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Top 8 Wedding Planning Tips for Moms

So you're a "mother-of-the..."? Read on for our top 10 tips for helping with your daughter's (or son's) big day

Photo: Jen Kroll Photography

Wedding planning isn't just a big deal for the bride and groom -- it's also a major moment for their moms. Here's the lowdown on some of the biggest issues and mother of the bride duties you'll face during the wedding planning process. 

1. Have the Money Talk

In the initial excited moments of an engagement, to-be-weds will be thinking the sky's the limit. We're not saying you need to put a damper on their enthusiasm, but you do need to be clear about your limits. (Unless they've also announced that they're paying for the wedding themselves, in which case hey, you're off the hook!) Talk with your partner, then have a sit-down with the bride and groom-to-be to talk about the wedding finances. Be clear about how much you're willing to contribute to their wedding budget: Remember, you're an M-O-M, not an A-T-M.

2. Play Your Part

You probably have tons wedding ideas, from that great wedding florist your friend's daughter used to the cake you saw a picture of in a magazine the other week, and that's totally great. That said, don't immediately assume you'll be taking the reins when it comes to planning the wedding. Suss out what your son or daughter's expectations are by letting them know that if they need help with anything, you'll be there for them. And if there's something you'd specifically like to contribute an idea to, speak up when the time comes. But speed-dialing the bride or groom-to-be for every last tidbit of wedding info? Let's just say there is such a thing as a momzilla.

3. Dress for the Occasion

Whether you're the mother of the bride or the groom, there are some easy rules of thumb to use when choosing your mother of the bride dress. First, follow the formality and style of the wedding -- if it's going to be a casual beach affair, you're going to have to nix that black velvet gown, even if it does look great on you. Second, if you're not sure, ask! Both the mother-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom should get in touch with each other and the bride. The bride can help you by keeping you in the loop about her wedding gown, the wedding colors, and so on. And while you don't need to match each other (or the bridesmaids), it's usually a good idea for both the moms to have somewhat similar styles. The only major no-no? Skip the white (or any shade that's even close)! That hue is for the bride only.

4. Get On the Guest List

Be sure to talk to the bride and groom-to-be about their expectations for the guest list. Yes, they might be envisioning a mega-reception filled with hundreds of friends and relatives -- but they could also be thinking of an intimate outdoor affair with just a few of their nearest and dearest. Find out what their plans are for the guest list and your contribution to it (and remember, the other parents are going to want input, too!). Once you know about how many people you can reasonably invite, you can draw up your own guest list and provide it to the bride and groom. If they're not sure how many people will work, a good idea is to put a star next to the guests you feel absolutely must be invited (don't forget to factor in any plus-ones).

5. Pick Your Priorities

There probably are some things you would really love to see be part of the wedding, whether including your own mother's favorite flower in the bridal bouquet or getting your great aunt Gertrude a good seat for the reception. But if you make a big deal out of everything single little detail, all you'll accomplish is driving the bride and groom crazy -- and chances are, they'll figure out your M.O. pretty quickly and stop budging on their decisions. And they're right: It's their wedding, not yours. So here's a better plan: Choose a few things (say three) that you really, really want to be part of the wedding, and let the bride and groom know about them. Focusing on just a couple of items on the wedding agenda, the ones that really matter to you, allows you to pick your battles wisely rather than fighting it out nonstop.

6. Meet the Parents

If you haven't already, once the engagement's been announced its key for you to meet up with your son or daughter's soon-to-be in-laws. The newly engaged couple will likely initiate this, but if for some reason they don't, feel free to bring it up. Just say something light like, "Your dad and I are really excited to meet Jane's parents." If they live hundreds of miles away, that's one thing. But if it's just nerves about combining the families, be clear with your tone that you're supportive of the engagement and marriage, so of course you want to meet the new in-laws. Dinner at a nice but still casual restaurant is usually the best option; that way, no one couple has to feel the stress of playing hosts or worrying what fork to use, and everyone can just relax and get to know each other.

7. Be Their Backup

Sometimes, wedding guests can be a bit demanding -- wanting an extra serving at the reception, extensive face-time with the bride, or letting their ‘talented' youngster play a solo at the ceremony. You need to help out the bride and groom by being their first line of defense; or if that fails, being their backup. If guests come to you with complaints, deal with it tactfully by saying something like, "I'm sure Jane and Joe would love to be able to seat all of your children and their dates at the reception, but they're working with a limited budget and need to keep the wedding small. I know your being there really matters to them though, which is why they included you even though they weren't able to invite your whole family." A statement like this accomplishes three things: It makes the guest feel better, it lets the bride and groom off the hook without coming off badly, and at the same time, it doesn't give in to guests' pushy pleas.

8. Tame a Bride(or Groom)-zilla

Sometimes, it's not just the guests -- the bride or groom can get out of line with their requests. If you've got a bridezilla (or a groomzilla!) on your hands, you need to give them a little perspective. While an important role for a mom is being a shoulder to cry on, if they're making everyone else miserable, a little tough love might be in order. If they're going ballistic over every last detail, listen to their tale of woe -- then remind them that the wedding is just one day. Their love and marriage are the important things, not whether the florist is going to substitute spray roses for the ranunculus. If it's more of an attitude issue, remind them -- jokingly -- that they want the wedding party to be smiling for the wedding photos! Then ask if you there are any tasks -- things the bride or groom might have taken on themselves, or things they're delegating to their attendants -- that you or another relative can help out with to try to relieve some of the stress.

-- Kate Wood

See More: Basics for Moms