The art of the Low-Drama No: developing your bridal boundaries

By on Dec. 1st

Please stopWe've talked a lot on Offbeat Bride about how much we hate the word Bridezilla, which seems to imply that if a bride has strong opinions about something, she's automatically a city-destroying monster, exacting her will over her minions and making violently unreasonable demands.

For me, the whole bridezilla issue is less about women being bossy, and more about the challenges of learning to say no without being all high drama about it. It's a delicate line, right? How can you make your needs clear without steamrolling other people's concerns and comfort levels? How can you say no without stomping a high-rise?

Ultimately, it boils down to setting and enforcing personal boundaries. It's about knowing what you want, and taking responsibility for communicating it effectively. It's not about everyone having to do what you say because you're the bride. It's about understanding yourself and being clear with others. Being clear doesn't necessarily mean dominating — you can have excellent boundaries and still not get what you want. But when you've mastered the art of the Low-Drama No, you're taking a big first step toward communicating well and sticking to your guns.

Here are a few tips on learning how to say no with grace and minimal drama, complete with copy 'n' paste communications to help you with your own Low-Drama Nos…

1. Know yourself aka open your head before you open your mouth

This is the first and most important thing you can do. You can't have a solid sense of yourself if you don't even know who you are or what you want. If you're used to following other people's visions and ideas, it can be hard to even get a sense for what you even WANT — which is only the first step toward getting it. With wedding planning, this can mean knowing when to stop looking at inspiration, and when to start hammering out what you and your partner really want. Feel solid in yourself and the vision you and your partner share before you open yourself up to suggestions from outside parties.

Copy 'n' paste communications:

  • "Thanks so much for your input about the wedding! I'm still in the information-gathering phase, but I'll keep your ideas in mind and let you know when I'm ready to talk more about it all. Whether I decide to use your ideas or not, it means so much to me that you're as excited about this as we are!"

2. Take responsibility for your own emotional state

If you're in the mode of being a pleaser, saying "Well, ok" or "I guess that will work," when you really mean "I'm unhappy but don't know how to tell you," on a certain level you're allowing your emotional state to be controlled by other people. Too often I see brides complain about how they feel forced into doing something, and too often this is a case of someone not knowing when to just say "If I'm going to feel good about this, I need to do it differently." When you learn to say no, you learn to stop feeling like people are doing things to you, and start feeling like you have the power to control your own wedding planning process.

Copy 'n' paste communications:

  • "That's a great idea, but I'm just not sure it fits with what we're envisioning for the day. I love you and so appreciate your ideas, and I hope you can respect our decisions even when we choose to go for something different than what you suggested."
  • "Sometimes I wish we could get married twice so that we could integrate all your great ideas, but since we only have one wedding, we're having to make some hard choices … including not doing some of the things you'd suggested. Thanks in advance for being so understanding — wedding planning is more difficult than I'd expected, and your patience with me as I stumble around trying to figure it all out is super appreciated."

3. Avoid stomping

When you feel pushed around or pressured, there can be a reflex to push back and push back HARD. Especially if you're not used to saying no at all … and suddenly you're the bride, and what you say goes and YOU MUST HAVE IT YOUR WAY OR THE HIGHWAY! I wrote about this in my book, but I actually think the whole bridezilla thing is just what happens when women who aren't used to being in power suddenly feel like they're in control of something. We'd all be better off if more women felt empowered in all arenas of their lives, but that said — there's no need to stomp. When you've got solid boundaries, you learn to say "No" firmly but respectfully. Sometimes you have to say it over and over again, but there's no need to stomp.

Copy 'n' paste communications:

  • "Thank you so much for sharing your ideas with me. I think we're going to go for something else, but it means so much to me that you're as excited about this as we are."
  • "I hear you saying that this is really important to you, and I totally respect that. Unfortunately, we're going to go with this other plan."

4. Communicate your dealbreakers

When you're wedding planning, you're surrounded by friends and family in varying states of trying to help. You have to be communicative, and let people know when you feel like they've acted inappropriately or disrespected you. Again this doesn't need to be a big stomping freakout.

Copy 'n' paste communications:

  • "I felt really uncomfortable with your behavior last night. Can I ask that you respect my feelings and not do that at my wedding?"
  • "When you talk to me that way, I feel belittled. Can we find a way to have this conversation in a way that doesn't make me feel like that?"

5. Further resources

Establishing personal boundaries is one of those life skills that goes way, WAY beyond wedding planning. Learning the Low-Drama No can help with career development too! That said, I'd love to hear from commenters: how did you learn to say no? What are your best methods for lovingly turning people down?