Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Family Drama

Matt and I faced our fair share of family drama while planning our nuptials. Over the years, I've seen different couples handle it differently. Some put their feet down and proclaim, "This is our wedding! You already had a chance to plan your wedding."

I've seen other couples say, "It's not worth the fight. At least we get to plan the honeymoon."

And still other couples take more of a middle-ground approach and try to balance their tastes, preferences, and desires with those of their families since--the argument goes--a wedding is also about the community.

I used to naively think that the family drama that comes up during the wedding planning process is the worst it gets. I used to think that whichever route you pick for yourself doesn't matter too much because regardless of how much family drama there is during the planning process, you'll likely be happily married in the end. And, once the wedding is said and done, it's a lot easier to see a wedding as one important day in a long line of many.

However, as Matt and I start to discuss birthing options (no, I'm not pregnant; I'm just a planner), I'm beginning to realize that there are potentially lots of ways in which family can contribute to (or interfere with--depending on your perspective) important life decisions. As I entertain the idea of giving birth at home or in a birthing center (if I get pregnant, that is), for example, I worry that all sides of the family will consider the decision unsafe and irresponsible. I anticipate very stressful conversations.

It just made me realize that how we choose to negotiate our weddings with our families can set important precedents. Of course you can renegotiate your family's influence on your life at any point, but it's worth thinking about the long-term implications of our initial decisions.

What route are you (or did you) take with your family? How did it work out for you?

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Sarah said...

I give where I don't feel as strongly. For example, we are having a very secular wedding, but my father is quite religious. He asked us to have a religious ceremony the day before, and he even offered to do it for us (my family's not Christian, so it works a little differently). This is something I don't care about, but I know it would make my dad happier, and my fiance is totally cool with it, so we're doing it.

Research and some sort of certification might help in your case, Sara! :) Show them that there are many women who go the homebirth or birthing center route. Or, if you want to give a little, you can also find a midwife that will deliver in a hospital (kind of a "just in case" measure). My aunt does this.

Tamara Williams said...

I have been amazed at how much my attitude towards wedding planning with (for?) my family mirrors my relationship to them as a child. I over-anticipate their every want and need, and try to smoosh that into what used to be my vision and budget. The upside, most of my family doesn't ask about details. The down side, my wedding has become a site for me to relive my childhood (ick!).

I agree wholeheartedly that this is only the (re)beginning of how you will engage with the people who made you, with the added nuance of being primarily in sync with your partner. No sweat, right? Right?

miss fancy pants (the bride) said...

We give in for things we don't care about and do our best to stand our ground where it matters to us. My mother wants to have a couples shower, not the Mr.'s cup of tea, but we're doing it. His mother wanted a giant rehearsal dinner with all 40 of the out of town guests, but we really wanted to keep the dinner intimate, so we're standing our ground. It's good on one hand because it ensures that we're getting the wedding we truly want as a couple. On the other hand, some people see our standing ground as selfish and displaying an unwillingness to compromise. Either way, I think the couple has to do what's right for them or they won't enjoy their wedding as much as they could have.

Stephanie said...

My mom has actually been surprisingly supportive of my ideas. I think it has more to do with me putting my foot down generally in recent years.

On the home birth front, I said to my parents that there is no way i'm going to the hospital unless its an emergency. Ideally I'd like a home birth, but a birthing center is probably safer. Since my parents are both immigrants from Cuba, they were super supportive of the home birth idea. My dad even told me he was born on the kitchen table! SO sometimes it can be surprising what family thinks.


Unknown said...

It's very true that the family behavior during the wedding planning process can be expected throughout all of the important aspects of your life together-- unless you tactfully stress that it is YOUR life together, not anyone else's. I planned to have a natural birth (not at home, though) and I had people in my husband's family making comments like "do you also ask the dentist not to give you novacaine when he pulls your teeth??" I can only imagine what they were saying behind my back. But at the end of the day, you can't please everyone so you've got to try to please yourself!

Elizabeth said...

I had my first child at the hospital and then three children at home. My mother in law is an OB Nurse Practitioner. Needless to say there was lots of discussion. But, in the end she was supportive and was present at all the home births.

Home birth was the most wonderful experience.

Anonymous said...

