With Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mom and just feeling very appreciative that when planning my own wedding, she was incredibly thoughtful about asking how and where she could help with the process, instead of just inserting herself where she felt like it. I know the topic of parental involvement in the wedding process is a sticky subject for many couples so I thought rather than offer up some cheesy Mother’s Day homage, I’d give some practical advice on ways to get mothers and parents involved in your wedding that will actually be helpful to you AND help them feel as though they are being a meaningful part of the process, without driving you crazy.
I am writing this from the perspective of a bride and the bride’s relationship with her mother, but I think this is also applicable to the groom’s relationship with his mother, the bride’s relationship with her father, etc. Remember that although your wedding day is all about you, and should be a reflection of you and your betrothed, it’s also a big freaking deal for your parents. They have loved and cared for you since you were just a wee babe and now their baby is all grown up, about to start a life of their own. Apart from sending you off to college or becoming a grandparent, your wedding day is likely to be one of most significant milestones of their journey as a parent, so it’s important to acknowledge this and allow them to bask in the glow of that moment along with you. Not to mention they may be helping to fund a significant portion of your wedding.
All that being said, while I happen to have a great relationship with my mom, she can drive me totally bonkers at times, so the trick is to figure out the best way to get parents involved in the process that won’t significantly increase your stress level.
So how do you actually do this? I would start by identifying tasks or chunks of the wedding process that you actually need help with, as well as tasks that you are comfortable handing off to a parent and letting go of control over (these two buckets may or may not overlap). As a certified type-A control freak myself, BELIEVE me that I know this can be really, really, difficult. Then, you need to have an understanding of which components your mom or parent is interested in or feels strongly about. And, think about what their strengths are. What are they good at? You may find, for instance, that it’s very important to your mother that your invitations are addressed the ‘traditional’ way (see: Emily Post). Perhaps you aren’t crazy about addressing your friends as ‘Mr. and Mrs. John Smith’ (I myself had a hard time with this concept), but if it’s something you can live with, and it’s important to your parent, let it go and let them have it. Managing invitations and RSVPs is not an insignificant task from a time perspective, so handing that off to someone else to figure out and manage would be a big item to cross off your to-do list!
So what happens if you and your mother completely clash on a particular element of the wedding? Perhaps she feels very strongly that you should wear a veil, but this is something you are vehemently opposed to. Then it’s time to sit back and get some perspective - how will this one thing your parent is requesting/feels strongly about really affect the overall experience of the day for you? If it’s something that you know will make them happy, and you can live with it, then let it go. If it’s something you truly cannot get on board with and will create feelings of bitterness, let your parent down gently, give them some insight into why this is not something you are comfortable with, and then offer an olive branch - try to suggest an alternative. Being sensitive to the feelings of your parents and family throughout the planning process will go a long way. Maybe your mother feels strongly about you wearing a veil because she and her mother wore veils at their weddings, too. Could you incorporate a family heirloom into your dress or bouquet that would hold the same meaning?
There are probably a million and one ways to get mothers or parents involved in your wedding and wedding planning process; here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
For creative parents:
- Get them involved in the design process! Have them design or create invitation illustrations, favors, thank-you cards, programs, escort displays, chuppahs, or ceremony elements
- Ask them to write, sing or play something during your ceremony
- Seek their advice or feedback when making design-related decisions about flowers or decor-related elements
For business-minded parents:
- Ask them to help with negotiation of contracts, managing your budget, or dealing with vendors (if this is not something you are hiring a wedding planner to do)
For super organized parents:
- Have them manage RSVPs or address and send out invitations
- Ask them to plan a rehearsal dinner, farewell brunch, or shower
For foodie parents:
- Invite them to attend a catering or cake tasting
- Consult them on wine pairings or signature cocktails
For social parents:
- Ask them to serve as the point person for out of town guests, helping to arrange lodging, suggesting fun activities for the wedding weekend, or connecting them with other out-of-town guests before the wedding
- Ask them to give a toast or speech during the reception
If the above options sound like too much of a commitment for you, here are some ways to honor and get parents (or really anyone close to you) involved on the day of the wedding:
- Include them in the ceremony processional
- Ask them to perform a reading or blessing during the ceremony or dinner
- Incorporate family heirlooms such as jewelry, handkerchiefs, ribbons, cufflinks, or boxes into your attire or ceremony
- Ask them to be a member of your bridal party
- Incorporate things that are meaningful to them into the wedding day. Serve a family recipe as a dessert or a favor, or include a favorite flower in your bouquet
- Honor family members both living and passed by displaying wedding photos from their own wedding day
Hopefully you are getting the sense by now that it’s not so much the specific gesture or way in which you invite parents to participate in the process that matters; it’s the meaning behind it and the effort you make to ensure that your wedding day is as special for your parents as it is for you and your betrothed.
Happy Mother’s Day!