Weddings And Mothers

The cliché is perhaps as old as the modern concept of a wedding: Unable to let go of control (and perhaps of the spotlight) the pushy mother of the bride misses no opportunity to interject her own opinions on everything from the wedding location to the cake toppers–and won’t take “no” for an answer. This character is everywhere, from romantic comedies to wedding websites and magazines (The Kn*t has scores of posts giving advice for dealing with pushy mothers) to wedding TV shows (on a recent episode of his wedding makeover reality show, David Tutera confronted a “Momzilla”). In fact, this idea is so culturally ingrained that prior to our engagement my fiancé, who is not particularly familiar with rom-coms, said, “Well, doesn’t the mother of the bride just plan everything?” I erupted into laughter.

You would too if you had ever met my mother.

My mother is probably the least sentimental woman I have ever known. She and my father have been married for about thirty-five years. I say “about” because I’m not sure exactly what year they got married, and I’m pretty sure they don’t know off the top of their heads, either. It was definitely in the late 1970s, and I think it was in July. Neither of them wears a wedding ring—my mother is a doctor and washes her hands constantly, so she never wore a ring regularly, and besides, I am pretty sure both my parents lost their rings years ago. My father never gave my mother an engagement ring. They decided to get married because they were living together and grew tired of worrying about the wrong person answering the phone when one of their strict Catholic mothers called the apartment. Indeed, had caller ID been around in the mid-1970s, this issue could have been avoided and my parents may never have gotten around to getting married at all. Their marriage ceremony should be recorded in history books as the shortest wedding service in the history of the Roman Catholic Church—the whole thing took about thirty minutes. My mother wore a simple white cotton prom dress with green embroidery that she bought at Sears for thirty dollars. My grandfather did not walk my mother down the aisle—in fact there was no procession at all. Afterwards, the few family and friends that attended went to a local restaurant, ate dinner, and went home. There were no invitations, let alone save the dates, engagement photography sessions, or a bachelorette party. Forget about a wedding planner—my mother didn’t even have bridesmaids.

To be clear–this lack of formality was my mother’s intention. Granted, she and my father were broke at the time, and neither came from wealthy families, but I am fairly certain that money could have been saved for somewhat more of an elaborate celebration. A large part of my mother’s anti-traditional stance stemmed from her feminism—she recoiled at any element of patriarchy in the wedding ceremony, anything that appeared to stem from or reference the “transfer of property.” Indeed, my mother never took my father’s last name. But her stripped-down, purely pragmatic wedding was due just as much to her inherent nature as it was to her politics, to the extent one can distinguish between the two. My mother does not understand why rituals and symbols seem to hold so much value to people. Although she is a talented artist and can be hysterically, self-referentially funny, hers is the mind of the scientist, focused on the practical, the here and now, the things we can see and touch. She sees no value in symbols like rings, white dresses, and communion wafers. Her wedding was an act of rebellion—rebelling against patriarchy, rebelling against what was “proper” for women, and indeed, rebelling against the very Church where the wedding was performed (despite, or perhaps because of, her religious upbringing my mother has been an avowed atheist since she was in high school).

As anyone who has visited my apartment (or anyone who’s had a conversation with me for longer than ten minutes) in the last four months can readily attest, I do not take after my mother in this regard. Much to my surprise, once I got engaged and began the wedding planning process, I realized that planning a wedding could actually be fun. I loved coming up with a theme (think 1920s speakeasy). I loved looking at different photographers’ websites. I loved working with our stationer to design the invitations. I had so much fun trying on wedding dresses that a tiny part of me was sad to find “the dress” because it meant I wouldn’t get to try on any more. I devoured the books, the magazines, and yes, even the trashy TV shows, and I enjoyed (and am continuing to enjoy) every lacey, white, fluffy, sugary minute of it. My mom is thrilled that I’m so happy, and not only has she been a wonderful shoulder to cry on during the inevitable ups and downs, she is also generously helping my fiancé and me pay for the wedding. And for all of that I am eternally thankful and grateful.

So I am rather ashamed to admit that a tiny part of me is mourning the absence of a mother I never had (and never particularly wanted, until now)—the stereotypical mother of the bride with strong opinions about place settings and color schemes, the mother who wants a sixteen-piece band at the wedding playing nothing but jazz standards, the mother who would be devastated—devastated—to not be there when her daughter picks out her wedding dress. The “right” mother for a wedding. But that’s not my mom, and I am ultimately okay with that.

And I am quickly realizing that there is a considerable upside to having a mother who is not particularly interested in the details of wedding planning. A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend about moms and weddings. My friend, who is single, was telling me how her mother can’t wait for her to get married. Her mother has already discussed with her, in extensive detail, the family jewelry she could use, the country club that would be perfect, the perfect wedding colors (peach and white), all while my friend kept reminding her mother that she didn’t even have a boyfriend. And then I thought of my mom, who would perfectly happy if I wanted to walk down the aisle in the middle of an abandoned parking lot, in the dead of winter, wearing a Princess Leia costume a la Liz Lemon—as long as I was happy, she would say, characteristically, “To hell with ‘em Lydia! Do what you want!” And she would support me without reservation, without the slightest hint of doubt or regret for some perfect wedding that would not be—some perfect wedding that, like perfect mothers, exists only in the movies. And in that moment—as in many moments before and since—I was deeply, eternally, grateful and thankful for my mom.

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  • Your mother sounds a lot like my dad. Growing up I kind of had trouble with the fact that my father was no ordinary father. He did not wear a suit to work, he had very particular views on practically every subject, he left his country of birth because he found it too “square” and felt at home at a warmer country, souther than his place of origin.
    With age I have come to appreciate every single bit of his way of being, and all the things he has taught me.
    Completely unrelated comment kind of, but this is what came to mind. (My parents also got married in a very unorthodox way… my mom was 7 months pregnant with me, they went to city hall, passed a supermarket, got some wine / champagne / cheese / snacks, and picnicked at a nearby park with some close friends).
    Thanks for sharing your story. I loved it.

