Ask Team Practical: Mamadrama, Revisted

Today is a little extra delightful for me, since it’s an Ask Team Practical with both Alyssa and with Lisa from Privilege. How lucky are we? Today we’re discussing mammadrama, and we asked Lisa to give us the (exquisitely well written) mother-of-adult children perspective. For those of you who don’t know Lisa and Privilege, you may remember her from her post on the Last Taboo, during the APW subscription drive last year, as well as her posts on mother-in-laws. I got to know Lisa through her blog, and now I’m lucky enough to know her in real life. She is a sage giver of advice. (Particularly to me, since we share a cultural high-WASP background, even though I grew up without the money part of the equation, which is actually part of the grand sweep of our heritage.) So forgive me if I find her advice a little extra compelling. Now without further ado, Alyssa:


As mother-daughter relationships go, we have a pretty good one. We have an adult friendship, tinged of course with the maternal dynamic at times, but all in all my mother respects me as an adult and we function in that context. However, since getting engaged and starting to plan this whole shin-dig, my mom seems to have regressed a bit (or a lot) within this relationship. Suddenly, every decision I make that is not in line with her expectation of what decisions 12-year-old me would make really throws my mom for a loop. She gets kind of flustered, says a lot of weird stuff about it all, but eventually comes to terms with the fact that I am not 12 (oh yeah, remember how we’ve had this adult relationship for over a decade now?) and then everything’s fine again…until I make another decision that 12-year-old me might not have, and then we start the process all over again.

It’s clear to me that my mom’s life is in transition because her eldest daughter is getting married. We’ll get through it and come out the other side just fine I’m sure, but I don’t want this to be as hard on her and on our relationship as it seems to be. I don’t think it needs to be this painful and difficult. So, my question is, hasn’t someone written for or about “The Conscious MOTHER of the Bride“? Help a girl out over here!


Well, no.  We haven’t written that, mostly because it’s probably copyrighted and they’ll sue the pants off of us.  But we have talked about Mamadrama previously.  Let’s revisit it a little.

You’re smart in that you’re already giving your mother the benefit of the doubt and recognizing that your mom is a person too.  And, like the rest of us, moms have wacky emotions and stress that cause us to do weird things, things we may not even be aware that we are doing.  When your mom gets all circa 1992, she doesn’t mean to.  Mothers tend to be the point person for the family for weddings; you can bet that for every question or comment on your wedding style, location, venue, etc. that you are getting, she is getting one also.  Which may cause stress for those who aren’t used to handling it.  So that may be the cause of all her nutty behavior.  Nutty behavior that you can’t control.  So let’s talk about what we can control.

But, before we do that, let’s do a bit of a self-check.  And I’m only recommending this because it’s an issue that I have and I don’t think I’m alone in it.  Are you sure you’re not reacting to her treating you like a 12 year old, AS a 12 year old?  Yeah, she started it; but when she does, do you go, “MOOOOM!!” and roll your eyes and possibly slam a door?  Because, well…I do.  And I totally don’t mean to, but if I am around my mother for more than three days we both revert.  It’s unintentional, it’s annoying and it’s terrible, but we do.  And hopefully you’re more mature than I. (I can almost guarantee it…)  So just make sure that you’re not perpetuating the problem, K?

And if you’re not?  The one thing that you can control is your reaction to her behavior. A person cannot make you feel a certain way if you refuse to give them the power to do so.  You’ve experienced this switch in dynamics a few times already and you know that it will eventually go away, so the next time it happens, do not let her irritate you.  I’m not saying ignore her, but react completely opposite of how she’s treating you and behave in a very adult and polite manner, more so than you already have.  If you make a decision and she’s all, “No, Fiorentina, you KNOW that’s not going to work, I’ve told you a MILLION TIMES,” just say, “Yes, thank you, Mom.  I realize that you think that, but I don’t believe it to be the case.  But I appreciate your input.”  Or something along those lines.  Hopefully, she’ll recognize how she’s behaving and stop it.  It’s hard to treat someone like a child when they are behaving more maturely than you are.

If it’s getting to a point that it is causing serious problems, then yes, you can talk to her about it, and if you think it is getting out of control it’s best that you do.  Having a nice sit-down and saying, “Mom, you have a way of speaking to me lately that is making me feel as though I am a 12 year old.  We’ve both worked really hard on making me a grown-up, so I really would appreciate it if we not undo all that hard work.”  As I said, she might not even be aware that she’s doing and needs a bit of a talking to.  Respectfully, of course.  She is your mother, no matter how wackadoodle your wedding is making her.

And just think: wedding planning has an end date.  Even if this continues up until the day of your wedding, it will eventually be over.  And you’ll be married and she’ll be back to your wonderful mother who happens to be a friend also.  YAY!

Now.  One of the wonderful things about APW is Meg is never afraid to go, “You know, we may not be able to handle this thing the best way, let’s bring out the big guns.”  Which is why this week, when dealing with mothers and weddings and since none of your editors are mothers, we’re getting a little perspective from Lisa of Amid Privilege.  While she has yet to be a mother of the bride, she’s super wise, funny, and a slightly older lady we should all look up to.


Hullo everyone. One small request before we move on? I fear I may incur the wrath of the gods, writing about mothers-in-law when neither of my two children has entered the chute. I tell you, and I don’t think you’ll hold it against me, that no amount of “exactly’s” could make up for for a jinxed chance at grandchildren. So, everyone, please close your eyes for one minute and send protective spirits into the universe.

Thank you. Moving on.

Here’s the thing. You say you have an adult relationship with your mom. Which probably means that while she understands you are an adult, she always remembers she’s the mother. But that means you know her, even now, in the way she wants you to know her. You probably don’t have the raw, authentic relationship you’d have with a friend. This is as it should be.

Good mothers, in my opinion, know how to establish boundaries between themselves and their children. We all know those mothers who bleed themselves unasked into their kids’ lives, and that’s not who we are talking about. We are instead wondering, why do the conscious mothers, the rational ones, seem to go a little crazy ’round wedding time?

Because in the lifelong process of clearing maternal space for children to become adults, mothers have to sweep some of their feelings under the bed. Tie others down in the dirt of an emotional rodeo, the sort that good mothers have inside themselves all the time.

When kids get married, dust bunnies and wild calves may want their last say.

(If you feel these metaphors are a bit outré, let me tell you, mothering is the fiercest, most hallucinogenic experience in this lifetime. All those peaceful photos? Lies, damn lies, cultural lies. Even the peace of sitting quietly in a rocking chair, hair long and flowing, babe in arms, is fierce.)

Maybe your mom held her tongue while you dated a scary guy who grew whiskers way too early. Maybe she just smiled when you ditched the eminently suitable microbiologist. Maybe she kept silent, all through your inky black hair, your piercings, your Uggs, your glitter.

Maybe now she wants a moment to mark what she did right. A moment when she can feel, this is MY daughter and she is getting married and  these aspects of me, the mother, will have their 6.5 hours in the limelight. It’s even possible that she’s using the, “But honey, I thought it was what YOU would like!” gambit as a way to insert her own wishes. Not our shining hour, mothers, but it happens.

I suggest you sit down with your mom and talk. Tell her something like this:

“Mama, I need to make decisions about this wedding. It’s important to me that it feels like me, as I am now. But I’d also like to tip my hat to you. What part of this wedding do you feel strongly about? Tell me honestly. I can’t guarantee I’ll go your way, but I would very much like to find something you can own – the vision, if not the task.”

Part of a real adult mother-child relationship, and one that will become more and more apparent as you both age, is the degree to which care-taking shifts. There will come a day when your mother will walk into the kitchen, looking for her glasses, or the newspaper, and you will realize suddenly that she is frail. That she needs you. The more work you do now to see your mother clearly, the better. Yes, of course let her know what you want, but also understand that she is a person with some needs that cannot be put aside. Mothering is a lot of work, much of which you will not even know she has done. And even the most rational and well-managed of us may harbor secret dreams of recognition.

Weddings form new baby families. No question. But they can also be, as so many of you here have pointed out, a time to revisit and rework the family of origin. The dance of family roles and authentic selves is long and intricate. No one leads; you all lead.

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  • Casey

    Sob, sob, sob. This is so beautifully written, it’s so good to hear the voice of a wise mama :) And with that, I’m off to call my mom, thanksbye.

    • LPC

      I’m glad you called her:). Thank you.

  • It’s a great time for me to read this post. My mom and I are pretty close (we talk on the phone almost every day), but it’s been a struggle to balance the wedding planning. I want my mom to be involved, but I also feel that I can handle most of the wedding planning on my own. When she asks “Are you looking for bridesmaid dresses?” it makes me feel like she doubts I have everything in order, which is frustrating. I mentioned that recently and she said that’s not her intention. But I know she does want to be involved and I’ve been trying to include her without shoving my fiance out of the planning process as well. It’s a huge balancing act.

    • Amanda


      My Mom & I are as equally close it sounds! I found that asking my Mom to complete certain tasks for me really let her feel she was contributing, and in turn I felt so honoured that she would *want* to contribute. Even if you *can* handle all the wedding planning, there’s no reason not to share just a little :) And by sharing, in no way are you admitting to be unable to do it on your own! I am sure she is not doubting that you have everything in order, but rather wants to be in the know! Because it’s an exciting time! And her friends are asking her the same question! Best of luck :)

      • Amanda, I think delegating tasks is a great suggestion. One difference between my mom and me is that she’s very outgoing and chatty, whereas I’m less likely to just share information. (She’ll tell me all the details about her day but, when she asks how mine was, I say, “It was good,” not because I’m hiding anything but because I can’t think of any particular interesting thing to share.) As such, she thinks I’m hiding wedding planning details or just having thought of anything. Like you said, she just wants to be in the know. I think making sure she has things to do (which will be helpful for me in the end) and just bringing up things I find online that I like (hey APW!) will go a long way.

      • What kind of tasks is your mom doing? My mom lives across the country from me (and from where we’re having our wedding). She feels really disconnected, and I don’t know what I can do to make her feel more involved. We’re still in the beginning stages of planning. I’d love to make her feel like she’s part of the process, but we don’t always see eye to eye, so I don’t want her involved in everything. This has been troubling me a great deal, so I’m glad to see this post today.

        • Susi-Q

          Hey, Leah! My mom and I have been going through the same thing-How to include her when she’s long distance. The conversation went something like this:

          Me: “Hey, You’re my mom. You are the mother of the bride just by being my mother. You don’t have to fill any ‘roles’ that don’t suit your fancy. You can just show up and it would make me happy. However, if you would like to be involved, let me know.

          Mom: “Oh, pretty please, let me help!” (paraphrased)

          Me: “Great! You are so good at ____ (enter skills here) and I am NOT AT ALL!” (for us, this meant super practical details, like parking, sound, etc.) “Would you help with ___? Here’s what I need. Let me know what you come up with! The deadest of deadlines is ___.”

          With that conversation, my mother became in charge of hunting down rental companies and getting quotes from them for the basics (things that I don’t really care about, as long as they are there… like silverware). She’s also planning the logistics of our self-catered pie buffet.

          Hope that helps! Best of luck!

  • MissT

    Agree! Agree! Agree! With the wise advise above.
    It took me a very long time to create boundaries that helped to build a healthy and supportive relationship between me and my mother. It was not easy and took years, but I did find a way to have a respectful, caring and careful relationship with her, which was really pushed by the wedding. For my husband and I, the most important thing was always our impending marriage, our love, and our relationship. For my mother it was making sure that everything was perfect for the wedding, and “perfect” meant just the way that she would do it. There were definitely days when it was a struggle and I felt like we were on shifting ground. BUT. But I eventually did find a way of patience and compromise that allowed both of us to feel like we were getting what we needed out of the event. Besides compromise, my husband was the key to our success. He doesn’t have the same emotional triggers for my mom, because well, that’s not his mom. He fielded a lot of wedding related phone calls as an official member of the decorating committee because while my husband and I were able to consciously decide that any decorations would be beautiful and we would definitely not notice (we never had for any one else’s wedding), the phone calls changing our ideas for other ideas made me defensive. Instead, when my mother called to say she had a dream that our wedding colors should be something different than our original colors (a change to ahem her favorite colors), my husband said “Ohh, pink and green are so lovely, what a great idea.”
    I’m not saying it was easy, but identifying what mattered to her, that wouldn’t change how we felt about the marriage celebration was really really important to being able to carve out control for mom, something that can be hard to do without. It also made it easier for her to compromise on things – like having the ceremony in her back yard – that weren’t her first choices. In the end, I think we both came through and while it didn’t feel like it initially or when we snapped at each other, we did the work that helped make our mature adult relationship even more so. Like many on APW have said before, a marriage may be between you and your future spouse, but a wedding is about family, and they need your time and attention, too! And they want to give you theirs.

  • ” …mothering is the fiercest, most hallucinogenic experience in this lifetime. All those peaceful photos? Lies, damn lies, cultural lies. Even the peace of sitting quietly in a rocking chair, hair long and flowing, babe in arms, is fierce.”

    SO TRUE!

  • Edelweiss

    “Mama, I need to make decisions about this wedding. It’s important to me that it feels like me, as I am now. But I’d also like to tip my hat to you. What part of this wedding do you feel strongly about? Tell me honestly. I can’t guarantee I’ll go your way, but I would very much like to find something you can own – the vision, if not the task.”

    I swear I’m going to use this word for word. Thank you!

    • LPC

      I’d be honored.

  • Suzanna

    Lisa, thank you for that beautifully expressed perspective! You really nailed why moms might go a little nuts during wedding planning, and that it’s OK, and that us brides should have some understanding and patience. I needed that reminder!

  • Courtney

    This is a great post. I’m really *really* struggling with my mom right now, and I’m at a point that I don’t care to involve her in the wedding. I feel like I’m 16 again! My mom is in a weird place right now – all the kids are gone (and have been gone for a while), but she and my dad are in the midst of a really awkward and uncomfortable divorce (they’re still living in the same house). My mom is simultaneously disinterested in the wedding and has, at times, asked to be involved in the wedding, but every time I try to involve her it’s a damn hassle.

    Some examples: when I called my mother after my fiance and I got engaged, her words were, “Congratulations. I’m not throwing you an engagement party.” Now, that’s fine, because I don’t need/want one, but seriously?

    She asked me for a task. I asked her to experiment with certain favor ideas that my fiance and I really liked. Without even looking into the idea we had 8 emails back and forth where she told me that the idea was not feasible, bad, would detract from our wedding cake, etc. Finally I just took it back.

    My parents very generously offered to purchase my wedding gown. Shopping with my mom is a nightmare (constant projection of body images), and I really wanted some buffers so it wouldn’t be just me and her. My mother, understandably, wanted the first time dress shopping to just be me and her. Fine. But, in the discussions leading up to the shopping she told me that she did not want my fiance’s mother to come dress shopping with me, ever. She also did not want me to go dress shopping without her, ever. In essence, it felt like a battle just leading up to the shopping itself. The very first dress that I tried on she told me that it “drew attention to my stomach.” What’s wrong with my stomach?!

    I’m really having a hard time managing my reactions to her. I want her approval of the wedding that *my fiance and I* are creating, but she has a certain way of responding to our ideas that’s like she just bit into lemon.

    I understand that she’s in a weird place right now, and she’s trying to force me to need her (which in turn makes me push her away). I try to take deep breaths and remember that, and rise above my gut instinct, which is to revert to being a teenager.

    My other friends who are getting married/have gotten married haven’t had the same dynamic with their mothers, so it’s hard to discuss this with them. And, frankly, I feel small and mean and petty even just saying these things, when my mom has always been on my side in the past. I just really wish that I didn’t have to keep repeating the mantra “this too shall pass,” during this time in my life. Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

    • Another Courtney

      Funny, my mom is still happily married to my dad, reasonably engaged in my (pre-wedding planning, anyway) life, and excited for/helping me pay for my wedding. (I’m so incredibly lucky)

      Yet I still have all the same complaints you do! She has something negative to say about every. single. idea. A lot of that comes from the financial perspective – even though she gave me a lump sum (I intentionally asked her to give me less than her original offer) and I’m paying for everything over and above that, she has no confidence that I can pull this off without her hanging over my shoulder at every step. Fortunately, we live in different states, so it’s not a daily thing, but I just got back from a week with her, and I came home convinced that my opinions were mostly unreasonable and had no place in this process. How silly! It’s taken days of my boyfriend holding my hand and telling me “You want purple flowers in your bouquet? We’ll find a way to make that happen” in order for me to finally start thinking about planning again without screaming. Yikes.

      And all this from a lady who used to comfort my friends when THEIR mothers went crazy during wedding planning. She’d say all the right things, and then my friends would leave and she and I would hug and talk about how happy we were that WE would be like that. Funny how things work out.

      I guess I needed a bit of a vent, too. Thanks (to you and the question above!) for making me feel less alone in this. I know exactly what you mean about feeling mean and petty, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid. We’re all going through a lot of change and stress, right? And that affects people.

      • Courtney

        Ha – I know! My cousin went through a miserable time during wedding planning with her mom, because my aunt was trying to control the process and project her desires on my cousin. My mom and I used to look at each other and promise each other that we would never be like that!

        My mom has always been the type of person to “speak first think later,” and I think that it has been really difficult for me to not take things so personally when the wedding is so personal.

        I’m glad you had the opportunity to vent as well!

  • I love how when I open my google reader to Ask Team Practical I always think “Oh! It’s Friday!” and my whole day gets a lot better. :)

    That aside, I’m (we’re) incredibly lucky to not have mamadrama. My mom has married off each of her other four daughters already, and while he is an only child, his parents aren’t married (and never have been) so they don’t really have anything invested into marriage as something important, if that makes sense? It’s odd to me, because we both adore and honor our parents and keep asking them if there is anything they feel strongly about and they don’t. They have opinions on where we live and when we have children and how often we go home and where we are for holidays–which they are respectful about, all of it–but they could all care less about the actual wedding. It’s really interesting, the opposite of what I’ve been told to expect. His grandma, on the other hand, is a psychotic control freak, but that’s just a matter of boundaries and reinforcing those boundaries.

    Awesome advice, as usual. I always cringe when seeing how to deal with moms since my relationship w/ my mom is not typical, but you guys handled it spot on.

    Lisa, doing all sorts of un-jinxing dances over here!

  • Michelle


  • clampers

    “There will come a day when your mother will walk into the kitchen, looking for her glasses, or the newspaper, and you will realize suddenly that she is frail. That she needs you.”

    WAAAAAAHHHHHH I don’t want this to ever happen! Don’t get me wrong, I love helping my mom. I just don’t ever want her to get old and frail. :(

    • suzanna

      My parents are only in their mid-60’s, but it’s already hard watching them age. Heartbreaking, really. It has definitely given me that feeling of “there’s only so much time we have”, and therefore I’m making sure to do really special things with them (meaningful trips, etc.), and I’m trying to be more patient and understanding of who they are as people. This all sounds really depressing, but honestly, that whole “life is precious” thing really kicks into gear, in a good way!

      • LPC

        I think it is depressing to think about parents aging before it happens. When it does, it feels like a part of life. A very sad part, but not depressing, if that makes sense.

      • Meredith

        My dad is only 55 but in the past 2 years he’s had a slew of medical problems. Nothing too serious, as in not life threatening by any means, but its left him with use of basically just one lung (he has a paralyzed diaphragm on the other side). Which leads to him not being able to do MANY things without getting severely, severely winded (his pulse oximeter reading is usually about 90-92 at rest). He can’t climb more than 1 flight of stairs, walk too quickly, mow the lawn, rake leaves etc. When he flies he has to bring oxygen with him on the plane. It really is heartbreaking when we’re walking through Costco and he grabs my elbow to tell me, almost wheezing, to slow down. He was so active and healthy and then BAM, he can’t live the life he lived even 2 months ago. Anyways, all that to say YES! Exactly. Heartbreaking.

        • Oh so incredibly heartbreaking to see a parent’s health decline before your eyes, before their time. Anything feels like before their time, I know, but this early just hurts so much more.

          My mom was just a year or two younger when her series of illnesses started and she’s now something of a shell of her former self. She can’t be left alone and her personality is almost completely regressed to a child’s with an adult’s memories.

  • It’s so funny, I have exactly the opposite problem. My grandmother ran roughshod all over my mother’s wedding, so she is trying to let it be our day to the point of non-involvement. Add the fact that she lives in California and I’m in DC and it makes it hard. It was like pulling teeth to get that she wanted to invite my cousins and a family friend. We went dress shopping together not because she wanted to but because I wanted to involve her in the wedding.

    We’re now less than a month away (EEEE) and I feel like she’s finally starting to get involved and excited (and she keeps calling to make sure her MOB dress will fit with our colors, which I could care less about!).

    • My mom was very involved in planning, but still managed to somehow de-emphasize it at the same time! She’s just not that into big parties and celebrations and so getting her to admit that this was a Big Deal was interesting.

      Meanwhile, my dad didn’t know anything about weddings, how much anything cost, and didn’t understand what the fuss was about. About a month or so before the wedding, he got really excited and started asking about dances and food and his tux. It’s like he didn’t have the mental energy to think about something that far away!

      • SarahMama Kate

        Oh hey, I knew it was a Big Deal, but it was YOUR Big Deal and you handled it so well I didn’t feel any need to be in control. One spread-sheet obsessive OCD control freak per wedding is enough. :-)

        • Kathryn

          You guys are adorable!

  • Marina

    Hurrah for Lisa’s guest posts!!! Always wise, always wonderful.

    I had some mamadrama along these lines–my mother is wonderful and supportive and altogether fantastic, but the last time I planned a party with her prior to my wedding, I was 15, and she ended up doing all the work. And I think we both regressed to that stage in our relationship, just a tiiiiiny bit, which was very surprising to me and I think probably to her too.

    There were a couple things that helped:
    1) Just understanding where she was coming from. Realizing that it wasn’t “my” wedding, that she had a stake in the game as well. That really helped me take that deep breath and that step back and not regress quiiiite as far as I would have otherwise. ;)
    2) Talking to my dad. Come to think of it, I did this when I was 15 as well. I’m really similar to my mom sometimes, and my dad is pretty experienced at understanding both of us. ;) He gave me some good perspective about what was going on with my mom, and occasionally ran a little interference for me.
    3) Letting go. My mom stressed about my wedding, and that is a fact. Eventually I had to let go of trying to get her to feel a certain way, and just accept that she was going to feel how she was going to feel. I wish the process had been easier on her, but that wasn’t something I had control over in the end.

    Fiorentina, the major thing I want to suggest is to make sure you have some non-wedding time with your mom. The wedding will bring up whatever it brings up, but don’t let that eclipse the rest of your relationship. Go out to lunch or shopping for jeans or to a movie or for a bicycle ride. Put a ban on talking about the wedding for 15 minutes of a phone conversation. Set aside some time to enjoy the adult relationship you have with your mom, because that’s what you’ll still have on the other side of the wedding. And hugs to both of you from a stranger on the internet. ;)

    • Fiorentina

      You know, I’ve been thinking about staging a Fiorentina + mom only get-away at some point this summer. Because I think it would be great to have some time together just the two of us, when we could just BE, you know? Most conversations we have lately contain at least one wedding-related point of business, and some thinly-veiled discomfort of hers that she is dancing around. It would be great to put that aside for a bit and get back to our-actually-pretty-great mom-daughter relationship. Thanks for the kick in the pants to make it happen.

      • LPC

        This is a great idea and I bet would go a long way towards assuaging any distress she’s trying to deal with.

  • ElfPuddle

    “Weddings form new baby families. No question. But they can also be, as so many of you here have pointed out, a time to revisit and rework the family of origin. The dance of family roles and authentic selves is long and intricate. No one leads; you all lead.”

    This is the most wonderful thing I’ve read in a long while. Thank you!

  • Pingback: LPC Is At A Practical Wedding Today, Giving Advice | Privilege()

  • This was beautiful. And I kind of want to go find my mom and hug her.

    And I almost started crying… because I AM a mom. And any time I’ve gotten snippy with my mom about wedding planning has suddenly thrown reversed roles in my head, with my daughter complaining and rolling her eyes.

    Children are surprisingly sobering. Thank you for this reminder. Moms are (amazing) people, too.

  • Jan

    It’s been very good for me to read not only Lisa’s article – which, as the mother of grown children, I couldn’t agree with more – but the comments by the young women who are struggling with their mother’s involvement in their weddings.

    My daughter is in the very early planning stages for her own wedding next spring. The only thing they’ve decided on is the date and I’ve already expressed my displeasure with the date and the reason for the date (it’s April 20th; Google it if you need to). I will, from this point out, keep my trap shut and smile a lot. Thank you.

    • Ris

      Haha that date took me a little bit to figure out. Gotcha.

      By the way, I don’t think the lesson you need to draw from this convo is “keep your trap shut.” I think a large part of this article was to help brides understand and empathize with their moms, and implied in that is that moms have legitimate needs in this process as well.

      And you’re an APW reader! You must be an awesome mom.

    • ElfPuddle

      Ditto with RIS’s comment, “I think a large part of this article was to help brides understand and empathize with their moms, and implied in that is that moms have legitimate needs in this process as well.”

      And if anyone has to Google the date, is it such a big deal?

      • Ris

        Maybe she’s upset because the date’s also the theme? You know, if instead of a cigar rolling station they’re rolling other things, or it informs the groom’s cake shape, or it’s what they’re using for favors? Or their first dance is to Burn One Down… sorry I just can’t stop myself.

        Disclaimer: this post is entirely in jest. Please no one get mad at me.

    • ellobie

      From the daughter of a typically overbearing, over-involved mother, I was absolutely devastated by my mom “shutting her trap” and being minimally involved in my wedding. I agree with RIS & Elfpuddle – dropping out is not the answer. Neither is criticizing every choice your daughter makes. Maybe there’s some happy medium you can find?

    • LPC

      I am sure your daughter wants to hear from you. You wouldn’t be Jan without some sass:). And this is a great community to educate women of our generation about this one.

  • Oh my. Wonderfully put, both of you.

    Just 12 hours ago I got into the first sort-of argument with my mother about who to invite. She was lamenting the fact that she wouldn’t be able to invite ALL of her friends and that even if she did, they probably wouldn’t come since it’s out of state. I was lamenting the fact that she was lamenting and that this was happening:

    “When kids get married, dust bunnies and wild calves may want their last say.”

    Because now I can see that’s totally what was happening, and will probably happen again. And guess what? Adult me doesn’t have to feel guilty and submit like child me did. And that’s the beauty of this “dance of family roles,” I think. Yes, these things will happen, but how wonderful when we have to wherewithal to realize, “Ohhh, yeahhh, I forgot I don’t have to revert to 12-year-old self, submit and then pout about it” And, “Oh, yeah, sometimes even the most rational person can be a little irrational. It’s forgivable and understandable.” (I certainly hope people forgive ME when I do this.)

    And then adult me can send an email the following morning after getting some advice from her (internet) friends.

  • I loved this. I have this kind of relationship with my mom in all things. I live abroad and have been away from home since university. My mum and I have a great relationship over the phone/skype. But in person we revert to when I was 18.
    This past weekend my mum came to London for my PhD graduation and stayed at our house. It was difficult for Hubby and I to continue our normal routine and life and still entertain Mum. This time around I am beginning to see my mum as an older woman and, as I haven’t been around for the past decade and a bit, it is a bit of a shock and seems to have come on all at once.
    I don’t know where I am going with this, but it helped to hear a mom’s perspective about adult children making a new life and family for themselves, weddings aside.

  • I love this. doesn’t apply to my experience with my own mom At All, but it’s so nice to hear from Lisa, since I would like to be a mom myself one day, and I can always use more positive role models in the whole setting-appropriate-boundaries department..

    And Alyssa, I don’t know if it’s the case for Fiorentina (beautiful name by the way!!), but you are SO RIGHT about being part of the problem. I get so frustrated when my mom or sisters (I’m the youngest of 3 girls) talk to me like I’m 12, but I catch myself all.the.time responding to them as if I were actually 12. So. Yeah.

  • Class of 1980

    “Mothering is a lot of work, much of which you will not even know she has done.”


    I do get sudden flashes of insight as an adult about things my mother and even my grandmother did on my behalf that I was hardly aware of at the time. Sometimes they have to do battles on our behalf and sometimes they keep secrets on our behalf until we are old enough to understand.

    • I get these, too – about both my parents – and I’m not even a parent myself yet. It’s crazy what getting older does to you sometimes.

    • Yes! I think this is one of the biggest things that complicates our relationship now. I can’t dismiss her as easily as I could when I was younger when she does something I don’t like, because now I realize how much she did and gave up for me.

  • Melissa

    “Which probably means that while she understands you are an adult, she always remembers she’s the mother”

    This echos something my mother just said to me “I know you are an adult and can handle this, but you’re still my daughter and I am still your mother”. This was said not in wedding planning context, but in the context of a difficult pregnancy with my first child. As much as there is nothing she can do to help me grow this tiny human, she wants to, and it kills her that she can’t. So while I want her to respect my “adultness” and capabilities as I prepare to mother my own daughter, I need to breathe and remember that as fiercely as I love this unborn one, my mother has years and years invested in her own baby and wow, how must that feel?

    It’s a difficult dance, hard on the toes sometimes, but so worth it when you get the steps right.

    Thank you for the wisdom presented here that reminds me to take a deep breath and remember that she doesn’t want to drive me nuts, she just wants to be there for me, as she always has been.

    • My mother reminds me often that while I am a grown up, I am still the child and she is still the mother. Which causes disagreements and misunderstandings quite a bit. She’s trying to help, teach, protect, and discipline even though she knows it’s not completely appropriate to still do so.

  • lolo7835

    I’ve been blessed with little mama drama (other than the first time we went dress shopping, but APW really helped with that), but my brother’s wedding has been filled with it. Partly because my Mom is having to let go of her baby, partly because my future sister in law is that bride you think you only hear about until she’s there in front of you. My brother has also been not helping by sending my parents a invoice for their share of the wedding. And no-I’m not kidding.

    The drama with all of it has actually brought my mother and I closer together. I grew up a loud mouth so my brother was always perceived as ‘the good one’. And the fact that she’s now finding out that her vision of what her relationship to both of us is not what she has in her head, she’s had to adjust and for the most part done pretty well.

  • LV Anna

    “There will come a day when your mother will walk into the kitchen, looking for her glasses, or the newspaper, and you will realize suddenly that she is frail. That she needs you.”

    This is so incredibly sobering when it happens – sweet and sad and expanding all at the same time. You know those moments when the world flips a switch and life is forever different, literally between one breath and the next? This was one of them for me.

    My mother died a month ago yesterday, coincidentally 2 months to the day before my wedding, and I feel like this post honors her. Thank you.

    • So, so sorry for your loss.

      • LV Anna

        Thank you.

        There is an old saying that man (or woman) plans, and G-d laughs. I would give a great deal to be my mother’s daughter again today.

        • Ris

          And… now I’m crying. Thanks for the reminder to be grateful and aware of what I do have now. Let’s all go hug our moms 1000 times.

          • LV Anna

            Hug yours twice for me, okay?

    • LPC

      I am so sorry you lost your mother.

    • I’m SO sorry for your loss. Hugging my mom AND my mother-in-law for you.

  • The one thing I have come to learn is that mother issues are complicated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is what it is. Sometimes rational thought and behavior take a back seat to emotion because our relationship with our mothers are complex.

    Someone mentioned above that their mother both wants to be involved and is disinterested at the same time. This is what’s going on for me. I think that rationally my mother wants to help because she loves me and wants the wedding day to be as good as it can be. But I think her disinterest stems from a fear of getting hurt — that I will make different choices than what she wants. So we do this complicated dance around wedding issues.

  • As I read Fiorentina’s letter, all I could think was that I could have written it myself. It’s so frustrating and confusing to suddenly come upon this weirdness in my relationship with my mother, when we have had a fairly adult relationship since I moved out of the house for college. And there are SO MANY ISSUES, all coming up at the same time – money, family, boundaries, expectations – right on top of this event that we are conditioned to believe should only be blissful and peaceful and joyous.

  • Fiorentina

    Thank you for the excellent post and advice!!

    Re: regression. Do we both do it? Oh, for sure. I try SOOOOO hard to be conscious of that possibility, and try soooooo hard to not regress myself. While it helps, if I’m honest, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. So yeah, some of it is me too.

    I’ve had some time to think about this since submitting my question and here’s what I think. Mom’s grieving a bit. It took me a while to see it, because HEY! I’M GETTING MARRIED!! THIS IS SO HAPPY! Grief didn’t really seem to fit in the picture.

    But. It does for my mom. I’ll always be her daughter, but she’s grieving the “loss” of her little girl. I have to say that this is a bit confusing to me since I’ve not been a little girl for quite some time now. She’s had a chance to come to terms with that and seems very proud of the fact that she’s raised a pretty awesome adult. Here’s the thing though: my mom (like a lot of people) espouses the idea that one is not a “true” adult until one hitches their star to another adult. Now, I don’t agree (single people can be grown-ups too), but for her, this is the last goodbye to her child. (Blub. This is kind of making me choke up to write it.)

    There’s also some other stuff. I’m an atheist; my mom is a person of faith. This is something that we have never really been able to talk about in a way that satisfies either one of us. She’s not of the ilk that worries that my soul is damned to hell for not believing – her faith isn’t about that. But, she finds great comfort in her faith, and she wants that comfort to be available to the people she loves too. While I have great respect for her faith and the comfort it provides her, and have said as much to her as well, it just………..doesn’t work for me. And I think she feels as if my choices regrading faith or lack thereof are some kind of judgment on HER choices.

    Ditto for kids. She and my dad did a great job raising me and my sibs. It was a tremendously fulfilling thing for her. She wants the same fulfillment for me. Trouble is, I don’t want kids. I do tremendously fulfilling other things with my life. The choice not to have kids is not about her choice to have children and it is certainly no judgment on that – I’m sure glad she did and I say so regularly. But whenever we (try to) talk about these things, it all falls apart. I am gentle and kind but firm in my choices, and at the same time affirming of hers. But we can’t seem to have a conversation around these things that don’t end in her feeling defensive.

    And it’s all tangled up in the wedding. There is certainly an expectation that we will “start a family” at some point after the wedding. As far as I’m concerned, the wedding is us starting a family, and there is a good chance we won’t be adding any more human members to it after that. I’ve just stopped talking about this and my mom has stopped bringing it up. I wish we could.

    We’re having a secular wedding, officiated by a tremendously warm and kind Humanist celebrant – his words: “a-religious, not anti-religious”. We’re including in the ceremony an opportunity for anyone and everyone to silently add their prayers, blessings, good thoughts, whathaveyou out of respect for the beliefs of all our guests. I haven’t talked to mom about this because discussions about faith always seem to end up with her feeling hurt about my choices because they are different from hers. I think she will be pleasantly surprised by this aspect of the ceremony, but I wish I could tell her about it now. I just don’t want to go down that road (again). I really really want to have an open, honest, non-defensive conversation about this, because I think that if we did, and I could explain to her my beliefs – apart from her beliefs – she would finally understand, and feel comforted.

    Gah. Mom – I love you. I don’t want you to feel grief over any of this. You’re an awesome lady. You’ve raised me, and I’m also an awesome lady, and I thank you so much for that. But we can be awesome ladies in different ways and that’s part of what makes us such awesome ladies.

    And lastly, thanks to Alyssa, Lisa, and everyone who’s commented – you are also awesome ladies. Thanks for the reminder that like my younger acts of independence (mom definitely did *not* keep her mouth shut about piercings and tattoos) we got through them and we will get through this too. Also, I just wanted to say that the bit about the eminently suitable microbiologist cracked me up – that’s who I ended up with – HA!

    • “And I think she feels as if my choices regrading faith or lack thereof are some kind of judgment on HER choices.”

      this is one of the things that drove me *crazy* about my mom when i was younger (and, honestly, one of the only things – my mom is awesome and we’ve never had any real mamadrama anytime): that *i* shouldn’t do things because it would reflect badly on *her.* which, you know, is totally valid because – especially as a kid – your behavior is largely seen as your parents doing (fair or no).

      one of the shorthands she has constructed to keep such things from becoming *issues* without totally dismissing them either is the “mother license” – as in:

      “i can’t let you do that; i’ll lose my mother license!” or, more commonly, now, and usually following a comment that leans toward treating me like a 12-year-old:
      “well, i have to say that or i lose my mother license.”

      it’s wonderful – hilarious and honest and true; a good disarming combo.

      • Vmed

        I really like this.

      • Fiorentina

        Ha! Mother license!

        My dad does something similar: “I have to embarrass my kids. It’s in my job description. Says so right on line 234b of the DAD contract.”

        • K


      • Fiorentina

        Also, I just wanted to say that these are some wise words on how parents are often (rightly) concerned with how a child’s choices reflect on the parents. That is usually a pretty valid concern.

        I guess I was talking about something related, but different. I get the impression that my mom feels that *my* choices, being different from *her* choices, are not so much making her look bad. Rather, that *my* choice to do something different indicates that I think *her* choice was WRONG. Which is not at all the case.

        *My* choices are the right choices for me, and if she made the same choices and applied them to her life, they might be the wrong choices for *her*. Similarly, if I applied some of her choices (which were definitely the right choices for her life) to my life, they would be wrong for me.

        I feel like it’s a pretty simple idea, but there is so much emotional investment in each of our respective choices that it’s hard not to feel hurt or confused when we have this conversation. Maybe particularly for a mom who sometimes sees her child as an extension of sorts of her own life, choices, values.

        Relationships are hard.

    • LPC

      I hope you have a wonderful wedding. And I must have received the microbiologist vibe through the internets:).

      • Fiorentina

        Thank you so much. And thanks again for an eloquently-written mother’s insight. The part about mothers only letting their children know them *in part* was not something I had considered before. But I think you are right. Good mothers know the importance of setting clear boundaries, and my mom is a good mother. She does that. It had not occurred to me before how many of her own feelings she might have swallowed over the years (and how much she might still be doing that) in order to make that work.

  • I appreciate this post so much! Couldn’t agree more with what you say, and am so grateful for a mother who understands, too.

  • ellobie

    I was all ready to start my book on my own mamadrama and how it relates and how it’s different. Then I got to LV Anna’s comment and I remembered that at the end of the day, regardless of how disappointed I was with my mom’s lack of involvement or how flustered and angry I was that she backed out of most of the commitments she made early on….. at least she was physically there when the day rolled around and I’m thankful for that.

    Also, “We’ve both worked really hard on making me a grown-up.” I love this.

  • Amanda

    My Mom was amazing through the planning process (which undoubtedly contributed to me enjoying the planning SO MUCH), and seriously deserves the Mom-of-a-lifetime award. BUT — I didn’t even think to ask her what she might want from our wedding. I feel so selfish right now. I guess I just thought that she would mention it if something particular was important. And I hope she did, although I really don’t recall her having a single request. This might be hard to reconcile with myself.

    • TNM

      “My Mom was amazing through the planning process (which undoubtedly contributed to me enjoying the planning SO MUCH), and seriously deserves the Mom-of-a-lifetime award.”

      But this is a super-sweet sentiment…. If you need some guilt-alleviation (not that I think that is necessary!), I think you could just repeat this part to her : )

  • ErinB

    I read this post this morning and I was all “I love my mom!” Thennnn I talked to her on the phone about wedding related logistics and we inevitably got into the tug of war that is the wedding planning (as in, she already bought centerpiece items even though I hadn’t said anything about what I wanted, at all…. and I wasn’t fond of her idea, mostly bc I felt it was imposed upon me. Control issues. Whatever). So, there we were, disagreeing. again. From 3,000 miles away.

    Then after our conversation, I realized something new: The Wedding is something VERY different to my momma than it is to me, largely because she’s not getting married that day. My ability to focus on the “getting married and celebrating with loved ones” part keeps me sane. She doesn’t have that emotional connection, so she gets more wrapped up in “stuff” than I do. Realizing that made me thankful… for my Mom’s willingness to help out and for the fact that I inherited my mom’s usually uncanny ability to put things in perspective. So then I was proud of my Mom being awesome and I stopped caring about the damn centerpieces.

    ANYWAY, thank you for this post.

  • Lisa, usually when I read things people have written about parenting, it scares the crap out of me and makes me want to swear off having babies, ever. Your words (especially this bit: Good mothers, in my opinion, know how to establish boundaries between themselves and their children) made me excited at the prospect of maybe-someday-perhaps having kids. So thank you for that.

    • LPC

      I am often surprised by how many women of your age don’t want children. I wonder what we have all told you:). That said, of course no one should feel they have to have kids.

      • Haha, no worries. Most of the time it’s things other women my age tell me that make me wary of parenthood. ;)

        • Danielle

          Yes; for example, the no sleep thing, no time for yourself, etc, etc…

      • Eh, for me, it wasn’t anything anyone told me. I just don’t feel a biological tick for babies. I’m fiercely protective of and loyal to my friends and loved ones, and I dote on my animals, so I think people are surprised when I say that. But, I just … don’t. I can’t explain why.

  • z

    My mom was just awful. The whole drama centered around the man she had an affair with– she wanted him to sit up front in the parents row, ugh, even though my dad hates him! Letting him be there at all was all the compromise I was willing to make.

    I found it very difficult to be sympathetic to her feelings, and ended up just cutting her out of most of the planning because her emotional anxiety made her impossible to work with. So the wedding was a million times more difficult than it should have been, because not only did she create a ton of drama, she was completely unhelpful with getting the work done, forgetting stuff and mixing things up and generally being a huge flake. So we did most of the planning without her, just giving her a few key things like flowers. And then she felt excluded, boo hoo. But I couldn’t figure out what else to do, because I just didn’t find it appropriate or acceptable to give this guy any role whatsoever in the wedding, and every conversation turned into a huge fight about that. And she was handling things so poorly, adding extra vendors and not respecting the budget and trying to make it a bigger wedding than I ever would have wanted. I was pretty surprised by that because she’s normally a very competent person and I thought she would understand that I didn’t want a big wedding. It was just too stressful to include her in most of the planning. I had to prioritize my time and energy and it was just tough luck for her, I guess.

    I had hoped she would pull it together to help me through what was an incredibly stressful period in my life, but she didn’t, and it’s really disappointing. I’m hoping that having a kid won’t be Version 2.0. I know she was having a really hard time too, but is it really such a big surprise that having an affair would stir up a lot of drama and make family life difficult? My sympathy for this kind of problem is pretty limited.

    And to avoid drawing attention to my parents’ divorce, we decided not to involve our parents in the ceremony at all, which was really disappointing for my in-laws because they have a great marriage. Infidelity sucks, y’all!

  • april

    Awesome post even though it made me feel very sad as my mom had zero involvement with my wedding plans and didn’t attend me and my husband’s wedding at all. And I know this is crazy but honest to goodness, I *wish*she’s been around to argue with about tulle vs. no tulle or whatever else. Because then she’d have at least been a part of it, even if it drove me nuts.

  • Holy smoke Lisa I love how you write.

  • I was running behind on Friday morning and I had plans Friday night, so I didn’t have a chance to comment before I left for work, but I had been planning my comment in my head all day (well, OK, not ALL day, but you get what I mean!). So, I’m writing first then reading comments after. (And, can I just say, WTF, Team Practical? Only 74 comments on this lovely post? That’s all? WTF, are you all on Spring Break? Oh, wait … you might be … Carry on!)

    First, I want to say, bravo to Alyssa, for great advice (as usual), and to Lisa, as based on conversations that I’ve had with my mother, that sounds pretty spot on. However, I wanted to add something to the mix: your mother always thinks you’re 12 years old. Even when you’re an adult. Even when she’s proud of you. If you’re doing something different from the way she thinks you should, she reverts to you being 12 and telling you “no.” And, of course, this is ridiculous, right? Because we’re adults? But think about it – this happens with more than just weddings, but with weddings it’s just magnified.

    My husband likes to say, “Your Mom still wants you to be 12 years old. But a 12-year-old that can drink blueberry ale with her.” ‘Tis true – and I don’t like blueberry ale. But she does, and I know she really wants me to like it, too.

    And sometimes it is not just “no.” I work in Human Resources for a government entity. My mother also works for a government entity (first at the local level, then, more recently, at the state level). As you can tell from the news, it’s sort of open season on government workers, and we feel a little bit like we’re walking on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Anyway, so she hasn’t been in her new job that long, and I’ve been in the “system” for almost 5 years (also not terribly long, but being in HR and knowing the laws and rules and the comings and goings, I know how things “run”), and I’m GOOD at my job. This is something she’s proud of, and brags to people about.

    She’s proud of me, that is, until I give her advice about things. She talks over me and insists that I don’t really know what I’m talking about (she doesn’t say that, but you all know what I mean, right?), and then a week or so later she calls me up and says, “X happened, I can’t believe it!” To which I usually respond, “I can, Mom, I told you a week ago X was going to happen.” Finally, one day, I said to her, “Mom, when are you going to start listening to me about this stuff? I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been doing this for a while and I’m good at my job.”

    But, she’s the mom. And you’re the daughter (or son). And SHE’S the authority. Any upset of this balance throws her off. It’s not because she doesn’t love you, or she isn’t proud of your accomplishments. So, I go back to Alyssa’s advice. A calm and rational response to her “You just can’t do that because I said so!” is the best way to handle it. It’s not going to turn things around right away, but it will get the conversation started.

  • Vmed

    My parents came to visit me these last few days, since I just defended my master’s thesis. My mom and I haven’t talked beyond 5 minute phone calls for 4 months (I also sent a few long detailed emails but she usually doesn’t respond. Why? “I thought I would stress you out”-mom).

    And as we were catching up, I mentioned that I quit drinking coffee the week before my defense (couldn’t stomach the stuff with the nerves). This has been kind of an issue for us the last few years- my unapologetic addiction to caffeine, her regret for introducing me to coffee at a young age, her concern for my bone density (enacted by preventing me from getting coffee on mornings I visited them), my grumpiness with her meddling in my diet/autonomy.

    So I said it matter of factly, (I stopped drinking coffee) and she got all excited and said over and over that she was so glad I’d made that decision.

    And kept bringing it up.

    It started to sound kiiind of like a told-you-so. And I was ready to drop the subject.

    So I said, “ok, I’m really glad you’re happy, but-” and instead of saying ‘could you quit rubbing it in my face that you got your way’ I paused. I thought about her intent. And shook my head, and sighed, and smiled, and said, “I’m just happy you’re happy.”

  • Leigh Ann

    While I put the whole “This is MY wedding and I’ma do what a want” attitude out of my head right away, because we both want to include and respect our families and their roles in our relationship, I have not asked my mother specifically about something that might make her happy on our wedding day. And I owe it to her. Wonderful advice.

  • Kara

    I realize this was posted a while back, but I wanted to thank you for it anyhow! And I apologize ahead of time, as this is going to be a little long… and thank you to anyone who even bothers to read it! I am incredibly close with my mom, but I’ve felt an extreme level of pressure when it comes to her opinions about the ceremony (and the far-stretching symbolism she seems to find in every detail). Quick synopsis: I am the youngest of three siblings and the only girl. My dad passed away when I was three, and my mom remarried a couple years later. She and my step-dad divorced 17 years later, and while they have maintained a caring relationship, she still holds some serious animosity toward him. I also gained a lovely step-sister through the union.

    I asked my step-dad to walk me down the aisle early on in the planning process, as we are very close and I thought this was a sweet gesture in light of my parents divorce; Queue mommy tantrum #1.. my step-dad is not able to contribute to the wedding financially (finances having been a serious point of contention in my parents’ marriage), and my mom has been incredibly generous in her contribution. I feel pressure surrounding that fact alone, but it normally comes down to: Why should your step-dad get the best of the best in this experience while he’s not even your REAL father and he’s not footing any portion of the bill (like I AM)? Zinger..

    Also, my fiance has selected his three brothers and sister to be his grooms people, while I selected three of my best girlfriends and my step-sister (which has slowly turned into this commentary from my mom, “oh that’s so nice that your fiance is including his family in the ceremony. Just don’t give all the important roles to your step-family and ignore the rest of us.”) Ugh, who is this woman and what has she done with my lovely mom?? I have set her straight many times already, and she apologizes accordingly, however this back-and-forth of apologizing after stinging comments is not working for me.

    In light of all this… I thought I had devised the perfect plan that would make everyone fit perfectly: I would have my step-dad walk my step-sister down, one of my brothers walk my mom down, and my eldest brother walk me down the aisle. How sweet, right? And I figured mom would love this idea, but I wanted to run it by my step-dad first, as I’d obviously asked him already to walk me down. He tends to be the more chilled out of the two, so I figured he’d be very “roll with the punches” about it. Now as I sit here with puffy eyes the morning after an evening of crying in response to his hurt and wounded reaction, I feel utterly lost.

    I am so in awe of those brides who walk to the beat of their own drum and proclaim, “This is how I want to do it, and that’s that.” My own character flaw surrounds the fact that my happiness is so wrapped up in the happiness of those around me, that I have no idea what the hell I want half the time. And an adverse reaction to anything makes me rethink things entirely! I want everyone to feel important and loved, because that’s exactly what they are to me. But I’d like to feel a little less “dragged through the mud” during the process. Thanks for the outlet, APW :)