Mom, It’s Not Your Wedding
Love Fest or Fuss Fest? What’s your Mother-Daughter dynamic?
By Robert Bullock
Mom, before you put me in a time-out, I am not necessarily speaking about you.
There are Fun Moms, Kooky Moms, Sincere Moms, Sappy Moms…the list is endless. In truth, I’m actually talking about a transitional period in a mother and daughter’s life. Working in the bridal industry for almost a quarter century I’m pretty certain qualifies me as a family therapist. I’ve seen every dynamic possible in a mother/ daughter relationship. I do not have enough time to share them all (someday I’ll write a book), but for now I’ll share my best and worst experiences.
Thank goodness (for everyone’s sake) this incident did not happen in my own salon but here it was: I was doing an in-store appearance at a nice Midwestern boutique and working with a mother and her daughter. Right off the bat it was clear that Mom was in charge. No worries, I thought to myself, I deal with this all the time. However, the longer the appointment went, the quieter the bride grew and the more aggressive the Mom(ster) became. This is usually when I get to do my best “soothe it over” routine. I can always throw a little humor in to let Mom know it’s time for a reality check but at the same time not embarrass or humiliate her. So I gave my usual comforting smile, reassuring touch of the shoulder or one-armed hug, and said in a calm and loving voice, “OOOh Mom, but it’s not your wedding. We want the bride to feel secure and beautiful in her choice.” Unfortunately this time my plan foiled. Mom pulled away, looked me square in my face and said, “Oh yes it is my wedding! When I got married it was my mother’s wedding, and if she’s lucky enough to have a daughter it will be her wedding!”
Wait. Whaaaaat just happened?!
I stood there, speechless, for a good 20 minutes (okay, 20 seconds, but it seemed like forever) never taking my eyes off of her, and then replied, “Let me find someone else to help you.” The poor bride never uttered a chirp as I vanished into the back office from that suddenly bitterly cold showroom.
Oh memories from the road…
About five years ago in my NYC salon (for 21 years I worked directly with brides, but now travel and do in-store appearances), I was with a mother and daughter from beginning until the end of the process. From their initial consultation selecting the gown and all the way through fittings, they treated each other not only with respect but shared the joy of the experience as a team. It even seemed to heighten their happiness by taking this journey together.
Now, it probably helped that this bride didn’t want a gown which left nothing to the imagination or that revealed every little thing down the aisle that the new spouse hoped to see in the honeymoon suite. (Don’t laugh, it happens all the time. To those brides I simply say, “Will your grandparents be at the wedding?” then silently hope they are eloping in Vegas.)
But back to these lovelies: they genuinely liked each other and because of their boundaries and the mutual respect they showed, the happy vibe was endless. When they came to pick up the gown I commented that I wished I had videotaped them throughout their process. They were surprised and asked me, “Why?” I replied, “To use as a mother daughter instructional video.”
It took me a while to figure it out but after a few years of dealing with mother/daughter struggles, I started to realize what the real issue was. It’s pretty simple when you take a step back and dissect it. A dynamic is changing. Mom feels like she’s losing control. The Bride is becoming Mom’s equal by starting her own family and that is unfamiliar territory. None of us like the feeling of letting go, or the unknown, even if it is subconscious. Brides, here is your opportunity to give Mom the reassurance that she needs. Tell her you are looking forward to the growth in your relationship and allow it to become a friendship as well.
So, as I often say, open your minds and hearts, talk it out, and be aware of what’s really going on below the surface.
After all, everybody needs a new friend.
What did we learn?
- Keep your crazy under control.
- Create an environment that is chill, fun and enjoyably memorable.
- Make Mom proud by being the strong, independent woman she raised.