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Wedding planning should be collaborative at every step

By Thelma Domenici
For the Journal
          Dear Thelma: Our son is getting married, and we're thrilled with his wife-to-be. We have, though, encountered a dilemma concerning the wedding. The parents of the bride are able to pay only 40 percent of the wedding cost, forcing us to pay the remaining 60 percent, yet we can include only 10 guests out of the 100 guests planned for. We adore her parents and do not want to create any problems for anyone, but we feel this is unfair. How do we graciously deal with this situation?
        A: It sounds from your question like a critical first step in this couple's wedding planning is lacking. That step is a friendly meeting that includes the bride, the groom and all the parents. Everyone should come to this meeting with a list of guests they would like to invite to the celebration and a thought as to why each guest should be included.
        First consideration should be given to the bride and groom's lists. Next, equal attention should be paid to the lists of the parents. If at first glance the number of people on the lists far exceeds the venue or the budget you have in mind, the lists should be whittled equitably.
        If this conversation has not taken place and you are already committed to paying for more than half the cost of the reception, you must stop the planning until this meeting can take place. Go into it with your complete list and work from there. This should be a case of making sure both families have the opportunity to include those with whom they wish to share the celebration. If the bride has 20 first cousins each with a family of their own who must be invited and the groom has only one, that shouldn't preclude the groom's parents from inviting other people who are important to them.
        Listen and talk openly about affordability, responsibility, satisfaction and happiness. If cost is a barrier, cutting all the lists must be done, but those decisions should be made openly and candidly. If cuts can't be made by both sides, then new consideration should be paid to the type of wedding you're planning. It may be time to look at a new venue or a new menu or new expectations. Anyone insisting on a vastly unequal balance of guests should be willing to cover the expenses created by that imbalance.
        If a lack of invitees lessens the happiness of the occasion, my advice is to not spend so much on the location, the flowers, the meal and any other cost you can control, and instead use your resources to include the people who you want to have there.
        It sounds like the parties involved are happy with the match, and if you truly "adore her parents" as you say, you should approach them with courtesy and respect and they should respond in kind. This should be a happy and joyous event. The planning of it should avoid friction, stress and lack of listening. Deal with the situation graciously by reaching out and working together.
        Dear Thelma: My mother introduces me as "the daughter." I feel it is rude, but my brother says don't sweat the small stuff. It isn't small to me — I am "her" daughter — and even though she is in her 80s, it doesn't make it right.
        A: Have a conversation with your mother. Use phrases like "I want to tell you how I feel about ..." rather than "You make me feel ..." That helps keep defensiveness out and makes for a better conversation.
        Personally, if my mom were alive she could call me anything she pleased. Even my funny nickname "Bombi" would make me happy.
        Conversations and good manners never go out of style.
        Have a question about etiquette? You can ask it at www.askthelma.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.

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