Help! I’m giving a speech at my Dad’s wedding: what do I say?

glasses_01Dear HTWB Agony Columns

My widowed Dad is finally getting married again to a really nice lady and they’ve asked me to give a speech at their wedding next month. What on earth can I say? I’m stuck for words!

Karen from Toronto

No worries, Karen – [Read more…]

Words of wedding wisdom: IF YOU’RE PREGNANT – before, after, or what?

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

Pregnancy and getting married

Except in very rare circumstances I think the days of the “shotgun wedding” are well and truly over, and that’s a very good thing. That’s not just because it averts the illegal use of firearms, but also because it means the stigma of being pregnant out of wedlock is now firmly where it belongs – in the past.

Of course in some cultures and religions there still is a stigma about pre-marital pregnancy, but in most industrialized countries society has become far more comfortable with the idea than it was even in the mid 20th century. You might still get the occasional disapproving sniff but no longer will you get Pappy using his rabbit gun as a cattle-prod to get the groom up the aisle. At least I hope not.

So in these modern times the only issues that arise from being a pregnant bride are connected with practical things like when to get married, what to wear, and how the bride will feel at that particular stage of her pregnancy.

Pregnancy: when to get married

That’s a tricky one. A lot depends on whether:

  • Your pregnancy was planned or not
  • You need to use the wedding money for the new baby
  • You will feel up to organizing a wedding while pregnant
  • You want to wait until after the birth

Let’s look at the two main options. They’re pretty simple; before, or after.

First, before: the advantages…

  • Your baby will be born “in wedlock”
  • You will not be trying to organise a wedding with a young baby in tow
  • Your family – especially the older ones – might feel more comfortable with this
  • You can get away with a smaller, simpler, cheaper wedding than you might otherwise

And now, before: the disadvantages…

  • You will be organizing a wedding when you may not be feeling at your fittest
  • You will need to think carefully about what you will wear
  • Realistically you probably won’t have as grand a wedding as you would have if not pregnant
  • You probably won’t have as much money to spend on your wedding/honeymoon
  • You may not be in a position to enjoy your honeymoon quite so much

OK. Now, after: the advantages…

  • You can choose a date when your figure will have returned to normal
  • You can wear a dress that does not look like a tent
  • You should be feeling OK again provided your baby sleeps at night (some do, so I’m told…)
  • You can organize the wedding without the sensation of a meter running

And after: the disadvantages

  • Your baby will not have been born “in wedlock”
  • You will be organising a wedding while caring for a young baby
  • You might just get some disapproval from certain family members
  • Your honeymoon may have to include baby too (not necessarily a disadvantage!)

Other alternatives

Fine. Those alternatives are the obvious ones. However if we lift ourselves out of the “obvious box” there are some other possibilities you can consider.

For starters, you could “split” your wedding plans. In other words, have a small wedding – maybe just a registry office do – while you’re expecting your baby, then have a big reception or party after baby arrives and you’re all feeling slim and fit again.

Assuming you have an understanding wedding officiant, you could even develop a religious blessing to be held at an appropriate time after your civil wedding – which could be combined with a baptism service for your baby. Then, you could move that on into a combined wedding and baptism reception.

So what do you do?

Where getting married before the birth is concerned, I would say let your pregnancy guide you. You will know fairly early on in your pregnancy whether you are going to be feeling nauseous or not. If you are, don’t despair, as that usually dies down in the second trimester of pregnancy. However in your shoes I would avoid a wedding in the third trimester – especially the latter stages – because you may find standing and sitting and in fact everything (!!) somewhat uncomfortable. You may also feel very tired, very easily.

Talk to your doctor and your nurse specialist. They know all about pregnancy and all about you, so are well qualified to advise on whether a wedding before the birth is a good idea or not.

Whatever happens, don’t be panicked into making hasty decisions about getting married if/when/while you are pregnant. Keep calm and analyse everything carefully. Once again, never forget whose wedding it is. Even if others try to pressurize you into making a decision, consider what’s best for you, your fiancé and your baby. You three matter most.

