Reflections on Wedding Planning (Part Two): Dealing with Family Expectations

Feel free to read my previous post where I talk about keeping sane during the planning process. 

Oh, family. Don't we just love to hate them? Kidding, kidding (kind of). I have yet to meet a person whose family doesn't annoy them, and I've yet to encounter an engaged person whose family wasn't causing them to go bat-shit crazy during the process of wedding planning. Here's the reality: as much as your wedding is about the two of you getting married and everyone (hopefully) on an intellectual level knows this to be true, your family probably on some level believes that your wedding is in fact all about them.

This can take all different forms. At best, it means that your family wants to support you financially/emotionally/physically* and they offer to help out with whatever they can, even if it doesn't come in the form you want.** At worst, it means that they want to dictate exactly how your day will go, down to what kind of aisle-runner you will walk in on so as not to ruin your dress.***

As much as this causes your head to spin around all Exorcist-style, it's important that you not let this emotion take over for too long. The reality is that you still have the power. You can decide if, when, and how you are going to compromise. An important note: if someone is generously paying for an aspect of your wedding, I personally think it's rude not to allow their voices to be heard in that area of decision-making. I don't mean offer them carte blanche but be reasonable. If you don't want them to have a say, don't take the money! If you're worried about it, leave the things that matter least to you for others to chip in on. (At some point I'll tell you all about our rehearsal dinner...)

To me, this is why it is so important that at the beginning of your wedding planning process, you and your partner sit down and figure out exactly what kind of wedding you want, not down to the exact detail but the general experience you want to have.  Meg Keene of A Practical Wedding suggests picking out adjectives that describe the feel that you want. Some of ours were intimate, classic, elegant, modern, and fun. Then think about how that translates to elements of the wedding--how big or small, what kind of service to have, what kind of music, what kind of food and drink, what time of day.

Once you have decided on a wedding feeling, don't stray from it. Don't second guess it. Don't let others suck you into their wedding industrial complex bullshit. This is especially important if you have particularly opinionated family members or friends who are aghast that you aren't going to do a garter toss or have a receiving line. If you and your partner have already agreed on your vision, you're going to feel more resolute and decided about it, and that way you probably won''t be as defensive when someone questions why you're doing things a certain way. You'll feel confident.

Example: I really, really wanted to walk down the aisle by myself. My father hasn't been part of my life in years, and I didn't want my mom to do it. I just didn't. I figured, I'm almost 30! I am a grown-ass woman! I can walk down the aisle by myself, thankyouverymuch! But, I knew that my mom would be a little disappointed. When she came to visit a few months before the wedding, I brought it up with her and explained why I wanted to do it solo. She listened, and while I know it hurt her feelings a bit, she agreed that it was important for me to do what felt right. And on the wedding day, it wasn't a big deal at all. I was happy with my decision to walk in alone, meeting my future hubs midway, and my mom got the best seat in the house to watch me and my love walk in holding hands.

Borrowing again from A Practical Wedding, remember this truth: the whole goal of a wedding is to get married. If you accomplish this, you have succeeded. The rest is literally just details.****

*Never underestimate the power of a burly man or woman carrying your chuppah/centerpieces/tables/pinterest-y decor so you can have the wedding of your dreams.

**I'm talking dolla dolla bill, y'all. Newsflash: most weddings are a ripoff.

***True story. It never occurred to my friend's mom that she might not (gasp!) even have an aisle-runner at all.

**** I would like to point out that I am actually using literally in an appropriate manner. Imagine that!


  1. I'm really struck by how powerful the adjectives are in describing what kind of wedding you want -- it sets tone and purpose for an affair that can quite easily veer off into the dreams of others. Smart advice! I'm referring back to this when I'm ready to marry someday.

  2. Amen. I let my parents dictate A LOT of what happened during my first wedding. Mostly because they were paying for almost all of it, so I felt like I had to.

    When Iz and I get married we already decided we're paying for it. IF our folks want to contribute we'll let them know that we appreciate the gift but that it is still OUR wedding. I hate the idea of getting run over because you feel like you're guilted into something, whether or not your fam means well.