While many little girls begin dreaming of their wedding day around age 5 or so, the one thing that a girl never figures into the wedding equation is the other woman. We’re not talking about a mistress here. In some cases, it can seem even worse …
We’re talking about the mother-in-law.
Oftentimes during the wedding-planning process, if the bride’s future mother-in-law is helping fund any part of the wedding (traditionally the groom’s family takes care of the rehearsal dinner), then she automatically feels entitled to insert her opinions, which can be good – or really, really bad.
Yes, brides and their soon to be mothers-in-law … that’s our topic today.
Jessie Pinson is a wedding planner with Modern Vintage Events and says she has seen her fair share of catfights between brides and, frankly, both mothers. “It’s an interesting dynamic,” Jessie says. “Sometimes there can be a bit of a power struggle between the couple and the parents, especially when it comes to the budget. When the parents are helping fund the budget, they think that means they get to have a say in how the budget is spent, and to some degree, I completely understand that. But sometimes the input we get from parents comes down to design choices like colors or flowers, which I think should really be up to the couple because they want the wedding to reflect who they are.”
One Tennessee bride who married her longtime boyfriend knew going in that his mother was going to insert herself a little more than the bride was comfortable with. The bride, who asked that we not mention her by name since she has to live with her new mother-in-law in her life, wanted some non-traditional aspects for their ceremony. His mother had her own plan. “She waited until our wedding day to jump in and start asserting herself in ways that she knew I didn’t agree with,” the bride shares. “I had no choice but to grin and bear it at that point, but I was boiling inside.”
Another aspect of wedding planning that Jessie has seen escalate into a problem is when the groom’s parents are more affluent than the bride’s and the rehearsal dinner starts to overshadow the ceremony. “We have seen rehearsal dinners with full bands and plated dinners that are every bit as fancy as the wedding, if not more so,” she shares. “This can cause hurt feelings and a lot of problems between the bride and the mother-in-law and the bride’s parents who may be struggling to pay for a simple wedding.”
Another bride we spoke with married into a Jewish family, so their Christian ceremony had some Jewish elements to it — to please the mother-in-law, not the groom. But when those Jewish traditions didn’t go exactly as planned, a huge power struggle ensued.
But Jessie says that’s one reason brides need to hire a wedding planner. “We are here to be the mediators and the family therapists sometimes,” she says. “And it’s our job to help resolve the wedding day issues before the bride or groom ever find out so that they don’t have to stress about them.”
She says the goal of a good planner is to get the bride and groom what they personally want and agree to be the bad guy if need be. “We aren’t going to be in this family for the rest of our lives, so we can nicely explain why something won’t work within a certain situation,” Jessie says. “We try to of course do it nicely and without feelings getting hurt, but we are okay to get stuck in the middle. It’s what we do.”
She says another great tactic is for the bride to lean on her groom to help mediate between his bride-to-be and his mom, because he can get away with saying things that the bride can’t.
“We advise the groom to sit down and explain why it’s important that he and his fiancée get to make the decisions and choices,” Jessie says. “We have him explain they are going into this marriage together. They are starting their own family and need to be able to make some of their own choices.”
In the end, there should be somewhat of a give and take between the wedding couple and their parents because, in most cases, regardless of how pushy either set of parents may be, it’s most often coming from a place of love. Jessie says she’s talked brides and grooms through deciding what details they can let go of. “In the end, the couple just wants to get married, so they begin to focus on what’s important to them and what’s not.”
And what’s important is their happily ever after!
(If anyone is brave enough to write an article for StyleBlueprint about dealing with a difficult mother-in-law (or father-in-law) AFTER getting married … well, email us. We’d love to chat.)
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