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Top 10 Tips for Being a M.O.T.B. (Mother of the Bride)

“Mom, I’m engaged!”

Welcome to your new, hopefully one-time only, role as a M.O.T.B. Mother of the Bride!


Being an M.O.T.B. carries with it both responsibilities and privileges. The responsibility of keeping your mouth closed (unless otherwise requested) and your wallet open (same).

The privilege of watching your daughter go into full-bridal-all-systems-go mode based on knowledge she has gleaned over many years.

Having recently lived through a year – o.k. it actually was 14 months, 16 days, but who’s counting – in this role,  let me congratulate you – and offer you my Top 10 Tips to help you squeeze every moment of pleasure out of your reign as M.O.T.B.

Advice for the Mother of the Bride

  1. It is your daughter’s wedding.

Sounds so simple, right? But it is easy to lose perspective.  You may think of a wedding as a family celebration; a big party for all of your friends. She thinks of it as her wedding. Guess what?  She is right.

It is also not a do-over chance to correct the things you wish had been done differently at your own wedding. My Mom pretty much planned my entire wedding while I was in my second year of law school. She did a fine job except for her choice of hideous Heidi-like, yellow dotted-Swiss capes for the bridesmaids.

My daughter is so not the yellow-dotted Swiss cape type either.  She had very firm ideas about every aspect of her wedding. Yours will as well.

  1. Giving your opinions, even when requested to do so, may be tricky.

The first time we went wedding dress shopping, my daughter asked me to tell her what I thought of each dress she tried on. So I did.My daughter (yours, too, I bet) is beautiful.

She looked lovely in every dress she tried on.  I told her so. Elegant in the lace sheath dress.  Bridal in the ball gown.  Stylish in a “mermaid” number.

After an hour of trying on dresses, we left the shop with a polite farewell to the patient sales lady. My daughter wheeled around at me, the minute we left the shop – “Mom, how could you? You liked everything! That didn’t help me decide at all.” So much for giving your opinion.

  1. It is o.k. not to cry when your daughter tries on “the one” dress.

By our second shopping trip, I had learned my lesson.  Candor would be the order of the day. But this time my daughter didn’t ask for my opinions.  She quickly bonded with the fashionista bridal boutique owner, they huddled together and after only a few tries, out of the dressing room my daughter emerged, big smile – “Mom, this is the one!”

The reality TV shows say I should have shed a few tears of joy at that point. In my case, the tears did well up but only because, as she twirled in front of me, I caught sight of the price tag of the “one dress.” Tears of shock. Within our budget, yes, but seeing the printed number is a stunner.

  1. It takes a village to plan a wedding.

While my daughter was clearly the mayor of our wedding village, she requested our assistance on specific tasks. Each villager – the Bride, the Groom, the M.O.T.B., the F.O.T.B., the M.O.T.G., the F.O.T.G. and the maid of honor – was put on a team according to their interests and abilities.

For example – when asked by the bride what his favorite flowers were, the Groom hesitated, then fell silent. Asked again, if he could perhaps try to even name a kind of flower, he said “carnations” and then when pressed to come up with the name of a second flower, offered up “dandelions.”

The groom was then promptly taken off the floral arrangement team and re-assigned to the food and music teams (where he served with great success.)

  1. The village may also extend to people who are paid for their expertise.

I didn’t think we needed to hire a wedding planner.  The Bride disagreed. Okay, let’s interview one and see if we need her services.

At our first meeting, the wedding consultant went through the list of items we had already arranged. I was feeling pretty confident that we had checked off all of the major items. Venue, invitations, photographer, florist, band.

“Who is handling the lighting?  Do you have a consultant?” the prospective wedding consultant asked us. Yes, I then learned, there apparently are people who can serve as “lighting” consultants. You pay them to tell you what lights to place where.

If your daughter, like mine, is getting married in a hotel ballroom or any other kind of indoor venue, you may, as I did, point out that such venues typically come with built-in lighting,  it is called electricity, you flip a switch and ta-da, the lights come on.  Why would we need separate lights and a lighting consultant to go with them? My inquiry was not perceived as helpful.

The wedding consultant looked at me with pity.  Didn’t I know that ballroom chandeliers and ceiling lights were not enough to properly light a wedding? We sprung for a few spotlights.

