3/17 To Momzilla, With Love

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To Momzilla, With Love

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,

Liz Coopersmith is the owner of Silver Charm Events, a wedding planning service in Los Angeles. She's also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of "DIY Your DOC: Do-it Yourself Wedding Day Coordination." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Zidebrilla

    Curious if anyone has experienced the OPPOSITE? i.e. lack of input/help/interest? I honestly can't relate to anything in this article. NOT complaining here (as this post clearly shows the downside to having folks overinvolved), just curious because sometimes I feel like I'm alone on wedding planning island!

    • Emma

      I had what I thought was lack of interest and I confronted my mother about it. Turns out she just didn't want to get into fights with me, so she was keeping her mouth shut. (:

    • Caro

      I'm with you on this one. My mom gets super closed-mouth when I talk wedding, and just tells me to go ahead with whatever I think is best. So frustrating!

  • LC!

    Thank you so much for this post. In this case, it is my mother who has certain expectations, and I'm letting myself get dragged in that direction (bigger, more expensive, less intimate, etc.). Feels good to know other people deal with this too. I really appreciate the first suggestion – that's what my fiance just said last night and we're going to get on the same page of what WE envision so I can stop being buffeted around by other expectations.

    • greg

      I am producing a TV series about Mothers of the Brides planning their daughters' weddings. It is for the Style Network. If your wedding is sometime in the next couple of months and you and your mom are interested, please contact me!

      Greg Harvey, Screen Door Entertainment

  • Connie

    I noticed that as soon I as announced my engagement, everyone involved (mothers, sister, bridesmaids, basically all the women) were suddenly wedding planners with a million ideas each. I am a simple woman, compared to all the women involved. I listened to each and every one of their ideas and thanked them, but didn’t use their ideas. None of them were terribly overbearing considering we refused to take any financial support from them because my fiance and I knew that it would have strings attached. I did have one bridesmaid who kept telling me that I needed have a Dollar Dance. Every time we met up to do something wedding related or talked on the phone, she mentioned the Dollar Dance. It is a celebration of love, my fiance and I want our friends and family to come have fun with us, that it wasn’t an obligation to give us money. Finally my fiance had enough of it and told her, “Look, we appreciate your ideas, but we don’t feel the need to ask our friends/family to pay to dance with us on our wedding day. When you get married, I will be happy to participate in your Dollar Dance.” She did back off, eventually. She was a serious case of “Maidzilla.”

  • Bride (M) X

    ZideBrilla – I too am having the opposite problem. My parents eloped and basically did not have a wedding, and my sister says she plans on doing the same. Because of this, they cannot understand why I would want to spend money on ‘one day’ and therefore have expressed no interest in being a part of the
    process. My sister has even suggested that I plan and pay for my own bridal shower and bachelorette party (gasp! – I know). Money is not that much of an issue – my parents told me the amount they were willing to co tribute and I can work with it. I am just feeling very hurt that my family cannot be bothered to show any interest in the day because they don’t understand that I would like an actual wedding to celerate with my friends and family. While my Finacr has been very understanding and helpful, he’s still a guy. I too am alone on wedding island 🙁

  • Sarah

    I am struggling with my fiance's mom as well. She has offered money only for the guests she thinks should be there that weren't on our initial lists. She asks about plans constantly, I want to turn around any yell you need money to have plans!
    But reading this is going to make me reconsider taking money from her period. I don't want her to feel like she can fully unleash her thoughts and ideas just because there is a financial investment.

  • Annie-Blake

    omg i laughed and cried when i read this post!

    First Rule: Zoning. Decide what i'm ok with the MIL having input too. I stupidly didn't care about the cake. not even a little bit, not even at all. then MIL went ahead and choose the whole thing (without consulting me in any way, shape or form). she told me what she had ordered. it was something i would never ever choose. i didn't like it. not even a little bit, not even at all. now i do care about the cake…so much so that's its overtaken everything else in this event…and that matters. alot. i need to be consulted b4 a final decision is made. i'm the bride!!!

    Second Rule: limit there involvement so they're not in on the real thing…Well, i did this; however, MIL just went ahead and made the final decision…WITHOUT ME.

    i was stupidly naive and didn't realise that because she was paying for the cake that she gets all decision making rights and absolute control. i feel like screaming at her i'm so mad. and i haven't even gotten started on the second element i let her organise (flowers). ARGHHHHHHHH!!!

