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I can't just uninvite her, can I?
October 20, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

How should I handle my mom wanting to promote her most recent Pyramid Scheme at my Wedding?

My mom is constantly involved in some type of either pyramid scheme or party type sales program (tupperware, costume jewelry, Scentsy, Mary Kay, etc) and never misses an opportunity to promote them, i.e. make money off of friends, family and strangers.

Last weekend we had our engagement dinner and sure enough, there she was trying to sign people up to be an Ambit Energy salesman or get them to change their energy service provider. I was disgusted by this, but not surprised.

My mom is one of these people that if she is not happy, her goal is to make everyone else unhappy, occasion be damned!; and the type of person who you absolutely can not tell anything to without her playing the victim card and sulking and pouting. You know the type.

So, it seems my choices are to ask her not to do it and have her be sulky and pouty and a real pain in the ass or say nothing and have her out there at the wedding and reception talking people up about Ambit energy and being annoying and a pain in the ass.

I have talked to my dad and sisters about it, but none of them want to say anything to her out of fear and upsetting her. My fiancée and future parents in-law say I should just let her do it and I tend to agree, but I would like to here what you all think about this. I will be checking back often and am happy to answer any questions.
posted by holdkris99 to Human Relations (69 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking as someone who almost started a PAC to get MLM restricted in my city, I think you should ignore it. And don't give her a microphone at any point.
posted by michaelh at 10:22 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you dad/family members won't say anything, ask one of them to babysit her to make sure she's not making any one person too uncomfortable or giving anyone a hard sell. They could distract her or change the subject.

Well, if they're afraid of her, maybe they're not the right people, but someone should babysit her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why not set up a little table someplace in a corner or out of the way, and tell her that any conversation about whatever-it-is she's selling has to take place at that little table? That way she gets to do what she wants, but you restrict the behaviour at least in scope.

I like the idea of having someone keep an eye on her, in case she buttonholes someone.
posted by LN at 10:26 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there are too many other issues going on here simultaneously and that you're approaching this complex of problems on the wrong level. Let it go for now.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:26 AM on October 20, 2011


Other option: ask her not to do it and if she refuses or throws a fit and is going to wreck up the place, dis-invite her.

This might not be a good option for you, but it is there.
posted by curious nu at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would speak with her and say something like "This is my and my spouse-to-be special day. We would appreciate if the focus was entirely on us, and not on Pyramid Scheme. We'd appreciate if you would not mention it on our very special day. Can you do that for us?"
posted by aroberge at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Weddings and even receptions tend to go by quickly for those directly involved. There are so many steps and events to keep track of and participate in that there really isn't all that much time for chatting. I would just make sure your mom will be BUSY.

I would phrase it like, "mom, it means a lot to me that you will be there to help me through such an important day". Then I would have many things for her to keep track of such as: checklist of things to bring to the ceremony, checklist of things to bring to the reception, schedule of reception events, checklist of photo groupings for the photographer, bouquet toss etc. Between keeping track of everything and being involved in some of the stuff herself, she will only have time to say hello to the guests. Not enough time to get into her schpiel. Bonus points- you probably really do need help with some of these things.
posted by halseyaa at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


I should add, in reference to the babysitting:

I have a troublesome uncle that can make waves at parties. My cousin (to his eternal credit), brought a case of beer in the trunk of his car, and manoeuvered my uncle out into the parking lot and kept him busy drinking beer and talking, while everyone else partied at my sister's wedding. Took one for the team, so my cousin did.
posted by LN at 10:29 AM on October 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think YOU should tell her to can it. It's your party and you don't want her to be selling stuff to your guests. It may make her pout and be mad but do it now, get it over with and be clear.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:29 AM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Disclaimer: I am a person with no shame.

I would be tempted to say "Listen, Mom, here's the deal. My wedding is about me and my spouse, not about your energy MLM. I want you to keep your downline aspirations to yourself during the wedding and the reception. And if you don't, I'll be forced to take the mike from the DJ and tell all the wedding guests that I think you're incredibly annoying and to ask them to ignore you. Smoochies!"
posted by KathrynT at 10:33 AM on October 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


Honestly, I think you're entirely within reason to ask her politely not to sell things at your wedding--it is not in keeping with the occasion and will make your guests uncomfortable. Having someone run interference is probably not a bad idea as well.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:34 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Get a friend she doesn't know very well to get close to her, dangling themselves as bait. Then, when she starts into her sales pitch, have them rake her over coals for being such a slime as to use her daughter's happiest day as a marketing opportunity. Hell, get ALL of your friends to be in on the plan. Make sure she can't talk to two people in a row without being told she is way out of bounds.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:36 AM on October 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm afraid I don't have any patience at all with anyone who would try to pull something like this at a wedding, parent or not.

