Ask the Wedding Maven: How to Deal with an Interfering Mother-in-Law

By Azure Nelson, Published Oct 22, 2009

Dear Wedding Maven, My fiancé and I were planning to have a small, intimate destination wedding and then a reception with all our friends and family when we returned home. We made this very clear to everyone. My future mother in law unilaterally decided to double the size of our destination wedding by inviting their entire extended family (more than 20 people) over the phone. She then told us to send them all the information. Since she already invited them we cannot un-invite them, but now since everyone is invited to the wedding, the party when we return seems weird. But if we don’t have it, people that cannot come to the wedding will be left out. What do we do? PLEASE HELP. Signed, Destination Disaster Dear DD, Like so many wedding-related questions, the issue here is much bigger than 20 extra wedding guests (although, I admit, that’s a pretty big issue). If you think this is bad, wait until your m-i-l decides to tell people that you’re trying to get pregnant, or comes over and cleans out your closets, or fires your babysitter. Basically, by ignoring your wishes and inviting people to your wedding, she’s telling you that she knows best and she still wants to make the decisions. You and your fiancé need to decide if you’re ok with that. If you aren’t, then he needs to sit down with her and explain that you will not be sending the information to those 20 people because they are not invited. She can decide if she will call them and explain that she had the information wrong, or if she needs him to do that. He then needs to follow through and make the calls. It’s critical that your fiancé is the one to do this, because she’s his mother and on some level, she still sees him as a little boy. Look, I spend a lot of time telling my three-year-old when he needs to pee, when he needs to eat, and arranging his social life. I’m hoping that I learn how to back off before he reaches middle school, let alone his wedding, but if I don’t, I hope he and his future wife will be clear with me. If your fiancé will not or cannot do this, then you need to think seriously about whether this is how you want to live your life. If not handled now, this will happen again, and will cause problems in your marriage. Your m-i-l was 100% wrong in what she did, but you have a role to play in this as well. I’m assuming that before this happened, your m-i-l told you and your fiancé that she thought your plan for a small destination wedding followed by a large reception was a bad idea. You might want to think about how you listen to her advice. You don’t have to do what she says, but if you can come up with techniques for making her feel like she’s been heard, she may be less likely to interfere in the future. Do you have a question about wedding related traditions, etiquette, or relationships? Write the Wedding Maven at

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