When Help Isn’t Helpful

You all know that we here at Manolo for the Brides are big on the following things: individuality, DIY, and helping hands from the people you love. I know my wedding would never have come together the way it did – let alone at the bargain basement budget I had to work with! – without these three things.

Friends and family members came forward to help with food, decorations, the gown, transportation, and more. Nearly every bride I’ve ever known has had similar offers of help from various and sundry people in their life (often including me!).

Sometimes, though, someone offers to help out in a way that isn’t really going to help you out. It may be that someone wants to give you something you really don’t want to have, or it may be that they’re offering to do something they really aren’t capable of handling. Whichever case you’re dealing with, there are a few simple tips that can help you avoid unwanted ‘help’ without ruining relationships.

1: Express gratitude for the generosity offered. Even if the offer is for neon pink plastic bead tiaras for the bridesmaids at your back to nature themed all-organic wedding, the first words out of your mouth should be about how much you love the culprit for wanting to help out. Once you’ve appreciated the giver, it’s easier for him/her to swallow the refusal of the inappropriate item or unnecessary service. If the first thing you say is “Sweet merciful kumquats! How revolting!” chances are that the giver will be entirely too stung to hear thanks afterward. That’s going to lead to relationship woes, particularly if the person you just insulted is a relative of your intended’s.

2: Be clear in your refusal. Now, while you don’t want to hurt feelings, you also do not want to be a doormat. Make sure that the person in question understands that the answer is no. After all, you don’t want Uncle Fred to show up with his gas grill and two hundred t-bone steaks to your vegan reception because he didn’t understand that you honestly had a reason why you hadn’t planned to serve meat.

3: If you say you’re turning something down because you don’t intend to have it, don’t have it at the wedding. If you tell your really sweet coworker that you aren’t accepting her offer to make your garter because you’re not having the garter toss, don’t have a garter toss! If someone offers something you want – but don’t want from them – tell them as kindly as possible that you’ve already made other arrangements. If you haven’t made those arrangements, do so ASAP.

4: Don’t gossip about the awful thing someone tried to give you. I don’t care if your cousin who wanted to sing a solo sounds like a water buffalo with adenoids. Don’t start talking about what a horrible singer she is. Word could get back to her, and you don’t want that.

5: Where possible, offer the helpful soul another way to help you out. These are people who care about you and your upcoming wedding. That’s why they’re offering you help. So you can’t use a granola cake with soy bean glaze at your princess themed reception. You can let the person who offered it know that where you could really use a hand is with addressing invitations, putting together favors, or French braiding the flower girl’s hair.

Oh, and always remember my mother’s words of wisdom: Never choke a volunteer.

2 Responses to “When Help Isn’t Helpful”

  1. Melissa B. says:

    Twistie, this is terrific advice, and I think it’s something a lot of brides struggle with. What I had difficulty with was offers of help that turned out to create more work for me and my husband. For example, his aunt offered to set up a laptop with the rehearsal dinner slideshow so guests at the reception could see it too; I didn’t really care one way or the other, but she seemed super-keen on it, so we said yes. She came to our venue walkthrough to find a place to set it up, and every time there was a brief pause in the conversation with the caterer and venue manager, she demanded to know where she could put the laptop. She shot down every idea we had about where we could set it up, and got very agitated when we asked if we could postpone the search for a laptop spot until the end of the meeting. My husband eventually left the meeting to help her find an outlet that was acceptable to her.

    How could we have handled this better? Said “no thanks” since we didn’t care about having the laptop, even though she was super-excited about it? Suggested she skip the walkthrough and let us find a suitable spot (actually, never mind, we did suggest that, and she insisted on coming to “help”)?

    Sorry for the rant — my in-laws are almost entirely wonderful, and I know Aunt meant well, but by the end of that meeting, I was ready to scream, “just find an outlet, plug it in, and send me a picture of where it ends up. I don’t care!!”

  2. La BellaDonna says:

    Twistie, I’d like to add an all-important second to your incredibly sensible post. Maybe it’s worth following up all on its own. And that is:

    If your Mom has never made a wedding dress; if she has never made an evening dress or a prom dress; for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, at LEAST have a back-up garment to wear! Some Moms/Aunts/Grandmas/Best Friends are fabulous seamstresses, and crank out wedding dresses on a regular basis. If your Mom/A/G/BF isn’t one of them, love isn’t going to magically transform her into one in time for your wedding. If someone is planning to make your wedding dress for you, and the fabric isn’t in hand SIX MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING DATE, and the first fitting isn’t at least FIVE MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING DATE, do not assume that you are going to see a wedding dress from this person. Don’t rely on verbal assurances, either. I’ve read email after email from brides who actually remembered to FOLLOW UP with the amateur seamstress, only to have Mom assure her that everything was FINE, just FINE, when “fine” apparently meant “totally beyond her sewing abilities and she was afraid to say so” because, apparently, having your daughter able to buy a wedding dress in time for her wedding would be a MUCH BIGGER DISASTER than her finding a pile of scraps on her wedding day, or something she had to get sewed into and pray that it would hold together.

    And the above also holds true for your bridesmaids. Unless you have surrounded yourself with friends who all sew like fiends (some folks do), do not expect them to make their own bridesmaids’ dresses. Do not expect that they will necessarily have Moms/Aunts/Grandmas/Best Friends who can make their dresses. Unless you have a single seamstress with a guaranteed history of making bridesmaids dresses in a timely manner who can take on the project, do not assume that all the dresses will be made on time, fitting your bridesmaids, and meeting your expectations (i.e., matching, if they’re supposed to, and COMPLETELY FINISHED). It may turn out that the better choice would be something easily purchased, or from the maid’s own closet. The day of your wedding is not the time to find out that someone’s Aunt did not, in fact, have the ability to make those dresses.

    In fact, ANYONE who is planning on having a gown made (or even making it herself) would be well-advised to have a timeline: fabric purchased by X date, muslin made up and first fitting by X date, first try-on by X date, finished garment AT LEAST TWO WEEKS BEFORE D-DAY. And my own suggestion is that if the first two dates aren’t met (fabric purchased by X, first muslin made up and first fitting by X), then have a backup plan, so that you’re not trying to buy bridesmaids’ dresses two hours before the wedding. Or a dress for YOURSELF, two hours before your OWN wedding.