Wedding Stress: staying true to yourselves and navigating family pressure while wedding planning.
Interview with Kinship Collaborative.
Is wedding planning causing you a lot of stress? Do you have mixed emotions and feel overwhelmed? No one tells you how intense wedding planning can be, or the wedding day itself for that matter. It’s ok to feel a range of emotions and not just excitement or happiness.
As well the anxiety of organising the logistical side of things, wedding planning can bring up a whole host of issues within a family and also between you and your partner. While some of them might seem trivial, they’re often triggered by deeper, more powerful feelings that affect the dynamic of your relationship and those around you. Strong beliefs about how wedding days are supposed to be will also play a part in wedding planning stress.
I’m a huge fan of approaching your entire wedding journey with mindfulness and an open mind so when I found Kinship Collaborative, I was hooked. Every new situation in life can be taken as an opportunity for growth so why should your wedding be any different? Elizabeth has kindly written a mini guide on how to navigate family pressure while staying true to yourself while wedding planning.
Could you tell me in a few words who you are and what you do?
“I’m Elizabeth Wellington, and I’m a psychotherapist and newlywed! I got engaged in September 2018 and was totally shocked by the intensity of the emotional experience. Fortunately, I have an amazing relationship with a therapist, and with her guidance, I was able to really leverage the craziness of the time to learn a lot about myself, to understand my family and their surprising behaviour a bit better, and to use this transitional period of “wedding planning” to ready myself for marriage with my now husband. Out of this experience, I founded Kinship Collaborative, a community that offers support, therapeutic services and resources for nearlyweds.”
What five words best describe the spirit of Kinship Collaborative?
• Nurturing yet Challenging
• Feelingful 🙂
Do you have any projects on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?
“I am currently creating a self-directed online course about navigating family dynamics while wedding planning!”
What advice would you give couples to help them stay true to themselves and have the wedding they want whilst navigating family pressure?
“Planning a wedding that is true to you, and that also complies with family expectations, can truly feel like an impossible task (and it sometimes is!). In order to navigate this confusing, unchartered territory, it is crucial to take time to contemplate what is actually happening during wedding planning. It is easy to think: “Yay! I am getting married! And now I get to plan the wedding of my dreams!” and that is that. However, in reality, planning a wedding becomes difficult because a wedding is loaded with meanings, expectations and pressures. You might think that all you are doing is planning a celebration, but this is so mistaken! “
Wedding Stress: 4-step mini-guide to staying true to yourself whilst navigating family pressure by Kinship Collaborative.
Elizabeth has so much great advice that she kindly put together this mini-guide to help you unravel difficult emotional situations while wedding planning. Are you ready?
Step 1: Define what the wedding means to you (and your fiance)
Many of us have been taught since we were children what a wedding is supposed to look like. We received these messages, and continue to receive them, from the media, from advertising, from family and cultural standards, from royal weddings and from Instagram. As a result, it can be hard to tease out what you (and your fiance) actually want your wedding to look like based on your shared values, interests, personalities, etc., from what we’ve been taught a wedding “should” look like. I talk to so many brides-to-be who say that they became engaged, and then they sort of black out, and the next thing they know they wake up, have a dress they never thought they’d wear, and a venue that never seemed that cool, and every traditional trapping of a marriage arranged.
Ask yourself, and perhaps include your fiance:
• What does this wedding day mean to us? What does it symbolize? How can we represent our love for each other, as well as our individual desires, personalities, and values, through our wedding day? How much does tradition matter to me/us?
Step 2: Empathize with your family
A wedding is a symbol of about a million different things to different people. For example, it is the symbol that you are breaking from your family of origin to begin a new family with your future spouse. This is wonderful, AND it also might bring up unexpected feelings in the people around you! Some parents feel sadness around the “loss” of their darling child, but feel confused about this feeling when another part of them feels joyful and excited. They end up denying the sadness, but the sadness doesn’t go away! So, you might see this sadness leaking out through their behavior. Or, some parents view their child’s wedding as an opportunity to represent the family’s status, wealth, or other image into the community, and become surprisingly pushy and opinionated to ensure their vision is adequately portrayed. These are just two examples, and there are endless others!
Ask yourself, and perhaps include your fiance:
• What does this wedding day mean to our parents? What feelings might each of them be experiencing? How can I tell?
• What are the explicit and implicit (i.e. spoken and unspoken) expectations our parents/family have for our wedding day?
Getting clear about this can help you to find empathy in the midst of the frustration you might be feeling for them, which can help to guide your decision-making, as well as the communication you will do in Step 4.
Step 3: Prioritizing and Risk Assessment
As you and your partner make decisions about how to plan a wedding that is true to you, it is critical to contemplate what, if any, are the risks associated with not complying with your family’s expectations, and thereby disappointing and alienating them.
If the risk involved is an emotional one (i.e. disappointing them), can you tolerate that? If the risk is potentially more dangerous (humiliation, obvious shaming, familial rejection), can you tolerate that? Would that have lasting repercussions that feel intolerable to you? Getting really clear about your priorities, both short- and long-term, is the most important step of this process. If you simply cannot tolerate the idea of having mum or dad angry with you, or provoking their anger, and your wedding venue is important but to a lesser extent, you have your answer right there. On the other hand, if you are feeling passionate about choosing a path that your family doesn’t approve of, but you can tolerate the risk of provoking their anger, this feels like a clear choice.
Ask yourself, and perhaps include your fiance:
• What are the risks for me/us associated with not complying with these expectations?
• Are we willing to take that risk in order to have the wedding we desire? Or are the risks too significant?
Step 4: Communication & Validation
Finally, do not underestimate the power of listening to your parents’ feelings and validating them! Sometimes, feeling understood and appreciated is the most profound gift, and parents can quickly get over not getting what they “want” in exchange for feeling that you fully understand their perspectives, why their desires are important to them and appreciate them.
Here are some examples of what that might sound like:
• “I want to understand why this matters to you; can you please share with me what you are thinking and feeling about this?” and then reflecting back what you’ve heard: “I understand that this matters to you because this was how your parents got married/reflects a tradition you care about/etc and you would feel really honoured if we included it.”
• Be a little vulnerable and share how you and your partner are choosing to make the day meaningful to you, and invite your parents to participate in a special way.
• Validate that they might be disappointed: “I understand it will be disappointing to you if we choose not to go this route, and that is ok if you do feel that way.”
•• Remind them you love and appreciate them, and ask explicitly for their support.
Much of this process depends on your capacity to get really clear about your priorities and to determine how much you can tolerate the implications of either complying with or disappointing your parents. Many of us are very uncomfortable with disappointing our parents despite having become adults. However, it is possible to use this transition into marriage to establish a new dynamic with parents and family in which you discover a newfound sense of agency and voice, empowering you to make clear decisions and feel freer to get what you want in your life.
Both Elizabeth and I hope that you’ve found this mini-guide helpful and would love to hear about your wedding planning journey and how you overcame the challenges that came up.
To get in touch with Elizabeth:
Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on IG @kinshipcollaborative!
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