A fabulous guest post from wedding planner Evie at The Country Blush today about how to include your family when planning your wedding – enjoy!
Weddings are such an exciting time for everyone involved – of course you, the couple, will be looking forward to the big day, but you’ll also find that friends and family are thrilled about the upcoming wedding! You may have always dreamt of your wedding growing up; suit fittings, make up trials, all of your family there to support you, everyone getting along. I hate to burst that bubble, but in reality, that isn’t always the case!
Why do weddings sometimes bring out the worst in people? For many, it is their first time organising a wedding; there is a lot to think about and everything is a new experience for you. This can cause people a lot of stress (we do tend to be creatures of habit and are most confident doing things within our comfort zone!), coupled with everyone else around you – it can feel a bit overwhelming. You might find married friends keep offering you advice, or that family are always telling you what they did, and how you should do it! Just remember, that they’re coming from a good place (mostly!!) and they think that they’re helping you – when in reality it can cause greater angst for the nearlyweds!
Family dynamics will inevitably change throughout the planning process, but there are some easy things for you to do that can alleviate any unnecessary stress and ensure that you remain on everyone’s Christmas card list!
The Situation– one set of parents is hosting the wedding
Holding your wedding at your family home is such a lovely idea, one that many people dream of whilst growing up. You can’t find a more special place to get married than your childhood home. However, it can come with its own set of difficulties. The hosting family can often feel pressure; their house and gardens will be on display and they want to make sure it looks its best. It can also lead to tension between the two families; if one set of parents is hosting, then the other family may feel left out, or resent the fact that they can’t get as involved as the hosting family.
The Solution – Make sure that your family are 110% happy with hosting the wedding before any planning begins. Ensure they know the number of attendees, whether you’re expecting people to camp, how late you want the party to go on to, if you want any quirky suppliers like fire breathers or alpacas! An honest conversation at the very start of the planning process will save awkwardness later.
Consider who will run the wedding on the day; at a venue you often have a venue co-ordinator who will be there to ensure that the day runs smoothly and is a point of contact for all suppliers. When you’re hosting at home, that responsibility often lands on the hosting family; they will want to be relaxing and enjoying the day celebrating with you!
The Situation – financial support comes with conditions
Weddings can be very expensive, and as an engaged couple you are grateful for any financial help that you receive. However, sometimes this financial support can come with strings attached. For example, a grandparent may offer to pay for the wedding dress, but then expect to have a say in what it looks like (even if a full lace sleeve isn’t your thing!), or your parents may request a number of their own guests at your wedding if they’re paying for it.
The Solution – Talking about money is an uncomfortable experience for most people, but make sure that everyone is clear on what is being offered from the start. Make it clear (in a kind way) that you’re very grateful for the financial support, but that you will be using it to create your day. If you get the feeling (or it’s openly said) that the money comes with conditions that you’re not happy with, you must politely decline. It’s hard saying no to kind offers of financial support, but is it worth it if you have to compromise on your day? Consider saving for longer before the wedding, or by allocating your budget in a different way so that you get your way. If it’s a guest list from your parents as they’re hosting the wedding – see what you’re happy to compromise on. It could be that they want to invite the neighbours to the evening reception out of politeness (and it saves on any noise complaints!)
The Situation – choosing your wedding party
Choosing your wedding party is such an exciting part of planning your wedding and you may find that it’s a really easy decision, but sometimes it can cause upset right at the start of planning. You may have an older sister who is desperate to be your maid of honour, but you would rather have her children as your flower girls/pageboys. It could be that you have a large circle of friends, but you only want a select few to be in your wedding party on the day.
The Solution – Communication here is key! Make sure that everyone knows from very early on, if they are/aren’t in your wedding party. It can be really awkward to say to someone that they’re not a bridesmaid, so pick a way that takes their feelings into account, but also gets the point across. If it’s someone that you’re really close to, but you don’t want a huge wedding party – don’t forget other ways that you could include them in your special day. You could ask them to do a reading, write a speech for the reception, be your witness, or even be a part of a handfasting ceremony. If they have a special talent they could sing while you sign the register, make the favours for your guests or bake your wedding cake. These are also great ways to include parents that aren’t hosting the wedding.
The Situation – Separated/divorced parents
As a wedding planner, I’m not entirely naïve; I do realise that not all marriages last forever. Whilst it isn’t on the radar for the couple themselves, it could affect their wedding plans if either, or both sets of, parents are separated. Divorced parents add an extra dimension to the family dynamics of wedding planning. Who will be on the top table? Where will people sit in the ceremony? Who will walk me down the aisle? All of these can cause disagreements between family and even cause quite a bit of upset. However, everyone needs to remember whose wedding day it is.
