It is difficult to imagine a wedding without the mother of the bride somewhere in the forefront!
Of course, it is right and proper that the bride and, indeed, the groom should have the limelight. Yet it would be wrong to underestimate the contribution that the bride’s mother will have made in the run-up (and even on the day itself).
One of the bride’s mother’s first tasks will happen soon after the news of the engagement: making contact with the groom’s parents – face-to-face, if possible, or, at least, over the phone. It’s important to start on a good footing, as there’ll probably be need for co-operation and agreement later on, when making the arrangements.
Another early job may be putting together the engagement party, if there is one, but that is simply a warm-up exercise!
Whether or not the bride’s parents are stumping up all or part of the cash for the wedding, the mother of the bride will probably be fully involved helping her daughter with the planning. That normally entails choosing the venue, deciding on the guest list and dress-shopping, although it can include things like choosing the menu, etc.
The big challenge
One of the most demanding balancing acts is moderating the level of control the bride’s mother will wish to exercise. It is sometimes difficult to square what she sees as practicalities and necessities with the fact that it is actually the couple’s big day and their wishes absolutely need to be respected. Tact, understanding and persistence (on both sides) are qualities that may come into their own. It would be tragic if the mother-daughter relationship were to collapse due to ego or petty intolerance.
Budget will play a role, but the couple must feel sure that the venue will meet their needs – and that goes for atmosphere, catering, accommodation – and that the home team can be relied upon to look after them properly.
An area where the mother of the bride may offer valuable advice is the ceremony itself. However, it really should be down to the couple to make the final decisions here. They should be able to choose the degree of religiosity, rituals, music, readings, participants etc. There may need to be some compromising!
When the bride chooses her dress, her mother will surely have useful input to offer, but the bride should not be bludgeoned into wearing something she will not feel happy or comfortable in.
It’s always difficult to agree how many and whom to invite. The couple may well appreciate guidance here. Especially if the parents are bankrolling the event, they should expect a measure of choice as to who is invited, but the couple’s wishes are paramount. It may help to draw up a list of “essential” guests (the closest relatives and friends) and then, if money and space permit, moving on to the “desired” guests. Only after that, consider inviting less close contacts.
The Wedding itself
The wedding day is not the time for the bride’s mother to start complaining! What’s done is done, and pointing out “I told you so!” is only likely to antagonise people and potentially ruin proceedings. Support and love are what matter now.
The mother of the bride will traditionally be part of the processional and will head up any receiving line at the reception. Her contribution will normally be acknowledged in the speeches.
The bride’s mother has some real multi-tasking to do: over the months, she must be confidante, adviser, sounding-board and supporter for her daughter. The bride will be embarking on a new journey – although she need not become independent of her parents even now – but what a contribution her mother can make, as she sends her daughter out from the nest feeling confident, happy and full of love!
It’s quite well-known that a huge percentage of people consider the prospect of dying preferable to public speaking.
In fact, most people involved in a wedding are likely to be afflicted by some sort of attack of wedding day nerves. A bit of adrenalin is good, but more extreme effects can include near-paralysis, mood-swings, depression and plain despair.
That’s not what anybody wants on a wedding day.
Why the nerves?
Nerves can surface because you fear your role or because you believe everything will go wrong.
One way to reassure yourself is to choose reliable suppliers, do everything as far in advance as is reasonably possible and re-confirm in reasonably good time. If you’ve planned sensibly, there should be no need for pessimism.
As for roles, every ceremony will be different, so there can be no one-size-fits-all approach, but I offer the following nuggets.
- Whatever your job is – whether or not it needs a list – you must have ensured well in advance that you understand what is expectated of you. If your tasks involve planning, do check in good time that everything is as ready as possible.
- Arrive in good time on the day – allowing for traffic delays and the like.
- Try and be as relaxed as possible. If things go wrong – and small things often will – they can often be remedied thanks to no more than a cool head and goodwill. Most people will be understanding, helpful, supportive and good-humoured at a wedding. They have come to participate in a great day, and will want it to succeed as much as you do.
- If you are getting stressed, though, stop and take half a dozen deep breaths and get back in control.
- Alcohol is not a great idea (well, not until you have completed your particular role).
The bride’s father may have a speech to make, but, as I have advised elsewhere (http://wp.me/p5qOOT-sG), this should be short and simple. It can be read from a card, if necessary (although preferably not verbatim). Nobody has demanding expectations of him, so he only really needs to smile and speak slowly and clearly
Otherwise, parents’ participation in the ceremony may include walking the bride up the aisle, perhaps, but there will be nothing unexpected or trying. Moreover, the celebrant will be in charge then, and can guide you, if needed.
The money’s been spent – there’s nothing more you can do. Don’t criticise or fault-find. Relax and enjoy the special day!
This role differs enormously from ceremony to ceremony. It usually involves holding and handing over the wedding ring, when requested. A good tip is to put the ring on your little finger until needed – but don’t put it over your knuckle! Your role may entail guiding the groom at every stage; it may even involve being a kind of master-of-ceremonies and photo-shoot organiser.
It will surely involve giving a speech. May I refer you to a previous blog, which covers this at length: http://wp.me/p5qOOT-sR.
Ushers, bridesmaids etc.
In most cases, you have been given an honorary position, so you have a limited (but important) role. The bridesmaids are there to support the bride and – to be honest – to look pretty. The ushers will need to help get people in to (and possibly out of) the ceremony venue. There may be other jobs later, but there is no need to be nervous. Smart, punctual and charming are the watchwords here. Enjoy.
The groom’s job is to remember the ring, be early and welcome people as they arrive (which should be enjoyable, as almost everybody will greet you with a big smile – and being nervous isn’t going to help you socialise!).
You don’t have to do much at the ceremony – the celebrant will prompt you. You will have to put the ring on the bride’s finger and you may need to recite the vows. (You can learn them off by heart, but much less stressful would be to use notes or read them from a 3 x 5 card – or even repeat them after the celebrant.)
The ceremony will whizz past and then it’s normally a question of signing the register (not too arduous!), the photos and eventually cutting the cake.
The only thing I have not yet mentioned is your speech. Again, I have written about this before in detail elsewhere, so please do have a look: http://wp.me/p5qOOT-sG.
Ordinarily, the bride shows up (not late, please!) a few minutes before ‘kick-off’. Her job is to be admired, – a beautiful dress and a lovely smile will go far. Sure, she will be the centre of attention, but she will be on a cloud of goodwill, so she needn’t be apprehensive.
Just remember that everybody is rooting for you all, and thousands of people have done what you are doing and survived. Some have even enjoyed themselves!