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'I told my sister she can’t photoshop herself into my wedding photo with our late mom. AITA?' UPDATED

'I told my sister she can’t photoshop herself into my wedding photo with our late mom. AITA?' UPDATED


Grief can make people do weird things, and it can be hard to know when to speak up.

"WIBTA for telling my little sister she can’t remove me from my wedding photo & photoshop herself into my place?"

My little sister (28f) is recently engaged. I (30 f) got married about 6 years ago (I’ve since divorced and am engaged again). Our mom died 5 years ago, shortly after my wedding. At my wedding 6 years ago, the photographer took a photo of my mom fastening a necklace around my neck.

My little sister has told multiple people that when she gets married, she plans to hire someone with graphic design skills to remove me from that photo and photoshop herself in my place. So far, I’ve said nothing, but I’ve always felt hurt by that idea and now that she is actually planning a wedding, I am wondering if I should put my foot down. At the same time, I don’t want to add to her pain either.

Background on prioritizing her feelings/wants leading up to this point: Very shortly after our mom died, all my sisters (including my older married sisters) expressed that they wanted our mom’s engagement ring.

As my little sister didn’t get to have our mom at her wedding and the rest of us did get that experience, I urged my dad to hang on to our mom’s engagement ring for our little sister for when she eventually were to get engaged. Ultimately, I was successful in advocating for her to inherit our mom’s ring.

Once engaged, she decided to reset the ring so the only part of it that remains is the central diamond—it is a completely different design now and is unrecognizable. We are all a bit miffed by that but what’s done is done.

Next, we both wanted to use our mom’s wedding dress in our upcoming weddings, but she plans to alter it beyond recognition as it was a long-sleeve, A-line dress and she wants a strapless, mermaid-style dress.

I proposed that we each wear it but not make significant alterations, but she brought up that “I’m the only one who didn’t get to have mom at her wedding”, and I do feel for her, so I dropped my bid to wear the dress. But at this point, I feel inclined to draw the line at removing me from my own photo with my mom. Yes, I did get to have my mom at my [first] wedding.

I won’t have her at my wedding to the person I’ll be spending the rest of my life with, so I’m feeling some sadness there too. If someone is going to be photoshopping someone out of that picture, I feel it should be me photoshopping my 24-year-old self out for my 31 year old self.

She also has tons of photos with our mom she could use for this purpose instead, as well as photos of our mom solo that no one would need to be removed from. Obviously I can’t force her to not do as she pleases with the photo, but WIBTA if I tell her I’m not ok with that and that she doesn’t have my permission or blessing to remove me from my wedding photo with my mom?

Shortly after posting, OP shared a small update.

ETA: many people suggesting lawsuits so want to clarify that no I would not sue over this. I love my sister and don’t want to add to her grief. I’m only grappling with whether or not it’s worth it to ask her not to use my photo in this way,

The comments came flowing in.

faxmachine13 wrote:

Hard to give judgment but I guess I’m confused at the priorities here. She photoshops a photo, you still have the real photo. She changes the dress, that dress is gone. You already gave her the ring, I’d be fighting more about the dress. I don’t think your an AH and I do feel like your sister kind of is, but I guess I just can’t relate to why the photo is the bigger issue here.

OP responded:

I probably distracted from my question by bringing up the ring and dress— I just shared that as background my sister does have going into this potential conversation about ways I’ve prioritized her feelings related to weddings in the wake of losing our mom.

I’m not asking for opinions about my decision to ensure she got the ring or letting her do what she wants with our mom’s dress, I only mentioned that as context that I have supported her in getting any “pieces of our mom” that I had any say in up to this point.

Before I express my feelings to her about what she wants to do with that photo, I am trying to check myself because I don’t want worsen her grief if I’m just being petty about the picture. But obviously we are all carrying a lot of grief so I don’t want to ignore what it’s bringing up for me and then feel resentful.

That was a special moment we shared so it makes my heart hurt to imagine seeing that all over social media and framed in her home sans me, turned into a picture about something that sadly never was for them. I’m trying to decide if that’s just something I need to work through on my own or if it’s valid to speak up and ask her not to do that.

One way I’m thinking about this is that our older sisters got to have our mom present at the birth of each of their first children. I don’t have children yet, and when I do, my mom won’t be there but I wouldn’t think it would be ok to photoshop the faces of my children over the faces of my nieces in the pictures of my mom holding my nieces on the days they were born.

Maybe it’s just a difference in the way she and I think, but I think those kinds of photoshop jobs take the original photo of a genuine happy memory and repackage it into something it isn’t which kind of taints it.

