You control your wedded destiny: Tips for controlling irreverent family

When irreverent relatives threaten disruption, don’t hit the panic button.

A wedding involves his clan, her tribe, and the inherent family dynamics that augur either “a good time had by all” or a nuptial Titanic. Avoid a ceremonial shipwreck by listening — truly listening — to who’s saying what and then plan accordingly.

Familial allies express their pleasure about attending the wedding and interact comfortably with the future in-law, whether a he or she (or both). Keep such allies nearby on the Big Day; assign them key roles (groomsman, maid of honor, chief bottle washer, etc.) or seat them as near the Head Table as possible.

Sometimes, however, not everyone welcomes a wedding or a new in-law.

Familial foes express their displeasure verbally or physically. A mom tells her son, “She ain’t the girl for you”; a sister rolls her eyes as the bride extols the groom’s virtues. Her father criticizes the groom’s race/education/profession/income; a brother winks salaciously when his engaged sister mentions a particular bridesmaid.

Watch for such clues, which pose a latent behavioral threat on the Big Day and harbinger ill for post-wedding family relationships. Remind the snippy relatives that:

  •  Their presence is desired (politically, at least) on the Big Day,
  •  Which belongs to the bride and groom and absolutely nobody else,
  •  And remember to check the attitude and boorish behavior at the door, thank you.

What if, despite such subtle hints, an ill-mannered relative still criticizes the bride/groom/future dad- or mom-in-law, etc. or promises to disrupt the Big Day?

Three responses exist:

  1. Swallow the pride, cross the fingers, and hope the miscreant either skips town or decides to behave.
  2. Ask a respected parent, aunt, uncle, or friend to ride herd on the attitudinally straying relative. Mothers are very good at this; maternal guilt, liberally applied to an offspring’s soul, can quickly silence a caustic tongue.
  3. Head the potential troublemaker off at the pass, not near the altar, by establishing behavioral guidelines; to whit, inform the disloyal opposition that if he or she won’t shut up or behave during the ceremony/photo session/reception, “Stay home.”

Unfortunately, issuing a nuptial “cease and desist” order against a relative requires more courage than most people can voice. Who wants to tell a rapier-tongued mother to be silent? A sibilant sister to stow her nastiness for a day?

Someone has to do so. Be an adult and speak up.

Then there’s the known alcoholic or drug abuser within the family ranks; despite promises to the contrary, a substance abuser cannot guarantee personal behavior on any day. This person may not oppose the wedding or dislike the bride or groom, so carefully decide whether or not to invite a substance abuser — and keep close watch over purses and valuables if this person does attend the wedding.

And as the Big Day approaches, remember to:

  • Always reward friendship and love. Always reward the people who display such attributes.
  • Never reward antipathy or tolerate disdain.

Story by Brian Swartz