Wedding and controlling parents-- how to cope
June 18, 2013 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in 10 days, and it's stressful for everybody involved, mostly because I have controlling parents who are intricately involved with every part of this. Any tips/advice for coping with this situation? Lots of culture-specific snowflake details inside.

We wanted a low-key affair; parents insisted on a very large wedding that they can't afford. It's something they felt they had to do for cultural reasons. They are paying for most of it, but it's a large financial burden on them. So it's a lot of financial stress, as well as the regular wedding planning stress. Compounded with some other issues-- parents aren't really good at organizing or communicating, for example. Dad is authoritarian; mom acts like she doesn't know what to do about anything.

I don't usually live at home, and being back is kind of frustrating. Weekend visits are great, but any longer, and it's hard for me to cope with their lifestyle. Seeing that they haven't changed and still treat me like a child, despite me living independently of them, is really annoying. I'm burnt out and exhausted, and feeling really negative about being forced to have this circus of a wedding that I didn't want. So I'm way more irritable and short-tempered as of late.

The small wedding details add up to a lot of work for my siblings, and my parents expect me to be grateful that they are putting in this work (doing things like DIY favours, etc) and they've more than once reminded me that I should be grateful that I have family who is helping out, and that I will have to help out equally at my siblings' weddings when they get married. I think my mother also is reminding me of this, because she feels I'm not pulling my weight for the wedding and she generally thinks I'm lazy, and is worried that this doesn't bode well for my future as a married woman. My parents hold really traditional values where women do all the housework. They come from a culture where the marriage of a daughter is a sad event for the family, because it's usually the first time the daughter is leaving her parents' home, and is going to live with her husband's family in his parents' home, where she will have to do all the domestic work.

I will not be living with my partner's family, and we both strongly believe in equal work both inside and outside the home. My parents know this, and I think they know that our marriage is not going to be exactly like theirs, but that does not stop from my mom from making comments like "You will see, it's not all roses" and "Stronger-willed women than you have been tamed by their husbands/mother-in-laws" or "You will see-- you will miss us, and you'll regret this" or "You will see-- there's no place like your mother's home" (And yes, I do regret losing my temper with her or fighting with her.) I really am excited to be marrying my fiance, and really looking forward to our life together, but comments like this do give me pause and make me think if she really thinks my fiance, and his mother are evil (even though I know she's lashing out when she's upset and her comments are more telling of her life experience and cultural motifs than they are of my future). It upsets me, because I expected her to be happier during this time period, especially if as they know, it is the last time I will be living with them in their house.

Mom is also on my case to lose wight, and yes, I should, but the event is in 10 days and I just don't care that much. This wedding has been in the works for a year now, and she's upset I haven't done anything to drop the weight. She's also stressed out and likely going through menopause, so is also irritable and short-fused.

Any advice/tips on coping with this situation? Calling it off is not an option. Going elsewhere for the next 10 days is also not an option. Just want some general advice on dealing with parents who treat grown children like children-- I'm worried that this doesn't bode well for the future, and the way they blatantly disregarded our preferences for our wedding may be setting a precedent for them always interfering in our lives. We are not planning to move cities and will be about 15 KM away from my family, and about 50 KM away from his.

I'm also wondering more generally how to establish an adult relationship with my parents (while recognizing that I have some people-pleasing tendencies, and am sometimes overly concerned with what my parents think of me/my lifestyle).

Also looking for more specific tips on how to make it through the next 10 days without losing my mind.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Also looking for more specific tips on how to make it through the next 10 days without losing my mind.

Every second that goes by means you're a second closer to the end of this particular stressor. Take a deep breath and say, "There goes another one."
posted by Etrigan at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2013 [10 favorites]

"Lay off, or we're going to elope."

Start standing up for yourself. You'll be surprised 1) how far it gets you 2) how quickly butthurt people get over it.
posted by notsnot at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

You can't call it off, but you can threaten to.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2013

Remember that you can't control what people say, only how you react to it.

Don't take their bait; change the subject or redirect the conversation; set limits.
posted by mogget at 12:58 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Since it's unlikely that you and your mother will have a differing cultural identity breakthrough in the next 10 days I think your best bet is to go to your doctor, pretty much anyone from a GP to a specialist, explain that you are getting married in 10 days and the stress is making you batshit. You will walk out with a 10 day prescription for a low dosage of something pleasant like valium or xanax.

Point being, there is no magic word or phrase that will stop your mother's behavior. Not even telling her straight out that she is making you unhappy and stressed will likely be able to stop her for long, as these are various injustices and frustrations with which she has had to deal her entire life. The fact that you are going to be able to escape them is, unfortunately, making her resentful instead of happy for you. Be as patient as you can, and when you can't take it anymore, just walk away - leave the room, go for a walk outside, whatever it takes.
posted by elizardbits at 12:58 PM on June 18, 2013 [29 favorites]

I have become an expert at shining my mother on.

