Problems, problems: what wedding is without them?

From bridesmaids planning an exit to wrestling your reception away from your parents, Kate Holmquist is here to help you navigate up the aisle


(If you have a wedding or relationship problem you'd like advice on email Kate Holmquist at


Q. I jumped at the chance to be my sister’s maid of honour, but was completely unprepared to be enslaved. She agonises over petty details, assigning me endless tasks to be done immediately, or else.

There are two more months of this before the big day. Can I resign?

A. No, you can’t, not with two months to go. The Irish tradition was for the mother of the bride to plan the wedding and the maid of honour’s only role was on the day, to look pretty and sign on the dotted line. The influence of US TV wedding reality programmes has induced Irish brides into over-planning, while also raising expectations of the maid of honour.

“Using maids of honour as personal assistants is a new thing in Ireland, ”says Rosie Meleady, a wedding planner. “I would run a mile if anyone asked me. I’ve seen too many bridesmaids fall out dramatically with the bride, which is really sad when they’ve been best friends all their lives.”

Offer lots of reassurance that the day will be beautiful, simple is best and that it’s about celebrating a commitment, not showcasing design skills. Tell her nicely that over-planning raises stress levels and increases the chance that something incidental may go “wrong”.

Q. We want to get married at the Registry Office with an elegant dinner afterwards for 24 guests in a Michelin-star restaurant. We believe less is more, but our parents, especially my mother, say we’re doing them out of their “big day”. My parents have even offered to pay for a bigger, church wedding with a hotel reception.

My mother is wearing me down, saying how sorry I’ll be in future, uninvited extended family will be hurt forever, as an only child I’m being selfish. Should I let her have her big day?
A. Many couples make the mistake of planning the wedding for their parents, not for themselves.

Don’t let your mother railroad you. It’s your day not her’s. “The wedding should be about the couple and how they wish to celebrate their union surrounded by those close to them in their own generation,” says psychotherapist Trish Murphy. “This is one of the most serious decisions you will make in your life because you will be married for the rest of your life and you have to be able to stand over every aspect,” she says.

Your wedding is the beginning of a new order, where you stand together as a couple first and foremost.

“There’s the principle at stake. If you start compromising your souls, this is not a good place to be starting a marriage from,” says Murphy.

Why not think of a way to make your mother and the other parents feel special on the day? But don’t change your plans.

Q. My parents divorced several years ago and my mother will never get over the fact that my father then met someone else. At first she didn’t even want him at my wedding, although after I pleaded with her she agreed to tolerate him. He thinks he is walking me down the aisle, but my mother says he has no right. She has also threatened to boycott the wedding if my Dad’s new partner is invited. Can I walk down the aisle alone? Should I invite the new partner?

A. Your mother has to deal with her own unresolved issues around the divorce and not use your wedding as a battleground. Encourage her to get some counselling and after that, let her go, and put yourself first. Psychotherapist Trish Murphy advises that you must invite your Dad’s new partner because that is who your Dad is with now. Traditionally, the father to walks his daughter down the aisle; he must accept what you want.

You can walk down the aisle alone, with your groom, or even with your best friend if you want to. For your day to be the happy one you deserve, you need to learn to be self-centred in a positive way. “You need to be very clear that this is your day to be centre-stage and everyone else has to follow,” says Murphy.

Q. We need to make a decision about how much booze to serve at our wedding. I’ve seen weddings where the table is given one bottle of wine, a thimbleful for each person to nurse for hours, with nothing else of fered apart from a paid bar. Not having a free bar is mean , in my view. My fiancé, however, doesn’t drink and wants to avoid people getting drunk, as this is an issue in his family.

A. The trend is for far less alcohol and more food among cost-conscious couples, says wedding planner Rosie Meleady. There’s a fashion for vintage-themed teas, with a punch bowl that has seen a bottle of something but won’t get anyone drunk in the middle of the day.

Afternoon weddings can be followed by evening canapés and Champagne, where the canapés are the stars, she adds. If you’ve chosen a sit-down meal, the custom is to offer a half bottle of wine per person, which is a generous two glasses. Waiters top up the glasses, keeping within the number of bottles assigned to the event. “Free bars are another of those American imports and “really aren’t a good idea”, says Meleady. Usually the freebies are limited to a period of time, which encourages enthusiastic drinkers to hoard triple vodkas or several drinks, creating the sort of situation your fiancé is keen to avoid.

If his family have issues around alcohol that have the potential to ruin the day for him, you should take him seriously, although he also needs to be reassured that he can’t be personally responsible for guests’ behaviour.

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