Wedding dress

This may be an obvious one but if you’re pregnant, when choosing or commissioning your dress make sure you allow for the stage of pregnancy at which you will be on the date of the wedding. Empire line designs are very useful here. Some designs can hide an early pregnancy very effectively, but many women these days are proud to share their “bump” with all and sundry. If so, let the design of your dress show that.

Finally, be mindful of pregnant ladies among your wedding guests – don’t expect them to stand around for too long, and allocate somewhere comfortable for them to sit!

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Words of wedding wisdom: FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW – tact required?

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

The Bride’s Mother-in-law

What would joke writers and stand-up comedians do without mothers-in-law?

My mother-in-law called today…
I knew it was her. When she knocked on the front door all the mice threw themselves into the traps.

A woman walked out of a smart restaurant wearing an elegant real fur coat. She was approached by another woman who asked disapprovingly, “and what poor creature had to die so you could wear that?”
“My mother-in-law,” smiled the first woman.

My mother-in-law and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met each other.

Q: What are the two worst things about your mother-in-law?
A: Her faces.

And so it goes on.  Why is the poor old mother-in-law such a popular source of humor? Because your relationship with her can be one of the most challenging relationships you’ve ever had.

On the other hand, of course, many women have great relationships with their mothers-in-law. And that’s amazing when you consider the emotional issues that often exist between them.

What are her problems?

Just as fathers can be possessive about their daughters and feel grief at having to hand their little girls over to other men, mothers can and often are very possessive about their sons.

Even though she might be quite happy and relaxed about your relationship with her son while you were just going out or even living together, the fact that you are now getting married and that there is to be another “Mrs.” Whoever, changes the picture. Now, she has to face the fact that her son is replacing her as the number one woman in his life – with you.

No matter how philosophical a woman is, I think this is hard for her to accept. I know that when my son gets married I will feel, deep down, a sense of desertion and grief, no matter how much I like my new daughter-in-law. Just as is the case with your own mother, your wedding is a rite of passage for everyone else in your close family, mother-in-law included. The big difference between your mother and your mother-in-law is that the latter lady didn’t give birth to you and doesn’t love you the way your own mother does, although of course she may come to do so in time. So any sensation of jealousy, rivalry, competition, etc., will not be cushioned by any familial love or loyalty.

Your mother-in-law may well have had a very close relationship with your fiancé, perhaps looking after his domestic needs and generally spoiling him. In her eyes this will be a very hard act for you to follow, especially if you, like most rational people, think that the “domesticated little woman” role sucks and that your husband-to-be can damned well iron his own shirts. Worse still, your mother-in-law may try to extend her running of her son’s domestic life into your life together. While it may be handy to have someone to help with the domestics, do you really want your mother-in-law to run your life?

Another mother-in-law issue is that no girl would ever be good enough for what she had in mind for her darling boy. This standpoint is a useful excuse to cover up jealousy, because whatever you are and whatever you do, it won’t be good enough to meet her constantly shifting standards.

Well, that’s all the bad news. What can be done to reduce the negative issues and get into a better relationship with her?

Your fiancé’s role

Let’s face it, if your fiancé has always been a bit of a Mommy’s boy you’re in for an uphill struggle, but it’s a struggle you must get through if there is to be a peaceful relationship with her once you’re married. If things are tricky between you and your future mother-in-law, the first thing to do is to get your fiancé to sit her down privately, point out that he is not a little boy any longer, and that it’s very important to him that you and she get along as well as possible.

He must also make the point that if push comes to shove, he will side with you, not her. That’s something that he will have to stick to, as well, no matter how much pressure his mother might put on him to do otherwise.

He may well dread the idea of confronting his mother in this way and she may well shout and squirm to begin with. However provided that he stands his ground in a kind but firm way, in time she will have to accept it. In fact she will probably come to respect both her son and you more, for the fact that the issue has been faced and dealt with openly.

