There is an endearing tenderness in the love of a mother to a son
that transcends all other affections of the heart. ~ Washington Irving
As the mother of the groom, you will feel the emotional ups and downs about your son getting married just as the mother of the bride will about her daughter. No matter what your son’s age, these feelings will alternate between elation that your son has found the love of his life and a sense of loss that he will be starting his own family, separate from the one that reared and nurtured him. And, that old Irish saying “A son is a son ’till he takes a wife…,” might be running through your head. But as you ride this roller coaster keep in mind that life is dynamic and this is one of those happy changes that will enhance yours. With that in mind, keep your focus on the unfolding wedding plans; your son will need your light touch and gentle guidance and support as he takes this journey to the next phase of his life.
In the past, the groom’s family had less to do with the wedding planning and finances than the bride’s family, but that model has become outdated in light of the increasing older ages of first marriages. Most couples are marrying in their late 20s or early to mid 30s when they are more established, independent and able to afford to pay for their own weddings. And, at this point many parents are retired and on fixed incomes. Thus, the parents of both the bride and groom usually offer to chip in whatever they can afford to help out. It’s wise to get together with the bride’s parents as soon as possible after the engagement has been announced to discuss who is able to help with what. If this is not possible, or uncomfortable, the groom’s parents should at least discuss with their son what the couple’s wedding plans entail and what they can contribute or otherwise help with. The bride’s parents should be doing the same, and the couple should ensure that everyone is on the same page so there are no misunderstandings later on.
Protocol and Responsibilities of the Mother of the Groom
- Bonds with the Bride: This should be at the top of your list. If you’ve known the bride all her life then you’re in good shape in this department. Or perhaps you’ve gotten to know the bride over time since she and your son have met, fallen in love and become engaged. In these two instances, it is hoped that the two of you get along well and are fond of each other. How well or little you know your future daughter-in-law, the time leading up to the wedding will be well spent if you devote time to deepening your relationship. A warm bond between the two of you is important to your son’s happiness.
- Provides Guest List to Bride: Once the couple has decided on the size of their wedding they will advise how many guests you may include on the Groom’s side and ask for your list. Provide this information as soon as possible to help keep on the couple on track with the timing of the save-the-date notice and the invitations (ordering, addressing and mailing). If you have any changes to the list afterward, let the bride know right away. Along with the list, incorporate any information about the guests that will help with the invitations, logistics, special arrangements and seating. Later, follow up if necessary to help obtain replies from the guests on your list in a timely manner.
- Attends / Helps With Bridal Shower: The bridal shower traditionally has been the ultimate female party. Today, however, some showers include men who are members of the wedding party, relatives or close friends of the bride and groom. The bride or maid/matron of honor and bridesmaids will decide which style they prefer. While you are under no obligation, it is a gracious gesture to offer to help out to the extent that you can with the planning, invitations, decorations, location, food/refreshments, finances, or whatever is needed. At minimum offer moral support to the hosts of the shower, help with small tasks and be an accommodating, reassuring and upbeat guest.
- Selects Her Dress After the MOB – Tradition holds that the mother of the bride — after consultation with her daughter as to color, style and length — has the honor and privilege of selecting her dress first. In today’s more relaxed world the mother of the bride need not stand on ceremony and should be gracious about reaching out to the mother of the groom to discuss their dresses soon after the bride decides on the color(s) of her attendants’ dresses. The goal is for each mother to stand out separately and look her most beautiful and comfortable while complimenting but not match the attendants’ dresses or each other. Thus, it’s important to coordinate so that the overall look of the wedding party harmonizes, especially with regard to the wedding photos and video. As it takes time to select the right dress, if the mother of the bride has not reached out to you in a timely manner once the wedding planning is underway, feel free to contact her. On this important issue, both mothers should be considerate of and cooperative with each other and the bride. It is rare that each mother selects the same dress, but if this occurs etiquette requires that you defer to the MOB.
- Appears in Wedding Photos – Support the couple’s desires regarding photos, and follow the photographer’s directions. Among the traditional photos are ones of the mother of the groom with her son, the parents of the groom with their son, the parents of the groom with the bride and a full wedding party photo including the parents. There may be others as the couple and photographer desire.
- Acts as Go-To Person For Groom’s Guests – Answer questions, spread the word about the wedding website, or “wedsite,” and gift registry, provide necessary information, and be helpful in arranging for or providing lodging and transportation for the groom’s out-of-town family and close friends whenever necessary, possible or appropriate. Offer similar assistance to the mother-of-the bride, when necessary and practical.
- Co-Hosts Rehearsal Dinner with Father of the Groom (Optional) – Whether or not the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner, if they are able to attend they should assume the roles as the hosts.
- Occupies Places of Honor at the Ceremony and Reception – The mother of the groom is seated in a place of honor at the wedding ceremony, stands in the reception line either following the ceremony or preceding the reception, and joins the parents or other special table at the reception. You should be helpful to your son and his bride before and after the ceremony and at the reception greet guests and generally be available to help the wedding party with small tasks.
- She Dances! – The big dance for the mother of the groom is with her son. This dance is a somewhat new and lovely custom that follows the bride’s dance with her father, which in turn follows the bride and groom’s first dance together as married couple. Collaborate with your son on the music for this dance, as well as the type of dance you each prefer. Popular mother-son songs for dances range from the sentimental The First Lady in My Life, and A Mother’s Song to the more light-hearted and upbeat Love Me Like a Rock. If dancing will be part of your son’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 – As this is your son’s wedding, he will either have his own strong opinions or he will want to defer to and please his bride. Either way, the wise approach is to offer a mother’s guidance at the right moment, but know when to pull back in favor of keeping your son happy and calm.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – It’s easy to allow small details to become contentious and get in the way of relationships. 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 son to remain calm and happy, while preserving your own (and your spouse’s) sanity.
Be Realistic About What You Can Do – If you won’t be able to pay your own bills because you’ve overspent on your son’s wedding, or cannot deliver on what you can physically or practically accomplish, be honest up front regarding your level of financial or organizational support. Your son doesn’t want to put his folks behind the eight ball because of his wedding; your happiness at this special time is likely very important to him so he will understand and gratefully accept whatever contributions you can make.
Get to Know the Mother of the Bride – Call her for coffee or invite her out to lunch or to accompany you to a new exhibit of your favorite artist. Such outreach will make planning the wedding more enjoyable and go a long way in establishing your lifelong relationship. Whether you’re already friendly or are just becoming acquainted, take some time to expand your friendship. If it’s not easy to get close right away, be gracious and accommodating during the wedding planning for your son’s sake, and address any issues afterward.
Treasure Your Daughter-in-Law To Be – Trust in the old adage, “You are not losing a son; you are gaining a daughter.” Your family is expanding, not shrinking. Welcome her into your family with open arms as you become part of the wedding and her life beyond.
And, above all, remember Washington Irving’s words at the beginning of this entry, and know that your son will still be your son even after he takes a wife.
Until next time,