Meeting your in-laws should be at the top of your priorities, but if for some reasons you are not able to meet them before the engagement, a meeting needs to be set up at the earliest. Another preference would be to get both of the parents to talk with each other, it would be better to initiate this first over the phone, and later a face-to-face at their convenience.
Traditionally the groom’s parents call the bride’s parents as a gesture which means that they are thrilled to welcome her into their home and family, as the bride becomes a part of the groom’s family after she leaves her home. Although this tradition still stands strong, it does not matter who makes the connection just as long as it happens. But this does not mean that it should happen a day or two before the engagement takes place as it creates an awkward atmosphere giving off a negative vibe that wouldn’t put everyone in their best mood. Should the parents of either set are divorced, calls must be made to each party individually.
There will be some parents for whom social graces may not be a highlight, they may get lost in the excitement of the big news, and they may forget their nuances, to perch the thought mention it to them when you share the engagement news of calling your future in-laws along with your folks.
The next step would be a dinner to celebrate the great news. And both sets of parents can join if they live nearby. Usually the couple have to be present for this dinner, but the parents can meet themselves. It is really up to each family of how they want to go about with this.
The first meeting between the two families is important as it sets a precedent to things that will follow. The meeting can be held at either one of their homes, or even at places that are a bit more neutral in nature such as restaurants. Be sure to check with your significant other or their parents would be uncomfortable, or a change of location is required where it is much more neutral and everyone can relax on equal footing.
In most cases the parents are already acquainted with each other, but the gravity of the occasion calls for an official get-together. Here the parents get to know each other better and welcome the fact that their children are engaged. They may also skip the pleasantries and get straight to how to tackle certain expenses. But breaking your head over such a topic on the first meet may prove to be futile unless you possess some skill in wedding planning. If not, then you will not be aware of the costs, and would be best if you keep this at bay until you have the costs and budget sorted out. For a destination wedding in Goa, the average cost would be a minimum of Rs. 25,00,000. It is best to be ready with a budget with all the details worked out before discussing the matter.
It is important to realize that your parents and your in-laws will be closely related after you get married, and that is reason enough to spend time and energy on each other to make sure that they get off on the right foot, and steering their relationship in the right path.
HARMONY IS ALWAYS A PRIORITY
Almost everyone to some extent experiences a sink in their stomach after getting married and realizing what marriage really entails. Often this is witnessed when you discover traditions and customs of your new home that are different from what you are used to, or when you visit each other’s homes, or gather for large family events or just with both sets of parents.
Actually not everyone is immune to the cultural shock that you may witness. But the degree does increase when you are marrying someone from a different country, race, religion, social background, and ethnicity. In such cases it is to no surprise that there will be misunderstandings, and conflicts because each family is bound to a culture or race of their own, and clubbed with its own customs, rituals, and taboos.
There are a few tops that you could use no matter how different your families are from each other.
- Be the hosts for the first time both your folks meet, it would be best if this meeting was held at the home you and your fiancé live in, given that there is enough space to entertain without any discomfort. If hosting is not a viable option, pick a neutral venue like a restaurant. Choose a place that is quite, not crowded, and reasonably priced and comfortable at the same time.
- If either one of your parents are flying in for the meeting, be sure not to cramp up their stay by compelling everyone to spend all the time together. One other group activity than the get-together dinner should be more than enough. It is important to spend time with your own parents as this time can be very emotional for them as they see their children moving on with their life.
- Also make sure that nobody feels left out during conversations, keep the conversation casual and neutral so that everyone can participate. If there are certain topics that need to be addressed, mention it to them ahead of time. Prepare a few interesting stories to tell, which will keep the mood light.
- Before the meeting, your spouse and you should make sure to inform your parents whom they are going to meet, tell them about positive and informative things. If the cultural difference is large, you should be more detailed in briefing your parents, and being their best guide. As most therapists would state it: ‘blood talks to blood’.
- Be sure to prepare a personally written note to both sets of parents letting them know that you appreciate the effort they have made to visit you and the wonderful experience it was to meet and get to know everyone together. (Regardless if it was.)
