- 2 years ago
I am an American engaged to a French man. I could use help on navigating French wedding customs – otherwise wonderful future in-laws are bound and determined to make this their family’s event!
Here are a few of the details:
– We decided to get married in France in his hometown for various logistic reasons (he has a larger family, all the people from my side would travel far/cross-country to the wedding even if it was in my USA hometown).
– The first conversation we had with his family after the engagement, they expressed their disappointment that we didnt’ get engaged “properly.” In France, it’s customary to have a party where the man brings the ring and only after all families’ official approval does the bride wear the ring. We had declared ourselves engaged after my fiancé proposed and gave me the ring. My fiancé didn’t even know this tradition was important to his parents. We’ve apologized and now have his parents’ “blessing.”
– The second conversation was his parents informing us that it’s important to them that they marry their child – meaning pay for and plan the wedding (have control over invites, venue, catering, everything).
And here we are. His parents are bound and determined that their wedding will be hosted by them, for their child. It’s more common in France for the groom’s parents to be involved than in the USA. They commonly split wedding costs and planning between families, but the bride and her family still traditionally plan the bulk of the wedding. They assume that because the event is in France, it will be a French wedding. They also are a bit afraid that the wedding will be a garish “American” affair and want to prevent embarassing themselves with their family (they only know American culture from Hollywood…).
I’m trying to be sensitive to cultural differences, but this pushes huge cultural buttons for me! In the USA it’s traditionally the bride’s family who hosts, and if it’s anyone’s party it’s the couple’s. I’m also used to a situation where the bride and groom decide and plan for themselves. We’ve already decided that the wedding is going to be a blend of both cultures.
Though it sounds crazy to say, we do not want their financial help because we know that leaves us with little power over decisions. My fiancé and I have decided to pay for the bulk of the wedding, both because we can and because we want the right to make our own plans. If they paid, we’d feel guilty upsetting them with “non-french” traditions and details.
Especially because the event is in his hometown, I’m afraid of this event becoming just another of his family’s events. Although his family is wonderful, the cultural differences are many. They are a very traditional, large French family and most of my American guests would find their entertaining style presumptuous, frigid and downright boring.
So, to make peace, I’m considering giving them specific tasks where I would welcome their help. Like choosing the caterer, or finding a good local DJ, and helping with logistics. If they want more guests, we’ll set a limit and let them pay for their additional invites. Everything that makes up the ambiance, decor, and order of ceremony, I really want to be able to choose with my fiancé. We both want this to be a warm, inviting, elegant wedding where everyone has fun and shares in our joy.
Any advice for gracefully turning down help of generous in-laws and limiting their involvement without rocking the boat?