Marriages, Mergers & Moving On- Inlaws & Outlaws To Credit Reports- When Love Isn’t Enough… 

A few years ago, an argument regarding where the rehearsal dinner would be required me to step in (as usual) and soothe a few ruffled feathers among the parents of the groom and the mother of the bride who was paying for everything else. What started all of this conflict? Money. As usual. 

When you are the check writer, you should be able to make the rules but, in the “wonderful world of weddings,” everyone who isn’t writing the check wants to make the rules. 

Inlaws and Outlaws. God love em because no one else does. They bring a lot to the table but sadly, what they bring should have been left at home.

Throughout the years, I’ve been a referee. A best friend. A confidante. A mother. I wear many hats. I have to. My twin sister is my back up during these moments of chaos. My sounding board when even I cannot understand why people cannot force themselves to get along at a wedding. 

I will never understand why weddings bring out the beast in a few folks. Most likely others won’t either.

Last month, a bride contacted me concerned that her “ring wasn’t big enough.” She wanted me to tell the groom it needed to be upsized. The number of times I’ve thought it was impossible to surprise me no longer exist in my life. I advised the bride to tell the groom this herself. As a planner and Officiant, even I have limits. 

This client is a problem because nothing will make her happy. I’m old and wise and can see this but, the groom is in for a wild ride. The groom isn’t my client. The brides mother is. The groom reminds me of my son. He couldn’t do enough either and years later, still can’t. His wife’s family ALL have opinions. They also have no idea what dealing with them is like. I do. I was on location with new “Outlaws” for hours. It was enough for me to last a lifetime. First impressions at a wedding. Heaven help us all! 

To solve the “Pizza Party Problem,” I suggested my client “lower her expectations” of what the grooms family could afford. After all, there were children in the wedding party who loved the games and fun at the pizza parlor. It worked out. It would also happen again less than a year late with ANOTHER COUPLE. Over pizza at a rehearsal dinner? The father of the bride was lit that the other parents were “cheaping out.” 

The father of the bride in this instance was paying for everything. The parents of the bride had suggested pizza for the rehearsal dinner. The father of the bride was divorced from the mother of the bride. The mother of the bride and her husband were on a limited budget. They had the burden of paying for the care of the stepfathers mother who needed assisted living.

The argument over what to eat and where also became a war. We finally ended the war by having the rehearsal dinner at a friends house. One of the bridesmaids parents was friends of the divorced parents. Nothing fancy though and everyone chipped in including me. I brought finger foods. Everyone else brought pot luck. No one got out of line because there was an audience. 

My “job” revolves around conflict resolution. Anyone unaware of this has never worked in the events industry. 

Finding ways to calm the chaos down with clients takes a Twin Team. Cindy is funny while I am high strung and OCD. I want perfection. 

I also work in an environment where chasing perfection is similar to chasing a flock of geese. Sure, you might catch one but the others are going to fly away. I’ve learned to let them. 

My focus is on the client and the couple. The Peanut Gallery of friends and family aren’t my priority although they would like to be. These people (the Peanut Gallery) would love to call me at all hours of the night to give me their opinions during the planning process and especially on wedding day but, they are flies in my soup. They are distractions. They aren’t part of the solution because they are part of the problem. 

Back to the ring, this bride is young and far more focused on being a princess. It’s a real problem. Her mother is struggling with expensive medical treatments. The bride cannot comprehend the expenses her mother struggles to deal with. Between you and I, I was that mother. During my son’s wedding planning, I faced several surgeries and treatments that even with excellent insurance were incredibly expensive. Try explaining this to someone in their 20’s unaware that your arguments over an Open Bar are unwarranted. PS- I won that argument. 

Why adult children fail to comprehend that their parents don’t have a money tree in the front yard I have no idea. Reality is invisible to young couples planning their wedding and expecting their parents to “cover” their hearts desires. 

Today’s young adult is so programmed to instant gratification that telling them “no or we can’t afford that” is likely to start a volatile argument. You know, with the same parent or parents sacrificing to give their entitled young adult the wedding that they themselves didn’t have because their parents couldn’t afford it. 

