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Motherzilla of the Bride

By Amalah


Hi Amy!

(Brace yourself. It’s long. I’m sorry.)

I know your column is mostly babies and mom stuff, but I’ve seen the occasional wedding/life/other article as well. I was hoping that maybe you could help me out with a situation I have going on over here (it falls in the “wedding category”. Dun dun DUN.).

Anyways, in the beginning, we each talked things over with our separate parents as to who would pay for what. My family agreed to cover the entire wedding (except the videographer and centerpieces, which we are paying for ourselves). For financial reasons, my fiance’s family can only afford to cover the cost of a rehearsal dinner, and we are paying for the honeymoon itself (I tell you this so you understand budget-wise where I stand).

At first, it was great. My mom was my main planner, my biggest helper – all of my bridesmaids are pretty spread out geographically speaking, so Mom was the only person available to help. And like I said: at first, it was great. It’s like we both had the same mind. She was very supportive of every decision I made, and completely understood my vision for the wedding. I’ve been completely grateful to her throughout the planning process; without her, things wouldn’t have run as smoothly as they have.

However, as the wedding inches closer (we are down to the last few months now), things have gone steadily downhilll. The proverbial stuff really hit the fan a few days before Christmas. Apparently, a potential vendor had insulted my mother over the phone. I called them and demanded an apology, etc. However, they called my mom back before I could. While they did apologize, etc., all it did was make my mom angrier at them, and angry at me. She called immediately afterward to yell and scream at me and accuse me of not trusting her and a lot of other really hurtful stuff. Mom called to apologize the day before Christmas, and since then we haven’t spoken of it. However, things have not been the same. She has been outright mean to me in most (if not all) conversations about the wedding ever since.

A few days ago, I mentioned to Mom that if we went to the hair salon of my stylist (instead of having her travel to the hotel we’ll be staying in the night before and day of until the wedding), we could save a lot of money for the bridesmaids. The stylist is pretty close to my fiance’s family (which is why I chose her), and said that if we came to her instead of the other way around, she’d only charge anybody else involved in the wedding $25 to have their hair done. Personally, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to travel to the salon when you consider that discount (the full travel price per person is $75). It’s in the next town over, but it’s only a 20-30 minute drive at the most. If we all make sure to do our nails the day before the wedding instead of that day, we’ll be fine time-wise. We don’t have to be at the church until 4:30pm the day of the wedding, and the wedding itself doesn’t start until half past six. If we start early, we’ll be fine.

When I brought this up to Mom, she screamed at me about how she didn’t care about the other bridesmaids and she was only paying for my hair. Literally. Screamed. Before I was even finished speaking, really. I could barely get a word in – I’ve known my parents weren’t paying for the maids hair to be done since the start, and so have they. One of my maids was literally sitting next to me in the car when I called my mom about it, and she could hear every word on the phone. After a few minutes, I finally got her to calm down long enough to just listen to what I had to say. Afterward, she just flat out said “no”. When I asked her why, she said it was because she didn’t want me to be stressed out on my big day. I finally just said that I thought it was worth it, and reminded her whose wedding it was. Mom just said that she couldn’t talk to me about it anymore and hung up.

My bridesmaids mean a lot to me. They are all family, yes, but that’s not the only reason I chose them. I chose them because they each in their own way have special meaning to me. They are all spending a lot of money just to stand up next to me for 45 or so minutes. One of them will be coming from out of state. One of them will be moving out of state days after the wedding. One of them lives several hours away where she just started a new job in a new city and the other is a new and single mom. THEY DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF THIS, and in at least two cases probably can’t really afford to do this, but are doing it anyway. If I can save them a little extra cost, I’d like to do so (I know that they could just do their own hair, but they all agreed they’d rather pay someone to do it instead).

I’ve talked to my fiance, and he said he’d be willing to pay the difference in cost to have the stylist come to the hotel to do everyone’s hair. The thing is, between the honeymoon and the videographer and the centerpieces, I’m not sure we can afford to spend the extra $200 (we are both in our last year of college…we’ve saved a lot of money since we first got engaged, but we’re still stretched pretty thin with the extra costs of day-to-day living). My dad…does not want to get involved. He just wants me to do what mom says, period. On the other hand, I feel really strongly about this issue. I have only argued with my mom on one other thing, and that’s the centerpieces – which we have agreed that I will pay for myself. Everything else we’ve agreed on. I’ve had reassurances from both my fiance and my maids that I haven’t been a “bridezilla” at any point during the planning; I know I can trust these people to get up in my face about it if I do (and I made it clear in the beginning that they were to knock me down a peg if I did become one).

So Amy, what do you think I should do? Battle this one out with my mom? Or suck it up and pay the difference in cost? Sadly, there is no option C, as it is too late to run away and elope.

I’d really appreciate your input on this. Thanks!

