Now that you are engaged and wedding planning has begun, it seems like everyone has an opinion about your nuptials: Which location is best, why you should wait until 2022, and why the wedding cannot, we repeat cannot be anywhere near your cousin Ashley’s wedding. And while support is wonderful and welcomed, too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to a whole lot of unnecessary stress. The reality is, there will always be certain people’s opinions that weigh in much more heavily than others (especially if they are contributing financially) and some views that have no place even taking up space in your brain. Here are our favorite tips to navigate the slew of “advice” you are about to hear as you embark on your planning journey, and how to manage family involvement in a healthy way before planning starts:
Step 1: Discuss Your Priorities as a Couple: Take time to do this with your fiance, before you chat with anyone else in your family about the big day. Grab a glass of wine and do our Kick-Off Worksheet to talk about your vision, priorities, must-haves, and deal-breakers. Download it here.
Step 2: Discuss your priorities with your families, then discuss their needs. Plan a time to sit down with each side of your immediate families to discuss your wedding vision. Tell them your priorities and ask if there is anything particularly important to them. Everyone has an opinion, and sometimes it varies from your own, but remember to listen. Not everything will be decided on today. It is simply a time to discuss. Feel free to include your families’ priorities on the Notes page of the Kick-Off worksheet as well.
Step 3: Determine who is financially contributing. It is not easy to have financial conversations, but it is critical to ensure communication is smooth from the start. After step 2, ask your families if they have planned to contribute financially or want to help in any other way. If they are generously contributing to costs, determine the process of decision making and hiring vendors. Do your parents want to pay as they go and does that mean they must approve all vendors beforehand? What vendors are extremely important investments for them? Or alternatively, will they provide you with a certain amount to use as you see fit? We love this article in Vogue, sharing etiquette suggestions on how to best have this conversation, and who traditionally pays for what. Keep in mind, anything goes these days. The most important thing is having this conversation with a sense of gratitude and sincere appreciation, regardless of their ability to contribute. Perhaps you are paying for the entire wedding yourselves, (now almost 69% of couples) but you still want your family’s input or to give them a role? If so, see step 4.
Step 4: Delegate & Appreciate. Even if tasks are small, people feel good when they are involved. Perhaps your mom wants to help, but your opinions differ. Delegate the rehearsal dinner planning or welcome bag making to her, so she can be creative and thoughtful. Remember to think about people’s strengths. If your fiance’s father is a lawyer, he is probably great at reviewing contracts. Show your gratitude for their efforts every step of the way, with thank you notes, small gifts or whatever makes them feel appreciated.
Step 5: Navigating Other’s Opinions. Everyone loves to share what they did for their wedding – so you’ll hear opinions about what worked well and what wasn’t so easy. And the thing is, some of that information is extremely valid and helpful, and some of it may not apply to your wedding at all. For example, perhaps your coworker shows you a phenomenal layout from her sister’s wedding, that just so happens to be in the same venue as yours. Can you use it? Maybe, but take into consideration a few things first – did they have the same guest count? Was it the same time of year or timing? Did they need a band stage like you do? Do you want a photo booth and they didn’t have one? There are so many factors that play into each individual event so take your own priorities into consideration before taking advice. And if you hear opinions that truly concern you, communicate with your vendors. For example, one of our couple’s parents went to a wedding as guests, and they felt there was not enough food at cocktail hour. They let me know their concerns about this for their own daughter’s wedding. So we had a nice conversation with their catering team to ensure they were aware of this concern. There’s nothing wrong with constructive advice or criticism, but make sure you apply it to your venue, your group, your vision, and your budget. If it doesn’t seem to fit into any of those categories, let it go.
When other’s opinions become overwhelming, always go back to your priorities. Take a moment to review your Kick-Off worksheet with your fiance and revisit what has always been most important to YOU. Make all final decisions together in a way that feels natural to you both. In the end, this is your celebration. And, if it all get’s too overwhelming and you need some objective advice, hire a planner. A planner will always provide you with expert advice, without any ties to purse strings or deep-rooted emotional investment.
Last thing, and I’ll share something personal here. When my husband and I decided to have a Saturday afternoon wedding in April at a bowling alley (albeit a really cool one), my parents were less than pleased. Also, imagine their disdain when I said we were only inviting 100 of our closest friends and family. I come from a large Italian family and could have easily filled the room with 300 people. It was a tough conversation to have with them, but my husband and I really wanted something unique in Somerville (where we met) and very intimate. We held fast to our values on this but planned the ceremony in a church, which was something that was important to both of our parents. In the end, it was win-win and my parents said it was the most amazing wedding they had ever been to! I’ll never forget how much fun they had on that day. Proof: photos of my mom dancing in the lanes. 😉
Photo by Elizabeth Laduca