6 reasons why wedding planning seems to make everyone act crazy

September 5 | Guest post by Ocelot
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Photo by Maggie Winters

In the wake of some drama with our families, I've been reading a bit on why wedding planning seems to make people act crazy and unreasonable. I read some wedding advice websites, some behavior websites, and a book by Allison Moir-Smith called Emotionally Engaged. At first, I was just seeking to understand my mother's erratic behavior, but I found it applying to my Mister's family as well. And I think I've come to some conclusions on why both of our families are being so bloody difficult throughout this whole process.

Money as love. Some people equate love with spending money. This applies mostly to my mother, who used gifts to express love when she couldn't be emotionally or physically present. My fiance's family is similarly emotionally charged about money, but it was a way to show encouragement more than love. In situations like these, refusing their money is seen as refusing their love! It's a rock and a hard place due to the next point…

Money is power. Since our families have gifted us money or services they feel they've bought a share in the decision making and guest list. When we refused them this kind of control, our families got angry and threatened to take away the gifts. His parents actually went through with it, and it still stings. This is a pitfall Offbeat Bride warned me about, but I feel is not emphasized enough in other advice places so I kinda overlooked it and it got away from me.

The relationships are changing. Weddings are seen as transitions. When the relationships are changing, people get nervous and act crazy. Moir-Smith's book speaks at length on weddings changing relationships and how it's silently dramatic. While I personally did not relate to most of that book, the changes are obviously felt by our parents. They may feel their children are slipping away from them and could be trying to reassert their lost authority; or, they may feel this is the last thing they can do or provide for us before we become "real" adults and want things to go "just right." Both of which get complicated by the next few points…

"Beautiful" isn't a universal term. To some, a beautiful wedding means a barn on a sunflower farm. Others, "just right" is a church with their whole town in the pews. There is a lot of variation here! Our parents want the wedding to be beautiful, but their expectations aren't the same as ours. For example my mom knows an altar arrangement isn't going to make or break the wedding. But, if I say "no" to that idea, she becomes so worried that the wedding won't be beautiful that she'll actually fight with me over it. You just can't change what people think is beautiful or perfect.

A place of honor isn't universal either. My mother and his parents have independently expressed displeasure because we have not given them, or our sisters, a place of honor. To me, a place of honor to me means, "sit back and enjoy the party." Sadly, they don't see it that way! A place of honor to them seems to mean I should visibly distinguish them from the crowd. I have had to go out of my way to make "honored" people feel honored, and I'm still pissed about it, but in the end, it will mend some hurt feelings. I hope.

People communicate badly. People in general are really shitty at explaining what they want, need, or expect. Sometimes it's poor verbalization or awareness, sometimes it's a martyr complex or shyness. Whatever it is, it's hard to know what people want so it's hard to make them feel heard, understood and appreciated, especially when they are emotional. This is very true in my family where emotions run deep and at high volumes. It's VERY hard to uncover what they are really upset about. I am also guilty of this. I am currently taking a class with my fiance on how to communicate better so I don't drag this kind of bullshit into my marriage (any further).

All together, I'm trying to see our family's behavior as "overzealous love"; like when a toddler hugs a favored toy so hard that the head flops off. Unfortunately, I'm not a dolly and I got hurt and angry for a while. I'm just now learning to accept it all as part of the process. It's particularly difficult as both families are seeing their first-borns get hitched and no one knows what to do. Maybe I could see it all as a bunch of similarly confused people just trying as hard as they can.

  1. This is fabulous! Especially:
    "People communicate badly. People in general are really shitty at explaining what they want, need, or expect."

    And furthermore: people in general are really shitty at FIGURING OUT what they want, need or expect. Or why. They know they don't like what you've chosen, they don't know why, and they can't communicate any of those things, so it all becomes one big *DRAMA*.

    I'm also convinced that some of the crazy happens because weddings are often used to demonstrate your place in society. Like: OMG you are using homemade cupcakes, it's going to look so tacky – translation – people will think we can't afford a real cake and look down on us, and OMG we CAN'T afford a real cake therefore we must be FAILURES at EVERYTHINGINLIFE.

