Regular contributor Jess has a dilemma on her hands – can you help?  You can read more features by Jess on Love My Dress by clicking here.

The moments when planning a wedding are some of the most fun and incredible times of a woman's life: trying on beautiful dresses, tasting cake, planning hen parties and deciding on colour schemes.  Then, in the middle of my bride-to-be daydream I'm reminded of the terrible family issues that are starting to emerge already and I take a deep breath and try to focus on what my Emmy shoes will look like and on the man who will be standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me.

Although magazines tend to touch on family issues, they often only mention divorced parents or basic tips for tackling the seating plan, and I wonder if anyone else has it as bad as us – surely I can't be the only bride-to-be facing this dilemma!..?

Parents, Pain & the Table Plan: the Politics of a Real Wedding... (Personal, Life, Love Wedding Talk )

Original Illustration by Che at Indieberries

Let me explain a little to put you in the picture: one uncle doesn't get on with one of the parents, the other dislikes my Grandad, yet another uncle has fallen out with another parent and one I've never met is estranged from the family.  My brother doesn't speak to my father, my mother is going through divorce, my gran left her husband of 30 years last year, got married in secret and is bringing her new husband – of course the previous husband is now bringing a date and since all of the people involved are ballroom dancers, I'm fully expecting a dance-off on the big day!  We’ve managed to work out a total of 16 potential conflicts at the wedding!  I hope this is painting the picture of my seating plan hell!

The worst part is everyone cares so much about their own problems and who they want to avoid that I've been bombarded with questions such as "who am I sitting next to?", "can you make sure I'm away from him?" and "who am I going to travel to the venue with?" and I want to say "I don't know, I don't care, I'm the bride  – just turn up, smile and tell me I look beautiful or maybe, just don't attend at all…".

I'm at my wits end, especially with some of the declining RSVP's we've received: over Facebook an Uncle contacted me to say since he runs a cleaning company and January is the busiest month (eally?) and Saturdays are so busy they regret they will not be able to attend.  I typed back "Uncle Jack, my wedding is on a Friday" to which my computer informed me "Jack is typing…." for some time before his answer came back saying "yeah, Fridays are busy too."

*frustrated*

I really am trying not to take it personally as I know people are just worried about who is attending etc but I feel so let down – after all, it's just one day (in fact only a total of ten hours) and I just want it to go so smoothly.  I've had family members avoid the hen party, people made a big deal about taking a Friday off work (I had no idea it would be this stressful arranging the wedding).  My step Grandfather got in touch to tell me our invite was "too over the top and unnecessary!" and he finished the phone call by saying "and on the day if I don't like your dress I'll say something about that too!".  Several people have got in touch saying they've lost their invites and when is the date again?  It is giving me a pretty good idea of how much we matter to these family members!  So what is the answer?  Because all of the magazines say the answer is a sweetheart table instead of a top table but this is so much more than that and we feel really let down by our family – with only two weeks left to get our RSVP's in.

More than once I've had a bit of a cry about it and my lovely Fiancé has suggested we run away and get married!  After all, we cannot really afford our honeymoon so it's painful to realise we could have had that amazing honeymoon in Italy and married whilst over there without any of this hassle: ah, the benefits of hindsight!

I find it daunting reading the big magazines because I find most of the weddings follow a certain format and traditional style that just isn't "us" and certainly not our family and there either doesn’t appear to be other people struggling with the same issues or it’s simply that nobody talks about it – we've even asked our photographer to avoid formal family shots as the stress of it all is too much.

I know that our wedding is about marrying my wonderful man and starting a future together but I would be lying if I said I didn't care about the reaction we've received from our relatives and every single 'no' I receive or someone playing up is like a paperweight on my heart. 

With three months to go, when I think about my wedding day I feel a little sick rather than excited.  Incidentally, the other day we received a reply from a friend saying "your invite is incredible, I can't believe you've invited us!  We are so thrilled to attend" and it really lifted my spirits and made me feel better about things: you know what they say, friends are the family you choose so maybe we will have a top table with our friends and put all of the family at the back – or perhaps, with 13 weeks still to go, we WILL run away and do it privately, just us and the pooches!   What do you think?

Does anyone else out there have a family politics nightmare on their hands, and if so, how on earth are you handling it without calling in the hitman?! 

Jess

Parents, Pain & the Table Plan: the Politics of a Real Wedding... (Personal, Life, Love Wedding Talk )

 

Parents, Pain & the Table Plan: the Politics of a Real Wedding... (Personal, Life, Love Wedding Talk )

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Parents, Pain & the Table Plan: the Politics of a Real Wedding... (Personal, Life, Love Wedding Talk )

Annabel/

Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, two daughters Eska and Leanora and three dogs. If she's not being a Blog Queen or practicing her photography, you'll find her fighting her way through a renovation dust cloud as she and her family transform their forever-home.

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68 thoughts on Parents, Pain & the Table Plan: the Politics of a Real Wedding…

  1. First of all, have a hug. Here’s a cup of tea. Breathe. And another hug.
    Poor you, how awful and may I say you have a very selfish family. My first reaction was to tell them to go stuff themselves and uninvite them and only have people who want to share your day. I hope you have invited lots of friends whose only concern on the day is that you’re happy.
    How about not having a table plan and people can work out where they’re sitting themselves? It will save you a headache or ten.
    Have another hug for good measure.

