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?

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

  1. I got engaged in December and my mom was the exact same way. She wanted me to wear a long sleeve dress to cover my tattoos and wanted my fiancé and I to take out all of our facial piercings. We were not having it. Ultimately I wrote her a very long heart felt letter about why it was so hurtful to me on wanting her way and not wanting us to be who we truly are. She came to the conclusion that our relationship was more important than a party and that she didn’t want to be left out if her only daughters wedding. Being honest and talking it out cured my momthulu…along with a lot of compromise. Honesty…it’s always the best policy.

  2. “Or maybe start fowarding her some of the most beautifully-shot subcultural weddings. Weddings like this goth wedding with blood drinking,” LOVE the mention to our nuptials. And excellent post. We’re lucky our moms were great about letting us create something very “us.”

  3. Neither of our moms are quite this impossible, BUT… two brides means two moms with mother-of-the-bride syndrome. They both talk a big game about how it is our special day and they just want to throw a little money at us and help out in any other ways that they can and let us have the day WE want to have (partly because they both feel like THEIR mothers controlled their weddings way too much) but when it comes down to it… they both expect a certain amount of control and say in what is going on.

    We let my partner’s mother plan us a shower, and have free reign to do whatever she wants with said shower, and so far that has helped IMMENSELY. My mother is a little less intense overall (she doesn’t care about the flowers, for instance) but has started to really zoom in on certain details, and lately her constant refrain is that trying to purchase according to our values is “too expensive” and we should just let her get everything at a big horrible chain store. That might make sense, if she were footing the bill, but she’s not. She’s giving us a fixed amount of money (about 1/4 of our wedding budget) that we’ve worked into our wedding budget so that we CAN purchase according to our values.

    If anyone has any advice on how to deal with a mom who REALLY DEEPLY BELIEVES she is letting you do whatever you want, but in actuality is trying to exercise weird control over many details, I’m all ears.

  4. I was definitely concerned about the Momthulhu aspect of things, not so much from my mom who’s several thousand miles away, but for the fella’s mom who’s a 90-minute train ride away. However, we have worked things out (at least for the most part) by having separate parties. Since we’re looking to have a small-ish wedding and fella has a rather huge-ish family, fella’s mom is throwing our engagement party (which I had originally not planned to have; they’re not common in my culture, but very common in his) and is organizing every single aspect of it. Completely paid for by them, at their fancy country club, nearly all their huge-ish family and close family friends. She’s handled everything, and it’s allowed her to exert her complete control over something without it affecting us and what we want our wedding to look like (and how much we want to spend on a wedding). So yeah, at this point, Momthulhu avoided! I hope it sticks post-engagement party!

  5. My only advice, and what has worked for me albeit with some bumps in the road, is be honest with your mom or dad or whoever from the second the ball starts rolling! Don’t wait until you are half-way through planning to drop your offbeat choices/choices on your family, be up front about everything. And definitely channel your inner-Vulcan and be logical about it with your family not solely emotional; yes you should be passionate etc about the choices you’re making but by putting the emotions away just a bit and looking at why the choices are also just a logical fit for you. When you have that in your head, sit down and TALK about with them. This is what I attempted to do with my mother and sister/main lady and it has worked pretty well. I told them up-front it was going to be a seriously small wedding, that there would be no traditional reception, etc etc and my sister took in stride having expected a lot of this. My mother has had a lot of problems with some of things we’re doing BUT because I told her these things from the start by the time the STDs go out next month I know she’ll be okay with our small guestlist, even if it’s now she would like to see things done she’s okay with it because she knows it is what works for us.

  6. These are great points. I have been lucky mostly with my mother letting me take the reins… the only thing she has really scoffed at is when I mentioned one of my dear friends, who is a hooper, has offered to do a performance for our guests while they wait for us to finish the pictures and arrive at the reception. And when I say scoffed, I mean eyebrow raised, and the “We’ll see.” comment being made… I didn’t even bother to tell her that the hoop would be on fire. heh… We’ll see all right!

