When you dreamed about your wedding, did you ever think so many people would be involved in the process? Your mother is hurt because you won’t be wearing her wedding dress. Your maid of honor has forgotten it is your wedding–not hers. Your fiance’s family thinks the wedding plans are looking too formal. How will you choose the flower girls when you have six cousins who are the right age, but you only need two?
“These are the landmines that often hit brides out of left field,” said Elizabeth Thomas, co-founder of www.thefirstdance.com. “After planning our wedding and finding out the hard way that there were lots of people who had strong feelings about certain aspects of ‘our’ day, I wondered if there were other brides out there feeling the same way. I found out there were tons of them. My father and I decided to build this website to help engaged couples manage the people stress of wedding planning and have more wisdom to carry over to their marriage.”
Checklists can’t predict which wedding tasks and which people in your life have an emotion, opinion, or stake in how that task is completed. To make matters worse, sometimes the person with the emotion or opinion doesn’t even know it until a FINAL DECISION is made or it’s too late. Thomas found this out when her wedding invitations arrived.
“I was so excited!” Thomas said. “I went into the living room to show my dad. Keep in mind that up to this point he had not seen nor expressed any interest in the invitations. He took one look at the wedding invitation and panicked! He started moving from room to room, but no matter what lighting he was in they were too difficult to read. They were unique invitations with red ink on red paper, orange ink on orange paper and yellow ink on yellow paper. We have a ton of middle-aged and older guests who will have similar eyesight to my father. Reprinting the invitations was out of the question. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment!”
Ask any bride what they are experiencing and underneath the “it’s my day, my way” mentality is the desire to have a joyous wedding planning experience. Nobody enjoys making their mom angry, stressing their dad about invitations or frustrating their groom. Some brides get so stressed out trying to maintain their ground that they just give up and let someone else have the final say.
After surviving her own wedding, Thomas believes there are ways couples can intentionally make the wedding planning experience pleasant for everyone involved. Here are a few suggestions:
To the bride: Over-communicate about wedding plans that involve your groom. Whether you two agree that he’ll do a few tasks or you’re looking for his opinion on something, if he has no clue then he will have no idea what the decision is about, who is impacted by it, the work involved and the timing of the task. Huge breakdowns happen when grooms are not given specifics around tasks and the bride invariably believes he doesn’t care or is not being supportive enough.
To the parents: Keep your cool when others lose theirs. It’s not your wedding, but you do have a stake in it. Don’t be passive or pushy. Recognize that money is more than money. It’s about emotion, relationships, loyalty, obligation, influence, control, and competition. Money should not trump relationships. Don’t use it to blackmail, threaten, or manipulate—or you will pay a big price.
Know your role in decisions. There are three general roles:
Roles will vary issue by issue and family by family, but should be as clear as possible to avoid problems. Sometimes clarity only comes after a disagreement or conflict.
“I think the best wedding day is when the people you care about most in life feel loved, heard and valued,” Thomas said. “Every wedding checklist item is ultimately about your values, about communicating those values with your spouse and about, well, married life! Weddings, like marriage, involve hundreds of routine decisions, big and small, involving small and large sums of money, and require a lot of work. The outcome of the planning and wedding day itself will stay with you and your loved ones forever. It can change your relationships for better or worse and set the stage for how you go through life in the future.”