My fiancé and I are planning on getting married next year. We are a left-leaning, open-minded heterosexual couple and we plan on having a nontraditional ceremony with our queer friend conducting the ceremony.
My fiancé comes from a very conservative family whom he has butted head with for decades. His cousin is particularly homophobic and they have disliked one another since they were teenagers. A few years ago my fiancé was pressured into attending a bachelor party for his uncle in Las Vegas. The party eventually ended up in a strip club. Noticing that my fiancé was clearly uncomfortable and unhappy, his cousin purchased a series of lap dances for my fiancé, which he refused. His cousin got extremely drunk and aggressive calling my fiancé a "fag" and other homophobic slurs. My fiancé left the club. At the wedding a few weeks later, the cousin approached my fiancé and asked if he was "still mad" but offered no apologies for his behavior. My fiancé calmly told his cousin that it was obvious they were coming from different places, that they didn't have to be friends but that they should try to coexist during family functions. His cousin was drunk and got very upset. He called my fiancé more homophobic slurs and threatened to "kick his ass" and challenged him to a fight. My fiancé walked away. None of his family intervened, dismissing it as a "boys will be boys" type of situation (cringe).
The cousin has never apologized for his behavior. He acts as if my fiancé doesn't exist at family functions and barely acknowledges my presence. We obviously really don't want to invite him to our wedding. My fiancé wouldn't feel comfortable and he sees it as sending the message that his cousin's treatment of him is somehow OK. I also see it as disrespectful to my queer friends to allow such a horribly homophobic person to come to the wedding we are also inviting them to, and honestly I don't want him anywhere near my friends and family.
Our problem is that we want to invite the rest of the family (including the cousin's mother and sister). We are worried things will just blow up when we don't invite him and it will cause a serious amount of family drama. I also don't want to give this person the power to throw a monkey wrench into a day that is supposed to be about me and my fiancé. What should we do?
I say don't invite the guy.
I am not an expert on manners and social rules but I say just don't invite him. Maybe bad stuff happens because you didn't invite him. So what? Do what's right. The guy is disruptive, combative and unrepentant and you don't want him at your wedding so I don't see why you have to invite him. It's not about political correctness or homophobia. It's about you don't like the guy and he's threatened to kick your fiancé's ass.
Say you don't invite him and there are consequences. Sometimes when we do the right thing there are consequences. Maybe people will say stuff. Maybe there will be "family drama." Maybe other people you like will be made uncomfortable because people say things. Maybe you won't be invited to certain things as a result but they're probably things you didn't want to go to anyway. When we do the right thing and bad things happen even the bad things aren't so bad because they are the price of doing what's right.
Now, let's back off of the hard line in one way: If your fiancé wants to make one last effort to contact his cousin and make peace, what's wrong with that? It might be a good thing. It might have good results or it might not. He might feel better about having done it even if it has no good results.
But, not being any kind of etiquette guru but just a guy who's made his share of decisions based on principle, I think it's perfectly OK not to invite somebody to your wedding if he has recently threatened to beat you up.