her that she is getting ONE guest. Second, how do we tell her that we’re not calling his family to tell them they’re not invited? I’ve been behaving etiquette-wise and haven’t talked about my wedding at all in front of those who aren’t invited. No telling if she is or not. Third (And most importantly) What do I do on the day of if his mom comes in bringing 6 uninvited people? I can’t just roll with it, because of the fire code, and the catering.

Miss J, I desperately need your help. I have no idea what to do. I’m afraid if we have to call his extended family and I’ll alienate myself before I’m even really a PART of their family. 🙁 She is not contributing financially to the wedding, but has told us she will give us $2,000 for our honeymoon. 0821-13

Something doesn’t make sense.   You are concerned about being alienated from extended members who are…

1) your fiance “is not at all close to most of his family”2) your fiance “doesn’t have a relationship with any of his Aunts or Uncles”
3) Aunts and uncles don’t try to keep up with him, and he in turn doesn’t seek out a relationship with them.
4) and whom your fiance has no intention of inviting to his wedding

It appears to me that the alienation is a well established relationship pattern and not inviting them to the wedding will seal the deal.   And you are worried that not calling them to explain the lack of any invitation to your wedding will alienate them?   They already are alienated!

And I would start saving for a honeymoon if I were you.   Future MIL is poised to use it as a tool to get her way and personally I would never give someone that kind of power over me.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Xarcady September 11, 2013 at 7:36 am

I’m a firm believer in “Begin as you mean to go on.” I think the two of you are doing a very good job handling your soon-to-be MIL.

When she asks for six guests, just keep repeating, “MIL, you have one guest invite. We need the name and address of your guest by MM/DD/YY to get the invitation out on time.” Although I’d give her a date a week or two in advance of the date you are sending the invites out, because I can see her pulling a power play and giving you her guest’s name and address weeks late.

And if she never gives you a name and address–then she doesn’t get a guest.

As for calling the relations and telling them they aren’t invited. “MIL, it’s rude to even mention a party in front of those who aren’t invited. Calling them to tell them they aren’t invited? That’s even ruder. We will not be doing that.” No one can make you pick up the phone and call these people.

Extra guests on the day of the wedding. “I’m sorry, the fire code is very strict. I’m afraid you can’t come in.” Bonus points if you can avoid following this with a puzzled look and “Why are you here, anyway?”

And I agree with Miss Jean. Don’t count on a cent from MIL. Make all your plans without considering any money she might or might not give you. That way, you will have a wedding and honeymoon you can afford. And if she does give you something in the end, it will be an extra added bonus, not cash you were counting on.


Yasuragi September 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

Are you actually thinking about calling his family to let them know they’re not invited? Why on Earth would you do that? Because you’re hoping for the $2000 honeymoon that will hang over your marriage for years to come? It’s not worth it, as Admin already pointed out.

How to prevent your mom from bringing uninvited guests:

Option One: Your fiance stops letting his mother walk all over him with soft language and subject changing. Be clear and be blunt. There are only two seats available. She comes with a guest, she comes alone or she does not come at all.

Option Two: You keep dealing with her as usual and she, thinking she can get away with it, shows up at the door with a handful of friends in tow. Stop them at the door. Hire a bouncer if you have to. Do not allow them to enter. She’ll probably make a scene and her friends will no doubt be mortified. But I bet she won’t try something like that again.


Fallushere September 11, 2013 at 8:44 am

While it is a foreign concept to some, I do completely understand MILs assertion that fily will just assume they are invited and show up. In my family a lit of invites, including birthdays, graduations, and weddings are word-of-mouth, and people just “show” usually dragging a friend or neighbors kid along. This is very common in certain cultures. I don’t think OP means her BF s family is all that “alienated”, just more lazy about relationships than anything– but will be there for the important milestones in their family’s life– like weddings.


E September 11, 2013 at 8:45 am

This problem is pretty easily solved, from where I’m standing. You DON’T get through to mom about only having one guest. Because she’s been pulling these students about inviting 5 or 6 people, now she gets no guest. (Once you tell her that, she’ll get her one guest to you on the double.) You could mention to her that you will not be calling the other relatives, but you don’t even need to do that. People do not need to be informed that they are not invited to an event. The lack of invitation communicates that just fine. If she does show up with additional guests, the manager of the space will be on hand to inform them that they were unfortunately not invited and may not stay. If there isn’t a person like this on site, it’s your husband’s job to do it, and not yours. This is his family. But your fiance should notify his MIL that this is the case in advance, so she will know not to try it.


Lo September 11, 2013 at 8:46 am


Seriously. Don’t do it. Doesn’t matter how much it is or what you will use it for. Write it off, it’s not for the taking if you want piece of mind. Never ever take money from a manipulative parent unless it’s an extreme scenario and even then…

That being said, there’s no way to stop this woman from doing what she will. All you can tell her is that one other person can come. Heck I’d even give her the benefit of the doubt that she can choose that person without your approval, I mean I understand where you’re coming from but there’s no need to send a seperate invitation. Put “and one guest” and you’ve made yourself crystal clear.

Your husband-to-be can tell her privately that if more guests than one show up they will be turned away. You have to be willing to call her bluff on this and actually turn people away for this to work.

