In Tact

Between “Will you?” and “I do” are countless opportunities for unintended insults and bruised egos. Donna Garlough offers guidance for the stickiest of situations.

wedding conflicts

Illustration by Jackie Parsons

Ever since I saw Steel Magnolias, I’ve dreamed of an all-pink wedding. My fiancé says he doesn’t care about color, but my friends are telling me to go neutral. Should I give up my fantasy? –M.K., Belmont

When you consulted your future hubby about the color scheme, did you get specific about your cotton-candy plans? As a married woman, I know that “I don’t care about color” translates to “Don’t ask me to choose between periwinkle and baby blue.” It does not mean “Put me in a Pepto-Bismol-colored cummerbund.” To gauge whether his apathy is real, you need to present him with some palette options—something pink, something neutral, and some other color scheme you’d tolerate. If he still defers to you, well, you’re free to go hog-wild. Don’t forget the pink boutonnieres!

My fiancé and I have iPods filled with alternative rock. But to appeal to the parent set (and to get them dancing), should we hire a “golden oldies” band?
–L.M., Newton

You’re right to pay attention to the music selection—all guests who make the effort to come should feel included, and tunes are a powerful way to bridge generation gaps. The key is to play something for everyone, but strategically. First, find a band or DJ who can rock to the Righteous Brothers as effortlessly as to Dropkick Murphys—then ask them to go retro during the cocktail hour and dinner. (You’ll be too busy chatting and nibbling to pay attention to the music, anyway.) As the night deepens, segue into ’80s dance hits like Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” before cuing the Killers. Just do your guests a favor and don’t toggle between old and new. Once the kids hit the dance floor in a punk rock frenzy, there’s no need to kill the mood with “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”

I want to keep costs down, but negotiating with a wedding photographer seems awkward. How do I politely bargain with the artist without offending his or her art?
–R.S., Somerville

Photography is a skill that’s worthy of respect—and let’s face it, this is the one person at your wedding who’ll determine whether you look good for the ages. That being said, photographers know they need to be competitive, so try this: Rather than haggling over the entire package (with all the extra prints and albums), set a budget from the start, be up-front with the photographer about your price, and allow him or her to assemble a job that fits your needs. Lots of different factors affect the cost—if you’re okay with skipping the getting-ready pics or the multi-angle, first-kiss shot, for example, you can easily save a lot of money. If your chosen professional can’t meet you halfway, ask that he or she recommend a student or fledgling shutterbug who can.

Help! My husband-to-be and I have different faiths, so we’ve decided to exchange vows at our reception venue (a hotel). Problem is, both sets of parents expect us to get married in a house of worship. How do we break the news? –P.A., Boston

The good news is that you and your groom have already found a smart solution to a common problem—locating a venue for an interfaith wedding—so consider your battle half-won. When raising the issue with your parents, accentuate the positive. Try saying, “Mom and Dad, we want an all-inclusive celebration that draws equally from both of our families’ traditions, so we’ve decided to exchange our vows at a neutral place.” How can they argue with that? You can bet that if they’ve already given their blessing to the marriage, they’re probably not going to let religious differences get in the way of a happy celebration.

My fiancé’s parents have offered up their Maine vacation home for the wedding, but I want to get married in the city. How do I graciously say no to a free venue? –E.F., Dedham

Before getting caught up in an emotional debate over the venue (“But I want pictures on Boston Common!”), you and your groom should talk through the practical considerations. Hosting a wedding at home may not be the less-expensive option his family imagined. It usually means renting tents, tables, chairs, a dance floor, porta-potties, off-site catering, parking, and more, which all adds up—and when his parents realize they’ll have 100 strangers in their house, they’re likely to incur some home improvement costs, too. Also, consider your guests: It’s easier to find hotel rooms and affordable flights if your wedding is in a major city. If, despite all these challenges, your fiancé is still in love with the Maine idea, the two of you need to reach a compromise. Flip a coin: loser gets to choose the honeymoon destination!

Have a wedding dilemma? Submit your questions to [email protected].