Momzilla and wedding budgeting

Bride and Mother-in-Law
Photo by Shannon Weiss Photography
Everyone warns you about Bridezilla, but no one tells you about how your mom will morph into Momzilla!

We set the date for June of next year and my mom's trying to plan everything now. She's totally not listening to me about what I want, or what is important to me. She and my father are paying for it.

Would it be selfish of me to tell my mother it's my wedding, and not hers?

Or should I let her have her way because she's paying for it?

-Jenna

My simple rule: If mom's payin', you need to listen to what she's sayin'.

For the longer answer, keep reading.

I get this question a lot, and my answer doesn't ever change: money is power, and if you accept money from your family for your wedding, then you have to accept that they have every right to chime in about wedding planning. Whoever pays for the wedding is acting as a producer, and therefore has a say in how their money is spent. Ideally, their say goes something like this: "Whatever you want, dear." But with many families — especially more conservative ones — that's just not gonna happen. That's why many offbeat couples finance their own weddings.

This is covered extensively in the book, but before you accept money from family members for your wedding, you need to have a serious conversation with them about what stipulation come with the money. You can't just assume Hey! Free Money!, and skip the conversation about what it means. Yes, it's uncomfortable to talk to family about money. But what's more uncomfortable: having a slightly awkward conversation early on, or going through months (years?) of tension over the issue.

If it becomes clear from that conversation that your family wants to be involved in the planning of the wedding, then you have a very serious decision to make: accept the money and lose some control, or maintain control and pay for it yourself? Some folks also try a third option, which is to ask their family for a loan, but that's definitely an even bigger challenge when it comes to tactfulness.

Another option is having two weddings — the one they pay for and design, and the one you do yourself. That's also covered in my book.

  1. Thank you so much! I love the idea of two weddings. I'm going to get the book!

    1 agrees
  2. I highly recommend the book! Also, it might be a conversation with your Mom to find out what she wants and what you want. Compromise is a good word. Especially when she is footing the bill. It can be difficult to navigate but your wedding can end up to be a beautiful mix of both of you.

    1 agrees
  3. Weirdly, I've been having the opposite conversation with my mom. It's been more like, "Hey, Mom, I know it is our wedding, but we want your input. We want to know what you think. Please don't wait for five years to tell me you thought I picked the ugliest dress ever. Plus, this day is about you guys too, don't you want to get involved?" The answer, by the way, is YES, yes she does want to get involved, but she was trying to let us do it our way. That said, we want her input, but we're not necessarily doing everything she wants. But it feels a whole lot better to know what that is. Maybe this is the LIBERAL family dynamic.

    And the book. I've been cuddling it at night. Is that weird? I'm going to post over my way about how even white dress wearing not SUPER offbeat but budget and crafty couples NEED to have it. :)

    4 agree
  4. Maybe if you sat down with her and asked her what the most important part of the wedding is for her and then let her have more control in that aspect. It is also totally reasonable to tell her that the music (or whatever) is very important to you and you and Future Spouse really want it to be a surprise for everyone. Done! Also, if you tell her you want it to be a surprise, you have a pre-established reason why you are not sharing details and taking her opinion. Then, if the day comes and she doesn't like it? too bad. What's done is done.

  5. great advice!! My mother is momzilla to the extreme but thankfully she's not paying for anything other than my hair. Which means she's only entitled to bitch about my hair and nothing else. I'm so glad my dad's paying for everything else.

  6. I totally agree with this advice! Whoever pays has the say. It's nice if they ask for opinions, but ultimately, it's their call. And honestly, I don't believe anyone but the bride and groom should be paying for the wedding. Marriage is one of the many major acts of adulthood, and no one should participate in this act if they are unable to fund it themselves, as adults.

    2 agree
  7. I don't *disagree* with Jaymie (don't have a wedding you can't afford, etc) but there are reasons for people other then the bride and groom to help pay. For example, we have a big extended family, and our parents helping to pay for some of that makes sense, both to us and to them. AKA, if there are things that are important to your parents, you don't mind/ like the ideas, and you might not be able to do them on your own, parents helping is very sensable.

    1 agrees
    • Ahhh wat leuk om te zien dat ik op je blog sta! Thx a miillon!En je tips vind ik ook echt onwijs leuk! Keep up the good work!liefs van het Bruidsmeisje Vivian

  8. This is a tough one. If Mom and Dad are paying they should have a say, but not because they are paying. They are probably trying to help prevent some the of problems they had.