On the day of the wedding if she shows up with more people in tow you are going to have to go over and explain to them (with your husband-to-be) that you are very sorry but you are not prepared to host them because the limit for guests has been reached and your MIL knew this so there must have been a misunderstanding. And then you turn them away.

Your mother and law might throw a fit but who cares? And no decent person will feel anything but embarrassment at being an uninvited guest. It will reflect poorly on your MIL, not on you.


ferretrick September 11, 2013 at 8:49 am

First of all, you and fiancé invite the people YOU want, and feel good about it.

Keep going with the “I cannot accommodate that request” line to all of it-the uninvited guests, the calling the guests SHE invited when she is not the hostess, etc. “I’m sorry, I don’t know those people and have never spoken to them so I will not be able to accommodate that. If there is a misunderstanding [that YOU caused, but mutter that part under your breath], you will have to clear it up.”

If she is still so clueless, and in turn her guests are so clueless, as to show up without an invitation, that’s on them, and politely but firmly turn them away at the door. But chances are she won’t and they won’t. Even the most clueless of people generally understand that weddings are expensive and invite only events. Her line about never hearing of a closed door wedding is just BS.

And I thoroughly agree with the admin about make your own plans to pay for your honeymoon yourselves, because MIL is going to use it to get her way. And look at it this way-if she really does force six unwanted guests on you, you are going to spend a good portion of that $2000 feeding them anyway.


LeeLee88 September 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

Indeed, start saving up for that honeymoon. Also, fiance needs to have a real talk with his mother, no subject changing, period. It seems that this has worked for her in the past to get what she wants, but the time to stop it is now. Too bad if she doesn’t like what she’s hearing. Bring up the fact that she’s not paying for anything, and the fire codes. If she can’t understand any of that, then inform her she comes with just one, or she doesn’t come at all. Those are her only two choices. Also, remember that you don’t need an official honeymoon to be married. Sure, they’re nice, but if you can’t afford one at the time, just take a belated one at some point in the future. If it means putting the final nail in the coffin that is this woman’s influence over your fiance, then for Pete’s sake, do it.


essie September 11, 2013 at 11:56 am

“Bring up the fact that she’s not paying for anything, and the fire codes.”

Um, no. As Miss Jean has said in the past, don’t give reasons why you can’t, just say “I’m sorry, but I can’t accomodate that request”. When you start giving reasons, they other party will start negotiating. Your stance isn’t negotiable.


Jen September 11, 2013 at 9:45 am

Is there anyone on the groom’s side who knows how manipulative the MIL can be and who would be willing to help? If there is, perhaps the groom could speak to him or her, explain what MIL is doing and figure out a best course of action. I know a lot of people are saying, “you don’t have to call people to say they’re not invited” but it sounds like the MIL is rudely inviting them on the couple’s behalf and if the wedding isn’t in the same town where the family lives and so they had to travel to the venue (I’m not sure if this is the case, but bringing it up as a possibility) it’s more than just awkward to be turned away at the door. If there is a relative willing to help with the MIL situation, perhaps he or she could talk to the other relatives that MIL has said she’s inviting and have a general conversation about how the groom is having a small wedding, space restrictions, and to ask them to “spread the word” that if MIL says someone is invited but they don’t actually get an invitation from the couple, it’s just the MIL pulling her old tricks again? Is there anyway to do that and not be rude?

And I agree that there should be a bouncer (perhaps one of the ushers?) at the door. One who knows the people who are invited (because unless they do, you’d have to ID) and unfortunately, the groom and bride will be too busy that day to serve as bouncer. Ehellers, do you think it’s going to far to have the bouncer have a clipboard with the list of invited guests on it?

Honestly, if this were my mother (and she sounds pretty close to my actual mom), I wouldn’t invite her to the wedding at all. I would cut that toxic person out of my life and make sure she doesn’t know the day, time, or address of the wedding. And I definitely wouldn’t take any money from her.


Wild Irish Rose September 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

Lo is right–do NOT take her money. There will be strings attached to that forever. I don’t understand not putting “and guest” on an invitation, but that’s just me. I also agree with E that if FMIL can’t wrap her head around ONE guest, then she can have NO guests.

Good luck and best wishes!


Kimstu September 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

@Wild Irish Rose: “I don’t understand not putting “and guest” on an invitation, but that’s just me.”

Actually, the “and guest” or “plus-one” invite, issued to one named and known invitee plus one unknown unidentified guest of the invitee, is a relatively recent etiquette innovation. Back in The Day, hosts would NEVER have dreamed of issuing any invitations except by name to the specific individuals they chose to invite.

In traditional etiquette, it was considered incredibly insulting to invite somebody in the generic form “and guest”. That seems to say, in effect, “Yeah, you can come to my special invitation-only event, but I don’t know or care enough about you as a person even to bother finding out who you are and how to spell your name”.

It was also considered quite an insult to the named invitee to imply that he or she wouldn’t be welcome or wouldn’t have fun at the event except as part of a couple, even if he or she had to scrape up somebody the hosts never heard of in order to do duty as a date. And frankly, a lot of us STILL find the concept of the “and guest” invitation kind of tacky, for precisely those reasons.