P.S. I know. That was depressing, wasn’t it? Here, check out some pictures of cats with badly spelled captions. You’re welcome.

So I woke up this morning thinking that we could probably use a break from all the baby/pregnancy stuff that’s monopolized the conversation over here, and decided that I would tackle the first non-parenting-type question I came across in the queue. And yet now that I really think about this one, we’re STILL talking about parents and mothers and how we are pretty much crazy forces in our children’s lives forever and ever amen. One day we’re stressing out over how to get you to sleep in your crib and the next day we’re having some kind of mental break with reality over your WEDDING HAIR.

My God, but motherhood is bleak.

ANYWAY. In case you were wondering, yes, your mother is acting pretty crazy. And also, a lot like a lot of OTHER mothers that a lot of OTHER brides have written to me about. Everything starts out fine and fun and wonderful, and then as the months and weeks tick by and the wedding gets closer, stuff gets less fine. Control issues abound, tempers flare, power struggles ensue. The key is to (basically) survive this patch of crazy without major damage being done to relationships, reminding yourself over and over again that it will all be over soon and things *SHOULD* return to normal after the wedding and your mom’s adrenaline levels go back down to non-Hulk levels. At which point you forgive and forget and never bring this behavior up again.

(Just weeks before my own wedding, my mother discovered I’d gotten a tattoo at college. She kicked me out of the house, asked for my college tuition money back, all while frantically ripping down wallpaper in the upstairs guest bathroom because she couldn’t possibly deal with any wedding guests possibly seeing that ugly wallpaper, even though everybody was staying at a hotel DON’T ARGUE WITH ME ABOUT THE WALLPAPER, YOUNG LADY. NOW PACK YOUR THINGS AND GET OUT OF MY SIGHT. BUT DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR DRESS FITTING TOMORROW.)

(I’ve forgiven and forgotten, for the most part. I do occasionally bring it up at Christmas once we’ve all had some wine. LOVINGLY. She is suitably embarrassed, but still thinks the tattoo is trashy and the new bathroom wallpaper is much better.)

So basically: the wedding stress has eaten your mother. Hopefully it will spit her back out once it’s all done. She’s made YOUR wedding the focus of HER existence, possibly shoving aside her emotions of “losing you” by overextending herself in both time and money. A Xanax prescription would probably be in order here. This really does seem to happen a LOT with weddings, which is why I retell fairy tales to both of my children to include a magical happy elopement at the end.

As it’s been a REALLY long time since I got married and my wedding was a simple backyard half-a-shoestring affair, I bet the commenters can provide better general coping tips about how to avoid blow-ups from this point forward. It seems like she’s really having problems with anything deviating from the set plan, no matter how silly — this mostly tells me that she’s just wound WAY too tight. I’m sure you know this isn’t about the hair or the cost or you being stressed out on your wedding day, it’s about…something else, and until she gets a grip on her emotions and stress level and some DISTANCE from this highly-charged situation, nobody will ever figure out what, exactly, she’s really wigging out about.

Big-picture freak-outs aside, let’s look at the Hair Dilemma. I am totally with you: saving your bridesmaids some money is REALLY NICE. Nobody needs to get their hair done at a hotel if it costs hundreds of dollars more. A car trip on the day of your wedding will not cause anyone to burst into non-fairy-tale-wedding flames. Your argument that your friends are already laying out enough money for the wedding is absolutely reasonable and enough.

Your mother thinks she has a say in this situation because she’s paying for your hair. So…pay for your own hair. Consider that part of your obligation to your bridesmaids. (And I’m guessing that would be cheaper than your finance covering the cost to bring your stylist to the hotel.) You can continue to walk on eggshells around your mother and cave to this freakout but don’t kid yourself: There will likely be another freakout later, and another concession she’ll expect you to make.

So make the appointments at the salon. The next time the topic comes up, just tell your mom that you felt really strongly about doing this for your bridesmaids and since she has a problem with it, that’s fine, and that’s why you are no longer expecting her to cover any hair-related expenses. She might get super-insulted, but as you’ve already reminded her: this is YOUR WEDDING. If she can’t let you have any input or make any decisions without a temper tantrum, then you will continue to take back expenses and pay for them yourself, or go without them entirely, because SERIOUSLY.

(And as hard as it might be right now, since she’s in Raving Crazy Person mode, is there some kind of NON-WEDDING-RELATED outing you could take her on for some quality mother-daughter time? A day where all wedding talk is strictly off-limits while you two shop or see a movie or just have lunch at the place you used to go with her as a kid? I know it’s probably the last thing you feel like doing, but maybe a little gesture like that would help trigger her reset button and remind her of the early planning days. Back when it was about her DAUGHTER’S wedding instead of her daughter’s WEDDING!!11!!!)

Published May 3, 2010. Last updated February 27, 2012.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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