Two words come to mind when watching TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress:  hot mess. And I’m not talking about the bride! This show makes me almost believe I’m a mom deserving of a medal. Well, at least in the bridal-gown-shopping category. Yet I didn’t do anything medal worthy. Bridal consultants expect mothers to have a vote in the decision of the wedding gown, primarily because most moms will have it no other way. In fact, if the mom doesn’t like the bride’s choice, “It’s not happening,” as I’ve heard the TV consultants exclaim. Really? 

I’ve been a Mother of the Bride, and a Mother of the Groom. I want to share one very important message with fellow M.O.B’s. It’s simply this:

It’s not about you!

Yes, even if you’re paying for it! If you think footing the bill entitles you to dictate what your daughter wears on her special day, what difference is there between you and a pimp? (Yes, I did just say that.) Okay, I concede there is a little difference. And M.O.G.’s, if you want any chance at a respectful relationship with your future daughter-in-law, be a source of encouragement. Period. (You have no say in the dress at all, unless your opinion is asked. In that case, tread lightly – be wise, supportive and kind.)

Mothers, we had our day. Even if we didn’t, it changes nothing. We made our choices.

When your daughter (or future daughter-in-law) is betrothed, it’s about her and her groom. Unless your daughter is interested in the most revealing – dare I say, sleazy – gown in the shop, be tolerant (hint:  shoulderless does NOT equal sleazy). Hopefully your daughter will respect your input. But don’t expect accolades with selfish demands.

When I went with my daughter to shop for gowns, I knew she would remember this experience for the rest of her life. And I did not want to be an ugly part of her story.

With that said, I was not without my preconceived ideas. I watched Princess Diana’s wedding and awoke at 4:00am to do so. I enjoy a good princess story as much as anyone. I had visions for my daughter, and of course I shared them with her. But I did not want to impose them on her. My mother did not go dress shopping with me so I cannot offer much from a daughter’s perspective. But I had one regret when I was planning my wedding long ago; I was not able to get the dress of my dreams – a chapel length, full-lace gown with an attractive price tag (sale!). I was forced to cancel my gown two months before the wedding as I needed to purchase a slightly more affordable gown. (I was paying for my dress and needed to shave about $125 off my already somewhat frugal budget.)

I was disappointed, of course, but I embraced Plan B. I found a seamstress who could make a simple gown that included a beautiful layer of clear white dotted swiss overlay. But then I learned this was a very special material that had to be flown in from Europe. I could not afford the material (nor the time). So I settled on a third, less desirable choice.

The clock was ticking. I spent two weeks going from shop to shop looking for the best dress within my budget and in my exact size. I could not afford tailoring, and the wedding was less than 8 weeks away so there was no time to special order a gown. Finally, on a lonely, rainy night I walked out of the last shop minutes after closing with a very nice dress. It wasn’t my first choice, or my second, but I would not allow this to overshadow the event. And it didn’t. The reality of marrying the man of my dreams trumped the otherwise disappointment. (And since I’ve been married for 30+ years it’s safe to say dress choices didn’t affect my marriage.)

Fast-forward a few decades… When my daughter had her opportunity to shop for gowns, I wanted her to enjoy the experience and have exactly what she wanted. Our taste in fashion was different, and it was a challenge to keep my opinions to myself. In fact, I didn’t always. I shared my thoughts but I put effort into selecting the points I most wanted to express. 

We had visited several bridal shops. And it was taking its toll.

“I know you’re getting tired of looking. But you still have that one dress you like at the other shop.”

“I know, Mom. But I don’t want to settle. I keep hearing that I’ll know when I see it. I’m starting to wonder if that’s realistic.” 

My daughter was getting discouraged. We had been to several bridal shops over a period of time, and nothing stood out to her as the one.

“Okay. I’ll try on this one next, and then I’m done. I’ve been waiting to see how this looks.” 

As soon as the consultant slipped the gown over her head, Amy got even more quiet, and then seemed to get emotional. 

“Amy, you still have time. We’ll find your dress. At least you were able to rule these out.”

The consultant turned to me. “I think she likes it.”

“She’s just getting tired,” I replied. Looking at Amy, “It’s okay, honey. I didn’t think this was going to be the one either.” 

Amy shook her head. The consultant asked her what she thought.

“I love it,” she quietly replied.

“Really?” My first thought was, You couldn’t possibly. I had an entirely different look in my mind for you!

“Yes. I’ve admired this dress in magazines and I’m so glad we found it. But are you sure we can afford it, Mom?”

“Yes. It’s fine. (pause) Are you sure, Ames?”

“Definitely. This is it.”

Admittedly, there was some inner turmoil…in me…as the dress from another shop I came to envision for my daughter on her wedding day just vanished. I bit my tongue. And I prayed to God he would help me not reveal my true feelings, and to help me change my thinking. Amy’s choice was a beautiful dress; there is no doubt about that. But it just wasn’t what I expected. As we finished our appointment and walked to the counter to order the gown, Amy was concerned I didn’t like it.

“Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s just different than the ones we’ve been looking at. But this is your choice. Besides, what’s not to love?” It would take me a while to really embrace that. 

My daughter’s gown wasn’t my first choice. Or My second. But it was perfect!

Amy was a gorgeous bride! After the wedding, as I looked at pictures and the glow on my daughter’s face, I was delighted she chose the dress of her dreams. Honestly, the dress I originally declared my favorite could be seen on many other brides that season. And my daughter’s gown was not only unique, she and the gown were stunning! Today, I can’t imagine her making a better choice. And even if I did, it wouldn’t matter, because it wasn’t my wedding day.


I’m wondering if there are mothers (or daughters) reading this who look back on a special day with regret that they didn’t set better boundaries. I’d love to hear from you. What can you share with readers that helped you mend or nurture relationships? (Leave a comment below.)

What will you do to keep from imposing your dreams or desires onto your daughter (or daughter-in-law)?