Managing Wedding Expectations | Part 2 Mothers and Mother-in-Law

“It’s all about the bride!” We’ve all heard the age-old saying in reference to making decisions about a wedding day. But a wedding day is about far more than the bride or the groom. Yes, it is a day to celebrate their vows and commitment to each other. But another saying is even more apt: “It takes a village.” A wedding is a family event. For most of us, our parents made us who we are today. They helped us get to this point. It might be seen in the overprotectiveness of a father; the listening ear when a new crush emerged, the mother’s shoulder to cry on when a heart was broken, or the words of wisdom and encouragement to seek the best soul mate, and hopefully, an example to follow. Our parents dreamt of this day long before than we ever did. Many of them envisioned it since we were in the womb. Not to mention the traditions surrounding who pays for it all, which may have led to savings beginning years prior. Yes, a wedding day belongs to many more than just the bride. And if you still think it’s only your day, your planning process may be a long, stressful, and difficult road.

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I had already been in the event industry for 7 years when my mom and I began planning my wedding, and we had a lot of insight from my experiences. Over the years watching me, she had learned a lot about involvement and boundaries for the mother of the bride or groom. She had observed that for the majority of weddings, it is not the bride who is a ‘bridezilla’, but rather it’s a mother or a sister or a bridesmaid who is the momzilla/siszilla/maidzilla. My mom and I often discussed traditions and how they have changed. We explored ideas and desires before the actual wedding day was ever official.

mother of the groom, oregon wedding, portland wedding, winery wedding, fall wedding in portland, maysara wineryIn our case, my brother and I were engaged at the same time. This made things both easier and more complicated for my mom. She had two weddings to occupy her thoughts, time, and budget. It was tough to juggle both, but she also couldn’t obsess over one or the other as momzillas often do. My brother and sister-in-law were in Oregon doing all of their own planning and paying for 90% of the wedding themselves. However, my brother is not one to talk or share many details. They did invite my parents up for 1 or 2 weekends to help with major decisions, but we were in the dark for much of their planning process. To make things more complicated for my mom, I had just moved out 2 months before Luke proposed. I was living 100 miles away with my in-laws during half of our engagement. I was maintaining the photography business full time, working another part time job, planning our DIY wedding, trying to diet and work out 5 days a week, and I moved 5 times during the process. I was struggling to stay afloat and think about anything other than what was in front of me at the time. Unfortunately, that meant that I began to neglect my mom and forget to keep her informed about all of the wedding plans.

A few months into our engagement, I was visiting home for a weekend. Sitting across the dinner table from my mom, I could tell she was upset. Soon, it all came gushing out! She was trying so hard not to be the ‘momzilla’. She was waiting patiently to be invited into the planning. But both my brother and I were ignoring her. To make matters worse, I was living with my soon-to-be mother-in-law who was probably there to hear everything, and able to find ways to be involved. My mom—and best friend—felt as if she was left out and being replaced.

Let’s rewind a few months. My brother had just proposed. I mentioned it to my in-laws. My future mother-in-law started mentioning something about being involved in the planning and decision-making when eventually Luke and I were engaged. Her intentions are always admirable, but she often eager to get involved, and we don’t always share the same opinions. I already had a hunch that there would be trouble between us during the planning. Without much thought, I stated “We’re going to fight when it’s time for Luke and I to get married.” My sudden assertion was met with surprise and a gasp.

So, what do you do with two mothers who desperately want to be involved in their children’s wedding plans? 

  • Set your pride aside
  • Let go of control
  • Delegate!!

It helped that we had a DIY wedding which meant there were plenty of crafts to go around.  A DIY wedding always has more ‘DI’ than ‘Y’ can handle, so if you don’t learn to let go of a little control, you risk becoming obsessive, and you still may not get it all done. I gave each mother a job to do. I gave them guidelines for style and execution and let them run with it.

My mom isn’t the most artistically-inclined, so the dessert table was hers, because it involved more curation than craft. I showed her my inspiration and what I had in mind. Then she did all of the research, shopping, and work to make it happen to the best of her ability, checking in with me along the way. Most of the project involved finding antique-looking dessert displays and making sure everything would be ready for the imported Costa Rica coffee bar. She even attempted a craft project making hot air balloon decorations, and they turned out beautifully!

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My mother-in-law is great at sewing and fabric crafts. I happened to have piles of upholstery fabric that had been discarded from my other part time job with a textile designer. I watched for any scraps close to my colors that would be thrown away, and brought home bags and rolls of useful material. She made all of our table runners with a couple of rolls of gray fabric and store-bought lace. From bags of purple and blue scraps, she cut and sewed pennants for a photo booth backdrop (which my mom and I strung together later).

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I even got my dad involved. He put his contractor skills to work making our chuppah/sweet heart table backdrop and the wood signs for our ceremony aisle. It was actually most difficult to convey our vision to him than to either of the mothers. It was also the project I couldn’t give up as much control over, so we struggled through some lengthy communication ensuring that his part looked like we had planned.

But what if you’re not having a DIY wedding? What projects can you delegate to parents when there are fewer projects to delegate?  Well, there’s a barrage of decisions to be made for any wedding, and countless hours of research to do and phone calls to make. Try giving each parent a vendor to research, favors to find, or recruit their help with a song list. Let the father of the groom and mother of the bride pick their own songs for the traditional dances. You can guide their input and assistance toward your vision if you provide images for inspiration and a budget for restraint. You can still make the final decision, but it will alleviate so much time, and allow you to focus on something else.

Most importantly, remember that it is their day too. They have been dreaming of this day as long as you’ve been alive and they’ve worked hard to get you here. The mere fact that they are passionate enough to become ‘zillas’ of any type only shows how much they love you. Take the time to honor them. Say thank you!

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