The five rules of drama-free wedding planning

Guest post by coffeycake90
The five rules of drama-free wedding planning
Photo by Wild About You Photography

I've noticed in planning my wedding that people are questioning my decisions a lot more than they usually do. People, especially families, don't tend to question other life decisions as much as they do weddings.

They're fine with telling brides and grooms that they need to serve the generic “chicken in beige sauce” as part of their reception dinner, but they won't see you out grocery shopping and say, “Oh, I think you should really buy eggplant this week. This just seems like an eggplant kind of week for you.” They're fine with saying that you need to have your bridal hairstyle be an updo (and done by a professional), but they would think that saying, “Sweetie, I love you, but I think you would look so much better if you dyed your hair a bold purple and added lime green highlights” is rude.

The majority of families don't even question your choice of partner as much as they question whether or not you're going to have matching napkins, chair covers, and tablecloths. They don't tell you what job you should be doing. They don't tell you how to decorate your apartment or house. For the most part, they see you as a competent adult. But when it comes to weddings, all brides and grooms are clearly seven-year-old children who can't possibly make decisions for themselves, and when they do something different, it can't be because of a meaningful choice they made — it's such a silly idea, and they'll regret not having a photographer/doing a bouquet toss/wearing white/having a formal meal, etc.

With that in mind, one of my bridesmaids (who was married last October) has given me five rules for wedding planning that are incredibly sensible. Here they are:

Rule #1:

Stop talking about your wedding.

Rule #2:

No. Seriously. Stop talking about your wedding.

Rule #3:

Shut the f*%k up about your wedding.

Rule #4:

Find your team of yes-men. These are the people to whom you can say, “I want to get married while skydiving and have a tea-and-cake reception inside an Easter Island head,” and they will reply, “That is SO you! I love it!” If they have a safety or budget-based concern, they will mention it, but otherwise, they just tell you how wonderful your ideas are. Your team of yes-men does not have to include your parents, and it does not have to include your bridesfolks.

Rule #5:

Make your yes-men sign confidentiality agreements. Or, barring that, make sure they don't regularly talk to the drama mamas in your family and circle of friends.

This has saved me from feeling like I have to justify anything to anybody. Having most people not know the details is taking a load of stress away from me. Unless they absolutely HAVE TO know, I have no problem not telling.

My bridesmaid says that the criticism does usually come from a place of love. People love you and want you to have a beautiful wedding day. The problem is that their idea of beautiful is absolutely nothing like your idea of beautiful, and they fail to recognize that. On occasion, it is jealousy or someone being malicious, but, on the whole, when Great Aunt Gertie gasps and gives you a three hour lecture on the virtues of matching napkins to your manicure, she just wants your wedding to be beautiful for you.

Are you doing anything special to quell family drama?

Comments on The five rules of drama-free wedding planning

  1. I follow Rules #1, 2, and 3 like it’s my job. I absolutely don’t talk about wedding stuff unless someone asks me about it.

    • And even then, remember that it’s fine to be vague. “Oh, we’ve still got some decisions to make about that,” or “I think it’ll be a fun surprise for everyone!” Being coy is okay–the worst someone can do is pry a little further.

      • and then you can tell them to wait and see, the surprise will be WORTH it! Nothing worse than nosy naysayers :/

  2. Yes, but what about your mother? It’s basically impossible to leave her out of the planning, and if she is neither a yes-man nor good at confidentiality? You get drama. Unavoidable drama.

    • Not exactly, it is your coice to share because you must feel you are suppose to. Well just like the out of the box ideas that this whole Empire is based on, it is not required- you do not have to share with anyone, mother or not. 😉

    • A gentle question:

      Why do you feel that it is impossible to leave your mother out of planning? Is it because she’s paying for the wedding?

      If so, that’s a valid concern.

      However, discretion can still apply, even to Moms Who Pay for Their Children’s Weddings.

      Just be tactful about the details that you tell her–does she really need to know that your caterer is making 12 dozen cupcakes that are vegan gluten-free and also decorated like zombies?

      Nope.

      She may need to know that catering is taken care of, but that’s it.

      This is also a *really* good reason to have a wedding coordinator–he or she can act as an intercessor. A good coordinator will take the heat off of you and onto themselves–reassuring as needed, and giving out information on a Need-to-Know basis, according to what *you* are comfortable with.

