I always try to emphasize one thing to a bride as her wedding day approaches. “It’s your wedding. It’s your celebration. It’s your day. You and your groom deserve the fairy tale; your fairy tale. So, when it comes to your wedding, don’t be shy about being honest with your dreams and hopes. It’s your day, so make it happen.”
I tell brides this because of a dynamic I’ve witnessed at too many rehearsals: a bride’s mom hijacks her daughter’s wedding and makes the wedding about her desires, her expectations, and her dreams. As this dynamic has played out time and again, I’ve seen many brides torn. They desire to speak up and express their own wishes, but out of respect, due to fear, or from a place of sheer defeat, the bride stays quiet. A little part of her dies inside because she realizes that it’s not her fairy tale day after all. It’s her moms.
There’s a deeper, much more meaningful process taking place in those moments when the bride is wrestling with whether or not she should express her desires to her mother. The process is one of spiritual formation where the bride has to decide, “Do I be honest with how I feel or do I simply bury my feelings?”
Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” If a bride’s mother is being selfish, then the bride must do the difficult work of confronting her mother about her selfish behavior; selfish behavior that is hijacking her fairy tale.
Such confrontation is extremely tough to do. But, it is important to point out that Jesus didn’t promote the burying of our feelings nor did he promote the sugar coating of our feelings. In that moment of decision, the bride is making a choice to live a life of honesty and congruence. She is deciding that she is worth speaking up for and that she cares about herself enough to do so. Yes, a bride must respect her mother, but if that bride is going to practice loving others as she loves herself, she must decide that she will advocate for herself or else she will always struggle to advocate for others like her husband and children. If the bride is going to model honesty and speaking the truth, the bride will hopefully decide to speak up. Otherwise, her relationship with her mom will always be one of false honesty where she pretends she is happy with her relationship. In essence, the bride will be living a relational lie with her mom.
In my sixteen years of ministry, I have learned that the earlier a couple can develop the characteristic of honesty with their respective parents, the greater the likelihood each set of parents will respect the marital boundaries of the newlywed couple
What if you’re the groom in moments like these? First, I encourage a groom to also be honest about their desires around the wedding, but to ultimately submit to their wife’s wishes. Allow Cinderella or Tiana to have their fairy tale! Secondly, I encourage the groom to be a voice of encouragement for their conflicted bride, but to not rescue her. The groom needs to empower his bride to be honest about her dreams and desires around the wedding. Son-in-laws-to-be benefit from encouraging daughter-mother dialogue instead of triangulating themselves into such conflict. Finally, pray that your bride will find the strength to be honest and advocate for herself.
Brides, it’s your fairy tale day. Moms, it is not your fairy tale day. Brides, be honest about what you want and may the celebration go well!!! (Article originally published at startmarriageright.com)
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.