- Did you hate your wedding day? Join the club
- Single-Sex Wedding Parties Don’t Make Sense Anymore
- How to avoid wedding drama
- If a family member or close friend is upset at not being asked to be part of the wedding party — or, if you’re the one being asked, and you’re concerned about the cost
- If a family member doesn’t get a plus-one invitation and tries to override your decision by adding another guest to the RSVP card — or you’re the guest, and want to broach getting a plus-one
- If you have feuding family members or less-than-amicably separated or divorced parents
- If your parents are worried or unsupportive of your choice to have an interfaith — or nondenominational — union
- If an overly intoxicated guest is slurring or acting inappropriately
- If the wedding has been delayed, postponed, or canceled
- How to Deal With Family Drama Before Your Wedding
- How to Handle Difficult Family Dynamics at Your Wedding
- How to handle seating at the ceremony when two parents do not speak
- What to do about estranged siblings when planning a wedding
- What to do about estranged parents when planning a wedding
- How to handle a divorced parent's request not to invite the other parent's new spouse or partner
- Why mothers can turn weddings into a nightmare
Did you hate your wedding day? Join the club
This story originally published on the Lily.
It’s supposed to be the perfect day. Everyone says so.
For women, the indoctrination begins early: first with Disney movies — pre-woke-princess era of Elsa and Moana — then romantic comedies, watched at sleepovers with a dozen other swooning teenage girls. As women approach peak bridal age, targeted ads step in with the same message: At your wedding, you should be the happiest you’ve ever been.
Weddings consistently rank as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life — right up there with divorce and major injury or death.
But while most brides feel free to grumble about all the hard work that goes into planning a wedding, any negative post-game discussion is generally considered taboo, said Maddie Eisenhart, the chief revenue officer for the wedding website a Practical Wedding.
“When people ask, ‘How was your wedding?,’ we don’t know how to say anything other than ‘amazing.’ We don’t have that language,” Eisenhart said.
On their wedding day, brides often feel an intense pressure to achieve “emotional perfection,” Eisenhart said.
“If you have any kind of mixed emotions about the event, it’s , well, I personally failed at my one job — which was to be joyful all day long.”
But even for brides who are head-over-heels in love, a wedding is not always five hours of pure giddy happiness. First, there is the basic logistical stress of orchestrating an event for, on average — on average! — 167 guests.
Most brides (and it is still almost always the bride who plans the wedding) have never planned a formal event.
Unless the bride can afford to hire a professional, she’ll probably be the one coordinating with the caterer, the florist, the photographer, the officiant — telling everyone where to go and what to do, and figuring out a plan B when something inevitably goes wrong.
“It just sucked,” said Laine Barnes, who got married in 2018 in rural Georgia, handling most of the logistics on her own. Many of her guests had to cancel because of a hurricane that hit a few days before the wedding.
Then the caterer changed his recipes without telling her. “I remember how disgusting the food was.
I loved the coconut rice at the tasting, but at the wedding it was , ‘Oh my god, what is this?’” Barnes fixated on the rice — and exactly how much she’d paid for it — all day.
There is also the inevitable stress that comes with bringing all of the couple’s friends and family members together in one room. In the weeks leading up to her wedding, Eisenhart said, several of her closest family members threatened not to come. Two days before, she got into a big fight with her mom. On the day of her wedding, she said, “it still stung.”
“We think weddings exist in a bubble,” Eisenhart said. “We think we’ll get engaged and everyone will be on their best behavior because it’s our wedding, and why wouldn’t they be?” But difficult family dynamics don’t just disappear.
The bride’s parents might be fighting in the corner. If someone close to the couple has passed away, that person’s absence will still color the day.
“I think that expectation mixed with that reality makes it hard for a lot of people,” Eisenhart said.
The pressure to be completely, incandescently happy on your wedding day can make even the best wedding hard to enjoy.
When Julia Carter, a senior lecturer at the University of West England, was writing her dissertation on bridal magazines, the word “perfect” cropped up in every issue.