  2. Oh my god, really wish I could hug you right now! I thought we had problems…
    As far table plans go, we’re lucky that our place offers an informal meal option: 2 course BBQ and everyone sits where they like. We figure that way, if people really can’t stand to be near each other they don’t have to be!
    But, as I’m guessing that’s not an option for you – 2 ideas:
    1. Have the bridal party only at the top table.
    2. Get a friend/bridesmaid to seat the rest of the people. Tell them who can’t be next to who and leave it at that. That way on the day if anyone complains, it was out of your hands…
    Does that help at all?! Wish there was something more helpful I could say!

  3. I don’t think you should feel like you have to invite your family. Just invite those people you REALLY want there. Or can you ask your mum or some other neutral member of the family to have a chat with these people and let them know they’re being selfish?
    As for a top table, have your best man + maid of honour up there with you. Put everyone else at different tables and if anybody mentions it say ‘Oh I know, the wedding planner/ venue/ maid of honour insisted. Oh well! Champagne?’
    Good luck. Hopefully everyone is on best behaviour on the day. And sod Uncle Jack!

  4. Maybe you could seat a couple of family members at each table, and make them feel important by asking them to host it? If they might make a fuss about being on table 3 when so-and-so was on table 2, you could give your tables names instead. Don’t worry about tradition, just do it your way. We didn’t have speeches at our wedding, and for months I had comments about it, including a friend’s boyfriend saying the wedding would be ‘boring’ without them. And do you know what, not one person missed them on the day! Our guest drama came from not inviting children, and some people were a bit horrible about it and didn’t come. It still upsets me a bit to think about, but I didn’t even notice they weren’t there on the day. Hope you have a wonderful day x

  5. I’ve been to a few weddings where the couple have had just bridal party on their table and then the parents etc can sit with their friends or side of the family, works well! Sorry you have so many selfish family members, thankfully you have lots of lovely friends ;) so celebrate that! When the time comes for me I think it will be an automatic uninvite for anyone that says anything selfish like yours are, I have no problem offending these people if that’s all they can think about.

  6. Hi Jess! Sounds like your having a nightmare. I’m sending virtual hugs too, from one stressed bride to another. I hope you sort out your family problems, doesn’t sound like they being very fair to you. Just try and focus on you and your hubby to be being there and anyone else who can’t make it aren’t worth your tears. The people who will be there no matter what are your true ‘family’. Although I know how hard it is to shut out all the negativity.
    I’m currently nursing a week long stress headache, brought on by constant wedding planning thoughts 24/7, bossy mums trying to take over and trying to tackle slimming world for the first time – hungry!! I’ve had most trouble so far with friends rather than family, a lot of wedding date clashing disasters followed by misunderstandings, chinese whispers, fall outs and hurtful words. It come to a point last week where I broke down and wanted to migrate to a different country and start life all over again. I felt like my friends weren’t there for me and no-one understood. After a big long talk with my best girls I realised I was being a bit paranoid through all the pressure. I’ve now got the sticky wicket of finalising the daytime guestlist and pick the right friends to come without upsetting other friends. Can’t afford everyone, I wish I could.
    Not even got to the seating plan stage yet haha! Good luck with yours lovely. xxxxx

  7. Hi Jess,
    I’m so sorry to hear how you’ve been treated by your family. The thing to remember is that this is YOUR DAY. It might be harsh, but whether A gets to sit far away from B absolutely is not your problem. These people are all adults and they frankly need to get over themselves! I too had big issues with my wedding – my mother (a narcissist) took a dislike to my mother-in-law when they met a few months before the wedding. Plus various other things. And I agree that the magazines and websites etc don’t cater for that side of things. I felt very alone about it all. Planning a wedding and getting married are very stressful things! It won’t always be perfect. I bottled all the stress up and have spent the last 6 months going through nasty anxiety problems because I didn’t deal with it at the time. So my advice is…be selfish. This is your day. And also, don’t bottle it up! If you need to be honest and tell certain family members you don’t want them there anymore, just do it. Being true to yourself is hard. I’m sure you’ll have lots of fab friends to support you both now and on the day itself though. Sending lots of luck.

  8. Poor you Jess! I feeling so incredibly lucky to have such a loving and understanding family and to be marrying into an equally laid back and loving family. The reality is that on the day if people are difficult about where you’ve sat them, it only reflects badly on them, showing them to be miserable and selfish. There’s nothing you can do about it once its done, so surround yourself with the people you love (maybe even ask a bridesmaid or usher to act as a ‘go to’ person for miserable relatives) and let it go! Perhaps easier said than done, but don’t let them spoil your day.

  9. Such a lovely honest post. I agree with those who say their reaction was to chuck out the grumpy relatives, but I also know that in reality it is not that easy. It does sound like you should take some steps to make the wedding fun for YOU. So, I would suggest a very small table for you and extra chairs so you can circulate. If you can have free seating because the venue allows then letting them sit where they want is a great idea! (Then it’s their fault if they don’t like it). It sounds like your friends are looking forward to the wedding, and to be brutally honest, you cannot talk to everyone at a wedding – so deliberately fix to chat to different people at different tables as the meal goes on – so you get all the compliments you richly deserve.
    If you’ve also got supportive family members and friends they can sometimes help ‘manage’ situations by carefully steering away Troublemaker A away from Troublemaker B… my brother was on grandfather duty at my sister’s wedding because we know he can be a bit of a social strain! I know that I would happily do that for any good friend, and a good solid male friend who tactfully moves arguments outside is also helpful. (Keep the freebie alcohol on low too!) Actually you probably know all the options and have thought about all of them… but I like that you posted on this because otherwise weddings can be a little bit too about the pretty pictures and not about the challenging reality of 10 hours of social complexity! I hope you enjoy it, and frankly if someone doesn’t want to come to your wedding then more fool them, I’m sure it will be fun.
    P.S: to the person who thought your invite was ‘too much’ you can always take the line, ‘well I too call a spade a spade, and I think you are being rude. Plus if I want fashion advice I’ll call someone who knows about it’……!?!

