Every family has their challenges, their weird dynamics and their points of contention. It just so happens that the happiest of occasions, weddings, can sometimes bring out the most difficult of situations. Family members feeling snubbed, money being debated, it can be super hard to keep everyone happy.
On top of that, you can be struggling with your own expectations and anxieties. Heck, getting married IS a pretty big deal in life! You’re not going to let any of this awkwardness or anxiousness get in the way of your good time? Nope! With some introspection and honesty, you can get back to dreaming of your big day, looking forward to your ‘I do’ moment.
Landis Bejar is the founder of AisleTalk, a couple’s wedding therapy counseling service. She’s also a licensed New York State Mental Health Counselor. She has plenty of advice for couple’s trying to maintain the peace (and their sanity) as they plan their wedding. Relax, it’s not just you that’s going through a whirlwind of emotion. You got this.
When you’re struggling with a family issue involving your wedding, Landis suggests looking outside the box for a possible compromise. “Think about what’s worked in the past, get creative, use supports. This might be a situation where a family member, a sibling, somebody trusted has to run interference.”
If it’s a ceremony seating issue, try to find a way to honor each side of the family. Honor each person in the family in different ways.
Communicate Early and Often
Most of us try to avoid confrontation whenever possible, especially when it comes to family. Sometimes having a less than comfortable conversation right now, will save you days and weeks of stress and worse conversation because you procrastinated. Landis has some suggestions for the words to use at these times. “Communicate clearly, talk about things ahead of time. Explain your rationale, why you’re doing this. Think about your language, and then create your messaging or your dialogue with those people in advance so they’re not surprised they’re not taken off guard, and it comes from a thoughtful, caring place.”
Keep In Mind: You Can’t Please Everyone
Landis reminds couples that every situation is different and many couples can benefit from talking with a trained and licensed therapist who can help them work through their nuanced situation. On a generalized scale though, it can be helpful to reconcile your feelings with the fact that sometimes you just won’t be able to please everyone.
Keep Focused on Being a Supporting Couple
Sometimes a scenario will arise where a family member, maybe a parent, is over-extending their reach with your wedding planning. You can feel somehow powerless or frustrated that your event is being taken away from you. “I always say that everything starts with that nuclear piece, which is the couple. Having a conversation first with your fiance, talking about the way this person is impacting things. If the person in question is on your fiance’s side, the fiance is the connective tissue to their family, so utilizing them to have conversations on that side, joining with them to have those conversations, talking through a solution together, that’s different than just putting it on them and saying “you have to deal with your family.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Assertive
Being assertive is different than being argumentative. “You can have a clear direct conversation where you say, ‘We have people for these things and I appreciate everything that you’re doing. But don’t worry, we got this.’ You can say that, you have permission to say that.” If that feels like too much to undertake, Landis says you can always divert a family member’s unwanted help to items that you don’t care about as much, preferably one of those elements of your wedding that is guaranteed to go smoothly. “You can turn it into a positive, you can keep it cordial, but you also have permission to just set that boundary and say, ‘We don’t need that kind of help. Thank you so much.’ Because you never know, their enthusiasm may be coming from a good place.”
Step Away from Social Media
Managing wedding expectations can be a real challenge, particularly with the uncertainty of COVID thrown into the mix. “I don’t think people realize where expectations come from. I think that we know that there are expectations, and we’ve maybe seen movies and TV that tell us it’s something like, a traditional white dress and a big cake, that’s our version of wedding expectations. And the truth is that expectations can be thrust upon us from many more different avenues, and I’m talking Pinterest, I’m talking Instagram. In the old days, you only got to see the weddings that you were invited to. Now we get to see weddings of everyone we’ve ever been friends or colleagues with our entire lives. So we have so many more possibilities for weddings thrust upon us.”
“And then also on social media, we have what I used to think are actual weddings, but are actually staged photo shoots. I didn’t learn that until I made my way into this side of this business. When I planned my wedding, I thought all that was real! So I think that it’s important to recognize where all this is coming from, it’s not just the white dress and the big cake and the flowers, it’s the food trucks and it’s the barn wedding.” Landis says these nice little creative things can add up to a lot of pressure. And she points out, they may not even be realistic. The barn wedding might look perfect, but you don’t see that it’s 100 degrees with no air conditioning and everyone sweating. That champagne cart with gourmet desserts might look like a cute little add-on, but the cost may be astronomical IRL.
Appreciate Fantasy, Recognize Reality
“What has been really illuminating in this work for me is to acknowledge that these expectations that are thrust upon us in this very covert way, are often unrealistic, because they’re not real. they’re either not a real wedding, or they’re not anything like what regular humans are planning. A lot of times we will get stuck with a wedding decision because of underlying expectations.”
“So if you find yourself stuck on something that seems really simple and innocuous, like how many bridesmaids to have, or whether to have a bachelorette party or not, or, something like that, if you find yourself really stuck on something, and there’s a logical part of you that’s like, ‘Why am I so stuck on this? It’s so silly, it’s not a big deal.’ There’s probably something rooted in your expectations or perceptions of others. How will this look? Get curious about how these expectations may be affecting your planning process, your decision-making and your mood.”
Meditate to Move On
Landis says that through soul searching and some active meditation, you can be released from some of your negative feelings. “You can transcend them, you can get past them, it doesn’t have to be just disappointment and unmet expectations.” That’s right, those emotions can just disappear when you put the work into them. “When you understand then you can say, ‘Oh, this is why I was so stuck on it. I don’t actually care about that.’ It’s really interesting, it starts as this gut-wrenching decision about something on a surface level, and then you realize that it was actually about something bigger. And if you can just honor that something bigger, respond to that or just acknowledge that it’s there, then you can usually move forward with a decision that feels good.”
It can be helpful to take some time out on a regular basis throughout your planning process. Come back to the original goal and vision for your celebration. Think about the joy you and your partner feel about finally getting married. Remember the people you can’t wait to spend time with. Why are you hosting this celebration? Keeping that joy of the celebration to come front and center and how special it will feel to celebrate with everyone, all together, is sure to put things in a wonderful perspective.
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