22

Background

My fiancée and I recently got engaged and we've started talking about weddings. She's from Michigan and I'm from Georgia. Our families still live in those respective areas, but we met and currently live in the DC area. The problem lies in actually figuring out where we want to have the wedding.

She has always had a grand vision of getting married in Michigan that I only recently found out about after getting engaged. It includes getting ready at her parents house, getting married at her childhood church, and have her entire extended family in Michigan come, among other things. Her mom is also very particular for what she wants for our wedding because it's her only daughter. While my fiancée doesn't know some of the bigger decisions (where the reception will be, how many people, etc.), she already knows a florist, a caterer for one night of the wedding, where she'd get her wedding dress, that she wants to get married in her childhood church, and a few other odds and ends.

While I don't have a preference on the specifics of the wedding currently (flowers, what kind of cake, type of ceremony, etc.), I would like for us to get married in the DC area because that's where we live, where are mutual friends are, and where we've started our life together. I also have little connection to Michigan other than she is from there and her family lives there. I know DC will be much more expensive, but my worry is if we do it in Michigan, she and her mom will make the decisions (which is the same worry her mom has about us if we do the wedding in DC). I have this fear mostly because her mom is a very strong willed person and my fiancée has a really hard time saying no to her mom for a variety of reasons.

Question

How do I approach discussing a compromise on our wedding location?

EDIT: Some answers to common FAQs

Who is paying for the wedding?

My fiancée and I want to pay for most of it ourselves, however both sets of parents have agreed to help

Do you have a budget worked out?

Yes. We have a rough estimate of how many people we want to invite and about how much that will cost per person

Would the guest list change if it were in one place over another?

Not that I'm aware of, but we haven't ironed out a specific number of people who we would invite.

  • 12
    Who is paying for this wedding? – Jerrad Mar 13 '18 at 17:57
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Mar 13 '18 at 19:06
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    Her mom is worried about her making her own decisions...? – user403 Mar 13 '18 at 22:21
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    Do you have any reason to believe your friends from DC won't travel to Michigan for a wedding? On the other hand, would it be difficult for family from Michigan to travel to DC (I'm thinking older relatives). How much do you really care? What part are you worried her mother will take over that you won't get a say in? These might seem like ridiculous questions, but I've recently gone through this and for me, I didn't really care about much except that guests could make it. Table decorations, flowers, music, none of that bothered me. Your mileage may vary of course. – Tas Mar 14 '18 at 2:15
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    Also, you say While I don't have a preference on what we do... then later my worry is if we do it in Michigan, she and her mom will make the decisions. Why is this a worry if you have no preference for what you do? If both this and the location are concerns, you could bring them both up with your fiancee and give her the option to have it in Michigan if her mom is hands-off, or in DC and allow her mom to be involved, but it's hard to advise without knowing how important that part is to you – Lord Farquaad Mar 14 '18 at 13:46
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The best way to start a potentially conflict-creating talk is to agree on common goals and problems first.

So, you don't start with a "How about we get married in DC". You tell her it is about planning the wedding and start by asking what is most important for her in the ceremony. Then you share what is most important for you. The important thing here is not to get into the solutions already ("I want it here in DC") but into the goals ("I want that as many as possible of our current friends can attend") and also your fears, in a nonthreatening way (not "In Michigan, your mother will decide everything without asking us" - she will feel it necessary to defend her mother). Also listen very attentively to what is important to her, and rephrase it back to make sure you understood her, and also to have her see this is about understanding each other and not about one person overriding the other's ideas.

Once this is sorted out, you can both try finding decisions which cover both people's list of desired goals. And you have to be open that this is something other than "marrying in DC" - if you go into the conversation with the attitude that you have the perfect solution and only have to make her agree to it, this will end up badly even if she agrees this time.

