Mama Didn't Mean to Boss Your Wedding

Who are we kidding? She started planning those nuptials in Labor & Delivery.

Valerie Fraser Luesse

Southern mamas have always been a formidable lot, but when Baby Girl flashes that engagement ring, Mama can come unhinged. We’re not saying mothers of the groom aren’t enthusiastic; it’s just that they know they don’t have a prayer of getting their way about anything beyond the rehearsal dinner. One M.O.G. in Shelby County, Alabama, said a friend of hers told her flat-out: “Keep your mouth shut and wear beige.”

It’s not that Mama means to steamroll you. (Actually, she does, but she feels just awful about it later.) Even so, wedding pictures don’t lie. She was right about that 6-seater, 9-foot-tall arbor covered with roses framing the altar. Top that, all you “modern” brides.

Southern mamas don’t so much ignore their daughters’ plans as translate them. For example, the bride says, “I would like a simple ceremony with a small wedding party.” Mama nods in agreement...and pictures this:

Royal Wedding
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The bride says, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a tiered arrangement of cupcakes instead of stuffy traditional wedding cake?”

Mama replies, “Absolutely.” Then she calls a Junior League-sanctioned cake designer and orders this:

Vintage Tall Wedding Cake
J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Generally speaking, Mama is a traditionalist, and when it comes to weddings, she sees herself as a warrior, waging a life-or-death war to ensure that the satin wedding pump is never vanquished by the bedazzled bridal flip-flop, the bridal clog, or (GASP!!!) bare bridal feet. No pedicure on earth makes that pass muster.

As for the music, she will try her best to understand why we’re even talking about walking down the aisle to some acoustic college music when the organist is already booked for Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus.” (Mama went through a brief “Trumpet Voluntary” period, but she got over it.) And while she prefers classical music and time-honored anthems, she is not above allowing a few pop tunes into the mix. It’s Mama’s way of letting you know she’s “with it.” Choose any two from this list:

  • “Because”
  • “I Love You Truly”
  • “Whither Thou Goest”
  • “Always”
  • Almost anything by Frank Sinatra or Andy Williams
  • (Are we rockin’ this wedding, or WHAT, Baby Girl?!)

As for your dress, Mama appears completely composed when you tell her you’re thinking “clean and simple.” She thinks you’ll be a vision in something clean and simple—like this, for example:

Jackie Kennedy Wedding Portrait
Bachrach/Getty Images

Of course, our mothers can’t always fool us. After all, we speak a little Mama. It takes a lifetime of study, but eventually, we get the hang of it. For example, we’re pretty sure we know what these ladies are thinking. How about you?

Vintage Wedding Mama and Son
If I just keep smiling, maybe I can block out all memory of that heinous rehearsal dinner.
Bill Peters/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Vintage Daisy Centerpiece at Wedding
(Mama on right) Daisies on the same table with silver . . . well, isn’t that . . . different? (Mama on left) They’re not originally from Atlanta, are they?
Duane Howell/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Vintage Bridesmaids Talking with Mother of the Bride
So YOU designed these headpieces for my daughter’s wedding? And where did you study, dear?
Dave Mathias/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Vintage Bride and Family Taking
(Mama on right) I hear the bride designed her own wedding dress. (Mama on left) That explains so much, bless her heart.
Jack Riddle/The Denver Post via Getty Images