Professional Wedding Planning Advice; What The Experts Want You to Know!
Congratulations on your engagement! Now to the planning! There are so many questions when it comes to planning a wedding from what dress you’re going to pick out to the desserts at the reception. One of the biggest stresses is how to ensure your two families “get along” not just throughout the planning process but on your wedding day. Joining two families is hard, especially when there are a lot of different personalities and beliefs.
We at Denver Party Ride asked some of Denver’s top wedding and event planners some tips to making this process as smooth as possible.
“Bringing two families together for a wedding can be very stressful on a couple. What advice do you have for any bride and groom to avoid family drama on the big day?”
Remember this day is all about YOU! You can’t please everyone so do what feels right to YOU. Remind your family that is your day. Chose your words carefully when explaining your decisions … Be kind and respectful but be clear and set your boundaries early on.
-Wanda Bonner, CWP, Owner, Blue Linden Weddings
Even the closest relationship can strain under the pressure of your big day. Review your guest list and consider removing the people who you know will add drama or complication to your wedding day. With so many personalities, it’s impossible to please everyone. But if you act with grace and humor, focus on you and your love, you will enjoy the party of a lifetime!
-Melanie Pfeffer, Melanie Desiree Event Planning
From a planners perspective, this is one of the key things we discuss in our initial meeting. It’s always best to make the couple aware of this (if it’s not already on their mind) as well as preparing myself so I can help with the flow and ease of everything on the big day! One good tip is to discuss the feelings that you have and what situations may arise due to them.
For example, I had a bride who despised her father’s new wife. We were discussing the photograph line up with the important people in their lives. She decided that she was going to take one picture with just her father and one with her father and his new wife. This decision eliminates a fight, hurting someone’s feelings and overthinking the situation. Regardless, she will end up with a lasting memory of her and her father without leaving anyone out.
Lastly, I advise the couple to speak with both sides of the family and have them reassure you that they are there to celebrate you two as a couple, nothing more or nothing less!
-Caitlin Ward, Love Leigh Weddings and Events
(Photo courtesy of PhotographyG)
First and foremost, hire a wedding planner. I, as a wedding planner, talk to the couple to find out the family/friend dynamics to figure out if there will be any conflicts with certain people and situations. This gives me direction on how to handle the logistics.
Some more tips are:
Make both sides of the family feel equally involved with the wedding. For example, invite both the mother and soon-to-be mother in law when wedding dress shopping.
Be mindful of the seating chart. Seat people around other people you know they like and separate them from people you know they don’t like.
Merge the two families together at events prior to the wedding.
The Bride and Groom should be conscious of who they choose to be in the bridal party and what jobs they assign them. Jealousy can arise when the maid of honor and best man are chosen.
Make sure to tell your wedding planner about divorced parents and parents who are dating. A lot of drama can come from this.
-Willie Ripple, CSEP, Willie Ripple Events
My advice to couples who are seeking to avoid family drama is to expect the best from people – I’ve found that most people are on their best behavior on the wedding day and don’t want to unnecessarily cause a seen. Remind feuding friends/relatives that it’s important to you that they both be present and share your special day. Treat them like responsible, respectful adults and generally they will act that way. It’s also smart to give a heads up to your day-of coordinator and photographer, so they can be aware of any uncomfortable situations and avoid them accordingly.
-Liz Means, Wedding Rebel, Owner & Stylist, Pop Fizz Weddings
Weddings are such an exciting time for any bride and groom. After months and months of planning their day is finally here. Most families usually always come together to celebrate the bride and groom, but occasionally there is some family drama that can be brought into the wedding. No bride and groom want that on their wedding day, so knowing how to handle it and not it let affect your wedding is extremely important. One piece of advice that I tell every bride is if it is not affecting you, then let them deal with it on their own. It is not worth the drama to let it ruin your wedding day. If the bride and groom do not get into it, usually families will put it to the side during the wedding, hopefully. In some instances, families bring it to the bride and groom and can make them feel guilty about it and always want the bride and groom to help figure it out. If this happens I would first talk to the maid/matron of honor and best man to see if they can help handle it, so the bride and groom can continue with their wedding. They should be able to help with the family drama, by talking out the problem and telling the family to just let it go until after the wedding. I hope this piece of advice will help any drama disappear on your wedding day.
