The older I get, the more I appreciate “experiential vs. intellectual” understanding. Books, blogs, lectures, experts and friends may prepare me for a task or opportunity but it’s not “real” until I live it. This has never been more true for me than last year when my son became engaged. Until that time, the phrase “mother of the groom” evoked vague and misty images of rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, corsages, and well, not much more.
In May of 2012, shortly after I first received the sisterly counsel to “shut up and wear beige,” a gradual concern began to build. What, exactly, are the responsibilities of this new position? How does the process unfold? Who does what, and when and where does it happen? What, if anything, am I supposed to do? I had a lot of questions. Google and friends gave me lots of answers, but experience, as always, was the best teacher.
When planning this issue, it occurred to me that other future “MOGs” (Mothers of the Groom) may find themselves in similar positions. Consequently, what follows is a blend of “textbook” and “real”, a traditional-meets-contemporary, step-by-step primer for a role that, however ancient, is still new to someone every day. It isn’t comprehensive, but I hope it is helpful to you in the way it would have been for me a year ago.
Emily Post advises remembering the three C’s in wedding planning: consideration, communication, and compromise. I heartily agree. It’s a great plan for any endeavor, but especially one in which everyone’s emotions are so potentially fragile.
Traditionally, when the engagement is announced, the groom’s mother is expected to reach out to the bride’s parents and offer congratulations. She may plan a gathering to introduce the two families and begin the “blending” process. Those are the old-fashioned first-things-first duties that I gathered from various sources.
At this moment, you’re beginning to realize you don’t know what you should be doing. Here’s my suggestion: Get your guest list ready.
Steps Three through 3,000
You’ll need those three C’s in this phase.
Here’s the tradition: the bride’s family invites guests and hosts the wedding. The groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner. Certain flowers are paid for by her family, others by the groom, who also pays the marriage license fee and the officiant. This is more or less what you’ll find in your research.
Then, my best advice is to be available and helpful, but not intrusive. It is an honor to be asked to help. Say yes when you can.
Mini-steps that can be missteps
Showers: These are non-negotiable. Unless you or an immediate family member is hospitalized or in the mortuary, attend the ones you’re invited to. Be on time, polite, sincere, courteous, loving, unfailingly gracious… all the things your aunts and mothers taught you.
RSVPs. If you’ve ever invited anyone to anything, you know this is a challenging area. You can be a big help to the bride and her mom by keeping a running list of the guests you know are attending. Consider reaching out to the no-responses on your list to confirm their status as the day draws nearer.
Very Last-minute Steps
This one’s easy: don’t panic.
Dancing with your son at his wedding is one of those once-in-a-lifetimes. You’ve done your job. Enjoy this moment.
On the dance floor, we talked about the perfect day, his beautiful wife, and how we were going to handle Christmas. And the babies. It was just grand.
Now that I’m a mother-in-law, my goal is to keep those three C’s handy. And to add a fourth: calendar. A flexible one.