Mak­ing a wed­ding with in-laws • By HADAS­SAH FIDLER

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - HADAS­SAH FIDLER

The wed­ding sea­son is upon us. Wed­dings are joy­ous oc­ca­sions, a time to cel­e­brate with rel­a­tives and friends, but the bur­den of mak­ing the cel­e­bra­tion can make for some re­ally un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions. There are fi­nan­cial as­pects and wed­ding prepa­ra­tions to dis­cuss, dur­ing which the ef­fort to try to ac­com­mo­date all in­volved re­quires del­i­cate bal­ance. The par­ents of the bride and groom, and the bride and groom them­selves, each have their own in­ter­ests, which may or may not co­in­cide with the in­ter­ests of all or any of the oth­ers.

In to­day’s so­ci­ety there are no set rules for who pays for the wed­ding, or who ar­ranges the cel­e­bra­tions. Once upon a time the bride’s mother would be in charge of the wed­ding prepa­ra­tions, and the groom was ex­pected to pay for cer­tain costs, such as the band, flow­ers and pho­tog­ra­phy. Now, the wed­ding may be ar­ranged by the cou­ple them­selves, and the fi­nan­cial costs may be split in a num­ber of di­rec­tions.

Where the bride and groom’s par­ents de­cide to fund the wed­ding, the two sets of par­ents will have to ne­go­ti­ate the split in the fi­nan­cial costs of the wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions and any money that they give to the cou­ple to set up their home. In many in­stances, the par­ents of the cou­ple will meet for the first time af­ter the cou­ple be­come en­gaged and, very soon af­ter, will have to dis­cuss their fi­nances with rel­a­tive strangers.

Ad­ding to the stress of the sit­u­a­tion is the fact that these two cou­ples will be look­ing to have a life­long re­la­tion­ship with their fu­ture in-law’s par­ents, at fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions and hol­i­days in the fu­ture.

To­day, as brides and grooms marry later, they may want to ar­range their own wed­ding, with­out in­ter­fer­ence from their par­ents, but at the same time may still re­quire parental fund­ing. While some par­ents may be happy to ac­qui­esce to their chil­dren ar­rang­ing the wed­ding, they may still want some say in what sort of wed­ding it will be. Add into the mix those with di­vorced par­ents, and the pic­ture be­comes very com­pli­cated.

So how do you ne­go­ti­ate these del­i­cate mat­ters? How do you suc­cess­fully have what can be one of the most un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions that you have ever en­coun­tered?

Don’t avoid the con­ver­sa­tion

The first and most im­por­tant step is not to avoid the con­ver­sa­tion.

While Is­raelis may have no prob­lem in dis­cussing fi­nances and how much you do or don’t have (in the park, on the bus or the den­tist’s chair), those with An­glo back­grounds are very ret­i­cent to do so. It may feel ex­tremely awk­ward to have a con­ver­sa­tion about your fi­nances and how much you are able, or will­ing, to spend on your child’s nup­tials, or what sort of wed­ding you imag­ine it will be.

How­ever, avoid­ance is not the an­swer. This is a con­ver­sa­tion that you are go­ing to have to have at some point or an­other, and so it is best to go in pre­pared. By avoid­ing it, you will leave your­self open to stress and sur­prises (and some of them not pleas­ant) when it does in­evitably hap­pen. At the end of one wed­ding the par­ents of the groom were shocked when the bride’s par­ents came to them with a bill for half the wed­ding, when they be­lieved that the bride’s par­ents were foot­ing the whole bill! Sooner is def­i­nitely bet­ter than later.

Do a lit­tle re­search

Be­fore the ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion, do a lit­tle re­search. Work out what you be­lieve your bud­get will be, and try to have an idea of the type of wed­ding you are en­vis­ag­ing. Phone up a cou­ple of places/peo­ple to ask for an es­ti­mate of the cost. This can re­ally help with plan­ning and ne­go­ti­a­tion, as many times lack of knowl­edge leads to am­bi­gu­ity, and a lack of de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Dis­cussing var­i­ous ideas for the wed­ding and then find­ing out that they are over your bud­get can be dis­ap­point­ing. You may be think­ing of hav­ing a wed­ding at a cer­tain venue on a par­tic­u­lar date. Find­ing out if they are avail­able is a good start. Hav­ing an idea that cer­tain as­pects are within, or com­pletely out, of bud­get helps the con­ver­sa­tion flow and move to­ward op­tions that are re­al­is­tic.

It is also worth not­ing that when there are two peo­ple or more on “your side,” it is worth hav­ing a “pre-con­ver­sa­tion” to check that you are in agree­ment as to bud­gets and how you see the wed­ding. Com­ing into the con­ver­sa­tion united on is­sues is less con­fus­ing to all, and pro­vides a united front, which makes ne­go­ti­at­ing eas­ier.

Be clear

In many con­ver­sa­tions that we feel un­com­fort­able in, we are am­bigu­ous. This is of­ten done, even un­con­sciously, so as not to ap­pear pushy. We avoid talk­ing in num­bers or in ex­act facts. The sen­tence “We would like to in­vite some friends/close fam­ily” leaves the other side with no real in­for­ma­tion. “Some friends” may be 10 or 50, and this lack of clar­ity may cause prob­lems later on.

