You’ve said yes. Now you need to learn to say no! Sarah Gillespie highlights some of the most awkward big-day dilemmas – and how to get yourself out of them
Bridezilla is a label that every woman is terrified of being stuck with. We will do just about anything to avoid this demonic denomination, conjuring up as it does images of psychotic brides who hand out diet plans to the bridal party or scream at a four-year-old flower girl for missing her cue at the church rehearsal.
We spoke to Jacqui Marson, author of The Curse of Lovely: How to Break Free from the Demands of Others and Learn to Say No, and Paul Burnside of relationship experts Scottish Marriage Care (scottishmarriagecare.org), who gave us their professional opinion on how to deal with some of the most common real-life nightmare scenarios that arise when you’re planning a wedding.
“My friend has presumed she is a bridesmaid!”
This has the potential to be more awkward than bumping into your personal trainer as you leave McDonald’s. By the time you get married you’ve probably realised that BFF more often than not means ‘best friends for-a-while’. Things like university, changing careers and life in general means that most of us have loads of friends that we’ve drifted apart from, but that might not stop them from remembering you pinkie-promised after a second bottle of rosé that you could be each other’s bridesmaids.
Jacqui offers this advice: “A useful tool in this situation is a ‘feedback sandwich’. You start by saying something nice – ‘You are so important to me/I love you dearly’ – then move on to the negative ‘but I’m afraid you won’t be able to be a bridesmaid’, and then finish on a positive: can they be given another role? Could they do a reading or a speech?”
This is not an Olympic ice-skating competition – there are no scorecards
“My parents are taking up half my guest list!”
If your parents are paying for some (or all) of your wedding, they might feel they can invite whoever they like – a full table of their chums from the golf club, say, or some distant cousin you fell out with over a broken Spice Girls tape. When deciding who is on the guest list, one useful rule is that both you and H2B should have met them before. Shotgun weddings aside, your courtship should have been long enough to have allowed you to meet everyone truly important (or important enough for a £50pp meal).
“If you think this might cause conflict, it is useful to get together with your parents, perhaps over a meal in a restaurant, and let them know how appreciative you are of all their help, not just with your wedding, but over the years,” Paul says. He suggests opening up the conversation in a more general way, talking about the difficulties of having lots of people you’d like to invite but can’t. You can now gently broach the subject of the guest list, focusing on the key phrase ‘compromise’.
Jacqui agrees: “Don’t let the cost of the wedding be your relationship with your family.” You should also be realistic as to your expectations for your guest list. Will you still be friends with these people in ten years? Your family will always be your family.
“My mother-in-law offered me her dress!”
It’s the social equivalent of riding a unicycle across an ice rink – a delicate and dangerous balancing act, where one false move could result in tears and an extremely cold shoulder. Resist all temptation to scoffingly say “Only if you also have a time machine to take me back to when women actually wanted to look like Liberace in drag.”
Paul asserts that flattery will get you everywhere in this dilemma. “Firstly, ask her about the dress. Thank her for her kindness and ask to look at photos. Then talk about how you’d like your day to be, and suggest the dress might not work so well for you, mentioning that you don’t think you can carry it off as well as she did on her wedding day.”
“My groom has made only one request – but I hate it”
Wedding planning can be a weird time for grooms. Some are quite happy to let you take control – look around any wedding show and you will tend to see brides with their mum or friends. But at some point your man may have what he thinks is an inspired idea, or want to put his own stamp on the day (this article is perfect for my friend who is currently working out how to tell her fiancé that he can’t wear his rugby shorts for their wedding breakfast).
“We often see couples so caught up in the wedding that they forget about the marriage. The groom might feel left out of the wedding, so you should focus on jointly envisioning your day. He might want reassurance, so let him know that you love him and make sure throughout the planning that you talk to each other about why you want to be together and what you love about each other,” Paul says.
Jacqui suggests you look at your own thinking in this scenario too. “This is not an Olympic ice-skating competition – there are no scorecards. If people want to judge you, that’s their problem. If wearing shorts for the meal will make your groom happy then why not? If the only thing stopping you is what other people think, then train yourself to realise it doesn’t matter!”
“The suppliers are pushing me to add on extras”
You should be confident that your suppliers have extensive bridal expertise and know their stuff. That said, don’t feel obliged to take on all their recommendations once you have already agreed to a basic package or service. If you are on a tight budget, you might have selected a particular florist because they are excellent value for money, but it is so easy to get carried away, adding so many extras that even Elton John would think you’d gone OTT. Budget planning at the early stages means you can clearly communicate with everyone how much cash you have allocated for each part of the wedding, and firmly ensure your hold on the financial reins is tighter than your emergency Spanx.