      Parents are hard, no question about it, but you still have the right to discretion. 🙂

      • (Also? Being super SUPER organized helps alleviate concerns in a real big hurry. If you can tell your mom that, yes, I did already arrange for A), B), C), and D), chances are she’ll calm down a bit.)

        (And sometimes, Moms and older relatives need to have a job–give them something to be directly responsible for, that they can be proud of, like decorating a chuppa or arranging a gift table or whatever. People need to be needed, you know?)

      • I can see where she is coming from: if you have a close relationship with your mom (despite the fact that she might be a bit opinionated or difficult especially about your wedding) then it feels pointedly cruel to not tell her about your plans, at least it did to me – if she asks (if she doesn’t ask that’s different, no need to offer information that was not requested). With other guests the polite blow-off was fine but I couldn’t do that to my mother without feeling like I was erecting a barrier between us or destroying our closeness. Although there is a limit: “we’re having cupcakes” is something I’d feel uncomfortable NOT sharing if mom asked about cake, but “they’ll be vegan and gluten-free and decorated like zombies” doesn’t need to be said. You can say that the decorations will be a surprise and you never need to mention the ingredients: she probably won’t notice anyway if you get a good vegan/gluten-free cook to make them (although I will admit that I can always tell the difference, but I’m particularly weird that way. Same with artificial sweetener).

      • I like everyone’s ideas but what do you do when your parents are paying AND they already have ideas about what you should do with their money? So far this is not going well for me. We randomly find out that they have already decided how this and that should be and when they find out we have our own ideas DRAMA! Of course we are sticking with what we want to do but things are just getting more and more tense. We are not trying to be ungrateful but we would like to plan our wedding in a way that works for us. HELP!!!!

        • You will need to sit and think long and hard about how much you value the financial help, and how much you value your planning independence. If you would be happier without any input from your mom, then sit her down and tell her calmly that while you value her financial help, you hadn’t realized it was conditional when you accepted it and you no longer feel comfortable accepting her help. Be sure to thank her for offering to help. This is probably going to put a damper on your relationship for a while, but not as much as a knock down, drag out fight will, which is presumably the direction your planning was taking you in. It could be that having that conversation is enough to get your mother to realize how much she was taxing your relationship and she’ll back off — that’s what happened with my “no-man” MIL.
          If you decide that you value the money more than decision independence, then you can always try giving her small, discrete tasks where you don’t really care how it turns out, and give her a budget and tell her to go nuts. Centerpieces, place settings, floral decorations, outdoor or patio decorations, and a gift or dessert table are all good candidates for “helper” tasks. That way you can focus her energy on something productive, keeping her busy and feeling like she’s contributing

    • Hi Amasea! I’m the one who wrote this. I am TOTALLY leaving my mother out of the planning. We’re not doing any of the traditional mom-and-daughter stuff with my wedding because, frankly, I might just have a heart attack from the stress.
      The bridesmaid I mentioned who gave me these rules had a little bit of mama drama during her wedding, and that’s one of the things that prompted her to give these to me. Your mom doesn’t have to be a part of your planning at all, I promise.
      You could try to make your mom a yes-man, if you feel uncomfortable leaving her out. Tell her that it’s the single most important and helpful thing she could do, because you REALLY need some emotional support with this because OH MY GOD this is so stressful. We thought about doing that with my mother, and it has some potential to it.

      • as long as it doesn’t hurt your relationship with your mom or really hurt her feelings, I do agree with you. I didn’t have a mom to help me when I got married 26 years ago, I’m already bookmarking a million websites for my daughters “not quite set a date or really even engaged yet….but thinking 2 years from this weekend” future wedding! LOL, she can do whatever she wants ( within budget reasons lol ) and I want to help her in any way I can to enjoy that day, because mine was frankly not enjoyable, my ex ( made it 23 years at least lol ) mother-in-law WAS a drama mama too, so I want my girl to have a wonderful day all about them, not what everyone else wants. Enjoy your wedding and have a wonderful life together Amasea <3

      • But, how do you keep your mother out of it, if she is paying for it? I’m having mama drama problems, and much of it is from HER bringing up the subject on what I should be doing, rather than me talking about it. Then when I disagree with what she suggests ( politely) she just keeps going ( and sends me martha stewart weddings articles to prove her point :/ )

        Ironically my future MIL is my yes-man. She’s totally ok with pretty much everything we want.