Quite honestly, if it were me, I would say, "Listen very closely please, mother dear. This is my wedding day. Not a sales opportunity for you. If you pull that shit at my wedding day I will go fucking nuclear. Please try to understand how this would be a perfectly reasonable reaction. This is my wedding day. My wedding day. My wedding day."

There are more polite ways to put this essential sentiment across and perhaps you's prefer to think of one, but quite honestly I'd be absolutely livid in your position, and I'd feel completely justified in showing it. How utterly crass of your mother to even think of such a thing.
posted by Decani at 10:41 AM on October 20, 2011 [46 favorites]


This is kind of a tough one, because the thing is that people who are into MLMs don't really see making sales pitches to friends and family as "making money off loved ones," more often they see it as this Great Opportunity To Share Something Awesome That Will Make Us All Rich. I just point this out because I think it makes a difference in how you want to phrase this to maximize the chances that your mom will comply. If you go in with a request to not talk about the MLM because you're trying to protect your guests' comfort, it's likely that she's going to refuse to accept that frame and think it's an unreasonable request; on the other hand, if you take a tack that the MLM is fine but your wedding is a bad place to prospect/recruit because you want people focused on you and not talking business with your parents all night, I think she might be more open to it. If you say something, I'd use phrasing like:

"Hey mom, I know your [MLM] business is really taking off and I don't want to stand in the way of that, but I'm irrationally afraid that if you start talking to people about it at my wedding, all these old friends and family that I haven't seen in a long time are going to be so focused on your business opportunity that they'll ignore me and my wedding. Would you mind terribly enforcing a no-business-talk rule for the three hours of my ceremony and reception with people who are interested in signing up? It would mean a lot to me."

As a side note, not sure this is at all an issue with your mom specifically, but I think a lot of middle-aged women get involved in this sort of direct-sales work-from-home business (from the more legitimate like Avon on down to less savory stuff) because they came of age in a historical moment that really discouraged them from having a career, and now they live in a time where people are more or less defined by their work and it's a bit looked down upon to be a stay-at-home wife. Their kids are out of the house, their husband still has a job, they want their kids and friends to respect them as contributing members to society... put it all together and it's a perfect recipe to get involved in direct-sales and MLMs and also to be terribly, terribly hurt if someone tells them it's a scam (hence the pouting). Maybe looking at it in that light will let you look at the whole thing with sympathy rather than anger, so it doesn't upset you so much at your wedding.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2011 [26 favorites]


Your fiancee is being really generous here, but I think you have every right to tell your mother that you do not want her soliciting business at your wedding. It is part of your responsibility to make sure that you and your future wife have the kind of occasion you can look back on with unmitigated happiness.
- I would ask her politely not to, in advance, and let her know that This Is Important To You.
- Tell her you want her to honor this very reasonable request for eight simple hours on your wedding day.
- If she balks, I think you should say, "I was hoping you wouldn't say that, but that leaves me only with the option to dis-invite you. Your presence is important to me, and I hope you'll reconsider, but your business deals are less important than my wedding day."
- If she agrees but you don't really trust her to live up to it, do a little research and see if there's someone at the event location you can enlist. Then, if you or your wing-men (wing-people) hear or notice that she's soliciting during the event, have that someone from the facility take her aside politely and tell her that there have been complaints that she is doing business during a non-commercial event and that she is looking at a fine of $1000 according to the contract.
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I see two choices: one is to ignore this; after all, probably pretty well everyone who knows her knows that she's like this.

The second choice is to tell her "mom, if you say one word at my wedding about selling ANYTHING to ANYBODY, I guarentee you'll never be invited to do the same at any possible future grandchild's birthday parties....."

I'd just ignor her though, as most of your guests also will --- after all, we ALL have at least one PITA relative.
posted by easily confused at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just ignore it and get the word out among your guests that your mom is a pain in the ass and they should feel free to just walk away from her if she tries to sell them something.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there some incompatible activity you can task her with? Maybe give her a video camera, and (since she is so good at talking to people, you know) have her go around to all the guests and ask them to record some short greeting to you for your wedding. Then she has to go around and talk to people, but they are talking, not her, and she has to keep moving to get everyone there.

Or some other task, that's just the first thing I came up with. The point is not to bring it up and make a Big Deal of it, but instead ask her, for your wedding, to do something for you that just so happens to be incompatible with pushy sales pitches. Talk it up about how important X thing is to you, and how much it means to you that she is doing it for you.

(Personally I dread the recorded video greeting thing at weddings, so I'm sort of loath to suggest it. Feel free to think up something better.)
posted by ambrosia at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read about people doing this long before I was old enough to get married and decided way back then that I would do it if I ever had a wedding I invited my mother to:

Hiring a psychiatric nurse to sit next to the mother and redirect her if she starts to act out (obviously without telling the mother he's anything more than just another wedding guest). The mother thinks a charming young man is paying her a lot of attention and is pleased. Win-win.
posted by cairdeas at 11:03 AM on October 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


"Mom, I was mortified that you used the engagement dinner to try and sell the Pyramid Scheme. Please, please, please do not do this at the wedding. Please!"

