10 Things I Learned as Mother of the Bride
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
I've mentioned that my little girl was getting married, right? Well, it happened, and I'm still finding it a little hard to believe that it's over. She went to college locally and hadn't moved out prior to her wedding, so we were able to spend a lot of time planning and preparing for her big day. Now that the busyness of it all has past, I'd like to share a few things I learned in our experience with a DIY family wedding, and I've asked Michayla to weigh in on the subject as well, so stay tuned!
For now, I'm going to focus on my role as mother of the bride.
1. This was not about me.
I could probably begin each and every point with this simple affirmation, but I'll just leave it as point one–always in the forefront. This wedding was not about me, it was about the celebration of love for two individuals who mean the world to me. It was not about my ideas, abilities, or "think it should be's". It was about them. Full stop.
Like my daughter, I was in college when I got married. Only, I lived five and a half hours from home, and I could only tell my mom what I wanted over the phone and drive back occasionally to be part of the process. No Pinterest, smartphones, or Google. And she did a fabulous job on a budget that was almost inconceivable. There's not much I would change looking back because it was gloriously 90s in every way, and it represents where we were at the time. However, I made some pretty big compromises because of money, other people's opinions, or convenience. If I had had my real dream wedding, I'd probably have been in the snow-covered woods, or the other extreme, on sandy beaches barefoot and hair-product-free. So, as much as humanly possible, I tried to give my daughter her dream wedding (thank goodness for Pinterest!) on a tight budget without chiming in with my opinion about the details all the time.
However, just because you don't have an agenda doesn't mean that you can't give a suggestion. I am a very sentimental individual, so there were things from my own wedding that I wanted my daughter to be able to use if she wished. It meant a lot to me, and, thankfully, a lot to her. She used the lace from the sleeves of my wedding dress to wrap her bouquet. I lined her flower-girl baskets with satin from my dress, to name only a couple. Little things that we knew, that no one else would notice. But, if one of my suggestions wasn't her favorite, we'd move on.
2. It's not about her family, his family, or other people's opinions. This was about the beginning of their family.
We had a very involved groom, which for some might not be extremely common, but one thing I tried to understand, respect, and honor was the fact that the two of them wanted things that involved both of them in their relationship and made choices accordingly. And they made these choices together. Honestly, it was pretty cool to witness.
I was at a wedding once where a man had a lengthy diatribe about the importance of the traditional wedding march in a church, and how we've lost a sense of culture in society when we neglect it (as had the bride and groom just done at said wedding). Jeepers! Grant it, he was a professional opera singer, so I could see why he was passionate about his opinion, but I couldn't stop thinking, "This isn't your wedding" as I attempted to tactfully explain that my own wedding was traditional in that sense, but not all couples are so inclined. I don't think I persuaded him one bit. But, I never forgot that instance, so I determined to be supportive in whatever choice was meaningful to my own children. And since my bride and groom were not what we would consider traditionalists, that mentality came in handy!
3. The aforementioned points may not be a philosophy others have learned or embraced, so no matter what your mindset may be, people will share their opinions about your bride and groom's day. Friends and family alike.
Be prepared with a soft answer. Sometimes a simple explanation about the sentimental significance of their choices is all it takes.
And when that doesn't work, rest easy knowing the truth of points one and two.
Remember that it will be okay after people voice their opinion and move on.
Smile. You'd be surprised what a simple smile can diffuse!
4. Sometimes, it's about money.
Let's face it, weddings are expensive–even when you do most of the tasks that you can without hiring them out. But, you can know your limits and be totally open with your bride and groom about them, knowing that you will have some hard decisions to make. There were people my husband and I know and love who weren't invited to the wedding because other people who our children know and love, and who were directly involved in their dating relationship outnumbered some who mean so much to me. And that's okay. (See point one.)
This also helped me realize how to be a better wedding guest. Knowing the costs and grueling process of making some incredibly tough decisions taught me to be a pretty understanding wedding guest (like when the kids might not be invited), or a gracious non-invited guest as well. There have been people close to me growing up who didn't invite me to their wedding in later years. And I'll admit it stung a little. But now, I have seen this side of things, and I get it. No offense taken.
5. Be prepared for disappointment–and ready to understand.
Michayla and Logan's wedding was on a Friday. Finding a venue with an open day during autumn months was hard enough, so we snatched up the date when we could, knowing it meant that some people would not make it. Add to it the fact that we would be outdoors and Daylight Saving Time happened the week before, pushing the ceremony an hour earlier for prime sunlight time, it was going to take a sacrifice for most people to get there. We knew that it would just be too difficult for some to come, and prepared ourselves for that disappointment.