Mom: Annoying observation that has nothing to do with my life and even less to do with reality.

Me: Okay, that's great!

Then I just do what I want to do.

I would try to be busy and be busy elsewhere whenever possible.

Make a list of things that need to be accomplished prior to your wedding. Then figure out which ones you want to do and volunteer to do them.

As for any guilt your parents are trying to lay on you, simply say, "Hey, this is your circus, I wanted to get married by Elvis in Vegas. I'm doing YOU the favor by capitulating to this. So know that I love and respect you enough to do this for you, but recognize that I am sacrificing what I want to honor you."

That should shut your mom up for a minute or three.

Tell your siblings, "You know I hate that we're all stuck doing this. If I win the lottery, I'll give you a million dollars to elope."

Now, your worry about the future. Your parants can only blatantly disregard your wishes, IF YOU LET THEM!

The ship sailed on the wedding. But going forward practice this phrase: "I hear what you are saying and I appreciate your input. Husband and I are going to do X. That is the end of it."

I tell my mother some version of this all the time. At the end of the day, it's my family, my money and my life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2013 [41 favorites]

Delegate as many things as you can to specific people who you know will be responsible for them. If mom bothers you about one of those things, cut it off with "Thanks, XYZ is handling that."

Line up as many people as you can who you really trust (maid of honor? etc.) and tell them what's going on at a high level so they can try and block for you when they're around.

When your mom does still corner and bother you, defer conversation and change the subject. If she is pestering you about doing a certain thing, say "sure, I'll take care of that right after XYZ, which I'm in the middle of" then leave the room. If it's general "you'll make a bad wife" type of BS, just say "guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!" and smile.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, set boundaries.

For wedding tasks, you are the bride. Your word is the final word and keep it that way. You make the list and set the assignments, if your mother says "Oh well I like it better this way" say "Too bad, it's my wedding." If she changes something without your approval, be ready to not use said item in your ceremony until it gets fixed (say she changes the floral arrangements or something.)

You can't make your parents change, but you can change how you interact with them.

The same goes for everyday life. You don't have to listen to her. You are an adult. When she says negative things either ignore it or just say "I respectfully disagree" and move on. Don't argue about it.

For coping for 10 days, again it's the list. If it's on the list, it needs to be done. Check in with each person once or so a day. Tell them they can't contact you unless it's to say a task is done, and go take a bubble bath in the mean time! (Tell them to text instead of call? Or email? You also don't have to answer your phone if you don't want to, they can leave a message.)
posted by Crystalinne at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2013

Going forward, you have to learn how to say NO and mean it.

Any time you waver for cultural expectations or to protect someone's unreasonable hurt feelings, come back here and read this post to remind yourself of when you should have started to say no and didn't.
posted by cnc at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

If at all possible, try to ignore as much of this drama as possible. When your Mom tells you about her ideas on marriage or the wedding, don't engage - blow her off with some neutral statement like, "oh, I see". Don't get into discussions, explanations, or arguments. Just give a neutral statement and redirect the conversation. Her marriage experience is not universal and you do not need to try to make her see it your way. If she nitpicks about your weight, tell her your soon-to-be husband LOVES how you look at your current weight.

Most of all, keep in mind that there is a finish line for this madness. And, after you're married, if they try to interfere too much - create new boundaries by telling your parents that you're now an adult, married woman. For many cultures, marriage is a rite-of-passage which marks the entry into adulthood. Relentlessly capitalize on that. Let the wedding ceremony and party be the very last thing that they get to dominate.

Take as many breaks as you can - even if it's just to drive around or run a nonsense errand. Lean on your friends and invite them over to deflect some of the drama.

Most of all, congratulations!
posted by quince at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2013 [8 favorites]

I really don't think that threatening to call it off is going to go over well in regards to this particular cultural climate.

It's a sad thing, but many couples' weddings are for the parents, not the bride and groom. If you can remind yourself that the most important thing is that you and your beloved will be married at the end of the day, it may help you let go of the annoyances in the meantime. elizardbits is right: you're not going to be able to change your mother's behavior here. Go into survival mode. Do what you need to do to get up to the altar.

Moving forward: you have a lifetime of dealing with unreasonable behaviour/expecations from your parents. Get thee to a therapist.
posted by Specklet at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the key here is to find relief within the construct of your family's culture.

1) Do you have bridesmaids? If so, can you create an evening/event at which you enlist their help on some of the fussy things, like the DIY favors, and pitch it as a girls' night out? Maybe include a sympathetic cousin or aunt. A little wine will make it more fun.

