How to be a trouper getting ready for a child’s or grandchild’s wedding

By Emma Daniel | Living 50 Plus

Having children or grandchildren getting married can be stressful for everyone involved, but local wedding coordinators say being supportive is the key to parents, grandparents and the new couple having a good time at the wedding.

Carlee Koehler, owner of the Event Planner event coordination service in Huntsville, said showing support is the best way for a wedding to go smoothly.

“This is likely the biggest day of your child or grandchild’s life up to this point, so having positive family support, not just on the wedding day, but throughout the planning process, can mean the difference between it being a treasured experience and a nightmare they’d rather forget,” she said.

Juanita Healy, 74, of Hartselle, a former wedding coordinator and grandmother of two brides in 2021, said showing that understanding can make or break a wedding.

“Don’t add to their stress,” she said. “This is their day. Don’t be difficult! Be cooperative, sit back and enjoy your beautiful children or grandchildren and be proud of them.”

Stress is inevitable on a wedding day. When Tina Bartlett’s daughter got married, the family experienced travel delays right before the rehearsal dinner.

Bartlett, 60, of Decatur, stayed determined to still be positive and give the bride and groom a good day, despite all odds.  

“I just threw up my hands and thought, ‘What happens, happens. We are going to enjoy ourselves no matter what,’” she said. “It’s all in the mindset when it’s that close. I didn’t want to upset the bride and groom.”

Though all flights were canceled, the family had good communication and was able to band together to pile into two cars to drive from St. Louis for the wedding.

Healy agreed that being understanding and communicative about the stresses of a huge event like a wedding will take you far with the bride and groom during planning.

“Remember you are blending two families,” she said. “You have a lot of people and a lot of traditions.”

Financial stress

Money is most one of the biggest stressors of weddings.

Erica Thimsen, owner of Helping Hand parties and weddings in Huntsville, said that the gentle support and communication that starts with alleviating stress should follow through to financial matters.

“Weddings tend to be a big business, and girls have their minds set on different things,” she said. “Be supportive of what they want and make sure it’s realistic on what they can have as far as budget goes.”

Although some traditions dictate one family pays for the wedding and the other pays for the reception, the 21st century has flipped every custom on its head. Many couples want to handle wedding expenses on their own, Koehler said.

“For some families, financing the wedding can indicate a level of assumable control,” she said. “Even the most well-meaning family members believe that they are somehow entitled to a say in decisions the couple is making if they are paying for all or part of the wedding.”

She and Healy said being upfront about expectations you have after paying for the event is crucial to an easier planning period.

“With weddings you have a whole lot of opinions” Healy said. “Don’t hesitate to share those early in planning, then step back.”

That expectation of control can present itself in different ways, whether it be the venue, the dress, or the guest list.

“Weddings can be a powder keg for any unpleasant and pre-existing family dynamics,” Koehler said. “Be in tune to the dynamics that already exist and anticipate how they might flare up during wedding planning so you can choose how you want to respond.”

Healy, Koehler and Thimsen all agreed having a dependable wedding planner can help you ensure everything will run easily during events celebrating the marriage.

“Use someone who is organized, dependable and will take charge,” Healy said. “Even if you use a friend or relative, make sure they are really up to the responsibilities.”

Hiring a planner can also make sure you have time to actually enjoy your child or grandchild’s wedding instead of having to worry throughout the entire event.

“The planner takes care of all the details and everything that may go wrong,” Thimsen said. “They greet vendors, they know what the bride wants, so you can enjoy all the special things and celebrate.”

Dress stress

Anyone who’s landed on TLC while flipping channels has seen the drama involved in choosing wedding attire.

“Parents and grandparents should really begin thinking about their wedding attire at the same time the bride does,” said Vicki Adams, 54, a bridal consultant at The Something Blue Shoppe dress shop in Hartselle. “Start looking as soon as you can so that you have many options.”

She said some designers can take up to six months to make dresses, but some have better-stocked options.

Koehler said to be careful not to out-dress the bride on the wedding day.

“We have seen many family members, and even members of the wedding party, who forget that it’s a day for the couple to be at the center of all the attention,” she said.

Adams said simply talking to the couple about planned colors and themes can create a conflict-free way to complement the couple’s wedding looks and match outfits for photos.  

“Ask the bride and groom what they would love to see you wear to their wedding,” she said. “Then you can choose a dress that reflects what they are thinking you will look great in but makes you feel beautiful, too.”

Although you want to feel well-dressed, the couple’s happiness with wardrobe is most important, even if you may disapprove of their choices.

“When you come to shop for (the bride’s) wedding gown, be supportive,” she said. “The dress she chooses may not be your cup of tea, and so many times brides look to their loved ones for reassurance that she looks beautiful in the gown she’s saying yes to.

“Support comes in so many different ways.”

She said being kind and supportive while a child or grandchild shops for wedding attire can strengthen your relationship with them.

“Try to just share your love by staying supportive thought the entire process, and you will have the time of your life. You might even shed a happy tear.”