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November 6, 2007 5:39 AM   Subscribe

My mother is making me choose between her and my best man.


A word to strike fear in the heart.

Weddings really are the perfect storm -- a combination of large sums of money which may or may not have strings, event planning, family members who never see or speak to each other, and the pressure to get everything perfect on the day.

In my case, the wave that's threatening to break the mast of the ship is that my mother has declared she will not come to the wedding if the person I've made my best man, who I will hereonafter dub the generic male name of Dave, attends.

I know my parents -- mostly my mother -- dislike Dave. There's no reason for this. They've traditionally disapproved of many of my close friends, and my bride is my first friend they've not started sniping about for a long, long time.

My parents are overjoyed I'm actually getting married. They've bought outfits. And we did all we could, in advance, to prevent any conflict happening. Six months ago, I broached the subject of people attending they may dislike. They seemed fine.

I then told them that Dave, and a few other people my parents dislike, would be there. My mother replied it was up to us who to invite, she didn't mind at all.

I said to Dave I'd like him to be my best man, but it would depend on whether my mother would be upset with it. He said he understood. (Dave bears no ill-will towards my mother at all and has bore this very well.)

Last week, I told my parents I would make Dave my best man, and they said that would be fine, they were happy for us.

But last night, my mother suddenly changed her mind. She announced she would not attend the wedding if Dave comes, even if I strip him of all his bestmanly duties.

Dave's list of crimes, dictated by my father as my mother refuses to talk about the issue sensibly, include: turning me away from religion, introducing me to women and drink (Dave doesn't drink and is happily married), stealing from me, conniving against them, and encouraging me into an "unnaturally close relationship", the nature of which I can only guess at from her strict Irish Catholic imagination.

My mother's dislike, um, hatred of him appears to be based on explaining away the choices I took as a teenager and adult that she didn't approve of. Turning away from religion and towards women and drink and song is pretty much universal, and I am no teenage rebel. I am proud to be nerd.

I've known Dave for two-thirds of my life. He's a good human being without a chromosome of evil in him. If anything, he's been a positive influence on me. He's offered to do whatever it takes to sort this out, although he doesn't know about this latest development... yet.

As a groom, my first duty is to my bride. She is furious, and thinks that an unsealable rift will open up between us and my mother if she boycotts the wedding. But we've agreed to not let this come between us. She, also, is bearing this well.

Me, I would rather not choose, and if my hand were forced, I believe neither my mother or Dave should come. I'd like to talk to my mother sensibly about this, and point out, for instance, Dave doesn't drink, but she screams me down, tries to make me feel guilty, hangs up the phone... She won't listen to reason, to the extent that I worry about her mental health. I'd love to try and see her point of view, but it's not based on reality.

In conclusion, this is a case of one good person with an irrational disgust towards another good person, threatening to ruin the magical wedding of two more good people. Have you been through something similar? Advice?

FYI, the wedding is next summer, and bride and I are only children.
posted by randomination to Human Relations (75 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And to think I swore I'd never post one of these human relations things here...
posted by randomination at 5:40 AM on November 6, 2007

Call her bluff, keep Dave, and don't spend another minute worrying about it.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:46 AM on November 6, 2007 [14 favorites]

I'm very sorry your mother is crazy.

Is there any chance you could convince her to go to some kind of family wedding counseling thing with you? Maybe with a clergyman that she trusts?

Where is your Dad in all this? I wouldn't be surprised if he's learned to just stay out of the way of your Mom, but maybe he at least has some advice for you, since he's been dealing with her for so long.
posted by amtho at 5:46 AM on November 6, 2007 [6 favorites]

Sounds like things are already ruined - sure Dave seems like a good guy who will tell you to invite Mom, but you and your bride will be seething with resentment instead of fully enjoying your wedding day. Meanwhile, Mom won't listen to reason and surely if she boycotts the wedding that is not going to lay a good groundwork for the future.

I'd say take a nice Christmas trip to Bermuda/the British Virgin Islands and, surprise!, spontaneously decide to get married while you're there.
posted by mikepop at 5:48 AM on November 6, 2007

That sounds rough, but you're a grown up. You get to pick your best man. If you cave in to your mother's childish request now, you're setting a bad precedent for letting her meddle with your life, your marriage, etc.
posted by mds35 at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2007 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not sure. My father's somewhat complicit in this -- he doesn't like Dave either and hasn't tried to talk my mother out of it. But he at least hasn't said he will boycott the wedding too.
posted by randomination at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2007

The pacifist way is to ask Dave not to come. Thank him for being understanding. Then you and your new wife take him out for an amazing dinner.

That's pretty rough on Dave though, and quite unfair. From the sounds of it though, getting him not to come will be unfortunate but will blow over soon enough. Telling your mother to either deal with it or not come at all could take decades to blow over.