2) Can you leverage the "no more living with parents" expectation to your favor, maybe by announcing that wedding planning activities will only take up X hours per day and then you're going to spend Y hours doing something fun that you choose to "thank" them, e.g., going to a botanical garden, etc. because time is short and you won't be living together ever again. Make a prioritized list and let the bottom stuff drop off.

3) If your mom wants you to lose weight, then I suggest you start spending two or three hours a day "at the gym." Use the time to do whatever you want.

4) Would your mother listen to anyone else, e.g., a brother, her own sister, etc. that you could enlist to tell her to back off?

5) Stay in touch with your fiance; it's important to know you each have each other's backs now.

Good luck!
posted by carmicha at 1:05 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

yep, my bridesmaids' only job was to keep my mom away from me on my wedding day and it was exactly what I needed (I did keep one close by to help me dress). Mine just instinctually knew to do it but you might have to be more up front with yours.

Definitely see if you can take the party favor party over to a friend's house and enjoy being together and wrapping jordan almonds up in squares of tulle all night.

Offer to run any and all errands that keep you out of the house.

Definitely tell your mom yes at any time it will make her feel better. But only follow through with the stuff you want to. If she's anything like my mom, she's going to do it anyway because I can't do anything "right" according to her so I just say yes and get started until she shoves me aside and finishes it herself.

She's your mom but that doesn't mean she's an expert on anything - *especially* your relationship with your soon-to-be-husband. You sound like you're a pretty smart and thoughtful person. You can get through this. On the day of the ceremony, take a few minutes alone to reflect on what the day means to you and him. Then put everything out of your mind and just enjoy it. Congratulations!
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:10 PM on June 18, 2013

Can you do some private weddingy thing for just you and your husband, and maybe some very close friends? Then you can think of the big event as your parents' party. Your question focused more on dealing with the family and not on being bummed out that your wedding is turning into something you didn't want, but maybe thinking of your small private event as the REAL wedding event, and the giant spectacle as this thing you're doing for your parents, will help.

As for the constant nagging and reminders about how you should be so grateful to them and you need to lose weight and your marriage will be blah blah blah... go to your happy place, let your eyes glaze over, smile and nod. Don't engage. Your mom can't get in your head if you don't engage.

Lean on your fiance and friends, and siblings if they're sympathetic, and try to escape whenever you can. It's 10 days! You can get through it and then you get to be married, and an adult again.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:16 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make lists. Follow your lists.

Shut everything else out.

Enjoy your wedding day.

Try to remember NONE of the bs comments are important, they will not stop the big day from arriving. The whole thing just isn't that big a deal, you just can't see that because you're in the anticipation phase.

I guess I'm saying stop making yourself crazy by caring what the other people think or trying to control them in any way. Just focus on your lists and spend as much time as possible away from the madness as you can.
posted by jbenben at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your mom wants you to lose weight, then I suggest you start spending two or three hours a day "at the gym." Use the time to do whatever you want.

That is BRILLIANT! Also working out will help with the stress!

In addition, enlist your bridesmaids, my sister was mine. She was the only one we let stay at the house and her job was to corral my mom. She did a fantastic job and I am sane and out of jail today thanks to her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:22 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I can't offer you a solution, but I can advise you not to burn bridges because if you have kids later, having grandparents nearby to help out is going to be a huge benefit.
posted by Dansaman at 1:23 PM on June 18, 2013

"OK, sounds good!" OR "That's a good thought!" OR "We will definitely consider that!" And then hope the topic dies or is replaced by a more pressing one.

It's too late to do anything about it now. Fake it and keep your distance for the next ten days. It's time to move from stressing and planning to partying and celebrating. Worry about all this later.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:24 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry that this is stressing you out. I agree with others that you just need to triage the next ten days, have your wedding, then take a break.

Long term, therapy to help you exert yourself, and lots of distance. I'm serious. The only thing that improved my relationship with my controlling mother was to move a thousand miles away. She still says crazy things ("Your husband will leave you if you don't give him a son"), but my ability to not take it personally has drastically improved. She is who she is, and doesn't sound particularly happy. Don't give her this much power over your life.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

She's saying and doing these things because she loves you. It's not how you would express love, but it's how she expresses love because it's the only way she knows how. So if you can repeat in your head, she's saying this because she loves me, it may help.
posted by bananafish at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had to post my own wedding-craziness AskMe on here, and my biggest regret was not cutting off the crazy immediately when it started. I dealt with my mom's threats of refusing to come if a certain kind of food wasn't served, I dealt with my dad basically disowning me in public because the venue wasn't right, and I cried while trying to be grateful for all the "help" they were providing.

