We’ve all heard this expression before. It’s an all too common phrase uttered by the overzealous bride. 

Written by Saleha Mehr
PHOTO CREDITS Top:  Bride Michelle Goehring, daughter of Kathy and Morris Bart, with Kathy.   Left:  Bride Marie Claire Amort, with her mother, Claire Bennet.  Right:  Bride Allison Behan accompanied by her mother, Patty Dugas. All photos by Oscar Rajo.

From the moment a suitor pops the question, thus begins the plan to have the perfect wedding. From the dress, the cake, to party favors, a myriad of decisions awaits the bride-to-be. With stacks of bridal magazine in hand, Pinterest boards pinned, and a gaggle of bridesmaids at the ready, the eager bride hits the pavement to plan a momentous day.

In the quest to have the perfect wedding, brides quickly realize that all that glitters is not gold. It becomes an emotional roller coaster of extraordinary expectations and an astonishing reality. Every decision brings forth new challenges and overwhelmed brides often find themselves reacting for the worst. “During the planning of my wedding…I didn’t recognize myself,” recalls Sheila Kaplan, a bride and author of A Mother, a Daughter, a Wedding. “ How could a girl like me – career-oriented and ‘liberated,’ raised to be socially conscious and generally unmaterialistic — be reduced to tears at having to choose between calla lilies and gerbera daisies for her bouquet?”

From the twists and turns of this emotional roller coaster, it is not uncommon that the relationship suffering the most hits is that of mother and daughter.  Under the pressure on the bride and her family to host a perfect wedding, one befitting of Cinderella herself, the dearest of mother-daughter relationships can devolve into a dueling spectacle between the Mother of the Bride and Bridezilla:

 My mother is ruining my wedding plans. [My fiancé and I] are planning to get married at his church, but my mother says if I don’t get married in my hometown in the church she attends, she won’t come to my wedding. 

My [mother in law] asked me if she could come along with my mom and me and help pick out my bridal gown. Seeing no reason she shouldn’t, I told her I’d love to have her. When I told my mother, she thought it was totally rude. 

For my wedding, I envisioned a vintage, cocktail-style dress as opposed to a traditional gown. I found a vintage Guy Laroche from the Jackie Kennedy-era on a couture website. My mother was not having that for a litany of reasons.

When reading these Dear Abby excerpts, many will be quick to side with the bride. After all, it is HER wedding day.  But before taking sides, it is important to evaluate why mothers, like their daughters, can go from rational nurturers to overemotional despots during the wedding planning process.

From the very first, watching her young daughter toddle along with the neighbor’s young son, a mother may ponder her daughter’s wedding long before the daughter ever dreams of it.  Along with all the other hopes and wishes she may have for her daughter, a mother may envision her daughter–a graceful, self assured woman in white, walking down the aisle to marry a man who loves her. These thoughts may come and go in a mother’s imagination as she watches her daughter grow.

From infancy to adulthood, your mother is there for you through all the bumps and bruises of the schoolyard, teenage angst, graduations, and career successes, but most importantly, she has been there for you throughout all the numerous crushes and heartbreaks. There were crushes that never materialized past diary entries, or the high school sweetheart that  broke your heart…Moms are there to pick up the shattered pieces that boyfriends-past may have left in their wake.  Until finally, “the one” has arrived.

With a ring glistening on her right hand, Mom is the first one to be informed of the much-awaited engagement. The news is quickly spread to family and friends and the wedding planning begins. But between the groom, family members, the bridesmaids, the guests, mothers may feel pushed out, reduced and replaced. She may feel like her opinion and guidance, which had been so valued throughout all the highs and lows of your life, are now considered a burden. There is also the looming reality for mothers that the daughter is stepping into a new chapter in her life, a chapter where Mom’s role is secondary to the husband-to-be, and now there is another mother involved: his.  And thus begins the mother-daughter dance – a tango of two women filled with raw emotion, the two determined to have a standing ovation in the form of an unforgettable wedding day.

Adding to the mix is the fact that for many families weddings may be one of the final responsibilities shared by divorced parents.  A wedding can become a regular family-gumbo ready to boil over.  There may be ex-husbands, new wives, step-children, second families, third wives, and that may just be on your side.  Your spouse-to-be may also have some interesting family dynamics that are an added ingredient to this new stew.  From who is invited to the engagement party to who will be picking up the tab, complicated issues with a mish-mash of feelings from all angles are impacting not only you, but also your Mom.

For brides wishing to avoid this all too common mother-daughter tango, it is important to remember that your wedding is a big day for your Mom as well.  Some situations may be more difficult than others, but if at all possible, try to give your Mom a little slack, a little patience, and extra understanding may go a long way.

Consider carving out individual time with Mom. When dress shopping, it becomes all about the young bride and her bridesmaids. Mothers might be reminded of a youth gone by.  Don’t forget about your Mom’s gown when dress shopping, perhaps make a special day of it with her.  Mother’s may have a lot of anxiety about their attire and how they will look. She will be receiving a lot of attention, more than she may be used to of late, so even though she may not be the center of attention, it is important to make her feel beautiful and confident on the day of the wedding.

With a calendar full of upcoming social events such as bridal showers and bachelorette parties, a bride can also save-a-date for her mother. It can be for a mother-daughter luncheon, one that celebrates the special relationship the two women share. A luncheon could also be a great opportunity to communicate plans and expectation for the big day and simply take some time to acknowledge and savor this very special time in both your lives.

If you still feel strongly that it’s your day and are determined to have it your way, remember what author Hannah Seligson explained:

When I got married, all I heard were variants of ‘This is your day. It’s all about you.’ These messages made me uncomfortable, both because they promoted entering a weird bridal vortex of solipsism and because, as the wedding drew near, it became clear that this was pretty much entirely untrue. In the best possible way, our wedding wasn’t about us—it was stitched together from all sides of our family.

Though your wedding day is a momentous occasion, it will come and go. The dress will be found and worn, the vows will be said, the champagne toasts will happen, the cake will be cut, and the bouquet will be tossed. The day will come and go. But what is important is to nurture and value the relationships you already have and will form from this day forth — especially the relationship you have with your mother.  She has come this far with you.  She has loved you before you were you.  As you step into your marriage, who knows, you may find yourself in your mother’s shoes, watching your little girl grow, with visions of a happy wedding day.