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Carolyn Hax: Mother of the bride gets an unveiled threat from her daughter

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: A friend's daughter is planning a very expensive wedding. The bride's parents wrote a check and said she could plan her wedding without their input. They hoped this would avoid fights.

The bride recently told her mother she will be excluded from wedding photos unless the mother's dress, jewelry, makeup and hairstyle meet the bride's precise color, style and other requirements. Presumably, the mother of the groom also is being required to comply.

Some friends have advised the bride's mother to wear whatever her daughter wants. Others think the bride will back down as long as the mother wears a formal mother-of-the-bride outfit. What do you think?

— Friend

Friend: I think your friend raised a monster.

What outfit coordinates best with one’s monster is not my area of expertise.

I do suggest, though, in dealing with an irrationally self-important and utterly priority-challenged bride, that your friend make a decision upfront and stick to it: either all in, or all out, because there’s too much friction in the middle.

The all-in option is to say to the daughter, “Wow, that sounds stressful. Just tell me what to wear and I’ll wear it.”

The all-out option is to say, “Wow, that sounds stressful. I’ll do my best but expect to take pictures without me.” No negative voice inflections whatsoever.

I’d also tell your friend not to worry too much about which one she chooses, because they’re trick answers: Both are the wrong thing, because to someone capable of saying to her mother, “You will be excluded from wedding photos unless your dress, jewelry, makeup and hairstyle meet my precise color, style and other requirements,” the “right” thing has been replaced by raving lunacy. The laws of social physics no longer apply.

Unless, of course, this is wildly out of character for the daughter and the mother has a warm, close, honest relationship with her. In that case, the mother can try to brake this runaway train: “Life isn’t perfect, marriages aren’t perfect, weddings aren’t perfect. I worry about the pressure you’re putting on yourself and everyone else.”

Or the verbal-dope-slap equivalent: “We didn’t raise you to treat people like this.” Presuming a bit here.

But I’m not hopeful. So, my real advice is to you and her other friends: Be ready with warm hugs and cool beverages. Mom’ll need plenty of both.

Dear Carolyn: My beloved dog died suddenly two years ago today. It was devastating, and I've never felt grief like that before. I still tear up, and this whole week, knowing the anniversary was coming, I've been sad and grumpy. I know she was "just" a dog, and what worries me with aging parents and a child with significant health issues — currently thriving — is, how am I ever going to get through a day when a person I love dies, when I am still mourning my beloved pet?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: You just will. Because that’s what people do.

Though I hope you’re spared any worst-case scenarios.

And if it helps: Grief is not linear. It’s not as if you felt X for your doggy, and will thus feel 2X for a person. Each grief is its own thing, for pets included, and there’s no anticipating it; just assume it will take you wherever it means to go.

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