Dunlap/Turney photo
Source: Dunlap/Turney photo

Along with the joy of the summer wedding season, there can be the less celebratory aspects of a loved one’s upcoming nuptials.

You may be feeling blue because you’re convinced that your adult child is making a terrible mistake in choosing to marry his or her future spouse.

You may be an adult child feeling blue as you watch a divorced or widowed parent preparing to marry a new partner, wondering why and what this might mean for your relationship.

You may be a divorced parent, dreading running into an ex-spouse and his or her new partner at your child's wedding. You’ve been thinking of issuing an ultimatum, forcing your adult child to choose between you and his or her other parent.

Or wedding plans and budget issues may be contributing to your blues. You may be disappointed that you can’t give your daughter the wedding of her dreams or horrified as she turns into an entitled bridezilla, demanding expensive add-ons you simply can’t afford. Or you may be dreaming of an over-the-top wedding celebration while the bride and groom long for simplicity.

Despite these challenges to harmony and happiness on the big day, it’s possible to cut down on the drama and emotional minefields.

Agree to disagree and respect each other’s feelings.  You’ve already voiced your feelings about your child’s or parent’s marriage plans. You may never agree. So let it rest. Respect each other’s right to an opinion or choice. If the wedding is happening, whether you like it or not, be polite, supportive and loving.

Put limits on wedding behavior. If you fear that a family donnybrook is pending, it makes sense to say “I would like you to share the day with us, but please, no…” And you can add your own list: no scenes, no attitude, no sulking, no wailing, no fighting with an ex-spouse. Even if impassioned conflict is part of your family’s repertoire, there are other families and their feelings to consider. This day is about the bride and groom and a happy start to their new life together.

Stick to a budget and a wedding style that makes sense, even if it means disappointment and compromise. Adult children are marrying later these days. If the couple wants a three-day extravaganza and your budget demands something far simpler, the bride and groom may need to pay for most of the difference themselves or, if they can’t afford it either, they need to scale down. If your adult child is the one wanting simplicity and you’re going for over-the-top – this isn’t a day to show off to your friends and associates. This is a day to celebrate love and a hopeful start to a new life.

Lovely weddings come in all price categories. And a blowout celebration does not guarantee future happiness. One friend, whose widowed mother sold her house to pay for her lavish wedding, filed for divorce after only five months of not-so-blissful wedded life. On the other hand, my cousin Caron married her husband Bud at their local church with a small group of family and friends attending. She wore her best work outfit, a tailored blue suit. The reception was in in the living room of her parents’ modest home. Her mother and grandmother made sandwiches, potato salad and a lovely small wedding cake. Caron and Bud have been happily married for nearly sixty years.  

Going over the top may not be seen as a sign of love. “My mother-in-law to be is making plans that are all about her, not us,” one disgruntled groom told me not long ago. “I think if we backed out, she’d keep the wedding plans going, just substituting another couple. That’s how impersonal and out of our hands it all feels.”

Listen to each other’s wishes, consider what seems realistic and find ways to compromise in order to make this day special and memorable for all concerned.

Don’t ban or boycott or issue ultimatums. All will lead to hurt and regret, perhaps for years to come. Rather than banning disapproving family members from a wedding, invite them and request polite behavior and personal restraint. Rather than boycotting a wedding because you don’t approve, show your love by showing up, by smiling and avoiding emotional scenes. Being present at this life transition, even if you’re quietly heartbroken, sends a message of love and emotional support to your adult child or remarrying parent. And don’t issue an “If he comes, I won’t!” ultimatum regarding an ex-spouse. This day isn’t about you. It’s about the bride and groom sharing their joy with all the people they love.

Let love guide your words and actions. When you share this life transition with love, not judgment, criticism or demands, your future as an extended family is more likely to be a happy one. Life is forever changing and the best, most enduring and loving relationships grow with the changes.

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