It’s just one day – what could possibly go wrong? Well, theoretically, everything. Worst-case scenario, there’s a case of family fisticuffs and any tense moments at future family events will be peppered with comments like “Ah yes, just like on your wedding day.”
You may think it won’t happen to you. YOUR family is easy-going and they wouldn’t ruin MY big day. But you have to remember that this is an emotional milestone for the whole family. A whisper from Aunt Carol that your new family is getting preferential treatment is all it takes for World War III to erupt on the dance floor.
So how can you keep the focus on the wedding ring instead of the boxing ring?
1. Don’t ask your sister to be your bridesmaid
Two sisters of the bride + three actual BFFs = FIVE bridesmaids. Now you can quit wondering how people let their bridal parties get out of hand. Your best option, to avoid eternal disappointment and everyone taking offence, is to make it a blanket rule. Don’t ask one of your sisters and not the other because that’s when the wedding fights start.
Instead, try and give them another role in the wedding such as a reading during the ceremony or a speech at the reception. If you have more than one sibling, get them to make a joint speech to save time and get the embarrassing stories out of the way in one go.
2. Take the family seating arrangements seriously
Reserve the two tables closest to the front for your respective families. Keep them EXACTLY LEVEL. Even if they insist that it’s fine to be further away, your guests will notice and it can potentially cause some embarrassment.
By having two set tables for family, it makes it easier to mix and match and avoid any awkward situations if divorced couples don’t want to sit near each other. With long speeches and flowing wine involved, just hedge all your bets.
Most importantly, talk to both sets of parents about their expectations and plan the rest of the seating around them. It’s also a good idea to ensure that any separated parents have an allocated partner (son, daughter, cousin) to dance with during the parent dance after the bridal waltz.
3. Don’t invite the whole family
One of the most difficult things about wedding planning is knowing when to cut off your guest list.
Remember that this is a financial decision, not a personal reflection on your family members. Choose your venue and check the seating capacity and price per head BEFORE you drunkenly invite your fourth cousin twice removed.
Explain to your immediate family the reason(s) for not inviting everyone so that you’re all know what the deal is when someone asks if their invitation got lost in the mail.
4. Do photos with just family, then with partners
Just because you think your sister is going out with a loser who won’t last six months doesn’t mean you can always refuse to invite him to your wedding. You have to gauge the situation as to whether not inviting him might cause WWIII.
Get around this by instructing your wedding photographer to do two sets of family photos for each family combination: one with siblings only, and one with siblings and partners. For any informal dance floor shots, try to position yourself away from the offending partner so you can crop them out later if you need to.
5. Involve your family in wedding plans
I’m guilty of assuming that I would be burdening my family if I asked them to come along for dress fittings or help me decide on an invitation design. And I had an overwhelming fear that my mum’s input would result in balloon tree centrepieces. Now that I have children of my own, I’ve realised that I would be devastated if I didn’t get to be part of this important milestone.
Set clear boundaries before you ask for input. And remember that if your family is involved in the planning, they’ll understand exactly why decisions were made and jump to your defence before wedding fights can get out of hand.
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