-Courtney Aplin, Owner & Lead Planner, Every Little Detail
Remember the ‘good ole days’ when your life partner was hand chosen by your family and therefor all the issues between family and family members were worked out before you even knew who you were going to marry? Although the previous statement was made in pure sarcasm, the truth is, there is something to be said about taking time out to iron smooth any issues before merging families into a single space for a single purpose. There are some lucky couples that soar through this task like an eagle and then their are those of us who…well…this article becomes a template for sanity. Here is my 3 step process to merging two families successfully for an amazing event!
Talk to your family members separately. If my clients are having issues, I encourage them to meet with their family members alone first (without the fiancé). This allows them to actually have an open and honest conversation with their family to actually understand what the issues are. Once you know where the problem lies you can address it head on. Do the grunt work up front. If after you have talked things out and you think it will be beneficial to bring your fiancé or in-laws into the conversation, now is the time to do it. PRODUCTIVE COMMUNICATION IS KEY, if you are going to have success on your big day.
Do not let your wedding be the first time they are meeting one another. The last you thing you need is for your cousin Sarah to find out her sister’s ex-husband is dating your fiancé’s best friend at the reception. The only emotions you want to run high on your big day is love and devotion. If there are some concerns, try hosting a BBQ in the park for your immediate and extended family members or a “happy hour for the happy couple” event. This will allow your guest to get to know each other in a more relaxed and comfortable setting. At this point if there are still issues surfacing, this is a great time to remind guests that this is your big day, and it cannot be overshadowed with conflict and confusion. Respectfully ask that anyone in attendance honor the space you and your fiancé has created for your day by letting the bride shine and not the drama!
Choose a seat, not a side. Lastly, there is a new trend in the wedding business of allowing guest to choose their own seats. I strongly encourage this even if there is a dis-proportioned amount of guests to either side. But in the instance of difficult family issues, it allows guests to distance themselves from any person that may be a sticking point.
-LaTreasha Lewis, Owner-CEO, Posh Events And Weddings
My first piece of advice would be to ask each family if they have any expectations for the wedding. Then explain to each family that they (the couple) will try and implement them if they can, however it is ultimately “their” wedding day and they would appreciate the support of each family to help their dream wedding come true! Of course my best advice would be to hire a wedding planner and let that person be the “go between” for the family and the couple. That is the best way to prevent friction between the couple and their family!
-Pam Donaldson, CWP, Celebrations Event Planning
My advice to avoid family drama at your wedding is to communicate with your family ahead of time. Letting everyone know how important it is that the day be drama free is key. Also, assigned seating at dinner. This will keep people that should not be near each other at a safe distance. Hopefully everyone will be so focused on the bride and groom that they will put their differences aside for one night.
-Payton Bernstine, Owner, Promise Event Planners
Over the last 26 years, we have discovered a few secrets in how to avoid wedding day drama, we will share them with you in the next couple paragraphs.
First: Hire a month of Wedding Coordinator. Why, you ask, they are expensive and surely I can save some money.
I promise, this expense is NOT a waste of your money. A month of wedding coordinator will step in, look at your vendor and venue contracts, create a timeline for your approval and then distribute the timeline, touch base with all your vendors and that timeline will synchronize every moment of the day to avoid unnecessary drama. If you decide not to bring on a professional to assist you in the pre-planning, don’t miss this step. FYI – this is not the person you want to hide details from, they need to be in on all of the secrets and planned surprises for your day as they are the ones to be in the background making sure that they happen as you have planned! Think of this person as your personal Broadway Play producer to make the magic happen.
In addition, this professional will be there to run rehearsal, and be there on the day of to run all of the days activities, coordinate vendors arrivals and departure, ensure that all of the details you’ve specified are correct; leaving you & your close family to relax and prepare for the big moment in peace; knowing that you have a professional to handle the details on your behalf according to your vision.
Second: Assign family members who want to be involved or can be problematic a job.