  9. This is super useful because I know my mom will be trying to weasel in on my wedding planning. I know that I want to have a smaller wedding in a somewhat remote setting, but the second my mom gets ANY input she will be all "but we have to invite your 50 cousins, all your aunts and uncles and your grandmother, oh and your cousins' kids too". I just can't afford something like that, so I know if it comes to her haranging me on it, I feel like I am now armed with "well if you want ALL of those people, you can pay to find a place to seat all of them and feed them too."
    I am probably going to end up going the two-weddings route; one for close friends and immediate family and the huge one for extended family only :/

  10. We had planned a very small and informal wedding and reception (about 30 guests), which allowed us to have something nice and something we could afford. Enter my mom – and her idea of the guest list – and luckily, her checkbook. Which is totally fair. She's the one who wants the other 120 guests, so she's willing to pay for their meal/drinks/favors and a room big enough to hold them. She's the one who wants fresh flowers on every table, so she's willing to pay for them. She's the one who wants a formal rehearsal dinner… you get the picture. I don't actually object to any of these things, they just aren't in our budget. However, when she came and offered her financial support, we had a conversation right up front about what kind of wedding my fiance and I wanted, and how far we could comfortably compromise that. It has actually worked out well, as we get her opinion on most things, after we have scoped out the acceptable alternatives, and she makes suggestions, but tries to keep them within her understanding of how we want things. Plus so far I actually have paid for everything; she periodically looks over the plans and gathers the invoices and writes me a check. That way she reserves the right to not write a check if there is anything she seriously dislikes; we feel like adults because we're still doing our own planning and not having to ask about every expenditure. She gets the things that are important to her, and is generally respectful of our original vision. I think the key thing is that she knows we were absolutely planning on paying ourselves, and that we had the talk upfront (as Ariel says) about what we were willing to accept as far as changes to our original plans.

    4 agree
  11. I agree with alot of points made, but some I can not imagine letting go. I have just started to think of planning a wedding and considering letting my parents plan it would be a disaster. I have never had a good relationship with them and plan on paying for it myself, though they will still try and control it. If I let my parents decide for me I know I would regret it. I look at a wedding as OUR DAY (bride and groom or 2 same sex partners… whatever makes you happy) and not a way to make my parents/family happy. It might just be my extremely independent spirt and nontraditional nature, but the thought of having somthing so important and special to me off beat or not turned into something I am completely against, kinda sickens me. It's your life and no one elses and you should do what makes you happy not sacrifice your dreams to later wish you would have fought for your special day. Everyone's situation is different and I understand that, just do what you feel is right in your heart and everything should work out fine in the end.

    Being a mother myself I could not imagine taking control of my son's wedding, it is a time for him and his love to shine, not my way of living through him. You may want to consider if your parents (or just mother) is trying to be like a crazy stage mom… you know the kind that never had that amazing life or wedding so they are now taking control of yours to live their long lost dreams. It might be a good topic to SENSITIVELY bring up before things get out of hand. They had their wedding, now its your turn.

    I do agree that compromise is key though, if you have a good relationship worth salvaging try and find common ground. Plenty of my friends have had 2 seperate receptions and it worked out great.

    1 agrees
  12. I completely agree with, if the 'rents are paying, you don't get to be in complete control.

    That said, I'm still supremely jealous of my friends who got engaged after me and are getting married before me b/c their families are paying.

    Because my partner and I are paying for our ceremony, we've told my mother point blank that if she wants us to invite extended family, she will be paying for them.

    1 agrees
  13. As a fifty something woman with a twnety something son, I have felt saddened reading these posts. If my son should choose to marry or have a committment ceremony I hope there is enough love and trust between us that he does not assume that I will have demands or want to rain on their parade. I also hope that he will see that a wedding or a committment is not just about the couple, it is also about everyone they are close to. Family relationships, friend relationships are changed when you make a life-long public committment to another person – hopefully in enriching life-affriming ways. Understand why the aunt who helped see your Mom through pregnancy, who may have changed diapers or given bottles in support of a young family may wish to see you start your new life and your Mom may want her there. It is hard to sort out the meaning of relationships in families, particularly across generations or various splits and remakings. No one should be forced to host an event they cannot afford or is outside their value system. But understand that there is a longer view of family and generations and relationships. The "Momzilla" who seeks to include family you are not close to may have an understanding of the family that you do not. Dialogue instead of confrontations and "point blank" ultimations might resolve many guest list issues.
    Weddings can be very special to families. My niece just married. She asked me to do something special for her that only I could do for the wedding, she thanked me in the program, included me in the rehersal dinner. What she didn't know, will probably never know, is that she healed a thirty year old wound from when her parents omitted me from their wedding. Families and weddings carry great meaning.

