Explain to Mom that your wife has nothing against her
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Q: My mother really likes my wife, and wants to be her best friend. My wife loves my mother, but is a lot more reserved. I think my wife is very warm and friendly to my mother, but when my mother visits she feels she is occasionally snubbed by my wife. I do not necessarily agree with my mother, but feel like I am getting caught in the middle. Is it appropriate for me to tell my mother she has to handle her relationship with my wife herself?
A: Well, yes, eventually. But if you don't lay a foundation of firm defense of your wife's position first, then you're merely abdicating your responsibility to deal with your own family (not to mention, you're exposing your wife to unreasonable criticism).
You owe it to your wife to explain to Mom that the things she's taking personally aren't personal. Explain that your wife is reserved; that she is being warm and friendly to Mom — in her own way, as is her right. It just happens to be different from your mom's idea of warm and friendly. Explain to Mom that there's no harm intended, that your wife will never give her the kind of relationship Mom envisions, because that's not who Wife is.
Then, once you've laid this out there — with as many specifics as you can summon — you can say to your mom when she complains, "We've been over this. Wife is who she is." And, yes, you can also say, "If my explanation isn't enough, then maybe you should talk to Wife directly."
There's no "caught in the middle," by the way, when one side is wrong. Your mother is way out of line here.
It's your wedding, and you need to speak up to your parents
Q: Our parents have generously offered to help with most of our wedding expenses, and because we no longer live in our hometown (where the wedding will be), they have also been helping with the planning. My parents took this to a new level when they booked a band they know my fiance and I don't like (they like this band very much). It was and is not negotiable with them. I am truly grateful for their generosity, but I want to be able to have a say in this wedding, especially about the big things (like music) without sounding like a huge brat. I can't seem to just let this go. Am I out of line?
A: I guess you either get used to the idea of dancing to elevator music (or whatever their crime is against your taste), or you go to your parents, checkbook in hand, and offer both to hire and pay the band of your choice — and to cave in to some other thing you know your parents want but that you've been resisting.
In other words, you inoculate yourself against brattiness by framing your stand as a fair exchange, and not a straight-up demand. Accepting their cash rules those out.
After reiterating your general gratitude, it might be worth asking why they would insist on something that makes you unhappy.