  10. Just a quick two penneth from me. I was married 2 weeks ago and ditched the seating plan altogether! There were so many changes going on right up to the very last minute and we had over 200 guests so a couple of weks before hand we made the decision not to have one.
    Just before the drinks reception finished and as guests were invited into the main room, they were told there was no seating plan and that they should sit down, shove up and leave no spaces and to make new freinds. It worked a treat and meant I didn’t worry about politics, a seating plan, place names or no-shows. xxxx

  11. I’d go for best man, & partner if he has one, on the top table, plus bridesmaids or matron of honour on your top table. That way you have people up there with you so you don’t feel too cut off from everyone or exposed during the speeches (someone to hand you tissues at key moments!) but they are people who are there for YOU instead of trying to start WW3.
    We didn’t have any top table wrangles but we did have an estranged family member who was not there & it felt very strange knowing a close relative was missing (and indeed doesn’t even know we are married, as far as I know).
    Good luck. You’ll have a wonderful day no matter how it works out!

  12. I really wouldn’t worry about a seating plan if I were you :) just make sure your top table means you’ll have an amazing day and let the rest fuss around and worry about it themselves.
    I’m planning my wedding day, and that’s the best tip I got from my ma, she’d spent months fighting and arguing over a seating plan, causing her and pa massive stress, however, when they got to the venue, it turned out they had set up circular tables, not long ones like they’d planned for. They just let it go, people sat exactly where they wanted and everyone was happy!

  13. I don’t normally respond to blog posts, but I can really empathise with your situation and thought I would try to offer some words of encouragement. It is very easy to get caught up in it all and take it personally, I struggled with difficult family members as well, and it is very hurtful. It seems that weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. People always find something to complain about. If your invitation had been simpler, someone would have said it was too simple. Unfortunately, there will always be comments. Try to focus on the things that matter – the fact that you are marrying the man of your dreams and starting a life together, and that you do have some positive, supportive friends. My husband and I got married last month and I got a lot of grief from my family (large Italian family) for not having the wedding in the States where they all live. We decided to get married in the UK because it was the right thing for us and I have lived here for 7 years. It meant we had a much smaller wedding than we would have had, but it was exactly what we wanted – small and elegant. Some people were offended because they wouldn’t be able to travel, but it wasn’t about them. I was so glad in the end that I didn’t listen to any of the negative comments family members made, especially those who couldn’t make the trip or tried to get us to change the location, because in the end, the day was completely “us”. The day was everything we hoped it would be and more. The guests who did come had a wonderful time, and we have been receiving lots of thank yous for giving them such an opportunity to experience something different and so wonderful that was very clearly “us”. Even the sceptics said that they completely understood now why we planned our wedding the way we did. We had an incredible time, which meant our guests did too. At the end of the day, you want to look back and know that the celebration of your marriage was exactly that – a celebration, and in the way in which you and your fiancé wanted. Yes family is important, but you are beginning your own family with your husband-to-be, and you need to find a way not to let anyone who can’t respect that and be supportive get to you. People will have opinions, they will grumble, they will ‘keep their mouths shut’ yet have every opinion under the sun…you need to find a way to tune them out. Focus on the positives and share as little information as possible with people who upset you. If the big wedding really isn’t what you want, then evaluate whether it is feasible for you to make changes to make you more comfortable. Regardless of what you decide, you will have the beautiful day that you deserve and all those negative people and those who just couldn’t bother to come won’t even be on your mind, because the day will be everything you imagined and more. Do what feels right for you and the rest will fall into place.

  14. I agree with Amy – top table of friends and let the family ‘host’ their own tables. That is exactly what we are doing – my Dad and his wife on one, Mum and her partner on another, the Mr’s Dad and his wife on yet another – so splitting up potential trouble makers and making them all feel important! I have seen a couple of weddings on blogs where the food required a designated ‘server’ per table – someone to carve or something like that – maybe also make each of these people have a role like this (if carving not feasible maybe the person in charge of pouring champagne for everyone or something?) and then they can feel ‘part’ of the wedding and like you need them…

  15. Hi Jess! I really do sympathise! A massive virtual teddy bear hug coming your way.
    And exhale…. Family politics will ruin your day if you allow it to. I’ve had my fair share with chasing RSVP’s, negative reactions and am tackling the ‘this one doesnt want to sit next to that one’ table plan now. To help get you through and enjoy this wonderful journey;
    1. Accept that these are grown adults, if they cannot put their differeneces aside for a few hours over dinner then they simply won’t come.
    2. The people that are meant to be there on your day will be there
    3. Impossible to please everyone, so stop trying and you’ll start to feel better about it. This ultimately about you and hubby-to-be becoming man and wife. :) start looking out for yourselves. If Guests don’t like your choices, then they don’t like your choices.
    4. Refer back to number 2! :) :) :)
    Nova x

