Don’t Let Family Drama Affect Your Beautiful Wedding

As any good therapist will tell you, weddings are already one of the most stressful events in a person’s life, yet they are almost always more stressful for the bride, groom and their families and friends than anyone would guess. Nearly everyone has their favorite wedding disaster stories, (rain, wilted flowers, lost rings, etc.), but how does one handle the human element, the infighting among family and friends, the arguments?

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Money, money, money

At the root of these conflicts is often that age-old bugaboo, money. Yes, and we are talking serious money in many cases. A recent survey by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com included 18,000 US couples married before 2011. They found one in five US couples spent more than $30,000 and 11% spent more than more than $40,000. High prices bring high stakes and heightened expectations and emotions for couples and families paying for the weddings.

Since tradition dictates that the couple’s families incur the costs two significant elements are always at play: the family (whether the bride’s or groom’s depending on your cultural inclinations) often feels completely entitled to offer their opinion and suggestions, and, more often than not, insist upon it. Parents often want to invite their friends – to the point of where the guest list can include more guests of the family, than the actual bride and groom.

Secondly, because the couple is so reliant and dependent on their family to either cover or help cover the exorbitant costs of the wedding ceremony and reception, the bride and groom may feel that control of their wedding diminishes and that they are in a constant state of compromise.

Members of the wedding party, generally, family, are often asked to buy clothing they don’t like, would never buy for themselves, and will likely never wear again. Guests often incur high costs as well, including travel and lodging along with the expense of finding just the right gift.

Since money is most definitely the root of all wedding fever evil, how do couples contend, without killing each other or breaking up? CNN.com ran a story earlier this year, written by the editors of Martha Stewart Weddings. The writer/editors consulted with Elise Mac Adam, author of "Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone in Between."

Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Immediately express your gratitude, however much is gifted to you.

Ask and you shall receive

Mac Adam stresses that one way to stave off blanket decisions made by the family is to ask exactly what they want to pay for. If they tell you décor, then you may want to consider having them help you choose flowers and reception design. On the other hand, if they tell you guests, this clearly means that their contribution will go towards entertaining (i.e. food/drink) for guests. Considering the huge per-person venue charge, this is no small contribution. Simply put: let them add their friends to the guest list.

If one side of the family is contributing less, but has many demands, someone might suggest that they host a follow-up or additional event. What about a post-honeymoon party in which the couple shares stories and photos of their trip?

Everybody hurts

If tensions are running high amongst blended families, do make considerations for (potentially) hurt feelings. Find a way to (even minimally) incorporate “step” families into the wedding, even if it is only to offer them bouquets, corsages or boutonnieres and a place in a photo.

And before you rail against family, consider what happened earlier this year, at one of the nicest wedding venues in Adelaide, where the groom Jacob Brookes, 40, was allegedly so drunk the Semaphore Uniting Church minister refused to officiate. Brookes cried “overreaction” but was actually arrested and taken to the Port Adelaide Police Station. The lesson: don’t drink and wed, for god-sakes.