Vow Factors

So you're getting married. One thing is for sure—no matter how excited you are, chances are you're so stressed with prewedding jitters you can't see straight! It's the norm for brides and grooms. And you're not alone. Here is a sampling of the questions I get from intendeds, because no matter where you live, at least some of these universal queries—your budget, your plans, your dreams—will come up in your preparations. And now the good news: There are answers...

I feel as if I'm going crazy. I love the man I am going to marry, but sometimes I feel really sad that I am giving up my single life.
This is normal. You are giving up your single life! No matter how much you love your fiancé, things will be different—very different. Mourning the life you are losing, while rejoicing for the life you will have, is part of the adjustment. And letting yourself feel the loss will allow you to let it go and make room for the future.

I'm getting married. My mother passed away last year after a long bout with cancer. She was my best friend. And although this is a joyous event, it's difficult to think of her not sharing my day. I want to honor her at the wedding but am not sure how. How can I have her "there" with me?
There are countless ways to memorialize your mother while celebrating your joy. Include her in a way you think would have been meaningful to her. Start with your invitation or when you register by suggesting guests make a donation to a cancer organization in honor of your mom. At the ceremony, you can wear a piece of her jewelry or an article of her clothing, include her favorite poem or song in the proceedings, mention her as being there with you in spirit or talk about how you learned from her to be the wife you want to be. During the toast at the reception, you can drink out of a glass of hers. Mostly, feel free to acknowledge that you miss her. Remember that the measure of your pain can also be seen as a measure of your love.

This may sound trite, but my future mother-in-law is obnoxiously pushy. And she knows everything, because my fiancé can't help sharing. She doesn't like when I speak my mind or when I'm quiet. My fiancé says we don't get along because we're too much alike. Yikes! I disagree. I'm genuine and straightforward. She's phony and pretentious. Any chance I won't kill her?
First, you cannot change someone's personality—you just have to deal with it. That doesn't mean you have to live with bad behavior. This is a good time for you and your fiancé to discuss your need for a private life. It's important to set reasonable limits so you can begin your life as a couple. But if he thinks you and his mom are alike, give that some thought. It's likely he means this as a compliment—he loves his mother, and he loves you. He may feel he has to choose, and that's tough. Never make a man pick between you and his mother. Find a way for him to have you both in his life.

How do you fire a maid of honor? The wedding is two months away, and she has done nothing—not bought her dress, not contacted any of the bridesmaids, not offered to help me. She's my best friend, and she says she's going to participate, but she never follows through. I'm getting desperate, and now we aren't even speaking.
Ask your friend to lunch or dinner at a neutral place (not on the phone or via email) and explain that you are concerned about her apparent lack of interest. Go with an open mind, a willingness to listen—and be honest about your disappointment. Ask her if something happened to make her withdraw. Consider that it's possible you were not clear about your expectations. If you and she did not talk about what her role as maid of honor was to be, it's not too late for you to agree on it. Also, you may not know all the facts. She could have some difficulty with the idea of her best friend getting married, or she may just be going through a trying time in her own life. But be prepared to find another maid of honor if she says she'd prefer not to participate.

My mother and my "real" dad divorced when I was a year old. I don't feel comfortable with the prospect of his walking me down the aisle. I would prefer my stepdad, who bothered with the details of raising, advising and educating me. I have no desire to hurt my father (or his current wife), and he has told me he'll support my decision. I am torn.
The rite of passage in which a father walks his daughter down the aisle is one that is emotional and symbolic—it's the act of having the man who raised you present you to the man with whom you'll share the rest of your life. Have you thought of having your birth father walk you partway down the aisle and your stepfather bring you the rest of the way to the altar? Or you might want to have your stepfather walk you down the aisle, while your father recites something meaningful during the ceremony. Bottom line: Talk to both of them, and make the decision that is best for you and your groom.

My dad left my mother for another woman...and married her. It was a long time ago, but my mother never recovered. They have not had any contact in 10 years. You can guess what's coming: I am getting married in the fall. My mother says she will not be at my wedding if my father and his "new” wife attend. I am heartbroken and don't know what to do. I am angry my mother has put me in this position, but I also totally understand her pain, because I remember what her life was like after he left. Help!
I can hear the anguish in your question, and you should know that in this society where divorce is so widespread, yours is one of the most common problems in wedding planning. So, hear me well: This is your wedding. If anyone in your life forgets it, you must remind her or him of that fact. Tell your mother, with as much love as you have for her, that you understand her pain and you want both of your parents there when you get married. If she can't find it in her heart to allow this to happen, you may have to wed without her. Stay strong. Chances are very good that she will find it in her heart to put aside her feelings for your day—but be prepared for the possibility that she won't and have a plan that, for better or worse, embraces your wishes.

Dale Atkins, PhD, is a psychologist, author and commentator on NBC's Today Show. Sanity Savers: Tips for Women to Live a Balanced Life is her most recent book.

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