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Milestone moments such as weddings have a way of bringing the heat where there should be heart. Done improperly, weddings can become largely performative, Instagrammable moments lacking substance. We lose ourselves in the details and forget the purpose. The stress to perform and pull off a wedding flawlessly can make anyone crack, but add in the pressure of complicated family dynamics and, baby, you’ve got the perfect recipe for a volatile soufflé on the edge of collapse (10 points to Gryffindor if you know what episode of the Golden Girls this is from).
As engagement season draws to a close, you may start feeling the pressure to kickstart your planning. Before you go Pinterest diving, it’s important to set some expectations and boundaries for yourself. This can be a delicate time. I’ve had the chillest of the chillas erupt closer to their wedding date because of aforementioned heat. If you think it won’t happen to you, you’re in for an unfortunate surprise. It affects everyone at some point. It’s unavoidable, even for those of us who plan weddings professionally, but there are effective ways of managing toxic behavior coming from the people involved in your wedding. We’ll start with usual suspects, the parents, the epicenter of family BS (love y’all!).
Boundaries, Borders, and Rules, Oh My!
The hardest thing to do in established relationships, especially ones with people who raised you, is to set boundaries. Our needs change, we change, and so does what we’re willing to accept in our relationships. As easy as it is to regress to being a 12-year-old around your parents, you absolutely cannot do that when it comes to your wedding. You will lose sleep, hair, and self-respect if you rollover every time they come up with a “suggestion” (you know they aren’t really suggestions), especially if they’re affecting your future spouse as well.
You’ve got to steel yourself for these conversations if you have overbearing parents, because they will be persistent. They may bombard you with a million questions or a million and one reminders of what another sibling did for their wedding. Their expectations may turn into standards for your day, but remember you’re not them, and that means it’s normal to want different things. This is a day that should be personally tailored to you and your partner and your relationship. The priorities and decisions need to be coming from you. Let them know from the beginning that you appreciate their input but the final say will be up to you, not them. Be unrelenting in this because they are likely to test you. I’ve seen it firsthand. Maybe they’ll pout about something small and inconsequential, and before you know it they have the entire event under their control. If you want to cede that to them, by all means go ahead! But if you want what you want, hold those boundaries like...insert your favorite, cool sportsballz reference here.
Invite Them In...with Guidelines
If you feel compelled to give them something to do, do so with clear guidelines. For example, let your mother be in charge of the cake table. She can dress it up with flowers, make it, and arrange it however she wants, but that’s it. No other table, no other suggestions, and no other advice. She gets something, and you get her temporarily off your back.
You can do this with a variety of things. Let your dad have 10 of his songs on the playlist, let your mother be in charge of your bouquet. It can be anything that you know will placate them and leave you with a healthy compromise. Just make sure it’s your decision and not them baiting you.
They Just Want to Be Celebrated, Too
Everyone just wants to be seen and celebrated. People who live and love toxic behaviors will find unhealthy ways to go about this. Maybe they’ll drink too much. Maybe they’ll critique everything in your wedding with you in hearing range. Maybe they’ll find a way to sabotage something in order to get the attention. I’ve seen people yank mics to do unsanctioned toasts, “accidentally” spill red wine, “forget” the marriage license, all types of other tactics to return the control and attention back to them.
You cannot feed that type of behavior because it just grows. You’ve got to kill them with grace and a healthy bit of distance. Virgie Tovar, body positive activist and writer, talked about disconnecting from family on Call Your Girlfriend’s “Level Up 2018” episode. She had to separate herself from their communication style in order to establish a healthy one for herself. As much as it pains me to say, if you know for a fact that these tips won’t keep your parents in check, you can choose not to have them at your wedding. Make sure it’s a decision you make proactively so you have time to process it.
Weddings have a way of bringing things to the surface, but that doesn’t mean you should let your wedding be overrun by toxicity. Plan ahead so you’re able to actually enjoy your day!
Jordan A. Maney is a San Antonio-based wedding planner and owner of All The Days Event Co. She she started her company as a planning haven for all the couples the industry chooses to ignore. Instead of just making a brand, she's building a community. Find more of her sass, humor, and Southern hospitality at allthedaysweddings.com.