It's one day, and they can moan and bitch until their last breath over the final decisions you make, but there's no reason for you to suffer this kind of headache right now.

Anything they suggest that you don't feel like doing/implementing? "That sounds nice, but it's not for us." "That just won't be possible." "We won't be doing that." Repeat until they refuse to engage any further.

Any guilt-tripping? "It's very nice of you to offer help." "I'm very thankful." "I love you very much and that will never change."

Any remarks about your future division of chores or what-have-you? "Thank you for that perspective." "I'll keep that in mind." "That's certainly interesting."

Change topics. Do not be in the same space as them whenever possible. And count down the days!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

You've gotten a ton of awesome advice about how to deal with your parents and how to deal with your reactions to them. You can't control what she does, but you can control how you react and how much you choose to give a shit. I just wanted to address this one small thing, both because I think it's important on its own, and because I think it's sort of emblematic of the whole problem:

Mom is also on my case to lose wight, and yes, I should...

No, you shouldn't. Unless your mother is also your doctor and is giving you medical advice about your health, or unless you've asked for her opinion on your body, she has no business commenting on your body or your weight. Yes, I know, there are cultural differences about this being socially appropriate, but the bottom line is, your body, your decision. You should lose weight if you want to, for whatever reason. You should not lose weight because you are getting married, or because your mom wants you to, or for any other reason than because you want to.

But beyond the issue of your weight being none of her damned business, this is a microcosm of your whole relationship. Your mom decides that something she believes is unequivocally and universally right, and that you are wrong to not do the thing she thinks you should do. She nags you about it. She gets pissy about it. She takes her feelings out on you. You choose, consciously or unconsciously, to feel bad about the fact that she feels bad. You choose, consciously or unconsciously, to agree that she's right and you're wrong, even though deep down you don't really agree with her. You do what you want anyway. She continues to get upset that you're not doing it right. You continue to be upset about her being upset, plus you feel guilt because you've internalized the idea that by not doing it her way, you may be doing it wrong or being disrespectful or showing insufficient gratitude for everything she's ever done for you. Drama ensues.

You can't make your mom believe, e.g., that your weight is none of her business, or that your body is absolutely awesome just the way it is, or that there's no obligation on brides to lose weight because they're getting married. You just can't make her believe what you believe, or what you'd like for her to believe. You also can't force her to stop being upset when you are, according to her beliefs, doing it wrong. You can't force her to stop being upset that she can't control everything about you and your wedding and make it absolutely perfect according to her definition of perfect. And finally, you can't force her to stop talking about it. But here's what you can do: honor your own beliefs and feelings and wants. So when she talks about it, you can say, "that makes me feel bad. Please don't talk about that anymore." You can continually remind yourself that you are not responsible for her beliefs or her feelings, and that it's not your fault that she's upset over being unable to control you. You can refuse to play along, both by continuing, to the extent that you're comfortable doing so, to do the things that make you happy even if she gets upset, and by refusing to be an audience for her drama.

If she wants to talk about your weight, fine, but you don't have to be in the room while she does it. You can say, "mom, I've asked you not to talk about my weight because it upsets me. I don't want to be upset, so I'm going to leave the room/hang up the phone/end this conversation. I love you, and I'll talk to you later when you're ready to talk about something that doesn't upset me." You can do that every time, and you can do it about everything that is ruining what should be a happy time in your life, including discussions about how much work goes into party favors, or how hard your life is going to be, or how your mother-in-law is going to be awful, or how much she's paying for stuff you never wanted. She can be upset and complain, but you are not required to be an audience for that.

I know that what I've just described is going to be really, really hard. And if it's too hard, if the costs of pulling out of participation in this family drama are, for you, higher than the costs of just putting up with it for the next 10 days, then you can keep listening to it. But realize that you're making a choice. You are making a choice to listen to your mother's comments. It sucks that you have to make that decision, but it is a decision you're making, and you can change your mind at any time.

Oh, and congratulations, and best wishes, and have a great wedding! And try to remember that while your wedding is supposed to be a fun party, it's way less important than all the fun and love and support you're going to enjoy with your new spouse for the rest of your lives, away from your mother.
posted by decathecting at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm also wondering more generally how to establish an adult relationship with my parents (while recognizing that I have some people-pleasing tendencies, and am sometimes overly concerned with what my parents think of me/my lifestyle).

