Chicks Getting Hitched: Family feuds

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Happy Monday, bunnies. I hope you all had wonderful holiday weekends and ate Peeps for breakfast this morning like I did. Aren’t family gatherings great when you’ve got a wedding on the horizon? It’s so convenient having every member of the family in the same room so they can all offer their unsolicited opinions at the exact same time, isn’t it?

My soon-to-be wife is Jewish and I come from a family of lapsed Catholics who celebrate Easter mostly so we can drink during the day. Passover and Easter happened to fall on the same weekend this year, so my fiancée and I had the unique pleasure of seeing all of our relatives within the same short 72 hours. I didn’t know that so much commentary about one medium-sized lesbian wedding could be packed into one tiny weekend.

My head is still spinning from all of the unsolicited advice I received from well-meaning family members this weekend and if I have to hear the phrase, “January in Chicago? Really?” one more time, I just might lose it. I guess that is what I get for planning a winter wedding in one of the coldest cities in the world. For the record, loved ones: I didn’t accidentally book this wedding date, thinking it would be 60 degrees and sunny. I know it’s cold in Chicago in January. My wedding will not be held outside and if you stop complaining, we’ll even make sure the venue is heated. Deal?

Now don’t get me wrong, I really, truly do appreciate that my fiancée and I have families who care enough to nag us about our wedding. I know that many same-sex couples have parents who wouldn’t even show up to their weddings, let alone invite their entire bridge clubs. It is a clear sign of progress that lesbian brides-to-be can now enjoy the same stressful, emotionally-exhausting journey of planning a wedding with their families that straight gals have enjoyed for centuries.

That said, I just spent a long weekend in the trenches, and I’m here to offer you some coping mechanisms should you ever find yourself under the rapid fire of family members offering wedding advice.

Deflect, deflect, deflect

With extended family members like second cousins or great aunts, dodging their advice and opinions may be as simple as changing the subject. “Oh really, Aunt Ethel, you think we should serve veal at our wedding like cousin Suzy did? Thanks for the tip! How are your tulips doing this year?” Most people would rather talk about themselves anyway, so by turning the attention away from your upcoming nuptials, you may be able to avoid explaining to Aunt Ethel for the 100th time that you’re a vegetarian and there will be no veal at your wedding.

Make them think it’s their idea

Deflection may work with distant relatives, but you’re not as likely to get off so easy with mom and dad. That’s why I’ve been perfecting the art of making them think it’s their idea. This is a tricky, but highly-effective maneuver. Here’s how it works. My mother, for example, has been positively obsessed with the cost of my wedding since the moment I got engaged. It’s not that she doesn’t want me to have a nice wedding, it’s that she still sees me as a financially irresponsible 19-year-old who will bankrupt her and my father, if given the chance. Her solution was to bombard me with wedding venues I would never consider like suburban hotels and my dad’s backyard.

So, what I did was tell her about a lovely, budget-friendly option I found in the urban area where I live. I knew it was my dream venue from the start, but I also knew that if I told that to my mom, she’d find a way to declare it too expensive and too lavish. Instead of telling her the truth (that I already loved it), I presented it to her as if I was on the fence about this venue, but that it did fit within our budget and I guess we could make it work. The result: She loves the venue and she thinks it was her idea, so she can’t harass me about the cost. Everyone wins!

Have your fiancée run interference

I think most parents are just hard wired to believe their children are irrational. You could be in your late 30s with a master’s degree and a few gray hairs, but in their eyes, you will always be a kid, incapable of making adult decisions. Fortunately, since your own parents did not raise your fiancée, they may be able to see her for the reasonable and capable adult she is. Assuming your parents like your lady, you can use this to your advantage. For example, if you tell your dad that your wedding dinner is going to cost $150 per person, he might just hear a demanding eight-year-old asking for a pony for her birthday. But, if your fiancée calmly explains that the two of you have met with a number of caterers and have a realistic estimate of what it will cost to feed your wedding guests, you may get a totally different reaction from dad. It may be maddening, but your fiancée is about to become part of your family, so bite your tongue and let her do some of your dirty work.

Put them to work

Some parents (like my dear, sweet mother) are fixated on one particular element of their children’s weddings. Others think they are professional wedding planners and want to be involved in every decision – big or small. If you’ve got meddling parents, you have to beat them at their own game by assigning them a big project. Is mom a crafter? Ask her to DIY your invitations. Does Dad consider himself a foodie? Task him with finding a caterer. They’ll feel like you value their input, and hopefully will be so busy with their designated duties that they won’t have time to bother you about all of the other things you’d rather they not weigh in on.

Set clear boundaries

If none of the kinder, gentler tactics I’ve already mentioned seem to be working with your family, then you have no choice but tell them that certain things simply aren’t up for discussion. Let’s say your mother keeps sending you pictures of white gowns hoping you’ll fulfill her dream of seeing her little girl in a wedding dress, but you’re a butch woman who hasn’t worn a dress since you were forced to do so in elementary school. That’s when it’s time to sit mom down and explain that you understand her feelings, but that your wedding wardrobe needs to reflect who you are, not who she wants you to be. Tell her you’re sorry that your wedding won’t look exactly how she hoped it would, but that you hope she’ll respect your wishes and stop sending pictures of frilly dresses you’d never wear. End of conversation. If she persists, use your delete button liberally.

Consider the possibility that they just might have a good idea

This one’s a little tough for me. I think I know more about weddings than your average girl, and I am in no way unclear about what I want for my own wedding. When I’m requesting someone’s opinion about my wedding, it is always directly preceded by the words, “What do you think about. . .?” If you don’t hear those exact words, that means I’m not looking for any input. But, I have to say, my family and my fiancée’s family have actually had a good idea or two along the way, and I will probably end up taking some of their advice. So, as frustrating as it can be to have so many different opinions thrust at you when you’re already stressed out enough trying to plan a wedding, once in a while, your family may actually be able to help you out. Just don’t tell my mom or my future mother-in-law I said that.

What are your best strategies for managing family members while planning your wedding?

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