Ask Aunty Pam: How should I handle a pushy soon-to-be mother-in-law?
Published 1:42 pm Monday, January 23, 2023
Dear Aunty Pam,
I’m in a pickle and I hope you can help!
My fiancé and I will be getting married soon and we don’t have a big budget, so it’s going to be a small wedding. I really prefer that and, because there are far fewer people, I can afford nicer things: dress/wedding cake/food/drink. My plan is to have both the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception catered by a friend who has a small catering business.
The problem is my soon-to-be Mother-in-law. We get along really well but she announced last week that as her wedding gift to my husband and me, she intends to do the rehearsal and wedding food—herself! To be clear: she’s not saying she’ll pay for the catering, she’s saying she’ll do all the cooking. Aunty Pam, my MIL is a very southern cook and that is the last thing I want! Don’t get me wrong, I’m southern, but I’m also a ‘foodie’ and definitely not a ‘Meat and 3’ type person and that’s exactly what she’s talking about. Yesterday she was talking about sweet potato casserole and collards and ham and I just wanted to scream.
What I had planned was elegant hors d’oeuvres, like, fig and goat cheese crostini, oysters, that sort of thing, for the reception and for the rehearsal dinner, we were going to have salmon filets, roasted potatoes, etc, and a nice dessert. I asked my fiancé to please explain to his mother that I already have this menu planned, but he knows it’s not yet been paid for and is pushing to at least let his mother do the rehearsal dinner, so she doesn’t feel left out and disappointed. Then I asked what about my disappointment? He said that married life is about compromise, and I agree, but we’re not married yet! I’m getting more stressed by the day.
Can you help?
Aunty Pam hears you. I think I even see your vision: a sort of Napa Valley budget wedding with a light and elegant ‘French Laundry’ feel to it, and now your future MIL wants to plop a big, old smothered pork chop in the middle of it. It doesn’t fit in with your dream.
You know, Bridey, marriage is about compromise which is exactly why Aunty Pam has avoided it all these years. You, however, want to get married, and you want to have the wedding you want. And you still can: When it comes to these sorts of in-law situations, it’s all about buttering them up.
First of all, in front of your fiancé, lavish praise and gratitude upon your future MIL, telling her that while it’s incredibly thoughtful and generous of her to want to go to all that trouble and do all that cooking, you’ve already promised your friend the gig, but more importantly, you very much want to have your MIL next to you and your fiancé during the celebration and not stuck in the kitchen or carrying food back and forth. So, would she consider, as she is the very BEST baker you know, and NOBODY bakes a red velvet cake like she does, creating an elaborate dessert selection instead? That would make your wedding just PERFECT, and be ever so helpful!
This way, you are positively anointing her in accolades, which will be a balm to her disappointment, and even though you already have your wedding cake sorted, people do enjoy a choice of sweets and she can go to town and bake her little shoofly pie heart out before the big day. This makes everyone happy and if not, there should be enough bottles of Clicquot going around that no one remembers, anyway.