When you say yes to a marriage proposal you not only gain a spouse, but also an entire new family with its own set of quirks and traditions. While figuring out how to fit in with your new in-laws is always a challenge, it can be especially difficult when your fiancé‘s parents are divorced.
The statistics for divorce are pretty harrowing (it’s estimated that the divorce rate is 40–50%), and when planning a wedding it’s likely that one or both sets of parents involved in the ceremony are separated.
Although the statistics may say that divorce is a common scenario, dealing with divorced parents is never going to feel ordinary. Many divorced couples can’t even be in the same room together, let alone sit on the same side of the aisle. And sometimes a wedding ceremony is the first time they’ve seen each other in years, which can put a lot of pressure on the event.
When you are planning a wedding and your future in-laws just can’t get along, how do you deal? Is there anything you can do to make it easier on your future spouse? Are there any special arrangements you should make? Let’s go over everything you need to plan when dealing with your partner’s divorced parents.
Let Your Partner Lead the Way
You may have spent many nights talking about your partner’s parents and all of the ins and outs of their divorce, but even so—you’re never going to know exactly how it feels. Even if your own parents are separated, your partner’s experience with divorced parents might be completely different than yours. Be patient and understanding as you try to figure out the best way to make everyone happy while planning your wedding.
Before you make seating arrangements or start to ask parents for help with a rental deposit, talk to your partner first. They’ll know how to best initiate these conversations or make the decisions about the budget, the processional, seating arrangements, receiving line, and anything else that pops up.
Decide Who Is Paying for What
Traditionally, the bride’s family will help pay for the wedding, but many couples decide to take on the responsibility themselves or both sets of parents will help out with different parts of the budget.
Decide early on who you will ask for what, and be firm when making decisions. Unfortunately, some children of divorce can experience a tug of war with their wedding budget. You’ll sometimes see parents trying to one-up each other with their checkbooks or refuse to cooperate at all in retaliation. This is especially true if there’s an income disparity between two ex-spouses. If it helps, keep your wedding budget details under wraps if you think it’ll cause problems between anyone.
Concentrate on the Seating Arrangement
Another potential area for drama between ex-spouses could be a seating arrangement that they don’t like. If there is animosity, try to arrange their tables at the reception as far away from each other as you can. If it’s possible, make the tables equidistant to the bridal party table so that no parent can claim favoritism.
When arranging seating for the ceremony it’s customary for the parents to sit together, but change this if you think it makes sense for your situation. Also, if you plan on having a receiving line after the ceremony, determine where your partner’s parents will stand (and maybe put your parents between them as a buffer).
Decide How New Spouses and Partners Come into Play
Depending on how long your partner’s parents have been divorced, they could have re-married or be dating someone new. This can be a tricky situation for many ex-spouses, and jealousy and emotions can run high when they have to see each other at the wedding. In some cases this new relationship was the cause of the marriage ending, which can be especially jarring for the ex-spouse.
There’s really no right or wrong way to handle this scenario, but ultimately if a person is married or has been involved in a committed relationship for a long time, they have every right to be at the wedding. Even if their presence upsets one parent, it wouldn’t be fair to not include them in the celebration.
However, you can dictate to your photographer how the family photographs should be taken. If you don’t want someone in your pictures for whatever reason, we say it’s your wedding day and you can decide how that goes. You also aren’t obligated to include a step-parent or a new partner in any receiving line or other official wedding role.
Support Your Future Spouse
No matter what, the most important thing to remember when dealing with your partner’s divorced parents is to be supportive. The two of you are a unit now, and your number one job is to look out for the interests of your partner—not his or her parents.