Tuesday, January 30, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART VI

I received an interesting comment today about the STBMIL, and how religion may end up playing a role in the ensuing tension that oftentimes results....

"...a friend recently got engaged and her STBMIL has turned into Monster In Law. When the non-religious couple mentioned on the fly that they wouldn't be having a church wedding. Well she went off. She went on about how hurt she was and said "well why didn't you ask me?". That was fairly early on for them and I think it was a hard lesson for them that she had a lot of expectations about their wedding, and they're now figuring out how to gently deal with her."

While issues with religion in weddings may arise within one's core family, a lot of tension results because a bride and groom's family may not be compatible when it comes to religious faith--and that raises a host of issues that a bride and groom have to deal with, particularly when considering the thoughts and feelings of family members.

A college friend of mine (Beth) is Jewish--she's "reform", only going to temple on high holidays and the occasional Bar Mitzvah. Her soon-to-be husband's family (Sam) is "conservative." (going to temple every weekend, etc.) Seth's mother (i.e., the STBMIL) had VERY set ways in how she thought the Jewish wedding ceremony should be conducted. (As with other religious ceremonies, Jewish wedding ceremonies have varying degrees of religion/tradition). The STBMIL wanted more elements of the traditional Jewish ceremony incorporated than Beth was happy with, and she made her opinion clear to Beth--several times over. This caused some unspoken conflict which could have bubbled over the surface--but Sam intervened and spoke with his mother, asking her to back off a little bit (the compromise they came to was that Sam and Beth would have the Hora, a traditional Jewish dance, at the ceremony--while Beth would have liked to do without any religious dances, she decided to please her STBMIL with this request, which took more pressure off the actual ceremony).

While there's no hard and fast solution to the issues of religion when it comes to wedding planning (and how religious faith plays a role in shaping the ceremony and reception), it's an interesting theme which should be explored. I liked how Beth and Sam handled their own issues--having the help of an intermediary (like Sam, here) is a good idea, instead of having a bride and STBMIL go head-to-head (or vice versa with the groom and STBMIL). Of course, if a bride/groom feels comfortable being direct and honest with their STBMIL, then they should go for it! Being HONEST is always the best approach--HOW you choose to be honest is your decision. Each individual situation is different---therefore, no rule can be applied across the board.

Having said that, I also believe that COMPROMISE is a huge aspect of the planning process. You may not love every idea your STBMIL throws out there, but if there's a way to appease--and please--without your giving up your own plans, then that's terrific.

I appreciate your recounting your own experiences--as they raise new and provocative issues that need to be shared!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART V

I don't know why there often seem to be issues related to the STBMIL (Soon-to-be-Mother-in-Law), but a lot of the complexities seem to arise with them during the planning process. Most of the time STBMILs mean well, but....

So what am I talking about? Brides can have varying opinions as to how much help they want from their parents/soon-to-be in-laws--some want to be completely independent in their planning (or have a specific idea as to who will help with what), and others like as much help as they can get. Problems arise when STBMILs misinterpret politeness for something else.

BigSis was telling me about her close friend Sara and Sara's tension with her STBMIL when it came to the planning process. Sara's mother took the initiative of planning the bridal shower, and she asked BigSis to help out. BigSis and Sara's mother were excited about the prospect, and the STBMIL asked repeatedly if she could do anything. Not wanting her to feel left out, Sara's mom asked the STBMIL for her opinions on color scheme, flowers, etc. and then asked her pick up certain decorations to bring to the shower. The STBMIL was invited to come and help out pre-shower to get everything prepared for the celebration.

The complications arose when the STBMIL showed up at the shower--with her 15 friends that were also invited! Sara was slightly upset, because the pre-shower prep became kind of a mess. BigSis told me that it just made Sara's, Sara's mother, and her job harder: "It was noisy and just a lot of chaos.... there were way too many people there, and while everyone was trying to help, we didn't need that many hands. Sara was really pissed, but she tried to get let it go - after all, what can she really say?"

To Sara, according to BigSis, it seemed like the STBMIL was trying to "take over" -- one way of doing that? Bringing her army of friends to help set up, which was supposed to really be BigSis and the mother's job.

