There’s a saying that states that “when you marry your partner, you’re marrying their family,” and nothing could be more true when it comes to weddings. You chose each other based off your attraction toward one another, but there’s an entire family attached to each of you that come with the package.
Somewhere during your courtship you probably met each other’s families and that was a big hurdle to overcome. Sometimes it turns out well and sometimes not, but if you’ve made it to the wedding you most likely you passed the test— or you just don’t care. Maybe his mother doesn’t approve, or your dad thinks your partner isn’t good enough, but nothing compares to what it’s like when the two families don’t mesh.
Maybe your family is all about the country club and traveling while your partner’s family is more about football, Ikea, and barbecues. Your mom might be loud and outgoing while your partner’s mom is more reserved and introverted. Maybe your dad loves to go hunting while your partner’s dad is a devout vegetarian and animal rights activist. Just because you and your partner are a match made in heaven doesn’t mean your families will have similar interests or see eye to eye.
So what do you do when it’s time to bring them all together at your wedding?
Introduce Them Before The Wedding
The best thing to do to ensure that your wedding goes smoothly is to introduce your families before the wedding. It may not be easy to bring your entire families together, so start with both sets of parents. They usually set the tone for the rest of the family, so it’s a great first start.
In some cases where your parents, your partner’s parents, or both sets are divorced and now have new significant others, you may have to invite four sets of parents to come together. This can be a problem if any of the divorces did not go amicably and they parents involved don’t want to see each other, or there are bad feelings between the significant others and the exes. In this case, you’ll have to get creative and bring only two sets of parents together at a time.
Getting together before the wedding allows the parents to build some type of familiarity with each other and you can get ahead of any problems that you think might arise at your ceremony or reception.
With so many hot topics today, it’s essential to keep the conversation light. Stay away from conversations about religion, politics, diet, and money, or anything else that you know might get too heated. Try to come up with some common interests beforehand that you can bring up and steer the conversation toward. Since you each have met each others families, you have an idea of what they’re like. Use that to influence your own parents attire and behavior for that first meeting. For example, if you know your partner’s mother is very conservative in her style of dress, you might want to steer your mother away from her favorite leopard pantsuit. If you know your partner’s dad doesn’t like sports but your father is obsessed, don’t meet in a place where the game might be playing. Maybe your partner’s mother is still working long after retirement age, but your own mother never worked. It might be a good idea to steer the conversation away from topics about work, careers, etc.
No one is saying to change your parents, it’s just a good idea to make them more palatable to your partner’s family during a first meeting and just through the wedding. Prime them by letting them know about the people they will be meeting to ease the transition as much as possible.
Where to Meet
Go neutral. Meeting at a restaurant or other public place is better than meeting on any one set of parents’ turf. You want everything to be equal and as cordial as possible. Brunch is always a great idea since people are generally more energetic and lively earlier in the day.
When All Else Fails
If you can’t manage to bring your parents together before the wedding, or there is an issue where one set of parents doesn’t like your or your partner, it’s best to get creative with your seating chart and keep the families as separated as possible. But just remember, your wedding is just the beginning. Not only does it mark the start of the rest of your lives together as a couple, but if you’re planning on having children, your families are going to have to somehow mesh— they’ll most likely meet up at the hospital on the day of the birth and forever more at birthdays, holidays, little league games, school band concerts, school plays, and more.
You’ll be surprised how, over time, differences between families can subside and more into a mutual appreciation, and even love. The best you can hope for is to be able to say “I do” without any objections on your big day.