    • p.

      I’m right there with you Amanda. My dad also didn’t wear a suit to work — or anywhere else (to this day, I’ve never seen him in a suit nor a tie). My parents married when my mom was 8-months pregnant. They were married in their friends backyard and didn’t invite their parents. A friend married them (he’d gotten ordained from something out of a magazine, I think).

  • Brenda

    I love your mom, because she reminds me of my mom. My mother has told me that her ideal wedding was to get all the relevant people in a car, drive down the highway, find a pretty place, get out, get married, and get back in the car. She ended up having a traditional Jewish wedding in the synagogue, and my grandparents probably planned and paid for the whole thing, because I can’t imagine her wanting anything to do with that other than showing up.

    So far the conversations I’ve had about my wedding have been thus:

    Me: We’re trying to find a caterer now.
    Mom: I want things that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
    Me: You’ll eat what we serve and you won’t complain.
    Mom: Okay.

    Me: I tried on dresses yesterday.
    Mom: You’re not going super bridal are you?
    Me: No, of course not. Don’t be silly.

    Seriously, it is a godsend to have a mother who’s happy that you’re happy but doesn’t care about the actual wedding. So much pressure that I read about other people having that I’m thankful I don’t have to deal with.

    • Dawn

      “Mom: I want things that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.”

      OK I just have to say I love your mom right now. That is so randomly specific. And now, if and when I ever get married, I want to only serve foods that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. And people will eat it and they won’t complain!

      • I’m now sitting here trying to think of as many “crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside” foods as I can that one could have on a wedding menu and I am not doing so well. I’m now imagining a game of $100,000 Pyramid where the answer is “things that are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside” and realizing I’d have very few clues to give.

        • Rebecca

          Crab cakes! Any kind of filled pastry puff thing. Umm…fried mozzarella. Filled wontons? Fried dumplings?

          • Fried mozzarella was the only one I could think of! Also, all these suggestions sound really yummy.

          • wgwc

            Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside (depending on your definitions):
            Cream puffs (sweet and savory)
            Egg rolls and spring rolls
            Cornish pasties
            French fries
            Fried ice cream
            Many fried things…

          • Dawn

            Rice balls, meat pies, chocolate truffles? Ooh, fried goat cheese (yummy on salad), creme brulee might count. Hand pies (like apple or peach). Pretty much any fair food (fried twinkies?)

            I’m not saying it would be a super classy wedding and you might need to plan some physical activites to burn off some of the pie crust and fried coatings but it would be tasty.

          • this is the best thread

            peanut crusted something bites (fish? cheese?)

          • Those Ferrero Rocher chocolates…technically they also have a nut in the middle so it’s more crunchy-smooth-crunchy, but they’re soooo delicious I would try to slip them in anyway!

        • Moe


          • Sam

            Grilled cheese (or paninis)
            Some types of dim sum/dumplings/pot stickers
            Chicken cordon blue

            Antonym: Fondue

        • Maddie

          I think this is my favorite comment thread ever.

          • Brenda

            Wow, everyone, thanks for the suggestions! I was actually completely clueless as to what she might have meant, hence my answer of “I think it’s going to be BBQ. Deal with it.”

            I did promise her that I’d find her some crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside foodstuffs during her visit though (I’m in the UK, she’s coming over from the States). I will keep this list!

        • Hintzy

          fresh crusty bread… nom

        • RJ

          Mini Pavlova – crunchy meringue out, soft marshmallow inside!
          And my mother’s brandy snaps! (she uses the Cordon Bleu recipe – yum!)

      • Liz

        This thread is making me hungry. That is all.

    • Your mom pretty much sounds like what I wish my mom had been like while I was planning.

      When I was in wedding planning mode on the one hand I was really relieved that my mom wasn’t the stereotypical overbearing mother for the planning process, but at the same time she was so uninvolved and uninterested that it was impossible to even get a feel of whether she was happy for me or not. It really wasn’t until the actual day I got married that her excitement came through at which point she kind of got pushy and overbearing and I didn’t quite know what to make of it.

      • dragonzflame

        This sounds about right. My mum was EXACTLY like this – I was feeling like she wasn’t that interested, and only asking questions because she felt she should. But now, just over a week out, she’s starting to want to help. Trouble is, most of the work’s been done – but it’s nice to know she is actually there.

    • Adi

      I had samosas at my wedding so SCORE. Your mom sounds awesome :)

    • Amber

      “You’re not going super bridal are you?” LOVE THIS!!

      • Brenda

        We are not a poofy princess family :)

  • LILY

    Amen, to all of this post! I have realized many times how grateful I am to have a mother who doesn’t care what type of wedding I have, if I have one at all. And I do my best to tell her this whenever possible.

  • E

    I think our moms are the same person. I too spent months obsessing over my dress (and it’s still one of my favorite parts of my wedding), something my mom did not understand one bit. At one point in the process though, when I was feeling really guilty for falling in love with a beautiful but thoroughly un-practical dress, this is what came out of her mouth (paraphrased). “E, when I was little, I dressed as a baseball player for Halloween, and my mother had to bribe me in order to get me to wear anything other than torn jeans and grass-stained t-shirts. When YOU were little, you wanted to wear dresses, preferably purple ones, and your favorite activity was playing dress-up. It makes sense that this would be important to you.”

    Even though there were twinges of wishing my mom could get excited over table linens, it was ultimately great that I didn’t really have to worry about someone else’s opinions. And at our wedding, my practical, tomboy jock of a mother danced her booty off with all of my friends into the wee hours of the morning. And it was awesome.

    • MDBethann

      What is truly awesome about your comment E is that your mom recognized and was okay with the differences between the two and could trace your love of dresses all the way back to your childhood. It was such a sweet comment!!