However, since so many people nowadays seem to really hate the idea of attending the weddings of even their nearest and dearest without some kind of partner or date in tow, hosts have learned to treat the “and guest” invitation as pretty much the expected standard for unattached invitees. But it’s just as polite (some might say MORE polite) for the OP and her fiance to ask the MIL-to-be for the actual name of her “plus one”, and issue that person their own invitation.

And yes, as everybody else has already pointed out, MIL-to-be is shamefully abusing their hospitality with her rude and uncooperative demands for an open-door policy (at least for the people SHE wants to invite. What do you reckon MIL-to-be would say if her ex-husband’s second wife decided to bring along all HER friends and relations to the OP’s wedding?).

@OP: Do NOT call any of your fiance’s relatives to pre-emptively disinvite them; you know that’s rude, and even MIL-to-be’s high-handed interference with your guest list won’t make it appear less rude. MIL-to-be is probably just trying to stir up trouble between you and her family, and they’re probably wise to her little games. If any of them is fool enough to actually try to attend your wedding without an invitation just on your MIL-to-be’s say-so, do as the other posters suggest and have someone on the door to politely turn them away, citing strict fire code regulations if they need an excuse. Politeness and family solidarity do NOT require anyone to put up with wedding crashers.


Wild Irish Rose September 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

You make a good point about the not-knowing-the-person’s-name issue. I get that. And you’re right about people feeling the need to have a “date” at such an event. Mea culpa. 🙂 Sounds like it ranks right along with people feeling you MUST serve alcohol at a wedding reception.

MIL needs to be reined in.


ddwwylm September 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I had a bridesmad ask for an “and guest” 2 or 3 days before the wedding. I was a little annoyed, since I’d had to turn in the #s to the caterer at least 2 weeks prior, and had already made up the seating chart, but figured I’d roll with it and squeeze the person in. So I asked her the name of the person she wanted to bring, and she said she didn’t know. At that point, I got exasperated and said no. If you don’t even know who you’re going to invite as your guest 2 days before the wedding, then you don’t get an “and guest”

OP, I like the suggestion listed upthread of telling MIL that if she can’t give you the name and address by the time you need to send out invites then she doesn’t get a +1. I also agree that you can explain all you want about why she only gets +1 not +6 that she will probably just dismiss you. You will literally need to have no chairs available for her extra +5 and probably someone available to tell them that they have to leave. That bridesmaid, she did end up bringing a +1 without telling me and the poor friend she brought had no place to sit and nothing to eat. I felt horrible for the poor tag a long because the BM ended up ignoring her all night as she tried to hook up with one of the other guests. FTR, I actually woud have had no problem with the tag along sitting at one of the back tables and getting a plate from the buffet, and told her so, but I think the poor thing was so embarrassed when she showed up and saw there was no spot for her on the seating chart she tired to be as unobtrusive and helpful as possible


Kimstu September 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

@ddwwlym: Yikes, how uncomfortable for you and for that poor uninvited guest! How someone close enough to you to be your bridesmaid could be thoughtless enough to inflict that on you, not to mention on her friend, boggles the mind.

The moral of the story for potential plus-ones is: When a friend of yours asks you to “come along” to a wedding they’re attending, especially if it’s the wedding of people you don’t know, JUST SAY NO THANK YOU.

Do not listen to any blarney from your friend about “oh, they won’t mind” or “the bride told me it was okay to bring someone” or “it’s going to be so big they won’t even know who’s there”. Might be true but probably isn’t. If you don’t have an invitation card with your own sweet name on it, or haven’t watched your friend filling out the response card for their plus-one invitation to indicate that you will be accompanying them, you should NOT consider yourself invited to the wedding and you should NOT take your friend’s word for it.

Kathryn September 15, 2013 at 3:41 am

This reminds me of when some friends of mine got married. They had a very small reception and my boyfriend at the time was invited, but not me. Which I completely understood! I was a little sad, but he was much closer to the happy couple than me.

Anyway, after the ceremony (which was open to all and very lovely), boyfriend, myself and some Other Friends went to boyfriend’s house to hang out. Other Friends weren’t invited to the reception either, but were intending to go along anyway!! They were also trying to pressure me into going too!! As tempted as I was (for purely selfish reasons), I stood my ground. It would have been too awkward to selfishly insert myself and make the happy couple remember that they didn’t invite me whenever they saw me. I know they were already a bit sad they weren’t able to invite everyone to the reception that they wanted. The Bride had already talked with me about her regrets, which I very much appreciated actually 🙂

Conversely, when it came to my wedding, we had 1 accidental reception crasher due to miscommunication (that Mum hurriedly made room for – yay!) and another intentional crasher who ended up hanging out with our DJ friend and had even brought us a gift! 😀

ddwwylm September 16, 2013 at 2:11 am

We had an intentional crasher too, though not nearly as polite as yours Kathryn. My brother had asked me early in the process if I was planning on inviting his best friend. I said no, and told him why – limited space and we couldn’t even invite all the people we wanted to, DH has a very big family. My brother is married with kids, so it’s not like he needed a “date” for the wedding. well, guess who shows up, and I know it had to be my brother who told him to come, because how else would he have known where to go and how to get there. He introduced himself to my husband by saying “hi, I’m Joe, I’ve known ddwwylm since we were kids so I decided to crash your wedding”, inserted himself at the family table so my dad ended up sitting elsewhere, proceeded to get drunk and hit on every single female in the place, coupled or not, and caught the garter! He coincidentally happened to be MARRIED at the time!

