Congratulations! Your baby just got engaged! You may be wondering, what do I do now? Although you’re not an official member of the wedding party, you are a significant part of the big day. Traditionally, there were very specific duties for the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom. But traditions are evolving, and your role will vary depending on your relationship with your child and your involvement in your son or daughter’s special day. So whether you’re the mother of the bride or mother of the groom, here are a few things to keep in mind as the wedding planning begins.
- Congratulate 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 a very important practice 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 done so yet.
- Discuss wedding details. 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, or sometimes expenses and responsibilities are shared between both 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 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 for ideas. Be supportive and receptive to whatever they ask and remember- it’s their day.
A friend whose son recently married explained that there is an old adage passed around to Mothers of the Groom, which says, “Keep your mouth shut and wear beige.” While it sounds harsh, and most brides won’t ask you to wear beige (unless it’s your color), there is some truth to the saying. My friend has some additional advice for getting your relationship with the bride off to a good start. She says, “The wedding prep sets the tone for the future so you want a positive experience, they (the bride) are going to be the mother of your grandchildren and may be the ones that determine where you spend your finally years.” That’s thinking ahead!
- Manage your guest list. Creating and editing the guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. Once it has 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 paramaters that were set by the bride and groom. Keep track of your replies and few weeks before the wedding, follow up with any of your guests who are late to RSVP.
- 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. Occasionally, the mother of the groom is also included in this shopping trip, but allow the bride to decide whom she would like to invite.
- Find your dress. 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 reign. 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 you are mother of the bride or groom and will be in many photos together, it may be more practical for you to work together in choosing your attire. Try to coordinate your look with each other and the bridal party.
- 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.”
- Play hostess. It’s your job to be sure that 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 for out of town guests. As the wedding gets closer, 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.
- Be mom. Wedding planning is a time of great joy sprinkled with some frustrating moments. Do your best to stay positive and be a good encourager. Offer a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on when the bride (or groom) is frazzled or upset. Try to alleviate the stress of wedding preparations, not add to it. 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.
- 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.
Enjoy this exciting time together, but don’t panic if there are tense moments (there 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.
by Cheryl Seidel, President & Founder, RegistryFinder.com