For decades, Carter said, women — and only very rarely men — have been urged to aspire to the perfect wedding: the perfect dress, the perfect hair, the perfect cake, the perfect venue. This language, she said, is fueled by the multibillion-dollar wedding industry.
“This idea of trying to attain ‘perfect’ is just craziness,” said Gwen Helbush, a wedding planner based in Newark, Calif. “Why would you set yourself up for failure in that way?” Still, Helbush uses the term on her website. (“But I say your perfect wedding,” she clarifies, “never just ‘perfect’ all by itself.”)
The average cost of a wedding in the United States is a whopping $34,000, according to a 2018 survey from the wedding platform the Knot. Many couples go into debt to pay for the day. It’s consistently seen as something that’s just “worth it,” Carter said — more important even than saving up for a house or paying off student loans.
Among brides, Carter said, “there is this commonly repeated myth that you have to have a good wedding to have a good marriage.” If the wedding is full of joy and laughter, the thinking goes, so, too, will the marriage.
Even if brides recognize that it’s absolutely ridiculous to think one good night could actually make or break a lifelong relationship, Carter said, the myth — and the suspicion that various guests might buy into it — ratchets up the pressure.
And then, on top of everything, there is the expectation that a bride should be “chill.
” As women are frantically trying to craft — and enjoy — the perfect wedding, they’re also expected to appear nonchalant about the whole thing, lest they be deemed a “bridezilla.
” Particularly since the term bridezilla entered the American lexicon, via the We TV series in the early 2000s, brides have been shamed for caring too much about their weddings, Eisenhart said.
These kinds of expectations don’t exist for grooms, she said, presenting a glaring “double standard.”
“We pretend that women are just putting on a fun show. You have to care enough to do it right, but you can’t care enough to have any kind of emotional attachment to it.” If things don’t go well, a bride can’t cry or get mad — because even though it’s supposed to be her perfect day, it’s also just a party. Grooms, on the other hand, are generally free to care as little or as much as they’d .
“If you’re not happy as a bride, it’s just one of those things you just keep to yourself,” said Lauren Jones.
A few months after she got married in the fall of 2016, she had a panic attack outside of a friend’s wedding, triggered by an impulse to compare her friend’s wedding to her own.
She couldn’t stop focusing on all the things she wished she’d done differently. “You spend all this money, all these people came to see you, so if you’re not happy, you feel it’s all your fault. It’s embarrassing.”
A wedding is life’s only major milestone with just one socially acceptable emotional response, Eisenhart said. When you graduate from high school or college, have a baby, or buy a house, she says, you’re allowed to dwell on the bad stuff, along with the good: losing friends, losing sleep, losing money. But a wedding is still understood to be emotionally one-dimensional.
After her own wedding, which she describes as “less than perfect,” Eisenhart said, she was depressed for months, thinking about everything that went wrong. The hardest part, she said, was having to pretend she’d had a great time. “When you can’t acknowledge the experience you had, I think it makes it a lot worse. It feeds a level of anxiety.”
Carter has spent years interviewing couples about their relationships. No bride has ever confessed to not enjoying her wedding. She suspects many of them had less than perfect experiences but will never admit it, even to themselves. “Even if you have a bad day, there is so much pressure to be positive that you sort of retell the story in your head,” Carter said.
Eisenhart, for one, is a big proponent of “naming the thing”: She has no problem admitting that her wedding day wasn’t all that great. She’s been happily married for 10 years. She has a house and a son. In the end, she said, other things turn out to be a whole lot more important.
Dr. Ruth says it’s ‘nonsense’ that you’re too busy for a relationship
The post-wedding blues are real. Here’s how to handle them.
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Single-Sex Wedding Parties Don’t Make Sense Anymore
Little hard data exist on how many close friendships are between adults of different genders, but Adams and other researchers believe that in the past few generations, men and women have enjoyed more close friendships, with less outside suspicion.
In 2014, for instance, the then-director of Stony Brook University’s Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, Michael Kimmel, said he’d been asking his students for 25 years whether they had a good friend of the opposite sex.
At first only about 10 percent said yes, but by the mid-2010s, almost everyone did.
