Allison Moir-Smith, MA, is the author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the '"Happiest'" Time of Her Life and has been helping brides feel happier, calmer and better prepared for marriage since 2002. She is a bridal counselor, an expert in engagement anxiety and cold feet, and the founder of Emotionally Engaged Counseling for Brides. Here, she reveals how the mother-daughter dynamic changes once you get engaged.
Andrea contacted me because she wanted her bridesmaids to wear black dresses at her winter evening wedding. Her mother, however, would have none of it. For four months, their conversations went something like this:
*Bride: "Black bridesmaids dresses are elegant and classic."
Their mother-daughter relationship was strained. Exasperated and exhausted by the fight, Andrea was about to give in and get the midnight blue — but I told her not to cave.
On the surface, Andrea and her mom were fighting about non-traditional bridesmaid dress colors. On a deeper level, they were adjusting to the changing dynamics of their relationship. The black bridesmaids dresses were a symbol of independence for Andrea, which made her mother feel like she's losing power.
To remedy the situation, Andrea entered a dialogue with her mom which was simultaneously about — and not about — black bridesmaids dresses, saying things like:
"I understand, it's hard that I have a different style than you. Remember how Grandma had such a problem with your wanting to wear a tea-length wedding dress, because that was your generation's style?"
And, "We're not really fighting about the black bridesmaids dresses here. We're really fighting about the change in our relationship. I'm growing up and becoming a wife, and more of a peer to you."
And finally, "Can we agree to disagree on this one? And understand that our relationship's undergoing some growing pains as we evolve into something new?"
A dialogue like this takes time and effort, but Andrea would be the first to tell you that it's worth it. As she and her bridesmaids were being photographed before the ceremony, her mom whispered warmly in her ear, "You're right. The black is elegant."