Sorry about the premature postulation of the draft version yesterday.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve just said yes to marry my Mr Right. Our friendship is the most important part of our relationship, so although there are some imbalances in the emotional workload, these are usually corrected after a stern talking-to – which can be delivered by either one of us. He often discourages me from giving favours to people ‘not worth the time’; e.g. friends who won’t return the favour, or a task that’ll cause me grief. He encourages me to stand up for myself, and is equally infuriated by the fact my mother thinks our wedding wishes are optional/plan B.
My mother started off small: changing the time of year from January (our anniversary) to May because of the weather. I agreed and my fiancé and I agreed on a Friday before a Bank Holiday weekend. When I told her this, she told me to change it again… *deep breath*… because my sister (currently in university) is going to be a teacher and wouldn’t be able to make it on a Friday. I told her hard cheese. Friday suits me better because cost, availability, plans etc. I said that if being there for me on my day wasn’t important enough for my sister to book a day off work that she’s not even got yet, I didn’t want to inconvenience her by asking her to come. Mother tried guilt tricks but as fiancé’s mum is also a teacher and said it wouldn’t be a problem; that issue has been shut down.
My mother then told me that I had to change the venue if I wanted a Catholic wedding. I said that it was important for my fiancé and I to marry at the venue we’d chosen… she spoke to my home parish priest behind my back and is leaving me to deal with the fallout of that.
Now, she wants to organise my bridesmaids. She doesn’t know them well and there are two she would rather I didn’t include. When I lived with them, their idea of clean and mine were on completely different planets, causing my mental health to depreciate. Unsolicited, she has suggested a way I can exclude them without upsetting them: ‘Sorry, my sister is going to be my only bridesmaid.’
There are a couple of flaws in her plan. First, I actually want my friends to be standing up with me on the happiest day of my life. Secondly, my sister is one of those people I would not like to have standing up there with me.
Due to past (still raw) issues that I have with my sister, I have said she will not be MOH. We are (I am) trying to mend these issues but I cannot trust her to have my best interests at heart nor be happy to give up her time helping me plan a day that is not about her. Did I say happy? I can’t trust her NOT to be upset about planning a day that isn’t about her.
She criticised my fiancé to me, claiming she would start to like him when they have a close relationship. She expects him to put in all the work to their relationship, which is also how she expects me to improve our relationship. Fiancé’s response: hard cheese.
She is totally unaccountable and has not apologised for recently telling me I would be a terrible mother to any children I might have. The last time she spoke about this argument: ‘You’re my sister and I know you can take it. In that moment, I just wanted to hurt you, but I don’t anymore so we’re okay, right?!’
Because of my fatal flaw as THE REASONABLE ONE, my mother believes that I’m the key to fixing this relationship. There is no expectation for, I don’t know, my sister growing a freaking conscience!
Despite this, I am prepared to accept my sister in my wedding party because she is my sister and if the situation was reversed I’d still want to be there for her. I am only comfortable with this because of said friends volunteering to buffer for me in case issues arise. I need TEAM ME to be strong because I will try to make the smoothest route and I don’t want to negotiate with my mother over MY DAY. But it seems that my mother wants to scatter TEAM ME and recruit me to team sister. This makes me angrier that I can even express. I’ve taken steps to start creating boundaries with both of them but with wedding planning all this progress seems to have flown out of the window.
This is just the start of my planning process. I’m sure that there will be a million other decisions my fiancé and I make that my mother will try to change. I’m sure there’s also a million freaking hurdles my sister will expect me to jump to guarantee she doesn’t get hurt feelings. There’s definitely a sense that I’m getting married AT HER, as she’s never had a boyfriend.
So, scripts. I need one that will help me avoid issues with my sister while being able to enjoy myself because this is the one day I’m going to get where I can demand that it’s about me. I’ve been trying scripts with my mother but whenever I talk about how important things are to me, she reminds me that it’s ‘tradition that the bride’s parents pay’. Translation: if I don’t like it, your father isn’t paying for it.
The last script I have yet to try is also the one that will hurl me from the family tree: “You’ve had two weddings, let me have one!”
Don’t want to be my own something blue
Dear Don’t Want To Be Blue:
There is one lesson in all this that I want you to see and to learn: That lesson is: Your mom cannot be appeased. Every time you give into her about something related to your wedding, it teaches her that you will give in eventually about everything. You are looking at moving the date back five months or including your sister as a compromise, like, “I compromised! Yes! That’s settled! Now I can do what I want!” She is looking at those things as preliminary skirmishes. Since your wedding isn’t something you’re doing at her or about her, it’s time to stop these skirmishes and set some boundaries.
