How To Handle Controlling Parents When Planning Your Wedding

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When you get married, the whole process can end up being a real family affair — so much so that the idea of simply doing a Vegas drive thru might become more and more appealing. And particularly if you happen to have a mom or dad who really like to get involved, the danger of your parents trying to control your wedding can become very overwhelming. So what to do in this scenario? Especially if they are helping financially? Believe it or not, the experts say there is a way to make everyone pretty happy. More or less, anyway.

"It can be tough when parents are trying to control your wedding, especially if their vision of your big day doesn't match your own," wedding planner Karen Norian, of Simply Eloped, who has planned hundreds of elopements and weddings throughout the U.S., tells Bustle. "A great way to make sure your parents feel included is by allowing them to voice their opinions, and ultimately, have that vision come to life."

While there are certain things that should be totally left up to the couple, Norian says, there are some tasks you can delegate to make your parents feel like they are involved. For example, if you're not picky when it comes to ceremony readings, allow them to choose one for you. And if you aren't choosy about invitations, ask them to help you select the perfect design.

But again, if you've got parents who really want to "get in there," and it seems like finding particular tasks is by no means enough to satisfy them, the best thing a couple can do is open the lines of communication and be honest about their parents' suggestions, Norian says. Gently remind them that, although you appreciate their input, this day is supposed to be about you and your partner, and you want to honor that notion while still respecting their opinions.

And even if they are contributing financially, this does not mean they get to run the show! Norian reiterates that a really important step is to sit them down and draw some boundary lines.

"Let them know what you're comfortable with them having a say in, and what aspects are simply non-negotiable," Norian says. "Be sure to have a list handy of what you'd love their input on, and put your focus on that. If they see that you'd love their help choosing a menu for your reception and want their opinion on the flower choices, they may be more willing to look over the things that are off-limits."

It is your wedding day, so you have a right to be the final decision-maker on everything when it comes to planning, Norian says. "Remember that this day is about you and your partner, and to overlook that would mean a wedding day that didn't feel authentic to you — and that should never happen. Couples do not need permission to do whatever they please for their big day, and family and friends who have been invited should ultimately feel grateful that you want them there to witness such an important celebration."

However, Norian says, learning to be inclusive and thoughtful with your loved ones' suggestions will only make your relationships stronger, and they will surely be appreciative of the elements where you've chosen to take their advice.

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Dr. Lara Friedrich, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and wedding coach based in New York who specializes in working with couples and people getting married, tells Bustle something similar about communicating with your parents kindly but honestly before you get too deep into planning. But as for who has the right to make decisions, it can get a little tricky.

Either way, to start out, it's good to be aware of what might be happening on a more emotional level for your parents during this process. Start from there so everyone is on the same page and lines of communication are open.

"Try to figure out what's going on for your parents," Friedrich says. "Maybe your parents view this as 'their' wedding, and not yours. Maybe they are planning the wedding they couldn't have for themselves. Maybe they are trying to hold on to control of your wedding as a way of avoiding the sense that they are losing you to your new spouse." Once you identify a little about what's going on with them, it can be easier to navigate. If your mom always wanted a big wedding, for example, you can tell her you understand and honor that, but it's not important to you.

"When your parents are trying to control your wedding, it becomes a power struggle, and the meaning is usually about more than just one day," Friedrich says. "Some of your options are to fight back over everything, cede control completely, or to pick a few very important aspects of your wedding and advocate for those."

Now if your parents are very controlling, doing this for three to four must-haves may be difficult, Friedrich says.

"That's why I encourage people getting married to really distill what is absolutely the most important," Friedrich says. "If your parents are controlling and it's simply not possible to have a conversation with them, or you've tried and it went nowhere, reconsider your options. Unfortunately, power ultimately comes from the person or people paying for the wedding."

If they're unwilling to give up control, you can choose to not take the money, Friedrich says. This has its own consequences: it could cause a rift in your relationship with your parents, or it could mean you don't get anything close to the celebration you want. The more you're able to contribute, the more leverage you may have.

"Think about what will help you get through this with your sense of well-being intact, and use that as your guide," Friedrich says. And remember, while it's your day, spreading the love between everyone —as far as it will reach — is always a good idea. Try to find a balance between everyone and keep things in perspective. It can be a great day no matter what flavor the cake is, or what poem gets read.

Experts

Wedding planner Karen Norian, of Simply Eloped.

Psychologist and wedding coach Dr. Lara Friedrich, PsyD.