Mamadrama, Part I


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

I’ve gotten multiple emails in the last few weeks requesting posts on Mamadrama (as we’re calling it… Papadrama just doesn’t have the same ring). I realized it was high time I wrote a post about the stress of families and weddings, but I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. Obviously telling sob stories about family stress wasn’t the way to go (that’s just depressing and not even constructive). After a query on Twitter, Sarah suggested “I see all Mamadrama as an opportunity to Man Up (as it were) and assert some real adulthood. It’s about a healthy separation.” And I realized that was exactly it. So this post is about Boundaries, and about the way that weddings are still a huge life transition for most of us, even if we don’t think about it that way.

The thing is, when we get married, we are starting a brand new family. Even if we’ve dated and lived with our partner for years, the world didn’t really look at us as a family in the Official Sense until now. But for me, the noticeable shift was internal. Suddenly, when making decisions, I felt more loyalty to David than to my family of origin, and at first I found this shocking and slightly unnerving. It’s not that I *didn’t* feel loyalty to my family of origin (of course I did), but I suddenly emotionally realized that my future, and my kids future, lay between the two of us, and my choices needed to reflect that.

That change made for some interesting wedding negotiations. There were times one of us had a really strong opinion on something – a really strong emotional need – and the other persons parents had the opposite opinion. When that happened, we’d have to talk through the fact that, while it might be easier for the child to just agree with their parents and be done with it, that wasn’t how we were going to do things as a new family. We had to begin to learn the process of sticking up for our wife/husband’s needs, even if that meant disagreeing with our parents.

So we practiced. And we practiced. And there were tears, and there was yelling. Sometimes we did it with more grace, and sometimes we did it with less grace. But I’m really glad that we practiced with things that, in the end, are as insignificant as wedding details, because next time the decisions might be very significant indeed.

It comes back to the idea that the wedding day is not your day – it’s everyone’s day, but the wedding is *your* wedding, just like the family you are forming is your family. And it’s a very small baby family, and it needs to be protected while it grows. And protecting and nurturing your fledgling family, is totally different from doing it YOUR way because it’s YOUR day, no?

So Mamadrama? It happens to ALL of us. Sometimes it’s big and horrible, and sometimes its small and icky. But you know what? The fact that it is happening lets you learn to draw boundaries, and then insist that people honor them. It makes you practice being a family. So it sucks,* but in the end it’s worth it. You learn what you need to learn, and you practice being bravely and fully on your own side, and on the side of your family of choice.

No go out and be brave. Brave and graceful and firm (with only a little bit of yelling).

And please, share your Mamadrama tips and tricks in the comments.

*Please honor that. Nothing is wrong with you, you are not broken. Sucking is normal.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://www.unrelatedsidenote.com Cindy

    My mom is ultra-conservative so I had to be creative in my thinking and delivery of ideas. When she didn't like something she would frown DEEPLY and I would go back to the beginning and work on a new idea.

    We'd had a rough year with both my grandparents and my uncle dying (same family) so I felt like I could bestow a little courtesy to my family in regard to my wedding. It was a happy time for us amidst a lot of sadness.

    Most of the time my mom was pretty breezy but when she wasn't I focused on the fact that she liked the guy I was marrying; he was already family to her. Sure, she and I had a few rough patches here and there but, well, we both ended up pretty happy in the end: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vermilionink/3222523877/in/set-72157612857742759/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11575834126606152875 miss fancy pants (the bride)

    I think Meg's advice is the best that could be given: do what's right for the (future) husband/wife first and consider everyone else second. It sounds selfish, but, honestly, it's what needs to be done. The unit of two needs to consider their own needs and stand by their choices regardless of what kind of opposition they meet. Compromising is something different (because obviously, if the couple doesn't care then they could freely give into whatever needs their parents may have), but if the couple unit has a strong need, then they need to pay attention to that first. For example, for us, having a small rehearsal dinner is important, we wanted only the minister, wedding party, siblings, parents and grandparents. His mom wanted to invite all the out-of-town guests and any aunts or uncles that live in the area, which would have translated into triple the amount of people we decided we wanted. We've compromised with them on other things, but for this, we're standing ground because we want to maintain the intimacy. So I think the best advice is to talk about what you and your partner want amongst each other first. Just the two of you. And then figure out (as a team) how you're going to work with the Mamadrama.

  • vanessa

    AMEN sister! I think it's instinct to protect your family (parents & siblings)-you spend your life (at least the first part) protecting each other, and it feels almost wrong to step outside that normalcy. You sort of have to retrain yourself & say wait a minute, my partner is now my family & we have to begin to stick up for each other too. As hard as it is to stand up to your parents the first time it does get a little easier along the way, especially when you have your partner there to support you. I must say the grace thing is important as well, because although I'm very proud of myself for sticking up for the things I believed in, I definitely could have done it a little more gracefully– but it the heat of the moment, grace is the last thing on your mind.

    Well put Meg.

  • Hannah

    This could not have been better timed. I am currently dealing with stepgrandmamadrama and luckily for me my parents are 100% on my side. They have suggested simply uninviting those family members that are likely to cause problems (and they'll even take the blame).

    It sucks to think that our wedding won't be a big happy family reunion (especially when my fiance's entire immediate family is flying in from Israel), but I definitely can see the wisdom of not including people who could potentially ruin the day (or the whole weekend, for that matter). This isn't so much about protecting my fiance as much as it is about protecting myself, but it certainly affects him as well since they'll be his family too soon enough.

    I don't think you could do this with everyone – probably hard to uninvite your own parents in most cases – but I think the obligations that come with family sometimes need to be put aside for the sake of your own happiness… I think.

    It's hard though, because I still love them despite everything and all I really want is for everyone to be as excited as me.

  • Rose

    I agree with the point about making a shift from family of origin first to husband first. This was a big thing for me, I needed to be married and
    "properly" committed before I could whole-heartedly make the shift.

    Case in point – only after the wedding did I move my husband's phone number to first on my speed dial list, after Mum and Dad. Is that weird? Probably

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06409088542824757294 Chelsea

    Miss Fancy Pants, we are having the exact. same. issue. It's especially frustrating because up until now, everything has been going so smoothly. So in addition to having to find a way to compromise, I'm mourning the loss of the illusion that I'd get through this with no major conflicts. Really, this post could not have been better timed for me, it's exactly what I was inelegantly trying to explain to my fiance yesterday. Thanks, Meg, I'm sending this one to him AND my mom.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12669161089868152740 maya

    These are wonderful words of advice. I've discovered through this wedding planning process that the key to having the wedding my fiance and I want is through communication. Especially with our families. Meg's point about boundaries is a good one. My fiance and I have spent our adult lives away from our parents (in the across-the-country-3000-miles-away sort of way) and developing those boundaries, which our parents have come to respect. They know us well enough to understand that we're intelligent, can make good decisions, and can feel proud of the fact that they did a good job in letting us develop those boundaries and independence.

    Our parents know my fiance and I are now traveling on this road together. But they also know that we love and respect them enough to make decisions about this wedding that will be considerate of their needs and still be true to our desires.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10972465903387097782 Jen

    I think the hardest part of this is to know your own boundaries. Sometimes it isn't until my boundary is tested that I realize if something is important or not. So that has led to lots of fumbling and readjusting and renegotiating. And I think its the same on my parents side – they don't realize whats important to them until it comes up.

