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Engagement parties, bridal showers, and rehearsal dinners are all fair game for your future mother-in-law. But she may want to help with the guest list, menu, and even your location. "She can overstep her planning bounds in about as many ways as you can think of — especially if she is financially contributing," warns Lesli Doares, licensed marriage therapist and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage. So if you want to keep control of your wedding clearly in your court, here's how to deal when your mother-in-law hijacks your wedding plans.
1. Consider the source.
While you may think your mother-in-law lives to irritate you, her insistence on selecting your three-course menu might come from a better place. "She may simply want to help because she loves her child," says Victoria Canada, owner of Phoenix-based Victoria Canada Weddings, and if you know that, "then it makes it a little easier to make room for her in your plans." Rather than divert her good intentions, use her skills to your advantage. For example, if she's a bargain shopper, "send her on the hunt for things," Canada says.
2. Limit how much you let her in on your plans.
Your wedding may be all you can talk about, but mum's the word when you're around a mother-in-law on the hunt for wedding plans to hijack. "Don't ask for her input unless you really want to include her preferences," says Doares. "However, if you can give her specific things to be in charge of, then she will feel included and not be so inclined to force her way into other decisions."
3. Focus on the long term.
She may be stressing you out, but remember: "You are not only marrying your fiancé," says Canada. "You're marrying his or her family. So tread lightly. If you are mortified that your mother-in-law wants you to do the dollar dance, then don't do it — but if they insist on having some cousins as ushers, what is the harm?"
4. Ask your fiancé to set boundaries.
It's not smart for you to snap when she oversteps. Set boundaries with your significant other, and then "he or she should be the one to talk to her and clarify those boundaries," says Doares. "This is one of the biggest tests a couple will face — managing their own parents and aligning with their partner. The bride and groom don't have to defend, explain, or justify why they want it a certain way."