When You Want a Small Wedding… But They Don’t


(Illustration via Intimate Weddings)

Not every bride wants a big wedding. Not every groom wants a big wedding. Some couples really, honestly do want a smaller, more intimate celebration with only a select handful of people in attendance. There are parents who absolutely support this, too.

And then there are those who don’t.

If you and your intended want a smaller celebration, but one or both sets of parents are fighting your decision, it can make wedding planning a lot more difficult than it needs to be. But if you can keep things in perspective and find small ways to be flexible, you may just manage to get both families completely on board with your smaller wedding.

My first piece of advice in this situation is don’t take their money. See, when you take money from people to help you make your wedding dreams come true… they tend to feel they have a say in how that money should be spent. And let’s face it, they do have a point. If the money is coming directly out of your own pockets, it’s a lot easier to stand firm with your own priorities. Mom and Dad may want to pay for an orchestra and a plated dinner for two hundred people, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Thank them for their generous offer, and then refuse it as gently as you possibly can.

Of course, no matter how gently you refuse their help and the vision that goes with it, there’s a strong chance of hurt feelings. So please, keep the lines of communication open. Chances are your parents have dreamed of your wedding even longer than you have. They’re just as attached to their image of what it should be like as you are to yours. Acknowledge their feelings. Try to explain to them why you want something so different from what they want. Thank them for caring and wanting the best for you. Hurt feelings may not go away overnight, but a gentle approach makes it easier for everyone to get down off their high horses and allows for faster healing.

This can also make it easier to find out what a big wedding for you means to them. Is it about their culture? Did they have a quickie wedding and regret not having the big blow out? Are they afraid they’ll lose face if your wedding isn’t bigger, better, more expensive and shinier than your cousin Julie’s? Give them the chance to let you know what’s going on in their minds. Sometimes just getting those words out on the table can help you find a way to bridge the gap between your desires and theirs.

Include them in your plans where you can. Okay, you’re not taking that orchestra, but maybe they can help you choose invitations or find a florist. Even if they don’t understand your choices, chances are they’d like to feel their opinion matters to you and your intended. Sometimes accepting their ideas on some aspect of the wedding is enough. Maybe agreeing to roses or a white cake will allow your parents to accept that there will only be a dozen people in attendance.

If you don’t mind a big party, consider a compromise: have a small ceremony followed by a large reception. Your dream wedding may be a handful of people on a beach in Maui, while your parents want a party that will become legendary in their circle. The funny thing is, these are two dreams that don’t have to be in conflict. You can have your romantic elopement and then come home to a huge party. Or you can head off to City Hall on your lunch break with a couple witnesses, and then come to the big party your parents throw where your wedding is announced to family and friends.

Unless you plan to burn all bridges with your family ten minutes after you say ‘I do’ you’ll want to find ways to make as many people comfortable with your plans as possible. Note that I didn’t say ‘happy.’ In some cases, comfortable is as close as you’re going to get and you need to learn to accept that. But if you approach the situation as gracefully as you can, you’ll find comfortable can happen even when dreams are radically different.

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