Weddings are high-production events that are steeped in tradition and take months of planning. It can be a joyful time, but it can also be a stressful time. Weddings require a team of professionals to pull off, and, because weddings are so mired in both family and cultural traditions, planning one can become a minefield of family dynamics, individual expectations and emotional stressors.
It's no wonder that conversations and brainstorming sessions can erupt into full-blown arguments during the planning process. All of the classic relationship stressors are at the forefront:
- Money: Weddings are expensive for everyone involved, including the bridal party who is responsible for their attire, travel, and footing the bill for pre-wedding parties.
- Free time: Planning a wedding can turn into the equivalent of a second, full-time job.
- Family traditions: Your mother has been saving her 1980s Princess Di inspired wedding gown for you and she'd be devastated if you “modified it” beyond a simple fitting.
- Division of work and tasks: You fiancee STILL hasn't put together his guest list or booked the DJ!
- And, sometimes, jealousy: Your maid-of-honor poo-poos and snipes at every idea you have and you suspect she's a tiny bit jealous that you're getting married first.
Even the coolest, most level-headed mountain bride can have an indignant moment or two during the planning process.
In fact, I'm chagrinned to admit that I once screamed into my future mother-in-law's face “no more diaper changers!” when she suggested we invite great Uncle Kelly. It's a regret I have–both for not inviting Great Uncle Kelly and for screaming at my mother-in-law, whom I love dearly. Read the story hear on How to Handle Plus-One requests.
Before a conversation with your mom, maid of honor, or bestie from college boils over into a full-blown argument, consider these 6 tips on deciding whether to let it go, or to speak up.
1. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
You can still have the wedding of your dreams if you let a few minor issues slide. Maybe your fiancee was late to the cake tasting, or your mom is so excited about your wedding gown that she's created her own Pinterest board full of gowns you would NEVER wear. Snapping at every issue could backfire and create much more wedding planning stress than the short-term stress that comes with a fiancee who is 10-minutes late to an appointment.
In fact, sometimes the relationship is much more important that a minor issue or incident.
The trick to telling the difference between a major issue that needs to be addressed and a minor incident that needs to be let go is to gauge your emotions. If you feel like you need to address a bigger-picture issue, wait until your emotions die down. You may find that the emotional break you give yourself makes you realize that it's not worth the battle. On the other hand, you may indeed realize that you need to confront a bigger issue. If this is the case, the extra time you allowed yourself to calm down lets you approach it with a clearer hear and increases the chances that you will be heard by the guilty party.
2. Consider the Rule of Three
We all mess up sometimes. And in the emotionally-charged context of wedding planning, an unfortunate gaffe by a friend or loved one may make you think twice about their support or loyalty. Your best bet is to stop, take a deep breath and remember the Rule of Three. Basically, if an issue recurs three times or more, it may be time to confront it head-on.
For example, if your maid of honor slipped up and complained about a dress design you've picked out for your wedding party, it may be something you can let slide (see above). On the other hand, if you notice that she's having a hard time supporting you, and criticizes most of your decisions, it may be time to sit down and have a chat.
To confront a repeat offender, be sure to arrange a time to address the issue. This will allow you time to calm down.
Start the conversation with something like, “The last three times I've shared some ideas with you, you criticized them. I respect that we may have different opinions about what a beautiful wedding looks like, but I would like it if you would support the ways I am trying to create beauty and meaning for my wedding day. Can we talk about this?
Identifying that you have noticed a certain behavior on three separate occasions makes it harder for the guilty party to claim it only happened once. You also clearly state that you would like support. Finally, when you open a dialog by asking if you can talk about the issue, it helps keep the conversation productive, rather than devolving into criticism and mud slinging on both sides.
3. Calmly Assess the Damage
Take a bit of time to calmly assess whether or not you're dealing with a real issue or just a difference in opinion. I'd like to modify Eleanor Roosevelt's quote “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” to “No one's opinion can affect you without your consent.”
If you're the primary decision maker in your wedding planning, other people's opinions shouldn't affect you.
To figure out if you are dealing with someone's personal opinion or a real issue that needs to be addressed, ask yourself, does this person's behavior harm my family, my friends, or myself? Will this person's behavior fundamentally change my wedding day in a negative way? Does it cost me something, like time or money?
You might also run it by an objective friend. Talk her through the situation and ask her to objectively help you answer the above questions.
It's one thing for your mother to set up Pinterest boards. It's another issue entirely if she demands to have the final say on every detail while you're footing the bill.
4. First seek to understand and then be understood.
In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey suggests “first seek to understand, then be understood.” If you must confront someone with an issue, start the conversation by being a good listener and assuming that your friend or family member will have reasons and explanations for her behavior.
Listen with an open heart and avoid listening road blocks such as pretending to listen when in reality you are formulating your own response. Instead, put yourself in the other person's shoes for a moment and really seek to understand why they behaved the way they did.
Encourage them to share deeply and make sure you are understanding them by mirroring back what they are saying in your own words. You might use statements like, “You seem to be feeling…” or “I hear you saying…” Ask questions for better understanding when needed. Focus on understanding your friend's situation, thoughts and feelings deeply. You don't have to agree with her. You just have to understand her.
Often, when people feel understood and heard, you often don't have to confront them with an issue. They will naturally start working through both sides by themselves.
Finally, only after you fully understand the situation, can you work on the best possible solution.
5. Consider Timing
The keys to effective communication are calmness and timing. Avoid confronting issues as they occur and when your angry. Not only will you not behave your best, but the other person will likely feel defensive rather than open to addressing your grievances.
If you're enraged, exasperated, or otherwise completely indignant, excuse yourself and go to the ladies room, or take a quick walk, or just into the other room to calm down away from the situation. Even five minutes can make the difference between effective communication and an ugly blowout.
If you cannot address the issue after five minutes because, for example, you and your fiancee are at the bakery for a cake tasting appointment, let the the guilty party know you love him (or her) and calmly request that you talk about the incident at a later time.
How do you deal with relationship drama during wedding planning? Leave a comment below and share your tricks and tips with the Mountainside community.