FAQ #6: How do I tell people to chill?

This one is a common one so I thought I should share.

“My mom is paying for my dress but every time I look at one I like, she makes mean comments. I mean I know she’s really helping me out by paying for my dress, but shouldn’t I be allowed to pick the style I want? Help!”

This is one I see time and time again, and not just with dresses. The in-laws are paying for the caterer but only want mediterranean food, or the sister is helping with favors but think the ones you want are too garish.

MIL Nightmare

I know the ultimate solution is for them to write you a blank check to do what you will with it, because they just want you happy. Wake up, girlfriend, that’s just not reality.

There are really only 3 possible solutions for you:

  1. Conflict
  2. Compromise
  3. Acceptance

It looks dire – and these situations are rarely easily settled – but that doesn’t mean you have to settle. This is where your diplomatic and negotiation skills are going to come into play. It’s important to be understanding and considerate, upfront but not abbrasive, and never deal in absolutes. Let’s start with the most damaging.


The easiest thought about it is, “It’s my wedding, I want what I want.” No. That’s not accurate at all. First, it’s not your wedding, it’s both of yours’ wedding. Though I understand most FHs don’t care about the details, his family’s opinions and traditions are to be seriously considered and talked about. I’m a German Scot, my FH is Irish – talk about conflict – but we are able to pick out the things that are most important to us. We listen. We consider. Then we work together to come to an agreement.

In the case of the dress, she could tell her mom, “Forget it. I don’t need your contribution!” and ruin not just the opportunity to make her mom feel like an important part of the wedding, but also damage the relationship between them. Conflict rarely turns into a, “Daughter, your right. Go ahead and wear that see-through cocktail dress in hot pink. It’s your wedding.” Most of the time, people are looking to help you – to save you from yourself – when they put restrictions on their contributions.


Another option is acceptance. Your mom won’t pay for the wedding dress unless you get the see-through cocktail dress in hot pink. You think, “Well, she’s paying for it. I can’t say no.” OMG yes you can. Yes. You. Can.

It takes tact and thoughtfulness, but you can tell her that dress isn’t going to work. She’s going to be hurt. She’s going to say some crappy things, too, maybe. Just make sure you are compassionate and sincere with your position. She really just wants things perfect for your wedding.


This is always the solution I recommend and the success of compromising is your ability to be honest with your communication. Not mean, just frank. Compromise doesn’t start at the bridal store, it starts at the offer. When your mom says, “I’m going to pay for your wedding dress” you say your gratitude (genuinely) and set the foundation.

“Wow, mom, that’s a huge gift! What a help! Thank you so much for your generocity! I am looking at dresses that cost in the ballpark of $3,000, is that still okay?” She’ll probably counter with, “Well, I’m looking at $1,500.” and so on. In that same conversation, let her know you’re looking at hot pink cocktail dresses, give her the chance to get out of it. If she really seems uneasy with your personal choice, suggest she could contribute in another way, maybe a portion of the caterer or the photographer.

Make it clear how important her participation is regarding your wedding. Let her know that you appreciate not just the gesture but her as a person. You’ll be surprised at how a little honest appreciation and gratitude can help situations like this.

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