Help! I’m giving a speech at my Dad’s wedding: what do I say?

glasses_01Dear HTWB Agony Columns

My widowed Dad is finally getting married again to a really nice lady and they’ve asked me to give a speech at their wedding next month. What on earth can I say? I’m stuck for words!

Karen from Toronto

No worries, Karen – [Read more…]

Words of wedding wisdom: FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW – tact required?

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

The Bride’s Mother-in-law

What would joke writers and stand-up comedians do without mothers-in-law?

My mother-in-law called today…
I knew it was her. When she knocked on the front door all the mice threw themselves into the traps.

A woman walked out of a smart restaurant wearing an elegant real fur coat. She was approached by another woman who asked disapprovingly, “and what poor creature had to die so you could wear that?”
“My mother-in-law,” smiled the first woman.

My mother-in-law and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met each other.

Q: What are the two worst things about your mother-in-law?
A: Her faces.

And so it goes on.  Why is the poor old mother-in-law such a popular source of humor? Because your relationship with her can be one of the most challenging relationships you’ve ever had.

On the other hand, of course, many women have great relationships with their mothers-in-law. And that’s amazing when you consider the emotional issues that often exist between them.

What are her problems?

Just as fathers can be possessive about their daughters and feel grief at having to hand their little girls over to other men, mothers can and often are very possessive about their sons.

Even though she might be quite happy and relaxed about your relationship with her son while you were just going out or even living together, the fact that you are now getting married and that there is to be another “Mrs.” Whoever, changes the picture. Now, she has to face the fact that her son is replacing her as the number one woman in his life – with you.

No matter how philosophical a woman is, I think this is hard for her to accept. I know that when my son gets married I will feel, deep down, a sense of desertion and grief, no matter how much I like my new daughter-in-law. Just as is the case with your own mother, your wedding is a rite of passage for everyone else in your close family, mother-in-law included. The big difference between your mother and your mother-in-law is that the latter lady didn’t give birth to you and doesn’t love you the way your own mother does, although of course she may come to do so in time. So any sensation of jealousy, rivalry, competition, etc., will not be cushioned by any familial love or loyalty.

Your mother-in-law may well have had a very close relationship with your fiancé, perhaps looking after his domestic needs and generally spoiling him. In her eyes this will be a very hard act for you to follow, especially if you, like most rational people, think that the “domesticated little woman” role sucks and that your husband-to-be can damned well iron his own shirts. Worse still, your mother-in-law may try to extend her running of her son’s domestic life into your life together. While it may be handy to have someone to help with the domestics, do you really want your mother-in-law to run your life?

Another mother-in-law issue is that no girl would ever be good enough for what she had in mind for her darling boy. This standpoint is a useful excuse to cover up jealousy, because whatever you are and whatever you do, it won’t be good enough to meet her constantly shifting standards.

Well, that’s all the bad news. What can be done to reduce the negative issues and get into a better relationship with her?

Your fiancé’s role

Let’s face it, if your fiancé has always been a bit of a Mommy’s boy you’re in for an uphill struggle, but it’s a struggle you must get through if there is to be a peaceful relationship with her once you’re married. If things are tricky between you and your future mother-in-law, the first thing to do is to get your fiancé to sit her down privately, point out that he is not a little boy any longer, and that it’s very important to him that you and she get along as well as possible.

He must also make the point that if push comes to shove, he will side with you, not her. That’s something that he will have to stick to, as well, no matter how much pressure his mother might put on him to do otherwise.

He may well dread the idea of confronting his mother in this way and she may well shout and squirm to begin with. However provided that he stands his ground in a kind but firm way, in time she will have to accept it. In fact she will probably come to respect both her son and you more, for the fact that the issue has been faced and dealt with openly.

Your role

I think it’s very important for you, as the bride, to develop your own relationship with your future mother-in-law, independently of your fiancé and other family members.

To begin with, you owe it to both her and yourself to devote quite a lot of time and energy to this relationship. Whatever you may think of her she is still your fiancé’s mother, and as such is a very important part of your lives.

In addition, for all you know she may be more nervous about her new relationship with you than you think, and could feel unsure how to handle it.

Try to organize a lunch or shopping trip with just you and her, so you can get to know each other as people rather than in your respective family roles. You and she might both be pleasantly surprised at how well you get along when there’s no-one else around to divert your attention from each other.

If she wants to be involved in helping organize your wedding, try to accommodate her wish and make her feel not only needed, but admired for her capabilities. It’s very easy for the groom’s family to feel a little left out of things when a wedding is being planned because most of the organization is normally driven by the bride, and by extension her family and her friends. If mother-in-law should, by any chance, become a bit too pushy, try diverting her energy into one specific channel in a tactful way.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Words of wedding wisdom: MOTHER OF THE BRIDE – easy or tricky?

