I uninvited my sister-in-law from our wedding. Was that wrong of me? : Life Kit The bride said she was "pissed" because her future sister-in-law was bringing two unauthorized guests. Rachel Wilkerson Miller, editor-in-chief of Self magazine, explains how to smooth things over.

Dear Life Kit: I uninvited my sister-in-law from our wedding. Was that wrong of me?

Dear Life Kit: I uninvited my sister-in-law from our wedding. Was that wrong of me?

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Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR
Illustration of an RSVP card ripped up against a teal background, surrounded by a collage of letters, stamps, envelopes and paper.
Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Need some really good advice? Look no further than Dear Life Kit. In each episode, we pose one of your most pressing questions to an expert. This question was answered by Rachel Wilkerson Miller, editor-in-chief of Self magazine and author of The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Dear Life Kit,

We only had space for 100 people at our destination wedding, so we planned on having a child-free event, with just a few exceptions for very close family. That included my fiancé's half-sister and her 12-year-old son.

The due date for RSVPs came and went, and we hadn't heard back from her, so we counted them out. But a week later, I heard through the grapevine that not only was she coming with her kid, she was bringing her boyfriend (who my fiancé didn't even know about) and his kid, and they'd already booked their hotel and plane tickets. I was pissed.

When my fiancé talked to her about it, she said she was coming with everyone or not coming at all. So I told her not to come. Our wedding was amazing, but some of her family are still upset at me. Should I have handled this differently? It still grates on me after 5 years of marriage. — In-law ick factor

Rachel Wilkerson Miller is the editor-in-chief of Self and the author of The Art of Showing Up. Elena Mudd/Collage by NPR hide caption

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Elena Mudd/Collage by NPR

On the whole, what the letter writer did was the right thing to do. In general, it's important to stick with the rules you've set when you're hosting because that's what everyone's expecting you to do.

The letter writer should have expected that this was probably going to cause some bad blood [in the family], but not necessarily five years of it. This makes me wonder what her tone was when she first communicated [that the sister couldn't come]. Did she make the person feel guilty? Did she continue to bring it up?

I wonder if the in-laws are reacting to the way the letter writer is acting. If they're still mad about it, then the family still feels defensive about it.

So what can you do to smooth this over and move forward? Look for an opportunity, whether it's inviting the sister and her kid to an upcoming event or sending her a nice holiday card at the end of the year. Make an effort.

You could also [be more direct and] say, "Hey, I feel like there's been tension [between us] ever since the wedding. I want to have a relationship with you and move forward. That was a tough call, but it felt like it was the best one at the time. But I'm sorry that it hurt my relationship with you, and it's still hurting five years later. I would love for us to find a way to move forward. Is that something you want? What do you need from me to make that happen?"

When you approach people from a place of genuine curiosity and a little bit of vulnerability, they're usually fairly responsive. Even if the sister is like, "No, you suck. I never want to talk to you again" or "I'm not over it yet," you can at least feel like, "OK, I've tried. I've asked them what they need."

Somebody has to be the first one to let this go. The letter writer could make a choice to be that person.

Listen to Rachel Wilkerson Miller's full response in the audio at the top of the page or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Have a question for Dear Life Kit? Share it anonymously here.


Dear Life Kit is hosted by Andee Tagle and produced by Beck Harlan, Vanessa Handy and Sylvie Douglis. Bronson Arcuri is the managing producer, and Meghan Keane is the supervising editor. Alicia Zheng produces the Dear Life Kit video series for Instagram.

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