My Mom and Future MIL Have Commandeered My Wedding. How Can I Set Some Boundaries?

wedding stress cat

"I'm planning a wedding, and every time I make a decision, my mom and future mother-in-law want to do a Zoom call to talk about it. We literally had to Zoom to talk about which table cousin Jeremy would be at. How do I tell them to back off? To complicate things, they are paying for 95 percent of the wedding..."

My eyes got wide when I read the part about cousin Jeremy. Not another Zoom meeting! The word of the day today will be boundaries.

It’s so nice that the moms are footing bill. My employer foots my bills via my salary, but if they scheduled a meeting to discuss every decision I made we’d, call that micromanaging. And though micromanaging is often not malicious (often it’s based on caring and wanting to help), it can put you on the fast track to burnout.

One the other hand, there are so many good things happening. Even if the way they’re trying to support isn’t a good fit for you (that level of involvement wouldn’t suit most), it sounds like there are a lot of positives in the foundation.

The “B word” (again, boundaries) can sound off-putting, but it’s actually an important part of saying yes to love and connection. Boundaries are as much about what we’re saying yes to as they are about what we’re saying no to.

How you actually tell them is the tip of the iceberg. Determining how to “tell them to back off” begins with some self-reflection and inquiry. Here’s how to do that:

Determine what you want. What do you want to encourage the moms to keep doing? What do you want to fully own? What do you want to say no to? Start with your ideal and be specific. 

Define your lines (and your flexibility). Get clear on your non-negotiables. Something like, Due to a full schedule I don’t want to have more than one Zoom meeting a week. Outside those lines, what is that you feel super flexible about? What are areas you’d love for them to own.  

Prepare your mind. You probably have some activities that get you into that zone of being closer to best self—less stress, more compassion. For some it’s mindful breathing, for others it’s exercise and still for others it might be a conversation with that friend who gently supports and challenges you to be your best. Weddings can bring out the best and worst in all of us, so whatever those practices are for you, use them generously.

After you do this kind of self-reflection, you’ll probably have a sense of what to say. If you’re still uncertain, here are some helpful pointers for expressing boundaries:

1. Stick with facts

Many of us fall into over-apologizing or being overly stern. But this can add stress to what can otherwise be a fairly objective, relationship-building conversation. 

2. Honor your values

Your boundaries ideally honor your own values, and you can also express ideas that you think will honor theirs. For example: “I’m so appreciative of your enthusiasm. Would you be willing to fully own certain aspects of this planning? As you know I’m pretty busy, and while I am excited to plan X,Y,Z, I notice you seem excited about A, B, C. Maybe you can take those aspects on as a team? What do you think?”

3. Be flexible

When you have clear lines about what’s non-negotiable, you can afford to be flexible in other ways without losing your mind. Often, boundary conversation can turn into brainstorm sessions for better ways to operate as a team, honoring everyone’s interests and goals. Micromanaging can be a sign of stress of nervousness, so this conversation about ways to tweak the planning process may be a relief to all.

4. Be practical and clear

A big aspect of wedding planning is project management. Make sure everyone is clear on their roles, in agreement with their roles and comfortable communicating when confusion arises.  

My Boyfriend Never Posts Photos of Me on Social Media. How Do I Tell Him It’s Bothering Me?