        Otherwise I’ve been mostly following the rules of trying to avoid talking about wedding planning unless it is brought up. Mostly so that I have a life other than wedding planner for the next year.

        • 1) Figure out how to pay for it yourself, whether that means just the stuff she’s complaining about so that her money isn’t “wasted” or maybe the whole thing. (We’re paying for the whole thing because of MamaDrama. I didn’t even tell her we’ve been engaged for almost 2 years and probably never will. She thinks this is a quick decision based on life throwing things at us. If she had more than 4-5 mo. to think about it, she’d find a way to make it about her, just like a lot of other family events.)

          or

          2) Sit her down and hash it out like grown ups, or at least as maturely as possible. Figuring out whether this will work or not is another thing the Tribe is great for. 🙂

    • My mother is neither a yes-man nor good at confidentiality, so I get your pain. I’ve done some things that seem to be working: She asks if there is anything she can do, I say, “nope, you’ve been great, thank you so much for asking.” or “I really appreciate the offer, if something comes up, you’ll be the first to know!” or something like that. It’s a reassurance that you want their help without actually committing to anything. If you’ve already taken her in, told her a bunch of your dreams and she’s began a quiet battle to tell you you’re wrong (fyi, this is what precipitated me going a bit vague and dialing back the interactions), and this will sound tough, but I’d suggest a horrible fight. I did this with my mom (not on purpose, and not with an agenda, we were just NOT seeing eye to eye and I was relying on her as I’m having an overseas wedding), we’re over it now, but it’s actually given me an excellent reason not to speak to her much over the coming months. She’s been extremely supportive, I’ve let her know I’ve hired a day-of coordinator and that I’ve really appreciated her help, but I don’t want her to stress out too much (read: I don’t want to stress out about her vision for my wedding). It alleviates the pressure, lets her know you’re looking out for her, and squashes her ability to be involved. You don’t even need to actually hire someone, get a bridesmaid who hearts weddings to sub in as your “coordinator.” For me, avoidance is working well. Not for everyone, I know, but working well so far in my case – I come from a fairly high stress family where yelling and fighting is normal. Some people are SUPER anti-confrontational, so if you’re that, then the gentle avoidance campaign where you smother your mom with comments about how you want HER to have fun, not to worry and that you want her to look stress-free in pictures, is a great way to make her feel guilty for continuing to offer.

    • Whoa. Time to put your boots on and reclaim your day! Just as your groom-to-be wouldn’t want to be left out of the planning, you shouldn’t be either. Have you communicated how you feel- that you want to be included and that you wanted to use this day to hone your wedding planning skills?
      Are you being heard? If you’re being shunned in any of this process despite your concerted efforts to communicate, I’m sad to say that maybe this isn’t your dream man. Perhaps his true colors are shining and they’re quite muddled. Good luck to you! There should be zero regret walking into your wedding day, either in the man you’ve chosen, or in the level of your involvement. COMMUNICATION is what the world needs!

  3. I am pretty sure that the offbeat tribe, as a whole, have been my yes-men. 🙂 They have really made me feel like, “Yes, I know what I am doing and YES it will be AWESOME!” 🙂
    Rule #4 is my fave!

  4. Geez, I wish I read this article 30 minutes earlier. Just got off the phone with my drama mama and see keeps on bugging me about the wedding (1 month to go). I will try to stick to rule #1,2 &3 all at once from now on..

  5. Man, so true.

    Weirdly enough, this reminds me of doing graphic design. If you show people the work in progress, or ask for their input, MY GOD are they going to have opinions. And once they start having opinions, they’re never going to stop.

    Whereas, if you show someone the finished design and say, “Ta-Da!” the reaction, more often than not, tends to be simply, “Oooh nice!”

    For some reason, people are a lot more accepting of finished products than of works-in-progress. The solution? Build a force field of “We’re working on it” and only let in the people that you absolutely have to. Saves a lot of stress and hurt feelings on both sides.

  6. My rule is that “If you’re paying, you get to have an opinion.” If you’re not paying, your opinion doesn’t matter.

    For example, my dad really cares about the way the invitations look and the wording, so he’s buying them. My mom really cares about having a “serious” officiant, so she’s paying for that.

    Opinions = money, as far as I’m concerned.

    • It’s true!