    8 agree
    • "The 'Momzilla' who seeks to include family you are not close to may have an understanding of the family that you do not."

      I really needed to hear this, especially from someone on the other side of the issue. Guest list is an issue right now bc parents on groom's side have a different view of what the wedding means in the great scheme of things. To them it is primarily about family; to me, it is primarily about our union, and we have felt bullied into inviting people we wouldn't have on our own. It's intense, but it helps to see it from a new perspective.

      That being said, I disagree with your logic.
      You didn't feel good about not being invited to the first wedding, and that's sad, but your niece probably invited you not because of her momzilla, but because she herself wanted you there with her.
      Inviting people out of guilt or pressure does not make me feel good and is disingenuous; everyone I do invite, I invite out of a sincere desire to do so, and that feels right to me.

      Coincidentally, I am inviting my favorite aunt and God mother to my wedding, not because Mom told me to, but because I want her there by my side. I can't imagine not sharing my wedding day with some members of my family, and then are are those I won't be inviting, and that's okay too. If there's one thing that keeps being impressed upon me, it's the importance of being honest and sincere in my choices, not just for a wedding, but for life.

      2 agree
  14. I have to say that I disagree on the basic premise here.

    My parents are paying for the wedding as a gift and because, in their minds, paying for a wedding is your joy and privilege as a parent. They view it much the same way as paying for my education.

    They are investing in my future and in a day that we will all participate in and remember forever. And they are doing so without strings, because that's how gifts should be given.

    I also resent the remarks about adults needing to fund their own weddings. I would no more have refused my parents wedding money than I would them giving me a sweater on my birthday.

    5 agree
  15. We have both sides wanting to contribute, but I think we found a tactful way to do it. We are paying upfront all the costs and have told the parents such. We said any money they want to contribute they can do it as thier gift

    2 agree
    • I wish I had thought of this! My parents offered to pay for our wedding shortly after we had been engaged. If I had only thought about what that ment at the time! We saw it as a blessing and took up their offer without thinking or putting limitations on it. Now, my dad is completely controling the drinking situation (his views are very different from ours), as he has a right to do, and it does not feel like the wedding that we would have had ourselves. Def, before you take the money, talk about the conditions that you are taking it under! Or only take it as a gift, no strings attached. I wish we did this.

  16. My fiancee and I are planning and saving for our wedding, which takes place a little over a year from now (we've already been engaged for nearly a year). My parents have made it very clear that they want to help pay for the wedding — which I very much appreciate, since we are both working hard and struggling to get by, as young couples do.

    It's a difficult position to be in, trying to create a ceremony that is unique to yourself while accepting or needing help from others to make it happen. It's important to realize that everyone is different and thinks differently about weddings and marriage. I sympathize with the mother who posted earlier about being saddened by the "keep your nose out of my wedding" attitude, just as much as I sympathize with all those couples out there who fear their parents will create a wedding that feels like someone else's.

    On both sides a little understanding will go a long way. Couples, understand why your parents want what they do for you. You're not children anymore; so stop acting like it with this "mom and dad never let me have my way" act. Look past your own feelings about your parents and try to see them as human beings: equally flawed, equally human, and equally as eager to make this day special. Yes, they may want things for your wedding that you're not so comfortable with — ask them why. Maybe that element holds special meaning to them. Understanding motivations goes a long way toward finding a working compromise.

    And the reverse holds true, as well. Parents, understand that your children will not always agree with you. Just as a loving parent would never say, "I love you, but only if you do what I tell you to," a loving parent should not say, "I'll support your wedding, but only if you plan it the way I want it to be." Along with your offer of financial support comes an unspoken offer of emotional support. Helping to pay for the wedding means that you approve of your child's future spouse and you are willing to contribute to their union and success. If you insist that your money only be spent on the wedding you want, you are subtly telling the couple that you only approve of them as long as they fit your preconceived notions of them. It tells them that you don't really accept their individuality. And that's hard for any child to hear, adult or otherwise.

    Hopefully, if you're married or getting married, you already know that communication is key to a good relationship. Regardless of which side of this issue you're on, it's important to explain your motivations and make it clear why you want what you want, and that will help a long way toward finding a solution that everyone is comfortable with.

    4 agree
  17. As a wedding florist for many years, I have to say that I've not yet had a
    "Bridezilla" . . . but it's sometimes
    leaned that way with a mom or two.

    My biggest shocker was when the future MOTHER-IN-LAW!! was paying for everything – and was bound and determined to do what she wanted – not what the bride wanted.

