How to Plan a Wedding Without Mom

It’s something many engaged couples don’t have to think about: how to plan a wedding without mom. But for those couples without a mom in the picture, the wedding planning experience will be very different. There are moments that some couples will never get to have, both when planning their wedding and on the wedding day, when mom is missing. 
While there are probably thousands of blogs going up this weekend for Mother’s Day to honor a mom’s role in the wedding planning process, this isn’t going to be one of them. I’m not going to give a “Top 10” list of mother of the groom dance songs, or great gift ideas, or anything like that. Because, as a wedding planner, I have seen just how powerful the absence of a mother is for my brides and grooms. So this blog, is for them.

Before I write a blog, I create a new folder with pictures I want to include. For obvious reasons, I wanted to select wedding day photos that included either the mother of the bride or the mother of the groom. 
I was shocked how few I was able to pull. 
Don’t get me wrong, I work with a lot of engaged couples that have wonderful parents and great relationships with them. I just didn’t realize how many of my couples weren’t that lucky. So, if you are planning your wedding without your mom, believe me, you are not alone. Far from it.

When I say “without” mom, that doesn’t necessarily mean deceased either. Of course it can mean that, but I’ve see moms be just as absent from wedding planning while being alive. The struggles are very different, in that a bride who lost her mother to death, doesn’t even get a chance to wedding plan with her. Many brides will feel robbed of the moments like finding the gown and having it zipped up on the actual wedding day. There are countless times when a bride or groom who lost their mom to death will be overwhelmed with feelings; feelings that can easily impact the entire wedding planning process.
Then there are the brides and grooms who have difficult relationships with their moms and struggle to plan anything with her. These brides and grooms have the one person that many others wish they still have. Yet that person could be checked out of the the wedding planning or so consistently negative, that it almost would be easier if she was completely missing in action instead.
And then there’s everything in between. Whatever your relationship status is with mom, a wedding will magnify it.
Being that I plan with most of my couples for at least a full year, I get to know them pretty well. This means I find out about all the family drama, and I learn a lot about the parental dynamic on both the bride and the groom’s side. There are many planners that probably don’t get as personally invested as I do, but seeing as how two people I just met are now trusting me with a pretty important day, I like to have a solid relationship with them. Plus, knowing things like whether or not mom is in the picture, helps me to better understand my couple as it greatly impacts the planning process.

The Present But Absent Mom
I once worked with a bride who called me on a Friday afternoon and said the following:

“Can I just vent to you for a few minutes? My mom is killing me.”

My bride had just gone back to look at a wedding venue that she had already toured and loved. The appointment she was calling me from was the follow up that she brought her mother to. She was excited to show her mother the venue because she thought it was perfect for her wedding. Her mother was over 40 minutes late to this appointment (no apologies) and spent the entire time there picking the place apart. Not only did my couple not end up selecting that venue, but even the venue they finally selected never got the mom’s approval.
Another bride I worked with had a mom that constantly said how much she wanted to be involved, but everything was a struggle. Competing with her calendar of events was a challenge for my bride who just wanted her mother there. After jumping through multiple hoops for each appointment though, the end result was always the same: whatever my bride loved, her mother hated. And she was very vocal about it too. I watched the happiness drain from my bride’s face a little more with each meeting with mom because she was so desperate for her approval. It was almost as if the more her mom hated something, the more my bride wanted her to love it.