It completely normal to have butterflies in your stomach when it comes to your parents and in-laws meeting officially for the first time. If you are looking for a confidence boost, think of a slick way to be employed onto a group of people who do not know each other very well, for whom you are hosting a diner party. One nifty approach would be to steer the conversation with what you already know about each other’s families, and listen to your intuition. Keep the flamboyant spirit to the maximum along with the enthusiasm. Take the time and effort to plan this get-together and work on executing it with success, because it is all working towards establishing a harmonious future with each other’s families. One of the main reasons for this get-together is so that your families get to know you and your spouse. It is obvious for parents to be concerned and maybe even cautious when it is something relating to their children, especially marriage. So do not hide away the love and care you have for each other and do so filled with confidence, because nothing pleases a parent more than someone’s unconditional love for their child.
ENGAGEMENT PARTY ON THE CARDS
The celebration of the engagement is a way of officially checking off the celebration of your new status. Traditionally it is not of any compulsion, but it is the best way that both sides of the family can get to know each other. Think of it as sort of an ice breaker where your family gets to know your spouse’s family. There is no formal protocol for going about with an engagement party. However it is a social gathering that dates centuries back, so you can choose to have your celebration whatever way you and your spouse like. A small gathering at home, a barbeque in the yard, wines and cocktails, brunch over the weekend, or even dinner at your favourite restaurant and more are all viable options for you to choose from.
According to tradition, the bride’s family is the one who hosts the engagement party by inviting close friends and family over to their house and making the announcement for the big occasion. During the course of the engagement party the father of the bride make an announcement and then that would be followed by a toast being raised to the couple. This gesture used to catch many off guard but it is till date considered to be a very important gesture.
In some cases the bridal couple do not live in the same city, so having the family of the bride to host the party would not be practical. So to curb this issue, a relative that is close to the family or even the grooms parents can be the hosts for the engagement party. But these days it’s more likely for a close friend to volunteer to host the party. Hosting the engagement party yourself is not something that you usually do unless you plan for it to be surprise announcement. But if you do plan on hosting your own party and surprising everyone, it should really burst out and surprise everyone, rather than it being an open secret. Because what is the use of the surprise if everyone already knows about it. It must be the first time that your close friends and family hears the announcement other than the exception of your parents. Make sure to keep with the etiquette of secrecy, like the invites should read ‘in honour of’ rather than it stating that it is an invite to an engagement party. Setting that aside, it is often better to mention that is an engagement party. That way your guests are a lot more appreciative and more likely to turn up for the party knowing that it is an engagement party than just a casual event that you are hosting.
There is no particular date to host the engagement party, but it is to be hosted roughly a month or two after being engaged or no less than six months before the wedding. If the party is hosted too close to the wedding then that might make feel that the big day is too close and be forced to arrange for gifts at such short intervals. There is of course the option of not having an engagement party if the wedding date is under six months.
Since we are on the subject of gifts, there is no thumb rule pertaining to it other than the compulsory rings that are exchanged between the couples. The gifts are usually gifted by family, close friends, and immediate family members. But they are not under any obligation to do so, should they wish to do so, they may send it over or bring it along with them, it would be preferable not to expect any, and definitely do not unwrap them just as soon as you receive them or at any duration at while at the party. You would not require a gift register in this case. The reason that you would not require one is because it may not even be practical because creating one in a rush would not give you enough time to really think and decide what you like. If you are one of those people that just can’t be stopped then it would fine, because there are many who would love a gift register created.
You can have multiple engagement parties, and this usually happens when the parents of the couple live in different geographical locations. But this is in no way a compulsion to do so. Schedules and finances are the main concerns for having such events.
The guests that you plan on inviting for the engagement party should be limited to the guests that will be part of the guest list for the wedding. Adjustments and changes can always be made to this rule. But if you are concerned with the size of the guest list for the wedding, you always have the option of limiting the engagement party guests to family and close friends just to be cautious. But if you are not really sure about your guests you can put the engagement party on hold until you have a better picture of the number of attendees for both events.
It was a part of tradition not so long ago to have the couple receive the guests on the way in, but that would lead to long queues of people waiting for their turn, and having an uncomfortable start to the party. Anything that would make the event uncomfortable should be avoided. The objective here is to have everyone mingling with each other and get to know one and other well.
The better everyone knows each other the more comfortable they will be at the pre-wedding events and everything will flow smoothly, making the wedding easier from a social perspective. A great way of braking the ice between everyone is creating name tags for everyone to wear, and the tag would state the wearer’s relationship with the couple, such as ‘Dave’s brother’ or ‘Rachel’s uncle’. Having foods stations also help out a lot with allowing you guests to mingle, converse and have a good time. French fries, fried chicken, skewered prawns, an assortment of cheese, fish and chips, or live counters or any other finger food works wonders. Another watering hole can be a dessert station where they can make their own desserts, or ice cream sundaes. You could also have a wine bar with someone who has knowledge on wine or at least a labelled description of what is being served works just as well.