      I went out twice to shop for gowns. The first one on my birthday with one of my bridesmaids who lived nearby. I learned later that my mom was a bit sad that she didn’t go with me, so then I went with her and the bridesmaid the day after the Cambridges got married (yes, I was a US girl up early that morning to watch the lovely wedding) and actually found the dress. The rest of the time, she was really great about our choices and only getting involved when we wanted her to, but the dress shopping part was really special to her.

  • Amaris

    My mother doesn’t really believe in marriage anymore. My father died when I was small, and her ex-husband turned out to me a cheater and abusive. Yikes. So she thinks it’s best to stay single. But she is happy for me, and whatever I want, she will do her best to help me achieve it. It’s a bit exhausting, because I struggle with making decisions and sticking to them. My mother is just as bad.

    My wedding is in 1 month and 4 days…and I am super stoked I came across this blog/site. I will be diving into the archives and reading daily! Thank you!

    So…good on ya for having such a BA mom!

    • Rebekah

      Welcome! And congratulations :)

      Pro tip: The comments are every bit as good as the posts.

  • BB

    I really enjoyed your post. You have a way of writing that had me nodding along and smiling, even though my mother is not like yours.

    I have a different perspective in that I think I am more like your mother. I have a few details of the wedding reception that are important to me (open bar, dancing, places for people to sleep within walking distance), and I have many opinions about the ceremony, but beyond that, I don’t have many strong opinions when it comes to planning the actual wedding and reception. My mother is an ace at planning and since the wedding is in my parent’s home state (while my fiance and I live across the country), my mom has taken up many of the logistics of planning—and I couldn’t be more grateful/happy about it! On things I feel strongly about she is more than happy to agree (even though she was a bit bummed I wouldn’t be doing the veil over the face things), and on everything else, she has opinions, checks with my fiance and I, and then makes it happen. She is really enjoying it, which makes me happy, too. I think part of it is that HER mom planned most of her wedding and she didn’t have options, and since she is paying for mine, if it is important to her to have something (and if I am neutral toward it), she can do it!

    I think the most important part is her willingness to communicate and ultimately defer to what my fiance and I want. It’s also wonderful knowing she isn’t pushing her vision on me, rather, taking my (albeit blurry) vision and filling in the lines of what will ultimately be a memorable family event.

  • I love this! Your mom and I have a lot in common :) I sometimes feel I am so pragmatic that people think I don’t care about anything, but it can have its upsides. Just because we aren’t sentimental doesn’t mean we aren’t supportive!

  • First of all, your mom sounds awesome!

    Second, I have a theory that a love for dresses, beauty products, and pretty, wedding-y things skips a generation. My mom is a total tomboy and has been her whole life. I was begging to wear makeup when I was like three years old. My grandma, on the other hand, is the one who convinced my mom to let me start wearing nail polish and then, later, the one who tweezed my eyebrows for the first time. I’m convinced if I have a daughter, she will be just like my mom.

    I see this play out again and again, and yet the mother-of-the-bride on TV and in movies is always as you describe her! I know there are tons of laid-back, do-whatever-you-want, “Those flowers seem fine” moms out there, but they are totally missing from popular culture. Ugh…probably just another example of the “weddings make women crazy” trope. It’s not enough to call the brides crazy…now we have to make their moms (and future mother-in-laws) look crazy too.

    • Lydia

      So funny — I was actually just having this conversation with my mother a few days ago!! Her mother (my grandmother) was much more into the whole idea of traditional weddings, and was actually very disappointed that none of her daughters really followed suit. And you’re so right about how the overbearing mother stereotype is really just an extension of the idea that women are “crazy” when it comes to weddings, and all women want a big crazy wedding, no matter what.

    • Brenda

      Yes! I’m not convinced my mother and my grandmother are actually related, but I see a lot of each of them in myself.

  • Your mom sounds a lot like my mom, although my mom is a bit more sentimental. My mom was very hands-off during wedding planning. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was more like the stereotypical mother of the bride. That was tough for me because it’s harder to tell someone to back off when you don’t have a lifelong relationship with them.

  • Elizabeth

    I wish so badly that I had a mother more like yours. My mother has taken to the stereotypical mother route all too well. She actually did freak out about the cake topper- she practically had a stroke when I told her I didn’t care about having one. She thinks the bridesmaid dresses need to match the groomsmen’s outfits, which also needs to match my dress somehow. I have had hours and hours of phone conversations with her about HER dress (and my future mother in law’s dress, which apparently isn’t good enough). I hope, for my two sisters sake, that she gets this out of her system with my wedding.

    • Ann

      I can relate. I always assumed that my mom would be laidback about wedding planning but she has turned out to have lots and lots of opinions about my wedding. She feels very strongly that I “deserve” a certain type of wedding while I genuinely want a more simple and intimate wedding. I know she has the best intentions, but this recurring conflict has created a lot of stress for both of us and the wedding isn’t for another six months.

      • Maddie

        Oh, the you “deserve” better conversations. They are my least favorite. I am pretty sure they are why I have such an aversion to the word “nice” these days. As in, “We just want it to be nice…”

      • Teresa

        Also fun is the “I just don’t want you to regret it later…” conversation that my mom and I had quite a few times during the planning of my wedding. She didn’t want me to regret not wearing a veil, having it at a non-traditional venue (I lost that battle), not having a DJ (lost that one too). For the most part, I know she was not only mostly right, but doing it out of love–she married my dad at the Justice of the Peace before my older sister was born and she regrets that. She just wanted me to be happy and I know that now. But at the time, I just wanted to take a nap after every conversation!

    • Jen

      I understand how you feel compeletly. Every decision we make, regardless of how well itnenioned has become a battle with one of the Moms. We are still having a very traditonal wedding reception (cocktail hour and country club ball room) but with the negative reactions to every decision we make you would think we were sacraficing a lamb and feeding it to our guests raw. I understand that its about picking battles, but the last part of the post where she states that she knows that her Mom supports her is where I am having trouble. Its gotten to the point where I feel like if the Moms don’t get their way they are going to be doubting our decisions even as we walk down the aisle as hsuband and wife.

