A Mother as the Bride

Today you’re in for a huge treat. To further our ongoing discussion of family in relationship to weddings, we have a post from a mother and daughter who got married within a year of each other. The first post is from Nena, talking about her engagement and wedding. Then this afternoon, we get a post from Erika, Nena’s daughter. (Erika just got married this weekend, so stay tuned for a wedding graduate post.) Hopefully, just like yesterday’s post, which made us think about our relationships with our fathers, today’s posts will help us unpack the often complicated relationships we have with our mothers. Plus, I hope it will make us each think about finding joy, even when we least expect it.

This past year, our family had two engagements and a wedding to celebrate. Except that I, the mom, got engaged before the daughter, reversing the usual order of things. As a divorced mother of three daughters, the youngest of whom is a special needs child with a lot of challenges, I was entering the later phases of my life content but not thinking I would ever marry again. I had a job I loved with fantastic colleagues, owned my own home, had found help for the care my youngest daughter required and was watching my oldest two daughters blossom into wonderful, interesting, adventuresome young women. Then, the unexpected came along. One day, a colleague at work asked me if her uncle could email me. My immediate response was absolutely not. I was too afraid to open that door, much less walk through it. But I was also trying to confront my fears and looking ahead to the rest of my life, alone. So, after a week of really thinking about it, I went back to her and said yes. I figured I could block him if it turned out to be too weird. Well, you can probably guess the rest. The first email consisted of a charming story about his oldest daughter, and the thread grew from there. Funny, quick with a comeback, great vignettes, loving, family-oriented—his personality was all there. Then the inevitable question—can we talk? Talking led to meeting, meeting led to dating and dating led to living together. This was over a period of five years, during which our respective children approached the new relationship with varying degrees of emotion—from complete hostility to guarded acceptance.

We talked about marriage—he was gung ho, I was not. But it rarely got past the discussion stage. I was perfectly content to continue our relationship, with dual households, forever. But then gradually my thinking began changing. He was wonderful with all my daughters, especially the youngest one, and brought a joy and lightness to the family that had been missing for a long time. We started entertaining and laughed a lot when we were together, and my friends loved being with him. It felt good. Then over the course of the same five years, my oldest daughter met a man who would eventually become her fiancé, and my middle daughter began dating someone seriously. They both had a fear, borne of the divorce, of relationships not lasting, and there were many long discussions about the “there are no guarantees in love or life” issue. But they slowly took the plunge and committed to making their relationships work. My boyfriend and I continued to grow closer, living like a married couple, but not officially. We actually took the first steps in looking at wedding rings but I honestly thought nothing would change. Then Christmas Day, to my surprise and joy, in the middle of opening presents, he pulled a little black box from the tree, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

I looked at my daughters whose eyes beamed with happiness, asking them if it was okay. They said yes, then I said yes, and we all cried together before popping the champagne corks. (Unbeknownst to me, he had called them and asked their permission to marry me. That one thoughtful act almost meant more to me than the actual proposal because he knew that if the kids were not okay with our getting married, it wouldn’t work.) We were able to celebrate with a beautiful wedding with just our kids last Thanksgiving. An engagement and wedding down, an engagement to go.

Not too long after our wedding, I received a bouquet of flowers and an email from my eldest daughter’s boyfriend. I was puzzled. Unable to ask in person he sent me a video requesting permission to marry my daughter. As I watched it in my office (still not suspecting the content), tears of joy welled up in my eyes. My daughter’s engagement brought nothing but happiness. Her fiancé will be a loving, supporting spouse, and he will match her every step of the way. They are stronger together than they are apart and will have their bumps in the road as does every couple, but I have confidence in their ability to weather storms. They are getting married this month, just 8 days before our first anniversary.

What I didn’t realize was how much my engagement and marriage meant to my daughters in terms of recreating a family. As long as my now husband and I were just dating, the relationship had the same temporary sense that any relationship of that nature represents. With our wedding weekend, and the accompanying celebrations, we have become a new, enlarged family. Our children have a shared experience and will have more. And we, respecting their wishes by not rushing into marriage, have made the right decision for everyone. I don’t think children are ever “ready” to see their parents enter into a new relationship, but because we took our time and gave them their space, we feel like we made the right decision. We are proud of our children and love them all. And for us, life just keeps getting better.

Photos by: Nena’s Personal Collection

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