Although, will she continue to exert this influence over your life once you're married? If this is going to be a constant problem, then perhaps it's worth making a stand now.
posted by twirlypen at 5:53 AM on November 6, 2007

Response by poster: (that was @amtho)
posted by randomination at 5:54 AM on November 6, 2007

Who's wedding is it? If your mother can't act like an adult, then that's on her.

I'd call her and say, "I understand you don't respect my choices. I'll understand if you don't love me more than you disrespect me."

She wants to throw down? Throw down.
posted by ewkpates at 5:56 AM on November 6, 2007 [18 favorites]

I said to Dave I'd like him to be my best man, but it would depend on whether my mother would be upset with it.

Here's a tip: stop giving your mother power over your life.

I'm just guessing, but I don't suspect that you try to make her life choices for her, do you? I also assume you're a grown man and not 15 years old.

If she's unwilling to live with her son's choices for best man, cut her loose. I trust that after six months of not talking to this overbearing loon you'll feel more relaxed than you ever have before.
posted by dobbs at 5:57 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

I think the Machiavellian way to play it is to stop being reasonable and lay a massive guilt trip on your mother at this point.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 5:57 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'd call her bluff.

There's simply no way an Irish Catholic mother would skip her son's wedding.
posted by Oktober at 5:58 AM on November 6, 2007 [12 favorites]

Best answer: FWIW,

I'm a pastor, and I'm about to perform my 12th wedding this year. One of the first questions I ask when I'm getting to know a couple I'm going to marry is "Is there anyone in your family who is overexerting their influence on this wedding?" or "Is anyone in your family treating your wedding as their fantasy camp?"

If the answer is yes, I tell them that I am working with and for them to assure that the wedding is theirs. and that they are not bad people for making it that way.

I don't mean to be brash, but how dare your mother do this to you? You are an adult, and this is your wedding, and it is and should be your decision who to have as your best man.

You are not responsible for the choices she (or any other adult) makes. It sounds like you are feeling like you are being forced to choose between your mother and your best friend. Would it help to perhaps frame it this way: You are an adult and making adult decision for what will be one of the most special days of your life. You are not choosing between Dave and your mom. Your mom is choosing between Dave and you.

And no one, mum or not, should scream at you and beat you down like that. I'm afraid that if you don't learn to say "I'm sorry you feel that way, Mom, but this is how things are going to be," that you are going to be going through this for the rest of her life, every time you make a life choice that she disapproves of.

I'm sorry you are going through this. All the best to you.
posted by 4ster at 6:01 AM on November 6, 2007 [48 favorites]

What a crap situation; you have my sympathies.

From your description, it sounds to me like your mom is channeling her anxiety about you getting married, about her being symbolically replaced as the most important woman in your life, about the whole big crazy-making wedding of her ONLY child, onto something she feels she can control - i.e. your best man. She just picked something to lay down an ultimatum about that she believes you'll bend on. It's about control and fear for her.

I think it will be hard for you to make her see this. In fact, I would think it wouldn't help he situation. But you mentioned that she is a staunch irish catholic. I would go to her priest OR to the clergyperson who is marrying you (if indeed you are getting married in the/a church) and discuss the situation with them. Then ask him to talk to your mom dispassionately and with love. She needs to be reassured, I'm guessing. And she needs to be made to feel important.

Giving in to her childish demands is a bad idea. It is not only your wedding but it is the beginning of your married life. Stand firm, have Dave as your best man, and assure your bride that your mother will get over this (with any luck, before the actual event).

Best of luck, and congratulations.
posted by minervous at 6:04 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Although, will she continue to exert this influence over your life once you're married? If this is going to be a constant problem, then perhaps it's worth making a stand now.

That's my thought, too. She isn't pushing you to have a chicken instead of beef or to invite her bridge club, she's dictating who your best man is. That sets a precedent for a lifetime of Mom dictating your marriage.
If she decides who your best man is, and you let her, what will stop her from demanding who your first child's godparents are, for example, and saying she'll boycott the baptism if not? It's already shown itself to be a proven formula for her if you give in now.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:05 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Tell your mom Dave will be there, period. Then drop the subject.

There's plenty of time between now and the wedding for her to get a grip. Just refuse to discuss it with her, at all. Period.

I'm an only child myself, and trust me, you have to make a stand. Been there, done that, etcetera, etcetera.

(Do you have any sensible female relatives who at some point can kindly get in her face and tell her she's being an ass, and to knock it off? )
posted by konolia at 6:07 AM on November 6, 2007

Are you getting married in the Catholoic Church? If you're having a wedding Mass you might have the priest explain to your mom that it's an inherently public event and people must be allowed to attend.