      This stuff is tough…

  • This is a slight tangent…

    My mother had no say in her wedding as my grandmother planned the entire thing. Since she wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to me, my mother has told me, multiple times, that she isn’t going to commandeer the planning process. I know she loves throwing parties, and that she would love to help with planning. However, I’m worried that her fear of taking over will prevent her from offering any opinions or suggestions when she has them! I’m not worried about butting heads with her, since she won’t be devastated no matter what decision is made. I just want her to understand that I’d love to have her help, if she wants to give it. Does anyone have recommendations for making her feel more relaxed?

    • 39bride

      My mother was similar in that I knew she had thoughts/opinions on things, but she was careful not to push me. Looking back, I wish she would’ve been more forceful in putting forward her thoughts because I think it would’ve helped make some things a bit better.

      Maybe you just need to tell her exactly what you wrote here–“I would love to have your enthusiasm and expertise in planning this wedding. Don’t worry about going overboard; I have no problem letting you know if you do, and I’m sure we’ll be able to find a balance.”

      • ElisabethJoanne

        FWIW, my mother also was pretty hands-off. A lot of that was deference. Some of it was she was very sick and then out of the country for months of wedding planning.

        I followed Addie’s recommendation and let her take on one task. She said afterwards that “That was just great, because it almost killed me [with anxiety].” The one task was the chuppah, and I had given her 3-step instructions, but, like in the thread above, she didn’t think that was “nice enough,” so she did her own thing, so the anxiety was of her own creation. But it gave her something to tell her girlfriends about; an answer to the inevitable, “And what’s your role?” questions.

    • What if you gave her a specific task, like organizing ceremony music or transportation? That way she could get to organize and plan something to her hearts content without feeling like she was taking over the whole process.

      Find out what she would like to contribute to the day and let her go wild.

      • I think Addie’s suggestion is a great one! Delegating a specific task to your mom might make her feel more comfortable with the whole process, and it gives her a project.

        I’m in a similar boat with my own mom — my grandmother planned her entire wedding, down to the smallest details, so I think she’s afraid of stepping on my toes and getting too bossy. But on the flip side, I’m feeling as though I’m not including her enough . . . because she’s not volunteering too much. These wedding things are complicated, eh?

        • So complicated. My grandmother got married in a rush right after high school and right before my grandfather shipped out to the army. They had a nice little wedding, but it wasn’t what my grandmother had dreamed of. So she created her dream wedding when my mother got married. My mom wasn’t even allowed to choose the colors of her flowers…

          I’ve been hearing since I was 6 (I was a flower girl, so we were talking about weddings. Because I was 6 and the bride was wearing a princess dress.) that she would not force her opinions on me at my wedding. But I know she has opinions, and I’m pretty sure she has opinions on things I don’t care about- like a ring pillow. And I think it stresses her out that I am ignoring these things, but she doesn’t want to talk to me about it for fear of seeming pushy.

      • Edelweiss

        I have the same situation with my mother-in-law, she has years of experiences planning successful large parties. I would love to hear from her experience, but she was worried about stepping on my toes.
        39Bride is right on – let her know, and let her know again and again. I had to emphasize with my mother-in-law multiple times that I wanted her help, and then just this weekend I got a massive email with tons of ideas and things I hadn’t thought of! But I had to keep saying we were open to her thoughts.
        I also started to emphasize specific things I wasn’t sure about (ie how to plan to keep all the different groups fed the meals surrounding the wedding; how to best communicate wit hher side of the family, etc) and then she took that direction and ran with it.

      • Copper

        So far, that’s worked well on mine. She’s making part of my dress, and she’s really going to town on it. She sends me emails a mile long about it. And guess what? It’s awesome for everyone. Because it’s going to look amazing, she’s excited about it, and I don’t have to worry too much about it because I know it’s safe in her hands. And I am not required to go dress-shopping with my future-MIL which I think was about to be suggested when I told her my mom was making it. So much winning, all around.

    • Melise

      My mom is a little like this too. I know she wants to be involved, but she wants me to have what I want instead of what she wants. It’s worked well for me to ask her specific questions. For example, I sent her a copy of the invitations we’re thinking of using and asked for feedback about the design. I also took her dress shopping with me, and we went to a bridal show just for fun (I already had my vendors, so we basically just people watched and ate the food). She actually found our venue for us – we told her exactly what we were looking for and she did some awesome googling. Everything is shaping up to be the way we want it, but she’s definitely played a role in the process.

    • Nicole

      My mom was the exact same way. My husband could have cared less about any of the details as long as we were married at the end of the day, but I still wanted to make it special. My mom was awesome at making/sewing/crafting all the DIT details, but she went out of her way to not give any input/advice because she was afraid of being pushy and overbearing (which, well, she has been known to be at times). One day I ended up breaking down in tears and telling her how much I wanted her input in decision making. I had a lot of ideas, but that woman can plan and throw a party like no one else! And while our conversation was probably way more emotional than it needed to be, it really helped once she realized how much I wanted (and needed) her help.

    • Eileen

      My mom was like this too (overbearing mother in law who questioned every detail of her wedding), and was incredibly hesitant to offer her opinion. It helped that we had a lot of conversations about her wedding planning process, so I understood where she was coming from when she all the sudden refused to tell me what she thought.

      I made sure to ask for her opinion a lot, to make sure she knew I wanted it, and I didn’t let her get away without answering for real. Obviously that depends on your relationship, but sometimes when she said, “oh, either is fine, whatever you like”, I knew she did care, and I just kept asking until she gave in. After a few of these, she realized I did want her opinion – that didn’t mean I’d go with it – but I wanted to know what she thought. If she cared and I didn’t, guess what Mom, you won!

  • Love this!

