My boyfriend of six years recently proposed, and I couldn’t be more excited! We’ve already started planning, even though the wedding is two years away.
This is all great news, except for one problem: His parents (who I already have a bit of a distaste for) have made it clear they want to be very involved. His father has already rolled his eyes at me because we don’t want to get married in a church and scowled at my idea of wearing wedding tennis shoes. And I’ve already gotten the “you know my mom feels left out” talk from my fiancé.
To make matters worse, his parents haven’t offered a single dime, even though we’ve already booked the venue and openly discussed the rising costs.
Luckily, my parents are paying for the wedding. But, I still feel his parents should pitch in—especially if they want a say-so in how the day goes. And my fiancé, being the conflict-avoider he is, hasn’t brought it up to them. I suppose he just figures they haven’t helped him with anything else, why would they start now?
So what do I do? Is there a right way to ask them for money or should we bite our tongues and try to deal with their involvement? And if they aren’t going to help pay, how can I make them feel included without actually involving them too much?
Congratulations! And thanks so much for writing.
My first piece of advice is more definitive than my usual: Wear the sneakers! It’s your wedding and you and your fiancé should make the celebration unique and unforgettable for you. It’s a day you’ll remember forever.
My second piece of advice is: Be happy that your father-in-law only scowled. Unfortunately, when you do something unexpected (sneakers, no church), it’s not uncommon for people to react negatively. But again, it’s your day, and you don’t have to let his (or anyone’s) reaction spoil the fun.
The church issue is an interesting one. Have you and your fiancé discussed this fully? Are you in 100% agreement that this is the best choice for your wedding? I ask these questions because there are issues, like different faiths or different ideas about the importance of church-going, that can get glossed over during the wedding, but can become major sticking points at some point in the life of a marriage. It’s your decision, and while you don’t have to listen to your future father-in-law here, you should think this through.
When it comes to your future mother-in-law, the good news is that it should be relatively easy to include her, no matter her opinion of things, and (truthfully) whether you like her or not. It doesn’t have to be big. Ask her to join you at a fitting, have your bridesmaids invite her to the shower, maybe bring her along to help choose the flowers. Unless she’s just plain awful, which I don’t get the sense she is, what harm does it do to include her in a few things? After all, she’s going to be part of your family for the long haul.
The money indeed seems to be the crux of the matter here and, although it may seem lopsided, wedding etiquette simply has no perfect standards to which everyone is likely to subscribe. That said, it’s more than reasonable to expect parents (on both sides) to pitch in if they’re making requests about the wedding itself.
Is your future father-in-law particularly hung up on the importance of the church? Using this as an example, perhaps your fiancé could suggest that his folks foot the bill for that and help to make some of their wishes possible. If they’re adamant about an open bar, then their contribution could be alcohol at the reception. Perhaps, since your fiancé’s father seems to be a traditionalist, your fiancé could suggest the traditional route of having them pay for something like the rehearsal dinner. (I’m assuming there’s no great financial discrepancy between your parents and his, just a difference in generosity.)
Since your fiancé has already expressed that his mother feels left out, and we’ve found some easy ways to include her, perhaps he could meet you in the middle and agree to speak to his parents. If his parents simply won’t budge, at least you’ll both know he did the right thing. (But still try to include your mother-in-law, at least a little bit.)
The key in all of this (and going forward in your marriage as well) is for you and your soon-to-be husband to become a “team.” That means you express any concerns you have about him to him alone, and vice versa. Also, instead of making blanket statements, as in, “my husband is a conflict-avoider,” talk to him about your concerns with a specific behavior in a specific instance—like, “I’m worried that we aren’t going to manage the wedding plans smoothly unless you have a pointed conversation with your parents about finances.” This requires great communication in a very proactive way. It usually works out best if you discuss things and come to a decision about what you want to happen, and then each of you talks through your collective interests with your own parents.
Finally, remember that a wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime. Don’t forget to plan your marriage because you’re overly focused on planning the wedding. I wish you a long, happy, and loving life together.
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