Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wedding Planning Conflict Resolution: Context

As we were driving away from our wedding venue (wow - it feels so good to write that.  We have a wedding venue.  We know the place where we're going to get married.) In between all the excited oh-my-goshes, we started talking about what it might look like.  About how the day - our day - might look and feel based on the site and what the site provides. This somehow led to our first wedding tiff, which led to a bit of an aha moment about how to approach these logistical discussions in the future. (Or at least, how to try.) 

Our site provides tables and chairs for the reception hall, but we're not allowed to take the chairs outside for the ceremony.  Fair enough - so we'll have to rent chairs for outdoors.  And the chairs we rent will likely be prettier than the chairs provided by the venue, which are black plastic.  Now, I care more about practicality than prettiness, so I figure we'll either use the black plastic chairs inside (we can decide on decor based on the chairs, if I care enough) or we'll ask friends to help carry the pretty white chairs inside to re-use after the ceremony. If we ask 30 of our able-bodied friends to help us carry three chairs apiece, we'll be done in no time and we'll have a prettier reception hall in the process.  As we drove away from the site, I had a vision of the ceremony set-up, the reception hall, and of all our amazing friends trooping together from the ceremony site back to the brick reception hall that filled me with absolute utter joy for our day and for our wonderful friends.    

J, on the other hand, didn't seem quite joyful about this vision and flatly responded, "I'm not asking my friends to work at our wedding."

I looked back at him in surprise as all my beautiful visions of a low-key do-it-together wedding were falling to pieces around me.  "But, I was thinking we could ask people to help with one or two very discrete, simple, over-in-a-minute tasks.  If they ask.  It will make them feel more invested and it will help a lot. I'd love to help my friends and their weddings and I'm sure some of them will want to help us too."

No.  He still wasn't going for it.  "I'm not having friends fly in from all over the country to then put them to work.  Friends who live in town, fine, let's ask for help on the decorations and planning.  But I'm not asking people to help who come in from out of town."

I was trying to think if I had any reasonable counterarguments but no, I really was asking guests to work at our wedding.  I was trying to think whether it would be terrible to put the word out only amongst local friends that we needed chair moving help. I was wondering if other people would just chip in when they saw chairs getting moved (I mean, I'd certainly chip in in a similar situation.) I was trying to rapidly calculate whether the budget could handle two or staffers for an hour to help move chairs (no, it can't). I was trying not to panic and cry over my fading wedding happy-community vision.  Despite being near tears that he couldn't see the obvious beauty and simplicity in my brilliant ideas, I held my emotions together and tried to speak calmly about my vision for the day.

"I guess I'd been hoping our friends would help us out with the entire day- not out of obligation, but because it would be fun.  We'll get there early Sunday morning, get some music going, pour some wine and diet coke, and get a decor party happening.  Frisbees, horseshoes, and baseball* would be great too, especially once everything's set up and we can just hang out, then get ready, until all the guests arrive. I just envisioned the day as purposeful-but-fun. I'm looking forward to having everyone around and working with our community to make this happen.  I saw the chairs as just one piece of that - grab 30 people and get it done in 10 minutes."

And with that, he got it.  And once we got home and he read Sara's summary of her wedding process at 2000 Dollar Wedding, he really got it because he could see it.  It was part of the overall vision of the day and not just "hey, find your big strong dude friends from college and tell them to schlep chairs."

I'm coming at this planning stuff after a year of reading blogs and having come to some alternate conclusions about "the way things are done."  He is not.  And so we both need to provide some context for our points of view in a non-tearful manner, and we both need to listen, and I think this wedding planning thing might just work out.

*There's a baseball diamond at our site.  It's just one of the many awesome things about our future wedding location. 


  1. That's great. I've been trying to convince my fiance to read more blogs with me because he is a bit nervous about veering so far off the beaten wedding path. As for the free labor bit, my feeling is as long as you feed your friends, they will help you do anything, move, plan your wedding, etc. As you said, you would be inclined to help them, so of course they would want to help you. That's what friends are for.

  2. That's exactly my experience with my fiance!! I have this vision of "It takes a community..." (and really, on our budget, its going to!) but his family is more "I'm not working on the day of...I'd rather pay someone" So frustrating...Good advice to get hime to see the bigger picture of your vision, otherwise I can see my family working their butts off and his family sitting around watching!

