Planning a day to treasure forever is an experience you’ll want to remember for all the right reasons, right? To maintain a sense of harmony in the lead-up to your big day, take some tips from our experts on how to deal with any squirm-inducing moments that may arise, while keeping your relationships intact.
“On your wedding day you can be prepared for most things but you can never anticipate all of the unexpected little tricks life has up her sleeve,” says celebrant Melanie Kerr .
“My advice to couples when it comes to their big day? Expect the unexpected,” says Melanie. “It may seem overwhelming in the moment, but welcome to married life – all does not always go to plan. Remember you are in this together and, barring a tragedy, you will laugh about it in years to come,” she says. “Plan well, choose wisely and trust your professionals. Then sit back and enjoy the crazy ride!”
According to Melanie, an experienced celebrant will have the ability to think on their feet and provide an instant solution to any hiccups that may occur.
“The role of the celebrant is not solely a legal one – they are the first point of contact for your guests; the invisible stitches that hold your ceremony together,” she says. “Experience, confidence, a great way with people and a talent for assessing the situation and reading the audience are essential traits of a great celebrant. Most essential of all, however, is a fabulous sense of humour.”
Keeping your sense of humour intact can be near impossible though when you’re put on the spot. “A lot of the awkward situations that arise during a wedding can be minimised in the planning stages,” says psychologist Sara Chatwin . “For this reason alone, it’s a good idea for the bride and groom to sit down and make a list of what they want and who they want involved, to achieve the best outcome for their day,” she says. And because weddings are often fraught with demands and the ideas of others, it’s essential that the couple make it clear in the planning phase that what they decide must be final if their day is to truly be “theirs”, says Sara.
“Be confident and fair. Many couples can start to feel a little disempowered by the pressure that can be put on them by family and friends, so while it is important to listen to others and their ideas, remember the final decision is one made only by the bride and groom!”
Five situations that spell awkward with a capital A – and how to navigate them…
ASKING FOR MONEY
When it comes to finances, tense situations can abound. “Awkward moments can arise from conversations around who is contributing what to your wedding budget,” says relationship and life coach Sian Jaquet . “Create a vision board of the dream, then work out the possible compromise to achieve exactly what you both want for your day.”
Creating a detailed costings plan that you can show to the people who are contributing works well, because everyone involved knows what they are paying for when the money is needed.
“These are tough conversations,” says Sian, “but without having them upfront you’re likely to be left with bills you didn’t expect (because you assumed) and relationships can be left in tatters. Be open and transparent about what your expectations are.” Once you’ve had these conversations, clarify exactly how much you have to spend, while allowing for a 20 per cent contingency fund for the ‘just in case’, says Sian. “If you don’t end up needing it, you can always add it to the honeymoon budget!”
Bottom line – if the relevant family members on both sides of the couple put their hands up to contribute to certain aspects of the wedding such as food, beverages or photography, this means the financial load is shared and people feel they have had input into the occasion, says Sara. “People feel reassured when they know their funds are not being thrown about frivolously. Be accountable – it can go a long way. There’s no beating honesty, and honesty with a plan is perfect.”
CUTTING DOWN THE GUEST LIST
If your families are dredging up seemingly endless cousins and long-lost aunts that just have to attend your big day, things can get tricky. “Guest lists are a minefield if you don’t put some time and effort in before you start talking to family and friends,” says Sian.
When discussing your budget, include a first draft of guests, which will help everyone know what you are planning regarding your guest numbers. “It’s important to stand your ground and say no to any unwanted guests,” she says. “Make sure you maintain honesty and sympathy when explaining why you don’t want any extra guests, and state that you’re at maximum capacity with the venue and you’re simply unable to accept anyone else.
If all else fails, emphasise the “intimate setting” that you want for your wedding, says Sara. “More guests mean more money outlaid, so if numbers are a problem, sing the praises of the cosy feel you want to create – you simply can’t get that vibe if there’s people overload!”
YOU'RE NOT SURE YOU WANT CHILDREN
Kids can make or break your big day, depending on how you manage it. “More people fall out with each other over this one issue than any other I come across,” says Sian. “If you are inviting children to your wedding, then speak with your friends about your expectations around the children’s involvement,” says Sian. “If you’re not inviting kids to your big day, say so loudly and clearly as early as you can. You don’t have to justify your decisions, but you do need to be open and upfront from day one,” she says.
A tactful way to address the situation is to word your invitation accordingly. Try a simple ‘Mr and Mrs Smith are invited to…’ and finish with ‘We hope you can both attend’. This makes it obvious exactly who is being invited, without spelling out the fact that little ones are not.
“Remember, it’s your wedding – you make the rules. If people can’t handle the rules then they can choose not to attend,” says Sara.
ONE OF YOUR GUESTS IS KNOWN TO GET A LITTLE TIPSY
Yep, there’s always one! “Once the formalities are over and you’re into the party aspect of your wedding, there is little you can really do to manage people’s behaviour,” says Sian. “Make sure there is always food available and give clear, unambiguous instructions to both the groomsmen and bridesmaids that they take control of their behaviour and are expected to support you both on the day by keeping a respectful eye on the one or two people you all know are likely to let the side down.”
If you’re concerned, have a discussion with your venue about your reception and open bar, and keep it to a length of time that makes you feel comfortable and avoids “over-serving” guests who are known to enjoy an extra tipple.
TELLING YOUR FRIEND THAT SHE WON'T BE A BRIDESMAID
Your choice of bridesmaids can sometimes create tension, especially if you have a big circle of friends. Whether you have a friend you were a bridesmaid for and feel compelled to return the favour,
or you have lots of sisters and don’t want to exclude any of them, or your partner expects you to have his own sister/s in your bridal party – sometimes it might feel like you can’t win when it comes to picking the people you want by your side on your big day!
Sara suggests a peaceable solution of choosing another task for the friend or family member who is feeling left out in the cold from bridesmaid duties. “This allows them to feel special and needed by you and avoids any hurt feelings,” she says.
Align their strengths or passion with the task you choose – perhaps a crafty friend could help you brainstorm favour ideas, or help make them, while a book lover could choose a beautiful reading for your ceremony.