      There just has to be a certain amount of respect for the cash flow–which is why, if you know you and your folks will be bashing heads on EVERYTHING, you may want to pay for everything on your own.

    • I disagree somewhat with this. My Mister and I are paying entirely for our own wedding. Money has been offered about things that my mother, for example, really cares about. However, I know her, and if I let her pay for ONE thing, she would think she gets an opinion about EVERYTHING, and veto power over everything she dislikes. Money entitles you to an opinion specifically about the thing you have paid for, and that is all. It does not entitle you to an opinion about anything else, nor does it give you decision-making power unless Mister and I really don’t care. If you care about the officiant and offer to pay for one, we do not have to use the person you recommend if we dislike them or if they refuse to make the changes we would need them to make (since we’re atheists and all).
      There does have to be a respect for cash flow, but I feel like money offered to you is a gift that should be freely given. No strings attached, even when it’s for a wedding. People don’t usually give you a present of money for your birthday, for example, and then tell you what to buy with it. It happens occasionally, but it isn’t the norm. I feel like we give away too much power with money in wedding planning, and then people aren’t allowed to have the weddings they actually want.

      • I just have to add that this is a bit different for those of us having non-American weddings. In Mexico most weddings are paid for primarily by the “padrinos” (roughly translated as godparents) who are asked to pick up the tab for specific things (mariachis, venue, table decor, cake, dress, etc.). Whatever they purchase, THEY purchase. Consider yourself fortunate if they ask for your opinion outside of basic color scheme. There are many advantages to this style of wedding planning… primarily in terms of costs and sometimes less stress, although it does make most weddings take on a familiar look. Because we wanted a meaningful/personalized wedding, we have had to wait 10 years after being married to have a wedding so that we can afford to pay for it ourselves.

        One more thought on this topic, I admit that I am one of those busybodies who LOVES to hear about other’s wedding plans and give ideas. Yes, I realize that it is a nasty habit (although once I got the opportunity to be a paid wedding planner because of my big mouth!), and I have worked hard to reign in my desire to share my unsolicited thoughts. In my case I do it because thinking and dreaming about weddings has been my schtick since I was 6 and it is simply fun for me, whether or not anyone actually takes me up on my ideas.

  7. Eh, if your whole family is comprised of yes-people, then talking is just fine. My mil (she of the purse-strings) has yet to question any decision we’ve made and she’s the one who really counts. My mom was a little disappointed (by which I mean she nearly gagged) when I told her I wanted a dress with sleeves, but other than that she’s been mostly lovely. Granted, it helps a lot that we have no major theme or oversize projects that anybody can freak over. They all know about the portal cake, the leis, the godless ceremony, and all these bits, but I’ve purposefully presented it in bits so as to not overwhelm.

  8. I completely agree with the ‘yes-men groupies’, but sometimes opinionated people are inherently involved.

    The “shock and awe and then scale back” strategy worked really well for us.

    For example, when we first told everyone we were going to hunt our own deer meat and then make guests grill it themselves, the heavy appetizers we ended up having didn’t seem that crazy.

    If we had started with the heavy appetizers idea, it would have been a big hullabaloo (“You HAVE to have chicken with a generic cream sauce, everyone will hate your wedding if you don’t”).

    • LOVE the shock & awe strategy. We are completely about misdirection, and having an April Fool’s day wedding (we didn’t choose it intentionally, it just ended up working out that way) is lending itself completely to that end! *Insert slightly maniacal, yet gleeful laugh here* (yes, I acknowledge that this tactic would not work for most brides. Just sharing my joy).
      So should anyone ask, we’ll toss out the most utterly ridiculous idea that pops into our head at the moment, and it is generally written off, or it’s…”Would they really? Well, it IS April Fool’s….”. I think at this point, we could just tell the truth & no one would believe it anyway! Except maybe the Flash Gordon bits….they’d probably believe that.

  9. Sounds excessive. I think there are two simple rules that should suffice.

    #1. Don’t listen to anyone else’s opinions unless you genuinely want input from them. If you have a clear vision of the wedding you want, no one else’s opinion matters.

    #2. politely tell busybodies that while you apprieciate their input you already know exactly what you want and that’s what you’re going to get.

  10. Oh my gosh! I’m not usually one to comment, but this spoke to me. Seriously, I’m printing it out to hang on the wall. A wall no one will see 🙂 I’ve had issues and this is the solution!!! Genius! Genius! Genius!

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