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Wedding Ideas Wedding Planning

How to Say “No” Without Actually Saying “No”

Before you decide to politely smile and nod to every request that comes, remember there are plenty of ways to get what you want without negatively affecting others. Let’s face it—you’re not going to love every idea, suggestion or detail others want you to add to your wedding day. You’re just not. However, saying “no” without offending someone, hurting their feelings or making them feel excluded can be tough terrain to navigate.

All Kinds of Requests

Even if you have the most laid back family members and friends, there’s something about a wedding announcement that makes people get very particular about their wants and expectations.

While we can guarantee big requests will feel daunting—your mother wants you to wear her dress, your aunt wants to make your wedding cake or your hobby photographer friend wants to shoot your wedding—don’t underestimate the small asked-for details too. Sara Fried, owner of Fête Nashville, a luxury wedding planning and events company, has seen couples asked to use certain stemware for their toasts, hide something in the bouquet or incorporate a selection of flower types.

“If the couple thinks a request works with their personalities, then it’s definitely fun to turn it into a tradition,” says Fried, who regularly sees newly engaged couples get bombarded with family traditions and trends from both sides. That said, Fried doesn’t feel like every request is always as simple as a “yes” or “no” answer.

“For example, if a piece of jewelry that every granddaughter has worn does not match the next-in-line bride’s gown, she can compromise by offering to wrap it on her bouquet or wear it pinned inside her dress instead.”

A Practice in Compromise

If the key to a successful marriage is all about compromise, then think of wedding planning as lots of little opportunities to practice. That doesn’t mean you always have to give in and become a doormat for everybody’s wants and needs but your own. But it does mean stepping back to evaluate what really matters to you, your future spouse or the people making the requests. “Ask yourself if this is still going to be important to you in six days or even six months,” says Fried. “Most likely not, which may be a sign to give in.”

Just Say No—Or Something Like It

Compromise is one way to avoid being a negative Nancy, but not all requests are that simple. For example: a parent’s request that you get married in a church when neither you or your fiance consider yourself to be religious. Budging on your values may not sit well, and that’s where a bigger conversation needs to be had. While the ultimate goal is to turn down the request, a straight “no” can feel harsh. Explain to your parents how you feel and what the venue you’d like to use means to the two of you as a couple. They may not like it—or be willing to help pay for the expense— but if it’s a decision that you feel is best, then it’s the right course of action.

Not every request requires a sit-down, but each does require an answer. Instead of saying no, consider:

A tweak to the request: If mom wants you to wear her wedding dress from the early 1980s, but the dress looks like it should stay in that decade, ask if you can wear her veil instead. Or maybe see if she’d consider a bespoke gown made from the dress, merging your two styles into one fresh new gown.

Repurposing the request: Even if your aunt is a great baker, if she’s never made an actual wedding cake, it’s natural to feel a bit iffy about her abilities. Instead of your wedding cake, ask her to put her baking skills to work making cupcakes to serve at the rehearsal dinner instead.

Try a less important day: Your friend’s photography skills may be good, but there is a lot of lighting and lens knowledge needed to beautifully capture the all the little details of your day. Ask him or her to instead shoot your engagement photos, allowing him or her to give you a gift and be involved without the risk of losing cherished memories from your wedding day.

The good news is that not all nos have to come directly from you. You can actually put a trusted friend or even a wedding planner on the job.

“Sometimes we may have a very enthusiastic relative who will approach me as the planner on wedding day, thrilled to share they have a big surprise for the bride and groom—a song they’ve written or a toast with props or something unconventional that was not in the original timeline and probably more appropriate for a rehearsal dinner or engagement party,” says Fried. “I quickly get an assessment from the couple and, if they’re okay with it, then great! But if not, luckily they have the planner to politely shut it down.”