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Book Help Needed – Mothers and Daughters

'Good Housekeeping 1964 - Mother/Daughter Hairdos!' photo (c) 2008, HA! Designs - Artbyheather - license:

This picture has nothing to do with weddings, but come on–it’s amazing. And come to think of it, it probably caused some mother/daughter conflict a few years down the road.

Okay, friends, I need your help. I’m working on a chapter focused on the people you relate to as you’re planning a wedding (i.e. family, friends, bridal party, etc.). I am hoping to discuss how a couple can honor Christ in these various relationships, but need some insight from those who have already planned or are currently planning a wedding.

It seems the relationship that receives the most focus, and can cause the most stress, is that between the bride and her mother. I think several different factors contribute to this, and each case is different. For some the differences in taste and style are subtle, but enough to cause conflict. For others the differences go all the way to the heart–disapproval of the wedding or of the groom.

So I have two questions for you, if you don’t mind answering. Feel free to use a pseudonym if you need to (I don’t want to cause any further drama). The goal is to help those coming after you to have a peaceful experience as mothers and daughters serve one another in humility.


1. What was the chief cause of conflict in your wedding planning? (assuming there was conflict–if not, that is awesome…and extremely rare)

2. In retrospect, what would you do differently or what do you wish your mother/daughter could have understood?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and please pass this on if you don’t mind. I would love for this blog to be a forum to help those currently going through this process, and also I know I can learn so much from the wisdom of others as I write this book.

10 responses »

  1. Hi Catherine,

    Tim’s mom here. Two of our three daughters got married in the last few years, with relatively little conflict. Both wanted very small weddings, with receptions at our home. The biggest conflict was whether or not to invite the extended family (we said yes, she said no). Once that issue was settled, we worked pretty harmoniously. Since there was some tension with the first wedding, I completely stayed out of the second, except for putting together the backyard reception. Both girls were pretty easy as far as wanting very simple weddings. So we were blessed in that way. And both married great guys, which we never take for granted.

    Probably the most important thing for me to remember was to stay out of the planning unless invited to do so, or unless a major price tag was involved. Small things like decor, bridesmaids, music didn’t require my input, unless they involved our checkbook. Guest list was definitely the biggest tension, and probably is in most weddings. Our friends who have had children get married in the last five years would all agree: guest list creates the greatest tension when planning a wedding.

    Jean Opelt

    • Thanks for sharing this, Jean. It sounds like you approached the weddings with a lot of humility. I’m sure as a mom it’s not always easy to stay out of things, but knowing (and loving) your daughters well probably allowed you to do that.

      I hear the guest list thing a lot, too. I think it’s hard because we aren’t sure exactly whose wedding it is. As a parent you want to share your excitement with all your friends, but I think a lot of couples just want smaller weddings. Difficult situation. Thanks again.

  2. Not much conflict here- thankfully.
    If I could have done anything different, it would have been this… My Mom was in college when she was engaged and her Mom ( my Grandmother) basically planned the whole thing. Since my Mom never had the experience of the planning, she assumed that I wanted to do ALL my own planning. Danny was living in Iowa during our engagement and I was in CA working full-time and planning a wedding. My Mom was happy to come along- to do things for the wedding. But, she never offered to help me with this or that. It was frustrating at the time. But later I realized that she was letting me do it all because that is what she had wanted. I just wish I would have communicated with her about it at the time. But, everything worked out anyways.

    • Thanks, Vicki. I think you make a great point–we tend to think and feel a lot more than we communicate, which ends up causing lots of needless heartache.

  3. 1. Two conflicts – First was over guest list, but by numbers, not which people. We wanted to have 100 people. Parents heard 100 invitations – which would mean several hundred people. In the end, my mom (very graciously) put her foot down and said, “We are throwing you a party and we will invite the family and friends we want to include.” I realized the truth in that and let it go. Second was about decorations. I’m very simple, not frilly. One of my aunts had gone a little nuts with the tulle in the reception hall and I wanted it changed. My mom was distressed that I would want to undo her hard work (and probably just wanted to count it finished…I don’t blame her.). My older sister stepped in and said she would take care of it.

