Protocol for Family Issues & Iceland Destination Wedding Advice for Parents

Hello Ladies and Gents!

I hope this finds you well and in the midst of a fantastic and productive week!  So sorry for the delayed post- The week got away from me!  Between the beautiful children and newborns that we have had the pleasure of photographing in our Plymouth, Michigan portrait studio, the marvelous weddings we have photographed lately, Chris turning the big 3-0, Photos by Miss Ann has been sweetly swamped but savoring ever second.

A few weeks ago in our Iceland Reception Music blog post, I had mentioned that my mother and I shared a mother-daughter dance and one of our readers asked why I chose to do that.  Well, good news lovely, my answer is going to be rolled into this week’s topic Iceland Wedding Protocol for Family Issues & Advice for Parents.  Welcome to part 2 of 2 of our mini-series on some sensitive issues you may encounter while planning a destination wedding in Iceland (see our 1 of 2 post here on how Iceland Love Conquers All Things)!  Today, I am going to walk through some family issues Chris and I specifically ran into while we planned our Seljalandsfoss wedding and explain how we handled in hopes of helping you!

So!  Buckle your seat belts; this is going to be a long Iceland Wedding Blog Post!

You might be surprised to know, that Chris and I are both only children and come from extremely small families.  His parents are still married celebrating 30+ years of marriage and mine are divorced.  Between the two of us we also only have 25 living relatives that are spread between the USA and as far as Australia.  So you’d think having a small family equals no drama right?  Sigh, one would hope!  A little personal background on myself… My parents divorced when I was 6 years old.  I was raised by a very strong-willed single mother and have had very little contact with my father for various reasons since.  That being said, this has caused a few issues and lots of tension in our family throughout the years.

Issue #1:  Deciding on whether or not to invite a disconnected parent, certain family members, or a problematic friend to your wedding in Iceland.

As Chris and I were planning our Iceland destination wedding at Seljalandsfoss, Vik Beach, and Skogafoss Waterfall, he asked me if I wanted to send an invitation to my father or to anyone on that side of the family.  Out of respect for my father, his family, and for myself, I decided to not rush into an absolute decision.  Do you ever wonder what the protocol should be on how to handle these concerns?  I know I did!  In the beginning of our Iceland wedding planning, the first step was asking myself a few questions before drawing any pivotal conclusions.  If you’re in a similar situation with a family member or friend and find yourself torn, the below may be helpful questions to ask yourself as you plan your Iceland wedding guest list:

  • Have I spent time with him/her in the last 5 years?
  • Has he/she spent time trying to get to know my fiancé?
  • Has he/she held a significant overall impact on my life?
  • Was he/she there to support me when I had humbling or exciting life moments?
  • Is the relationship worth improving?  Or is it on the contrary, toxic or drama filled?
  • Would my Iceland wedding day be incomplete without him/her there?
  • Would his/her presence cause drama between any other Iceland wedding guests?
  • Would I regret my decision years later when I look back on my Iceland Wedding Photos?

Answering those questions may shed a bit more light your complicated relationship with that person.  Some of you may also find the above questions to be a guideline when figuring out your guest list too (we took a very similar method for our overall guest list too in order to cut it down to ensure an intimate affair).  Fortunately, in my case it was an easy answer in regards to my father.  But I know there are other Iceland destination wedding brides and grooms out there right now that might be struggling with a similar decision.  To be honest, Chris and I tend to let the rule of thumb be: no drama in all facets of our life.  It is not worth being stressed out on what should be the deemed the “happiest day of your life” because of a family member or friend.  Life is too short for that nonsense.  Instead, turn your focus to the positive people who will be there in Iceland supporting you on your big day!

Issue #2:  Who walks you down the aisle when you do not have a father to do so?

Because I chose to not have my father attend my Iceland wedding, it left 2 wedding customs open.  The first being, who would “walk me down the aisle” and the second, who would I honor with a dance at our Iceland wedding reception?  I had contemplated having my mother walk me down the aisle but I did not think she (or I) would be able to make it down the aisle without tearing up.  My future father-in-law also offered to walk me down the aisle but the more I thought about it I declined the sweet offer.  In the end, I thought it was ridicules that I even felt like I had to have someone walk me down the aisle.

