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What to do when mums (and mother-in-laws-to-be) become monsters.

Family wedding photo

Now that the wedding season is slowing down for me and I (almost) have time to to sit down and write about all the stuff I’ve been seeing, hearing and feeling this summer, I thought I’d start off with a post about something I know I have seen a little bit of this summer and I hope to hell I don’t get to see much of it again in the future!

There is something about a wedding and getting married that can make even the loveliest of mums and mother in-laws-to-be turn into giant monsters of the Godzilla variety. You know, the snarling, aggressive, poisonous types, who can hunt you down, and crush your very being with one strike? Yes, those ones. And I think we all get to know of one, somewhere along the line, whether it’s for our own weddings (I hope not) or someone else’s (I hope not).

Now, firstly before I start laying into my sisters, I don’t think it is mainly a woman-related problem, but I do think that women, ie mums can be the driving force behind the strong opinions and overbearing ideas, in the same way that weddings in general are largely driven and aimed at women. It’s kind of our domain, whether that is the way it should be or not.

I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain I’m not. And in my experience, I get the impression that, scratch that, I’m blatantly told that it is the mothers (on one or both sides) who are being royal pains in the ass. But of course, we can’t just lay the blame with mothers, because I’m sure dads can be just as bad.

Family wedding photo

No parents-come-monsters here! Photo by Ulyses Guererro Photography

As I write this post, I realise that it is actually difficult to be mean about mothers when they turn into wedding monsters because I genuinely believe that most of these women who go through the change and turn into something like The Incredible Hulk right before your eyes, do so out of nothing but love for their child.

I think a protective factor kicks in and mums want to do what mums do best – making sure that her child has the best of everything in the best way possible! It’s just a damn shame that what is borne out of love, becomes an actual living nightmare situation for one already stressed out couple!

Then, there are of course, mums whose desire to ‘help,’ is so miss-guided, so unwanted and so unwelcome that you’d have to forgive the couple for not feeling any of the intended love at all. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

From little comments about your choice of venue/dress to more aggressive opinions about who to invite or how much money to spend, it can all be very tiring and wearing, especially when you have your own doubts, demands and issues to wade through when it comes to planning YOUR wedding day.

As a celebrant, I have come across some of the loveliest mums EVER. Mums who helped their kids in the way they wanted to be helped, and let them get on with their day in their own way. Then I’ve met the mums who were still lovely but very very controlling. Questioning EVERYTHING, doubting EVERYTHING, worrying about EVERYTHING. I had one bride once whose parents’ demands were driving her to have anxiety attacks whenever she started talking about wedding plans. NOT GOOD.

All you want from those around you is their non-judgmental support and help, not interference, tension and stress.

So what the hell do you do?

As obvious as it seems folks, you’ve got to talk to these offenders. End of. There’s no point avoiding their phone calls, cancelling or delaying meet ups and trying to have as little to do with them as possible in the run up to the wedding, because it’s just not good for the soul. And what’s not good for the soul is not good for you or your relationships.

If you want to have a healthy relationship with your mum or mother-in-law-to-be (and dad and father-in-law to-be), which goes well beyond your wedding day, then you’ve got to lay it all out on the table for everyone to see what’s what.

As hard as it sounds, talking about what bothers you, what you don’t like, what you don’t want, is the only way you are going to be heard. If you don’t tell people how you feel, whether it’s your mum, your future husband or wife to-be then how will they ever know? Yes, some folk are intuitive and good at picking up on the unspoken word, but some aren’t. And I’m sure there are some mums out there (bless their hearts) who don’t even realise they have become monsters. Honestly, they don’t!

Now, I know that talking about things is an ideal solution in a normal world, and for some it may be utter pointless, but it’s got to at least be a starting place right?

Be yourselves in everything you do

Parents who can see from day one that you are in charge of what you are doing, and can see that your wedding is going in the direction you want it to go in, will probably get the message that their very strong opinions won’t make the cut and simply aren’t needed.

But there will be some for whom the struggle to accept that their child’s wedding is not going to be anything like how their wedding was or how they expected their child’s wedding to be, is very real! But the sooner you let them know your plans and what’s what, the more time they will have time to come to terms with it.

My husband and I were lucky.  Our parents are cool human beings. Bar from a few odd requests to invite friends of theirs that we had not seen nor heard of in years, we did not have any problems in that respect. We simply told them exactly that, ‘sorry, we’ve had not seen nor heard of those friends in years and want to keep the wedding as small and intimate as possible,’ and that was all that was needed to be said. The rest we planned away in peace and were left to our own devices. We were lucky! And I know not everyone gets such a great deal.

Laura and Andy Game of Thrones inspired wedding

Weddings run much more smoothly when your folks support what you want to do and how you want to do it. Photo by Adriana Ybarra Photography.

When talking doesn’t work

If having prepared an afternoon tea fit for the Queen and sat down the offenders for an honest and open chat about their behaviour still gets you nowhere then, do you know, I don’t know what else you can do, bar have them put under house arrest until your wedding day.

If what you’ve said has clearly gone in one ear and out of the other, then I think the only thing to do is to exclude your parents from your plans. Now, I don’t mean exclude them from your wedding day altogether, unless it really has gotten that bad that you have to, but treating them like you would any other guest. I.e Here’s your invitation, see you then!

Maybe for some monsters, it’s better this way. Maybe too much information is just too much information and they simply need to be drip fed any info, as and when. And maybe they will continue to make comments and share opinions which you will just have to continue to ignore.

Even parents who are paying for, or contributing to your wedding should not be able to use that money as a tool with which to beat you into submission! Seriously, it’s really unfair if their financial contribution means you have to have a wedding that you don’t want or an element of your wedding that you are not happy with. You need to let them know that their gift is being given and received with love and gratitude but that it can’t come with strings attached. We’re talking family love but not in a mafia-bribery kind of way!

I get that all my recommendations are general ones, and that every person has to find the right way to broach the subject with the monsters. It’s really not an easy situation to be in but it is something that has to be dealt with head on. There’s no point moaning and bitching about the offenders without telling them that they are offending. It will just cause resentment on your wedding day and possibly even beyond.

Good luck peeps, let me know how you’re handling your monsters, I’d love to know.

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

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