Etiquette Advice: How To Keep Your Mother-In-Law From Planning Your Wedding (Without Offending Her)

Photography courtesy iStockphoto

Etiquette expert Karen Cleveland has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger solving all of your decorum dilemmas. Read on for tips on how to retain poise from the minute he proposes.

Ironic, isn’t it? You were likely getting by just fine making decisions until your engagement, and now you are being bombarded with suggestions on how you should do things! Most people have such nostalgia around their own wedding and will freely share advice on how they did things (or plan to do them), hoping you might find these tips helpful. They mean well. And such suggestions are merely that: helpful suggestions. You cannot please everyone, so best to gently set out your planning parameters. Whether you feel stuck in a gridlock with your mother-in-law over flowers, or you’re being snubbed by your sister for choosing cake over the cupcakes she loves, here’s how to finesse some well-intentioned suggestions.

1. Hear them out
Most people chiming in with suggestions genuinely want to help and their ideas are often couched in either how they did things at their wedding, or what they envision for you. They simply want to know that you have heard what they have to say. If your mother-in-law is waxing about how much she loves peonies, ask for details! What was her bouquet like? How many bridesmaids did she have again? Does she have peonies in her garden?

2. Acknowledge their suggestions and have conviction in your decision
Clearly let the other person know that you’ve heard their suggestion ─ an acknowledgement might be all they are after and then you can’t be faulted for not hearing them out. Tell your mother-in-law the peony bouquet in her wedding photos looked gorgeous, but you really have your heart set on hydrangeas, for example. If you waffle or ask her what she thinks of hydrangeas, you might be inviting more helpful suggestions so be mindful of how the discussion ends.

3. Carry on
You can make people feel included in your planning without feeling pressure to let others make decisions for you. And while compromise is key between you and your fiancé, it is not the end of the world if your mother-in-law isn’t in love with your floral arrangements. Being rude to her, however, might be! Just remember: The communication lines you establish and the grace you exude will far outlast your wedding day.

Karen Cleveland is a Toronto-based etiquette advisor and writer. For more on her column, Finishing School, find her on Twitter.

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