The tradition itself roots from an old world tradition of arranged marriages where the family would “give away” the daughter to the husband and his family.  I instead chose to walk myself down our wedding aisle at Seljalandsfoss waterfall.  It was super surreal too; I remember every second… Jumping out of the Iceland super jeep, walking towards everyone I love, 60,000 pink rose petals, all eyes on me, how I paused and took a deep breath at the start of our aisle way, how my eyes locked onto Chris instantly, the exchange of smiles, and how my future happiness all flashed before my eyes.  For sure, one of my “somewhere in time wedding moments!

If you find yourself in a position like I was but do want someone to walk you down the aisle, I suggest you choose someone important to you.  After all, it is an honor for them to walk you down the aisle and a special memory you will forever cherish.  We have seen many of our local and destination brides (and grooms) choose their step father, mother, father-in-law, a grandfather, a brother, godfather, an uncle, cousin, best friend, or even a son (if applicable) and actually one couple even walked down the aisle together!  Shape your Iceland wedding ceremony walk exactly to what you are comfortable with; it is your big entrance!

Issue #3:  How do I honor my parents during the Iceland wedding weekend? 

Now I know you have heard me say this before, but Chris and I typically do not embrace tradition…  We did however; feel as though our parents needed to be honored in some way during our Iceland wedding planning process too.  So we let each of our mothers choose a wedding reception song.  It was super special and a moment I know our mothers will always remember.  The typical wedding dance practice is for the bride share a dance with someone special (i.e. father or grandfather) and then the groom dances with his mother or (or grandmother).  Others we have seen choose to have each set of each parents join in the bridal party dance.

If you wish to not go that route there are other ways you thank them.  This could be as simple as a card or gift.  After our wedding was completed we created a special flush mount Iceland wedding album (we use the professional print lab: Millers) as a keepsake for our parents.  We had photos spanning from our Kauai engagement session, a few images we could salvage from our hired photogs (there were many mistakes they made that we personally had to edit out, and lots of details/candids were unfortunately missing), Iceland wedding detail photos we recreated ourselves when we returned from the trip, candid photos gathered from friends of our Iceland wedding, and some post wedding trip photos.  Giving your parents an album of your wedding day allows them to relive the big day too =)

Issue #4:  A death in the family close to your Iceland wedding day:

Sadly, I have experience on this topic too.  Literally the morning we were all driving from Plymouth, Michigan to the Toronto airport (YYZ) to catch our Iceland wedding flight (KEF) I received word that my grandmother had passed away.  I had 7 family members down in Ohio instantly affected and they called me debating on whether or not they would be coming.  I had a selfish bridezilla moment… Here I was 2 days away from saying “I do” in the land of fire and ice, why did this have to happen?!

Unfortunately, it’s at this point where you have to pick up and be a family “rock.”  I felt terrible in that moment saying this at the time, but the death had happened and there is nothing to do to change it right now.  I literally remember telling my mother, “Plans need to continue, grandma would not want for us all to stay here to bury her and grieve.  You need to see me get married in Iceland mom.”  If someone passes away that close to your wedding day it is hard for people to refocus and find the joy in your day, but I promise you that they will once they arrive at your stunning Iceland ceremony site.  We even found a way to turn the sadness into a positive.  For instance, each time we saw a picture perfect spot or a rainbow during our wedding weekend in Iceland we all said it was my grandma who had brought it to us.  Doing that really made her a part of our day and made the tragedy easier to cope with.

Overall it was really sad that it had happened so close to our wedding day, but in the grand scheme of things, life is filled with losses and I think wedding bliss and births are the things that balance them.  I’ll be honest though, if this happens to you, you will have no time to grieve.  For months after we returned I still hadn’t given myself a proper chance to grieve because Photos by Miss Ann went right into high wedding season upon our return from our wedding in Iceland.  It wasn’t until this past Jan-April that my grandmother’s death really hit me.  It was then, I finally had given myself time to grieve and honor her.  At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you so stay strong!