Similarly, Judith Kegan Gardiner, a friendship researcher and professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote to me in an email that “from what I can see (principally of white, middle-class people), adult cross-sex friendships are growing more common and becoming more casually accepted, [and] attract less suspicion of inevitably sexual behavior.”
Read: The widespread suspicion of opposite-sex friendships
Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist and friendship researcher based in Montreal, often works with young adults, and she told me that their cross-gender friendships come up regularly.
Given the life stage young adults are in, their uncertainties about how to honor adult friendships and close family relationships in wedding contexts without excluding anyone or hurting feelings also come up.
Kirmayer isn’t surprised to see that the clash between the old tradition of gender-segregated wedding parties and the new ubiquity of mixed-gender friendships is creating stressful situations.
Asking someone to stand up with you on the day you get married, Kirmayer says, is one of the few codified ways to publicly commemorate or honor close adult friendships.
But because the number of spots in a wedding party is often limited to just a handful, choosing to include one friend often means choosing to exclude another.
Single-sex wedding parties can already cause hurt feelings, “and because having mixed-gender bridal parties perhaps isn’t as common, that would create even more room for conflict,” Kirmayer told me. She understands why some couples might hesitate to deviate from the norm.
“It could be seen as choosing somebody else over the person that you were, you know, ‘supposed’ to.” (The old, crude adages about where exactly on the loyalty list your “chicks” or your “bros” belong would seem to apply here.)
That said, prioritizing the tradition of single-sex wedding parties over just asking your closest friends or family members to be wedding attendants can be equally hurtful, especially to those who find themselves without a role in the wedding because of their gender.
Situations Kat and Adam’s, according to Kirmayer, raise the question of whether the exclusion of a dear friend from a wedding party in the name of tradition comes from a place of anxiety or fear.
In those cases, she told me, she would advise the bride or groom to consider what they’re worried about, and what the worst that could happen might be.
“,”author”:null,”date_published”:”2020-02-19T13:00:00.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”https://cdn.theatlantic.com/thumbor/LZ8U8L-jUrgbhcBy9u3ter6Wgb0=/5×552:3763×2510/960×500/media/img/mt/2020/02/shutterstock_395528119/original.jpg”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/02/why-wedding-parties-are-still-single-sex/606691/”,”domain”:”www.theatlantic.com”,”excerpt”:”Close, platonic, mixed-gender friendships are more common than ever. Marriage ceremonies should adapt accordingly.”,”word_count”:1,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}
How to avoid wedding drama
As a former wedding writer, I spent many Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons — nearly 100 of them — watching couples make their way down so many aisles, and gaze at each other across altars or under chuppahs, and exchange vows in typical and truly odd locations, including a cemetery. (Yes, I’m dead serious.)
Regardless of age, gender, or the quality of booze at their open bar, they all had something in common: They wanted their weddings to be fun, meaningful, and drama-free. And that meant navigating some difficult scenarios on the road to their big day.
High emotions, free-flowing alcohol, and seating-arrangement musical chairs have the potential to trigger Game of Thrones-level acrimony. Throw in wild-card wedding guests, a drunk uncle, feuding bridesmaids, or an overbearing momzilla, and more often than not, minor controversy — or, on occasion, major — is the rule, rather than the exception.
The pressure to keep everyone happy and make everything perfect can take an emotional toll on an engaged couple. “It’s easy to lose sight of what this day is really about, and that’s true love,” says Suzanne Gelb, a Honolulu-based clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships.
Whether you’re planning your own wedding or attending one as a guest, it’s helpful to know how to deal with sticky situations before they unfold. Vox asked several pros for advice on how to handle surprisingly common wedding-related pitfalls.
If a family member or close friend is upset at not being asked to be part of the wedding party — or, if you’re the one being asked, and you’re concerned about the cost
Once you’ve chosen the wedding party, “you don’t owe a lot of explanation or apology,” to someone who isn’t selected, says Diane Gottsman, a wedding etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas.
You just need to be polite and upfront, and then, she adds, “Let it go.