That doesn't get Dave and your Mom both to the reception and it doesn't get you Dave as a best man, but it could get both Dave and your Mom to the ceremony.
posted by Jahaza at 6:09 AM on November 6, 2007

I'd say stand your ground. She'll regret not coming to the wedding and hate herself and not you.
It's your day and not her's. She has no right to demand that.
posted by freddymetz at 6:11 AM on November 6, 2007

Response by poster: Are you getting married in the Catholic Church?

Nuh-uh. I am an evangelical agnostic, she is Baptist. We are also travelling to Canada for the wedding.
posted by randomination at 6:12 AM on November 6, 2007

Does your mother do this sort of thing often? Petty conflicts and such?

Today its Dave, tomorrow she has some problem with your soon-to-be wife. The day after that, she doesn't like the arrangements for her to visit her grandkids, and she hates the way you raise them, etc, etc, etc. You need to nip this in the bud! She is trying her bestest to maintain some thread of control in your life. Put your foot down and it may save you lots of grief down the road.

I would say, sorry you are upset, but Dave is my best man.

and ditto to the 'period, end of discussion, thats all she wrote, etcetc'
posted by ian1977 at 6:14 AM on November 6, 2007

A friend of mine had a similar issue, except it was his divorced mother and father. The dad in this case was fine with mum coming along, but Mum insisted she wouldn't come if he was there. My friend eventually turned around and told her Dad was coming whether she liked it or not, and he wanted her to be there too, but wasn't going to start rearranging his wedding to facilitate her acting like a spoilt child.

She sucked it up and came anyway, and all was fine.

As other posters have said, if your mother is being unreasonable (which she clearly is) you're under no obligation to rearrange your wedding solely to placate her. You can't choose family (and all the headaches that come with them), but you're friends with Dave for a reason.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:14 AM on November 6, 2007

Sit her down and explain that it's your wedding, Dave is a good guy and he's going to be your best man. Tell her you desperately want her, your mother, the woman who birthed you, at your wedding, that it would mean the world to you, that to not have her there would be strange and not right and blow to your heart on what shoudl be one of happiest days of your life, but if she really wants to stay away because of this friend of yours who has done nothing negative you to then that's her choice and she's going to have live with the fact that's she's choosing to not go to your wedding.

Do not, under any circumstances, allow her to dictact who you invite, especially after she repeatedly agreed to be fine with your decisions. You're an adult now and she has no right to act like a child.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:15 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Stand your ground. Keep Dave as best man (what a good sport he is!)

There's no way your mother is going to skip your wedding.

Refuse to engage in argument. He's coming, he's the best man, there's no more to say. If she pulls the histronics, just look her in the eye and tell her that it would really upset you if she were to not attend and you hope she changes her mind, but you can't force her to be there. If she starts with the accusations about Dave's character, tsk tsk her and say that these things aren't true and leave it at that. No need to be intentionally condescending, but she is, after all, acting like a child.

Her baby is getting married and she's freaking out. Do not give into the crazymaking.
posted by desuetude at 6:26 AM on November 6, 2007

"Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, Mom. We'll miss you at the wedding." Lather, rinse, repeat. Don't let her be so emotionally manipulative.

Weddings make people absolute batshit crazy but your mom is being crazier than acceptable, IMO.
posted by sutel at 6:38 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Stop calling her or trying to talk to her in person about the issue. Instead, sit down and write two letters, one to her and one to your father. List the reasons that Dave is a great guy but ultimately make it have a "It's my life and my wedding and I'll do what I want but I love you and wish that you would attend and support me in this." tinge.

Or don't have a wedding and elope instead.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 6:41 AM on November 6, 2007

It sucks that your mom has decided that making Grand Sweeping Statements(tm) is the only course of action, and I agree that in an ideal world you should stand your ground. However, since Dave is being so accommodating, you are in a position to give-and-get.

"Mom, I understand you're uncomfortable with Dave as my best man, and it's important to me that you come to the wedding. I'll choose X as my best man instead, to accommodate your feelings, but Dave is still going to be coming to the wedding. I know this will be ok with you."

Disingenuous and pandering a bit, maybe, but the end result is the most desirable: This lets your mom save face from her Grand Sweeping Statement, lets you have both Dave and your Mom nearby, and removes the seething resentment that comes from acquiescing TOO easily to unreasonable demands.
posted by nkknkk at 6:44 AM on November 6, 2007

Agree that you must stand your ground no matter what. Uninviting Dave is off the table. Invite the people you want to be there--it's their choice to come or not. That includes your own mother.

I'm almost positive she'll still come. She changed her mind so quickly on this issue at least once already. There's no reason to think she won't do so again.