    We've tried to make our boundaries clear and simply say, "This is the choice we are making because it feels right to us and now I need you to support me and help make this the best choice possible." (I had to use this on our cake decision…CAKE! So yes, some of these decisions are way less significant than others.)

    I think saying this has helped my parents cool down and look at the decisions based on the people involved instead of just thinking about cake in a WIC fashion of impressing people, whats 'proper' and 'formal', blah blah. It helps bring them back to the fact that this is our wedding.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03818121441127623934 Rose

    Right now the mamadrama is 'big and horrible', so I really needed to hear this today. I think you're absolutely right – it's so vitally important to stand up one's husband's/wife's needs. Thank you so much!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08762657843402413252 Cara

    This is so true – with marriage you’re starting a whole new family. And that’s what a marriage is, with or without kids or parents or pets the two are one whole and complete family. It occurs to me that later in life when our own kids leave and start their own families we’ll probably be reminded again that we are a family, just the two of us, in this marriage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17009143978954483152 Erica

    Meg, you're so right. It's all about boundaries. Thankfully we have not had much mamadrama, but very early on my future father in law gave my fiance a list of people he wanted us to invite to the wedding, all of whom were people we had either never met or met only once or twice in passing. What did we do? We just said no, and explained why keeping the guest list to just those people who meant something to us was important. We haven't had an issue since then.

    I made that sound simple and easy right? Well it wasn't. My fiance and I fought intensely, I bawled my eyes out, and it ruined a perfectly good party for me. The small guest list was really my need, not my fiance's, so of course he was fine with caving into his Dad. But ultimately I think that this experience was a necessary evil. It was the point where my fiance really shifted his thinking, recognizing that I was his primary family now and that what we have needs to be protected first. I was already there with my thinking.

    So now we're on the same page and I think that this is the real reason why we haven't had any real mamadrama since then.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10194642268693774873 MinnaBrynn

    "It comes back to the idea that the wedding day is not your day – it's everyone's day, but the wedding is *your* wedding, just like the family you are forming is your family. And it's a very small baby family, and it needs to be protected while it grows. And protecting and nurturing your fledgling family, is totally different from doing it YOUR way because it's YOUR day, no?"

    If there was a way to put something very close to this into our wedding ceremony, I would. :D

  • Dr. D

    Thanks Meg! This post is great. I've found transition my loyalties from my family of origin to my new family quite difficult. I've been doing it because, as you said, the moment we got engaged I suddenly started seeing us as a separate unit distinct from our birth families. But it's been very hard, especially when I know that this transition is painful for my parents and, as the dutiful oldest daughter, it conflicts with my inclination to make my parents happy.

    My parents and I came into serious conflict at the very beginning of the wedding planning process. We wanted a small wedding and in a synagogue that is meaningful to my fiance, my parents wanted it large and close to their home. And so we fought, and fought, and I cried a lot. But, in the end, we did "win" that argument and I think that early conflict set the tone for the rest of the wedding planning process and ( I hope) our marriage. My parents now finally see us as adults (even though we are into our thirties!)and we are willing to compromise on lots of stuff to give them more of the wedding that they want.

    Thanks Meg for highlighting what a monumental life step "mamadrama" can be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09197008991622181061 PrincessMax

    I got nothin'. I feel like this is the area that I did most poorly and felt most insecure about myself. My family is very hands-off and I did not handle very well the very fact that my in-laws had expectations of us. My husband struggled A. Lot. with being loyal to me and I struggled A. Lot. with making sure that the emotional needs I was expressing were really needs and not just gambits to snatch power from his mother. I worried often that I was making a mistake in marrying a man so emotional immature as to not be able to recognize that the separation process of getting married was quite normal. That says more about me than it says about him.

    All that said, our marriage is a good one. Meg is right. Planning the wedding is a good process, especially since the boundary struggles are often about more than just wedding details. Often they are about spirituality and relationships, too, in very physical ways such as ceremonies and honorary roles for people.

    Great post. Thank you for putting the issue in the frame of "boundaries."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03561470902921572737 Sarah

    mm yes, boundaries can be a very good thing. dealing with momma-in-law-drama? well, it just forces us to sort of re-draw the lines of the family. in the case of my fiancĂŠ and myself, we are marrying YOUNG. we realize this, and, surprisingly, that is not his mother's problem. her main issue is treating us like the adults we are becoming instead of the kids we were. so, like, yeah, i get it that she wants to make decisions FOR us and nurture us and make sure everything goes right, hovering all the way. but OUR job is to make sure we tell her, "ma, we got this. we can handle it. and if we can't handle the wedding then we damn well could never handle a marriage, so think about that."
    momma-in-law drama. it's big, but it's also healthy. and beautiful to see our relationship transform, you know?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02189637917666578405 Allison

    I have severe anxiety that things are going to start rolling downhill but I have to admit that making our big decisions together and then presenting them to my parents in a neat and organized fashion has helped curb any mamadrama. We knew that we were going to be asking them to help pay for thngs so the last thing that we wanted was for them to be able to make all of the decisions based on money and power so I made a booklet full of EVERYTHING you could think of (menu items, rentals and cost, flowers, EVERYTHING) and handed it my parents. They were so impressed that they didn't even question any of our ideas!
    I am still waiting for the battle on favors and how we don't want them and she wants these $2 candles for everyone…I'll let you all know how that one goes…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16223930238506094125 kerstin

    Great post! This dance of learning how to be *your own* baby little family during wedding planning can be a very challenging one. I think a great follow up post in the coming weeks would be on how this dance changes and evolves once you are *newly* married — conversations about holidays, and creating your own little baby family traditions, and explaining that even though you may live 100 miles from each of your respective families, that does not mean you'll be spending every other weekend at one or the other's home (because you have your *own* home, and community, and responsibilities). Integrating into one anothers' families can be intense. These first couple of years of marriage have been all about that for us — and it's a constant learning and discovering (and sometimes frustrating) process.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06298500700733662310 Liz

    I love the comment about wedding planning as practice for bigger issues later in life. My future husband and I have made so many complicated decisions together in this process that I have even more faith that we can handle the big stuff.

    One major moment that I handled solo, on the fly: When I called my deeply religious grandfather to tell him the joyful news, he responded by thundering, "And are you getting married in a Catholic church?" Thankfully, I'm old enough now that I could just say, "No, we're getting married outside, under the trees," without (much) squirming or equivocating, and he's old enough now that he's willing to attend anyway ;)

    Of course, in the course of the conversation I did hear myself agree to do a second ceremony in a few months in a Catholic church, to make it "official," and thinking that was somehow a compromise (?!), but I'm prepared now to tell him we're not doing that after all. It's not true to us, and I doubt it's okay with the Catholic church to try to use their sacrament to placate my grandpa, anyway.

    Lots of strong and humble and wonderful people on this blog. It's one of my favorite places to regain my sanity in the planning process. Rock on, everyone.

  • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie

    Thank you so much for this. I needed to hear (read) that. I love my mom, but she is having such a hard time letting go and accepting that I'm starting my own family. I think she thinks that I'm just going to renounce my family of origin and never want anything to do with them again. Or something like that. (Which of course I'm not!) It's just that my fiance and I have stood together on certain wedding things as a united front, and I think this really surprised her, because I do have a history of giving in to my mom's wishes. She's a very big personality, and sometimes it's just easier to go along with what she wants. And while I'm thrilled she's involved, my fiance and I do want to do things a certain way, so I've set boundaries for the first time in my life, and it hasn't been an easy process.

    Even though I've lived with my fiance for five years, you're right, once you're actually planning that wedding… people start seeing you as something different and their reactions really change.

    I found myself getting angry with her very easily, because I was kind of offended that she would think that I would just never want anything to do with her, my dad, my brother… etc. again after I got married and had a family of my own. But I've finally realized that I just have to take a step back and talk her through this… or something. This is a new experience for all of us, and I know her slight craziness lately is actually coming from a place of love. I just have to show her that while I am starting a new family with someone, and I will probably take his side more on certain things… this isn't the end of my original family.

    I think when all is said and done, the fact that we've finally set boundaries with our families is going to be such a great thing. But it's just not the easiest process in the world. But I'm so so so glad we're sticking to it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08406422256952106236 JM and MJ

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.
    All I have to say about boundaries is that they are HARD. Especially if you come from a very close family. Having a very, very, very close family is a good thing for a lot of reasons. A very close family will pretty much always have your back and will continue to love you even when you do stupid things.

    However, it is very difficult to be the only/first person who really deviates from norms in a a very, very close family. There is misunderstanding, push-back, heartache. Hopefully, though, there will also be growth and learning. Asserting my boundaries has been tough all around, but it is also very self-affirming. I think of boundaries as a sort of self-care and care for my relationship with my parter, which seems to be what we all need.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06008386302876377978 Lyssachelle

    I was blessed in this area; my mom has always been very hands off in everything (often to the point that I've hollered at her, "MA! I need advice!! Tell me what to do!!!") and the Boy's mother is very sweet and unassuming. (Don't hate me, guys, my angst manifested in other ways….)

    But one thing that might help is to recognize that your parents (and his) are under some pressure too. They are going through a life-changing experience too; their child is getting married which can be tough to deal with, even if it's been the works for forever. Plus, now they have their own mortality staring them down. I once heard that after 21, all your milestones do nothing but remind you of how old you're getting. And that may make it a happy and a tough time.

    Plus, if your family is anything like mine, now they (especially Mom) are the official press secretary of your wedding to everyone else in the freakin' world. Everyone wants to talk about it and hear about it and offer their opinion about it…
    "Ooo, your little girl is getting married?? What are her colors? Where's it at? She's doing it THERE? …really. Is doing Jordan almonds for her favors, because when Kiki got married she… She's doing THAT? Hmmm. Oh, well, I'm sure it will be nice."
    We are pressured into roles as "brides," but our mothers are pressured into roles as "mother of the bride." The MOB is supposed to help you pick out your dress, choose your location, offer advice about EVERYTHING, even if it's something they've never cared about in their lives. And some may cave to that pressure.

    I'm totally not saying you should give in because of this; Meg is completely right in everything she wrote. ("Baby family"…I love it!) But maybe thinking about it from your crazy-face mom's (or dad's!) side might make it easier for you to stand your ground with grace.

    Or you could do what I did and tell your dad, "I'm sorry, you didn't contribute enough money to ask for that. Extra guests require a higher donor level." (I was being funny. But kinda serious. And he knew that and laughed. The lady checking us out in Wal-mart did not. I got a death look.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11588761324863907084 Fifteen

    Oh boundaries…if only they were so simple. FI is older than me by 8 years and so has been out on his own longer than I have. I did (and still do sometimes) rely on my family heavily. Matt asked me early on this process if I have ever said "No" to my parents and I had a really hard time thinking of a time when I hadn't. So this transition has been really painful for both of us. I want to protect our little baby family and his parents get that for the most part, but when your sister is screaming at you "But we're your FAMILY!" I just want to run away. So thank you for not making me feel insane for wanting to protect my little baby family and take those tentative boundary steps away from my family or origin.

    We're heading to my parents' house this weekend to do Pre-Cana and meet with the DJ and it will give me lots of opportunities to stretch my baby family legs. So this post could not come at a more apt time!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13782934437868241756 Jenny Mitchell

    But how do you get over it if your wedding is already over and your mom has successfully steam-rolled right over you? I stood my ground the best I could and I won in some aspects but there are a few things that she got past me and I just CANNOT get over it…

    • Megan S

      Then take a step back, look at what you’ve done, and try re-imagining it. Learn from what you’ve done, and protect your new baby family from now on. You may have let your mother have her way during your wedding; that’s not how it has to be from now on. Let it be a lesson so you can change, instead of thinking that since you gave in on your wedding, you must always listen to her. You do not have to obey your mother’s every whim anymore. Listen to your opinion, and to your husband. Share, and ask him to help you stand up to your mother.

      Playact saying “No,” to your mother. It gets easier with practice. When you tell her no, make sure you let her know she’s loved. As long as she knows you still care for her, but your mind is made up, it will be easier. She will occasionally get frustrated. Let her. You will both grow from this.

      My mother and I occasionally butt heads, and it’s hard. She has firm opinions. “You put THAT on your registry? No way. It’s not dignified enough.” “It’s not good enough. You should have a professional do your hair and makeup.” I know that when she’s saying it’s not good enough for her daughter she means well, but meaning well and doing well are two completely different things.

      As someone else mentioned, being a dutiful oldest child means that I want to obey my mother — but as Meg said, it’s more important to protect your baby family. Don’t rush in and tell your mother “no” to everything — but subtly let her know that your husband is your immediate family now. Make sure he feels supported, too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01390627453974953641 Frugalista

    No mama drama for me. I am planning this whole shebang myself. I get input from the groom but pretty much what I say goes. There isn't anyone around to question it. My mom has asked if I need help with anything and so far I am having her help me address invites. She doesn't meddle. No one does and I really like that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00379596904318935981 Liz

    @jenny- consider it a learning experience. and talk to your husband about ways that (in the future) he can help you stand your ground on important issues when your mom puts up a fight.

  • redfrizzz

    i have "mamadrama" right now, with my family feeling like my partner isn't in it to win it. I HATE having to justify his actions and seem like I'm not disappointed when he makes certain decisions, when I KNOW that they will make my family feel a certain way. But I know that, like you said, I need to step it up, WE need to support our partnership, even if my family doesn't yet accept us as a unit, a committed one- yet…
    thanks.

  • Anonymous

    " Even if we've dated and lived with our partner for years, the world didn't really look at us as a family in the Official Sense until now."

    Perfectly said!! I have been struggling with this very concept. My mom has been going on and on about how she is giving away her baby (makes me feel like puking when her voice goes up an octave) while I feel I made that separation when I moved away for college and then even more so after I moved in with my man after graduation.

