The happy couple and a couple of others

Family Matters: Shimrit Nothman gives advice on how to have the happiest of Huppas.

Wedding (photo credit: Thinkstock)
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
The wedding season is upon us and for many young couples it means finalizing seating arrangements and matching the colors of the tablecloths to the napkins.
But before they can get to those happy Huppa moments, the couple usually has to face a few small hurdles along the way.
I’d like to focus on conflicts that might appear between the happy couple and their parents and offer a few pointers on what we can do to prevent them in advance.
There is a famous saying in Hebrew: “He who pays has the say”, but although many couples rely on their parents for covering their hefty wedding expenses, it’s not always clear what say the parents should have when it comes to planning the wedding, deciding on a venue or even adding people to the guest list.
Many couples assume that the money received from their parents is a gift, with no strings attached and that the parents’ job is to be there in the background to assist in case of need. In some instances it may actually be so, with parents not wanting to get involved in the actual planning of the wedding, but it seems that most parents would like to give input regarding the size of budget or to whom they get to invite to the wedding.
So before the bride-to-be bursts into tears because her parents refuse to put NIS 20,000 towards renting her dream wedding gown and the future groom gets into a shouting match with his parents because they want to invite everyone they’ve ever waved hello to at work, the couple and the parents should consider calling a family meeting to discuss such points of disagreement.
Before meeting with their parents, the couple should discuss between themselves how they envision their wedding in terms of size, location, content and budget. It’s also important for them to agree about their parents’ involvement in decision-making regarding the wedding.
Later, the couple and their parents might want to first sit separately- each child with their own parents, and discuss what sum they are willing and able to put towards the wedding. Another important thing to discuss is how big the couple wants their wedding to be and, accordingly, the approximate number of guests that the parents are expected to invite.
It’s important that both sides will be empathetic to what the other side is saying; some parents feel that they have an obligation to invite people who have previously invited them to their children’s weddings while on the other hand the bride and groom might prefer a small intimate wedding where they would personally know everyone invited.
It’s hard to navigate between two such opposing views, but making sure each side presents their expectations and reasoning will allow for a constructive discussion and might prevent unneeded stress later on, when they realize their expectations don’t match the reality.
Lastly, it’s recommended that all six will sit together, address their needs and wishes and draw a general wedding plan. The cultural background of the families might dictate a totally different understanding of how the wedding is going to look, with some families expecting prolonged speeches and others thinking that the wedding should all be about dancing and eating well. Therefore it’s important to not be shy and bring up the issues of content in order to come up with a plan that will work for all.
Meeting with the parents becomes much more challenging when they can’t have a face-to-face meeting because of geographical separation. In such cases it’s important to be creative and use the Internet as a supplementary tool, either through chats, video conversations and even group emails. In such cases, the young couple might find itself not only representing its own wishes but also acting as a mediator, dealing with cultural and language barriers.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not be judgmental about the wishes and expectations of your family and to understand that this is a very special day for all involved. With proper planning and coordination it is going to be the happiest day in the lives of the happy couple and just maybe, a couple of other people too.
Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at [email protected].
This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.