Perhaps all parents should step back and suggest that their children pay for their own luxurious weddings? It’s a thought and an eye opener. 

Years ago, one bride was so determined to have it all that what her parents wouldn’t provide, she decided to charge on credit cards. By the time the marriage finally did happen, the bride had created over $40k in credit card charges. 

This bride also lied to her parents about this “influx of funding” by telling them that the grooms parents were contributing to “cover up” what was actually occurring during the planning process. 

In confidence, the bride told me what was going on. I asked. The budget had started low to mid level. Over the course of ten months, the “add ons” continued. The budgets flew out the window. 

I knew something was going on and asked what it was. In confidence, the bride admitted “I’ve been planning this day all of my life and my parents are so tight that I’m having to do so on a shoestring budget.” The budget? $25k. To most couples, this amount is more than generous. 

Alarmed, I also strongly suggested that the bride stop spending. Because I had been hired by the bride, this knowledge was never discussed with anyone else due to client confidentiality. I hate secrets but, my role is often to keep them.

Less than a year after the wedding, the couple filed for divorce. Money was the primary reason and although the bride assumed that the credit card charges incurred prior to the wedding were “community debt” she was mistaken. Her parents weren’t in a position to pay the additional debt. Her new husband was angry about the surprise of credit card debts combined with a new home and other expenses including a new wife with no plans to continue working. The dominos were falling fast. 

Subsequently, when she called me horrified that she was burdened with debts and now facing bankruptcy, I suggested counseling. My suggestion was based in part because I knew the groom loved her and I felt the marriage had a chance at being saved. I was right. The bride is now on an allowance. The bride also volunteers to keep her from shopping. Once a month, she also attends counseling for her addiction to shopping. 

Marriage merges debt, families, and chaos. This should be self explanatory but continues to confuse people who don’t put enough effort into getting along with their new “Inlaws.” Hence my references to Outlaws. 

Where you eat or what you eat at the rehearsal dinner or reception has nothing to do with why you are at a wedding. You are at a wedding to celebrate a love story with people you care about. You aren’t there to dig a hole of creating debt by “going over the top.” 

Believe it or not, I spend a lot of time listening. Cindy does too. Client meetings are almost always spent listening prior to asking questions. I have a lot of questions. I also don’t need to speak to my twin to convey my concerns. Cindy knows what I’m thinking. My clients don’t. They don’t know why I’m asking about an Open Bar or conflict among the guests. They have no idea why I’m telling them they don’t need to add additional expenses to the initial budget. They wonder why I’m concerned about overspending? They also are unaware of why I consistently tell them that cutting certain guests is essential to staying within a budget. 

You aren’t obligated to invite every Tom, Dick and Harry to your wedding. If you barely know them, you have NO IDEA of how they are going to behave at YOUR WEDDING. Cut them. 

A seasoned planner looks at the big picture. A seasoned planner doesn’t treat each client like a number or a checking deposit while moving on to the next one. A seasoned planner establishes relationships. Builds trust. Earns the trust by honesty and candor. I’m not always going to tell you what you want to hear. What I will do is tell you the truth. What’s in YOUR best interest.

Going into any event, I’m well aware of the possibility of the unexpected. I’ve seen it. Cindy and I have resolved it. We had to. There is no margin for failure at a Life Event. 

Over the years, I’ve also suggested that certain clients re-evaluate marrying. In a handful of situations, I’ve very strongly suggested this. Why? Red flags. A bruised cheek at a client meeting. A client that was previously confident who in the midst of process becomes meek. Battle worn. Weery. I see things other people don’t. I was once that client. I was pushed into a marriage I didn’t want to be in. I also had no choice. I spent ten years in a violent marriage before finally recognizing that if I didn’t leave, my son would one day be the victim that I had become. 

There is a lot of stress in changing your life. Committing yourself to someone and their family. Putting your own needs behind that of your partner. Adding children? Hunker down. Your finances just did a flip and so did your ability to focus entirely on your spouse. You both become second fiddles. Are you ready for that? 

People find changing jobs stressful but consider that changing everything from where you live to where you sleep to accommodate someone else and how life changing marriage is. 

