It’s easy to say that the height of the centerpieces or number of flowers in the bouquets don’t really matter, but once wedding planning is in full swing, even the smallest details suddenly become extremely important.
And that’s when the fights begin. You and your sweetheart are finally preparing to say “I do,” and your quest to put on the best wedding ever is hitting a few bumps in the road. Suddenly, you two are disagreeing over everything from silverware to Aunt Sally’s offer to do an interpretive dance during dinner.
The answer lies in compromise. Learn how to smooth over those pre-wedding tiffs or, in some cases, prevent them from happening altogether. You’ll be happier, your wedding will be beautiful, and you and the love of your life can enjoy the big day the way you both deserve.
1. There are only two people in your marriage — make decisions accordingly
There are a few things in life that can turn seemingly sane relatives into total disasters: weddings, babies, and sporting events. Chances are your nuptials won’t fall on Super Bowl Sunday, so you won’t have to worry about that last issue, but wedding planning is almost guaranteed to bring a barrage of opinions your way.
Before your fiancé’s mom can insist you wear her awful 80s-style wedding dress or Grandpa’s fascination with an obscure religious tradition threatens your idea for a beach ceremony, sit down with your partner and think about what you want. It’s understandable to want to keep everyone happy, but “everyone” includes you too. Having your own concept and rough blueprint in mind before bringing family into the planning mix can help give you the confidence to say “no, thank you” before you find yourself decked out in 100 pounds of taffeta and tulle.
There is one major caveat here: If you’re relying on your parents or other relatives to fund your wedding, it might not be so easy to ignore their input. Decide quickly whether you want a smaller wedding you can pay for and control in its entirety or a large, go-all-out party that won’t cost you a cent but may involve letting your mother-in-law have her “Pretty in Pink” wedding invitations instead of the art deco motif you really wanted.
2. Make a pact to maintain perspective
Before wedding planning kicks off, agree to focus on the big picture and help keep each other in check if your ideas get bigger than your budget. You’ll be amazed how quickly your initial desire for a small, intimate affair can snowball into a 400-person guest list when relatives start inviting themselves and you realize how many sorority sisters your soon-to-be spouse has.
Before things get out of hand, bring your better half back down to earth with a reality check. This isn’t a compromise as much as it is a reminder of what you determined was most important at the get-go. You can even have a code word, like “bananas”. If you see your sweetheart eyeing caviar and blinis when you already set a per-person food budget of $18, it’s time to yell “BANANAS” before it’s too late.
3. Know your non-negotiables
If there are certain wedding-day elements that are super important to you, disclose those preferences at the beginning. Maybe you don’t care so much about the cocktail hour, but you can’t imagine your wedding day without a swing band. Maybe music is an afterthought in your mind, but you’ve always dreamt of having lilies blanketing the tables at your reception.
It’s fine to fight for the things you have your heart set on, but that means you’ll likely have to compromise on something else. You get your swing band, and your fiancé (or fiancée) gets their pigs in a blanket.
4. Establish which questions are subject to the “one no, two yesses” rule
The “One No, Two Yesses” rule is exactly as it sounds. Whatever the issue is, it takes one person saying no to make it a non-starter, and it requires two yesses to forge ahead. Because this is so black and white and leaves little room for negotiation, it’s best to reserve this rule for issues that could potentially ruin the big day.
- Inviting exes or problematic family members
- Including pets or children in the ceremony
- Offering meat products if one of you is vegetarian or vegan
5. When in doubt, list it out
Lists are one of the handiest tools you have at your disposal while wedding planning. Writing out your must-haves and can’t-stands makes it clear to everyone what’s in play and which options should be put to bed permanently.
When a conflict arises over venue choice or who’s doing the readings during the ceremony, sit down and make lists. You’ll each separately write down five options you approve of and five you don’t. Compare the lists and start your planning using items for the “yes” lists. Anything on the “no” lists is automatically out. Everything else is fair game.
6. Veni, vidi, VETO
“I came, I saw, I said NO WAY.” Veto power gives couples the right to nix an idea outright. No discussion, no arguments, just saying bye-bye to the other party’s dream of driving off post-reception in a monster truck. The problem with veto power is that it’s kind of intoxicating and becomes very easy to abuse. To keep things from getting out of hand, set a veto limit — three is a good number.
That means each half of the happy couple has three vetoes they can use whenever and however they like (items on the non-negotiable wish list, discussed above, should still be untouchable). Your beau wants a squadron of Scottish bagpipers to play as you walk down the aisle? Feel free to use your veto — just be forewarned that his second suggestion could be even more interesting!
7. Combine ideas whenever possible
So, you want to get married in the forest and your fiancée is dead set on a fancy ballroom. Or maybe it’s an issue with geographic location and you’re arguing the virtues of a San Diego wedding (the city you both currently live in) versus one in your hometown of Chicago. Perhaps it’s even worse, and you can’t agree on whether you should have carrot cake with cream cheese icing or lemon chiffon with raspberry jam.
Good news! Compromise doesn’t always mean one person giving in and the other winning. Sometimes everybody scores because you can blend two ideas and create a memorable, one-of-a-kind result. Bring the outdoors in and decorate that grand ballroom with live trees and twinkly lights that look like stars. Have a San Diego wedding now and a big party in Chicago later. Ditch the huge wedding cake and order up dozens of cupcakes instead, with several flavors represented. It’s a delicious way to come to an agreement that doesn’t make anyone feel like they’re losing out.
8. Insist on sharing the planning responsibilities
We’ve talked about what happens when everybody wants to have their say, but what about a partner who doesn’t seem to have any input at all? It’s a real bummer when you’re knee-deep in vendor phone calls and Pinterest boards and you seem to be the only person invested in the outcome. Start by taking a moment to consider that not everyone shows their enthusiasm the same way. Even more importantly, your sweetheart can love you unconditionally and still not love planning a wedding.
That doesn’t mean you should shoulder the entire burden alone, though. This compromise is all about finding middle ground as to who does what. Ask Mr. or Mrs. Ho-Hum to pick three projects they can get excited about and tell them to get to work. They don’t have to adore every moment of boutonniere designing and tablecloth comparisons, but they should participate. The end is so very worth the effort.
9. Don’t ask for an exception unless you’re willing to make an exception
Think back to those ground rules you and your partner laid out right after you got engaged. How would you feel if he or she asked to break one? That’s the thought process you need to go through before you even consider asking for an exception. If you’ve agreed not to invite extended family like aunts, uncles, and cousins to help keep the head count low, asking later to have your Uncle Rex make an appearance could open a huge can of worms.
One last thing about compromising: Remember to always come at negotiations and disagreements from a place of love. After all, love is what brought you together. Avoid jumping to conclusions, try not to differences of opinion personally, and make every effort to keep conflict from sucking the fun out of the wedding planning process. You’re building the biggest, most magical day of your life one piece at a time. How cool is that?