  • I am struggling with my mother/ a plethora of people who are either in the wedding or for some reason have strong feelings about the wedding. Me? I've always dreamed of eloping, but since the boy wants a family affair, we are having a 150-person hoedown. And I am petrified.

    A lot of my friends have good ideas and I do appreciate their support, but most of their suggestions just aren't our style. My mother has been the hardest to deal with because when she suggests something and when she gets a rejection, she gets angry. Then, when I tried to hire a wedding planner (who is a friend of mine) she went absolutely bonkers. She said that it was her party, too, and she would feel more comfortable if she did all the planning. Eeeeeek.

    She did that at my sister's wedding about ten years ago and through the fog I can remember seeing my sister and her soon-to-be-hubs rearranging the tables 15 minutes before the ceremony. My mother took it upon herself to make all of the bridesmaid's dresses, the bride's dress, arrange all of the flowers and decorate everything BY HERSELF. It wasn't a small wedding, either, about 125 came. By the time of the wedding, she was cracked and had to pop a few valium.

    Basically, I want my mother to be calm and sane by the end of the wedding. I also want this wedding to be a representation of the groom and me, not what she wants (potted orchids as centerpieces? Not so much us). She is so forceful with her suggestions that she makes it impossible to say no. The one time I tried to get this through to her, we both ended up not speaking for a few days. I'm thinking a conversation has to happen SOON. Currently my position is creative passiveness in the form of making a wedding look book of all of the stuff that would be suitable. Argh.

    … help!

    • Greg


      I am producing a TV series about Mothers of the Brides planning their daughters' weddings. It is for the Style Network. If your wedding is sometime in the next couple of months and you and your mom are interested, please contact me!

      Greg Harvey, Screen Door Entertainment

  • @Emma – yeah, that’s pretty much how my Mom was! Plus, since I was an event planner, all three Moms (step-parents) figured I was okay.

  • Stacey

    Ugh! My mom was the WORST, she wanted to do everything from my dress, the bridesmaid's dresses, tuxes to flowers, seating arrangments and the ceremony. My fiance (now husband) basically had to passively aggressively say "It's OK, if we don't find anything we want & like, we'll just go to Vegas". That stopped her over-involvement right there. I was flabberghasted that she planned on taking all this on, and not even consulting me in the process. She had 3, that's right THREE of her own weddings to plan, one would think that would have been enough wedding planning for her…but no. She did the exact same thing to my step-sister when she was planning her own wedding. Amazing how weddings bring out the trolls in the best of us!

  • elizajane

    My parents have hijacked my wedding so to compensate I will let them have "their" wedding in my hometown with family and I am throwing myself another reception in my current city with my friends. They are paying for "theirs" and I am paying for "mine". My fiance doesn't care-he just wants me to stop complaining about the hijacking.

  • As so many of the other readers have wrote, I also have the opposite problem. Reading this was really interesting for me because I have no clue what that's like. My mother is cheap. Not just budget friendly, money conscious, I mean penny pinching cheap. We have already decided to do a destination wedding to save money and my fiance and I are paying for everything with no assistance from his family or mine. But everytime I tell my mom about something that I paid for or bought for the wedding, she says it's a waste of money. She tells me I don't need to get my hair and makeup done, I don't need to pay for a limo for my guests. I don't need to pay for a wedding dinner or get anyone a gift for attending, etc. She thinks the only expense that I should have is the dress, the airfare/hotel and the chapel. I've spent so many nights crying to my future hubby like "WHY doesn't she care what my dress looks like" or "WHY won't she just say I'm so happy for you?"

    It does console me a little bit to know that there are other people out there screaming MOM, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME because truthfully, I started to wonder if I was crazy and if planning my dream wedding was just a waste of money.

  • MissCrown

    As a wedding officiant, I see and hear about this all the time. Couples are stressed, frustrated and just plain pissed off. I love the mantra "itcomesfromlove" because that's really what's going on. Parents have many years to imagine their daughter's wedding, and want to make sure it's wonderful. In the cases where they themselves didn't get the wedding THEY wanted, then by-gum, they're gonna make sure their little girl will get it. As a Mom myself (and former hands-off MOB), I get this. The advice given here to remedy the circumstances is sound.

