How to navigate all the tricky wedding politics, from in laws to pouty parents.
Click here for Part One – on budgeting and nailing down a guest list.
Everyone has an idea about how your big day should pan out. Mum’s fussing about the relatives you’ve left off the guest list. A mate is put out she wasn’t asked to be bridesmaid. Your partners’ parents can’t stand to be in the same room as one another. And you and your other half are arguing more so than usual. Weddings can throw up a whole host of family (and friendship!) drama so how best can you navigate it with your sanity intact?
“Wedding planning IS stressful. Even if you’re a planning a small wedding, it is a big life event,” notes wedding doula Anne Gill. “The best thing a couple can do is to have set aside times – I like to call them planning dates – where you get out of your house, treat yourselves to a nice coffee, cocktail or meal, and just check in about everything that’s going on. Do this as often as you can (at least twice a month) to make sure you are on the same page.”
Once you’ve things sussed with your other half, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your friends and family too, especially those who are in your bridal party.
“It is hugely important to not include anyone in your bridal party because you feel you ‘should’. ‘Should’ is the worst reason to do anything when planning a wedding,” Anne warns. “Really ask yourself whom you want around you as you take this big step in your life. Who will be with you now and in the future? Who calms you down? Who is honest with you? Don’t include anyone whom you aren’t sure will make your day better.”
After that, “it’s important to make sure that you and the groom are on the same page with all communications to your bridal parties,” Anne advises. “Don’t ask open questions like, ‘Who would like to help arrange flowers?’ but be specific with your needs and direct with your communication.”
For example: ‘I need someone to check with the salon at the hotel that they can get us all in for facials and nails the day before the wedding. Sinead, I thought you could do that?’ When she says yes, just leave it, trust she will do it and move on. It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your bridal party and play to each of their strengths.
As for a tricky family sitch? “Firstly, the bride and groom need to be open and honest with each other if they are nervous or worried about a parental situation. Set up a system whereby you can address issues as they arise and be a good support for each other,” Anne suggests. “It is up to each individual, though, to deal directly with their parents if they are worried about it. For example, it’s not for the groom to speak to the bride’s parents about her feelings, etc.”
Bottom line, if family pressures are driving you crazy, “make sure you as a couple are on exactly the same page for what you want and expect for your wedding,” says Anne. “Once you are doing what you want to do then you can share, together, your plans for the day with family. It takes the pressure off one person, especially if that one person has a harder time with familial expectation.”
And finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point throughout the planning? “The key is to go into it knowing it is a big life event, but not the end all, be all of your life,” says Anne. “It is only one day! It is a day to acknowledge that you are starting a new family. You have chosen a person to start a whole new adventure and family with and you want your friends and family to witness it. That is an important and beautiful thing, but it will not, nor could it ever be ‘perfect’. So striving for that will only lead to stress.”
Maybe you’ve known what kind of wedding dress you’ve wanted since day dot and have fantasised about the day you finally get to try it on for the first time, or maybe you don’t have the first clue what you want to wear and are already feeling bogged down at the thought of trying on 20 plus different styles. Whichever camp you fall into, make sure you plan your wedding dress shopping well in advance, advises Kathy de Stafford, owner of de Stafford Bridal. “Many bridal salons need at least three weeks notice for a Saturday appointment, and in de Stafford our time frame for order-in gowns is six to eight months and eight to 12 for custom made.”
As for the appointment itself, “try to limit the number of people you bring with you,” Kathy instructs. “Two to three is fine as too many conflicting opinions can be tiring for you. Wear good supporting seam-free, preferably skin tone underwear and do not wear fake tan as this can mark the dresses. Do wear a little make-up though as white/ ivory palettes can need a little lift.”
As for shopping successfully, “only do two appointments a day,” Kathy advises. “One in the morning and one in the afternoon after a fun lunch out with your entourage. Any more can be exhausting. Do some research beforehand to have an idea of what styles you like the look of and take some screenshots for your sales assistant from our website.”
It’s important to come prepared with an idea of how much you’re willing to spend too. “The average dress is between €1500 and €3000, but don’t forget to ask about and factor in alteration costs. This can sometimes be costly depending on the amount of work you need done on your dress,” Kathy points out.
Finally, “keep an open mind when trying on dresses. Wedding dresses look totally different on a person than they do on a hanger,” Kathy notes. “We often have brides fall in love with a dress that they originally were not going to try on.”
Want to step out of the stress of planning an elaborate do and instead have an intimate ceremony that’s just for the two of you? en elopement might be for you. “Generally eloping couples don’t like to be the centre of attention,” says Annie Byrne, a destination wedding planner who specialises in elopement to Ireland. “They don’t want all of the fuss and drama that comes with larger and even some intimate weddings. Basically they just want to marry the person they love.”
Annie says the perks are obvious. “It’s ease, low stress, less financial commitments and no drama. Much of the drama from larger, traditional and even smaller yet still intimate weddings comes from family and friends. With eloping you make all of the decisions and there is no one to judge or please except each other.”
As for planning one, “talk out your vision together,” Annie advises.
Go where you want to go just like you are planning a vacation. Then look carefully at the legalities and talk to a professional, preferably a wedding planner who knows all of the guidelines but sometimes that can be a destination photographer too. It’s a relaxed process and it should be.
But won’t people be put out that they weren’t included in your big day, you ask? If they are, “stand your ground politely,” says Annie. “This is your experience, your day and your memories. However with technology these days we have done live video feeds for a ceremony and had touching phone calls in the morning and there is always time to get together and share the photos and video with friends and family after the elopement. If that doesn’t work then remember, the negative feelings and upset family are most likely one of the reasons you want to elope in the first place.”