A wedding is a major event—one with many moving parts and a high price tag—which is why they're often associated with a great deal of stress for everyone involved. Most couples say they argue more than ever during the engagement (yes, it's totally normal!), but some brides- and grooms-to-be also say they have more disagreements with their parents, too. While it's pretty common, it's important to do your best to ensure minor disagreements don't turn into major conflict, creating unnecessary tension surrounding what's supposed to be an incredibly happy day. To that end, we spoke with a relationship expert and wedding planner to figure out the most common fights engaged couples have with their parents, then talked to the pros about keeping the peace.
According to Jill La Fleur, the owner, planner, and creative director of La Fleur Weddings & Events, brides and their mothers (or future mothers-in-law) often disagree about wedding details. Specifically, a mom may set out to plan the wedding she's always dreamed of having instead of letting the bride's vision shine. "This can be anything from the bride wanting a dessert bar rather than a traditional wedding cake, to what she is wearing or who is marrying them, to the way the wedding is decorated," she adds.
If parents are financing the wedding, they likely set a concrete budget. Naturally, they might disapprove of how you choose to spend the money. For example, you may want to splurge on a top-notch wedding band, while your parents would rather put the funds toward gourmet catering. "Parents and couples have their priorities in mind of what is important about the day, and can sometimes that can feel overwhelming," notes La Fleur.
The Guest List
Marissa Gomez Schursky, a licensed marriage and family therapist, often sees conflicts between parents and engaged couples. She mentions another common cause of fighting: the guest list. Parents probably want to invite their friends and relatives to the wedding, but if the couple barely knows these people, they may hesitate to extend a save-the-date.
Dreaming of tying the knot on the faraway beaches of the Caribbean? Your parents might not share the vision, preferring a local ceremony and reception instead. There may be several reasons for this decision, such as budget constraints, the hassle of travel plans, the need for a limited guest list, or the inability to take time off work.
Religious Nature of the Ceremony
Clashing religious beliefs can spark arguments between parents and engaged couples. For example, maybe your parents anticipate traditional religious nuptials in a church, while you prefer a non-denominational outdoor ceremony, or you've decided on a Jewish celebration when your parents practice Hinduism. Parents often expect wedding ceremonies to follow their own religion, and they may protest if the situation isn't in their favor.
The Outfit Choices
In general, wedding fashion was more conservative in past decades—which explains why parents may not love the idea of watching you walk down the aisle in a crop top, form-fitting silhouette, or a dress with a plunging neckline. If either set of parents deem the wedding attire as too "flashy," bickering will probably ensue.
More Serious Issues
As a marriage and family therapist, Schursky sometimes deals with difficult issues involving a bride, a groom, and their parents. "Other topics of conflict may extend to family versus couple loyalty, disagreements between the future-in-laws, the choice of prospective spouse, and prenuptial agreements," she says.
Tips for Solving Conflicts
No matter the cause of the conflict, Schursky recommends addressing issues head-on to resolve them quickly; remember that hurt feelings can escalate with time. "The longer we feel injured, the stronger we make our case reinforcing why we are right," she says. "Without an active dialogue, the conversation can reach an impasse." The first step in addressing the issue is pinpointing the exact source of frustration, then both couples should sit down to discuss the conflict. "Once the disagreement is brought up, the couple should be transparent, asserting their true thoughts and feelings. Remember to listen, try to avoid criticism, and don't judge the opposing opinion," says Schursky.
After assessing the differences, the couple and their parents can hopefully reach a compromise—or, at the very least, develop a deeper understanding of the opposing ideas, whether they stem from personal taste or core beliefs. "Recognizing the importance of your view versus your parents' views may put the disagreement in perspective, and help you see what is a priority on or before the big day," says Schursky.