Has it hit you yet? Once you get hitched, you’ll be attached to more than your fiancé—you have a whole new family coming your way. In many ways, this is a wonderful thing! It may mean a couple more parents to guide you, grandparents to give you advice, and nieces and nephews to make you laugh.
But then there are the siblings. What makes them more complicated?
First of all, they were your fiancés allies in life. They huddled together when mom and dad were arguing and had each other’s backs when one or more got in trouble. The unbreakable bond one shares with a sibling is incredibly unique—and something every bride should be aware of.
Now, if your fiancé has a sister—well—get ready.
Photography by OneOne.co
While your man may have physically protected his sister over the years, she quietly kept an eye on his personal life. Made sure he was surrounding himself with the right friends, building a future he would love, and most importantly—dating the right women. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably unknowingly received her approval, but that doesn’t mean you’re ‘in’ yet. The key to bonding with your future sibling is to build your own relationship with her. Sounds a tad intimidating, I’m sure.
I have a bit of experience with being the “future sister-in-law,” so I can tell you what I needed when my brother got married. To wedding planning and beyond, here are the bonding tips you should know.
How to build a relationship with your future sister-in-law.
One of the first high-pressure situations you’ll have to deal with is determining your bridal party. Should your new sibling be a bridesmaid? In most cases, I believe the answer is ‘yes.’ However, there are extenuating circumstances that may make it more difficult. Perhaps your fiancé has 5 female siblings? Maybe you have 4 brothers that can’t fit into the wedding party. Maybe your plan was to nix the bridal party all-together? There are a few questions you can ask yourself when making this choice.
1. Does this mean a lot to her?
To be honest, if my brother’s wife didn’t ask me to be in the wedding I would have been very hurt. He’s my big brother! I had to be a part of it. If you think this means a lot to them, I suggest you start things off right and make it work.
2. Will she be taking someone’s place?
If you have a small wedding party in mind and a few best friends who are irreplaceable, it might be difficult to include her. Before you decide, see if your fiancé is OK with increasing the number of groomsmen by one. I’m sure he can wrangle up another buddy. Or just have an uneven wedding party—you make the rules!
3. Is there another role?
If you’re just not able to squeeze her in, include her in another way. She could be a reader at the ceremony or your personal attendant. If she’s musically inclined, have her sing or play on the big day. If she’s got a stage presence, she could even officiate the ceremony. Talk it out with your man, and find a role she’ll love.
Finding the perfect bridesmaid gift.
If your future sister is going to be a bridesmaid, she needs a special gift. In my opinion, a personalized present is the easiest way to go. Whether that’s jewelry or an experience the two of you can share, she’ll love that you put some thought into it. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
- A monogrammed locket (Maybe with a photo of the three of you?)
- A bracelet or charm that says, “Sisters by marriage, friends by choice.”
- A day of bonding at the spa.
Extra Tip: When you ask her to be a bridesmaid, consider a box or card that says, “Soon you will be my sister. Until then, will you be my bridesmaid?”
Getting the SIL involved in your wedding plans.
Whether you’ve made her a ‘maid or not, you need to include your SIL in some planning. I recommend inviting her to the “fun” activities:
Finding Your Bridal Gown:
If your sister-in-law has an eye for style, you may appreciate her opinion. I guarantee she’d be honored to receive an invite, and the experience would be special for both of you.
Shopping for Bridesmaid Dresses:
I definitely appreciated having a say in what I wore on the big day.
They’ll take a while, which means plenty of time to get to know each other.
Spending time together is key.
Why can sister-in-laws be intimidating? I think it’s because you’re acquiring a new family member and a friend. That means you’re building two different types of relationships at the same time. This twist makes things more complicated, but also more rewarding. So what things can you do to jump-start this two-part relationship?
Before I give you my list of ideas, I want to make something clear. You should be looking for activities that the two of you can share. I’m sure your fiancé and his siblings share certain hobbies, and while it’s awesome to join in, you should also find common ground with just your SIL.
My favorite bonding activities:
Shopping: There’s nothing better than retail therapy.
Coffee: Do you both deal with a caffeine addiction? Support it with long conversations at your favorite coffee shop.
Wine & Canvas—or just wine.
Massages: Are you noticing a trend? Most of these activities are stress-free, treat yourself activities that make bonding a cinch.
Cooking Dinner: Learn how to make her favorite family recipe—then keep it in your back pocket for later!
Double Dates: Does she have a significant other? Double dates are a great way to get to know her ‘someone special.’ It also gives her the opportunity to witness some of the romance and flirtation you share with her brother. Show her how much you love him!
Workout Buddy: Are you sweating for the wedding? An SIL is the perfect workout buddy! Go on runs or walks together, release some endorphins, create positive energy, and bond!
Mini Vacation: If you really want to get to know someone quickly, go on a mini trip together. This could mean camping or a weekend in the big city.
Texting: It may sound simple, but keeping in touch is one of the best ways to bond. Wish her luck on her interview, send her a photo of your bridal shoes, or just compose a thoughtful “thinking of you” text. These small moves will lead to big, unbreakable results.
Now it’s time to strengthen that bond.
If you’re already formed a relationship with your SIL, how do you make it stronger? Just like any family member or friend, you won’t always see eye-to-eye. You’ll argue, misunderstand one another, and get on each other’s nerves.
Here are 10 things to remember as the years go by:
1. Don’t try to impress her.
In the beginning it’s pretty hard to resist. You want to make sure she likes you, but going overboard will only hurt your chances. Instead of showing off your personality and talents, show her how much you love her brother.
2. Learn to ignore things.
She’s going to say and do things that bug you. Knowing when to brush them off is essential to building any relationship.
3. Understand and accept their relationship.
When my only brother got engaged, I got jealous. I love my new sister and she’s the perfect person for my brother, but she also became the leading lady in his life. While I still have an amazing relationship with my sibling, it’s different. I’m no longer his confidant, partner, or best friend—she is. But guess what? I now have a sister—something I’ve always wanted.
My SIL was patient and understanding when it came to my brother and me. She respected what we had and worked on building something special with me. I recommend you give this a shot, too.
4. Learn how to compromise.
The key to any great connection is communication and compromise. You’ll need it with your new husband and your new SIL.
5. Pick your battles.
You won’t always be able to ignore things, but be careful when choosing your battles. If she crosses the line, call her out! Just handle it in a kind and constructive way.
6. Keep them out of your marriage.
This tip is huge—and one you should remind your fiancé about. If he’s close with his siblings, he probably confides in them. But your marriage should be something the two of you work on, and third-party advice isn’t always desired. Your arguments, issues, and intimacy should stay between the two of you. Getting the SIL involved won’t help in the end.
7. She’s an individual—not just another member of his family.
The SIL is just one part of the family. Get to know her on a deep, personal level—you’ll be happy you did.
8. Spend one-on-one time together.
Find things the two of you have in common and use them as a foundation.
9. Think of them as an ally.
She’s a woman—there are things she’ll understand about you that your spouse won’t. She can be the ultimate ally, not only in his family but in your life!
10. Be yourself.
Your fiancé fell in love with you for a reason—she will too! Be yourself and you may just find the sister you never had.
How have you bonded with your in-laws?
Like any relationship, this one will take time. So be patient and thankful! You’re a lucky girl.
Since I only know one side of this equation—do you have more tips to share? Join the conversation in a comment below and help a fellow bride out!
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