1. Get rid of your own expectations. These days, no matter who is paying, “the bride and groom are the captains of the team, and they’ll say what happens and when,” says Sharon Naylor, author of Mother of the Groom (Citadel Press, $16) and The Mother-of-the-Bride Book (Citadel Press, $16). Too much input from you can cause them a lot of stress when you should be trying to be their support system.
2. Pick your battles. If there are elements you’d love the wedding to have―a certain ethnic tradition, a mother-son dance―choose the most important one (or few) and present it as a request.
3. Start out on the right foot. “Tell the couple, ‘Here are some of the things I might be able to help with―just tell me what you want,’” says Naylor. “That will often get you invited in to help more than if you try to bulldoze them.”
4. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. “Make sure that what you volunteer to help with is realistic,” she says. “Especially on the weekend of the wedding, with family in town, you may not want to be stuck ironing tablecloths for a big party you offered to host.” And you don’t want to cause panic when someone has to be recruited at the last minute to fill in for you.
5. Get to know the in-laws. Traditionally, after the engagement is announced, the groom’s parents reach out to arrange a get-together, but there’s no need to stand on ceremony. Often the bride and groom will invite both sets of parents to a dinner to meet and discuss initial thinking about the wedding plans.