Navigating family feuds

Anyone who’s ever planned a wedding will know that the biggest stress of all is not the cost. It’s not whether the styling will be just right. It’s not even the prospect of saying your vows in front of tens, possibly hundreds, of people.

No, planning a wedding is hardest when you have a sticky mulch of family history to wade through. So to help you out with your wedding day family dilemmas, here are a few common scenarios and how to deal with them:

The difficult mother in law

I’d just like to say that my future mother in law is awesome (yeah, I know, what a suck up – no, she really is brilliant), but not everyone is as lucky as I am. I’ve heard many a friend complain about the mother in law from hell – the woman who believes nobody’s good enough for their little boy! She’s controlling, she’s difficult – and she wants to take over your wedding. Help!

The answer: It can be very difficult to manage a fractured relationship with your future mother in law, but you must be careful. Losing your temper with her, shouting at her or (worst of all) swearing at her, will only serve to damage YOU and your relationship. On the other hand, being intimidated by her to the point where you turn into a gibbering child when she’s around also won’t help you two to bond. Speak to her, adult to adult (it may be worth reminding yourself that you’re still an adult before doing this) and say that you’d really like to have lunch just the two of you. Explain that while her suggestions are welcome and helpful, and you’d love to incorporate them in some way (even if this isn’t true) that you have a clear idea of how the day should run and that you’ll have the final say. Try to make her feel as included as possible so she isn’t hit by the loss of control – and she should be included, after all, she’s the woman who MADE the love of your life.

If all else fails and she’s completely unreasonable with you in person, it’s time to bring in a third party. Perhaps sensitively explain to your fiance how you’re feeling (but don’t say the words “I hate her”) or ask your future father in law to have a word.

The divorced parents

Ah, nothing says “party” like two hosts who won’t speak to each other. Some people are lucky enough for their parents to still be together, or to have split amicably. If you’re not in that category, then you need to resolve the issue LONG before your big day, or you could end up feeling torn.

The answer: Speak to both of your parents in the weeks before your wedding and explain to them that it’s very important to you that everyone just grit their teeth and endure each other’s company, for your sake. If they really can’t get along, find a way for them both to matter. Perhaps rather than one top table, they could each host their own table, or have separate photos with you and your other half. In the long run, they need to understand that their behaviour on this one day will never be forgotten – so they’d better be good!

The trouble maker

Every family has one – somebody who’s systematically managed to upset and perhaps even fall out with the rest of the family. They’re still family though, so you don’t want to exclude them. On the other hand, they’re likely to behave badly either during or after the wedding and their presence will cause a lot of tension.

The answer: Every situation is different, but try talking to the family to gauge how they feel about you extending the invite. If the consensus is an overwhelming “no”, perhaps it’s best to think about how to gently let this family member down. If the response is mixed, maybe seat this family member away from people they’re likely to clash with and find some easy going friends to play “babysitter”.

Ultimately, however, it’s your day. So try not to be too swayed by what other think and, if all else fails, go with your gut.

Do you have any wedding dilemmas you’d like me to chat about? Email me: and I’ll anonymously print your question! 

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