    As a bride-to-be (for the second time and much, much later in life), there are no Momzillas for us to contend with, thank goodness. Mr. Crown and I are paying for everything, and our folks are just happy to hear about the plans. It's my youngest daughter who's the voice of reason ("Mom, do you really need to spend money for that?") and will no doubt keep our vision and budget on the right track.

  • Wendy

    I can see it now, my mom will give no input as she will take the "whatever makes you happy" stance. My dad will tell me I'm wasting too much money on things and give my fiance a hard time, and his mom will have input but so as not to upset me, will just make faces. I'm pre-planning.

  • I love this post!! Tis better to set-up boundaries now, if you don't then expect headaches later.

  • Lucy

    Ahhhh I have a momzilla too! Except my mother doesnt really care about the details of my wedding, all she cares about is her own details at my wedding! When I ask her for opionions about dresses, she changes the subject to her mother-of-the-bride outfit and carries on about non-stop and is planning on spending more on her outfit than I am on my dress! When I ask her about what accomodation I should recommend to guests, she starts talking about which hotel SHE wants to stay in and how she better book something before everyone else – even though my parter and I haven't even picked our wedding night hotel! It's all about HER dress HER hair, HER hotel, who SHE wants to talk to and not talk to at the wedding, where SHE gets to sit or stay or what SHE gets to eat. The wedding is all about HER! I'm beyond asking her for any advice because she only turns it around on herself and demands I help her organise all 'her' things!

  • Rease

    I'm getting married in a month and I am really sad to say that I am in the exact same boat as Rachel (from the article). I wanted a small wedding (no more than 50 guests) and was originally going to plan to pay for it with my fiancee. My mother offered to contribute and she said that I should do "whatever I want." Next thing I know, I'm picking her favorite colors and my guest list is now at 164! I am really upset at myself for letting it go this far. The only thing that is keeping me through is the thought that I will be at least seeing my closest friends and family at my wedding and the fact that I finally will be married to my best friend after being together for 10 years.

  • guest

    i'm a mom. this article really was so helpful. i loved the post that encouraged the brides to not be passive-aggressive, but to make the decisions you want. that is super helpful. otherwise, those of us moms who are doing the planning on a tight budget can feel like we're trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip when all we really need is loving direction and clear decisions. sometimes it feels like i was put in charge just so there's someone to fight with! it is the kind of event that can bring out the worst, but also it can teach us a ton about ourselves that really needs to be worked on. blessings on your wedding!

  • Meghan

    Lesson #1: No matter how much they insist, DO NOT let anyone else pay for your wedding or contribute. Because then it's their wedding, not yours. If you can't afford to pay for a wedding (mine will be around one thousand dollars) then how are you going to be able to support each other financially when married? (I see that most of the commentators were able to, but just allowed others to contribute. Not trying to be judgmental! This is just my opinion.)

    My mom is very controlling, always has been, and I'm not letting her have any part of my wedding. (Mothers out there will probably think I'm a selfish brat, but this is the only thing that I actually get to plan.) It's small (32 people) so I don't really need a whole lot of help. She gets mad every time I tell her that we are paying for our wedding, that WE are making the decisions. Then she goes on about how as the mother of the bride she has all of these rights. What rights? The only wedding "right" there is: My fiance and I getting what WE want. This is our day, we are the only ones with rights!

    The next issue: When she isn't trying to pay for something, she tries to guilt trip me instead. "I didn't let my mother help me with my wedding and I regret it." (Which one?) So I have to pay for what she has done. I don't think so. But if she wants to be like that, how come she got to do what SHE wanted, and I don't?

    Finally: Whenever I make a decision about decorating or something she's like, are you sure you don't want to do this instead? So it makes me feel terrible. Then after she has gone and made me upset, she'll be like, that is really such a cute idea.

    Whenever I get stressed I start thinking about my honeymoon and the life I will have with my best friend. And I remind myself, it's only ONE DAY. April 1 can't come soon enough!

    • Meghan

      Failed to mention that my mom wanted to invite some of her friends, when (sadly) I couldn't care less about them and don't want any additional people. She was even like, I'll pay for them! Well now, trying to find a way to put your money in our wedding now are we?