Handling social complications is part of wedding planning. After all, your nuptials are the ultimate family reunion and gathering. From sibling rivalry and the uncle who’s “off the wagon” to the cousin who married your brother’s ex (or ex boss), there is no end of possibilities.
One of the most common wedding dramas, though, is the one involving divorced parents. Since parents are traditionally a big part of the proceedings, and sometimes even pay for some or all of the festivities, who does what and how really matter.
This can certainly be tricky.
If one of your parents cheated on the other, if the divorce is fairly recent, or if the split was acrimonious, the challenge may be to find a way for everyone to come together respectfully and to experience the joy of the day.
They don’t have to share the joy—or a pew or a table at the dinner. But there should be consensus on one issue:
It’s your day.
A day to put you and your future first.
They shouldn’t ruin it.
Clear communication well before the big day – about their feelings, your plans, and what’s expected – will help.
If a parent can’t put hard feelings aside, if you’re estranged from a parent, if it’s best that a step-parent or partner not attend the occasion, try and establish that. Talk through it and keep talking. Set the boundaries.
When family dynamics are particularly fractious, some couples opt to elope.
But you shouldn’t have to give up the dress and the hoopla and all the pleasure because a parent or two can’t behave.
Be realistic. Don’t expect your mom or dad or his mom or dad to be people they’re not. If there will be conflict over who walks the bride up the aisle, who stands where in a receiving line, who makes a toast or who sits where, streamline plans and eliminate possibilities for turmoil.
You can walk up the aisle alone, with a grandfather or a brother.
You can assign seating and put parents who’re at odds at tables on opposite sides of the room.
You can be explicit in exactly where people will sit at the ceremony. If need be, inform your parents and ushers ahead of time. Use a seating chart, if you must.
You can be clear about toasting too. And ensure both parents and the master of ceremonies know what’s going to happen and what’s expected (or isn’t expected) of them.
Finally, you can have volunteer “troubleshooters” or a wedding professional who’s charge of putting out social fires on the big day so you can thoroughly enjoy your time basking in the spotlight.