After Your Engagement - Dealing with Family and Friends
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Two people fall in love and decide to get married, and that should be it—right? You happily announce your engagement to your respective families, who, if not wildly enthusiastic until now, have at least seemed neutral—and all of a sudden, hell beaks loose! You now find that everyone wants to interfere, everyone has an opinion, and everyone is creating havoc at the worst possible time in your life.
You’re already dealing with the nerves, the doubts, the indecision, your unknown future and the strain of preparations for the biggest moment in your life. You two may have been going together for years, your have come to know each other's families over that time, and you thought you knew them fairly well, and that they approved of your relationship-- so now people want to misbehave?
The first thing an engaged couple has to realize is that as far as their families were concerned, when they were dating it was their own affair, but when they became engaged it became their families' affair. Why? Because the couple is now planning to unite two families who will now have to create new relationships together! If there are children in the future, those children will be the descendants of both families. That’s a different situation entirely! Now you have everyone in an uproar, and that’s the way many families are looking at your marriage!
Somehow, these things can be resolved and usually are resolved, if the couple and the families work towards that goal—but how? Here are some guidelines that may help you.
First, you and your fiancée have some deciding to do between yourselves. No, not about the wedding arrangements—about what your limits and attitudes are going to be. These should be very carefully discussed between you two privately right at the beginning of your engagement. They involve what is going to be negotiable and what is not. Obviously, your marriage is not an area of negotiation—but details about the ceremony and other arrangements certainly should be. Decide to be flexible and accommodating when you can!
Second, take the high road—it’s essential. It’s difficult not to react to remarks you consider rude, and your loved ones can make remarks that hurt your feelings—even though that was not what they intended. Your relatives are going through a painful time too—their initial reactions are very often “thinking out loud” rather than actually true. People do adjust. Many couples have found that warring families over time end up getting along quite well. Develop a bad memory and try to be “hard of listening” even for a little while. Your only other choice is grudges among family that may last for years, or a lifetime—do you want that? Is it worth it?
Third, remember that no matter what you do, people are responsible for their own actions. There’s always a part of us that feels that if we were different in some way, the other person would behave better. That may or may not be true—but you are who you are and they are who they are. In the end each individual is only responsible for themselves. If you have relatives or friends that you feel have really crossed the line, it may be necessary to stand up for yourself. Do so with the knowledge that it may server ties with that person temporarily or permanently, and decide if it’s worth it. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who are simply not worth the price it takes to get along with them. That’s their responsibility, not yours.
Remember that if you have to take a stand, you can still take the high road. There’s a big difference between stating your case and standing up for yourself and reacting with angry and hurtful words that can come back to haunt you in the years to come. It’s amazing how one-sided people’s memories can be. Years later, they’ll remember that you reacted with anger, but not the actions that led up to it.
So exactly how do you take the high road, but still stand up for yourself? You do that by stating your case but nothing else. That means you are careful not to bring in anything else in the discussion. You talk about you, not about the other person. There is no room for remarks like, "You always have to have your own way" as much as you would like to say that.
Take as an example a situation where a relative is insisting on a specific style of bridesmaid's dresses that you simply can't live with. That's exactly what you say--"I simply can't live with those dresses." What you do not follow up with is, "I won't let you bully me" or "You're always trying to get your own way." Those last two sentences are the things that will be remembered for years--so don't say them. It's a very hard thing to leave out, because this is a naturally upsetting time for you as well as for them--but the effort is well worth it. The person you're speaking to will still probably be angry, but they'll get over it much quicker, because you didn't criticize them! You simply stated that you couldn't live with those dresses--there was no blame on anyone else.
Most of all relax, relax, relax. It will be the hardest thing to do and the hardest lesson to learn but very much worth it in the long run.
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