Our mom was already sick at my wedding (and looked it). So that picture already is a little painful/complicated because while we didn’t know it at the time, now we know that was the beginning of the end. This whole thing just brings up a lot of pain for me but I know feelings change and I want to do the right thing, which is why I posted.

trappeddungarees wrote:

I'm a portrait artist who has done artwork of grandparents and grandbabies that never got to meet, wedding shots that never happened, and so on. Encourage your sister to seek out an artist to create something special for her, rather than editing your wedding photo.

OP responded:

That is such a nice idea. When my little sister got engaged I’d asked if she’d be interested in me hiring a painter to do one of the “whole family” including our mom (and her groom) as a wedding gift and she was into it. But I hadn’t thought about suggesting this as an alternative to this photoshop idea.

Maybe I can get something like that done ahead of time based on pictures of her dressing fitting/HMU trail + the photo of my mom from my wedding and surprise her on the morning of her wedding with it. I think that would make her feel very touched/seen and probably negate the desire to change the actual photo of me and my mom. Thank you so much for the suggestion!!

kittehmummy wrote:

You, or possibly the original photographer, own the copyright for the original photo. You absolutely can stop her from illegally violating copyright. If she's planning to ask a professional to do the edit, they should either say no or make her prove she has permission to do it.

New-Link5725 wrote:

NTA. I also wouldn't let her take your mothers dress and tear it apart. It's not your mother's dress if she's altering it beyond recognition. Removing the sleeves or changing something about it is one thing, but altering everything is not the same. I'd make her get a new dress. You keep the dress. She got the wedding ring and changed that. She doesn't need the dress too.

Even_Budget2078 wrote:

OP, I completely understand the way you are reacting, but I think it is because of the way you (and I the first few times I read this) are thinking about it. She's not removing you from your photo, your photo still exists, she's making a new photo of her and your mom.

Everyone knows your mom passed away, OP. They will know it's not capturing a real moment. Given that, they will probably also know that the photo was originally from your wedding.

In any case, your photo with your mom still exists and you had the moment for real with your mom, that can never be taken away or altered. I don't know if it would help, but think of it not being about erasing you, but rather sharing a moment with your mom that you had in real life and she can only imagine.

OP responded:

Your comment “that can never be taken away or altered” made me tear up. You’re very right, regardless of other uses of the photo or the outcome of that marriage, that was a snapshot of a happy close moment that we had. Really appreciate you sharing your perspective.

a2b2021 wrote:

Why didn’t you wear the dress for your first wedding? It does seem a little weird to ask for it for the second if you didn’t wear it the first (and it would be weird to wear it twice as well).

OP responded:

None of us realized our mom still had her dress until after she died and my dad started purging the house of all of her stuff/flagging things that he thought we might want. But like I said, I dropped the dress topic because it was important to my sister.

While I thought it would be a nice way to have a piece of my mom represented, I recognize that she won’t ever get to go dress shopping with our mom and I did get that experience, so I felt it was not the hill to die on.

I just brought up the dress and ring as context that my little sister has—it feels possibly relevant to note that she’s aware I have advocated to her to have every remaining wedding-related piece of our mom that has been in my power to advocate for her getting, so expressing my discomfort over the photoshop idea would be the first and only time I’ve pushed back.

CuriousCuriousAlice wrote:

NTA. This is strange behavior. If she’s hiring an artist anyway she can have a lovely new photo made, it’s weird to photoshop you out of one. It sounds like this is only a symptom of a larger issue though. It’s time for your sister to put to bed the whole “I don’t get my mom at my wedding” thing - she got the ring to help heal from that particular wound.

I’m sure it’s hard for her and it’s fine to sympathize but she doesn’t get to go around making unauthorized and weird edits to other people’s photos, demanding to cut up your mom’s dress. She was equally both of your mother, as much as your mom’s sentimental items can be given equally, they should be. She got the ring, you get the dress.

The photo was never hers or your mom’s, so it’s not on the table for discussion. You gotta set some boundaries OP. She’s being an AH and a bit spoiled.

Edit: she really needs understand that you also lost your mom.

You didn’t take her mom from her. It’s not your fault she won’t be at your sister’s wedding. It’s sad, but not a sin you have to pay for or be guilted for. She doesn’t get to rifle through your sentimental moments with your mother because of her own grief. None of that is hers to have. She has a right to a fair split of your mother’s things, not yours, and you don’t owe her anything.

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