The Solution – You might see a theme here, but I strongly recommend talking to family about these decisions way before the big day. At the end of the day, I personally believe that everyone needs to put their differences aside for their child/children and to be civil, but I do appreciate that this isn’t always the case. When it comes to the top table – have who you like! Have all parents and step-parents (your wedding planner will be able to help you create the perfect seating plan), just biological parents, or even none of them! You could sit with your wedding parties, or by yourselves on a sweetheart table. Similarly, during your ceremony you can sit people wherever you like. Maybe have one parent and partner on the front row, with the other behind – or even all on the front row if they get on. You know your family and what they are/aren’t happy with. When it comes to walking you down the aisle (if you’re being given away) you should choose who you want. Obviously, this can often be easier said than done, but just make sure that you are clear with everyone about what is going to happen so that there are no surprises nearer the day, and people haven’t assumed something else!
The Situation – absent loved ones at weddings
In an ideal world we would have all of our loved ones at our wedding; however, we know that this isn’t always possible. This could be because they are no longer with us, or because you’ve chosen not to invite them. Now, it’s the second scenario that is more likely to be a topic of discussion amongst your family! Sometimes parents don’t realise that although they were close to all 15 of their cousins growing up, you may have only met them once at a family Christmas, and so may be less willing to spend £85 a head to invite them to your wedding day! You may also have a venue with very limited guest numbers, so you’re unable to invite every single one of your friends, or every aunt and uncle. Be prepared that your family may take it personally if you’re less keen to invite someone who is super special to them – but remember it is your day (even if they’re helping to finance it!)
The Solution – Before choosing your venue, you need to work out your budget and your priorities as a couple. Once you have established how much you have to spend and how much of that you are willing to spend on venue/guests, then you can begin to sit down and work out who you might like to attend. At this very early stage, I would recommend talking to your close family to see if there is anyone that they would especially like to attend; making it clear if they have a set number of guests that they can choose, or if you will invite them if you have room. I don’t necessarily believe that you need to let guests know that they’re not invited, but your parents may wish to let their loved ones know. I personally wouldn’t assume I was invited to any wedding until I received a save the date or invite! If it’s a case of being unable to invite people that you’d like to attend, then perhaps you could invite them to the evening reception instead? When it comes to absent family and friends, there are lovely ways that you can include them in your special day; with photographs on display, perhaps a seat reserved at the ceremony, by raising a glass to them in the toasts or even with a miniature photo in your bouquet. Just make sure that you respect each other’s absent family and friends in similarly appropriate ways.
The Situation – children attending weddings
Children at weddings causes massive debate amongst family and friends – and even strangers! You may have nieces and nephews or Godchildren who you love to pieces, but may not want attending your wedding. Some parents may be ecstatic to have a day off, whereas others may take it to heart that you haven’t invited their children along too.
The Solution – Talk about it! Make sure that you are clear on which children, if any, are being invited to your wedding – and to what part. Let parents know as far in advance as you can, so that they can either arrange childcare or work out the logistics of bringing children to your wedding. Be prepared for some guests to politely decline your invite if their children aren’t invited; you must respect their decision, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. Whatever your situation, this is something that you will probably have to face head on, even if you normally shy away from confrontation.
The Situation – your Mum/MIL take over wedding planning
As I said in my introduction – you’ll find that your friends and family may be just as excited as you about your upcoming nuptials! You may find that your Mum or MIL are trying to take control and plan the wedding for you. They may be telling you what flowers to have, where to buy your outfit from, what food to serve and who to invite. But remember, it is your wedding! As lovely as it is that they are happy for you and want to be involved, it can be really testing if you’re the couple.
The Solution – We all have our limits of how much interfering (whether good natured, or not) that we can take – but my advice to you is to make sure that you nip it in the bud long before it gets to that point. If it’s your own mum, you may find it a bit easier to say how you feel and discuss their involvement in the planning process. If it’s your partner’s family, then you can either speak to them yourself or ask your partner to. However, you go about it, it is crucial that you speak to them to let them know how you feel, you don’t want resentment to build! Make sure that you acknowledge their help/enthusiasm for your big day, but say that you’ll ask for their help when you need it. You could also decide to ask for their advice on a certain area of wedding planning, or even leave them in charge with something (as long as your comfortable with this). You may ask them to sort out activity packs for the children, or to be in charge of sorting breakfasts for the wedding party before the ceremony; this helps them to feel involved, whilst also allowing you to feel like you’re in charge.
This article may seem a bit doom and gloom, but it’s not intended to be! I wanted to highlight that it is normal for the dynamics between your family and friends to change and come under some strain during wedding planning; however, there are easy ways to avoid this escalating. As a wedding planner, my job is to help support you throughout the planning process, including navigating family relationships. Sometimes you need someone to offer an outside perspective and to help with balancing people’s varying opinions. Whether you have a wedding planner or not, just remember to talk to your family and friends, so that anything is solved before it becomes an issue. They all want the best for you, and for you to have the day that you have always dreamed of!
Evie is a wedding and event planner who specialises in organising celebrations in marquee and dry-hire venues across the South East. She offers a range of wedding planning services; from full planning, to on the day co-ordination, to consultancy support. She loves getting to know all of her clients, as well as their friends and families; in order to create truly bespoke events. To find out more, or to get in touch, have a look at The Country Blush or she’s on Instagram @thecountryblush