Wedding Marketing: Family Ties

During my reception planning days, I learned very quickly that there are three sensitivities that brides have: 1) family matters, 2) money matters and 3) how the dress fits.

When it came to family, I’d like to think I use to knock it out of the ballpark. I’ve spent what felt like hours on the phone, letting a bride virtually cry on my shoulder as she tells me tales of seating assignments gone awry. I’ve slyly pulled unhappy moms or stepmoms (or former stepmoms- I’ve seen everything folks) out of the dressing room at the request of the frantic bride and made up a “hey lets go check out all of the decoration” tours on the spot. I’ve also kept a straight face when the bride tells me that no one is speaking to the father of the bride now that he’s married the best friend of her mom. Like I said, I’ve seen everything.

I recently had the pleasure of attending my brother’s wonderful, beautiful and all around fantastic wedding back in New England. For the first time since I could remember, I also enjoyed the opportunity of simply being a guest. And a guest I stayed save for a brief blip of time at the rehearsal that should serve as a cautionary tale. There had been a changing of the guard so to speak at the ceremony site and with that, came a brand new on site planner. She was strictly taking care of the ceremony and everyone in attendance was kindly taking a back seat, swallowing a flexibility pill and letting her run the show.

As the rehearsal wrapped up, I made my one move for the day and asked her to review the processional with my side of the family, which hadn’t been covered. She looks over at my clan, points to my dad and stepmom and says,”so are you two the parents?”

Mistake number one.

Luckily, everyone is good natured but I quickly stepped in and corrected her, introducing her to both sets of parents. Her response? “So do you all get along or will I have to separate you two between some pews?’

Gasp. I mean, mistake number two.

I don’t remember much from the response because I was too busy trying not to fall out of my pew. But I do recollect a few quips from the family that saved the moment and everyone had a good laugh about it.  But if I didn’t come from great and understanding parents, this could have set the stage for disaster. I’ve had far too many weddings that would not have taken it as well and it may very well take a hysterical bride or parents for the planner in question to learn her mistake. And I’m confident that that planner will- and I’m oh so glad I live 600 miles away from the inevitable bridal explosion. 😉

So what is a wedding pro to do? A few tips to guide your efforts:

1) Ask! When you book a bride, there is an inevitable point when you need to gather basic information. I don’t care if you are the venue, the photographer or the make up artist- ask the bride if you need to be aware of any family issues. It’s not a comfortable thing to cover but by goodness, it needs to be asked.

2) Share! Don’t be afraid to communicate any particularly sensitive family issues with the necessary staff- whether it be your assistance, the caterer in charge of serving the parents dinner or the person taking your place. If a bride went overboard in the sharing department, it doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. Keep it simple but make sure it’s said.

3) Assume. If you find yourself in the position that you weren’t able to obtain the information in advance, then just assume there are sensitivities until you can obtain more information. You could be pleasantly surprised that you have a “shiny happy people” scenario on your hands, but let that come as a pleasant surprise.

By simply adhering to the above steps, you’re no doubt guaranteed to hit it out of the ballpark. And keep people from falling out of their pews.

{Editorial note: For the sake of privacy, I simply selected some images of myself (with my sister!) as a recent wedding guest. I won’t be offended if the wedding invitation river runs dry based on my behavior. :)}

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. She is the exclusive wedding pr columnist to wedding marketing journal WedLock magazine and is a highly sought after speaker in the wedding industry. She loves ruffle table runners and Royal Wedding Tchotchkes. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you with your wedding marketing and wedding pr, please contact us today.

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Meghan Ely

Regarded as one of the leading wedding publicists in the US, Meghan Ely combines in-the-trenches event experience with a love of wedding PR. She has earned coverage for her clients with the New York Times, People, Brides, Bridal Guide, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, CNN Money, and more. She is a WeddingPro Expert and long-time contributor to and