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Your daughter or son is getting married; congratulations! But what is the role of the mother of the bride or groom? Oh, No, They're Engaged seeks to help any mother figure out the best ways to guide her child through the emotions, issues, and decisions that arise once a wedding is on the horizon. The betrothed couple's life is changing, and so are the lives of their parents. Soon-to-be brides and grooms need the support and encouragement of their families now more than ever, as they struggle with the decisions ...
Your daughter or son is getting married; congratulations! But what is the role of the mother of the bride or groom? Oh, No, They're Engaged seeks to help any mother figure out the best ways to guide her child through the emotions, issues, and decisions that arise once a wedding is on the horizon. The betrothed couple's life is changing, and so are the lives of their parents. Soon-to-be brides and grooms need the support and encouragement of their families now more than ever, as they struggle with the decisions and commitments that go along with planning a union with a life partner.
Oh, No, They're Engaged allows any mother to carry off her parental role in planning with dignity and common sense while explaining the execution of a traditional wedding. Included is vital information on helping the couple deal with the emotional decisions, relationship issues, and budget concerns that accompany the wedding planning process-without losing sight of their dream. From controlling expenses to managing the guest list, this handy reference guide provides all of the information critical to helping a son or daughter have the wedding of their dreams.
Oh, No, They're Engaged allows any mother of the bride or groom to support her child and that child's wedding dreams while enabling everyone to enjoy this special time.
I'll never forget the evening our son, Rick, came home hiding a smile. He reached into his pocket, drew out a small, blue velvet box, and opened it to reveal a diamond so new and shiny it made me squint. I was so thrilled for him that I did what any decent mother would do. I gave him a bear hug and cried, and then I tried on the ring.
Because a son is the ring giver, you, as a parent, are apt to be more involved in the proposal process, especially if he is still living at home. Getting married is a financial decision as well as an emotional one. Before our son became engaged, he anguished over what to do. Was this the right time for him, and where would he buy a ring he could afford?
With a daughter, you are on the receiving end waiting for that moment when the guy she's either been living with or dating for some time coughs up a commitment. It's nice if a guy asks permission to marry your daughter, but this is not always the case. Don't expect. Just accept and enjoy. Your young couple may come bubbling through the door to announce their happiness and flaunt a ring, or you and your spouse may learn of the pending engagement in advance and be saddled with keeping the secret, as we were.
One weeknight, John showed up at our house in Connecticut around dinnertime. My husband and I peered out the window, not understanding what he was doing there, while our daughter, Mary, was in Boston. He made us feel special by asking our permission to marry her. I fed John our son's steak dinner (Rick had to settle for leftovers). Two years later, when daughter number two's long-time boyfriend roared up our driveway in the same manner, my husband and I hi-fived. I snagged an extra pork chop from the freezer and nuked another potato. In both instances, my husband and I were sworn to secrecy until our future sons-in-law could properly present the rings to our daughters. Secrets, particularly happy ones, are hard to keep.
Now, let's talk about this ring-on-the-finger thing. Rings symbolize eternal love, but does a guy really have to give a girl a ring to become engaged? of course not. This is one of many traditions that have become grounded in advertising—"What's a few month's paycheck towards the rest of your life?"
He's not buying her, for goodness sake, he's asking her to marry him!
A huge diamond may last forever, but that doesn't mean the marriage will. The diamond is a symbol, not a necessity—the same goes for the wedding ring. In the case of a daughter, gracefully accept whatever has been given to her as a symbol of engagement; it may only be a promise. A tiny stone, or none at all, doesn't mean the guy loves your daughter less. My parents took their vows using a cigar band and their marriage lasted until death did them part.
But you're concerned ...
Once the ring is on the finger, reality may strike. Your son's unmarried buddies are pooh-poohing the whole business, or you and your husband aren't thrilled with your prospective son-in-law for a variety of reasons—some serious, some just plain picky. This is the time to keep communications flowing between you and your son or daughter. Don't criticize, just listen. If asked, offer advice with as much objectivity as you can muster. Do remember that your role as a controlling parent diminished as soon as your son or daughter became an adult. Here are some situations you may run into:
Ring around the finger?
