How to make sure your wedding is a happy family occasion12 May 2017
Your wedding should be a happy family occasion, of course. And we of all people certainly don’t want to put a dampener on things. However, as the UK’s number one wedding website we also receive so many Member Requests for advice from frustrated brides whose family conflicts – usually in-laws or bridesmaids – are spoiling the run-up to the big day. We wanted to provide a few tips for dealing diplomatically with any disagreements that arise to ensure you can get back to what matters most; enjoying your wedding planning.
Your Day; Your Way
Resolving conflict is all about recognising your rights. That way you know when to exercise or defend your rights, and just as importantly, when you ought to be flexible. The phrase ‘your day, your way’ is valid here. You should have the wedding day you’ve always dreamed of, regardless of whether relations are contributing financially or fulfilling roles like serving as bridesmaids, and so on. So recognise your rights, and assert them diplomatically if you need to… but recognise, too, that others will have opinions motivated not by a desire to take control of your big day, but by a desire to help to give you the best day possible. Often conflict is just the result of good intentions delivered in a slightly over-enthusiastic way.
Let’s say there’s a source of conflict. A bridesmaid who’s not keen on your choice of dress, or a parent or in-law who wants to invite a particular guest, for example. Being British we’re socially programmed to drop hints, ignore the situation or otherwise avoid confrontation rather than directly contradicting someone. But confrontation doesn’t have to be nasty. You can be polite and direct at the same time, without sounding horrid. Phrases like “I like your suggestion but I’d prefer…” or “I really want this [dress, colour] because it’s my favourite…” or “I’m going to choose this…” rather than a very British phrase like “Hmm, I’ll think about it…” leave no room for ambiguity, with the other party clear on where you stand.
Time and Place
It’s fair to say that there’s a time and place to tackle disagreements, too. If a well-meaning friend, relative, bridesmaid or in-law is offering unwelcome advice you might feel annoyed. An annoyed frame of mind is not the best one in which to tackle disagreements. If you’re irritated, cross or angry, don’t tackle disagreements immediately. Cool down first, then approach the problem directly after you’ve taken time out and had a chance to compose your thoughts, and a firm but friendly response. Likewise, avoid disagreements in public, or in front of other people, it’s embarrassing for bystanders.
People always appreciate feeling like they’ve been heard, not just dismissed. For that reason, if you need to reject an opinion or tell a well-meaning in-law to back off, sandwiching a negative comment between two positive comments can help you to deliver a direct response a bit more gently; “You’re right, that dress looks nice, and you’ve great taste… but I’m just not keen on short bridesmaids’ dresses, so I’m choosing long ones… but I think you’ll look great in that one.”
A Way Out
A very common frustration we hear from brides-to-be concerns bridesmaids who seem to lack the enthusiasm or seem reluctant to embrace the role. Brides message us and report trying to second guess whether they’re still keen to fulfil their duty, often nervous about how they’ll come across if they tackle the subject head-on. Our advice follows what we’ve said above; choose a good time and place for a timely, direct but sympathetic conversation. Do they feel they don’t have the time, organisational skills or money to devote to the job, would they rather just attend as a guest? If that answer to that question is yes, try not to be cross; at least they’ve given you an honest answer to an direct question… but hopefully, directly and diplomatically voicing your concerns will get them back on Team Bride.
One final word of advice, perhaps the most important. When you’ve a single topic of disagreement, stay on topic. Often conflict escalates because of ‘criticism spread.’ Think about a row you’ve had with you OH and how a disagreement about, for instance, money, has led to a disagreement about the cost of going out, then about whether one of you is trustworthy on nights out, then about being stuck at home watching the children, then about housework and so on. Sometimes people bring other, unrelated issues into arguments to deflect or apportion blame on an unrelated subject. If there’s a specific thing you’re unhappy about, keep the conversation civil, and on topic. Resolve that point of disagreement before moving onto another one!