The how-tos for including your stepparents in your wedding.
Sure, you’re marrying “’til death do you part,” but, alas, not all your relatives may end up abiding by this vow. Unfortunately, weddings can really ratchet up any tension between exes and their new spouses. If the divorced couples in question are your parents, well then, this is an area of wedding etiquette to tread lightly.
The good news? Stepparents who have helped raise you or your fiancé since you were young are often easier to include than those who entered the equation much later. Still, as long as you are respectful of all parties involved, you can navigate this emotional minefield successfully. We’ve isolated seven wedding-related duties that can be touchy—and give you a guide to sidestepping conflicts over your Steps.
ISSUE #1: THE INVITATIONS
Back in the day, stepparents were never included in wedding invitations. Today, those rules have loosened up as divorce has become more common. So, if you’re close to your Step or he or she is helping to pay for your wedding, it is expected that you include his or her name on the invitation. If your mom has remarried and now goes by her new last name, use that one on the invite even if it is different than yours.
An alternative that easily sidesteps all this: “The bride and groom, together with their parents, invite….”
ISSUE #2: WHAT TO WEAR
This issue is for the ladies. Since the mothers of the bride and groom are expected to dress to stand out at the wedding, it is up to the step moms to dress slightly more subdued in this situation. Want your step mom to still feel special on your Big Day? Arrange for your floral designer to make her a special corsage to demonstrate her stature at your wedding.
ISSUE #3: WEDDING PROGRAM
Remember that the key to preventing everyone’s feathers from getting ruffled starts with how you approach explaining all the details regarding your parents’ new spouses. One easy way to acknowledge your Steps–as well as explain the situation to all of your guests briefly and succinctly–is to mention everyone up front in your wedding program.
A line at the bottom like, “We want to thank our parents [names] and their spouses [names] for all their support and generosity over the years…” will go a long way in making everyone feel included.
ISSUE #4: WALKING DOWN THE AISLE
Brides know that whoever walks them down the aisle bears significance. So what if you have a step dad you are especially close to and want him to walk you down the aisle but you don’t want to forget your natural-born father, either?
Have one dad walk you down the aisle halfway and then the other meet you there to take you to the altar. Another option? Have both escort you. Either is a touching way to include your Step.
ISSUE #5: CEREMONY SEATING
The most popular way: everyone gets the front row. First, you give your mom the best seat in the house (that would be the one closest to the aisle). Where you seat your father and his wife depends on how well everyone gets along. If it is all smooth sailing, then put dad next and his wife on his other side.
If there’s tension, then fill the aisle with other close family and then put dad at the other end of the front row. If that’s still too close, place dad in the second row’s aisle seat, behind your mother, with your step mom at his side.
ISSUE #6: RECEPTION SEATING
When it comes to avoiding conflicts over Steps, no wedding is too small to have multiple head tables. When Steps can’t sit together with both your parents at the same table, then divide everyone up to “run” their own tables equidistant to your table with your new spouse. You two can sit alone to stand out or surround yourselves with your attendants. Then, keep your parents separated by having them each host a table to your side that is filled with their family or friends.
ISSUE #7: SPECIAL DANCES
Like walking down the aisle, having special dances with your parents and a Step you are close to can be tricky. Here’s how to keep everyone smiling: brides should still have their traditional father-daughter dance and grooms should still plan on their moment with mom at the beginning of the reception.
Then, later at the reception, have your DJ or bandleader announce a special dance “dedication” where you dance with your Step. This way you get two opportunities to share a touching two-step.