Michelle C. Young October 1, 2013 at 4:22 am

This reminds me of a lovely line from “Pride and Prejudice,” when Kitty’s aunt is having a party, and Kitty invites some officers to join the party.

I don’t remember the exact words, but it went something like this: “If she is so kind as to extend the offer to me, I would be glad to attend.”

So, if you are ever invited to be a “plus one,” by all means, use the “If the host extends the offer to me, I would be glad to attend,” line, and make sure the HOST gives you the invitation. It need not be pretty paper, especially the last minute, but even if it is just a phone call, email, or text, if must come from the HOST. Anything else means “No, thank you kindly for inviting me, but I’m afraid I shall not be able to attend.”

And if you can do it while wearing a “mathematical” cravat, all the better.

OK, back to my Regency romance novels, when etiquette was a real thing and people followed it, or faced expulsion from society!

Ergala September 12, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Also often times people don’t seem to understand “and guest” means ONE person. Not 2, 3,6, 10….I’ve heard of people writing in like 7 or 8 names. When that happens you then get to place the awkward phone call saying “I think there was a misunderstanding. We are allowing for each person to bring along one person. We cannot accept 7 more people on one invitation.”. After that you PRAY that they informed those people that they are not indeed invited and won’t show up anyways.

My husband and I have a rule though. If we aren’t directly invited by the host/hostess we assume we are not invited. When we were first married dh’s family would issue us invitations to parties through his father and stepmother. Never to us directly. So we’d get a call like 3 days before the party telling us the date and time and location. Everyone else knew about it weeks in advance. We stopped accepting them because we found it quite rude to treat us as if we were still children living in our parent’s home. We had our own home, children of own, jobs…basically there was nothing to make them think we were dependent on his parents and thus children.


JH September 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

Start saving for the honeymoon … and maybe you shouldn’t invite MIL at all.


Ripple September 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

It’s a Save the Date card. This does not need to go to the guest. Your future MIL could change her mind 15 times between now and the actual wedding as to who she wants to bring as her guest. You will want the name for the invitation, but it’s not that important for Save the Date, is it? As the time approaches for the invitations to go out, your fiance will have to be firm with her about the name and address of her one guest; he should know by now how best to handle her. Personally, I like the Option One from Yasuragi.

And as others have said here, don’t hold your breath on that $2,000. It won’t happen. Or it will come with a cat’s cradle of strings attached.


soitwillbe September 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

Back in the day 🙂 weddings, from where I am from, were treated a lot the way funerals are today –a big invite went out in the community paper with church, time, etc and everyone was invited. Or it went in to the church bulletin, and everyone knew they could come cause it was always at a church –and anyone can go to the church. A small reception out on the church lawn followed, and the servers just cut the cake (either big slices or smaller slices) depending on how many people they had counted in the pews earlier. That’s an “open” wedding, and it was very common place where I was, so it seems MIL is of the generation where she remembers those. You went to a funeral, wedding, or graduation based upon not only how well you knew the honoree, but also what your standing was in the community, or your family relationship—not if you were invited by an actual invitation or not. No one ever would have actually had to invite the mayor, or the head of the chamber of commerce, but if he showed at your wedding, that was big stuff!!! Even today, in that same community, you just show up at your cousin’s graduation –no invite necessary–cause that’s your cousin, and you can go see your cousin in you want to!


Shawna R. Nixon October 10, 2013 at 2:06 am

Unfortunately, the venue that they could afford can only seat a certain number of people, or else it breaks the fire codes. This means it is against the law for more people to be in the building, because they could get trampled, trapped, etc. in the case of a fire. Also, some people prefer small weddings. I think that the bride and groom should be responsible for choosing what wedding they want and can afford, rather than MIL.


AMC September 11, 2013 at 10:25 am

OP, just keep doing what you’re doing. When she needles you about bringing extra guests, tell her you cannot accomodate that request. Say it until you’re blue in the face. If she hints at showing up with extra guests anyway, let her know she will be sorely embarassed because you are only prepared to accomodate invited guests who RSVP. Anyone who shows up uninvited will be out of a seat, out of food, and outta luck.


Charliesmum September 11, 2013 at 10:27 am

I think the saddest part of this is the implication that, beause she claims to be giving you money for your honeymoon you can’t tell her NO to the extra guests. It’s your wedding. I don’t understand people who, when extra, uninvited people show up, they sigh and do what they have to to accomidate those gate-crashers. If she shows up at the reception with 5 extra people, you either tell them – or have someone else tell them that they can’t be there because there is no food for them, and no room for them. I went to a wedding that was specifically ‘no children’ and this woman brought her kids anyway, and they wound up squishing them at the table where I was seated, and it was extremely annoying. Also they had to scrounge around and find kid friendly food for them. Ug.

And like Admin said, it doesn’t sound like you need to have a close relationship with the extended family anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about them at all. (Although I also know the feeling of not wanting people to think ill of you.)


