How to Deal . . . with an Overly Opinionated Parent

I love weddings. They are a time for joy and celebration. But with any big moment in life, stress, anxiety, and frustrations can arise. A cause of stress for couples during the wedding process can be an overly opinionated parent. Sometimes it can be a sister, uncle, or friend, but in most cases, it is a parent who ruffles some feathers. Not one likes being told what to do by a parent (it must be our inner rebellious teenager asserting itself!), especially when it’s about something as personal as your own wedding. But on the flip side, weddings involve those you love most and represent the integration of two families. Here are some tips on how to navigate this somewhat touchy subject: Have an Initial Get Together Once you have made the decision to marry, have a meeting with both families to see what kind of involvement they want in the wedding and what their expectations are. Come prepared knowing what kind of wedding you want. If you want a relaxed cocktail-party wedding in a loft but your parents always dreamed of a large banquet-hall wedding for you, it’s good to air this now. Weddings have evolved drastically since your and your fiancé’s parents were married, and sometimes it’s hard for mom and dad to understand why, for example, anyone would want to get married in a barn (barns are for horses, aren’t they?). Come with pictures and inspiration and lay the groundwork for getting them on board with your vision; this will make them feel involved right from the start, and also establish exactly the type of wedding you dream of having.

If parents are helping financially, find out if they expect to have a say in decisions. This particular topic is sensitive. In my opinion, if parents are helping out financially, extending them the option of selecting a certain number of guests to invite is the considerate route. However (again this is just my opinion) if parents are contributing money or paying entirely for the wedding, this does not mean they can dictate what type of wedding you are going to have. It’s really important to find out how they feel about this topic right from the beginning.

Learn to Say No It’s hard to say no, especially to a parent or soon to be parent-in-law. But if suggestions are being voiced or opinions being presented that really don’t jive with the feel or direction of your wedding, make your stance on the subject clear. For example, if your fiancé’s mom really adores red roses for centrepieces (and has made this very known to you), but your wedding colours are more muted and natural, my suggestion is not to say “maybe” or “we will think about it”; just say a polite no, followed by a brief explanation. This will hopefully avoid having the same suggestions come up several times.

Speak from the Heart If a parent is really starting to frustrate you, speak up, but speak from the heart. Parents want the best for their child, but sometimes this can turn into being controlling, overbearing, and way too intrusive. It can especially strain the situation if they see your wedding in a very different way from you. If you’ve shared the vision of your wedding with them from the start, but conflicting suggestions are still being made, it’s time to speak up. Let them know how much it means to have their love and support but that you have the planning under control. Indicate that if you need their help, you will ask.

Hire a Planner Having a professional on your side is a great answer to an overly involved parent. Example: Your mom is suggesting hiring her friend who bakes and decorates cakes as a hobby, but you’re not impressed by her work. An appropriate response to this is “Our wedding planner has given us a list of cake vendors who she has worked with before and who come highly recommended, so we have decided to look into this select list.” Having an expert in the field will give your parents confidence that your wedding is in good hands. If parents are pushing to control certain planning aspects, just let them know your planner has or will be taking care of it.

Try not to Complain (this one is tough!) It’s easy to get into the habit of complaining, but try your darnedest not to make this a regular occurrence. If you find yourself endlessly grumbling about a parent’s behaviour, it can really sour the planning experience. Sure, everyone needs to vent occasionally, but getting into the routine of complaining about a parent can make a joyous occasion a negative one. Take the higher road and try to keep positive.

If you have a parent whose opinion or involvement is preventing you from enjoying the wedding planning process to the fullest, hopefully these tips will help you deal with the situation and keep the drama in check. Try to keep your cool and always remember what this celebration is all about: marrying the love of your life.

By Certified Wedding Planner Alexandra McNamara

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