  16. Oh Jess, I completely understand and believe me, you are certainly not alone. I see this all the time.
    The short answer is that it’s your day and these people need to grow the hell up and start behaving like adults. Sadly though, that’s usually not the case! At our own wedding we had one father that wasn’t there at all, and the other that was there for the 25 minutes the ceremony lasted, sitting at the back so nobody else saw him.
    I think you’ve got a few options, and a number of ideas have already been mentioned.
    Top Table: You could go for a sweetheart table (as you’ve already mentioned) or as others have suggested, do what the Americans do and have the bridal party (best maid, bridesmaids etc) on the top table. Parents, and perhaps siblings, can be asked to host other tables to make them feel important. There’s also the option of no top table at all! Leave a couple of spare seats at a number of tables and have different courses with different guests!
    Hopefully, once you’ve got the top table sorted you can spread the troublesome parents, grandparents and uncles over the other tables, asking some to host if necessary.
    As Amy has already suggested, definitely go for table names rather than numbers as that gets rid of any perceived hierarchy.
    You’ve also got the option of no seating plan at all as suggested by Annabel (although bear in mind that can have its own complications), or just a partial seating plan – just the top table and a few tables for close family leaving the rest as a general free-for-all.
    Other than perhaps your Step-Grandfather (who I think deserves a slap right now), you’ll be so busy enjoying the day that you probably won’t even be aware of any troublesome guests. Maybe ask a couple of close friends to keep an eye on things and if it looks like a situation may develop, they can step in and have a quiet word.
    It’s good that you’re getting this sorted now and not at the last minute. That’s when you need to be enjoying the build up to what is going to be the biggest and most special day of your life. :)

  17. Hi Femke,
    Thank you for being so sweet – that is more hugs than I have received from anyone planning this event so at this rate, you may end up on my guest list! ;) The idea of no table plan is probably a good one although I’m such a control freak so we’ll see how we go! Thank you for taking the time to help
    xxx

  18. Thanks Katie, loving the hugs I’ve received on here today :) Love the sound of a BBQ – bet that makes it all a bit easier, doesn’t it? Your tips are really handy and my Maid of Honour (who I should add is INCREDIBLE) has already said she is happy to order people around and threaten the use of a shotgun on the day if they don’t behave so I think we shall give this a go!
    Jess
    xxx

  19. I love this Jemma! Thanks for commenting and I’m totally stealing your “oh well, champagne?” line :)The only really neutral/helpful member attending is actually my Maid of Honour but I am thinking anyone who hasn’t RSVP’d by the cut-off date in 2 weeks, I’m going to contact them and say they missed the boat and are no longer invites! Ha! :) In reality, I probably won’t do that because I am too soft but sometimes I fantasise about it….sometimes I fantasise about particular relatives walking the plank as well :)
    xxx
    ps thank you about Uncle Jack, I know it’s not personal but you know, it still feels it! My mum and Dad keep saying I have to understand my wedding is not that important to other people which I do get but surely there must be some levels of common courtesy!

  20. Ah yes, a friend of mine didn’t invite children and I remember the hassle he went through also. I cannot believe the amount of people who’ve complained to my face about the fact we’re getting married in a castle, in January “but it’s going to be FREEZING Jessica! Why did you choose a castle?” and I want to say “Because we love it, so wrap up warm!!” lol.
    Interesting that you mention no speeches as my fiance is v nervous about this and we toyed with not doing it but of course were told “you HAVE to do it!” Good to know that somebody out there didn’t! Sorry that people were a bit horrid to you about the children thing but I guess what I’m learning is that now is the time in our lives we decide who we take forward with us and relatives not attending are not really important to us any more – you really learn who your friends are don’t you?
    Thank you so much for commenting
    Jess xxx

  21. Well I am VERY lucky that I have some great friends! In fact one particular v wonderful friend is coming from Bristol on her own and doesn’t really know anybody at all and she has been one of the most supportive people in the entire planning process :)
    I wish I could do the automatic uninvite – I’m getting there! xxx

  22. Oh hun…this is awful. Your family ARE being awful, do not think that it is any reflection on you.
    Remember that quote about friends are the family you can choose, or whatever it is, it’s your job to make the most of your day, and do your best to distance yourself from those problems.
    We have nothing like your issues, but are being faced with similar ‘I’m not staying in the same hotel as so-and-so’ kind of comments. My best tactic so far is to enlist another family member to deal with these issues if you can – so, those who DO get on, make them take responsibility for the others who are being difficult.
    You know what they say about weddings, you can’t do it all yourself and must enlist the help of friends and family!
    Failing that, and I’ve thought about this myself, imagine just getting up on the mic on the day and saying to each and every one of them what an awful lot they’ve been, and the terrible things they’ve done. Saying it in front of everyone, and then your friends and others who’ve been wonderful will know the awful position you’ve been put in.
    Just think about it…maybe don’t do it..(maybe, just maybe) – I find it’s a really helpful visualisation task to help you deal with the stress!
    I really hope you have a fantastic day and can put all of this behind you!

  23. Hi Sam,
    Thanks for commenting! I know you are right and whereas at the beginning I was so focused on getting people to attend and do “the right thing” I’m starting to realise wedding planning should not be this stressful and I cannot really be bothered anymore to try and talk people into coming or attending the hen party etc – I guess if they aren’t there, they don’t matter as much as I thought they did!
    Sounds like you’re having trouble too although I have to admit to being a bit envious of your bossy mum (grass is always greener isn’t it?) I wanted to treat my mum to an outfit for the wedding and make a day of it but she wanted to do it with her best friend in a bigger (and much better I must add) shopping town so I asked my Stepmum to come with me and she wanted to go to London with my dad and do it just them – so in a desperate bid I asked my mother-in-law who said she would check her diary and get back to me…. Ah.
    I imagine a bossy decision-making mum is annoying though but I wish I could have a tiny bit of it – does your mum want to come shopping with me? :) Ah yes, the table plan thing is a nightmare – I had someone mention to me the other day that they hadn’t received an invite yet which was kind of awkward (cue long silence and sudden interest in my coffee cup!)
    Nobody told me it would be this hard – I’m starting to understand why so many second weddings are small and on the quiet – they have the benefits of hindsight! :) Good luck with it all, keep us posted on the planning
    xxx

