7 Ways to Make Things Easier for the Happy Couple
This time last year I penned guides on how to be a good wedding guest and how to be a good bridal party member – setting aside the Emily Post etiquette in favor of an honest look at what the bride and groom really wish their guests and bridal party would do. Now, we share the same advice with parents of the happy couple. Planning a wedding, though wonderful and romantic, can be a very straining process… and there are some small things you as a parent can do to make things a little bit easier on the bride and groom. Some might scoff that points in the post are selfish and bridezilla-esque, but all of it is very true…
1. Be up front about finances.
Let me be clear: parents are under absolutely no obligation to contribute to their children’s wedding. These days, brides and grooms tend to be more financially established and better able to cover the costs of their own weddings. However, what parents should feel obligated to do is be proactive in initiating the conversation with your children about any possible parental monetary contributions to the big day. It is much more awkward to ask for money than to offer it, so your soonlywed son or daughter might be afraid to bring it up. As early on in the engagement as possible, let the soonlyweds know if you will contribute, how much it will be, and if it is a gift or a loan you’re expecting them to pay back. At the Reflective Wedding, our parents hadn’t mentioned money so we assumed none was being offered… and then one year into our engagement (after we’d made most plans and chosen suppliers based on our own budget), my parents said they would like to make a contribution, and then waited another month before telling us how much it would be. My groom’s parents also offered a donation – a month after the wedding. As such, we didn’t take this money into account for our planning – so didn’t turn it into a bigger or more extravagant day. (Which is perhaps how contributions should be treated, anyway.)
Making a donation? It is best if you can simply contribute money to the whole wedding, rather than saying you want it to spent on a specific thing. However, if there is something in particular you feel strongly about the bride and groom putting the money towards, keep it general – like the reception or honeymoon, rather than more narrowly food or music. Do not, repeat, do not later ask how the bride and groom are using your contribution, whether you’ve specified the spending area or not. Also, do not offer money to get your way: for example, “we’d be happy to help pay for the wedding if you were to hold it in our home town” or even “we don’t like your fiance so I’m afraid we couldn’t possibly show our support for this marriage financially”.
Afraid to broach the topic of wedding finances because you’re not able to make a cash contribution? Your son or daughter will understand, and probably are already aware of whatever reasons there are that mean you cannot contribute. Simply explain that, although you would really like to help make their wedding day special, you are not able to contribute money because of x, y, z. Also, you can offer to help make their day special in other ways, perhaps by making the wedding cake if you’re a dab hand at baking, or by hosting the welcome drinks at your home, or simply by volunteering to help with the preparations in whatever way the bride and groom would like. (Keeping it general and/or offering several options is a way to make sure the happy couple don’t feel obligated to take up your offer, if they would actually prefer professional baking skills or another drinks venue, for example.)
2. Offer to help. Regularly.
Weddings are celebrations of love and two people’s lives coming together… but they are also hugely stressful, with lots of details to manage and guests to keep happy. It is a lot for two people to handle. Check in regularly with the soonlyweds (perhaps once a month ahead of the home stretch) to see if they could do with a hand, and especially in the final weeks when the couple will be at their most frazzled. Again, keep it general. A simple “Is there anything you need a hand with?” will be much preferred to a narrower “Let me arrange the invitations for you!”, as you’re bound to have different tastes and the couple might already have that area under control.
I am a super organized person and really thought my husband-to-be and I could handle the wedding preparations on our own… however, I felt stressed and overwhelmed throughout most of the process, and a few extra helping hands would have been a weight off our shoulders.
3. It’s not about you.
Yes, this may sound contradictory: offer to help, let the couple know if you can contribute financially, but beyond that? Stay out of it. Even if you are paying for the entire wedding, it is not your day. It is quite likely that you’ve already had a wedding day of your own that you got to plan your way, so let your children have that opportunity of their own. If you don’t feel like you got to have the day you wanted because your own parents or in-laws interfered, do you want your children to similarly resent your involvement? If you can’t stand the color scheme the happy couple has chosen, don’t find the menu very impressive, or aren’t keen on the venue… keep it to yourself. Believe it or not, the soonlyweds have thought through every aspect and arrived at the decision they feel as best for them. As mentioned, planning weddings is already stressful enough; do not make what should (in theory) be a lovely experience any more negative.