    2. Retrospect – Not much. The guest list shouldn’t really have bothered me since there wasn’t a price per head associated with the church wedding and my parents were paying. The decorations were more valid, as I wanted my reception (i.e. the party to celebrate my marriage) to reflect my style, even if it meant correcting someone’s good intentions. I wish my mother had realized that and not just thought of it as any wedding party. Overall, I think I would advise mothers/daughters during this process to come at conflict not only with reasons to back up their side, but with reasons why this particular aspect really mattered to them. It’s not healthy for it all to be about the bride, but there are things that are truly meaningful to her, and her mom, and it’s good for the relationship to try and honor those for both sides whenever possible.

    • I really like what your mom said about throwing you a party–that’s a perspective I haven’t heard before, but it does make sense in many cases. Thanks so much for sharing that. And I think you’re right about communicating the meaning behind desires. Sometimes we get so focused on the “what” that we don’t take time to explain the “why.” Thanks Larissa!

  4. Hey, Catherine! Amanda Opelt here. So excited for the book, by the way. I am so grateful to have had a Mom who was an excellent event planner and also a good listener- she wanted to do things well, but also make sure our wedding was “us,” meaning she wanted mine and Tim’s personalities and tastes to shine through the wedding, not hers. The only tension we faced may have been early on when I toyed with the idea of wanting to have an outside reception. Now, to even entertain the thought of an outdoor anything at my wedding went totally against my upbringing: since I was three years old, mom indoctrinated me to believe that all outdoor weddings are utterly destroyed by stormy weather (Mom likes to plan around things that are certain and somewhat in her control!). I had a little more faith than she had. In the end, I’m glad she won that one because I didn’t spend the week before the wedding nervously checking the forecast, and it turned out to be a 35 degree high the day of our wedding! I think what we did right was eliminate any element that could cause unneeded stress the day of or the days leading up to the wedding. We decided early on that our relationship was more important than any detail of the wedding could possibly be. We prioritized that over petty details. I also think it helped that we knew each other well. We knew what was important to the other and so we compromised in light of that. For example, I wanted to arrange the center piece flowers myself and Mom thought that would be too time consuming. But she knows me and that I love arranging flowers and working with my hands, so she knew that would be a therapeutic way for me to spend the day before the wedding. She gave in on that one. I wanted to spend a little more time after the wedding getting more pictures, but Mom thought that meant the guests would be waiting too long. I knew she had a good sense about people and timing, so I deferred to her on that one. Really, we just tried to work as a team and as a result, the only stress I faced at the wedding was whether or not my hair would stay curly in the rain and sleet (oh, and the fact that our florist went out of business two weeks before the wedding!)

    • Thanks for commenting, Amanda. I love that you talked about knowing each other. I don’t know your mom well, but it sounds like she loved you so well during this process, and that you respected her opinions and wisdom. Such a great model for how to honor and love one another–putting relationships before aesthetics.

      And you hit the jackpot–a sweet mom and a sweet mother-in-law!

  5. And might I add that she was a beautiful bride and an even more beautiful daughter-in-law?
    Just thought I’d throw that in there.

  6. Rebekah McGehee

    Jumping in a little late here. I’ve been thinking about how I might answer.

    The biggest conflict for me was actually choosing my bridesmaids. I had this idea from high school that my two best friends would be in my wedding. Throughout college we grew apart some and made new friends. When it came time to choose bridesmaids the people pleaser in me worried about hurting those old friends feelings. So I chose my sisters and high school friends. Which in turn hurt the people I was closer to. Now I’m not really close to those three friends and it took away from some of the neat closeness that could be experienced on our wedding day. My mom was very supportive in whatever decision I made and for that I’m grateful. I didn’t have that added pressure. Looking back I wish I would have chosen people that knew me well and my husband and I as a couple. (and also were Christians and supportive and encouraging in our growth with Christ)

    Things that make me chuckle or smile when thinking about our wedding. *My moms pre wedding talk about what to expect on my wedding night. Although I was embarrassed and it was short it was important. And it opened the door to make that a safe thing to talk about in the future. *My moms willingness and excitement to have our reception at a beautiful hotel. (even though it was slightly out of budget) * my mom loves to try on everything in every store before choosing anything. (slight over exaggeration but she likes to know her options. :) ) I know what I want find it and move on. The second wedding dress I found I loved. My mom loved it too, but of course her natural reaction was are you sure we shouldn’t look anywhere else. I knew we had found the one. She left it at that and bought it on the spot. What a blessing to have that decision made and the support of my mom even if she would have done differently!

    Thanks for asking. I should call my mom and thank her again. Having a mom you can call friend is a blessing!


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