How to Plan a Wedding When Your Families Don’t Get Along

Wedding guests sitting at an outdoor ceremony.

What happens when two people love each other—but their families don’t get along? For starters, it makes having a wedding that much more complicated. Sure, we’re all used to family quibbles, but you’re probably only thinking of your blood (or adopted) relatives. It’s not the same when two different dynasties disagree. And depending on how far the two sides stray, things can get a little messy when you’re planning a gathering of the two, such as a wedding or its related events.

If you’re lucky, both of your families get along just fine, or they might have some opposing opinions but don’t interact much. If you lie on the other side, however, you might be facing Romeo- and Juliet-style drama. Most commonly, however, is somewhere in-between.

So, how do you deal with that when it comes to your special day? Ideally, you want to do everything to soothe the situation from the start and take all the necessary steps to avoid drama. In most cases, that means compromising and keeping a cool head.

Consider a Limited Capacity Venue or Destination Wedding

Use the excuse of a limited venue capacity to be picky with who gets an invite and who doesn’t. If you think someone might cause chaos at your wedding, save money on the stationary and just invite them out to drinks at another point to celebrate with them.

You can also take this a step further by having a destination wedding, as not everyone will be able to attend a celebration overseas. However, should you want someone specific there, you might want to come up with an arrangement on the sidelines.

Be Smart with Seating Charts

A wedding seating chart.

There’s hardly ever a situation in which every family member on your side hates every family member on your fiancè’s side. Not to mention, you’re hardly ever just inviting family to your wedding—there might be friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. But, if you do have some significant arguments between specific relatives, the most obvious option would be to seat them as far away as possible and make sure they do not interact. And if this is on a grander scale, basically you’ll need to not only create a seating chart, but spend a good amount of time arranging it. Make sure your partner chimes in too, as two minds are better than one.

The same applies to internal family arguments. For example, it might be weird if your mom and dad don’t sit together, but you could provide a “buffer” by seating one person between them and it won’t seem weird at all.

Compromise When Possible

Compromise and communication are key to a quibble-free wedding. This may mean saying yes to one thing from your family and saying yes to something else from your partner’s family. If you take the time to brainstorm, you might even discover a solution that’ll keep both sides happy. And if you don’t, you might have to say no to both. For example, if religion is the subject, skip the church wedding altogether and go for a neutral non-secular venue and officiant. Do remember that this is just ONE day, and small sacrifices might be worth it for a peaceful future.

Limit Interaction with Plenty of Entertainment

A homemade ring toss game at a wedding reception

If you’re going to have a lounge area at your reception, create two. Maybe even have two separate bars on opposite sides of the venue! You might also want to invest in some side entertainment to keep guests occupied. For example, if you know one family is into outdoorsy stuff, maybe set up a few games in the garden. If you keep guests happy and having a good time, they won’t have the time or the energy to argue.

Ignore Opinions

At the end of the day, remember that it is YOUR wedding. Yes, the old saying goes “Marriage is not a union between two people but two families” —but by having your wedding, you are essentially creating your own family, too. Unless you’re financially dependent on someone for your wedding bills, their opinion should not trump your vision of your big day. Just make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page.

Consider Eloping or Eliminating the Traditional Reception

A bride and groom eloping in Paris.

A reception is not a must-have. You can have a ceremony and follow it up with just cocktails and a cake-cutting. Or, if you think there won’t be too much drama but you don’t want to hear even a second of it, arrange some sort of gathering but feel free to immediately head off to your honeymoon as soon as you leave the altar. However, if you do that, you might want to follow up to celebrate with each side of the family separately once you come back.

Similarly, a wedding is not a must, either. If you truly think the whole thing will be a disaster, skip the wedding altogether and elope. Just follow up with your friends and family afterward and arrange a more intimate gathering at a later time so no one feels left out.

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