Recently, I have heard several stories about brides having a difficult time planning the wedding they want. One story was about a mother who was trying to plan the wedding she wanted because she had eloped instead. Another was about a future mother-in-law taking over the planning because she “knew her son best.” Finally, I heard a story about a couple who wanted a small, intimate wedding, but the groom’s grandmother, who was unwell, wanted them to have a big, fancy wedding.
I’ll bet anyone reading this has their own thoughts about what is right and wrong in the wedding planning department, or maybe you’re holding your breath in anticipation of what I, “the expert,” will say. I hate to disappoint you, but my answer is, “It depends.”
On what, you might ask? The variables are many. Who is paying for the wedding? How accommodating are the bride and groom? Have the bride and groom discussed their idea of the perfect wedding with each other? How close is the bride or groom to the person attempting to influence the wedding for their “benefit”? Most importantly, is the couple from a collectivistic culture or an individualist one?
As a general rule, when you come from a collectivistic culture, you are raised to believe the collective is more important than what you may want individually. If this describes you, you understand that your wedding isn’t really your wedding at all; it is a combination of what both families want. This will be decided collectively, and your voice may not be the most important.
It’s important who is writing the check for the wedding. You may have your heart set on something very important to you—let’s say a designer wedding gown with a price tag of $15,000. Yet, your father is paying for the wedding, and you have three sisters who will also be expecting your father to pay for their weddings, and he simply can’t afford it. On this score, what you want at your wedding will be influenced by what the person paying can afford. You could pay for the gown yourself. You might even enlist the financial assistance of someone else. But before you do, please talk with the person about how they would feel about that before making your decision. If your father would feel awful to hear that his brother plans to buy you the gown of your dreams, you may want to weigh your desire for this gown against how your father will feel before deciding what to do.
If you and your partner are both accommodating, then they will be happy to acquiesce to someone they love—a tendency of those with high Connection needs. However, if one of you is a high Significance or Freedom person, you or your partner may choose a particular detail of the wedding as their hill to die on. Similarly, when someone particularly close to you or your partner is older or even sick, you might be more willing to accommodate—it’s essentially the mission of the Make a Wish foundation. There is no harm in this if that’s what each of you wants to do. Find an area of agreement between the two of you and the third party who wants your wedding to be a certain way. The most important thing here is to maintain open communication with your partner.
It’s possible you and your partner haven’t had a conversation regarding your ideal wedding day. Many times, one person in the relationship has been dreaming about their wedding since childhood and has definite ideas of how it should go, and the partner is willing to go along with those plans because they want their partner to be happy. However, what happens if you both have very fixed and conflicting ideas about what you want? Then conflict resolution needs to be the order of the day.
Remember, this is your wedding. It needs to be planned the way you both want it. That could mean the most important thing for you is to please your mother, future mother-in-law, grandmother, future spouse or yourself. You will need to decide, together with your partner, what your priorities are for the day. When you ask yourself that question, think about the decisions that will bring the least regret, both immediately and in the future. Keep the communication open with your partner. When you don’t honor specific requests, communicate your rationale to the people involved.
One red flag you might notice during this time are individuals who are supposed to love you and your future spouse that want to turn your day into their day, despite your protestations to the contrary. A second red flag is when your partner seems to value other people’s perspectives more than your own. You are about to embark on a lifetime journey together, and your relationship success will be dependent upon how the two of you prioritize your relationship over your own individual needs. The third red flag is when you and your partner are not comfortable having the challenging conversations when you have differences of opinions. The wedding is just the beginning. What follows is a lifetime of working together to make your relationship stronger through loving and respecting one another. Being fearful of a conversation does not bode well for the future.
Wedding stress is normal. It is a big day with many people invested in what the day looks like. It is not easy keeping all the balls in the air. One huge contributor to this stress is the belief that your wedding day should be perfect. When perfection is the goal, you are adding a huge amount of stress that isn’t necessary. Relax a bit and set a goal about how you want to feel during the months leading up to your special day. Stress, worry and frustration do not typically contribute to the vibe you hope to have. If you prioritize love and affection, your day will be spectacular.
Put this day in perspective. You may believe it’s the most important day of your life. Many young girls are socialized to believe that. It may, in fact, be the most important day of your life, but it is only one day. There is so much more to consider. Living happily ever after involves making choices every day, choices that support the relationship. It can help to have a neutral professional help you work things out for the good of your relationship.