Honoring the Past (Without Pissing Everyone Off)

About 10 years ago I attended my cousin’s wedding. It was a very high class Southern affair with a big outdoor tent and a delicious buffet of traditional Southern delights. Even years later I still I remember that they displayed framed photos of both the bride and the groom’s parents on their wedding days. I remember thinking what a sweet gesture it was, and how I would never be able to do the same thing at my own wedding.

My parents were divorced when I was 13 years old. It was mess, and even 16 years later there are still a lot of old wounds and scars on both sides of the family. In fact, I am really dreading the potential drama that now looms ominously on the horizon as our wedding approaches, namely the fact that my mother has never met (nor has any desire to meet) my stepmother. Mr. C’s parents are also divorced, and his parents currently coexist in an emotional stalemate. It’s trouble on both sides. Trouble to the point that we are reserving room blocks at two different hotels in order to preserve the peace. But more on that later.


My mom and dad on their wedding day. I love my mom’s lace dress and I love the fact my dad is very obviously checking her out!

But here’s the thing—I wish there was some way that we could honor both of our parents’ first marriages, seeing as we (Mr. C and I) were the results of those unions, even if they didn’t end with “happily ever after.” I wish we could display the photos without opening old wounds or creating awkwardness (there will be plenty of that anyway, to be sure). This is definitely something we would have to consult our parents on beforehand to see how they feel about the issue. But something tells me it probably isn’t going to be possible, which makes me sad.


One thing is for sure, though—we will definitely be displaying photographs of our grandparents’ weddings and photos of the loved ones who have passed on. At least those are two things we can display without any complicated emotions.


My grandparents on their wedding day. It was a classic WWII story where my grandmother married him at the courthouse before he left with the Navy.

What do you think? Would it be poor taste to display a photograph of our parents’ first weddings? Should we include only photos of their second marriages or perhaps no photos at all? Have you, or someone you know, handled this situation at your own wedding?


Mrs. Camel

Athens, GA
Wedding Date:
May 2013
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  1. Member
    FoolsintheRain 1006 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:22 am

    I’m curious to see what others have to say My parents are still together, as were/are my grandparents, but my partners parents are not! We’ve both discussed also liking the idea..but need to see what his mom thinks.

  2. Member
    Merelymere 476 posts, Helper bee @ 9:22 am

    We are in the same boat– at least, *I* am. My parents divorced when I was 13 and it was very ugly– my Dad has remarried and I get along fine with my stepmother, but it’s an awkward situation wedding-wise. His parents divorced when he was 18 and he was already out on his own– his Mom remarried several years ago. I, too, am sad that we can’t really display photos from our parents’ weddings without it being a little uncomfortable. I’m planning to display photos of grandparents, etc. who have passed away, along with one of my best friends who passed away in February. We’re still trying to work out the logistics of who leads who in/out and where everyone will sit. Fortunately, it’s not an explosive situation where anyone is likely to end up on Cops or Jerry Springer, but it’s times like this that make me sad that our parents aren’t all still together.

  3. mstreasure Member
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:23 am

    hmm That’s a tough one. I’d say that if you want to include photos of your parents, put up individual photos of them, maybe one of them holding you when you were a baby. That’s a nice way to recognize their importance in your life, but without causing discomfort.

  4. Member
    BookishBelle 1629 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:33 am

    @Mrs. Treasure: +1

  5. castle Member
    castle 1191 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:34 am

    I totally feel you on this one. My parents wedding photos are adorable but there was no way we could display them at our wedding. I would probably chose not to display any parent wedding photos just to keep the peace. The sentiment is a nice thought, that even though they didn’t work out together something(you) good came out of their marraige. But I think weddings bring out a lot of mixed emotions in people and it’s best to try and avid any possible drama. We had to forgo an awesome idea our DJ gave us to have a marraige dance and invite couples who have been married 1 yr then 5 then 10 and so on to join us on the dance floor ending with te couple who has been married the longest. I loved the idea but unfortunetly I knew it would make my Mom feel bad so we decided against it.

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    Mrs B., Guest @ 9:40 am

    The wedding will already be an emotional time for your parents. I would go with Mrs. Treasure’s suggestion of putting up individual photos or photos with you and your fiance as babies. Wedding photos of failed marriages in an already emotional situation may just be more than they can handle.

  7. unicycle Member
    unicycle 476 posts, Helper bee @ 9:53 am

    I had the same problem! I really liked the idea of including photos of everyone’s wedding, but there were too many divorces so we just didn’t do anything. On the plus side, that was one less DIY project for me to stress over. Sorry, I’m not very helpful!