Before I got married, I read an advice book whose author I'm embarrassed to mention, and found some principles that I've used through my 26 years (so far) of marriage. I'll paraphrase the one that helped my husband at me the most in the first few years: After the wedding, you need to form a marriage. The first step is to view yourselves as a unit separate from your families of origin. Reinforce the idea of this union whenever the opportunity arises. If your parents invite you to their home, tell them you'll talk with your husband and let them know -- even if you already know he'll want to go. When they ask where you're going on vacation, say, "Husband and I have decided/are looking forward to going to X place." The phrase "Husband and I have decided" has a certain amount of power: it shows that you two are a team, that you consider each other's wishes, and that your joint decision is more important than the opinions of others. Doing it for little things will make it easier to stick to your guns over bigger issues and the kinds of things your parents seem to harp on endlessly. Never try to persuade your family of origin that you and husband are doing the right thing; instead, say you're doing what's right for you. You can tell your reasons, but if there's any effort to change your mind, be polite and don't engage. (All of the above should apply equally to both of you and both your families.)

It upsets me, because I expected her to be happier during this time period, especially if as they know, it is the last time I will be living with them in their house.

"Don't criticize and don't complain" is general advice I got from Al-Anon, and I have to remind myself almost every day. If someone isn't behaving the way I think they should, I force myself to let it go because I have no control over how other people feel, think, and act. And it's none of my business, really. I turn my attention to things I can control -- things that matter in my life.

These things take practice. They might sound pat at first because actually following the advice isn't at all easy till it becomes a habit. They've really worked for my husband and me.
posted by wryly at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

Come up with a general term like "Alls well that ends well" and use it every time your mom starts up. Say it with a smile and walk away. After a few times, she may get the idea.

Or you could be an adult about it. Hug your parents and thank them for loving you enough to go through all of this for you. Tell them that their actions have really shown them how proud they are to have you as their daughter. And then go do some shots. :)

Anytime your mother brings up your weight, look her in the eye and tell her that her words hurt your feelings. Do this every time.

They will treat you as an adult when you consistently act like an adult. An adult often puts other's feelings above their own. And adult does what is culturally correct instead of what is easiest.

You are not wrong here, they are driving you crazy, they are faulty people, but you are not all together right here, either.
posted by myselfasme at 1:51 PM on June 18, 2013

someone up thread mentioned spending a bunch of time at the gym.

many gyms also offer great massages.

i think you could benefit from some, ahem, "gym" time.

a couple massages over the next ten days will help ensure you shoulders aren't hunched up by your ears from stress in your wedding pics :-)

this sounds really difficult, but honestly as someone else also said, this is the kind of thing a short term prescription of valium or xanax is for. people do this all the time for long flights. i have a friend who cannot fly without it. so unless you're extremely opposed to it, man, does it ever help when you really need it, even if you only take it at night so you get a good night's sleep.
posted by sio42 at 1:52 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like several people have already mentioned, thinking of a few things that get you away from the others sounds like an excellent idea.

Lie, say you're going to exercise, and go take a few hours to yourself every day. Maybe a local library, or a bookstore/cafe, or...
posted by Ashlyth at 1:59 PM on June 18, 2013

I'm worried that this doesn't bode well for the future, and the way they blatantly disregarded our preferences for our wedding may be setting a precedent for them always interfering in our lives.

This in particular jumped out in your post. In some ways, yes, this is a precedent for them interfering in your lives. But precedent isn't everything - you don't have to always follow precedent. Putting some time and work into establishing what your relationship with your family will be like after you are married is a good idea. But you don't need to do that now, and you certainly don't need to worry about The Implications For The Future of every interaction you have with your mom in the next 10 days. You don't have full control over the wedding. That's ok, and you can get through it and then worry about the rest later.
posted by medusa at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2013

OP, There are a lot of people in this thread giving you advice about how to handle this, and it's being given in a Western/modern American context, where it's really rights-based and boundaries-based and all about telling people that you need them to back off.

That doesn't work well in every culture. From what you've written OP, part of the issue is that your parents are working in a different, non-Western, non-American cultural context than the one you live with/are choosing.

So yeah, OP, in my non-Western, non-American family, when I got married a year ago and my parents were losing their shit in a similar way, I asked my sister, who was already embroiled in the drama because there is no such thing as individual drama in my non-Western, non-American family, and who my parents love and respect, and I had her tell my parents about how I was stressed out and that they needed to stop nagging me and that everybody would get their money's worth and there was no point in trying to lose weight at this point, because my dress was already fitted. That approach was a lot more productive and less-drama-in-the-end than a head-on confrontation a lot of the people in this thread are suggesting.

Right now, you don't need that drama. You can have that big boundary-setting fight later, when you aren't already melting down with anxiety.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

Make a list of stock answers for how you'll answer every recurring request for help, for each person. Tailor the answers to the people. Pull out and refer to this list whenever anyone asks you for anything.

