Wedding Woes

No, stop it. It's been 5 years and you literally did nothing wrong.

Dear Prudence,

This question is at the intersection of family political disagreements, wedding etiquette, and apologies. Years ago, when my husband and I married, my “Uncle Bill,” his wife and Bill’s daughters attended our wedding. They were gracious and generous, and I really appreciated the effort they took to travel to us. However, within a few years, Uncle Bill grew increasingly extreme and emotionally volatile. He alienated my mother (his sister) and other family members with racist, homophobic, and personally insulting comments. Ultimately, I (and several other family members) cut off communication with him.

When Uncle Bill’s daughter, “Jennifer,” got engaged, she kindly invited my husband and I to the wedding. We were exhausted from parenting a young toddler, on a tight budget, and honestly, we did not have the energy to be in the same room as my uncle. I purchased a nice gift from her registry to be sent with a note of congratulations and regrets. I have ADHD and am horrible with RSVPs, dates, acknowledgements, everything like that—I forgot to return the wedding RSVP card. My cousin later texted me about our RSVP, and I apologized for forgetting to reply, gave our regrets, and wished them the best. My mom attended the wedding; she and Bill were able to put their differences aside for that night, at least.

Fast forward five years to now. Mom emailed Uncle Bill asking about family mementos from their father. Apparently, she was hoping to have some specific memento to leave to my brother and I someday. Mom was not trying to stir drama, but honestly it sounds like the email would have been better as a phone call. I got dragged into this with a text message from an unknown number, out of the blue: a screenshot of Uncle Bill’s email response to my mother … but his response was 100 percent about me. He objected to Mom’s request for mementos (which is fine). He said I had severely insulted Jennifer by not returning the RSVP card, and by not getting her any gift, after all the money he had spent to attend my wedding (he included a dollar figure). He insulted my mother’s child-rearing skills based on my behavior, and insinuated that I must also be a bad mother to my own daughter. His email ripped into my mom in every possible way, below the belt, based only on MY behavior.

I don’t know what to do. I honestly thought I sent Jennifer a nice wedding present; I remember reviewing her registry and selecting an item. Maybe I forgot to check out the cart? I’m just horrible at these things … but that’s in no way an excuse, I know. Jennifer’s younger sister recently got married, but we were not invited, and now I wonder if that was the reason.

I don’t care what Uncle Bill thinks of me (though I’m still angry he insulted my mom’s and my child-rearing). More so, I’m mortified if I’ve insulted his daughters so severely. After many tears, I’m ignoring Uncle Bill’s out-of-the-blue text, but I want to open a line of communication with Jennifer and her sister. What should I do? Do I send a belated wedding gift, with a mea culpa explaining that it was an oversight? Or just send a heartfelt card? I don’t know if Jennifer even shares her dad’s grudge … but I want to make some sort of gesture to let her (and her sister) know that I’m sorry and I still consider them family.

— Sheepish, But Also Angry

Re: No, stop it. It's been 5 years and you literally did nothing wrong.

  • A LOT to unpack here: I feel like LW is not totally taking responsibility for her behavior here and is leaning on the ADHD as an excuse and not a reason to improve.  If this wouldn't fly with your mortgage company, utility provider or your CC then why is it "I have ADHD and I'm terrible with these things."  You need to create triggers, reminders, etc so you ARE better with those things rather than treat what is an issue as a reason to leave gaps in your social decorum.  What is the LW going to do when it's telling parents of her child's friends about her own kid attending a party, showing up with a gift or remembering the social obligations/commitments that she has?  If I sign up Chiquita for soccer I'm now letting down my child if I don't get her to practice, games or get her the correct uniform. 

    That said, the Uncle here is FAR more in the wrong and is a true AH.  What the LW did is at most a one-time social faux pas.   Uncle's daughter had an obligation to follow up on the response card and a gift is NEVER a requirement especially since she did not attend.  If there's anyone here who is not behaving appropriately it's the Uncle and if there's anyone who wasn't taught  manners they're his kids.  

    And something isn't passing my smell test if all of the family possessions are held by the Uncle.  

    If I were the LW I would reach out only to the cousin and that's honestly only if she wants a relationship with her.  Tell her that you were so sorry that you weren't able to attend the wedding and you truly thought that you responded and sent a gift but you may be guilty of operating in a sleep deprived state where things did not get done and the cousin was the unfortunate recipient.  Wish her well and see where things go from there.   I would not engage the uncle.  
  • Nope. Sounds like Uncle Bill is trying to fight with the family and it's not worth the headache.
    LW did zero wrong
  • Just don't do anything. If you really wanted to have a relationship with Jennifer, you would have had some communication with her in the last 5 years. It doesn't mean you hate her or bear her any ill will, but you don't have to want to be friends with everyone you share DNA with. Would you have ever thought about her or her wedding if this situation hadn't arisen? 

    Let mom fight with her brother and stay out of it. He's obviously a dick, but inserting yourself really isn't going to help anything. 
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