If you want the party to be a success then the best course of action would be to plan a number of activities that are going to entice people to interact and bring everyone together. Games can vary from being simple ones with a few props here and there to complex ones that involve many rounds and running about, but some sure-fire games are puzzles or quizzes about the groom and bride which gets both sides of the family involved. Engagement parties are great places to take in each other’s cultural and family traditions and form a closer bond with the family you are marrying into. Whether it is a super competitive game like Pictionary or a beautiful wine, you can always gradually introduce the people in attendance to new customs.
But extravagant parties are not something that everyone enjoys, if you are the type of person who like it low-key then a dinner at a nice quite restaurant that is not crowded would be great. Everyone can introduce themselves in a casual manner. The couple can later move around meeting new faces, spending time with everyone and get everyone more comfortable with each other. This will help break the ice and bring everyone together.
THE TOAST IS THEN RAISED
The father of the bride raises the toast and this usually lasts for an hour or so after all the guests have arrived. If the bride’s father is not available then a chosen member of the family could do the honours. Other than the family member, the bride’s mother or any one of the parents of the groom, grandparent or even a close friend can raise the toast. Spirits such as champagne or wine are generally poured while the toast is being raised.
It is of utmost importance that you are aware of the etiquette involved, as this may be the first time that you maybe toasted to. The toastmaster will ask everyone to raise their glasses when he is finished delivering his speech; but you do not have to raise your glass. Traditionally you do not drink after the toast has been raised to you, but many do take a few sips, and this still falls under proper etiquette.
After this it is the couple that reply to the toast and start off by thanking the person who raised the toast, then the person who hosted the party, and then friends and family who have gathered to share in your celebration. This will be a good opportunity to introduce your parents to everyone if it was not possible earlier. Mention the excitement you are containing to tie knot but keep it short, do not dive too deep. If you spill the beans right here then there would not be anything left to say at the wedding.
THE PARTY ENDS: A FEW THINGS TO NOTE
It is proper etiquette that you send over a note elaborating how thankful you are to the host of the party the very next day. If a parent was the host then, a gift would not be necessary. If it is not a parent then a gift would be in order. If the host is difficult to buy for, a great gesture would be sending over flowers. Some examples for gifts can be perfumes, a gift hamper, scented candles, and spirits. Something that has been going around lately is personalised gifts, like monogramed towel or a blanket, etched glassware, and a lot more. You can bring the gift along with you and present it to the host at the party itself or later, but the note should be sent the following day.
You should also thank the people who brought you gifts that you did not expect. They deserve one as well. It is better to set a deadline by which these notes are supposed to go out within two weeks, the earlier the better. A small note like that goes a long way. If you feel lazy to write one, you could think of it as a challenge for the many more that you will be sending very soon. Due to this your first purchase would be made prior to the engagement party of a set of personalized stationary notes, which will be useful after the wedding as well. You and your significant other can pen down your thoughts together. If putting words to paper is not your thing, or you just do not have time to drop in an email or simply thank the person over the phone as that is better than doing nothing at all.
IS AN ENGAGEMENT REALLY A NECESSITY?
Overtime the period that has been followed for a typical engagement is a year. Because if you think about it, a wedding does indeed require quite a lot of time to plan since it is not just mere celebration of sorts but the coming together of two families and everything that it entails is very intricate and complex. Another way of looking at the yearlong period is to save up for the big day, and plan for the costs that you and your families will incur. With different cultures and different family traditions and customs, so much has to be done before the bride walks down the aisle, hence the yearlong window seems only appropriate. On the other hand this could be seen as only stretching out the process and not wanting to speed things up. Women nowadays are a lot more independent and powerful than they were a few decades back. They stand on their own feet supporting themselves and sometimes even their parents, so it is no longer the stereo type where the girl is handed over by her parents to her husband. The paradigm of dating to getting married has also shifted, dating is no longer built up to be this once in a lifetime event, it has become a lot more casual along with all the hustle that is involved in dating. Couples have even been living together for long periods of time making it no reason to rush. Having lived together for long periods of time they have had the chance of already incorporating and adjusting to each other’s quirks and their families tradition, their culture and their customs.
