Divorced Parents and Mixed Families

November 3, 2015

Weddings can be tricky when the bride or groom’s parents are divorced or the extended family is mixed. If you or your fiancé have divorced parents who are on good terms, count your blessings. If their relationship is bitter or merely polite, correct handling of delicate matters on your wedding day can help avoid unwanted tension. Toss out the traditional wedding rulebook and — above all else — be sensitive to the situation.

Start by considering wedding traditions and anticipate ways to prevent any hurt feelings by keeping the lines of communication open with both parents right from the get-go. For instance, it’s tradition for the parent with whom you’ve lived the longest to issue the wedding invitations. This may not sit well if your parents are divorced, so try to include both parent’s names on the invites.

Then there’s the escort question: Who will walk the bride down the aisle? When dealing with mixed families, the lines sometimes blur between the biological father and step-dad and the biological mother and step-mom. Again, throw tradition out the window and ask yourself: Who deserves to walk you down the aisle? It might be your dad, mom, both parents, a step-parent, two dads, two moms – that’s for you to decide. What matters in the end is that you choose the person or pair of people who have earned the honor of being your escort. Do your best to avoid hurting anyone by, again, keeping the lines of communication open. This same logic holds true for the traditional father/daughter and mother/son dance at the reception.

While following your heart to create the wedding of your dreams (and possibly shirking tradition in the process), stay sensitive to your family’s feelings and recognize when to be the bigger person. In an ideal world, you’d be able to explain your decisions to your divorced parents and each would be entirely supportive – but that’s not always the case. Remember that it might be within your power to ease tensions and keep everyone happy. Perhaps you’ll have to compromise on whose names appear on the invitation or who walks you down the aisle, but those are small sacrifices to make to keep your wedding day running smoothly.

Similarly, think about how the choices you make on this one day might affect the family dynamic for years to come. Your wedding day could result in tensions flaring up, or it could be a chance for forgiveness and healing. Talk to your divorced parents about what this day symbolizes to you: the creation of a new family. Remind your parents and step-parents of this, especially if there are any major points of contention between family members. Appeal to their rational side and encourage everyone to set aside their differences for this one day in celebration of this new family.

A few more practical ways to avoid any awkwardness: If one of your parents is remarried and the other is single, encourage the single parent to bring a guest to the wedding. Brief your wedding professionals on the family dynamics so they know who not to push together for a photo or special dance. You’ll also want to determine the ceremony and reception seating ahead of time. In the end, for every decision that affects you and your divorced parents or mixed family, ask yourself “What’s right for me and my family?” and do just that.

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