” But there are ways to help mend hurt feelings: You can invite the friend or family member to participate in wedding dress shopping, extend an invite to the bachelor or bachelorette party, or ask them to arrive at the venue early for select group photos.
Alternatively, if you are looking to bow wedding party responsibilities, broach the conversation with the person directly and honestly. “It’s all in the delivery and tone of voice,” says Gottsman.
“Say, ‘I am so honored that you asked me, but unfortunately, I just don’t think I can give it the financial commitment that you deserve. I want to honor and respect you, but I can’t give you what you are going to need for this.
Thank you so much for understanding.’”
Of course, a couple can make a conscientious effort to minimize costs and cut corners to help enable loved ones to participate in the wedding ceremony and festivities.
For example, brides can estimate baseline costs ahead of time (for example, the cost of the dress, accessories, and travel expenses) so bridesmaids know what financial commitment they are making.
The couple can also allow some members a free pass on the shower and bachelor/bachelorette activities by covering the costs or not making them obligatory to attend.
“People have different financial obligations and restraints, so be open and honest, so it doesn’t lead to more friction down the line,” says Julia Pham, a wealth adviser with the finance firm Halbert Hargrove.
Pham suggests picking rentable or preowned bridesmaid dresses online or suggesting a cheaper makeup service, GlamSquad or a Sephora makeover, for the entire bridal crew to help cut costs.
You don’t want your special day to jeopardize their financial future.
If a family member doesn’t get a plus-one invitation and tries to override your decision by adding another guest to the RSVP card — or you’re the guest, and want to broach getting a plus-one
Before you send out your invitations, clearly determine with your partner how you’ll dole out plus-one invitations — particularly to guests in new relationships and your single friends.(Just because your cousin Sheryl has been official with her boyfriend for three weeks doesn’t mean she gets the golden ticket.)
Whatever you decide, it’s important to stick to it. That way, you can truthfully explain to a disappointed guest that no one other than the bridal party and immediate family gets an exception. If the venue has guest limitations or your budget is tight, you should also note that.
That said, “It’s not the bride and groom’s job to entertain a friend because a guest doesn’t want to show up alone or hates mingling,” says Gottsman.
You can soften the blow by telling the guest you’ll make a conscientious effort to find a comfortable seating arrangement at the wedding, ideally with family or other singles.
But if the guest decides to decline the invitation, be kind, gracious, and understanding.
Alternatively, if it is a very close family member, and you have the space for them, accommodate the bonus guest. You want your loved one to enjoy and feel relaxed at your wedding, even if that means allowing them to bring their new partner or close friend to the party.
According to Anne Chertoff, a wedding etiquette expert and former editor for Martha Stewart Weddings, a guest should never try to ask if a plus-one invitation wasn’t offered.
“If you have not been invited to a wedding with a plus-one, we recommend not asking for one, as it may put the couple in an awkward position, as the couple may have had to limit the numbers due to space or budget restrictions,” she says.
If you have feuding family members or less-than-amicably separated or divorced parents
Some weddings bring families together, but others can be a catalyst for more tension. Whatever you do, address the topic with your partner ahead of time.
“The initiative falls on the soon-to-be-married couples’ shoulders to determine how to best handle the situation in front of them,” says Gelb. “The test is one of their communication skills and how willing they are to compromise.”
Then, consider the potential challenges of having warring guests at your wedding and whether the positives of their attendance outweigh the potential negatives.
If the guests decide to attend, it may be helpful to make sure that they’re seated as far away from one another as possible at the wedding and have several family members designated to act as buffers between them.
You may also want to let your wedding planner and photographer know of the family dynamics in advance.
If you’ve done everything in your power to handle the situation with grace, and they still refuse to play nice, try instead to focus on the larger picture.
“Keep bringing yourselves back to your joy, what really matters to you and why you’re doing this,” says Gelb. “You may not the situation, but you can accept it.
And acceptance doesn’t mean you’re okay with it, it just means that you have chosen not to fight it and focus your energy on someone else’s battle.”
If your parents are worried or unsupportive of your choice to have an interfaith — or nondenominational — union
According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, before 1960, 19 percent of American married couples were of two different religions. Now, that number has jumped to nearly 40 percent.