    55 agree
    • It's so true though. FMIL keeps talking about how since they're paying for part of the wedding, they want some measure of control, so I asked over what, and there were some things that just seemed so common sense like "chairs for elderly people at the service". Um, hi, not a jerk here, EVERYONE will have a chair.

      I pried as to why. It turns out she had a beyond awful experience at a family wedding (no, no chairs for the elderly and other things that were not ok) and when I asked her if she sincerely thought we would do something like that she said "well no, but…" And then went on about how awful that wedding was.

      All I can guess is that she was made to feel unimportant then, wants to feel important now and for her own reasons is afraid that we'll have a nightmare of a wedding. Obviously she needs to work this out on her own but digging sometimes helps you at least get a little less irritated.

      8 agree
  2. I wish I had read this before I went to work today. I spent most of the day worrying over how much control my family will try to exert once I tell them I'm getting married.

    It's great to know I'm not the only one out there; thanks for the post.

    10 agree
    • oh. well. my mother and i butted heads a lot over mine. when it came down to it, i said "I'm not asking for your money, and I'm not asking for your opinion. if you can't respect how i want to design my wedding, i can leave you off the guest list. that said, id like you to be there, and id like your opinion. but be aware that it does not override mine".

      She wasn't happy about it, but… she listened.

      Our wedding it tiny. Just parents, and closest friends. my officiant is a friend, that would have been off the list had he not offered to officiate for free. Were getting married in a book store at sunset with candles everywhere.

      Its perfect for us, and neither of us would change a thing about it, so… even though its hard to be assertive when it comes to your wedding, esp with family who feel like they have control… its important, because you only get the one shot, and you never want to feel like you didn't get what you want just to make someone else happy (unless its your fiancé, of course… give him say!)

      5 agree
  3. Bookmarked. Although not yet engaged, and I constantly am preparing for these "communication opportunities" that I know will be on the horizon when we get to the planning process. I throw down some anticipatory sets for the inevitable "well, we have to invite 800 people you've never met–but we'll give you the money" which is super generous of the boyf's family, but I don't want these crazy people at my wedding! My plan of attack is to not let them pay for anything dealing with the day of wedding (and looking for a venue that caps at 150) but if they are feeling generous, they can give money to our honeymoon (which we have not budgeted for…) We'll see … !

    5 agree
  4. I cannot thank you enough for this post!

    My fiance and I have been dealing with all of the above for about 10 months now on both sides of the family. Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore and thought we were the only ones dealing with so much irrationality and insanity, this post goes up! I can't wait to show it to my fiance!

    8 agree
  5. I think there's an additional point, at least one that certainly explains some of my parents' craziness: money as a display of wealth. I think a lot of the things that are so important to my parents that to say no would be to create a terrible rift are just things they want so that other people see that they provided them. For example, they don't drink a drop, but not having a full open bar, despite the insane cost, is out of the question to them.

    6 agree
    • Using your wedding as a display of wealth or power certainly happens. It is happening to me, too!

      I originally wanted to include that as a separate point, but I felt the point "beautiful isn't a universal term" covered it.

      From your parents perspective, a beautiful wedding might mean an expensive wedding. They may feel providing these things will make the day absolutely perfect. But you may not see it that way. It's just a difference in point of view. And, wow, it's so very hard to change people's opinions on this stuff!

      6 agree
    • Using any ritual as a sign of wealth is a basic human trait. All cultures do it all over the globe, through time.

      0 agree
  6. Spot on! Get along really well with the inlaws but despite this we've had a few dramas & plenty of unwanted advice & opinions. I just hope it improves when we have kids or I'm going to go crazy!

    3 agree
  7. Oh my word. Thanks for this. It makes me feel less crazy somehow.

    2 agree
  8. THIS! All of it! I'm going through so much drama right now with the wedding, and there are so many hurt feelings in so many directions, that we've actually canceled the big party and are doing a very intimate wedding instead (which I wanted from the beginning). We're also starting counseling to find a better understanding of each other and our families, and how we can communicate better with everyone.

    Sometimes there comes a point where it's just not worth it anymore, but I wish we had done more communicating with the various families (all three) so that it didn't have to come to that point.

    6 agree
  9. SOOOO much truth! This is why we are paying for our wedding ourselves, with only small contributions by family. <3 We have enough drama without that nonsense! Thanks for this… I love when I read these sort of articles! So helpful!