If you give in, she will pull this exact same thing again and again, whenever there's something she wants you to do. Why wouldn't she, if it works?
posted by lampoil at 6:46 AM on November 6, 2007

Simply by virtue of the fact that $person asked me to choose between themselves and someone else, I'd remove $person from the wedding list.

This is your wedding, not hers. It's actually got little to do with her who you invite (unless you're having the wedding and reception at her house). You get to decide who comes. Personally speaking, I'd have my doubts about inviting someone who is going to have such a hissy fit before it all starts.
posted by Solomon at 6:49 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

The wedding is almost a year away. Once you get rid of Dave, which guest will your mother pick next to make a fuss about?
posted by CiaoMela at 6:52 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Wow, are you related to me? I could have told exactly the same story, adding up episodes from my and my siblings lives. Must be the Irish Catholic thing.

So don't disinvite Dave. Your mother may refuse to come (you'd be surprised at Irish Catholic stubborness) or she may come and make a terrible scene. But that's her problem, and there's essentially nothing you can do about it. She's convinced that Dave is "evil" and she won't change her mind. The sooner you separate from your mother and focus on your own, new family, the better.
posted by footnote at 7:04 AM on November 6, 2007

I'm also sorry your mother is crazy.

She said it was okay if Dave was the best man and now she must lump it. This after-the-fact freakout speaks more of dreadful talking youself into it anxiety freakout than any sor tof rational mind speaking. That is also borne out by the crazy threats. It is totally inappropriate for a parent to make threats about not coming to a wedding, period. Your Mom is being inappropriate. She has a year to learn how to behave. I recommend that you be as civil as possible [I like the two letter approach] but also firm and that you and your fiancee have the wedding you want.

If Dave had, say, run over your only brother in a trgic auto accident I could maybe, maybe, see your Mom acting like this, but just not liking him for petty random reasons? That's the crazy talking and her flipflop on the issue is particularly concerning. She said okay, you invited Dave, she must lump it. End of story.
posted by jessamyn at 7:05 AM on November 6, 2007

Nthing "stand your ground." Do NOT let her push you around. Keep Dave as your best man and call her bluff. Think of it as doing the right thing both by yourself and your bride. Do you really want Mommie Dearest to run your life?

Please, please, think of your wife-to-be. How will she feel if you make it a habit to allow your mom to manipulate YOUR lives like that? You do not want her writing AskMeFi three years from now with "My mother-in-law is overbearing and unreasonable and my husband won't stand up to her. I don't want a divorce, but I'm at the end of my rope. What should I do?"
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:07 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Another vote for stand your ground. If your mother doesn't want to come, thats her loss - you'll have far bigger things occupying your mind on the day than whether your mum is there.
Chances are she will suck it up and attend - theres plenty of time between now and the wedding for her to regret the decision. She'd have to be VERY VERY VERY stubborn to miss her only son's wedding over this.

At the end of the day, Dave has done nothing wrong, why should he be the one to miss out?
posted by missmagenta at 7:29 AM on November 6, 2007

Another vote for stand your ground. Say to her (or write to her) "Mom, this is your first, last, and only chance to be present when I get married. Is your grudge more precious to you than that?"

Harsh, but it sounds like she could use a verbal kick in the pants. I agree with many others upthread that this might ultimately be about something other than Dave, and it helps to keep that in mind, but Dave and her grudge against him is the immediate issue, and it should be addressed on that level.
posted by adamrice at 7:30 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Stand your ground. Say "I love you, and I'm sorry you won't be at my wedding," or some variation thereof. It's your wedding.
posted by rtha at 7:40 AM on November 6, 2007

I've been the guy that the only-child friend's mom scapegoated for her kid turning out "bad" and I didn't get invited to the wedding -- directly after the wedding, said "mom" upped the ante of her power plays, and the marriage in question ended up in divorce within two years.

Your mileage my vary, but I wouldn't count on it.
posted by Pufferish at 7:46 AM on November 6, 2007

When I have to make decisions like this, I think to myself, "Which one of these people is being the asshole here?" And then I try to make my decision in favor of the person who's acting well.

In your case, the options are "Dave" or "Mom" and the answer is "Mom". Dave is being reasonable, your mother isn't, and it's your wedding.

And once again, think of your wife-to-be. If I were in her position and you let your mom force your friend out of being your best man, I'd be worried for what would happen when she decided to turn on me. Stand the hell up to her. She's a grown-up, in theory. She won't skip your wedding, unless she truly is mental.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

"My mother is making me choose between her and my best man."

see, there's your problem right there. Your mother is not "making you" do anything! You're a grown adult, dude, and your choices are your own to make. For what it's worth, I *really* like ewkpate's take on the matter.

you cannot control other people. you can only control your reactions to them.