    My mom was like this during our wedding planning, and it was wonderful! She and my dad had a very simple wedding in the church in my small town, and my dad’s parents opened up their machinery shelter on their farm for the reception. My dad’s mom made the wedding cake, and my mom’s mom made food. They have almost no pictures of their ceremony because the photographer exposed everything wrong, and almost every frame is totally black. Neither of them seemed to mind, and I remember looking at their wedding albums (they put the black photos in, I guess because they figured they’d paid for them!), and just noticing how happy they looked together at their reception.

    My husband’s parents were a bit more concerned with traditions and how everyone else has weddings today, and we had a more traditional party after the wedding for that reason, but their wedding was even simpler than my parents’. They wanted to live together but were worried here dad would throw a fit, so she gave both their parents a month’s notice and said they could plan whatever they wanted, knowing that in a month they couldn’t possibly plan a big, elaborate party that neither of them wanted in the first place. They were married in a local church and had a small reception at his dad’s restaurant. There are no pictures, just a lot of love in their story telling.

  • Thanks for writing this–my mom sounds very similar to yours in regards to the lack of sentimentality (like Brenda my parents had a traditional Jewish synagogue wedding paid for and planned by my grandparents–but mostly planned by my grandmother). The main difference is that my mother has a very keen and honed aesthetic eye. She loves clothes. She loves decorating. She loves table arrangements. She’s an attorney but she would have made an AMAZING event planner. She’s doesn’t have much time for it but when she crafts, she crafts very well.

    My Bat Mitzvah party was essentially the wedding my mother never got to have, and my sister’s Bat Mitzvah party lacked the white and gold color scheme (so bridal right?!) that I had but it was equally spectacular. My mom claims that she got her “big party kicks” out during our Bat Mitzvahs, but now that I’m nearly engaged (ring is in the works!) she’s started sending me some bridal dress e-mails, and she’s gently pushing her desire that I have a destination wedding on Nevis (which, I mean, would be BEAUTIFUL but I’d like some friends to be able to attend, ha!). She’s definitely not a sentimental person but I think that, despite her claims that she doesn’t want to plan a big wedding party, she’ll definitely be heavily involved. (She doesn’t have much attachment to religion anymore, unlike my dad, who has already come up with some creative suggestions of Jewish officiants who would be able to handle an interfaith wedding ceremony, whee!)

    Fortunately my mother and I have very similar tastes, so I think we’ll probably have fun wedding planning.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Again FWIW, I noticed that mothers and mothers-in-law and grooms go through the same wedding-planning stages as brides – particularly, for you, the initial stage of just soaking in the pretty. [Or, for grooms, maybe salivating over all the yummy.] By the time it’s time to sign vendor contracts and finalize decisions, a lot of the non-workable ideas are long-forgotten.

      A few weeks before the wedding, Mom asked if Grandpa was invited to the rehearsal dinner. We responded, “Yes. That’s what we said when we discussed this 6 months ago.” And Mom said, “No one my age would remember a conversation from 6 months ago, let alone my father.”

  • jj

    Moms are so hard. The relationship between my mother and I is difficult. While I love my Mother, her involvement in my wedding made things very hard on me and others. We had a destination wedding and I had to pay for her to go because I wanted her to be there. My sister decided a week before the wedding that she wasn’t going, even though everything had already been paid for, and my Mom wanted me to sympathize with her. She insisted on both her and my Dad walking me down the aisle though it wasn’t what I wanted and it just wasn’t worth arguing. The day of the wedding, I had a spa day and she was there, at her insistance, and made me feel bad that I wasn’t paying for spa services for her. She decided not to stay at the resort where the wedding was held, but came over to make use of the amenities and to charge things to our room. I am a grown-up and paid for the wedding myself. Being financially responsible for her continues to make me angry and guilty, something mothers are very good at. I just want my Mother to be responsible for herself and I hope, someday, I can stop feeling guilty for doing well.

  • I’m so thankful that I too had a mom who did not fit the stereotypes you see in Rom-coms. My mom was willing to pay for us to elope if we wanted to skip a wedding, which we thought about, but then decided to actually have a wedding. I loved that I could count on her to be there and help with whatever I needed, but she was in no way pushy and only offered advice if I asked. It was nice not to have the extra stress of trying to please my mother by having the wedding she wanted – she just wanted me to be happy and do whatever was best for us.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    This made me so happy. I had wished for a mother who cared more about the wedding (she cares about the marriage, but when I told her about the wedding, she immediately said “Why don’t the two of you just elope?)

    On the bad side, she doesn’t care about the food, the colors, the venue, or the music. But thanks for helping me realize the upside: namely, that she doesn’t care about the food, the colors, the venue or the music. She will show up wherever, in whatever I pick out, and never judge.

  • Melissa

    I think this post is great, and I hope you share it with your mom. She might not be sentimental, but she definitely should get to enjoy having a daughter who clearly thinks so much of her, and writes about it on the internet. :)

    • Lydia

      Oh, don’t worry — I can’t wait to show my mother this post (and all the comments)!

  • Caitlin

    It’s funny, I think your mother was who my mother was trying to be at the beginning of planning my wedding. All she would say was, “Whatever you want to do”. This may seem great but my mother is not like yours, my mother has an opinion on everything, especially when it comes to events. Her not being involved and desperate attempts to not share her opinion led to me thinking she was not happy I was getting married. After a couple of serious meltdowns to my father and now husband, which included too many ugly tears and laments that clearly my mother did not love me anymore (not my finest wedding planning moments), word got back to my mother that this was how I was feeling. Turns out, she was avoiding everything because she had been overwhelmed by all of the Momzilla warning tales out there and she was terrified of ruining our relationship forever. So for all those currently planning out there, just remember that mothers are getting a huge amount of pressure too to be either a Momzilla or a super laid back free spririt … just like you

  • Teresa

    My mom’s like your mom too. My future mother in law… maybe a little bit more like the stereotype. I couldn’t imagine my mom going gaga over any white dress with me, let alone having the patience to pick out a cake or anything. I think she would run screaming out of a bridal show. I guess I take after her a little bit, because I wanted to run screaming out of the bridal show I went to…
    One thing I worried about was that my mom wouldn’t support me having a “big” wedding… (on the one hand yes it’s a big 17K affair with 100 people, on the other hand that’s like 1/2 the national average to spend on a wedding).
    I was pleasantly surprised on this account. My mom was indignant when my grandma asked why I’m having this wedding. I thought my mom would be like, that’s too expensive, or you should save the money for your future. Instead she is excited to meet a lot of the friends I have talked about for years and hang out with her soon to be Texas family.
    I recently celebrated a birthday and she wrote, having an adult daughter is like having a best friend you’ve known forever. I almost teared up.

