Difficult people. Drama. It can make or break the most important day of your life. We’ve all seen movies depicting our worst nightmares. You know…that naughty little nephew sending your perfect, thousand dollar, designer cake flying through the air…the drunken best man’s embarrassing toast…monsters-in-law. Shudder to think! How do you walk that delicate tightrope line between bickering, divorced parents and overbearing but well-meaning Aunt Gertrude, and still have your perfect wedding day? Dealing with difficult people is an important part of creating a stress free wedding.
Now that I’ve all but killed your engagement buzz, let me share a little secret! The key to controlling difficult people and difficult family members during the wedding planning process is all in how you handle it. “But you don’t understand; my family invented drama!” You wail. Trust me. The longer I live, the more I realize that every family is almost as crazy as mine. Keeping family drama to a minimum is as easy as saying “I do!”
Great news: your engagement is the natural time to set boundaries. Realize now that you are marrying the person of your dreams–and his/her family! Use this time between the romantic proposal and saying “I do” to teach each other and your difficult family members how to treat you. Take a look at how you handle yourself. Are you a doormat? Do you let others walk all over you, wiping their shoes on your pretty white slacks without comment? Maybe you’re a Prima Donna? Do you routinely expect others to do your bidding? Chances are that if you’re somewhere in between, you’re not dealing with these difficult people at all, so grab a cocktail and put your feet up.
Speaking up in a gentle, loving way is easier when you interject a bit of rehearsed language, and humor is a nice lubricant for getting those difficult words out. Difficult family members rarely want to wish anybody harm so always assume positive intent. Practice a couple of key phrases that feel good to you. For example, you want a black tie affair. Because you are so considerate of others’ feelings, the bridesmaids dresses you’ve selected are a classy little black dress that flatters everyone, something the girls will actually wear again! Your mother-in-law-to-be insists that since she’s paying for them, your bridesmaids will be wearing a frilly hot pink number with icky green polka dots. Gulp. What do you do?
1. Immediately consult with your maid of honor. She will feel so good to be exercising her special role for your big day!
2. Together, work up an opening phrase. Something like “Joan, thanks so much for agreeing to purchase the bridal party’s gowns”.
3. Come up with two acceptable choices, and be sure to state the challenge in a way that includes your MIL2b. “We’ve found a dress which flatters each bridesmaid, and one that they can wear at dinner parties later!” If she says, “well, what about the cute ones I picked out?” you can respectfully respond by touching her arm while stating, “yes, the festive fabric you’ve chosen will be perfect for your grandchild’s baby shower!” If she doesn’t melt with delight over the prospect, offer her a choice. “and the bridesmaids are willing to pay for their own if that works better for you.” Once you’ve shared your rehearsed phrases with her, just smile. Do NOT say another word. Let her fill the silence with a response, and you have instantly turned the tables in your favor without ugly accusations, painful insults, or obnoxious threats. Once you’ve done so, you have commanded respect in a gentle, diplomatic way that will establish important boundaries with this VIP.