This is not the time to be all passive-aggressive and conflict averse and 'trying-to-keep-the-peace'. Your mother acted like a spoiled five-year-old, so treat her like one. How does she feel entitled to dictate this stuff in the first place? She has absolutely no right to do this. No, it's not nice, but IMO this kind of crap is unforgivably rude and disrespectful to you.

for what it's worth I am also an only child. Take it from someone who's been there, you really need to get a firm grip on this species of petty manipulation/guilt scheme before it becomes habitual.

Also agree with all those who say she's got almost a year to get over it and grow up.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:48 AM on November 6, 2007

Your bride-to-be is right, there will be a rift between you and your mother if things are allowed to stay as they are and you have Dave as your best man.

Go talk to your mom's priest. Ask him what he thinks and see if he's willing to come to dinner with your parents and Dave to work this out. Or maybe lunch after service. Check with your Dad too that this is alright. Sometimes parents hide medical problems they don't want to burden you with.

The downside of all this is she might not be able to use Dave as a scapegoat for all your faults anymore.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 7:51 AM on November 6, 2007

Your mother is a guest at your wedding. Guests are not entitled to dictate terms.

I would invite her, and refuse to discuss the issue any further.
posted by oddman at 7:51 AM on November 6, 2007

You are doomed if Dave is not the best man at your wedding. I think your bride-to-be is wrong in assuming an unsealable rift will open up between you and your mother after the wedding. There is already an unsealable rift between you and your mother.
posted by mediareport at 8:11 AM on November 6, 2007

(Or at least as unsealable as the one potentially to come.)
posted by mediareport at 8:13 AM on November 6, 2007

It sounds like your mom has already laid the groundwork for a complicated future. I don't think having Dave there is really going to make that any worse than it will be already. Tell her politely and sternly that Dave is your best man and you expect her to be there, and end the conversation.
posted by pwb503 at 8:19 AM on November 6, 2007

The mix of Irish Catholic and Baptist has me reeling. My IC Mum pulled something much smaller in trying to control the guest list at my wedding. I held firm and she reminded me of it routinely until she died.
Ignore those who say she'll never miss your wedding, if you choose Dave she will not come.
What you need to tease out is how pervasive the whole guilt trip thing she inculcated in you is. If you are agonising about her mentioning it at every family event in the future (she will) and genuinely upset that she will be devastated not to be at your big day (even though that is her choice due to her irrational controlling behaviour) , if you really need your parents later on in a Grandparent capacity, then you need to seek a family intermediary.

If you are thick-skinned enough to let her huff every now and again, or you've lost respect for her because of this to the extent you would consider a more distant relationship with your parents in the future, stick with Dave.

But you know who I feel sorry for? your father, he's fucked whatever he does or doesn't do in this.
posted by Wilder at 8:23 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The fact that Dave is OK about all this whichever way it ends indicates you made the right choice in your Best Man. Stick with it. Your mother is always going to be your mother - here you're giving Dave a chance to be a part of the beginning of the rest of your life. To make him stand down would be dishonouring your relationship with him, which sounds worth celebrating in its own right. Weddings aren't just about family - friends are equally important.
posted by Sparx at 8:23 AM on November 6, 2007 [7 favorites]

As someone who 'made' his mother cry for many days over the fact that he eloped rather than had a big ceremony, I'd say 'tough, mom'.

It's your wedding, not hers, and if she can't deal with that, it's her problem. She'll either get over it or she'll chew herself up. Sounds like your Dad lets her get on with it - he already knows he can't change her.

As oddman said above, she is your guest at your wedding. Your rules.
posted by lowlife at 8:27 AM on November 6, 2007

Send the priest.
posted by OldReliable at 8:33 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Call Mom's bluff.

On the off chance she really does ditch out, she'll be the one having to answer the questions, because when people at the wedding ask where she is, you will just say, "She decided not to attend. You'll have to ask her about that."

But although I don't know your mom, I'd say she'll most likely attend. She's doing the only thing she can to leverage power in this situation-- threaten not to attend.

Oh, and quit being a pussy. You're getting married, a decidedly adult decision that calls for you to assume your (apparently new) role as a Grown Up. what if Mom doesn't like your curtains? Your wife's housekeeping standards? Your clothes? Will she have a say in your business forever?

The rift between you and your mom will pale in comparison to the rift that will be created between you and your wife if you don't man up , like, now. Even if you choose your mom over Dave to be nice, you'll never live down the idea of you as a Mama's Boy that your wife will get from this experience.

posted by Rykey at 8:35 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

"I'm sorry to hear that, and if you decide not to come we'll miss you."

No discussion, no debate, repeat this as your only answer to any Dave-related argument.
posted by lemuria at 8:36 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I have to make decisions like this, I think to myself, "Which one of these people is being the asshole here?" And then I try to make my decision in favor of the person who's acting well.

