The Unofficial Guide to Being the Mother of the Bride

Salt Lake magazine executive editor Mary Brown Malouf is a consummate entertainer, oenophile, can recite the history of lace and personally knows every top chef in the city. How does a party master “go with the flow” when her daughter gets married? To all the mother of the brides out there, this is for you.

1. Prepare to be Surprised 

Anna and Michal had been together for years; we all expected them to get married and yet when Michal proposed, it was a huge surprise to Anna. He went down on one knee at Log Haven on her birthday and presented her with a custom-made diamond ring that included some of her great-grandmother’s stones. He even hired a photographer to hide in the bushes and take candid pictures of the whole occasion and made sure my husband and I would be there right after the proposal to join them for champagne toasts and dinner. His meticulous planning for the proposal moment was a hint of how this wedding was going to be planned: I was not going to be the boss of this event—these two had very definite ideas. That was my surprise.

2. Remember Who’s Boss

Anna knew where she wanted to get married before she knew who she wanted to marry. Log Haven was always going to be the setting for her fairy tale. I closed my eyes and figured I’d find the money somewhere. And I braced myself for the onslaught of details and decisions ahead—I used to own a catering business so I’d seen the ugly underside of the beautiful occasion. At Log Haven, they had the incomparable and super-experienced Faith Sweeten to advise. So I stepped back and waited to be asked questions instead of making lists. The one thing I could do in preparation for the wedding, I did: Shut up and bought myself a pair of turquoise cowboy boots. Check.

3. Embrace the Family Affair 

Anna’s father lives in Dallas and he has a lot of opinions, too. In fact, the whole union spotlighted all the complications of blended families and modern times. My 92-year-old father made the trip heroically from Dallas, nephews—one of them the officiant—drove from New Mexico and Texas, son and stepdaughter drove from L.A. Anna’s dad’s family was in something of a feud, so we had no idea who would show up. My dear first ex-husband came from Lake Tahoe. Michal’s parents came from Missouri and brought Polish relatives. AirBnB solved lodging problems. And the ringbearer was Boris, Michal’s giant Lab-Dane, who could clear a table of wineglasses with one happy swipe of his tail.

4. Say Yes to her Seven-layer Dream Dress

 For Anna, it was, and always had been, all about The Dress. This was not going to be a simple linen shift. Anna flew to Dallas and went shopping with her father (who owns a fashion store in Texas) and his fashionista friend, thinking she’d come back to Salt Lake and find her real gown shopping with me and her bridesmaids. But, not surprisingly, I got a call. “Um, Mom. I think I’ve found my dress.” She sent me phone photos of her top three choices and told me which one she loved. I knew she felt she was disappointing me by finding a dress with her dad, but it was irresistably lovely—seven layers of blushing lace and embroidery and chiffon. And she was so happy. After all, this was her experience, not mine—I’d already had three weddings of my own.

5. Honorably Accept Your Given Job Duty

 Because of my job at the magazine and the people I know in the hospitality business, I directed Michal and Anna to all the best in the business. Pamela Olsen of Native Flowers embraced their idea of lining the outdoor aisle with stone cairns leading to the flower-covered arch. Sublime baker, Lauralee Morrison at Cakes de Fleur was surprised but not intimidated when Michal showed up with several detailed sketches of the cake he’d envisioned while hiking with Anna—a fantasy mountain with a waterfall of flowers flowing down the tiers. They wanted the menu to focus on local food and there’s no one better than Log Haven’s chef, Dave Jones, for that. Amber Billingsley made her famous High West gelato to go with the cake. I helped Anna shop for bridesmaids gifts and made Boris’ ring pillow out of sari scraps. My sister and I arranged the rehearsal dinner—a casual Mexican-themed buffet at Rico’s warehouse, made possible by Jorge Fierro. The Most Involved Groom In Nuptial History, Michal had spreadsheets of guests, arrival times, lists of things to be purchased and when, hours for each event and really, what’s left for a mother of the bride to do?

6. Savor the Moment, That’s What

My son and I walked my father down the aisle. Our friend Travis Peterson from the Utah Symphony played the trumpet as the wedding party processed to Holst’s Jupiter. And as Anna and her father started down, flower cannons hidden in the cairns went off, showering the bride with rose petals. Michal wore a suit made by Anna’s father’s store in Dallas. I wore my cowboy boots and pink lace; I cried. My husband Glen had died the previous January—I missed so much him being there and being proud of Anna and Michal with me. His absence lent poignance to the happy, healing evening. Anna and Michal are doing it right—gather your friends and family around and hold them tight and remember to make the moment count. Of course, that’s something a mother of the bride should be teaching all along.

Congratulations, Anna and Michal!

Photos by Beehive Photography

Need more whole-family wedding tips? Check out our second wedding guide! 

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