I have been pondering ways to keep my family involved in my wedding yet respectful of our wishes. I almost feel like it is harder to plan a “mostly traditional with some personal twists” style wedding than a totally off-the-wall affair, mostly because if you are having the latter, it seems friends and family will eventually resign themselves to the fact that you are unequivocally NOT going to have the wedding they want.
Because our wedding appears fairly traditional on the surface, the changes we're making are confusing the hell out of my parents, making them think that we are only changing certain things to spite them.
In thinking about this, I am realizing that my parents — and probably a lot of your families, ladies and gentlemen out in weddingland — just need the same reality check that brides often need: This is a wedding. It is one day. It should be enjoyable; not a battle, and definitely not a contest.
In order to aid my family in understanding that we are simply trying to plan a wedding that is personally meaningful instead of going along with culturally-scripted sentimental moments, I have been trying to do these things:
- Emphasize the ways in which I will be honoring family …and de-emphasizing the ways in which they expected to be acknowledged. My point to them is this- what do you think will feel more genuine and meaningful, doing that dance which everyone expects, the one everyone does whether they love or hate the person they are dancing with, or the unexpected bits we are planning, such as handing out my bouquets to certain people in the family (I'm talking about you, parents) and saying a few words about how much I appreciate them, or making a family tree where I will write little stories about favorite memories with each family member, or having three large parties (rehearsal, wedding and brunch) where all family will be invited so we can all be together as much as possible?
- Remind them of the things I could easily cut, but am keeping for sentiment's sake. That's right, dad, I'm talking about letting you walk me down the aisle. Chill out or I'll ask Grandpa.
- Keep 'em busy. I was a little bummed that no one in my family had been offering to help out with the wedding, so I had to start asking. And man, were they happy I asked. My sister is psyched to make my veil. My mom will be helping me make bouquets, and when I mentioned it, she suddenly snapped out of the Prozac-haze she's been in since I was 14. When I mentioned making Aletria (a Portuguese desert) to my dad's family, they seemed really honored that I wanted to share it with my new family and offered to help.
- Keep gently reminding friends and family that my wedding is not a contest. It is not a contest between us and other couples, and it is certainly not a contest between all the parents and in-laws of the universe. So please, parent or family member: before you ask me why I am not doing X,Y, or Z, please honestly examine why it's so important to you.
Mainly, I want my family to have fun, and feel loved and acknowledged, without sacrificing the wedding my partner and I want to have. Four more months to go, I hope we can make it without any additional confrontations!