    • Grif

      ” having an adult daughter is like having a best friend you’ve known forever”

      Wow…what a great line. I feel that same way, in reverse, about my mom. I’m sure my 16 year old self is cringing to hear that, but its so true.

  • First, your mom sounds like an awesome woman.

    Second, my mom is a bit similar. She and my father eloped. It’s still working for them, twenty-seven years later.

    third, my mom was happy when my fiance’s mom was able to help me pick out my dress after we got engaged last year. My mom has only seen the dress in pictures. This weekend (first dress fitting) will be the first time my mom has seen the dress in person. I told her I will probably cry and to bring tissues.

    I am tired of the bridal industry “everyone that is female must be crazy when it comes to weddings” ideal that is perpetuated in magazines, TV shows, the internet, etc. It’s crazy-making and gives you as a partner in this soon-to-be marriage too much to worry about, in addition to the other things that you worry about when planning your wedding, wheter it is an elopement, big wedding, little wedding, religious or not.

  • sfw

    For a somewhat different perspective — my mom is pretty unsentimental and she married my dad in their backyard with flowers in her hair and their best friend officiating. It was a potluck with a handful of close friends and they ate prune cake (my mom’s favorite) for dessert. (The whole thing was really something out of the contemporary hipster, DIY, go-your-own-way wedding trendiness, but 35 years ago it was an anomaly.) So when I got engaged last year and wanted that same casual, backyard, DIY wedding, I expected complete buy-in from my mom. And I was confused and annoyed when she started sending me pics of poofy princess wedding dresses and 5-tier fondant cake monsters. Turns out that weddings bring up all kinds of things for everyone involved (surprise!) and sometimes in ways very different from what you expect. She had internalized a lot of negative messages over the years about what she had missed out on by having a non-traditional wedding and she wanted to protect me from that pain. It was her way of loving me, even if it wasn’t entirely on the mark. And that love is pretty amazing.

    • Class of 1980

      Thirty-five years ago would be 1978. Although many had traditional weddings, that era was also prime time for “alternative” weddings.

      It was the 1980s that swung wildly toward the poofy side, beginning with Princess Diana. Her dress was a complete departure of all the fitted sleeker styles that had been popular.

  • mimi

    My mom is fortunately supportive and willing to do whatever I ask her to do to help. I’m the oldest of 5, but the 4th to get married, so she’s been through this several times and is pretty unfazed by everything. My future MIL, on the other hand, has been pretty negative about our plans, so that’s been harder to deal with. My mom has made it her job to keep the MIL calm and positive (or at least neutral).

  • Moe

    My mom married my dad THREE times, each time it was in Las Vegas on a holiday weekend. The third time they were witnesses to my aunt’s Vegas wedding and got married because they were a little drunk and figured “what the hell?”

    My husband’s parents got married in Las Vegas.

    We got married in Las Vegas about six months ago.

    We’re planning a wedding now, partly for all of them to witness a “proper” wedding and mostly so I can wear The Dress, The Shoes and have The Party with our entire families present. Even though it was never mentioned or requested, I want to have this wedding for all of them.

    My mom is in frail health, not really mobile anymore, and slipping into early stages of dementia. I admit I have serious ENVY of other brides who have the pushy mother, the non-traditional mother, the bridezilla mother, the cooperative mother, any mother at all! I didn’t have anyone to shop for dresses with or to discuss flowers. Early in the planning it was something I just had to have a good cry about and then LET IT GO.

    My dad has already passed and if my mom is present to see me walk down the aisle it will be a huge cosmic gift.

    • Rebekah


  • Adi

    My mom was perfect during my wedding planning. Gave advice without being bossy, helped me when I needed and stood back when I didn’t. But in a crisis it was my dad who solved things–when I called him, bawling my eyes out because the venue had just added on another charge and we didn’t have enough money for the wedding AND the house we’d just put an offer on, he nonchalantly said we’d have the reception in their backyard, we’d set up a tent and have a friend bartend, and everything would be FINE. And it was more than fine–it was basically perfect.

    tldr; I’m extremely lucky to have the best parents ever.

    • Lydia

      My dad is the same way!! It’s funny, he’s been far more involved in the logistics of the wedding than my mom has — largely because of the fact that he has the time to do so, but also because he’s very generally very calm and chill when others get tense or upset.

  • Alicia

    My mom is very similar, in that she has zero opinions about my wedding. But it’s a little different because she was never married, so she’s never experienced or participated in the planning of a wedding. She’s extremely shy — like, borderline antisocial — and doesn’t understand all the aspects of a wedding or the typical “mother of the bride” role. She’s also low-income, so I feel a bit of guilt trying to involve her in planning discussions since her first reaction is always her inability to pay for things (even if she doesn’t say it, I know she’s thinking it).

    Sometimes I wish I had a mother who was more involved, but after experiencing a “Momzilla” in my ex-fiance’s mother (who actually *stomped her feet* and demanded we “had to!” invite her list of friends when we tried to pare down…she was actually the first part of my realization that that relationship was not right for me), I’ll keep my mom the way she is.