But you may still need to address the topic of wedding traditions and religion tenderly with your parents well in advance of the big day.
“In my experience, most of the complexities surrounding interfaith unions come from a fear of the unknown,” says Eileen O’Farrell Smith, founder and director of the Interfaith Union, which holds one-on-one workshops with couples and families in Chicago.
“The key is encouraging families to move from their head to their heart through communication, dialogue, and sharing information.”
O’Farrell Smith will often invite the clergy, along with the couple and parents, for an informal conversation over coffee or drinks to help break the ice, listen, and create a mutual understanding.
Sometimes, she’ll invite a family to observe another interfaith ceremony so they have a clearer vision of what a combined ritual might look .
“There’s always a way to involve everybody,” says O’Farrell Smith.
Couples, for example, can also find other ways to pay tribute to their families’ religious and secular traditions by incorporating music, decor, fashion, poetry, and food. “This will not only show respect to your family, but will add interest to the festivities,” Gottsman adds.
If an overly intoxicated guest is slurring or acting inappropriately
Delegation is the name of the game here.
Politely ask a relative or your wedding planner to step in and assist the guest by “helping them to their seat, getting them a glass of water or a cab home,” says Chertoff.
Another tip: If you know a certain guest is prone to over-indulge, alert your wedding planner and vendors so they can keep a close eye on them and thwart any potential challenges.
If the wedding has been delayed, postponed, or canceled
If a wedding must be canceled, Gottsman suggests asking a close family member, perhaps your parents, to email your guests and wedding suppliers with the news.
An explanation isn’t required and delegating will help keep you the crossfire of any follow-up inquiries.
Also, remember it is best practice for the recently uncoupled to return all gifts, which includes engagement, shower, and wedding presents.
If you’re a guest, it’s okay to ask how the bride and groom are, but don’t pry. “If your friend or relative wants to talk about the cancellation, they will let you know,” Chertoff says. “It’s fine to call, text, email, or write a note checking in on them, but let them take the lead as to how much they want to share about the cancellation — and when.”
If you purchased a ticket to travel to the wedding, contact your travel agent or airline and ask about a refund or credit to your account for future use. If you purchased travel insurance, contact the insurance company as soon as possible and explain the situation, as you may be able to recover some portion of the ticket expenses. But don’t expect the hosts to pay.
“You may not ask the couple or their parents to cover your out-of-pocket expenses,” Chertoff says. And no, you can’t ask for your present back, either.
Megan McDonough covered weddings for The Washington Post.
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How to Deal With Family Drama Before Your Wedding
When I recently got engaged, I was flooded with just about every emotion in the book. Naturally, joy was the main one — I was (and, of course, remain) so excited to marry my fiancé.
I was giddy merely thinking about the fact that I’ve met the person I’m going to share my life with. I was eager to try on dresses with too much tulle and attend one too many cake tastings.
But other, less positive sentiments quickly emerged.
First, there’s the stress of having to Actually Plan A Wedding, which feels one of the most official and grown-up things I’ve ever had to do. For months I’ve been buried in a wedding planning rabbit hole.
Yet, all I have to show for it are loosely strung-together themes and halfway thought-out locales that could be the perfect setting for our nuptials, but that could also be, you know, not.
(If you’re inherently indecisive me, getting through the wedding planning process is basically our version of completing a triathlon.)
Next, the dread of navigating another uncomfortable reality ahead of our big day began to set in: How will we deal with our family drama?
“We do approximately 35 weddings a year,” says Brandi Hamerstone, owner of a Cleveland-based wedding planning company. ” those 35, there is drama with at least 20 of them, and serious issues with at least five.”
Hamerstone explains that the hiccups tend to occur between family members who have had ongoing drama prior to the wedding, and it bubbles to the surface when everyone is in the same room. “Honestly, the drama was [already] there. It wasn't the wedding that created it at all,” she says.
Identifying the problems well in advance will end up paying off once the big day arrives.