Issue #5:  Someone is late to your Iceland destination wedding events: 

This one is frustrating and rightfully so.  Not 10 minutes late either… I am talking about 30+ minutes which can really have an impact to the meticulously planned wedding day itinerary.  Regrettably, this specific issue happened to us both during our Iceland wedding rehearsal (Iceland wedding welcome dinner) and at our actual destination wedding reception too.  My best advice to you is to stay positive when this actually happens, you can only change what is in your control.  Be gracious even though your first instinct will be to be upset at their inconsideration.  People do get distracted, get lost, lose track of time (especially in such an amazing locale as Iceland!), under estimate how much time it takes to get somewhere and then again there are also those folks who are always notorious late for everything.

So you’re wondering how do you combat this potential wedding problem and ensure you set him/her up for success?  Your best bet is to personally provide them with an Iceland wedding timeline card, a destination wedding schedule, or a very detailed outline/itinerary of where they need to be and when.  This detail is especially needed if this person is one of the wedding VIP’s (ie, parents, bridal party, people that affect the overall events).  We had wedding timeline cards given to the guests at time of check in at Hotel Ranga and also in their wedding welcome bags.  But looking back on our Iceland wedding weekend, I still wish I would have provided a nitty-gritty outline for our wedding VIP’s of where and when to be the day before our Seljalandsfoss wedding day.  It may have made that portion of our planning a tad bit smoother and less maddening.  Worst case scenario also would be telling that person who is particularly late, that the time to meet is actually earlier (IE, they must be present by 4pm instead of 5pm).  Then hope for the best because you have done all you can do!  If they are late, move on without them because the rest of your event and guests should not have to suffer.

Issue #6:  Either set of parents are too involved in your wedding planning or you are worried they could potentially cause an issue during:

Woohoo, we actually didn’t have this problem!  My wonderful mother, Chris’s mother and father were all very hands off when it came to our wedding plans.  After we were engaged, they merely assumed that we would be planning a destination wedding somewhere and just prepared for an extreme location.  Ha, my mom new it was going to be somewhere out of the ordinary and I think Chris’s parents hoped for a destination wedding in Australia.  Little did they know that Chris and I had already preliminary decided on just about everything even before we told them Iceland.  The things we finalized with them was the date, guest list (family addresses), any must haves they felt needed to be included, and what time-frame they would like to stay.  Later on we did finalize our 5 course wedding menu with them but luckily there were no objections to all of our hours of planning and research.

Conversely, I know of many destination wedding couples where the parents are tremendously involved and almost to a suffocating amount.  Here are a couple of mini issues that may come up within this larger issue and how you can possibly respond:

a)      Situation:  The parents are not contributing to the wedding budget and are insisting on making decisions (and/or having their names on the invitation).  What to do:Make it politely clear that this event is being funded by you and therefore all direction also is led by you.

b)      Situation: Parents insist on inviting all of their friends, co-workers, and acquaintances that you do not know.  What to do: Circle back to the root of why this event is happening, the two of you and your love.  Let them know you are uncomfortable with inviting people that you do not know and that you want this lifetime event to be one you can look back on fondly celebrating with all the people you love and adore.

c)      Situation: Your mother or mother-in-law wants you to wear her wedding dress or use mementos from her wedding day.  What to do: If you like them, use them!  Many times those items can be your “something old or borrowed.”  If not, kindly decline saying that you had a specific vision for that items role in the wedding (or you would rather not travel all that way with something so special to her) but do express your immense appreciation.  Or if you feel totally obligated to use the item (IE, like a garter, ring, or handkerchief) at least put them out for your Iceland wedding photographer to take detail photos of as you are getting ready.  Many times brides in this situation will also use the item in a different way.  Example, one of my brides pinned the handkerchief to the inside of her wedding dress and another wore the grandmother’s ring at the wedding welcome dinner the evening before (versus on the wedding day so it did not compromise her style).

