“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Your grown child’s wedding is one of the most important days of both of your lives. Of course you’re proud and excited for the happy couple, but in all the busy excitement (and stress! Can’t forget the stress!) of planning a wedding, you might find yourself swept up in things, unsure when to offer help, and when to set aside. This article is designed to help you navigate the murky waters of your daughter’s big day, and how to make things easier on them, without overstepping!
1. Be Upfront and Honest About How Much You Can Spend
If you want to help out with the wedding financially, say so upfront. Give an estimate on how much you’re able to spend, and stick to that. Being honest, rather than offering to pay for the whole wedding, or the honeymoon, or “whatever you need” will mean they’re already well aware, and can make plans for where your contributions will go. If you’d like to contribute financially, but you can’t manage it, you can always offer specifics for what you can offer, eg: “I can do the invitations for you. I can handle the caterers.” The important thing is to be open about your contributions, so the bride and groom can make what plans they need for their special day.
2. Help Them Relax
Everyone has a busy life, and planning a wedding on top of your daily schedule can feel like a second full-time job. Asides from being an emotionally charged task, it’s success is dependent on so many factors you might have a limited amount of control over. A great idea is to give relaxing experiences for couples that help them escape for a moment. This can be a zen spa treatment, or a weekend getaway, or even a more adrenaline powered adventure to release that tension. Of course you can always opt for bringing by a home-cooked meal or do their laundry (might want to run that one by them first).
3. Don’t Attach Strings To Your Offers
Remember, this is a start of their new life, and should be a reflection of the couple’s taste, not yours. Offering support financially or otherwise, does not entitle you to choose the venue, or make changes to the guest list or menu. Suggestions are welcome when the bride and groom might need help making a decision, but they should be gentle suggestions only, and you should always defer to the bride and groom’s wishes.
4. Get Dress Approval
The bride’s mother has a big role in the ceremony, so it’s especially important that her dress merits the bride’s approval. You should always check in with your daughter on what you’re wearing, and make sure it matches the tone of the day, and makes the right kind of statement.
5. Offer Help Rather Than Asking What Is Needed
Listen, your son or daughter are going to be stressed when planning the wedding. There are a million things to do, and probably half a million more they haven’t thought of yet. Asking what you can be doing is vague, and not helpful. Instead, offer something specific, “If you need, I can help you address invitations.” “I can pick up flowers, if it’ll save you time.” This is especially helpful if your son is getting married, and it’s your soon-to-be daughter-in-law you’re helping. She’s likely feeling a bit intimidated, and you want to extend offers of kindness with a clear indication that you don’t want to step on any of her plans!
6. Finish Tasks Promptly
If you have promised to do something for the wedding, like filling out invitations or making rounds of calls to the caterer or venue, be sure to get it done quickly. Undoubtedly, even if you’re sure you can get it done on time, whatever it is, the bride has it on the back of her mind along with the rest of the flashing red To-Do List. If you’ve extended an offer to help, the last thing you want is to have to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll get to it.” If someone asks you if it’s done.
7. Don’t Be Stuck On Tradition
Wedding style change every generation, but it goes without saying that many wedding traditions that you might have enjoyed are being changed and some, gotten rid of altogether. It’s no longer in fashion for a bride to wear her mother’s gown, and many couples decide not to include their parents names on the invitations. Don’t be offended if there’s a tradition you were looking forward to, from your culture or your own family history, and it doesn’t make its way into the wedding plans. Remember, it’s their special day!
8. Make an Effort With In-Laws
You’d be surprised how many mothers and fathers of the bride feel threatened by their in-laws. It’s only natural that you be protective, and even a bit possessive as your child steps forward into a new life. But don’t bring it to the wedding. Make an effort during the wedding planning to get to know your daughter’s new family. If your son is the groom, get to know the bride and her family. Arrange a sit down meal or coffee with the other parents to compromise on who’s in charge of what. After all, you’re all family now!
9. Be There For Advice
Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking, and you never want to take away from the fact that it’s the bride and groom’s special day. But you’re advice is still valuable, no matter how modern the festivities. Offer solutions in case of weather problems, and seating arrangement difficulties. Mostly, be there to listen to worries, and be honest. Marriage is tough, and you are often your child’s best example. They may not need you to plan their perfect wedding, but they can still use your advice!
Your child’s wedding is a deeply personal and emotional time. It’s a lot of stress and responsibility to plan a wedding. Though they may have strong ideas of what they want for the ceremony, your role is crucial in helping things go off without a hitch. Be there for advice, pushing your own agenda or traditions. Make an effort with the new family members, and help wherever you’re needed. Take the advice outlined here, to offer the much needed support on your daughter’s (or son’s) big day!