Ask Ann Cannon: Should absent biological mom or involved stepmom get central role in daughter’s wedding?

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • My stepdaughter Sadie (not her real name) is getting married, and her biological mother, who has been absent for most of Sadie’s life, insists on being the mother of the bride. “Mom” thinks that she gets to help Sadie pick out a dress, choose flowers, food, walk her daughter down the aisle, sit in the front pew, do the toast, sit at the main table, etc. You get my drift.

My heart is breaking and Sadie is in a really terrible place. I would like my husband to tell “Mom” she can come to the festivities as a guest, but she is not part of the planning or actually in the wedding party. Am I being unreasonable?

The REAL Mother of the Bride

Dear Mother • I’m sorry you’re in such a tough place — and it really is a tough place. It must be incredibly galling to have Sadie’s biological mother show up and claim for herself the maternal privileges that you’ve earned over the years. I completely understand why you want your husband to say something.

The thing that’s not immediately clear from your letter is what Sadie herself thinks about her biological mother’s demands. You say she’s in a “really terrible place,” but then a lot of brides feel all the feelings while planning their weddings. That’s what brides do. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Bridezella” before, right? The arrival of “Mom” on the scene, however, can’t be helping.

I do think you need to have a REALLY candid talk with Sadie about the situation. Put your own justifiable feelings aside and ask her what she wants. After all, the wedding should be about her and her partner. Assure Sadie that you want her to be frank — not just looking to please you or Dad or even “Mom.” Although I doubt it, maybe Sadie wants her biological mother to play some kind of role in the proceedings. Or not. But the decision should be hers. If Sadie does, in fact, want to involve her biological mother in the wedding plans somehow, then you can give her the huge, huge, HUGE gift of being gracefully supportive.

Who should communicate what Sadie wants or doesn’t want to her biological mother? Give Sadie a pass. Don’t make her do it. Ask your husband to speak to “Mom.” Or do it together. Or, if you have to, speak to her yourself (although she’s likely to dismiss you the way one does with a rival).

Above all else, try to stay positive. Best of luck and here’s to a wonderful wedding!

Meanwhile, I appreciated the wisdom shared in this email from an experienced grandfather.

Dear Ann Cannon • I read with interest your article about a grandmother not wanting to overdo it at Christmas time. It brings up another subject, as well. As a grandfather of 16, it became apparent that I needed to treat our grandchildren equally. It’s easy to be excited about the first grandchildren and shower them with gifts while attending every dance recital or sports event they do, but as the family grows, it becomes impossible to spend that kind of money and time [on every child]. It makes sense to set boundaries …

In my opinion, this is excellent advice!

Finally, because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I want to express my gratitude for our Tribune readers. Thank you!

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.