Family drama can turn a dream wedding into a nightmare. The weeks and months leading up to a wedding can put a strain on any relationship or family, but if there are underlying issues or family members who like to stir the pot, the situation can reach a breaking point.
If you have a drama-prone family, or if you feel a situation brewing, dealing with it proactively is always the best solution. Letting things fester will only worsen the eventual eruption, while nipping it in the bud can reduce the damage, chaos, and hurt.
There will always be some level of drama at a wedding, and knowing how to handle it can be the key to a fun, happy, and loving nuptial day. Explore some tips to keep the drama level down and manage any family members who cause issues.
Psychologists have studied pre-wedding drama’s origins and found that a major cause is “Joint Identity, Split Loyalty.”
As a couple, you have a joint identity with your partner, one that is further solidified in marriage. However, each member of the couple still feels a sense of loyalty to their own family and tends to favor them over their extended family.
This split loyalty can easily lead to drama, particularly if the families don’t see eye to eye or share different values. Couples should approach every problem as a team and put their new joint identity as a married couple first in all situations. Any disagreements or differences of opinion should be discussed and worked out as a couple first, then presented to both families as a united front.
Mishaps and misunderstandings are unavoidable when two families come together to plan a wedding. When disagreements and tensions arise, it is important to proactively address them before resentments develop.
One way to mitigate drama is to discuss family dynamics with your partner and devise a strategy and plan of action. Plan ahead if you know there are potential sources of drama, for example, from divorced parents or a relative who likes to drink a bit too much.
You may want to ask one of your groomsmen to help keep divorced parents (or any two people who are trouble together) apart by entertaining them separately. You can also try to limit the amount of alcohol available to those who have issues. This may mean forgoing an open bar or instructing bar staff to monitor potentially problematic family members.
Ellie Durbin, founder of The Aisle Assistant, provides some perfect guidance for dealing with unsolicited advice, simply say “Thank you so much! We’ll think about it.” and leave it at that.
The more you prepare and the better your wedding plans, the easier it will be to avoid sparks of conflict.
Tradition is one of the biggest sources of drama when planning a wedding. For some families, it is the most important thing, and every tenant and obscure practice must be followed to the letter. For others, it is nothing worth bothering about. Regardless of your family’s stance, modifying tradition to suit your situation can help you avoid drama, even if the modifications cause some family upset.
For example, one common source of drama is walking the bride down the aisle. For some, this is a tradition with a bad past, as it once symbolized the passage of ownership of a woman from her father to her husband to be. For others, it is a vital part of the entire wedding ceremony and should be respected.
Deciding who walks the bride down the aisle can also be a source of conflict if the bride is close with both her father and stepfather or has been raised by two fathers. If the bride has to choose between loved ones, hurt feelings are inevitable.
If following traditions to the letter is not your style, get creative and adapt traditions you like to suit your situation. Perhaps the bride could walk down the aisle alone or accompanied by multiple father figures. Bending tradition to fit your circumstance is much better than adhering to a ritual that will cause drama.
Strategic seating means sitting potential sources of conflict as far away from each other as possible. People seated far from one another have fewer opportunities to interact, which can help you reduce drama on your wedding day.
This can be easily accomplished in advance for events that include a seating chart, like the rehearsal or wedding dinners, but you may want to draw up projected seating arrangements for all your events.
Sit down as a couple and start an open and honest conversation about attendees for all events. Do your best to identify all people who won’t get along or have complicated personal histories. This might feel awkward or gossipy, but it is a necessary part of the event planning process. When you make your seating arrangements, place people with other guests they will enjoy spending time with and away from sources of drama.
Weddings bring all your loved ones together, but your guests bring their personal beliefs, political opinions, and sensitivities with them. To prevent a culture clash, commit to avoiding any hot-button issues that you know often lead to disagreements and fights. Generally, any discussion of money, religion, or politics should be avoided.
If you know that certain family members or other guests have strong opinions or specific sensitivities, politely ask all invited to showers, pre-wedding parties, or the wedding itself to focus on the couple and the fun occasion and leave their opinions at the door. While it might take some convincing, speaking to particularly strong-willed people beforehand and letting them know they will be shown the door if they don’t follow your rules should keep the controversies to a minimum and keep the party fun and couple-focused.
While you may hope your guests will be polite enough to put aside their differences during your celebration, heated debates can still arise, particularly amongst those who have spent too much time at the open bar.
When planning your big day, wedding shower, or any pre-wedding parties, clearly outline rules for anyone on the guest list that might be the source of drama. Let them know that you want a fun, love-filled wedding and that certain behaviors will not be tolerated.
If you find laying down rules in person to be a bit awkward, hire a wedding planner or ask a close friend to speak to potential sources of conflict and let them know the rules. Families and friends can all have a good time at your wedding by setting a tone of fun, love, and high spirits, along with an understanding of what won’t be allowed.
If, despite your best efforts, a family member begins to cause drama, it is best to respond thoughtfully, not instantly react while tempers are running hot. Psychologists recommend responding in the most measured, controlled, and calm way possible. Often even the slightest anger will set off people who feed on negative emotions.
Practice deep breathing or count backward from 10 to stay calm, but also plan for penalties for those who cause trouble. Do not be afraid to distance yourself or remove people from specific roles if they cannot behave.
Finally, show them the door if drama is unavoidable or a person cannot behave themselves. Your wedding day and the events leading up to it are about you, don’t let anyone ruin the wedding planning process or any event. Simply rescind their invasion and tell them to stay away. It can be painful to do this to a loved one, but sometimes it is necessary.
Your wedding day should be one of the happiest days of your life. The preparations for your wedding should be filled with joyful anticipation and the warmth of a loving group of friends and family. Nip all the drama in the bud, plan around potential sources of conflict, and show selfish people the door; their troubles aren’t worth ruining your special day.
For more success during your wedding preparation and the big day, check out more articles from The Grooms Club and subscribe to the TGC newsletter.