Whether your partner is a certified mama's boy or only talks to his mother a few times a month, there's no denying the tight-knit bond that all moms have with their sons. It's a beautiful thing—that is, until she won't move over just a pinch to make some room for you. "Jokes about brides and mothers-in-law not getting along are as old as the institution of marriage itself," says Larissa Banting, president of Weddings Costa Rica and founder of The Lazy Bride. But what's really behind the tension? As the bride, you're about to assume the most important female role in your groom's life—but that's the role your soon-to-be mother-in-law had until now.
"No matter how much she adores you, the switch from girlfriend to fiancée can jar a MIL into the reality that things just got real," Banting says. "In all likelihood, she might not even be aware of it on a conscious level, making it even more bewildering when her attitude toward you changes on a dime." So how do you keep the peace during the planning process, and even score some bonus points with the OG Mrs.? Read on for wedding experts' best words of wisdom for strengthening your relationship with your soon-to-be MIL.
Don't take anything too personally.
"Remember that weddings often have people going off the rails on a crazy train," says Banting. "A lot of the bad behavior stems from deep-seated fears that are acting subconsciously (the one thing the human brain tends to freak out over is a big change)." Chances are, your man's mom has no clue that she's dishing out disses—and only means to compliment you in the best way she knows how. Your best bet is to let things slide and not let her get under your skin. Nine times out of 10, she truly means no harm.
Try to show her you're not stealing her son.
Of course, her reality is that she wants her son to live a long and happy life with you—one that likely includes grandbabies and a beautiful home with a white picket fence. But, right now, all she can think about is you whisking him away from her. "The best way to assuage any doubts that you're stealing away her little boy is to be proactive," suggests Banting. "Set up a standing dinner date, say the third Sunday of every month, so she understands that she has nothing to worry about and will be seeing her son (and his wife) regularly."
Dish on the guest list.
If his family is contributing to the wedding, they are entitled to invite some guests, according to Banting. Depending on the situation, you may even want to let them invite a certain number of guests even if they aren't paying for a thing. "It's a gesture that can go a long way since it's inclusive—plus, your two families are now merging into one," she adds. "Just be sure that everyone is clear on the number of guests they can invite so there's no miscommunication that could inevitably lead to drama."
Involve her in the wedding planning.
Traditionally, the role mothers of the groom play during the wedding process is planning the rehearsal dinner. But asking your MIL to play a larger role—even a slightly larger role—can go a long way in reassuring her that she's very much a part of your future plans. "If you're open to having your MIL more involved, choose a task that she can help you with—maybe helping you research rental shops or a caterer, or coming up with ideas for specialty cocktails," suggests Banting. "Find something that would align with her passions or hobbies so she can feel useful and engaged."
Help her see the whole picture.
"If she's planning a rehearsal dinner for you, include her in a décor meeting about the wedding," suggests Banting. "Doing so will help give her a better idea of what direction you're going with when it comes to the wedding, which gives her the opportunity to take cues for her own party's décor without overstepping the big day." It also gives you both knowledge of what the other can expect for these two big events, so neither is disappointed or feels pushed to the side.
Ask her opinion on wedding attire.
You might be more excited about the gown your own mother is going to wear on your wedding day, but showing some enthusiasm for your MIL's outfit for the day will make her feel valued. "Often, the drama involving the MIL stems from simple jealousy over not having the attention that the mother of the bride is getting," says Banting. Ask her what she's thinking of wearing for the wedding and even volunteer to help her find something suitable. Or, Alison Laesser-Keck, event planner and designer at Alison and Bryan, suggests considering letting her go dress shopping with you, perhaps even just for the rehearsal dinner dress.