The difficult mother, or mother-in-law at the wedding is a cliche in movies, but rarely is the situation actually so cartoonishly hard to deal with. It’s common in movies because it’s familiar to enough people in real life. The reality is, when you’re planning your wedding, parents can sometimes add to the stress. It makes sense because they’re often paying for things. Being a loving parent, they also want to help. And, of course, they’ve been watching you grow up your whole life, and they might have ideas of what’s important in the traditions or guest-list.
Some parents can make planning more difficult than it needs to be, but it’s probably still a good idea to give them some control. After all, they want to help–something not everybody else wants to do. And, maintaining good relationships with your parents is probably something that you want to do. Plus, allowing them to be involved in your wedding planning is a way of honoring what they need from you–that is, often, just the chance to care for you some more.
If your parents, or in-laws, are challenging for you to work with but want to be involved, you can honor their wishes–and keep yourself sane–by planning their involvement. To do that, you’ll have to accept up front that you will give up some, or possibly all, control over some portions of the wedding planning. Unless you decide in advance that however they decide to handle the situation is okay with you, you’ll create opportunities for disappointment and conflict. So instead, decide to appreciate their hard work–even if it doesn’t perfectly match your sensibilities–so that their involvement can bring you closer together.
Here’s some ways you can better plan their involvement.
Give them meaningful tasks and responsibilities
The biggest point here is that you don’t want them to just go off looking for what needs to be done. If they do and you don’t like the results, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a conflict on your hands.
You also don’t want to give them busywork, because it can feel insulting. Instead, it’s better to give them meaningful responsibilities that you can designate in advance. For example, instead of asking your mother-in-law to lick envelopes, ask her to choose the best envelope for you. Or, instead of asking your father to double check that there are places for everyone who rsvp’d, ask him to build something to hang all the nametags on.
As long as you have decided that you’re okay with whatever they thoughtfully come up with, you’ll develop better relationships and avoid headaches.
Know that listening to advice doesn’t mean you have to take it
Here’s the thing, sometime difficult parents are like difficult children–they’d be a lot less difficult if you listened to them. A lot of the time when someone wants to give advice, it’s just the giving that matters. What you do with it is up to you.
Try to be patient and listen to advice, and affirm the perspective its coming from. If you feel yourself wanting to argue, instead, ask them to clarify their perspective. When your mother gives impassioned advice about how something should be done, if you disagree, try to remember that there is a perspective or circumstance from which her advice makes a lot of sense. Hear that perspective, and affirm it’s validity. That doesn’t mean you have to take the advice.
You don’t have to tell them about your decision before making it unless you want to. You can just listen thoughtfully, and promise to think about it. That’s as far as you have to take it. But if you do decide to tell them, defer to your plan by saying things like, “we have decided…”, “in our situation it’s best that we…”.
Remember that being together is more important than a perfect wedding
Some of what causes friction in the process of wedding planning is that desire for the perfect wedding. The one in your head. And, in all likelihood, it’ll be closer to that picture than you might think. But, in the long term, that specific wedding isn’t as important as bonding with each other, and taking a step into a whole new stage of family life with your new partner.
Yes, it’s possible that giving a difficult parent control of some part of your wedding will result in it turning out differently than you’d like. But, if you can let that go, smile, and appreciate the love which motivated it, it can mean a lot more to you.
Of course, not everyone has difficulty working with their parents, or in-laws. But regardless, as you plan for your wedding, try to align your mindset with one that is is looking to connect and build your meaningful life relationships around you and your partner.