That’s certainly the case for my family and my fiancé’s family. Both of our sets of parents are divorced and not exactly on speaking terms. We also have to take into consideration complicated issues alcoholism among certain family members, in addition to health conditions and stubbornly strong personal preferences. My fiancé’s parents, for example, aren’t big travelers, so getting them on a plane is going to be, well… challenging.
Brittany, an editor in Virginia who married in 2014, faced her fair share of family drama before her wedding, most of which stemmed from a tumultuous relationship with her father.
“My conundrum was whether he should walk me down the aisle,” Brittany explains. “I really didn't want him to. He has never really been a father to me, [and] I don't the symbolism of a dad giving his daughter away.”
But she was afraid of the fallout from her conservative Christian family if she opted against it. “I come from a very traditional family,” she says. “That would have been a very public statement.”
Exacerbating Brittany’s dilemma was how her father treated her now-husband throughout their 10-year relationship. “[We] dated on and off during that time, and my dad didn't even speak to him until my husband had dinner with my parents to ask for their blessing for him to propose.”
What’s more, a few weeks before the wedding, Brittany learned that her father was still cheating on her mother. Her mother confronted him, but he “talked his way it,” and their extended family never realized what was going on behind the scenes.
“I let him walk me down the aisle, against my better judgment, because it wasn't public knowledge that anything was wrong,” Brittany says.
“I discussed this with a close friend who helped me see that letting my dad walk me down the aisle only had as much significance as I let it have.
If I knew it didn't mean anything, or that the ‘meaning’ was that I was trying to not cause drama within my family, then that was OK.”
Brittany adds that while sometimes people say that your wedding day is “all about you,” the harsh reality is that it’s difficult to disregard the feelings of the loved ones who have shown up for you.
“In this case, it felt the pain this would cause my family, mainly my grandparents, was too great,” Brittany says. “So I let him walk me down the aisle. Do I regret that? I'm not sure. Did it detract from my wedding at all? No. I think about that sometimes, but ultimately I'm happy with how everything transpired.”
It’s difficult to disregard the feelings of the loved ones who have shown up for you.
Having that kind of nuanced self-awareness is key to getting through family drama on your wedding day, says Georgia-based wedding planner Terrica Skaggs. Identifying the problems well in advance will end up paying off once the big day arrives.
“The best way to spearhead any issues on the day of the wedding would be to attempt to assuage them during the planning process,” Skaggs explains.
“We’ve encountered issues where a mother of the groom tends to overstep her bounds — being overly critical of plans for the wedding, attempting to wear white or something inappropriate to the ceremony, or trying to upstage the wedding with the rehearsal dinner.”
Skaggs says that if it’s an option, chances are your own mother could be your best advocate in a messy future-MIL situation that. “She can speak up for you and take some of the heat while relating mother to mother,” Skaggs says. “Remember that for some mothers, weddings can be stressful as they feel they are losing a son.”
Kylie Carlson, a planner-turned-wedding expert who teaches courses in wedding and event planning, offers a few more practical tips for curbing family drama:
Don't be afraid to communicate any family strife that may affect the celebration with your wedding vendors. They’re going to work closely with you every minute of the day and have the experience to anticipate any potential challenges. If you have family members who simply won't be in the same space simultaneously, make sure your photographer is aware so that they aren't on the shot list together. It’ll get uncomfortable quickly if two feuding guests are asked to join in a group photo.Be mindful of seating arrangements. While open seating may be a time-saving temptation, having seating assignments will ensure that warring family members don't end up near each other.If someone truly has the potential to ruin your day, consider whether they should even be there in the first place. And if you haven't set too many plans, a destination wedding or elopement may be the better course of action.Communication is critical. Depending on the situation, you may need to carve out time for one-on-ones with certain family members to discuss behavior expectations on the wedding day. These aren’t easy conversations to have, but taking this step means you’re not leaving things to chance.
While I’m still not sure how we’ll survive — er, I mean “cope” with — family drama on our big day, it’s comforting to know that these struggles are universal.
Many brides-to-be have persevered and have managed to successfully rise above familial dysfunction.
