How to Survive Wedding Planning with Your (Overbearing) Mom

Updated 12/29/14

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Not every overbearing mother is the same breed. There's the always-been-overbearing mom, who eyeballed your every move from the time you crawled. There's the mom who's trying to make up for a less-than-pristine past by sticking way too close now. And there's the mom who's living vicariously through you, reliving the wedding she never had as her daughter walks down the aisle.

"Knowing why you mother is overbearing will help you decide how to behave in response," explains relationship expert April Masini. "For example, if your mother has always been like this, it's unfair for you to expect her to suddenly change. Instead, use gentle, benign boundaries to limit the contact you have with her because of the dynamic that is unpleasant."

For the mother who's overcompensating today for what she didn't do yesterday, "employ empathy and articulate her fears with reasons she doesn't have to feel the fearful ways she does," Masini says.

And for the mother who's making up for the wedding she never had? "Use a combination of empathy and boundaries, and gently call her out on the fact that she eloped, but you really want a small backyard wedding with 30 people, not a hotel extravaganza with 500 of her closest friends (you don't know)!" says Masini. "If you're gentle and consistent, she'll get it and change her behavior. But don't expect miracles."

Beyond that, bear with your overbearing mother with these additional tips:

Don't blow things out of proportion.

"Keep your calm, and give yourself a timeout to cool down so you don't confuse some historical dynamic with what's really at hand," Masini suggests.

Remember, your mother is not your future husband's problem.

"One of the most important things to do when dealing with an overbearing mother is not to put your fiancé in the middle," says Masini. "You have to take responsibility for handling the issue, or at least take the lead on it."

Hold on to your sense of humor.

"If she sees that you've got a lightness with your convictions, she's more likely to accept your desire to make this wedding yours and back off," Masini says.

Finally, "don't let personality differences with your mother ruin your big day, which is her big day, too," Masini says. "Understand what this means to her, while you're trying to explain to her what it means to you. Planning a wedding is overwhelming in so many arenas that it's easy to lash out at people you're closest to. If your mother is overbearing, your best tool is a sense of humor, and your second best tool is a good night's sleep, a good meal, and the perspective that this is one day in your life."

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