by Julia Lucia
One topic that some seem to shy away from covering, yet in my opinion needs the most exposure, is the topic of how to handle divorced families at weddings. What is the proper etiquette that goes into such a complex subject? This is something that hits home for me and that I have done a great amount of personal research on. Dealing with this type of situation can prove to be a huge, unpleasant tasks for some families. Depending on the state of relationships, whether parents are on speaking terms or not, whether the respective boyfriends or girlfriends, second husbands or wives will be present, there are some standby tips to consider when handling such a situation. Let’s start with the Ceremony.
Traditionally the father walks the bride down the aisle. What if the bride also has a stepfather? This situation has multiple solutions. The first tip is that if the biological father still has a good relationship with the bride, usually that is who does the honors. If the stepfather has held a prominent role in her life, some brides choose to have both men walk her down the aisle. An alternative is to have both biological parents walk her down the aisle. Or if tensions are high and a decision really cannot be civilly made, the bride could consider having a brother or close male friend give her away.
Next is seating for the ceremony. A neat idea that seems to be catching on is having the guests sit wherever they would like and not designating them to a specific side. This option seems to be ideal for a divorced family, allowing possible awkward confrontations to be avoided between ex-family members. Also, it is a nice way to symbolize the bride and grooms’ families joining together as one family. Often times, however, the traditional style of seating works out just fine: A bride’s side and a groom’s side. This should be okay due to the short duration of the ceremony, as compared to the reception, as well as the difference in expected social interactions. Usually, during the ceremony itself, there is no need for social interaction between people. When planning the reception, try to keep those who may be unconformable seeing one another apart; different tables, different sides of the room, etc. However, it is not your responsibility to keep them apart all night, as long as you do not seat them next to one another, your hands should be washed clean of the situation after they sit down.
The same type of discretion may be used while deciding who contributes to the costs of the wedding, who dances with the bride or groom for the father/daughter or mother/groom dance, who hosts the wedding shower, who sits in the front row at the ceremony, etc. If so needed, it may be a good idea to hire a security guard, even if not for physical enforcement, just so disgruntled family members know that you mean business about keeping things peaceful. Although these decisions may seem impossible and may be followed with backlash from family members, as I like to stress, the day is about the Bride and Groom. If family members are not shy about voicing their opinions, stress the fact the it is YOUR day. Don’t be afraid to make a script for yourself of how to diplomatically deal with these potential situations. For example: “I appreciate you giving your opinion however [Groom's name] and I have already made a decision about that topic and are confident in the way it will turn out.” or “Although I understand your concern, this day is not about the past, it is about the making of a new future.”
One thing a bride might want to consider is to shy away from confiding in biased family members about this topic, such as parents, aunts and uncles, or grandparents. I would advise to ask for advice from someone else that is close to you, a friend, an unbiased cousin, someone whom you consider to be a mentor or role model. Even though each situation is different depending on the dynamics of the family and the current standings of the relationship, don’t be afraid to ask for advice; they may have had to deal with a situation similar before. There is also an abundance of tips and information on the internet and in wedding books on the topic of how to deal with a divorced family. The main theme of the day is love; stand your ground and be confident in your choices.