By now, we're all familiar with the ugly side of wedding planning: the bridezilla emails, the outrageously expensive bachelorette parties, the sleepless nights, and the blown budgets. But the truth is, it's not always the bride and groom wreaking havoc on the process. Unfortunately, a few bad eggs on either side of the family can add a level of difficulty to this overwhelming time that no one was truly prepared for. While it's easy to urge brides to "not let it get to them," the reality is that this is easier said than done. If you're dealing with wedding-related family drama, Faith Folayan, owner and creative director of This Love Weddings, is here to help. The seasoned pro has plenty of suggestions to help keep drama off the guest list for good.
Don't worry about what things are "supposed" to look at a wedding; instead, plan the day that makes the most sense for you and your families. If you want your dad, stepdad, and mom to all walk you down the aisle, then go for it. Just make sure everyone is aware of your plans well ahead of time. "Whatever is decided, communication is key. Let immediate family know about your plans in advance," says Folayan. It's also a good idea to clue guests into your plans, too. If your processional order won't follow the standard format, for example, Folayan says to consider listing this information in the ceremony program. The pro also adds that couples have the power to completely eliminate any tradition that don't serve their needs, especially things like parent/child dances. "If you think the entire dance scenario is going to cause grief, do away with it. Once you have decided on the dances ahead of time be sure to inform the MC, bandleader, or DJ on how you'd like to proceed."
While it's certainly acceptable to do away with certain wedding-related traditions, there are other instances where Folayan considers the tried-and-true methods essential. One of these is seating. "When it comes to managing family dynamics, seating charts are always recommended," she says. Especially in the case of divorced parents, be sure to carefully plan ahead of time where everyone is sitting and the distance between their tables as well. "Each parent should host his or her own table. Divide up close friends and family between the tables so each parent still feels like they are sitting at a head table."
Lean on the Pros
You'll work with a number of third party vendors throughout the wedding planning process, including florists, sales associates, and wedding planners. Don't be afraid to lean on these professionals for support! Remember, their focus is to ensure the happiness of the bride and groom, so if you mention to the bridal stylist that you really don't want your grandma pulling gowns for you, she's probably be more than willing to explain that it's against store policy…even if it's not. If you're worried about the processional, have the planner announce who will be escorting whom down the aisle from a place of authority. Relying on your team will keep you out of the crossfire and make it far less likely for individuals to argue with your decisions.
It can be very difficult to navigate family politics when it's not your family just yet. Luckily, you don't have to go it alone. Feel free to delegate tricky tasks like seating arrangements to someone on your future in-law's side. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of familial relations better than you do, but it will give them an important planning job and make them feel more involved in the process.
If you've done everything in your power to handle the situation with grace and trouble makers are still wreaking havoc, it may be time to cut ties. Whether it's not including them on your guest list to begin with or tactfully rescinding an invitation, you are in charge of selecting the type of people you want surrounding you on the big day. If an invitation has already been extended, you might say something like, "It seems like this wedding is bringing up a lot of unpleasant emotions for you. If you'd rather not attend, I completely understand." It's likely one of two things will happen: First, the guest in question will realize how dire the situation has become and rethink their approach, or they will take you up on the offer and excuse themselves from the festivities, leaving you with only those guests excited to share their love and support.