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Stop Wedding Battles Before They Start

08/12/2013 07:41 EDT | Updated 10/12/2013 05:12 EDT

I had the opportunity to talk to a young bride-to-be the other day.

As any of us who has been there knows, planning a wedding is all about striking a fine balance between the vision the bride and groom have for their special day, and the equally important (although often diametrically different) visions of their parents.

It's not always easy (read: practically impossible) to give everyone what they want. But it is important to try.

I offered the bride I was speaking to my point of view on wedding planning, hoping to head off some of the many, many conflicts my now-husband and I endured on our path to the altar 20 years ago.

Here's what I said:

You probably had dreams of your wedding when you were a little girl, and those dreams have amped up in the past year or 18 months. And those dreams are important. But what you also have to remember is that your mother has dreamed of your wedding day for decades, and the groom's mother also has also thought about the day her son would get married. Their opinions count. More important than that, their feelings count. Keep that in mind when you're working on the details.

There are certain aspects of a wedding that you and the groom -- and you two alone -- should control. Your wedding song, the type of cake (or cupcakes, or no cake) you serve, invitations and flowers - should reflect your distinct personality. Having said that, it's important that the music you choose for your reception appeals to everyone there.

Large weddings can be unwieldy events. Seldom do the bride and groom get a chance to spend time with all of their guests, because there are just too many people to give more than a minute or two of your time. And many times, the bride and groom don't know people there because they're friends of their parents, or are distant relations who get invited because "everyone gets invited to the wedding." But small weddings can be equally problematic, because sticking to a really small list means people you -- or your parents -- would really like to invite simply don't make the cut. When uncertain about who is on or off the list, keep in mind who is paying and if your hardline decision will cause hard feelings later. People have notoriously long memories about such things.

Don't invite people to your shower if they're not invited to your wedding.

I once saw a bridal registry that was 25 pages long and totalled up to $75,000. Yes, I did take the time to go through it. When you register, pick colour themes and items you need for your new home. Let's say your shower guest has $75 to spend on a gift for you. No-one wants to give one throw pillow or pillow sham, or five tiny kitchen gadgets (that you asked for but will likely never use, unless you love spending time in the kitchen). By asking for items, not necessarily brands, you open up a world of ideas to people who are looking forward to showering you with things.

A wedding is not a Kickstarter campaign. Guests are invited to share your special moment, not to help you fund your future purchases or to pay off an over-priced wedding. The notion of "covering the plate" was foreign to me until my own wedding. My family gives gifts at weddings (usually a place setting or two, if they were affordable enough), while my husband's family adheres strictly to the cover-the-plate "rule." There has been plenty of talk of this lately (see stories here), but the fact is, it's up to the guests to determine what's appropriate -- and affordable -- to them. The only thing that is wrong is judging a gift-giver for the gift given. You don't know if they have experienced a cutback in hours at work or had a sudden expensive emergency that cost them money they otherwise would have loved to invest in you. Or maybe they just can't afford $200 a person to cover the plate and then some. Keep in mind the fact that you asked them to come to the wedding you planned. It is not up to your guests to ensure you get money back at the end of the night. Their role at your wedding is to wish you well. Gifts -- and the value of them -- are always an option.

When budget is top-of-mind, talk to as many people as you can for recommendations. No disrespect intended to the folks who plan bridal shows, but I found those one-stop-shopping events, particularly in smaller areas, push people toward the top-end of events and really leave out the people in the middle.

Talk to people in the know about where to source local, in-season flowers at a reasonable price, great photographers and creative ways to make centrepieces. Visit Pinterest for great budget-conscious ideas. And embrace that penny pinching. A little research can save you a lot of money. And that's OK; it's cool to be thrifty.

The phrase "simple and elegant" exists for a reason.

And most importantly, don't get so stressed out by the planning that you forget to have fun. There will be hiccups and a few fights along the way, but keep in mind that you're all in it together and (in the end), it's really just a day.