    She came often into our shop and looked at me and said – "I want you
    to put poison ivy in her bouquet!"
    We tried to laugh and joke it off, saying "Well . . .it's her wedding – we need to do what she would like". The MIL looked me in the eye and said "It's MY WEDDING! I'm paying for it. When she pays for her kids wedding – then she has the say!"

    Be careful what you accept in $$ . .it may be easier to pay for your own!

  18. we're calling my mom the MOB (mother of the bride) can't mess with the MOB may end up swimming in concrete shoes lol

  19. I don't necessarily agree with Mom paying and saying how the money is spent. She's had a wedding already! She got to have her day, and you're entitled to yours too. Why have two weddings when you can have just one day that means the world to you? My mom is definately a momzilla, and she wants to have her say in everything. She's paying for the majority of the wedding, but, she also knows that this is MY day, not hers. Yes, it's also very important for her.. but, I don't want to walk down the isle in a dress I hate, with my fifteen cousins as the bridesmaids. It's just not going to happen that way! Then, the day becomes someone elses, and you don't have any fond memories to look back on. You don't have that feeling like, "This wedding is my baby, and it feels so good to see all of my hard work and planning pay off."
    So if your mom really can't come to terms with the fact that this is your wedding, and still pay for it anyway despite the fact that she doesn't like it.. then.. pay for it yourself! You shouldn't have to have one her way, and one yours. This is YOUR wedding!!!

    1 agrees
  20. How about if your dad's paying, but your mom is still being a Momzilla? I'm having this issue – hates my venues, hates my MOH…hates my dress picks…lots of hating, and she's not paying, but still giving me static…?

  21. threecitiesbride,

    It sounds like a PP (personal problem) of your Mother's – for her to invest so much energy in hating the details of your wedding. I'm sorry you have to endure it but limit the time and information you spend/share with your Mother. It seems to cause her pain – don't allow her to pass it on to you.

  22. When my fiance and I started planning our wedding (we're in Australia and nowadays most weddings here are paid for by the bride and groom, rarely the parents), we decided to ask both sets of parents to help out. They very generously said yes and both put in a certain amount that they decided on.

    Now we are 10 weeks away from the wedding (which is very small) and while neither set of parents had any input (or offered to make any inputs), my mother is now demanding to bring more of her friends to the wedding if there are any cancellations. This won't be happening and I have explained my reasons (small wedding, they already have some friends there, it's OUR 'party').

    If anyone's been a 'zilla, it's my maid of honour! This is her offical title: maid-of-honourzilla. She's very traditional and I'm not. I like things to be a little out of balance, but she has tried to change a few things and has succeeded in some areas (bridesmaid's dresses – I told the bridesmaids to buy whatever they wanted to wear on the day as long as it was blue, my MOHZ didn't like the idea of different dresses on the day, so she persuaded me to get a dressmaker, so all the girls have the same style and colour of dress with a 'twist' (something different on each) etc).

    This is how I handle it. I let her do what she wants in some areas, and in the areas that are important to me, I may listen to her ideas (she got married 3 years ago), but I will do what I want.

  23. "I don't necessarily agree with Mom paying and saying how the money is spent. She's had a wedding already! She got to have her day, and you're entitled to yours too." -Crystal

    "My parents are paying for the wedding as a gift and because, in their minds, paying for a wedding is your joy and privilege as a parent. They view it much the same way as paying for my education. They are investing in my future and in a day that we will all participate in and remember forever. And they are doing so without strings, because that's how gifts should be given." -Samantha

    THIS. I don't care who's paying for the wedding – the only people who get an executive say are the bride and groom (or brides/grooms). You don't give people gift cards at Christmas and then tell them what to spend it on, do you? Parents have no right to dictate their children's weddings, even if they are paying. A gift of money with strings attached is no gift.

    My current problem is finding out three weeks out from the wedding that my mother invited a bunch of random acquaintances that I've never met, who aren't even close family friends, and none of them can confirm whether they're coming or not. I don't want a group of strangers at my wedding, and I'm certainly not interested in making accommodations for their sporadic schedules. I asked for their names and numbers, so I could contact them directly and maybe get a more definite answer, but my mom wouldn't give me their contact info. So I told her she'd just have to tell them to forget it. The thing is that she seems to think my wedding is her day, and that it's ok to invite whomever she wants. And this is all somehow ok because she and my dad are paying for it. Wrong! If I can't share my wedding with the people I care about – i.e. NOT total strangers – I don't see a point in having one.

    The upshot is, parents have no right to interfere, even if they are funding the event. If they can't muster the maturity required to give their children a gift with no strings attached, they can choose not to give it in the first place.