And then there were others we expected to be there who ended up not coming. Life happens, and much like the lesson learned of possibly being the uninvited and understanding, I had to accept that some of our invited guests have their own families or work commitments that would require a greater sacrifice to come to our event than they could make. So, don't dwell on the disappointment because there will also be those who travel thousands of miles not to miss it, and others who fly in from their work assignment, rush home to change, then drive over an hour to the venue just to make it to the last half an hour of the reception. Yep, that happened.
Now that we've covered some matters of the emotional kind, let me point out a few lessons I learned about the practical.
6. It's never too early to plan.
First, I'll point you to a previous blog post I did about scheduling. Schedule. Everything. It will help, trust me. We had a lot of things done long before the wedding date that it was almost embarrassing when people would ask "How's the wedding planning?" and we felt like answering "planned." Because only the things that had to wait until the week of the wedding were left to do. That helped immensely with the stress factor as well.
Plan planning dates. I know that sounds silly, but do it. Meet for a cup of coffee, get your calendars out, and plan the plan. We had spreadsheets for pretty much everything, and had to plan times to talk through details. If you're doing this yourself, you can't underestimate the power of time to simply think through it, talk about it, and plan without doing any of it.
You can't do everything. We call it DIY, but I think everyone knows that it takes a village. Or a tribe in our case. The people that we do life with are the people we did this wedding with. Plain and simple. We like to do projects ourselves, and did a great deal of them, but knowing our limits was essential.
Find the people you know who are awesome at stuff and engage them in your adventure. Fortunately, we have some pretty amazing talents in our tribe, so when asked if there was anything they could do to help, we were honest.
8. Keep it simple.
Use a girls' night to invite your friends, listen to music and taste some goodies while sitting around a table with simple tasks for people to do like tying a string around each wedding program, or handwriting name cards for the artist in the bunch.
Use mother-daughter times to do little tidbits. Make hot tea and coffee, put on your favorite TV show or movie–for us, it was Gilmore Girls–and stamp little initials, fold papers, tie wedding favors, and just delight in doing the tasks while enjoying an activity that relaxes you. All the while soaking in a bit of mother-daughter time.
9. Be flexible. With all the planning that you do, things will not always go as planned.
Give things away if you need to. I already talked about delegating, but there were things to do the week of the wedding that ended up taking more time than I realized. So, I changed the plan. In a future post, we'll give you a full list of our DIY's for the wedding, but one of them was our dessert buffet. I was going to make the four favorite cookies of our couple when I realized that that was not going to be doable if they wanted to maintain freshness, so I wasn't afraid to ask for help. After all, it was a lot easier for 2 or 3 people to make a couple batches of cookies than it would be for me to make them all.
Always keep an eye out. There were flowers that Michayla ordered that ended up not being in season when she got married, so they gave us some substitutions. There were only a couple, but one wasn't as awesome as the other, so we browsed through the florist shop to find some blooms that turned out even prettier than planned, in my opinion. Also, cranberries were super cheap and in season, so an unplanned 11–dollar buy at the grocery store turned out to be a beautiful addition to our random jar collection that ended up housing berries instead of candles.
10. Take time for yourself.
When having the mindset of "it's all about them", it can be easy to forget about yourself. But chances are, it is very important to your bride that you are at your best as well. I would have changed a few things about myself that week. At one point on the wedding day, Michayla looked at me and said "Mom, please go get your makeup on and get ready." I hadn't planned well for myself. All the little tasks were getting done, but I wasn't ready.
Try to rest.
One thing I was able to do was not lose sleep because of stuff not being done. If you've planned well in advance, it'll help you to not have to stay up until all hours with last-minute projects. It won't necessarily help with not sleeping well because of the emotions and nerves that come with marrying off your child, but a good plan will a least bring you some rest and comfort.
Plan your outfits.
This, I would've changed. I knew that we were getting our hair done in the morning and then getting dressed at the venue, but I never planned my casual outfit or my makeup time. I grabbed the first button-up shirt and pair of jeans I saw in my closet, and regretted my choice almost immediately. But I didn't have time to think through what I might have looked cute in. I should've planned that long before. And I ended up not getting into my lovely dress until after many photos were taken with me helping my daughter get ready for her big day.
Do your nails.
Even if it's just a clean, natural manicure without any acrylics, treat yourself to a professional. We did plan pedicures a few days before the big day, but I regretted not taking the time for a manicure. After all the detailed handmade crafts, my hands were dry and tired. A manicure would've made a world of difference.
Take an intentional moment to observe, breathe, and notice everything.
This is probably my favorite point. A friend whose children are a few years older than mine gave me this tip. She said that on her kids' wedding days, she'd occasionally step to a corner of the room and take 30 seconds to breathe in and observe every detail she could, so that she'd have a forever-memory of that moment in the day. That stuck with me, so I did it. I have three favorites moments. And they are mine forever. Take that time, momma. You deserve it.
Photography: Emmalie Christine Photography