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I am getting married in eight months. I haven’t made precise plans for the hen yet but I have a good idea of who I’d like to invite.

The invitation would not include my sister in law, my brother’s wife. My brother got married about a year and a half ago. My family were very supportive and welcoming of his girlfriend/fiancée prior to this. I’ve never had a sister and really did make an effort with her thinking we could have a special bond. We noticed she would only ever talk about herself and never ask us anything about ourselves, but we chalked it up to nervousness. Otherwise she was lovely.

As her wedding approached, I confess I did expect an invite to her hen for both my mum and I. I realise in hindsight one should never expect! But our relationship with my brother is very close and as I said, we’d been pulling out the stops to make her feel part of the family. I also share mutual close friends with her. In the end she had a night and invited her mum, gran, and friends.

My brother had two stag nights - one with her male relatives included and a private night at his best friends which was for his closest three friends and him. My sister-in-law-to-be invited her own brother to attend this private stag, only telling my brother at the last minute. My brother has always found him quite awkward and it kinda killed the relaxation of the night. She clearly thought the ‘brother in law to be’ was entitled to go.

Since the marriage we've continued to be supportive of her. We socialise as a family, we help her run errands etc. She is nice and we are getting a bit closer but I feel like she distanced herself from us at the time of her wedding and for me it’s hard to feel like we’re friends yet. To put it cruelly it feels like we’re her social workers sometimes.

Which brings me to my own hen. I really want to have fun and relax with the people I am closest to including my close female relatives. I only want one addition which is my fiancé’s mother- we get on great and are becoming good friends. I think due to all the time I spend with my sister in law she will expect to be invited. In fact, she’s mentioned the hen once or twice even though I’ve not brought it up.

How do I convey to her that I don’t plan to invite her to the hen? I don’t feel like I can say: "you didn’t invite me to yours so I’m just copying you", as we’ve now known each other for so much longer and spent much more time together.

Edit: Just want to thank you all so much. I feel so much better equipped to handle this now!

  • 1
    How does she mention the hen ? Is she asking general questions about it or more a "can't wait to be there" kind of remarks ? – MlleMei Aug 22 at 8:44
  • How did she decline your expectation to be invited? Did she flat-out tell you, that you were not allowed to come or just not invite you at all? – violetleaf Aug 22 at 9:40
  • She hasn’t specifically said that she’s going but she has been making suggestions for it without any prompting and it definitely feels like she’s expecting to be there. – Seebo Aug 22 at 10:24
  • She didn’t invite me. As the time drew closer I asked me brother and he was surprised. We told him not to push for it though since if she didn’t want us, she didn’t want us. – Seebo Aug 22 at 10:26
  • Are you inviting anyone else who is not also a bridesmaid? – Johns-305 Aug 22 at 11:28
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Never got married or had a bachelorette, but I did organize a couple of parties where not all friends of a "friend" group got invited (and witnessed mishaps when the same situation happened to other friends). I'm basing my answer on those experiences.


Your goal is in fact very achievable and not that hard to accomplish. I think you feel it is a really complicated situation because of you SIL's general attitude, but it is really quite simple.

Don't invite her (and don't mention the hen night when she's around).

That's the easiest part (and the most obvious, I know) : as long as you don't invite her, she doesn't come. Try also to not mention the party around her. This accomplishes two goals :

  1. Avoid making the other person feel left out or uncomfortable
  2. Don't give them an opportunity to invite themselves

But you say she herself mentions the future party. Since she hasn't said anything that clearly suggests she thinks she's invited, I wouldn't say anything to her. If all she does is hint and hint, let her have her fun with that. Stop stressing over it, let it go, you don't have to manage her expectations for her. Cheerfully acknowledge her or answer her question, than change the subject (if you let her words linger in the air, you'll get uncomfortable, and she's probably counting on you being polite and uncomfortable to break you; don't let her).

If she ever says anything like "I can't wait to be there", don't let that comment pass. It becomes much harder to "disinvite" someone the longer it goes. If you're in a group, try to speak to her alone. Cheerfully and matter of factly tell her she isn't invited. If you're not good under pressure, prepare a short speech that you can say warmly and kindly, but most of all firmly :

I'm sorry, I think there's been a misunderstanding. There are a lot of people I would have loved to invite, but I'd prefer to keep it a smaller affair and only invited my closest friends. The wedding will be the big party, I can't wait to celebrate with you and everyone then !

