An alternate title for this post would be “How to love your parents after planning a wedding with them”. And truly, before you read this one, you have to know that my relationship with my parents isn’t perfect. But they’re two of the most important people to me on this earth, and without their support, my wedding wouldn’t have been nearly as special. I know this can be a tough subject because parent relationships are often riddled with landmines. Trust me, I’ve stepped on my fair share of them. But what I want to share today are a few of the things I learned while planning my wedding alongside my parents, and some of the insights I have now that we’re no longer in the thick of that season. Lend me some grace, dear readers. This one gets a little sticky!
Set your expectations
First off, the relationship you have with your parents before your wedding is largely the same relationship you’ll have throughout. Meaning, if you’re already close, you can expect to stay that way, and if you’re already distant, same goes. While a wedding might tend to bring people together for the sake of celebration, it is by no means a band-aid to “fix” any existing issues. If anything, it often exacerbates sore spots that were already there. What you can do in response to this is manage your expectations appropriately. Rather than focus specifically on those relationships, try instead to accept any offers of assistance without strings or expecting more. And while we’re talking about expectations, be sure to voice them clearly!
Set your boundaries
This was probably the most difficult thing for me. I was twenty-one when I got married and I attempted to assert my own independence in a lot of ways. My parents were generous enough to pay for our wedding, but it was tough to balance my gratefulness with wanting to do my own thing. And really, spending someone else’s money creates such an odd tension, even without complicated family dynamics involved. What I quickly learned during the planning process was that anytime something upset me, I had to pinpoint why that upset me. A lot of times I was upset because my expectations weren’t being met, which meant I needed to voice them better or adjust them. But sometimes a boundary was unknowingly crossed and that meant I had to clearly set a new one. Some of the boundaries I set included how many decisions my mom could outright make for us (one), and how my parents were allowed to speak about my future marriage. Planning aside, I place a really high value on my parent’s input, and their “what if” scenarios about marriage completely unnerved me. So I pulled a bride card and just short of ordered them not to speak to me on that topic. Period. Which was a bold move for twenty-one-year-old Kaitlin, but it’s what she needed and they respected that. And for what it’s worth, if your loved ones don’t respect the boundaries you need, consider placing a little distance. Courtesy has to go both ways.
Set your attitude
Okay, so this one is 100% internal and up to your own diligence. You are in charge of your own feelings and your own attitude at all times. You choose your own outlook and approach to things. And if you have to fake it until you make it, it’s worth the effort to put forth a positive attitude. Joe and I developed a little pact where at any time we count down to three and say “be sweet”. It’s an instant demeanor adjustment and honestly, it works. My advice is to be sweet, to the best of your ability. You won’t regret sharing those extra smiles, I promise.
Well, friends, that’s a lot of generalizations for really nuanced relationships. And really, this is less of a how-to and more of a general caution – manage those expectations, boundaries, and attitudes as best you can. And at the end of the day, do what’s best for you. If you ever need a friend to vent to or chat with about this – please don’t hesitate to reach out! I don’t know a single friend who hasn’t gone through some sort of tough family dynamic when planning a wedding, so trust me when I say that you’re not alone!
Be sure to keep checking out Wedding Wednesdays for tips, both emotionally charged and neutral 😉