After that it's up to her.
posted by mazola at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is there some incompatible activity you can task her with? Maybe give her a video camera, and (since she is so good at talking to people, you know) have her go around to all the guests and ask them to record some short greeting to you for your wedding.

This is a great idea. Because as the OP has described it, the MLM chatter/recruitment isn't actually the core problem, it's a symptom. The core problem, I think, is this: My mom is one of these people that if she is not happy, her goal is to make everyone else unhappy, occasion be damned!; and the type of person who you absolutely can not tell anything to without her playing the victim card and sulking and pouting.

Mom is not just an MLM person; lots of people are into MLM and simultaneously have the basic manners/decency/empathy/awareness-of-others-as-human-beings-and-not-props to not even consider ruining a wedding. This Mom is something of a narcissist, which is why saying something like "This is my and my spouse-to-be special day. We would appreciate if the focus was entirely on us, and not on Pyramid Scheme. We'd appreciate if you would not mention it on our very special day. Can you do that for us?" is unlikely to work. That sort of thing will work very well with non-crazy people who don't actually want to be the center of attention for every event and won't make people miserable if they're personally unhappy. But it won't work for someone who needs to act out, as the OP's mm -- and in fact will almost certainly function only as the opening bars to another chorus of the You Don't Love Me and I'm Always the Victim Blues (chorus: If You Think You're Unhappy Now, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet).

That's why getting her to run the video camera (or something similar) is great -- it plays on her narcissism (I'm So Special!) while minimizing the chances of her buttonholing someone in the corner or taking over the conversation at an entire table during the meal. You might need someone to shadow her (to act as her "assistant," aka the one who will distract her when she starts to act up); maybe a few family members can tag-team it, so that the burden is spread evenly.
posted by scody at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2011 [29 favorites]


I think you have a perfect right to NOT have your wedding be a sales event of any kind. If she wants to set up a table, right outside the reception, with sales and marketing materials, with a "see mom for more information" maybe you can tolerate that. But if her sales pitch offends you and lessens the ability of people to have fun at your joyous occasion, then it's not okay.

I'm not sure what you mean by "you know the type" -- there's a world of history, and probably pain in your question. Also, her desperate need to sell is an indicator of something -- maybe poor boundaries, maybe workaholic, maybe money troubles, I don't know -- but there's a reason she engages in this, and that's what you need to short circuit. I also think expressing to her how it will make you feel if your guests, rather than celebrating, dancing, talking, breaking bread they instead are selling, or being sold to. You have to express how sad that is to you. This is not a day for making money, it's a day for family and friends. If it's money, maybe you can just pay her off. Or on the flipside, if this is such an incredible opportunity for her that she can't pass it up, maybe you can "sell her the leads" -- and say, "Okay, you can sell, but it's going to cost you $20/lead." So if you have 50 guests, it costs her $1000. This may snap her into reality that she's perverting what typically is not a commercial enterprise.

Delicate situation. But don't be afraid to set boundaries and express your needs. It's your wedding!

Also, screw her sulking. She's not a child, don't let her manipulate you like that.
posted by artlung at 11:11 AM on October 20, 2011


This Mom is something of a narcissist

Yes! That is exactly right, I had originally put that in the post, but felt uncomfortable saying it so deleted it.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:13 AM on October 20, 2011


Also, her desperate need to sell is an indicator of something -- maybe poor boundaries, maybe workaholic, maybe money troubles, I don't know -- but there's a reason she engages in this, and that's what you need to short circuit.

The fact is that she has a history of just being greedy, e.g., I make a living buying and selling books, I had a bookstore in our home town where (along with your normal used bookstore stuff) I would buy textbooks from college students that I sell online. A few years back she started driving out to the college and setting up a table at the end of the semester and buying books directly from students, never letting them even get to my store with the books. She said, well you should be doing that then I wouldn't be able to(!).

She is a real piece of work.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Trying to sell stuff to guests at a wedding is totally tacky and rude. Does she have manners? Can you appeal to that? Because it's really bad manners.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:27 AM on October 20, 2011


I had originally put that in the post, but felt uncomfortable saying it so deleted it.

Yep, those of us who have them in our own lives always recognize 'em in the wild! I wish you well. See if, in the meantime, you can cultivate (and encourage in your other family members) a kind of compassionate detachment from her behavior: recognizing that she is a deeply troubled (even ill) person, and that you can care for her (to whatever extent you might care for her as your mother) AND simultaneously refuse to take her bait (which, of course, she will constantly throw out at you either behaviorally or verbally).

