Avoiding Family Drama

Planning a wedding has never been without its own unique stress and drama.

From the venue to the hors d’oeuvres, everything can send the sweetest bride-to-be into full Bridezilla mode. While there are several uncontrollable factors that add to the stress and drama of the Big Day, nothing can turn nuptials upside down like wedding family drama. 

While COVID put some restrictions around the amount of people couples invited to their weddings, it certainly didn’t halt the RSVP of crazy that can come with the joining of two families. 

With weddings back in full swing, SIGNATURE BRIDE got a chance to speak with Yaz Quiles, CEO of award-winning experience agency POP! by Yaz and star of HGTV’s newest competition show, “Table Wars.” 

Whether it’s producing a dream wedding, over-the-top branded consumer activation or intimate luxury experience, Quiles’ wow-worthy events have dotted across the globe, with attendees ranging up to 10,000 guests. Fortune 500 brands, including Verizon, HBO, Moët Hennessy, Instagram, NBA, Dropbox and Jack Daniel’s, are among her past clientele.

SIGNATURE BRIDE: Pre-COVID guidelines made family gatherings such as weddings a lot easier. What were some of the wedding trends for couples that still wanted to hold their ceremonies during COVID?

Yaz Quiles: During the pandemic, couples had to adjust their choice of “in real life” (IRL) events by either canceling or rescheduling their weddings, which had major financial implications. If you were able to proceed with your wedding, it usually meant decreasing the number of guests, having COVID-19 protocols in place and usually including some sort of outdoor option.

SB: With COVID weddings being held digitally or with smaller numbers did you see a decrease in the stress or drama added by the family?

YQ: The amount of stress was actually increased because, for most couples, it meant not having the wedding they truly desired. Most accommodated or settled for alternatives in order to move forward and actually have something that resembled their desired wedding. For some, they made the most out of the experience by having an intimate wedding, which in some cases meant spending less money or that extra involvement from others and having less stress.

SB: What are some of the wedding details (e.g., cake, dress, decorations) that can cause stress/drama during wedding planning?  

YQ: This year, we are seeing an increase in weddings that were postponed in 2020 and 2021. The demand is putting additional strain on an industry that is already facing challenges from supply chain delays, cost of materials, staff shortages, increased shipping costs and delays—which trickle down to every facet of the wedding, including the venue, catering, cake, rentals, attire and beyond.

Despite COVID putting the inevitable strain on the wedding industry, couples are happily going full steam ahead with nuptials, knowing there might be some slim pickings. While their choice of venue might look different, couples are also having to navigate through the new pressures of limited capacities, smaller budgets and lifestyle changes. [Quiles contributes these factors and more as undeniable triggers to post-COVID wedding issues.] 

SB: What are some of the most common or outrageous reasons behind family drama at weddings you have curated?  

YQ: The biggest family dramas are usually created by two things: finance and emotions.

Finance issues usually tie back to control and power. Who has the final say in making decisions? These decisions usually are around incorporating family traditions and expectations versus the couple’s vision for the day. Planning a wedding, in general, is an emotional experience, but these emotions can and usually are amplified by the variety of people who are involved in the union. Differences in opinions, a new journey in the actual planning process and past family relationships are all elements that create a stew of emotions.

Emotions tend to be exasperated during weddings as underlying family issues are brought to the forefront. Most of the drama I have seen is from family members feeling like they are not included or don’t feel special. Little things like not being included in the program, not getting a “title” or being seated “at the wrong table” have created full meltdowns with wedding planner therapy sessions in the dressing room.  

SB: With COVID guidelines eased but still a thing, are there new sources of family stress and drama that have become apparent during wedding planning?

YQ: More than ever before, politics has reared its ugly head into the conversations around what is deemed appropriate and not appropriate. It’s a very divisive platform that has become more at the forefront of our conversations.

SB: Do you think that the inability to freely bring the bride’s and groom’s families together as frequently has contributed to the increase or decrease of family drama during wedding planning?

YQ: People are bursting at the seams to get back to normal, but the reality is that our “normal” has changed for good. I believe more drama will ensue because people are more aware and more likely to make demands to accommodate themselves. From dietary needs and mental awareness to financial standings and political alignments—couples will start feeling the “needs” of their guests and will have to decide if and how they will accommodate them.

SB: What are some things you have had to suggest to your couples who run into family drama during the planning phase of their Big Day?

YQ: Couples who run into family problems must be transparent with their planners to have the most appropriate course of action in place for any potential problems. I’ve had to hire special security to identify party crashers. I’ve also created “empty” seats at tables in case we have any last-minute additional guests. We work with many blended families, and we create “cast” photo books for the staff so they know the names and relationships of all parties. We dare not call the stepmom the mother. Or know that there may be fathers, sons and grandsons with the same name, and distinguishing them and their roles is imperative. 

SB: What are some tips you have for couples who are planning their weddings and want to avoid the family drama or stress?

YQ: The intent behind a wedding is to unify two families. I would take this mantra from the beginning, by setting the tone of events with clear and decisive communication. When the couple shows a unified front and clearly delineates the “rules” of engagement with guests, there is less room for discussion. This can apply to anything as simple as having an unplugged ceremony and an adult-only reception to more divisive actions like mandatory testing/vaccinations and the inclusion of an alcohol bar.

While COVID changed a lot of things, it certainly didn’t change the dynamic of family and everything good and unruly that can come from events where we gather and create memories. While weddings aren’t the only atmosphere where family drama and issues can come to head, it can be a pressure cooker for those emotions we haven’t been able to express for the last two years. When getting ready for your special day, don’t take for granted the importance of communication, setting boundaries or even going back to the drawing board for planning if you think the dark drama clouds could dampen your Big Day.  

Family drama is universal, so we doubt there would be anyone who wasn’t on your side for not inviting your cousin’s third quarantine boo. Regardless of how it plays out, if you meet your fiancé at the altar, we would say all went well.