For example (taking your summations of your parents literally here):

Dad: request to do [thing]: "I feel overwhelmed and nervous about the wedding. I need you to take handle [thing]."

Dad: choice of [things]: "Whatever you think is best. I trust your judgment."

Mom: request to do [thing]: "I think dad would want to handle that."

Mom: choice of [things]: "Ask dad what he thinks."

Anyone: fishing for gratefulness: "Thank you. I'm grateful."

Anyone: attempt to guilt you into [action]: "I'm grateful you're willing to do all this, but if you feel overwhelmed, let's just cancel the wedding and have something small like I originally wanted."

Anyone: other things you haven't anticipated: Shrug and smile, but say nothing.

Obviously your questions and answers will vary. Since stress reduction is your goal, the important thing is to have a default way of saying "no" for those situations that keep coming up, so that you don't have to stress about what to say when they come up again. They brought this all on themselves, so your stock answers and a generally beatific attitude should help.

Also: since this already isn't the wedding you want, but you're marrying the guy you want to marry, consider emotionally letting go of the wedding as a big pomp and circumstance show you're not part of (except to show up on the day of and perform at), and focus on comforting your fiance and being comforted by him.

Last-ditch solution: hire a wedding planner for the final week, someone well-recommended and low key, and defer all questions to them. Advise them that you don't really care how the wedding turns out, you just want your family and friends to stop bugging you, so the planner should concentrate on helping your family and friends to ensure the wedding is a success for everyone else.
posted by davejay at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2013

Mom is also on my case to lose wight, and yes, I should...

Quick note on this: right now, your mom is on your case because she feels this wedding is a reflection of her, not of you. Nothing she applies to you during this time should be taken as truth. What you're really seeing here is her own insecurities laid bare, coupled with projection (so "they'll think I'm a bad mother because my daughter is not as thin as she should be", her conscious and unspoken thought, which itself is a projection of "they'll think I'm a bad person because I'm not as thin as I think I should be.")

So no, no you shouldn't, unless you decide completely independently that you want to.
posted by davejay at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and carmicha has a great idea there, in that you could tell your mother you've heard her suggestion to lose weight, so you'll be spending TONS of time at the gym, which means she'll have to make sure everyone else takes care of everything else. Then just go do things you like to do that make you happy and reduce your stress.

Is it a lie? Yes. A great big delicious stress-relieving lie. Just remind yourself that people should only go to the gym because they want to and it makes them happier, and then call whatever you're doing that you want to do and that makes you happier your "gym".

Such a great suggestion.
posted by davejay at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If any of your siblings are sisters I would ask them for help with a plan to deal with Mom. A re-direct mom plan. Mom says something stupid (anything weight or in-law related) and one of them steps in and re-directs her to some wedding related issue. I have lots of siblings and cousins and we have used this technique for generations. It works really well when there are more people in your generation than theirs.

It is much easier to set boundaries with parents when you are not living with them. This will all be over in 10 days and then the questions and comments about babies will probably start...Yikes.

Congrats to you and your husband.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:39 PM on June 18, 2013

Dansaman: "I can't offer you a solution, but I can advise you not to burn bridges because if you have kids later, having grandparents nearby to help out is going to be a huge benefit."

I'm going to disagree. Begin your marriage as you mean to go on. Do what you think is right for you and your future husband in the current situation, acknowledging that the wedding is ten days away and there's not much you can do about your parents' involvement in that particular event. But don't worry NOW about having grandparents to "help out" with kids in the future. If they are this much of a nightmare now, with a wedding, you will want to seriously work on your boundaries for if and when you have children. And not every parent has, or wants, the grandparental units around their kids. That is a valid choice.

Remember that, at the end of the day, if you and your fiance are married to one another, nothing else matters, and the event was a success (in my case, I added "and no one is dead or in jail" to that sentiment). Have a giant bouquet of flowers or something else you think they'd appreciate delivered to your parents after you've left on your honeymoon. Good luck!
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 5:16 PM on June 18, 2013

You can do this. It's only ten days. (Not saying that to minimize, just to say: 10 days! Soon they will be but a memory!)

