Planning a wedding can be pretty stressful right?!
Whether it’s dealing with too many opinions, awkward suggestions from family members, or simply working out what works best for you as a couple. Having clear, workable boundaries when you start your wedding planning journey can help the way you deal with situations, define the way you interact with people, and protect you from overwhelm.
Over to Laura, from The Clear Space to give us some advice…
Being human means being in relationships with other people. From our daily interactions with work colleagues, to the way we connect with our friends and family; we’re all thrown together in a beautiful mess of needs, wants, and expectations that aren’t necessarily aligned or even compatible. High pressure, unusual situations like wedding planning can bring these incompatibilities to the forefront, and even easy relationships can need a little thought and investment.
As much as your wedding is about you, you’ll invariably find that other people have thoughts, opinions and ideas about what your wedding should look like. For some people managing this type of conflict is easy, and for others a whole host of reasons can mean we find it difficult to express our needs, wants, and expectations.
Having clear, workable boundaries can protect us when we’re interacting with the people that have a vested interest in our wedding planning, so that we can have a wedding that feels authentic to us. That said, the idea of boundary setting is highly-individualistic and rooted in Western-Centric psychology, so if you come from a more collectivist cultural background, and even if you don’t, it can be helpful to think of boundaries as flexible and adaptable.
So how can you implement flexible and adaptable boundaries?
A good place to start is self reflection. Having a clear idea of what you need, and what might happen if your needs aren’t met will give you clarity around where you could designate new flexible boundaries or tweak existing ones.
An example of this might be planning a multicultural wedding, where two cultures are coming together. I’ve photographed lots of these as a photographer, and it’s always wonderful to see how my couples have thoughtfully decided which elements of their culture to honour on their wedding day. Some couples create hybrid ceremonies that include elements of each culture, and some couples have a two day wedding where they can celebrate each culture separately. Each approach involves working out what’s important to you, and sitting down with your families to discuss how your plans might work in practice, and how they can be involved in your plans in a way that’s meaningful to them.
This isn’t to say you won’t experience push back when you’re expressing your needs and boundaries around your wedding plans. If communicating in this way is new to you, the people around you might feel resistant, or it might bring up their own ‘stuff’. To help with this, here are some suggestions of things to think about when setting and communicating boundaries around your wedding plans.
Agree your plans and priorities together before you involve others
Work out what’s important to you. There’s every chance that the two of you will have differing ideas and priorities and working through any mismatched ideas and expectations together, will mean you have a clear idea of what you want before you muddy the waters by involving others.
Work out your hard and soft boundaries. Where can you be flexible and what’s non-negotiable?
When you need to set a boundary, ask yourself the following questions: is it a hard or soft boundary?; is there a different way of looking at the situation?; is there a compromise that I can think of or suggest; and if so, does that compromise meet my needs?
Define expectations around involvement from others
Do your expectations around the emotional, physical, or financial support that you might receive from others align with what they feel able to provide? Does the support that’s being provided come with any expectations of control around decision making? It’s worth ascertaining all of this up front, so everyone is clear about their involvement.
Communicate using “I” statements and back them up with facts
If the person you’re communicating your boundaries to interrupts or isn’t hearing you, “you’re always interrupting me” feels very different to “I noticed that you interrupted me when I said x. When you interrupt me I don’t feel heard”.
Use non-violent communication
Non-violent communication is based on the idea that compassionate communication leads to better outcomes¹. This is a particularly useful tool when planning a wedding, because we’re often trying to communicate boundaries to people who are very emotionally invested in outcomes.
Practice saying NO as a whole answer
You don’t owe anyone a lengthy explanation about why you are choosing not to do something. No is the whole answer! You can soften your no, so it’s more gently received. As an example, you might say “I’m so grateful to you for looking into this for us, but that doesn’t feel quite right for us.”
Listen to your gut
Your feelings, especially feelings of hurt, anger or resentment, are good indications that you might need to set a boundary, or at least examine how things are working for you. Listening to yourself is a great starting place.
Disclaimer: The content of this post is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional services. Please consult with a health practitioner if you need health or wellbeing advice or support.
- Rosenberg & Chopra, 2015.
How 2 Say It has a great story highlight on boundaries and is generally brilliant for communication stuff
Your Friendly Ghost Writer has brilliant boundary scripts
This positive psychology article has loads of great tips for non-violent communication
If you’re struggling with your mental health and need a bit of extra support, this post has suggestions about organisations and resources that can help.