    I try to keep reminding myself that it's a different experience for her, but it's hard. Thank you once again for a great post!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02319239516681990601 Laurel

    I am an only child and very close with my parents… not that they are particularly over whelming but I do feel more and more linked with my fiance Justin. WE are more like a team… a family! And I love it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05775224719230389364 Kelly

    Hmm. I've been coming to the realization over the last couple of days that I need to figure out how to integrate with– or, rather, tolerate– his family better. I sincerely hate his mother, and while he's been great about making me and our new family his first priority, it's not right or fair for me to be trying to turn him against his own mom. Which is what I realized I've been doing.

    And, please… can we stop with the hating on The Knot? The girls there have been absolutely lovely to me, and there are a bunch of very non-WIC-brainwashed brides on my "wedding month" discussion board. The official site content may be propaganda and awful, but the community of women getting married is very supportive and encouraging.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10515368051092102091 Sara D.

    I feel lucky that I started to learn (with professional help!) how to set and adhere to boundaries several years before starting to plan my wedding. I feel like my fiancee and I already have a pretty good start on building our own family together.

    Because of past drama (including mamadrama) in my life, I have had a lot of practice with setting boundaries and felt pretty secure with that ability. When it came time to plan the wedding, I felt prepared to shrug off those who tried to step within the boundaries my fiancee and I had set for the wedding planning process. I eventually realized, though, that in building up these iron-clad boundaries, I was shutting people out of this joyous time in our lives. Wedding planning didn't seem to be very fun, and I was missing out on some great advice and suggestions that others (who had already planned a wedding) had to offer.

    So my view on boundaries shifted slightly; and when I allowed myself to realize that maybe my way wasn't always the best way, things suddenly got better. I gave up control over bits of the planning process to people who wanted to help. And even though they might not be doing things exactly how I would, I know that the end product will be wonderful. Things that we feel more strongly about in regards to the wedding (such as using a friend to officiate the ceremony rather than a minister) are giving us more practice in flexing our "setting up and keeping boundaries as a family" muscles.

    So I guess what I'm trying to add to this conversation is that even though I felt well versed in setting boundaries in other areas of my life, I needed to learn how to loosen up a bit and enjoy this whole process a bit more. Sometimes when you let a little light peek through the solid boundaries you have, you see some pretty great things that you might not have seen otherwise.

    I never really looked at wedding planning being such a life lesson until today. So thanks for that and for letting me share my thoughts!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06985820953743653787 Ms. Bunny

    I am definitely have issues about how to set boundaries and break away from my parents. I know some of my decisions are going to hurt them deeply (regarding religion) and it's really f*cking hard on you to know that the reason your mom is crying is because of something you did. I'm trying to make this break as gently as possible, while still asserting myself. But damn, this stuff is hard.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @PrincessMax
    Story of my life.

    @Frugalista @Lyassachelle
    My parents were super hands off too for a BUNCH of reasons (illness included), and that wasn't always a good thing for me. Sometimes it was a very very sad thing. But that's a whole other kind of Mamadrama, and a whole other post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06409088542824757294 Chelsea

    This issue is so close to my heart right now that I’m posting again with things I didn’t mention the first time around. Because my instinct is always to be a people-pleaser (in everything, not just weddings) I find myself smiling and nodding and saying ok when people make suggestions. Then I go home and sit on it and realize, wait, that’s not what I want, but then feel like I’ve already “agreed” to something. Frustrating! I’m trying to replace the ok with “I’ll think about that,” but it’s hard when you want everyone to be happy.

    The other thing we’re finding difficult is figuring out when compromise is the best idea, and when to stand our ground. I’ve become pretty good about standing my ground on things that only matter to me/us (my dress), and I have no problem compromising on things that matter more to other people (bridesmaids dresses), but I have real issues when it’s something that matters both to us and someone else, like the guest list. I don’t want to wake up the morning after the wedding and realize I was that bride who had to do everything only my way, but I also don’t want to realize that we gave in on things that mattered to us just to avoid conflict. Right now, though, I feel like I’m too close to it to make the distinction between things that will matter the day after, and things that won’t… maybe that’s a subject a wedding graduate could take up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07623482999314382372 Michelle

    I've also had very hands-off parents. My fiance and I are planning pretty much everything ourselves.

    We had major mamadrama with choosing a church, since we're interfaith (ok, it's only Catholic and Lutheran, not that different) and our parents on both sides feel pretty strongly. I really gave in on that issue after tears and very tense phone conversations.

    The lesson learned would be not to call your mom when you're super stressed about something you feel she's forcing you to do. Your resentment and frustration will come out.

  • conmigo

    After a pivotal conversation about invitations and directions(!!) with Fiance's family, where I ended up nearly in tears telling them that "we can't make decisions by committee" and "I am so glad you all are excited, but this is what we've decided" — while Fiance sat obliviously playing video games on the couch — (he didn't care either way, its just an invitation)

    We went home that night, and I explained to Fiance why it upset me so much, and we had this same conversation about sticking up for each other, in weddings and in life. He totally got it then, and apologized for being clueless about The Bigger Picture in that moment.

    So now, whenever we feel like we need get our bearings, protect our new baby family, talk to each other, it is a simple: "Oh, interesting idea. Fiance and I need to talk about that." And DONE. Conversation over. No more talk about it, (not even "helpful ideas") until we talk about it and make a decision, together, alone.

    Life saver.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10211797571405802312 Rachel

    Such a good point. And we have to realize that people have different ways of dealing with family pressure.

    I have boundaries like nobody's business. I get defensive when someone asks me what I'm watching on TV. My family hasn't really insisted (or really even suggested) that I do anything in years, because I've been unbelievably stubborn my whole life.

    My guy is completely different. I used to think that he had no boundaries at all, because he's always giving into his parents. And then at some point I realized that he gives in to unimportant issues all the time because they just don't matter to him. But if something matters to him, or to me, he's willing to fight for it, and his family tends to listen because he does it so rarely.

    We've both been learning from each other, because neither of our methods is perfect. But I totally agree that the most important thing is presenting a united front when it comes to dealing with family conflict. You are a team, no matter how much you might argue about things in private.

  • http://kittenishblog.com Amanda

    love this post! I think I was one of the ones that emailed you about not just mamadrama but whole f*cking familydrama. But this was great to read and we are certainly, finally, learning the joy of having boundaries (thanks therapist!) and sometimes going into family holiday weekends wearing invisible bulletproof vests to protect us from the shit our parents think is okay to say to us.

    Since this was "part 1" if I could make a small suggestion for future parts: parents not liking future spouse. parents not thinking future spouse is good enough. future spouse not wanting to invite large portions of their family due to painful, unresolved issues. other future spouse learning to be okay with that if thats what makes future spouse happiest. learning that its okay if you don't have the perfect family sitation on your wedding day (MOG, FOG, MOB, FOB, etc.). whew. fmily is so much fun, eh?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06395803606683052002 Giovanna

    my mamadrama is not as bad as my nonnadrama (grandma)…i will share some of that on my blog soon, because it would take up too much room here. :) however, so far, it hasn't been as horrible as predicted. good advice, as usual.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06648909402880706542 Mandy

    I've had the same "hands-off" problem that a few of the other readers have commented about. That can be just as rough, sometimes, and can lead to just as many frustrated tears. Meg actually gave me a piece of advice that I remind myself of whenever I get a little sad about my mom being so uninvolved in the process: our relationships with our parents aren't going to change overnight. It seems like the WIC and media in general portray mothers of brides as being very hands-on and involved to the point of becoming overbearing, and when your mom isn't like that at all…it can be a blessing and a curse. For the most part, I'm actually grateful that my mother doesn't really care about any of the details of our wedding. On the other hand, sometimes I really wish she would come shopping with me or something. But in all my life, we've never had that kind of relationship, and I can't expect her to suddenly fit into some kind of mold just because I'm getting married.

