All of us who have kids, especially those with daughters, know that day will finally come. The day that your daughter (or son) tells you they want to get married.
If you’re like me, you will have figured it out far in advance of them telling you.
A little over four years ago, my eldest daughter, Alex, met an awesome guy named Ben— online. Yes, there is a Jewish dating website, called “J Date.” And even though some of us who are a bit older find it odd to think about meeting the love of our lives online, it is actually pretty commonplace. Statistics show that 33 percent of people meet their future spouses online. At first Alex didn’t want to tell anyone how they met, but over time (and after she found out one of her friends does the marketing for J-date and that she and Ben could be used as a testimonial couple), it turned out to be a great part of their love story.
Ben and Alex got engaged about 15 months ago and set their wedding date pretty quickly (it was this past weekend, on September 4). Then I started getting warnings from my friends: they said to be careful because for many families the tension of wedding planning and the power struggle—between the bride and everyone else—can become almost intolerable. Well, I’m happy to report that the past 15 months have been fantastic and almost tension-free for my daughter and me. So, I thought it might be helpful to share my secrets:
- Have great in-laws. Early on, our two families started inviting each other to family gatherings. We got to know Ben’s extended family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, family friends. And during this bonding time, his parents were super gracious and proposed we all share in the cost of their probable wedding—even before they got engaged. We could all tell that this was going to be a long-term relationship, so both sets of parents agreed to be joint hosts of the wedding, which made things much easier. This practice is not uncommon today and if your child is going to be getting married, don’t be afraid to broach the subject. And the sooner the better. It makes it easier on all parties.
- Ask your kids what role they want you to play in the planning. I’ve heard stories of how many mothers of the bride act as if it’s their wedding, which causes a lot of tension between mother, daughter, and future son-in-law. I told my daughter that I would do or not do whatever she wanted me to. I realized my most important role was to ask, “What would you like, sweetie?” I’ve found that most brides-to-be know exactly what they want. And they get frustrated when everyone around them is offering advice. Since I knew my daughter was going to have a wedding planner, I made myself available only when she asked me to do so.
- Get a wedding planner. If bride, groom, and parents all have full-time jobs, planning a wedding becomes like a second job. It is actually quite affordable to hire a planner. Not only does he or she help with all the planning and booking details, this professional is also on hand the day of the wedding to make sure everything goes perfectly.
- Make sure your kids know everyone at the wedding. I told my daughter that she and Ben should know everyone at the wedding because it’s their wedding. And thus, I told her it was OK with me if she put together the guest list. I would support her even if she didn’t want to include every one of my family and my friends. And, in fact, like most families, she couldn’t invite everyone. As it turns out, my closest friends and most of my extended family were able to attend, and the kids knew everyone at the wedding.
- Check in periodically to ask if you can do anything to help them. Because Alex and the planner were handling most everything, by checking in with my daughter, I got a regular update of what was happening. And, as the wedding date drew closer, I did get asked to do things, like check on late RSVPs, visit the florist and caterer with her, and go to dress fittings.
- Offer to get your daughter a periodic massage. I can only imagine what it’s like to have a full-time job and a busy social life, plus plan a wedding. So occasionally, I would offer to arrange for Alex to get a massage. It gave her some alone time and a break from the intense weekends filled with wedding stuff.
- Remember what it was like when you were planning your wedding. When I would get frustrated or would feel left out of Alex’s wedding planning, I would remind myself what I felt like when I was preparing for my own wedding. I remember my dad always telling me it was ridiculous what things cost. I didn’t want to worry about those details. He didn’t understand what a bride feels like when she is planning for her most special day. And my mom, who admittedly is not very domestic and eloped to Las Vegas when she and my dad got married, always deferred to him. I didn’t want to put my daughter through that angst. So we set a budget, gave Alex and Ben the money, and let them figure out the rest.
With all that being said, the wedding exceeded my expectations. My daughter invited me to spend the entire day with her and the bridesmaids as we got our hair and makeup done together. It was a wonderful bonding experience that I will never forget.
Each parent has to make his or her own decision when it comes to wedding arrangements. But no matter the budget or size of the wedding, we could all use a lot less tension and a lot more love and understanding.
It certainly worked in our case.