Who doesn’t dream of a picture perfect wedding? One where everything, right down to the tiniest planning minutiae, is effortless and it goes without a hint of trouble and strife on the big day itself. But, whisper it, you’re worried, because you’ve been blessed with a dramatic family. You know the ones – they want to stick their fingers into all the wedding roles; forgetting that it’s you and your wedding, not theirs. Unfortunately, careful family management is the reality of many couples. So how do you avoid wedding planning stress and on-the-day wedding drama?
We’ve compiled a few tips to help you navigate your big day into calm waters, so you won’t reach the stage where you start screaming, “I don’t want my family at my wedding!” Because…. with some thoughtful planning, you can defuse any potential issue caused by toxic family members, before they even happen.
Communication is Critical
There’s something about weddings. Just saying you’re getting married can ignite a feverish madness, tipping the most reasonable of people into a sort of frenzy. From a bride who becomes a controlling bridezilla to monster mothers-in-law who suddenly decide it’s their way or the highway when it comes to planning the perfect day; even the most easy-going person can become ‘infected’ by the craziness!
In addition, today’s extended and blended families mean there’s even greater potential for this blight to spread! There’s an additional array of fathers, mothers, step-fathers, step-mothers, siblings, step-siblings and cousins, on both sides, to please. In short, more people who may wish to make your wedding their business.
This is why good communication is vital. Sit down with the family members who are most important to your big day. This is usually both sets of parents / step-parents. Discuss your vision – how your ideal day may look. Forget about how things are "supposed" to look at a wedding; instead, plan a day that makes the most sense for you and communicate this to your immediate and extended family well in advance. This gives them a chance to listen to, and respect, your thoughts around the day.
It may be that one set of parents is making a significant financial contribution. That’s why it’s important to be clear, up front, that whilst you are very grateful, it’s still your day, not theirs.
Remember, the clearer you are upfront about your wants and needs, the less likely you are to encounter an issue further down the line and the happier you – and everyone around you – will be!
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
Hiring a professional wedding organiser can lift the burden of wedding planning from your shoulders. However, this is isn’t always within the budget. If not, we advise you delegate, delegate, delegate. After all, many hands make light work.
Instead of thinking, help; my mother-in-law is ruining my wedding planning, why not turn her into the bride’s little helper! Mums, mothers-in-law and bridesmaids can help with admin and planning tasks; dads, fathers-in-law and groomsmen can advise on logistics. Or vice versa.
You can even delegate specific tasks to various family members from the outset; make them feel wanted and needed.
Is there a family member who is good at negotiating? Send them to scope out the venue of your dreams? What about a family member who’s got an eye for beautiful design and detail, or is a stickler for good grammar? Maybe they could help pick out beautiful wedding stationery packages and proof read your wedding order of service. And why stop there? Put a favourite cousin in charge of planning the trousseau and get a sister to research the wedding flowers cost.
The more everyone knows what their role is in advance and the more help they are able to give, then the less stressful things will be!But beware…. even with the best communication and delegation, ugly family politics can still flare. In particular, there are two potentially contentious areas that may need additional consideration.
The Guest List
Let’s dive straight into the deep end! Traditionally a guest list has been divided into half the numbers allocated to the couple and the remaining 50% divided between the two families. Sticking with these divisions may prove impossible for a number of reasons.
Whilst both sets of parents will definitely want to add names to the guest list, it may be that one side is paying for the whole wedding and will feel they deserve to invite more. In addition, one family may have more family members than the other.
You want everyone to be happy, but you mustn’t lose sight that it’s your wedding. Our advice is that the bride and groom compile a list of their must have guests to invite, before approaching their families. You’ll find some tips for pruning a guest list in our last blog post! Then – as we’ve already discussed – sit down and discuss the best way to divide the spaces left. Open dialogue ensures everyone feels happy and included.
To manage family dynamics, a well-considered wedding seating plan is invaluable. It allows you to plan ahead to make sure there will be no sticky situations where divorced parents suddenly find themselves sitting next to each other; or where a tee-total Grandma finds herself next to boisterous cousin John, who likes to drink too much! Work closely with your other half as he / she will best know their own familial relations, so their involvement in the process is crucial.
Use your plan to work out who to put on the top table, or how best to divide family and friends between all the tables so that there’s a good mix of ages and personalities. You can always have two ‘top tables’ if there is huge family friction, so everyone feels equally important.
When it comes to coping with stressful family dynamics – at whatever stage of the big day planning process you find yourself at - we recommend working as a united team with your other half. After all, it’s far easier to be brave when there’s two of you facing over-controlling parents or irate family members!