There are a series of conversations and actions to take here. May is a ways away. It’s not too late.
1) You’re not marrying your mom, so your wedding isn’t about you & her. So sit down with your future spouse and hammer it out. Venue, budget, what you want from a ceremony, wedding party stuff, things that are important to you, things that are not important to you, things you will handle planning of, things he will handle planning of, and most important of all: How To Be A United Front. For example, this might mean that you and your mom never have a solo conversation about your wedding again, because your fiancé accompanies you to all such discussions, or you develop a script of saying “Good suggestion, Mom! Of course, I need to run it by [Future Spouse]…” or “Great suggestion, Mom, but [Future Spouse] and I already decided….”
3) Pay for your own wedding, if you’re not doing that already. If you can’t afford a large-scale party, figure out the small-scale party that you can afford. Do not go into debt (including emotional debt to your controlling mom) for a party. There is no magical fantasy fairy tale fancy shit that is worth more than being able to say “Oh, we got this, don’t worry about it!” to someone who is trying to control you with money. Cake & punch weddings are great and it’s a-ok to have one.
It’s also okay to call your mom’s bluff re: your dad & paying. Like, it’s okay to sit down with your folks and say “Thanks for agreeing to pay for the wedding, Dad, what an incredible gift! So, here’s our budget and this is roughly when we would need the funds, are you still able to help us with that? I need to know so I can stay on budget and make a good plan!” See if he will pay the money directly to you for you to disburse as needed. But have a backup plan that you can afford in place. If the only wedding they will pay for is the one that fits your mom’s exact specifications, that’s not a gift.
Also, do not let your mom be the intermediary between you and your dad or literally anyone else in your family. Do not let her threaten you about money. She wants to use your wedding to show off her idea of what her family is like, and “Oh, my parents agreed to pay for the wedding, but then my mom had a big tantrum and withdrew funding when I wouldn’t let her pick every member of the wedding party!” is not the story she’s gonna want told of this special day.
4) It’s not too late to elope, btw.
5) Put your mom on an information diet. Tell her only the most need-to-know information (like, when & where to be). Whatever book or magazine you read about how moms plan weddings with their daughters, throw it away. You don’t have to. Whatever input she offers, just say “thanks!” and let her know that you’ll think about it/have it handled. “I’m going to choose my own wedding party, thanks!” “We’re going to find our own officiant, thanks!”
Bonus script: “Oh, I’m all weddinged out today. Let’s talk about literally anything else! How are you doing?” + change the subject.
6) Your mom will 100% figure out that you are avoiding/ignoring her about wedding stuff and she will 100% make a stink about it. Time to get real honest, ok? “Mom, I was so excited about planning this wedding with you, but it’s only August and we’ve already had so many arguments, and I’m exhausted. So yes, I’ve decided to handle most stuff on my own and with fiancé. It’s much less stressful for me this way, and I’m really excited about the plans we have. I do value your taste and I do want to include you, so if you’d still like to help/plan, I’d love it if you took care of [_______]. Would that be ok?”
Let’s talk about what goes in the [________]. It is one discrete task that you’ll be happy with no matter how it gets done, and if it doesn’t get done at all, it’s not the end of the world. Bonus if it’s something your mom cares a lot about, you don’t care much about it either way, and extra bonus if it’s something highly visible that you can praise her a lot for at the wedding, for example: “Mom, it would help me so much if you would pick out the flowers. Our budget is X and the colors we like are Y.” Then at the wedding you can be like “Yes, the flowers are really beautiful, my Mom did everything, doesn’t she have the best taste?”
If you can’t resist her, channel her.
7) Has sister already been informed/invited to be in the wedding party, like, is it a done deal, or is that still a conversation btw you and your mom? If she hasn’t been asked yet, it’s okay to not ask her! If she has been asked already, probably do whatever will involve the least drama at this point with the caveat that if you’ve asked her and she still being mean to you, you can be like “Ok this isn’t working, I’d rather just have my friends.” You don’t have to have assholes in your wedding party.
