Times change, and never more quickly than in the 21st century. In every area of life, the expectations of their children can be bewildering to a mature generation. This can especially be so at the key moments of life, such as a wedding. Long-established traditions can be rapidly overtaken, such as the role of the parents of the couple.
Reversal of Roles
It used to be the case that parents, especially mothers, called most of the shots in the planning and preparation of the wedding, and in paying for the various ceremonies involved. Then on the day they would merge gracefully in the background as elegant hostesses.
Today, the role is largely reversed. For the planning, parents are consultants brought in by the couple as and when they are needed. On the day, mothers can be very much in the limelight and allowed to shine. Mother of the bride dresses can be eye-catching, and mothers often party late into the night along with the most energetic of the guests.
Make sure the lines of communication are open. Congratulate the future in-laws and make it clear you are as keen as them to make everything run smoothly.
A tricky issue that cannot be taken for granted is who will pay for what, because it is no longer assumed that the respective parents will pay for specific parts of the proceedings. Many couples expect to manage their own budget, with a contribution from their parents.
The days when the bride and her mother made most of the decisions are over. Today the bride’s main adviser is her fiancé. Together they will choose the venue, the menu, the guest list, the cake, and so on. One area that remains the prerogative of the bride’s mother is to share in the choice of wedding dress. At the same time, your daughter can help you to choose a suitable dress for yourself.
For the day itself, your role as a parent is consultative. There may be traditions that mean a lot to you, but it is your son or daughter, with their partner, who chooses how the ceremony is conducted. You can make your suggestions, but don’t sulk if they are not listened to. At the rehearsal, avoid the temptation to take over—offer advice only when it is asked for.
Be considerate and adaptable if there are complications, for instance when parents have separated and have new partners. Always keep in mind that it is what will make your child happy that matters, not what suits you.
Most people approach their wedding day with the expectation that they will only get to do this only once. It is important to feel that everyone is at ease and nobody wants the happy couple to be stressed by the interference of their parents. It is less important to get the details right than to set an example of adult cooperation as a model for marriage.
Abby Clements works in the wedding industry and shares her top tips for brides, grooms and other family members as the big day approaches.
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