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.




  1. Suze, you hit the nail on the head. My mom is gone now (rest in peace, Mom), but I will never forget our pre-wedding fights. She wanted me to wear a veil. I didn’t want to, and I didn’t wear one.

    Because I wanted to establish that I really was a grown woman, my husband-to-be and I ended up paying for everything except the reception. She wanted a fancy one, so we let her go for it.

    But looking back, I’m sure it was difficult for her to see her only daughter tying the knot. My husband and I celebrated our 24th anniversary this past Monday.

  2. It can be such an awkward time, can’t it? I remember similar fights with my Mom when I got married. Sorry to see that she is no longer with us. And many congratulations on your wedding anniversary!