This is the period where you go from being in a relationship to married and it can be a very daunting time for some and some have been dreaming about this all their life. But regardless of which you fall into, take this time to escape from reality with the person you love the most. This does not happen very often in life where you feel so special, and happiness just washes you over. You can take this time to plan you perfect wedding, prepare yourself to be perfect for your wedding by going over things such as etiquette, communication patterns, and those amazing angles for the perfect photographs.
For those who find big changes daunting, or even to those that are already prepared, there are a lot of feelings and emotions that will overwhelm you like security, elation of fear and anxiety, thoughts of whether you are rushing into this, living with new people, adjusting to their needs and quirks and some more are not easily brushed off, finding a healthy way of processing this is something you can do, if you feel afraid of confronting them alone, you could always turn to your beloved for help since they are willing to spend the rest of their life with you, and that is something very special that happens only to a few.
But you will not be the only one with fears and anxiety about the change. Friends help you through happy and tough times. Many of them maybe single and that would start to wonder if this would be the end of their friendship. Spend time with them whenever possible, or this could turn into a major discussion regarding the wedding.
The emotions that overcome you are mix of everything from happiness to remorse, determination to complete self-doubt. But if the thing that worries you the most is if your soon to be husband’s tuxedo might not match your dress, or if you will get that dream wedding car to drive off with your wife, you are sailing in the same boat as most.
Keeping that aside, if you still unsure and feel like it is all a big mistake, do not fret because it is perfectly normal to feel all these emotions and self-doubt. Even if you feel that you need to keep this from your family, know that all that you feel nothing out of the ordinary.
But rest assured that you are not the only one facing these issues. Mood swings, insomnia, snapping at others, feeling restless are common during such times, and it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and throw off the whole atmosphere of the wedding. Therefore it is important that you are self-aware of this and when you feel that it has blown through your limit, break it down to really understand what really is making you so upset. It might turn out to be something very trivial, one good way of dealing with it is by penning it all down in a journal that is completely private.
A wedding is something much more than just two people professing their love for each other, it is the coming together of two cultures and families along with their traditions and customs. It is important to take a breather and see how the wedding is affecting the people around you. Planning such an event is nothing but stressful to your relationship with everyone and to some extent with your fiancé too. It is common for the bride and groom to voice their feelings and opinions on things, they may also feel apart and having less time to spend together does not help with the frequency of arguments increasing during this transitional period. No matter how grim and bleak it may look, it is true.
This bringing together of families also put a huge strain on your alone time with your spouse. What used to be a cosy space is now filled with both sides of the family showing up all through the week. And now you have a wedding to plan, so it would be more than appropriate to say that you have your plate quite full, and all this clubbed together does have a significant impact on the domestic bliss.
There is no shortage of support to help you through this crisis that you are facing. There are plenty of places that offer support of which you can avail. Many faiths require you to attend a premarital program, if you and you fiancé are of the same faith then these programs can be very resourceful. Given that they highlight a lot upon the religious doctrines. But they also spend enough time going over curricula known as ‘premarital education’. Premarital education includes various topics that touch upon better listening and communication skills that will help you put yourself in other’s shoes and understand things from their perspective, this in turn improves your understanding and empathy towards them. It also aims at topics that include finances, family, expectations, and many more. The local temple or church may make this program a compulsory course, so do not be cynical and attend it. You will be in a much better position in dealing with tight spots and sticky situations which will help you understand the other person’s view point. The better you are at this, the better chance you have towards an overall successful marriage. Talking with other married couples will help you get an insight on how married life actually is. This will help you come across problems that you may face in the future or that you are already facing right now. Talking to them will also give you a better grasp on how to handle the situations should they arise, or get a solution to a problem you are already facing. Some of you may not be up to talking to other couples about your problems or asking them for advice, but you must understand this, by getting to know all this you will be able to understand and know your partner better which will make them happy and that will in turn make you happy and your life easier. Again, marriage has come far from what it used to be decades ago. Couples no longer suffer in silence, keep their point of view to themselves. They are much more open, discuss matters in depth and understand one and other. And these ‘premarital education’ helps to boost just that, giving you the tools to strengthen your relationship and build a beautiful happy life together.
Programs such as PARIS (Practical Application of Relationship Skills) and PREP (the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) are premarital education programs available for those individuals who do not belong to any particular faith. This should help you be more prepared and calm for your wedding.
Congratulations on your engagement! You are now officially making your way to the wedding of your dreams. The next thing for you to conquer is a solid budget.