The Engaged Couple’s Guide To Managing Family & In-Law Expectations

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f you’ve recently gotten engaged, congratulations are certainly in order! Getting engaged is an exciting and happy moment for any couple. However, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety, particularly when it comes to managing family and in-law expectations. Naturally, families can have their own set of expectations that may differ from your own, which can cause tension and conflict in the relationship. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of navigating your engagement and planning your wedding, as juggling the desires of so many people you hold so dearly can be a really difficult task. 

To help, we’ve chatted with a handful of experts on how to navigate this situation with ease. Today, we share 6 top tips for managing family and in-law expectations in the lead up to your upcoming wedding, so read on to find out more. 

Be Upfront Early On

The first, and arguably most important thing to remember when navigating a wedding with family and in-law expectations in mind is to be upfront early on. The honest truth is that it is impossible for your respective families to uphold your boundaries if they don’t even know what they are in the first place. This is why it is imperative that you communicate your expectations clearly as soon as possible. This means expressing your views and desires for the date and venue of the event, how many guests you would like to invite to your wedding, the theme you are going for, and everything in between. By discussing and reinforcing these ideas early in the game, you leave little room for confusion or unwanted contributions that may not be in line with your ultimate goals and vision as a couple. You can even take this opportunity to be upfront about other nuptial-related matters such as your preferred dress code or wedding registry — would you prefer cash gifts, or engagement gifts with a difference

Set Clear Boundaries

Riding the coattails of the previous point, setting clear boundaries is yet another simple yet effective way to manage family and in-law expectations with ease. Understandably, if setting boundaries isn’t exactly your strong suit, you may find this to be a challenging task. However, setting boundaries doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. In fact, it can be as simple as brainstorming with your partner letting both families know your preferences for the big day — would you rather get married at the beach instead of at a church? Do you want to plan an all vegetarian menu instead of a traditional wedding spread? If you struggle to communicate verbally, consider writing out your wishes in a letter or even an email and sending it out to your family and in-laws. 

At the end of the day, you and your significant other should decide together what your personal boundaries are and communicate them with your respective families to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Remind yourself that boundaries are allowing you to have the wedding you’ve dreamt of and deserve. It can be helpful to note that boundaries actually help to strengthen relationships and will allow things to progress at a much smoother and less stressful rate for everyone involved. 

Have An Honest Discussion With Your Partner

When it comes to dealing with two sets of families, having an honest and open discussion with your partner will make all the difference. The reality is that at some point or another, you’re going to encounter friction or disagreements with one (or both) families. Unfortunately, this can also, in turn, cause friction in your own relationship if you don’t communicate effectively with your partner. We recommend coming up with a game plan or strategy on how you will deal with potential conflicts as a united front, as well as discuss the potential arguments or disagreements you anticipate down the line. No matter what comes your way, always focus on maintaining a healthy relationship with your significant other as the number one priority. Talk openly and honestly with your partner about what you both want for your wedding and what is important to your families. Most importantly, listen carefully to each other’s concerns and ideas and try your best to find common ground.

Explore why in-law relationships can be so challenging here

Communicate With Kindness

When it comes to successfully managing family and in-law expectations throughout your engagement all the way up to your wedding, the way you communicate is just as important as the communication itself. The truth is that it is only natural to get emotional when you feel like your boundaries are not being respected, but how you deal with those emotions is paramount to your success. Communicating with kindness involves using language and actions that show respect, empathy, and consideration for others. The tone in which you say things, combined with your body language and other non-visual cues can make all the difference when communicating with your family and in-laws, so be sure to choose your words carefully. The goal should be to be kind but firm.

To help get started on your journey towards communicating with kindness, we recommend taking note of this helpful formula in the context of an outdoor wedding preference:

  1. State your observation without judgement (ie. Having an outdoor wedding is important to us). 
  2. Express your feelings (ie. It would make us really happy to have our outdoor wedding wishes fulfilled). 
  3. State your needs (ie. We need for you to understand and respect this decision).
  4. Make your request, if necessary (ie. Would you like to help us review locations?). 

Delegate The Duties 

Remember — just because you’re setting clear boundaries with both families doesn’t mean that they’re cut out from the wedding planning process. In fact, delegating duties to each family member can be a fantastic way to lift spirits and get everyone feeling like they’re an important and cherished part of the planning process. You could consider asking your family and in-laws to look into different caterers, florists, and wedding planners. If you want them to spearhead communication with the vendor in question, go for it! You could also schedule regular meetings with your family and in-laws to discuss wedding planning details. This will show that you value their input and want them to be a part of the process. 

At the end of the day, wedding planning can be stressful, and involving your family and in-laws can be a great way to alleviate some of the pressure and make the process more enjoyable for everyone. Remember to express gratitude and appreciation to your family and in-laws throughout the wedding planning process. Let them know how much you appreciate their help and support, but also remind them that the wedding day is about celebrating you and your partner’s love. Explore 10 wedding planning tasks that you can delegate here

Compromise & Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

If there’s one thing to remember, it is that compromise is king when managing family and in-law expectations through the wedding planning process. Wherever possible, we recommend finding a way to meet the needs of both families and set realistic expectations. Not everyone will have the same vision for your wedding day, but compromise is essential. While we’re on the topic of compromise, it’s equally important to ensure that you don’t sweat the small stuff. Wedding planning can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, but it’s important to not set unrealistic expectations or micromanage things that don’t require that level of attention to detail. A simple example is: you may dream of a giant vanilla wedding cake, but your family and/or in-laws may prefer chocolate. Instead of getting stressed about this small detail, consider compromising by settling for a multi-layered cake with different flavours that will please everyone. Sure, it may not be 100% in line with your vision, but it’s a worthy trade-off that won’t take anything away from your special day. 

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And there you have it — everything you need to know about managing family and in-law expectations as a newly engaged couple. Remember that your wedding day is about celebrating your love and commitment to each other, but it’s also an opportunity to bring your families and in-laws together. By managing their expectations with care and respect, you can create a special day that everyone will cherish.

What are some of your personal tips for successfully managing family and in-laws during the wedding planning process? Be sure to share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below!