I’m the person that cries at weddings, and for years, the moment that always brought me to tears was the bride’s entrance. Now that I’m a mom, I break out the tissues even earlier: I can’t help but shed a tear when the mothers of the bride and groom are escorted down the aisle.
And while that particular moment is pure joy, I know there were probably moments of tension and stress in the weeks and months leading up to the big day.
That’s where our Real Brides come in! This month, we’re asking for their advice on how to minimize the stress and maximize the joy for brides and their moms and future mothers-in-law.
Keep in mind: this list is by no means exhaustive or preventative. Every mother-daughter relationship is different, and there is a lifetime of family dynamics leading up to the wedding day. Another variable is the matter of money: when parents are financially “invested” in the wedding, they are entitled to giving more input, which can then lead to conflict.
No matter what kind of family or financial dynamic you face, these words of advice apply. No list can help you avoid conflict altogether, but I hope these tips will help you navigate the process with your mother-daughter bond intact!
Tip #1: Communicate Expectations Early On
Soon after you get engaged, sit down with both sets of parents to discuss the two biggest issues: the budget and the guest list. Some parents who offer to pay for the wedding do so with “strings attached”–they might think that since they’re footing the bill, they get to dictate the guest list. Get everyone’s expectations out in the open and find a way to divvy up the number of guests. Each situation is unique, but create a system early on! Here’s how one of our real brides did it:
“We gave each side of the family half the spots, and then each set of parents further divided their number with their child. It was up to them how to make that work.’
It’s also important to communicate anything that’s super important to you as a bride before any major decisions or purchases are made.
“Think about what really matters to you as a bride. For example, if you want your future MIL to wear or not wear a certain color or type of dress then you need to say that early on. If you really don’t care then you can’t be upset if/when they pick something you don’t like.” -Kristen M.
Tip #2: Choose your battles AND be willing to compromise
Your future MIL will be part of your life forever (and your mom already is)! This fact means that some issues will be worth fighting for (you don’t want to set a precedent where you are the “doormat”) and other issues should be surrendered or compromised. You and your partner will need to present a united front on which issues you’re willing to fight for, and which ones you’re able to let go.
“A major point of contention between my mother and I was our ceremony: she wanted a religious ceremony, but I no longer share her belief system. She felt that since she and my dad were paying for the wedding, they should have a say in the matter. After some tears and tough conversations, we settled on a compromise we both could live with: we had a non-religious ceremony, but my dad said a prayer of blessing before dinner at our reception.” -Meghan H.
Tip #3: You don’t have to respond right away
I’ve found this advice really helpful in all aspects of my life (not just wedding planning!) Slow down and take a deep breath before picking up the phone, firing off an email, or tapping out a text. Emotions tend to run high during wedding planning, and you might regret something you say or write in the heat of the moment.
Before you react, stop and take the following steps:
- Ask yourself, “Why do I feel so strongly about this?” “Why might my mom or future MIL feel strongly about this?” “Will this particular decision matter in 5 years?”
- Involve a trusted third party: maybe it’s your maid of honor or other close friend. Don’t choose someone that will just agree with your point of view; you want feedback, not affirmation. Vent and get their perspective on the issue. Run your response by them to hear how it might come across.
- If the conflict is with your MIL-to-be, consult your fiance about how best to approach her.
“Lean on your husband/partner for the best way to deliver potentially difficult info to his mom. He knows her best!” -Sara R.
“My MIL really wanted all of her nieces and nephews’ children to be invited, but I felt strongly about not having tons of kids at our wedding (I would’ve had to extend the invite to the kids on my side of the family, and it would’ve taken a huge chunk out of our guest list). I was so fired up about the issue, but I calmed down and explained the situation to my fiance first. He then was able to talk to his mom and handle it. I think she still wishes all the kids had been there, but I’m glad I held my ground and waited to react.” -Grace Y.
Tip #4: Have difficult conversations in “real time”
Once you’ve taken a deep breath, done some soul-searching, and vented to a trusted friend, it’s time to have the difficult conversation. It might not be possible to be face-to-face, but a phone or Zoom call is always better than text, email, or worst of all, social media. Try to approach these conversations with an open mind as to why your mother or MIL-to-be feels differently. Remember, you don’t have to respond right away if your mom or future MIL is pushing your buttons or offers up an idea or comment you find outrageous. Simply respond with, “It seems like I have a lot to think about. Let’s pause this conversation and pick it up tomorrow when I’ve had some time to mull it over and discuss with ______ (insert your fiancé’s name here).”
Tip #5: Say “Yes” When Possible
If your mom or future MIL has her heart set on something specific that you are able to accommodate, your gracious acceptance will mean a lot to her–especially if there have been conflicts in other areas.
“Is it important to her that she throws you an engagement party, or is there a tradition that runs in her family or from her own wedding? It can be something little, like re-creating the same photo of a champagne toast (we did that!) but it can mean a lot.” -Nicole B.
Tip #6: Make Her Feel Important
My oldest daughter is six years old and I already dream about her wedding day, so trust me when I say that your mom is probably longing to play an important role in the process. If you don’t want to involve her in every little detail, find an area of expertise she can “own.”
“My mom is DYING to plan my wedding and while I appreciate it, her and I have exact opposite styles and tastes. But she wants to feel needed and important. So I’ve been loading her up with logistical tasks and she is LOVING IT. So I’d say, recognize what your mom needs to feel important and go with it!” -Lauren M.
Tip #7: Hire a Wedding Planner
Maybe I should’ve started with this tip: it was the most repeated piece of advice from our real brides! Whether you utilize a planner for the entire wedding planning process or just the month or day-of, the help of a professional will lighten the load for couples and their moms. Not only can a planner handle the stressful details of wedding planning and execution; a planner also serves as a third party to help diffuse tension and handle any difficult situations that may arise.
Tip #8: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
It’s time for some tough love: I’ve seen way too many women take the role of bride as an excuse to be disrespectful, demanding, and behave with total disregard for the opinions of their parents. While it’s your wedding day, it’s a big day for them, too! We’re living in what some have dubbed “cancel culture,” where you tune out or cut off those who disagree with you; but don’t be quick to “cancel” your parents when you disagree on an issue, wedding-related or not. The wedding will last one day, and your relationship will last a lifetime.
And I feel compelled to say this: if they are paying for the wedding, you ALWAYS have the option to say, “no thank you” and plan and pay for the wedding YOU want.
The Bottom Line: Look for Opportunities to show love
No matter how intense the planning becomes, take a step back and remember that your mom’s involvement is probably coming from a place of love, and your future MIL raised the person that you now love; look for ways to show you value them. While you can’t (and shouldn’t) let anyone take over your wedding day, graciousness and kindness will go a long way toward a lifetime of harmony in your new family!
Have a Question for our Real Brides?
Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, be sure to refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can conveniently locate all of your registries in one place!
-Written by Christina Peterson, who can’t wait to plan her three daughters’ weddings one day (if they let her).