If you have the time and any interest in Buddhism, you might want to consider listening to this audiobook by Pema Chodron, which I found gave me some great insight and helped me cultivate certain skills in not allowing myself to get hooked by someone else's hurtful behavior.

Oh, and as to disinviting her: actually, you can. It would certainly lead to a big chain reaction within your family, and you may or may not actually want to deal with that. But I think it's important for you to understand that yes, disinviting her literally is an option, and it's OK to consider it even if you don't choose it.
posted by scody at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


"The fact is that she has a history of just being greedy, e.g., I make a living buying and selling books, I had a bookstore in our home town where (along with your normal used bookstore stuff) I would buy textbooks from college students that I sell online. A few years back she started driving out to the college and setting up a table at the end of the semester and buying books directly from students, never letting them even get to my store with the books. She said, well you should be doing that then I wouldn't be able to(!)."

That doesn't read like greedy -- maybe misguided parent. She was trying to teach you how to do your job? Leading by example? Or maybe plain sociopath?

I'm liking the give her a table, maybe outside reception" idea. Limit the scope of the damage. Now, to enforce that, you need a bouncer. If she oversteps, there needs to be ramifications -- it sounds like she revels in this to some extent. So how does one motivate a person who revels in being an jerk? I'm not sure the "giving her a job" thing will work. She'll use any role where she interacts with people as an opportunity to sell.

It's also telling that everyone else is cowed by her. You're doing something new in trying to rein her in. You need a posse.
posted by artlung at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2011


[Do not comment if you can't do it without nasty swipes at other commenters - question is not anon. MeMail.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:42 AM on October 20, 2011


How utterly insane is she? Because if she won't listen to the reasons iminurmefi reasonably laid out-- i.e. that a wedding is not remotely an appropriate place to push your sales, and kind of shits on your child to boot-- then nothing will stop her short of guards at the door refusing to admit her to the wedding.

I would recommend saying what iminurmefi said, and if even that won't stop her, it's either time to give up and give in or rescind her invitation. As your entire family and even the groom's family seems to think it's just easier to cave in, that might have to be the solution. Crazy is gonna be crazy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:43 AM on October 20, 2011


She set up a table at the college in direct competition to your store?? And then blew you off? This presents your question in a whole new level of difficulty. I'll just say it straight: Normal mothers do not do this to daughters. Family members don't do this to each other. All of the above advice applies to someone in the "normal" range of behavior, and your mother is outside of that definition. So appealing to her, or re-directing her with requests to help, are likely to be either useless or turn into something much worse than trying to peddle some money-making scheme. I would even be wary of assigning someone to be with her; if she thinks she's being manipulated, it could easily turn ugly. Uglier.

Since everyone directly involved, both your family and your future in-laws, are willing to go along with ignoring her, that really seems like the best choice. The important part, for you, is to NOT be disgusted, NOT be upset. Don't struggle with your Mom. It's your wedding -- be happy! -- and when/if you notice it or someone mentions it, roll your eyes and say "My Mom ...." and add something like "I'm just glad she's not going around spritzing people with samples of perfurme" or something like that.

Odd as it sounds, after a few years it can become one of those Special Memories of Our Wedding: "Oh, God! And my Mom trying to sell you an energy system during the first dance." I promise you'll laugh.
posted by kestralwing at 11:43 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dude (or should I say dudette)!

After your update you need to just say "fuck no" this is your wedding, not a sales convention.
If she can't manage herself as an adult in an appropriate manner, you need to draw a line. Let her look bad if necessary but other family members, your father in particular should help aid in putting the lid on this kind of bullshit. Nothing is more annoying than someone trying to sell you into a pyramid scheme when the purpose of the event is a one time celebration, FOR YOU nonetheless.
posted by handbanana at 11:43 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Do not comment if you can't do it without nasty swipes at other commenters - question is not anon. MeMail.]

I haven't meant anything as a swipe, I wasn't saying what the commenter said was irrelevant, I was referring for to my decision about not putting it in the post.

I do apologize if it was taken that way, it wasn't my intent at all.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2011


Dude (or should I say dudette)!

Dude, I'm a dude.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:49 AM on October 20, 2011


Sorry jessamyn, I see now that you were referring to the commenter, not to me.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:52 AM on October 20, 2011


My bad dude.

But seriously, you need to set some boundaries, that behavior is unacceptable, and unfair to both you and your significant other.

Sorry your step mother is like this.
posted by handbanana at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2011


Here's how it would go down in my family. Word would be passed at pre-celebrations that such and such a family member was likely to make a pain in the ass of themselves, and people close to you would be asked to let other wedding guests know it was OK to ignore them. Yes, on one level it is terrible manners to have guests solicited at a party you host, but at most big weddings there is someone who acts weird and people understand that you don't have complete control over whom you invite.

