Maggie Heely is a licensed marriage family therapist in the state of Kentucky and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Family Institute. She is also the owner and lead coordinator of Weekend Wedding Warrior, LLC, a wedding-day coordination company in Louisville.
I am having future mother-in-law (MIL) issues. She is very overbearing and wants to be involved in every aspect of planning my wedding. I don’t want to offend her, but this is a time for my mother and I to do activities together and not always include her. Plus, I don’t really like or trust her taste! How can I include my future MIL enough to not offend her without letting her take over?
MIL-king Her Role
Dear MIL-king her Role,
Weddings are a perfect time to evaluate family dynamics. If your MIL is overbearing now, this will be a theme that you and your husband will deal with forever. It is good to set the boundaries now to help establish a healthy pattern. Most importantly, you and your fiancé need to be a united front. His mom may feel left out, and it is important that she doesn’t think that it’s coming only from you! I like to use the adage “blood takes care of blood,” meaning you handle your side of the family and he handles his! Take her out to dinner with your fiancé and ask for her help with specific things. Traditionally, the groom’s parents are in charge of the rehearsal dinner. This can be as big or small as they like, but let her have free rein so that all of her energy can be there. Another big thing for her is getting her dress (but not until the mother of the bride has chosen hers and notified the mother of the groom about colors, generally six weeks prior to the wedding day). It would be a great bonding experience for you and your MIL to go shopping together! You can update her about all of the wedding details and make sure she knows how much you appreciate her rehearsal-dinner planning.
"It is good to set the boundaries now to help establish a healthy pattern. Most importantly, you and your fiancé need to be a united front."
I am the matron of honor (MOH) in my cousin’s upcoming wedding. There is also a maid of honor (her younger sister) and another bridesmaid (the bride’s good friend). Though we are co-MOHs, I have taken on the majority of the responsibility in planning the pre-wedding events (shower/bachelorette party) because I am married and know what goes into these things, unlike the other MOH. The bride’s sister is a student and says that she can’t contribute financially to the pre-wedding events. Now the other bridesmaid just informed me that because she is a new mom, she can’t contribute financially either. Personally, I am also a new mom and my husband is a full-time student (so I’m the bread winner), and I am a small-business owner. I am feeling very resentful that all of the financial responsibility is being placed on me when I am not in a good position either. Not to mention that I am the only one coming in from out of town, so I also have travel expenses on top of everything else. I want my cousin to have a great wedding, but I can’t bear this burden alone. What do I do?!
Dear Co-MOH Problems,
In my opinion (and in the opinion of general wedding etiquette), if you cannot contribute financially to being in a wedding, then you should decline being in it! Period. The end. It is the bridal party’s responsibility to plan and host a wedding shower for the bride, plan and host a bachelorette party, purchase their own wedding attire, along with getting the bride a gift for her shower and the wedding! Yes, that is a whole lot of financial responsibility, but that is what you sign up for when you say, “Yes!” to being a bridesmaid!
As for you, co-MOH, my suggestion would be to bond with the other bridesmaids on your similar financial position and make it clear that you will all plan the events together and make sure that the events have a low-enough budget so that you all feel comfortable splitting the bill. Showers and bachelorettes are just as fun at someone’s home! Consider hosting the party at a time of day when a full meal isn’t expected, e.g. 4 p.m., and having cocktails and appetizers. You could all bond together cooking appetizers beforehand instead of hiring a caterer. Have one signature cocktail (not a full bar) or just wine to also cut down on costs. In the end, it is true that it is the thought that counts. However, there needs to be equal contribution from all wedding-party members unless someone volunteers more.
"Showers and bachelorettes are just as fun at someone’s home! Consider hosting the party at a time of day when a full meal isn’t expected, e.g. 4 p.m., and having cocktails and appetizers."
I am getting married in the spring and have two main father figures: my dad and my stepdad. I want them both to be represented in my wedding, but I don’t want to offend either one of them by putting more emphasis on one over the other. There are so many roles specifically for the father of the bride. What do you do when you have two?!
Two Dads, One Bride
Dear Two Dads,
I completely understand that you want both of these important men in your life to get a shining moment. Brides can be very creative integrating stepdads in their weddings. Here are some suggestions:
They can both walk you down the aisle — you do have two arms!
Have a father/daughter dance and stepfather/daughter dance.
Assign one to give a toast at the rehearsal and one to toast at the wedding.
Have them both do a welcome speech at the wedding together (if they are both contributing equally financially).
Have your stepdad escort your mom down the aisle so that he has a place in the wedding ceremony processional.
Ultimately, each family and each relationship is going to be different, so listen to your gut instinct.