Ask Marge

My Mom and I Are in the High-Risk Group for COVID, but My Sister Is Insisting We Travel to Be at Her Wedding This Fall. What Should I Do?

published Sep 2, 2020
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Dear Marge,

My sister is getting married this fall. In normal times, nothing in the world could have kept me from flying across the country to be there … but these aren’t normal times. I have underlying health issues which put me in a high-risk category for COVID-19, as does my mom. We’ve been urging my sister for a while to reschedule, but she has been absolute in her resolve to have her wedding as and when planned.

She recently sent out her formal invitations with a note to everyone saying she understands if people are afraid to come. When I expressed my concerns about keeping my mother and myself safe, she told me flat out she is going to “freak the **** out” if we don’t come.

I love my sister and I don’t want to ruin our relationship, so how do I tell her my mom and I can’t risk our health (and maybe even lives) by coming to her wedding?

A Reluctant Wedding Guest

Dear RWG,

Your sister wouldn’t expect you to jump out of an airplane with a parachute that is only 20% likely to open, right? I don’t know what the exact odds are, but it seems to me asking you and your mother to come to her wedding has similarly bad odds. Frankly, I think she needs some sense knocked into her. 

Look, I feel bad for anyone who has a wedding planned in 2020. It is hugely disappointing to have your dreams and plans knocked on their backside by COVID-19. For that matter, I also feel sorry for all the high school seniors who didn’t have their graduation ceremonies and proms, the widows who couldn’t have a proper funeral for their beloved partners, the small businesses that won’t survive being shut for months on end, the restaurant workers whose livelihood is gone, and all the folks who got gravely ill and the families of those who didn’t survive. We can all agree this coronavirus thing sucks.

But back to your sister. Disappointment doesn’t give her a free pass to ignore basic human decency. Disappointment doesn’t mean you’re allowed to manipulate your family, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean you are allowed to ask people to risk their health and lives. And that is what your sister is doing: She is asking you to put your safety at risk to make her day less disappointing. 

And now to your question about how to talk to her about this without ruining your relationship. First, I am guessing there are underlying issues that are causing her to be so irrational about your attendance. Whatever those issues are, now — just before her wedding — is not the time to address them. 

Let’s hope that you can avert this immediate crisis with logic and love. Let her know you are truly happy and excited for her that she is getting married. Tell her it breaks your heart that you and your mom are too high-risk to travel, but that you will participate via Zoom. Perhaps offer to coordinate with other Zoom guests. There are many services that help with this, such as LoveStream and Wedfuly

Continue telling her you love her and are sad to miss her special day, but do not waver. Whether the idea that the relationship could come to an end over this comes from you or her, it is a kind of emotional blackmail. My hope is that some time after the wedding, the two of you will work towards building trust and faith in each other.  


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