When Should You Introduce Your Families To Each Other
There are lots of thing that differ when wedding planning in London, as opposed to other parts of the country. The venues are different for example, and so is transport to-and-from these. But the issue of family is universal, and deciding when your family should meet your fiancé's family is definitely something that requires some thought.
Families are an odd one. There's not really any getting around that I'm afraid. When I was younger I thought all families were the same - in every one there were two parents and two children (as this was the family model that I had, and I also wasn't a very observant child...) It wasn't until I was a bit older that I not only realised that wasn't the case, but that all families have their own quirks, flaws and parents are just human too. They make mistakes, they say embarrassing things, and their emotions get caught up in situations too, just like ours. They're not infallible and, at times, it's best to proceed with caution.
It's hard enough knowing when to introduce your partner to your family for that very reason. I've known some people to wait until they've been dating someone for a year until they take them home to 'meet the parents', and I've also known people who introduce their family to every single person they've ever been on a date with. But, it's an entirely different ball game deciding when to let the parents, meet the parents.
Some would argue that this shouldn't even be a 'thing', and I understand that they're probably not going to spend a great deal of time together over the years. But if they're all going to sit at the top table together, on your wedding day, and invite each other's children into their families then it's a formality that needs to happen. Plus, in the future, they'll all be at the same birthday parties for their grandchildren and other family celebrations.
There are a few situations where this is less of a minefield for you to navigate, i.e. your parents have already met each other, which may be the case if you've known your partner since you were a lot younger, or you actually met through your 'rents. Or you / your partner don't have the best relationship with your family, in which case this might not even be an issue for you. But in the majority of cases, this is something that will need to happen at some point.
The process of introducing them to each other may be helped along by the fact that one or both sets of parents push for it. Let's face it, if they've met your partner then they're going to be curious to see what their parents are like. As a wedding planner, I share the same sort of curiosity. I love meeting the parents of a couple whose wedding I've been planning. It's just quite interesting to see which characteristics they get from which parent, and it also helps me to see how the bride / groom will act on their wedding day with their parents present. You can tell a lot about a person by how they act around their mum and dad, and I've seen mature brides I've been working with turn into stroppy brats as soon as their mum is on the scene. So I don't blame parents at all for trying to make this little rendez-vous happen.
This can work in your favour though; it's way better to find a time to arrange this meeting-of-sorts sooner rather than later, and putting it off until the actual wedding day. You don't want this to be the first time that they meet. It's supposed to be a relaxing and fun day for everyone and meeting people for the first time can be quite nerve-wracking at times. Plus, as nice as I'm sure both of your parents are, you just can't guarantee people will get along immediately - and you don't want your wedding day to be the time to test this theory.
On the flip side, don't be rushed into getting them together if you don't think it's the right time. For example, if you've only met your future in-laws a couple of times then you might not want to throw a new dynamic into the mix by bringing along your parents the next time you see each other. It's definitely worth just you spending time with them, and learning about their family, before you bring your mum and dad into the circle as well. If that happened, and it did go badly, for whatever reason, then it could really sour the relationship between you and your partner's parents. And nobody wants that!
First and foremost, there's a few things you need to consider before you even start putting the wheels of any sort of plan into motion.
1) Geographical location
Do they live at different ends of the country? If so, then it's going to require a lot more organisation than "let's just meet at the local pub". Either one set of parents will have to travel hundreds of miles to the other with you and your partner, which is fairly intense if you think about it. Or both sets of parents have to travel to where you and your other half live, if this is different. If the journey is too long to go there and back in one day then it turns a short meet-up into an overnight stay. Some parents really wouldn't mind this - but for others I can see it being a bit much.
2) The emotional state of your parents
Now I know that I make a lot of sarcastic remarks and jokes (which are often unintentional, I promise) in this blog, but just take me seriously for a second. Lots of parents want the best for their children, and dutifully put aside any negative emotions, to demonstrate to their kids that they unequivocally want them to be happy. However, all parents were not created equal, as discussed at the beginning of this article. Some are more selfish, and some aren't very good at handling their emotions without letting them slip onto others. They might not find it particularly easy to meet the family that you are effectively 'joining'. They may be insecure that you might prefer this family, spend more time with them, and not visit them as much as a result. You should be able to sense if this is the case - if one of your parents is clingy or overly-emotional then it will be fairly obvious. It's better not to provoke the proverbial bear, as the only way I can see that meeting going is West - and very quickly.
It's not their fault; some people are just not 'good' at handling themselves in situations like this. So if this resonates with you in regard to your own family then maybe just let them meet at the rehearsal dinner, where everyone should be on their best behaviour.
3) Whether your parents / their parents are still together
If either set of your parents have separated then you don't have to think about doing this exercise just once, you possibly have to think about doing it at least twice or maybe even four times. Think about it - if his mum and dad have new partners, and so do your mum and dad (which is more likely than you think given we choose partners on how similar their family is to ours) then thats involves their mum and your mum meeting, their mum and your dad, your mum and their dad, and both of your dads. I hope you're following, there's a test at the end! Fair enough, you might not be as close to some family members than others, but they'll probably still want to all meet each other at some point. So it's worth you thinking about how you want to manage it.
At the end of the day, there's never really a right answer to this question; it's really subjective and depends on all of the factors above. But, more importantly, it depends on what your intuition is telling you to do. It's never wrong! Hear that people?! Never wrong! So don't ignore it. If you're feeling pressured into bringing your families together then check in with your gut feeling and go with that.
Oh, and you can definitely help make the situation easier for everyone involved. In advance of them meeting talk to each set of parents about what the others are interested in. Draw out common interests so that they all know they have things to talk about. However, avoid anything that could potentially cause friction - politics, religion, you get my drift. Consider where the meeting should be - would everyone feel more relaxed at your house instead of a restaurant? Or would you rather it was a neutral place so that people feel like they can leave when they want to? Oh, and if you're really stuck for something to talk about then this is one of the times where it is socially acceptable to bang on and on and on about your wedding plans. Your friends may be bored of hearing all about them, but this is a group of people who will never tire about hearing what you've got planned.
Best of luck!