How's this for an understatement: Planning your wedding is a big deal. You are planning one of the most important days of your life. Your wedding day is a celebration of love and commitment you only get to experience once. Twice if you're lucky. (Just kidding.)
Then why is that sacred day, associated with white lace and drunken second cousins, so stressful?
(Parents of brides, you may want to stop reading and pick up at the next parenthetical.)
It's the parents.
Mom, dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandma, grandpa -- every last one of them has something to add. An opinion. A retort. A request. Or was it a demand? Oh, nothing can add the blues to your something old, something new and something borrowed like family.
(Parents may resume reading.)
Our families may drive us crazy, but their hearts are in the right place. In the words of a loving mother I saw when I was shamefully watching "Say Yes to the Dress," "I'm going to give my daughter the wedding of her dreams, whether she likes it or not." Remember that your parents are only looking out for your best interest -- or what they think is in your best interest.
"A wedding is a precedent-setting event, and the choices you make set the tone for future relationships," says Anna Post, an etiquette expert at The Emily Post Institute. How well you work with your parents and your future in-laws during the wedding-planning process dictates the strength of your relationships in the future. If you whine and cry to get your way now, expect your loved ones to treat you like a child later. Look at your wedding as an opportunity to have your parents see you as an equal and grow your parent-child relationship into a solid friendship.
It's important to keep in mind that the problems in planning a wedding don't come from contrasting opinions between you and your parents. They come from the way you and your parents express these contrasting opinions. Every time you sit down with your family to talk about the wedding, the goal must be for both you and your loved ones to approach the discussion with respect and courtesy, minding that holiest of holy words: compromise.
"Some couples go into total black-and-white mode, either capitulating to their parents' wishes or adopting an 'it's our wedding day, and we'll do it any way we please' attitude," warns Maureen Thomson, wedding officiant and owner of Lyssabeth's Wedding Officiants. "Both of these are viable options, but I warn you: The former may have you chastising yourselves for years because the ceremony was not 'yours,' and the latter might cause you to be filled with regret down the road for not showing the slightest respect for your parents' preferences."
The best approach to planning a wedding with your family is to be crystal clear on what you want and what you will not bend on. Calm down, rabid bridezillas. This is not a permission slip to demand your every whim, climb your cake tower and throw poisonous bouquets at your mother's dreams.
Remember: compromise. Tell your parents how grateful you are for their help before you lay out your demands. This is not a hostage situation; it can be a fun and relaxed process. Choose your battles, and be selective. Pick five musts. They can be whatever you want: flowers, band, theme, officiant, guest list, colors, wedding party, future spouse. Pick five, only five, and be willing to bend on the rest. Seriously, take a yoga class. A successful wedding requires flexibility from everyone.
Planning a wedding with your family can bring you even closer to those who love you most. Work your hardest to make this a positive experience. However, whether the process is positive or not, it's always best to end on a good note. During your wedding, take a moment to honor your family. Thank them in a speech or a poem; give them gifts; or dedicate a song to the people who helped create your big day. It's the best way to ensure those wedding-planning spats will become distant memories. Who really cares what color your chargers are, anyway?