StrongerMarriage.org Spokesperson Dr. Liz Hale explains.
It’s never just about the length of the invitation list or just about the location of the wedding. The details represent values of the couple as well as their community of family and friends. On www.strongermarriage.org, we have a blog that addresses many of the wonderful complexities of wedding planning and what to expect when you bring two cultures together. Every marriage is a cross-cultural marriage with its own history, traditions, idiosyncrasies, religion, and views. A bride has often had many dreams over this special event…and so has her mother and future mother-in-law! Be wise and proceed with care.
As the author of that blog I hear from brides all the time about their most difficult experiences and questions. Here are some of the top common themes that I hear most often.
Dilemma: “It’s Our Wedding And We Should Do What We Want, Right?!”
Response: It’s Your Day, But It’s Not Only Your Day
Brides often respond to each other’s frustration on the blog by repeating age-old advice like, “make sure your wedding is what YOU want, not what everyone else wants.” Or, “it’s YOUR day, have it YOUR way!” If this is indeed how a bride feels, that it’s her wedding and she and her fiancé should be able to do what they want, then my advice to them is to elope. However, if they are involving their community of family and close friends then that community also needs to be considered. It’s the first day of a long journey of two families coming together. Start off walking down the aisle on the right foot. If you choose to assemble your kin and peers together then, while, yes, it’s your day, it’s not only your day.
The next most common complaints I hear from brides on strongermarriage.org is when family members threatened to boycott the wedding if “so-and-so” is also invited. With so many blended families and various family constellations this is common and it’s wrenching!
Dilemma: “My Mother Says She Isn’t Coming If The Other Woman Is!”
Response: Express Your Desire and Leave It Up To Her
If you are inviting your extended families on both sides there is a fairly good chance that there are some “cut-offs” in there somewhere. It may even be your own parents who are divorced and not speaking to each other. Often what’s implied is, “If you invite the other one then you’re telling me that I can’t come.” The truth is you are NOT saying that. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated by family member’s conflicts. Instead, respond by saying, “We are inviting everyone we care about; we’d love to have you there; we’d love to have dad there and he will be brining his wife; while it’s important to me that have you there, it will be your decision.” In other words do not let someone put you in a position of disinviting them simply because you’ve also invited someone else. Define what your values are and let others make their own decision. It’s mostly a bluff; often people rise to the occasion and come to this special event and are appropriate. The most important thing to remember is not to escalate the situation. Don’t do a counter blackmail, such as, “If you don’t come then you will never see your future grandchildren!” Chalk it up to temporary insanity; and don’t join the institution.
Another common scenario I hear is when someone you love views a value differently than you do; who should have their way on this important day?
Dilemma: “We Both Feel Strongly (And Differently) About Something.”
Response: Determine If the Potential Joy Will Outweigh the Suspected Pain
A darling bride wrote in sharing her wish to have her mother walk her down the aisle instead of her father who was not all that involved in her life following her parents’ divorce as a young girl. When she told her father she was surprised to learn that this deeply disturbed him. He told her, “I have not been a good father at times…I realize that. But I have always hoped I could walk you down the aisle. While I may not deserve that honor it would mean the world to me. Truthfully, I will feel humiliated in front of my family and friends if I don’t’ walk you down the aisle….not that I deserve it.”
Here’s a great example of having to make a decision in the face of competing needs and values. This bride asked herself, “Would the joy of having my mother walk me down the aisle outweigh the pain it will cause my father?” When she shared this with her mother she learned that it hadn’t been her mother’s dream to walk her daughter down the aisle. This bride decided that this was an area that she could be flexible with and that the pain it would cause her father was not worth it to her and not something she wanted associated with the most important day of her life.
Marriage is not for getting all of our needs met; it’s for learning how to love and becoming more refined. It starts with planning the wedding!
If you have questions about your upcoming wedding or your child’s wedding, ask Dr. Liz through her blog at blog.strongermarriage.org. There is also great advice for not just brides but all family members on strongermarriage.org.