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Most couples planning a wedding have been there at some point: Just when you’ve come up with The Perfect Wedding Plan, family finds a way to foil it! One of our BAB readers has such a dilemma:
I am hoping you can help me out. I am from Houston, TX, my fiance is from a small town in northern MN (near the Canadian border) and last year we relocated to South Dakota. Because we don’t really have any connections here yet, we have opted to have the wedding in his hometown where it’ll keep the costs down, compared to Houston. My friends and family are going to have to travel, and my family seems to be the most upset about it. I know that for any wedding, you can’t make everyone happy, but I feel like they’re going above and beyond to not be excited about this. They would have been okay with a destination wedding to Colorado or Montana, but are just being completely horrid about it being in MN. Is it because his family doesn’t have to travel or because they won’t be able to help as much with planning (not that they would if it was where we live or another destination)…? I’m just over trying to plan things and everyone being angry with me for my choices. We’re getting married in September and are really just getting things planned out, ceremony and reception venues have been chosen, photographer is good, we do catering and tent choices next month and it’s done. But they’re making me second guess all of my decisions. Any advice you can offer?
Dear Wedding Doubts,
I’m so sorry that your family is being uncooperative about your plans. Of course you’re questioning your decisions! Family is your own flesh and blood, you love them, and you want them to be happy! But … do they feel the same for you, your partner and your wedding day?
Some families do get very upset when it seems that wedding plans are being made more in favor of “the other side.” The reality is that wedding plans rarely work out to be 100% equitable for both sides of the families, so although we can understand a bit why they might feel that way, it’s just a fact that life ain’t fair.
Do you know for certain that your family would have been okay with traveling to Colorado or Montana? If they’ve said so in so many words, then you’re absolutely right — it’s very possible they’re just being horrid. Family does not get to pick your wedding location! (Unless they’re paying for it, then all bets are off.) On the other hand, if you don’t really know why they’re acting the way they are, then the first thing to do is have a sit-down with the anti-MN-ers. Meet with the people who oppose the destination, but also bring along an ally — your partner, or someone in the family that supports your decision. Ask what the concerns are, and just listen. You don’t have to defend your choices — and doing so might make matters worse. Just let them vent about whatever their issues are, and remember to filter their responses before they make their way to your ears! Whatever concerns family has about your wedding decisions are not about you — they’re about them. Be a duck, and let it all just roll off! (like water off your back)
It’s not your responsibility to please everyone (or anyone) on your wedding day, but it can help to let the naysayers know you hear and understand them. You don’t have to change your plans — just let them know that while you’re sorry it’s an inconvenience to them, it’s the best plan for your own needs, and you’re the one footing the bill. (Or even if not, you’re still the ones getting married, though the waters get murkier if they are the ones footing the bill.)
If you do happen to learn something in talking with family that you didn’t know or hadn’t considered and you decide you’d like to make a change to better accommodate their needs, take some time to think through the options before changing your plans. Enlist help from your partner and family in brainstorming creative solutions — most of the time the one that works best isn’t their way or your way, but a third way that hasn’t been discovered yet, and it might not even require any changes to the plans you’ve made.
Here are a few possible solutions that might help if you’re considering this route:
- Help your family to find discounted airfare — Maybe they’re not yet aware of sites like Priceline, Expedia, or Orbitz, so send ’em the links. (But don’t get involved in making all the family travel arrangements – you’re not a travel agent!)
- Help them find deals on lodging — Ask your in-laws to provide some suggestions, or try AirBNB.
- Come up with a solution for ground transportation — Book a local shuttle, ask the in-laws to help with airport pick-ups or help to organize car pooling for anyone who needs a rental car.
- Help them get excited about traveling — Create a wedding website and include links and images to local landmarks, attractions, hot spots, historical sites and more.
- Create a “who’s who” graphic –– Add photos for both sides of the immediate families and the wedding party, along with names, hometowns and roles in the wedding. Families love this because it they can study faces before ever meeting!
- Consider “comping” close relatives — If there are only one or two close relatives upset about the decision and you can manage the additional expense, consider comping their hotel room or some other portion of the travel. Let me be clear here: You are not expected or required to cover the expense, so it would be a generous gift if you choose to offer it.
- Give them VIP treatment — If they’re feeling jilted, you can spin it your way by making family feel special with travel care packages (for the flight), welcome bags (for their lodging upon arrival) and with special shout outs during the wedding events. Thank them publicly for traveling all the way to Minnesota for your wedding. Often that’s enough of an olive branch to satisfy traveling guests.
- Give family an out –– Sometimes people get (understandably) cranky because they feel stuck between a rock and a hard place — missing a close friend or family member’s wedding vs. struggling to find the cash to pay for the travel. If the destination issue is really about money, give family a couple of “outs.” Let them know that their presence is their gift to you, and that you don’t also expect them to offer gifts. And also, if some of the family members complaining about the travel are extended family, it really is okay if they can’t (or don’t want to) attend. Let them know that while you’d greatly miss them at your wedding, you understand if they can’t make it due to the distance. Just the reassurance that you won’t hold it against them (but would still love to have them there) might be enough to ease their minds and let them make the decision that’s right for them. Then consider an informal backyard get-together in your home town for those family members, during which you can share photos and stories about the wedding day.
It’s my experience that when guests (including family) feel like their needs are understood and taken care of, they’re less likely to create drama. It might be that if you can figure out what those needs are, you can get creative to help meet them without changing any of your existing plans or taking any extraordinary steps to accommodate your family. Of course you can’t please everyone, but at least you can sleep easy knowing that you’ve tried your best — and then just relax knowing your planning is ALMOST DONE!
Planning a wedding in Northeast Ohio? Here’s where you can find me for wedding planning assistance.