How can I prove to my son I'm worthy of an invite to his wedding?

With wedding season underway, has roped in Alison Rios McCrone, venue owner and planner, to help solve your dilemmas in a weekly agony aunt column…

Dear Alison, 

I’m estranged from my child and I’ve recently found out through social media that he’s proposed to his girlfriend – who I’ve never met. 

I know I haven’t been a great dad to him, but I would really like to be involved in this pivotal moment in his life. I feel like it could be the perfect moment for me to try and make amends – say through a cash donation. 

I don’t expect to be treated like a key member, or want a big role, but I’d like to be there on the big day. I haven’t been much of a presence in his life since he was a child, and in our rare interactions things have always been polite but tense, but I would like that to change. 

How would you suggest I go about this? Or do you think I should just give him the cash and expect nothing in return?



Do you have a wedding problem you need some advice on?

Weddings are joyful occasions – but they’re also incredibly stressful. Whether you’re a bride or groom, best woman or man, family member or friend of the couple, the run up to the big day can be very tense.

If you need a bit of help with your quandary, Alison, who has run a venue for 10 years and helps couples plan weddings, is here to offer a helping hand.

Email [email protected] to share your issue anonymously with Alison and get it solved.

Dear Sam,

I’m sorry to hear you are estranged from your son – but delighted to hear that he is about to embark on a new chapter in his life.

I think for you to get in touch after so much time has passed would be a shock. I think it needs to be handled with a softly, softly approach.  

For the happy couple it may be a real bolt from the blue to hear from you.  

Sometimes at a wedding when there are strained or distant relationships with family members it can lead to tension and anxiety for the bride and groom.  

They already have a variety of emotions in the lead-up to their wedding day and being contacted might exacerbate this. 

With this in mind, my first thought would be to reach out to your son and explain you would like to try and reconcile with him.

Avoid mentioning anything about a donation or being at the wedding when you first reach out. 

Instead, apologise for your shortcomings as a father and demonstrate your desire to change. 

Explain you would love to be a part of his life moving forward. Let him know you have heard about his recent engagement and are delighted for him.

You may need to recognise that your son will need time to process your message and consider the involvement you want in his life. 

Remember, he has spent most of his life without your participation, which is a big deal. It may take him time to consider everything before responding. Always respect his boundaries and give him time.

Planning a wedding can be incredibly stressful and emotions can run high for both bride and groom. 

It is important for you to understand this and offer your full support to your son, if he needs or asks for your help.

For all these reasons, you need to speak to each other first and find a starting point.

Consider seeing professional help from a counsellor or family therapist. 

Alternatively, you may seek the help of a family member who could act as a mediator.  

Or maybe his fiancée could help rebuild the relationship between the two of you. Someone close can offer a different perspective on situations and help build bridges.  

Having a third party can help thrash out issues and provide strategies for building trust and trying to reconcile.

The happy couple won’t appreciate unpredictability

If you can later, meet up: Have a real heart-to-heart conversation with him about his life, his goals, where he wants his life to develop, or any wedding plans they would like to discuss. You can help build the connection of being part of his life by showing a genuine interest.

Depending on how your son responds to your efforts to be a part of this moment in his life, it’s important to remember that you have to be careful about how you approach offering a cash donation towards the wedding, as it would not make amends for the situation.

I have seen many family situations over the 11 years we have run weddings at our venue.  

From my experience, everyone always comes together for a wedding and remembers the day is about the couple and for other people to leave their grievances at the door.

But the happy couple won’t appreciate unpredictability, so it is crucial to make contact as far in advance as you are able. 

If your son is open to the possibility of you being a part of his wedding planning, you could then – possibly with the help of a counsellor, therapist or third party – assess whether it would be appropriate and respectful to raise the question of being at the wedding itself.

Regardless, it is essential to be led by your son on all of this. Don’t force anything or put any pressure on him – however slight – to take steps he’s not ready to take. 

It is important for you to remember that this is one of the most important days of your son’s life and it is his choice as to how he may or may not want you involved.  

Allow him space to decide and depending on when their wedding is being held use the time from your first contact to the wedding to take tiny steps to build bridges. 

You must also understand if your son does not want this to honour his request.

And just remember to be careful about your focus on a cash donation. It will never repair the hurt and loss your son may feel, so it is crucial that whatever gift you wish to give towards the wedding, you offer it without any obligation for a specific outcome – such as being invited to the wedding itself.

It is essential to approach this situation with genuine intentions and without any expectations. Rebuilding relationships can take time. 

Trust needs to be rebuilt before it is regained, and you must act with integrity and always do what you say you will do; otherwise, you may never progress the relationship and, at worst, cause irreparable damage.

Wishing you all the best in building your relationship with your son and future daughter-in-law.

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