Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Planner's Guide: Wedding Casualties Part One

The word "wedding" is synonymous with love, happiness and celebration but perhaps not so much with feuds, fall outs and sadness. This is a subject that I'm unfortunately far too familiar with. I've toyed with writing about it for some time and have held back until now. I'm talking about the casualties of wedding planning, from fall outs with family and friends, to misunderstandings doing "favours" for friends who work outside of the industry.
It's a touchy subject and one that tends to end up buried under a mountain of confetti after the big day. Given the nature of the subject, I'm writing it in two parts...

The Family

When I was old enough to understand what weddings were all about, my first thought wasn't what my dress would look like or if I'd marry a prince, rather it was whether or not my dad would give me away or be allowed to be there. It might sound odd but if you've grown up with divorced parents you'll know what I'm talking about.

Me & my dad in 2007
My father was what you'd call a "weekend dad", although visits weren't as regular as that, owing to the fact he travelled a lot for work and pleasure, so being our father was more of a hobby than part of his being. It was hardly surprising then that over time we became estranged. Mum met a wonderful man who became our stepfather when I was 15 and that was that.

Up to the point I became engaged, our relationship went through various cycles of speaking and not speaking, being really close and falling out. All the while I agonised over whether or not my mother would be alright having my dad at the wedding and if the rest of my family would be able to be civil for the day. I always wanted to be a daddy's girl and would spend hours watching real weddings on Wedding TV blubbing as the bride's father walked her down the aisle. We didn't have that kind of relationship though, in fact, we hardly knew each other. So, thinking I was being diplomatic, I asked my younger brother to give me away knowing that not only would it be a lovely gesture to involve him but it meant that I wouldn't upset my father or step-dad by asking one of them to instead.

One afternoon I sat down with mum and discussed the taboo subject of "dad and the wedding" and very gracefully she allayed my fears and agreed to put the past aside for the day for me (it was my day after all and I was still his daughter) and that it was ok to invite him.

Mum accompanied me in the car to the ceremony. It was one of my favourite  moments of the day, she kept me calm.

Feeling as if a real weight had been lifted, I set about addressing our beautifully letter pressed invitations, his all ready to post the following day. I never got to send that invitation because that evening he called to say he wouldn't be coming as he felt hurt that I'd not asked him to give me away. Given his track record I'd said I thought it was obvious why I'd not asked him-you can't not help bring a child up and then claim the glory when you feel like it and that by asking my brother I'd thought I wasn't offending anyone. Surely to be present on your daughter's wedding day and see her married was enough? Apparently not.

My baby brother giving me away

Three years on, we haven't spoken since that day in May 2008, we were married that August. I've no idea if he knows about our son who is one in two weeks or how well my business is doing, that I've uncovered a whole contingency of his family through this article I wrote and that makes me feel incredibly sad.

Happy Days

For the most part, my clients' planning goes without a hitch and although I've had to be the impartial mediator at times to help them decide how to proceed through the day with their parents to ensure that both parties feel included, we've had no situations such as mine.

If you're wondering how to make it work for yourself, consider these points:

♡ If, like me your parents' relationship is particularly strained, make sure you discuss your wishes for your wedding day early on into your planning so that any issues can be resolved as much as possible by the day itself.

♡ Find a way to include both sets of parents in the planning-perhaps ask dad to find your transport and mum to shop for your dress and cake with you.

♡ A great way to keep both parents happy on the day is to have each parent host their own table with at least one familiar/neutral face on each. It'll make them feel included and should avoid any tensions.

♡ If you feel uncomfortable with a parent being at the reception in case there is bad feeling amongst other family members, then invite them to the ceremony only and arrange to have a meal together to celebrate another time. Explain your reasons. It might seem extreme, but they ought to see your side of the story.

♡ Worried about potential punch ups? Yes, I know it sounds extreme but alcohol is a wonderful catalyst for such things. Let a few trust-worthy, calm and reliable members of your party know your concerns and to keep an eye out during the day so that if anything should arise it can be diffused quickly and without a scene.

