Weddings Are Not Just A Couple Thing
(The Wedding Planner – January, 2008)
By Carol Reeves
After tasting a dozen different samples, you and your fiancée have decided on a moist banana nut wedding cake with decadent cream cheese frosting.
Then, your mom reminds you Aunt Bessie and two favorite cousins are allergic to nuts . . . .
You reserve a reception hall that‘s a perfect fit for the guest list both sets of parents compiled a month ago but suddenly, your future mother-in-law comes up with 25 extra names she says must be included. She also makes it clear she doesn‘t want to stand in a receiving line very long high heels hurt her feet.
Internet chat rooms on popular wedding planning Web sites are full of questions from brides wondering what to do in such situations. Most don‘t want to completely alienate the people they care about the most. And yet, shouldn‘t the bride and groom get what they want on the most special day of their life?
Maybe yes, maybe no.
Weddings are as much about community as they are about the couple, according to William J. Doherty and his recently married daughter Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, winners of a 2007 Trendsetter award from Modern Bride magazine. They are the founders of a new Web site, http://www.thefirstdance.com/, and co-authors of the book Take Back Your Wedding: Managing the People Stress of Wedding Planning.
Their premise is that the path to the altar doesn‘t have to be a minefield of unfulfilled expectations and strained relationships. It can be an opportunity to begin building the kind of marriage and strong family bonds that will last well into the future.
As director of the marriage and family therapy department at the University of Minnesota and the father of a new bride, Doherty and his daughter discovered there was a huge gap that needed to be filled between an engaged couple‘s need for logistical advice for planning a wedding and for premarital counseling that focuses on life after the honeymoon.
Ken Himes, executive director of Friends of the Family in Corvallis and Albany, agrees.
“I think they‘re really on to something. It‘s important to pay attention to the relational dynamics of wedding planning,” Himes said.
Friends of the Family is a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening marriages and families through its counseling services, workshops and seminars.
“Certainly it’s true that it‘s the couple‘s wedding, but family members are an important part not only of the wedding, but the couple‘s future together,” Himes said.
Doherty and Thomas claim one of the toughest things a couple will ever do in their life is to plan a wedding.
“The hardest part is not what you might think when you get engaged dealing with all the logistics. The hardest part is dealing with the people,” Doherty and Thomas write in their book. With clear and honest communication, mutual respect and a willingness to negotiate, however, they say the experience can also be “thrilling.”
The First Dance Web site offers a variety of features:
- Individual wedding stress counseling by telephone or instant messaging
- Separate advice columns for brides and grooms, parents of the engaged couple, wedding coordinators, clergy/wedding officiants, premarital educators and wedding vendors
- Articles on such topics as RSVP woes, the competitive side of wedding planning, the pros and cons of eloping, even how to orchestrate the literal first dance at the wedding reception when blended families are involved
- Access to the PREPARE/Enrich couple inventory
- Help for finding experienced pre-marital counselors across the nation
- Links to wedding planning resources, including their print-on-demand book “Take Back Your Wedding” available at http://www.amazon.com/ and by order through Borders Books and Music
- An entertaining, but useful blog by Thomas including posts such as “The $2 Oreo Cookie,” “What I hate about wedding budget advice” and “In honor of Jenna Bush” (which contains a link where you can get an official wedding greeting from the White House)
The top three questions raised by people at the Web site are about etiquette, in-laws and money, Thomas said.
When it comes to money, couples want to know who pays for what and who has control over decisions because of money, she explained, and the etiquette questions often reflect an attempt to reduce conflict and stress by knowing the “right” way to do things.
“Unfortunately, etiquette doesn‘t address complex family emotions,” Thomas said.
With more than 30 years of counseling experience, Himes believes it‘s never too early for an engaged couple to learn how to better relate to each other and loved ones.
“By working now on making those relationships healthy, couples wisely prepare for a better future, and learn important things about themselves and their own relationship in the process,” he added. “After all, the relationships are what will remain long after the wedding reception clean-up is done.”