Dealing with uncomfortable family dynamics
My parents got divorced in 1981, when I was only six years old and they still don’t really get along. They often make the room uncomfortable because everyone can pick up on one’s distaste for the other and that’s not cool at all.
Unfortunately, the same thing sometimes happens at rehearsals and weddings. If you want to know how to officiate a wedding and how to officiate a wedding rehearsal when dealing with uncomfortable family dynamics, here are a few strategies I use:
1) Make sure to find out ahead of time if your couple’s parents are married to each other or divorced. If divorced or remarried, be sure to find out their parents’ current last names. Forget using first names. It’s too easy to make mistakes. Just use, “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Ms.”
2) Smile and get genuinely excited for your couple. Your energy is contagious and will affect the mood of the room.
3) Have a plan so that people aren’t left standing next to each other with nothing to do or talk about. Having a strategy of things to accomplish will keep things moving along and get people away from each other faster.
4) Go out of your way to warmly interact with step-parents. It’s probably twice as uncomfortable for them.
5) If there are children around, focus people’s attention on how carefree the kids are and how much fun they’re having.
There are certainly other ways to manage stressful family dynamics, but these are the basics that work for me.
You can’t control outcomes and aren’t responsible for other people’s actions, but you were hired to officiate and the scope of that responsibility sometimes lands outside the actual ceremony itself, too. Remember that weddings are stressful and sometimes that stress manifests in behavior that’s outside what someone might say or do ordinarily.
You’ll do the bride and groom a great service by employing the strategies above. Have a plan and schedule to move things along and that way people aren’t standing around, with time to chat too much with each other. This will show the couple and everyone there that you’re a pro and that’ll help everyone feel so much more comfortable when you’re around.
Hopefully those in attendance realize that it’s not about them and that they’re there for the bride and groom. Hopefully they can act like adults and no major issues will arise and the strategies above will help with that.
Want to know some of the tricks I use, so you’re easy to work with too? Click here!
How to officiate a wedding: Dealing with uncomfortable family dynamics
Matt T. Nathanson, 1st Officiant
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