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Dealing with an MIL-zilla

You’re not just getting a husband—you’re gaining a mother-in-law. And not all are created equal! Plenty of Bridezillas know that their groom’s mom can cause major problems on the big day and beyond. “Some mothers feel more like they’re losing a son than gaining a daughter,” says Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less, Love More. “She is used to being the number one woman in her son’s life, and now that is changing.”

While it can be tempting to just brush your MIL aside—especially since you have so much to think about before the wedding—don’t, says Deanna Brann, PhD, author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along with your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law. “Like it or not, you do need to think about your future mother-in-law and how you can get off on the right foot with her before, during, and after the wedding.”

MIL-zilla Moment: She wants to be more involved in the wedding decisions.
It is easy as a bride to think the wedding is all about her, but weddings have unique meanings for every family member, says Ruth Nemzoff, Ed.D., author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family. “A wise bride understands that this is not only a big moment in her life, but also in the lives of those who brought up her fiancé. Including the mother-in-law in the planning can help and remembering that while bridezilla might get her way for a day, the bride who considers the feelings of others will be creating a better foundation for good future relationships.”

Still, it’s not okay for your MIL to try to highjack the entire event. That’s why it’s crucial that you and your fiancé are a united front with all of the wedding plans, says Dr. Brann. “Sit down and discuss what’s truly important for you on your wedding day. Then, have a meeting with both sets of parents to go over what you want and who is going to do what. This way, everyone can get on the same page at once.”

MIL-zilla Moment: She has no interest in the wedding at all.
Consider yourself lucky! All joking aside, you simply can’t force your MIL to want to help with the wedding planning. “You can ask her if there’s something in particular she might be interested in doing, but if the answer is no then don’t make a big deal about it,” says Puhn. “There might be other things going on in her life that you’re not aware of that is preventing her from getting involved.”

MIL-zilla Moment: She’s constantly critiquing all of your wedding plans.
The best, and most effective way of handling such jabs is to react with silence, says Tina Tessina, PhD, author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things that Can Ruin your Marriage ( “Don’t endorse the zinger by making excuses or defending yourself. Look directly at the person who made the comment, smile, and say absolutely nothing. You’ll find, after a very uncomfortable 30 seconds or so that the person usually tries to take back what she said.”

However, if the jabs are constant and getting nastier, then it’s time your groom steps in and has a chat with his mom. “He can let her know while you both value her opinion, you and he will be making the final decisions for the wedding together and she needs to respect those choices,” says Puhn.

MIL-zilla Moment: It seems like she’s competing with you for the groom’s attention
Go easy on her—at least for a bit. After all, watching your kids get married is a bittersweet time for all parents. But if you constantly feel like your MIL is interfering in your relationship, it’s time to confront the issue. “The wedding provides an excellent place to begin to set appropriate boundaries around the new marriage,” says Lesli M. W. Doares, MS, LMFT, author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After with More Intention, Less Work. “However, leaving it to the bride to deal with the groom’s family members is the first mistake. The person who is the common denominator between the family and the couple is the one who should take the lead in dealing with whatever issues arise. This is one of the first opportunities to support one’s spouse over one’s family. It is an excellent time for a couple to present themselves as the team they need to be for marital success.”

MIL-zilla Moment: She misbehaves at the wedding
Unless she stands up and makes an actual scene at the wedding, it’s best to let this bad behavior slide. “If she wants to sit and sulk all day—or even make a couple of rude comments—she’s only making herself look bad,” says Puhn. “The best thing to do is enjoy your wedding day. It will show her that no matter what she does, you and your new husband are still happy together.”