Jay September 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

Don’t take the money even if she appears to be offering it with no strings.

Don’t accomodate her. Don’t send out extra invitations, and if people show up, tell them they weren’t invited and I’m sorry but we don’t have room for you. It’s not rude, it’s handling people who are rude.


Margaret September 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

The OP is certainly “right”, and the FMIL has no business inviting guests without permission of the hosts. HOWEVER, the OP is joining a family and has the opportunity now to either help her fiance build bridges with his relatives, or permanently offend them. If those relatives think enough of the fiance to want to come to the wedding, maybe she should rethink her priorities and entertain a larger group in a bigger space, at a price she can afford. A wedding doesn’t need to be a huge catered buffet dinner; it could be sandwiches, cookies, and wedding cake.

Not knowing this family’s customs, it’s hard to judge how misguided an extra’s behavior is. One might assume that he or she was a “plus one”. Or in a family or culture that does not typically do formal invitations, it could be that an invitation from the groom’s mother is sufficient. not true in mine, but I would give the extra guests the benefit of the doubt for good intentions.

These people want to honor the OP and her fiance, and celebrate family. She may value those ties at some time in her life. Couldn’t she find a way to make them welcome?


ferretrick September 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm

If the fiance does not want to build bridges with his relatives and is happy with that decision, I fail to see why it becomes the bride’s job.


Cat September 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I cannot find anything that says the fiance wants to build bridges with his family. He does not want them at his wedding. He prefers to invite his friends. He calls his mother toxic, controlling, and manipulative. There’s nothing about loving, caring, nurturing or motherly concern.
People don’t always want to come to a wedding because they are so fond of you. They may just be fond of free food, free alcohol, and a free party. If they don’t care enough to see him, communicate with him, or include him in their lives in any way, why should he try to have relationships with people who have no interest in him?
The fact that they know the importance of invitations makes me think that formal invitations are the norm, not the exception. They also have only the word of the “toxic mother” that anyone in the family even wants to come. The relatives are not calling asking where their invitations are.
It’s nice to believe in altruism and in family ties. It’s just not visible in this situation.


ddwwylm September 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I truly don’t think this is a place where invite the realtives or permanently offend them applies. OP states that the FI is not close with his extended family members and does not socialize with them. She also states that he was not invited to his cousins wedding. Granted, some people can take offense in anything, but it takes some serious gall to be offended that you are not invited to a wedding when you didn’t invite that person to yours (or your child’s). My guess would be that MIL is exaggerating how much the extended IL want to come/would be offended, and even if she isn’t why would you want to build bridges with people like that in the first place.


Margaret September 12, 2013 at 10:42 pm

You’re correct; nothing says the OP wants to build bridges with his family. But read the letter: the only person described as “toxic” is MIL, where they have already decided that they need to make some accommodations.

THe others are described as “distant”, not offensive.
He’s very close with his dad…he doesn’t have a relationship with any of his Aunts or Uncles. They don’t try to keep up with him, and he in turn doesn’t seek out a relationship with them. That doesn’t say he dislikes them, just that they’re not close.

Presumably, at least one or two these aunts or uncles might be his father’s relatives. And others would be the mother’s, who might at least themselves be entitled to the benefit of the doubt re invitations AND re relationship, even if MIL herself is toxic..

I made few efforts with my older relatives until I was in my late 20s and thinking about children. They were not the first people that I wanted at my wedding, but my mother included them. Family ties then became much more important. as I grew older an dhad my own children.

A bouncer turning guests away is an unforgivable slap in the face. Make sure that those who get it are deserving, and not just innocent recipients of the OP’s MIL’s enthusiasm, and the OP and her husband are prepared to live with all consequences. If I were OP, I would make them welcome for husband’s sake.


Cat September 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

I am still not getting why admitting people the future husband does not want to invite would be “for the husband’s sake.” He’s the one who doesn’t want them there. The bride does not say she doesn’t want them there; her fiance does not want them.

If they (not she because he’s got a say-so in this) admit these folks, violate the fire code, and break their budget, all in the name of being “polite” and not wanting to give people who don’t know they were not invited (though the lack of an inviation would be a hint to most of us) a “slap in the face”, what do they do then? Try to borrow money to cover the extra expenses? Explain to the fire marshall that they cannot obey the law because they are being polite?
Polite is not another name for law-breaker or for door-mat.


Cora September 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Building on what others have said and adding a few tools, a list for quick reference:

1. Broken record. “We are inviting you and one guest.” Repeat as needed, to all inquiries, insisting, strange justifications, etc.
2. A designated interferer (DI). Have an agreement with someone who will run interference at the wedding AND the reception with your mother and the eight people she will bring with her to the wedding, without having to bother you or your groom. Yes, she will bring eight people. Hope all you want; better to be prepared. And you can supplement that with:
3. Seating chart. Have a big, huge lovely seating chart in a gilt rococo frame no one could possibly miss right at the door to show where everyone is to be seated, including MIL and her one guest. DI can be standing by if there is confusion. Maybe with a short list in his breast pocket of nearby restaurants and points of interest.


