Calu
Regretting that “I heart mom” tattoo? Before you cover it up on your wedding day, read these tips and reclaim your sanity. (Photo by: Glen EdelsonCC BY 2.0)
My mother has gotten the wedding planning bug. She wants a big production in a place where we would have DAYS to decorate. She expects me to wear a dress that she picked out. When I brought up having the ceremony at a particular National Park, she went off her rocker. She kept coming up with complaints and reasons why it wouldn't work. Having looked into it already, I suggested why it WOULD work. “I just don't like it, so we're not doing it” was the final response. And the final straw.

I would like my mother to be at my wedding, and I value her occasional opinion, but planning a day centered around HER isn't going to work for us. How do I break this hard news to her? Do you have any advice for dealing with an overbearing mother? -MW

Before the Bridethulhu, there was the Momthulhu: wrecker of peaceful wedding planning, stirrer of pots, and thwarter of offbeat ideas. Maybe you have one? Maybe your partner does?

If you have a wonderful-but-at-times-overbearing mother involved in your wedding planning, here are seven ways to keep your beloved Momthulhu appeased and contented:

1. Pay for the wedding yourself

Ariel made a good point on her post back in 2008, Momzilla and wedding budgeting:

If mom's payin', you need to listen to what she's sayin'.

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.

Unfortunately “whatever you want, dear” isn't really the way a Momthulhu rolls. Especially if she's the one throwing the party. If she's footing the bill, she'll probably be thinking that the guests will see all of your choices as a reflection of her. I'm willing to guess that a “bloody heart cake topper” may not be the way your Momthulhu rolls either.

There's no better way to shut down potential fights than by saying, “You know I love you to death and appreciate your input, but we're paying for this wedding so we're making our own decisions about what feels right.”

2. Give her a project

Simply put, there'll be less mama drama if you keep your Momthulhu occupied and focused on something she loves doing. For example:

  • Does your mom have big opinions on flowers? Put her in charge of floral design — SHE gets to price and meet with florists over the next few months. In the days leading up to your wedding, she'll be the one arranging pick-ups, deliveries, and any last-minute needs. And the day of, she'll be busy while she's in charge of their display.
  • Is your mom into DIY? Have her make your card box, cupcake tower, boutonnieres, or anything else you feel fine relinquishing control over.
  • Have a tech-y mom? Put her in charge of making a wedding montage video — she'll get to interact with your partners' parents when she asks for childhood photos, and she'll get to publicly express her love for you. Let's face it my fellow brats: Momthulhu's love for you is the big reason why she wants to be so involved in your wedding.

3. Recruit mom wranglers

Does your mother have an awesome bff or a sibling with whom you are also close? They may totally understand your Momthulhu challenges because, you know, they may have had challenges with her, too. Meet for lunch with said friend or sibling and tell 'em that you need their advice on gently handling a Momthulhu. Maybe your friend could play devil's advocate with her. “You know, MW's idea doesn't sound so bad!” “Hey, the [bouncy house/lawn games/wacky venue] actually sounds like fun.” Or “I went to a wedding before where they did exactly what MW wants to do and it was BEEEYOOTIFUL!”

The moment someone other than her “little kid” sees merit in those offbeat ideas, your sweet Momthulhu may not feel like either of you will get laughed at or seen in a negative light on the actual wedding day. Fear of what people will think can often make even the sweetest mom Cthulhu-out.

4. Avoid talking about the wedding more than necessary

With certain wedding decisions, your best bet may be avoidance. I know you may have dreams about wedding dress shopping with your mother smiling approvingly in the mirror's reflection. But when the reality is eye rolls and remarks about your “colorful choice” in dresses… the best thing may be to go dress shopping with someone who can be more supportive.

Do remember that an excluded Momthulhu is a sad Momthulhu. Make sure that in not discussing wedding plans, you aren't totally ditching your mom. Take extra steps to let her know you care — sweet texts, treating her to a mani/pedi, or arranging movie dates.

