How do I keep my future Mother-in-Law from steam rolling my wedding plans?

by DIY wedding planner on June 12, 2012

My boyfriend (now fiancé) popped the question, and being DIY’ers, we’ve decided on a low budget because we can’t afford more, with a cute 50′s theme (for our attire, the cake, table toppers, invitations etc), and an “old timey” potluck dinner, so that we can afford the 145 people that make up our immediate families (who would be incredibly upset if they weren’t invited), and the 40-50 friends and friends of the family we want to invite.

He went home to his parents place for the weekend to discuss wedding plans, and his mother started an argument about whether a person has to be an “officer of the peace” or just “ordained” to marry you. We hadn’t even started talking about who will marry us, in my opinion that’s one of the last things to do, because neither of us are religious, so it’s not a huge deal. Well, she didn’t like being wrong so she stormed off, and then his father discussed our theme, and ideas for an outdoor ceremony, in Autumn with my fiance. Needless to say he (Father) hated all of them.

While his father was telling him that having a 50′s wedding theme was rude because it meant we expected everyone to buy an entire new wardrobe (I kid you not, he said those words), and placing a formal dress code on the event to prevent some of the “sluttier” members of our families from flashing their goodies to the crowd was also rude, his brother (who is just barely 20 and only had high school relationships) felt the need to lecture my fiancé about how we need to be more accommodating to everyone else’s wants and needs.

We have a good idea of how we want our wedding to look, and are not asking his parents for any money. They will inevitably contribute anyway, and feel they have the right to make ALL of our decisions for us.

I know that in the end, it’s being together that is the most important, but how on earth am I going to make it through this planning? We have most of our decisions made already, it’s just about bookings and deposits now. How can I make my future-mother-in-law feel like she’s part of this, without losing the wedding my fiancé and I want?

Tempted to just elope already.
THE JOKER: My parents also did a small court house wedding then a party with only 12 people. And they lived happily ever after too. Starting to sound like a great idea.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

The Joker June 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm

court house wedding then small get together with friends at a decent restaruant


MM June 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Try and find some aspect you don’t care that much about and turn the organization completely over to them. If that doesn’t work or it’s not an option, then you (well, your fiance, because they’re his parents, but you both need to speak with one voice on this) tell them politely but firmly as many times as necessary that you respect their opinion, but this is how you’re doing things, and politely refuse any attempted contributions. And if even that turns out to be more stress than it’s worth…as you say, there’s nothing wrong with a courthouse wedding and an informal party to follow, provided that will make you happy, too.


almarj70 June 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Don’t discuss your wedding plans until it has all been organised, booked and paid for, simply send them an invitation and treat them like honoured guests.But I would strongly suggest not accepting any money from them otherwise they will feel they have the right to stick their noses in .

As for how to make your mother in law feel like she’s a part of things, give her a wedding related project. Let her go nuts on the rehersal dinner and maybe even a casual day after brunch or BBQ. We put my mother in charge of wedding invitations, she is a very clever crafty lady who does a lot of scrapbooking and we went with her and chose the card ect, she made them over a few weekends and hand wrote every one of them in her beautiful calligraphy class trained handwriting. they looked amazing and my mother loved being able to contribute. So what talents does your mother in law have that you could put to use?


riversconfluence June 12, 2012 at 10:03 pm

First off, you can’t control the slut factor at an event. People like that can be that with any theme, venue or event. They pretty much do not even need any excuse to be that way. It was wrong to pin somebody else’s bad behavior on you.
Cool the parents off by telling the the 1950′s theme is suggested, for those that want to. There will be people who do not wish to. Just like you can’t tell a slut not to be a slut, you can’t make people dress in a certain way. Just put “1950s theme” at the bottom of your invite, and let people do what they wish.
And know that the word “formal” to some people will mean long dresses slit up to there, and necklines cut down to there. That word would not be a hindrance to any sluts. So Dad was wrong there, too.
And Rivers would be someone who would say no to 1950s chic. I would look hideous in a shirtwaist dress and 15 can cans under it. No way, Jose. You will hear the older folks say at your wedding “I lived through the 1950s once, that was enough” LOL. Rivers might could find something 1950- ish so she would fit in though.

But Rivers would like to point out a couple things. 1950′s attire includes high heels and fancy fussy dresses. To have an outdoor wedding is not very 1950s, and being out of doors with high heels, downright uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. And aggravating, no one wants to spend money on a pair of shoes that will last only two steps across a lawn. And no one wants to attend a reception with dirty shoes, or clean them in the car.
So, here is where MIL can come in. Let her go find air conditioned wedding/reception site that will allow people to bring their own food. Let her pay for it. That is a huge contribution to a wedding, she might like that. To prevent her from decorating it too, tell her your mother is picking out the decorations.

