Wednesday, January 28, 2009

But it's MY DAY!

Lately I've run across more than a few posts on various forums that read something like this.
"My parents are paying for the wedding. Now they are making all kinds of demands about the food and the guest list!! Don't they know it's MY WEDDING?!"
I'm always torn when I read things like this. On the one hand, I know one friend whose mother planned her entire wedding and regarded it as the mother of the bride's party, even to the point of cutting the couple's friends off the guest list so she could invite her bridge club. I think that's an unfortunate approach, in part because the couple ends up remembering their wedding day as "oh yeah, that thing my mom planned that none of our friends got invited to, somehow." (Note: my friends were able to weasel their buds back onto the guest list.) I really feel that weddings are best and most memorable when they reflect the couple that's getting married.

But on the other hand, if your parents are paying for the wedding, expecting them to have no input and bow to all of your wishes seems unrealistic, even spoiled.

Here are my own thoughts on parents, money, and compromise, filtered through my own experience and those of my friends.

If your parents are paying, be prepared to let them have some input.
I’m sure there are parents out there who simply say, “here’s a giant check for your wedding. Do whatever you want.” I just haven’t met any. All of the parents I’ve known have at least one or two things they really want or really care about on their list of wedding expectations. My dad wants live ceremony music and a choice of entrees for dinner; my mom wants attractive chairs and the chance to invite her beloved cousins. A friend’s mom had only one request of the bride: “The invitations have to be from Crane’s!”

If your parents are paying for most or all of the wedding, be prepared to give way to their wishes on occasion. It is not realistic to expect that you will get to make 100% of the wedding decisions unless you are providing 100% of the wedding budget.

If you can’t compromise, be prepared to say “thanks but we’ll pay for it ourselves.”
It’s pretty easy to maintain family harmony if your parents’ requests are minor. But what if they’re demanding things that you and your fiancĂ© are absolutely unwilling to consider – say, if you have always dreamed of getting married outside and they’re insisting they will be "humiliated" if it's not in a church?

In cases where you and your parents just don’t see eye to eye, and the thought of giving way makes you physically sick, don't lose it and start screaming "It's MY SPECIAL DAY!!" Lay out the case for what you want calmly and honestly. Tell them this is important to you, and ask if there’s any room for compromise.

If not, if they still insist on their church for the ceremony and their country club for the reception even after hearing your arguments in favor of an outdoor wedding at the park, you have a choice to make. You can either reject their money and do it your way, or take their money and do it their way. It sucks to reach this point, and in an ideal world parents would be supportive of the couple’s wishes, but the truth is that the only way you will have total control over your own wedding is to pay for it all yourselves.

Even if they’re not paying, it’s nice (and very stress-reducing) to take your family’s wishes into consideration.
One of my best friends was not terribly excited about getting married in her husband’s family’s church – it was not the prettiest building in town. But she knew it would mean the world to her future mother-in-law. She could have decided “no, my family is paying, we’ll have it at a prettier church.” Instead, she decided to go with what her fiance’s mother really wanted. This was a gracious and classy gesture that did a lot of good for their relationship (and helped take the sting out of saying “no” to FMIL’s idea of inviting the entire church congregation).

So if non-paying family members have requests that you feel you can accommodate without compromising what you really want, why not say yes? The key there is “without compromising what you really want.” If you are planning a chic 1920s theme wedding, and your parents hate it and want something more traditional, I am certainly not suggesting that you throw away your dream wedding and bow to your parents’ wishes! But if your parents ask for a traditional wedding cake at your wedding, and you weren’t going to have one but don’t loathe the idea, it would be a lovely gesture to say “yes.”

What's your take on it? What kind of input did your family have, and what compromises did you make? Do you regret those compromises, or see them as a contribution to family harmony?


Ruthie said...

I have very little experience with this because so far, besides the requested additions to the guest list, we have had zero input from our familys, just solicited advice. My parents are giving us between 1/3 and half our budget and they have had absolutely zero requests. I'm wondering if it's because they know me too well, and know that I would do it my way anyways (with or without them) or if the other shoe is out there waiting to drop. Likewise, we haven't heard much from his parents either, though since his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer, they have understandably had their attention focused elsewhere. However, I think your advice is sound. You aren't just marrying your finance, you are joining his family, and he is joining yours, so taking their wishes into account is fair.

Christy said...

Bless you! I wish I had had this amazing post to reference when it was crisis meltdown mode major with my parents last weekend. [*melodramatic forehead slap vogue*] I agree that as long as you take a breath and present your position rationally and succinctly, you have the best chance of winning over some parents. Or at least placating them. For a few days.

Amazing insights!

Bride in Exile said...

To tell the truth, Ruthie, I don't have very much personal experience with it either. Everything my parents have wanted so far, I either wanted as well or could easily accommodate. The only thing that kind of took me by surprise was my mother's strong feelings about the kind of chairs we should have. I hadn't given half a thought to the chairs until she mentioned them. Evidently she once attended a wedding where everyone sat on ugly metal folding chairs, and it left quite the negative impression! And aside from their guest list requests (which they backed up with enough financial support to make the giant guest list possible), Econo Boy's parents have been completely undemanding.

But I know that's not the case for all couples -- I've seen friends who had a much harder time maintaining family harmony and balancing their own wishes with their parents' expectations. (The Momzilla I mentioned at the beginning of the post nearly met her demise at the groom's hands several times during the planning. Cutting his fraternity brothers off the guest list without so much as asking him did not sit well.)

Christy, I hope you're able to win over your parents permanently! Good luck! :-)