5. Study our “copy ‘n' paste conflict resolution”

Read this post and memorize it: Copy ‘n' paste conflict resolution (aka How to say “fuck off” and “I love you” and “this conversation is over” all at the same time). Because once you break it to Momthulhu that you've already booked your venue/caterer/bellydancers this quote is going to come in real handy…

It means so much to me that you're so interested in my wedding planning. That said, I hope you'll be able to respect that my partner and I are putting a lot of thought into having our wedding reflect our unique relationship and values. I hope you can place your trust in our ability to find what we feel works best for us.

In fact, you should probably peruse our entire conflict resolution archive.

6. Show her the wedding porn

If your Momthulhu can't imagine a National Park wedding, pull up our state parks tag and show her all that gorgeous park wedding porn.

Or maybe start fowarding her some of the most beautifully-shot subcultural weddings. Weddings like this goth wedding with blood drinking, or a lesbian gamer geek wedding? Then give her the ol' “If a punk rock circus wedding on the beach could look this incredible, we could easily pull off our rustic National Park wedding.”

7. Keep in mind that “it gets better”

The best advice I can give you is to just hang in there. I have a wonderful yet uber-traditional mom who pushed back on a lot of my offbeat decisions. But come wedding day, when she saw what a good time everyone was having, and how no-one rioted after finding out I wasn't carrying a bouquet, she immediately relaxed and had a blast. Years later, she even loves to brag about how all those “crazy ideas” worked out so well.

Remember: the wedding industry is really targeting your parents, and your mom may be Momthulhu-ing because she's worried you might look back and regret a decision. It also might help to keep in mind that she's all up in your wedding planning grill because SHE CARES. This is an exciting time for the both of you — take these tips and go enjoy it together as much as possible.

Baby Bridethulhus, what methods have worked best to keep your Momthulhu happy?

Comments on 7 ways to keep “Momthulhu” from hijacking your wedding plans

  1. this is so Awesome! i was wondering if we could have permission to repost it on our own blog. we run into these problems so much with our clients! of course we would link it directly back to y’all, give credit and do a screen shot of it from your page for an image! if not- no worries- we shared it on our FB page.

    • You can totally run an excerpt, but we can’t allow entire posts to be syndicated. Glad you liked it so much! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I really needed this today. I got engaged last Sunday (woot!). I made the mistake of telling my parents back in April that it was imminent. Mom proceeded to bug me for six weeks about why I wasn’t engaged yet and when could she tell the grandmothers. Unbeknownst to me she and my dad also started visiting reception venues.

    Literally every day since I have gotten a call from Mom or Dad with a wedding planning idea/question. She also has taken upon herself to call up my man’s mom and make a double date to start wedding planning… double meaning all four parents, forget about the bride and groom.

    I am very, very lucky that I did frame my ideas for my parents ahead of time so they had some inclination that this was going to be an offbeat (lite) wedding. Also, apparently my family and friends know me pretty well since they are all assuming I will do something a little different. I am lucky that they are supportive of my ideas and that they are excited to contribute the financial backing (I assume, although, we have still not had any conversation about who’s paying, they have just launched into planning).

    That said, the man and I are simply not ready to start wedding planning yet. I am DEEP into job searching (like 8 months and still no offers). I want to scream “Back the f* off and let me do it when I get around to it!” every time they want to talk about a wedding idea. I am also just concerned about their general assumption that they are in charge.

    So I guess my tips are to let your parents/family know how weird you are from as early as possible (birth in my case) and then keep you engagement a secret until you are ready to start planning. Also, I forced my reluctant fiance (reluctant to plan, not to wed) to sit down with me yesterday and articulate his wants/ideas so that we know what each other wants and can defend our vision when we crash their planning date.

    • Since you may not be able to put the brakes on the parents, this may be the time to thank them for helping you gather ideas, thank them for their feedback and suggestions about venues, etc, and then ask that they give you some time to go over the research they did and when you are ready, you will happily go through their suggestions and then get back to them after that.

      Consider it free research. If you have enough time/energy, maybe make up a little questionairre they can fill out about venues, etc that will give you the info you need/want. Helps narrow down ones you don’t want.

