From the moment your daughter says “yes” to the proposal until the time she says “I do” to the officiant, you develop an all-encompassing identity. No matter who you are or what you do otherwise, you are the mother of the bride from the time you wake up until the time you, with any luck, fall asleep.
You are caught between the overwhelming sense of joy that your daughter is marrying a great guy from a great family and the huge sense of concern that you have a formidable task on your hands. Your head tells you everything will be fine (or, at least, most people won’t notice what isn’t), but your gut is another matter. What do you do? Here are ten pieces of advice for the mother of the bride.
Realize you are not in this alone
There are at least six players in this game—the bride and groom and the two sets of parents. When there are three Jews, there are at least four opinions. Even sweet daughters can be Bridezillas. Listen, compromise and do your best to make everything as smooth as possible. Fortunately, we were all happy and excited about making this wedding, and we let the bride and groom be stars. As the groom’s mother said on Facebook on the day of the wedding, “Today it’s all about you.”
Take advantage of the team if you have a good one
We had a great team, so much so that we relied on each other, rather than using a wedding planner. Remembering my own wedding-planner-from-you-know-where, I chose to use all the great information online and work as a team with other family members, the venue event planner and the rabbi.
Once we had a venue and a caterer, the rest was fairly easy. My son-in-law is a professional photographer, so he got to choose the photographer for the wedding. I attended several bridal shows with my daughter and son-in-law to find prospective vendors, and the deejay was a great find from one of the shows. The groom’s mother handled the flowers and the rehearsal dinner. My daughter chose the hair and makeup artists. The fathers let the mothers do most of the talking, and we talked frequently and well. We still do.
Establish a budget but be flexible
The wedding is going to cost a bundle, but life only hands you a few chances to be this happy. Plan for it, budget for it and make allowances for things that will come up at the last minute. Ask a lot of questions of vendors. What is included in the cost of doing something? Can it be broken down to add or eliminate something?
Make lists and check
them more than twice
It was very comforting to know that the engagement was 18 months long, but it could have lulled us into inaction. Determine from online information when to do what. Set up a schedule and follow it. Make lists of all the vendors, get back to them as needed, know when they need payment installments, meet with them as appropraite and call them to check in the week of the wedding. Know what items will be needed when and who is going to be in charge of them.
Negotiate with a smile
A problem developed between two vendors who were dependent on each other. We had a meeting to resolve the situation. I sat there and smiled at everyone. My husband said, “What were you doing in there?” I said, “Letting them duke it out.” That was the end of that, and everybody performed admirably.
Develop a mingling strategy
Happy weddings are usually the result of two families who are happy their children found each other, plus a lot of planning. That planning should include not only thoughtful seating arrangements but attempts to bring strangers together at other events during the wedding weekend. A dinner at our house, random meetings between out-of-town guests staying at the hotel where the wedding was, an ongoing hospitality suite by the groom’s family at the hotel and the rehearsal dinner helped to bring people together. We were delighted that people seemed to enjoy the company of total strangers and planned to connect with them after the wedding.
Develop a Plan B for everything
The sun shone brightly on Irvine on the morning on February 17. As I sat with the female members of the bridal party getting our hair and makeup done, it got progressively more cloudy. Who plans for an outdoor wedding in February, anyway?
It rained just long enough for the people setting up the chuppah to have to make other plans. For some reason, I was the last to have my hair and makeup done, making me unavailable to go downstairs to make decisions about where to hold the ceremony. Other people made those decisions, and the show went on. The ceremony and the reception ended up being in the same tent area, and the rain held off long enough to allow for cocktails outside while the room was reconfigured.
Realize that perfection is in the eye of the beholder
There will always be glitches. Nobody will notice the minutiae that drive you crazy. Realize that and move on. The good always outweighs the slightly imperfect.
Understand that other people think differently
If there was anything negative to be said about the experience, it was the fact that some people have never heard of four letters: RSVP. With all of the consternation involved in who is and who is not going to be invited to an expensive event, it is hard to believe that some people totally ignore the invitation. People have told me that there is nothing new or unusual about this, but, hey, it was their loss.
Have as much fun as possible throughout the process and especially at the wedding. If you have fun at the wedding, it is likely that other people are having fun too. It makes me happy to hear people talking about how much they enjoyed the wedding, and nobody remembers the rain. Then again, who plans an outdoor wedding in February, anyway?
ILENE SCHNEIDER IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.