It's never an ideal situation to fall out with any family members. Weddings seem to heighten everyone's emotions, they're also the time when you find out both who is important to you and who you're important to.  Think rationally before you make any rash decisions in case you regret the consequences. In my father's case it was the nail in the coffin for us-I saw that his reputation was more important than me and I've closed that chapter.

On a happier note, when a family is close there's nothing more wonderful than seeing them spending time celebrating together at the wedding and I love being an honorary member for the day.

How are you finding planning with your family? Are you in or have you been in a similar situation?

Next Week...Wedding Casualties Part Two: Friends & Favours. 

Image Credits: Matt Faber Photography 


  1. Great post. And always refreshing when people are prepared to come out from behind their on-line mask to share a bit of themselves in order to help others. I applaud your bravery. xx

  2. Lovely personal post, thank you for sharing. We had a pretty emotional 18 months of fall outs in the run up to our wedding. Things i am still too bitter to talk about. I wrote down all my feelings for a post on my blog, but cant bring myself to publish it. Maybe one day. Thank you for been so open :) x

  3. Fantastic and honest post, I see this all the time as a wedding photographer, not always very extreme but still enough to cause anguish and difficulty to the bride and groom who always end up trapped in the middle. Thank you for this

  4. A great post on a subject too often not talked about. So sad to see when arguments kick off at a wedding and the more we can do to avoid that the better.

  5. Great post Tiff! I have had the same situation with my 'real' father. He doesn't even know I'm married or about to have his grandchild. I am happy in knowing I had a fabulous father in my stepdad who sadly passed away last Christmas. My stepdad was the one who gave me away at my wedding and he will forever be a real Dad in my eyes because he was always there for me. xxxxxxxx

  6. Oh, I really feel you. My parents are divorced and everyone is capable of being civil to one another - a blessing that I don't take for granted. In a family with an emotional history as checkered as they come, however, there are lots of hidden tensions and problems that hardly ever surface. My mother started a huge and incredibly painful rift 6 weeks before my wedding in December; while not the first time this has happened, it was definitely the worst. I found wedding planning really stressful for a variety of reasons but I never anticipated being caused that kind of pain by a parent so close to such an important occasion and it magnified the existing stress by the power of about 150.

    My memories of my wedding are definitely tinged with a sense of loss because of the pain I was feeling in the lead up to the day, so I too read accounts of weddings filled with immense familial pride and love with a little bit of regret that no matter how hard I tried, that wasn't how mine ended up.

    I love my husband more than anything and we have so many people who love us, including my mother despite everything, and for that we are immensely grateful. However, weddings are a crucible for all the emotions you and your families are feeling, and those can sometimes be destructive. Thank you for highlighting the somewhat imperfect role that families can play...

  7. Love this post and father issue was one of the things that filled me with terror over my big day! You did your level best to accommodate him, and this is to be commended! Thanks so much for this post, as I think in this new millennium of different family types – the family part of the wedding these days tends to be the hardest part. But, most of all thanks for you honesty x

  8. Great Post! well done for opening up! I had the same issue. I have a very bad realionship with my father, and decied not to tell him aboout my wedding, as I simply didn't want him to be there. I asked my mother to give me away which she did and she was wonderful. My dad found out by accident a year later that I was married never called me, but did send a card. we havn't spoken about it and never will, I think by me not asking him to the wedding showed him I no longer wanted him in my life!

    weddings can be hard when it comes to family issues and as planners we have to know how to manage tricky situations. your advice is brilliant, well done.


  9. Nikki@KnotsandKisses15 September 2011 at 16:30

    What a fabulous post! I've often had brides ringing torn up about seating issues and problems with their families and the ettiquette which is expected at weddings. This can often cause so much heartbreak and is often really unnecessary.
    Very brave of you to share so openly! x

  10. Really lovely post - just sorry you had to go through that. I'm very lucky in that, although I have divorced parents, I'm very close to both of them. Thankfully they are both willing to grit their teeth and share a top table, but it wasn't always that way and I really feel for you.

    Thanks for sharing this story and for helping others through this dilemma xxx

  11. I had a situation with one of my Grandma's - who really isn't a part of my life at all, but who I felt needed to be there - only problem was, I knew I'd offend people in having here there. It was a tough one. In the end we went with what felt right at the time, but it was a tough call.

