Laura George learned a lot about keeping the peace and her sanity from being Mother of the Bride twice this summer- without the help of a wedding planner.
I have two weddings recently under my belt and both ran miraculously smoothly even though we didn’t use a wedding planner. That’s largely because both daughters are incredibly organised and both had laser focus regarding what they wanted. But it’s also because I didn’t stand in their ways. That sounds indulgent but I think it’s actually only fair. It’s not your gig, it’s their gig.
Because the weddings were in June and September of the same year, in the same venue, with many of the same suppliers, the only things I really worried about were making sure I gave them equal time and attention and making sure the two brides didn’t come to blows, which let’s face it isn’t going to be the number one concern on most MOB’s lists. In retrospect, I needn’t have worried about that anyway. The girls were super-supportive of each other throughout the eighteen months from Engagement One right through to Wedding Two.
All along the way, I asked anyone I met who’d been through the process for their top tips. Some made Mother of the Briding sound like an impossibly energetic barefoot dance through flames with angry Ninjas in hot pursuit. I tended to disregard their advice because it was clear that the bulk of their strife was due to the fact they were control freaks determined to put their stamp on every little detail, none of which really mattered. Far better to step back and save your voice for things that do matter (in other words, pick your battles). This is the most valuable of my learnings but there are a few others, both practical and existential, worth mentioning.
Lesson One: Get The Money Talk Out of the Way As Soon As Humanly Possible
Maybe not the day after the engagement announcement, but not long after, set the budget. In stone. Explain exactly what it has to cover so there are no grey areas and later angst. Different brides will have utterly different priorities and need to allocate funds accordingly. Costs mount up quickly so everyone needs to know where dreams end and reality starts from the get go.
Lesson Two: Know Thyself
Think about what your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes are in terms of your role. If comparing fonts for hours on end isn’t your thing and all napkins look the same to you, don’t be afraid to say so and back away from those situations.
Lesson Three: Embrace the Vibe
Accept that it is not your day. It is the couple’s day. If they want a mini-Glastonbury in a field with a friend of theirs officiating rather than the multi-cutleried, all white linen and lace church-cum-hotel affair you envisaged since their birth, so be it. And vice versa.
Lesson Four: One Big Family
Reach out to the Mother of The Groom early on because she’s probably lovely if she made a lovely son and it’s nice to have her in your life. You’re in it together and equally (and she’s probably the only grown-up just as excited as you are). Also put her out of her misery in terms of old conventions like her not being able to choose her dress until you do- there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there around that one.
Lesson Five: Be The Voice of Reason
Squelch all talk of “Best Day Ever”. It will be a great day even if the sun doesn’t shine, the florist is taken to hospital and the dog eats the cake and there will hopefully be many, many more great days ahead. It’s ridiculous to buy into marketing that proclaims the couple’s first day represents Peak Happiness and it’s all downhill from there. If you set a slightly lower bar, everyone will be pleasantly surprised when things go largely right rather than devastated when something minor doesn’t.
Lesson Six: Don’t Be Afraid To Cull The Cousins
If you want to invite all the distaff relatives and your daughter would prefer to invite all her J1 housemates instead, it’s best to suck it up in large (see Lesson Two). Save your fire for guests that really matter- chances are you’ll have to fight for a few in any scenario, even if you’re footing the catering bill. Hardly anyone invites all the family anymore anyway- it’s completely acceptable to pick and choose relations.
Lesson Seven: Say Yes To The Dress Without Your Partner
No matter how tempted you are to involve male relatives in the wedding dress selection process, resist. Even smart, sensitive, clued in ones will end up saying the wrong thing about the right dress and raising doubts. Choosing a dress is like trying on jeans and bathing suits before a committee, to the power of ten, and no man can ever really understand what that’s like.
Lesson Eight: You Will Need Fake Eyelashes
Running mascara is a first world problem but doesn’t need to be a problem for you. Book in for age-appropriate (ie not too Bambi) eyelash extensions a few weeks before the wedding and you won’t look back when you’re reaching for the tissues. Plus you’ll look better in all the pictures, even the pre-makeup ones the morning of.
Lesson Nine: Running Interference
One of your biggest responsibilities as MOB is to fix things that go wrong so don’t be surprised when you are called on to intercede with elusive suppliers, get answers from guests who don’t RSVP (yes, there are always a few, hard as it is to believe) and deal with people who try to add on unauthorised plus ones at the last minute (this is also a dead cert). You will also probably be expected to find accommodation for someone you don’t know a thing about at the last minute. It’s not all peonies and sparklers out there.
Lesson Ten: Save Yourself
When the hair and makeup schedule’s being organised, don’t take the first slot thinking it’ll be good to have it out of the way or the last slot, thinking you’ll get loads done before your turn. The first one’s terrible because everything will slide south before the last bridesmaid is finished her session and the last one could be rushed if timings run behind schedule. Go for a late-middle time and assume that you are not doing any wedmin thereafter.
Lesson Eleven: Travel Light
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ll be taking any pictures on the day. In fact, don’t even bother bringing your phone, a camera or a bag to the church/reception if you can help it. You’ll only end up disconnected from them most of the time and spend an inordinate amount of time looking for them. And someone near you can feed you tissues if needs be.
Lesson Twelve: Don’t Forget To Have Fun
Whenever, whatever you’re planning, do as much as you can to ensure you can be a guest at the event rather than a host, at least some of the time. Wedding planners take a lot of the hassle away but if you don’t have one, you should still insist to yourself that after a certain point you’re no longer working the event. It’ll go by in a flash and you want choice memories not fraught ones.
Lesson Thirteen : Edited Highlights
Have whatever nice pictures you can get your mitts on immediately afterwards printed and put them in an album old school style- people always want to see them looong before the official snaps are ready and looking at them on your phone over your shoulder while you scroll through all the other rubbish on your phone is not ideal.
Lesson Fourteen: And Breathe
If you can, book your own break right after the wedding. Think of it as a parallel honeymoon during which your face can recover from perma-smile and your body unSpanx. You’ll need time to process and post mortems are best conducted somewhere indulgent. Go on, you deserve it.
Photo Credit Sweet Ice Cream Photography, Unsplash