Wedding planning isn’t easy. Wedding planning with your mother-in-law is even harder. What if it didn’t have to be so difficult?
Yes, the words “peace with your mother-in-law” and “wedding planning” can be put in the same sentence. Here are some tips that will not only make it easier for you to navigate this complicated relationship, but it might even bring you closer than you were before you started. So read on and see if you can apply a few of them as early as today. Because choosing between her needs and yours doesn’t have to be a thing.
Have a Plan
As silly as it might be to have a plan with your mother-in-law when you’re already trying to plan your wedding footage with your videographer, a little strategy goes a long way. The facts are that planning a wedding is not just about colors and materials – it’s a rite of passage. And it’s about relationships. If your husband loves his mother, you get to love her as well. And here’s the real truth: Love isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. When you interact with your mother-in-law with the bigger picture in mind, you’re less likely to react over non-trivial matters. For example, consider thinking about this woman less as the “meddling mother-in-law” and more the person one of your kids might call “Grandma” one day. Perspective changes everything.
Assume the Best
Whether or not your heart feels your mother-in-law is on your side, decide in your head that she is. In Don Miguel Ruiz’s famous book, The Four Agreements, he reminds people to “Never Make Assumptions.” Why? Because in doing so you are putting out energy from the very beginning that you don’t trust her and that feels, well, icky. Even if she has done things in the past you haven’t been a fan of, why bring the past into your current situation? Every opportunity is a new one to allow your mother-in-law to act differently. And most importantly, it allows you to act differently. All the fancy hair and bridal couture can’t cover up a resentment frown, so change your mindset and change your life! Literally. (A marriage ideally is a long time, so start practicing a new way of thinking now.)
Give Her Options
When a child is at the store, it’s not uncommon for a mom to give him or her a few options to choose from. The reason this works out so well is that the mom is still in charge, but the child feels like they had some say in the matter – and who doesn’t like to feel like their opinion holds value? The same can be said of your mother-in-law and wedding planning. While we’re not comparing her to a whiney toddler, we are saying that you yourself don’t need to transform into a brooding baby. If at all possible, have her help you choose items where you could live with either option. “Do you like the beige or the white tablecloth?” No matter what she chooses you’ll be happy, and she’ll feel so much pride on the big day when people compliment her about how lovely the tables look.
Ask Her Questions
Yes, this day is about you. But there’s a good chance your mother-in-law was a bride once, too. Or maybe she wanted to be one but didn’t get the chance. Regardless, she still produced your future spouse. Imagine how the tone of your conversations might turn if you took the focus off of yourself for a bit and asked about her. “What was your dress like?” you could ask. Or, “Were you nervous when the minister asked for your vows?” When people feel like they matter, they are less likely to insert their will into items that don’t matter as much. And, if she’s still insistent, at least you know in your heart that you did your best to accommodate her as a person, even if you ultimately reject her advice on the best shoe height to wear for jumping the broom.
Speak in “I” Statements
This point cannot be over-emphasized enough. Planning a wedding with your mother-in-law can bring out some serious fears. Instead of projecting your worry and stress onto her with sweeping “You” statements, you can showcase everything from your perspective with “I” statements. Consider the difference between these two forms of communication: “You aren’t listening to a word I say!” vs. “I am not feeling heard about the color of the flowers.” While the second is still very assertive, it is not placing blame on your mother-in-law. The second options will allow her to feel less defensive and will create a closer relationship.
Talk Less/Smile More
Anyone who knows Hamilton will get the reference to this statement above. And while Aaron Burr was not loved by most characters in the end of this epic play, he did something that the loquacious and dominating Hamilton was not able to accomplish: He survived. How did he do this? He took his own advice which was to “Talk Less… Smile More… Don’t Let Them Know What You’re Against or What You’re For…” Hamilton was disgusted by this. Perhaps you are, too. But Burr had a point: “You want to get ahead? Fools who run their mouths off wind up dead…” In other words, is the relationship with your mother-in-law worth killing her over grilled vs. fried chicken? If not, why bother? Consider saving your harsh words for life and death situations. Not only will your mother-in-law be easier to deal with, you might actually feel better yourself.