You can lay down the law, or disinvite her, but I can understand not doing that, depending on the dynamics of your family. Your fiancee and her parents sound cool and so maybe the best thing to do it view it as a self-contained incident and just try to make sure she doesn't stop anyone from having fun. The awful truth is, most people she bothers will probably laugh about it anyway.
posted by BibiRose at 12:02 PM on October 20, 2011


I think you're going to need to hurt her feelings to deal with this. I don't know your mom, but I don't think giving her a camera is going to teach her the lesson she needs to learn.

If it were me, I'd tell her where to go, and let her deal with the overreaction instead of feeding her guilt trip.

The more you avoid the problem, the bigger it's going to get. What's next? Sales pitches in the maternity ward?
posted by sunshinesky at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2011


Here's how it would go down in my family. Word would be passed at pre-celebrations that such and such a family member was likely to make a pain in the ass of themselves, and people close to you would be asked to let other wedding guests know it was OK to ignore them.

One thought that I have had is to talk to one of my fiancée's aunts who will say anything to anyone and have her start a conversation with my mom and when it inevitably lead to the "So, who is your energy service provider question?" have her play along and the at some point say something like "Seriously, at a wedding you are going to try and sell me something?"
posted by holdkris99 at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


You've already 'best answered' scody's answer, which I think was the best answer, so perhaps this is overkill/too late. But I can't stress this enough after your updates, I think no matter how many people point out to you that this isn't acceptable behavior and even if you follow the most drastic instructions on what to say to her, she's probably not going to listen.

Reading your original question, I thought 'she's going to be annoying either way, you're bothered by her doing it, why not just tell her?' But she's probably not going to listen. She obviously has boundary/manners issues that are not like the of AskMetafilter/the rest of the civilized world. But using a big event to try to reset these is, at best, probably not going to work and at worst, backfire into "a scene."

So do something to make her feel important to distract her from whatever machinations you might get up to when left to her own devices. That's probably your only hope. It's not fair that you have to play this game; neither is the fact that you are dealing with a narcissist as a mother. But congratulations of breaking free of where everybody else in your family has been and not just letting her roll over you.

And remember, no matter what you do (within reason), you are in the right here. I don't know what the IRL equivalent is of self-editing details from your question because you don't want to be too harsh, but I feel you don't have to do it if you don't want to do it.

And all this said, like many other things that happen pre-weddings this could be a non-issue or turn into a hilarious story somehow later. (Of course, this also means that it will be removed from the spotlight by some heretofore unseen wedding drama, but that's how even the most wonderful weddings roll.)

Good luck and congratulations on your big day.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's next? Sales pitches in the maternity ward?

Ironically enough, the first time she tried to recruit me was on the phone from my dad's emergency room after he had a mild stroke!!
posted by holdkris99 at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's how it would go down in my family. Word would be passed at pre-celebrations that such and such a family member was likely to make a pain in the ass of themselves, and people close to you would be asked to let other wedding guests know it was OK to ignore them.

This seems like a good solution, only I'd just mention it to everyone all the time. How are your wedding plans? Oh, pretty good. Pretty much my only worry is that mom's going to sell shit to our guests, as always.

Also, don't underestimate the ridiculing factor. If you can start seeing it as That Thing She Does, like uncle Bob making walrus faces with the drink straws, or ancient aunt Vivian getting way too sexily down on the dance floor once she's had a few, so will everyone else. And if she's as stuck on herself as it sounds like, maybe she'll tone it down just because as soon as she starts, people will laugh at her, and tell her they'd been warned she'd do such a thing but didn't believe it was actually true.

In other words, it'll only be as big a deal as people let it.

(For myself, it helps to think of things as fodder for books, even though I don't write. It'll all go down in the family lore.)
posted by small_ruminant at 12:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Hey mom, I'm really looking forward to my wedding and having our families together. I hate to say this, but after the engagement dinner, I had more than one/several people tell me that they were uncomfortable getting a sales pitch from you. I know how important it is to you. At the wedding, don't you think it best if we had a no sales policy? I certainly wouldn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable, would you?"

This is an attempt to shield that the people who are complaining are you and your fiancée (congratulations, by the way!) and offer her the opportunity to step up.

You could also set a sales zone: only outside the reception hall, not while the photographer/videographer is working.

You can also employ rescue techniques like using the question, "Have you seen the best man's little sister?" or "I really need you help finding xxx. Can you help me?" as questions that really mean "do you need to be rescued from my mom?" Assign a few people in the wedding party to run interference and recruit others to do same. Now it's game!
posted by plinth at 1:28 PM on October 20, 2011


At the wedding, don't you think it best if we had a no sales policy? I certainly wouldn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable, would you?"