And if you're feeling it, I would add something to remind her of her own choices at the time (I would only do that though if I thought it would help keep her mouth shut on the subject, and not to aggravate the situation) :

I'm sure you understand, I remember you had to cut people out at yours too.

From your post and comments, I get the feeling you think you in part have to invite her because it won't be just the bridesmaids that are invited (there's your MIL and your close friends), but that's not true. You get to invite whoever you want, for whatever reason you want. You don't owe her (or anyone) an explanation. If she starts to argue with you ("You invited Tamara and she's not even a bridesmaids, why not me ?"), don't feed into it. Again, say something short ("Sorry if you're hurt, that wasn't my goal"), and then either change the conversation or even leave it. It sounds like you're used to let her get her way because it's easier, but I hope you can learn to stand up to her (in a calm, relaxed, but firm, way) and not let it stress you out so much. Once you realize her attitude and feelings are not your responsibility, I think you'll have an easier time dealing with her.

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Probably every bachelor party I've been to has had some drama about who's invited and people from the other side of the aisle is always a touchy subject, especially if the families didn't know each other before the couple's relationship. So you have in no way a unique situation.

Next, let's establish some common, well understood guidelines. This is your wedding and your hen do. You and your groom, but mostly you ;), can make whatever decisions you want and don't owe anyone anything, even an explanation.

How to convey to sister-in-law that I wasn’t planning to invite her to hen night?

Unless you want to come up with some elaborate lie that would cause her to not want to go, just be straight forward and honest, if it comes up. Meaning, you don't invite her and don't say anything unless she brings it up.

"Oh, it was just my bridesmaids and my bestie from High School."

But, in this case, I would focus more in the interpersonal relationships rather than interpersonal skills. Specifically, brother. Whatever you choose to do, make sure he fully understands how you feel since he will be the one to hear about. I would wager he'll be very sympathetic to your desire to exclude his wife given what he experienced with an unwanted guest. (BTW, I'd also wager there was more to that.)

Years ago, I was invited to my best female friend's bachelorette party, super fun. I also got invited to her grooms's bachelor party, not so much, and I kinda wish I hadn't gone. Everyone has to feel wanted and part of the group, or it doesn't work out for anyone.

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When my sister got married, it was important that our mother would be there for everything. Because our mother has very old values, my sister thought that some of her friends would make our mother not feel comfortable.

We talked about it and my sister decided that our mother was more important and that she would only invite friends that she and our mother have known for many years.

I think that she told this to some friends and not to some others, but at the wedding everyone was having a good time; I don't think it caused any problems. I think you can tell her it's only very close people and I believe she will understand.

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Might be worth having two hen nights, and inviting her to one of them. The only reason I suggest this is that self-centric people (it sounds like she may be one of them) often get very angry at perceived slights, especially exclusions from social events (I have a sister-in-law like this) and they can hold grudges for a very long time. Grudges that they try to propagate among sympathetic friends and family members.

Ask yourself this. Am I excluding her because I don't feel comfortable with her? Or is it out of revenge? If the former, then maybe that is why you ended up being excluded from hers. After all, you have said that your relationship with her was not as good then, and it would have been like inviting a stranger. You are better friends now (though "friends" may be too strong a phrase) and excluding her at this point would be more significant. She is now part of your extended family due to her being married to your brother.

If excluding her is more about getting back at her, doing onto her as she has done to you, is that really how you want to get on with people? I admit, it feels satisfying to contemplate getting back at people that way. But I have found that usually you end up regretting it. A brief moment of satisfaction is not worth the price you pay when it comes to damaging relationships with family members. With most people you can just stop inviting them or accepting invitations and you can drift apart and forget. But family connections aren't so easily cut, nor should they be.

Sure, it is a bit distasteful to me every time I make what I feel like are compromises to keep family harmony with a person who I feel should not be the way she is, but I realize that we all have our flaws. And not getting along with in-laws just punishes your siblings more than it punishes the in-laws. If you love your brother, try to get along with his wife. In-law relationships are often a bit fragile, in my experience. It's worth putting the extra effort in to keep them from shattering.

  • I just want to point out that you're misunderstanding something : the mother in law she wants to invite is the mother of her fiance, not of her sister in law. – MlleMei Aug 22 at 19:34
  • Whups, you're right, I had missed that... Snipping that paragraph. Most of what I said still stands, though. The brother is the one who will bear the brunt of any bad feelings. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Aug 26 at 21:08

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