JD September 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Okay, I understand why OP doesn’t want to do an invitation to MIL “and guest.” This site has many times addressed the fact that “and guest” is rude to the “guest,” and far too open to interpretation. Think back to how many stories here have involved R.s.v.p. respondents gleefully filling in their own idea of “guest” (singular) with a family of six! OP, you and fiancé need to have a conversation and come up with a plan you can both stick with, then face MIL together and don’t deviate from the plan. If this were me, I would send a save the date to MIL, with the acknowledgement that when she tells you the ONE guest she wants, you will send that person an invitation later, well in time for him or her to plan to attend. Personally, I wouldn’t send any save the dates, but that’s just me. I would not call people to tell them they aren’t invited, no way, not at all. If she says she will bring others, I would tell her they will not be admitted, due to fire code and seating limitations, and that it will be embarrassing for her and them, but not me. And I would not turn down her money, perhaps, but I would make it clear that we are paying for our own honeymoon (or not having one) and the money will be treated simply as a gift IF I took it. Nor would I count on ever seeing it appear. Keep telling her the hard truth and if she balks, tell her you’ll miss seeing her on your big day, so sorry.


cwm September 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

MIL sounds like she’s the type to keep pushing until she gets her way. I would let her know that due to unforseen circumstances (her being rude and obnoxious, but you don’t have to mention that) she will no longer be allowed to bring a guest. And only those with invites will be allowed to the ceremony/reception. Follow through with it.

Don’t plan on taking any of her money for the honeymoon. It sounds like she’s trying to buy extra invites for family members with the money. Just tell her you’ve got it all under control, thanks. If she gives you a check, don’t cash it. Don’t accept anything from her. Chances are it’ll come with plenty of strings attached.


Mae September 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I agree with pp- do not count on or accept any money from MIL.

I also agree with @Ripple- do you really need the guest’s name & address for the STD card?

It is you and your fiances wedding, which your are paying for, so you get to decide who is invited. Stop letting the mom dance around the subject. Either you & fiance or finance alone need to sit her down/call her and say “Mom, you get 1 guest, only. We would like the name and address so that we can send the invitation. You can either give us the name and address or you can come alone. Any uninvited guests will be turned away at the door and if you throw a fit, you will be escorted from the venue”. If she starts changing the subject, steer it right back on topic. If after 2 or 3 tries she still changes the subject, tell her that until she is ready to speak about the invite, you will not be contacting her and if she doesn’t give you a firm answer by X date, she can consider herself uninvited.

Harsh, yes. She changes the subject because you are not saying what she wants to hear. By allowing her to steer the conversation off topic, she thinks she will eventually get what she wants or do what she wants no matter what you say.

Also, I would consider hiring a person to stand at the door with a clipboard and list but it is going to have to be someone that can recognize guests unless you want to have them bring their invitation or ID.

I do not understand why weddings bring out the worst in people. I also don’t understand why anyone would want to go to the wedding of a virtual stranger or someone you barely know.


Jenn50 September 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm

It’s up to your husband-to-be to handle this. Good for him for having a spine so far. He’ll need to stiffen it now, because his mother is very likely to up the ante.

1) Ripple is right. Don’t bother with Save the Date for the guest.
2) Fiancé should talk to his mother, ASAP. Tell her he is extending an invitation to her and ONE GUEST whose name you need by X date. Tell her anyone else who shows up will be, regretfully, turned away at the door. Clearing up any misunderstandings with “her people” will be her problem.
3) Make it clear that HER invitation is contingent on respectful behaviour on her part. Nastiness and shenanigans will be grounds for immediate revocation of the invitation.
4) Do not, under any circumstances, accept money from her, for the honeymoon, or otherwise. IF she even comes through with it, it will come with strings attached.
5) Hold firm. Any attempts to argue or threaten should only strengthen your resolve. Don’t let bullies and manipulators control you, regardless of shared DNA.


Miss Raven September 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm


OP, your MIL sounds like a classic Narcissist. I dealt with my BF’s Narcissistic mom for 6 years, and she made our lives hell. This is classic. No matter what she tells you about that 2 grand, it does NOT come with no strings attached. It is full to bursting of quid pro quo’s.

Not only that, but I would say that there is an extremely good chance of that money never materializing. She will put off giving it to you and tell you to “just make your plans” and she will give it to you later, or pay a bill for this or that. And then once you have made plans and deposits and taken the time off work, something will come up. Some emergency of hers, she had her identity stolen, or made other promises she just CAN’T break, or her paycheck has been delayed, or some other sort of completely unverifiable BS. Or, worse than that, she will tell you there has been some misunderstanding and what she ACTUALLY promised you, was _____. Or she will decide that there was an agreement of some kind between the two of you and you never held up your end so she is justified in not holding up her end.

My BF’s mom did all of this, and more. And because she was his mom, it took a lot of tearful convincing on my end, because he didn’t want to see it, for him to stop accepting promises from her for anything, ever. Sad as it was, our lives improved once he stopped relying on her for literally anything. And it drove her mad, not having that power over us anymore.

She’s not your mom. You can see this from an emotionally distant standpoint. That $2,000 promise is worth less than the words it’s made of.


