I spend a good amount of time in a Facebook group for “Brides on a Budget” these days, it’s a group that has welcomed me in without reservations, despite not being a “Bride”. It’s been an interesting group and I have gotten some great ideas from the posts and discussions.
One recurring topic that I have seen, from some of the brides to be, is concern about their future mother in laws, often referred to as FMiL, and requests that the FMiL have for the wedding, the wedding party, or the guest list. Not all of these topics are equal, and there are a lot of moving parts that can impact how one should respond to such requests. But I also have insights from other former brides, hundreds if not thousands, of married couples, and a sizable number of divorced parties who have shared their experiences with me over the years. So I have a little bit of wisdom to impart.
In the past, tradition often dictated that the brides family was paying for the wedding. In those days, it was more common for the brides family to take priority in a lot of the decision making. The grooms family would be responsible for the rehearsal dinner. But the Brides family had the bulk of the planning work, and the financial burden. So as time marches forward, some old traditions have given way to more of a common sense approach. Sometimes both families will put in for the costs, and sometimes it is the couple that pays, with or without help.
Tradition may dictate several aspects of the day still, but those traditions vary from one family to the next, and one culture to the next. It is important to be respectful of your partners family and their traditions when it comes time to plan for your wedding day. Your future spouse may come from a family that prizes friendships as family. They might have special religious considerations that they view as essential to any successful marriage. It is possible that your future spouse doesn’t put much stock in those traditions, but it can still be important to them to see their parents honored on the day of your wedding.
As I outlined in the article ‘Her Day?‘, you don’t go to the alter alone, you don’t get married by yourself. Just as you don’t go alone, you also don’t go as just you and your immediate family. It is a day that brings two families together, yours and your future spouses. While the ceremony may be about you and your partner, it represents an ancient and time honored tradition of uniting two families. You aren’t only marrying your partner, you are becoming a part of their family, and they are becoming a part of yours.
Your future spouse has every bit as much the same right as you do to have certain wants and needs fulfilled on that day of union. Every allowance you grant your own mother, or father, you should also seek to extend to your FMiL, and FFiL. Are you letting your mother invite her girlfriends, even if you don’t really know them? Are you letting your father invite his golfing buddy? These are people you may not know, you may not even really like, but if you allow your parents any number of invites, you should extend the same to your future in laws.
Your parents are inviting people they want to share this day with, people who are important to them, people they would likely invite to your birthday party if you were a young child, people they can lean on, cry with, celebrate with. People they want to show you and your partner off to, and crow about how beautiful their daughter or son is. If this day was all about you and your partner, there would be no need to invite others, but we do because we want to share in the joy of the moment with those other people. And everyone, especially your parents, and theirs, deserves to have people they know, are comfortable with and with whom they can enjoy this time of celebration.
Now, this isn’t absolute. If your parents are paying for the whole thing, or even just paying for the caterer, they may get greater allowances than your future in laws, same goes if it’s flipped. It’s their dime after all, so they might have terms that they do get to dictate. If you don’t like those terms, you have choices, you can pay for these things yourself. But you don’t get to take without giving something back, so be prepared to make compromises.
When it comes to last minute requests, you can control this by putting your foot down on firm deadlines. But always be reasonable. There are things that can be done, even after a deadline, so show grace and respectful regard to those with whom you have shared most of your life, and those with whom your partner has shared most of theirs.
Treat your future in laws as if they are your own parents. This doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything they have to say, or even seriously consider every opinion they offer, but be respectful, and thank them for their suggestions and feedback. Remember this above all, these may be your future in laws, but they are your partners parents. And your partner has to deal with them for as long as life allows. So do not make it difficult for them, and don’t make it difficult for yourself. Start your marriage on happy notes, not stressful discord.