October 7, 2015

{Mothers, Daughters and Weddings}

Dear Bride-to-Be: 
I thought youd enjoy my article published in the fall issue of Season Magazine. Click here to read it from the online magazine...and Ive reprinted it below. ’Tis an excerpt from my new book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.

Mothers, Daughters and Weddings

Historically, weddings reflect changes within a culture. And perhaps no relationship is more affected than that of mothers and daughters. It was not long ago (when brides were typically young women not yet out of the “family nest”) that mothers orchestrated the whole affair. But today most brides are independent women who plan their own wedding—only sometimes with their mother’s assistance.

Nevertheless, weddings can still offer the possibility for mothers and daughters to deepen or restore their connection with each other—especially by participating in shared activities that have the quality of ritual. Many years ago this may have been creating the bridal gown together or stitching trousseau linens for the bride’s new home, offering opportunities to chat about life and love and what the future may bring. Today it could be a joint outing to try on dresses. (And if it’s to deepen relationships, I advise leaving judgments at home and taking one’s most diplomatic self along!)

Fashion designer Vera Wang has become an expert on weddings. Not just because she’s designed thousands of bridal gowns—and attended almost as many ceremonies—but also because of her keen observation of relationships. So her take on mothers is worth noting:

Each parent has his or her own distinct part to play. The most complex and challenging relationship, however, is often that of mother and daughter. Differences in style, vision and expectation can begin with the gown and end at the reception, with every issue in between fair game for controversy. A wedding can unleash torrents of emotion, and a bride must balance her own need for control with her mother’s sense of involvement. Sometimes fashion can even become an excuse for unexpressed issues.

The late designer Oscar de la Renta, who had been present for many mother-daughter gatherings in his bridal studio, had “gentlemanly” thoughts about mothers when asked who a bride should bring with her on a shopping excursion:

It would be cruel not to bring your mother along. The wedding is almost as important to the mother as it is to the bride. But brides should prepare their mothers for what they are thinking of wearing. The mother always has a notion of what she wants her daughter to look like, but the daughter is a woman now and she wants to look like one. If I feel like the bride is holding back on choosing something she really wants because she doesn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings, I ask the mother if I can talk to the bride alone.

I recall those daughter-mother encounters in my former shop; some tender, some extremely tense, some remarkably both. At times it was as though I was watching each woman relive her life in an emotional time-lapse montage. A wedding becomes more of a pleasure and a blessing when we remember it’s a pivotal rite-of-passage for both daughter and mother. 
Try a little tenderness.~

[Mother and daughter photo courtesy of BHLDN]