Free yourself from Family Drama and Dysfunction

Cabo Wedding Photography

When it comes to your wedding, it can be truly that – YOUR wedding. But how is this possible if there are complex family issues? Everyone has some family drama. I’m reminded of a cartoon depicting a large auditorium with a sign over the stage reading: Functional Family Convention, with one lonely person sitting in the audience.

Weddings can cause anxiety and bring up long buried problems. There are a variety of issues that could be in the mix: Parents or siblings with drug, alcohol or mental health issues. Estranged parents. A conflict of values – such as a conservative family versus the more liberal couple. What about a step-parent who is more of a parent than the actual parent? Adopted children who have made contact with birth parents and not sure about including them. Family members who don’t get along with other family members. Or disapproval of your choice of partner, especially around issues of race, religion and for LGBT couples. These and many more concerns are not uncommon.

So how do you negotiate your dysfunctional or disapproving family for your wedding?

First, be clear about what you want, which, I know is easier said than done. And clarity is point, right? But you may not yet know what you want. Sit with your partner and think it through it all before discussing your choices with family. Be prepared with a kind and loving way to inform them of your decisions. Yes, your decisions.

For example, brides: you do NOT have to have your father escort you down the aisle if you don’t have a good relationship with him. Simply tell him as a modern woman you prefer to walk by yourself.  And entering without an escort is a perfectly good choice for anyone. If your dad is not in the picture and you have a healthy relationship with your mother, you might want to walk with her. Women do not NEED an escort, although they may want one.

A common problem during the planning process occurs when sharing your ideas with a family member who tells you your choice of venue (or dress, or food, or whatever – just fill in the blank) is not very ‘wedding-like,’ or is ‘tacky’ or ‘phony,’ or some other negative reaction. Be prepared. Understand that everyone may not like your choices, and present your choices by preparing them. Try something like: ‘this may seem unconventional, but I really like…’ Give them a heads-up.  Or try: ‘I don’t expect you’ll like this, but for us it feels right.’

Enter with the right person for you.

It’s easy to give advice about this, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s very difficult. Acknowledging that helps. Not everyone responds to the honest, face-to-face chat. For some people, there is nothing you can say or do that is right. But acknowledge their feelings, telling them you understand how they feel, but inform them that many people do it this way, now, or this is what we’ve decided.

Old wounds sometimes don’t ever heal. Remember that you are not responsible for other’s behaviors, nor do you have to please everyone.

If you have to, resort to the white lie. The one that is kind. When asked about your plans, simply tell the problem person that you haven’t worked on it yet, and you’ll let them know as soon as you have definite information!

On the bright side, a wedding can be an opportunity to heal those old wounds. Perhaps your family will rise above it all, and if you lead the way in that, it will be truly wonderful. I’ve seen it happen. And as a couple this is another opportunity to support one another as you embark on your journey. Weddings can be quite miraculous!

 

 

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  • Blog Author

    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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