After several years together, you’ve decided to get married. Prior to this you’ve only interacted with each other’s parents over holidays. Now you’re all naturally going to come together and become one, big, happy family, right?
Your marriage might actually be a very sensitive topic for your parents, or the parents of your partner. Everyone experiences this differently. Some parents look at their marrying children and wonder how fast they have grown up, and how fast the time flew by. Some parents cannot accept their child’s chosen partner and cannot understand how their child can be so blind in their choice. Some parents experience joy that their precious baby girl or boy have finally found their other half. One way or the other, and whether you want it or not, your parents likely experience your impending wedding and marriage very differently from you. This is normal. They had their own wedding – or maybe they did not – but they for sure would have done things their own way, and very differently from you.
Since all of us have very different parents, we can expect that some might be very open with us about their feelings about the marriage or the wedding planning process, while others might stay silent. But they will all have opinions about some aspect of the process. You are their child after all. In this case, I want to discuss the frequent situation in which your parents express an opinion about an element of your wedding that clashes with your own opinion, and this turns into a conflict between you.
Let’s explore a few typical situations, and how these can be resolved.
Situation 1. Money
Your parents, or your partner’s parents, are helping to pay for the wedding. This is a very common situation. In a lot of countries, there is a tradition of splitting the wedding cost between the two families. Here in the Netherlands, it is more common for the marrying couple to cover the entire expense themselves without assistance from their parents. In spite of this, there are still cases in which the parents of the bride pay for the wedding dress, while the parents of the groom will pay for the honeymoon, for example. Since this is your parents’ gift to you for your marriage, does this entitle them make your wedding choices for you? What should you do, if your opinions on any aspect of the wedding planning are very different from your parents?
Here is a simple example. The mother of the bride has decided to pay for the wedding dress. The bride has naturally invited her mother to join her in the wedding gown salon to choose a dress. The mother likes one dress, while the bride likes one entirely different. Or in another case, a bride might feel uncomfortable choosing an expensive dress that she likes because she knows her mother will be paying for the dress. Many variations of this theme can occur involving just the wedding dress alone.
The interesting fact is this: All of these situations have the exact same solution.
When the mother of the groom, for instance, expresses a desire to pay for any aspect of the wedding, immediately thank her, but also discuss everything honestly right from the start. Tell her that to avoid any conflicts in the future, you would like to agree now that in case her expectations regarding the cost of the wedding will not match your own in the future, you are prepared to cover the difference out of your own pocket. You also tell her that while you appreciate her offer and would be grateful to accept, you would like to retain the right to follow your own intuition and make your own choices for the wedding. To speak with your parents about these things from the start is a matter of basic manners, and simply common sense. It will protect you from problems in the future because you can always remind your mother of these initial agreements.
Situation 2. Help
Your parents are helping you with organizational issues. The fact that they have free time to devote to this is an asset. They want to help you, and you can certainly accept and use their help, but what do you do when they want to make the important decisions for you?
Accepting your parents’ help does not mean that you are giving them the reigns of the wedding organization process. It does mean that you should let them know exactly what you need help with. Give your parents one specific and manageable task so that you don’t lose the driving seat. Explain to them what aspect of the process you need help with the most, such as calling and asking for the prices of all potential photographers for example. This is concrete, and it does not ask your parents to make any decisions for you. Complement your parents by telling them that you think they are the best people for such a task, and that no one else could handle it better. Without them, you would really struggle with this task. As long as such tasks are precise and concrete, you will be able to continue leading your wedding planning. At the same time your parents will feel happy knowing that you need them, and that you trust them to help you with things you genuinely need. Thus, everyone will be happy.
Situation 3. Opinions
Everyone else knows better than you! The minute you mention your wedding, your parents, relatives, and friends begin to tell you exactly how and what you need to do. They make judgments on your decisions without even realizing.
You have two choices. You can be honest and tell them that this is unpleasant for you. Or decide to accept such opinions humorously and with a grain of salt. Laugh at yourself, and your «I will do what I please with my own wedding» attitude. It’s only a wedding after all, and not your entire life. It does not reflect your entire relationship with your loved ones. In the end weddings should unify families, not tear them apart.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones, and have fun planning!
P.S. Do you have a complicated situation with your loved ones involving your wedding, and my blog has not helped you find a solution? Contact me by email at email@example.com and describe the problem. In 24 hours you will receive a personalized strategy directly from me that will help you solve the problem.