    1 agrees
  10. Reading this makes me want to elope even more. My family is crazy, full of narcissists, and I can just see the shitstorm of people fighting for control.

    Maybe Kristi is right, that if the couple pays their own way, the drama disappears?

    7 agree
    • I wouldn't say entirely, but it has helped in my situation… We still have had plenty of other drama because of certain family members' selfishness, but it's been one less thing to worry about! And I thought about eloping too… but I decided I won't let someone else's issues deprive us of the wedding we want. If they don't like it, well, I'm sorry, we paid for it we can do it the way we want.

      12 agree
      • Ha! Eloping is what I wanted all along, or maybe a very small destination wedding. It was only after my fiance had to be part of his brother's wedding that he realized the amount of stress and familial expectation that comes with a wedding. By the end of the ceremony he promptly informed me he'd be happy and willing to have a courthouse wedding, and later, that eloping to Scotland sounds quite nice.

        1 agrees
  11. I love this post! I was expecting my wedding and wedding planning to be as smooth and laid back as mason and I are. But it wasnt long before I started feeling like everyone around me was going crazy! All of a sudden my usual way of responding to things was inappropriate and hurt feelings. It got to a point where I broke down. But Mason was there to keep me grounded and remind me to "not catch the crazy".
    Now its a the evening before we leave for our wedding weekend in the woods and its been a wonderful day. Whereas just yesterday was one of the craziest, most stressful of days, today was calm, well organized, and as laid back as I am! I know its just the warm up to kickass weekend!

    9 agree
  12. Thanks for this! Well said! I agree with Sunny – especially the part about people communicating badly – how true!

    0 agree
  13. One thing I hate about weddings is "Planning"… My fiance is abroad at the moment we are having long-distance relationship, and we want to get married in 6 months so if we ever decide to make a big wedding it will be all thrown on my shoulders… That's the main reason why wedding planning drives me crazy (in a bad way)

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  14. Great post. It's a nice way to not deny your frustration, but to still try to work with others.

    And btw, your "About" description is basically me… I will have to check out your pinterest boards :)

    0 agree
  15. I love this I just had such a big blow up with y cousin who was going to be maid of honour until my fiance and I decided against the honour term because we wanted everyone to feel special. This was a great post.

    1 agrees
  16. Aside from family drama, I have also experienced friend drama. I shrugged off advice from wedding web sites that suggested not to choose your attendants and guest list too early on. One of my friends warned me that people "get weird" and express strange emotions around weddings. It's TRUE! Some friends I thought would be so happy and supportive have turned out to be the complete opposite, and others have really surprised me with the outpouring of their support and generously giving of their time and talent. You always hear that expression that in tough times, you find out who your friends really are. I think that goes for weddings, too. In one of the happiest times of your life, you'll learn who's really loving and supportive of you and who's not. You might be shocked and surprised.

    10 agree
  17. Thanks for this post, it's given me a lot to think about — especially the part about "place of honor". That's something I'm having trouble with…my mother seems to expect certain things regarding our extended family, while my fiance's family isn't close and his grandparents have all passed away. It's makes me feel uncomfortable to plan too much around my family — I feel like I'm excluding my fiance's or drawing attention to the fact that they have a different relationship.

    4 agree
  18. Totally off-topic, but is that photo from the Rally to Restore Sanity? That just immediately jumped into my mind when I saw it.

    1 agrees
  19. Reading this makes me feel very fortunate. Neither my parents nor his are concerned about influencing our wedding plans. HOWEVER… once we get to discussing the guest list, this may be a different story… ugh…

    1 agrees
  20. Whoa. I was going to say that's all passive aggressive behaviour at its worst, but really, it's just plain aggressive.

    Gifts are meant to be that – gifts. I'm still shocked that your in-laws used it as leverage to get a wedding that they wanted. And people guilting you…it's all rather shocking!

    I was married on Aug. 18. We chose to do a small wedding (65 for dinner, 35 joined us later) with no wedding party. There was only 1 person that was offended by the choice to have to wedding party, and that just solidified our decision.

    Our goal from the beginning was to get married and have all of our loved ones there to celebrate. I feel like that goal is achieved, and the amount of compliments we got from both friend's and family saying what a joyous and fun day it was tells me it was exactly what everyone else felt as well.

