Wedding Etiquette 101: How to Deal with Family Conflict

January 24, 2015 by Just Marry!

We think of weddings as being about the couple, but let’s face it: not all family members will see it that way. Whether it’s a mother who has envisioned her child’s wedding day throughout his or her life, a sister who thinks the spotlight should be on her, divorced parents who like to make a scene, or a grandparent who is footing the bill and wants their say, family conflict may be unavoidable during the course of planning your wedding. Here are our tips on how to handle it:

  1. Shortly after your engagement, sit down with your family. Explain that you love all of them and want to respect their requests and opinions, but the bottom line is that your wedding is celebrating your union with the one you love, and that’s what matters most. Let them know that it isn’t feasible to honor everyone’s wishes, but you deeply appreciate their support.
  2. If someone gifts you money to use for your wedding, thank them for their generosity and ask if they have any conditions on how the money is spent before you accept the gift. If they ask you to use the money in a way that doesn’t suit you or your future spouse, we recommend that you graciously decline the gift, explaining that you don’t want to disappoint them if you can’t fulfill their wishes.
  3. For weddings involving divorced and/or remarried parents, you may have to have a frank conversation with them if their relationship is less than civil and you want them both there on your big day. Ask them to put their differences aside where your wedding is concerned, and let them know how important their support is to you. If that doesn’t work, recruit friends and family members to help keep them on neutral ground at the wedding.
  4. Try to involve people who ask to help. Even if you just ask them to hunt for places to buy reasonably-priced wedding favors, or send them images of things you like and request their opinion, they’ll feel included and appreciated, which will help avoid hurt feelings.
  5. On that note, prepare for hurt feelings. You may encounter situations where someone is upset that they weren’t invited to the wedding, weren’t asked to stand up at the wedding, weren’t asked to give a speech, etc. Be prepared to say you’re sorry to learn they’re upset, and explain that it wasn’t intentional. You have to make hard decisions when planning a wedding, and unfortunately, you can’t include everyone in the way you might want. Thank them for wanting to be a part of your special day, and assure them they’re still a valued part of your life.

No matter what steps you take to avoid family conflict while planning your wedding, keep in mind that you can’t please everyone. Try not to let your family cause you undue stress, and remind yourself that your wedding day is about you and your future spouse. On the big day, focus only on the positives and enjoy the celebration!

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