Remember: you are choosing to let your parents throw this wedding because it is important to them and they are important to you. You could still elope tomorrow if you and your fiance really wanted to. You are making a choice. You might not be crazy about the options you had to choose from (who among us ever is when it comes to family?) but you are making the choice that you think is best. Although it might not always feel like it in the moment, you have a lot of power.
posted by mskyle at 5:17 PM on June 18, 2013

Lulu's Pink Converse: " But don't worry NOW about having grandparents to "help out" with kids in the future. If they are this much of a nightmare now, with a wedding, you will want to seriously work on your boundaries for if and when you have children. "

Yeah, don't play nice under the assumption that your parents will help as grandparents once you have kids. Buddy of mine and his wife decided to have kids when it wasn't the best idea financially based on his parents claiming up and down how they'd be there every day to babysit. Now they make excuses even when asked to come over and watch the kids while he's outside cutting the lawn.
posted by notsnot at 7:27 PM on June 18, 2013

My parents kind of lost their shit when I got married. My mother in particular was very anxious and very unkind about a lot of things -- looking back, I think she really did feel like she was losing me, and she and I had never been close and it was an occasion for her to feel guilty and stressed over that. I'm going out on a very shaky limb here but it sounds to me as though a little bit of the same thing could be happening with your mother -- she's displeased with you but simultaneously asking over and over for you to say, yes mom, you're the greatest, I'll be lost without you.

So my advice for this week and for the rest of your life:

1. Tolerate no assholery, of any kind. Tell them politely and directly to shut up and walk out of the room.
2. Make a rule that all of your communication will be honest and straightforward. Don't fall into the morass of double and triple meanings.
3. Spend as much time with your fiance as you possibly can before the wedding. It will really, really help.
posted by gerstle at 7:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's lot of great advice here about setting boundaries, but as a strict enforcer of parental boundaries I would suggest you tackle this issue after the wedding and do anything else you need to do to get through the next 10 days.

It will be a difficult process, especially with the culture clash, and I wouldn't add that kind of stress on top of everything else.

posted by Room 641-A at 8:34 PM on June 18, 2013

Kill them with kindness. Be effusively grateful. You've gone to so much effort for my wedding; thank you. It's true, and you can be appreciative without agreeing to any payback later. If your Mom makes comments about your potentially evil mother-in-law, maybe she's reflecting on her wedding. Ask her, you might learn some great stories, and gain some understanding. It's a big milestone for them and a sign that they're getting old "You will see-- you will miss us, and you'll regret this" Mom, of course I'll miss you. Let some things go - when your Mom nags about your weight, which you agree about but don't prioritize, agree with her You're right, Mom, I should have worked on it, but it's too late now. You can recognize that it's important to them to have a big deal wedding I know it's important to you to have a beautiful wedding, .... All this is about listening to their feelings. As it gets closer, and everybody stresses out, it's perfectly reasonable to say This is getting really stressful. I don't want to get stressed out and lose my temper, so I'm going to take a break/ call Fiance/ go meditate, etc. You can also occasionally hug your mom and/or Dad; they're stressed, too. Yes, you should have boundaries, and I think you do. You're also trying to honor your parents' traditions, which is loving. I think the last 10 days before a big wedding are about getting tasks done, not having any family blowups that are unrecoverable, and not getting so tied up in knots that you can't enjoy the event.
posted by theora55 at 9:11 PM on June 18, 2013

Can't add much to the advice given, except maybe tell yourself that even if absolutely everything went wrong...venue burned down, cake collapsed, food was spoiled, band was in a wreck, mother had nervous breakdown and disowned you, etc. can still get married. All that's required is the two of you, someone to say the words, a license, and some witnesses. You are getting married to someone you love!

It might be fun to imagine the disaster wedding, where you end up standing in front of the JP in a ripped wedding dress and saying, fuck all that other stuff, we are getting married, especially when someone is raving about table favors or what have you. It might help you to adopt a beatific attitude of happily giving not a single shit, because you are so in love you just can't be bothered.

You'll make it. Concentrate on the funny stories you will one day tell.
posted by emjaybee at 9:53 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am not married, I've only been a bridesmaid once, and I'm the worst person to be giving advice on this, but....

a friend had similar madness with her very controlling family, who saw her wedding as Their Wedding and extirpated any attempt by her to contribute anything personal to The Perfect Wedding. She did not pick her own dress: her mother ordered it from her measurements. She was not allowed to invite her own friends: all the guests were distant relatives or business clients of her father.

She and her fiance eloped -- they snuck off to the courthouse about a month before the wedding with a few good friends, got married in front of people they cared about and then had a private party/reception at their apartment. All without telling the parents, who were much too busy ordering floral arrangements and changing the bridesmaids' bouquets to notice.

THEN they went through with the parents' nightmare extravaganza of 1500 dinner guests, a round dozen of bridesmaids and groomsmen and three hours of culturally specific entertainment. Apparently, knowing that it was a complete charade helped.
posted by jrochest at 11:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny: In addition, enlist your bridesmaids, my sister was mine. She was the only one we let stay at the house and her job was to corral my mom. She did a fantastic job and I am sane and out of jail today thanks to her.

does this mean you were in jail? ;)
posted by wildflower at 5:11 AM on June 19, 2013

does this mean you were in jail? ;)

There were times in the week before my wedding where it would have been preferable. But no, Sissy kept me a decent enough distance away from homicide to prevent incarceration.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great advice above. I'd boil it down thusly, in terms of how to survive the 10 days:

1) You're not going to fix your relationship with your mother this week. (maybe never, but for sure not right now.) So focus on survival.