Hear, hear, Coatlicue. I call this notion "Piss Off the Right People."
posted by Rykey at 8:38 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Mom, I understand you're uncomfortable with Dave as my best man, and it's important to me that you come to the wedding. I'll choose X as my best man instead, to accommodate your feelings, but Dave is still going to be coming to the wedding. I know this will be ok with you."

What Mom will hear:

"Mom, anytime you disagree with something that is clearly none of your business, all you need to do is act like a child throwing a tantrum. Since I'm afraid of your anger, I'll always be happy to tailor these situations to your liking. Be sure to let me know of anything that bothers you about my life in the future, especially if it involves my new bride, our future children, and our careers."
posted by Rykey at 8:49 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

It may not be the best thing for your wedding, but for the sake of your marriage, making a stand against your mother's manipulation now is surely the right thing.

Just make sure you rally your fiancee around that point so she understands that something much bigger than the wedding is at stake.
posted by Good Brain at 8:54 AM on November 6, 2007

If she is not discussing this rationally, I might write her a letter. Seems a little melodramatic on the surface, but it will give you a chance to communicate with her without being interrupted or being confronted with her stubbornness. Also, sometimes seeing things in writing can trigger a different response. I'd be expecially sure to mention that Dave does not drink and is married, in order to factually refute her accusations.

If this does not calm her down, then I think you should tell her you are very sorry she feels that way, but by asking you to choose in such an unfair manner, she has made your decision for you. She will be very missed, and she is welcome to change her mind whenever she wants.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:10 AM on November 6, 2007

Response by poster: I'm going to print this all out now and take it to the pub with the lass. Thanks, any other experiences/thoughts welcome.
posted by randomination at 9:26 AM on November 6, 2007

When my husband and I got married, his family (hardcore drinkers) and my family (born-again hardcore Christians who won't let anyone bring vanilla flavoring in the house, because it's got alcohol in it) were kind of a problem. I also got married under the Hot Tub Mystery Religion. My vows were all of one line, and mentioned nothing of commitment.

I didn't ask my family anything; I told them, rationally, that I wanted X wedding at Y location, that we were doing it with Z options (full bar, dj's, swing band, dancing... all nonos in the eyes of Baptistry). I told them I loved them very much and would love it if they would all come and they did. I also let them know that if they didn't wish to contribute funds to my sinful wedding, that was okay, as future husband and I had been saving for three years.

Ultimately, my parents gave me a small amount of money and were very nice to my husband's family... and my mom and stepdad, who, being terminally ill, was so hopped up on drugs that he passed out face-down at my rehearsal dinner and started snoring in front of EVERYONE. He had to be carried out. Nice first impression!

I too am an only child.

My parents' compromise came in this form: right after the ceremony was over, dad and his wife went to PF Chang's for dinner instead of eating with me at the reception. They didn't see me leave. My dad didn't dance with me to a song, or toast me, or anything like that. But he DID show up and was respectful to both my mother (who he has not seen since their divorce/restraining order), her husband, and my hillbilly in-laws.

I think once you get down to the wire, your mother will come around. If she doesn't, remember, it's YOUR day and your WIFE's day. If she chooses not to attend, do not feel guilty about it. IT IS NOT HER DAY. IT IS YOUR DAY. PERIOD.

God willing she comes to her senses; otherwise, in the future, when she asks you for visits or things that are unreasonable, you will have a mighty grip of ammo against her for trying to "own" your wedding.

Just be prepared to do everything yourselves and be done with it. You are an adult and she needs to realize and respect that, and stop trying to control you like a child. Make a stand... it will change the future of your relationship, hopefully for the better. If not, hey, you're saving your future children from her influence and controlling ways.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:30 AM on November 6, 2007

Your mother Asian too? :-)

I'll give two short stories.. when I got married, my mother was ADAMANT about not inviting my aunts (crazy enough, her side of the family), and my paternal Grandmother told me not to invite my half-siblings (father's children from another marriage).
Both threatened to not come If I invited the "banned" groups.

To this day, I regret caving in to both decisions. My excuse is that I was young, but it doesn't make up for the fact that I would have enjoyed having them there.

The relationships I have/had with my mother and grandmother stayed the same, and are the same to this day...

Second story
My closest friend (believe it or not, my first girlfriend in middle school) got married in New England, where her husband's family is from... her family is in Florida.
The wedding was 3mo after 9/11, and her mother refused to fly or to drive. Her father did not attend either (I was her only "family" that attended).
She resented, and probably still resents her mother for that. They do talk now, but it took an insane amount of patience on the part of her husband to get them to talk again. This took a few years...the mother-daughter relationship changed.. at least to me, it seems as though her mother finally sees her as an adult... but that's pure speculation on my part...