Either way, it’s time to have a frank talk with your sister. Do not route any communications with your sister or about your sister through your mom, ever again in this life. Trust NOTHING your mom has told you about what your sister wants or needs. ONLY talk directly to your sister. Maybe try this: “Sister, it’s really important to Mom that you stand up in my wedding. You’ve been pretty unenthusiastic about [Future Spouse] in the past and said some hurtful things to me, and I feel like we’re both being pressured into something here. There’s what mom wants, but it’s not necessarily what you or I want. Do you even want to be in the wedding? Or would you rather just be a guest?”
See what she says. If she’s pro being in the wedding, try this:
Ok, so being a bridesmaid means: [list of specific things you would want her to do as a member of the wedding party, even if they are literally “wear dress in the right color” and “stand next to me for photos” and “hold my bouquet and carry safety pins, if necessary.”] It also involves not saying anything mean or hurtful to me between now and May. Deal? I want you to be included and feel included, but I don’t want to have 10,000 annoying fights with you to make mom happy, so can we be really honest with each other about this?”
Then, take your sister at her word. If she says “Yes, I want to!” and promises to behave herself, then she’s in. If she doesn’t, cool, you talked about it. “Oh mom, sister and I talked about that directly, it’s all settled!”
You and your sister don’t have to be close, or friends, but also you do not have to let your mom get in the middle of the relationship you do have.
7) Script for your mom re: your sister: “I’m going to choose my own wedding party. Sister and I talked it over.”
Bonus script for your mom re: your sister: “I know you wish we were closer, but this is the relationship we have, and I don’t want to add extra stress at my wedding by fighting with her. You are going to have to let us figure this one out for ourselves.”
My younger brother was not at my wedding. He was invited, but we’re not close, and he didn’t make the trip. I know my mom was a little sad that the whole family wasn’t together and that he isn’t in the pictures, but our relationship is what it is for a reason, and she can’t make it be different. The world did not end! I did not miss him at all.
8) Re: Your parish priest: “Oh hi Father, thanks for getting in touch. Fiancé and I are getting married at [venue]. Is it possible to have a Catholic ceremony there? If not, it’s okay! I’m so sorry Mom bothered you about this! We’d love to invite you [to say a prayer][to be a guest][if those are things you actually want], though!”
He will survive this conversation! You will survive this conversation, and all the others! Your mom will be embarrassed and like, that will teach her not to do stuff unless you ask her to.
9) Bonus Divide & Conquer Strategies You & Your Future Spouse Can Use:
When I was planning my wedding and people had opinions at me about the food or music: “Oh, thanks! Mr. Awkward is handling all of that, you should let him know!”
When people had opinions at him about the venue/seating/amenities: “Oh, thanks, Jennifer is handling all of that, though – you should let her know!”
Mostly people were awesome and their opinions and suggestions were awesome! And we did need a lot of help to pull things off! But having the other person as the designated handler of certain things had a way of diffusing and insulating us from critiques/suggestions/unwanted advice. Like, if the person never followed up and told Jeremy their Very Important Food news directly, then he never found out, b/c I didn’t necessarily pass it on, and vice versa. It also helped dispel the idea that The Bride is thinking about every single detail every single second. I also shamelessly used this for any wedding topic I didn’t really know about (like, if I don’t know about it, we’re not doing it, and that’s okay!) Like any arcane traditions, “Will you be having x?” questions could just be “Jeremy’s in charge of that!” things and he would either do them or they would go away forever.
If you and your fiancé can be on the same page, you can deploy him in this way, like, “Great suggestion, Mom, but Mr. Right is handling everything to do with that – you should check in with him!” She will resist, but you can stay firm “Oh, I have so much on my plate, he’s agreed to take that on! Definitely let him know your thoughts!” If she’s not sure she can manipulate him, she might just hold off on contacting him about whatever it is. That is a win.
Gain a spouse, gain a social buffer is what I say.
This has been your reminder that weddings don’t exist to fix family problems, to present a perfect image of a family, to be an exact statement on the family’s social class, wealth, and community standing, or to be a battleground about every decision no matter how small. #isriceagrainoraseed
Congratulations! Have a great wedding! It’s okay to not fight with your mom about every single choice between now and next May! She probably can’t be reasoned with or reasonable about this, so you are going to have basically yank this stuff away from her and not consult her about things you don’t want to fight about! You actually have a lot of power here!
No comments or comment moderation today (it’s one of those days where my writing bandwidth greatly outpaces my reading bandwidth). Have a great day, everybody!