    (And for the record, both my parents are absolutely the best parents anyone could ask for; they just happen to be very unemotional people who spawned a deeply emotional daughter).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11648616424467549705 Ale

    I wasn't expecting this.

    Just when I thought I was going to read about typical "Mamadrama" you went and talked about family loyalty.

    Amazing!

    Being a Latina, our family loyalty is… I mean, in our *blood*. Suddenly, I'm doing things very "American," including moving to another city with my fiance. I know I've been judged by some family members, but I can't help but be proud of my mom for trying so hard to not show her sadness of me not returning to Texas. No, I'm not having a pi単ata, but I've managed to combine elements from both cultures and am allowing myself to not be defined by generalities with this wedding. The wedding will showcase not only who I am, but the combination of cultures between my fiance and I and the new life we are starting.

    I.e. tres leches wedding cake + salsa dance + washing of the feet ritual

    Now I just have to explain to my grandma what a garter toss is so she doesn't freak out when my fiance crawls under my dress! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08169407356570837365 D-Day

    I'm pretty happy to report that my mamadrama is so history that I'd started to forget it was ever a problem. I mean mine was a pretty benign version, I was mostly just getting unsolicited-opinion-overload, but none of it was "you must" just "why don't you..?". there were definitely some boundary-setting conversations, and it hasn't been a problem for months now.

    After reading this post, I'm wondering if it was actually a bad thing that at no point did either of us really have to make a stand to put our partner's needs before our parents. Both of our families offered advice and assistance but made no demands that challenged us. I think we do make small decisions pretty often that show we put each other at a higher priority than our parents, but we've just done it quietly and automatically, in small gestures. we never had to have a big conversation about it and affirm that YES our loyalty is to our new baby family before our parents/siblings. I will just have to share this with him and get that conversation started. thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12198436879038391267 Adrienne

    Oh, Meg. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. My mamadrama started early, just a few weeks after we got engaged. We started a guest list right away because neither of us wants a long engagement, and my mom reminded me of all my dad's cousins (big Italian family) that apparently I *have* to invite or my grandmother will never forgive me. I have literally never met some of these people. I did end up caving to some degree (they wanted a guest list of 150, we argued it down to 120, which is still mroe than the 85 we wanted) but I'm having a VERY hard time saying no to things since they are footing 90% of the bill.

    My other issue has been that I'm surprisingly chill about the whole planning thing. I've always been organized but I used to be a lot more uptight than I am now (I credit my fiance for helping me find my center) so my mom expects me to be having big huge dramatic reactions to things and… I'm not. Which she interprets as not being excited enough (WTF?). I've had to tell her several times that I'm focused on the marriage, not the party. The party will be great, everyone will have fun and look gorgeous, but I'm probably not going to cry when I try on a dress.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14066772853679484107 Sarah

    I think this is a great post. I am lucky because my parents are financing our wedding. They have been very good about letting us do what we want, except with the guest list. They have blown it up. I haven't been good about saying 'no', but I know that my future hubby wants me to be better at standing up to them.

    I love what you said about creating a new family. I'm excited to do that but I want that alliance to come automatically, which I know it won't.

    I agree with whoever said they would like to see posts on how it continues after you get married. I feel like that is going to be the hardest part after we get married.

  • Anonymous

    I have one very stubborn family, that was always used to me giving in in order to keep the peace. They wanted me to have a massive gaudy traditional wedding that we had no interest in, and had no interest in paying for. We would rather buy a house that we can continue to enjoy long after our wedding day, thankyouverymuch. So far my strategy has been to do what is right for us, and explain that it is important that we do what will make our wedding the most meaningful to us. So right now my entire family hates us. Fortunately his family is a lot more go-with-the-flow, and are pretty much fine with whatever we do (and happy to help).

    So I don't really have any great suggestions, but I have to say, THANK YOU for this post, because right now, I am having a week where everybody hates us and our wedding, and there is no way I'm going to get everything done in time, especially when my family would rather fight with me than help me. It is SO nice to know that I'm not alone, because people don't normally want to talk about all the crap that wedding planning brings into your life.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12465660658541486360 Rachel

    @Amanda — I think you and I need to email back and forth! I'm having serious "mom doesn't like fiance" issues and it'd be nice to talk to someone who understands what that issue feels like!

  • Caitlin

    This is amazing timing. I am heading to my dad and stepmom's house tonight after work to deal with some stepmamadrama. She's been around for 15 years, which feels like a long time, but wedding planning has set us both back to our long ago bickering selves. Even though she has let me know that she "is not my mom" numerous times over the past few months, she is still demanding things we just don't want, and I have been too scared to say anything.

    Tonight I will attempt boundaries. I am printing this out for strength. THANK YOU.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07002438626643133563 Emily

    Hate to write something pro-divorce in a weddings discussion, but I have realized in the last year or so that my parents' divorce and subsequent remarriages have been excellent preparation for dealing with in-laws. Step-parents are just in-laws in a different direction. Someone new is suddenly your family and it's weird and awkward and great because they love somebody you love and then you're sort of family. Thinking about my relationships with my stepparents and their relationships with my parents definitely helps when dealing with mamadrama. We have allies and families and can make choices about who is part of which group. Great topic, Meg.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06987934593226565946 ETCIllustration

    I'm wondering if "Mamadrama, Part II" will begin to cover the boundaries one must set once the wedding is OVER. Case in point: First Christmas. I had a difficult time reconciling with my mother the idea that I now have a loyalty and obligation to HIS side of the family as well as my own. I would love to read about how other ladies and gents have handled post-wedding mamadrama.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07745327040069845630 Sarah K.

    FABULOUS. Really, couldn't have said it better, Meg. I was going to quote part of it because it was the part I really agreed with…. But I couldn't choose. This entire post makes me just want to fistpump with "hell, yeah!" joy. :)

    Bring on the Mamadrama, kids, it's time to leave the nest and start our own…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07254044648431910812 vanessa

    oh my god. I needed this post more than you can know. My parents are divorced and both remarried, with kids so I am dealing with TWO families worth of S**T right now.

    The other day I had to put my foot down about inviting family that treats me like crap and now I'm fighting with my stepmother about god knows what. Last night I had my first really big breakdown- crying, sobbing, yelling, "oh! nobody is helping me, my families are falling apart, they are all effing crazy, why didn't we just elope…"- the whole shabang.

    My fiance was fantastic he sat there and listened to me, then after I was out of yelling and just in a puddle sobbing, he said "But you know what, I love you and I'm here to help and we're our own family now."

    At this point that is what we keep getting back to. We are a family now and when all THEIR crap gets insane we can separate ourselves from it. We aren't going to change our families, but now, because of each other, we have a sanctuary away from all that. Which is really all I have ever wanted.