  • Hintzy

    Your mom does indeed sound awesome :) I’m curious to see how this all goes for me… I have both a step mom and biological mom. Thus far neither one has been too pushy, in fact my dad is the one sending me crazy ideas like getting married at the Pennsic War (big medieval festival in August with around 11,000 people at a campground in pa, it’s on wikipedia) I get the feeling that so far my mom is very hands off because she’s afraid of stepping on my toes or annoying me, so I’m going to have to extend the olive branch as it were to see if she actually does want to be involved. My step mom seems very interested in being involved, but I haven’t done anything yet, so pushy or not pushy isn’t really evident. We shall see….

  • Heh, my parents had the Exact.Same.Wedding, only with different motivation (in my mom’s case, she thought it’d pull unwanted attention away from her baby sister, who wound up pregnant at 15 and was bearing the brunt of my otherwise wonderful grandmother’s considerable wrath) and a different venue (theirs was a Holy Roller church because my OTHER grandmother [who is also equally otherwise wonderful] declared that No Son Of Hers would get married in a courthouse, and the local snake-handler church was the only place willing to take them on such short notice).

    But! My mom is pretty sentimental, though she tries to hide it, and I think that she is sad with the circumstances of her marriage. She’s too practical to renew her vows, but that means that MY wedding is, like, her beautiful golden opportunity to Make It Right. That said, she’s super calm about the whole thing and doesn’t push, and I likewise try to be aware of her feelings so that when she makes a suggestion, I don’t automatically counter with “Gross! Too saccharine!”

  • Class of 1980

    “They decided to get married because they were living together and grew tired of worrying about the wrong person answering the phone when one of their strict Catholic mothers called the apartment. Indeed, had caller ID been around in the mid-1970s, this issue could have been avoided and my parents may never have gotten around to getting married at all.”

    Too funny. That story is SO seventies.

  • Laura

    Moe, I can relate! Not to the multiple Vegas weddings :) but to the absence of parents while planning your wedding. It’s really hard, even when you think you finished grieving a long time ago. I lost my mother when I was very young, and my father is in poor health, physically and mentally. I had a sort of stepmother, but she’s gone too. Everyone experiences the loss of their parents, but it seems rather uncommon to be a motherless bride in her twenties. In fact I scrolled all the way through the comments trying to find another person who is missing the mother of the bride!

    When I was first engaged I couldn’t understand the aching emptiness that I felt, but after seeing a therapist I recognized it as grief and sadness for what and who is missing at this big turning point in my life. And it’s okay, and like Moe said, we have to let it go! I’ve learned that it’s perfectly natural to be sad at this time, and once that sank in there was room for all the happiness. Now I’m only a few months away from the wedding and have finally gotten excited about the details – things that a mother might have helped me with, but maybe not. Reading all of your comments helps me to remember that even if I had a mother right here and now, she wouldn’t be perfect. And she wouldn’t necessarily be interested in my wedding (my parents practically eloped, after all). Who knows? The point is, I’m glad to be able to come to APW to be reminded that even though the details are different for all of us undertaking this big thing called getting married, we are all going through it together!

  • Anya

    My mom has gone with “I will give you opinion but the final choice is yours” and that has worked out awesomely for us. I can be indecisive and stressed, and while I go and agonize, my mom rolls her eyes and breaks it down so I can make up my mind. My parents got married in a small city hall wedding in Russia, where NONE of this was ever a part of life. At least not in the early 1980’s. My mom’s dress — that she had to sell because my brother got sick and we needed money — was made for her by her sister. And my dad wore the only suit he ever owned. Seriously. He is going: wait, I have to wear a suit to my daughter’s wedding? (I’d let him wear a hockey jersey. seriously) I really appreciate that they give advice and act as a sounding board, but do not pressure me one way or another. It’s been one of the few times where I was actually happy with how my parents and I interact. This whole process helped us understand one another so much more.

    Counter that to my future Mother In Law, who has been on a … ridiculous mission to obsess over every details. No, I cannot have calla lilies. No, this is not formal enough. No, this has to be pressed. How can I even THINK of doing something that’s not super formal? Is it bad that I want to block her number? I think so, but if I get one more call about which flowers are “appropriate” and whether this purple would be better as lilac, I may not filter out my hockey mouth. Any suggestions for dealing? Coping?

    • Cleo

      I think this is a situation in which you should discuss what’s happening with your fiance and ask them to talk to their mom and get her to (as my Grandmother would say) cool it.

      I don’t know the situation, but her being hypercritical and inflexible like that makes it sound like there’s something bigger going on than the relative formality of calla lillies. Maybe there’s some of “Anya’s taking my baby away from me!” or, like people said upthread, maybe her mom/mom-in-law planned her whole wedding for her, so she’s trying to get back an experience she wishes she had, or maybe there’s some keeping up with the Joneses.

      Whatever it is, it sounds like a job for fiance to take over because he/she probably knows better how to handle his/her mom than you and you don’t want to have to apologize for a hockey mouth (love that phrase) incident in the midst of all this other stress.

      • Jen

        I am also have similar problems. Fiancee has been wonderful and supports me on almost eveything (although he will try to tell me when I am being a little too senstive, which is needed). However, fiancee often doens’t know my position on things. So if he gets ambushed he either agrees to things I wouldnt or says something that makes his mom more worried about whatever minute details is plaguing her. This is the system we have developed:

        Future MIL: You guys arne’t going to do X right, becuase X just wont work.

        Fiance: We have not discussed it yet, but I will ask Jen and we’ll let you know our thoughts.

        We discuss and consider wheteher this is something we give in on or stand our ground. If its the latter than my fiance stands his grrund to his mom. I have found it helpful because she is less critical of “our” decisons rather than ones that seem like my decisons (even if fiance could care less what flowers I picked, etc.).

        Now if she is calling you, I also agree you may need to ask your fiancee to tell her to back-off a little. Also, in person convos really helps with these conversations. Its easier to be critical over the phone.

