Of the awkward situations you might face as a bride, it's among the stickiest: Your fiancé's Mom reaches out and asks if she could join you to pick out your dress, oversee centerpieces, or otherwise assist on a task you'd rather handle yourself. While you're in potentially dicey ticking-off-your-future-MIL territory, there's no need to panic, swears lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann. (And you don't have to go along with a scenario that makes you uncomfortable, either.)
Assuming the message came via text or email, wait a beat before writing back so you can formulate a thoughtful response, says Swann. "Then say, 'Oh, my mom and I have got that covered. However, it would mean so much to me if you would do this instead,'" says the author of Let Crazy Be Crazy: Then Politely Get What You Want, Get Your Point Across, and Gently Put Rude People in Their Place. "You're making the conversation less about what you don't want her to do and more about how she can help in another area." Unsure how to fill in that blank? Swann and wedding planner Kristine King have the answers.
Your Bridal Shower
While hosting responsibilities for traditional showers tend to go to the mother of the bride, you can certainly ask your groom's mom to offer input. After all, her family and friends will be there, too, and she's just as excited about ushering you into married life as your own mom is. Just be specific about what you need from her, advises Swann. Rather than ask her to generally help out, see if she'd be willing to oversee a particular aspect. "Maybe it's the décor or the centerpieces for the tables or even finding the venue," the expert says.
Your Overall Ceremony and Reception Plans
No, she doesn't get to decide if you write your own vows or what your bouquet looks like, but it's nice to at least let her in on what you're thinking in terms of centerpieces or bridesmaids' dresses. King, president and lead event director at Kristine King Events, proposes inviting your soon-to-be mother-in-law to be a collaborator on your wedding Pinterest board. Notes the pro, "It's a fun way to include her in your planning." Plus, the style, formality, and colors used throughout your day will influence her attire, so the more she knows the better equipped she'll be to choose an appropriate dress.
The Rehearsal Dinner
Traditionally, notes Swann, the groom's family throws the rehearsal dinner, so handing over the responsibility to your mother-in-law is expected. Plus, she'll be glad to really "own" one aspect of the wedding-related events. "She's in charge of everything from the venue to the menu," Swan explains. If you don't feel comfortable completely relinquishing control, adds King, "Feel free to provide her with ideas for locations and send her a few of your vendors."
The Guest List
No one should have final say in the guest list other than the bride and groom, but your parents (especially if they're contributing financially) deserve to have the opportunity to weigh in. And let's be real: You probably don't want to hunt down all of your future relatives' contact information, so this is a great task to delegate anyway. You can have her provide lists of names (and addresses!) for relatives and friends she'd love to include and—later down the line—she can help track down delinquent responders. The key here is to be as specific as possible. Let her know how many guests you'd ideally like to invite from their side, advises Swann. A sample script: "We have 40 individuals that we'd like to invite from your family and I know that you really have a clear idea of who you'd like to have there, so I'd like you to help out in this way."
Wedding Dress Shopping
This one comes with a caveat. If you're comfortable with her joining you as you hunt for the perfect gown, Swann says it's seen as a nice gesture, but it's in no way required. "If you know she's incredibly opinionated and would just end up making you feel bad by the end of that occasion, then it's probably not a good idea," she adds. In that case, suggests King, plan a date to search for her wedding outfit. Along with scheduling appointments at a few boutiques, set aside time for lunch. There, says the pro, "whip out your wedding binder or Pinterest board and update her on your fun wedding plans. This is also a great time to ask you MIL about her own wedding day! You may get some wonderful ideas or come across traditions that you would like to carry on!"
Your future mother-in-law probably wants to help out with your day, so let her join in on the crafting projects. When it comes to putting together welcome bags, it's especially helpful to have an extra set of hands. King recommends asking your fiancé's mom for ideas of what snacks to include or potential tourist destinations you can highlight for your guests. Then, she says, "Designate a time in the days before the wedding to help her put the bags together and drop them off at the hotels where guests will be staying."
The Parent Dances
If your father will be taking you for a spin on the dance floor, it's nice to invite your groom's mom to sway with him, too. Ahead of the big day, says King, "Consider having your MIL over for lunch to discuss song choices, listen to some classics, and brainstorm ideas. Chances are, there is a song that was special to the two of them growing up. As long as the song reflects their special mother-son relationship, the dance will be a sweet memory for years to come."