My strategy with wedding planning has been to explain my values and how a particular decision (e.g., color of my dress, whom we invite) is in accordance with those values. Since my family and my new in-laws are all generally reasonable and supportive people this tends to work well. It has to be a 2-way street though. I'm willing to listen to their concerns, worries, preferences, and take them into account. Part of my values is that they are having their most important needs met as much as possible, since I do think of a wedding as a family event, not only for the two of us.
When it comes to giving birth, though, you have to do what's right for you! You can explain it and show them why and listen respectfully to their concerns (probably out of anxiety and genuine care for you and their future grandchild), but that's a decision that really belongs to the parents. Good luck!

Mommy in the Making said...


Okay - so I won't go into my whole birthing story (it's here if you want to read it - http://mommyinthemaking.tumblr.com/post/366046805/birth)
ANYhow - Adam (baby daddy) and I watched The Business of Being Born (if you haven't watched it do - for women EVERYWHERE who might, ever have a baby!) It was amazing. And so mind blowing. My mom was really against giving birth anywhere other than a hospital. Really against it. She only gave birth once (well twice technically since I was a twin) and everything that could have gone wrong did. She was on bed rest for 6 weeks before, had a terrible infection, was in labor FOREVER, just on an on. So, understandably, she was afraid for me. I sent her home with our BOBB netflix disc and instructed her to watch it. And she didn't. FINALLY like a month and a half later she watched it. I asked her what she thought and all she said was 'that was clearly a skewed perspective.' Sigh. At one point she kept making little comments and I finally said, 'Mom, this is what we've decided. I know how you feel about it but this is our choice.' I do think it helped her that the birth center we chose (well not really chose, it is the ONLY one in the Boston area) was right across the street from the hospital. I would like to have my next at home and I think she's REALLY going to flip about that. But oh well. Now if only I could stand up to her that gracefully about the wedding we're planning! But she is paying for that - so compromise it is. But when it comes to having a baby, it's all about what will make you happy and comfortable and confident going into it. You family and friends, regardless of their opinions, won't be the ones in labor!


"T-Bone" Lee said...

I think having the conversation Amanda had with her mom is basically the way to go. "this is what I've decided and I need you to respect that.". I also think having a plan B is really important to put their minds at ease...so they know you're not naively assuming nothing could possibly go wrong.

Unknown said...

I'm trying to learn from my mom's experiences in dealing with her family. She was totally unyeilding with her wedding, and because of that, her father didn't even come to it. But when she had kids, she worried so much about what her family would think of what she named us, that gave in and did what they want. I was supposed to be a Bridget, but her family thought that wasn't a good name, and she unfortunately gave in, and gave me a relatively boring name (not that Bridget is even that weird!).
I'm trying to find some middle ground. It helps that I already know that whatever I've done in the past has always somewhat perplexed my family, so they should be used to not being on the same page as me in my wedding plans.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of your "older" readers...probably closer to the age of your mothers, but I've been following your blog since my daughter is getting married soon. (You have a lot of GREAT ideas!!)

Even though I've never "commented" before, I've got to chime in on the home-birth plan. I teach Child Development classes at the high school level and we get pretty "down and dirty" with all the details of childbirth. I've covered in depth the different choices available for delivery. I had my own children without any drugs whatsoever, but the delivery was in a hospital. I remember my relatives thinking that I was crazy just to do that! I still agree that the more natural methods without drugs are beneficial to the baby.

However, age has given me perspective. I personally know 4 different women who gave birth at home only to have serious problems. Sadly, one of my friend's daughter's just gave birth at home last November and her baby died. This mother had already given birth to her first 2 children at home and was obviously prepared...however, you just cannot predict problems that occur VERY quickly and with dire consequences. I know most hospitals now have nurse/midwives who are more receptive to "personal wishes" but since you are at a hospital or birthing center, you have the best of both worlds. You just cannot duplicate the technology that is available for you there.

At the end of the day, all you want is a healthy child. Just be sure you're not choosing a home birth because you can "be in charge" of the whole experience. (I'm a self-confessed control freak, so I know the problem well!) After all, the birth process will be over (if you're lucky!) in less than a day. But any complications may influence the rest of your life. I'm aware that "everyone is different" and I'm sure your readers can give 1000's of examples where the home birth worked out great. But this is much different that deciding to have a wedding in a church or on a mountain top.

