Claire Moulds offers invaluable advice to mum, dad and future in-laws on their roles in making the wedding planning process as smooth and as stress-free as possible.

First and foremost remember the golden rule – it is NOT your day. True, you may have dreamt about your child’s wedding since the day they were born but, ultimately, the final decision on every aspect of the ceremony and reception lies entirely with them and their future husband or wife. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have any input into the big day, or proffer advice, but always wait to be invited first!

Some couples have a very clear vision from the outset, and are happy to work together on creating their dream wedding, with minimal help from their respective families. Others will want to involve their nearest and dearest in the entire process, from writing the invitations, to making the table centrepieces, sewing bunting for the marquee, baking the cake.

Whichever approach your child chooses to adopt, be supportive and let them know that you are there to help them as much or as little as they want.

The pressure of creating the perfect day – not just for them, but for their family and friends – can be extremely stressful, so make it your aim to reduce the pressure wherever possible and not to add to it. This is especially the case if you do not agree with some of the choices being made!

If you are unable to let it go and feel you simply HAVE to say something, try to deliver your thoughts in a calm, measured fashion, however upset you might be. Emotions will already be running high, so bear in mind that any perceived criticism of the wedding plans is likely to be taken badly and leave you all feeling battered and bruised afterwards.

It’s also important to recognise that the wedding is about two families, not just your own. Your child, through the act of getting married, will form a lifelong link between your family and their partner’s, and both need to be on an equal footing from the very start. While the bride’s parents may have historically taken the lead on decisions, as they were paying for the wedding, the modern approach is for both families to be equally involved. If you don’t know each other very well, suggest getting together a few times during the planning process for a meal or a drink to remedy this.

If you’re the mother of the groom, it can be difficult to find your place in proceedings as your future daughter-in-law is likely to be taking the lead role in the planning process and will turn to her own mum for advice and support.

Make it clear from the outset that you are more than happy to help share the load and are available as a sounding board whenever she needs it, even if it’s simply to vent over a coffee if things are getting too much for her. And, while she may have a clear idea who she wants to accompany her on her own dress appointments, there’s no reason at all you can’t invite her on a shopping trip with you to choose your outfit.

One of the thornier aspects of being ‘the parents’ is how much to contribute financially. These days many couples prefer to pay for their own wedding – or at least the majority of it – with the onus no longer on the bride’s parents  to pick up the entire bill. However, that still leaves the dilemma of ‘how much?’ It goes without saying that it’s not a competition as to who gives the more generous donation to the wedding fund. Both families may have very different incomes, approaches to funding family weddings and opinions on what the parents should and shouldn’t pay for. Respect the decision of your opposite numbers and, if they don’t want to share what amount they contributed, do not ask your son or daughter to tell you, even in confidence!

If you can’t afford to make a financial contribution, remember that your time and skills are just as valuable. You could offer to write all the invitations, address the envelopes and take them to the post office, thereby saving the bride and groom hours of precious time. Putting money into the wedding fund does not ‘buy’ you the right to make key decisions, even if you have put in the largest amount. My friend’s mum thought that by paying for the lion’s share of her wedding she could demand to have three tables at the reception solely for her own friends, even though that meant her daughter and fiancé would have to not invite some of their closest friends in order to make room for them!

Appreciate that your offspring might not want to give you a full financial breakdown of the cost of the wedding, and that you might not know what your money fully or partly paid for. If you feel strongly that your money should pay for specific items – as the bride’s parents you may want to buy her dress, and as the groom’s parents you might want to pay for the drinks – then ask if that’s a possibility.

On the day itself, accept that your son or daughter is going to be in huge demand. As well as wanting to spend time with each of their guests and having their formal photographs taken, they will also want to enjoy private moments with their new spouse. Do not take it personally if it feels as though you are only getting a brief word here and there!

If there is a special moment you want to share on the big day, make it clear beforehand so it can be included in the schedule, especially if it’s not a traditional part of the proceedings.

Finally, don’t forget that a wedding is just the first of many future celebrations that you will all share – use it as an opportunity to get to know the people who have welcomed your child into their family and build the foundations of a lasting friendship. Your children – and future grandchildren – will thank you for it.