Q: My fiancé and I are facing a family conundrum in planning our honeymoon. We’ve planned a destination wedding to Kauai, which is a very small island (about two hours to drive all the way around, there’s only one main road). We’ve invited guests and family to hang out the week before hand, so there will be plenty of time for catching up and getting to know people, etc. etc. Okay. So, we’d like to honeymoon on island the week after the wedding. As far as we can tell, most of our guests will be going home to get back to school, lives, etc. But my future-mother- and father-in-law have decided that they want to stay for the week after the wedding. We’ve tried to convince them to head to the other side of the island from where we were planning to honeymoon, but they’re not biting—they want to stay really close to us. In fact, when I hinted that we were planning to honeymoon there, my future-mother-in-law was super excited and starting talking about organizing luncheons with everyone who’s still on-island. Hints about privacy and wanting quiet time alone as a couple just aren’t getting through.
So, my question is, is it appropriate for us to simply tell my fiancé’s parents that we don’t want them to stay for the week after the wedding? They’re contributing financially to the wedding, and they’re super, super excited—we live on the opposite coast, so they don’t get to see their only son very often and they can’t come two weeks before the wedding because of vacation time. We don’t want to hurt any feelings, but also really don’t want to spend our honeymoon worried about running into parents and lunching with guests! We’ve though about honeymooning elsewhere, but then we would have to pay extra for airfare and we’re on a pretty tight budget as-is. Any advice on how to handle this?
A: Dear Anonymous,
Yes. That’s appropriate.
I don’t love telling people where and where not to put parameters with their parents. That’s usually unique to each couple. But you want your honeymoon to yourself? Yes. That’s a completely appropriate place for a boundary. Do it.
Of course, you can find a nicer way to say it than, “We don’t want you there.” But if hints are getting you nowhere, you will need to be frank. “We were hoping to have this honeymoon time to ourselves, just the two of us, without any one else.” It’s completely fair to let them know that you had planned on just winding down, relaxing, and enjoying each other during that week. You don’t even need to mention sexytimes or make crude hand gestures to get the point across. Downtime is reason enough.
I can understand their excitement overwhelming their memory of, ahem, all that a honeymoon entails. But maybe a little nudge will remind them right quick. And when you give them the chance to think about it, I’m hopeful (after some possible initial hurt feelings) they’ll realize that a week to yourselves on your honeymoon just makes sense. It’s what a honeymoon is, after all. Your fiancé may know the best ways to communicate with them so they get the point, have limited hurt feelings, and will respond accordingly.
To soften the blow, see if you and your fiancé can figure out sometime soon to visit them. Cushion your, “We want to be alone,” with a nice big, “BUT, maybe we can schedule a trip to come out your way for a visit.” Also, emphasize that whole friggin week before the wedding when you all will be visiting and enjoying one another. This isn’t about avoiding spending time with them. It’s about this one specific week being off limits. Get that across to them any way you can.
Unfortunately, you can’t flat out ban your in-laws from staying that extra week. Short of hiring someone to physically place them in a boat after the wedding, there’s no stopping them from vacationing where they want, when they want. This is all about letting them know that you need alone time, and hoping that in response, they respect your wishes. Like so many of the boundaries you’ll be setting with parents for the rest of your married lives. Set the boundary, then let them respect it. Keep reiterating that boundary, with increasing firmness, if necessary. Figuring out how to enforce those boundaries so your family hears them and respects them is something you’ll have to do eventually, so you might as well start practicing now. But, hopefully, “We’d like to be alone,” is clear enough that your in-laws can start this whole thing off on a happy, respectful foot.
TEAM PRACTICAL, HOW DO YOU gently let your family know when you need some space?
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