Sunday, January 07, 2007

THE PARENTALS (AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS): HOW TO DEAL: PART II

Before we get into the juicy details of the relationship a bride has to her future mother-in-law, I thought I'd start with the basics.... (i.e., "MOM").

Like it or not, moms are pretty much part and parcel to the wedding planning process (of course, this doesn't go for every situation, but I unfortunately have to make some general conclusions, as each reader's experience is slightly different).

A mother's participation partly results from the fact that a bride and/or a bride's family traditionally foots the bill for the wedding (at least in contemporary American society--for those outside the U.S., please feel free to comment upon your own experiences). If the bride's mother (and father) is shelling out the bucks, shouldn't she (and he) have a say in what's going on?

My friend Julie found out the hard way that her wedding would come at a price -- "Ironically, I wanted to have a small, understated affair, and sort of keep the "do it myself" mentality - my mom wasn't having ANY of it. She said that if she were paying for it, she wouldn't put up with having "crap" as wedding favors or decorations-- It was definitely a little tense as I started planning, because she was intent on controlling the whole process."

A mother's level of involvement can run the spectrum - some become UBER-planners, becoming involved in every last minutia including reserving veto rights over reception locations or floral arrangements (and subsequently driving her daughter crazy in the process), and others take the DO-IT-YOURSELF approach. There are, of course, those mothers in the middle--willing to help but not willing to go crazy over it.

Even before a bride gets started in the planning process, she should do some thinking about the role her mother will play--and if this role is appropriate/comfortable. Communication is the key here.

Talk to your mother--as well as your immediate family--before you get started, in order to determine how much time/effort your mom wants to put in. Determine guidelines and outline responsibilities (will your mom come with you to look at reception halls/floral arrangements? Or will she merely provide suggestions beforehand, and you and your fiance will do the actual looking? How much lee-way does your mother have in terms of making phone calls, setting up appointments?). Have a frank discussion about what you want to get out of your wedding day, and how your mom can help (without getting in the way).

The downside of NOT communicating with your mother can lead to tension and hurt feelings-no matter how involved your mother wants to be. My friend Barbara, who is planning her May wedding, was surprised (and a little taken aback) that her mother--with whom she is very close--took a more distant stance with respect to her nuptials. "My mom basically was like 'do what you want to do--everything is up to you. Your planning, your decision.' I was really upset by it -we talk every day on the phone, and she's generally pretty involved- but after talking to her about it, she told me that it was her "mom-ish" way of not wanting to be too bossy, and her wanting to respect my decisions. It was really miscommunication--it's good we had a conversation, otherwise I wouldn't have understood her motivations."

The lesson to be learned here is that your immediate family may be the most important guests you invite--and your mother may end up as a key element in the planning process. Therefore, make sure to be honest with her about how you feel regarding her involvement, and whether or not you want to seek such help.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Dataceptionist said...

in a very Overview-kind-of-way, I think you've over simplified the beginning of this issue.

"Talk to your mother--as well as your immediate family--before you get started, in order to determine how much time/effort your mom wants to put in. Determine guidelines and outline responsibilities "

In many cases this will make you out to be bridezilla and simply isn't practical. In almost every bride's situation I know of, trying to have this kind of discussion would have resulted in answers of "I don't know" or "whatever you want darling" and letting things run their course at the end of the day is an infinitly less stressful approach.
You will end up seeming like Nazi-bride if you try and sit down to "discuss" every little aspect of what MIGHT happen in your planning. There's enough planning to be DONE without sitting down and talking ABOUT the planning, trust me.

The other thing that can happen is in trying to diffuse the situation before it happens, you can trigger it. In trying to set boundaries before your mother has even potentially begun to interfere can result in your mother being hurt that you would imply she was going to. IMHO you should see where things are heading before jumping down peoples throats.