When you tell people that you’re getting married, they often think of the wedding they had, the wedding day they wish they had, the wedding they’d have today, the wedding they want you to have, and maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll think about the wedding that you want to have.

This isn’t very helpful. 

It only gets worse when it’s your family. 

Some family wedding “traditions” have little grounding in what makes for a good wedding. It’s been my experience, working with many hundreds of couples, that families, however well meaning, sometimes perpetuate antiquated customs and misunderstandings about proper wedding etiquette. That rarely works in your favor.

For example, if you don’t want that big, splashy formal introduction of the wedding party at your reception, don’t do it! It’s that simple.

Your friends and family might have expectations about your wedding, coming out of family culture or simply self-interest, that are not at all what you have in mind. 

Are weddings in your family transformed into family reunions, no matter the desires of the couple? It doesn’t have to be that way! 

Consider those cousins who you never ever see or talk with. Are you expected to invite them to your wedding just because you were (or might be) invited to theirs, or because someone in your family thinks “it’s the right thing to do”? Break the cycle of pain! Who you invite to your wedding is entirely up to you. 

So, what to do when advice or “guidance” is offered?

All you need do to is smile, patiently listen to whatever they have in mind, and say, “Thank you for your good thinking,” while you’re thinking, “There’s no way on this great green earth that I am going to do that thing!” Really. That’s it. If you’re questioned about it, it’s easy to say that you and your sweetheart need to talk about it – later. 

Nobody needs to know until your wedding what you actually have or have not done. 

Are your parents giving you money? Great! What a lovely gift. Like all gifts, the giver’s control of it ceases the moment the gift is given. Wedding money doesn’t buy stock in your wedding or create a board of directors. 

Being clear with yourself and with your contributors about who controls the wedding money will go a long way toward maintaining your sanity and keeping your stress low during the planning process.

If there are strings attached to that money, it may be more important to have the wedding that you want that you can afford rather than the wedding that someone else wants you to have – that you don’t – which they are willing to finance. 

What are the consequences of ignoring “advice” from family and friends?

No matter how loud the outcry beforehand, by the time your wedding guests are coming through the door, everyone has usually resolved to behave appropriately, at least for the moment. They may well have forgotten about the thing they wanted you to do. Even if they didn’t, you can bet that they will show up and happily eat your food and drink your drink. 

If there is caterwauling after your wedding, so be it. The experience of your wedding and the memories you’ll cherish are what’s important, and those memories will last much longer than any family upset.

All of this is not to say that family and friends don’t have good advice for you. Many of them do! To be clear, lots of families and friends are genuinely helpful, clear-thinking, and supportive. And they know when to keep silent and when to offer guidance. 

So deal with all of the advice-givers, well-intentioned or not, with love, grace, and honor. Your wedding planning will be better for it, and you’ll have the wedding you want.

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David Egan
David Egan
David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.