Marozia September 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Don’t bother calling the relatives that you’re not going to invite. It’ll make matters worse.
As for the $2000….start saving your own money for the honeymoon. MIL & her money will be a constant reminder.


Yankeegal77 September 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

OP, I wouldn’t invite the FMIL at all. I see this as a lose-lose: she brings the additional guests or she arrives and causes some other ruckus.

If you do invite her, I don’t think a bouncer at the door, clipboard in hand (as another poster mentioned) is out of bounds at all.

And as for the honeymoon money: don’t even take the offer seriously. It will either not materialize or you could find yourself in the same boat as a friend of mine–the ILs used the paid-for honeymoon as a means to control my friend and her husband. It caused such a strain on the marriage that it was a factor in their divorce less than three years later. This “gift” WILL have a much, much higher price attached to it.


Cat September 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I am trying to understand why either of you would want a “controlling, manipulative, toxic person” at your wedding and reception. Off-hand one would think it’s terrible to exclude your fiance’s mother from your wedding, but inviting her is asking for trouble. Yes, it will destroy any relationship with her, but why do either of you want to have a relationship with her? Wait until you have children and this woman starts to make “suggestions” as to how you raise them.
Have someone at the door to control who is coming into the reception room. Anyone not on the guest list will be told that, regretfully, they were not invited and cannot be accommodated. I would not invited your MIL and say that, since she will not accept your decision, she will not be coming.
Keep up with the good relationship between your beloved and his father. Let MIL go. She can spend her life annoying someone else.


Xarcady September 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I do think it is proper to allow MIL to bring an escort. I think that is fairly standard for divorced/widowed parents of the bride and groom. She shouldn’t have asked for a guest right away like that, but I’m okay with letting her have an escort to her son’s wedding.

But if MIL continues to hold you hostage by withholding the name and address of her one guest, call her bluff. Tell her that you have a very tight guest list and that friends of yours aren’t being invited because she is allowed to invite one guest. And that if she doesn’t hand over the name and address of that guest by a specific date, that invitation will go to one of your friends.

Then do exactly that. Invite your friend. Yes, MIL will be furious. She will escalate her demands. But if you can hold firm (and only do this if you know both of you can stand firm on this issue), you will have taught her that the two of you won’t stand for her manipulating ways. And she will have brought it all on herself.


Maggie September 12, 2013 at 1:22 am

Don’t throw out all your wedding plans to accommodate the rudeness of your MIL, as one or two have suggested. You would be setting yourself up for a lifetime of manipulation by her.

As for the money for the honeymoon, it will either come with unreasonable conditions and be hung over your heads FOREVER or it will never materialise. A honeymoon at home will be cheaper in more ways than one.

Have a seating plan outside the venue and a third party to ‘regulate’ it at the door. Do not become involved it in on the day. Have the third party ready to call the police if necessary.


Sara September 12, 2013 at 6:48 am

I would tell MIL that she can invite one person, and if she shows up with more uninvited guests, simply tell them that you’re sorry, but they can’t come in. If you reward her behavior in this, it will only get much worse, and quickly.

And forget the honeymoon $$. It is absolutely, categorically not worth your MIL having any kind of power over this process. Pay for the honeymoon yourselves, and even if it means you have to have a very simple honeymoon, it will be so much better because you’ll know it wasn’t purchased by giving your MIL the right to lord it over you.


Lisatoo September 12, 2013 at 7:21 am

You know, I think you are trying to have a relationship with your MIL because you feel that this is ‘right’, or because this is someone you are ‘supposed to’ have a relationship with. You are being ‘nice’.
But you know what? She doesn’t sound all that ‘nice’ in return. Do you WANT to be close to someone like this? Does your husband want to be close to her?
It seems like he has already given you plenty of clues that being close to his mother isn’t very important to him, mostly because he can see her for what she is. Why force a toxic person on him more then nessecary? Drop the ‘social conditioning’ that is telling you that you should be a ‘nice girl’ to someone who obviously doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and who is trying to make a special day for you and your husband all about HER.
Keep her at a distance, tell her ‘one guest only’, have her removed if she doesn’t comply (why spare her feelings? She is not trying to spare YOUR feelings, right?) and for the love of everything that’s holy, DO NOT take her money. Go camping in your own living room, take a few romantic day-trips, anything, if you don’t have the money, but do NOT take it from her. A week in Hawaii is not worth years of emotional blackmail, because she sure seems like the type that would keep this ‘favor’ hanging over your head until the end of times.

Wishing you a lovely wedding. 🙂


Mae September 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

Yes. Yes. Yes. I agree with this post completely; it absolutely nails it on the head.


Lisatoo September 12, 2013 at 7:32 am

Margaret, although your sentiments about ‘family honoring you’ and rebuilding bridges sounds lovely, I have a feeling that THIS side of the family does not feel that way, and might best be avoided if the MIL’s behaviour is anything to go by. Why not take her husbands feelings into consideration first (the MOST important person in her life), instead of some people he hasn’t seen for years, and has no desire to see? Shouldn’t their wedding be about the people they love and who love them in return, instead of some people who’s main connection to eachother is that someone, decades ago, had an orgasm? Not all families are as wonderful as yours probably is. 🙁


Monkeys mommy September 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

This is possibly the tackiest comment, like ever.