Not much help, but it might give you perspective...
posted by niteHawk at 9:49 AM on November 6, 2007

tell your mom that dave is going to be your best man, and if they don't feel like they can contribute to your wedding fund or attend because of this, then you will miss them a lot, but dave's friendship is more important than their money. when mom (inevitably) asks if dave is more important than she is, tell her no, that you are both invited to the wedding and that she's the one choosing not to attend. she'd given her blessing to dave's presence earlier, and that you were not about to withdraw your invitation now.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:01 AM on November 6, 2007

Call her bluff, and don't be shy about using the leverage you have. "I'm sorry you don't love your only son enough to attend his wedding day because of complaints that you've made up yourself. It'll be a shame to have to tell your grandkids someday about how my own mother was too selfish to put family first, but at least they'll have the benefit of a mother who doesn't try to manipulate them like that."
posted by anildash at 10:05 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know from Irish Catholic, I'm a WASP, and I have a sting to prove it. "Not come? Mother! What will people think?!" would be all it'd take. "Tsk tsk, tongues will wag!" is another one.

In case you care, the Bible says "Honor your mother and father". Honor does not mean obey.

There is some good advice here. Dave is in, Mom is whatever she chooses. If you're inclined, do whatever you can to make her see the light. If she doesn't see the light, it's her problem, not yours.
posted by Goofyy at 10:18 AM on November 6, 2007

No, no, no, nkknkk's advice is not good. I must forcefully agree with those who have said, "Stand your ground, man! Dave is in, mother can come, or not, as she chooses, and let her (mother) do the explaining if she chooses not to come," or whatever variation you choose. You are setting yourself and your bride-to-be up for future interference if you cave in now.
posted by Lynsey at 10:50 AM on November 6, 2007

Stop talking to your mom about the wedding. If she asks about it, just tell her "don't worry, it's under control." If she insists on giving advice, say "okay, we'll consider that." If she asks if Dave will be there, say "don't worry it's under control-- I don't want you to be upset."

Stay neutral, don't give her any ammunition and enlist your father to make sure she comes to the wedding.

But if Dave is the Best Man, I'd skip the rehearsal dinner.

And I just have to say, I always worry that I'm an overbearing interfering mom, but man I am an*amateur* compared to some of the stuff I read here. What is wrong with people? (no offense randomination. I know you love your mom.)
posted by nax at 11:16 AM on November 6, 2007

When I was a divorce lawyer I acted for a husband who'd been in this exact situation - his mother disapproved of the best man, the son and his fiancee placated her, and this led to years of this woman feeling she could dictate the terms on which her son lived his life. Eventually the wife could stand it no more and she left.

In her divorce petition (on the basis of the husband's unreasonable behaviour, because he allowed it to happen) she said that her mother-in-law objected to the couple's choice of holiday destination every year (even though she herself was not going with them) until the son cancelled the holiday several times. The times he didn't cancel, when he got home, his mother was in fits of hysterical tears for weeks.

She also insisted that they spent every Christmas & Boxing Day, New Year, Easter and Bank Holiday with her, despite the fact that the wife's parents lived a few miles away. There was no possibility of a visit to the wife's parents, nor were the wife's parents allowed to come round to the son's parents to see their grandchildren on holiday weekends. On the one occasion the wife stood up to this and took the children round to her parents for an afternoon, the mother-in-law called the police and said the children had been kidnapped.

And so on and so on ...

Nip this in the bud now or you will be making a rod for your own back.
posted by essexjan at 11:22 AM on November 6, 2007 [6 favorites]

Neither I nor my sister are getting married, but our mum is exactly the same sort of guilt-tripper your mum is. Sucks, doesn't it.

My sister now just goes "mmhmm, mmhmm, yes ok ok" whenever she talks to my mum - and then does her own thing. Mum's looking for validation, but my sister doesn't let it stop her from her own plans. I'm only starting to learn this.

Best of luck.
posted by divabat at 11:26 AM on November 6, 2007

Pay particular attention to Wilder's answer. I think the Irish originated the saying "cut off your nose to spite your face." If not, they certainly embrace it, embody it, illustrate it daily. (NOT IRSHIST! Except when it comes to my ex's mother....)
posted by at 12:21 PM on November 6, 2007

Me, I'd lie to my parents and ask Dave to be my best man. Keep the folks out of the loop. Even have someone else be best man for the rehearsal, if I have to. Then, when the day of the wedding comes, the parents will already be sat down and the ceremony begun by the time they notice the switcheroo.

If your mom wants to burst into a screaming fit and run from the church at that point, the only person who looks like a tool is her. And if she doesn't, then you've made your point about who holds the power over your affairs.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:57 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

If your mom wants to burst into a screaming fit and run from the church at that point, the only person who looks like a tool is her.