That REALLY wouldn't work in my family. In fact, I laughed out loud imagining it. Laying out requirements in forceful language is the only thing that MIGHT work, other than getting the entire rest of the populace on my side.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:54 PM on October 20, 2011


YOU CAN NOT WIN! STEP AWAY. STEP AWAY.

Right now, you are triangulating with your mom and her disease instead of focusing on your happy happy wedding!!

Your mom WILL escalate if you say anything to her. You know this. Please. She is baiting you. I beg you for your own sake to let this drop.

Everyone IRL telling you to say nothing is 100% correct, even if I favorites a heap of answers that promote you speaking your peace.

We know our moms. We know this is a battle not worth escalating.

Congratulations and enjoy your day! Your marriage is so much more important than this button-pushing behavior.

Cheers!
posted by jbenben at 2:00 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would task a friend she'll never have to deal with again to babysit your mother as their very, very generous gift to you. Your friend's job is to confront your mother at the first sign of MLM sales pitches by cornering her and saying flat out, "You cannot do that here, that's appalling."
posted by DarlingBri at 2:07 PM on October 20, 2011


Your friend's job is to confront your mother at the first sign of MLM sales pitches by cornering her and saying flat out, "You cannot do that here, that's appalling."

For whatever it's worth, if the OP's mom is anything like mine -- and I gather she might be from this: if she is not happy, her goal is to make everyone else unhappy, occasion be damned!; and the type of person who you absolutely can not tell anything to without her playing the victim card and sulking and pouting. --

This would result in her loudly bursting into theatrical tears and creating a scene, telling everyone how rudely and horribly she was treated.
posted by cairdeas at 2:20 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


okay, late to the party, and scody's got it as usual, but you want some recent, personal experience with this type of thing?

I got married last June. I am an only daughter, 42 years of age at nuptials, and this is my first (and please god, the last) wedding. So she had some stake in this; it's not everyday a resolute spinster only daughter makes the decision to finally settle down (yes, she really thinks like that... she's a case). Anyways, I digress.

Somewhere around early February, my mom started some shit with me about whether Dad was planning to attend, and whether he was bringing my stepmom, whom I adore, and who had a significant role in raising me. Note also that Mom & Dad got divorced in 1974, so it's not like she hasn't had enough time to wrap her head around the situation. Phone conversation went roughly like this:

Mom: "[Stepmom] isn't invited, is she?"

me: ... "yes, Mom, of course I invited her, she's Dad's WIFE for Pete's sake."

Mom: "Well, I can't stand her and it's unfair to me..."

me: [interrupts] "Look, you know what? This is my wedding. Mine. If you have a problem with the guest list, please, feel free to stay home, because if you say one more word about [Stepmom] attending, you are Not. Invited. Bye!" *End Call*

I have never, ever, ever, EVER in my entire life hung up the phone on my mom, and that includes the long laundry list of epic, sobbing drama-filled teenaged rages we both had to endure.

But you know what? That's the first time I ever felt like an adult when talking to her.

yes, she did ultimately attend, and yes, she did behave nicely and keep her mouth shut around Stepmom.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I love Scody's idea in theory, but the worst-case-scenario is that you will get a wedding reception video filled with product pitches. But if you really don't care about a reception video, I think it is a brilliant idea.

I think it is fair to tell all of the guests in advance that they are free to shut your mom down in any way they see fit...preferably without being rude. You could even make a game of it-- you can gather with friends for your one month anniversary and have an award for the most creative/funny way that someone shut her sales pitch down. If I knew about the game in advance, I would totally come prepared to counter-pitch her on some zany, made up product. This might also fit nicely with Scody's video idea...all of the mayhem with be captured for posterity :)

(If you haven't noticed, I often get through unpleasant situations by reminding myself that I will have a great story I to tell in future years. If you can keep a sense of humor about it, I think you will too.)
posted by murrey at 2:53 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


You're an adult not, you don't have to put up with your parent's crap.

"Mom, no selling at my wedding. Seriously, I saw you doing it at the engagement dinner and wasn't pleased about that. If you do at the wedding, you will be escorted out. Do not try me on this, it's my wedding and what I want to happen and not happen is the way it's going to be that day."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


for the record, I would like to point out that ambrosia actually had the great idea of assigning mom the video camera; I just expounded on why I thought this might work with the OP's mom since she appears to be of the Actually Mentally Unwell variety and not the Mentally Well But Just a Little Clueless variety.
posted by scody at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


holdkris99: "A few years back she started driving out to the college and setting up a table at the end of the semester and buying books directly from students, never letting them even get to my store with the books. She said, well you should be doing that then I wouldn't be able to(!)."

Holy shit. She's not your mother, she's your enemy! Disinvite her!
posted by notsnot at 3:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have to agree. This is someone who has a history of sabotaging everything you do and, knowing how important your wedding is to you, it is 100% guaranteed that she will sabotage your wedding.

