Dear Miriam,

I got engaged just before Christmas. We are hoping to get married this summer, as we have been together for a good while and don’t see much point in a drawn-out engagement. However, the ring is barely on my finger and my future mother-in-law is already “interfering” with the wedding plans.

I’m quite a shy, low-key person and want a small, relaxed wedding; the type that became more popular during COVID, although obviously that was for different reasons. I think I would die at the thought of walking up the aisle in front of over 200 people. My husband-to-be does not go in for fuss either and is happy for us to have a more intimate day with those closest to us who actually want to be there; not those who see a wedding invite coming through the letterbox as a “summons”.

However, he is an only son. So, you can imagine that this is a very big deal for his mother. I understand that it means a lot to her to see her only son get married and I want her to enjoy the day. But already she is dropping hints about inviting these random people we don’t even know ourselves, just because she would have been at their children’s weddings over the years. She is also pushing a local hotel that would be very traditional, and while it’s absolutely fine, it’s not really what we have in mind.

I’m probably making her sound like she is a nightmare. She is not and we do get on quite well usually. I don’t want her to feel left out or that she is not important to us, but at the same time I really don’t want to go along with things I am not comfortable with, just because they fit in with her idea of what a wedding should be. Times have changed. Have you any advice on how to handle this?


Miriam responds

Dear Bride-to-be,

Advice? Elope. Not really, I’m just joking. But I don’t think that you are the first family to face these issues when it comes to weddings – especially since COVID-19 has ripped up the rulebook as such.

As a couple, you have agreed on what you want. That’s important. Of course, I completely understand that his mother has different ideas, especially if this is her only shot at being “mother of the groom”. I’m sure she has imagined and looked forward to this day for a long time and obviously has certain expectations of how it should go. But, ultimately, it’s your wedding day and you have to do it in a way that feels true to you.

I think though that there are ways to ensure that your mother-in-law feels part of the celebration and not frozen out. Is there a job that you think that she would enjoy and that you could give her some ownership of? For instance, would she enjoy creating the wedding cake if she is a talented baker, or is she a dab hand with creative jobs to add a DIY touch? Or maybe you can arrange a special day to go looking for her outfit, with afternoon tea or a nice meal afterwards?

Also, while I know that you don’t want every neighbour or second cousin in the parish staring up at you, I think it would be kind to make some allowance – if at all possible – for some very close friends of your mother in-law to attend. It is a big deal for her and it would be nice if she had a few people there to share in her excitement and pride, without it overly impacting on your guest numbers or vision for the day.

The best thing though is to probably communicate this early, rather than letting her get her hopes up. This is not all down to you though; your fiancé will have to take responsibility for this too.

I hope it goes well and wish you all the best for the coming year and the wedding celebrations.

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