By Eunice Rukundo
Hooray! Your little girl is getting married! For the mother of the bride, our daughter’s wedding day is much more than the party of the year; it’s the end of an era, a celebration of your achievement as a parent, a joyous but at once critical time of profound change in the family dynamic, when both parent and child are experiencing a profound change in their relationship. It can also be an extremely stressful period for everyone involved. For a mother, as for her daughter, impending nuptials can spark an avalanche of emotions; pride and joy (usually), but also a sense of loss and trepidation about the idea of your “baby girl” embarking on a new relationship full of responsibility and beginning a family of her own.
You may feel like simply brooding over your mixed emotions. Unfortunately, you don’t have that liberty, at least not right now. As the mother of the bride, it’s your duty to be both dependable and diplomatic. Your task in the coming months is to help your daughter plan what she will hopefully remember as one of the most important events of her life; it is also to help ready her for her new role as a wife. And you must do all this while remembering to stand firmly on the side-lines. In short, you have your work cut out for you as the mother-of-the-bride.
One thing that’s easy to forget for some women in this role is that times have changed and with them, expectations of marriage and weddings and the roles of all those involved. Today’s brides are older and more independent, both emotionally and financially, than their counterparts of past eras. Your daughter is more likely to have her own strong vision of what her wedding day should look and feel like, and how she should act and appear as a bride. Her opinions on these things may differ considerably from yours. The bald truth is that in general, as the bride’s mother, you no longer have as much clout and influence as your mother did on your wedding day. Amidst the excitement and pressure of envisioning and eventually seeing your daughter walk down the aisle, you may need to remind yourself repeatedly that this is your daughter’s wedding—not yours. Not to suggest that the bride, grown and independent woman that she may be, doesn’t require your input and support. In fact, it could be one of the moments in her life that she needs you most, even though she might not admit it or even realise it right now.In other words, unless she explicitly demands it, completely excluding yourself from her wedding preparations is not an option.
The weeks and months leading up to a wedding are often fraught with tension and drama. In the whirlwind of planning everything, ideas and opinions inevitably clash, especially among family members, who are still trying to accustom themselves to the presence of a new member, and feelings can be hurt. Try your best to remember during this period that temperatures are running high. As one of the more mature parties in the planning, it bears remembering that the most important thing about your daughter’s wedding is that she and her groom enjoy themselves.
What she most needs from you during this critical time is advice, support and an optimistic attitude. She will certainly not want your imposed view on what her gown should look like, what her wedding colours should be or what flowers to carry. Bear in mind that no matter how much you may wish for something, if it doesn’t match the bride’s wishes it shouldn’t happen.
Mrs. Rachael Opiokello, a retired professional secretary, decided when her daughter Carol announced her engagement that instead of fretting about not being involved enough in her daughter’s wedding preparations, she would take the bride-to-be out for a mother-daughter talk. One Saturday afternoon just a few months before the wedding, the two Opiokello women, over grilled fish at a beach, discussed marriage and life lessons. The elder Opiokello shared with the bride-to-be her own life experiences since her wedding day.
“She told me about what to expect in marriage, the challenges and how she had learnt to handle them over the years,” recalled Carol, who still believes the talk was one of the best wedding gifts anyone gave her. In retrospect, she says: “I realise how much trouble she spared me with that one discussion.”
According to Nina Callaway, a writer and event planner with About.com, roles of the Mother of the bride will, of course, vary but might include:
- Helping put together the guest list, suggesting names and making sure planners are sticking to the budget.
- Talking to the bride and groom to decide how they wish to fund the wedding and helping to put together a viable strategy for raising money. If possible— and appropriate—she should offer to pay for items that traditionally the bride’s parents pay for.
- Sending out invites, collating responses and keeping the happy couple updated on your progress.
- Assistance is often welcome on the ordering of stationery; composing and sending of invitations, menus, programmes and place cards, especially if you have experience in this arena. You could also provide advice and assistance on tracking down and booking venues or searching for other product and service suppliers when asked.
- Helping the bride choose her wedding gown and other attire, if she wishes. Most brides are happy for as many honest opinions as they find when it comes to their personal appearance on their wedding day, keeping in mind that most mothers and daughters do not have identical sartorial taste due to the generation difference. If she doesn’t welcome your advice, don’t push it or take it personally. “I had always planned that my parents would rest on my wedding day,” explained one former bride. “So I as good as kept my mother out of the preparations, because I wanted her to enjoy like the guests and not be up and down. It was only later that I realised she would have actually wanted to be more involved.”
- Helping to organise any wedding rehearsals.
- Working alongside the groom’s parents to make sure that everything goes as it should on the day in question.
- Acting as a calming influence to the bride prior to the big day. This moment, which symbolizes her breaking.
You may also be expected to:
- Ride with the bridesmaids to the ceremony venue and with the bride’s father from the service to the reception venue.
- Be part of the “first dance,” dance with the bride’s father when invited onto the floor.
- Keep in contact and on friendly terms with the groom’s mother is also a wise plan to help ensure that there are no unexpected clashes. It is only natural for mothers of brides to feel instinctively, throughout the preparation period and wedding day itself, like doing what mums do best: looking after their daughter at all times. Try your best to resist that natural temptation and only act on her behalf when it’s really called for. It’s only natural to be emotional on a day like this, so you might want to keep some tissues handy.