While it’s never any fun to deal with a difficult family member, it is particularly painful when you are stressed yourself. Perhaps there is no time less pleasant to be coping with that chronic complainer than when you are planning your wedding. Not only are the months and weeks leading up to a wedding demanding and difficult for the bride and groom, but there is something about wedding planning that elicits in people the desire to give their opinions about everything, from the wedding venue to the bridal party palette. As well-intentioned as these folks may be, unsolicited advice can wreak havoc on those who are already feeling pressured and tense.
Here are some tips for dealing with difficult family members during your wedding planning process.
Keep in mind that they love you and want you to be happy. When family members are difficult, remember that they love you and they want you to be happy. While it’s true that their idea of what would make you happy and what makes you happy may differ, sometimes all that is required is a gentle reminder. Getting angry and starting an argument that increases your level of pre-wedding anxiety and draws attention away from the issue at hand is unproductive. Instead, say calmly, “I understand what you are suggesting, but this is what I want. This is what will make me happy.” Leave it at that and walk away, and hopefully, it will provide your family member with food for thought.
Parents, in particular, often see you as an extension of themselves and have difficulty differentiating their dreams for you from your dreams for yourself. Sometimes understanding their fears and concerns will help you develop a healthier perspective regarding ways to balance your parents “demands” and determining your own path.
Pick your battles. Not everything in the wedding planning process is worthy of a huge blow-up. If your mother has her heart set on wearing a floor length dress of pink taffeta reminiscent of some 80s Molly Ringwald movie and you would prefer that she chose a chic chiffon Azazie gown in blush, it might be worth considering who it means more to. Yes, it is your wedding day, but giving in to something relatively small might make her happier than insisting on your way would make you. Conceding on some trivial issues might win you points when you are looking to wage more difficult conflicts in the future.
Stand your ground when it matters. The flip side of the “pick your battles” coin is that some things are too significant to allow others to decide. If you and your intended are atheists and it is important to you to have a non-religious ceremony, then don’t hesitate to do what you want, despite your father’s insistence that you must be married in his church by his officiant. Some things are non-negotiable, and it is a good idea to sit down with your fiance before you begin wedding planning to decide what cannot be compromised at your wedding so that you can provide a unified front to potential family resistance.
Give everyone a role. Sometimes family members are difficult because they feel left out and want to be part of your big day, but aren’t sure how to get involved with interfering. As a bride, you have many things to do, and surely you can find a chore for even the most bothersome family member. Maybe they can schedule appointments for you or find an affordable seamstress near your home, or perhaps there is a repetitive task you’ve been avoiding. Your annoying cousin might be an excellent candidate to address and seal all of those envelopes, and your uncle might be willing to build the photo booth for your reception. Sometimes being needed is all that is required to make a person feel connected.
Remember that money has power. It is your wedding, but if your parents (or his) are paying for your wedding, then you must recognize that they are going to want some input. It is not fair to expect them to pick up the tab, while you are not making any comprises whatsoever. If there is something that is extremely important to you and they are unmoving, then you may have to find a way to pay for it yourself or find a less expensive alternative to what you want. This is a difficult concept for many brides and grooms to accept, so you may as well begin now.
Try not to stress about the little things. While this is a very important day for you, it is just one day. Ongoing conflicts over wedding details are not advisable when you remember that these are people who will be part of your life for the balance of your life. The most important thing is learning to relate these people, along with your soon-to-be spouse. Make compromises where you can, and take a break when you feel yourself losing control. Sometimes stepping away from a situation is all that is needed to put it in perspective. Treat everyone as respectfully as you can and try not to give ultimatums.
Remember that weddings are stressful for everyone. Your parents are seeing their baby grow up and engage in one of the last rites of adulthood. Your in-laws are preparing to welcome you and your spouse, as a couple, into their family, forever shifting their role in your life and your role in theirs. Everyone who loves you has a vested interest in your happiness, so try to set aside any hard feelings and focus on all of the positives.
Do you have any suggestions for dealing with difficult family members during wedding planning? Feel free to share.