The main ex­am­ple would be your bot­tom line (how much you are pre­pared to spend in to­tal). This is very of­ten a fact that peo­ple are not clear about, due to many rea­sons, such as em­bar­rass­ment, a feel­ing of show­ing your hand too early in ne­go­ti­a­tions, or even a lack of clar­ity and fore­thought on the mat­ters them­selves. What­ever the rea­sons are, this is an im­por­tant point that must be ad­dressed.

Small is­sues can also cause fric­tion. For ex­am­ple, the flower girls’ dresses. Some ex­pect the bride’s mother to cover the cost, or for the costs to be ab­sorbed in the over­all cost of the wed­ding. Oth­ers ex­pect the flower

girls’ par­ents to pay. Which­ever way you are lean­ing, say it out loud. By stat­ing it clearly, you im­me­di­ately stop the stress about the is­sue, and ev­ery­one knows where they stand and can act ac­cord­ingly.

This is not to say that you have to be cer­tain on all the facts, but where you are, do let ev­ery­one know the po­si­tion. Where you are un­sure, try to set some pa­ram­e­ters so that you both know what ball­park you are play­ing in.

The other side

Try to work out what is im­por­tant to the other side (keep­ing in mind that the other side could be his/her par­ents or the happy cou­ple or both). Work­ing out what is im­por­tant to the other side/s can help you think of ways to com­bine all of your in­ter­ests. Show­ing that you have hon­estly con­sid­ered other peo­ple’s point of view is very help­ful in cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere of co­op­er­a­tion. This in­volves ask­ing ques­tions and re­ally lis­ten­ing to what is sig­nif­i­cant to the oth­ers.

If the young cou­ple have ex­pressed their de­sire for an in­ti­mate wed­ding with their friends, but it is im­por­tant to you, the par­ents, that you in­vite all those who have given you hos­pi­tal­ity in the past, try not to go into the dis­cus­sion with the idea that these are just two op­pos­ing views. In­stead, try brain­storm­ing ideas be­fore­hand and bring your ideas with you to the dis­cus­sion.

In this sit­u­a­tion, par­ents pre­sented an idea that they would in­vite their friends to the wed­ding meal, but the whole wed­ding would be ear­lier, so that their friends would dis­ap­pear when it came to danc­ing and only the cou­ples’ friends would re­main. They also pre­sented the idea that if this was to­tally un­ac­cept­able to the young cou­ple, they would re­duce the bud­get for the wed­ding and make a large Sheva Bra­chot to which the par­ents could in­vite their friends. The cou­ple were very touched that the par­ents had made such an ef­fort to ac­com­mo­date their wishes, and chose the first op­tion.

Take some time

There is a se­ri­ous amount of money and ef­fort in con­sid­er­a­tion, and so mak­ing a wed­ding can be a com­pli­cated ne­go­ti­a­tion and an on­go­ing one. Don’t be afraid to say “Let me think about this.”

If the other side re­quests that the wed­ding be abroad and this is an op­tion that you haven’t con­sid­ered, ask why this op­tion is good for them, and con­sider their re­sponse, but you don’t need to re­spond with an an­swer straight­away. Say you would like to think about the idea, be­fore launch­ing into the pros and cons for you of such an op­tion.

These sit­u­a­tions can be ex­tremely stress­ful, and some­times just tak­ing a lit­tle bit of time can cre­ate per­spec­tive and let emo­tions that are high with stress de­crease. You can then think about what is pos­si­ble and good for all in­volved. How­ever, in say­ing that you want to think about cer­tain mat­ters, do set an­other time to talk about those un­re­solved is­sues.

Try to keep it within the cir­cle

Mak­ing a wed­ding is a pres­sur­ized time; no one could blame you if you need to vent to some­one. If the other side de­mands that white doves be re­leased and you agree, but think it ridicu­lous, try not to let your views be known to all. Pick a per­son and com­plain to her, and her alone (your sis­ter or good friend is a great idea).

If you start telling ev­ery­one how ridicu­lous the other side is, this can re­in­force your neg­a­tive views, and your opin­ion could end up be­ing re­layed back to the other side and the cou­ple, with the re­sult be­ing bad feel­ings all around (which negates the good­will achieved by agree­ing to some­thing you didn’t want).

The first and most im­por­tant step is not to avoid the con­ver­sa­tion [about fi­nances]

Re­mem­ber why you are all there

De­spite all the stress sur­round­ing ar­rang­ing a wed­ding, this is an ex­cit­ing time, and you all have a shared value of want­ing the best for your chil­dren. Hang­ing on to the fact that this is what ev­ery­one ul­ti­mately wants can smooth over many dis­agree­ments and pro­vide some much needed per­spec­tive. When look­ing to the fu­ture, the knowl­edge that you all share the wish to have a good on­go­ing re­la­tion­ship with one an­other, and that that wish is ul­ti­mately more im­por­tant than one night of cel­e­bra­tion, is a great help when ne­go­ti­at­ing these hard con­ver­sa­tions.

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