Good morning (afternoon) everyone! A couple of days ago, I wrote a post on the things you should ignore when planning your wedding. The post was an unexpected runaway success, with many brides commenting and sharing on social media. While many people found the post empowering, a few people came back to me with a very good point: it’s all very well and good telling people to say no to things and ignore the unhelpful advice, but it’s much easier said than done, especially if someone else is paying, even in part, for your wedding.
So today I decided to write a follow-up post to help you tackle some of the tricky situations I brought up in the previous post.
Establish boundaries from day one
So someone’s very kindly contributing financially to your wedding day. That doesn’t have to mean you’ve sold the rights to make any decisions. This isn’t a business deal, it’s the day you’re marrying someone you love, and while it’s reasonable that someone who’s helping you out with money should expect to be involved, it’s not always fair for them to take over totally.
I know, from experience, that there’s not always a choice as to whether or not you accept financial help with your wedding. They can be expensive affairs, and in this day and age a salary doesn’t stretch too far after living costs.
My advice would be to set boundaries before any money changes hands. Agree the terms of the gift or loan in advance. For example, how much say does the person get over the choices you make? What do they intend the money to be used for? If everyone knows where they stand from the start, there won’t be any nasty surprises when you go to book your dream venue and it gets vetoed because it’s not your money that you’re spending. Yes, it’s an awkward conversation to have, and of course you don’t want to sound ungrateful at all, but it saves any growing resentment or big arguments later on.
A good way to do this is to agree exactly what the money is for, especially if you’re splitting the bill. For example, you can ask that your parents gift you the wine or catering, or something that you feel less strongly about, so that they can have a say in those areas, rather than giving them free reign over the dress or the guest list.
My dad and I agreed certain terms (there were two or three people he did and didn’t want invited and involved) and then he was happy to take a step back and help when he was needed, but not everyone sees their contribution as a gift without strings attached and finding out just how many strings it comes with will help you to make a decision as to whether or not it’s worth accepting the money. Speaking of which…
Decide whether or not the money is worth it
You might have the most expensive, lavish wedding in the world. But if it’s not your dream day, and if you’ll be unhappy or disappointed, then there’s no difference between doing that and having a smaller ceremony.
There are some situations that can’t be resolved. If it looks as though you will have very little say over your wedding and this isn’t OK with you, then have a conversation with your spouse-to-be about whether or not it’s worth accepting a contribution at all.
You don’t have to spend the earth to get married, and if you’re spending the earth to get married and you’re still unhappy, then that’s no good either. Scrape together and think about what you can afford on your own. Compare it to what you can afford with contributions and weigh up the pros and cons of getting married without help and getting married with help but losing control over how you do it.
Be honest, not angry
It may be too late for you to have set boundaries from the start, and now someone else is calling the shots left, right and centre. It’s natural that, if someone is dismissing your feelings, you may feel angry about this. When approaching a conversation about it, try to get past your anger and just be honest about feeling hurt instead. Anger is our default when we feel wronged, it’s a defence and it’s pretty effective, but honesty tends to reach people, as they won’t be on the defensive.
Sit down and just let the person in know how long you’ve been dreaming of this day and how you had really pictured it a different way. See if a compromise can be reached, I’m not saying you should point-blank refuse to listen to the other person’s ideas, but equally they should listen and respect that it’s your day too.
Be honest with yourself as well. When someone is annoying you, the tendency is to find everything they do annoying without discrimination. Before you speak to them, write a list of the things that are bothering you and ask a few trusted friends to look at them objectively and tell you whether or not you’re being reasonable. Ask friends that you trust not to just tell you what you want to hear. For example, choosing your dress for you probably isn’t reasonable – asking that a certain family member be invited may be more reasonable but not what you want. Know exactly what it is that’s bothering you and which battles are most important before you start negotiations, otherwise you may end up bombarding the other person with your frustrations and leaving them feeling attacked.
Don’t put off the difficult conversations
I am the worst one for avoiding awkward conversations – but they’re never nearly as bad as you think they’re going to be, especially if you face them head on before the situation spirals out of control. Many fall outs are avoidable if you let someone know that you’re not happy right away, rather than forcing yourself to smile and nod through gritted teeth.
Putting off difficult conversations is such a great source of anxiety, and you don’t need any more anxiety before such a big change in your life. Make a pact with yourself to deal with situations within 24 hours of them arising. That gives you 24 hours to cool off, think through what you’re going to say and then get it out of the way before it becomes an even bigger deal.
Be a team
Be on the same page as your partner. The day is about the two of you getting married and it’s important not to get wrapped up in drama and lose sight of that. If the two of you are a solid unit, sticking to your guns and establishing boundaries will be a lot easier. United we stand… or something.
Are you dreading a difficult talk with someone? Is someone else taking control of your big day? We’d love to hear from you and see if we can find the right advice to help.