Once upon a time, there was a Texas girl who loved and adored her mother, but also respected and feared her. The Texan girl didn’t always see eye-to-eye with her mother, but even in the worst of times, her mother had always been there with the love and support she needed. The Texan girl always wanted to make her mother happy.
So the Texan girl didn’t know what she would do when the Texan girl got engaged and didn’t plan to have the church-sanctioned, decorous affair she expected her mother would want for her.
And then the Texan girl got tired of talking about herself in the third person.
My mom is a brilliant and intimidating person, and she’s also very shy. She’s great at math and was a star athlete in her day. I’m a people-pleaser and an unrepentant extrovert, have made my living as a writer and do well to play right field in co-ed softball. Which means that once we stopped sharing bodily fluids roundabouts November 9, 1983, we’ve been about as different as two people can be.
Getting married is about a lot of things, but for me it’s predominantly been about the creation and maintenance of family and what that means for me as an woman carving out her space in the world. So yes, when Patrick and I decided to get married, it was about us, but it was also about our families. And my mom is the cornerstone of my family.
I wanted my mom to feel loved and included in the wedding process. However, there was so much about our wedding that wasn’t going to be traditional, which she is in many ways. (And, in many ways, to be clear, she isn’t what, say, Rick Santorum would call “traditional”: she worked for much of my childhood, only had one child rather late in life and went back to school to have two amazing careers as an accountant and a veterinary nurse before she turned 50.) I wasn’t sure how to fit her or my dad into the friend-officiated karaoke party Patrick and I had planned. My parents didn’t foot the bill for the wedding. I declined her friends’ very kind offer to throw me a wedding shower.
The first thing I tried was wedding dress shopping with her, which was fine but also kind of a shit show, for reasons that had nothing to do with my mom, because the salespeople were aggressive and non-responsive to what I wanted. The couple of times I tried on a dress I really liked, it was totally not my mom’s style. She didn’t scoff, but I could tell we weren’t having the OMG-DREAM-SHOPPING! mother-daughter moment that I’d imagined was required of all brides-to-be. Mom didn’t exactly tear up because I was excited to find a dress with pockets, you know what I mean?
But then she saved the day. After our boring and exhausting dress shopping trip, I was drowning my sorrows in a Bloody Mary at the bar. I was sure I’d never find the sparkly tea-length party dress I’d imagined … and then I got an e-mail from my mom with a link to a sparkly, tea-length party dress from London. Unbeknownst to me, she’d spent the morning Googling and come up with just the thing. My mother is a master of adorable internet cat videos and, it seems, niche online shopping. No surprise, given her long-time love for QVC.
But then things tapered off a little bit. I think my mom and I were both a little gun shy; she knew her weirdo kid wasn’t planning her kind of party, and I didn’t want to frighten her with stories about how Patrick’s and my former colleague was getting ordained on the Internet so he could officiate our wedding. She let me do my thing, although I didn’t know if that meant she didn’t approve of what I was doing, or if she really didn’t know how to help with this non-Wedding wedding.
When I took her to visit our original venue (Frisky readers will recall that it fell through 20 days before our wedding), a combination dive bar, swimming pool and fraternal hall in Dallas, I could see her really, really trying to be excited about this super casual, definitely offbeat venue. By which I mean she didn’t say anything definitively bad about it. I was sure my mom was preparing herself for a day of meh.
And then the magic happened: we went shopping for fabulous wedding accessories. Stylistically, our tastes differ, but when it comes to jewelry and shoes, the shopping stars align. The morning started off on a brilliant note — the first dress, literally the first dress, she tried on for her mother-of-the-bride outfit, was gorgeous and fit her perfectly. Without the stress of that task looming over us — body image issues make dress shopping tedious and anxiety-inducing for both me and my mom — we were able to cut loose. And we cut loose in the Swarovski store, which is a pretty fucking great place to cut loose.
I wouldn’t have stopped in of my own volition; Swarovski doesn’t really seem like a “me” kind of place. I mean, “sparkly” is definitely a “me” kind of thing, but isn’t that store full of weird crystal bird sculptures?Yes, yes it is. It is also full of crazy art-deco jewelry that was perfectly suited to my mid-century dress. I don’t know how long we were there, but we made besties with the saleslady who draped beautiful necklace after beautiful necklace around our respective collarbones. My mom didn’t even panic when I tried on the giant, tattoo-inspired swallow pendant. (At Swarovski! I KNOW!)
And while I’d been shopping for wedding shoes before, my mom somehow corralled the Nordstrom salesfolk (who I’m always convinced can read the fact that I’m one bar tab away from overdrafting my account) into bowing to our every whim. I ended up — courtesy of my mom, who also footed our sparkly-things bill — with a beautiful pair of deep turquoise Badgely Mischka kitten heels to wear during the reception.
Instead of paying for the wedding, she bought me lovely things I can wear again and again — heirloom pieces, even! — and I think, after that, we came to an understanding. I think letting her buy some nice things on a fun shopping day with her daughter gave her a “place.” Maybe it was a kind of mother-daughter send-off? Less about the money and the items, but more about feeling as though her influence was “with” me for my special day.
After that trip, Mom loosened up. She even started talking about fun songs to sing at the karaoke reception! Total. Breakthrough. I wish we’d done it sooner; rather, I wish I’d asked her for her opinions sooner. I think I was not being fair, either to her or to myself at first, when I worried I’d make her sad or angry with my non-Wedding wedding plans. I do regret that.
The day of the wedding came and went — BTW, we looked fucking awesome — in much of a blur. I remember bits and pieces, like saying my vows and eating some terribly fine macaroni and cheese. But when you’re entertaining 80 people, it’s hard to focus on any one person, even the people you love most. Then we got the photos back from the reception, and I saw this pic. My heart grew 10 sizes as I remembered my friend Noah absolutely slaying Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” during karaoke, and my mom and I jumping up to dance and sing along. We love Bruce. We love Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!
The morning after the wedding, I stopped by my parents’ hotel room to dump off all the stuff they’d be keeping safe for us while we went on our honeymoon, and the first thing my mom did was embrace me. For several minutes. Mom became teary on my shoulder, and she told me what a beautiful and fun time she’d had. I made a stupid joke about how she’d really liked Noah’s Springsteen moment the best, and she just shook her head. Because she knows her weirdo kid is a weirdo about showing real affection.
And so knowing what they know about each other, and loving each other anyway, the Texan girl and her mom lived happily ever after.
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com.