The need for mom’s approval is something I see with many of my brides. Most people want the mom that is happy about their engagement, that loves the wedding gown they love and is so excited to help with wedding planning. It breaks my heart to watch a bride’s mom not love something that her daughter so badly wants her to love. But more painful than that, is watching a bride change her details because her mother doesn’t approve, while continuing to need her approval for everything else related to the wedding. 
Approval that is never going to happen.
I’m not talking about moms not being able to have an opinion here; I’m talking about moms that are going to disagree with the bride on everything. If you are getting married and you know your mom falls into this category, do not fall into the trap of needing approval. You will not get it and it doesn’t matter. Yes, it would be nice, but don’t ruin your engagement by stressing over what your mom doesn’t like or changing details to make her happy. 
Sometimes it get to the point where the bride or groom need to cut ties with these moms and make their own decisions. If you think there is a possibility that this tension is just a miscommunication, then try and work that out before removing her from all wedding decisions. Be upfront about how things will be going forward and explain why.
And then do what you want because it’s your wedding…not hers.
The Missing in Action Mother
Over the years, I have planned weddings with multiple couples where one person had never met the other person’s parents. I used to think that was odd, but it’s happened so many times now that I consider it normal. I really hope that if you’re in that situation, you now feel a little less alone.
The couples I work with have everything from parents married for 30 plus years, to parents that were never married, to divorced parents, to parents that got divorced and then only one got remarried….basically every combination you can come up with. Because of that, some of my couples have estranged relationships with one or both of their parents. 

One bride I worked with had never met her fiance’s mother. Not while they were dating, not when he proposed. Never. This happens so much now that I have a policy in place stating that the first meeting will not be on the wedding day. So, this couple, just like the ones before and after them that I have worked with, tried for months to make a meeting happen. They spent time and effort so that the mother of the groom could meet the bride before the wedding day. And just like the couples before and after them, they got the same result:
No meeting. Which also meant, the mother was not at the wedding.
I could work with dozens of other couples in this situation and I will never be able to understand it. As a mother, the thought of not meeting my son’s fiance or attending his wedding, is unfathomable to me. Then again, I’ll probably be so involved in both of my children’s weddings that they’ll end up writing a blog about me…
My heart hurts for any bride or groom with an intentionally absent mother, because that’s not how it’s supposed to be. What I say to my couples in this situation is to discuss together what the ideal outcome would be. Do you want a relationship with this mom? Do you want her at the wedding? It’s important to figure out what you want to happen before making any moves. And then it’s important to know when to let go (if need be) so you can enjoy the wedding planning process. 
But a meeting before the wedding day is essential. If you’re one of those couples that got engaged without mom in the picture, make this meeting happen as soon as possible. If you want to repair the damage, be the one to reach out first. That way, if things don’t come together, you can at least know you tried and did your part.

During the planning process, any time when mom would be involved, be sure to surround yourself with those closest to you. No mom to go dress shopping with? Bring a sibling or maid of honor for support. No mom for the groom to dance with on the wedding day? Consider an alternative family member or even cutting the parent dances if that’s an option. Look ahead to the planning process where you think your mom being absent will make a big impact and prepare so that you’ll still enjoy yourself.
With or without her.
When Mom Is Gone
Then there are the brides and grooms that have no choice but to plan alone. For these people, there is no chance of reconciliation. There are no decisions to be made about whether or not to hear out the opinion of mom. Arguments over color choices and the guest list, ones that brides vent to their wedding planners about, are arguments these brides wish they could have. 
I have planned with many brides that lost their moms years before the wedding. I have planned with a couple for their summer wedding that had to get moved up 5 months due to the groom’s mother being diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer. 

It is painful enough to wish that your mom would be the supportive mom you deserve. It is painful enough to know that your mom makes the conscience choice to simply not show up to the wedding. But it is a entirely different level of pain when you have absolutely no control of the situation because she is gone.
And so, for these brides and grooms, they don’t get to call mom after the proposal. The planning process can feel draining and far from joyous. There is a fear that lingers about the wedding day without mom. All of these things and more, are reasons for a solid support system to be in place. Whatever you need to do to feel closer to the mom you lost, is what you should do. However you want to honor her memory, is what you should do.

The Mom Factor
No matter the relationship with your mom, the best thing for any bride or groom to do is work through it right away. Wasting time and effort to get that elusive mom approval, will damper your engagement. Not reaching out to connect with an estranged mom until the last minute will only cause problems at the worst time. Burying your emotions when you miss the mom you lost does you no favors. Be authentic with how you feel and do what is right for you.
Are you planning a wedding and have a mom story you want to share? Comment below and let other brides and grooms know they aren’t alone. Don’t forget to Follow my blog with Bloglovin!

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