“…a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”
~ Irish Saying
For the mother of the bride, her daughter’s wedding will bring on the mixed emotions of elation, excitement, nostalgia, loss, anxiety and joy! Mothers tend to dream about and ponder this moment from the time their daughters are born. And, girls often dream about and imagine what their weddings will be like from the time they are little girls. Thus, expectations run high for both the bride-to-be and her mom, and the latter wants to be part of every aspect of the planning and execution, whether it’s merely discussion, brainstorming and advising or planning the entire event.
The other part of the equation is the impending sense of a mother’s loss as her daughter reaches that passage in her life where she assumes the role of alpha female in her own family. That feeling can be intensified or mitigated depending on how fond she is of her son-in-law! Here is a Psychology Today piece that seems to capture the pit-of-the-stomach emotion that mothers can feel when their daughters marry. In truth daughters have been leaving little-by-little all their lives; remember that first day of school, summer camp, the prom, the day you dropped them off at college? Okay, they kept coming back, even after college! But, this is different; this has a sense of finality about it. But, in reality it’s just another change in your lives, albeit a major one.
And, speaking of changes, for the past several decades women have become more sophisticated and financially in control of their lives; as a result they have been marrying later and also taking control of their weddings. In such cases the involvement of the mother of the bride is considerably lessened regarding funding and decision making. But the tradition of her contributing in other ways and occupying a special place of honor in her daughter’s wedding continues.
What Is the Role of the Modern Mother of the Bride?
Whether or not the parents of the bride are paying for everything or nothing, or something in between, the role of the MOB is essentially the same as it’s always been, and should be observed by all. As to the responsibilities of the MOB, here are some of the wedding hats she typically assumes:
Senior Consultant, Sounding Board & Advisor – Be available to your daughter and future son-in-law for consultation on all aspects of the wedding planning. Let them bounce ideas off you and provide tactful but honest feedback, and very important, be the shoulder to cry on (there will be mini meltdowns) and a pair arms to enfold when necessary. When appropriate and possible, offer advice and help the wedding couple to stay on course and keep their eyes on the goal. It’s easy to take a wrong turn with the cacophony of choices and advice pouring in combined with egos and emotions; try to remain the rock and voice of reason to which your daughter can turn when needed. Yes, it’s a tall order but you can do it.
Emissary of Goodwill – As the MOB, a very important job for you is to reach out to your future in-laws, wedding invitees, vendors and others who are involved with your daughter’s wedding. Answer questions, spread important information and generally be welcoming, comforting, encouraging and helpful
Connector – Depending on the level of formality, complexity, location and size of the wedding, you should be prepared to be helpful and welcoming to all and share information to keep everyone on the same (and right) page — sort of like a Wedding Welcome Wagon and Information Center. If the wedding will be held in the area where you live, help with hotel reservations and getting people settled with regard to reservations and hospitality, especially the parents and relatives of the groom. Put people in touch with each other; with hotels, restaurants and local activities; hair salons and local spas, gift shops and the like.
What Are the Mother-of-the-Bride’s Responsibilities?
- Helps to Plan and Organize the Wedding, or Simply Assists – If the bride’s parents are footing the entire bill, they have a say in the financial decisions, but it’s the wedding couple’s show and they are in charge within the scope of the budget. If the wedding couple will be funding their own wedding, they will be in charge of everything, even if the bride’s and groom’s parents will be contributing some funding. Regardless of the situation, the mother of the bride will play an important role and should offer to help with any tasks that will take the burden off her daughter’s shoulders and those of her groom-to-be. Make your offers and let your daughter and her intended pick and choose which those should be.
- Helps With the Guest List – You should provide your daughter with a list of guests you and the father of the bride wish to invite and, if asked, act as a consultant on the overall list and seating. Refrain from being too judgmental or argumentative if you disagree with some of her invitees.
- Accompanies Bride to Select Her Wedding Gown – This is one of the treasured moments of the wedding planning for the mother of the bride. But be careful; while it is a wedding tradition, the bride’s mom must handle this excursion delicately. Your job is to support the bride and offer welcome and tactful feedback on her choices; remember, it’s her wedding and her choice. If your daughter is open to it, a very nice gesture would be to include the mother of the groom in the outing. That all said, the bride might feel more comfortable going shopping alone initially or with her maid of honor or another close friend. As with everything else, go with the flow and keep the bride happy.
