Congratulations! Your baby just got engaged! Unless you’ve been through this before, you are probably wondering, what do I do now? You are a very significant part of the big day. (But I didn’t have to tell you that.) My daughter recently got married and someone said to me, “You are the second most important person here!” Maybe the third most important, after the groom, but I owned it and it gave me confidence.
Traditionally, there are specific duties for the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom. But traditions are evolving, and your role may vary depending on your relationship with your child and your level of involvement in their special day. So whether you’re the mother of the bride or mother of the groom, here are my tips and few things to keep in mind as the wedding planning begins. They are roughly in chronological order.
1. Extend congratulations to the (other) parents.
It’s traditionally the responsibility of the groom’s parents to get in touch with the bride’s parents to offer their congratulations after the engagement. This is important because your families will soon be joined together. These days it doesn’t really matter who makes the first contact, but if you’re the bride’s parents, wait a few days, giving the groom’s parents an opportunity to honor this tradition. After that, feel free to initiate contact with the groom’s family. This is also a great time to “meet the parents” if you haven’t yet had the honor.
2. Discuss wedding details and establish your roles.
Traditionally, the bride’s parents will plan and pay for the entire wedding and the groom’s parents take care of the rehearsal dinner. If this is the case, then the bride’s parents are the official wedding hosts and will be making most of the decisions. However, the bride’s family is not always the exclusive host of today’s weddings. Many couples pay for their own wedding, and it’s becoming more common for expenses and responsibilities to be shared between the families.
It’s in the best interest of everyone involved if roles are discussed and established from the start. Once the engagement is announced, try to set aside a time to outline a game plan and discuss details such as dates, venue, theme, budget, number of guests, and how costs will be divided. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is ask the couple how they would like you to be involved. They might already know exactly how they want things done or they may be open to ideas. Be supportive and receptive to whatever they ask and remember- it’s their day. We cover communication and how to talk to your daughter (or son) in our post How to Be the Perfect Mother of the Bride or Groom.
3. Manage your guest list.
Creating and editing the guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. Once it’s been determined how many guests you are able to invite, put your list together and collect addresses. Prioritize your list, make cuts if needed, and always stay within the parameters that were set by the couple. Keep track of your replies and follow up with any of your guests who are late to RSVP. This blog post will give you more details on planning a Wedding Guest List, covering all perspectives.
4. Dress shopping with the bride.
Every girl dreams of the day she gets to choose a wedding dress. As mother of the bride, you’ve been dreaming about this special day too! This is an intimate time for you and your daughter and though you may not agree with her style choices, tell her that she will be a beautiful bride and always offer positive feedback. You can, of course, be honest, but make sure you build her up in the process.
My daughter and I had the magical dress shopping experience that I always dreamed of. I was that “typical” mom, wanting her in a ball gown with lace even though she wanted a sleek, minimalist dress. I also made the classic “not too revealing” comments. We had fun joking about it and she was a good sport. In truth, I wanted her to choose something she loved and that expressed her. I supported her choices and let her take the lead. When she tried on the dress that I knew would be the one, I could read it in her face, and yes, I teared up. Follow the bride’s lead and you too can have that magical mother – daughter experience.
What I wanted, and…
… what she chose – it was perfect!
5. Find your dress.
I’m not going to lie – this is hard!
It’s best to begin looking for your dress several months before the wedding. Traditionally, the mother of the bride would purchase her outfit first, and let the mother of the groom know what she is wearing. First, find out what the bride wants you to wear. She may have specific guidelines or she may give you free rein. Once you know the bride’s wishes, think about the date, location and theme. You want to pick attire that fits the venue, season and formality of the wedding. Finally, since the mother of the bride and groom and will be in photos together, it may be practical for you to work together in choosing your attire. Try to coordinate your look with each other and the bridal party.
Now that I’ve been through this process, I want to share how difficult it is – News flash – it’s harder than picking out your own wedding dress! I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve polled other moms and most agree, it’s quite stressful (photo pressure, plus most of us don’t look the same as we did in our 20’s or 30’s). Start early and be patient; you may have to try on a lot of dresses.
6. Share your traditions.
Research any family, religious or cultural traditions that could add a special touch to your child’s wedding day. There may be a song or poem that could be included in the ceremony or a traditional folk dance or ethnic dish that may be part of the reception. You could also offer an heirloom that could serve as the bride’s “something old” or “something borrowed.”
7. Be mom.
Being supportive is the overriding theme for all of my tips. Wedding planning is a time of great joy sprinkled with some frustrating moments, so do your best to take on the role of Encourager. Offer a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on when the bride (or groom) is frazzled or upset. Make it your goal to alleviate the stress of wedding preparations, not add to it. There may (OK, will) be times when you need to disagree. Talk everything out calmly. When the wedding is over, you’ll still be their mom, so put your relationship with your child ahead of your personal expectations and opinions.
8. Spread the word about the wedding registry.
It is a big etiquette no-no to include registry information on a wedding invitation. So as mom, it’s your job to let family and friends know where the happy couple is registered. Or keep it simple and refer them to RegistryFinder.com where they can easily find all of the couple’s registries in one place.
9. Play hostess.
Do your best to make out of town guests feel welcomed and comfortable. If the wedding is in your hometown, ask the bride if she would like you to check out local hotels and reserve a block of rooms. As the wedding gets closer, coordinate with the bride to be sure that guests are informed about all wedding events and any local activities that would be of interest to them while they’re in town. This can be done with email, sharing a wedding website or providing welcome bags with lots of great info for your guests.
Enjoy this exciting time together!
Enjoy this exciting time together, and don’t panic if there are tense moments (there probably will be). Plan ahead, remain calm and forgive easily. Follow the lead of the bride and groom, and remember, it’s not about your expectations for their wedding; what’s important is that your child’s marriage and your relationship with their spouse has the best start possible.
-Written by Cheryl Seidel, recent proud Mother of the Bride, etiquette writer, and founder of RegistryFinder.com®
Photo Credit: All wedding photos are from my daughter’s wedding and were taken by Ashley Plante of Analog Wedding.