    I can imagine you had to dig deep and how it must have been quite painful to open your heart up to write this very personal post Tiff - looking forward to that heart to heart later over the phone :)

    Well done my darling


  12. I cannot add to anything all these amazing supporters said to you because I would tell you the same. You are a brave woman and it is so sad that your father does not know that despite the emotional heartbreak you have a beautiful family and a thriving business. Bless you and your family. I think you are amazing.

  13. This was an amazing post and I can relate to it on so many levels!! I surely hope your father comes around so that he can see the family that you have and the business that you have, but if not, keep your head up and keep on pushing. It's what I tell myself every day!!

  14. What a heartfelt and interesting post, Tiff. You're quite right about the emotions being super heightened on the day and I wish that some family members could remember that it's not about them!

  15. Great post! Like you, my Dad didn't play a big role in my life. I knew he wouldn't walk me down the aisle but I was conflicted on who would. I really wanted to ask my paternal Grandfather who did play a big role in my life and to represent that side of my family. However even though my dad wasn't a big role in my life, I was worried that that gesture would offend him or worse yet make my Grandparents feel awkward. In the end my Mom walked me down and I think that was a perfect fit as she did raise me and was always there for me. She was the one that was actually "giving me away." In addition I think it was just as meaningful to her. My Dad did attend but he left super early and I think it was because he did feel awkward. I made a point awhile ago to realize those were his issues and not mine and not let it get to me. I actually haven't spoken with him since and we will celebrate one year on October 15th.

  16. A very heartfelt post, and one I'm sure wasn't easy to write. My 'real' dad left the scene when I was just a little girl and it still hurts to this day at times. Although I have a wonderful step-dad who I consider to be my real dad - he picked me up when I fell and hugged me when I cried. My 'real' dad is out there and doesn't know me, know how my life turned out, that I'm married, expecting a baby girl of my own. I didn't have the choice to involve him in my wedding as we have never been in contact. My husband and I decided to get married in New York to have a wedding day completely to ourselves and our families both completely supported it. Whatever decisions you make on your wedding day they should ultimately be about you as a couple, and those that truly love you will always understand.

  17. Such an honest post, thank you for sharing your story. It's so important to highlight that weddings aren't all sweetness and light ~ the walk down the aisle and seating arrangements can be full of such drama for modern families! Great advice on how to be aware of and tackle potential family issues.

  18. Tiffany- this is such an open and honest post. I've actually had the same debate in my head since I got engaged...who to walk me down the aisle? I found your post really helpful. Thank you! xo

  19. What a lovely picture of you and your Mum on your wedding day Tiffany. Obviously your Dad missed out big time and not to know your gorgeous little boy is very sad too but, that is his choice. An interesting subject for discussion and one which obviously affects many. x

  20. Lovely girl you are a credit to your mum and your family, Heres hoping your words of wisdom and understanding fall on the right ears

  21. Such a difficult situation.

    You obviously did the right thing.

    What a beautifully written post.

  22. love it tiff and love you xxxx

  23. Tiff a brave and honest post and seems like you made the right decisions all along but I can only imagine how hard this was for you.

    It's so sad that this happens all too commonly and I agree that weddings can definitely be a catalyst for family feuds. I've had a few couples and friends with similar situations and it does add so much more stress to what should be a happy and celebratory occasion for them and everyone else.

    It's very selfish for someone to let their pride stand in the way and I have to say if they aren't there to support then it's their loss entirely and something I'm sure they will always regret.

    Well done for the post, it's a difficult but important discussion and hopefully helps those going through similar situations. xo

  24. Well done Tiffany for sharing such a personal story but one I'm sure will help many realise the diffulties that can be there and some of the things you can do to help the situation x

  25. What a touching blog post Tiff!
    A subject that is rarely (if ever?) covered yet a very common issue at weddings. Very original.
    Beautifully written and from the heart. Good for you, and you're a stronger woman for it!
    Sure your advice will help many x

  26. Very brave personal post Tiffany. One that clearly resonates with a lot of people. Thats also very useful advice for any couple. xx