To give you a back story that will take all of three seconds to read (I am assuming you read fast): my parents are divorced, mom is re-married, and Ma-in-law is a new widow. Husband died while working on his dream car before we were engaged. (You might remember this because you already helped me make a big decision about the wedding ring. Which we are taking care of this weekend, with a friend connection jeweler! =) )
Back to the matter at hand....I thought we had all of the loose ends tied in. The wedding is planned. Ready to go, and I THOUGHT we got through it with only minor emotional scrapes......
I forgot that parents have these ideas about what our wedding would be like.
My Mom pictured me as a pretty-pretty-princess on a perfect day.
His Mom kind of felt like my mom; except it was Handsome prince instead of princess.
My Dad thought we should elope. But since we aren't, he thinks there should be homemade beer (I'm cool with that)
We just want to get married and have a good time afterward.
So now that I laid all of the priorities on the table I will tell you the issue. The issue at hand here is where the dollar signs lie. I hate to say that but it is the case. My fiance's Ma makes pretty good money. Plus she has a retirement fund from her recently deceased husband. My dad also makes a pretty good penny. My Mom makes absolutely nothing, and what she does make goes towards her fiance's divorce settlement (I do not blame new hubby for this, his ex is Satan incarnate). I do NOT care about all of that. This is what I DO care about.
I understand parents play a role in the wedding planning, and they want to contribute. I felt I already did my compromising with the women folk by making tissue paper flowers (so that there would be flowers at the wedding. According to the two mothers it isn't a wedding without flowers). What I have a problem with is the unspoken competition that my mom is creating without realizing. She is equating her value to me in a dollar sign. AND she is trying to prove it by INSISTING on paying for a fancy with her EX husband (who just wants to have a camp out). Ma-in-law was really looking forward to having a BBQ at her house on her. Dad is wanting to get everyone drunk on his homemade beer. Now all of a sudden it's going to be a dinner that puts Mom and new hubby in the poor house?! And I am apparently not allowed a say?! Oh HEAALLL no. Think not. But how do I take the reigns back without breaking her heart? She was just sobbing at me for 45 minutes?? I know you don't have all the answers, but you definitely have the sass plus heart that I need to do this eloquently. I tend to be a little blunt and manly when it gets to matters of the heart....
You've already pinpointed the issue! Your mom wants to contribute in a meaningful and memorable way to your wedding in order to show you how much she loves you. And I agree that it doesn't make any sense for her to stretch herself financially thin in order to host a fancy rehearsal dinner when a) that's not what you really want and b) it makes more sense for your mother-in-law to host and pay for it.
The trick is going to be figuring out how she can contribute in a meaningful and memorable way that doesn't break the bank. So much in our society equates money with love (look at the engagement ring industry, for crying out loud!). I can understand why your mom feels like she has to do something big that involves a lot of money in order to prove to you and everyone else how much she loves you and what a good mother she is.
I'm also imagining that part of her emotion stems from making "absolutely nothing" and putting what she does make toward someone else's divorce settlement. She's also going through a major life transition as she prepares to share her daughter with another family. I say this because it can be helpful to remember that people's responses to situations are not always about us but also about other issues that they bring to the situation.
If I were in your shoes, I would first do everything I could to make my mom feel valued and appreciated. A random heartfelt card in the mail? More frequent phone calls? A surprise visit? She's going through a rough time right now, and the more secure she feels about your love for her, the less insistent she's likely to be.
Then I would brainstorm all the ways that your mom could contribute in a significant way to the wedding. For example, she and your mother-in-law could co-host the rehearsal dinner. Does she like to cook? She could cater some sides or desserts to serve at the rehearsal dinner. She could help with the set-up and clean-up. She could make decorations, etc.
Then I would have an earnest conversation with her. I would explain how much I love her and how much I do want her to be an integral part of the wedding but how I don't want her to waste her money on something that can be taken care of in another way that makes more sense. I would explain that money does not equal love and that she doesn't need to spend a lot of money to prove anything to anyone. Then I would share some of my ideas about how she could be more involved and let her add to the list.
My heart goes out to you! Planning a wedding can be an emotionally taxing time for many, many reasons. It sounds like you're handling well, and I wish you the very best!
2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what advice do you have?