  • H

    Ugh. This post made me jealous. Can I have a mom like this? Mine doesn’t give me opinions on all the frou-frou stuff that it would be fun to hear her opinions on? And when she does, she says, “Oh.. I don’t like the wedding dress you picked out.” So, I go to a wedding dress store with her, and she puts me in what she wants me in, and it’s this big puffy dress that I don’t look particularly good in, and I’m clearly not happy in, and says, “That’s what you should wear.” So I tell her I’m not happy in it, and she gets all mad, but doesn’t say it directly, “Why won’t you do it for me?” But that was several months ago. The latest issue is hotel. I booked a room block for everyone at a convenient hotel. Then, she tells me that she can’t stay there, so we find her a new hotel room. We book that; then her entire family switches to that hotel, “because they want to stay with me…” and then she asks, “so that out-of-town guest shuttle, can it come to this hotel too?” Still waiting to see exactly how this gets resolved. We might have competing weddings before this is all through.

  • Claire

    Haha, I can totally relate. My parents were both teachers. They took off their last class on a Friday afternoon, took a couple of other teachers along as witnesses, and got married at a registry office. My Mum was wearing a green ribbed polo neck and cord pants. They went for a beer at the pub and then joined a protest march relating to the anti-apartheid movement!

    I don’t think I’ll be having any indepth conversations with my Mum about dresses or caterers. But I can’t wait to have her there on the day and I know she’ll love to do a reading at the ceremony.

  • CMW

    Nice post, made me smile.

    My mother and father got married when they were both 21 and were determined to pay for the whole thing themselves. Mum hated her dress (and I even have to admit it really wasn’t that flattering) and they spent as much as they could on the event but still didn’t really enjoy it or ‘love it’.

    My mum is my best friend, we are both pretty organised people and share very similar tastes. When Husband and I decided we were not going to have a bridal party, my mum was the person I turned to (after chatting to Husband first) to bounce ideas off and gain opinions from. She never told me what to do and wouldn’t dream of making decisions or making us ‘do’ anything.

    I don’t think mum was ‘re-living’ her wedding through me, but I was chuffed to have her help throughout the whole process and I think she was chuffed to be there and be included.

    I enjoyed having a selection of people around me through the planning process – those excited to hear about every detail, even if they didn’t understand what I was describing, those who didn’t want to hear anything as they wanted it to be a big surprise, those who had an opinion or strong suggestion for everything, who you quickly learn to shut-up on the topic when around them, and then those wonderful people who (I was so lucky to have many of this type) are so thrilled to be asked to assist or be asked their opinion that they almost tear up every time!

    Anyway, that went slightly of topic, but not quite as much as the food thread up further! Hehe!


  • You know how people say you have to decide which elements are a priority for you so you can divide the budget up appropriately?

    My mom and I do not see eye to eye on photography. I told her that it is probably the number one most important thing to me and she respects that but she doesn’t understand it.

    She’s not sentimental about pictures, while I very much am. Her wedding pictures are a few blurry shots from a friend’s camera in a dusty album and she’s totally fine with that.

    My mom is so gentle that I hope that she isn’t sad that I don’t need her participation as much as some of the brides on the shows I watch. I’m getting married in a different religion from her and my dress is something I’m ordering from India without her input. I already know what I want and I’m a little bit sorry that I haven’t left any space for my mom to have an opinion too.

    • MDBethann

      Have you checked out the Intern posts from last year? One of the ladies converted to Islam (so married in a different religion from her family) and her groom is from Pakistan (if I recall correctly). Her posts might be of use to you, as well as the ones by the other interns – there was definitely a lot of posting about intercultural and interfaith (or marrying outside of your faith) weddings.

      Good luck!

  • Gail

    I’d love for my daughter to have a simple, intimate wedding with only the couple’s dearest people around them. Get married in the morning, have brunch…catch a plane to a memory filled honeymoon destination.

    No tears, no drama, no debt, just love.

    But I’m keeping that to myself until and unless she asks for my opinion.

  • Sabrina

    I love my mother very much, but I am completely relieved that she is moving out of state before any of my wedding planning is really getting started. She has borderline personality disorder so dealing with her can me a nightmare, because everything becomes about her. As an example: My finance and I are going to be married in a beautiful cemetery that we love to spend time in, and when we told her that her first reaction was to shake her head no and tell us that we shouldn’t, less than five minutes after we announced our engagement. Not only that, but she then quickly changed the subjected to how upset she was that her car battery had died on her. I’m not a particularly sentimental myself, but that was a little hurtful. Thank goodness his family is so much more supportive! His fantastic sister has even agreed to help me with the planning since none of my family will be in state by the time I get married.

  • kathryn

    Thank you for this post. I love my mom. She is not very sentimental but I am and I have started feeling a little let down that she responds ambivalently or that some of the details I would like to have are silly. They are paying for some of the wedding costs and am not asking for them to pay for anything outside of the basics, all of which we found good value choices and they have a large portion of the guest list. I am fine with all of it but sometimes I wish she was more enthusiastic and interested in discussing the planning. I keep reminding myself that is just her personality but as you states our culture has created this image of the gushing, involved mom that just isn’t my reality. Its nice to know other people are in this relationship boat.

  • SN

    Wow! I was beginning to the think that it was only me that had a mother that is showing very little interest in her daughters wedding! She was the same when my older sister got married a few years ago. In a way, I think it is a good thing as I am not having to have an awkward conversations with her about difference of opinion. I did however feel a bit upset after showing her the dress I had picked out (after she showed no interest at all in coming shopping with me) – she just said it was nice. At least my little sister was there with kinder words. It seems trivial I know, but for once I thought maybe she would say I looked beautiful – I am holding out for the wedding day, but not with high hopes! I think this all comes from the fact that my parents did not have a big wedding at all, my mother didn’t wear a white dress and they didn’t go on a honeymoon. When my mother has described their wedding, I almost get a feeling that she did want some of the more ‘traditional’ things which makes me feel sad. I guess at least my parents are letting us plan the wedding we want without interfering! :)