Friday, April 10, 2009

How to impress your future mother in-law

Let's face facts: whether they're like a second set of parents to you or one of your least favorite duos on the planet, marrying their daughter means you're stuck with them for life. The sooner you score points with your soon-to-be mother-in-law, the easier this wedding planning process and everything that follows will be.

But how? has compiled a list of five simple ways to melt even the iciest mother-in-law's heart.

Compliment Her Daughter

This may seem elementary, but it's something you might forget to do amidst all the madness. Tell your mother-in-law how lucky you feel to have found her daughter; tell her how beautiful, intelligent, and kind your future wife is, and how grateful you are for all the hard work she's putting into the wedding. This lets your fiancée's mother know that her daughter is appreciated and will not be taken for granted in the future. It's also a nice reminder that she's done a good job raising her daughter.

Include Her

The mother of the bride is often next in line after you and your bride-to-be in terms of wedding planning involvement. Even if your future bride is ready to strangle her own mother over divergent tastes, you can make a point of listening to mom's ideas and asking what you can do to lend a hand. Whatever you do, we advise you never to get in the middle of a mother-daughter wedding squabble . Usually these things have a tendency of working themselves out, and siding with either one of these women is likely to land you in scalding hot water. Remain completely neutral and upbeat until you're safely alone with your fiancée.

If your fiancée's mother suggests a "Snow White and Seven Dwarfs" themed-reception that makes both you and your future bride cringe, smile and compliment her creative thinking. Let your future mother-in-law know that you will certainly consider the idea, and that she is an asset to the process.

If much of the decision-making will be done by you and your fiancée, be sure to reserve some of the smaller tasks for your future mother-in-law. For example, say you're "really stuck" on the table settings and the wedding favors...maybe she could help? She will be more than happy to dive in and take over, and this will keep her occupied while you and your fiancée focus on other things independently.

It's The Little Things

Mother and daughter have set up a virtual battle station at your dining room table to plot the seating arrangements. This is your opportunity to enhance their experience without breaking your back or your bank. Offer to make them coffee or tea, some sandwiches, or bring out a few snack foods on a tray. Women aren't generally into chips and wings, though, so try to think of more feminine offerings: grapes, strawberries (just wash and serve!), crackers and dip (cheap and easy), or a combination of cheeses and cold cuts. (Just slice up the cheese, and roll the cold cuts into tubes. Of course, the more variety, the better, depending on your time and budget. It's amazing how much small gestures like this will endear you to your future mother-in-law.
Basic P's and Q's

Maybe you already have manners up to royal standards, but the stress of wedding planning is causing you to experience a lapse. Maybe your idea of manners is simply saying please and thank you in a social setting. Either way, it's time step it up a notch when the family--and especially the mother--of the bride is around.

Have "thank you" locked and loaded for even the minutest gestures of help. Pull out chairs and open doors for the ladies when the opportunity arises. Bringing up touchy subjects such as religion or politics (especially when the bride's family has an opposing view) is never a way to shine in the eyes of your in-laws, so stay in the safety zone. Compliments are always welcome, as long as they're sincere. Try to be on time for all family-related functions, especially if the bride's family is in from out of town.

If you've invited her family out to a meal, it is your responsibility to pay. The only exception to this rule is if your future father-in-law thinks wrestling down the bill is an extreme sport. Some patriarchs have a bullish sense of pride, and all you can really do in this case is offer to pay until the waiter walks away with his Amex. Then you'll have to admit defeat, but your attempt will be noted. If you are entertaining her family at your home, do everything you can to make them feel comfortable. Taking the lead in entertaining them will soon make them forget that you used to have a Baywatch-themed dorm room back in college.

Make an Effort to Get to Know Them

No, you're not marrying them, and no, you didn't choose them, but they probably have a lot to do with who your fiancée is as a person. Asking your future in-laws questions about how they met and what their daughter was like as a child are great ways to get anyone to open up. If her parents are divorced, select your questions accordingly, but ask them the same kinds of questions you'd want anyone to ask you to find out who you are. Pretty soon you'll start to see where your fiancée gets her stubborn streak and great sense of humor. Maybe they'll even tell you things you didn't know. Delving deeper than "hi, how are you" will let your new family know you're serious about their daughter and about your future as their son-in-law.

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