Listen carefully when you are speaking to the bride and groom about their wedding preparations to hear if they are actually asking for your opinion; if they are not, don’t give it. Even if they are asking your opinion, remember to be considerate about it. I recently saw an episode of reality show “Say Yes to the Dress” where a young bride finally tracked down at a bridal store the wedding dress of her dreams. She walked out of the fitting room positively beaming and completely in love with the gown… and when she showed her mother and grandmother, they figuratively tore it to pieces. They literally reduced this girl to tears during what should have been one of the most fun parts of wedding planning. And why? Because they didn’t like the buttons down the back of the dress. Really? Was it worth making your daughter cry over buttons? As a general rule, when your child shows you something for the wedding with a grin and says “So what do you think?”, the correct answer is “It’s wonderful!” When they ask with a skeptical look on their face, “No, really – what do you think?”, then you can give your opinion.
As with opinions, wait to be asked with wedding activities. You might assume that you’ll be giving your little girl away on her big day, but your feminist daughter might have her heart set on a solo trip down the aisle – or even a stroll with both parents or different family members by her side. You might think your son will of course invite his old man to his bucks night… but he might actually prefer something only with young’uns, or not to have a bachelorhood send-off at all. Same for speeches, father-daughter dances, and so on – your children may not be into them, so wait to be asked.
4. Family politics.
Do not drag the couple into the middle of family politics, and – if anything – make active efforts to keep them well away from it. If your daughter has asked her birth father to give her away rather than her step-father, respect that decision – she would have already given this a lot of thought before arriving at her decision. Feuding aunts? Keep the couple out of the fight, though of course give them some discreet advice for the seating plan that they might like to place those aunts apart. Don’t get along with your ex, or your ex’s new partner? Put your differences aside for one day and make an effort to get along – no one wins when there’s a fight at a wedding.
Also, during the wedding preparations and especially on the wedding day (and hopefully beyond the wedding day), make an active effort to get along with your child’s new in-laws. There is nothing the happy couple would like to see more than all their parents getting on like a house on fire on their special day.
5. Stay on top of the details.
Guests with questions about the day might ask family members and bridal party for the information first, rather than bother the busy bride and groom. As such, make sure you’re on top of details about event times, directions and wedding registry information. You of course don’t need to have these details memorized, but make sure you know where and how to find out this information. For example, if there is a wedding website, read through it so you know what details are where. If the bride and groom send out any information emails, archive them to a folder so you can locate them easily later.
6. Get outfit approval.
Before you decide on wedding day attire, run your outfit by the happy couple (especially the bride). There are online wedding forums out there full of brides wondering how to tell their mothers that they don’t actually want her wearing a white outfit to the wedding. At the Reflective Wedding, my mother-in-law was super excited about the two summer dresses she’d bought for the day, and my mother had settled for trousers – none of which were what we were shooting for with our “evening formal” dress code. If they had let us know their plans before purchasing we could have clarified what we had in mind, so they didn’t end up looking under-dressed on the day.
For the men… Feeling sure the suit you wore for your own wedding will be fine to wear? Check in first. (Until the outfit topic came up a few months before the wedding, my father didn’t even realize that he should wear a suit.) Men, feel free to ask if you should feel free to wear a tie in a particular color – it’s a good question for opening up if they want the fathers in coordinating ties, buttonholes or whole outfits, or that the couple have more casual plans and don’t want you in suit and tie at all.
7. Don’t embarrass them.
Remember the film “The Wedding Planner” where Jennifer Lopez’s coordinator character had to hide the lucky microphone of the bride’s mother in a bid to prevent her from singing (terribly) at the reception? Yeah, don’t be that parent. Weddings bring together all types of people from the bride and groom’s lives, including school friends and colleagues (maybe even bosses), and – no matter how easygoing or fun-loving your child is – there are certain things they definitely do not want shared in front of these people.
If you are asked to give a speech during the wedding reception, try not to embarrass the bride or groom – or anyone else for that matter. Debating whether or not to include a particular joke or anecdote? Ask the bride or groom; yes, actually the bride and groom – not your partner, not the best man, but the happy couple themselves. (Though if you do actually need to ask, that should be a pretty big hint that it could be something better to edit out.) Keep it clean, keep it inoffensive, and keep it swearing-free. Similarly, keep an eye on your alcohol intake, and not just ahead of your speech. Smashed parents of the newlyweds is not a good look for the wedding.
What other tips do you have for parents of the bride and groom about how to the wedding preparations and the big day itself that little bit easier for the happy couple?
(First image from A Perfect Celebration, second image from eHarmony, third image from Break, fourth image from Bridal Guide, fifth image from Buzz Sugar, sixth image from White Azalea, seventh image from Dex Knows.)