Family matters and planning your day when opinions get in the way.
Sometimes organising a wedding can feel like a fine balancing act. There are your own expectations that come into play and then there’s those of your family that can also creep in, almost unsuspectingly in little quips and comments as wedding plan discussions ensue.
Everything from who to invite, who to not invite (that family squabble has been going on for years now, you see), where to seat them, inviting children, partners of guests…the list goes on. Unfortunately, so too can the anguish and frustration that goes with it.
Just know, you are certainly not alone in what you’re experiencing. Plenty of couples have been through it all before and although you may have to wade through a bit of mud to get there…there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of a beautiful celebration.
So let’s have a look at some of those frustrating moments you might find yourself in.
The moment when somebody interferes….
That pesky mother in law giving you grief over the fact you chose posies over roses? Dad wanting a final say in where all his relatives are sitting?
We know they mean well in their own way, but there comes a time when a little open communication needs to come into play. Let them know you and your partner have everything covered and while you’ve taken into consideration their thoughts, you’re happy with what you’ve decided on.
The posies match the theme and are in season, Dad’s relatives are mostly seated together and positioned strategically with guests who share common interests or connections or you’ve simply ditched a seating chart and it’s a free for all for your guests to sit and mingle with who they choose.
Being mindful of how you approach these scenarios is crucial – the people closest to you only love you and want to weigh in on your day because they care, try not to let a little friction become a huge fire. Sometimes, the acknowledgement that they’ve been heard is all they need.
The moment where you realise people ‘expect’ to be invited…
Majority of the time, there really isn’t an issue of people naturally ‘expecting’ to be invited to your wedding.
However, there’s always an outlier in there somewhere and unfortunately, you have to decide whether to bite the bullet and have that conversation or let it slide and dish out that invite. It’s extremely fair and well within your rights to say no to the cousin who you haven’t seen since Christmas 2011, and if they do kick up a stink, don’t worry….you probably won’t have to see them again for another 10 years anyway.
When it comes to people you might see a whole lot more of, things can be a little tougher. Say for instance a workmate, who you love to share your morning coffee run with, or enjoy a gossip over lunch on the daily. Does that make them a close, ‘real-world’ friend too? Possibly. And that’s great. Though, it’s also okay if they’re not. This one may take a little more hand-holding in the way of subtle hints as you discuss your big day plans. A little outward groan over budgets and headcount can go a long way in smoothing the path for a tough, honest chat later on in the piece.
A helpful way to approach said chat could be: “I am so sorry, but something has been weighing on my mind and I wanted you to hear this from me first. I wish we could have an endless guest list for our wedding celebrations, but we have had to come to the tough decision of limiting ourselves to close family and friends only. Sadly, this in turn means our workmates cannot be there”.
Think ahead though, and if you’re happy for your besties in business to make it to the ceremony to catch a glimpse of the I-do’s, they’ll probably be thrilled with the opportunity!
The moment where people want their kids to come too…
It’s understandable that some people want their children to come and enjoy a celebration such as a wedding, but it’s even more understandable that as a couple, you want to give your friends and families the time to enjoy themselves without worrying about the additional onsite babysitting. You can always opt for a bit of leeway, with kids allowed at the ceremony component of the day only, if it’s a brand new little bub, or even if it’s just your immediate family that has the A-OK on the kid front.
Given a bit of time and a heads up should enable guests to organise babysitting options and work out their situation for an evening out. It’s not your job to babysit them throughout this whole wedding process, and as ever, communication here is key.
Some ways in which you might like to nip this one in the bud in the form of formal wording on your invitation could be…
“While we adore your little ones, please note that our wedding will be an adults-only affair”.
“To allow all wedding guests, including parents, a night of relaxation and uninhibited revelry, we respectfully ask that no children attend the reception.”
“We love your kids but thought you might like a night off. Adults only please!”
Or, consider including a personalised note with your invitation: “We’d love to have Billie and Bobby there, but unfortunately we’re limited by budget/space constraints. We hope you can still make it.”
Once again, communication is key. Be mindful that should one of your guests not be able to find appropriate babysitting arrangements, then they may not be able to attend your wedding. Respect their decision and be kind about it too.
The moment where you’re trying to decode the seating chart…
Following the guest list itself, seating charts remain one of the most contentious parts of the wedding planning process. Many an argument has unfolded when it comes to placing guests, trust us!
Try and make it easier on yourselves by first deciding how you want your seating arrangements to flow. Do you want guests seated based on friends and friendship groups? Do you want all family seated together? Do you want a mixture between family and friends and co-workers? Are the tables long or round? There’s a whole dynamic to a seating chart, so even start physically mapping it out, whether it’s literally cutting out individual names on paper and moving them around or making a spreadsheet of everyone; a good visual helps to see the whole picture. It may also take a few turns before you’re feeling happy with the layout and that’s cool, just go with it.
If at the end of the day it’s causing unnecessary grief, just remember…guests will mostly be up and mingling and moving around and that seat is more of a ‘base’ rather than a locked in contract.
Divorced parents? Estranged aunts? Long-standing family feuds? Every family has its moments, and some family matters are more sensitive than others. If you’re faced with having to keep certain people apart on your wedding day, we suggest enlisting the help of your suppliers, designated guests or bridal party members to help.
For instance, in advance of the wedding, let your celebrant or officiant know that Party A and Party B should be seated at opposite ends of the ceremony setting, this will ensure that potential storms can be subdued before they hit. Allocated seating can take the pressure off this scenario at your reception too. And when the mingling begins, have a bridal party member or guests keep an eye on any guests you’re worried about so you don’t have to shoulder all the responsibility.
It might be worth having a chat in advance of your celebration with any family members you are concerned about. Be mindful of their feelings, but also be open about how you feel too. Hopefully this might squash any tension before the day when they realise just how important it is to you that your celebration runs smoothly.
Hopefully, when the day finally comes around, and you’re taking a moment to bask in the radiance of your wedding you will look around and see all your favourite people chatting, smiling, laughing and being there to support you
All the hair tearing out and moments of awkward conversations we hope can simply fade away and you’ll start to question why you wasted so much time worrying and stressing about how the day would actually turn out.
With a little communication and kindness we hope it’s full of love, compassion and pure joy with a kick-ass dance floor all because you handled any family matters and opinions with style, grace, inner strength and a few G&T’s too!
Need help cutting your guest list? We have some top tips for you.
Written by Ivory Tribe contributor Kathryn Brandt.