What To Do When Your Family Is Interfering With Your Wedding Plans, According To Experts

by Natalia Lusinski
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While a wedding is primarily about the couple in question, sometimes family members may want to have a say, too. For instance, you and your significant other may want a small wedding, or a big wedding, or perhaps the two of you just want to elope. But what do you do when your family is interfering with your wedding plans?

Recently, the topic has been making headlines — especially after Priyanka Chopra appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Jan. 30 and talked about her and Nick Jonas’ wedding. On the show, she said usually Indian weddings are at least a thousand people — but they only had 200, mostly comprised of family. According to People, Chopra jokingly told DeGeneres, “My mother was so upset with me the whole time. She was like, ‘I need to have another wedding for the other 150,000 people that I know! How can I not invite my jeweler? How can I not invite my hairdresser?’ So it was a whole conversation.”

But, when family members are not joking and want a definite say in your wedding planning, then what? “Compromise — but only to a certain extent,” Jeannie Assimos, chief of advice at eharmony, tells Bustle. “At the end of the day, it is your special day. So, take everyone’s points and asks into consideration, then do what you feel is best.” For instance, she says that if you want to have an intimate wedding — but your family is pressuring you to have a huge event — compromise by having a party after the fact. “You will have to give on some things, and decide from the start what your non-negotiables are,” she says.

Below, experts weigh in on what to do when your family is interfering with your wedding plans.


Set Up A Budget All Together

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Before you can start planning all your wedding details, you and your partner need to come up with a wedding budget, as well as fine-tune who — or whose family — will pay for what. “The most important first step to planning a wedding is to set a budget, with everyone contributing to the wedding upfront,” Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, tells Bustle. “That way, you will avoid misunderstandings later.” She says that the budget impacts every other decision that comes later — from the number of guests to the type of venue — so it’s important to get it sorted out early. “The average wedding costs $33,391, and using a wedding budget calculator can help break down the details,” she says.

Justin Bailey, co-founder and chief technical officer of Vimvest, a goal-based financial planning app, says save up sooner rather than later. “If you see the potential for financial interference from family members, then it’s time to identify your personal ‘wedding essentials,’ set goals, and start saving small amounts regularly,” he tells Bustle. “That way, you are taking control of the most important parts of your perfect day.”


Be Transparent About What You Are Spending & Saving On

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Leah Weinberg, founder of Color Pop Events, tells Bustle that when families have different ideas on the budget, how to handle it depends on who is paying for the wedding. “A little education can go a long way,” she says. “Put together some detailed budget information for them so that they can see what you want to spend on each vendor (and quotes from different vendors).” She says they might not realize how much something costs, such as like flowers, so showing them what you would get for “x” dollars is a great way to educate them on the real cost of things.


Compromise On The Guest Count

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Before you and your partner — and probably your families — start choosing your wedding guests, there are a few things you need to consider. “The number of guests is such a personal choice, but the ultimate decision depends on the budget and preferences of the bride, groom, and anyone contributing to the wedding cost,” Palmer says. She says that one way to reduce tension over the number of guests is to agree upfront to a total number and then give each host a certain number they are allowed to invite. “For example, if the total number is 100, the bride and groom could choose 50 guests and then each set of parents could choose 25,” Palmer says.

Weinberg says that if family is paying for the wedding, you may be hard-pressed to tell them they can’t invite more people. But, if family isn’t paying for the wedding, then you’ve got much stronger ground to stand on when it comes to not wanting to invite more guests, she says. “If that’s the case and family is still insisting, depending on how bold you are, you could flat-out ask that person when they want to contribute money to cover the costs of those additional guests,” Weinberg says.


Actively Listen When Negotiating Wedding Logistics With Family Members

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Active listening is also a part of negotiating wedding logistics with family. “Take the time to listen to what matters to them — their reasons could be very meaningful and you may see things differently,” Bobbi Rebell, certified financial planner and host of the Financial Grownup podcast, tells Bustle. “The truth is, while in theory it is the couple’s wedding, as most married couples soon discover, it is also two families coming together — so how you as a couple handle precarious situations sets the tone.”

Shannon Tarrant, founder of Wedding Venue Map, also tells Bustle that active listening is important. “My favorite advice to give to couples is the phrase, ‘Thanks so much for sharing; we’ll think about that,’” she says. “You haven’t said ‘yes’ and haven’t said ‘no,’ which leads to them getting defensive and arguing.” She says, this way, it’s the nicest way to walk away from something you have no interest in having for your wedding.


Put Things In Writing

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Even though you, your partner, and your families may talk and come to a verbal compromise, Assimos suggests putting things in writing — just in case. “By clearly explaining to your family from the get-go what you and your partner want to do for this day, you can continue to reference back to the original concepts you had agreed upon before any planning gets out of hand,” she says. “That first conversation that sets expectations will allow you to remind your family that this is your day, and that you had agreed to a plan — in writing.”


Enlist The Help Of A Wedding Planner To Help You Look At The Bigger Picture

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Sometimes, you may need an objective party to help you, your partner, and your families compromise. “When your family is interfering with your wedding, it’s important to step back and look at the bigger picture,” Josh Spiegel, president and creative director of Birch Event Design, tells Bustle. “You’re going to end up having to do a little bit of bending — it’s really a game of strategy — and you can lean on the designer or planner of the wedding.” He says they almost become a therapist because they will be there to advise you while you’re going back and forth with your family.


Learn How To Pick Your Battles

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Overall, Spiegel says to pick your battles, whether it’s about the guest list or vendors. “For instance, if you’re friendly with someone and you know they’re going to be offended by not being invited, then you have to keep that in mind for the long run,” he says. “Overall, a lot of it plays on strategy. Remember, it’s your special day, but keep in mind that family is forever; be smart about what really matters and not what you think may matter.”

Weinberg agrees. “Couples that don’t address meddling parents or family members during the wedding-planning process often end up feeling so frustrated and tense because they’ve just been storing all of that negative energy for months.” Plus, she says that you can often feel that tension and hostility on the wedding day — and this can be avoided.


Be Solutions-Oriented

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It’s also a good idea to be solutions-oriented throughout the wedding-planning-with-family experience, Rebell says. “For example, if your family wants to add more of their friends to the guest list, you can give them the opportunity to add to the budget if that is what’s needed,” she says. “Or suggest that they host an additional event that will include their friends — maybe a celebration after the honeymoon.” She adds that even though this will be a big day for you and your partner, it will also be epic for your parents. “They dreamed of this day since before you were born, and you are opening up a totally new chapter full of promise and adventure.”

All in all, like the experts above say, your wedding is your day, and it’s up to you and your partner to set clear boundaries and expectations when your families become (too) involved in the planning process.