What should a bride or groom do when not everybody who is most important to them is happy they're getting married? It's not a problem that you usually hear talked about in polite company because, let's face it, weddings are supposed to be happy occasions and the last thing the bride and groom want to do is mar the overall experience by talking about the most difficult aspects of joining their lives. But sometimes family really throws a monkey wrench in the works.
True story: When Bill and I got married 10 years ago, my mother-in-law did not attend our wedding on Vieques Island. She attended the wedding reception at home a week after the wedding and showed her support that way, but when Bill proposed to me and we shared the good news with her, I was absolutely shocked by her response.
"I've already been to his wedding and I'm not going to another," she told me. She wasn't kidding. To this day, I still think the fact that the almost 80-year-old woman had only been on an airplane once, more than 30 years before, had more to do with it than our actual wedding. But what she said to me was mean. It hurt. It still bothers me and she died eight years ago.
Although it's not common, I have had multiple brides and grooms who only had one side represented on their wedding weekend. Some couples are very up front about things with me from the beginning. Others wait til I ask a question like "are we doing flowers for your mom?" or "will you do a daddy/daughter dance?" to tell me her mom is in a mental institution or her father is deceased. It can be very awkward and uncomfortable for them to discuss, but it's important for the wedding planner to know enough details so that she doesn't put her big foot in her mouth accidentally looking for somebody who isn't there at the wedding rehearsal.
But at least things like that, and the situation with my mother in law, are passive situations - nothing can be done about it so you just suck it up and move on. Wasting time being upset isn't going to accomplish anything or make the wedding experience better. Regardless of the reason, that person won't be there. Move on.
What's much more difficult for brides and grooms to deal with is someone who has their own problems or issues and brings them to your wedding table, so to speak. One of the most common problems I've seen brides encounter is the single, older, bitter sister situation. Sometimes she's divorced and has some good reasons to feel bitter about marriage; often she's just single and mad about it. She's not married or involved with anyone worth mentioning but she has to sit there and watch her little sister plan the whole frothy white wedding with her parents, who she's pretty sure have already given up on her. And she's got to wear a stupid bridesmaid dress and endure endless questions from well-meaning friends of her parents who are surprised she's not married yet.
So yes, older unmarried siblings (especially sisters) may have a rough time watching their younger siblings get married. Especially sisters. Jealous younger sisters may be a pain in the butt too, but usually it's because they want to be included in more aspects of the wedding, not less.
Likewise, more than one groom has encountered an older brother who tells him to run for his life and not actually do the deed. Whether he's bitter and divorced, or just screwed because now his parents are going to be all over his ass about when he's going to finally settle down himself, it's a hard one for brothers too. He may realize he's losing his permanent wing-man, with whom he's watched every single NHL game for the last 35 years. Sure, they're still going to hang out and watch the game together - but not as often. And a lot more of it will be over the telephone because there's no way the new bride is going to tolerate him taking up permanent residence on the couch or her new husband moving into his brother's house for the season. Things will change.
It's one thing when somebody is pissy about your wedding plans while you're making them and enjoying the engagement time (yes, it really does poop on your party because they're going to be at everything wedding related because they're probably in your wedding party), but it's worse when they behave nastily during your actual wedding weekend. It's unfortunate and thoughtless and rude, but it happens. And you cannot control it. But you can control your own reactions to it and have a plan in place ahead of time in case it happens.
If his older brother is divorced because he drank too much and partied too hard, you can expect that sort of behavior at your wedding, unless he's started working the steps. A zebra doesn't change its stripes just because you put it in a tuxedo. You can expect to have him embarrass you in at some point during your wedding festivities. However, you might be able to head off total disaster by planning a little ahead.
Talk to your fiancé's best friend (with your fiancé in the room) and ask for his help in controlling the brother when the time comes. If he's been your fiancé's bff for a long time, he probably knows your future brother-in-law almost as well, whether he likes him or not. He'll understand your concerns about what he might say during the toasts or how outrageously drunk he may become at your wedding reception. And he may be able to help. It's also good if the groom has more than one brother and the other one isn't a problem child. He can be in charge of the other one.
Women are more difficult. If your sister really opposes your marriage - or marriage in general - and if she's an outspoken person who rarely holds back, you can expect to deal with a lot of bitching and moaning, as well as passive-aggressive behavior as you make your wedding plans. One moment she may be all into dress shopping with you but when the appointment actually happens, her mood may have flipped because she's having a hard time being surrounded by all the beautiful white gowns she has no reason to try on. I'm sorry to be so hard on my own gender here, but it's the truth. When we're unhappy, we tend to take it out on those around us. And sisters are easy targets because they have to love you unconditionally even when you've been a bitch.
If your sister voices displeasure that you're getting married or starts playing passive-aggressive as soon as you've gotten engaged, sit down with her and do your best to nip it in the bud. Tell her that you understand how she feels (after you ask her how she's feeling) and explain that if you were in her shoes, you might struggle the same way. But with that said, you're sisters and you're getting married and you need her support. It wouldn't be your perfect day without her there teasing you about something you wish she'd let you forget.
Do your best not to talk about the wedding plans constantly when you're with her during your engagement - don't make everything in life about your wedding. It's likely your mom has already made her feel like that. Don't feed into it. Don't only go shopping for wedding items together - do things that are totally unrelated. She may pull out of her funk early and get into the fun of the planning and then you won't have anything to worry about (except the possibility of her getting overly emotional if she's over-served at your reception - but that's a ways off so you can worry about it when and if it happens).
Many brides chatter endlessly to everybody about their wedding plans. They can't help it. You know who you are. If that's you, don't do it around your sister. Talk about work, talk about vacation plans, talk about doing something with your garden, but don't force her to look at Pinterest pages with you to choose your wedding cake design unless she suggests it. Don't rub her nose in it. If she's being the best sport she can, appreciate that and respect her for it.
Weddings bring out all sorts of emotions in those closest to the bride and groom. Emotions sometimes cause people to drink more than they usually would and behave in a manner they'll later wish they hadn't. Do whatever you can to keep the peace before your wedding, and take preventative measures where necessary. With that said, remember on your wedding day that you are the "guests of honor." That means somebody else should do the drunk-wrangling and babysitting while you dance and have fun. If somebody is being negative on your big day, avoid them. You have lots of other guests to visit with and enjoy your night.
As long as you take the high road and treat your family with respect and consideration during the engagement period and wedding planning process, you have every right to expect the same respect for the solemnity of the occasion on your wedding day. If you really think somebody might ruin the day for you, give them this article to read. And then sit down and discuss it. Pro-active is the way to approach this particular problem. They'll always be your family and you don't want to accidentally cause a long-term problem over misdirected feelings.