Wedding planning: How to deal with the in-laws
Dealing with your future in-laws can be a hurdle when you are planning a wedding.
There is a fine line between exciting and stressful, and in the months and days leading up to your wedding, you’ll find yourself straddling that line on a regular basis. Planning a wedding is often a collaborative effort — like it or not. You and your future husband will be juggling your own wishes along with the opinions of your parents, your wedding party, and, of course, the in-laws. If you want to keep your head on straight in the months to come, learning how to tackle the soon-to-be in-laws is critical. So what’s a bride-to-be to do if she wants to make it to the ‘I do’s?
Marriage is all about compromise, so let’s just look at this challenge as a crash course in diplomacy. Remember: these people are going to be your family… soon. Take a look at three common in-law wedding planning problems, and how to cope:
1. They are paying, so they aren’t listening to what you’re saying. Nowadays, wedding expenses aren’t always assigned to the bride’s parents. If the groom’s parents have offered to finance your big day, they might feel entitled to loudly voice their opinions about the wedding plans. While it is very generous of them to offer to pick up the tab, it is still your wedding, and you have probably been dreaming about this day since you were a little girl. To minimize tensions, sit down to create a wedding budget with your soon-to-be in-laws. Making a budget should always be the first step in wedding planning, and you really have to commit to sticking to the budget that you set. This discussion isn’t meant to cover every aspect of the event — just get some basics out on the table. What is most important to you and your fiancé? A large guest list, or a very formal sit-down dinner at a country club? A church service, or a sea-side exchanging of vows? Make sure that his parents understand what type of event you are envisioning, and then give them the opportunity to express what is most important to them. You have to be willing to compromise — after all, they are funding the event — and even if they weren’t, they are still the parents of the groom. If it means a lot to them to have a receiving line after the ceremony because they have many out-of-town relatives who will be eager to meet you, then you might want to oblige, even if you think it is somewhat of a waste of time. You should also be prepared to let them invite a third of the guests (you and your fiancé invite another third, and your parents should get the remaining third). They shouldn’t be holding the fact they are paying over your heads. If you are feeling smothered, try to communicate to them that you really appreciate their input, but you have a clear plan in mind. If they’re unreasonably keeping strings attached to the offer, then you might want to reconsider their proposal to pay. Usually you will find that their intentions are good, and if you approach them in a diplomatic way, they will back off — at least a little. You don’t want to get walked all over, because this could foreshadow your relationship with them once you are married — and bad habits can be hard to break!
2. They are divorced, and not happily. Having divorced parents can be a real hurdle, especially if things ended very bitterly, or if the divorce is recent, or there is animosity about a remarriage. When I was getting married, my parents were actually about a month away from being officially divorced… so it was indeed a sticky situation. The problem that can often arise out of this dilemma is that his parents are letting your happiness be overshadowed by their spiteful feelings for each other. Try to understand that this is a tough position for them to be in — they both want to be there for there son, but they don’t want to deal with their ex. Try to involve them in separate aspects of the planning — maybe his mom could go with you to pick out invitations, and his dad could pick out a spot for the rehearsal dinner. When you are mapping out the wedding day, don’t seat them next to each other at the ceremony or the reception, and don’t make them take pictures together. As long as they both feel valued and important, the animosity should be low. If you are worried about an ugly scene developing, don’t be afraid to confront them about your concerns beforehand. You want to cherish the memory of this day as a joyous celebration, not an embarrassing catastrophe, and if they can’t agree to be civil, then they shouldn’t be there.
3. They don’t approve of the marriage. First of all, what is their gripe? Do they think you are too young, or that you haven’t been together long enough? Before you get defensive, make sure that they are actually wrong. You should never go into a marriage for the purpose of proving someone else wrong. On the other hand, if you don’t see any validity to their objections, then do your best to include them in the celebration, and hope that they come along. You might try writing them a letter expressing your love and commitment for their son, and your strong desire to get their parents blessing. The bottom line is that you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so don’t make an angry phone call that you will end up regretting. Hopefully, they will see that the two of you are very much in love, and that they do not want to miss the most important day of their son’s life, even if they have their reservations.
Always remember — your fiancé’s parents raised him to be the wonderful man that you fell in love with, so they can’t be all bad! Good luck!