Your role

I think it’s very important for you, as the bride, to develop your own relationship with your future mother-in-law, independently of your fiancé and other family members.

To begin with, you owe it to both her and yourself to devote quite a lot of time and energy to this relationship. Whatever you may think of her she is still your fiancé’s mother, and as such is a very important part of your lives.

In addition, for all you know she may be more nervous about her new relationship with you than you think, and could feel unsure how to handle it.

Try to organize a lunch or shopping trip with just you and her, so you can get to know each other as people rather than in your respective family roles. You and she might both be pleasantly surprised at how well you get along when there’s no-one else around to divert your attention from each other.

If she wants to be involved in helping organize your wedding, try to accommodate her wish and make her feel not only needed, but admired for her capabilities. It’s very easy for the groom’s family to feel a little left out of things when a wedding is being planned because most of the organization is normally driven by the bride, and by extension her family and her friends. If mother-in-law should, by any chance, become a bit too pushy, try diverting her energy into one specific channel in a tactful way.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Words of wedding wisdom: MOTHER OF THE BRIDE – easy or tricky?

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

The Mother of the Bride

A girl’s relationship with her mother is hardly ever uncomplicated. Often it is a mixture of intense love and closeness with a hidden streak of competitiveness or even rivalry. Most of us muddle along if things get tense between us and our mothers, and provided everyone behaves in a mature, adult way any issues can be resolved.

When it comes to a daughter’s wedding, though, all this calm, good sense can get thrown out of the window, especially when it’s the first child or first daughter to marry.

Why your relationship changes

No matter how modern your mother is and how well attuned she is to gender equality, there is no doubt that your relationship with her will change once you get engaged. The politically correct brigade probably will want to shout at me here, but in my view it will take more than a few generations to breed out the long-standing notions we women have been brought up to believe about the status of marriage. Being a married woman is different to being a single woman whether in a mere titular way, or – as is the case in many more traditional cultures – in quite a substantial way where her standing in her community is concerned.

This then shifts the balance of the mother-daughter relationship from one of parent-child, to one of equality. Your mother may kid herself that you’re still her little girl until you’re a single woman in your 30s or 40s, but once she knows you’re headed up that aisle she is obliged to remove her head from the sand and recognize you as a fellow adult. Whether she likes it or not she has been moved up through another rite of passage in her life; she is a stage closer to old age. That can be quite depressing for her, especially if she is menopausal at the same time.

In a way, she is grieving for two losses; you in your role as the single daughter, and her own youth.

So no matter how subtle, there will be a change in your relationship with your mother. You may not be looking for it and she may well try to conceal it, but it can emerge in a number of different ways as preparations for the wedding get going. She might display a number of different behaviors you find surprising; she may become argumentative, bossy, distant, critical, sarcastic and even jealous.

How to handle her

As is the case in so many other areas of life, knowing what the real problem is can get you halfway towards solving it. Once you know that your mother is probably feeling quite sad, it will help you to see how she might be manifesting that sadness in strange behavior. What you need to do is to try not to react to her behavior, but to be as caring and loving as you can be so she feels supported. Don’t be angry with her; much as her strange behavior may be awkward for you, always remember that the problem lies with her, not with you.

It’s also very important to talk with your mother as much as you can, and to be totally honest about how you feel. People always associate weddings with radiant happiness but actually they are also a time when you say goodbye to certain elements of your life, which can be sad for you too. If you talk openly about any little regrets you may have at the thought of moving on to the next stage of your life, your mother may feel more comfortable about admitting her own feelings of regret – perhaps not to you, but at least to herself. Candid discussion about how you both feel, provided that it doesn’t begin opening up old wounds, is a far healthier alternative than brushing the sad elements of the wedding under the carpet.

Mothers: the overbearing types

Many mothers are excellent organizers and are a Godsend for a busy bride who hasn’t got time to see to every last detail. However there are many mothers who will take this role too far, and become somewhat overbearing and bossy.

Even if your wedding is of the old-fashioned variety where the bride’s parents are paying for most of it, there is still a lot you can do to sidestep conflicts with your mother even if she is running the whole project like a military boot camp.