No, you'd look like a tool for concocting an elaborate ruse to deceive your own mother.

Act like an adult.
posted by grouse at 1:08 PM on November 6, 2007

"Dear Mom,

I received your R.S.V.P. I am sorry to understand that you will not be attending my wedding. Maybe Dad could bring a camera so you can look at his pictures afterward?

Love, Randomination."

Sign, stamp, seal, send and forget about it. Life's too short to deal with this kind of crap, ever.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:26 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Simple rule of thumb that will serve you well not just in this situation but throughout life: anyone who ever gives you an ultimatum of the form "it's me or X" automatically loses. Period. An exception can be made if X is Adolf Hitler.
posted by kindall at 1:34 PM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

There's simply no way an Irish Catholic mother would skip her son's wedding.
Haven't met my mom, have you? She's missed my wedding(s) and my brother's, all because my dad was there. Don't underestimate the power of a spiteful woman.

However, I agree with the choice: they are both invited and they both can make a choice on their own.

Want to know why? Because they're both adults. Whether or not they choose to act like adults is up to them. I suspect that Dave will.

You mother? It's her choice and whatever she chooses won't kill her. I think the best you can do is say something along the lines of, "I'm so sorry you feel this way and I wish I could make you feel better. Both of you are very important people in my life and I am inviting you both. I hope that you can find the strength within you to forgive him for just one day."

This is honest and slightly manipulative - you would try to offer her the opportunity to suffer and be holier-than-thou. That's some big bait.
posted by plinth at 1:39 PM on November 6, 2007

Act like an adult.

Setting up a situation -- via subterfuge or otherwise -- whereby an irrational parent has to put up or shut up is the height of responsibility. It very nearly screams "adulthood".
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 2:36 PM on November 6, 2007

I've got to say, if you can't stand up to your mother when she's acting like a crazy moonbat, you probably aren't ready for the resonsibilities of marriage.

Look at this like a test of your maturity.
posted by Justinian at 3:33 PM on November 6, 2007

This crap with your Mom is not going away, so deal with it in the same way you'll be dealing with any other crap she wants to deal out. Politely explain that you did your best to accommodate her needs, but you have now made a commitment, and must honor it. Assure her that she brought up a son with manners, who would not dream of un-asking a friend to be in his wedding. Assure her that you want her there and would be devastated if she chose not to attend. Do the right thing, and do it as gently and lovingly as possible.

I have family members with bipolar disorder, and the best you can do is reject the crap, while loving them as much as possible.
posted by theora55 at 4:13 PM on November 6, 2007

Nthing stand your ground. But don't engage in the suggested 'if you love me more than you disrespect me, you'll come' or any switcheroo tricks or deception. Manipulation in either direction is unhealthy. Just be an adult, make your choices, and let others make theirs. The conversation(s) with your mother should end with, "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I've made my decision, and I hope you choose to come."
posted by underwater at 4:15 PM on November 6, 2007

There's simply no way an Irish Catholic mother would skip her son's wedding.

Haven't met my mom, have you? She's missed my wedding(s) and my brother's, all because my dad was there. Don't underestimate the power of a spiteful woman.
Yeah, there's a lot of serious misunderstanding of family drama going on in this thread. 'Tell your mom to fuck off' is reasonable only in theory; she's not a small part of your life and you've gotta make that clear to her as you gently but firmly get exactly what you want. (My mom and her brother didn't speak for the last 20+ years of their lives - went to their respective deathbeds in cold silence - over some ancient controversy. You know better than any damn fool AskMe hipster whether you can just 'call her bluff.')

A year is a long time; you don't have to figure this out today or even this month. Seconding suggestions to seek counseling, or especially the advice of a friendly priest, ideally a family friend - someone she'll trust, who'll tell her what you're thinking in the voice of authority. You seem to want the right things, to want to do the right thing, and your willingness to get in the middle here bespeaks sensible moderation. This is gonna work out only by people talking. (God, how dysfunctional is the average goddamn AskMe relationship? All these answers saying 'ditch the bitch' are disheartening!)

Yeah: find a trusted mediator, figure out exactly what your mom has against Dave, and just wedge into whatever opening you can find. Six months from now, if things are still fucked and she's not listening to reason (you pick your own best man, that's clear of course), then maybe more drastic action is called for. But for God's sake keep her out of the planning and make her feel (somehow!) that she's doing a good thing by rolling over for Dave. Tricksy like Gollum, that's the way.
posted by waxbanks at 8:26 PM on November 6, 2007

As everyone says, take a stand or you'll regret it later. If you back off having Dave as best man, you set yourself up for a lifetime of crazy meddling.
posted by Mavri at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2007

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