Expert Advice: Managing Your Family

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Once the excitement of the engagement wears off, it’s time to plan your wedding. But what if what you want is not what your family has in mind?

As a former bride, I know the challenges families can pose when it comes to planning your all-important day. Your (or your future husband’s) parents want to invite distant relatives you’ve never heard of, take over the seating plan and may even want to change your wedding vows. So what do you do? Cheryl Cecchetto, founder and president of American events company Sequoia Productions, says it is all in the planning. “When I’m with the bride and groom, I really try to coach them to not ignite an issue. If the mother-in-law thinks flowers are really important, then let’s engage her and let her be part of the flower presentation. Or if the father insists on the wines, then let’s engage him. I’m not saying we have to do it their way, but make them feel like they’re a part of it.”

Cheryl suggests seeing it from the parents’ or extended families’ perspective — the wedding planning can be hard on them too. “When their daughter or son gets married, they’re losing their sweetheart and some other person is coming into their life and taking them away — so you’ve got to be super sensitive about that,” explains Cheryl. Cheryl has some invaluable tips on how to plan your wedding your way, without offending fussy family members.

Be in sync with your suppliers 

“When I meet with the bride and groom, or if I meet with any client, you have to be in sync. It is the same thing when you bring a decorator into your home or you see a hairdresser or a makeup artist; you have to be in sync.

“I have to be able to relate to the person because it doesn’t have to be my way. I love it when they realise that. Let the process unravel.”

Consider your family’s traditions 

“As far as the bride and groom are concerned, it should be their way fi rst, beyond anybody else. But they are also going to make decisions on things that mean something special to their mother or father, or sisters or brothers. “They might say I am going to do this tradition as it means a lot to my grandmother…
I don’t think it is my way or their way, I think it is the best way for the wedding and for the expression of their union.”

Bring the families together

“I had a wedding where the bride was Chinese and the groom Jewish, and both sets of parents had very distinct considerations for the actual ceremony. So we sat down and said, when you start to plan a wedding, the wedding has begun, the marriage has begun. You become sort of a marriage counsellor; if you don’t start establishing those boundaries right there and then, how can we make this work?

“I do feel there is a way to really incorporate (traditions) that educate both sides — and this wedding was so beautiful. They had a chuppah, they had yarmulkes, they had the breaking of the glass. With the Chinese tradition, there was a tea ceremony that was presented by the grandmother. It actually educated both sides of the family and it began the union.”

Align your priorities

“I think that brides and grooms really have to remember what they are doing — a lot of them will get off track. It’s not going to be perfect. You can plan 110 percent and I promise you that five or 10 percent of the time, you’re going to get a flat tyre — it is the same thing with any event.

“Brides and grooms have to remember they are getting married. It is not about anybody seeing the best flower arrangement. Of course, they want to look their best walking down the aisle but it’s really about the beginning of a long haul. It’s a one-day event before embarking on 50 years or so, so be careful where you put your priorities.” It might seem as though the planning problems will go on forever but, speaking as a now happily married woman, all is forgotten once the wedding is over.

Bride's Advice

“My partner is from a Lebanese background and I’m from a Greek background so family getting in the way is an understatement. It took a lot of courage to tell them NO. Sometimes you have got to just draw the line on other people’s opinions. I really had to make it clear that this day is our day, not theirs, and when they get married (or when they got married) they could do things their way. Sometimes breaking tradition can break hearts but at the end of the day it’s about what your heart really wants. “They will eventually get over it. It’s you who will be looking at your wedding pictures in 20 years time and wished you had done what you originally wanted.” — Helen, who married Elie in December 2013


By Kylie Baracz

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