  3. i went to a wedding where every single guest moved their own ceremony chair to the place where they wanted to sit for the reception. right after the ceremony they had their friend MC go to the mic and kindly tell everyone to move their chair. there wasn't a single groan or complaint or whatever. It's just A chair right? And if everyone moved their own, i don't think it's a big deal whatsoever. Granted this wedding was in a backyard, but it was still a formal, traditional kinda wedding with 200+ guests. I think people are more 'down-home' than we give them credit for.

    Also, I get really defensive when i tell mike about my ideas and he 'shoots them down' or doesn't think them through before saying 'no' - so he too needs to start reading all these blogs.

  4. we read all the time on blogs about friends wanting to help out. so it was kind of a surprise to me when at a wedding this summer that one of my friends was annoyed that she was asked to help. i hope said friend will be willing for my own wedding someday if it is framed as a joint effort wedding, all working together in a fun community type of way, in the same way you convinced your fiance.

  5. Ok, so while your plan seems totally sensible, I do think there's a balance between involving friends and having friends be one's servants, and I will admit that sometimes when I read about these weddings where "wooooo! Everyone pitched in!" I get a little, "hmm, I would like to hear the guest's side of the story". Tonnes of friends helped us--the mister's best friend helped him move all the stuff over the the venue the morning of (we have no car); another friend was our MC and took care of our iPod music set-up (the former only involved two announcements and the latter was something he begged us to do!), etc. So I am ALL FOR helping out, but I do think sometimes the "community feel" feels a bit like it's been imposed from above. I was conscious of having the fine balance between involving friends and family (and by the week of the wedding, when people said "can I do anything?" man did I ever take that statement at face value) and being a good hostess and treating my loved ones as guests, who I wanted to spoil.

    And so I think you and the mister going back and forth about what is and isn't acceptable to ask of people is totally healthy and a sign that you're not narcissists. (And yes, I agree that most boys spend less time looking at wedding media, so it often takes them longer to get used to ideas. Fair enough. You guys seem like you're getting your planning dynamic down.)

  6. AccordiansandLace - I completely agree about the helping out questions, and it's something I plan on addressing more in a future post. I've been at weddings where the help requirements were out of control and guests were exhausted by the time the evening ended. That will NOT be our approach. We're thinking of a controlled list of discrete tasks that won't take long/be arduous for any single person and asking for volunteers instead of conscripting them. Our approach is very much tied into the thought that these are guests who we are hosting.

    However, to be cost-councious (for us and our guests) we're also thinking of including help-out items on our alternative registry, particularly because many of our friends are feeling the recession and we hate the idea of asking for only physical gifts. We'd prefer time with loved ones or art anyhow and we want them to know that their time is truly a real gift.

  7. Yay, I'm glad he read the blog posts and got it!
    There are few weddings I have been to where I did not have to do a thing. Even as a kid, I was the one who handed out cake and made sure the oldest relatives received the first pieces.
    The older I get the more responsibility I'm given! Most recently I was the photographer for my sister's, and it was very tiring, but worth it to see how happy she was that day.
    If I was at your wedding and was asked to carry three chairs, I wouldn't think anything of it.

    In regards to our wedding, I'm actually hesitant to ask for too much help because I'm scared of friends feeling guilted into having to help. We're trying to be extra cautious about this issue, but thankfully some have been so sweet and already offered help.

  8. To jump in along with accordionsandlace, I have to agree that I am not a fan of asking guests to do absolutely anything at a wedding they attend. This is exactly why I hired a DOC to handle all of those issues and work with our catering staff to 'move things' and pack things up or whatever. I personally do not even want my bridal party (groomsmen) packing up our gifts for us at the end of the event.

    Don't get me wrong...I have been in many weddings where we did it all for the bride and groom and without complaints. I even attended my fiance's brother's wedding last year where he had his entire family setting up the ceremony site and then packing it up in a Uhaul and moving all the chairs and such to the reception site at a park. My fiance and his brothers, dad, uncles, etc even put together the dance floor while me and some future sis-in-laws created the 'cake' and the centerpieces. I didn't mind as I love all things weddings...but my FH was ticked off that he was expected to do so much at a wedding (and it was his own brother).

    I think it also truly depends on the 'feel' and vibe of the event and the day. If it's at a park or home and you're asking guests to carry their chair from a close location to their tables, no biggie. But just be careful as I know that I have some family that is too old to carry their chair and I have some guests that are too 'uppity' that if I asked them to do something like that, they would definitely turn their nose at me. :)

    I say all this not to disagree but rather just to support that your FH's opinion and thoughts were exactly what I was thinking as I began reading your post. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that perspective either. But it sounds like it all worked out for you in the end so that is what is most important.


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