Good luck, hope you get the wedding you want.


Minty Me June 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Seriously though– a POT LUCK dinner for close to 200 people?
Are you joking?
And what venue will allow food to be brought in?

How can I make my future-mother-in-law feel like she’s part of this, without losing the wedding my fiancé and I want? You probably can’t.


Nora June 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

leave his parents out of it do it your way. do not ask them to pay for anything at all/


TheOne June 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm

You could always elope to Vegas. That would be great.

All brides have this problem with their in laws or parents.

The important thing ? Keep telling yourself that is it your guys special day, not theirs.

Just smile and be polite.

Stick to your guns about what you want.



faye June 12, 2012 at 11:55 pm

u would tell them up forth, that It is your wedding and u are not changing anything for anybody. if you dont like it you dont have to come.


? Merlin ? June 13, 2012 at 12:13 am

my soloution?

keep them in the dark about everything

just dont discuss it with them in any way
and if they ask, body swerve the questions politely

this is your day
and you seem to have all bases covered

why they need to poke their noses in is beyond me

carry on as you are
make your plans, anticipate your day
send her an invite like everyone else
if she comes, great
if she doesnt enjoy it, tough
its not about her
its about you & your fiance, making your vows
they way you want



Veritas June 13, 2012 at 1:11 am

Although your wedding desires are a bit unorthodox & unique, you & your fiance make the calls. In watching all my friends who have gotten married, they’ve all made their own wedding decisions, without parental control. Is there a reason why these parents seem to want to control everything? Where is their respect for you and your fiances wishes? If you do elope, you can go to Vegas and get married at one of those Elvis churches which can coincide with your desired 50′s theme.

Anyways, I wish you the best in achieving family diplomacy and in your wedding.


Garnet Glitter's No BS Zone June 13, 2012 at 1:54 am

Simple, especially since you two are footing the bridal bill.

Make your plans and put down your deposits and THEN tell them when it’s too late to do anything about it…when they start to grouse calmly tell them ‘Our wedding-we will have comfortable seating, good food and music-and that’s all any wedding guest requires-and no one HAS to dress to our theme if they don;t want to or can’t…..that will be the decor and the style for the bridal party, that’s all.Honestly there is nothing to get into a tizzy about”.

BTW, having a formal dress code is not rude….flashing one’s ‘goodies’ to the crowd at a wedding is..your FIL has it backwards. Sounds like they are all clueless over there so get yourself an easy to understand book on wedding etiquette and when they start up, refer them to that particular page no#…

…and learn to let this kinda stuff roll off your back like water off a duck…they sound like folk who like to argue and cause drama..only effective if NOT ignored.

since this is an outdoor wedding , formal high heels and dresses coupled with grass & dirt can be a disaster (besides potluck dinners are NOT formal , sit down plated dinners ARE,and it would look very silly)-consider a 1950′s ‘sock hop theme’….poodle skirts and sweaters , pony tails, bobby socks & saddle shoes, jeans, biker jackets and slicked back ‘Fonzie’ hair..or ‘I Love Lucy’ with polka dotted dresses, pouffy crinoline slips or capris pants, angora sweaters and pearls….short white gloves and birdcage style hats ( NOT with the sweaters and capris pants lol). Guests have the option of dressing along or not.

Mix classic fifties & early sixties rock & roll music in with the more modern tunes…Chubby Checker, Bill Haley & the Comets, Buddy Holly & the Crickets,Elvis, Roy Orbison, Little Richard,etc…who doesn’t like the golden oldies?

..but potluck and formal wear will look like blue collars trying & failing to look upper class and won’t work. if the meal is casual, so is the mode of dress, and vise versa.


seamstress June 13, 2012 at 2:27 am

Have your fiance ask his parents what their financial contribution will be. Then, tell them you will be using that money for a honeymoon and toward the Party Supply Rental store for rented tables and chairs. This way, you do not have to worry about over opinionated controlling bull crap from them.

In the meanwhile, keep your wedding plans private. You see, most, not all brides blab and blab their wedding plan details to anyone who will listen. This is a mistake for two reasons. One, nobody wants to hear this topic for months on end. And, seconding and most importantly, when you expose your ideas, you are just asking for someone to give an opinion that differs from yours as they impose their wishes on your wedding. If you keep a tight lip, none of this will happen. When people ask for details, keep it simple and say “it’s going to be a typical outdoor wedding” — no need to discuss the center pieces or whether or not the chairs should have slip covers. Protect yourself from all of that drama and you will have an easier go at the planning of your wedding.

