Parents; you love them, yes, but their vision on what your wedding should look and feel like does not necessarily complement yours. A wedding can be a hugely exciting, emotional time for parents and sometimes their best intentions can come off as interfering. I know when – or should that read ‘if’ – my daughters get married I’ll have to have very strong words with myself to stop myself over-stepping the mark from helpful to interfering.
So, here are some handy tips on how to deal with mums, dads, steppies, or any other significant elder to prevent conflict during the planning and wedding itself.
If they offer to contribute to the wedding budget, ensure expectations are discussed before accepting
Try to do this as a couple if you can, and say something along the lines of ‘We are so grateful for your generous offer. We just want to check whether you have anything in particular that you want to see included in our wedding.’ If you find they have a shopping list of inclusions, you may decide to politely forgo their offer by emphasising that you’d prefer a more modest wedding that fits your vision. It’s much better to know about this up-front, than start planning and find out that they want to invite 50 of their closest friends.
If they are critical of your choices, reinforce how their criticisms make you feel
I hear this a lot; a parent who is verbal in their disappointment that their son or daughter isn’t getting married in a church or that they think your colour scheme is all wrong. Be explicit with them as to how their criticisms make you feel – be honest, yet calm, and use wording such as ‘when you say [this], it makes me feel like [this]’. You may also want to think about an advocate who can be a bit of a go-between, such as an relative or godparent who has a good relationship with the parent.
Give them a job to do
Being involved can really make a parent feel useful and will help them buy into your vision. Choose something which plays to their strengths. Do they have a skill? Is your mother creative and therefore able to make confetti cones? Is your father-in-law great at DIY and able to make an arbor? Even jobs like making the wedding favours will give them a sense of purpose and help them feel engaged in the process. Alternatively, why not ask them to curate a photo display for you – there’s some fantastic ideas here.
Include them in the ceremony
Traditionally, it was only really the father of the bride who had a formal role in the ceremony. There’s many further ways you can involves your parents or significant elders in the ceremony.
- Ask them to do a reading – it could be the two mothers or fathers together as a way of helping them to get to know each other a bit better
- Get the groom to walk both mothers up the aisle, or alternatively, ask the grooms’ parents to walk the groom and the brides’ parents to walk the bride up the aisle
- If your parents have a long and happy marriage, ask your celebrant to recognise this within the ceremony
- Provide your parents with corsages, flower bracelets, lapel flowers, or similar with flowers with meaning that is relevant to your relationship with them, and ask your celebrant to mention this during the ceremony
- Choose your parents to be witnesses and/or ring bearers
- How about your mums or grandmothers as flower-girls, like these adorable two http://www.today.com/style/these-grandmothers-are-world-s-most-adorable-flower-girls-t100785
- If there is a particular family tradition or culture, consider including this within the ceremony. For example, I’ve conducted a non-Jewish wedding, where we including the breaking of the glass in acknowledgement of the bride’s ancestry or a wedding for a Greek bride where they exchanged crowns.
I have many examples where families have been vocal in their disappointment in the bride and grooms choices prior to the wedding day. In all these cases, I have watched the parents view the dressed ceremony space for the first time and fall in love with it, then watched them laugh, relax and enjoy the ceremony.
I’d like to share with you an extract from a letter written to me by a mother of the bride after the wedding ceremony. ‘I feel so bad that I was so upset that my daughter and son-in-law were not marrying in our church. Now I can see that their wedding was 100% right for them and I had many of my friends say it was the very best wedding they’d ever been to. I cannot thank you enough for the perfect ceremony you conducted‘.
Be confident in your choices – trust your instinct, and enjoy your day.