And regardless of how everything plays out, as long as my fiancé and I are in it together — hand-in-hand, side-by-side — that really is all that matters.
Mekita Rivas is a fashion news writer for Teen Vogue, whose bylines can be found in The Washington Post, Glamour, The Cut, and Racked. Follow her on .
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How to Handle Difficult Family Dynamics at Your Wedding
While many family members may agree to put aside their differences on your wedding day, this isn't always the case. In many complicated family situations, emotions tend to peak around major family events-and your wedding is no exception.
Since you'll ly want a drama-free experience, it may be helpful for all involved to stop and recognize that a wedding isn't always the ideal time to put an end to a family feud.
From difficult parents to estranged siblings, here are four of the most challenging circumstances you and your family may face on or before the wedding day.
THE RIGHT WAY TO LET FAMILY AND FRIENDS KNOW YOU'VE ELOPED
How to handle seating at the ceremony when two parents do not speak
If your parents refuse to sit together at your wedding, you may be able to place someone between them as a buffer. That someone could be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or anyone else who could be seen as a neutral party in your immediate family.
Traditionally, your mother would be seated in the first seat on the aisle, closest to you. It's usually best to follow this tradition and seat the buffer person, or people, between. You may also ask your father to sit in the first seat along the aisle of the second row.
His immediate family would sit in that row as well, while your mother's immediate family would be seated in the front row with her.
What to do about estranged siblings when planning a wedding
If you or your partner has an estranged sibling, this could make for sensitive territory when planning a wedding. The majority of etiquette books will encourage you to send an invitation and leave it up to the sibling to decide whether to join the festivities.
However, leaving the ball in their court may be how you ended up here in the first place. Give yourself and your sibling some time to plan ahead. If you'd to see them at your wedding, it may be worth extending an olive branch in the form of a more personal phone call or email.
Reach out, be genuine, and take it slow. You'll know what to do the response you get.
What to do about estranged parents when planning a wedding
If you or your partner haven't spoken with a parent in many years, it may be the right time to make peace or at least try and be civil. Making plans to meet them in person soon after your engagement is step one. Give yourself plenty of time to decide how to handle the situation so you can make a level-headed judgment call.
It may help to have your fiancé or a sibling along with you when you get together, or you may feel it's best to face this solo. Something to keep in mind is that you don't want to be wary of their presence throughout the whole wedding, so it may be best to invite them only to the ceremony depending how your conversation goes.
How to handle a divorced parent's request not to invite the other parent's new spouse or partner
To the disappointment of many a bride and groom, not all divorced parents can set aside pettiness for their son or daughter's wedding day. It's unfortunate, but it's also very common that one parent may insist that their ex-spouse attend the wedding sans guest.
Whatever their reasoning, your parents can't see the bigger picture and how this kind of request impacts your stress level. While you may be comfortable catering to their request, it's important to make sure your parents recognize that they've put you in a difficult position, and one that doesn't have a simple solution.
Take the time to talk it out with them and you may be able to convince them to come around, but be sure to stand up for your own preference.
Why mothers can turn weddings into a nightmare
“We’ve got about 180 on the day, but if Mum had her way there would be about 50 more on there. Not to forget the 100 more people who are coming at night.”
The smallest details have become a source of tension: “She suggested recently that we go shopping to London just to find earrings for me to wear on the day. I was thinking a pair in Accessorize for £12 would do the job.”
Another soon-to-be married friend told me that she’s “lost every battle” with her mother, who started referring to the big day as “my wedding” three weeks into the engagement.
Everything from the cake – Emma wanted chocolate but her mother insisted on a fruit cake, which is traditionally frozen and saved for the first child’s christening – to the invitations, which had to be written in a most precisely slanted font, became a war zone.
It’s obvious (to my generation, in our late twenties) why brides get annoyed by mothers that take over. A recent survey of 600 women by Interflora showed that nearly two thirds had been planning their wedding day since they were a child.
An entire industry of blogs, magazines and bridal shows all tell the bride that the wedding is her big day, her red carpet moment, and she can have what she wants. Reality, it seems, is not the same.