It's difficult to talk openly to a STBMIL about issues like this, but this may be the time when a fiance has to step in and gently remind his mother that she may have to take a few steps back. Obviously, not all situations are the same-but when you find someone stepping on your toes during the planning process, you're most likely NOT the only one...AND your family members who are also helping you plan may be affected. Trying to balance the thoughts and feelings of all family members is difficult--if you don't feel comfortable opening your mouth when you see an issue arise, make sure you have someone in your corner that will. Otherwise, there will just be confusion and frustration--and who wants those emotions around at a wedding shower?!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART V

“I told my mother-in-law that my house was her house, and she said, "Get the hell off my property."” -- Joan Rivers


Just a little teaser for the topic of my next post, which will follow shortly.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART IV

I received any interesting comment the other day, in response to my post about family members--and the delicacies that come with inviting/not inviting their children.

"I have a younger sister (11 years old), so "No Kids" was not going to work for my fiance and I. But we were selective about what kids we did invite (close younger cousins, nephews and such). BUT we have recieved a couple of reply cards where the invitation was ONLY addressed to the parents and they have included children in their reply as attending. Any suggestions on how to handle this?"

My response to this question certainly holds true in the case of family members who take it upon themselves to invite their children to your wedding--but it applies to other random wedding guests, too.

Honesty is always the best policy--and while one of your goals as a bride-to-be is to keep your guests in mind with respect to the wedding planning--you have to always remember that it's still "your wedding"--and guests should respect the decisions you DO end up making. If reply cards come back to you from wedding guests, which include children who were not invited, do a quick and to-the-point follow-up phone call. Explain to your guests that you are SO happy they will be able to attend, and while you would LOVE their children to be there, you unfortunately will not be able to accommodate them. If your fiance has a closer relationship to those guests, he should make the call. Explaining why you can't invite the kids? You can also shift blame on your budget, even if money isn't necessarily the reason for not inviting all children (what do your guests know? If you say it's a money thing, they can't really put up a fight.)

It's almost more difficult when the guests who do this type of things are also family members. There is that feeling that you cannot offend anyone--particularly those in the family bloodline. However, if you don't set the record straight sooner rather than later (and, say, wait a few weeks to talk to the family members in question), things may get even more hairy--if they make travel plans (say, booking 3 airline tickets instead of the 2 they would have done sans-child (if they could hire a baby-sitter), or even being able to find a babysitter in the first case.

The bottom line: guests can do strange things--even your close family members (or that of your fiance)--like sending reply cards back as +3 (mommy and daddy, with baby or small child in tow). Therefore, clear any confusion up earlier rather than later--so as not to further complicate the issue orinadvertently offend anyone.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART III

The next issue links into a previous post about something I consider to be a "dirty word" in the world of wedding planning (not because it's a BAD thing, but it's bound to, at least for many brides, bring up controversy and certain issues--particularly among family members).

So what's the word? KIDS. The issue of inviting children is an issue in and of itself (and one which I've devoted much time trying to explain/resolve), but when you throw children of family members into the mix? There's potential for a world of tension.

For example, it's one thing if you decide to take a "NO KIDS" approach as a blanket rule for your guests. It gets tricky, though, when you have to consider those who are part of the familial relationship. So.... what about the kids of your fiance's sister? Or your closest cousin? What then? Although limiting children at an affair may be a step you are willing to take, it gets more difficult when you have to explain it to those who are actually linked to you in the family chain (ESPECIALLY if you have a relationship with those children--even if they are younger).

Take my friend Kelly, for example. Kelly's husband (Ben) had a close cousin with a young infant. Ben really wanted to allow said cousin to bring the infant to the ceremony and at least part of the reception. Kelly wasn't particularly thrilled with the concept, as she feared that a 10 month old at the ceremony would fuss, cry, or in some way distract from the nuptials. Personally, I don't think Kelly was being high maintenance--having children at a ceremony, in particular, is a risk. While some don't care about children behaving/remaining quiet during a wedding ceremony, Kelly, in fact, was concerned. Given that it was an evening, black tie affair, she didn't feel it was appropriate. In fact, Kelly had told Ben that she didn't want children at the event---those of family members or not.

So, what did Kelly propose, given that Ben felt strongly about the situation? She told him that she would be more than happy if the cousin's child attended the rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch--and she would pay for a babysitter for night while the cousin attended the event.

I think this was a fair solution. It makes sense to try and accommodate family members who want to bring children, particularly as they may be traveling to your event in order to be there. However, if you have a no kids policy, STICK TO YOUR GUNS. And don't feel like a bridezilla because you don't want kids at your wedding!

Of course, if you DO, that's great, too.

What I would say is to try and accommodate your family members to the extent that you can-- by offering to pay for a babysitter, or having them attend other events during the weekend where they won't be as disruptive, but they can still feel included in the festivities.

If you are honest with your family members about the presence of children at your wedding, and you are trying to accommodate them without killing yourself, that's the best you can do, in my opinion.