Whatever you do, avoid direct confrontations. These nearly always lead to more trouble, including the emergence of recriminations and old disagreements crawling out of the woodwork. By far the better policy is to create diversions, either practical or psychological. For example, if you want to commission and order the floral arrangements yourself but your mother wants to be involved in it too, say that you want her to devote that portion of her time to something “far more important,” i.e. another element of the wedding you’re not so concerned about.

One of your mother’s greatest fears at this pivotal time of her life is of being redundant. Any suggestion that she is not wanted in any area of wedding preparations will reinforce this fear and may make her moody, aggressive, or other unfortunate reaction. By diverting her away from something while involving her further in another area, you are achieving more or less what you want without hurting her feelings.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Words of wedding wisdom: INTER-FAITH WEDDINGS and how to handle them

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

Inter-faith weddings

People’s experiences with inter-faith weddings range from the utterly awful to the delightful. Much depends on how tolerant and mature the two families are, and how seriously they observe their own religious values and traditions.

The prospect of an inter-faith wedding can be very daunting, but remember there are ways of handling it that can result in a wedding that is meaningful for you and that pleases both religious factions involved.

Give it time

Many people say that time is a great healer and this is certainly the case here. Should the announcement of your engagement cause a stir with one or both families for religious reasons, remember that as time progresses everyone will get used to the idea. For that reason, amongst others, it’s sensible to have quite a long engagement.

Spend as much time as you can with each family and learn all you can about the other religion. Be honest with them about your concerns and encourage them to be honest with you. Some families will see your choosing to marry out of the faith as a rejection of the values they hold dear, and will be deeply hurt. Over time you can compensate for this by showing that you are not turning your back on your own religion and that the values it – and your family – have taught you will never be forgotten.

This period will also allow for what may amount to more complex religious build-up to the wedding than would be the case otherwise. One partner may decide to convert to the other’s religion, which can take quite a long time. And whatever religious option you choose, it will take time to find the right solution, the right officiants, and the right venues.

What if the family refuses to accept it?

If after a reasonable length of time and effort on your part to communicate with and listen to your family’s concerns and they still won’t accept your decision to marry out of their faith, you may just have to go ahead and do it without them. It will be very painful for you and probably very painful for them, but in the end it is your life and provided you are convinced you’re making the right decision, that should take priority.

As time goes on and your family can see for themselves that you’re happy and settled, they may well relent; after all your happiness matters greatly to them, no matter what their religious convictions. Also, you may find that barriers come down when there is a grandchild in the offing.

What is important is that you don’t cut yourself off from your family. Keep the door open. If they have taken a firm stand against your marriage they probably will find it quite hard to eat humble pie and contact you again, so make it as easy as possible for them. Even if you feel angry with them – as well you might, to begin with at least – remember that they are still your family and that there’s a good chance of reconciliation some day in the future.

The options:

  • Couples from two different religious backgrounds basically have a choice of five options:
  • One partner converts to the other’s religion
  • You have two ceremonies (or blessings following a civil marriage,) one within each religion
  • You have a ceremony that combines the two religions
  • You create a non-denominational ceremony
  • You marry in a Registry Office/civil ceremony and do not have a religious wedding at all

Conversion

Obviously the choice of whether to do it and if so who does what, is entirely a matter for discussion and agreement between you two and your families. You must also seek the advice of your own religious leaders before you make the final decision. Whatever you do, though, make sure you keep your families informed of what you’re doing, and be as understanding and caring as possible. Misunderstandings of this kind cause a great deal of hurt.

Two ceremonies

Provided that both religions will allow this, it strikes me as a very good solution to the dilemma. You will need to check out the legal implications here. If one of the two ceremonies includes the Registry bit that’s required in the UK that’s fine; alternatively you can have a civil wedding first with blessing ceremonies within each religion afterwards, or arrange to have a Registrar present at one of the two ceremonies.

