“It’s too soon to invite your new girlfriend”: how to deal with guest list drama while grieving

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"It's too soon to invite your new girlfriend": how to deal with guest list drama while grieving
In Loving Memory Memorial Wedding Table Sign from freshlovecreations

My fiance has a family member whose spouse passed away. Less than a month after this passing, the family member began to date another person. This family member is very close to both me and my fiance, so we met the new girlfriend and tried to take everything in stride. However, I realize now it was way too soon for us to meet the new girlfriend emotionally. We have communicated to this family member that we are happy they have someone as a companion, and someone who seems to genuinely care about their well-being. But just because we are happy for the family member doesn't mean that we are ready to “move on” and forget the late spouse, or even that we were ready to meet the girlfriend quite that soon.

For many reasons, we then decided to tell the family member that his girlfriend (who he will have been dating for four months by the time of our July wedding) is not invited to the wedding or reception. I have read many of your posts about how to tell someone they aren't invited, but this one feels more packed with emotions and implications than some other situations might be.

Our main reasons for not inviting the girlfriend were that we only met her once, we are still very strongly grieving the late spouse, she doesn't know anything about us, and we want to honor the late spouse in our wedding. For a more personal reason, which I would never communicate to anyone because of how my feelings could be taken for a fact, having the girlfriend there would, in my mind, feel like a “placeholder” for the person we loved and were close to for eight years.

Since telling the family member their girlfriend isn't invited, we have received guilt from the member as well as other family. We have made it clear that later on we would be happy to interact with, and get to know, the new girlfriend. But for now, we decided together that our wedding isn't the time or place to try to quickly heal our wounds and accept a new stranger like family.

How can I better explain this to the family member whose girlfriend we are not inviting?

Grief, moving on, honoring your friend… all of these are super complicated and all of your feelings are valid. That's the first thing to remember. The second thing is that you are under no obligation to invite anyone to your wedding, let alone someone you barely know.

There are so many reasons why you might limit plus-ones (space limitations, intimate ceremonies, etc.), that nobody should really be expecting to bring a date in most circumstances. But as you're now experiencing, everyone expects different things and will react in unexpected ways.

In your specific case, you're dealing with someone very close who is likely having similarly mixed emotions and grief, while trying to move on at the same time. Treading carefully is the safer route no matter what you're communicating. I'd suggest sitting down with your family member again and using your own words: you've only met her once, it's a very new relationship, and you want to make sure that you and your guests are able to honor their late spouse in all ways. You'll be very willing to get to know the new girlfriend in many other expected occasions if their relationship continues, and having her not attend on this one day does not at all prevent that.

It will assuredly continue to cause strife, but ultimately you've already made the decision, communicated it, and just need to make sure to communicate that it has been decided with love and with the intent of honoring more feelings than just yours. Other people are likely still mourning this person, too. Ultimately, it's only one day where the new girlfriend will know very few people.

Best of luck keeping the guest list drama low in what will likely be an emotional decision.

Have any readers ever experienced this situation? Help us out in the comments!

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Comments on “It’s too soon to invite your new girlfriend”: how to deal with guest list drama while grieving

  1. We’ve decided to borrow from another wedding of someone my mom knows when it comes to plus-ones: if you are married to/living with/we’ve gotten to know your SO then they will be invited. Otherwise, no plus one for you. The wedding is in my apartment, so we can only fit max. 30 people, including us. I also don’t want to have to pay for a stranger to eat just because my uncle is single and wants to bring a date. Looking at our small guest list, if we gave all of the single people plus ones, that’s an additional seven people, which more than pushes the limits of my apartment (we already have 27 people, including us). This situation is obviously different since it’s emotional space that you don’t have, but I think the rule of inviting people you know and who know you and/or only the people you actually want to invite is the best one to follow.

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