The entanglement of your parent’s expectations and your own is a complicated symphony of nostalgia, social norms, and ego. So it’s not surprising to find that the complexity runs so deep that you may not even know where your true desires start and your parents desires end. But just how involved should parents be in wedding planning?
I have heard from so many couples that they have simply “given in” to the pressures because they a) love their parents and want them to be happy, b) need their parents to help them pay for their wedding, and c) felt like it just wasn’t a big enough deal to draw a hard line in the sand.
But remember, my friend — it’s your wedding, so it also needs to be rooted in your rituals.
Before you discuss anything with your folks, it’s important for you and your partner to discuss the level of involvement you’re comfortable with the parental units having. In particular, you may find that the more financial assistance your parents are willing to contribute to your celebration of L-O-V-E, the greater the level of involvement they will expect to have in the planning process. This could mean they expect to have greater sway on the venue you choose, your guest list, heck, even the Cabernet Sauvignon you select!
You know your family best, and if you feel like this could cause some uncomfortable confrontations moving forward, it will be up to you to lay down the ground rules clearly and put some boundaries in place. Make sure to discuss with your partner what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. With your wedding purpose defined, you’ll know exactly where you stand and can support each other as you communicate those wedding non-negotiables you already discussed.
Once you and your partner get clear on your priorities and boundaries, its time to chat with your parents to set expectations about their involvement and also to share your purpose and vision for your wedding with them.
“There’s far more navigating of people’s feelings than I expected, I have a mom and a stepmom, who are like best friends, so that’s having a mom in stereo. Both email or call every day with suggestions.”- Alexa Smith
Within my family situation, I’m a bit of a wild card child and like keep everybody on their toes — my parents are rarely phased by my latest and greatest idea or scheme. I realise that may not be the case for you and that your situation may be totally different from mine. Perhaps you have a liberal set of parents on one side, and one extremely conservative set on the other (I’m imagining Grace and Frankie) and the thought of breaking the news about your not-so-traditional wedding plans to your parents may feel a little daunting. So let’s start with a little pep-talk shall we?
If you’re old enough to get married…
… Then you’re old enough to have a grown-up conversation with your parents about what you want. And yes, this is exactly how you can approach any pushback from your familial units. (I give you my permission!) At some point in your life your parents need to see you as the mature, autonomous adult you have become, and standing up to them and speaking directly about what you want is the perfect place to start setting some ground rules for the respect you expect from them from this point on. Naturally, this respect goes both ways and you should be mindful to approach sensitive topics (such as religion or cultural traditions) with care, but know that it’s perfectly A-OK to be firm on your boundaries and autonomy.
Secondly, the reason you dedicated time to define your purpose for your wedding was to help you navigate any situations with the potential to cause conflict. Here’s the thing about purpose: it’s defendable. So when you tell your parents, “The purpose of our wedding is to allow both of our families an opportunity to get to know each our better. So our vision is to have a casual, potluck style picnic, where guests will be encouraged to bring their favourite traditional dish. Since budget won’t be an issue, it means we’ll be able to invite all of our extended family members, and, the food will facilitate conversation and the sharing of family traditions with the other side. We imagine it to be like any other family gathering with the crazy talking and silly games we love to play together, except this time we’ll be combining the crazy talking and silly games from both families.” Who could argue with that?
It’s foolproof, baby! When you’re clear on your purpose, you’ll notice that you are better able to handle these situations, comfortably manoeuvring around the influence of the infamous parent trap. You will feel free to plan the wedding you really want to have, one that is meaningful and unique to you! And because you are so crystal clear as to why you have decided to have a wedding this way, your parents will be so captivated by the way that you have chosen to celebrate your story…. That they will forget they ever expected your wedding to be any other way.
TL;DR – The Parent Trap Actionables
You will need to have a mature, and firm conversation with anyone in your life who might try to push on the boundaries of your wedding vision. Fear not, you got this! I promise. And if you need a quick snapshot of the actionables, here you go:
Define your vision before you do anything else. Knowing your priorities makes it easy to decline ideas that don’t match your vision.
Understand the Cost of your decisions, because every time you say “yes” to one thing, you say “no” to something else (it’s called Opportunity Cost). So before you say “yes”, ask yourself what is the cost; what will you be missing out on?
Preempt confrontations and be prepared with your response.
Practice your response to build up that “no” muscle. It will make it easier when the situation comes up IRL.
Buy yourself some time by agreeing to think about it. If you’re feeling challenged to decline a request right away, say “That’s a great suggestion! We’ll definitely think about it and see how it fits with our vision.” Then, follow-up with a short text to explain why you decided against it if you feel it’s necessary, or, rehearse your response for if it happens to be raised again.
Don’t apologise — there is no shame in having a clear vision for your wedding day.
Now, over to you!
I would love to hear about your experience of planning your wedding so far! Have you dealt with any uncomfortable situations with the parentals? What’s coming up for you? Share with me here.