The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

My stepdaughter didn’t invite me to her wedding. Carolyn Hax readers give advice.

(Nick Galifianakis/Illustration for The Washington Post)
6 min

We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: My spouse is out of town at his child’s wedding that I was specifically not invited to because “we don’t have a relationship.” (Not for lack of trying on my part.) I am so hurt and angry. I know part of this is because it brings back all the feelings of being excluded (I was bullied a lot in elementary school through college). I am trying to spend this time doing things for me, but it’s tough. There is a piece of me that wants to send her a letter after this telling her what I think of her excluding me. How do I get through this?

— Need a virtual hug

Need a virtual hug: Write the letter. Write it on paper. Then tear it up. Sending it will make matters worse, but the act of writing it may be cathartic.

It sounds like you did everything you could to build a relationship with her, and she refused to do her part. That’s not on you.

I wonder if the bullying and exclusion you experienced earlier in life haven’t been completely dealt with, and it’s coloring your reaction to this rejection. I suggest you spend some time in therapy to deal with both the past and the present. That will give you a place to express your anger and hurt, and a neutral party may be able to help you see a way through that you’re not able to see from your perspective.

— Anonymous

Need a virtual hug: You can express yourself more effectively by taking the high road: send your stepdaughter a lovely wedding gift with a warm, charming and gracious note wishing her and her new husband every happiness. Sign it from yourself only, not including your husband. Don’t mention the snub, and don’t mention anything forward looking (a.k.a., “hope to see you soon”). When people break the rules of etiquette and civility as egregiously as your stepdaughter has, your best (and only good) move is to observe the rules impeccably. It underscores her breach of manners; it demonstrates that you are the bigger person; it demonstrates why she was wrong to insult you; it denies her the pleasure of observing your hurt feelings. She may soften in time, she may not … but you will have given no cause for escalation or rift.

You don’t mention your husband in this: he is the one to wonder about. Forming stepfamilies is difficult, and stepchildren may naturally have good reasons to resent the dissolution of their parents’ marriage, and in turn to resent a blameless stepparent. It’s your husband’s responsibility to manage these complex feelings, and to build bridges between his new wife and his children. If you want to express your hurt and anger to anyone, I nominate your husband, who tolerated this insult to you rather than standing up for you.


Need a virtual hug: It would be helpful to remember that she isn’t rejecting you, she’s rejecting the person who married her father.

There may be complicated reasons for that, with regard to her relationship with her dad, her relationship with her mom, or something else entirely that you don’t know about. It’s unfortunate that she hasn’t been in a place to open up her family circle to include you. At this moment during her wedding when she is opening up her family circle to a new spouse and all of the family that that takes into account, she may just be prioritizing.

Writing a letter can help you sort through your own feelings and it will be helpful to put it on paper and get it out of your head. Just please do not send it.

Once you have a little bit of clarity about that, at another time, when she’s not enjoying her honeymoon and dealing with the challenges and emotional highs and lows of a new marriage, maybe you can sit down with her in a quiet moment and talk to her about it.

Giving her the space to have her wedding day with her father and none of whatever emotional drama or tension there would be if you were in the room is a lovely gift to her and to your husband. By gracefully accepting her wishes, hopefully you leave open the door to a future where the two of you do have a relationship.

— Daughter of a parent with a new spouse

Need a virtual hug: I’ve been the stepdaughter in this situation and she is hurt and angry, too, and is trying to gain what little control she has. She’s not trying to hurt you — she’s doing the best she can to navigate a situation she didn’t create but is alone in solving. I remember feeling like my stepmother was forced on me; regardless of how well she treated me, it was a relationship I didn’t ask for. Also, I was constantly trying to satisfy my mom, dad and stepmother and never do what worked for me. It’s an impossible situation. In the end, I always chose my mom when forced to simply because she was my mom. It’s very possible you weren’t invited because her mother or another relative would be uncomfortable with your presence. I know it hurts but please put yourself in your stepdaughter’s shoes. She is doing her best to make everyone happy and, given that it’s impossible, someone will always be hurt. It will never work until the adults around her come together to work through their own relationships. I hated the position I was put in — it hurts to this day that everyone around me was so caught up in their needs and hurt that they couldn’t see mine.

— Repping the Hurt Stepdaughter

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.