The holidays can be unbearable for some. But you can learn how to handle them forevermore by practicing dealing with your loved ones during the wedding planning process. It’s no secret that weddings tend to bring family issues to a head. Sensitivities, past arguments, long-standing feuds – watch out! It’s actually a good thing, though. It forces brides and grooms to accept what they cannot change (i.e., half their relatives).
Most weddings go on without too much conflict, and the process mellows as time continues – plans are set in stone, and the inevitability of it all calms down the control freaks. I for one got super stressed about the planning itself, but became even closer to my family as their help and fun-loving attitudes really made it a blast. Not to say there wasn’t negotiation and compromise, but really not a lot (add this person to the guest list, maybe have chicken instead of steak, etc.) The real problem was the venue (but more on that in ANOTHER post!).
Now that I’m a little older (and after having a kid, wayyy more laid back now), I’ve looked back and sorted out how to deal with family and friends in high-emotion situations. I’m no therapist, people, but ‘being there’ is the ultimate teaching situation. (And no doubt many already-marrieds have a tip or two as well).
- Let it go. Like, everything. Auntie Maude wants a champagne fountain? (“I’ll pay for it myself!” – as if that gives them license to have whatever they want.) If she’s getting crazy about it, let her have it. Enjoy the kitsch and make everyone take a picture by it for a fun champagne fountain digital photo album set to polka music. When you say, “Sure, you can have it – and enjoy!” the fun of the fight goes out of your opponent – and twenty years from now, who cares that you had a fountain?
- Let THEM go. Your grandpa who is cranky about EVERYTHING, never smiles, and complains about everything? If you try to make him happy and ultimately fail, quit trying, and just remain neutral.
Hard to do, I know, but you are not responsible for his attitude – he is. When he no longer has a reaction, an outside party to project to, he has no choice but to turn inward. This is a great lesson that helps with holidays, too.
- Be receptive to EVERYTHING. Stepmom thinks you should have an Elvis Impersonator serenade the bride and groom. The minute you protest with disgust, her adrenaline surges, fight-or-flight commences, and she’s ready to go. There’s a perverse excitement with conflict that, sadly, keeps family arguments going. So don’t fuel it. “That is so fun!! You know, the best man LOVES Elvis. I’ll have to check, though. My wedding planner [YES! We can play bad cop! part of our job!] warned us against overscheduling the reception, so we’ll see.” Let it go. And then, when she revisits it, say you thought about it but there’s not enough room in the schedule, but you’ve put together a mini Elvis playlist for her during a dance set.
- If they just can’t let go in a fight (“But Elvis would be SO FUN!”), respond with the same words each time: “It just wouldn’t fit in our schedule.” Every time they try to argue and wheedle, say, “I wish we could, but it just wouldn’t fit in our schedule.” Soon they will realize they’re facing a brick wall and stop. There may be sore feelings, but you’ve remained calm (YES! Remain calm! Kick the tires later!), and emerged unscathed. Later the person might even reflect on how looney their request was, anyways. You’d be surprised.
- The details will disappear. Your friend Drunken Anthony might request the Macarena, infuriating your hipster self (or…is the Macarena ironic now?), but twenty years from now, seriously, you aren’t gonna care. You’re going to be worried about the gas bill, packing the kids for college, and enjoying shopping with friends. It’ll all fade away, trust me. There’s something about the ‘real life’ that begins after the fairy-tale wedding that hones down your true concerns and cares to the bare minimum – which is a good thing.
- Compromise. Like the Elvis Medley for stepmom, or carrying your mother’s hanky after you’ve decided not to wear her dress – offer these things right off the bat. Again, don’t just shoot down the idea – think about it. Really think about it. “It’s not going to work for me since I wanted to wear a strapless dress, but i had a great idea – why don’t I wear your gorgeous veil, Mom?”
- And laugh it off. Champagne fountain, Elvis medley, Macarena – however campy, kitsch , or out of left field anything is, it’ll be memorable. The crashing together of peoples’ whim and whimsy makes a wedding memorable. If all the details are just-so perfect, things get a little…precious.
Not too long ago I had a dinner party for some old friends to welcome by bestie buddy (we go back – I don’t even want to say it – twenty two years or so). I thought I had enough chairs, but the gang had to find more with hubby’s help – then, the risotto was NOT cooperating (first time in how many times I’ve cooked the stuff?), so Jen (No Worries Coordinator extraordinaire) performed triage; there were no seating assignment cards, no cutesy sign in book, we had a coupla mismatched plates – really, nothing that even at all lent itself to me being a pro event planner. I save my perfection and polish for my clients; but at home, it was casual, chaotic, full of laughter. It was the best.
I think after pulling off a lovely wedding in my perfectionist way, I was fatigued. Then I had a child, and while I work hard to keep the house clean (like, semi-germ-free clean), it’s a bit cluttered. Sometimes I step on a squeak toy. The dogs stink if I go one day past their every-month bath window; and there’s two bins of clean laundry that I just can’t seem to get to. But it’s okay. So when a client frets about a teeny detail, I reassure her that I will help her implement it perfectly, but that with 150 average humans in the mix (both guests and vendors), it won’t be as perfect as her dreams. in fact, it’ll be better – a surprise toast by a dear friend, an unexpected conversation with an old buddy who managed to make the trip at the last minute, a flower girl who interrupts the first dance with a big hug on the bride and groom. These are things that make life as beautiful as it is, and will make your wedding all the more special.