  8. Member
    whocalledforcrazy 14 posts, Newbee @ 9:54 am

    How about one of those 3 picture frames? Put you+mom+dad baby picture in the middle then put a picture of you+mom on one side and you+dad+stepmom on the other. Do the same for Mr. Camel. You could print them all in black and white to match.

    You could then carry a small picture of your parents wedding in a charm on your bouquet/person. That way you get the picture that is important to you and the public one that bruises no one’s feelings.

    Hopefully it will all work out! :)

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    Lone Star, Guest @ 10:00 am

    I’m going to go ahead and vote for you to not have pictures of the first marriages. I know they’re important, but they didn’t last. My MIL and FIL do not talk to each other, and didn’t speak one word at our wedding. Asking my MIL to display their wedding photo would have been, frankly, inappropriate. I think if you ask it will just make them feel bad saying no.

  10. Member
    jny1179 3494 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:00 am

    Great post, both our parents are divorced and his Father is re-married 10 years, Mother has a long term boyfriend, and my parents are both single. I think we’ll do the grandparents and the loved ones passed and leave it at that. It would be a little awkward to display my parents wedding photo and super awkward to show his parents, would we also have to include a photo of his father’s 2nd wedding?? haha too much to think about!! Keep it simple!

  11. Member
    sinfoniaxid 62 posts, Worker bee @ 10:05 am

    @Mrs. Treasure: Exactly.

    Miss Camel, if you have a good relationship with the new spouses as well, I’d recommend that you have pictures of just you with each step-parent, to include the person your parents have married just as they are getting ready to include the person you are marrying!

    …That might be a lot of pictures, though… 4 grandparent weddings, 4 parent/child pictures, and however many step-pictures you need…

    I hope it works out for you!

  12. msdragon Member
    Mrs. Dragon 814 posts, Busy bee @ 10:55 am

    I loved the same look of old wedding photos displayed somewhere at the reception, but skipped out on it to smooth things over and keep the peace at ours.

  13. Member
    shaynapunim 654 posts, Busy bee @ 10:58 am

    Both my parents and FH’s parents are divorced. Nevertheless, we plan to have their wedding photos displayed, along with our grandparents’ wedding photos. Despite divorce, our parents get along and have civil relationships with each other. Due to points the previous posters made, however, I will ask them if the photos would make them uncomfortable. Still, our intimate wedding is about our relationship and our relationship with our family; I would love to use the photos.

  14. Member
    cosmo_gmr 488 posts, Helper bee @ 11:31 am

    I love all the pictures you posted, specially your grandparents wedding… gorgeous!

    As everyone else said, maybe to display your and his parents weddings may be too much trouble… but, how about pictures of you with you parents and of him with his parents. Could be a single picture of the 3 of you on, say, your graduation? Or individual pictures of you and your mom and you and your dad (could be just one frame to save from clutter).

    Best of luck!

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    sarah, Guest @ 11:39 am

    what about separate photos of your mom on her wedding day and your dad on his wedding day? they won’t be together in the photos, so maybe it will have the meaning you want without being awkward that they aren’t together anymore…

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    sarah, Guest @ 11:42 am

    “her” wedding day and “his” wedding day meaning, of course, “THEIR” wedding day — just not in a photo together. if that makes sense haha. just felt the need to clarify :)

  17. Guest Icon Guest
    sarah, Guest @ 11:44 am

    or like other people said, a safer photo might be one of you with your parents on another occasion — to show that their union created you, but without bringing up bad feelings. anyway, good luck! it’s always hard to work around touchy family situations….but hopefully everyone can put aside their feelings to let you and your fiance have an amazing wedding day!

  18. Guest Icon Guest
    jyssandgrant, Guest @ 12:06 pm

    My parents are divorced as are my mothers parents. We are having pictures of they’re current marriages. I really dont want to display the failed marriages, in my case my parents wernt right for each other but who they are with now is perfect for them. My dad and his wife just celebrated 15 years. I’m a grateful to my parents for having me and my brothers, but I personally want to highlight the successful ones as I pray mine is too! I’m with you on the family drama though. .. so stressed about that!

  19. Member
    anemonie 1578 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:08 pm

    Tricky tricky. We displayed our parents’ and grandparents’ wedding photos on our guest book table, with two notable exceptions: my maternal grandparents, who had eloped and had no photos, and my husband’s maternal grandparents who divorced and spent most of the reception staring daggers at each other.

    Do you have a photo of your dad as a groom minus your mom? Maybe you could put the bridal portrait of your mom above in a frame next to it so you can show off photos of your parents on their wedding day, but not “together.” Or maybe you could frame a photo of your parents with you as a baby?

  20. Member
    HarrySally 22 posts, Newbee @ 12:29 pm

    I have to vote for no first marriage photos. It would be extremely awkward not just for your parents, but for other family as well. I can picture people making comments about the photos and having hurt feelings on your special day. Best to try to keep everyone in the present and not open up old wounds.

