Today I saw my aunt for the first time in months, possibly over a year. She was never around during my childhood, not a part of my or my siblings lives. We have never received a gift from her or were taken out by her etc. This is not a complaint as we’ve had a brilliant childhood, just giving background that she has not done anything for us and therefore is mostly a stranger.

Although I don’t know the details, I know my aunt has had run ins with other relatives in the past, including her own children all of whom are lovely and have been in our lives. So when at a big event today I caught sight of her very close by me and said ‘hello (Name)’ to be friendly.

The look I got could kill. ‘That’s Auntie (Name)’ was her response basically shutting down any further conversation. I cant fully explain the tone that came with it but I felt like a rude child who needed to be put in their place. It felt vicious, when I have done nothing to her because we barely interact.

I did not deliberately omit the word ‘Auntie’ - as a child I called all my parents friends Uncle and Auntie and now as a 30 year old man I tend to call them by their forenames. The only exception is some who are very elderly, but it’s not a conscious decision.

I am now concerned that I may in fact have been rude, she is absolutely my biological aunt and deserves a measure of respect as such. But I am also somewhat upset that a friendly innocent greeting on my part was turned into an insult.

My real quandary is that I am about to propose soon and am very hopeful about getting a ‘yes.’ I honestly don’t want to even notify my aunt that I am engaged let alone invite her to my wedding. But I also don’t want to be disrespectful, rude or petty. I have to think about how my other relatives will be affected. My older brother got married last year and did invite her (somewhat unwillingly) but she didn’t come. At the time my mother was very concerned that had there been no invite my Aunt would have ‘kicked off.’

How should I tackle this moving forward? If it weren’t for these possible upcoming events I might hope to not see her for another few months, but I feel like this is now hanging over me.

  • Could she possibly have been sarcastic when she said ‘That’s Auntie (Name)’ and you mistakenly took it as her telling you off?
    – Raskkii
    Jun 21 '19 at 12:52
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    It’s not impossible as I don’t know her very well. But the way she said it convinces me there was no humour or gentle chiding going on. I also think she would have followed up with ‘how are you’ or something if it had been throwaway or casual.
    – Ortni
    Jun 21 '19 at 13:05
  • How big do you plan your wedding to be? Would it be a select few with her not making the list, or is it literally anybody you know minus her?
    – nvoigt
    Jun 21 '19 at 14:08
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    Can you clarify what "handle this" means to you? Are you looking for advice about inviting her (or not) to the wedding, how to reach out and smooth things over with her in the short term, something else?
    – Em C
    Jun 21 '19 at 15:15
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    Most of my family are Christian or Atheist and we’re all British for generations (so very average). In terms of family values the only possible ‘difference’ could be that I don’t know if many parents still teach their kids to call non-relative elders ‘auntie (Name)’ and ‘uncle (Name)’ when growing up.. as I said there’s people much older than my aunt who I’ve known my whole life and now refer to by their forename only just because I’m no longer a child. So it really wasn’t an insult in my mind when I used her forename. And it’s not like she’s been much of an aunt except by blood!
    – Ortni
    Jun 21 '19 at 16:34

Having been through almost this exact situation, I would recommend not worrying too much about this specific interaction and to proceed respectfully using her preferred title of 'Auntie (name)'. And consider inviting her to any of the less intimate wedding activities; given her track record it's likely she won't attend and you'll not have to worry about damaging any relationships.

Last year, I ran into my great-aunt at a family event whom I had not seen her for a few years. I previously had a warm relationship with her (unlike with your aunt) and I greeted her with, "Hello (name)! How are you?" She looked a bit taken aback, and told me, "that's Auntie (name), dear". We didn't speak any further that day.

A few months later, I was planning my wedding and had to decide if she would be invited. I wanted to follow the mantra of "this is my wedding, and I'm not planning it for everyone else." Unfortunately the wedding doesn't exist in a vacuum and the decisions that are made can have lasting effects on familial relationships. I decided that I was not close enough to her to invite her to the ceremony, so I only extended an invitation to her for the wedding reception (where many more distant friends/relatives were invited).

On the day of the wedding, she showed up to the ceremony -- to which she was not invited -- because she had heard about it from other relatives. I was a bit surprised and annoyed, but greeted her saying "hello Auntie (name), glad you could make it". She was polite and non-disruptive throughout the wedding and it ultimately didn't matter too much that she was at the ceremony. Our relationship has continued to be distant yet cordial, and she appreciated being able to attend the wedding.

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