Emotions are high, and so are the stakes. You’ve got an Everest-sized list of items to check off your wedding planning to-do's, you understandably want the day to be sublimely perfect, and now you’ve got personalities serving you major stress on top of it all. Maybe your partner isn’t taking wedding planning as seriously as you’d like, maybe your future in-law is butting in way too much, or maybe you’ve got a bone to pick with your own mother.
Whatever the case, take solace in knowing that you probably aren’t the first person to battle it out with someone before the big day. We spoke to relationship experts, Dr. Kate Kaplan and Christine Agro, who shared their insights on six common pre-wedding day fights and how to work them out.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Kate Kaplan is a clinical psychologist who works specifically with complicated family dynamics.
- Christine Agro is a life coach with two decades of experience.
Clashing With Mom Over Traditions
Whether you’re arguing about a veil or no veil, which flowers to choose, or whether to include certain religious traditions or not, these seemingly small details can erupt into a volcanic-sized argument.
“Weddings tend to bring out complicated dynamics between mother and daughter, and years of expectations and baggage,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Kate Kaplan. “My advice for brides is to use these moments as a point of connection. Ask your mother about her own wedding planning experience, because often her own experience with her mother affects how she interacts with you.”
Dr. Kaplan says that not only does this give you more insight into your mom’s behavior and requests, but it also gives you both a moment to grow empathy for each other. From there, it’s all about compromise. Aim to include a tradition that is especially meaningful for your mother, and then make a point to create new traditions.
It's Always About the Money
Dr. Kaplan says, “Supercharged topics that come up for brides in therapy include how much money is being spent (and on what), who is paying for the bills and blown-out budgets.”
It’s vital to sit down right away with your soon-to-be-spouse, as well as anyone else who may be contributing funds. Together create a concrete budget and prioritize certain expenditures over others. The more you discuss at first, the fewer flames there will be later.
“You might not see eye to eye on what you should spend money on, so there might be a need for some compromise here,” she adds. “For instance, for my own wedding I knew the backdrop was beautiful and we did not need to spend as much on flowers, but we both agreed that we wanted the food to wow so we poured our money into our food budget.”
If parents or others are contributing funds to help make your wedding day come to life, it’s important to discuss how involved they’ll be with the financial decision making. Though it’s not always the case, it’s best to assume that a generous gift carries some form of decision leverage.
Everyone Keeps Trying to Plan Your Day for You
It can be incredibly frustrating when friends and family (who have no dollar in the game) are being too opinionated and trying to influence your wedding-day decisions.
“Remember that this is your and your partner’s day. It is important to let important people feel a part of it, but not control it,” advises life coach Christine Agro. “Where individuals are concerned, if they are driving you crazy or making your day anything less than wonderful, stop, take a breath, disengage, and reflect. Their experience isn’t your responsibility but understanding why they’re behaving the way they are can help you to figure out how to navigate whatever is going on.”
It’s possible that they’re just really excited for you, that they’re living out their own wedding-day planning dreams, or that they're trying to help you learn from their own wedding mistakes. Be forthright and firm, but to avoid a major blowout try to see their perspective and then share yours. A gentle reminder that this is your day, and that you really want to personalize it with the things that you and your future spouse like, can go a long way.
Your In-Laws Are Driving You Crazy
Family dynamics are weird. We all have different boundaries, habits, and traditions, and it can make for a serious mess when wedding planning. Also, complicated feelings of jealousy, resentment, and “not good enough-ism” can sometimes be involved.
“When couples are fighting due to in-laws, often it’s a too-involved mother-in-law making a bride uncomfortable,” says Dr. Kaplan. “For instance, I had one bride whose mother-in-law chose a white dress for herself to wear to the ceremony. The bride felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do I say something to my mother-in-law, and if I do, how do I do it respectfully? Or do I let my partner have that conversation?”
Her advice is to take a deep breath and recognize that as you create a new family with your future partner, you must also honor the preexisting dynamics of your partner’s family and how they communicate together. Also, now’s the time to set some healthy but loving boundaries and to manage expectations, Agro says.
“Lead from the heart. Create a time and space to speak with your mother-in-law rather than addressing this when you're already frustrated or annoyed,” Agro says. “Plan out what you want to say, whether it’s ‘I’ve dreamed of this day my entire life and there are certain things I really want to do myself,’ or it’s ‘I appreciate everything you are doing, and what would really be helpful is if you took care of this thing. The rest is something that I want to do.’ ”
Really, that advice is good for anyone who’s getting on your nerves during the wedding-planning process.
You Aren’t Seeing Eye to Eye
Whether they seem less invested than you think they ought to be, or they're so invested that you guys can’t agree on details, fights with your partner are basically unavoidable during the wedding planning process.
“Weddings are the ultimate gauntlet of communication for couples,” Dr. Kaplan says. “It’s training ground for getting used to having uncomfortable conversations and disagreements and learning how to navigate them.”
Remember this: You don’t need to agree on everything to be an amazing team. Dr. Kaplan’s advice is to first slow your roll and not jump to any conclusions about what it all means and then, in a relaxed setting, take turns with your partner discussing what you both are and aren’t willing to let go of.
“Perhaps they can let go of needing to have an indoor wedding and embrace your idea of a beach wedding, and you can include those people that they must have on the guest list,” Dr. Kaplan says. It’s all about healthy compromise and remembering that you’re in this together.
It's definitely a common dilemma: One partner feels they're doing all the heavy lifting and planning, while the other doesn't care or just agrees to everything the other says. Before you know it, your differences will build up resulting in a major blowup at some point during the planning period. One way to avoid this conflict is for each partner to write out their thoughts and opinions about the wedding. From big ideas to the smallest details, each partner should explain what matters the most to them for the big day, and also list the things they really aren't worried about. Then, collectively share your list and talk it out. As you find things that one would prefer to do, split up the assignments so there is a better balance of duties. By doing this, both of you will feel a stronger role in the wedding prep, and you'll each be doing something you really care about.