  24. Hi Jane,
    Thanks for commenting :) Really great to hear other people in similar situations as I don’t know about you but I’ve felt really isolated by it all. So sorry to hear about your anxiety issues – I completely understand where you’re coming from and have suffered family-related anxiety most of my life! I’m reaching a point now where I’m just letting it go -feel like I’m finally able to think only the people who love us matter.
    It even got to the point last week where I told a friend I’m worried my dress isn’t “good enough” mainly following my step grandad’s harsh comment – that the guests will “expect” me to look different – and she said “those of us that love you would NEVER judge what you’re wearing” I know she is right and what a crazy thing to even worry about!
    So I think I will be a little more selfish and f**k them all (sorry Annabel for the language!) thanks again for commenting and sharing
    Jess
    xxx

  25. Thanks Inbal, really appreciate your comments and advice :)”surround yourself with the people you love” is my favourite comment of the day xxx

  26. I can’t really offer anything helpful other than a virtual hug and to let you know what I have done with my ‘wonderful’ family – I’ve not invited them. Nobody from my Dad’s side will be there and the terrible aunt, uncle and cousins from my Mum’s side won’t be there either. Just the people who I love and who are in my life – that would be just my mum and brother then! This fortunately was never up for debate and I have no idea if there will be any backlash (I doubt they would even notice) but it is a bit sad having so few guests on my side but I’m joining a new family (which my mum and brother will very much be a part of) and that’s what is important and exciting for me.
    Do what you want to do and let other people’s problems be just that – their problem :)

  27. Hi Amelia,
    Thanks for all your suggestions – I LOVE the idea of circulating around the tables and the spare chairs! I’ve never heard of this before and think it’s a great idea, especially as so many people say you don’t get a chance to talk to everyone on your wedding day!
    Love the thought of having someone on “Grandfather duty” too – we have our three brothers as our Ushers and they are quite strong boys so I’m thinking of equipping them with walkie-talkies and getting them monitoring the room “Usher One to Usher Two – we have a situation on the dance floor!” Hehe. We also have a lovely friend attending who is a Bouncer…..useful! :)
    Thank you so much for your comments, xxx
    ps wish I had taken your advice about less alcohol, we purposefully chose a package with loads of alcohol so our guests would think the wedding was more entertaining than it is – obviously I didn’t think it through very well as I think if anything it’s going to be TOO entertaining! x

  28. I haven’t read all the responses so apologies if this has been suggested…. firstly poor you. Rather shocking manners and quite saddening seeing as it should be a happy time, especially for you both.
    Perhaps you could invite the ‘tricky ones’ to the evening only, so no meal, no worry! Have those that you really want there at the ceremony and meal, keep it intimate and then have a nice big evening party with an open bar (or is that too dangerous with all that ballroom dancing!?). Good luck!

  29. Hi Annabel,
    Congratulations on your wedding! Love your idea – sounds much less stressed so it’s definitely an option. Thanks for commenting xxx

  30. Thanks Alison,
    Yes, I’m thinking as long as we have a good top table I guess I could just stay there where I’m safe and hope all the other tables are ok! I know what you mean about an estranged family member – I’m not in contact with one of my brothers (not through choice) and I feel a bit sad that he won’t be there but I guess it’s just the way it is and hopefully one day we will be able to have a relationship again – I’m learning that perfect families don’t exist and perfect weddings certainly don’t! I think I’m going to start a wedding magazine called “normal wedding” hehe
    Jess xxx

  31. Thanks Melissa, what a great reply! I know you are so right – and there will always be comments like you say. I think we will regret it if we don’t just do what’s right for us as you’ve suggested.
    Thank you for your comments
    Jess xxx
    ps Incidentally, I attended an Italian wedding last month and the couple followed this tradition I had never seen before where everyone taps their glass until the bride and groom kiss – I don’t know the name of this in Italian but have to say it was one of the most romantic things I’ve seen and I thought it was just lovely! x

  32. Hi Nova,
    Thank you so much for your advice – I love it. I haven’t even started chasing RSVP’s yet – I have all that to come. I was told yesterday though that one of the Uncles isn’t coming (told by somebody else in the family) so I wish people would let us know if they aren’t coming ASAP! Grrr….
    You are right – I am a total people-pleaser and need to just stop as I cannot please everyone and at the moment, the only people suffering are the two of us! Thanks so much for the help Nova and for the hug :)
    xxx

  33. Hi Adam,
    Thanks so much for your response and all of your fab suggestions :) I will start looking into these right away – definitely think I’m going to make sure there is a “good/calming influence” on each table to balance out the drama.
    Hehe love the comment about my Step-Grandfather – he has caused trouble at every family event (at my brothers wedding he summoned the chef to complain about the food!) so I would love to just ban him – I just feel so confined by tradition and doing the “right” thing – argh!
    Thank you for your support and great advice
    Jess xxx

  34. Hi Lulu,
    Your comment about getting up on the mic has made my day! Just thinking of all the things I would say about each and every member of the family – hehe they wouldn’t expect that! I think that visualisation might keep me going for the next 3 months! :)
    Thanks for all your lovely comments and for sharing your own experiences.
    Jess xxx

