How a Mother Can Enjoy Argument-Free Wedding Planning
My third child gets married in two weeks. The first time I went through this process, it was my daughter getting married. The last time, I was the mother of the groom, as I am this time. Some of the lessons learned apply to the mother of the bride, some to the mother of the groom, and some are words to the wise in either situation.
First and foremost, enjoy anything and everything about the engagement and wedding that includes you. Concentrate on creating beautiful memories and embrace the happy time you get to spend with your children before they go off to their own marriages. It will never be exactly the same again - but in a good way.
Second, don't try to be a part of the festivities or planning that does not include you. Many a well-intentioned mother has made the mistake of thinking, since I'm paying for this wedding, I get a say in every decision. If you will think of your daughter's wedding as a gift you are giving her as opposed to something you are buying for yourself, you will go a long way toward avoiding this trap. It will also help you enjoy every dime you spend instead of resenting every dime you spend.
As excited as you are about the shopping, meetings with the wedding planner (who, by the way, can be your best friend) photo shoots, the bachelorette party, the after rehearsal dinner party, and sometimes the after wedding party, but especially the honeymoon - remember - these events are designed to be times of celebration for the bride and groom. By definition, they may not include you. These are not times to wear your heart on your sleeve and feel left out.
Do accept any invitation from either your child or their intended. If your daughter-in-law-to-be invites you to go along for the dress shopping, enjoy being included. If you are not invited, stop and realize this might be a very special time for her and her mother. For Moms who don't have daughters, you look on with envy.
My daughter married into a family of only sons. She and I shopped for her special dress together, and I treasure the memory of being the only one to see her in a bridal gown and veil the first time. But when her future mother-in-law came to visit, my daughter included her in a shopping trip for the bridesmaid's dresses, something the mother of sons hadn't done since her own wedding.
She was also included in the day of the wedding excursion to the hair salon. She had very short hair that hardly needed fixing, but she went along just to share the experiences you don't get to have with a son. I learned from her example that the important thing is to be involved when invited. It doesn't matter what you were being involved in.
Do offer the bride the handkerchief your great aunt made for your wedding, or the necklace five generations of brides in your family have worn. Offer. Don't insist. Your daughter-in-law's family may have their own traditions. Even your own daughter may have - believe it or not - an idea of her own. You may love to see your husband do a reading at the ceremony or hear your niece sing. Again. Offer. If the couple has other plans in mind, let it go. Under no circumstances make arrangements before you ask the bride and groom. If they decline, you won't have anyone to make explanations to in retrospect.
Most brides and grooms have never been through planning a wedding before, and it is hard to resist offering advice from your own experience. If they are headed for an unnecessary expense or a decision that will disrupt the event in a significant way, offer your advice once. If they don't consider it or understand the benefit of it, offer it a second time. After that, let it go. It's their wedding - for better or for worse.
It was hard to listen to my daughter's few complaints about her wedding afterward when most of them were things I'd tried to warn her about. But, you know what? If she's adult enough to be married, she's adult enough to live with her own consequences. And, as the mother of a married child, I should be adult enough not to say, "I told you so." (Hope she doesn't read this!) Brides and Grooms are just as married when it's all over even if guests get lost on the way to the reception or the flowers wilt before the pictures get taken.
Within reason, try to make the first thing out of your mouth be "Whatever you want Sweetheart" whenever you are asked for an opinion. It is their wedding, not yours, even if you've been waiting 25 years to plan a wedding because you mother completely planned yours! Some things will simply be beyond the limits of the budget - and don't hesitate to say so - in private. But whether the cake is spice or yellow really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is your child remembering the planning of their wedding being free of conflict and arguments.
I've learned in the acquisition of daughters-in-law that avoiding conflict is also an important part of planning their weddings, if not even more important than with the daughter I brought into this world. And it will set the tone for your relationship with her long after The Big Day. It was hard enough to remind myself from time to time that it was my daughter's wedding, not mine. It is vital for the mother-in-law to remember this fact at all times.
Even in this day and age of both families contributing to the expenses, the wedding is primarily about the bride, and she is a different animal than the girlfriend you have previously known. No menu choice, music selection, or color of flowers is worth getting off on the wrong foot with the woman who is now the most important person in your son's life. And she is. Better get used to it.
You will most likely not get to invite your own friends and co-workers to the wedding. Back in the day of wedding receptions that lasted 20 minutes in the church fellowship hall, you could invite the whole town and all you needed was a bigger cake.
Today, with receptions starting at $35 a head plus open bar, the number must be limited unless your last name is Rockefeller. By the time you invite the immediate family maybe out to first cousins, then you start in on the bride and groom's friends, before you know it you've gotten to a guest list of more than 200. At this point, you have to be realistic, especially if someone else is picking up the tab. Any friend who has been through a wedding for their own child, will understand. Any friend who hasn't, will find out.
Last piece of advice: don't kill your family and friends over RSVPs even though you will want to. Anyone who has married off a child knows there is a special circle of Hell for those who fail to respond to an invitation by a deadline. Or they do respond, then change their minds, and either show up unexpectedly, or worse, cost you $35 to $70 for a plate of food that gets thrown out.
I have actually seen a response card returned with "maybe" written on it. Where these people come from I can only guess is a place where good manners have gone the way of the Dodo bird. I guarantee anyone who has ever footed the bill for 100 people to have a nice meal and entertainment for an evening will put the response card in the mail the day they receive a wedding invitation - for the rest of their lives. They know what an honor it is to be included in such an event and do not hesitate to express that gratitude in the best way possible: an on-time RSVP.
Above all remember, if you always wanted a daughter, now you have one. If you never had a son, you do now. This is the family you are going to grow old, or older, with, so embrace it with all your heart. If you are lucky, you will have this new family a lot longer than you had the older, smaller one. When all is said and done, what you really want for your children is not the perfect wedding. It's a good marriage. Whether the entrée is beef or fish will not determine that.
But a supportive set of parents just might.