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Why Family Members Act Up

MA wedding party | Why family acts up
Credit : Rodeo & Co. Photography

How many times have you thought to yourself, "Our wedding is about us! Why are our families acting so nuts?" Sorry, brides-to-be, but the reality is that your wedding affects every family member. When you joyfully announced, "We're getting married!" you also announced, "This family is about to undergo some changes."

With your upcoming marriage your family must prepare to:

  • Lose you - on some level, you're leaving them to create a new family with your husband-to-be
  • Gain him - your family must open up, make room for, and accept a new member: your fiance.

Change never happens smoothly.  Think about how your co-workers react when new procedures are handed down from management. They're grumpily resistant, right? Eventually, after a difficult and raucous adjustment period, the new procedures and changes are integrated.

Families resist change too! On the one hand, your family is out-of-their-mind happy for you about your wedding and marriage. On the other, they want everything to stay the way it is -- with you, their daughter, putting all your energies into their family. They want to maintain the status quo, to keep life as they know it.

Everyone has emotional reactions to change. The three main emotional reactions to change are:

  1. Sadness that it's the end of an era, that you're leaving to create your own family.
  2. Fear about what will happen to the family when you leave. Will it stay intact?
  3. Anger that the family's being forced to change.

It's difficult to feel these raw feelings. Most people don't understand that a difficult feeling, once deeply felt, dissipates and goes away. Most are afraid of these big feelings. It's also confusing to feel these raw feelings. Especially during your engagement, when everyone is "supposed" to be happy!

This explains everyone's crazy behavior!  To some extent, every family member is feeling sadness, fear, and anger about your upcoming marriage -- it's normal, natural, and human to have these "darker" reactions. However, most are unaware of these difficult feelings or they're desperately trying to deny them.

Instead of feeling sadness, fear and anger, most people focus on the wedding.  Why? It's more comfortable to get in a tizzy about bridesmaids dresses, budgets, and flower arrangements than to grieve, be afraid or be angry.

What can you do to stop the insanity???

  • First, realize this is happening in your family -- because it happens in all families, to some degree.
  • Second, acknowledge this is happening to you, too. Are you connected to your feelings about leaving your family? Are you connected to the sadness about not being primarily identified as a daughter? To the anger that you must leave your family and make this drastic leap into the unknown? To the fear you feel about how your family will change when you leave? Or are you trying to deny these difficult feelings by single-mindedly focusing on your To-Do list?
  • Third, remember that everyone's doing their best to be gracious, but big, raw feelings have been stirred up. And most people aren't aware of this.
  • Fourth, try to figure out what's happening under the surface. Are family members connecting to the deeper feelings of anger, fear, and sadness about your marriage? Or are they in denial -- obsessing about wedding details, emotionally checking-out, or projecting their anger onto misplaced targets?
  • Fifth, share where you are, and let family members share where they are, too. You'll be amazed how close you'll feel when you share your feelings of anger, fear, and sadness. Getting these raw feelings on the table will help stop the insanity.
  • Sixth and finally, be gentle, with yourself, your fiance, and your families. You're all in the throes of a huge transition. Both families have been de-stabilized. Incorporating the changes and regaining equilibrium takes time. That's what the first year of marriage is for.


From Allison Moir-Smith's Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life