    • Congratulations! and also good luck with your job search! My fiance has been in it deep for over a year and it has just been rough. When we first got engaged I really wanted to wait until he had a good, full-time job but we have been making it work so far and he didn’t want to wait. So hang in there on that! I wish this article had been out when I started, it has some good ideas, although I ended up doing a couple of the tips with my mom. It’s great you have the excitment and support!

  3. I had to LOL and nearly cry at some points. This has been my life since we booked a reception venue. My mother and I had an issue over a flower girl (we aren’t having one… “but you need to walk on rose petals down the aisle”… wtf?)
    I had to a) reiterate why we didn’t want a flower girl (too many girls=too much family potential drama) and b) ask her to think whether or not my wedding will be ruined by a small detail. For some other brides, it may not be a small detail, but they generally are. After trying a million different ways to be nice and say no, I simply asked her “will my wedding be ruined without a flower girl?” She really didn’t have a response, and she finally calmed down.

    Projects are a fabulous way to keep them busy. Also, make sure you have a good solid idea of what YOU want before you start discussing it with your parents. I had been engaged over two years before we set a date, so I had done a lot of theoretical planning and thinking about what me and my FH wanted so we knew what was super important to us.

    Good luck to the other brides out there- I feel your pain!

    • Sorry I made you almost cry, but I’m glad I made you laugh. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      My mom’s freakout over the lack of a bouquet was mind-boggling. I wish I had thought to respond with “will my wedding be ruined without a bouquet?” Nice one.

      • It was more the cry of frustration remembering the awful fights we got into ๐Ÿ™‚ We still have about a year to plan, so I’m sure there will be more of these moments haha. I couldn’t think of anything else to say to her ridiculousness about the flower girl except for that. She acted like the world was ending. I’m glad I thought of it ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I’ve been saying “Will my marriage not be valid if I do/don’t do X?” That often shuts her up.

    • I really like what you said about the flower girl too. Have to remind them of things sometimes. My mom is trying to stick to all of the “rules” and I don’t know who came up with them, but I’m not interested. Projects are definitely a great way to get them involved and off your back! Well, at least for a while!

    • I’m SO stealing that idea, but tweaking it slightly. Rather than “wedding” I’ll try to stress “marriage”. In our case, he was married before, and *his* family paid for all the BWWIC stuff that time. I know they’re going to expect it all again, and since it’s my only wedding, it seems prudent to stress that I’m not looking for only a wedding, I’m planning for forever. Hopefully shifting the topic toward permanence will make the point that it’s about our relationship, not the trappings for one (hopefully still awesome) party.

  4. I feel like I could have written this! We have been engaged for a year and I’m not a fan of a lot of traditions, but I’m not going out of my way to avoid them either. My mother really likes my finace but every idea I said, she would grumble and argue with me about. I got to the point that I wasn’t telling her anything and really just wanted to say here is the time and day if you want to show up. We are paying for everything, so we only went on advice if we asked for it. Cupcakes have been the BIGGEST drama!! Every time I said I wanted cupcakes for certain reasons other than they are popular now, she would snap at me! (Who doesn’t like cupcakes??) Finally, I said fine, we are having a sundae bar so if you want to deal with the cake then so be it, either way there will be ice cream so people will have a dessert. That didn’t end things, she kept asking me about cakes, I said no I put it all up to you. Something finally seems to have clicked with her that even though our tastes are on opposite ends, she needs to stop arguing because this is the only chance she is getting to help her daughter with her wedding. So HANG IN THERE!! (and I think we finally agreed that a couple half sheet cakes for variety would work! I get my variety and she gets no cupcakes.)