    The idea of having a wedding that's sole purpose is to please or impress others is quite
    sad. I'm sorry to say, but the impression I get from this post is that your family is not showing over zealous love; it seems like everyone is being selfish. I hope this doesn't upset you. I say it only because I was so happy that, after it was all said and done, I can honestly say I had a really fun and happy day. It was exactly what I hoped for. While I didn't experience pressure from anyone, I think it was because I was very clear from the start that i didn't want to spend a ton of money (that's not me) and that the day was meant to celebrate. That's it. That's exactly what I got.

    Taking courses on communication is an awesome idea! I hope that you can communicate to everyone in your family exactly what will make you happy on your wedding day. After all, it's your day and your husband's day! It would be sad if you look back on it with regrets.

    3 agree
  21. This post was just what i needed. I am getting married TOMORROW and i have completly cut off my whole family,(well not my older sister, She is fine. My mother decided to use alcohol as a medicine for her feelings (NOT GOOD), and my father who is an ordained minister backed out of performing my ceremony THREE DAYS AGO. He said he was ill but I know it is because him and my mom absolutely hate each other. I am hurt and feeling very sad which translates to anger. Oh, and my made of honor has gone MIA and i haven't heard from her in 3 weeks. I want to fire her badly.But I will focus on my day and as my future husband says; "Everything happens for a reason".

    1 agrees
  22. Thank you for this article! This is my 2nd wedding, and my fiance' and I have worked really hard to minimize the crazy [<20 people total at wedding, ceremony & reception in the same place, casual dress, etc] but it has still bitten us hard in the butt a few times! I have been wondering why our mothers [esp. mine] have been so spastic, and this article really helped put it into perspective :-) Thank you, and I hope the author's wedding is awesome!

    1 agrees
  23. I'm 51 yrs old , getting married for the first time, March 2nd .. I don't have any thing planned yet , I don't even have a dress… and what's bad I don't have the money to even get started.. but he wants to keep the date , cause some of his family already took that date off to come to the wedding from out of state ..my sisters are going to try to help me out some ..so many family members wants to be there .. I hope they understand there is going to be room .. I never realized how much pressure there is in getting married ..Lord Help Me !!

    0 agree
    • All you need to get married is the cost of a marriage license! Grab your favorite dress (or other favorite item of clothing). Weddings are about making a committment to the person you love, not buying stuff. If you have a few family members who want to witness this, great! Go out for coffee and cake afterwards, if you'd like! Weddings are about the vows and what happens next.

      Good luck!

      4 agree
  24. My partner and I are bypassing some of this by planning a lot of the wedding BEFORE telling people we're even engaged. That way, when the hardcore planning starts with family, a lot will already be decided by us, just as, as a team. It's really giving us a chance to approach this with clear heads and letting us be excited about things without the drama first. And when we do "come out of the closet" on our engagement, we hope it'll be as relaxed as possible.

    2 agree
  25. "It's particularly difficult as both families are seeing their first-borns get hitched and no one knows what to do. " This is so true. Thanks for the article.

    3 agree
  26. I like and really appreciate this blog post. :-) As a planner, I see it so often where the bride and groom are working so hard to please and accommodate family (and friends) that what they want gets lost. A statement that I make more times than I can count is, "I know what THEY want but what do YOU want. This is YOUR day."

    It is my hope that many brides and grooms alike will be helped by your candor and honesty. I'm sure that many will be able to relate to the emotions you expressed regarding the "craziness". Thank you for sharing and I wish you much happiness. :-)

    1 agrees
  27. Have we been sharing the same life? lol This has basically been me right here, except my mom hasn't been difficult. My future in-laws have been doing the same thing, though they haven't as yet given us financial help (though hopefully they won't because I shudder to think what the catch will be).

    1 agrees
  28. I wish i had this kind of stress. Ever since my grandpa passed in may, my family has been doing nothing but fighting over money. With no father in my life, and my family at odds i have a guest list that went from 100 to 50, and no help having to plan, and pay on my own. With a budget of less than 7,000 for everything in LA Im at the point of eloping, which sucks cause i no longer will get my dream wedding anymore. Less money bigger problems.