  7. i didn’t think my mum was too bad, but it turns out she’s the silent brooder & complaining about stuff behind mu back, rather than full on confronting me. I tried to have her involved with the dress – the first shop we went to, she spent the whole time telling the store lady about her own dress and didn’t seem to pay one scrap of attention to what we were doing. Then complained when we got outside why hadn’t I chosen any of them, especially the one she picked out. So I’ve just gone off on my own and ordered it, and she’s moaning because she’s left out. Well the first reaction when I told her it is red, was “we’ll you always do have to be different don’t you, have to be the centre of attention” – but in a very bitchy tone of voice. meow!
    So I thought, she can have cake as a project. I showed pictures of what I liked and what I didn’t, I gave her a budget. Bad idea. When I saw the pictures of the hideous WIC monstrosities she liked and the shoddy bakeries she had approached, I had to reign it back in again. And again I’ve gone off on my own and just done it without telling her.
    But she sings in a ladies barbershop, so I thought if I invite her troupe to sing that can be her project. She can decide what they sing, what they wear and coordinate them instead of me! It’s working we’ll so far except she constantly pesters me about what time they will start (i don’t know yet its 4 months away!) and will they get fed (no, it’s only half an hour!) I’ve also got a sneaky feeling she’s basically invited them all (20) but my dad is doing the same thing with his family (suddenly brothers he “doesn’t speak to” are VIPs and why haven’t they been invited!)
    Jeez, if its not one parent it’s the other!

  8. Great tips! Weddings are stressful enough, without the inter-family warfare that goes on more often than not. Love the suggestions you have for restoring peace. 🙂

  9. Ugh I’m not even engaged yet and just tossing around ideas for a wedding around my mother is enough to make me scream. I had this great idea for renting an old ship and having a pirate-themed wedding to which my father said, “Grow up!” My mother started on about how she would rather I just have a gothic wedding and that I have to have a minister (neither my partner or I are religious). A friend of mine recently got married and had this great idea to have the bride and grooms’ parents walk down the aisle with their respective son/daughter, one parent on either side instead of just the father and instead of the ordained person asking “Who gives this person away?” the ordained person says “Who stands for this person?” and the parents stand up and say I do. I mentioned that idea to my mother and she flipped her shit and said “That’s not how you do it! IT’S TRADITION!!!” I have never been a person to stick to tradition(al gender roles) so this struck me as bizarre! If I have a wedding I plan on paying for it myself and hopefully my mother will be a little more understanding, especially since I told her that if I have a wedding it will be my way or I won’t have one at all! We can just elope in secret!

    • This. Completely. I just commented down at the bottom of the page about my momthulhu issues and I’m not engaged yet, either. Last time my mom and I had a discussion about my ideas for a future wedding we were at a bar and she actually ordered another glass of wine and told me (and the bartender) that I was making her so anxious that she needed another drink to calm down. I really think my dad will be cool with everything as long as it’s what my bf and I actually want (which it will be). The only thing my dad will give me a hard time about is my nose piercing and tattoos, but he’s just going to have to deal with it.

  10. The comments about the wedding industry targeting parents really hit home. My Mom gets comments from random store clerks (she makes friends with everyone) about how it should be this way or that way. Things she wouldn’t worry about before become important because ‘she keeps hearing’ they are important. So I try to forgive her, knowing she still knows me and its just the pressure of weddings that she gets (on top of the pressure that I get) from the outside world (commercial or otherwise). I’m still really struggling with the ‘project’ for mom. My partner and I are too efficient. Most of the ‘big’ stuff was done months in advance. I took her dress idea, but not her venue idea. So I’m “leaving her out.” MOG is similar. But every time I read one of these with comments like “will not having real flowers ruin the day?” makes it easier. I want to try “what do you want to remember about my wedding, the smile on my face or whats in my hand?”. We’ll see if that works. Good luck to everyone who understands the Momthulu of all persuasions.

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