It’s been said you can’t pick your relatives, just your friends.
With that in mind, I hear the phrase, “My Dysfunctional Family” at least once a month! Some of my clients are embarrassed by their relative’s weirdness; while many others just embrace the wacky, unpredictable group of people that they call family. The word “Dysfunctional” is overused and inaccurate. The fact is all families have dysfunctional elements. To believe otherwise is just fooling yourself and setting the day up for major disappointment.
From my perspective, the worst thing a Bride and Groom can do, is to pretend their family is something they are not. Perfect. I’ve personally been witness to the final wrap up meeting prior to the wedding, when the Bride and her family simply gloss over glaring red flags that come up during our discussion. This mistake surfaces throughout the day when issues arise that if known ahead of time could have been dealt with discreetly, and without causing a major riff.
It is however, easier said than done to deal with your “colorful relatives”. For example, your wacky aunt that after her 3rd gin and tonic starts openly reminiscing about her college sexual exploits. Or the sister in law that insists on breastfeeding her baby as you are walking down the isle. Or, dad’s new girlfriend that demands a place in the family photos.
I suggest stepping back, and looking at your family from a distance. Then, separate the likely problematic relatives into one of two categories.
Ask yourself are they…
1. Eccentric, unconventional, and strange
2. Mean spirited, selfish or rude
Obviously, the 2nd column is the red flag. These folks need to be dealt with ahead of time. I strongly suggest asking the professionals you have hired to lend a hand. Have a frank and open discussion ahead of time with your wedding planner, photographer, DJ, Officiate, etc. Whether it’s the wedding planner’s tactful seating arrangements or the photographer’s ability to remove the unwanted guest from the family photo in Photoshop, rather than making a big seen, many of these little bumps can easily be smoothed over. Be honest and air it all out. Your wedding pro’s can’t read your mind, and when the jealous ex-wife makes a public seen when Dad show’s up with a 29 year old girlfriend, it’s simply too late.
Whatever the solution, ignoring past behaviors that are just ugly and hoping for the best is a bad idea. Take a good long look at your family, communicate possible red flags to your wedding professionals, and most importantly, embrace the diversity that defines your family. After all, you didn’t pick your relatives, they just happened.