If your mother has any involvement in planning your wedding, chances are you have contemplated ending your relationship with her at least once since your engagement.
In addition to her negative comments and criticisms, there is the threat that she might withdraw all financial contributions if she doesn’t have her way. Flashback: it’s like being sixteen and living at home all over again.
Why is she trying to run things?
Denise McGregor, an expert in mother-daughter relations and author of Mama Drama, explains the problem this way: “Your mother has been planning your wedding since the day you were born. It's part of ‘the good life’ she wants for you. She doesn't just want a wedding -- she wants the perfect wedding for you and nothing less than ‘storybook’ will do.” Then why does she make you feel more like the poor maid stepsister when you are supposed to feel like the princess Cinderella?
Your mother affects you like no one else. For instance, your fiance can hate your floral arrangement choice, your dad can complain about the cost of your dress, but if your mother makes one negative comment about a decision you make, you are in tears. Take these three stories from iVillage members:
Kitty_bean says, “We are having a small wedding. The problem is that my mom keeps pointing out the negatives. My parents are the only ones able to make my wedding and my mother has to ask ‘Don't you think you are hurting your relatives' feelings?’”
Fighterchick is in the same boat: “My mom still makes rude comments about every decision I make that is not exactly what she would have done. My response is usually something like ‘Since you don't have to get married at this wedding, you are not required to like it, Mother Dear.’"
Alstation knows fighterchick and kitty_bean’s plight all too well. She says, “My mom is driving me crazy! Everything I suggest she has a problem with. I want to make decisions without having to fight her every step of the way. If I tell her this, even nicely she says ‘Forget it, I won't help at all,' and gets hurt and angry. What do I do?”
Next Page: Does Money Equal Control?
McGregor says, “There is a recurring theme among these women. They are all stuck in and focused on what they don't want from their mothers instead of what do they want. Don’t dance around an issue and never handle it, it only creates drama. Bottom line: Don’t waste a lot of time getting mad, but rather use the emotion to move to direct communication. Remember -- you and your mother are in this together. Any time there is a power struggle, it's a two-way tango. Change your own dance step and Mom will have no choice but to try some new moves.”
Does Money Equal Control?
What about when your mother brings up the “B” word? That’s right, she might defend her case further and remind you that she is paying the BILLS. Most of us will have our parents pay for at least some of our wedding. Does that give them the right to dictate how we plan our wedding? Eegratto is living a wedding planning nightmare and says, ”My mother is being absolutely unpleasant to me about everything to do with my wedding. If she's paying for something, she is totally inflexible, and won't even listen to my opinion or input on the situation. In her words, ‘If you don't like it, you could pay for it yourself.’” At this point, she doesn’t even want to mention the word, “wedding” around her mother. How is she going to get through this?
McGregor’s advice: “Tell her you appreciate all she is contributing (money and time) and ask her where you could help the most. Offer to pay for some extras that might not be in the initial wedding plan.” Denise explains that taking initiative here and showing your mother you appreciate her contributions is sure to change her attitude.
If all else fails, iVillage’s Wedding Women add: “Invite all contributors to create a written wish list of how they'd like to see your wedding plans unfold. Have them prioritize their list. Be upfront in saying that you'll take everyone's feelings into consideration, but that final decisions are up to you and your groom.”
Next Page: 11 Ways to Prevent Stress
Head off trouble before it starts
We all know our mothers love us and want the best for us on our special day. The best way to put an end to problems with Mom is to avoid them in the first place. And that means setting the tone for good communication. McGregor offers these 11 encouraging strategies for dealing with your mother while planning your wedding. Keep these tips in mind while planning your wedding and turn a tense experience into a pleasurable process for all!
1. Keep it in perspective. Your wedding, no matter how special, is one day out of your life. Your relationship with your mother goes on well after your wedding.
2. Set the pace of the planning to suit your schedule. It's easy to get caught up in wedding frenzy and skip meals, workouts, rest and relaxation. Make sure you have plenty of breaks to keep you calm and energized.
3. Take Mom to lunch and find out what she imagines your wedding to be. Find areas where you're already in agreement and negotiate differences. Decide what's most important for you to handle personally, and delegate the rest to Mom or other relatives.
4. Use "we" statements whenever possible. This diffuses the "you" against "her". Ask, "Can we consider this instead?" or say, "I'm confident we can work this out." These are buffer statements to break the argument and bring you back to cooperation.
5. Set a timeline and calendar for important decisions. It's essential that time-sensitive decisions are organized well in advance so that you don't feel rushed and stressed out.
6. Ask mom to set a budget (if she's paying for the wedding), so you know ahead of time what your family is willing to pay for certain items. If you want to upgrade something, offer to pay the difference.
7. Establish a communication system with Mom that allows you to stay sane and minimize interruptions. Fax or email important details and keep them in a series of colored folders for easy access. Save discussions/decisions for meetings or phone calls you've already planned.
8. Ask girlfriends and work colleagues for wedding time-savers and for tips on dealing with moms and in-laws. There's a wealth of personal experience out there if you'll just ask. For example, check out the tips on The Wedding Women message board.
9. Enlist the support of your husband-to-be for handling communication and challenges with his own mother. Weddings are fraught with enough mama drama without getting caught in the crossfire between his mother and yours.
10. Involve your mother on an emotional level. Give her first choice on something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Ask her what remembrance of hers she would like you to keep close on your wedding day.
11. Reassure your mother that's she's still in the picture. Take time to give her a compliment for all she is doing for you, instead of focusing on her shortcomings. If you blow it and lose your cool, be woman enough to apologize and let her know you still value her for who she is.
Ilana Arazie is the Junior Producer for the Shopping channel. Although she is not married yet, her mother is awaiting the day she walks down that aisle, which is already driving her crazy.