    0 agree
  29. Before I was engaged I'd had the impression that our families wouldn't interfere at all….we are only just looking at venues now and unfortunately the interfering has started :( Complaining because it might be too hot in a barn on an August night (even though large fans would be used) to asking to add people to guest list….

    1 agrees
  30. I have irrevocably fallen out with my mother in law to be over some of these points. There was even an ambush of the entire family against us. Did not stand a chance. I was accused of excluding them from the planning, despite however when we tried to involve them, they didn't like any of our plans or ideas and got shouted at on more than one occasion. Then get told if we don't like an opinion, don't ask. (when i took my invites round to ask what card they preferred it to be printed on, I got, oh I don't like those, I don't like how all the writing is different….erm, did I even ask for your opinion? No.) Long and short of it is, when we would talk wedding and ideas to them, we came away deflated like we were doing it all wrong, his friends and my family and friends have been nothing but enthusiastic even if some ideas have seemed a little off the wall. We asked for monetary help and got that thrown back in our faces despite being offered several times, so needless to say they were pretty much told to cram it. I was told I didn't give a s*** about the bridesmaids…. two of whom at the time were his sister and sister in law (no longer are now, thank christ) I did give a stuff about my three friends but with all the negativity I'd kinda regret asking the other two long ago, so admittedly was starting to act like a child over their constant head pecking over the bridesmaid issues. The sister in law stepped down claiming the dresses were disgusting and that I didn't give a stuff about them and the other one said she was trying to think of our budget…. oh and that she had never had to spend so much just to be someones bridesmaid, I literally only wanted her to buy a pair of shoes!! The hair and make up was being sorted out by his mum, which she had offered a long while back, so that was out of my hands (I don't have that anymore lol)

    If we had known that all this fall out would have happened over disagreements over OUR wedding we would have just turned up one day and announced to people that we had already done it and we didn't want the fuss.

    They have kicked off over the guest list, going mad that we havent asked them if they want to invite any of their friends, h2b reminded them it is our wedding, then his sister in law piped up, well traditionally parents invite their friends. IT IS 2014 NOT 1954!!

    I can definitely relate to the communication issue, we were all as bad as each other on that one… I have outright been called a liar and a cow amongst other things about one particular issue, despite having proof on my phone, which I am now saving for a rainy day.

    Wow, pardon my rant lol, I am very excited to get married to my very soon to be husband…honestly…or am I more excited about it all being over?! haha

    0 agree
  31. After reading all these comments,(I googled an article to send to a friend about these pitfalls and there are plenty) I remind you that it is just a day. That's right. It can and should be special but it should not stress you out, bankrupt you, divide families, make you sick, etc. And for crying out loud, stop with this "it has to be the most special day" if you do your marriage right you're bound to have a lot of special days ahead!
    Why include insane family members? If you know the stove is hot…don't touch it!
    Crazy friends, controlling mother, step parents, parents not speaking, future in laws, unlimited drama.
    This is a day you commit yourself to your future husband or wife.
    I am a big fan of elopements.
    I am also a big fan of very, very small weddings (under 20) where the only people you invite are people you can actually count on. Let's face it, we each all only have a small handful out there.
    And if you say, "My parents would kill me if I eloped" you shouldn't be getting married. You're still very young.
    Keep your wedding simple. You will have a much happier marriage. And isn't that what it is all about? Or is it?

    0 agree
  32. We have had similar issues with parents wanting to provide monetary help with the wedding. My parents don't have a spare penny but my fiancé's parents are comfortable money-wise. The in-laws offered us money, but I didn't want my parents to feel bad/guilty/uncomfortable etc and so we kindly declined. They're not happy but I'd rather that than my parents feeling upset or inferior. My partner and I have also had to compromise on the day itself. I would love an outdoor ceremony with just family followed by a big reception in a pub with fish and chips from our local chipshop. Whereas my fiance wants to be married in a church and have a sit down meal reception. We have met halfway – church ceremony (he's religious, I'm not), family lunch (I want to spend the day with the people we love most and not try to spread ourselves between too many people, having quality time with no-one) and a big celebration at night for all our friends and family :) thank you for your posts, they keep me sane! Keep them coming

    0 agree

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