- Selects An Appropriate Dress for Herself – Your dress should be distinct from the bridesmaids’ gowns but may coordinate or compliment for harmony’s sake. You should consult with your daughter on your choice and accept her guidance on the color, length, style and so on. The bride should also provide guidance to the mother of the groom. Some brides have specific ideas on the mothers’ apparel and others are less concerned, but it’s wise to find out before going shopping. And, while tradition and courtesy dictate that the MOB should have the first choice of dress, it’s an extremely nice gesture to confer with the mother of the groom. Both mothers do not have to wear the same styles, but it’s nice to coordinate so the overall look of the wedding is synchronized and reflected as such in the wedding photos.
- Assists with the Bridal Shower(s) – Traditionally, the MOB or her mother never hosted a bridal shower, as it was thought to be a crass way to solicit gifts for the bride. In modern etiquette, however, it is acceptable. That said, it’s more common for a close friend or relative (an auntie or godmother, for example) or the maid of honor or bridesmaids to host the shower, with the MOB contributing funds, help in coordinating or with other tasks. This is one you play by ear and stand by.
- Appears in Wedding Photos – Cooperate with your daughter’s desires regarding photos, and follow the photographer’s directions. Among the traditional photos are ones of the mother of the bride helping her daughter get dressed for the ceremony and especially with the finishing touches and individual and group photos with her daughter and new son-in-law as well as members of the wedding party, relatives and guests. Decisions of the bride will be final!
- Escorts the Bride Down the Aisle (optional) – If you are widowed or divorced, or the father is absent or otherwise unavailable, and your daughter prefers that you escort her down the aisle, by all means do so. In Jewish ceremonies both parents escort their daughter down the aisle, and a non-Jewish bride may wish to adopt this custom.
- She Dances! – I’ll be writing more about wedding dances in a future entry, but for now it’s important for you to know that while the father of the bride has his dance with his daughter, the mother of the bride can also dance with her daughter. Mother-daughter wedding dances have become popular and can be great fun and upbeat as well as nostalgic and sentimental, and may be choreographed any way that the bride and her mother find fun and comfortable. There are many songs from which to choose, whether you have an orchestra or a DJ. As my daughter grew up dancing I love “I Hope You Dance.” And, if dancing will be part of your daughter’s wedding reception you will be expected to join in. If you don’t consider yourself to be a dancer or haven’t done so in awhile you might want to brush up on some basic waltz or rumba box steps. And have fun!
Let Go Of Your Expectations – This is your daughter’s moment and what makes her happy is what counts. Sure you should offer a mother’s guidance, but know which are the important points to push and which is the cutoff point.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – It is no secret that mothers and daughters can tangle with each other, and often the most insignificant matter can be blown up until it eclipses the latest international incident. During the wedding planning moms sometimes use a small detail to transfer their emotions. But, try to keep those confrontations to a minimum and focus on the big picture instead. Concentrate on helping your daughter maintain her emotional equilibrium and striving to preserve your own (and your spouse’s) mental health.
Be Realistic About What You Can Do – If you won’t be able to pay your own bills because you’ve overspent on your daughter’s wedding, or cannot deliver on what you can physically or practically accomplish, be honest with your daughter. She doesn’t want to put you in an awkward position over her wedding; your happiness at this special time is likely very important to her so she will understand and graciously accept whatever contributions you can make.
Get to Know the Mother of the Groom – Not only will it make planning the wedding more enjoyable but it will help to establish this important relationship for the long term. If you are already friends or at least on good terms, fabulous. If you don’t know her well or the relationship is tenuous, make an effort for your daughter’s sake to get through the wedding and then deal with the long-range issues.
Treasure Your Son-in-Law To Be – Keep the adage in mind, “You are not losing a daughter; you are gaining a son.” That is true. Bear in mind that your family is expanding, not shrinking. Welcome him into your family with open arms as you plan the wedding, and beyond.
And, above all, remember that your daughter will be your daughter all of her life.
Until next time,