What to Do When Your Family Disagrees on Ceremony Traditions

You don't want your wedding to cause tension with your parents.

what to do when you and your family disagree about the wedding
Photo by Parker J Pfister Photography

Besides the fact that it's an event you’ve likely been dreaming about since childhood, one of the reasons wedding planning is so stressful is because of family expectations. The vision your parents (or future in-laws) have for the big day may not match up with that of you and your partner. Of course, it’s your wedding, so your (and your beloved’s) opinion is ultimately the one that matters most, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say no to mom and dad. 

For those wondering why two grown adults may be hesitant to go against their parents’ wishes, the answer is often money. When the parents are paying for the celebration, they typically will exhibit more control. It also becomes harder to risk disappointing them, particularly when it comes to religious or cultural traditions that may or may not occur during the ceremony. If you know you and your family are likely to butt heads over decisions about your nuptials, then we recommend not accepting monetary contributions. It’s a lot easier to insist on doing things your way when you are in control of the purse strings. 

When possible, try to find a compromise. Are they heartbroken over your lack of a church wedding? Hire a professional officiant who can include just enough scripture to appease your family. This can work if you have the opposite problem as well. If you found religion later in life, a ceremony that celebrates your faith in an outdoor or otherwise civil venue could make your staunchly secular relatives more comfortable. If the reception is a bigger problem, embrace the after-party. If your strict parents consider alcohol or certain types of music immoral, it’s best to enjoy the fun part of your reception once the official part of the wedding is over. 

The guest list is often the largest source of drama. This is both where paying for your own wedding and compromising can come into play. Usually it is the parents who want to invite business partners and family friends, while the couple is hoping to keep things small and intimate. When you handle the bills, there is less recourse for your parents to demand a say over the guest list. If you choose to compromise, an elopement or even a ceremony with a limited number of attendees can be paired with a celebratory party at a later date. 

Learn what conversations you should have before you get married and discover how to respond to invasive questions about your wedding

Authored by: Emily Lasnier