... Or is it through the nose? Guys will be guys, but a common problem is the buddy system. When your son proposes, his friends may try to convince him he is giving up his freedom. Should you learn your son has been listening to his friends instead of to his heart, speak to him about it. Better yet, ask Dad to help him understand the sow-the-wild-oats-while-you-can philosophy is merely a scare tactic that reflects immaturity, rather than common sense. Marriage is a loving bond between two people, a pact to share a life. Your son's relationship with his loved one will be what they, as a couple, make it, not what others say it will be.
You don't want this marriage!
Things don't always work out the way we'd like them to. What if you never liked a particular boyfriend or girlfriend, and you like this person less now that marriage is on the horizon? Your feelings may be real and not necessarily unfounded. You suspect the guy is abusive: he tosses insults at your daughter like confetti, always putting her down. Or, that girl your son loves barely speaks to you. Will you ever see your son once they are married? The concerns go on ...
He's a cheapskate. She can't cook. He can't hold down a job. She has no manners!
Yes, we parents can be super critical, but even if our worries are justified, our influence is limited. We can suggest and advise but can no longer order change. We deal with our cards as they are dealt us, even if it means maintaining a blank face with a poor hand because it's a parent's only choice. We can always hope, once we're through playing the game, that our child either has won a suitable mate or averted a potentially bad marriage.
Sometimes, we're so frustrated with a situation—we hate the guy and just know the wedding will result in a disastrous life for our daughter—that we try to stop it with an ultimatum: if you marry him, I never want to see you again, or you will no longer be welcome in our home. A softer version of this might be I'm not coming to the wedding. Don't threaten anything you can't carry out. Better yet, don't threaten at all.
A woman I know of married a less than desirable man—arrested for dealing drugs, and couldn't hold down a job. They had lived together long enough to bear and raise a three-year-old child. When the couple finally decided to wed, the parents, who had been against their union from the get go, refused to attend the ceremony, creating bad feelings.
Before taking this type of hurtful and irrevocable step, think about what will be gained from doing so. Yes, you will have "shown them" you really are upset, made your point loud and clear. But will making threats stop the wedding? Such actions might, in fact, cause your child to dig deeper into the relationship, to ally with this partner protectively. Them against the world—yours.
Further, you will have abandoned your child at a crucial time. A parent's support cannot be replaced by friends. Regardless of who is right or wrong, in this thorny situation there can be only losers. You will have lost your child, either emotionally or physically, as well as the opportunity to get to know and love your grandchildren—a situation a great deal worse than you might've bargained for.
Second time around
Complex issues often surround second marriages, so it's important for you, as well as your son or daughter, to be aware of any problems resulting from the death of a spouse, a divorce, or children from a previous marriage. In the case of a widow or widower who has decided to remarry after a good relationship, prospects are good for a successful second marriage. Most problems occur when people go blindly into marriage to a divorced person without understanding why the first marriage failed. Causes can range from addictions, physical abuse, and infidelity to simple lack of compatibility. Keep your eyes and ears open and you may pick up on serious issues your son or daughter chooses to ignore. I'm not saying play traffic cop and hold up the STOP sign; but should you sense a serious flaw in the intended, find a tactful way to open your child's eyes to it—then step back.
You may be cheering because this marriage will make you an instant grandmother, but worry about your son or daughter handling an add-on parental role in an established single-parent family. In such families, children may resent an intruder. The younger the children the easier it will be for them to accept a step-parent and a new set of grandparents. While a needy child may embrace the union, a rebellious one—especially if fueled by a jealous ex-spouse—can make life miserable for everyone. Then, there is the question of allegiance. Children may act up to command the attention of their biological parent, leaving the step-parent to feel sidelined in the relationship. These kinds of issues don't go away overnight, but call for a steady dose of patience and love.