Sorry if I sound "preachy"....just trying to add a different perspective.

Rhiannon said...

in my own experience parents/family/friends in the end usually just want to be helpful and feel included. (some "help" and "include" themselves more than others and in more of an acertive way) I for one believe that a wedding is a day for the bride and groom and it is important to be polite yet assertive yourself. Finding a task for a family member to be in charge of, one that you dont mind putting in their hands, is a great way for them to help out and feel included.

On another note, regarding home birthing. I feel I have an open mind to a lot of things. If home birthing is your choice all I say is be prepared, have a back up plan and Heaven forbid something does go wrong, dont feel you failed and keep an open mind to going to a hospital in case it is needed. Best Wishes!

cileag said...

I look back now and find that the wedding was really just the jumping off point for negotiations. Luckily, my parents are very supportive and his parents are usually pretty quiet about their opinions, so I didn't any guff when I chose to birth at home. Also, I think they figured that since I'm a labor and delivery nurse, I'm well aware of the risks and benefits of the various places of delivery.

Good luck planning things out---my birth was lovely, incredible in so many ways and very safe. :)

Pip said...

As this was my 3rd wedding and his 2nd, our families didn't offer much input unless they were asked for it, and boy, did we ever ask! We had to change the location of our reception about 5 weeks before the wedding, which entailed a lot of work. We asked our families for help in finding a new locatin and they scrambled to search. When we asked for help with decorating, 6 people showed up and stayed all day. When I needed help with the food, my cousin, bless her heart, baked 10 dozen cup cakes, made vegetable trays and pasta salad and more!
We were so very lucky that we had understanding relatives that supported us and just wanted us to be happy. I clearly remember being asked several times, "is this OK?" or "how do you want this?" and I just said, "anything you do is fine. I just appreciate the help and all that matters is that at the end of the night, I'm gonna be married." We were lucky.

emily said...

When planning our 38 person wedding we wanted only immediate family and very close friends to attend.
Both of us come from large families and couldn't even come close to affording a wedding that would involve everyone. We decided instead to have the actual ceremony one weekend and then later have a pot-luck party inviting all of the family and friends we were unable to originally invite. It worked out perfectly.

In terms of planning the birth the way we want it (we're due in September) I was straight up with my folks that I wanted to have it at a birthing center.. ideally at home but home is an apartment in the city with thin walls and little-to-no privacy.
At first my mom was terrified.. couldn't help herself with all the "what if's" but once I sat down with her and we watched "The Business of Being Born" together and I brought her in to meet with my midwife to ease her concern she felt more comfortable.

Sophie said...

My husband and I eloped because his mother was being too bossy with us over the wedding planning (but without giving a dime). And I now realize that we ran away from that issue, but that issue only. She is acting the same about my housekeeping, the fact that we rent an appartment in the city in a poor (but slowly gentrifying) neighborhood, and also the way I plan on raising my children. For example, she urged us to move because we live on a 3rd floor and I won't be able to carry a stroller... I don't even plan to have one in the first place: for millenia, women have been working long days in the fields carrying babies on their back, and still do in some parts of the world, so I think I'll be able to carry mine up 2 flights of stairs thank you very much (and, like you, I'm not pregnant, just planning the "if")

A-L, said...

I'm the baby of the family and got to see my siblings marry and how the wedding planning influenced my parents (who are now divorced). My father is one who has to be planned around and diplomatically dealt with, so I've figured out the things he is likely to care about and run our ideas by him, but also do the prep work ahead of time so that he's likely to make few, if any changes. And that's worked so far, and I think he's also learned to be more flexible because of the difficult relationships he's had with the older siblings.

As far as my mom (and grandmother, who's involved in the planning) they're really quite supportive about most of my ideas. The only one they hadn't been as big of a fan of was a short (knee-length) wedding dress. Gram ended up supporting the idea, and mom said she would support me no matter what I did, but I knew it was pretty important to her and I ended up with a long dress.

So basically, the planning has been going pretty easily so far (and the future m-i-l has been very hands off too). I guess, at the moment at least, I'm one of the lucky ones!

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