Weddings

How to prevent family drama from ruining your wedding day

Parents divorced? Overbearing mother-in-law? Family dynamics can be a minefield when it comes to weddings.

By Shari Nementzik

Family, family, family. We love them, we do, but if the scene at family gatherings is sometimes more Fight Club than Brady Bunch, we have you covered. Planning a wedding should be a wonderful time in your life, but it can also prove tricky if there are family politics to deal with. Here's how to defuse those family bombs before they detonate…

PROBLEM

Your beloved mother or soon-to-be mother-in-law has turned into a mumzilla. What started as sweet suggestions on the styling has snowballed into demands such as final approval on the floral arrangements and your choice of shoes.

DEFUSE IT

First of all, take a deep breath. Remember that mums dream about the milestones in their children's lives and that includes your wedding, so this can be a very emotional time for them. That's why they may be texting you all the time, coming up with a ton of ideas and pushing for what they think is best — they want you to have the perfect day.

Prevent upset by including them in the planning from the get-go.

Invite them to dress fittings and ask for their opinions on venue and cake design — doesn't mean you have to go with them. Make a list of no-compromise details with your fiancé and let Mum know what those are early on in the planning. If you can, give her one task to 'own' whether it's collecting RSVPs, sourcing wedding candles or bobonniere or even the flower girls' shoes. The busier they are, the happier everyone will be.

If your mum or your fiance's mum has overstepped the boundaries, have a conversation with her. The earlier you talk to her, the better. Open by thanking her for her enthusiasm and the nice things she's done for you and then go on to explain why her actions are causing problems. Don't take an angry tone, but do be firm.

PROBLEM

Your parents are divorced and they do not get along.

DEFUSE IT

There are several potential mini-bombs that could cause tension within this scenario.

Walking down the aisle: If you're close to your dad, this may not be an issue. However, if you were raised by your stepfather, you can give him the honour. You may want both your biological dad and stepfather to walk you, or you may ask your mum and dad to escort you down the aisle. Some brides choose to just have their mum walk them down the aisle, while others choose to go down alone. Do what feels right for you.

Seating at the ceremony: As etiquette for divorced parents dictates, seat our mum in the first row and your dad in the second.

Photography: Talk to your photographer in advance about the situation and let them know what family shots you'd like taken, as well as candid shots.

Seating at the reception: Instead of seating them both at the head table, seat them at separate tables, which they can each host.

Toasts: Buck tradition and give both parents the opportunity to make a toast at the reception, separately.

The father/daughter dance: If you are very close to your dad and stepfather, you could start the dance with your dad and then mid-song, dance with your step-father. Just make sure you let your dad now the plans beforehand. Or you can just do away with the dance altogether if it's going to cause any grief.

PROBLEM

Your brother has just started dating someone new and he wants to bring her to the wedding. You don't know her and don't have the space for another guest.

DEFUSE IT

In an ideal world, you'd be able to make the space for your brother's new girlfriend. After all, you want him to have a good time and enjoy your wedding rather than have him harbour any resentment towards you.

With that said, nobody should really be expecting to bring a date, unless that person is specifically invited. If allowing for one more guest is not an option for you, sit down with your brother and explain that you'd like to get to know his new girlfriend at other special occasions as their relationship continues, but you'd really like to spend your big day with close loved ones.

PROBLEM

You're only inviting immediate family to your wedding. The rest feel hurt.

DEFUSE IT

First of all, you need to be upfront about your decision and own it. Your loved ones should understand your decision if you explain the reasons you're opting for a smaller wedding. Another option is to host a party or small gathering after your wedding and invite those who didn't attend the day. This allows them to share in your union in some way.

PROBLEM

You're only inviting immediate family to your wedding. The rest feel hurt.

DEFUSE IT

First of all, you need to be upfront about your decision and own it. Your loved ones should understand your decision if you explain the reasons you're opting for a smaller wedding. Another option is to host a party or small gathering after your wedding and invite those who didn't attend the day. This allows them to share in your union in some way.

PROBLEM

The family members hate each other and you're worried they'll fight at the wedding.

DEFUSE IT

Separation is your best bet. Make sure the two problem family members are kept as far away as possible for the entire event. Put together a well-though-out seating plan to avoid any unwanted tension. You could also have a heart-to-heart with each person before the wedding, explaining that it would mean the world to you if they could put aside their issues for one day.

PROBLEM

You asked your sister to be your maid-of-honour, but she hasn't stopped complaining and she just can't be happy for you.

DEFUSE IT

Take your sister out for a coffee and have a heart-to-heart chat. Ask her what's new in her life then slowly guide the conversation towards your wedding. Tell her how much you want her in your bridal party, what her role means to you and how she's making you feel.

Hopefully she'll see how her behaviour has affected you and change her ways. If she continues to complain and pick arguments, you may have to make the hard decision to cut her from the bridal party. Be calm and rational in your approach, then you can never regret the decision.

This article originally appeared in issue 51 of Cosmopolitan Bride Australia.