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Controlling mothers at your wedding

Bride vs. Mom-zilla

for The Brooklyn Paper
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I’ve been a hairstylist for five years and a makeup artist for seven and I have seen my fair share of awkward behind-the-scenes wedding moments. In fact, one of my first hair and makeup gigs involved a controlling mother-of-the-bride. I went to her house to prepare the bride, maid of honor, and herself. The bride and her maid of honor loved their final looks, but the mother demanded I change her casual bob to a bob with more volume on top, and I obliged. Then, once I was done, she went to her room and came back out a few minutes later with her hair in the casual bob. I didn’t charge the bride for doing her mother’s hair twice but the check included the extra charge and then some. She told me if she got paid to deal with her mother, life wouldn’t be so bad. Ouch.

Traditionally, the mother-of-the-bride helps in the planning, ceremony, and reception to a certain degree. This can be a sweet and joyful time that enhances the bond between mother and daughter. But what if the mother isn’t very stable?

Here are a few types of toxic mothers I have dealt with professionally and how to deal with them if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

The helicopter mom

She’s the one who will hover over you — watching your every move. Every time there is a mistake, she will swoop down and shower you with artillery of insults and insist she knows how things should be done. She will then go back to her spot from above, waiting for another opportunity to strike.

How to deal with her

Give her a job to do that involves being away from the bridal party, like helping with ceremony or reception set-up on site. A helicopter mom wants to be in control, but she can’t be in two places at once. She may mean well, but her controlling behavior may make the wedding party feel uneasy. If she won’t let up, have the wedding planner deal with her. Yes, really.

The train-wreck

She could be Dina Lohan’s BFF.: Best Frenemy Forever. She wears outfits that rival Courtney Love on her best day. The train-wreck mom will be boozing it up during the preparation, sneaking drinks during the ceremony, and the first to hit the open bar (if she doesn’t hit the floor first).

How to deal with her

Sit her down and ask her to tone it down for your wedding. You can also ask the bartender and servers beforehand to cut her off from the alcohol if she starts acting up at the reception. You can also have your fiancé mention your mom’s behavior beforehand to prepare family members and arrange a meet-and-greet with his parents prior to the ceremony. Some people have really bad addiction problems and it is extremely tough to deal with. If you speak to your mother about her behavior and she refuses to water it down, you may want to think about removing her from the guest list.

The thunder stealer

She wants everything to be about her. She will want to make sure her hair and makeup looks better than yours and will talk badly about the way you look. She may also make an announcement that she plans to get her vows renewed right after you kiss your freshly-minted husband (I’ve actually seen this happen). She may also perform an elaborate ballroom dance for your wedding reception, while wearing a low-cut red and silver sequined dress with leg slits to her upper thighs (yes, I’ve seen this as well).

How to deal with her

Sit her down before your big day and let her know that you are the star of your wedding. Pay for her makeup and hair and tell the stylist you want your bridal party to have a certain look. Ask for the preparation to be quiet and peaceful with minimal talking so you can remain calm before the ceremony. If she wants to have a vow-renewal ceremony on the same day, ask her to do it a few days after yours. Tell her you appreciate the gesture of her offer to perform, but you want to limit the performances at the reception to the hired band, but let her know she’s welcome to cut a rug on the dance floor just like everyone else. You can also have her greet guests at the guest check-in table, so she can see and be seen (hopefully without causing a scene).


Other helpful mom tips

• Be clear with how much you want your mom to be involved in the wedding. And remember it’s not a law that she needs to participate in any of the activities.

• Pay for your own wedding. If you take financial control, you and your fiancé can have whatever kind of wedding you want on your own terms.

• Give your mom some kind of responsibility early on that will keep her out of your hair and make her feel important.

• Be truthful with your mom and let her know how you really feel about her involvement in your wedding. It’s a highly stressful time, but you need to take control of your life.

• If you know she can be difficult, sit down and talk to her early on. Be respectful and take the high road, but you may be setting yourself up for more heartache if you can’t discuss matters reasonably. Think about how things will be if you decide to have children, buy a house, relocate, or if there’s a family tragedy. If you don’t nip the matter of her behavior in the bud, you may never be able to. The more you avoid addressing situations that bother you, the worse it will be with each new stressful experience.

• Good luck!

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