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    I'm very confused by how popular this answer is. If you can't even give your actual fiancee your worries straight, then what kind of a relationship are you in? When my mother-in-law tries to take control of important facets my life, I'd want my partner to be the one I can complain straight to. Compromise is attained by both being able to appreciate where the other's starting point was and how far they're willing to deviate from that point for you. – DonFusili Mar 14 '18 at 9:46
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    @DonFusili This answer isn't about 'not giving your worries straight', it's about giving your worries in the right context. Just because this person has agreed to marry you doesn't mean you can just dump your opinions on them in any tone you like and without any context. You can say the same thing by being more tactful, i.e starting with "I'd like us to remain completely in control of the wedding" rather than "If we do it in Michigan your mother will assume control of everything". – Cronax Mar 14 '18 at 10:32
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    @Cronax I think I understand what the answer is about. I just don't understand the point of tact among people that decided to spend their lives together. That said, I don't understand the point of the question either if the discussion is to be held with the fiancee instead of the mother-in-law. If the answer is the most upvoted I'll assent that I obviously hold the minority opinion, though. The reason for my comment is that I think it's unacceptable to downvote without giving the reason. – DonFusili Mar 14 '18 at 10:53
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    @DonFusili Because there are ways of doing things that necessarily ends in a fight and there are ways of doing things that have a better possibility of ending with a compromise. If you oppose doing what your fiancee wants with the excuse being an insult to her mother, well - not very smooth. If you explain your feelings and try to find a compromise, she will as well. – Stian Yttervik Mar 14 '18 at 12:26
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    @DonFusili Tact is even more important with someone you will spend your life with, as little irritations have much longer to accumulate into big raw spots. (And the MIL should probably also be considered someone the OP is entering a long-term relationship with, albeit not by mutual agreement.) – 1006a Mar 14 '18 at 20:07
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It is traditional for a wedding to take place in a bride's hometown. But times are changing. Communication has made the world a smaller place, more people get together from further apart, and for one thing it is impractical to expect half the guests to make a 1000+mile journey.

Obviously it is IMPOSSIBLE to give your fiancé everything she wants AND get what you want as well. This is crossing over into life advice, but while your wedding is just one day it involves months of planning and is likely the biggest project a couple will have embarked on to date. But married life will bring more huge projects, and how you plan your wedding is sort of a template for things to come. You will have to learn to make compromises and be yielding to one another in marriage, so it would be good if you could both do that when planning your wedding.

Rather than present the subject as your ideas versus hers, think about the practicalities of your decisions and how they will impact on everyone involved in the wedding, including the guests. Hopefully your wife to be IS practical and won't think that this is a romance killer.

The big thing about the distance will be: can all your guests afford to travel to your chosen location?

  • If you get married in Michigan, your friends from DC will have to travel 500+ miles, and your family from Georgia will have to travel 1000+ miles. Her family won't have to travel at all.
  • If you get married in DC your friends won't have to travel. Both your families will have to travel 500+ miles.

By getting married in DC you are making more people travel, but the cost and effort is shared. More people may be able to attend. If you point this out in discussion, she may agree that it is a fairer and better option.

On the matter of the potentially higher costs of marrying in DC - you didn't say who was paying for the wedding, but as you are both living away from your original homes I'm going to assume that you both already live alone, or together, which raises the subject of wedding gifts. Traditionally, wedding gifts were things that you needed for your new home together, but if you are already living independently I imagine you already have plenty of towels and cutlery and don't need people to give you things like this. It is becoming increasingly common for wedding gifts to be contributions towards the wedding. This isn't for everyone, some people may find it crass to ask for money, but look online and there are more and more people doing this with suggestions on how to phrase your request. And when you think about it, is it really any less crass than sending a list of things you want buying for you? Whatever you choose in this regard, my point is this: wedding gifts are likely to be more generous if you haven't made people travel 1000+ miles.

Use this information as the basis for a discussion and listen to what your fiancé has to say. Again, this may only be a day, but the way you work together on this is going to set a standard for how you work together in the future.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – HDE 226868 Mar 19 '18 at 2:59
11

I see just a problem here, once it's solved your life as a couple will be much better in general.

From what you have described, it looks like your mother in law will probably decide a lot of details regarding the wedding, since she will use the excuse that you are far away and she will be on location. Probably your soon to be wife will not have the strength to say no to her strong mother. If you give her the freedom to do this, she will feel forever entitled to interfer to your life-couple decisions, all life long. This could ruin your relationship in the long term.

Take the decision by yourselves, without letting external people forcing you to do this or that. I know that it can look unfair to your in-laws, but you both as couple will benefit from this indipendence. Probably your wife will not like this view, because as you say she has difficulties in saying no, but I can guarantee (from personal experience) that it will be good for both of you.

You can also make this clear with the in-laws, telling them that you will let them know the decision later on, and they will be very welcome to help, but just once the decision is taken.

