Why do weddings sometimes bring out the worst in people? Planning a wedding should be a joyous process that brings you, your partner, your best friends, and your two families together in a “happily ever after” that celebrates love, respect, and harmony. While many weddings do achieve this ideal in an overall sense, it’s usually not without a few bumps in the road.
When you see an impending wedding argument (or worse, have already gotten yourself stuck in one), the most important thing to do is figure out how to get un-stuck. The longer you allow a wedding argument to continue, the more emotions and feelings get wrapped up even in seemingly unimportant decisions, and hot tempers escalate until the actual wedding day is at risk of becoming a miserable stress-fest. Here are some ways to get out of wedding arguments quickly–and gracefully, too.
Talk it Out
It seems pretty basic, but have you tried talking about your argument? Sometimes arguments escalate from minor disagreements without the two parties ever sitting down and calmly discussing the reasons behind their preferences. Let’s say your aunt and uncle want to invite six of their friends to your wedding, but your guest list is already over capacity as it is. You tell your aunt and uncle that they can’t bring their friends because you’re the ones who will be paying for every plate, but they take away the impression that you’re cheap, stingy, and think your own friends are more important than everyone else’s. You complain to half the relatives in your family; your aunt and uncle complain to the rest. Everyone hears only half the story and takes a side. In a week, you’re nearing a family feud.
Picture this instead: You’ve just told your aunt and uncle that they can’t invite extra friends to the wedding, and you sense their resentment. Now is the time to spring into “generous host” mode! Schedule a time to sit down with them. If you live nearby, a meal is always a good opportunity for a talk. If not, a phone call will work if you schedule it ahead of time and make sure everyone can give the call their full attention. Bring up how concerned you are that feelings may have been inadvertently hurt in your previous discussions. (Believe it or not, just the fact that you acknowledge this may make them feel better and erase the argument.) Let them know how important they and their friends are to you, and how much you wish you could include everyone in your wedding. Give them some numbers of how much you’re spending per plate so they understand that your wedding budget is limited and beyond your control.
You may find it helpful to ask your aunt and uncle for their suggestions on how to resolve the problem. Once they understand the difficult position you’re in, they may be the ones to suggest leaving off the extra guests themselves. (Or, perhaps they’ll offer to chip in money to cover the extra heads.) For your part, remain open to all solutions–remember, as long as everyone’s happy in the end, you all win.
Involve More People
This approach seems counterintuitive at first. After all, if you and your mother-in-law are already going head to head over the tablecloth colors, why drag in more people with even more opinions to consider? However, sometimes involving a neutral third (or fourth, or fifth) party can shed a little self-awareness onto an argument that has gotten out of hand.
Consider whether you and your opponent have any mutual friends or relatives you both trust. Think of especially calm people, or people who are good at diffusing tense situations with humor. Then, at a time when everyone’s tempers are cool (perhaps after a good meal), bring up the topic in a non-threatening way by asking the neutral person’s opinion. You may want to broach the subject with your opponent and the neutral person separately so they’ll be prepared for the topic–if your opponent trusts the neutral person enough, the two of you may even agree to abide by whatever the neutral person decides ahead of time.
Give Up Being Right
It’s the hardest part of resolving any argument–giving up the idea of being right. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should allow your values to be steamrollered. If your racist cousin says he won’t attend the wedding because of your fiancé’s skin color, that argument is probably best resolved by letting him absent himself from your festivities. But for the minor arguments, like disagreements over wedding venue, decorations, fashion, flowers, or music, sometimes the best way to resolve them is to abandon the idea that your way is the best way.
Learning to tell the difference between when you feel strongly about something because it’s objectively important and when you’re just putting your foot down through stubbornness is a skill that takes a lifetime to master. But self awareness is the first step. No, you shouldn’t let your pushy mother choose your wedding colors, flowers, dress, and honeymoon location for you. But if you’ve gotten your way on everything so far and she asks you if you could possibly incorporate your grandmother’s necklace into your wedding outfit for sentimental reasons, even if it doesn’t quite match the dress, it’s not going to ruin anything if you say yes.
When you keep a larger perspective on your wedding planning, you do yourself three favors. First, you acknowledge that not every detail has to be perfect in order for your wedding itself to be perfect. (This mindset will save you from an embarrassing meltdown when some things inevitably go wrong on the big day.) Second, you free yourself from worrying about all the little details and allow yourself to focus on the true reasons for a wedding: celebrating love and lifelong commitment. Third (and possibly most usefully), when you have this argument resolution technique in your back pocket, your opponents will be stunned when you pull it out. There’s nothing like allowing people a few small victories to make them feel generous towards you when it’s time for the big decisions.T