If You Can’t Be Kind, Be Civil
Some of you are dealing with some pretty insane future monster-in-laws. No one is telling you to go crawl under a rock and be a silent woman. But here’s something to consider: Even if you can’t stand her, if she’s going to be involved in wedding planning for some reason or another, can you be gracious? Put another way, if you can’t be kind, can you at least be civil? The art of smiling, but getting your point across, is an age old practice of powerful people everywhere. “You get more flies with honey” is actually true. Think about your spouse. Think about how you, yourself, want to be treated. We’re guessing you’d like civility over manipulation and gossip.
Think About it From Her Perspective
When it comes to planning a wedding, it’s likely one of the most exciting times of your entire life. You’re about to marry the man of your dreams. Life is about to start and it’s full of wonder and possibility. A new adventure is beginning! But for your mother-in-law, it’s the exact opposite. The love of her life is no longer running toward her anymore. He’s running toward you. And while this gives her no excuse to take over wedding planning, it does provide some insight as to why she might be just a little bit too concerned with the color scheme or if the rabbi is on the guest list. For her, it’s not just a fun themed wedding. For her, it is one of the last times she’ll be able to plan something for her baby boy.
Write Her a Thank You Note
In this digital age of email and texts, a hand written note goes a long way. In the letter, thank her for raising such a lovely human being. Tell her that you’re excited to get to know her more as you pick out dishes or choose invitations. Again, writing a hand-written card does not mean that she’s going to have carte blanche over every decision you make. But it just might soften her a bit to know that you took the time to appreciate her. And trust us, that kind gesture won’t go into the trash can. It will proudly sit on her counter which makes you look like the rock star you know you already are!
Set Boundaries with Love
It’s totally understandable to want to have control over your own wedding planning with your mother-in-law. That said, it’s unrealistic to have that control if you don’t set down boundaries. What are you willing to do with her? What are you not willing to let go? When you shop together or have a conversation with her, are you able to tell her exactly what your budget is or what your time limit is? It can be difficult to let people know about your parameters if you are timid by nature, but it’s also so incredibly helpful. Being clear – with graciousness – will ultimately set you up for success. There will be less hurt feelings because less toes will get stepped on.
Lower Your Expectations
Did you know what the definition of expectation is? “Unborn resentment.” With that in mind, when wedding planning with your mother-in-law, try not to set yourself up for failure by expecting something that she might not be able to give. For example, if your mother-in-law is a loud, fast-talking Texan, don’t ask her to join you to a quiet prayer service where you’re checking out a potential priest to officiate your ceremony. There’s an expression, “Don’t go the hardware store asking for a turnip.” In other words, hoping your mother-in-law will fit your views on how to behave is not going to happen. Since you can’t control her, control yourself. Instead of self-sabotage, stop thinking about what your mother in law can’t do be realistic about what your mother-in-law can do when it comes to planning your wedding.
Don’t Be a Victim
It’s so easy in life to be a victim. Sure, people and events might have hurt you in the past, but that’s not your mother-in-law’s fault. If you don’t deal with those past hurts, your mother-in-law might unintentionally trigger those pain buttons and make you crazy. And, if you think about it, you’re not really reacting to your her opinion on place settings, but perhaps some unresolved trauma around control from your past experience. By remembering that your mother-in-law is not your enemy, you can get out of victim mode and into warrior bride mode!
This is probably the best tip of all. If you can accept your mother-in-law exactly as she is – with no judgment or strings – you will have a much happier time planning your wedding. You don’t have to like everything about her. You don’t have to share everything with her or even let her get away with stuff you don’t like. But if you whole heartedly accept that she can’t be anyone other than who she really is, then you can approach your relationship with her with empathy and connection instead of anger. Think of how much nicer wedding planning will be!
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