On a positive note, you may find your son or daughter is welcomed into the new family, like my friend's son was. Seth hooked up with Alice, who has two children, ages eight and ten. I had the opportunity to see this family together before the actual engagement and, from glow of happiness surrounding them, it was easy to see they had bonded. The children were flower girl and ring bearer at the couple's wedding, and my friend and her husband are now doting grandparents.
Perhaps you really like the guy or gal your offspring has chosen, but you've a nagging problem—their age difference is too great. If the age span is five years or less, we parents can usually deal with it. At least the couple is of the same generation.
However, if the intended is your age, you think cradle robber. What can he or she possibly have in common with someone that young? You cringe when you think of them having sex. What if this fellow is looking to revive youth through marrying a younger woman?
And, if it's a first marriage, what held him or her back so long? Maybe he's a mama's boy or a gigolo, or she's a lesbian? If the man's been married before and has children living elsewhere, in addition to the aforementioned issues you worry that your daughter may never have a child of her own.
While it's more common for older fellows to seek young women, there are many successful unions of older women to younger men. Still, you worry. Is your son going to be treated as a child? Is she too old to have children—denying you grandchildren? If she's your age, do you feel in competition with her for your son's love and attention?
May-December marriages can and do work out well. I know a couple who have been together for years. He's sixty-something and she's thirty. They love each other dearly, have friends of all ages, travel extensively, and own a fabulous home.
So, Mom, don't fret. The up side of an older mate is that you and Dad have gained a son or daughter-in-law who has lived through the same things you have, so bonding will be a snap. And, as long as love is true, your children will have the same good life you envision for them.
As a parent who may have waited to have sex until marriage, you may find it inappropriate to have your son or daughter living with his or her intended. or maybe you're thinking all those wasted years I could have been having a high old time. Knowing how I felt about them sharing an apartment, Rick slipped a pillow and a blanket into the bathtub before my husband and I arrived for a visit. Rick claimed he slept there, while his fiancée, Lois, enjoyed the king-sized bed. Although we laughed, the scary thing is I wanted to believe my son was chaste. To save rent money, both my daughters opted to share an apartment with their respective fiancés during the months preceding their weddings. My husband and I resolved our feelings, realizing our children were smart enough pool their finances and save for their futures.
The world has become more accepting of gay relationships, evidenced by the legalization of gay marriages or civil unions in some states in the U.S.A. If your child opts for a same-sex partner, forget what your friends or family will think and accept it for what it is. You can't change your child's mind, nor should you try. Your child needs your love and encouragement more than ever when he or she goes against the odds. In many cases, coping with such a situation can take a strong constitution, tight lips, and lots of love—and we all know love conquers all.
As to same-sex wedding planning, I admit I have had no direct experience in this area. However, according to Emily Post, the process is essentially the same as for a heterosexual wedding. Legally, their pairing will be considered either a civil union or a marriage, depending on the laws of the state where the wedding is to be held.
Well, the hard stuff is over. At least you hope it is. There's a proposal on the table for your daughter or your son, it doesn't matter which. A proposal means an engagement and an engagement is their first step out the door, your door, into a new life. If you are especially lucky, the chosen partner is smart, motivated to work hard, thinks your husband and you are great people, and would do anything in the world to make your child happy.
Now, it's time to celebrate!
Once the engagement is official, take steps to get the wedding off the ground by finding a special way to honor this commitment and getting to know your child's future in-laws. Also, it's never too early to begin planning the event. Should you begin to feel stressed with all the to-do's, be grateful that in modern times the bride is no longer kidnapped from her home and that you have the opportunity to participate in the wedding process.
An engagement is a relationship milestone your couple will always hold dear. It's customary for the parents of the bride-to-be to announce the happy news to family and friends by phone, e-mail, or formal note. This also may include a newspaper announcement. If the parents are divorced, the mother tells all. In a formal announcement, she would make mention of the bride's father. Depending on their age and independence, the engaged couple, however, may opt to handle their own betrothal announcements.
