Frequently Asked Questions: What do you do when the bride and her mother don’t see eye to eye on the design?

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I had a mother say to me once, “This is her wedding but it’s my party. I am paying for it,” and I just had to sit there and smile.

In my experience, I have encountered several scenarios:
1. The bride and mother are completely in sync with their design tastes. (This is a very beautiful thing.)
2. The bride and mother have completely different design sensibilities, however the mother is invested in giving her daughter what she wants. (Also great.)
3. The mother wants it her way regardless of what her daughter wants.

Whenever a bride and her mother do not agree on design, it turns into a challenging yet exciting job. In some ways, I end up getting to play both therapist and mediator.

Here are a few strategies I have used with good results:

  • Compromise. For example, I suggest that I’ll design the ceremony exactly as the bride wants it, then design the reception for the mother’s taste.
  • Figure out ways to meld design opposites. If the bride likes contemporary and the mother likes traditional, I try to create a contemporary space with traditional touches. This balance needs to be handled extremely carefully to make them both happy.
  • If all else fails, try very carefully to introduce a third option for the design that neither of them considered. (This is tricky, but sometimes it works!)

Aside from having this dynamic with brides and mothers, I find it even more difficult working with charitable benefits committees. I really appreciate these wonderful groups of people who generally want to help others in need, but at times I think they are out to drive us designers crazy, ha ha… (We’ll talk more about this on Thursday’s Common Mistakes: Not choosing the right charity to work with.)

I am mostly in awe of the mother/daughter relationships I see. I witness lots of bonding, camaraderie, fun, disagreements and love. What I find really scary, though, is when both families (the bride’s and the groom’s) do not like each other–then I just want to hide.

What do you do when the bride and her mom do not see eye to eye on design? Also when you got married (if you are married), how was the experience with your mom or mother-in-law?

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