More familial intrigue to come! Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART II

Before we get into the juicy details of the relationship a bride has to her future mother-in-law, I thought I'd start with the basics.... (i.e., "MOM").

Like it or not, moms are pretty much part and parcel to the wedding planning process (of course, this doesn't go for every situation, but I unfortunately have to make some general conclusions, as each reader's experience is slightly different).

A mother's participation partly results from the fact that a bride and/or a bride's family traditionally foots the bill for the wedding (at least in contemporary American society--for those outside the U.S., please feel free to comment upon your own experiences). If the bride's mother (and father) is shelling out the bucks, shouldn't she (and he) have a say in what's going on?

My friend Julie found out the hard way that her wedding would come at a price -- "Ironically, I wanted to have a small, understated affair, and sort of keep the "do it myself" mentality - my mom wasn't having ANY of it. She said that if she were paying for it, she wouldn't put up with having "crap" as wedding favors or decorations-- It was definitely a little tense as I started planning, because she was intent on controlling the whole process."

A mother's level of involvement can run the spectrum - some become UBER-planners, becoming involved in every last minutia including reserving veto rights over reception locations or floral arrangements (and subsequently driving her daughter crazy in the process), and others take the DO-IT-YOURSELF approach. There are, of course, those mothers in the middle--willing to help but not willing to go crazy over it.

Even before a bride gets started in the planning process, she should do some thinking about the role her mother will play--and if this role is appropriate/comfortable. Communication is the key here.

Talk to your mother--as well as your immediate family--before you get started, in order to determine how much time/effort your mom wants to put in. Determine guidelines and outline responsibilities (will your mom come with you to look at reception halls/floral arrangements? Or will she merely provide suggestions beforehand, and you and your fiance will do the actual looking? How much lee-way does your mother have in terms of making phone calls, setting up appointments?). Have a frank discussion about what you want to get out of your wedding day, and how your mom can help (without getting in the way).

The downside of NOT communicating with your mother can lead to tension and hurt feelings-no matter how involved your mother wants to be. My friend Barbara, who is planning her May wedding, was surprised (and a little taken aback) that her mother--with whom she is very close--took a more distant stance with respect to her nuptials. "My mom basically was like 'do what you want to do--everything is up to you. Your planning, your decision.' I was really upset by it -we talk every day on the phone, and she's generally pretty involved- but after talking to her about it, she told me that it was her "mom-ish" way of not wanting to be too bossy, and her wanting to respect my decisions. It was really miscommunication--it's good we had a conversation, otherwise I wouldn't have understood her motivations."

The lesson to be learned here is that your immediate family may be the most important guests you invite--and your mother may end up as a key element in the planning process. Therefore, make sure to be honest with her about how you feel regarding her involvement, and whether or not you want to seek such help.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL (PART I)


I love this picture. Why? It brings me back to when I was a little girl, playing with my father, not knowing the words "deadline" and client"--and only worrying about my Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids.

This image is a sharp contrast to what life is like now -- I absolutely adore living in Manhattan and hanging out with TallGuy and my friends, but I could certainly do without the stress of work and having to pay an endless pile of bills.

I haven't had to deal with planning a wedding yet, so that's not an additional stress on my plate, so to speak. However, I have seen many of my engaged friends struggle with a type of aggravation/pressure that, at least to me, seems rather counterintuitive about the planning process. Especially for people close with their family (mother or father, sister or brother, aunt or uncle), it's hard to imagine that FAMILY can become the source of so much stress with respect to wedding issues. Aggravation from your wedding planner? The florist? Sure. That makes sense. But from your sister (i.e., your closest friend)? That's not as obvious. Friends of mine who have planned their wedding have told me that this was the most surprising aspect of their experience (i.e., fighting more with their relatives than the people actually involved in making the wedding happen).

My next series is devoted to the concept of FAMILY--and how the family affects the planning process (and the tension that may result). The obvious starting point would be your parents and future in-laws. I'll certainly cover these concepts. But issues and conflict can arise anywhere in the family tree--no matter how close you are to your relatives.

I'm not a psychologist. So why, then, am I talking about familial relationships with respect to the planning process? Not to delve into a bride's psyche--but to pinpoint and target problem areas--which will hopefully help people figure out how to most tactfully deal with their family (without tearing their hair out).

While dealing with your family during planning may not render images like the one above, the process should be harmonious for all involved.

The point of all of this? Your family members (who may or may not be involved with helping you plan) are also going to be guests at your wedding. You should remember to treat them well, as you would anyone else in attendance.

Stay tuned!