  35. Hi Carys,
    Wow – I wish I was that brave! I know what you mean – my fiance always says we’re setting up our own family now (hopefully it won’t be anything like my crazy messed-up own family) I am so excited about the new start and our new adventure together just the two of us!
    Thanks for your great advice and for the hug :) xxx

  36. Hi Charley,
    Thanks for your comments – I love your blog by the way, I’ve read it quite often although I am as far from a London bride as possible (a very Cornish bride indeed!) Love the idea of inviting tricky ones to the evening – it’s too late to do that now but if anyone doesn’t RSVP in time (looking likely) then I might contact them and say they’ve missed the boat and are now invited to the evening only! Hehe you’re right about the ballroom dancing – my gran and her “two men” both got thrown out of a ballroom dinner dance because they had a physical fight over her!!! (both men in their 80’s) – you couldn’t make it up I swear! Hehe
    Thanks for taking the time to comment :)
    Jess xxx

  37. Hi Jess, i’m a first time commenter here but i completely feel your pain and wanted to send you a hug. I’m just in the middle of pre-wedding “hassle” as we are telling people we are not inviting children and will be having a “small” wedding. I got really upset because i’m a bit of a “diplomat” and want everyone to be happy. But one of the best advice a friend just gave me is “breath in, sit back and give it time, dont answer/justify/explain just yet. Most of the people who moan and complain will tire out”. and ultimately, to what a lot of the girls said above: only care about those who care :) i hope you figure this one out and dont let it affect this precious moment in your relationship! x

  38. Hi Jess
    Poor you! It never ceases to amaze me how guests seems to think that they have the right to criticise a couple’s wedding choices. The day should be about you and your fiancé, it should reflect you both as a couple not pander to everybody else’s tastes or demands.
    Our top table was a bit mad – parents, step-parents and adoptive parents (my husband was adopted but found his birth parents and everyone gets along really well). We were really lucky that we only had a few “challenging” personalities but we still had to think really carefully about how we sat people. We tried to get an even mix of chatty and quiet, challenging and easy going, etc.
    I really like the idea of just having your wedding party on the top table and allowing your parents to host their own table. Could you tell each parent that you are worried about a certain person on their table and you think they would be able to keep an eye on them? I also like the idea of keeping a seat spare on each table so you can move around and mingle.
    As for speeches, we had ours before the meal. This meant that nervous speakers could relax and enjoy their meal and speakers that might have been tempted to “go on a bit” knew that they only had a set time to speak as the meal was on its way.
    Whatever you do there will always be someone who is put out – we didn’t have children at our wedding for numerous reasons and we are still feeling the backlash. But you know what? We wouldn’t change a thing, we had the day of our dreams – not everyones else’s!
    The very best of luck to you and here’s a BIG hug from me.
    Michelle :)

  39. Oh sweetie, what a nightmare. I thought my family were the worst but yours are giving them a run for their money.
    My lovely husband and I have been married for a year and thinking back I wish I had uninvited most of my family, we have never gotten on well but the wedding was the final straw and we haven’t spoken much since. I’ll give you a few examples so you know you are not alone in this:
    1) I had a fab hen day but my older sister felt the need to call me up after seeing pics on Facebook to tell me off properly for not inviting her, my sisters or my Mum – they all live in Ireland or over 100miles away, we don’t get on, I wasn’t invited to hers or other sisters.
    2) Mum told me about 6weeks before the day that younger sister was looking at 2 dresses, 1 was white. I begged her to stop sis buying the white. The week of the wedding she told me she went shopping with my sis for accessories to go with the white dress. I begged in tears to stop her wearing the white dress, her exact response “We don’t want to upset Fiona”
    3) Despite going through the plan for the day the night before, my whole family failed to turn up at the hotel so they could walk to the ceremony with h2b and other guests, they managed to turn up to the ceremony just before I did, 2 brothers in law arrived after me.
    4) I hate pink so requested no pink at the wedding, both brothers in law wore pink ties and shirts.
    5) At the wedding my 5yr old niece spoke to more guests than the rest of my family
    6) We had a relaxed hot buffet dinner in the evening with no table plan as I couldn’t face working out who to sit with my b*t%hy sisters. My family decided to take over Table 1 and had to be moved just before we entered the room.
    So after all that my advice is to do what You & H2B want, it is your day! Honestly, tell them all to grow up, if they can’t be bothered to put aside their petty squabbles and make you feel like the most important person in the world on your day then they don’t deserve to be there.
    Good Luck!

  40. Hi Jess, I know it must be so horribly disheartening at the moment but I think you have the right approach – we were very lucky that only a couple of people let us down in the end (one quite badly – she tried to stop some other guests from coming to validate her own decision!) but from my own experience I can absolutely confirm your point that if they don’t turn up they just aren’t worth the heartache. In the end I am so glad that the people in question did not come to our wedding – I feel like their behaviour says a lot about them and ultimately shows why it’s actually a good job that your wedding guests are effectively a self-selecting sample. The people who really love and support you will be there and in the end that is what will truly matter.