I get why scody suggested humouring her, but I think that, because she is not only bent on being the centre of attention but also on sabotaging you, she is not going to be deflected by that particular plan.

I mean, really, this bears repeating. If you are benefitting from something, she makes a beeline for it and makes sure you do not benefit from it. When the minister asks if anyone has any objections to the match, it would be totally in character, from the sounds of it, for her to stand up and object, preventing the wedding from even taking place. I'm not predicting that she will do that specific thing, but demonstrably, it is the exact kind of thing she'd do. If she can't sell stuff, which would absolutely be tasteless and which your guests will absolutely assume she did with your full permission, she will find some other way to humiliate you. I really can't imagine this going any other way.

But you know how you can guarantee that she won't sabotage your wedding? If she's not there, that's how. Also if another person or persons are appointed to physically prevent her from going.
posted by tel3path at 3:38 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sigh.... is it too late to elope? Elopment is WAY under-rated as a drama-avoider. Yeah, you're right, that would probably make you fiancee's mom mad instead.....

Okay, make it a three-pronged response:
1. Hand Mom the video camera, and play Murray's 'craziest response to Mom's marketing pitches' game.
2. That aunt of your fiancee's that you say will say anything to anyone? Perfect! Sic her on your mom, and if nothing else, you're probably just made your new aunt-in-law VERY happy.
3. If you DO care about your wedding video, have a SECOND video camera at the reception, run by somebody sensible. The you'll have Mom's video for fun & games, plus the 'real' video.
posted by easily confused at 4:06 PM on October 20, 2011


tel3path: I totally agree that not inviting his mom is genuinely an option. It's a nuclear option he may not be prepared for -- especially if other family members are unlikely to get on board with enforcing it, and may wind up sabotaging it in their own ways (codependence with personality disordered family members runs deep) -- but it's absolutely worth considering.
posted by scody at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is indeed a tough one. Short of having a decoy wedding and a stealth real wedding, some conflict seems inevitable.
posted by tel3path at 4:17 PM on October 20, 2011


Wow. Though MLM is not my mom's particular trip, let's just say that planning a wedding with her in the mix nearly made me break up with my partner of many years, so horrible was the prospect. So I've been there on many, many levels (sorry).

With MY mother there would be two choices:

1) Be angry/embarrassed as she does her thing at the wedding

2) Have her be angry/sad at ME because I laid down the law; wedding day with unhappy mom and probably unhappy me because of the fight. She's a nutcase, but I love her, right? Is my mom and all that. Not an optimal wedding day mood.

Some people will say there's a third choice:

3) Some intervention that will defuse this

But I know up and down, I know on a visceral level, that ANY attempt at subduing her personal trip will only end in (2). For me, (3) is just wishful thinking.

But then there is ONE MORE OPTION:

4) Complete and total peace with whatever she does. Realizing that it COULD make you hopping mad but it's not going to.

You may not be able to pull this off. Not sure I would. But in my case, (4) is within the realm of possibility, while (3) is just not.

Finally--I really mean this in solidarity, truly, not to minimize your pain and upset--if your mom's particular thing is MLM, it could be a lot worse. Without talking bad about my mother on the internet, suffice it to say that only some version of this heroic effort would work on her...and with a mother of the bride/groom, that won't happen. Think of worse things she could do to embarrass/anger you. Sick, but it kind of works. In my case, would I want my mother doing lines in the bathroom with all the bridesmaids? No. So the status quo is OK by comparison.
posted by skbw at 8:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Disinvite her. She's not clueless, she's malicious. Get her out of your life.

If that's not an option, you have to make a choice about what will bother you more: having to put up with your mom do what she wants at her wedding or having to put up with your mom's reaction to you not letting her do what she wants at her wedding. Neither sounds good to me, so I'd rather at least stick up for me and my spouse. If that calculation is different for you, though, shutting up may be the best move.

But you know, what? Just disinvite her. Cut her out of your life. Don't subject your spouse to a lifetime of being "family" with this person.
posted by spaltavian at 9:16 PM on October 20, 2011


"Mom, can that shit for one day. Just. One. Day. And stop sulking, I don't care."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:53 PM on October 20, 2011


"Mom, can that shit for one day. Just. One. Day. And stop sulking, I don't care."

Alas, this only works for people who do not have severe personality disorders. For the personality disordered, this is literally Invitation to the Crazy Dance.
posted by scody at 10:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


Two concrete ways to get (closer) to option 4 in my comment above. Sometimes these really do work for me.

Unless you're getting married very soon, if your engagement party was just a short while ago, there may well be family lifecycle events, or at least large holiday gatherings, between now and your big day. Go in and "observe" her usual stuff at these events like you're a social scientist, a shrink, or a guest at someone else's insane family gathering. Feel yourself getting mad and then blow it off. Or at least try. It's a practice run for you.

