Photo: Greer G. Photography
Love them or hate them: In-laws are yours forever. And there's nothing like a wedding to make you get to know the newest addition to your family.
Your wedding is likely the first time you've had to navigate tricky issues with your fiancé's parents. The big event forces tough conversations about money, family, religion and taste — and bring to light just how different or similar you and your in-laws may be.
That said, a wedding is way more stressful than most any other interactions you'll ever have with your extended family. You're probably just getting your footing with one another, sorting out sore spots and tension points. So your future family forecast is looking bright if you can survive the wedding process together. In the meantime, consider this your designer guide to navigating the in-law relationship.
The Overbearing In-Laws
Your future mother-in-law might have some very set ideas about your guest list, center pieces, religion in your ceremony, or maybe, all of these things. Plus, your own parents are probably weighing in on these very topics. Put simply: There are way too many cooks in the kitchen. While you're comfortable telling your fiancé and your own parents what you really think, it's a lot harder to level with a mother who isn't your own.
The good news: Her involvement means she cares, and wants the day to be just as meaningful as you do. So don't lose sight of her good intentions, but we get it, it's annoying!
If things reach a fever pitch — say, she won't stop bugging you about not inviting her co-workers — you need to call for reinforcements. Ask your fiancé to talk to his parents. You and he can set boundaries for both sets of parents, and let your respective mothers and fathers know the "do not cross" lines. By explaining that this is a cross-parental policy, your mother-in-law will feel less slighted. And maybe, just maybe, her co-workers will be nixed from the list.
The Laissez-Faire In-Laws
Some of us have in-laws who just don't seem to care. They never ask about the wedding and seem borderline bored when you bring it up. There could be a variety of explanations: Maybe they view the event as something the bride's family should be involved in, and don't want to meddle. Or, they might have OD'd on past kids' weddings, so they're happy to sit this one out. The odds are that your in-laws are just trying to respect that this as your and your fiancé's event. In the grand scheme of things, it's a lot better to have no meddling than the overbearing parents-in-law.
But to ensure that your in-laws feel included, you and your fiancé are going to take the initiative. (After all, they probably want to help, but they also don't want to bother you.) Assign them an activity — ask them to host a wedding weekend event or create a seating chart for their friends and family. Even just asking your mother-in-law for advice on your dress, or seeing if your father-in-law wants to join your dad and brother the morning of the wedding for golf can go a long way. This is your chance to bring your future in-laws closer to you and your family. Don't squander it.
Sometimes, you strike out in the in-law game, also known as the difficult and unsupportive in-laws. Not only do your fiancé's parents object to everything you're doing around the wedding, they're also degrading about your choices. No conversation feels productive — it seems to be an excuse for your in-laws to criticize you and your fiancé about how you spend your money or how offensive it is that you've excluded a third cousin twice removed from the guest list.
It's important to remember that these strains over your wedding have nothing to do with the wedding. There are clearly much deeper family-related issues at hand.
Instead of fighting over wedding-related issues with them, it's time for a broader existential conversation with your fiancé. Does he want his parents in your life? If so, he needs to invest ample time into understanding what drives his parents' difficult approach with the two of you. Is it something about the marriage itself? Something between son and parents? Ultimately your fiancé has to be your advocate with his parents. He has to sort out what's really going on and what needs to be addressed so that all of you can get along — long after the wedding is over.