  41. Jess, man you’ve got it tough! So many people have said great things on here, but hope I can help too. I recently got married but thankfully didnt have all the family issues. However to avoid the table planning nightmare in general (just trying to group people who get on is tough enough) we wrote out everyones names and put them with their partners/friends, trying to keep it to twos or threes. Then we COMPLETELY mixed them up. For instance my husband had 3 uni friends who all still live near their old uni with their wives. We knew they’d spend the whole weekend together so for two hours at the table we separated the pairs across the room. And so on with most people who knew others. The trick then is to give them something to do at the tables that really makes people talk. So instead of a normal quiz, we asked really obscure questions like “what song was ‘groom’ obsessed with as a five year old?” It stops one person from knowing all the answers, and makes the table discuss silly answers, as tehy’ll probably never guess! Dont get me wrong on the day we suddenly worried that that particular aunt wouldnt like this particular friends humour, but it worked amazingly!!
    I know what you mean about the rsvp answers too. I had a few that really got me down hearted (ours was a Sunday in Ireland, so people had to take time off on the Monday – during the olympics too which caused more holiday denial) but decided to combat it but realising those who genuinely want to be there (and can) will be. And every no is a money saver (honeymoon fund?) or an invite for someone else you now wish you’d invited. But the best thing is to keep remembering that friend who loved your invite. THEYRE the people who’ll you’ll remember being there, as theyre the ones who are with you all the way.
    And on the day you absolutely HAVE to have fun yourself. You CANT pander to everyone elses expectations of what a wedding should or shouldnt have, or worry about them fighting on the day. You’ll probably have people telling you that loads and its easy to forget in the madness, but its YOUR day, you and your husband, and if youre smiling and dancing away, so will everyone else. If youre keeping an eye on potential problems or apologise for any of your choices you’ll miss the best time you can ever have!!
    Have fun, and get a hug from your husband to be whenever you need! Good luck for the future x

  42. Thank you so much everyone, this has been a really cathartic experience for me – even writing it felt a little difficult as I really am SUCH a people pleaser but I’m well on my way to the wedding I want.
    As Ellie said every no is another guest we actually like being able to attend. I never get over this forum – all of the readers/brides are so genuine and kind – it makes me want to have seats for all of you instead :) Thank you so much for taking the time today to share these lovely thoughts and suggestions xxxx

  43. Hi Eleonore,
    I am the same as you – a diplomat through and through! Your friend gave some great advice :) I definitely feel like I’m getting there and learning who and what really matters xxx

  44. Hi Aisling,
    Wow! You totally win :( Sorry to hear all that, your family have really gone out their way to be horrid (the thought that keeps me going is that with my family at least it’s not personal, I know they all just have their own worries and fears – at worst, they’re just a little selfish) but yours are plain mean. You are so right – the people who don’t think or respond kindly don’t deserve to be there – thanks for sharing your experience and making me realise it could be a whole lot worse! xxxx

  45. Thanks Ellie, I love your table plan discussion idea! You are so right about having fun and doing it for us, thanks for taking the time to comment and send your advice :) xxx

  46. Hi Jess,
    I went through something very similar fortunately for me the only really issue was one person (my father) who no one could get on with! My mother walked me down the aisle and my father decided not to come as I put it to him very simply that if he came and upset me that that would be very bad for the continuation of our relationship. The whole thing gave me such anxiety and I constantly felt sick in the run up to the wedding.
    It wasn’t until the very last minute that he decided not to come so in an effort to avoid conflict we decided to have no parents on the top table and only my husbands two best men, two ushers and my three adult bridesmaids. As their partners were not part of the bridal party we filled the tables immediately by us with their partners and some of our close friends so that the partners were nearby as some knew few people and this was a great reason behind the distance between us and the potential family issues. we had a great time with them.
    We also designated specific family members as responsible for well the one person but it could have been more and the wedding party had been fully briefed on how any “situation” should be handled.
    It was hard on our mums not being on the top table and I didn’t want to ask anyone to babysit on the day for us it was important that they enjoyed the day. However you only get one wedding day, they will probably attend many more important days and if there is some one you can trust to handle potential situations senetively then they are more than likely to consider your enjoyment of the day a higher priority than their own.
    Most of all try not to worry (I know it’s hard) as everything people say is right the day will fly by and you will bearly spend any time with all these people let alone notice if there is any dramas, so find someone you can trust to handle it and worry about you and hubby to be! It is your big day after all!

  47. Hi Jess,
    I nearly started crying on the train when I read your post! I really feel for you – it’s such a dilemma an awful when this kind of thing takes over the day. As for me, my parents are slap bang in the middle of a messy divorce – we thought about moving the wedding but decided to press on – as you say it’s only ten hours or so…we also have separated uncles and aunts, plus two exes of the groom and some exes/current partners of our friends as well.
    But…one of the things we are most looking forward to organising is the table plan. We’re having a bridal party top table, so just us, bridesmaid and groomsmen and partners, and divvying up the tables between the rest of the family. What I’m excited about is finding people I think will get on and sitting them next to each other! Particularly the ones who have ongoing conflicts – because I want to give them a helping hand towards having a good time – but if they don’t want to accept that, then I’ve decided it’s not my fault if they don’t enjoy themselves. So I would say focus on the lovely friends who are supportive, try and do the best for the rest, but there’s only so much you can do.
    I know my situation is a lot less complex than yours but really hope you find a solution – and let us know how it goes! Wishing you all the best for an amazing day xx

  48. I’m a people pleaser as well and my table plan had a lot fewer issues than yours and it still caused some headaches.
    Just a wee bit of advice for the day. Put someone, whether it’s your amazing maid of honour or another friend you trust with your life, as a point of contact on the day. They can take care of any issues arising, so you can be blissfully unaware and enjoy the day. It will make ALL the difference and it was one of the best things I did for my wedding, having a friend to sort all the practical stuff on the day. I completely relaxed and I am a control freak, but it realised if I ever let anything go, this was the day to do it!

