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Managing Family Troubles During Wedding Planning

Niki Marie Photography

Weddings are naturally emotional events, even before factoring in complicated family dynamics. With so much on the line, an overbearing parent or feuding relatives can turn an already high-pressure day into a nightmare. 

“As much as a wedding day is about the couple, there are other key players involved throughout the day — people that are involved enough that their feelings and reactions will impact how a couple experiences their day,” confirms Halie Child of By Halie.

Fortunately, that’s where your vendor team can step in and ease the tension!

“Don’t hold back on any family issues, and inform us about people who could potentially cause stress on the wedding day or during the planning process,” encourages Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events. “Our job is to help manage potential conflict before it happens; we can only know that if we have full knowledge of the situation.”

If you’re struggling to navigate family drama amidst the busyness of wedding planning, here are a few strategies to mitigate the pressure.

Plan seating accordingly.

While your guests may attend your wedding to celebrate your nuptials, you can’t control what happens between people seated near each other. 

To avoid extra drama, prepare a seating chart for guests to follow as suggested by Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club and Events. “Assigned seating is very important,” he notes. “The goal is to keep feuding family members separated and surrounded by neutral guests.”

Betsy Scott of Hudson Valley Weddings at the Hill agrees, adding that creative solutions can eliminate potential trouble. “360-degree ceremony seating is a great alternative to the ‘who sits in the first row’ dilemma,” she assures.

Work with your partner to determine the best seating arrangement for both sides of the family, keeping guests seated with those you know they’ll enjoy. 

Kelly Hornberger Photography

Lean on your support network for help.

When you’re in the throes of wedding planning, it’s easy to feel like you’re going through it alone. But you’re not! There are plenty of people ready to help — all you have to do is look around and ask.

“Complicated family dynamics should be communicated to the key players on a wedding day, the planner, the DJ, and definitely the photographer,” states Caroline Robert of Caroline’s Collective.

Your vendor team is full of wedding experts, so rest assured that they’ve navigated difficult family situations in the past. Confiding in them will only serve you well!

“By being up-front about family dynamics, you build trust with your vendors and show that you are committed to open communication,” says Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events. “In the end, whether or not you choose to share family drama with vendors is a personal decision. But if you do decide to share, do so respectfully and professionally.”

If you’re wary about sharing sensitive family dynamics with vendors, Mitsaelides encourages looking to other loved ones for support. “Ask trusted aunts, uncles, and cousins to keep an eye on difficult parents,” he suggests. “Make sure these relatives know their role is to deflect and keep it positive – not serve as a sounding board for grievances and gossip.”

Jessica K Feiden Photography

Keep family members busy.

It’s hard to think about past wrongs and differing opinions when there’s plenty to keep them busy! During the planning process, Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss recommends assigning projects to busybody family members. 

“The best way to keep overly involved family members off a couple’s back is to give them ownership of a project,” she affirms. “So whether it is a shower, welcome bags, or ordering lunch for the wedding party, give your challenging friend or family member a job, don’t micromanage, and reap the benefits of a little more peace!”

As for the wedding day, Steven Feinberg of Bunn DJ Company – San Diego recommends tapping in your DJ for help. “DJs want to keep it fun,” he assures. “The shoe game is a great way to elevate everyone’s mood. A photo booth will also keep guests engaged and provide some laughs. What you don’t want is people stewing in their seats.”

Prepare to compromise—within reason.

Some things aren’t worth the fight, so most couples expect to make a few concessions for their family. Pick your battles and take smaller lumps to avoid feeling pressured into sacrificing your must-haves. 

Monika Kreinberg of Furever Us – Wedding Pet Care reveals that furry friends can often cause tension, noting, “On some occasions, there are differences in opinion regarding including your four-legged family member at the wedding. Compromises have to be made, and the couple often loses out on having their furbaby be there on the big day.”

“Dogs at weddings have a magical effect on family members, other guests, and even vendors,” Kreinberg adds. “Their carefree spirit allows most people to relax in their presence, especially the wedding couple.” So if your pup is a must-have guest, consider where you can compromise in other areas!

While you might think your family is hard to handle, The Soulful Wedding’s Maureen Cotton assures that “‘unconventional’ families are the norm! In fact, when there’s a wedding and all the parents are still alive, married, and in a good relationship, that’s unusual, and we vendors always comment on it.”

Know that you’re not alone and that, with the help of your wedding vendor team, you’ll be well equipped to snuff out any hint of drama!

Julia Wade Photography

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.