Lisatoo September 15, 2013 at 6:11 am

Thank you and bless your heart, dear. 🙂


Monkeys mommy September 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Aww, let me just return the “bless your little heart” sentiment… And I’m sure you know what us sweet little southern belles really mean when we say that… Anyway, it was just plain tacky and crude, sorry. I agree totally with the message, the OP needs to tell the FMIL to get over herself, but that was just an icky sounding statement at the end.


Cat September 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Mea culpa, Lisatoo and I are both guilty, then. I have said the same thing about people who have children and then spend their lives putting themselves first in everything and making their children’s lives miserable.


ddwwylm September 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Talking about this brought up another guest memory from my wedding. Before the wedding, my dad harrassed me about how many invites he got to send out. He was not funding the wedding, and he and my mom are married, so it definately wasn’t an issue of wanting a date, he wanted to invite his buddies. Like the OP, we had limited seating, exactly 110 seats in the place. I hashed it out with my dad, and invited 3 couples that were his friends, and were people known to me, albeit barely, and from when I was a child. All 3 couples accepted, and then 2 couples no-showed. I was super pissed, and definately felt like I had wasted the invite and shouldn’t have given in. So, lesson learned there.


sv September 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Do you want to continue thanking your mother in law for the $2000 ten years from now? No? Then don’t take it. Unless you feel like politely smiling through endless conversations about how she ” paid for your wedding” or ” paid for your honeymoon” then simply tell her that it is too generous, and her presence is all you require. Oh, and that she can bring one guest if she likes – any more, unfortunately, will be turned away at the door.


NostalgicGal September 15, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I agree with:

Since she doesn’t get the concept of ONE, tell her she now has NONE. If she flips, hang up.

Have a bouncer handy, to refuse additional guests at the door. (if when Charles and Camilla got married they bounced some people, you can do it too-it was even on broadcast!).

Honeymoon can be whenever. After 31 years my DH and I still haven’t had one. We’re still just as married.

Don’t cave. Your future DH is good to hang in there with the polite spine, keep it starched.

If she alienates after that, doesn’t sound like it’s much of an issue; from what OP has said, it’s pretty much already a done deal… and future DH is well aware of this and accepting of it.

Don’t take a red cent from her, not so much as a used kleenix. Don’t give her one iota of leverage.

You don’t have to call the extra invites… you didn’t invite them, it’s not your duty to uninvited them.

Don’t excuse or make anything that can be used to grasp to and cause negotiations or bid-wars. It’s not negotiable, it’s not to be quibbled, pleaded, fought, or conceded.

Good luck.


Gabriele September 18, 2013 at 11:38 am

Cut the MIL off at the pass…..Get the relatives names and addresses and send an informal letter letting them know that you will be getting married but have chosen to have a very small wedding with few guests. You don’t have to say how many.
Explain you will not be sending out notices about it but you wanted to let them know about the changes in your lives (yours and their nephew’s). Mention that sometime in the future, if you’re in the area (where they live) you would like to meet them informally if possible.
Find some way to make the point that you’re not looking for a wedding present (without mentioning it) but that extended families can be friendly without having to be close. You could let it be known that you’re paying for the wedding on your own (nothing from MIL) and with the recent wedding in the family, you’re sure they can understand the need to keep costs down.
Emphasize the ‘we want nothing from anyone but their good wishes, and those good wishes will be highly valued’..
I don’t know if this would come under good manners but if the OP does want to keep the door open it would make the point that they aren’t taking the lack of invite to the other wedding personally and that you are reaching out to them directly and (without saying so) the MIL should be left out of the dialogue.


momofeveryone September 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm

good god hun your dh is great!!!! he knows MILs tricks so dont fall into the trap! check out for some more MIL advice. not all of it is ‘polite’ but it is funny. i wish my DH stood up to his mom and held his ground, is been an uphill battle over here for 6 years! and yes, they got us a hotel room for the weekend at a local, nice hotel, and im still hearing about it. a gift i never should have accepted.


Sarah October 11, 2013 at 1:35 am

If there’s going to be a church ceremony you could always fall back on the old “anyone is welcome to the church ceremony but the reception is limited” line. It’s a way that “people” get to be included but you don’t have to pay for them. On the other hand if that’s not an option I would stick with, “there will be chairs for you and one guest, if anyone else comes it will look really bad for you since there will be no space for them”. Repeat ad infinitum.


Cheryl July 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Here is where tough love and a foot in the ass come in handy. His mother seems off of her rocker, you flat out inform her, that she gets ONE and only one invite, the rest of the family due to limited seating is not invited. The rest of the invitations have already gone out to other family members who you are closer to and are already coming. Inform her that since she invited the family it will her deal to uninvite them since they didn’t receive save dates or a formal invitation and that someone, who knows the groom’s family will be standing at the door to ensure that those who were invited will have a seat. This sounds insane but so does his mother, have someone at the door of the ceremony and reception with a list of names and check them off so that they can’t sneak in. Also inform his mother that if she shows up with more than one person that she will not be allowed in, I take it she isn’t contributing in anyway to the wedding. Sometimes, even though you don’t want to stoop to someone else’s level you have to in order to get it through to them.


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