Wedding: Relating: Parental Guidance

Your mom and dad acting a little more nuts than usual these days? Don’t worry. It’s just a phase

Empty Nest-itus

It’s one thing when you go away to college — there’s always the glimmer of hope that you’ll come home again. But when you get married, even if you haven’t been living with your parents for years, you’re really leaving. You’re an adult. You’re starting a family. You’re building your own nest.

As a result, without knowing how to handle the separation anxiety and overall apprehension they’re feeling about this major transition, many parents can start behaving a bit, well, strangely. Some might appear ambivalent, like when your mother inexplicably changes the subject every time you start talking about favors. Some might appear to contradict themselves. Any of this sound familiar?

Mom: It’s your day, honey. You should have whatever you want.
Daughter: Great! I was thinking an all-white wedding — white tables, white flowers, white …
Mom: Oh, that’s beautiful, honey. But the florist does have those beautiful celadon linens, so let’s go ahead and do that.

Daughter: I don’t want to have any bridesmaids.
Mom: Oh, that’s totally fine, honey — except for your sister and cousins, of course.

According to Cindy Baum-Baicker, a Philadelphia- and Doylestown-based clinical psychologist, this is actually very normal. “Parents of a bride, and the bride herself, often feel uneasy — even if it’s subconsciously — about the new roles they’ll be taking on, as either the parent of a married woman, or as a married woman dealing with her parents.” The bride may feel she should start acting more adult around her parents, Baum-Baicker says — and then they act differently as a reaction to their daughter’s changed behavior. Parents will want to enforce their opinions, as they’ve done your entire life, but might start doing it indirectly, thinking they’re giving you your space as an almost-married woman. “Have a conversation with your parents about your new roles,” suggests Baum-Baicker. “Acknowledge that things are changing.”