    2 agree
  24. As a bride to be thats getting married in a month, I completely agree with sitting down with the parents before things get out of hand and stating what your expectations are and what their expectations are up front. We did not and it is definitly causing problems for us.
    My mom has turned into a momzilla, getting upset with every descision my fiance and I make or suggest. However they are paying for part of the reception, and we are paying for the rest so I feel like not all the power should be in their hands. I know a lot of it stems from my mom living thousands of miles away from me and thinking she isn't included, but we're having a destination wedding so there really hasn't been much for us to do until we get there.
    I've already had to tell my parents once that we don't want the money they are giving us (as a gift) if they're going to hold it over our heads, but they insisted that would stop. But every conversation about the wedding that comes up turns into a fight. Its at the point now where we have to tell them to back off in a way thats nice enough that they still will want to be involved.
    Any suggestions?

  25. We're still working on who's paying for what in our wedding, but my mom has been really going all out trying to help us, researching venues, caterers, etc, so we don't even have to look at anything that isn't really nice/big enough.

    That said, keep in mind that times have changed quite a bit with wedding planning. The other day, we were talking about planning and my mom said "Hey, I've never done this before either!" Your mom probably didn't get to do all her own planning- twenty, thirty years ago, your grandma was in charge. Don't cut Mom out of the fun!

    1 agrees
  26. I am so torn when reading all of the different comments. I see both sides.

    My fiance and I are getting married in exactly four months. We started off with an incredibly small and intimate ceremony. We both wanted to avoid dealing with my overbearing mother. Somehow, I was talked in to upping the guest list (and venue size) so that I could have "the day of my dreams." In reality…my mom has turned this into an event that is about her. My FH and I refer to her wedding policy as, "Whatever you want…as long as it's what I want, too."

    Last night, a phone conversation about the guest list ended with me in frustrated tears after my mom axed several guests without my consideration. I'm sure most brides have been there: family members insisting on inviting individuals because of 'politics.' I talked to my level-headed dad today, and he told me that my mom actually said (after the argument), "At the end of the day, WE are the ones hosting."

    So…basically, it's my wedding, but it's her party.

  27. I'm having a much more fun time. It goes something like this:
    "Hi, I'm your (insert family member here) and while I don't want to contribute a cent to your wedding, I have a lot of opinions on it and will badmouth you to everyone if you don't let me bring my teething baby who doesn't do well at night / my church buddies / my boyfriend who hates your guts / everyone I've ever met and some of their friends too!
    I actually have a list of family members who have all volunteered to play bad guy and help me buffer the piles of nasty commentary. But you can't really not invite your grandma.

  28. I'm seriously thinking about writing up a questionnare for both my mother and MIL.
    This would entail them outlining EXACTLY what they want to be a part of, what they think is really important and what they would be offended if I left out/didn't do.
    This way I will know if they willbe offended if I don't put their names on the invitations, if I go dress shopping without them, if I don't invite the person I've never met (who my fiance doesn't even care about).
    We had huge issues with my MIL for our engagement party. For starters we live in her house atm. She had this massive idea in her head about what it should be, which was completely at odds to what we wanted. Then every time we had an argument about something my fiance sided with her!
    We ended up with a fully catered, open-bar, formal night (with added games), with about 130 people, when I would have been happy with a BYO alcohol, dessert buffet night, with some family and friends.
    I am so glad I will be moving out before all of the serious wedding planning begins!

    1 agrees
    • The questionnaire is such a good idea! I think I am going to make a little form in Google Docs for all the involved parents to fill out at their leisure. We are still very early in the planning, so maybe we can avoid all the apparent stress and drama with lots of up-front discussions now.

      Good luck with your serious wedding planning!

  29. What about the idea of telling one's financiers exactly what their money is going to? For example: "Thanks mom for donating $300 to my wedding, that will be spent exclusively on flowers for the ceremony, but I will be paying for the dress so you don't get a say on how it looks." I suppose a truly demanding financier might say "No, I disapprove! If you buy that dress you won't have any flowers!" but the argument can still be made that the financier's money is not going toward the aspect they dislike.

    I don't foresee my parents making end-all-be-all ultimatums in the likely event they help pay for my wedding, but if there is something making them uncomfortable that I can't go without, I may try to employ such an idea as I detailed above.

    Frankly, though, the idea of relatives being so controlling, money or not, is such a foreign idea to me. I can understand parents expressing anxiety or displeasure at something making them uncomfortable or which they think will make a stir, which if expressed in a caring and supporting way I think can always be negotiated, but the concept of someone asserting their power without bothering to understand or be understood in terms of motivations for or against something (regardless of where the negotiations land) just does not sound like love to me. =/

    1 agrees

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