Do not allow your in laws to discourage you into changing your plans. If they ask or impose their opinions have a standard reply “good idea, I will consider that” and then promptly forget about it. Being agreeable about their ideas or entertaining the thought, does not mean you have to implement them. Do not share too much information with them because they are negative. And when you speak about the wedding you should use words such as “we,and our” and avoid “me and my” to show a united front.

Now, about the fiance. He has to be on the same page as you are to protect your plans or this is going to backfire with his parents. So, sit him down and come up with an action plan and discuss different scenarios and how to handle them.

You are planning an outdoor theme wedding, not some costume party. Your father in laws comments were out of line. People are going to wear what they want and I highly doubt anyone is going to buy saddle shoes, bobby socks and a poodle skirt to wear to your 50′s wedding. He is out of touch. And, if someone dresses “sluttier” then that is their own embarrassment to carry, not yours.

Do what you want for your wedding and do not allow anyone to change your vision.


fairypelican June 13, 2012 at 2:47 am

50′s theme sounds good ;
Just a suggestion re guest list – how many of these people do you & your fiance REALLY want to be sharing your day? FORGET about who would be upset if they weren’t invited- those who would be upset about a lack of invite probably would not have your best interests at heart. Sit down & think about who of these 145 people you are both really close to & how much regular contact you have with them.

### Those who judge don’t matter. those who matter don’t judge ###

Also pot-luck dinner for those number may be a bit of a problem co-ordinating what dishes people will bring. ** HEY I think the idea of a pot-luck reception is great ; just for fewer numbers***
you & your fiance really need to sit down & work out a budget that you could afford without creating financial difficulties for yourselves & work within that budget. Even if that means a much smaller celebration with just immediate families ( parents / siblings)& your very closest friends.
You could look at then having a ”’celebration party” with just finger foods after you return from a honey moon OR a mid morning ceremony followed by lunch at a nice restaraunt with immediate family & then the party that night.
RE:- officiant for the ceremony ; this should be one of your first priorities along with a venue , so that they are available on the date that you want.
CHECK the legal requirements where you live as to who you need to perform your ceremony, number of witnesses you need , paperwork.
* here in Australia the legal requirements are that a couple planning to marry must give 1 months notice of intent to marry to the registrar of births,deaths,marriages. BOTH people must be over 18 & free to marry, have copies of any divorce papers etc, The ceremony must be perfomed by a duly authorised marriage celebrant ( religious minister, marriage celebrant, clerk of the court) & you have to have 2 people over 18 as witnesses. *
What makes you married is the exchange of vows between the bride & groom in a ceremony conducted by the celebrant & duly witnessed. NOT the reception after the ceremony.
I agree with some of the other answers that putting a dress code on your invites will not necessarily make some people dress in a different manner to their normal outfits.


Rukia June 13, 2012 at 3:46 am

There’s nothing wrong with having a formal dress code. But are you saying you want your guests to show up in 50′s attire? Because you’re pushing it if you’re telling them to get a specific outfit, unless you’re providing them with a top hat when they arrive. If it was a small wedding, I’d say ok, but 145 is a bit large to require a costume. Maybe some might find it fun, but most guests will think it’s rude. They’re already traveling and giving you a gift, then they have to waste time/money on a specific outfit…You’re father in law isn’t exactly wrong in his opinion. You’d be inconveniencing 145 people.

As for the religious aspect, your mother in law needs to back off. Let her have a temper tantrum, ignore her, and do what you and your fiancée are comfortable with


4REEE June 13, 2012 at 4:43 am

It sound like you are going to accept financial contribution from his parents. That automatically, in some people’s minds, gives them voting rights.

I would:

1.) Pay for the wedding and reception yourselves.
2.) Keep in the planning information top secret from now on
3.) Your fiance really needs to man up, grow a pair, and reign in his family. This shouldn’t have been your battle in the first place.



truefirstedition June 13, 2012 at 4:56 am

There are two things you need to do here.

1. Do not accept any money from his parents. As you said, they will try to use it to manipulate you into making decisions that you don’t want to make. So don’t even open up that door and if they offer you money for the wedding, your fiance should say, “We really, really appreciate your generous offer, but it’s important to us that we pay for the wedding ourselves. I hope you’ll take it as a compliment that you raised a financially responsible and independent son. Really, the only gift we want from your is your support and presence at the wedding.” Repeat as often as necessary.

2. Whenever his parents criticize your plans, or tell you to do something else, you say, in your most polite voice, “That’s a great suggestion. We’ll have to give it some thought.” Then change the subject and talk about something else entirely. Again, repeat as often as necessary.

People can only take advantage of you if YOU let them. So don’t let them! Be polite but firm, use your own money, and you will be able to have the wedding that you want.


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