    • This…seriously. I had my wedding a year ago and this WAS an issue with my mother-in-law. She fought me tooth and nail over my husband and I not having a tiered traditional cake because ,quote, “EVERYONE saves the top tier for their first anniversary!”..and I was like, “Fine, if we have tiers of any kind YOU can serve the cake, while the rest of us eat the cupcakes!” She got huffy about it and then i found this,

      http://www.publix.com/food/catalog/ProductDetail.do?id=11704

      Exactly a compromise we could agree on. Imagine this in purple with none of the frilly cardboard deco. She got what she wanted, we got what we wanted. it looked awesome in pictures oh and BTW I have GREAT photo of her stuffing her face with a cupcake. I bring it up EVERY TIME she thinks I have a bad creative idea. BOOM. The daughter-in-law has the odds ever in her favor! lol

      • I never even knew about this tradition until my Aunt looked at us in disbelief at dinner the night before the wedding and said “but what will you save for your first anniversary!?” I told her we would have no problem ordering the same cupcake flavors from the baker in a year and then they’d be fresh and delicious instead of dried out and stale! She said “Fair enough!”

  5. I lucked out for the most part. My parents had had their wedding in a friend’s house and it wasn’t very WIC at all. Also, they know my dude would so not fit into a WIC wedding. That being said, we had multiple arrangements of flowers. Why? Because my mom could not imagine there not being flowers aside from my bouquet. It blew her mind and there was just no way she could wrap her brain around it. In that case, my statement was that I am willing to have them if she would like to pay for them (above and beyond the money she and my dad gave, which they said was supposed to be ours to do with as we chose).

    We later had a disagreement about how much food and alcohol was required. I let my mum win. This totally fit into the idea of the wedding being a reflection on my parents. My mum’s friends all contributed to their children’s weddings in similar ways so my mother was stuck judging our wedding by the weddings she had attended. There had to be sufficient alcohol available that no one felt they HAD to hold back (except most did because it was more dinner party than wedding bash).

    I found that channeling their energy into areas that interest them is really helpful. It at least helps keep them off other issues. My dad I had already told some of my ideas to and he liked it since I framed it in ways that would appeal to him. Mum I found ways to put it in a frame of reference she could understand too (“think of it as a dinner party”).

    I also found that being positive and excited about the things you DO want can sometimes help override the “how could you…?” I was stoked to have pizza and souvlaki at our wedding and, while my mum questioned it (probably worried about her friends’ reactions), it went really well and got compliments from one of her friends. I really, really wanted a red dress so in the face of my mum’s repeated offers that she would buy me a white dress if I wanted, I pointed out that I’ve always wanted a red dress, that I have a specific style I love and long for that will be most flattering on me. And then I let her participate in getting my dress designed. Worked out well for me since she decided to make that an extra gift. But I knew that clothing was something we could bond over since she knows I’ve drooled over her old dresses from the 1950s and she always wants me to look my best.

  6. Hm, I would suggest if mom is “running the show”, to focus on a few projects she had no say over. Fine, let her pick the venue and centerpieces and cake, whatever. You focus on your kickass vows, food that you want to eat, clothes you want to wear, ect. I feel like parents just want to feel their best, that they were a good host and they made their child’s dreams come true. Even if your family isn’t paying, this can come into play. I’ve noticed a strong urge from parents to get involved just because they WANT to be involved in making you happy. Sometimes they just…get stuck in the past, you know, before shit got real and you just wanted to wear a goddamned tiara.

  7. This really scares me (my Momthulhu, not the article!).
    I have always had a troubled relationship with my mom. She has no sense of shame whatsoever and is extremely meddlesome. She is always enthusiastic, undertakes many things without realizing she may offend or simply bother people.
    As a reaction, I am very wary with her and tend to dread everything she does that could have any effect on my life, I even dread seeing her, talking to her or even reading her e-mails. She has tried to emotionnally blackmail me in the past and we have had a big argument and now the mere thought of her makes me angry. I am convinced that she spoils everything she touches and she likes surprises. She likes DIY. I’m afraid she will attempt to organize something to please me and nobody will dare to say no because she’s the mother of the bride.

    I was happy that she lived on the other side of the planet (I’m in France, she was in Australia) and would only come for the wedding but it turns out her visa has expired and she will be back in France in a few months, and she will have plenty of time before the wedding to mess with my mind and try and devour my soul as a proper Momthulhu.