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

The Mother of the Bride

A girl’s relationship with her mother is hardly ever uncomplicated. Often it is a mixture of intense love and closeness with a hidden streak of competitiveness or even rivalry. Most of us muddle along if things get tense between us and our mothers, and provided everyone behaves in a mature, adult way any issues can be resolved.

When it comes to a daughter’s wedding, though, all this calm, good sense can get thrown out of the window, especially when it’s the first child or first daughter to marry.

Why your relationship changes

No matter how modern your mother is and how well attuned she is to gender equality, there is no doubt that your relationship with her will change once you get engaged. The politically correct brigade probably will want to shout at me here, but in my view it will take more than a few generations to breed out the long-standing notions we women have been brought up to believe about the status of marriage. Being a married woman is different to being a single woman whether in a mere titular way, or – as is the case in many more traditional cultures – in quite a substantial way where her standing in her community is concerned.

This then shifts the balance of the mother-daughter relationship from one of parent-child, to one of equality. Your mother may kid herself that you’re still her little girl until you’re a single woman in your 30s or 40s, but once she knows you’re headed up that aisle she is obliged to remove her head from the sand and recognize you as a fellow adult. Whether she likes it or not she has been moved up through another rite of passage in her life; she is a stage closer to old age. That can be quite depressing for her, especially if she is menopausal at the same time.

In a way, she is grieving for two losses; you in your role as the single daughter, and her own youth.

So no matter how subtle, there will be a change in your relationship with your mother. You may not be looking for it and she may well try to conceal it, but it can emerge in a number of different ways as preparations for the wedding get going. She might display a number of different behaviors you find surprising; she may become argumentative, bossy, distant, critical, sarcastic and even jealous.

How to handle her

As is the case in so many other areas of life, knowing what the real problem is can get you halfway towards solving it. Once you know that your mother is probably feeling quite sad, it will help you to see how she might be manifesting that sadness in strange behavior. What you need to do is to try not to react to her behavior, but to be as caring and loving as you can be so she feels supported. Don’t be angry with her; much as her strange behavior may be awkward for you, always remember that the problem lies with her, not with you.

It’s also very important to talk with your mother as much as you can, and to be totally honest about how you feel. People always associate weddings with radiant happiness but actually they are also a time when you say goodbye to certain elements of your life, which can be sad for you too. If you talk openly about any little regrets you may have at the thought of moving on to the next stage of your life, your mother may feel more comfortable about admitting her own feelings of regret – perhaps not to you, but at least to herself. Candid discussion about how you both feel, provided that it doesn’t begin opening up old wounds, is a far healthier alternative than brushing the sad elements of the wedding under the carpet.

Mothers: the overbearing types

Many mothers are excellent organizers and are a Godsend for a busy bride who hasn’t got time to see to every last detail. However there are many mothers who will take this role too far, and become somewhat overbearing and bossy.

Even if your wedding is of the old-fashioned variety where the bride’s parents are paying for most of it, there is still a lot you can do to sidestep conflicts with your mother even if she is running the whole project like a military boot camp.

Whatever you do, avoid direct confrontations. These nearly always lead to more trouble, including the emergence of recriminations and old disagreements crawling out of the woodwork. By far the better policy is to create diversions, either practical or psychological. For example, if you want to commission and order the floral arrangements yourself but your mother wants to be involved in it too, say that you want her to devote that portion of her time to something “far more important,” i.e. another element of the wedding you’re not so concerned about.

One of your mother’s greatest fears at this pivotal time of her life is of being redundant. Any suggestion that she is not wanted in any area of wedding preparations will reinforce this fear and may make her moody, aggressive, or other unfortunate reaction. By diverting her away from something while involving her further in another area, you are achieving more or less what you want without hurting her feelings.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Wedding speeches: need to give one? Here’s some help!

No matter how many etiquette books and speech guides (even mine!) you might read, once you’re up close and personal to a wedding date and you’re due to give a speech, you need some basic, down-to-earth advice on what’s required. So, here it is.

For a list of ALL our articles on wedding speeches for everyone from groom to granny, click here.

Who says what, and when?

To a certain extent this depends on a) if your wedding is a religious one and if so what the traditions are for your religion and culture, and also b) what your personal preferences are. However let’s assume you want more or less to follow current Western culture and schedule the speeches accordingly. Here’s how it goes in the old-fashioned way, and in this order… [Read more…]