MOTHER or MONSTER of the Bride?
Planning a wedding is the ultimate mother/daughter bonding experience, especially when it comes to finding The Dress. As the designer and creator of hundreds of wedding gowns, I’ve had the opportunity to witness this rite of passage up close and personal. Often, a bride and her mother were so close it redeemed my faith in humanity. And then of course there were those relationships that were so toxic I was tempted to call in a spiritualist to diffuse the negative vibes pulsing through my salon.
Prior to the 1960s, weddings followed fairly standard traditions: a virginal-looking bride dressed in a modest white gown enjoying an equally modest ceremony and reception. “Sexy” and “bride” were never uttered in the same breath, and divorced women or those who had already embraced motherhood were expected to marry quietly wearing something a bit more “suitable” than full bridal regalia. Brides weren’t skipping barefoot through a forest glen to meet a groom decked out like a medieval knight, couples didn’t exchange vows while dangling from a bungie cord or swimming through a coral reef and no one went into hock for decades to host a reception fit for Donald Trump and his latest wife.
Today, no one bats an eye if a single woman opts for motherhood prior to wedded bliss or a couple lives together “without benefit of marriage” – to cite an archaic term. In fact, many of today’s stars flaunt this lifestyle encouraging many to follow their example. Much to the chagrin of some, bridal fashions have kept pace with these new customs. Pity the poor MOB who’s stuck in the way-back machine.
I’ve had my share of traditional brides, but their conventional tastes did nothing to eliminate conflict between the two key figures. Often the bride envisioned something modern and understated, while the mother craved lace, beads and yards of tulle. “No VEIL!? Oh say it isn’t so,” moaned the distraught MOB, forcing me to switch from coutouriere to counselor. I’d remind the sad MOB that imposing her will for a one-day event might result in an eternal rift between her and her daughter. Were a few yards of lace and tulle really worth the risk? Besides, if she truly loved her daughter, wouldn’t she want her dreams to come true?
Having witnessed so much mother/daughter wedding drama, I vowed to be selfless and saintly when my own daughter got engaged. I’d blithely – and repeatedly proclaim: “I’ll never …. when Sara gets married!”
Ha! Easier said than done; because now she is engaged. The engagement didn’t come as a shock; they’ve been together for years. I like her fiancé and believe they’re a great match. They are both gainfully-employed, mature adults living in their own home. Based on those happy facts and factoring in my 30 years of total wedding immersion, I should be pretty blasé about the whole event, shouldn’t I? Possibly; but apparently my wedding lust hasn’t been satiated, and I have embraced wedding planning with wide, wide, WIDE open arms.
Luckily or unluckily for both of us, my daughter and I have similar tastes and personalities. Luckily, because we share the same vision, i.e. castle, princess, and tasteful drop-dead glamour. Unluckily, because neither of us is shy about speaking our minds. Even now, I can hear the phantom bickering.
We’ve set the date and booked the venue: October 2011 at The Castle on the Hudson. Check off “castle”. We’re in agreement about the general style of the gown –which of course I’ll be designing and creating despite arthritis, tendonitis and carpal tunnel. (Hey, it’s only pain; this is my daughter’s wedding!) The style? A replica of an 1880’s ball gown, one sure to rival any Worth creation. Check off “princess”.
We still have to choose the flowers, the invitations, the musicians, the favors, plan the ceremony, the shower and create her gown and the bridesmaids’ dresses – (did I mention I’ll be doing those as well? – And yes, I’m not only a compulsive over-achiever, I’m also a serious masochist – with a sense of humor.) I’m getting queasy thinking about how much still needs to be accomplished.
I’ll be sharing my highs and lows with you as we prepare for this event. Hopefully you’ll gain some useful tips if you’re planning a wedding or at least be entertained and relieved you’re not treading the same dangerous waters.