Wedding Reception Family Dynamics

Marta BlockContributor

A couple of weeks ago we talked about some of the tricky family dynamics that can come in to play when planning your wedding ceremony. I think that because the wedding ceremony has more ritual and meaning behind it than the reception it's more of a minefield for those families. But the reception can also be contentious. The reception can be especially difficult if the two (or more) families blending have different traditions and ideas about what constitutes a party.

The first difficulty that springs to mind for most brides is the father/daughter dance. If you have more than one father, or no father, this can be a difficult problem. The first thing to remember is that there's no rule that says you have to have a father/daughter dance (or a bouquet toss, or a champagne toast). Many brides love the idea of a brother/sister dance or other replacement, but it isn't absolutely necessary.

If you have more than one father you may choose to skip the announced father/daughter dance with everyone standing around watching, and make sure to dance with each of your dads some time during the wedding. The truth is, most wedding guests get pretty bored with the "special dances."

Truly, the biggest issue that comes up with a wedding reception is money. Who is paying for what and what say does that money give them? If your parents are helping to pay for your wedding, it would be great if they just handed over the money and kept their opinions to themselves, but that doesn't always happen. You know your parents and future in-laws best, if you know that their "gifts" or money come with strings, it's best to get that out in the open as soon as possible. It's an uncomfortable discussion to have, but it's better than hiring a cover band and finding out your parents are only willing to pay for the wedding band they had in mind.

If you're lucky enough to have two families who want to contribute, but they have totally different visions of the reception, you really need to talk. These conversations (along with all budget conversations) should happen before you start the serious wedding planning. If you're going home for the holidays, consider starting some of these conversations now. Remember, it is your wedding, but in order to have the wedding you want, you may have to pay for it yourself.

Even when money isn't involved you may be surprised to learn that your parents (or in-laws) feel they have a say in certain reception matters. If you're paying for things yourself, you have final say, but keep in mind that other people's feelings do matter. Your wedding is important to them, and their way of showing it may be less than ideal.

Do you anticipate any difficult family drama with your wedding reception? Share your thoughts in the comments below.