This would be siblings, aunts, uncles and other well meaning family members that want to help but are not understanding your vision. Putting these individuals in charge of things like: picking up the snacks for getting ready, taking your gifts to your designated area at the end of the night, in charge of the guest book, being ushers, taking flowers from the ceremony site to specific places at the reception, readings in the ceremony, etc. i.e. you need to be specific as to what their role is, such as (remember please & thank you will go along way in keeping the peace) “Aunt Belle, Please take the flowers from the ceremony to the reception hall and place them as the centerpieces on the guest tables. If you have questions when you get there, please look for my wedding coordinator, Jennifer Lane Events, their team is dressed in black suits.”, for example.
Third: Bringing two families together for a wedding can be very stressful on a couple. How to ease this stress is to have rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner where you do something fun & unexpected.
This gathering is usually casual and laid back. The people who should be invited to this event are your entire wedding party, both sets of parents, (including divorced parents, if you have them), grandparents, out of town guests and those who anticipate to create drama; this way they can get it out of their system before your big day.
Some ideas for this intimate event are:
Do burgers, brats and games at a park;
Go go-cart racing and eat there;
Take a party bus and head to a location; something like the Wild Animal Preserve, the zoo, Blackhawk, a tour of the foothills/ mountains;
Do a henna party;
Go to an amusement park; or
Go zip line or bungee jumping.
This gives everyone an experience together that they can build from and reduces unnecessary friction.
-Jennifer Lane, Owner, Jennifer Lane Events
Remember that you, the bride and groom, know your families better than anyone. Let your planner know if you have any specific concerns so they can be aware and help mediate if necessary. Also consult your planner if any specific tasks or topics are causing stress for the family, and let your planner weigh in and assist. Select specific seats for family for the ceremony, and utilize a seating chart for the reception, to avoid any conflict or tension that you’re able to anticipate. Ultimately, remind everyone, if you have to, that you’re all together to celebrate a marriage and bringing two families together, and that’s a beautiful thing!
-Dakota Schuppe, Owner & Lead Event Planner, Premier Events Planning & Design
The best recommendation that we can give in regards to avoiding drama on the wedding day is to plan ahead and be clear about your expectations up front. For example, if you’re inviting two family members who typically don’t get along, then when sending out your invitations you might include a note that lets them know both of them are invited. You can share that they both mean so much to you, and you’re excited to celebrate together and have a peaceful, happy wedding day. If they don’t see that being possible with the other person there, then you understand if they have to send their regrets. Giving them an out ahead of time allows them to bow out peacefully, and allows you to take the lead in determining what your day will and will not be.
If you’re still wary of potential drama on the day of, we suggest assigning someone (whether that be your planner, or another close family member or friend) to look out for any interactions between the guests you’re worried about and step in to redirect the conversation or lead them into separate spaces if need be. That way you don’t have to worry or think about it at all!
-Lauren Groeper, Calluna Events
If possible, have a dinner with both sets of parents so everyone can meet each other. That way on the wedding day it will be as if everyone is old friends. Also, make sure that step parents are included. For example when you are ordering personal flowers for the parents, don’t forget that corsage for stepmom. This will make everyone comfortable and hopefully avoid any family hiccups.
-Johnna and Elizabeth ‘Ebs’, Owners, Distinctive Mountain Events
Every family has their own traditions, and their own way of processing stress. A wedding is a great opportunity to combine families and show everyone how great new traditions can be. Try to include your families in small ways to bring everyone together: Ask your cousins to make your family’s customary wedding food, accept your new spouse’s heirlooms into the ceremony or reception, include inside jokes while also explaining them to others. By bringing both sides in and including them in the process, everyone feels welcome and more likely to strike up a conversation. Your wedding day is your unique moment to build a new family, and by including your existing ones, the blending will go much more smoothly. You never know, maybe they will take on a new tradition too!
-Mila Gates, Belle du Jour
Some couples do face a few challenges when it comes to blending families together for an event. Most get along fabulously but you have a few that just are not on the same page. There are a lot of personalities and family dynamics so there can be some tension. My advise to couples who know that going into this that there might be drama, to let it be known ahead of time that this is not about them, it is about the couple and to put all drama away for just one day! Absolutely notify your planner if they know of any potential conflicts or drama that might happen so that they are aware of the possibility and can have a plan in place if it does happen. Planners are pretty good at thinking on their feet but any advance notice you can give them is huge! In my experience I have found that most everyone can get along for this one special day!
-Stephanie Kuhn, Bella Notte Weddings and Events