6 reasons why wedding planning seems to make everyone act crazy

Guest post by Ocelot
Bruno and Tamar Wedding ATX

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 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.

Comments on 6 reasons why wedding planning seems to make everyone act crazy

  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.

    • 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.

    • Communication is a two way street, which means it’s also that people don’t hear things properly. My mom thought that when she took away her monetary contribution to my wedding that I changed the venue to what I wanted most. She ignored several mentions that it was all we could afford, not what we preferred.

  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.

    • 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!)

  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 … !

    • Why not make room for people that are important to your husband’s family? You may have never met them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know everything about your fiancé’s life. Distant relatives love their nieces and nephews and distant cousins. Best friends of the parents that knew the family before your fiance’ was even born, are cherished people too.

      These people have likely sent cards and gifts for birthdays and Christmas, ordered unwanted wrapping paper and chocolate drizzled popcorn over the years, supporting this young man from afar, simply because they love his parents and appreciate the value of family. They have supported your fiance’ even when they do not get to see him due to busy lives and other obligations. His parents are willing to pay for the guests, it really doesn’t affect you above making sure your most valued guests are sitting near. I do think 800 is ridiculous, but yes, there are reasons to invite people you’ve never met and I listed them above.

      Part of a healthy marriage is compromise, not just with your spouse, but with his family and your family all together. The wedding process is a great way to learn to begin the comprising. Saying everything has to go my way, is just as immature as saying if you don’t do things my way you cannot have my money. A meeting of the minds is very wise. After you and your fiancé decide on the type of venue you want, the colors you want, and any other special must haves, have a meeting and present them to your sets of parents, either all 4 or each set separately. After you excitedly discuss your plans ask them if there is something special they were hoping for, or if there are special people they would like to invite. The number of people I see these days that invite the entire high school cheer team they belonged to, and haven’t seen once since graduating 10 years prior, but do not invite Great Aunt Edna who has never missed a birthday card in 30 years, astounds me. People forget that a wedding is a melding of two very different sets of people, not a glamor contest going on between all the people in your circle of friends that have gown engaged in the past 3 or 4 years (and with the advent of social media circles are huge). It is your day, but it’s also his day and he isn’t going to fight you for aunt Edna’s place at the family table, because he loves you and men don’t often see the value of little old ladies that send birthday cards bought at dime stores that smell like Chantilly lace and lavender, but his Mother will see the need to invite Aunt Edna. Try to see the big picture and not see that his mother is ruining your big day by inviting some old woman he doesn’t even care if she comes. It’s important to listen to why each invite is important. If mother in law is insistening on inviting her old cheer team she hasn’t seen (except at high school reunions) since she graduated 30 years ago, then she needs to quit the same competition, that the bride and groom do not need to get wrapped up on.

      It’s not a competition to try and outdo anybody. If that is the mindset of a single one of the bridal or groom party, especially the bride, groom or any of the parents, it will ruin the day. As long as every act is done in love and with the intent to make the day special, then the day will be a beautiful memory that will be cherished by the entire family for decades. Then one day you will be the woman so desperately vying for a seat for Aunt Edna and prayerfully you will have a soon to be daughter in law that sees the value of this family member over old friends she never sees. God bless you all on your upcoming weddings – a very excited mother of the bride, I hope and pray I’m able to make every thing special for her big day. Her daddy died western she was 5 (27 now), so he’s not here to help me, I have a lot on my plate, but I want her to have a dream wedding.

      • I agree to a point, as compromise is great. At the same time, family from both sides should understand that the couple’s wedding day is a reflection of the couple and the life they wish to build together and not necessarily about what the money’s been spent on.

        Some families can be overly pushy about family they feel the bride/groom are obligated to invite because they may have sent cards every year, or just because they’re family and the tradition has always been to invite them.

        I feel that when it comes to choosing your guest list (regardless of how the parents feel) you should choose people that you want to be there, people who have stood the test of your trials and stresses in life when you were down in the dumps; barely making ends meet and starving of emotional wellness. Anyone who doesn’t fit the category should be left off the list with a loving respectful decline. No one should really expect you to invite person x because they’re your second cousin that you’ve only ever seen or spoken to once or twice in your life with the reason of “but they’re family!” so that your friends of maybe only a few months get excluded because “well we don’t know them very well, and are they really your friends?” I’m not saying don’t invite Aunt Edna if she’s been part of your life during sad and happy times. What I’m saying is, be super honest with yourself, and anyone involved in the planning/bridal party about who you would have attend and why.

        Competition can be a difficult hurdle to jump over. I know I’m terrible at dealing with it. Already I feel like I’ve betrayed my parents for not inviting a few family members to our wedding when I’ve never met them or spoken to them since I was 13. Friends I’ve seen off and on for the past twelve years are towards the top of my list because I know they will love and support my decisions for the party and the ceremony without any drama over what my dress looks like, or who I didn’t invite that I should have. To me, that’s really important.

        Bottom line: Invite people that make you smile, who make you feel like you’re on top of the world with no strings attached. Because those are the kinds of people who will make your day as spectacular as it should be. Surround yourself with love and it will multiply.

  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!

  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.

    • 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!

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

  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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

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