Q: I proposed to my girlfriend last week. It’s a great feeling! But I have a nosy, intrusive mother who is already inserting herself into the wedding plans. This is upsetting my fiancée. How do I keep my mom on a leash and also keep from hurting her feelings?
A: In many ways, a wedding is a family occasion, and wedding planning is about negotiation and compromise. Think of it as practice for married life — you will face many more of these family events, such as birthdays, holidays and vacations.
You don’t say who is paying for the wedding, but weddings are often funded, at least partly, by one or both sets of parents. Assuming your mother is footing at least some of the bill, it’s unfair not to let her have some input.
Even if you are funding the entire wedding yourselves, it’s unwise to cut your mother out of the planning entirely. You don’t want to cause a rift in your relationship with her. And you want your fiancée to start off on a decent foot with your mother — after all, they may have your children (your mother’s grandchildren) in common some day.
So be organized and flexible. Make a list of wedding details that matter to you and your fiancée, and rank them in order of importance. Maybe you care most about who the attendants are, or how the invitations are worded. Maybe you don’t care so much about what’s on the menu.
Then, offer your mother some of the things that are less important to you. Or give her a choice. She could, for example, select the centerpiece flowers, as long as she chooses ones within certain parameters.
There might also be some items that are especially important to your mother and less important to you. If so, let her be in charge of those.
Fights over wedding plans — and I mean knock-down, drag-out fights — are common. Look at it this way: Your fiancée is replacing your mother as the number-one woman in your life, and it’s a bittersweet emotional transition that many mothers have a hard time coping with. That’s what you are really dickering over.
But love is not a zero-sum game. There is enough for everyone. Reassure your mother that you don’t love her less because you are taking a bride. At the same time, you must now make your wife-to-be your highest priority in order to make your marriage work well.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her new book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was recently published by Riverhead Books. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.