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    AGDG, Guest @ 1:13 pm

    I haven’t done it yet but I too was concerned about this as both our parents are divorced. When I brought my concerns to my parents they were ok with using their wedding photo as I was the outcome of that. At the moment my parents are more or less civil but we’ll see. Just talk to them if they definitely are not ok with it then I would just scrap the idea or like pp have stated just use one of them with u as a baby.

  22. Member
    pinkfrog 1141 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:19 pm

    No photos of the first marriages… It’s weird. There’s no not-awkward way to do it. My parents didn’t talk to each other outside of a courtroom for 20 years, and while I still keep their wedding album, there wasn’t any way to acknowledge their marriage at the wedding without acknowledging that but for the kids that resulted, it was an epic fail. As far as how everyone will deal, though… I issued a “grow the f up” memo to both my parents early in the process, then I refused to tolerate any crap. It wasn’t easy, but it worked.

  23. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 2:34 pm

    This is why I nixed this idea from the beginning, I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, least of all me from what may happen from such a display. I would either ask to display individual shots or shots of your parents with their parents on their wedding day, which I think would be especially touching if your grandparents aren’t there.

  24. bluewhale Member
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 2:40 pm

    Two things. First, I’m with most of the people who suggested pictures of other important moments with your parents instead of the wedding photos.

    My other suggestion is something I saw on Pinterest recently. Perhaps you and Mr. Camel could recreate that wedding picture of your parents that you love and then display it somewhere in your home. Or maybe you could recreate a different picture. I couldn’t find the pin I was looking for, but here’s this one: http://media-cache-ec3.pinterest.com/upload/196962183672959206_toIblwaj.jpg I love the idea of displaying both pictures together.

  25. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 3:04 pm

    I wouldn’t even know where to begin on that one! I feel like you’d need to talk to your parents, as they would have the strongest opinion. Maybe you include photos from all of the weddings (your parents to each other and then to their current partners). I feel like if you have enough other photos, it will dial down the awkward.

  26. graywolf Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 6:23 pm

    i agree with @Mrs. Treasure! good idea!

  27. Member
    Ms_Maple 115 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:41 am

    I feel you. I am in a similar position and decided not to do it at all. I also had the problem that both sets of my grandparents are also divorced so I nixed any old wedding photos being at our wedding.

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    M, Guest @ 4:37 pm

    I would prominently display photos of your grandparents’ weddings, your parents’ weddings to their current spouses, and other undissolved marriages, and include a smaller photo in a plain-ish frame of your parents at their wedding (with their permission of course).

    When asking for their permission, explain that you want to honor the marriages in your family that are an example to you (the bigger, more prominent pictures), but you’d also like to ask their permission to have a photo of them as a testament to the fact that this is where you came from (clearly at least one good thing came out of this marriage, however unamicably it ended!). If you couch it so that they’re clear that you’re not displaying their failure to make the marriage work, but an event that had a positive effect on you (the silver lining in the cloud), I think that they might surprise you by being open-minded.

  29. camel Member
    camel 703 posts, Busy bee @ 8:55 pm

    Hey guys – I can’t reply to you all here but I read every response and I really appreciate the feedback. First, I’m glad to hear that so many other brides are in my shoes. It’s tough throwing a wedding and worrying about the tumultuous emotional history of my family. I’m glad I’m not the only one stressing about family drama on the big day! But I think I will stick with the advice of displaying photos with my mom and dad separately. It doesn’t have the same impact as seeing a wedding day photo, but it’s a great way of acknowledging their importance without hurting any feelings.

    Thanks for all your responses Hive! You are the best! :)

  30. painauchocolat Member
    painauchocolat 2298 posts, Buzzing bee @ 4:01 pm

    Mr. PaC’s parents are divorced so we went through similar thoughts about our photo table. We decided not to display any photos of his parents (first marriage or dad’s second marriage) to mitigate any awkwardness. We used wedding photos whenever possible and filled in with photos of him with each parent and individual photos of folk who weren’t together. Long-winded way of saying: don’t use the first marriage photos but everything else is fair game!

  31. Member
    bluebelle23 854 posts, Busy bee @ 8:27 am

    I’m probably going to display my grandparents and my FI’s parents. My parents are divorced as well. And I don’t remember them married, so that helps. I thought about displaying my mom and my grandfather walking down the aisle when she married my dad, but me and my mom aren’t all that close. (I stayed with my dad.) She actually has that picture framed on her dresser since my gpa’s passing.
    Fortunately though, my dad and mom do get along. There’s no crazy hatred or anything. They’ll both be there and it shouldn’t be too awkward, so for that I’m lucky.

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