The Wedding Blues: Father-Daughter Stress

Why do fathers and daughters argue over wedding planning?

Posted Jul 14, 2019

 shutterstock by Crystal Kirk
Source: shutterstock by Crystal Kirk

Why are things getting tense between you and your dad now that you’re starting to make plans for your wedding? Let’s consider Maria’s situation with her dad, Luis. See if you see any similarities to your situation. Put yourself in Luis’s situation, as well as in Maria’s. 

Luis likes his future son-in-law. Maria is the first of his two daughters to get married. So wedding planning is a new experience for the family. Everything was going well until Maria started talking about the kind of wedding she had in mind. Luis was shocked when he found out how much it was going to cost and how much money she was counting on from him and her mom. To complicate matters, Maria’s mom has privately told Luis that she isn’t happy either with the thought of having to take out such a large loan to cover their part of the costs. But she won’t tell Maria how she feels because she doesn’t want to upset her. She is counting on Luis to handle this. Luis also knows that whatever they spend on Maria, they will also have to spend on her sister’s wedding when the time comes.

Maria is surprised, annoyed, and hurt by her dad’s reaction. She has been planning this dream wedding for ages. She and her fiancé are taking out a loan to pay for their part. So why is her dad complaining? Why is he asking her to give up her once-in-a-lifetime dream and settle for less? Why is he being so selfish?

Now put yourself in Luis’s place. He and Maria’s mom have both been working overtime for years to make their own dream come true: to be able to retire at 65 and pay off the mortgage. That can’t happen if they give Maria all the money she is expecting for her wedding. Luis’s elderly parents are also going to need financial help from him in the next few years. Luis is worried that if they go into debt to pacify Maria, she might expect them to keep helping her in the future when she wants help buying a house. Will this be setting a precedent for the future?

Luis loves Maria dearly and wishes he made the kind of money that could pay for her wedding without his going into debt. He is surprised and hurt that Maria can’t see the burden she is creating for her parents. Why can’t her fiancé’s parents contribute more since they make plenty of money and their son is their only child? Why is Maria putting her dad in this bind when she knows it makes him look like the bad guy—and she knows that her mom has always caved in when it comes to things like this? He’s also hurt because he feels as if she’s treating him a little like a bank machine. Why is she being so inconsiderate?

In this situation, the father and daughter do not want to change any behavior that has caused a problem in their relationship for years. The problem is not rooted in anything that is “wrong” between them. The tension is there because they have different values, different expectations, and different long-range concerns when it comes one specific issue: the cost of her wedding. Because this is a highly emotional occasion, if they do not handle this problem well, it could create bad feelings between them that would last well past the wedding.

What’s the solution? First, following the specific guidelines I have described in my book, the two of them will have a one-on-one private conversation—one that does not involve Maria’s mom because she chose to have Luis handle this situation, even though she agrees with him that this wedding puts too heavy a burden on them. In this conversation, Maria will ask her dad the questions that I have described in the “getting to know your father” chapter. These questions will help her understand why her dad is feeling and behaving this way about her wedding. Second, Maria and her dad will share their feelings and their fears with each other openly and honestly. For example, both will admit that they’re afraid their relationship might be damaged if they can’t resolve this wedding problem. And both of them will admit that they feel hurt, surprised, and disappointed by the way the other is acting. Third, each will present a written list of possible compromises. For example, Luis might ask Maria and her fiancé to pay 10 percent more of the costs so that he and his wife don’t have to take out such a large loan. Or Maria might ask her dad if he is willing to retire one year later than he had hoped in order to make her dream wedding come true.

Every father and daughter will have to create their own plan about paying for a wedding. No one-size-fits-all plan works for every family. What matters is that the father and the daughter are willing to make certain compromises because they care deeply about their relationship with one another.

References

Linda Nielsen, 2008, Between fathers and daughters: Enriching and rebuilding your relationship. Nashville, Cumberland Press.