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 advice—namely 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 mistakenly—very, very mistakenly—took 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 others—cough, maybe our moms—screw 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 there—you 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 said—that 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!