Dealing with Family Dynamics

This was a bit of a challenging post to write, but I think it’s something that affects enough people that maybe sharing my experience would be beneficial. I tried to be really careful in writing it, so I hope nobody takes offense—this is just my opinion, and my experience.

So. Weddings can be difficult for all families, right? Whether you have divorced parents, step-parents, small families, big families, awesome in-laws, outlaw in-laws, whatever—put a whole bunch of people into one big emotionally fraught situation, add in a lot of expectations for perfection, and you have some nerve-racking dynamics to deal with, no matter what.

A lot of the time, weddings can bring out the worst in people. We’ve all heard stories of overbearing parents inviting half the world to their kids’ weddings, or evil in-laws not wanting to give up their son or daughter. We didn’t have any of those problems (my in-laws are awesome and so are my parents!), but we did have something.

Both my parents and Mr. Dragon’s parents are no longer together, and both of our fathers have since found new partners, meaning we collectively had two dads, two moms, a step-mom, and my dad’s girlfriend at the wedding.

All of our parents are generally amicable, so we weren’t expecting any major drama, but I think there is bound to be some inherent awkwardness with that many ex-somethings in the same place at the same time, even if I was the only one feeling it.

The night before our rehearsal, I realized Mom Dragon thought she was walking me down the aisle with Dad Dragon, whereas I had planned to do it the traditional way with just my father. A lot of our family members have divorced/split-up parents, so many people have been doing the dad/mom/bride thing. It was an honest miscommunication, but with people questioning my choice, Mr. Dragon trying to stay out of it, and me feeling emotional already, I ended up in tears.

Fun, right? Well, thing is, my mom and I have had our fair share of issues over the last few years. When my parents split up, things went haywire and our relationship turned a bit sour. The wedding, believe it or not, was a healing thing, for both of us, because it gave us a common ground to stand on, something to work together for, and a chance to start making inroads to friendship again. Is it a perfect relationship now? No. But I think we understand each other a lot better.

The “who is walking you down the aisle” conversation turned into a much larger conversation between my mother and me, with forgiveness and understanding and all of that good stuff coming out of the woodwork. And, in the end, she was thrilled to walk down the aisle with Mr. Dragon and his mom (once he got them going!).

It doesn’t end there, though, not that easily. Because with that many parents you have to wonder, who do we thank first in the speeches? How do we not leave anyone out? Who gets gifts? How do we address everyone in our programs?

We went overboard with the thank yous in our speech, just in case. I thanked every parent and every partner, then Mr. Dragon turned around and thanked them again. We had free-for-all seating during the ceremony and dinner so that everyone could figure out who they wanted to sit with and who they didn’t want to sit with, without us having the headache of sorting it out.

Guess what? It all worked out. They ate together, they sat together, they took photos together, some of ”˜em even danced together, and they all laughed together and enjoyed the day.


Isn’t this a lovely photo? Ashley snapped it while nobody was looking. It’s Mr. Dragon’s grandma, his dad, his step-mom, and his mom, right after the wedding.

What I’m about to say, I suppose, doesn’t apply to everyone dealing with less-than-nuclear family situations. We’re lucky that, as I said, all of our parents are friendly, and I know that not everyone is that fortunate. We have the gift of parents who have been through a handful of funerals, weddings, family vacations, grandkids, and all kinds of other uniting things, regardless of relationship status.

But—my advice, having seen it all work out for us: remember that everyone is coming from a place of love. Love for you, and love for your partner (and love for your partnership).

Maybe it’s messy, maybe it’s awkward, but if you’re running into clashing parents, it might be because they all want to know that YOU love THEM, that they are an important part of your day. Nobody will get mad at you if you choose to have one parent, or both parents, walk you down the aisle. Nobody will get mad at you if you choose to thank your mom first, then your dad, or your step-mom, or your grandma. If they do, they will get over it (maybe not now, maybe not for a long time, but I think they eventually will).

And, know that parents are grownups, too. While they might be grinning and bearing it through situations they wouldn’t really prefer to be in, they’re doing it because they’re adults and they want you to have a good day. Trust them to be grownups, and they just might pull it off.

Did you have any sticky family situations during your wedding planning or the wedding? How did you deal with it?


Mrs. Dragon

Sioux Lookout/Brockville, ON
Wedding Date:
September 2012
Miss Genie Takes a Turn Down the Aisle

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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    MissSass, Guest @ 4:06 pm

    Wow, this post really struck home with me and my sister. We are both engaged and are planning our weddings at the same time, but we also have our mother’s new husband and family to contend with. I have issues with my step brother, who is just not a nice person, and seems to want to let everyone know it with an I your face unpleasant attitude, and my sister has issues with our step dad, who decideds to railroad her at every point(and has done for most of her life). I don’t want my step brother at my wedding. But my mum does…and she’s paying for all the booze and food… I have no idea how to tell her he’s not welcome. And when I have tried to do it politely, she comes back with something equally polite, and he’s suddenly going. Anyone else had this issue?

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Heather, Guest @ 1:10 am

    @MissSass – I have a similar situation, though not identical, and I’ve been stressing about it a lot. My sister is where my trouble is coming from. Lately she has made every family function all about her and if we don’t do things exactly her way then my mother and I are blamed for ruining everything. I am of the opinion that if she doesn’t want to act like a member of the family and wants to cause drama then why should she be invited? Especially on my big day, that’s the last thing I feel I should have to stress about. My parents both insist I should invite her and my fiancé agrees. Like they told me, be the better person and invite them. If they don’t come fine. If they do and try to cause problems make them leave but don’t let them ruin your day or make you stress over the planning. This day is for you and your husband enjoy it with or without them 🙂

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