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    Hey, Val... I'm not really seeing how this answers the question. Can you make it a bit more clear? You're telling them to make the decision themselves... the question is asking how to do that. Can you please edit your answer to more directly answer the question?.. preferably without the doom and gloom about the MIL? – Catija Mar 13 '18 at 23:04
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    Hi Catija, it looks like the MIL is a big figure involved in the decision, so first step to address the problem is removing her from the decision. I can guarantee that when the two of them will talk without external pressures, the decision will be far easier. For what I read, most OP "fears" are related to MIL interfering with their big day, so this is an answer to how make the decision. He already said that both of them are paying so this is even easier. Make a list of pros and cons of each location and that's it. – Val Mar 14 '18 at 7:16
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    You don't say any of that in your answer though. That's why I've asked you to edit your answer to be more clear. – Catija Mar 14 '18 at 14:57
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Compromising is a skill. There's a lot of info on it, I personally am a fan of this tutorial on wikihow.

First of all, try and walk a mile in your spouse's shoes. Try and imagine her reasons for wanting the wedding in Michigan, then try and imagine how the day would be for her if the wedding were held in DC. Would there be a difference in the guest list? In the costs and thus how elaborate the wedding can be? You already know a lot of her arguments for and your arguments against a wedding in Michigan, so this should not be that hard.

If you're going to ask her about this, make sure you take the time to have a good conversation. Remove distractions, make sure you can pay her all the attention she deserves. Also, ask her open-ended questions, try and get her talking. The same goes for you too, talk. Even if she's not asking very open-ended questions, try and find a way to convey more info than just 'yes' or 'I disagree'.

I have this fear mostly because her mom is a very strong willed person and my fiancé has a really hard time saying no to her mom for a variety of reasons.

I think step 4 and 5 from the first part of the WikiHow article can help you a lot: Be assertive. Communicate using I statements, it's okay to tell your wife that you're afraid of what might happen when your soon to be mother-in-law influences the wedding. That you're afraid she'll influence it in the first place. This is also a great time to make your non-negotiables clear. It might be easier for your spouse to say 'no' if she has agreed with you upon the non-negotiables. This is all to figure out where you stand, to get it very clear what you'll be compromising on and not.

The next step will be to come up with solutions. What common ground do you both have? What are you willing to sacrifice for her, but what will she have to give up in exchange? Try and take turns on the offering of solutions, so that it won't be one person bashing the other's ideas all the time.

To make the entire process as smooth as possible, stay focused on finding a solution. Once you know where both of you stand, it does do no good to keep dwelling on the problem, instead, actively try and resolve it. Be respectful, if you're feeling like you're getting angry, try and control your anger or ask her to move the discussion to the future. Be realistic, and don't think of this as someone winning or losing. A successful compromise means you both will be happy in the end.

7

Who is paying for this wedding?

The tradition in the USA is for the bride's family to pay for and plan the wedding, with the groom's family paying for the rehearsal dinner.

If their family is paying for the wedding, which again is traditional and it sounds like they are probably expecting to do, then in a very real sense they have all the cards here. While you might express a preference, it isn't up to you. Your job as the groom is just to make it there at the appointed time with a ring and say what you are supposed to say.

On the other hand, if the two of you are paying for it, then that's up to the two of you. You can certainly listen to input from the families, but otherwise feel free to tell everyone else on both sides to get lost or pony up the cash to pay for it if they don't like the decision you are making.

I'd still council (as a guy who has now made it past his 25th anniversary) to try to let her win every argument possible here. First off, weddings are a crazy amount of planning and stress, and you want as little of that pie as possible. Secondly, it pretty clear she's dreamed of this all her life, so I highly doubt you care nearly as much about it as she does.

Thirdly, don't contribute to the stress any more than you have to.

4

I would like to suggest that you don't.

First, make sure your ok with laws regarding wedding and marriage in your target state, but aside from that let he have her way. You will be happier, and honestly it will make your married life a lot smoother if it starts with her getting her way, then a compromise where she isn't happy.

For example lets say you compromise and have the wedding in Florida. If it rains, is to hot, too cold, the care isn't perfect, the dress has a small hole, she gets a pimple, he mom stubs her toe, it will be all your fault. Even if she doesn't express it as such, that will always be the start. 10 years from now you will have a fight and she will bring up the fact that the wedding wasn't perfect because you just wouldn't get married in Michigan.

With that out of the way however, you have two important problems.

  1. You should already be able to discuss hard, and hurtful topics before you get married. What makes a marriage last isn't love, or stubbornness, or even mutual goals. It's straight up, the ability to communicate, even with that communication is difficult and uncomfortable.