    Now I know that it’s no point worrying before there is anything to worry about, but she drives me completely irrational (I usually am very calm and reasonable) and my FH has had to reason with me several times when my mother was involved because I was getting crazy and mean. She has the power to turn me, and I know fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.

  8. My dude and I have coped with this with both mothers by having three separate events. One for us, and one for each mother.

    No, really.

    We love our mothers, to death, to pieces, to the ends of the earth, we would give them all our organs, but both of us knew that all we wanted is a registry office with 8 guests and something quiet and beautiful. That not at all being how DudeMama and BrideMama roll, and the drama of compromise being highly likely to lead to awful fighting, we’ve given them their own parties to take care of!

    Long story short: we’ll have our tiny longed-for wedding, then DudeMama will show us off to her side of the family at a castle a week later, and 6 months on we’ll jet off to my home country for BrideMama to have her own big fancy event, with speeches and ice sculptures and everything she likes.

    That way they get total creative control, and it really is THEIR day to celebrate the marriage and show us off to their mates – but they leave the wedding itself alone.

    And it’s worked! Neither Mama has thrown any sort of fit about the wedding day itself, and nobody is complaining about feeling left out. I think they’re both relishing the contrast between the quiet wedding and their epic, opulent demonstrations of love.

    This is a very weird situation, and I wouldn’t recommend this approach unless it’s absolutely clear from the start that you’ve got incompatible visions, you’re respectful of each others’ events, and you don’t mind giving up the mama-daughter collaborative part of wedding planning.

    Dude and I are cool, we just refer to it as ‘taking the wedding on tour’.

    • Now THAT is amazing. That takes “give her her own project” to a WHOLE ‘nother level. And also, you get three parties! Win/win/win.

    • Can I ask, are you guys actually repeating the marriage ceremony three times, or are these Mama-esque events more like giant reception-y parties? I only bring this up because I have seen many couples get screwed when guests show up to the big fancy “wedding,” only to find out that the couple is already married- for example, hushed courthouse wedding months prior, then a pretend fancy wedding later when someone regrets not having a big blowout celebration. They may not say anything to your face, or even to your close family members, but they WILL talk behind your back if they didn’t know ahead of time that the actual marriage had already taken place. It’s really really insulting to take time out of your weekend only to find out that you’ve essentially been lied to, and I would hate to hear that it caused you guys drama, especially when you wanted the small, beautiful wedding in the first place ๐Ÿ™ Now if your guests will all know that you’re already married, then I would assume they’d have no problem with attending a kick-ass party in your honor! Just wanted to put that out there ๐Ÿ™‚

      • We aren’t repeating the wedding ceremony, but everybody knows when the wedding is happening, and that the parties are just that – parties!

        We’re live-streaming the teeny wedding ceremony itself so that any or all of our friends and family all over the world can tune in, if they like. And the only part of the Dude/BrideMama parties I’m overseeing is the wording of the invitations, so I can be sure nobody shows up thinking it’s the wedding itself.

        Multiple parties: solver of lots of problems, creators of others! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • In that case, that sounds like a truly lovely solution to an otherwise unpleasant situation! Live-streaming the ceremony is an awesome idea. Congratulations and good luck on your wedding!

    • when my late husband and i got married, we did exactly this. my family were all in NJ, his were mostly in lower MI and some elsewhere, and we lived in upper MI. we “eloped” to TN where our parents and siblings joined us to witness, then my family threw a party in NJ the following weekend, and his family threw one in MI the weekend after that. we gave our respective parents free reign on these events, except on the invitations (which i made). my mom wanted more input from me than my MIL, but that was ok, since it was their parties! it worked out nicely, even if it was a bit exhausting to be traveling for all that time.

  9. I, too, am wedding planning right now – for my zombie wedding next year. Both “bridemama” and “dudemama” are such great people and they really do just want to help, but I’m keeping details about the zombie aspect of the wedding somewhat secretive. Fiancรฉ and I are both playing the “We’re really busy with non wedding stuff, so we can’t really talk about this right now” card and it’s surprisingly working … 70% of the time. I really just wanted to comment on this article to say that the word “Momthulhu” made me laugh so hard. I love that.

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