My son didn't ask his brother to be his best man. Should I say something? : Life Kit A mother debates whether she should talk to the groom about the issue. Catherine Newman, an etiquette columnist for Real Simple magazine, gives her advice.

Dear Life Kit: My son didn't ask his brother to be his best man. Should I speak up?

Dear Life Kit: My son didn't ask his brother to be his best man. Should I speak up?

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Photographs by Grigore Ricky, Gayani Anuththara/Unsplash; Collage by Becky Harlan/NPR
Collage of a groom in the foreground, looking at his watch, in the background a man in a suit with no boutonnière looks off in the opposite direction, depicting a man who is upset his brother did not ask him to be his best man. The photo collage is framed by letters, envelopes, stamps and letters.
Photographs by Grigore Ricky, Gayani Anuththara/Unsplash; Collage 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 Catherine Newman, author of Real Simple magazine's long-running etiquette column Modern Manners. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Dear Life Kit,

I just learned that my younger son didn't ask his older brother to be his best man at his wedding. Instead, he asked a childhood friend. This is causing my oldest son some significant hurt, and it's hard for me to be silent. As far as I know, my oldest will not receive any special honor at the wedding, despite that they are relatively close and also live near each other.

The oldest has told me he doesn't plan to say anything to my younger son about this. Should I say something? I realize it may not change anything, but I'm appalled that my youngest didn't think about how hurt his brother would be. — Mother of the groom doom

Catherine Newman is the author of Real Simple magazine's etiquette column, Modern Manners, and the books We All Want Impossible Things, How to be a Person and more. Ben Newman hide caption

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Ben Newman

If the mom was a friend of mine, she would come to my house and tell me this story. And I would say to her, "Guess who your younger son's wedding is about?" And she would say, "It's not about me or my older son." This wedding is not about you.

Take the time to think [about how the people getting married are] dealing with a lot of competing pressures. Maybe the person the brother is marrying doesn't have any siblings [to include in the wedding party], so it felt like there was an imbalance. Or maybe there's been a strained relationship with this friend [who is the best man] that the brother is trying to mend.

You know who's the perfect person for your son to process with? You. So there is something you can do. Listen to your child and say, "You know what? Your brother loves you. You're important to him. It's OK."

The next move is always yours if you want it to be. That's what I would say to the older son. Ask him, "What is the role you want to have [in the wedding]? And how can you move forward with that role?"

Does he want to make a really moving toast? Does he want to be helpful? Does he want to buy an awesome gift? Does he want to write a card to his brother to tell him how much he loves him? He can absolutely do those things. That's the avenue of empowerment.

Even though your older son doesn't have the title he wants, he gets to be the brother he wants to be at this wedding. And he has to be the one to let go of his hurt feelings and make himself loving and present for this special event.

Listen to Catherine Newman's full response in the audio at the top of the page or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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Dear Life Kit is hosted by Andee Tagle and produced by Beck Harlan and Sylvie Douglis with help from our intern Jamal Michel. 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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