    Thank you Meg, your posts and advice always help me stay grounded and not feel so insane through all this. And for letting me vent.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07745327040069845630 Sarah K.

    Oh, and while I'm at it, my post on this topic, and how messy family is, is over here. It's more whiny-introspective than broad discussion, but there it is.

    And this is the perfect place to do another plug for A Conscious Bride; it can be kind of cheesy, but it's a quick read, and worth every second. It really helps me re-frame the emotional and personal transition of this whole shebang (even if there were times when I couldn't keep from rolling my eyes at the author). Go find it in a library, or get it from someone else who's read it recently.

    Hell, I'll offer up my copy– if anyone wants it, comment on my blog (since I don't know if I'll get a notification here) and I'll gladly mail my copy out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07007449702143034584 Meg

    Great post, Meg! I have clingy parental units, and have been trying to slither out out their overprotective clutches for years. I don't think wedding planning is going to be the clincher for me, unfortunately, because I am really looking forward to the day when my parents finally come to realise that I am full-fledged adult who can fend for herself.

    I'd like to second Amanda's request for posts dealing with more specific family drama, like an overbearing MIL or tensions between your family and your FH.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03968086771680670487 GracefulElegance

    Great post!

  • Jessica

    Trust in each other, the families will come around. As much as our wedding doesn't make "sense" to my in-laws, I truly think that when my mom-in-law sees how much I love her son, the rest doesn't matter.

    Be kind – for most of these moms it is their 1st (and hopefully last at least with this child) time doing this, the whole mom-of-the-groom/bride thing. Just try & keep in mind that none of us are perfect when we try something the 1st time. Everyone should be cut some slack during wedding planning, especially parents.

  • Eliza

    Tips and tricks – I'm pre-engaged and I've known since, well, forever, that my parents would cause some significant drama. Cause that's what we do, we're the family of drama and loving conflict. Watching my brother go through *extensive* mama-and-papa-drama last year in his engagement only solidified this for me. The way I'm dealing with it is by sending up big red flags RIGHT NOW – before I am even engaged – about what they can expect from me when we do get engaged. i.e. "No, Dad, we won't be getting married in a church, because we're not religious." "No, Dad, we don't like sit down wedding dinners, I'm pretty sure we won't be having one." "No, Dad, you WON'T be paying for my whole wedding, because we're not comfortable with that." etc etc. Even if he's not taking it in 100%, even if he's only taking it in 10%, at least when all this comes up I can say "hey, I've always been pretty clear where I stand about this one" – and I'm preparing him/them for the fact that I won't be doing things the "traditional" way they may expect them to be done.

    Having said that – who knows how well this will work! But I'm hopeful. And I figured that as so many of us are pre-engaged, it's worth putting out there :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05570017046431391730 JOC

    I see all Mamadrama as an opportunity to Man Up (as it were) and assert some real adulthood. It's about a healthy separation.

    And this is exactly why my mother:
    1. does not like my fiance; and
    2. does not want me to get married.

    My mother is a single parent, and I'm an only child. I began to assert my independence in a big way in college, and we worked through most of that push-and-pull then. It was exhausting and emotionally draining, but eventually we got to a Good Place. So, when I met my ex-bf (who I was quite serious with, and we talked marriage), she seemed to be OK with everything. However, a number of personal issues cropped up during this time in my life – some having to do with what was becoming an unhealthy relationship (for me), and some that were completely unrelated to our relationship, that caused me to revert.

    I broke up with my ex, moved into my "dream" neighborhood, landed a GREAT job that I loved, finished grad school, and met who is now FH over the course of about 9 months. Needless to say, a lot of good crammed into a short amount of time boosted my confidence back to where it should have been all along, and I began to assert my independence again, and live my life.

    Mom, of course, sees this as FH "taking [me] away from [her]." Yikes. Needless to say, her reaction to my engagement was nothing short of atrocious. I don't even want to discuss it, because it was that bad.

    After a heart to heart where I told her I need her "emotional support" through this, and that her behavior to date had been unacceptable to me, she shaped up, for the most part. However, she NEVER misses an opportunity to make a jab at our wedding, or an otherwise off-color remark. For example: we're getting married about 3 hours from home, in wine country. She announced to me that she was going to book the lower "non-refundable" room rate, because if "something happened", we (meaning she and I) could just "take a long weekend there" instead. Um, what? Seriously? Who SAYS that?

    I could go on … but you get the idea. :)

  • brendalynn

    Great post! In reading the comments (ok, I haven't made it through all of them, quite), I realized something:

    I think a lot of the classic wedding planning process that we complain about or try to avoid are processes that exist for a reason. All of the relationship stuff around weddings can be difficult–family negotiations, seeking support in friends as bridal party, defining your guest list, planning/executing-said-plan with your fiance. But each of these processes, however artificial or unnecessary they may feel, is also a process to help you define where your "new baby family" falls in your world.

  • brendalynn

    Ooh, one other thing: Can "Mamadrama, Part x" be about inter-family relationships?

    That is a really tough one for me, as our parental sets don't seem all that excited about getting along (or well, liking each other). And to some extent, they don't have to. But… To some extent, they do. For my & my fiance's sake.

    I'm finding negotiating this to be difficult, and really want to figure out a way to relieve some of that tension! I think they are probably able to maintain politeness in public, but it'd be nice if there were a little more sincerity and less tension behind those wary smiles! (and less behind-the-back sniping about each other to me, even when I explain calmly that I'm not standing for that)

    Ok. Less griping already. Can you tell this is a tough one? How do other people deal?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07173746904946406303 peasantwench

    @The Social Commentator: I totally feel you on that one. Especially the bad reaction thing. Dave and I had just hours earlier got back from the UK, and my parents picked us up at the airport and we all went back to the apartment I share with Dave. We made dinner. They didn't notice the ring. Finally, at the end of the meal, I had to tell them that we had some news. I waggled the ring at them. Blank stares. Total non reaction. They eventually managed to say congratulations, and left soon after.

    My mother later told me that the reason that she reacted like that is because the ring looked fake. It's a family heirloom with a large rock (larger than I'd ever have thought of wearing!). She said that in the light the stone looked grey and that's why didn't react – because she thought it was a fake stone. Yeah. Right. That was it.

    (And then she called him by my ex boyfriend's name occasionally for the next 6 months.) Sigh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12465660658541486360 Rachel

    @ Social Commentator — yours and my mother both! She told me not to get a dress until the last second because "you guys could still break up." And that's one of the better remarks she's made. Maybe we can chat more?

  • April

    Ahhh, family drama. The stuff wedding meltdowns are made of. My mother and immediate family flat out refused to get involved and didn't attend the wedding for religious reasons (they're JW. We're not). It was a source of angst and sadness for a couple of months, but we got past it.

    The only bit of drama with the Mother in Law was re: my dress (she thought it looked like lingerie); but other than that, the rest of the fam was thankfully hands-off.

    Kind of a sore subject for me still as my own kin was so dismissive about me and my husband's commitment.