  2. You are going to be battling "her right" as a bride. It's really her day. It's not yours. As you go through the process you will quickly discover that. Many vendors, providers, etc. won't even talk to you unless you make it a point. They will default to talking to her.

So when you reach out to her, you need to make a logical and fact based argument for having your wedding where you want it. The only reason can't be because you want it. You should list the Pros and Cons (and be honest about it) for each location. You need to sell her on the idea of having it in your location so well that she thinks it's better then her location.

To help you could focus on

  • Laws
  • Travel Time
  • Cost (careful here)
  • Size
  • Venue
  • Ease of dealing with vendors (honestly this is huge)
  • Ability to customize (i.e. if we do it here we can make our own candles)
  • The people that would be invited
  • Weather and Time of Year
  • Transportation for visitors.

Don't approach the situation as her giving up a location, but instead focus on selling your location.

I know you wanted to get married in Michigan, but that makes it very hard for my grandparents to travel. If we get married around here then my family can attend too. Not to mention that we can see more venues and have a wider selection of places to choose from. Also dealing with the caterers, the bakers, the musicians, the photographers, the printers, the tailors, the dress makers, and the courts becomes much easier. I mean we can't even really get married in Michigan because were not residents (totally fake I don't know the laws there), and you have to take a 6 week class. So we would have to be married here, then have a fake ceremony there. (again totally don't know if that is the case)

I would just feel that it's important to at least look at DC before we make the choice.

2

To be honest the way you protrayed it here, it sounds like she has put a lot more thought into this while you are more concerned about how inconvinient it is for you. Considering she has 'always had this grand vision', my question is when did you get to know about it? If she has told you about this a long time ago and you have never countered her. Then let her have it that way. If it was only mentioned recently around the time of the engagement, then you should be honest and tell her that you are a little unsure about how you feel about going there. It is afterall a wedding for both of you.

Try to make a pros and cons list of both locations together. Destination weddings can be quite a pain to both the hosts and the guests. So honestly the place with the most guests would be ideal. Be clear that you support her and want both of you to be happy, but that you are not comfortable with her mother controlling so many aspects, since it is afterall your wedding. Let her know that while you don't mind travelling to her destination, that you have reservations about her mother having already planned so much before you guys have. I recommend posting this question in the subreddit r/justnomil as well, since there are lots of supportive people with the same experience there.

I would recommend making a more detailed plan and idea for the wedding and comparing how it would be in both cities.

  • There's a saying, the wedding is for the bride; the honeymoon is for the groom. I know stereotypes are frowned upon but in many cases they provide some insight. One of those stereotypes is that the bride has been dreaming of her wedding day for years. The guy only dreams about what beautiful woman he is going to get married to. Logically, whose dream is shattered when the groom tramples on the bride's dream wedding? The groom still gets his dream. – Dunk Mar 14 '18 at 22:02
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You can start humorously, showing her what would be the actual compromise, like this:

right in the middle

Tell her you started checking which places are available for wedding around there for the date of your wedding, or something like that, just to seemingly be serious about you planning for wedding there. Make sure she understands that it is joke afterwards.

This way both of you may acknowledge the points the other fiancée makes and his/hers view on the wedding place location, perhaps by referring to the location in the middle.

I am surprised nobody has actually come up with this so far.

Then you sit together and listen when the other fiancée explains the (relevant, not just because, at least explained why) reasons for this or the other location, taking turns.

Anyway, it is about your and your fiancée's ability to come to a uneasy compromise, making sure that you respect each other's wishes in the result. You must do that on your own, without external interference, of course.

As a side note, don't worry too much if the bride gets most of her wishes, in that case just make sure that you respect each other wishes and opinions equally after your wedding.

There will be a possibility of your mother-in-law getting too much involved in your marriage, if she feels she can easily control your married life. Then you and your fiancée have to come with a shared opinion how to deal with that unwanted interference, stick to that, and present it to the source person, but that's another story/IPS question, like this one: Girlfriend's nosy mother keeps expressing that she'll show up unannounced .

  • Picking an essentially random location that requires all involved parties to travel is likely going to make no one happy. – Chase Sandmann Mar 14 '18 at 23:18
  • That is just an example how to demonstrate ideal compromise so that both sides are equally (un)happy. A way to introduce the topic, of course the resulting location will be totally different. – weddingGuest Mar 15 '18 at 9:47

protected by NVZ Mar 14 '18 at 17:53

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