When I Got Married, I Realized My Mom Missed Her Calling as a Wedding Planner

So what did all this neurotic attention to detail result in? The most magical wedding I could ever have imagined.

No wedding season would be complete without one or two bridal boutiques going belly up, leaving the unfortunate soon-to-be brides not stranded, but potentially naked at the altar. Don’t think “Say Yes to the Dress,” think, “Where the Hell is my dress??” The news stories focus on the shock and horror of these now-frantic young women, their last minute scramble to buy – heaven forbid! – off-the-rack, and, more often than not, their struggle to recoup their hefty deposits from these now bankrupt establishments. These women are in crisis, and a bride unhinged is not a pretty sight.

All weddings pose challenges, sartorial or otherwise, especially for type A-plus overachievers like me, who like things to go according to plan. My plan.

In the months before my wedding, I was studying for the New York State bar exam. Engulfed in torts, contracts, and criminal procedure, I had absolutely no energy left for picking between roses and orchids, lamb chops and prime rib, so I reluctantly ceded all decision making to the only person on the planet who was more of a control freak than I: my mother. I relied on her excellent taste and good judgment. What I forgot to factor in was her perfectionism.

If I’d been paying more attention, I would’ve realized early on that my mother was approaching the wedding planning from a heightened emotional place. The first time we went to look at a venue, there was a wedding ceremony taking place. My mother, my fiancé, and I stood at the back of the hall, assessing the space, the atmosphere, and the seating capacity. When I turned to look at my mother, there were tears streaming down her cheeks, and she had her fist in her mouth, stifling a sob.

“What’s wrong, Ma?” I asked, genuinely alarmed.

“Nothing. It’s just so beautiful.” She wiped away her tears with a big pink hanky clearly brought for just this purpose, and then blew her nose noisily into it. A few of the bridesmaids turned to stare.

“But we don’t know these people!” I countered. This, apparently, was thoroughly beside the point and did not even merit a response.

My mother’s detailed project management knew no bounds. One evening she summoned my future husband and me to her house to help assemble the wedding invitations for mailing. Before we were even over threshold, she held something out to us that looked suspiciously like plastic surgical gloves.

“What are those?” I naively asked.

“They’re plastic surgical gloves,” she answered. “You’re going to wear them while we put together the invitations.” My mother didn’t register one iota of recognition that there was anything out of the ordinary about this pronouncement.

My fiancé tried logic. “You do realize that the mailman will not be wearing gloves,” he said.

“I can only control what I can control,” my mother responded, almost reasonably. Her statement did have a certain ring of truth to it.

The night was far from over.

Unbeknownst to us, in addition to the printed white cards with driving directions that my mother had been given by the synagogue, she had separately printed directions on off-white colored cards, to match the invitations. She failed to inform us that some invitees – her guests who were sophisticated enough to notice such a thing – were to be given the off-white cards, while the others – like our colorblind friends – should be given the white ones. Not even recognizing the issue, we randomly included white or ivory with each envelope we stuffed. When we were about three quarters of the way through our assignment, my mother blanched white (or off-white), and announced that we had made a fatal mistake, necessitating that we start over.

Only his great desire to marry me (and my hand over his mouth) kept the groom from uttering unspeakable words that could never be retracted. Well, maybe one or two escaped.

As the actual wedding day approached, the frenzy only increased. A few days before the event, the caterer invited us to the synagogue to see a sample table set for the occasion, to make sure we were all happy with how it would look.

“Ma,” I asked, plaintively, “can you go without us? Really, I’m happy with whatever makes you happy.” I was trying to avoid another showdown over whatever problem she might perceive.

“Absolutely not! It’s your wedding!” she declared.

We walked in single file behind my mother, expecting the worst, but the table, even without the floral arrangement, looked lovely. My mother circled the perimeter, checking every aspect, until, with one nod, she gave her approval. We thanked the maitre d’ and raced out to the car, my father leading the way in a hasty retreat.

We climbed in, ready to go out for a celebratory dinner at the local diner. My father started the engine and, just as we were about to pull away, my mother gave the order.

Stop the car.” Without another word, she marched back into the synagogue.

When my mother got to the table, she took one deliberate look, and called the maitre d’ over.

“This will not do,” she said, calmly. “The tablecloth is white, and the china is off-white.” We all stood in flabbergasted silence.

The maitre d’ foolishly tried to reason with her. “There will be so many additional things on the table: the flowers, bottles of wine, carafes of water, no one will ever notice that slight –“

My mother, her lips in a tight grimace and her eyes closed, raised one hand in the universal sign for “stop talking before I bite your head off,” and silenced the well-intentioned maitre d’. She shook her head slowly. Then she turned her back on the table and conceded defeat, walking slowly back to the car. White and off-white would have to coexist.

So what did all this neurotic attention to detail result in? The most magical wedding I could ever have imagined.

Try as I might to be more chill, I will likely be just as persnickety when it is my daughter’s turn to get married. One thing is for sure, there will be no wedding-eve lawsuits against a defunct David’s bridal. No, my daughter will wear my white wedding dress that my mother freeze-dried, I mean vacuum-packed, after the wedding and which now waits patiently in my attic. Even if she has her heart set on off-white.