Find a special way to recognize this commitment to wed. Marking the event can be as simple as a champagne toast at a family dinner. Usually, a short engagement period won't warrant a separate party, as it will be close to the wedding. Having the party a couple of months after the actual engagement will give your couple a chance to plan their lives and to think about the size and type of wedding they might want.
If your relatives get together for special occasions, choose one of these to announce your son's or daughter's engagement. Everyone will have a chance to slap the happy couple on the back or hug them, and you won't need to pay for a party. Plus you've done your family a kindness. Because it's not an official engagement party, the gift issue doesn't surface. At minimum, there will be a shower and a wedding gift for these folks to buy for your couple. We all love parties, but gift-giving gets old by the time we attend the third festivity for the same event.
I have never felt the need to host an engagement party, but then our situations never warranted one. Our family is small and tight-knit and the future in-laws lived a plane ride away. A shared dinner with the parents of your child's intended is a good way to celebrate the engagement. Establishing a relationship with the future in-laws, which we will discuss shortly, is crucial. These folks will be in your son's or daughter's life for a long time.
Having an official engagement party can be a fun way to let family and friends in on the upcoming event. Anyone can host; but, traditionally, throwing the party has been the role of the bride's parents. The key attendees are the bride, groom, their immediate families, and possibly close friends who are likely to be part of the wedding party. The type and style of the event will depend on time and money available. Take care that this event, or any other prewedding party, is not so elaborate that it will outshine the actual wedding. If your party will be somewhat formal, it's a kindness to exclude those who may not be invited to the wedding. While gifts aren't necessary, most folks will feel funny about arriving at a party empty-handed. Ask your son or daughter to put off opening any gifts received at the party for a later time to avoid embarrassing guests who chose not to bring one.
Sometimes, the groom's parents will plan a local shindig to allow friends and relatives to meet their prospective daughter-in-law. This is a nice way of providing an opportunity for those who cannot attend the wedding to congratulate the couple. Our immediate family was invited to a backyard picnic, complete with lawn games and a family Oompah band, held at our future son-in-law's home in another state. We were thrilled to meet the entire clan in one swoop—Great Grandma, elderly aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends of the family who might have never made the trip to Connecticut for the wedding.
A gift to remember
Engagement gifts are optional, usually only given by close relatives and friends of the bride and groom. I've always enjoyed giving something to commemorate the beginning of my son's or daughter's life with a mate. I couldn'thelpbutreminiscetheThanksgivingmydaughterlitcandlesensconced in the crystal holders that her sister and I gave her as an engagement gift. Like these candlestick holders, a gift should be something lasting, symbolic even, an item the couple can enjoy in their new surroundings.
Choose a gift that the couple will remember you by. Almost anything can be inscribed today, from coasters and picture frames to silver platters. If the couple has selected their china and flatware patterns, give them their first place setting. They won't remember the particular pieces, but they will remember that you gave them their first ones. My daughter-in-law and son were thrilled to open a box of their china. They held each piece as if caressing it, turning it every which way to catch the light and running their fingers along the smooth, curved surface. Watching their immense pleasure for those few moments was almost as good as sex.
Excerpted from OH, NO, THEY'RE ENGAGED! by Joy Smith Copyright © 2012 by Joy Smith. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted April 22, 2012
Whether you're the mother of the bride or the mother of the groom, Oh, No, They're Engaged is indispensable. Joy Smith guides you with warmth and humor every step of the way from the engagement announcement to the wedding reception and beyond. Not just another wedding planning guide, Oh, No, They're Engaged combines solid practical advice with a deep understanding of the emotional ups and downs you, as a parent, will experience while preparing for and participating in your child's wedding. Don't miss this one, Mom.
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Posted June 1, 2012
Finally, a book for those neglected by all those traditional wedding manuals: the parents! Joy Smith not only serves up tons of practical advice, but does so in a way that will entertain as well as inform. A must read for anyone with a child who is about to tie the knot.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.