Wedding season is almost here and wedding preparations are in full frenzy. You have so much to think about and plan— invitations, dresses, showers, cake, flowers, ceremony location, reception details, and on and on. The list seems endless! Even so, one vital element for making the day flawless often gets forgotten— deciding how to “manage” your future mother-in-law.
This relationship, after all, may feel a bit awkward at first. Your fiancé’s mother is not your mother, and she’s also not really your friend— yet she’s about to become a big part of what you hope will be the rest of your life. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, you have no doubt heard all sorts of stories about what an absolute nightmare mothers-in-law can be. It doesn’t exactly tempt you to embrace this near stranger with wild abandon, does it?
Dealing with your future mother-in-law isn’t nearly as difficult as you may fear, though. Keep in mind that she is not sure how things are supposed to be either. The situation is just as new to her as it is to you. After all, even if she has other daughters-in-law, the relationship she has with you will be unique to the two of you. And trust me, if she ends up feeling like a fifth wheel during the wedding festivities, that is not going to serve you very well in the future. (Another good thing to remember: You may well be in the same position yourself some day, so have a little heart!)
With that in mind, here are some tips for starting out on the right foot and setting the tone for how your relationship will go:
*Decide what you will call her. Figuring out what you are comfortable calling your future mother-in-law may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a really big deal to her. Once you’ve made the decision, talk with her about your choice so she can get used to it. Let her wear it for a while.
*Give her a piece of the action. Let her be part of the preparations— as well as the wedding itself. You can assign her major duties or small tasks, but be sure to give her something to do that she can feel good about that will ensure she won’t feel pushed aside or ignored.
*Ask her for input. Remember, this is her child’s wedding too. You don’t have to let her make the most critical decisions but asking her for her opinion now and then is a gracious gesture that will make her feel valued.
*Let her join in the fun. If you’re having a “nail” day or other excursion that includes your mother and bridesmaids, consider asking your future mother-in-law to come along. You don’t have to ask her every time, but extending a few invitations assures her that you want her to be a part of your new life with her son.
*Share with her. Keep her updated on the wedding plans and share some of the funny stories with her. Many mothers of the groom feel as though the wedding is happening around them, with them being merely passive observers instead of key players. Help her to have some special memories that she can share with her friends, too.
Above all, remember to speak and act with kindness and compassion. Trust me, it never hurts to be gracious, and your efforts will go a long way toward ensuring that everyone lives happily ever after!
Deanna Brann, Ph.D., is a leading expert in the field of mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law relationships. For more information, visit: www.drdeannabrann.com.