How to Handle Your Traditional Parents When Planning a Modern Wedding

It's your wedding, damn it!

Updated 04/27/17

Sean Money and Elizabeth Fay

It's no surprise that times have changed quite a bit since your parents got married, that's for sure. But what can you do when they might not see things your way or are stuck a bit in the past? Planning a modern wedding with traditionally-minded parents can be a bit of a sticky situation. Check out our tips for how to navigate this new and uncharted territory while still enjoying the wedding-planning process.

Communicate

As with most things, communication is key. If at any point conflict arises, it's super important to remember the critical components of communication: honesty, openness, and good listening skills. Be sure to hear your parents or in-laws out (no matter how ridiculous it might seem) to get a better understanding of where they are coming from. In return, ensure they are listening to you, as well. Try your best to avoid knee-jerk reactions and over-emotional ones, too. If you're communicating properly, an environment of respect should be maintained at all times, regardless of the ultimate outcomes.

Be Prepared

If your parents are hell-bent on you walking down the aisle in the church you grew up in, or if they really want you to wear the fourth-generation wedding gown that's been passed down or host your wedding at the same venue as they did, take a breath and look at the big picture. It may not be that they're trying to be "controlling" or "obsessive." Many of their wishes might simply be rooted deeply in nostalgia and fond memories. Be prepared in your conversations by showing them ideas and ways you can still honor those traditions and memories, but in your own way.

You can also show them photos (maybe even from friends' or family's weddings), videos, and brochures to give them a better idea of your vision and wishes and to also show them it's been done before. Sometimes, it's a visual thing. They might not be able to understand your "unconventional" ideas until they see them for themselves. Once they do, they may just relax a bit.

Explore Compromises

Under no circumstances should you have to abandon something you feel really strongly about in the wedding-planning process. However, if there's any way of finding a middle ground that will make both sides happy and leave you feeling relief instead of that "settling" feeling, you should explore that. For example, perhaps you don't want a fully religious ceremony, but by having a small moment of time dedicated to a special prayer, you can honor your parents' wishes without compromising any of your own. Or, maybe you really don't want to wear that fourth-generation gown, but fourth-generation earrings or hair accessories will not only embody tradition but will also be gorgeous with your ensemble. While brides and their spouses should never feel like they've settled, perhaps there's a way to find a compromise that works for everyone, with little to no sacrifice required.

Be (Just a Little Bit) Selfish

If all else fails, remind them as politely as possible that this day is about you and your love and really nothing else. It might seem a little awkward, but it's the truth. Stress that as much as you'd love their unwavering support, and of course you want them to be happy and joyful on your special day, that the conflict in opinions and "sides" is really stressing you out and putting a damper on a time that is supposed to be special. Once they hear this honesty from you, it's more likely they will reevaluate their stance or at least the way they are making you feel.

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