Advice for the Mother of the Groom

A new handbook, The Complete Mother of the Groom: How to Be Graceful, Helpful and Happy During this Special Time by Sydell Rabin (Adams Media, 2009), offers stories and advice to the woman who is often invisible at her own son’s wedding. Tradition simply advises her to wear beige and not say anything.

Sydell, who’s a twenty-year seasonal resident of the Vineyard, is a former MOG herself. She says her book “deals with real and practical ways to fit in and be part of this spectacular event.” It also addresses the apprehension and fear many mothers have regarding their role in the future: Will I still be included in my son’s life?

“You don’t just become a mother-in-law,” Sydell says in the book, rather you grow into the role, and if you want to be part of your daughter-in-law’s life, you have to invite her and her family into yours. If she lives nearby, you can create opportunities to “play” together, by taking her to lunch, by inviting her to go shopping, or by spending a day at a museum or crafts fair. If she lives far away, you can plan events around weekends, birthdays, and holidays.

“You want to reach out to her – to find her, and not wait for her to find you,” offers Sydell. She had noticed her own future daughter-in-law loved flowers. So on Heather’s first visit to the Vineyard, which coincided with her birthday, Sydell gifted her a Martha’s Vineyard T-shirt with a design of beautiful flowers.

The mother of the groom’s role can be to help make things happen and to help bring people together. “Believe in the importance of an extended family,” Sydell’s book advises. A mother can start by planning a get-together to become acquainted with her son’s future in-laws. You have to realize how much the new couple wants their parents to get along and like each other. Even if it becomes evident you have nothing in common, other than your children, don’t minimize that important tie. You can still allow for an occasional shared holiday or phone call to rejoice in good news.

Regarding interracial or cross-cultural couples, don’t be afraid to talk about any issues on your mind; Sydell notes that you can assume your daughter-in-law is as concerned as you. If, say, she’s from Brazil, try making a feijoada (Brazilian stew); “Everyone can comment on how well you did or how you might do it differently.” Learn a few words in her native language, like hello, goodbye, and thank you.

Ask about cultural, family, or traditional customs to include in the wedding. If the couple will have an interfaith marriage, your role may be to search for an inclusive ritual, like a reading, allowing “people who are close to the couple to enter into the wedding.” Sydell counsels, “Remember, differences in race, religion, and culture can be enriching.”

She suggests your role as mother of the groom can always be pro-active. If relationships are rocky or downright hopeless, you always have the choice of how to react and hopefully walk the diplomatic line. Sydell points out, “First impressions often change and building a relationship is always a work in progress.”