“Life ain’t that,” says Sarah Haywood, one of Britain’s top wedding planners who has more than 15 years of experience in the industry. “Weddings are meant to be family occasions and they’re days where we affirm the very concept of family.”
It isn’t only the brides who misunderstand this – Sarah’s office has invented the term “Mobzilla” for particularly ruthless mothers-of-the-bride – but she also thinks that many issues arise because brides fail to realise that their mothers may have been imagining the day for years too. “When you plan your child’s wedding, it is one of the biggest days in your life as well. And most mothers will tell you that [their daughter’s wedding] is a bigger deal than their wedding was.”
This emotional investment inevitably translates to financial investment, which in turn means that mothers quite rightly feel entitled to a (loud) say in how the wedding budget is spent, enraging their daughters. “The problem is that all the people who are invested in the day have expectations,” Sarah says, “and of course, they’re not all the same.”
They certainly aren’t. It seems that the difference in generation between today’s brides – “millennials” as Sarah calls them – and their mothers, accounts for a lot. “Its ly that [the mothers] didn’t have a wedding this because we now spend a lot more on weddings,” Sarah says, who has twice been a mother-of-the-bride herself.
“My generation wants to put on a great party because you’re showing off to your friends, but actually, people who are getting married now, the millennials, they think entirely differently to me.
” The millennial bride or groom’s view, she says, is that they’ve worked hard and earned all their money themselves, so they and their guests deserve the best.
This means that while mothers want endless designer flowers and the smartest celebrity cake-maker, daughters will want the cake that tastes the most delicious and the dress that suits their style, rather than the most expensive one.
Mark Niemierko, a London-based wedding planner, remembers one Mobzilla who was famous for her collection of couture clothing. “She was absolutely outraged that her daughter was buying a designer that wasn’t couture,” he recalls.
“The daughter was quite tomboyish, but the mother had something physically in her mind that she thought she should be [wearing].
” The mother won – after catching an emergency flight from Paris to London to insist that the bride got back in line.
If such disagreements (on any scale) sound familiar, the professionals are keen to stress that 90 per cent of wedding planning arguments can be avoided by mothers and brides (and the rest of the family) simply managing expectations early on.
This includes dividing up the budget sensibly and retaining perspective on the dreaded guest list. “Children seem to think that their parents don’t have lives outside of theirs and that their friends aren’t important,” Sarah Haywood says.
“But on an occasion your child’s wedding, you want your close friends there.”
Her advice to brides who are battling to keep out their mother’s third cousin is to think ahead: “I say to a bride, 'Fast-forward 25, 30 years and your niece, your sister’s child, says to you that she’s really sorry but your kids can’t come [to her wedding].’ These are the kind of things that you need to think about.”
Finally, brides should always remember that a large part of their mothers’ apparent wedding lunacy stems from a loving place. Sarah admits to becoming, during the planning stages of her stepdaughter’s wedding, “a woman possessed”: “It was that sense of expectation and that I would let them down in some way,” she remembers. “You obviously want the best for your children.”
She can look back now and laugh at her obsessions – and confirm that when it finally arrived, her stepdaughter’s wedding was the best day of both their lives.
Brides-to-be, take note.
A bride's guide to navigating the wedding planning battlefield
Get everyone on the same page as early in the planning process as possible.
Do not hope that any issues will go away if you ignore them. They won’t. In all lihood it will be the week of the wedding when it all comes to a head.
If parents are contributing financially to the day, then remember that they may reasonably want a say in how their money is spent.
Where there are lots of people contributing financially, divvy up the budget so each person pays for a part of the wedding – and put them in charge of it, so they feel busy and in control.
Listen to everyone. Sometimes they just want to be heard (even if you eventually reject their advice).
Be aware that magazines and blogs don’t always give carefully curated advice.
Take responsibility for how much weddings cost and do proper research into what your money will get you.
On the day, thank your mothers (and fathers), buy them a gift or flowers and publicly acknowledge the part they have played in getting you to this point in your lives. They’ll treasure your gratitude.
Advice by Sarah Haywood, sarahhaywood.com