How to Plan a Wedding When Your Family Doesn’t Approve

Two women in a vintage VW van on their wedding day.

When you find that special someone you want to marry and spend your life with, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could see them as less than perfect. After all, you love their smile, their eyes—even their strangest quirks and neuroses become endearing and adorable when you’re smitten. And if you love them, certainly everyone else will too…right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. When it comes to choosing a partner, you may get some resistance from the people who care about you: your friends, your siblings, and especially your parents. What should you do when your loved ones don’t approve of your fiancé? Here are a few tips to help you navigate this particularly touchy relationship minefield.

Communicate

There are many, many reasons why your family may not like your fiancé. Maybe your partner made a poor first impression. Maybe they practice a different faith than the one you were raised in. Maybe your folks simply think you can do better. But whatever the reason, it’s important that you give your family an opportunity to state their case.

Communication is essential to every relationship, be it a romantic or familial one. Sit down with your family and let them explain why they don’t approve of your impending marriage. Give them a chance to air their grievances and make sure their voice is heard. If you think it will be productive, bring your fiancé along for this family talk—but if that’s just a recipe for hurt feelings and angry words, leave them at home for now.

Take a Step Back

A woman sitting on a bed and looking behind at her fiance as she thinks about their relationship.

After you let your family voice their disapproval, you have a little more work to do. Give yourself a little time to really think about what they said, and whether or not it holds any water. Is there a possibility that you are looking at your relationship through rose-colored glasses? Could it be that your family (gasp)…has a point?

Obviously, the answer to this question will vary from person to person. But even if you decide that your family is way off-base, it’s still important to think critically and honestly about your relationship to make sure it’s right for you before you tie the knot. In fact, I’d suggest you do this even if your family does approve of your partner!

Encourage Bonding Time

You love your fiancé and you’re sure your family will love them too…once they get to know them better. This is a perfectly fair assessment; after all, you two only fell in love after spending quality time together, and the best way to smooth over any wedding drama is by asking your family and your fiancé to bond. Taking a few “family” outings together, finding common ground, and making fun memories is one of the easiest ways to turn your partner and parents from foes into friends.

However, there are two important caveats I need to bring up here: DON’T force this bonding, and DON’T expect to see change overnight. You can’t control other people’s feelings (although that would make things much easier) and trying to force your parents to love your fiancé will only breed more animosity. Give their relationship time to develop gradually.

Have a Backup Plan

So far, I’ve discussed things you can do to improve the relationship between your family and fiancé. If those steps are successful and their relationship improves, then planning your wedding should be a breeze (well, as much as planning a wedding can be). But what do you do if all your efforts to fix things just don’t work? This is the moment when you need to consider your backup plans.

What will you do if your father refuses to walk you down the aisle? What if your siblings drop out of the wedding party? What if your parents, who had previously offered to bankroll your big day, withhold funding because they don’t support the marriage? These situations can be stressful and emotionally draining, but having a plan b in the back of your mind can help cushion the blow. Talk with your partner and make sure you’re ready for anything that comes your way.

Focus on Your Relationship

When you’re planning a wedding, it can be very easy to get swept up in the pageantry, ceremony, and family drama. And when your family doesn’t approve of your marriage, it can be easy to bring that drama home, which can end up putting a strain on your relationship. To avoid this, stay strong by focusing on why you want to get married and on how much you love each other; not only will this keep your relationship from buckling under the weight of disapproval, but it will make you both stronger in the long run!

Remember, at the end of the day your wedding is really just about you, your partner, and the new life you’re beginning together. If you start to feel beaten down by your family’s disapproval (or any other wedding drama, for that matter), just turn your attention to the reason for all this hullabaloo: the person you love.

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