Q: Hello APW,
My fiancé and I have quietly gotten engaged, and I couldn’t be happier. Because of COVID we are on an extended planning timetable, so no real concrete booking has happened, and we are fine with waiting until the pandemic clears up. Right now we’re just discussing our ideal wedding visions, which is great, save one thing.
My sister and I are very different people. Her vibe is rustic and wooden; mine is neon and metallic. My fiancé and I want the wedding to be themed to a very popular nerd franchise from our youth, and I can already feel the condescension emanating from her. She is also very type-A and will definitely try to influence what happens at my wedding.
In years past, she’s told me my quirkier ideas for my fantasy wedding (nerd theme, food trucks, non-traditional ceremony with all adult participants) “aren’t going to happen”, like she has some sort of power there (or like I had a mystery partner stashed somewhere who’d propose.) At the time I laughed it off, but now that a wedding is actually in the cards, I’m concerned. She’s already made overtures about having “planning meetings” and my parents, God bless them, are just glad she’s taking an interest in my life.
I do not want her idea of a wedding, and I’m definitely not going to change things that my fiancé either wants, or backs me up on wanting. At the same time, I don’t worry about my sister’s behavior as a bridesmaid or a part of the wedding, just this, and don’t want to poison our relationship. How do I cut off the potential for drama in these early stages?
A: Listen… I am both sisters here. I am the overbearing, type-A, control freak who thinks she knows best. I am also the sister who likes what she likes and is going to do her wedding her way, so don’t try to stop me. And… AND… I am a person who has no sisters and no family around who want to help and be involved in my wedding planning. I see your conundrum from every angle. But, let me start by telling you that you are right. This is your wedding and your partner’s wedding, and it can look and be exactly as you two want it to be. I mean that wholeheartedly. Your sister doesn’t have to like your neon nerd franchise wedding theme because, well, it’s NOT HER WEDDING.
What now? Well, it sounds like your sister is a solid human. You’re not worried about her being a part of your wedding (I can’t say the same about most of my family), she’s shown that she wants to put in the time and effort to help (which is really kind, wedding planning takes a lot), and it seems pretty clear that she’s generally well-meaning. I’d say, you just have to rip that uncomfortable band aid right off. Ask your sister to come over for a cup of coffee, or to meet up for a walk, just the two of you. There’s no doubt that your wedding plans will come up naturally in conversation and then you can take that moment to spill your heart.
You don’t have to be mean or aggressive, you can just let her know that you’re so grateful for her enthusiasm and excited to have her help as you plan your wedding. You can tell her that you know your dream wedding looks very different from hers and different from what she might have seen on Pinterest—but that you and your partner are totally aligned on what you want. You can fill her in on all your big dreams, and share how you are excited to really get planning as this pandemic nonsense starts to clear up. You should ask her what sort of things she wants to help with, like, what would really bring her the most joy. Take this moment to let her know that you love her, and can’t wait to have her stand with you as a part of your bridal party. If she pushes back or falls into her old “that’s not gonna happen” ways… you can remind her that you’d never try to push her to have metallic superhero art at her wedding, and so you’d appreciate it if she didn’t try to push burlap and mason jars on you. I really think that with some honesty, vulnerability, and boundaries, she’ll be able to see that you know what you want, and you love her, too.
The beautiful part is, that you can get this done now, and spend the next year(s) of your planning journey with a teammate for a sister. And speaking as someone who doesn’t have that, I can tell you for sure: that’s the real gift.
“A person’s success in
lifewedding planning can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have with people [they love].” ― Timothy Ferriss (edited & updated by Alyssa Griffith)
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