  • Anonymous

    I am struggling with horrible, hardcore Mamadrama. The Mom vs. Dad kind. It's a long and involved story, but siffice to say that I am all the world have moved on from the asshole my Dad often was back int he day. She encouraged me as a child and teen to "try" to have a relationship, to stay connected, even sending me to visit him alone when I was 10 years old for 2 weeks.
    As an adult, I moved away, coincidentally closer to him, and FI and I have developed and warm and loving relationship with him and his family. Mom HATES this and I have come to see this is not about what a jerk dad was, but more about jealousy, ownership, possession and a sense of favoritism that she practices and projects onto everyone else.
    Now, with my wedding fast approaching, she is in a constant state of hysteria, even though she has no responsibility other than to wear a pretty dress and show up. Her rhetoric is escalating, from calling him an asshole to referring to him as an "emotional rapist." She martyrs herself on the idea that she will endure his horrific presence, all for the love of me. She is obsessed with his financial contributions to the wedding and has accused me of squeezing her out of her role as the MOB, only to now ask that no one know who she is and that they depart early from the reception because they want to get a jumpstart on a roadtrip with my brothers right after the wedding.
    I have tried to reason with her, reassure her, scream at her, hangup on her and now have chosen to let go and repeat over and over
    "I'm sorry you feel that way. We love you enormously and will miss your presence deeply. We feel this is the best decision for everyone and if you change your mind, please join us."
    What else can I do?

  • sara

    1) A friend gave me a tip along the lines of this post’s topic: Ask each parent (separately) what three things would mean the most to him/her if incorporated in the wedding. She said that then you at least know, and can incorporate (or not!) based on your own values and preferences, but if you are indifferent,* you might consider doing whatever it is and then mom/dad will feel a bit more involved/heard/special/whatever. She said it went a little like this with her mom:
    My friend: “What three things would be most meaningful for you in my wedding?”
    Her mom (blurting out): “CENTERPIECES!”
    My friend (deed breath/sigh): “Um. Mom.” (holding up three fingers) “Three things. Do you want to think on it?”
    Her mom (composing herself): “Oh. Right. Um, ok. Maybe not centerpieces…”

    *pick your battles: another friend didn’t plan to carry a bouquet, but her mom REALLY wanted her to, and since it didn’t offend any principles of hers to do so, she had a bouquet, and her mom was happier and she was happier since her mom had one less thing pick at.

    2) With this in mind I asked my dad just the other day what might mean a lot to him at my wedding.
    Dad: “Well, I know it’s rather traditional, but I would really like to give you away.”
    Me (pausing, then carefully): “Um, I have thought about that tradition, and, you know, it’s one of those things that I am not so psyched about—the whole ‘one-man-giving-daughter-over-to-other-man’ idea. Sort of possessive really…”
    My dad: “Oh! Gosh. No. I certainly don’t want to promote that kind of idea; and, well, it’s not a big deal… maybe I could say a few words at dinner or something?”
    Me (kind of relieved): “Of course!” (what could be wrong with a toast? I am really close to my family, and it makes me happy to think they are so excited for this day too)

    Well. Apparently, my fiancé really does not want anyone to toast. He thinks it will be too formal (not at all how we have been planning things) but worse will “open the floodgates” to others. His main worry is that his dad or mom will then feel obligated or want to give a toast, and that’s something he shudders to think about and certainly does not want to have happen. I suggested we could just keep it at the one, ask that it be short and sweet, and be done with it, but he claims we’ll have no control at all… (He will “give in” in if it means a whole lot for my father, but I know deep down he hopes it won’t happen…) Do I make father sad and tell him, “wait, scratch that, no toast for you” or do I not fully stick up for my ‘baby family’ and his comfort in the day?
    Sorry for the long comment (such a great and timely post just brought this out—yes, I’ve been lurking a bit!), but I guess I’m torn. Maybe this is a pretty silly issue—maybe even making people with WAY more on the plates think “puh-leease!”, but it kind of gets to the inner unnerving-ness of this whole deal, no? (and @agirl: completely.)

    • Alexandra

      @Sara, if you have a DJ/MC, they could announce,
      “We’ll now have one very special toast from the bride’s father, then get back to dancing” …something like that?
      GL!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Brendalynn
    We did all those things, geust list, etc (though we had a less formal bridal party for a bajillion interpersonal reasons). But yes, they are the done thing for a reason.

    @Anon
    That is the BEST YOU CAN DO. Repeat that to yourself. Giving in to emotional blackmail like that is just going to make it worse in the future.

    @Sara
    We did exactly that as well (or I did, with my parents). It was super helpful, and they appreciated it enough that they ended up trusting us blindly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    In the end, I feel like the mamadrama brought us closer. I am blessed with a fabulous caring mother who has always respected my independence, but… yeah, stuff comes up around weddings. And that's cause it's IMPORTANT. I think part of the conflict stemmed from me going into the whole process thinking, "Oh, it's just a party, it doesn't need to be a big deal." But weddings aren't just parties, and they aren't just about the couple. Marriages are about the couple. Weddings are about family.

    And yes, absolutely, your fledgling two-person family is 100% the most important part of that. But I had to learn that my two-person family also has a spot in my 6 person family, and my 20 person family. Ever-widening circles. So the wedding planning process, for me, was as much about learning how to find that spot, that link, as about deciding whether to rent plates or use paper. Which is what my mother and I were supposedly arguing about.

    I feel like I understand my mom better now. I feel like some issues came up around the wedding that I hadn't dealt with since I was a teenager–in some ways I'd moved out and swept the bad parts of my relationship with my family under the rug, and the wedding was a chance to repair things and make them stronger, with the support and encouragement of my fiance and now husband.

    I feel so lucky that happened. And honestly? I kind of look forward to the "drama" that I know will come up around other life events. Because I am a geek, and I love learning things, and I think I learned more from wedding "mamadrama" than I did during most of my undergraduate degree.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    Oh–the other thing that saved my sanity? When I felt pulled between my fiance and my mom, I made them talk to each other. Directly. Without me even in the room. It worked out great–together they decided on what I'd planned to do in the first place. Booya.

  • agirl

    Fanfuckingtastic post. Seriously.

    That bit about the internal shift of loyalty to your future family away from your family of origin, and how unnerving it can be? It's like you were in my engaged head.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10789119108964539856 jessie.mae

    our marriage prep class actually spent a lot of time talking about family of origin. helping us start conversations about those things. talking about the transition to making your partner number one above your family. once your married you can't keep running to your dad or mom about the same things. you have to consult your partner now. it's about re-prioritizing people in your life if you want the marriage to work, so that your partner feels needed and in the loop. and it is certainly a process. it won't happen overnight.

    luckily all of our parents (6 total his divorced and both remarried) are very supportive about us making our own decisions for the wedding, even though they're paying for the whole thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11338336369653930101 Adventures Along The Way

    Interesting conversation and I would also love to hear more of how this continues into the marriage. I totally agree that a lot about planning a wedding involves redefining the new family unit that is forming (officially). I guess we took our biggest step on that path by choosing to have the wedding in QuĂŠbec (where my husband is from) instead of the south of the US where I am from. That caused some MAJOR drama that radiated out even to the extended family who contacted me to say they wouldn't come to Canada, but they would have come if we were having the wedding in the US. I spent months with the reality that the ONLY family I would have at the wedding would be my parents. And that hurt me, but we stuck with the choice because it was best for us for many reasons. Thankfully some family members changed their mind in the last month before the wedding and came. It meant so much to me to have them there! Needless to say, it all was a stressful experience because I wanted to please everyone, but eventually I had to accept that no possible choice could please everyone and that we needed to make the choice right for us. I learned a little more about letting go of trying to please all people all the time, and we came out of it more defined as our own "baby family."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15432063224473350164 Kira

    Thank you so much for posting this! In the last week I've dealt with severe "Mamadrama" and family issues from all sides. Several times my partner and I have discussed why we are going through the madness of a wedding when a courthouse is so much simpler, facing criticism on both our plans and personalities. The linchpin to our sanity is always the very thing that you have put so eloquently in your post; "we are starting a brand new family…" and need to "learn the process of sticking up for our wife/husband's needs, even if that mean(s) disagreeing with our parents." Not only does a wedding allow the other people in our lives to recognize that transition, it also gives us the practice we will need to make our new family work. I feel so validated reading this, confirming an abstract impression regarding the importance of our wedding into a poetic and coherent thought.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05570017046431391730 JOC

    @Rachel – absolutely! It's pretty easy to find my contact info via my blogger profile (I update at WordPress now, but comments still come to my email).

    In reading this, another thought: FH and I have talked about how things won't change that much for us, which, I'm inclined to agree – this is merely "solidifying" what we already have. However, it will change people's perceptions of us as a couple. While we may have already seen one another as number one in each other's lives, other people will now see it that way, such as, for example, respecting us (however grudgingly) when we attend one Christmas celebration as a unit, rather than attend separate celebrations.

    *(This is already a point of contention – my mother is already obsessing that I'm going to "ditch" her over the holidays now; meanwhile, FH isn't thrilled about skipping Christmas with his family, not because he can't be away, but because his family welcomes me with open arms, and most of my family is saccharin to him at best. I can't blame him, I would want to skip that, too.)

  • http://www.becomingmrsdial.com Krista – Becoming Mrs. Dial

    Oh dear. We've had some mamadrama. It's definitely been an emotional rollercoaster…up and down and here and there. We're at 3 months before the wedding and things seem to have gotten better thus far…*fingers crossed*. I COMPLETELY agree with your post. We're focusing on protecting our fledgling family. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12465660658541486360 Rachel

    @ anonymous. Mom VS Dad is big and horrible for sure. You and I sound as if we sprang from the same loins, actually! She hates/is jealous of my dad so much it's colors how she sees everyone; she even dislikes my fiance just because his birthday is around my dad's birthday. She is also the martyr who is going to be miserable "putting up" with my dad and his family and I shouldn't "delude" myself into thinking it will be a remotely happy day for anyone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10608673834910724390 J-nice

    Ohmygoodness I needed this post more than anything in the world right now! None of our mamadrama is earth shattering, but a fair number of teeny disappointments and disconnects have added up into a little rain cloud hanging over my head lately.

    My mom has taken to hearing our ideas and then saying, "That's nice", which really means, "I'd never do that, but it's YOUR wedding." Then I get all annoyed because I want her to either love everything or actually tell the truth, which is that she would do things completely differently. It's weird. She's a strong and independent woman and I never would have expected this Tell-The-Bride-Everything's-Great from her. I actually wish we could just yell and stomp and cry and get it out! Arg!

    Anyway, thank you SO much for making me feel sane and normal and not sucky at getting married. This blog rocks.

  • http://kittenishblog.wordpress.com suziegoombs

    @Rachel – absolutely! My email should be found easily though my wordpress blog – on the right hand side (I was too lazy to sign in for the first comment :)
    -Amanda

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00950111880632312677 Kate

    I feel like we went through the worst mamadrama at the beginning, when the biggest decisions were being made. We stuck with our decisions though, and my mom came around, although it wasn't easy or without tears. I think part of what helped smooth it over was not standing ground on EVERY issue. We let her have ownership of parts of the wedding that did not matter that much to us, things she enjoys doing, like decorating and flowers. And we stood up for what did matter to us (the guest list, and the general attitude that none of the details matter enough to ruin the day). The worst mamadrama I had was actually when I refused to listen to my mom's perfectly reasonable advice (try on more than one dress) because I wanted to be in charge. Bad idea… it's hard to say "you were right." I guess I just think it's important to set the right boundaries, and to know your reason for setting them like to protect your partner, and not just to set up boundaries to prove a point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10559242713562326116 erinforse

    My dad totally made my day today. Rewind 1 week: We just sent out save the dates and were starting to hear from family members that they were being recieved.

    My FH gets a call from his mom, who tells him that his uncle thought it was stupid and that we should have just sent an invite. (We aren't getting married until October, and most people are out of town).

    My FH, for some reason, tells me this. I was so proud and happy with those little STD's and I've been dwelling on how I could have changed them for the last 5 days- since I found out that there was something negative said.

    As I was telling my dad this today, he had the best words of advice I've heard before: "Who cares about that jerk? As long as you and Steve are happy with what you are planning, do it, and the rest of them can go to hell."

    And really, I realized, exactly that. One person's stupid opinion doesn't matter, and I can't let it ruin my excitement about what is being planned.

    So the advice that everyone tells you is true, it's the couple who are planning everything who need to be happy with the plans, and the rest of the people can go to hell.

    Plus, now I can just tell people to talk to my dad. Who will tell them where to go. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13823420867510838406 The Future Mrs. Hambrick

    I sort of wish I had checked this blog today before I had the discussion with my mother about how she's not handling things appropriately. I think I did okay, but it was nerve-wracking, and I was kind of gratified to read this immediately afterward. I felt bad even saying anything to my mom, because I am the world's number one people-pleaser, and she hasn't even done anything all that wrong– her reasons for her opinions are *usually* logical– but her attitude has been one of a parent to a little kid rather than one adult woman to another who happens to be her daughter. I want Mom's guidance and advice, but she is uber-traditional, and FH and I are not at all. That combined with her tendency to just say "No way," rather than explaining her opinion calmly first, have really rubbed me and FH the wrong way.

    I guess it does all boil down to her not being ready to think of her 21-year-old daughter being an adult yet, and me having been supporting myself for several years and so being used to acting like an adult.

    This was exactly what I needed to read today. Awesome.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07075148009608610305 Things you may or may not want to know

    Hi Meg. I actually wrote you about our "mamadrama," well grandma drama, a couple of weeks ago. My fiance and I decided to man-up and make some very important decisions. (Decisions we were very afraid to make.) And now that we've made them, we're happy. We were firm AND graceful. And after hearing how serious we were about our decisions, our families went along with it. As soon as my fiance and I stepped up to the plates as adults, the rest of our families did. And not only are we excited, they are too. Thanks!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06409056673880607473 Molly

    @ Sara:

    Perhaps your dad could do a special reading during the service?

  • Sarah

    I just discovered this site today, and while I’ve steered well-clear of the WIC, this is the most helpful, calming blog I’ve read. I love the idea of defending your fledgling family against the larger family that’s used to having you to themselves.
    I had a long discussion with friends last night about the stress of deciding which of my 50 first cousins to invite, and this helps put it into perspective. We want a smallish wedding. I still might have to compromise, but I’m now armed with an adult reason to say, “I love you but I can’t have you all at my wedding.”

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