Combination ceremony

This is another good idea provided you can make it work! Within different sectors of the same religion, e.g. Roman Catholicism and Anglican Christians, Liberal and Orthodox Judaism, etc., it shouldn’t be too difficult to organise a ceremony that is acceptable to all parties; see Nick Terry’s contribution below.

Where things might get a bit more complex is when there is a greater difference between the two religions. This need not be a problem, however. As usual, it’s a matter of communication! Talk to your religious leaders about your desire to blend the two religions into one ceremony. It could well be that they take a more flexible view of this than you would have imagined.

A non-denominational ceremony

There are officiants – some ordained ministers – who will put together a non-denominational ceremony for your wedding. This will assume only that you both believe in a “higher Being,” without going into the specifics of a particular religious viewpoint.

You will have to check carefully what the current legislation is regarding such weddings and if necessary, have a Registry Office marriage in addition. To find these people key “interfaith ministers” into Google or other search engine.

For more information on inter-faith weddings, key “interfaith weddings” into Google or other search engine.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Words of wedding wisdom: THE GROOM – how to keep him busy

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

The groom

What is it about weddings that makes some grooms develop total allergy syndrome and run for the hills until it’s time to go to the ceremony?

A cynical view would be that organizing a wedding is far too daunting a prospect for men to cope with, so rather than be shown up by the superior organizing skills of women, they avoid as much contact with it as possible!

More realistically, I think it’s a case that men aren’t as good at dealing with detail as women are. They can see the point of, but can’t gain much enjoyment from, all the agonizing women do over color schemes, floral choices, menus, dress designs, etc., etc. We women on the other hand can cheerfully lose ourselves in a snowstorm of color swatches, brochures, pictures and other material that would drive most men mad.

As weddings are a time when emotions can run at a pretty high voltage, some grooms are concerned that if they do offer opinions they might upset the wrong person. Well, that’s their excuse, anyway. And some men … well, just aren’t interested. They want to be married, but are intimidated by the fuss of a wedding.

Now, before we go any further on this topic let’s get one thing clear; you need to make a decision on whether the groom should be involved in the wedding plans or not. There may be some circumstances in which the bride, her family and friends are more than delighted to run the whole show without interference from elsewhere. If that’s the case, fine! If not, and you want the groom to be usefully employed in the wedding process, read on here.

What he can do (and still be “macho”)

Most of the wedding etiquette books and websites will give you chapter and verse on the groom’s duties on the actual day of the wedding. However there are a number of tasks he can take care of before the day without being obliged to try on different colors of chiffon or select from 87 different designs of table decoration.

Take a cue from the groom’s natural capabilities:

**Is he an accountant, finance executive, budget controller? Get him to be in charge of the wedding spend and manage the invoices/payments.

**Is he a project manager or co-ordinator? Ask him to oversee and manage the suppliers working together to create your reception (caterers, florists, entertainers, etc.)

**Is he good at decorating, carpentry and/or DIY? Get him to organize a crew to erect decorations – balloons, floral displays, etc – at the wedding venue.

**Does he like food and wine? Put him in charge of selecting the menu and wines for the reception – or even get him to create a new cocktail or wine-based drink specially for the event.

**Is he knowledgeable about cars and transport? Ask him to research the best deals on wedding cars and negotiate with the final supplier.

**Is he a keen photographer? Set him to work researching wedding photography services and deciding on the right one to do your wedding.

Other things

One thing the groom has to do whether he likes it or not is to decide what he, the best man and the other male attendants are going to wear, and then to organize those outfits.

Needless to say if he is going to hire clothes for all the guys – especially if your wedding is during the high season – he must do this in plenty of time if he wants to be sure of getting the right styles and sizes.

If he and the other male participants are to buy their clothes, once again this should be done in plenty of time to ensure the right fit and design. If they don’t want to go to the expense of buying entire outfits, they can create an attractive overall look in plain suits (hired or their own) with color co-ordinated shirts, ties and buttonholes.

And it’s helpful if the groom consults with the bride about what the boys should wear!

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

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