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Ohhh, boy. Weddings make families do the wacky. You might have noticed.
Dana forwarded me an email last week from a reader, we’ll call her Rachel, who is having problems with her future mother-in-law, who we will call Mrs. Blue. Now, Rachel loves Mrs. Blue, and I want to get that clear. Mrs. Blue has always been kind and generous, loving and supportive … and then the wedding planning started. Rachel initially wanted to elope, but her fiance wants a family wedding, and so they agreed on a small backyard wedding for 50 guests. Which grew to 75 once Mrs. Blue was consulted. And has now ended up as a 150 guest event that’s not going to be in anyone’s backyard. Rachel and her fiance told her they were paying for the wedding themselves, but accepted Mrs. Blue’s offer to contribute a small percentage. Now, since Mrs. Blue has a financial stake in the wedding, she’s seen it as permission to have opinions on everything from the flowers to the invites to the catering, and she gets very upset when her suggestions aren’t taken. Rachel no longer recognizes her own wedding, and is afraid that it’s turning into more of a “production” than the fun, intimate gathering she wanted. Mrs. Blue has become the Bridezilla in this wedding, Rachel says. Well, Rachel, better her than you.
No, it’s not funny, especially when you’re in the trenches dealing with it. But it is pretty universal. There are a ton of you nodding your heads while you’re reading this, muttering, “Oh, my God, that’s his/my mother/stepmother/future mother-in law/father”, what the hell do I do? Do I have to go ballistic on them in order to get this to stop?”
God, no. Fighting a lack of perspective with a lack of perspective never works. Deep breath … and listen. Weddings? Make families do the wacky. Believe it or not, most, if not all, of your family want this to be a wonderful day for you. And they all have different ideas about what “wonderful” looks like. I see this every day with my couples. They’ll show up with a parent or two, who are used to guiding the way, and when they try to do that, the bride and groom feel overwhelmed by their input. And they either don’t say anything, and decisions are made that they’re not happy with, or a fight starts (“You ALWAYS do this! What about what I want?”) which causes hurt feelings on both sides, and creates a decidedly non-wonderful atmosphere. And I see some of you nodding your heads, again.
What to do, what to do? Well, I’m not going to tell you to not take money from your parents, because a lot of times that’s unavoidable if you’re trying to have the wedding you actually want. And, I’m not so much of a Pollyanna that I’m going to suggest that you keep repeating, “ItcomesfromloveitcomesfromloveITCOMESFROMLOVE!!!” over over and over in your head, either, while your Grandmother is insisting on bedazzled tablecloth overlays. We all know that isn’t going to work, right? We need strategies, for them and for you.
Okay. First thing: Zoning. Decide, right now, what you’re okay with them having input into. Is it the number of guests, for whatever reason? Is it the food, for whatever reason? What is least important to you? For instance, one of my brides doesn’t really care about the cake (I know), so her fiance and her Mom are taking care of it. Ask for Momzilla’s help with that stuff, and thank her for it, because it is a load off your mind.
Second thing: Limit their involvement, so that they’re not in on the final decision, or even at the first meeting. They can’t drive you crazy if they’re not there. If they ask to see to whatever you picked, show it to them, tell them how happy you are with your choice, and move on.
Third of all: Do not get into it with them, especially in public. If you start to feel increasingly frustrated, and you know that you’re going sound like a 5-year-old who needs her nap, bail. Whatever it is doesn’t need to be decided today. Everyone has seen what’s available, walk away and go back to Step #2. Because we both know that the parental units are not going to change. Walk away and live to not fight another day.
Fourth thing: If you can’t do the third thing, do what I do when I see this stuff happening — remember that it’s not that they’re not listening, they just can’t hear you. “Andrea, what do you think?” I ask her, so she can be heard. What DO you think? Do you like/not like such and such? Say it. Say why. No petulance necessary. It’s your wedding. If they come back with a rebuttal, repeat that you really don’t like it, that you prefer this other thing over here with less stuff, that you really don’t want this big whosit at your wedding. Emphasize that’s it’s not personal. Seriously, Andrea, what do you think?
But, say you’re already where Rachel is — sad about the demise of your wedding, at the end of your rope with the person who killed it, and not looking forward to this day that is the exact opposite of what you hoped and dreamed it would be. Sucks. Rachel feels like her intimate wedding, surrounded by the people that are important to the both of them, is gone. No, it’s still there — you just got to go after it. Right now, you can think of five people who are going to be at your wedding that you can’t wait to see. Everyone you love is still there, and they can’t wait to spend time with you and celebrate your love. Create a space for that. Visit their tables, hang out, drag them to the couch in the lobby to talk, drag them to the floor to dance. It’s still all there for you. Go get it.
But do what you can to not get to this point. Figure out what you need to change to get closer to the dream, and change it. Tweak the cake, tweak the flowers, switch the gold-plated flatware. And then dance all night.
So, what exactly was it that made you nod your head in recognition? Got any Momzilla stories of your own or combat strategies? Share the woe in the comments.
See you at the end of the aisle,