I can’t tell you how often I get the question, “Is this appropriate for my wedding?” The answer, really, is simple and complicated. It depends on how many people you want to annoy and how much of a people pleaser you are. Maybe I’m simplifying things a little bit too much, but you have to think about what you want out of your wedding.
Wedding are usually the moment when you’re bringing your entire family together with your future in-laws, maybe for the first time, which brings the question, “Is your wedding even about you?”
“Of course, it is!” you say. Are you paying for it? If the answer is yes, and you don’t care, then you can probably skip the rest of this post. If you are getting help with the wedding, then you might want to think twice about the answer to that question.
The older I get, and I’m older than I look (#ThanksGenetics!), the more I understand the why of traditions. It’s not that I haven’t always valued tradition. I have. I mean, who read every regency and gothic British novel they could get their hands on by the time they were 12? When it came time for my own wedding, I was sure that the wedding be about me, my future wife, and what we wanted. The deeper we got into planning, the more I realized just how many opinions and expectations we were juggling.
Let’s face it, our parents had worked very long and hard to be able to be in a position to see their kids getting married. Mine were probably sure it would never happen. They also had a long list of friends who had included them in the weddings of their own children. Our wedding was in a way paying their friends back for many of the incredible weddings that they had attended. Even if they wouldn’t have expressly put it that way. There was an underlying expectation that they wanted their friends to have a good time.
Now, that may not be how you want to see your wedding, but it can be the reality in many situations. If you’re planning to include your family in anyway shape or form, your wedding day does become about them and their celebration of your happiness. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have everything you want, but it may mean that how you communicate what you want may need to be a little nuanced.
Weddings are increasingly intercultural, interracial, interfaith, and more diverse. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.” With all of this diversity comes a merging of cultures that can be truly beautiful, but you can also cause major headaches if you don’t pay attention and if you haven’t planned for everyone’s expectations.
There are a few simple ways for you to mitigate these potential run-ins before they happen, and hopefully get the wedding of your dreams as well as a wedding that will please your friends family. By no means are you going to ever please everyone (there will always be some aunt that thinks that there’s something inappropriate about the bridesmaid dresses. I see you, Aunt Suzy), but by prioritizing what is important to you, you can help to alleviate family tension and get the most joy out of your wedding without pulling your hair out. Or at least some of it.
There’s no way to know what your future extended family expects of your wedding much less what your own family expects out of your wedding, but the more you understand the culture that you’re marrying into before you have discussions about the actual wedding, the more equipped you will be to handle your future in-laws with style and with grace.
Research, research, research!
Look at traditional weddings in the culture into which you’re going to marry. What is expected? What does the bride usually wear? What are the groom’s responsibilities?
Your future spouse should be a really good source of information to begin (one can only hope). Once you’ve done the research, you can then know what the expected rules are, which means you also know which tools you want to BREAK.
List Priorities and Non-negotiables
Now, your nonnegotiables can’t be everything. It may be music, or food, or flowers, or location, but prioritize your list. It’s really important for you to know what’s important to you. Armed with this list, you can then have a meeting with the future in-laws or your own parents for that matter about what their expectations are the wedding is there a guest list five times larger than yours? Did you always imagine that you would only house he small wedding of intimate friends and family only to find out that their closest 1000 friends will be invited? These are really important things snow going into your wedding planning process.
You’ve established your priorities to know when and where you are willing to negotiate. Choose two or three things about which you really feel important and also some things that you can concede to your future in-laws or parents. That way, when you’re having these discussions you can graciously give a little. They don’t need to know that you don’t really care (I’ll never tell…). The more you can make people feel heard the more likely they are to acquiesce to your wishes and wants and needs. BTW, this is a good life lesson. If you come after situation with a really strong point of view from the get-go, you’re probably not going to get very far.
Let’s say that all of this prioritizing and negotiating isn’t going the way you planned. Your most valuable resource can be a wedding planner. A wedding planner isn’t just about making sure that the logistics on the day happen, wedding planners also know a lot about different types of weddings, what is expected, and how to negotiate tricky family situations. When looking for a wedding planner, you want to find somebody who has experience with your particular culture. For example, if your wedding has influences from your Asian culture, you want to find a wedding planner who has experience with Asian weddings. They don’t have to be from your culture, but they do you need to know what the traditions are, what’s important, and ultimately help you negotiate what you want out of the day.
Once you found the right wedding planner, the planner can really help to present your ideas in way that is not offensive to your parents or your future in-laws. They can come up with creative solutions to merge two cultures with answers that are probably tried and tested in these situations. Many times, their ability to give specific examples of how they have dealt with these issues in the past helps to relieve the pressure and anxiety that the parentals may be feeling.
Less is More and Less Headache
Remember, the more people you involve, the more opinions you’re going to have. If you really don’t want 50 different opinions about your wedding gown, then don’t ask 50 different people. You will probably get 100. I always advise brides to come by themselves if they feel confident, or come with one or at most two people the trust. Most of your friends and family are projecting what they think that they want to see your wedding day, not necessarily what day know that you want. As much as they have your best interests at heart, they are still going to have an opinion that it’s probably different than yours. It can be really stressful to have a lot of voices in your head. Just make sure that you arm yourself with all of your research before you go shop. You can be confident that you can make the right decision knowing what is appropriate, and what is expected. That way, if you choose to “break a rule,” you’re doing it from a place of knowledge, not ignorance. You should also make sure that wherever you buy your dress has experience in dealing with weddings yours especially if there’s a merging of cultures.
All this being said, weddings are a lot of work. No matter how large or how small there are always a myriad of decisions to be made. No one will ever be completely happy with every decision that you make, but when it comes down to it, on the day and for the most part, everyone will think that it’s beautiful and that you look beautiful. The reality is, you could probably wear a paper sack and serve happy meals and (most) everyone would be pleased if they know that it’s done place of love.
However, if you want to avoid any unnecessary drama with your future in-laws or even your own family, it’s best to do your research, be prepared, and know your priorities. It’s always best to have a mediator or a third-party who can help to not only bridge the gap between different ideas and cultures but also think outside the box and gives solutions that are truly creative and a reflection of who your future spouse our as a couple. If you need some reccomendations, we work with some of the best in the business and would be happy to point you in the right direction.
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