  1. The unexpected will always happen.

Soon after booking the venue – a historic hotel in a big city – we learned that it was on the route of the annual “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle cavalcade. And naturally that hundreds of motorcycles were scheduled to rumble by on the street just outside the reception hall at the same time as the wedding ceremony.

We thought about this for a bit.  Perhaps the elder guests might not even hear the cycles.  And the younger guests would think it was part of the celebration. I just told the rabbi to speak louder. Problem solved.

  1. Luckily, not all of your guests will be able to attend.

Your husband insists you invite his business partners.  All six of them plus their spouses. With a bit of luck you may be able to invite everyone you need to and have some of them not attend – leaving room for the people you really want to be there.

Thankfully, your argumentative nephew is in Namibia with the Peace Corps. Your great-uncle with the strongly-held political views rarely leaves Florida. View every “no, thank you, we cannot attend” as a positive.  More cake for the rest of us.

  1. Bands Play Very LOUDLY.

The Bride and Groom did a terrific job with the table arrangements. The elder guests were kindly put as far as possible from the giant speakers.  And the band chosen by the Groom as head of the music team was excellent. Songs we all could recognize early in the evening.

Later, music  that all the 20- and 30-somethings filling the floor, jumping up and down, clapping their hands, whooping with joy. But so VERY LOUD. My sister came up to me midway through the night to inform me that a cranky guest at her table had gone up to the band leader to complain. The decibels stayed unabated.

The band played till midnight, with three encores. The music was amazing. So what if my ears rang for days.

  1. Take mental pictures of your own.

Sure the photographer will be capturing what he sees as the highlights of the wedding. But you are the M.O.T.B. – you need to take mental pictures of your own.

Watch your daughter, sitting with her new husband, laugh as the Best Man makes a funny toast. Click.

Smile as your 89-year old father tries to cut the challah, the knife slips from his hands and your husband comes quickly to his rescue. Click.

Notice that even Mr. Cranky Guest is up on the dance floor, repeatedly, having what looked like a very good time. Click.

So take these mental photos. They will last forever.

  1. It is o.k. to cry after the wedding is over.

The next day, as the last brunch guests left, the flowers started to droop and I did too.  Only then did the tears flow.  Whether from happiness or exhaustion or a combination of the two, I just sat and cried.

The Bride and Groom went off on their honeymoon. A year (14 months, 16 days) of planning, anticipating, list-making had just zipped by.

My reign as M.O.T.B. had concluded. What was I going to do with all my free time? Was it too early to start hinting for a grandchild? 

Good luck to you, M.O.T.B.!

Nancy Wolf

Nancy L. Wolf writes about parenting, family life, higher education and mental health from the perspective of someone who has seen it all and still has a strong sense of humor. She practiced law for 30 plus years while raising 2 now adult kids and has been married for 36 years to a wonderfully tolerant man. Now semi-retired, but hardly retiring, she helps parents of young adults with mental health challenges through and "parents of young adults who struggle" on facebook. In her spare time, Nancy is a volunteer college advisor with a in Wash DC, a group that helps low-income kids get to college and on the board of NAMI Montgomery County She relishes being the most opinionated member of her book club, sticks to advanced beginner classes in pilates and regularly cleans up after two unruly rescue terriers. And did I mention that Nancy is a new grandma? Photos of her adorable grandson are available upon request.

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ryder ziebarth

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

As a former W.P. (wedding planner) but not yet M.O.T.B., I can only say thank you, and I am going to mentally file this essay away for further use. Well done with love, and well placed humor.And even I ( the W.P.,) cried when the big day was all over. I called it "Event Letdown" and still cry today, after a major event wraps up. I will especially remember not to correct my Cinderella ball gown sleeve mistake, and my mother's choice of tomato soup for a starter.Many thanks for a great read!

Nancy Wolf

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

Love the tomato soup as a starter! Thanks, Ryder.

Anne Parris

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

I'm going to pay all four of my kids to elope.

Nancy Wolf

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

4 weddings, yikes! Good luck, Anne.


Wednesday 11th of June 2014

Great advice for mother-in-law of the bride too! I will tuck this away for future reference!

Nancy Wolf

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

Thanks, Lana. Have fun with the MIL job!

Susan Bonifant

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

Very nicely done, and best advice is that "it is their day". Simply put, nothing else is important.

Nancy Wolf

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

It is their day! So true. Thanks, Susan.

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