d)       Situation:  <In a separated family context> One parent threatens to not attend the wedding if the other parent attends (or a certain family member).  What to do: Call his/her bluff.  It is foolish he/she would give you such an ultimatum on the most important day of your life.  It is important to make it clear that kind of behavior during your wedding weekend will not be tolerated.  This wedding is about your love and the celebration of it and he/she must put their differences to the side during.  One thing you can do to rest their worries is to let your Iceland wedding planner know to not seat them together for any of the weekend events and that there may be confrontation.  Also, let your Icelandic wedding photographer know ahead of time that there is an issue and to not put that group of family together for any wedding portraits.  Sometimes we are used as a buffer to ensure everyone behaves!  This information helps to make your big day flawless.

e)      Situation: The parents purchase items (without your input) for your wedding and they do not go along with your overall wedding vision.  What to do:  Lead by gratitude by thanking them for their continuous consideration but that you had a specific vision on that detail that you had already planned on incorporating.  If you feel obligated, try to incorporate that item (or wedding favor) into your bridal shower, bachelorette party, or wedding welcome dinner instead.

f)       Situation: Someone cannot responsibly handle alcohol.  What do to:  Make your destination wedding planner aware so they may make the reception locale aware to limit service.  You must do something about it or else you are enabling your family member to possibly cause a disruption to your lifetime event.


Iceland Wedding Planner Tip: 

Advice to parents who have children planning a destination wedding in Iceland:

  • Don’t convince the couple to change their mind on their wedding location.  Iceland may sound cold, unattractive, and not on your bucket list at first to you but it will not disappoint, I promise!  You will love every second of your trip and return renewed, revived, and refocused in life.  The beauty you will experience in the Icelandic people, food, countryside, and incredible natural wonders will leave your life changed for the better.
  • Remember the wedding weekend is about your child getting married!  No matter the external/internal family issues that are happening they should not be of concern during this magical time for your son or daughter.  Please put those worrisome things aside and embrace the excitement he/she is feeling.
  • Offer to help.  Even if you cannot offer something financially, offer to help with the small tasks like folding invitations, putting together welcome bags, carrying the brides wedding dress while traveling, folding napkins, labels on water bottles, etc.  Any genuine thought is appreciated, I assure you.
  • If you have decided to help your son or daughter financially with their Iceland destination wedding in some way, please tell them early!  Budget management is something we specifically work on early with our couples so we can stay on target to narrow or expand on “must have” and “would be nice to have” lists.
  • Please do not wear the colors white, ivory, champagne, red, or polka dots.  Solid and/or neutral color tones are best in family portraits and do not detract from the bride and groom or the dynamic Iceland landscape.  Examples would be black, browns, grays, lavender, muted silver, light/royal blues.
  • Give the bride and groom a heartfelt card.  Not only give them a card but write a message in there to them.  Ideas: How excited you are for them, welcoming the bride or groom to the family, marriage advice, how amazing they are together, or how proud you are.  This goes a long way now and later, I guarantee you.  Chris and I still have our cards from our parents in our Iceland love letter ceremony box.

Phew, that was a long one =) Now onto the photos of the week!  In honor of this blog topic, our parents, belated Mother’s Day and upcoming Father’s Day, please enjoy some of our family portraits!  We hope you have found this Iceland Wedding Tips Blog Post helpful as you wedding plan.  No matter if you are planning a wedding at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Snaefellsness Peninsula, Vik Beach, Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon or another stunning part of Iceland we can help you secure locations, plan every detail, keep the peace between family members, and capture every detail with our experienced Iceland wedding photography skills.  Please feel free to contact us directly to chat more about your big day in making!

Lots of Iceland Wedding Smiles,  Ann and Chris Peters

Expert Iceland Wedding Planners and Iceland Wedding Photographers

© 2002-2013, Photos by Miss Ann, All Rights Reserved

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