Ways to Make Wedding Planning Easier for Your Kids
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. Here we set aside the Emily Post etiquette in favor of an honest look at what the bride and groom really wish their parents would do.
1. Be up front about finances.
Let me be clear: parents are under absolutely no obligation to contribute cash 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, parents should feel obligated to initiate the conversation about any contributions they might make to the big day. It is much more awkward to ask for money than to offer it, so your son or daughter might be afraid to bring it up. Early in the engagement, let the couple know if you will contribute, how much, and if it is a gift or a loan.
Not able to make a contribution? Your son or daughter will understand, and are probably already aware of whatever reasons mean you cannot contribute. Simply explain that, although you'd really like to help make their wedding day special, you are not able to contribute money because of x, y, z. 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, hosting the welcome drinks at your home, or simply volunteering to help in whatever way the bride and groom would like. (Keep it general and offer several options to make sure the couple don't feel obligated to take up your offer, for example if they would actually prefer professional baking or another drinks venue.)
2. Offer to help. Regularly.
Weddings are celebrations of love and two people's lives coming together... but they are also hugely stressful, with loads of details to manage and guests to keep happy. It is a lot for two people to handle. Check in regularly with the happy couple 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.
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? Believe it or not, the bride and groom have thought through every aspect and arrived at the decision they feel as best for them. As mentioned, wedding planning is already stressful enough; do not make what should (in theory) be a lovely experience any more negative by meddling.
Listen carefully when 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. 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 give your opinion (though be considerate about it).
4. Avoid family politics.
Do not drag the couple into the middle of family politics, and -- if anything -- 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 it, though discreetly advise them to seat 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 along on their special day.
5. 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, or it could be that the couple are aiming for a particular dress code that you as star guests of the wedding should make sure to follow. Certain the suit you wore for your own wedding will be fine to wear? Still check in first. Fathers, 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 the couple want the fathers in coordinating ties, buttonholes or whole outfits, or have more casual plans and don't want you in suit and tie at all.
6. Don't embarrass them.
Remember the film The Wedding Planner where Jennifer Lopez's coordinator character had to hide the bride's mother's "lucky microphone" 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, 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 is not a good look for the wedding.
What other tips do you have for parents of the happy couple to help make the wedding planning process easier for the bride and groom? Share your thoughts in the comments below.