Full disclosure: I was nervous about what the dynamic between my future mother-in-law and myself would be like while planning my wedding since I had witnessed some of the stresses that my engaged friends endured with their MILs.
My mom and I are very close, so it feels natural to go to her for advice. I would send her photos of centerpiece ideas, ask her to help review wedding contracts and even check her schedule prior to booking vendor appointments so that she could come. At first, including my future mother-in-law wasn't as instinctive, which is understandable considering I haven't known her my whole life as I have with my mom.
However, I am fortunate that my mother-in-law has embraced "us" as a couple and helped to support the start of our new family in every way possible. Throughout this process, I wanted her to know how much I love her and her son, and that her involvement means the world to me. In my experience, it helps to be inclusive during this transitional time when two families are coming together as one and roles are being redefined. (Every bride's family dynamics and experiences are different; above all, only do what feels comfortable for you.)
Here are some different ways that I've bonded with my MIL and plan to include her in my upcoming wedding this August:
Photo courtesy of Jessica Robertson
1. I invited her to join my Pinterest board.
I would guess that 99.9% of brides have a wedding Pinterest board (I even had one before I was engaged, ha!). Set your board to "secret" and invite your mother-in-law to join as a collaborator and pin her ideas. There is no limit to how many pins both of you can include, so by the end you will have a blended vision. Plus, you never know what unique craft project she will find in the world of Pinterest ideas.
2. We set aside girl time.
One of my favorite memories leading up to my big day was when my mother-in-law brought over her wedding photos and mementos, and we shared our stories and experiences. Consider planning a brunch or dinner to look at her albums, browse through your wedding binder or just to catch up. I also called her periodically to update her on decisions and appointments if she couldn’t join.
3. I asked her what wedding tasks she wanted to involve herself in and why.
Being part of my wedding dress shopping experience was at the top of my mother-in-law's wish list. If you don't have similar tastes, you can ask her to help with smaller projects that you feel comfortable delegating, such as assembling welcome bags for guests.
4. We went to a wedding expo together.
Usually, the cost to enter is fairly inexpensive, and it can be so much fun checking out all the different vendor booths, entering raffles and tasting the free cake. When we went, I didn't have an agenda — I just wanted to take in the experience. Also, wedding expos can also be a little overwhelming at times, so having your new mother-in-law there will allow her to see firsthand the stresses you will be facing as you plan your perfect wedding.
5. I gave her a registry scanner.
Since I haven’t done a lot of entertaining in the past, it was difficult to know which cooking tools or household items I'd get the most use from and are high-quality. If you're like me and are in need of guidance, it could be a good idea to ask both your mom and future mother-in-law to go shopping with you. For example, when we were picking out plates, I didn’t know there was a difference between stoneware and porcelain. After both moms explained that stoneware could chip easier, I decided on a beautiful white porcelain set.
6. I invited her to wedding appointments and led the conversation.
I invited my future mother-in-law to many of my wedding appointments, but I went into each with an idea of what I wanted. That way, I could guide the conversation instead of opening it up to the possibility of being presented with options that weren't in line with my vision. For example, we invited her to visit the venue with us for the first time, and I did a fair amount of research beforehand so that I could articulate why I chose it over other places. We also invited her to join our flower and invitation appointments, both of which I went to armed with photos and a budget. There were some things that I wanted to do just with my fiancé, and that’s okay, too. We did all of the catering and cake tastings alone, and we found it to be so much fun to have platters of food sprawled out as we enjoyed a "mini date" of sorts.
7. We made a special appointment just to shop for her dress.
The best tip I can give to brides is to set aside a shopping day just for your mother-in-law. When I shopped for my wedding dress, I felt special watching my loved ones' reactions to each dress as I exited the dressing room. So I figured why not do the same for my mother-in-law and make her feel cherished? Make appointments at a few places so she can take her time and enjoy the experience. If you live in different cities, ask her to send you pictures of dresses she is considering, so she feels included and important.
8. I put her in charge of planning the rehearsal dinner.
Let me preface this by saying that I am a control freak. I love to organize, find the best deals and check to-dos off a list. With the rehearsal dinner, I stepped behind the scenes, and I am so glad that I did. Traditionally, this pre-wedding event is hosted by the groom's family so you should trust that they want it to be nice. Once my future mother-in-law sent me two restaurant ideas, I immediately knew the dinner would be nothing less than perfect. She found a beautiful restaurant just two miles from our wedding venue that even has a private cabin for group events. We're getting married in August, and I'm looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the night before our big day.
9. We're going to get dolled up together on the big day.
Consider including your mother-in-law in pampering and day-of beauty appointments, if you would like everyone to get ready at the same place and get some R&R as a group before the whirlwind of events. Many hair and makeup artists even offer group discounts if you guarantee a certain number of people in your party.
10. My fiancé is including her in his decisions, too.
Last but not least, it’s important for your groom to spend quality time with his mom as you plan your wedding. Whether he asks her opinion on his wedding band or the groomsmen attire, that time together is very precious. My fiancé involved his mom from the moment he knew he wanted to propose to me. He designed my engagement ring with his mom’s help, going together to a family friend, who is a jeweler, to discuss settings. Every time I look at it, I think about all the love and support she has given to us as we start our marriage.
Tell us: How are you including your mother-in-law in the wedding-planning process?
Plus, check out Like Mother, Like Daughter: Then-and-Now Wedding Photos.
— Jessica Robertson