When it comes to wedding planning, good things come to those who communicate – particularly where parents are involved. Consider this your art-of-conversation cheat sheet.
“Are you contributing financially to our wedding?”
Why it’s important: Assuming family members are making a contribution when they’re not is a surefire way to get into hot financial water quickly.
Ideal time to talk: Approach your parents once you have worked out what your budget would be without their contribution, advises Deborah. “You need to show you are serious about planning and costs.”
What to do first: “As with any delicate conversation, gather as much information as you can before heading into it,” says Emma. “If you have siblings, talk to those who have already tied the knot to see how the situation played out for them, and be sure you’re clear with your fiancé about any monetary discussions they might have had with their parents.”
How to bring it up: Once you have drafted your budget, ask your parents for help reviewing it. Share your research about prices, the choices you’ll make to save money and how you plan to cover costs. This conversation creates an opportunity for them to express how much and to what aspect they may wish to contribute. If they don’t speak up, you can assume they are unable to. It’ll also
get everyone on the same page, so they’ll better understand your reasoning for an intimate guest list, or why you’ll opt for a buffet instead of a sit down, a la carte meal.
Possible roadblock: Awkwardness when both sets of parents contribute vastly different sums. It’s important neither family feels inadequate nor resentful about the amount of money they have contributed. Whatever the situation, express your gratitude for any financial help offered and consider alternative ways a family that has contributed less might be able to assist you; this could be with logistical details and added manpower for time-intensive activities, such as setting up the venue.
“How involved do you want or expect to be?”
Why it’s important: “It’s about respect,” says Emma. “Your big day is as exciting for your parents as it is for you – it’s natural they’ll want a certain level of involvement and having a transparent discussion means no one will feel left out or overstep boundaries.”
Ideal time to talk: Before you accept any financial support. Understandably, says Emma, many parents expect a bigger say in proceedings if they have contributed a large sum. If you aren’t willing to let them contribute to decisions it’s unfair to accept their money.
What to do first: Have a discussion with your fiancé about which wedding elements you aren’t willing to open up to wider discussion, such as the location or date, and which you are flexible about. It’ll be easier to assert your expectations if you present a united front.
How to bring it up: Ask your parents if there is anything they are particularly interested in arranging, and give them ownership of these tasks. When they are occupied with organising the flowers or collating RSVPs they remain involved in the process but are less likely to interfere with other elements.
Possible roadblock: Your parents aren’t willing to back down on key decisions, to the point that it feels more like their day than yours. “Having a meeting as early as possible is key to preventing a situation like this,” says Mary. “Get their opinions on guests, outfits, venues and how responsibilities will be shared. Take notes, and give them a copy. If conflicts arise later, ask to revisit the agreements you made.”
“What are you planning to wear?”
Why it’s important: “It’s crucial that everyone feels good on the day,” says Diane Stephenson from Auckland event-wear boutique Modes (modes.co.nz). “A great outfit will set your parents apart from the other guests – after all, it’s a huge day for them, too.”
Ideal time to talk: As soon as the bridal party’s attire has been decided.
What to do first: Touch base with both sets of parents, who should ideally dress to a similar degree of formality. “It’s important that no side of the bridal party feels ‘less important’,” says Diane. “For example, it might be beneficial to find out if one mother has plans to wear a hat or fascinator.”
How to bring it up: Turn the outfit hunt into a ‘quality time’ activity by suggesting you accompany them on their shopping trip. Combine the search with a lunch out, and finish with a glass of bubbles.
Possible roadblock: A parent jumps the gun, and chooses an outfit that you thoroughly dislike. In this situation, says Emma, the mantra ‘pick your battles’ is key: remember, the parent in question will only be photographed in a select few shots over the course of the day, so consider whether debate over their attire should really be a priority. What’s most important is that the parent feels happy and comfortable in their big day outfit. If you feel strongly that they’ll look back on the wedding album with regret in years to come, suggest some alterations, but be careful to keep your tone positive: “I really love the colour! Wouldn’t the dress look amazing with a nipped-in waist?”