  49. You are more than welcome Jess – I know its so important for you to please everyone, but its an impossible feat. Someone will always have a gripe about something….as so as I learned that I was able to let go and enjoy. Let us know how you get on! xxx

  50. It sounds awful! My fiance’s parents are divorced and his mum is getting rarer worked up about the top table. I’ve assured her she’ll be sat at the other end to her ex but I think she’s finding the thought of meeting all his family again a bit scary. However, in your situation I think that if they really care for you they should put up and shut up! Do what you can with the seating plan, but they must realise that it’s your day and should be happy for you no matter who they sit next to. No ones forcing them to talk to each other! And if people don’t come to your wedding (with no good reason) they obviously aren’t important.

  51. Oh Jess – I feel your pain!!!
    My mum (who I have a difficult relationship at the best of times) isn’t coming to mine at all now – apparently I am selfish for having it anywhere but her home town and she refuses to spend the day with my dad (who she divorced 15 years ago and attended my graduation with 5 years ago without complaint)!!! I’m afraid its become obvious to me that weddings, despite being something wonderfully fun, can also be very brutal in showing you who really has your best interests at heart!
    I have to say I followed the ‘stuff them’ advice – have invited 16 people who I know will be overjoyyed to attend and have stuffed the rest – my mother included! Its scary but I have to say its incredibly liberating!
    It sounds like in your case to many people are putting their issues and agendas before yours – and its YOUR day! It is tough but I think if they can’t be trusted to behave and if you will be stressed about the situation you need to put yourself first – can you tune them out or do they need to be axed from the list?? Its brutal and hard but trust me – you need to be honest with yourself and do it!
    All the best – I sincerley hope that you get it sorted and have the day you want!!

  52. Jess, i feel your pain, (family really should not put this much stress on you, they should be supporting you). BIG HUG……
    You really should not worry about where you sit people, at the end of the day they have to sit on the same table for two hours max and than they can go off and do there own thing, and please do not get stressed over people saying they’re not coming, I think so many of us feel we must invite our whole familes to our wedding so not to upset anyone, but when you think about how much time do you spend with them, the people who really want to be at your wedding will be there and will enjoy the day no matter who they are sitting at a table with.
    I had a friend almost beg to come to our wedding and invite his than girlfriend only to text me on the day to say he would not be coming, that was £100 down the drain, but so many of my family travel miles with over night stays to be at our wedding, that I was so happy everyone who was there really wanted to be there. so better to know now who really wants to be at your wedding and who does’nt . Its your wedding they are there to support you they should be thinking about the joy and celebration, not I don’t like X person.
    Next time one of them complains ask them do they really want to be at your wedding.
    My suggestion for top table is have your own little table just with the two off you, and than sit separate parents grandparents ect on table each, no conflict about who’s on the top table and they can all do their own thing.
    I really hope everyone pulls through for you on your day you don’t need this…. Good luck sweet

  53. Definitely! It’s at least one less thing to think about!
    Your maid of honour sounds amazing!! At least one person (other than your fiance) is being supportive!
    Seriously, thank you for talking about this, judging by all the comments a lot of brides are feelin/did feel the pressure and its really refreshing to read someone bein totally honest about wedding planning!

  54. No problem hun, I had an amazing day, I married the love of my life, my friends, Dad, stepmum and in-laws were fantastic!
    There were a few comments on the day during photos (why aren’t we having pictures of just family like we did at both married sisters weddings) I just ignored them, got on the photos we had agreed with our photographers. All of my family are only in the whole group shots, that way they are not all together reminding me of their b&t*hiness.
    You will have an amazing day too, no matter who is or is not there!
    Good Luck!

  55. My husband and I got married in august. We had several family dilemmas including divorced parents and non-speaking aunts and uncles. In the end we let each set of parents/grandparents host their own tables and didn’t have a top table. We sat with the bridesmaids and groomsmen and had a great time! And all the hosts felt good about hosting!
    I hope this helps you
    Kerrianne

  56. I have stumbled across this post just now and feel slightly better that I am not the only one experiencing such nightmares with family. I have seen your previous post about your relationship with you mum and I can wholly sympathise with this. My parents separated when I was 7 and I was given the choice of who to live with. I chose my Dad as he planned to stay in the same area so I could go to the same school and not move away from the rest of my family and friends. My Mum moved to a number of locations in the South of England (over 200 miles away from me), and this therefore put a huge strain on our relationship as I was growing up. My Dad met someone else and eventually married her when I was in my teens. While I had a very bad relationship with my step-mum growing up, after I left home and went to uni and eventually grew up, we have become very close and she is now my biggest female role model. I no longer have a relationship with my mum and this came to head just after I got engaged last year as she made huge assumptions about her role within my wedding which just wasn’t comfortable.
    Since all of that drama passed, I had assumed our wedding plans would be able to progress smoothly but this hasn’t been the case. Late last year my Dad announced that he wanted to separate from my Step Mum. This came as a huge shock, and has hurt me more than when my parents split at the age of 7 (I am now 27). This has put a big shadow over our wedding as relationships amongst various family members has become tense and like your wedding, various people are not talking to others. My fiancé’s parents are being wonderful through the whole drama and have advised for me to not get involved with my family’s issues, but it is hard. It is making me very tense and I don’t want these problems to crop up on the day. I hope that come August (when we get married) things may have eased somewhat, but it is making the rest of the planning stressful to the point that I am trying not to think about the wedding at all as the other issues seem to coincide.
    Like your post says, many magazines and blogs provide details of the traditional wedding where you have the one set of parents and everything is all very normal, so it is refreshing to know that other people out there have faced dramas like this, and I hope, got through them ok.

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