At the start of wedding planning, my fiancé and I had a very clear idea of what kind of wedding we wanted. We quickly chose a destination that meant a lot to us and that many of our guests would enjoy traveling to. After a while, it became clear that no one in my fiancés family had any interest in going—or could not afford it. His family lobbied for us to move the wedding to his home state, which was not even our second choice (I’m from another country and would have preferred to get married there, but again, his family couldn’t make it). The deal was thus that if we just hold the wedding where they wanted, we could do all the other arrangements as we pleased—they were just happy to be able to be there.
Although not our first choice, this arrangement turned out to be perfect. All kinds of services and vendors are available, and friends and family from around the world are excited to come. Until now. Suddenly the demands are coming. Although the guest list was fixed and we had agreed on an intimate and personal ceremony, we are now getting requests to invite peripheral family that we’ve never even met. We’re being asked to include certain traditions that we do not consider ours. But most of all, we are now being what feels like forced into having a priest. We’ve told his parents many times that we do not intend to have one. My fiancé is religious but particular about his choice in clergymen, and he is not interested in a stranger officiating on a most personal day. And me, I’m not religious at all. My main concern is having to lie in my wedding day and make promises about a god I don’t believe in. I have told them I am open to include a religious reading or blessing in our otherwise secular ceremony, but so far I’ve gotten nowhere. His parents have now taken the step of talking to my parents to get them to convince me to have a religious ceremony. And they’re being moved… I feel like I am being bullied on all fronts now, and that the ceremony we’ve carefully been working on with our good friend who we intend to officiate is but a dream. How can I keep refusing their requests without making enemies? Will our guests think our secular ceremony is a hoax? Should I give in and declare my love for God and feel like a sell-out on “our” day? Any advice would be most helpful.
Is it just me, or does adulthood feel like a succession of compromises? I feel like I’m constantly trying to decide where to stand firm, and where it’s okay to ease off. Picking a spouse is like that. You’ve gotta decide what things are important (that she’s intelligent) and what things you can sort of get over (that she’s got a stupid laugh). The same goes for weddings. There are things that it’s okay to compromise on, and then there are times when you just need to stand your ground. It’s really not my place to tell you what makes an acceptable compromise and what doesn’t. I mean, maybe her laugh really is that annoying. But, let’s be honest, I’m probably gonna tell you what to do anyway.
We talk a lot about the wedding as an opportunity to bring your loved ones together and honor them. Because of that, yeah, what your parents think factors in. But more important than honoring the people you love, your wedding is about making a promise to one another as a couple. That’s the primary purpose of the whole day. Making that promise about something you don’t believe, to someone you don’t believe in? That sounds like a big mistake. This is it. This is the foundation you’re building your marriage around. This is the commitment that serves as the basis of it all. To parse out, “Well, I meant this part, but not really this one,” just sort of muddies the whole thing.
Beside all of that, if you don’t sort out this religion stuff now, it will (more likely than not) creep up later. Parents will furrow brows or make side-eye when there are no christenings for grandbabies. There will be guilt trips heavy with exasperated sighing over whether or not you were in a church on Christmas and Easter. And even if I’m wrong and the religion-pushing stuff dies off after the ceremony, butting heads with parents over whether or not they get a say, probably will not. This is the chance to begin to lay the groundwork for standing firm. Although it may take several rounds of reestablishing boundaries before they stick, it gets a little, teeny, tiny bit easier with some practice.
The guest list is a bit of a different story. Take a look at those two major meanings of the wedding day that I gave you above. First and foremost, to make a promise to your partner. Second, to involve and honor and celebrate the people you love. Those two main ideas should serve as the basis for each decision. (I mean, most of them. Some of it is just, “Oooh, this is pretty!”) The question is, which parts of the wedding are about honoring your family, and which parts are about representing and building the foundation for yourselves as a couple? It’s possible that keeping the wedding small is really tied up in how you view your relationship to your partner. But it’s possibly more likely that the guest list is just the guest list, and tacking on a few extra people would be a nice way to love your family.
I know you sort of hoped to avoid navigating that, but, sorry, tradesies don’t work in weddings. You can’t say, “Well, now that you’ve weighed in on this part, you’re not allowed to care about the rest.” Your parents are going to care. It’s up to you to now begin navigating which parts of your wedding, and later your marriage, their care impacts.
Team Practical, how did you determine where to compromise with family on the wedding day? Did any of you have religious services, despite not being religious yourselves?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!