As a Manner of Fact
She Said "Yes" - Wedding Etiquette for Bridal Bystanders
February, 2006 - Issue #16
Normally, you'll find me penning catty pieces about horrid social faux pas, and in a way, this article is no different. What is amiss is that instead of harping on all the things that you could potentially do wrong as a bride (including low-brow "I'm registered here" cards in your invites, for example), I'm going to point my commentary in the direction of others. So listen up, over-bearing mother of the bride. Stop faking pleasantries, friends and sisters bitten by the green-eyed monster. Temporarily halt the coddling of your son, future mother-in-law. This one's for you.

As a proud member of the multiply-married crowd, I can promise you this: Being a bride isn't a proverbial waltz in the park, and it's usually the women in our lives that make it even more difficult. Between balancing one's own wishes with other opinion-holders (and when you're a bride, you realize that everyone from the grocery store check-out lady to your neighbor has the perfect tip or wedding anecdote they simply must share), searching for the best dress/location/music/food/minister/limo service, etc., arguing with one's fiance about who can invite how many guests, and other similar drama, you can quickly see why so many couples drive to Vegas to enjoy Elvis-inspired nuptials.

What does this mean to you, less-than-casual observer? It means, gasp, be nice. For simplicity's sake, I've broken down the kindness-qualities based on your relationship with the bride.

Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids

Newsflash: It ain't your wedding, Darlin'. That means that only one person need be in love with your dress, and Honey, that girl isn't you. I don't care if your bride selects a shade that makes your skin look green, a style that is more reminiscent of "Flash Dance" than a Grace Kelly movie, and she wants you do-see-doing down the aisle in cowboy boots. Go with it and, during the worst taffeta-inspired moments, remember that you'll be able to return the favor at your own wedding.

When your bride asks for your opinion, sweetly give it. But if in the end her choices don't totally coincide with your own preferences, swallow your pride, don those tacky dyed shoes, and march down that aisle with a smile.

Mother of the Bride

It's so easy to lose control, especially if you are footing part, or all, of the bill. Still, remember that the wedding should reflect her taste, not yours. Yes, invitations with pictures of Disney characters are juvenile, and yes, a Britney Spears song is an odd choice for a first dance, but you've had your chance, Momma. Now it's someone else's turn to call the shots.

Your daughter is rushing towards the future at breakneck speed, and she needs a strong woman at her side to handle sticky situations with Solomon-esque skill. What she doesn't need is to feel like she has to add you to the list of people she's disappointing.

Encourage her, dry her tears (and your own), help her think outside the box, offer well-timed suggestions, manage the family drama and see to it that she enjoys this process as much as possible. Most importantly, step back and let your baby shine.

Mother of the Groom

With any luck, you don't think that your son is a total clod for selecting your future daughter-in-law. If you do find yourself praying that she takes a long step off a short pier, for the love of all that's holy, hold your tongue (at least in front of your son and the missus).

At the beginning of the engagement, talk to the bride about how you'd like to be included in the wedding details. Possibly you've always dreamed of your Little Guy tying the knot at your favorite club, or maybe you want to offer your phenomenal flower-arranging services. Whatever your desires, state them as options and opportunities, not mandatory hoops that she'll feel obligated to jump through. And by no means should you let your feelings get hurt by not being invited to dress fittings and the like. There are special moments that she may feel are best reserved for her and her mother alone.

Being a part of a wedding can be a trying experience, but that doesn't mean it's alright to forget why you're doing this in the first place: because two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, until death or divorce do they part.

C'mon, Miss Congeniality. I know you have it in you.


Judith likes to be referred to as Mrs. Brad Pitt, and she hopes you'll let her pen a sharply worded letter to anyone that dares step on your bridal toes. E-mail her at
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