With your wedding, you aren’t only gaining a new spouse, but, oftentimes, a whole family. That may mean a new set of parents, stepparents, or other guardians. That’s a lot of love for you and your partner—but, as with any family, it also might bring on the drama and even conflict.
Planning your wedding is stressful enough. Add in trying to navigate around your new in-laws, and you may be feeling especially tense. It’s completely normal to feel this way, says Dr. Frances Walfish, Psy.D., in Beverly Hills, Calif.
“In-law stressors may create wedding jitters and cause hesitation in you,” she says. “You must communicate openly and honestly with your spouse about the situation and create reasonable boundaries with your in-laws. Healthy, open, and honest communication on a regular basis will ease your jitters.”
Below are a few common pre-wedding conflicts you may experience with new in-laws and how to best navigate them, according to the experts.
Take a deep breath! When money is involved, it can get messy fast. But having a budget nailed down that makes everyone involved feel comfortable is a must.
Try to be respectful of what your in-laws can or can’t contribute, says Lauren Cook, Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy and mental health professional in Malibu, Calif. “While money can be awkward to address, it's an area that requires the most open communication,” she says. “If you feel that the in-laws are not contributing enough, you may need to accept this and consider that they may not have the means to fund the wedding. Remember that this is likely not personal—it may be that they literally cannot afford to contribute.”
On the other hand, if they do offer to contribute anything at all—accept it graciously. “Giving you money for the wedding may be a way to show how much they care about you and rejecting this offer may cause more harm than good,” Cook says.
The key here is a compromise, says Nikita Banks, LCSW and couple’s counselor in Brooklyn, NY. “Within reason, I don't think it's a healthy way to start a marriage by being forced to do something you don't want to do,” she says. “If you are marrying in a particular culture or religion and it's important to you and your partner that you honor both traditions, it should be worth a compromise for everyone. But this is up to you and your partner and no one else!”
If religion or culture is important to your in-laws, you can also incorporate smaller traditions into the ceremony without it taking over the whole affair, Banks recommends.
In this case, be prepared to smile and nod politely. “You can graciously and politely share with your in-laws that you respect their opinions—and then not utilize those recommendations,” says Cook. “It’s ultimately yours and your partner's wedding. Especially if you are paying for the wedding, it is up to you to carry out the wedding plans as you see fit. However, you can still respectfully consider your in-laws' opinions and allow them to be a part of the conversation.”
This can be worked out, Banks says. “Make your position clear, but maybe compromise by allowing them to host an engagement party or the rehearsal dinner,” she recommends.
Cook agrees and says that ultimately, this and other wedding-related decisions should be left to you and your partner. “Your wedding is your own. Especially if you are paying for the event, it is up to you and your partner to make this decision together. This is an opportunity to set some boundaries and show others that you are a solidified unit that can make their own decisions together.”
For better or for worse, your new in-laws will likely be a part of your wedding planning. Keep your cool in tough situations and lean on your partner, as needed.