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    Great Expectations

    Howard Stieremann (2)Last week I was Skyping with a couple whose wedding is this upcoming Pride Weekend. They had initially contacted me in January, eager to start planning. Just one month later, I was surprised when I received a short, almost cryptic email from them stating they were canceling the wedding.

    It turns out the couple was dealing with extra stress–so much stress that they contemplated canceling their wedding and eloping so as to avoid the demands their families were making. One parent was withholding further communication and another was holding the wedding hostage, threatening to stop financial support if their ‘requests’ were not met.


    My couples know that they are always my priority. I recognize that it can be uncomfortable for couples to set boundaries or to say no. I often offer a solution if a parent, relative, or friend demands (or strongly requests) that a ritual, reading, etc. be included that doesn’t feel right. I suggest couples blame me, the officiant! The couple can explain that I’ve said such and such can’t be done. No explanation necessary. Setting boundaries is difficult, and is especially complicated if someone else is helping to foot the bill.

    Prior to setting boundaries, it is helpful if you have an idea of the style or feel you would like for your wedding. Traditional or contemporary? How large? Having a vision in mind allows you to be more focused. Having a plan will also give parameters against which you can judge other’s suggestions. You will be able to see whether an idea helps to further your plan along its path, or takes it on an unwelcome tangent.

    It is also helpful to consider what your expectations are of others. Does a parent have a history of taking control of your projects? Does a loved one offer too many ideas or unrealistic suggestions? Family and friends can be wonderful assets during wedding planning. They can also push your buttons or control the checkbook in ways that aren’t healthy, productive or beneficial.

    In addition to thinking about how others act and react, it is beneficial to set, and then manage, others’ expectations of you. Perhaps you’ll need to declare your independence. Even if you and your beloved have been a couple forever, weddings tend to bring out less than stellar behavior in others. If you let your loved ones know the wedding is under your control, hopefully they will get the message that all of their helpful hints aren’t actually that helpful. When you ask for assistance, be specific. Ask yes/no questions, or limit their responses to your top two or three options from which they can choose.

    Setting expectations–for yourself and for others–will allow for less stressful planning. There will undoubtedly be hurdles. Hopefully your friends and family will assist you in getting over and past them, rather than placing more in your path, thereby helping you to make your wedding vision a reality.

    Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit