Ask Team Practical: I Screwed Up

And now my mom is devastated

Ask Team Practical: How do I involve my mom in the wedding planning? | A Practical Wedding

Q: I love your site, and since getting engaged six weeks ago, have voraciously read it all. But now I’m in need of some more specific advicenamely what to do when you’ve tragically screwed up. I forgot to ask my mom to go wedding dress shopping with me. And I went with a few girlfriends and on a whim, purchased the second dress I tried on. I brought it home and stuck it in my closet and forgot about it. And then mentioned it in passing to my mother this weekend and she was DEVASTATED. How can I have possibly made such a terrible faux pas? I am not sure. In hindsight it seems really, really obvious. But my mom is not really a girly girl. Neither am I. We aren’t super close. We live three hundred miles apart. Since getting engaged she has never once mentioned to me she wanted to go shopping; she hasn’t really asked about or given any input on anything wedding-related. I mistakenlyvery, very mistakenlytook this for a lack of interest. In reality, I realize I should have asked, and that it was up to me to include her. I screwed up big time. But now she’s so, so upset I don’t know how to make it better! Any ideas for making it up to her or including her when she’s far away would be much appreciated. I feel so terrible. I love my mom very much, I’m her only daughter, and I just completely forgot the central truth about weddings—it’s not just about you, but your loved ones too.


A: Dear Jeni,

Maybe it helps to know we all screw up like this at some point. All of us. Just flat out don’t think it through, exclude and hurt somebody, screw up. And the fact that we all do should maybe help us to be more compassionate when otherscough, maybe our momsscrew up, too.

The first thing you need to do, of course (if you haven’t already) is apologize. Not for buying a dress, but just for being a bit thoughtless, not coming to her first, and mistakenly excluding her. Explain some of what you told me up thereyou didn’t realize it was something she wanted to do, and emphasize to her that if you knew, you would’ve definitely made sure she was there.

Then, you do what you can to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Ask her where else she wants to be involved. You said that so far, she hasn’t been very vocal about your wedding planning. You know how we brides sometimes overcompensate in an effort to avoid being a demanding, bitchy bride like all of those cultural stereotypes? Moms too have their own socially constructed tropes they’re trying to avoid. It’s incredibly likely that she has a lot of opinions, wants to be involved in so much of the planning, but is afraid of being “that mother of the bride”the pesky, annoying one who shoves her little nose where it isn’t wanted. Let her know what you just saidthat you don’t want wedding planning to be about just you, and you’d really like her to be involved.

Then, maybe consider a second dress-shopping trip. This possibly isn’t realistic, depending on the sort of dress you bought, how much you spent, how much you love it. But, bring that dress three hundred miles to your mom’s (or invite her out to your place) and try it on. Then involve her in deciding if you really do love this dress, making a stop at another shop or two to try on a few others. You mentioned the dress was bought on a whim and it was only the second one you saw, and trust me, I’m not in the business of asking people to second-guess their decisions. But even if you love the dress and want to keep it, a little extra dress shopping never hurt anyone, right?

If a second shopping trip isn’t in the cards, have her help you pick out the other wedding outfit bits. Will you need a jacket or a shawl? Have you gotten your shoes? Will there be a veil? The dress isn’t the only fancy thing to wear, and while picking out the other pieces won’t replace that dress-buying experience your mom has built up in her head, it might help her to feel included.

Team Practical, have you screwed up and mistakenly excluded someone in your wedding planning? How did you make it up to them?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Sharon Gorbacz

    I heard from my Matron of Honor that my mom expected to be much more involved in the wedding stuff, and here I thought I was being a super awesome daughter by NOT imposing on her. You read APW, Ma? ;)

  • Jess

    My mother and my MOH don’t get along and they both wanted to be involved in every detail. While my MOH doesn’t care if my mother is involved, my mother wanted everything to be just her and I – and we have extremly different tastes. To solve for that, I just did everything myself with my FH. That way no one is mad that the other person was around AND I got the things I knew my FH and I would like. Everyone wins!

  • Mariah

    I definitely support the idea of finding other mother/daughter wedding planning opportunities. I bought my dress by myself, online, but planned a weekend for my mom and I together in our hometown to do other things (just the two of us). We brunched, went to see a show, got a massage, got pedicures, and went wedding shoe shopping. All she really wanted was some time together, doing something special (and maybe a bit ritualistic) as we prepared for a new chapter in our relationship. And honestly, I wanted that too :) It was awesome.

  • Annie

    I think including people in the way they want to be included is one of the hardest wedding things to manage, especially now that many people getting married have been out of their parents’ house for years. A lot of my wedding planning experience happened with my husband, and I think my mom felt a little left out. I didn’t mean to not CC her on emails about plates or not bring her to every conversation with the florist, but I wanted the day to be more about my husband and me, not my mom and me, so in my mind it made more sense to keep him more in the loop about stuff. Everything worked out well and she loved our wedding, but I think she imagined herself taking on a more active role. Looking back, asking how she wanted to be included at the beginning would have been helpful.

    • Sharon Gorbacz

      I think that’s the same thing that happened with my mom. I have been living with my fiance for 5 years, so it didn’t occur to me that I should ask anyone but him.

  • KC

    I didn’t have a “script” when I got married, but I’m not positive my mom did either (since her wedding experience was somewhat atypical).

    I think it would have been (or, for those whose wedding is in the future, would be!) ideal to sit down and ask what sorts of things are expectations or what sorts of things would the other person like to be involved with… but it also doesn’t necessarily Destroy Everything Forever if something goes awry. It will probably be okay. Figure out other ways to get together, other special experiences to share. :-)

    One note is that the choosing-a-dress Event may be something that a mother’s friends may ask about; if you can provide a connected-to-the-wedding experience that is unusual that she can talk about *instead* (such as sewing a veil together or choosing family photos together for a particular centerpiece or something like that), this can potentially be face-saving for her? If she would like that, anyway.

    • Anon

      I think for us, choosing a veil is going to replace the traditional dress experience. I’m planning to wear my dress when I try them on, so I think it will have a similar feel.

    • rys

      A wise friend of mine tells everyone she knows who gets engaged to sit down with everyone important (often the couple and all the parents, but whomever the key figures are who will care) and talk about priorities. She suggests each “unit” (couple, parents, etc) bring the top 3 things that matter to them to the discussion. These could be tangible or intangible — where to put money or ceremony vibe or food choices/restrictions or officiant, etc. This way, people can hash out expectations and priorities and give/take responsibility. One person really cares about invites and no one else does: it’s theirs. There’s a debate over dressy casual v. fancy, or religious v. secular ceremonies: talk it out and figure out why people care about certain things and what can be done to make it happen or explain clearly why it won’t. It’s not a fail-safe and it doesn’t fix family fault-lines, but it helps everyone know what the key arenas are. It also limits things — mom and dad, you get three things, not 12, not 100, not infinite…

  • kyley

    I think this sounds like a really honest, reasonable mistake, and not anything horrendous or terrible. Dress shopping wasn’t a big deal to you, so you didn’t make it a big deal with your mom. She failed to communicate (in part because she was working with certain WIC assumptions) that it was a big deal to her. Good thing this happened early, because now you can lay some ground work with your mom: If it’s important, you want to honor that! But you won’t know what is/isn’t important unless she speaks up. And you weren’t leaving your mom out of some huge and important life moment because you just didn’t see it that way–so her anxieties about being “left out” are her own. You can work to make her feel better, but you don’t need to apologize for being selfish or for not thinking of her; that’s not what’s going on here.


    I found when wedding planning, that everyone has lots of assumptions, and you don't always know what assumption will arise. You might be surprised by what you care about, and you will also be surprised about what other people care about. Just be gentle with yourself and kind to others, and it will all balance out.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      “I found when wedding planning, that everyone has lots of assumptions,
      and you don’t always know what assumption will arise. You might be
      surprised by what you care about, and you will also be surprised about
      what other people care about.” THIS

      If I had to do it over again, I would have had a more detailed conversation with both sets of parents about expectations and “visions.” We could have avoided some, but not all, hurt feelings and headaches by saying – “You have ideas about the flowers? OK, when are you available to go with us to the florist?”

      Some things the parents just wouldn’t have realized they wanted until the last minute, though. For example, I don’t think it occurred to my in-laws that our wedding in a church wouldn’t have kippos until the rehearsal.

    • Violet

      Agreed! When I was planning my original wedding (which never happened, but anyways), my partner and I had decided to get married in the city where we lived at the time – where we had met and fallen in love, where all our friends and many family members were, etc. Little did I know that it’s traditional to get married in the bride’s hometown…? A few days later, my mom called me in hysterics, wanting to know what I was mad at her about. She was so upset, and I was SO CONFUSED, having never heard of this tradition before. And even more so, since, like the letter writer, my mom had never expressed much interest in the planning process.

      I honestly don’t think it’s possible to get married without offending someone in some way. It is an institution fraught with expectations and assumptions. And I don’t think the letter writer needs to feel like she caused a terrible problem. She apologized for the hurt feelings she accidentally caused, and wants to make it up to her mother in a way that’s helpful and feasible. At a certain point, it’s up to the mom to understand that her daughter meant no offense, and cut her some slack.

      • Kate

        I had a similar experience. My husband and I decided to get married in the area where he was living, where we were going to be be living after we got married, and at the church he was already attending that I would also be attending. It helped that most of our friends were in the area.

        My mom was really surprised because apparently there is a tradition for a bride to get married in her hometown (which I’d never heard of before). She basically said that she and my dad would only pay for my wedding if we had it in my hometown, because she didn’t want their friends / our extended family to have to travel (which is kind of ridiculous, as it was only a 2 1/2 hour drive, and totally doable as a day trip, and these were people who could easily afford one night at a hotel if they preferred to spend the night). I told her, as nicely as I could, that we were having it where we already planned. We paid for it ourselves.

        Hidden assumptions are hard.

  • anon

    Not to take away from the letter, but does anyone have advice on how to handle this when it’s future in-laws? I feel so much more comfortable including my family in on my wedding plans, but I have a hard time calling up my future mother in law or my future sister in law. Even though I know they have expressed interest, I can’t shake the feeling of “if they were REALLY interested, they would call me.” But then I know that they’re probably thinking, “we don’t want to intrude.” And when I’ve asked them in the past how they would like to be included, they give the “however you’d like!” response which makes me feel a little damned if I do, damned if I don’t – if I ask them to do things, maybe it’s too much but if I don’t ask for anything, I’m not including them. It makes me anxious and it’s probably the one thing in wedding planning that gets me down (right now/so far). It doesn’t help that they are all very long-distance and my family is in the same town. My fiance keeps them updated on his calls with them, but he’s not great at bridging us together (never has been, never will be), so I have to figure out how to do it on my own.

    • Asking is never too much. They are grownups–they know how to say no.

      Instead of asking how they’d like to be included, you might try changing the question a little. Something like, “Which would be more fun for you, A or B?” might get you a better answer.

    • I’d recommend second appointments. For example, the first time I looked at wedding dresses it was just my mom and me (and it was great, spur of the moment). I found one I was pretty set on and planned to return a few months later and then invited my MIL and SIL along with my own sister/MOH. It was a great way to include them without putting them before my own needs. I invited my MIL to go to the florist with my mom and I, but she declined. The important thing is to follow her lead – seems like she’s pretty great and wants to be included without being over-bearing.

      Because we did major long-distance planning there wasn’t too much involvement/input, but I was just sure to tell his sister whenever we made big decisions or accomplished big goals (like finishing the invites).

      • anon

        They are all definitely wonderful, but they tend to be a little distant…which would be more surmountable, except that I also tend to be a little distant. My fiance and I have had long talks about how we’re all wolf pack types of people, but it’s going to take time for us to all be one wolf pack. Right now, it’s more like a wolf pack venn diagram that my fiance is the overlapping center of and I’m just now starting to edge my way into as well. So even though we all care about each other (really, truly, a lot), the move towards each other as no-holds-barred family has been slow. I’m just scared of screwing up any progress by either being too demanding or too distant (more likely with my track record) during the whole wedding planning process.

      • Lindsay Rae

        Yes! I read your comment and had a total mental moment where I thought I may have written it… because I did the exact same thing. I wanted to pick out my dress with my mom. Once I did, I invited my MIL for an “accessories appointment” where I tried on the dress and picked a veil and belt to match. I think she was very happy to be invited. I also invited her to the florist with me and mom, and she politely declined, saying “thanks, but some things are just for you and mom.” That made me very happy for her to acknowledge.

        • Awesome! I was a little worried about taking lots of people to my dress appt (my sister, my aunt, my mom, and my grandma were also there). The only person who asked me to try on anything I didn’t like was my grandma! Bless her heart :-) It was actually a well cut dress and the fit was awesome on me, but it was covered in beading and fake flowers from top to bottom – so not me!

    • Lindsay Rae

      I went to sign the contract with the venue with my future MIL & FIL (also important to note that they are generously paying for the venue – the rest might not be appropriate if they weren’t). FH and I had already picked the venue and secured the date on our own, but the contract hadn’t been officially signed. It was nice to go with just the two of them and me (FH didn’t even come) and they actually told me they were grateful I asked them to go and that we had time alone because they didn’t want to be “meddling in-laws” but still wanted to be involved. It’s a totally valid feeling for them and they just didn’t want to overstep boundaries. Maybe you can invite yours to a specific event? MIL to a fitting, or both to the tasting? There are so many fun things to do and, for me at least, it has helped by inviting them to certain things by saying “I’m going bridesmaid dress shopping on Saturday at noon, would you like to come?”

      I just re-read your comment and realized they are out of town. So maybe you can email or send pictures? Or save something (like a cake tasting?) for a weekend where they might be in town.

    • Anya

      What worked for us (my MIL REALLY wanted to plan the whole thing, but that wasn’t happening) was to give them certain tasks. We are on the other coasts from both of our families, so we tried to figure out what they could help while being remote.

      As the in-laws were paying for rehearsal dinner, I would call to ask about it. My husband and I wanted an Ethiopian casual dinner in our backyard (which we did), but I’d call and ask: “Hey, we are thinking of getting these tables? What do you think? Do you have inputs on plates? We are making homemade ice cream for dessert: which flavors would you prefer? What about decorations and drinks?” We had so many conversations (some that I would rather not remember) but in the end, they felt like they could take ownership of this.

      See if you can figure something like that out? It does add more work to you, but it makes them happy.

    • Liz

      You asked them, so you’re hereby absolved of any guilt if they’re not involved in precisely how they’d like to be.

      I found asking advice made long-distance helpers feel involved. “Looking at these shoes- what do you guys think?!”

    • Lawyerette510

      Also, in addition to Marina’s suggestion, what about just telling them what you just said here? that you want to include them, but without them saying what they want to be/ value being included in, then you feel stuck and as a result are worried about them being left out. Then, if they still say “whatever you want” you can answer with “I want you tell me what is meaningful to you to be included in.” And then if they still just say whatever, then ask if you need/ want to ask them for something and leave them out if you don’t need/ want them involved, as you gave them the chance to participate and you were clear and candid about trying to open the communication.

    • Gen

      This thread has inspired me to reach out to my fiance’s little sister. She’s still in college (and single), but has a Pinterest board called “Someday…” with very traditional big puffy dresses and formal hotel receptions. So, not my style. She clearly wants to be involved, but she lives far away, and her expectations are frustrating when we have spoken (“He CAN’T see you in the dress before the wedding! The wedding shows I watch say that’s a big no no!”). But she’s very sweet, and so sad that she’s missing out, so I’m going to email her now and see what we can do. APW for the win, again.

      • new grad

        This is a GOOD IDEA. Your FSIL was me a few short years ago. I had a rather traditional view of what weddings were and what they meant and how you did it correctly. In the process of discussing our wedding budget and actual wedding, I realized that some of these things actually aren’t very important to me (though I’m sure there will be some compromises). My overall wedding is more like a buffet than a prix-fixe, where you only get the fruit tart with your meal if you care to have one.

        However, I was a bridesmaid for a cousin back in my wedding-obsession super-traditional heyday, and it meant a LOT to me to be involved with her as much as I could. It means even more to me now that she considered my feelings and she wanted to let me share my joy with her.

        I love your attitude on this because it assumes the best in someone, which I think is key to keeping frustrations and emotions as in check as possible. My changing perspectives throughout my life have made me a far more empathetic person for sure…

  • Sarah

    Flashback to when I went dress shopping for prom with my best friend, her mother, and my father (who knows zip about dresses, but my mom wasn’t available that day). She was so heartbroken and sad and bummed! (And she would have told me not to buy a dress that required a strapless bra…)

    Chicks make mistakes. Apologize, get her opinion on lots of other stuff (the dress itself, accessories, etc). And apologize.

    And remember — it never hurts to spontaneously tell your mom how awesome and amazing she is, and how much you appreciate her. Do that periodically leading up to your wedding, and I bet she’ll feel a lot better.

  • Rose

    Wait, what? I don’t think she screwed up at all. I had no idea there was a rule that you’re expected to ask your mom to go dress-shoping with you. From the letter, it sounds like OP’s mom expected her to read her mind (since she didn’t say anything about the wedding or express interest in dress-shopping). Yes, they both should communicate better, but I don’t think OP should blame herself at all for this situation.

    • DITTO to this!! My mom acted totally uninterested in my wedding too and never mentioned anything planning wise to me. I went with my bridesmaids and told her after the fact.

    • Katherine

      Yes, yes, yes. It’s reasonable to feel bad for accidentally hurting your mom’s feelings, and it’s appropriate to apologize and try to be more inclusive in the future. But I don’t think that the writer did anything wrong by going dress shopping without her mom.

    • Meg Keene

      Just a general hint (I’ve been at this rodeo a long time), pending personal issues with your mom, which is a different thing: ASK YOUR MOM TO GO WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING WITH YOU. Even if you don’t care. Even if you think she doesn’t care. Just, save some heartache and do it. It’s so traditional, that for so many mothers it’s an unspoken super important thing that they might not even think to mention. So seriously, ask. If they don’t care, then hurrah.

      • Kate

        I think this is a good general rule. I didn’t follow it myself, because I made my dress. I took my mom fabric shopping, though (and made the dress almost entirely at her house on her sewing machine). She was still disappointed. She really wanted to go dress shopping (she watches a lot of Say Yes to the Dress, and I think she wanted me to have that Moment, but bridal stores stress me out so much on a normal day that there was no way I was going to go shopping for a wedding dress on top of all the other stress, and I already knew the dress I wanted to sew).

      • Rose

        Sure, no harm in asking. But there should be no obligation to (especially if, like OP’s mom, she lives 300 miles away). What bothered me about this particular Q&A is that OP was really beating herself up for not doing the “right” thing, and the answer reinforced that (“We all screw up like this at some point”). Plus the wedding industry already puts a lot of pressure on women to do things the “right” way. I think we should all cut this poor lady some slack.

        • Meg Keene

          I think that, all assumptions aside, it’s really fair to feel badly about hurting your mom’s feelings, and to try to figure out a way to make that up to her. I think we all DO screw up at some point during wedding planning and hurt someone’s feelings, and it’s really fair to say that unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings is screwing up, and you should try to make it up to them.

          Interestingly, the specific reason we ran this question is because we *constantly* get this question in reverse, “My mom hurt my feelings a lot.” And, collectively, both the editors and the readers in general, don’t tend to think the right answer is, “Oh well, your mom is let off the hook because there is not right thing.” Instead, we really hope the mother in question will realize she screwed up, apologize, and try to make it up to the (usually) daughter in question. We ran this question because we felt like it gives you (us, everyone) more empathy to see it in reverse.

          So while this is HARDLY the end of the world, I don’t think the answer is not to just let the person who hurt the other person’s feelings off the hook. You can cut yourself or your mother or whoever slack, while still trying to mend hurt feelings and at the very least apologize. And I’d go so far as to say that I think it’s really important. Just because the wedding industry has too many/ weird/ not ok standards for women, doesn’t mean that we don’t have a responsibility to try to fix things when we hurt someone, even unintentionally.

          • Lisa

            I’m going to agree. This isn’t about the WIC, it’s about the mom. But she will be OK, because all she really wants is to share with you. A veil or a bouquet is as good as a dress.

          • Meg Keene

            Well, if Lisa, the actual mom of an actual marriageable aged daughter has spoken, I’m done here. She’s the one who knows for sure.

        • Liz

          Of course not an obligation! But when we’re talking about these traditional roles, we’re not talking about “the right way” or even “mind reading.” Sure, you don’t have to take your mom dress shopping (maybe you’re not even wearing a dress?), and you don’t have to have your dad walk you down the aisle, do those parent dances, etc etc etc. BUT, it’s likely that the loved ones in your life have expectations based on those traditions.

          So, sure! Eschew those traditions left and right and all day long. But, the best way to avoid disappointment (at least some of it) would involve somehow communicating that to folks so they know what’s up (before they find out, “OH, you bought it without me?!”).

          Regardless, that’s not the situation at hand! This girl just didn’t think to include her mom and in retrospect, says she should’ve thought of it. In that situation, yep, you screwed up, but you can apologize and move past it. I don’t think saying that is judgmental or high-pressure or finger-wagging, but just real (and sort of slack-cutting in its own way).

      • Ally

        Reading through all of these comments I’m really happy I was able to dress shop with my mom (who is a 6 hr drive away) and then do a dress fitting and reception dress shopping with my MIL (who is a 6 hr flight away and only has 2 sons). Although my mom was very involved in all of the planning my in-laws seemed to want to be very hands off, even for the rehearsal dinner which they hosted. It was great to see my MIL enjoy the girly shopping experience – she was even complimenting and commenting on the dresses another girl there was trying on. When we were done and I changed back into my normal clothes she said something like “Oh, no more magic?”. So cute.

  • macrain

    Call me crazy, but I just don’t see this as a horrible faux pas. You are getting married, you need a wedding dress, and luckily for you, you found one quickly (I wish I had, dress shopping was a little difficult for me). You are being incredibly hard on yourself over this. This is the first time you’ve done this, and you said you didn’t anticipate it being important to your mom, so how were you to know? You’re not a mind reader, and just because the cultural narrative around wedding dress shopping says that your mom has been waiting her whole life to go with you, it doesn’t make you a horrible person for not including her. Of course your mom is allowed to have her feelings hurt, sure. Maybe she didn’t even realize it would be an issue for her until you brought it up. But try not to be so hard on yourself. It sounds like you believe you just couldn’t have done anything worse, which I don’t believe is true. You sound like a very sensitive person who values your mom tremendously.
    If it were me I would nix a second dress shopping trip- if she ends up loving something you hate, it could only make the situation worse. It’s best to acknowledge what happened in the way you see fit, and move forward, including her as you are comfortable. I liked what kyley said- there’s no way you can anticipate everyone’s assumptions and needs- it’s best to be gentle with yourself and others.

    • Bets

      “just because the cultural narrative around wedding dress shopping says that your mom has been waiting her whole life to go with you, it doesn’t make you a horrible person for not including her.”

      Maybe dress shopping isn’t actually that big of a deal to the OP (she did say she put the dress in the back of the closet and forgot about it), and she needs to communicate this to her mom. I guess it’s a social norm to go dress shopping with your mom and childhood best friends etc., but that’s something that I would only recognize if I actually spent some time daydreaming about “saying yes to the dress.” If no-one you know has been wedding-planning recently, these social norms could be far from your mind.

      Maybe the OP can involve her mom in other aspects of the wedding that are important to her. Maybe it’s deciding on the guest list or making seating charts Maybe it’s going for a wedding cake sampling. I just don’t think dress-shopping has to be the ultimate mother-daughter bonding experience when it comes to your marriage, and you should get to decide what’s most meaningful to yourselves as a couple and involve your loved ones accordingly.

  • Jami

    My mom & I live in different cities and I got married where I live so I knew she wouldn’t be able to be as involved as she would have liked. I was fortunate that I got engaged in late October so was able to do my first dress shopping trip with her. I never expected to find the dress but I did so was lucky that she had seen it. But I still had to work on other ways to make her feel involved. So that she knew what direction I was going in, I sent her a link to my wedding Pinterest boards (she’s good about not overstepping boundaries so it helped to give her an idea of what I liked and then she’d occasionally send me an email commenting on the pins she really liked). While my husband built our chuppah, I was happy to let her design & decorate it (one less thing on my list!). She also offered to make the escort cards – she used my wedding colors and although it wasn’t one of the crazy Pinterest-inspired ideas I had, it was another item for her to “own” and I quickly realized I already had way too much on my to-do list and having unique escort cards wasn’t important to me so I gladly accepted her offer. The other big thing I did to involve her was to ask her to come into town for a long weekend to help with wedding items where we tested out flower ideas, table decorations, etc. This was the weekend we met with our caterer, coordinator & photographer to finalize timelines and setup so Mom was able to give her input. It also ensured that we were both on the same page so I knew that any questions that came up on the wedding day could be directed to her if needed. I also scheduled my dress fitting that weekend so she was there with me – this could be a great way to involve your mom since she missed the shopping part. There are so many things to be done for a wedding that there should be plenty of ways for your mom to get involved, especially if you’re willing to give up a little control (assuming you trust that you’ll be ok with the outcome).

  • Lizzie C.

    Such a great question, albeit a year and a half too late for me. I left my mom out of almost all the wedding planning and I still try to ignore that fact because I feel so guilty about it. I knew I didn’t want a dress-shopping Event, because I was shopping for a red dress, and bridal stores, well, don’t do red. Plus I was in too short a timeframe to have a gown made or even altered significantly. My mom and future MIL were excited for dress shopping, and what did I do? I bought my dress online without even showing it to them. Then I tried to make up for it by saying that when it arrived, I’d have them over for a trying-on party with the accessories. But the dress needed major alterations so they didn’t even get the party as a consolation prize. I asked for no bridal shower, no bachelorette party, nothing for my mom to spend time on for me. My dad had just died, and I had stopped caring about things like tradition and empathy.

    It’s still a touchy topic for me because I wanted my mom to have a lovely, memorable time at a bridal boutique, Champagne in hand, watching me try on dresses. I just didn’t want to be the one WEARING the dresses. And I was too selfish to even try some on for fun with her. I really regret that.

    • Violet

      I know these are just words from an internet stranger, but don’t beat yourself up over it, lady. Wedding planning is an incredibly stressful time to begin with, to say nothing of wedding planning while grieving. I don’t have any real advice, but I am sending happy thoughts your way!

      • Lizzie C.

        Aw, thanks. I appreciate it. Stress does crazy things to a person, and a family.

  • I left my mom out of the dress shopping but she doesn’t know yet. (She has acted much like you describe, but I think genuinely disinterested.) Maybe rather than going on a sham dress excursion, and second-guessing yourself, a special shopping trip to go dress shopping for *her*?

    • Amy M.

      That’s what I’m doing! For logistical reasons my mom couldn’t be with me for dress shopping, so it was just me and my sister. This weekend my parents are coming to visit and my dad and future husband are going to hang out while my mom and I dress shop for her.
      Also, invite her to your fittings! My mom is coming with me tomorrow to pick up my dress so she can see me wear it before the wedding, and also to learn how to button me in and pin up my bustle. She wasn’t there for the dress purchase but there are lots of other ways to make her part of the team that helps you feel like the loveliest version of yourself on the wedding day.

  • Lena and Aggy

    Oh this is SUCH a good topic, not necessarily because of dress shopping but in how to include parents in general.

    My brother is getting married and feels that wedding planning is an enormous burden, so is largely keeping everyone in the dark because he doesn’t want to “impose” or “stress anyone out.” Meanwhile, my mom feels terribly left out because his fiance (whose parents are paying for the wedding) hasn’t emailed her or called her once to keep her in the loop (largely, I imagine, because my brother is insisting that the fewer cooks in the kitchen, the better).

    And thus, my mother simultaneously feels excluded and angry at my brother and her future daughter-in-law, AND ALSO like she can’t make a fuss because she’s “only” the mother of the groom and is “only” paying for a small portion of the wedding.

    It makes me want to direct everyone to APW and be like “Okay, start reading, folks, and maybe we all have a chance of getting out alive.”

    • Lindsay Rae

      Including your future MIL is tough for many brides. I *think* I have found the balance of including mine while also getting special time with my mom. In the beginning of the planning I think my F-MIL felt left out (at one point I heard she was saying to people “I’m ONLY the mother of the groom…”) but now that I’ve gotten her more involved in the fun stuff, and keep her updated, she’s acknowledged to me “Some things are for you and your mom.” That was nice for her to validate for me.

      In your case, maybe you can say something directly to your future sister-in-law? Not in a way where you’re telling her she’s doing the wrong thing, but to say, “My mother is so excited for you and is really interested in the things you’re working on, if you want to update her. Have you [booked florist/chosen a photographer/looked at dresses] yet?”

      And cheers to wanting to send APW to every person who will be involved in the wedding!! Have thought about this only a million times!

      • Lena and Aggy

        I love that idea! I’m thinking about maybe clueing my brother in to the whole “Your wedding is not a burden ESPECIALLY to the woman who birthed you” if it doesn’t get a little better. In fairness, I don’t think she’s going to go all Jane-Fonda-Monster-In-Law planner (she’s likely saving that for my wedding), just that she feels like a member of the inner circle.

      • MC

        YES, including my MIL has been really tough. She & my FIL are paying for the wedding so they absolutely are kept up-to-date about everything, but as far as my personal planning goes… I don’t really know what I want her role to be. She is enthusiastic about ALL the wedding things, and I am much more pragmatic about it, as is my mom. I know I should throw her a bone, but honestly, her enthusiasm stresses me out a little, and I also feel like, my fiance as just as many things to plan (his outfit, his groomsmen’s involvement, etc.) that HE should involve her.

        • Laura C

          A million times yes. Our parents are splitting the cost and we’re pitching in, so it’s not so much that I feel like we owe her information as our investor, but my FMIL is incredibly enthusiastic and can be high-pressure in the sense of fastening onto a few details to call me/us about all the time and want to have settled NOW, and they are not always details that actually do need to be settled now, and it can be really stressful. And my fiance has what I am increasingly realizing is a definite, though subconscious, strategy of handling her pressure through vagueness and just not getting back to her on things. This is not a strategy I can convincingly employ, so I’m the one she calls to pin down details, even when they’re his details. I’ve tried coming up with specific things to include her in the decision-making on, but that does not, it turns out, keep her from getting tense about other things I’m trying to keep her at a little more of an arm’s length on.

    • anon

      Oh god, I’m the anon from below asking about my future in-laws and this scenario is literally my worst fear. Down to my fiance’s “wedding planning is absolutely an imposition/it’s OUR wedding” response and my shyness/anxiety regarding keeping people in the loop, all the way to the financial “imbalance” of the wedding, this all sounds eerily familiar. Hope you’re not my future sister-in-law. Heh. Ha. Hrrm,

  • Beth R

    My mom lives 500 miles away and was not able to come dress shopping with me – in fact, I went on my own to 80% of the stores I went to. What I did do was plan my second dress fitting (after it had initially been measured and tailored by the seamstress) for a weekend when she was going to be in town. Perhaps this might be a way that you, too, could make things somewhat better, because it will be the first time you try on the dress when it (theoretically) will actually fit you. So she’ll be there to see you the first time it actually looks like your wedding dress instead of a sample.

    I also asked that she bring several necklaces of hers that I might want to borrow, so she got to put those on me while I was in my dress and we could see how they looked. One of the necklaces she brought was a diamond heart that her mother gave her to wear on her wedding day, so it was kind of a special moment. See if a trip out to your fitting is a possibility for her!

  • Sara

    Maybe ask her to help you find a dress for your rehearsal dinner instead? Or offer to go shopping with her for her MOB dress? It won’t replace the whole wedding dress experience but perhaps getting some quality time will help her.

  • MisterEHolmes

    Maybe if you’re happy with your dress, you could ask her to go with you to pick out HER dress to wear? I’m trying to do this with both my MIL and mom (separately. I’m not crazy).

    • sarah l

      holy guacamole though – watch for some serious potential weirdness to come out here, too. i bought my dress without my mom and then took her to a try-on of the dress (bridal salon where i didn’t get the actual dress for like 6 months) the next time she was in town. she was freaking out about what she was going to wear, so we picked out a dress for her to wear to the wedding and it was some sort of magical mother/daughter thing (which is so not our thing). a few months later when she got the dress (it was a fancy bridesmaid dress or something) she HATED it and decided i had pressured her into buying it and that the sales lady was holding it differently on her so she couldnt tell how it fit. she had picked out a new outfit which she proudly showed me. it was white. when i expressed that i wasn’t wild about her wearing white i was being a bridezilla. so. much. drama.

      end of the day my dad pointed out that my mom just didn’t know how to be involved since she was so far away and built up a lot of stress that manifested around what she would wear. she got a different outfit that was beautiful and appropriate, but, oh, do weddings bring out some weird shit. sometimes a cigar is not a cigar.

      i wish you drama-free shopping with your mother and mother-in-law :)

      • MisterEHolmes


        Ha, actually my MIL picked something on her own then *would not believe me* when I told her I think she has excellent style sense and would look very good in that and I truly have no thoughts on what colors she should wear. She asked me three times (“I just want to match the “vision” you had for your mother in law on your wedding, dear!”) before I asked my fiance to reassure her that, yes, I really didn’t have a “vision” and just wanted her to be comfortable!

        • sarah l

          “I just want to match the ‘vision'” – exactly this. I had this EXACT conversation with my mother. I had to have it with my mother-in-law too, but i luckily didn’t need to have a special moment with her, so I just sent her some links so she would feel directed and told her she could wear sneakers if she wanted.

        • leave me aloooone

          (whispers: oh my god, my FMIL is doing the exact same thing, I’m totally happy with what she found, slash i don’t really care as long as she likes it! my mom is doing a similar thing except picked out a really weird accessory and i’m like, i don’t care, BUT IF YOU’RE GONNA KEEP ASKING I DON’T LOVE IT, but whateverrrrr…blegh).

  • Anon

    My mom offered to pay for a dress that she loved and I hated when we went dress shopping together. We live in separate cities, so afterward when I went home and found my dress, I was hoping the offer would still be on the table. It wasn’t. It was hard for me to swallow, but I realize now that she wanted so much to be a part of not just dress shopping, but the actual selection of the dress. To me, it felt like she wasn’t supporting the decision for me to have the dress I loved, and wanted me to be someone I’m not (in the dress she loved) though I know that’s not how she meant it. I have been trying to find ways to include her and it’s been hard. My sanity has to come first- APW really drilled that one into me!
    I have to hand it to my mom for giving me space- she hasn’t been pushy one bit, although I know she’s chomping at the bit to be involved. So interesting what Liz pointed out about MOBs trying to avoid stereotypes- I think that’s really true.

    Jeni, you are not alone in your confusion about how to handle this. Big hugs. XOXOXO

  • Kirstin

    I feel like I keep screwing up too. Gosh, is this harder than I thought it would be!

    I think for me, because I’m not super “into wedding planning” and my schedule is crazy busy, I just sort of make things happen on my own time. I do a lot over my lunch breaks, or my fiance and I make decisions in the 20-30 minutes before we go to bed. None of that is a big deal to us, that I sometimes forget that it is a big deal to others. I didn’t anticipate it, but our parents have felt hurt and left out. We have found that there are many folks in our lives that want to contribute, so we need to be better about seeking out those opportunities to let them do so. We are pretty good about asking folks to help when we need it, but we are working to be better about including, even when we maybe don’t actually need any help.

    My future in-laws are way across the country, so they feel even more out of the loop than my family. We felt bad when we realized that they just generally don’t feel like they know what is going on. We were trying to keep it easy since they have far to travel, a “just show up” approach. But we’ve learned that makes them feel more like outsiders. We are asking them to assist with the planning for the rehearsal dinner, picking them menu, etc., which I hope will be fun for them but easy to do from afar. We are also going to do something to honor them during our day, as they are celebrating a major anniversary that weekend too.

    For my mom, she made the decision to make her own dress, and the process of picking out a pattern and designing it, has given her great joy. She feels more included via that, even if it is something for herself. I’ve made more of a point to invite her to my dress fitting, help me pick out jewelry, etc. which have helped too.

  • Fiona

    I bought my dress online, so neither my mom nor I had the dress shopping experience. However, we did go to get it fitted together, and it was lovely and included all the cool stuff about dress shopping minus the awkward bridal store.

  • Annie

    Aw, this sounds like something I would totally do without even thinking about it. (Note to self!) Don’t beat yourself up. I don’t think you should do a second dress-shopping trip– it’ll just feel phony, and you shouldn’t feel guilty that you’ve crossed that task off your list! Maybe invite your mom to come over for a mother-daughter date where you drink champagne, try your dress on for her, and go shopping for some shoes or jewelry to go with the dress. That could be really special, too.

  • Stacey

    My mom was a *little* upset that we didn’t go dress shopping, but we didn’t really need to, as I wore my grandmother’s gown from her 1927 wedding, which my mom had saved for me. I also had a $25 Ebay dress for the reception so I didn’t ruin the delicate lace of my grandma’s gown. I took my mom to both grandma’s dress fittings (which were really modernization/repair issues, not true “fittings” since it FIT SPOOKILY PERFECTLY).
    What I didn’t know about was how she felt about wedding cake. I’m gluten-free and don’t care about baked goods. My husband isn’t a big dessert guy but really likes his grandma’s rum cake, and we had the wedding in his parents’ backyard, where his grandma also lives. So we thought it would be wonderful for her to contribute to the wedding by making a few cakes. I had NO IDEA my mom would take it as a slap in the face that she didn’t get input on a REAL wedding cake. She actually said “Cake is the only reason I even go to weddings.” Um, how about to see your first born get married?!? That one was hard to recover from. We ended up having a dessert buffet because as it turns out, my MIL wanted chocolate-covered strawberries. And I wanted high-end chocolate bars. So we let my mom pick out some wedding cupcakes so nobody would be confused about the presence of two cakes, and she got to eat her white cake with buttercream AND see me get married.

  • My mom lived several states away when I was wedding planning and around the time I wanted to go dress shopping was going on a weeks-long road trip with my dad. So I went with a friend and bought a dress at J Crew, which was exactly the totally low key way I wanted to go about it. Still, even though my mom knows it was impractical for us to go shopping together and even though she did get to go with my sister, I know she was upset that I bought a dress without her. What seemed to help a little bit was that when I went to visit, we spent a whole day shopping for her dress to wear to my wedding. Maybe that’s something you can do with your mom so she still gets to have a special day with you.

  • Tania

    I live on completely the opposite side of the world to my mum so there was no way she could have come dress shopping. But I did set her a challenge of ‘guess the dress’ by sending her pics of all the dresses I tried on and asking her to guess the one I chose (she got it wrong – but it was fun anyway!). Then when she was in the same country we did dress fittings together and she was the one taught how to get me in the dress. More generally, when I started wedding planning my Dad said to me that my Mum was a bit bummed that she couldn’t join in the wedding planning so I made an extra effort to skype regularly to talk weddings with mum. Totally worth it!

  • Lisa

    However your mom feels is what this is about. I would ask her what else you can involve her in, even to things like hair trials and makeup etc., and then bring her. She will get over it, now that she has evidence you care.

  • Emily

    I am finding myself constantly stumbling over traditions like this that I know nothing about. How did everyone but me take “Wedding Traditions 101?” I know I’m not adding much here, but where do these traditions come from? And how am I supposed to know about them? I haven’t spent the last 36 years thinking about my wedding, because I figured I’d think about that when the wedding came. Now it’s here and these traditions I don’t find out about until I commit a faux pas are driving me crazy. Good luck to you.

    • k down under

      Maybe someone needs to do a post on this?

  • Louise

    Just wanted to say thank you for running this letter. I think that part of the myth of wedding is that the bride wants everything her way and doesn’t care about other people, and this goes a little way to undo that. I certainly hurt some feelings (completely inadvertently) when I was planning my wedding, as we all do from time to time in the normal course of life, and I appreciate that the advice is to apologize and work on fixing it. Works in real life too.

  • Marcela

    I accidentally did something like this with my MIL. She generously offered to take care of the flowers for our wedding and when she came down to visit we visited a florist, talked a little bit about the style my husband and I wanted and the flowers for the reception and then I was shooed out of the room. She wanted to surprise me with the flowers in the ceremony space so I wandered around the strip mall while she and the florist consulted. When I went in a few months later for a bouquet trial the florist told me what she had decided and it was all lovely and beautiful, but not our style at all. She had told me and him that any changes we wanted to make we could so I went ahead and (after consulting with my husband) toned things down to fit the vibe we were going for. Fast forward a few months and my husband is in a giant fight with his sister on the phone because apparently I ruined everything and his mom didn’t know that changes had been made and was feeling hurt. I thought my husband would have told her the changes we decided on together when he spoke to her right after my meeting with the florist. He never did. Communication is tricky and so are feelings.

  • Kestrel

    So, my guess might be that it’s not really about the dress – it’s about the time spent together. My mom was really, really happy to go dress shopping with me mainly because it meant we got to have a ‘girls afternoon’. It was me, my sister, and my mom. Honestly, the dress shopping was alright, but the fun part was playing around, talking, going out to lunch.

    That’s something we hardly ever do – and something we totally should do more often, but never really got the chance to (I have two brothers as well, I live 500 miles away, etc.).

    So maybe set up something like that – just a time when you can get together, chat, have fun!

  • I actually went dress shopping with my partner, and did not reschedule even though my mom and maid of honor were both unavailable. I know both were disappointed, and I know my mom is sad that she hasn’t been more involved, but I want to emphasize: yes, you should apologize and try to make your mom feel more involved, but no, you didn’t actually violate some universally-known-and-adhered-to wedding rule.

  • love this blog and its wedding day tips!

  • JDrives

    My mom wasn’t able to come with me dress-shopping, and I bought my dress without her there, which was a little sad for both of us. But we had a really lovely moment just the two of us when I tried on my dress at her house after it arrived. It was almost better, no salesladies or bridal party around, just her and me. Maybe that could be something you could do to involver her in addition to the stellar advice from Liz?

  • C

    I don’t have much to contribute to this (very thoughtful) conversation, but I wanted to share some other ways in which I involved my mom and future MIL. My mom did go dress shopping with me (our shopping was pretty simple), but I didn’t really want my MIL there as well. So I sent her photos of my dress options, told her when I chose one, etc. so she could still feel involved.

    We also invited both mothers to the caterer tasting (there was no charge for up to 4 tasters–yay!) and got their opinions about the menu. We also got their opinions about decor, seating arrangements, etc. We didn’t always take their advice, but sometimes we actually did, and at least they felt listened to and involved.

  • jhs

    This is actually some of my favorite advice ever about apologizing, if you (or anyone) need it. But I think the best point she makes is don’t blame the victim. Don’t tell your mom that if you had only known how much it meant to her your actions would have been different, because that makes it sound like her fault for not vocalizing this! (Even if it is her fault a bit, an apology is not the time to bring it up.) Stick to what you feel you did wrong, and hopefully the apology will go over well.

  • Moree

    My mother got upset because I didn’t invite her to a dress fitting. A.FITTING. Similar situation – we don’t have a close relationship, she lives far way and I didn’t think about it. I had made a big point of making sure she saw the dress before I purchased it (I had the luxury of time etc to arrange it) so it didn’t occur to me that she felt she had to be involved in every step. I guess what I’m saying is – these things happen to everyone. Managing relationships during wedding planning can be really hard in unexpected ways. Don’t beat yourself up too much!