There’s a tradition in British weddings known as flowers-for-the-mums. You say it as a single word, in a single breath; the notion that a newly married person will be doling out a bouquet and a ‘ta for raising me’ is so innocuous, so ingrained, flowers-for-the-mums is listed off in that single breath on every checklist, every etiquette book, every planning podcast.
Flowers-for-the-mums is a wedding-by-numbers activity, expected to happen the same way, at the same time, at every wedding – no matter what the wedding, or the couple getting married, is like.
- Stop halfway through your toast. What you were saying was unimportant. This is flowers-for-the-mums!
- Whip a spectacular bouquet of flowers out of no where and present it to your new spouse’s mother.
- Mumble awkwardly about being grateful for her help. If she didn’t help, mumble awkwardly about being grateful for your new spouse, as if they are a cake your mother-in-law has baked especially for you.
- Whip out a second, equally spectacular bouquet. Be careful not to make it any more or less spectacular. The spectacle of the bouquets will be closely monitored.
- Present it to your own mother with another awkward mumble, desperately wishing you hadn’t used all your best gratitude already. Use words like ‘again’ to make the same embarrassed speech sound plausibly different.
- Sit down, red-faced and embarrassed, wondering why every piece of advice you read told you to do this.
There is some room for variety, of course. The awkwardness of the mumbles. The spectacle of the flowers.
Or, some couples do flowers-for-the-mums as part of a bigger gift-giving ceremony, also thanking the groomsmen, the bridesmaids, even the fathers (what next!) for all their help with the wedding (or, at least, turning up to the wedding more sober than expected) by dishing out presents. However it’s done, mums always seem to get flowers.
It’s a tradition that truly needs to die.
I’ve spoken about the cringetacular awfulness of dishing out presents mid-toast before – loudly and at length – but my advice boils down to this: no matter what outdated etiquette books tell you is the right time or way to do something, you don’t have to make a show of handing out your wedding party presents.
By all means, give people a present! (Your friends and family probably deserve one for helping you through all the wedding stress and decision-making. Or, at least, listening to you complain about all the wedding stress and decision-making.)
But don’t give them a present in front of your entire wedding. It puts them on the spot and it puts your present (which you probably bought on the last dregs of your budget) under scrutiny.
Better to do it in a quiet moment before the ceremony. It doesn’t need an audience. It’s not a performance – it’s a thank you.
As for what to give them – you can do better than flowers-for-the-mums.
Flowers are a crap gift that advertise you put no thought or effort into gift-giving.
They’re a terrible combination of bulky and delicate, awkward and difficult to carry around all night, and they need lots of care and attention to last beyond the disco – which your mother won’t be able to give, since she’s at your wedding.
Unless you’re going to trim the stems and pop them in a nice vase with water and nutrients (and I know you’re not going to), all you’re giving is the gift of overpriced mulch.
Flowers may be traditional, but that’s not reason in itself to do it. Dressing your bridesmaids in your same outfit – veil and all – to confuse evil spirits is traditional. Marrying your first cousin is traditional.
You don’t need to follow tradition for tradition’s sake.
So buy your mum something she’ll actually like instead. You’ll both be happier.
Gift ideas for the mother of the bride or mother of the groom
We have some ideas if your mum…
- …plies you with drink when you visit
- …has a sweet tooth
- …is a glam fan
- …planned more of your wedding than you did
- …can’t be summed up in a pithy sentence
Full disclosure: I haven’t been paid to promote any of these products – I just think your mum will really like them – though some of the links are affiliate links, and I’ll earn a small commission if you buy through them.