Youre planning a traditional wedding, complete with a flowing white bridal gown, a handsome groom, a beautiful church, gorgeous wedding flowers, traditional vows and a mother-in-law wanting her way. Planning a traditional wedding and dealing with your own mother is stressful enough as it is. Throw in a future mother-in-law with needs of her own and youre facing major stress overload. As you continue your journey toward marital bliss, youll definitely need to deal with your fiancs mother. However, try not to fall into the trap of becoming a mother-in-law pleaser.
The wedding and its planning stages could very well set the tone for your future relationship. If you ignore your grooms mothers wishes, you may live to regret it. On the other hand, if you bend over backwards to please your mother-in-law, you could be setting yourself up for a subservient role for the long term.
So how do you please your mother-in-law without becoming a mother-in-law pleaser? This question has haunted brides for generations. While traditional weddings come with their share of traditions and guidance such as something old, something new, you dont often receive advice for dealing with mother-in-laws. Before figuring out how to keep you and your mother-in-law happy, lets take a look at what your future mother-in-law will be going through.
Traditionally, the brides parents pay for the wedding and act as the hosts. As such, they hold more power as far as the wedding is concerned. For example, whose name is traditionally listed on the wedding invitation? The brides parents, as in Mr. and Mrs. Smith cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter, Jane. Another area where the brides parents, in this case the brides mother, have more power is in attire. The mother of the groom is expected to defer to the mother of the bride, consulting with her first before selecting a dress and making sure that her dress doesnt upstage that of the mother of the brides.
These two factors alone place mothers of the groom in a position that they may not be well suited for. For example, an independent woman who normally takes an active role in corporate events, party planning, or family gatherings is going to have a tough time backing off and letting another woman run the show. A woman who loves fashion and is well known for her snappy wardrobe may not be happy wearing mauve or asking another woman permission to wear a specific outfit.
Understanding the pre-defined role that your future mother-in-law is expected to play in a traditional wedding can help you understand her behavior which many manifest in many ways. Questions to consider include:
Does she feel like shes an equal partner?
Does she resent playing a less active planning role?
Is she overbearing? Is she overstepping?
Is she not contributing her ideas out of fear of overstepping her role?
What role would she like to play?
At this point, you are only speculating. Considering these questions is a good place to start. However, these same questions could lead you into the trap of becoming a mother-in-law pleaser. You dont necessarily want the same things that your mother-in-law wants, right? Identifying her wants is fine; it helps you understand her. But it doesnt mean you have to grant her wishes. For example, what if your mother-in-law wants to arrive at the church on a Harley Davidson motorcycle instead of the limousine that youve arranged? Or wants to be escorted down the aisle carrying her toy poodle on a pillow?
An excellent way to please your mother-in-law without having to cater to her is to treat your wedding planning as you would any other project. Projects have stakeholders such as investors, customers, and managers. So does your wedding. In your mother-in-laws case, whats at stake? What are her expectations? Whats her role? What activities is she well suited for? Does she understand the projects objectives and goals? Adopting a business-like wedding planning approach from the beginning can help you establish boundaries while also helping your mother-in-law understand the larger picture and her role in it.
Plan a stakeholders meeting with you, your mother, and your future mother-in-law. Ask each woman to write down her vision for the wedding. Explain that youve already done so but are interested in their ideas and input. After everyones written down their ideas, share your ideal wedding and then ask each mother to share her thoughts. This allows you to discover common ground and areas that may be outside of your weddings scope. For example, if you wrote down that you want a small, traditional church wedding with immediate family and close friends only followed by an outdoor reception at the local winery, how do the tentative wedding plans written by the two mothers compare? Is your mother-in-law envisioning a lavish black-tie affair for 400 guests? While your ideas may be worlds apart, they may be strikingly similar. For example, what if she wrote that shed love to see you get married at the same church where your groom was baptized? Youll never know until you ask.
By sharing your own vision from the beginning, before either mother has had a chance to influence you, you will already know what you want, and so will they. This is your framework. You may need to make changes and concessions along the way, but you do not need to stray far from your original vision just to please your mother-in-law.
Back to the wild entrance on a Harley and the toy poodle. Should you give in? Again, you do not need to grant every wish, but if you understand what your mother-in-law really wants, you may be able to compromise. For example, why is riding in on a Harley important to your mother-in-law? Is she trying express her free spirit? Is she known for her wild side? Instead of going for a traditional black limo, why not opt for a stretched black Hummer or some other fun but classy type of limousine, thus allowing your mother-in-laws personality to be expressed without becoming overly intrusive. As far as the poodle, you may need to put your foot down and say no pets. However, if youre open to a whimsical poodle-theme at the reception, let your mother-in-law pick out the table decorations and party favors.
Planning a wedding with other strong women involved requires communication, cooperation, and compromise. If you can find the right balance, you can please your mother-in-law without catering to her every wish.