The Mother of the Brides: A Tale of Five Sisters and My Mama’s Wedding Woes

To be “mother of the bride” is a daunting role, at best.  Maybe you’re the mother of a cherished daughter or even two.  But, imagine being the mother of five girls!  

If there was ever a perfect role- model for the mother of the bride, it was my mother, Gladys Clark Carter. To play the part of “mother of the bride” is daunting, at best, and downright impossible at worst.  Maybe you’re the mother of a cherished daughter or even two.  But, imagine being the mother of five girls! I now wonder, “How did Mama do it?”  

Please enjoy these short tales of five beautiful daughters, their elegant weddings, and the Mother of the Brides.

Daughter No. 1:  Phyllis Anne

my eldest sister, and the opening act to our five-act play

In the 1960’s,  Amy Vanderbilt dictated the scene: the church, the flowers, candelabras flanking both sides of the podium, an ordained minister and the bridal party.

My mother and sister had worked together, making the most economical decisions while maintaining simplistic beauty.

The big day arrived on August 5, 1966.  Finally, everything was in place.  

My sister was getting ready in one of the Sunday School classrooms and crying.  She cried as much as she did the awful day Snowball, the family dog, tragically died.  My mother and her sister, Aunt Mildred, were there. Tears streamed down their faces.  

My three sisters and I cried because it seemed the thing to do under the circumstances. The situation seemed dire.

Finally, someone had the good sense to send for our Daddy, who was the most loving, patient and understanding man I have ever known.  Never raised his voice, slow to anger, a man of few words. Until That Day.    

 He stepped into the room and with one quick glance at my mother, who was sniffing into a Kleenex and said, “What’s wrong?”  

We all looked at the Bride, with enormous, black tears (from the Maybelline Mascara) running down her face.  

“What’s the matter?”  he asked.  “I don’t know,” Phyllis Anne muttered through sobs.  

“Do you want to do this?”  he asked again.  

“I don’t know,” she answered again.

“Stop crying, because I’m calling this thing off.” He said, as he turned toward the door.

“But I love him”, she said.  

“Then, dry it up,” he said.  

Everyone heard that. It was like someone had flipped the light switch to the off position.

Blessed quietness, except for a few leftover sniffles.  The wedding went on as planned.

Phyllis Anne was beautiful, even with the swollen, tear-filled eyes and no mascara.

Thankfully, we must have gotten it all out of our system, as no-one cried during the wedding.

Daughter No. 2: Glenda Sue

Also known as the challenging, get out of my way, sister

Sue didn’t mind a good fight or pulling pranks on us kids.She never took her turn doing the dishes, refused to participate in household chores, and (when she chose) made our lives generally miserable.  

As Sue was always a source of concern for my mother, she felt it necessary to have a lengthy discussion with her fiance. In Mama’s infinite wisdom, and from her experience, she suggested that he call off the wedding.  

She underscored for him the above stated reasons, plus a few more for good measure.  

But her efforts were without avail. The young man couldn’t be swayed.

“But I love her,” he said.  

The wedding day arrived, and remarkably, not a tear was shed. (We clearly remembered the preamble to the 1966 wedding.)  

My mother whispered to the soon-to-be brother-in-law, as we waited outside the church.

“Remember what I told you.”  

Again, he ignored her.  He was in love.  

Fast forward to the second year of marital bliss.  An argument erupted between the husband and wife.  He was leaving. After some settling down and apologies, he thought better of his departure.  

“Where were you planning to go?” my sister later asked.  

Without hesitation, he replied, “To your Mama’s!”  

He knew Mama would understand his plight.  My mother and brother-in-law would maintain a strong bond until her death decades later.

To this day, anytime he needs extra ammunition, he reminds my sister, “Your Mama told me not to marry you.”

“Then why did you?” she responds. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sister No. 3.  Kay

The sweet one.  That’s me.  

The wedding was lovely: beautiful bride, handsome groom.  My two younger sisters, Grace and Kathy, were the bridesmaids.

Evidently, they were so young in the ‘60’s that they didn’t get the memo. Let’s just say that the no-crying mandate did not carry over into the ‘70’s.  

By the time to walk down the aisle arrived, they’d cried so much that both Mama and Daddy, had tears in their eyes.

“You don’t have to do this,” my daddy gently said. 

“But I love him”, I said.

So Grace and Kathy sobbed. Before the wedding, and during the ceremony, no less. Heart-rending, nose blowing sobs. With buckets of tears.

There were times, when the pastor paused because he could not be heard.  

Despite the overflow of emotion, the wedding was splendid. Amazingly, the photographs were also fantastic, despite my sisters’ swollen, tear filled eyes. After the wedding, they continued to weep, even as the cameraman tried to coax smiles.

Sister No. 4:  Grace

The dynamic, “I’m in charge” sister

If you know Grace, you know there’s no stopping her, although my mother tried, bless her heart.

“I don’t think this is the thing for you to do,” said Mom.  

“But I love him,” responds by sister.    

Grace, the fourth sister married shortly after our Daddy passed away, with an unenviable result: Mama had no backup on this one.

The wedding went off without a hitch, except for one small detail.

A well-meaning friend of my sister decided to stitch the fly of the groom’s trousers closed, a bit of a practical joke. A short delay ensued in the opening of the ceremony.

Everyone, with the exception of the groom, of course, thought the innovation hilarious.

Sister No. 5:  Kathy

The baby. Her wedding would be the grand finale.  

Mama wanted this wedding to be perfect in every way.  Maybe, because she had learned from the last four, and she knew this daughter’s marriage would be the last she’d orchestrate.

Phyllis Anne and Sue, my two older sisters, worked tirelessly alongside my mother.  Months were spent in preparation. Though, breaking with tradition, no advice was given to either the bride or groom.  Maybe, my mother decided there was no need to try, after four failed attempts.  

The wedding was perfectly peachy. No tears were shed. As the newly married couple finally pulled away from the church, tin cans clinking from the rear bumper, the entire family breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“Thank goodness,” said Mama. It was over.

What I learned about the qualities of a Mother of the Bride from my Mama:

A well-prepared mother of the bride is a godsend at a time when emotions run high. She fulfills many roles and performs numerous responsibilities.

As needed, she’s the driving force who makes it happen, with a smile on her face.

As the problem solver, she’s the go-to person for decisions and implementation.

The consummate wedding hostess, the mother of the bride must maintain her composure and listen to ideas from everyone.

Checking her list twice, she makes certain that Aunt Marthie and Uncle Arthur are on the guest list.

She navigates the emotional and financial roller coaster and smooths out rough spots.

Finally, she bears joyful witness to her beautiful daughters’ lifetime commitments to their new husbands.

Blessings to all Mothers of Brides. May they be as beloved as my own.