Although the wedding belongs to the bride and groom, both of their families tend to bring their own expectations to the table. How can you and your intended one plan the wonderful wedding you want, while remaining sensitive to your extended families?
1) Let tradition rescue you!
Dozens of etiquette books clearly delineate the fiscal and practical responsibilities of weddings. Often, tradition can be helpful in defining wedding planning roles, responsibilities, and personal boundaries for all the players.
For example, the groom’s family traditionally hosts the rehearsal dinner, and the bride’s family hosts the wedding and reception. The groom generally pays the preacher or officiant, and the wedding party often covers their own attire and expenses.
Of course, these duties may vary, according to family finances and the age and level of independence of the bride and groom.
The point is this: if your parents are paying for your wedding, then you owe them at least the courtesy of expressing their opinions. Of course, you will likely have some strong ideas and non-negotiable decisions to make. Even so, are there some areas on which you might concede, so that your family (and your intended’s family) can feel needed and valued?
Blended families may experience considerably greater complications, as parents, stepparents and even children become involved in the planning. For instance, when my friend married a man with five children, she had to decide quickly whether she would invite his daughters to be junior bridesmaids. She opted to do so, but many brides do not.
For a second wedding, all bets are off. Usually, the marrying pair is on their own to determine how things will run . . . and to fund the festivities.
2) Honor your own family.
Family traditions, faith, and customs are worth preserving, if possible. If you can, try to include at least a sampling of each family’s heritage in your plans.
Without doubt, this is your wedding, and the major choices belong to the two of you, as a couple. Even so, you might put your heads together and come up with a few creative ideas for allowing your family to participate in the planning and preparations.
Even if you marry outside your faith or nationality, you can find ways to incorporate some of your family’s principles into your proceedings. Your family will respect you and your fiancé, if you do.
Will you include clergy representing both families? What about wearing your grandmother’s veil? How about carrying some of the same kinds of flowers that your mother did for her own wedding? If these people are dear to you, is there some way you might like to honor them?
A bride traditionally carries “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” This custom offers four creative ways for the bride to include family history and lore in a most personal way.
3) Honor your fiance’s family.
The same holds true for the other side of the family. Try to add some of their ingredients into the mix as well. Perhaps you might invite their pastor, priest, or rabbi to participate in the ceremony in some way, or ask a musician they love to perform.
As the bride, have you considered inviting one of your groom’s relatives to be a bridesmaid, flower girl, or guest book attendant?
As the groom, have you thought about tapping one of the bride’s family members to be a groomsman, ring bearer, or usher?
4) Make your wedding your own.
As a marrying couple, you will want to begin creating your own memories. Think of ways you can make your own mark together. Perhaps you will write your own marriage vows, create a poem together for your invitations of printed programs, or devise a special party favor for your guests. Maybe you will dance together to your special song.
Planning a wedding requires countless choices. Think of ways you can allow each family to make some of these, and retain the most important ones for you and your fiancé to determine together.
5) Try to enjoy the day.
As much as you can, when the day finally arrives, try to let all the pre-wedding negotiations go, as the wedding begins. Whatever has gone before, attempt to enjoy the event as a couple and with both families.
All too quickly, the cake will be sliced, the bouquet will be tossed, and you will be on your way to the honeymoon to begin your life together.
6) Take the long-range view, if possible.
The wedding is simply the beginning of what will hopefully become a lifetime with your fiancé, as well as his or her family. Starting out smoothly with the family will quite possibly add years to your marriage! (Whether they mean to or not, in-laws can make or break a marriage!)