When planning a wedding, soon-to-be newlyweds are constantly facing the same challenge: overbearing parents. We all know that parents always think they are helping, only doing what’s best for their children, but oftentimes when it comes to wedding planning they can actually be adding more stress than help.
This problem is often magnified when one or both families are financially contributing to the wedding. Money tends to add a layer of perceived “control” over decisions, and oftentimes it can be hard for couples to tell their parents to take a step back, since they’re the ones paying for part (or even all) of the wedding. The more financial “buy” they have in the wedding, the more you feel like you have to appease their every request, no matter how much it upsets you or seems ridiculous.
Instead of talking it out and risking possible conflict, couples tend to cave under the pressure of overbearing parents, thus giving into their wishes. Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, you and your partner should be the ones creating that memory, not your parents. After it is over, you don’t want there to be any regrets or thoughts of, “I wish I had told my parents, ‘No.’”
Wedding planning can be stressful enough, but add in a couple of very opinionated parents and it has the potential to go nuclear. Whether his parents want to invite several extra guests, or your mother hates your wedding dress – here’s how to cope with those difficult parent moments.
1. Your wedding should be all about you!
This is the day that marks the two of you a newlywed couple. It is about your love, your relationship, and starting your new life together. It is not about your parents (though they may play a big role in your wedding), nor is it about your wedding party, or any of your guests. It is about you as a couple and how you choose to celebrate the biggest day of your life together.
2. Think about what you'll remember for years to come and what is important to you.
Will you remember the dress you wore? Absolutely. Will you remember that you went with Italian instead of Balsamic for the house salad at your reception? Maybe not. Stand firm on your decisions, but especially on those that you’ll remember for years to come. You want to remember loving every moment of your wedding. What you won’t want to remember is giving into your mom’s guilt or your dad’s pleas.
Another thing you don’t want to remember? Fighting. Always act calmly and rationally when discussing your wedding with loved ones. It can be difficult, but you never want to look back and regret your behavior. If you find that your parents or other family members are threatening to not attend if their requests are not honored (unlikely, but it happens) do not react. Give them time to think through how that will hurt you and how they do not want to miss out on such a big day in their child’s life. It is important to keep calm and talk openly, kindly, and honestly in all discussions about your wedding.
3. Give your parents or in-laws a wedding task.
The thought of this might make you nervous, but think about it. By giving your family members a task (one where you know you see eye-to-eye) they will feel like they are playing a role. The more you agree on their role and the more direction you give, the less you risk them going rogue and making the task all about them and their preferences. Try to pick a task that tailors to their strengths. Mom a great organizer? Have her create the seating chart. Father-in-law a former bartender? Have him design the signature cocktail. Not only will this help your family feel like their input and voice is being valued, but it will be one less task for you to complete yourself.
4. Smile and say you’ll consider their ideas.
This may be the hardest thing to do, but it’s important to listen to all ideas and concerns (no matter how ridiculous) that your parents propose, and consider them carefully. While you may hate all the ideas that you’ve heard so far, don’t snap or stop them from sharing ideas. You never know when one of your parents will suggest your new favorite idea.
5. Don’t promise anything.
Parents are constantly asking for small favors, but those favors can add up quickly. “You have to invite your second cousin,” “Make sure you don’t put my aunt and your fathers aunt at the same table,” “You have to add an extra spot so your brother can be in the wedding party.” These all may seem like plausible ideas, but after a while all of your family’s “gentle guidance,” can lead you to a breaking point. It is important not to promise anything to anyone who tries to tell you how to plan your wedding.
Don’t agree to invite anyone, wear something different, or change plans unless you fully intend to go through with it. Breaking promises will definitely cause hurt feelings. When anyone tells you what they want from your wedding, just politely smile and say, “Thank you for your suggestion, I will definitely consider it.” This way your family knows they are heard, but you are not committing to anything specifically.
When times get stressful, parents become overbearing, or the suggestions get to be too much, just stop and take a breath. Remember that it is your wedding and at the end of the day it is most important for you and your partner to be happy. This is the day you will remember for the rest of your life, so create memories you will look back on fondly and stories you will want to tell for generations to come.