Do some quasi-roleplay with friends who are coming to the wedding who know your mom pretty well (but are not so close that it'll get back to her). Don't literally have one of them be your mom and you ignore "her"--unless you think that would be helpful. I mean go over all the worst-case scenarios with them. Try to laugh if you can. I mean, imagine Mom stationed LITERALLY at the head table, with a card table directly in front of you and your by-then wife so that none of the guests can approach to congratulate you. Then imagine the stuff that she really will do. Then, AT the wedding, these friends will be there to wink at you and/or redirect YOU if you start to freak out or even head that way. They will know what's up and will be silently on your side.
posted by skbw at 10:57 PM on October 20, 2011


This is way beyond the scope of your question, but just as a reference point -- my grandmother the narcissist dominated every significant event in my mother's life. My mom's graduation events, wedding, etc, were all about my grandmother's drama.

My mom kept looking for ways to make peace, and never found one. It wasn't until my mom had kids that she drew the line. It was OK to make her life miserable, but not us -- not her children.

So I've never met my grandmother, and based on the way she treated my mom, I'm OK with that.

It sounds like you have an awesome support system, your wedding's going to be wonderful, and your mom might not be that extreme. I know you have lots of reasons to love her that don't come through in this question. But when you say that your dad and sisters won't say anything to help you out, for fear of upsetting her? When you say that she's sabotaged your business?

This is someone you're allowed to walk away from. You don't have to do it now, but if you decide to do it down the road, to protect yourself or your fiancee or your kids or for whatever reason, I just want you to know that it's OK.
posted by Honorable John at 8:16 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would disinvite her, personally. But I'm on record as not having a problem with cutting people out of my life. YMMV. (Also, with soon-to-be in-laws in the mix, this may be more scorched-earth than you want to present yourself to them.)

It seems like the least dramatic way to defuse this thing would be to immunise your guests beforehand. Make a strategic selection of guests, across family and friendship lines, and mention to them that Crazy Mom is quite likely to be Bringin' The Crazy in the form of her MLM to the reception, and have them spread the word. "Hey, you may want to watch out for Mother of the Groom, she's got a reputation for [X] and will probably be in full force at the reception." If you wanted to take it a step further you could even enlist the help of the guests at large, by having something mentioned about how you, as the groom on your wedding day, really don't want her to be doing this but it's almost impossible to dissuade her, so if they would just politely decline or show their disinterest or whatever it would be a great service to the couple on their wedding day.

That way you don't have to turn it into a big deal, don't have to throw any of your guests under a bus by having them babysit her or keep one eye on her for bad behaviour all evening, don't have to create a lot of stress and drama for yourself and your family in the run-up to the big day, and may even find a bit of latent entertainment for the guests. Whereas they might have been blindsided, after her unsuccessful pitch (because they've been wryly observing the predicted event, or deflected her immediately, or whatever, instead of being uncomfortably cornered) they can think "Well, guess I just got my obligatory visit from MOTG", and it can become a chat point for the evening, and a story people can tell later on of your wedding.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 2:27 PM on October 21, 2011


Well, I don't know if anyone comes back to check on these things, but the wedding went down this past Saturday. I didn't say anything to her before hand, but was planning to right after the ceremony, so at least that would go off without a hitch. Of course by the time the ceremony was ramping up, she was already chatting people up about ambit energy. What I ended up doin was, as I escorted her down the aisle to her seat, I leaned in and said "one more word to one more person about ambit energy and you will be removed from the wedding" and kissed her on the cheek and said I love you. She behaved herself through the ceremony, but as soon as it was over, she got up, went over to the cake, cut out a good sized piece, put one of her business cards in its place, and left.

Honestly, it couldn't have worked out better. Like many of you said up thread, we now have a hilarious story to tell and we had a great reception where I didn't have to stress out about her. Plus, she no doubt thinks she just ruined it all for us, so win-win-win. Even she wins n her own weird fucked up way.
posted by holdkris99 at 1:41 PM on October 27, 2011 [38 favorites]


Sometimes funny stories are the best you can do--and that's a pretty good one.

Congrats on your wedding & thanks for the update.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:59 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brilliant!
posted by scody at 2:02 PM on October 27, 2011


Hahaha That's great! I'm so glad.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:19 PM on October 27, 2011


I don't think I have ever, in my life, heard of an act of vengeance that reached such levels of insane, bizarre, and WTF, while simultaneously reaching such levels of pettiness and passive aggression.

Good on you for being able to laugh about it. I would have seen that card and gone postal.
posted by cairdeas at 7:57 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are a class act and I wish you and your new spouse every happiness.
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 PM on October 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dear Mr. New Groom,

You rock.

Many wonderful wishes for your new life; may you handle all of your future conundra as beautifully as this one.
posted by Madamina at 10:27 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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