You will give up independence in the wrong marriage. “The give isn’t worth the take in a volatile marriage.” I should know. Cindy knows too. 

Many of my “traditional clients” cannot and may not ever understand my clients marrying an inmate. That’s okay. These clients neither need or seek the approval of others. They are remarkably independent. How so? They don’t share their home. They don’t share an income. They do it all alone. They have none of the benefits of marriage my traditional clients do and yet, without the frivolity, without the budgets and flowers and vendors and guests, they also make it work. 

Last week, I was asked “what percentage of clients you’ve married in prisons have divorced?” Since everyone assumes the majority of inmate weddings end in divorce, I elaborated. “None of the clients I’ve married in prisons have divorced. The reasons for this are that I counseled these clients prior to marrying them. I asked them questions. I wanted to know they were prepared for the loneliness of loving an inmate. The sacrifice required. The drives to the unit every weekend. Putting money on the books. Running when the phone rings and paying for expensive calls.

The interviewer questioned this answer. “Why do you care?” My answer surprised him as it does many others. “I don’t HAVE to work and a client is far more to me than a number. They are more importantly, my friends. I care about their story. I care about their journey. I also know how painful divorce is. I understand the scars of divorce are something that will never heal. My greatest sadness aside from officiating a funeral for a child who never had the opportunity to live is the death of a marriage that had promise and ended in loss.” 

I’m different. People don’t understand this. Cindy is different. We are the parents we never had. We are the people we’ve never met. We also want to protect others from the pain of a divorce. 

To answer the question regarding “percentages” however, I’ve had two LBGT couples throughout the years divorce. I’ve also had three traditional clients divorce. 

I will elaborate on the variations of both sets of clients. One of my LBGT clients lived with her disabled mother. She’s a loving and giving individual that I’ve known for years. Her wife took advantage of her kind heart and her mothers pain medication. Her wife was unworthy of her. I wish they had never married because divorce is a painful reminder of love and promise. 

The other LBGT couple I married not once but twice. Why? The wedding video was damaged. To resolve the issue, my staff and I remarried the couple. No one was more surprised than I was two years later when the former wife contacted me to marry her to a man. I declined. Why? Loyalty. If I’ve married you, you were both my friends. Because of this, I have never and will never marry a former client to a new partner. I will refer you to someone else on my staff instead. 

On the traditional clients, one case was infidelity. Two others were money. Of course there were a handful of others who considered divorce but heeded my advice to seek counseling. Because of this, their marriages were saved. Their children were also spared the separation that divorce brings. Adults can recover from a divorce. Children rarely do. 

What people need to understand is that my belief is Love Is Love. Regardless of whether your lifestyle is traditional or not, everyone deserves to find love and have love. 

On the flip side of the same coin, there are narcissistic people who can only love themselves. Their incapacity to love others can more often than not be impossible to change.   

Domestic violence or ANY type of control mentally or physically is difficult to escape. It is possible however you will carry the scars of abuse the rest of your life. 

My best advice to anyone with cold feet or second thoughts is to back out before going through the trials and tribulations of a divorce. Especially when divorce involves children. 

Ask yourself if you are in love with the idea of being in love or loved or whether the fairy tale of an elaborate wedding is why you feel enamored about having that “happily ever after.” 

Love is sacrifice. Love bears most things but, infidelity, bad credit, issues of money and even self worth can affect the viability of your marriage. Know this going in. 

For years now, I’ve worked traditional events by referral only. The reason for this is the time involved as a planner. In the time it takes me to plan ONE wedding, I can easily officiate up to 70 or more marriage ceremonies. 

Also, prison wedding planning takes 3-6 weeks and in rare cases, even four months or a year if the inmate is transferred. 

Unlike traditional clients, my prison wedding clients aren’t demanding. They aren’t entitled. They are patient. They have no choice. Prison weddings are a process. They follow strict guidelines and procedures. 

These prison wedding clients are remarkably different than traditional clients and also my preference. Why? Because after years in a career of high end sales and high end events, I prefer the intimacy of working with clients who appreciate our help. With clients who aren’t concerned about impressing others. With clients who are far more than clients. These clients are lifelong friends of the Texas Twins…