Weddings are sensational. It’s the start of a new chapter for couples (and their families). But, a lot of preparation goes into creating that “perfect” day. Venues, invitations, wedding parties, dresses, and music, are all part of wedding preparations. However, during wedding planning, some challenges can occur between the couple, their families, or individuals within one of the families. Everyone carries a bag full of expectations into marriage and differing expectations are the root of family conflict during wedding planning.
So, how do you navigate these family conflicts when planning your wedding? First, you’ll need to understand the common causes of conflict during wedding planning. Then, try to find better ways to solve the problems. Sometimes, family conflicts may impact your mental health, and you may want to seek help from a psychotherapist.
Let’s talk about family conflicts during wedding planning.
How Family Conflict Can Manifest During Wedding Planning
When a couple gets married, it’s more than just two people coming together. It’s you, your partner, your inlaws, parents, grandparents, and other family members. And everyone wants to feel they belong.
They’re your family. They want to feel like they matter, are wanted, valued and accepted. Unfortunately, the need to feel accepted and wanted is usually where things go wrong.
It’s important to consider your families when deciding who should have a say in your big day and to what extent.
Family conflict can cause emotional pain, which could negatively affect your mental health. Understanding how to navigate family conflict during wedding planning can make all the difference.
6 Reasons Behind Family Conflicts During Wedding Planning
Family conflicts during wedding planning stem from several factors. The first step to navigating these conflicts is understanding the various causes. They include:
Family Expectations vs Couple Wishes
It’s your wedding, but is it all about you and your partner? For some, the answer may be yes. But, for many other couples, focusing solely on their wishes may mean disregarding meaningful family or cultural traditions and other expectations. Therefore, it’s common for conflict to arise when family expectations compete with the couple’s wishes.
Before getting too deep into planning your wedding, consider the wishes of you and your partner, openly discuss your family’s traditions and expectations, and get on the same page about how you would like to incorporate these elements into your special day.
Money is one of the most common causes for tension in relationships. According to an AICPA survey, 7 in 10 married or cohabiting Americans have had a disagreement with their partner about money in the past year. Planning a wedding requires money, which can cause additional strain between you and your partner or a relative – especially if it’s not coming from your pocket. If you’re accepting money from a family member for your wedding, understand what expectations, if any, come along with their contribution. For example, maybe they wish for you to use the money for a specific aspect of your wedding like your photographer, invitations or a band. Conflict happens when money is accepted and sometimes the giver wants to decide how this money is spent.
Therefore, before you accept a financial gift from someone, to avoid conflicts, clarify if that money can be spent freely or if it is for something specific. If the gift comes with expectations that you are not comfortable with, plan a wedding you can finance independently.
Challenges With Divorced Parents
It’s typical to worry about the behavior of your divorced parents during wedding planning. Before you decide whether or not to have a wedding that includes family members who may not all like each other, ask yourself: will you enjoy yourself knowing both parents are present despite their ongoing conflict? Or would you worry so much about their behavior and emotions that you will lose sight of the day? If it’s the former, add them to the guest list. The latter, and perhaps you’re better off planning a more intimate ceremony with your partner alone and having post-marriage celebrations later with each parent separately.
Creating the Guest List
Ah, the guest list. How many guests will you have? Who’s invited to the wedding and who’s not? One thing is for sure, you’ll have to leave some people out, no matter how well they know you. Additionally, both families may also have people they’ll want to make sure make the list. Determine the size of your guest list based on your venue and budget and speak with your partner about their expectations and any requests your families may have.
If you’re worried about someone being angry if they don’t receive an invitation, try considering if the possibility of relationship fallout with that individual would shift your decision or not.
Stressed Out “Bridezillas”
Bridezilla – a negative term that’s often been used to describe a bride-to-be who is demanding or difficult to deal with. We all behave differently under stress. When you encounter, or are accused of being, a “bridezilla” it usually means one of two things: (1) the bride is truly stressed due to reasons such as finances, planning, and family conflict, or (2) we’re just using the term to describe an individual who typically has interpersonal difficulties and unrealistic expectations of others.
If you’re a friend or family member of a bride and notice a behavior change, you shouldn’t label them a bridezilla. Instead, acknowledge the change in behavior, take the time to talk to them about their mental health, and if you’re in the position to do so, ask how you can help.
Second Marriages and Blended Families
Second marriages are very common. It’s typical for conflicts to arise in regards to blended family issues, including sensitivities to children, as well as former partners and spouses. Planning a second marriage can mean taking an ex-spouse and children from previous marriages into consideration, as well as dynamics with adult children. Do your children like your new partner? If you both have children from previous marriages, do they get along? Wedding planning can also spark important conversations around where you’re going to live, finances, and custody considerations.
Tips for Couples to Navigate Family Conflicts During Wedding Planning
Wedding trauma is real. The damage of family conflicts to couples can be irreversible if not managed well. While you can try to avoid these conflicts, you may not always find a way. If you’re getting ready to plan your wedding, consider the following tips:
Communicate Openly with Your Partner
Remember, you and your partner are sporting the same jersey. When you start discussing your wishes for your wedding, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation. Talk about what each of you want for the day, any family expectations or traditions you’d like to consider, finances, and how you plan to manage the decision-making process.
Work With a Mental Health Professional
Seeking professional support from a therapist prior to planning a wedding can help couples avoid issues before they happen. (That’s right, seeking professional support from a therapist or counselor is not only for couples already experiencing relationship difficulties.)
Working with a therapist before, throughout, or after planning your wedding can help you navigate through challenges as a team.
Family conflicts during wedding planning can be detrimental to your mental health. So even when planning your wedding, prioritize your mental health. This includes understanding the possible causes of conflicts and learning how to navigate them without hurting anyone.