2) Remember, for yourself, what you wanted from the small wedding -- to be paired with this person, forever, with some of your favorite people standing by. Try to see that small wedding still there inside the huge circus. You will marry this person. The people you really care about will be there. [The rest is your parents acting out some social obligation that has nothing to do with you or even your generation.]

3) Keep looking ahead to the key things for the big day:
a) Say "I do"
b) Get something to eat
c) Get the hell out of there

Let the rest just pass you by, like birds twittering in the trees.

I'm sorry that your family is hijacking your event, but remember that in the end it's you and your intended spouse, what *you* do and say, what *you* are starting. Start relying on him now, building your team, even if only in resistance to the storm, even if it's only in making secret plans for Crazy Parent Bingo or how to hide out once the ceremony is over. I think that's the best thing my spouse and I got out of all the stress of planning and executing a wedding (fighting the Wedding Industry level and the Family Stress level, etc.), was that it was the two of us against the crazy crazy world. Hooray!! :)
posted by acm at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, that is a tremendous amount of stress. Your experiences are very similar to South Asian traditions - large, lavish weddings, the new wife being expected to live with his in-laws or her being controlled by her mother-in-law, over-protective parents, high expectations…I could go on. As frustrating as this is, I think that this is your opportunity to set your foot down and let your parents know that you are an adult now. Now is the opportune time because, and I could be wrong about this, they may view your marriage as the "rite of passage" into womanhood. You can state in a very matter-of-fact way that your mother's behavior is not acceptable and that you are not going to tolerate it anymore. You are their daughter, yes, but you are their adult daughter.

It may help to share how you feel when she makes certain comments, but it is possible that your parents may not be receptive to that (they may be more practical or result oriented). Just be very factual and firm about the wedding or about how your mother treats you, and leave it at that. Don't engage in an emotional argument, don't try to reason with her, don't go into long discussions about the past - it's not going to work. You can say something like, "Mom, if I can't figure out how to do 'X' own my own now, what am I going to do when I am faced with a similar situation later on?" You can also explain how you feel when she brings up the weight issue: "Mom, I'm trying to enjoy my wedding as much as I can but when you say things like that I feel hurt." Also, it seems like your father is not as frustrating as your mother - maybe you can enlist his help to get the message across or to support you when you need it?

They may be more amenable to words like "compromise" - I think that it's a magic word for many South Asians who follow tradition. You can frame it in a way like you've compromised by allowing a large wedding, and they should compromise in kind. After all, compromise is the key to any relationship (though they may only view it in terms of the marital relationship) - make it known that compromise is required and you've done your duty. Acknowledge that you understand that they only want to see you happy, but some of their behavior is having a negative effect on you.

As difficult as it may be, I think it would help to accept the possibility that you parents may not change and that they may continue to treat you like a child. Their control over the wedding is probably going to continue into the future - what clothes your child should wear, what you should wear, where you should live, what job you should get, how you should decorate your house, suggestions on what to do for your job, who to keep in touch with. You will probably have to consistently stand your ground and distance yourself as much as you can to maintain your sanity. It may be difficult to establish an adult relationship with your parents if the other party is not in agreement about the fact that you are a grown woman and can handle your own affairs. Since they treat you like a child, the only way to fix it is to separate and assert your identity.

In a little over a week, you will be somewhat freer from the tangles of their influence. Revel in that, express yourself matter-of-factly but nicely, and try to accept the possibility that they may not change. Based on what I surmise from your post, I think it would be a good idea NOT to completely burn bridges with your parents (for the sake of your children), but I would set appropriate boundaries anyway to make sure that it doesn't affect your marriage or your future children (if you decide to have kids). Good luck and congratulations on the wedding.
posted by satine at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2013

My fiance and I are getting married in 3 days and there have been lots of ups and downs in the process of getting ready. We've been making it a point to remind one-another of a couple of important things:

1) If we are in fact married at the end of the day, it was a success. Everything else is a really sweet bonus.
2) By and large, everyone in attendance will be there to celebrate and enjoy themselves and will have absolutely no idea if something we planned didn't go exactly as we hoped.

Keeping things in perspective helps a lot - not to say that there aren't obstacles and issues and frustrations. But in the end, you'll be married and everyone will have a great time, and that'll be awesome.
posted by Rallon at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2013

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