Photo: Jack Jeffries for Christian Oth Studio
The common cliché about moms and weddings is that they tend to be too involved. But what about when your mother or future mother-in-law is taking a backseat in the planning? How do you make her feel included? "It's easy to feel like you're the only person who it's happening to," says Meg Keene, author of A Practical Wedding, who adds that uninvolved mothers are probably more common than we might think.
The first step is figuring out why she isn't taking an active role or interest, while keeping in mind that you may never get a satisfying answer. There are infinite reasons why a mom or MIL will keep to herself. It could be that she simply doesn't have the energy or doesn't approve of the kind of wedding you're having. "It's important to remember that people don't change just because you're having a wedding, and not everyone is good at things like weddings," says Keene. What's more, since many couples plan their own weddings these days — often without financial help — parents may intentionally hang back, thinking that you and your fiancé want to do it all by yourselves.
So, try not to take the lack of involvement personally. Then, simply tell Mom that you would like more help or support, Keene says. Take the lead and ask for her to tackle one specific task. Try to choose something she's interested in and give her full control. If she loves cooking, ask her to research caterers and schedule tastings. If she's a bookworm, have her make suggestions for ceremony readings. In other words, play to her strengths. "You can also offload projects that you just don't care about," Keene says. If you know she and your dad or your in-laws want a rehearsal dinner and you don't want to plan it, by all means, let them do the heavy lifting.
If your first attempt at involving your mother or mother-in-law isn't successful, give it at least one more attempt. If it's your MIL, have your fiancé step in and help. "He may be able to figure out what's going on and read between the lines in a way that you can't," Keene says.
Kristen Ley Green, Founder of Something New for I Do, suggests that grooms work with their moms to select and even personalize the mother-son song. "Have your band or wedding singer customize lyrics to make them a better fit," she says. "For example, my husband changed the words to 'The Best Day' by Taylor Swift to say: I have an excellent [mother]. [Her] strength is making me stronger."
Another way to involve mom? Go shopping for her dress together, Green says. A parent who doesn't feel qualified to weigh on the bridal gown should still have opinions about what she's going to wear on the big day, so make an event of it.
Finally, consider what kind of person your mom is and whether or not she really feels left out. Maybe she doesn't care about wedding decorations but will be super hands-on when you have a baby, Keene says. Then accept things as they are, and get back to work planning!