Weddings: the petri dish of family drama

Weddings: the petri dish of family drama


So there I was at a barre class in Seattle, and after class the woman next to me was all, "Um, are you Offbeat Bride?" and I was all, "Totally," and she was all "I follow you on Instagram."

Her name was Nicole, and after class we got into a quick conversation about some of the wedding planning challenges she was dealing with.

"My family doesn't understand some of my choices," Nicole said. "It's really frustrating to have to explain myself and defend my ideas over and over again."

"Totally," I said. "Really, your wedding is just an opportunity to act as an ambassador... presenting your lifestyle and your choices to your family is an ongoing process, but wedding planning brings it all the forefront. Wedding planning is totally a petri dish of family dynamics."

This is all to say, all sorts of your interests and lifestyle choices probably seem a little odd to your family, but until you're planning a wedding, it's easy to just sort of ignore the differences. It's not until you have the combination of two families coming together, social anxiety, financial considerations, religious and cultural traditions that all these things are forced up into your face.

If you have the energy for it, wedding planning can be a really amazing opportunity to give your family and other community members a hand-guided tour through your more offbeat interests and choices. I've always loved when people use their wedding programs as a chance to educate and inform guests, letting them in on the in-jokes and cultural references of your wedding that they may not understand.

This concept of being a "weirdo ambassador" isn't a new one in these parts. Anyone remember this post I wrote for Offbeat Home & Life a while back? The tl;dr there is that if you're outspoken and demonstrative about your nontraditional choices, you have the amazing opportunity to answer people's questions about those choices! (Note my language here: It is an opportunity, even if sometimes it feels frustrating.)

But of course aesthetic choices are just the tip of the iceberg - planning your wedding will bring all sorts of larger issues to the forefront like financial and wedding budgeting issues (how does your family approach conversations about money? What are the dynamics around gifts and loans? How do you talk about savings or wedding debt?) and social obligations (how does your family feel about dealing with abusive relatives? What about wedding invitation tit-for-tat?).

You're also going to be on the front-lines of communication dynamics, navigating how your families deal with boundary issues (pushy? passive aggressive?) and conflict resolution.

None of these issues are unique to weddings... communication styles, money issues, social dynamics and are all ongoing family issues. Depending on how old you are, your wedding just might be the first time you're confronting these issues head-on as an adult, on even (ish) standing with your parents and other elders. For some of us, wedding planning is a big fat "welcome to adulting!" party. This isn't to fear-monger - adulting is awesome (really!), but it can definitely be a challenging level-up when it comes to finding new ways to deal with family drama.

Luckily, we here at Offbeat Bride have got your back. We've got sooooo many posts about how to constructively deal with family drama. Here are a few of the most popular:

Try searching our archives for the family drama you're dealing with... with over 7000 posts, chances are decent that we've at least touched on the problems you're having. And if you can't find anything? LEAVE A COMMENT! We're happy to help...

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