Getting Involved With a Parent’s Wedding as an Adult Child

An older couple embracing after saying their wedding vows.

In this day and age, it’s completely normal for an adult child to find out that his or her parent is getting married. Either as a second marriage or after raising you as a single parent, this circumstance happens a lot. However, those who are accustomed to “traditional” weddings will note that an adult child has no set role in the wedding: they aren’t the father or mother of the bride, they aren’t bridesmaids or groomsmen…and yet they are often the closest relationship the bride or groom has!

When you congratulate your parent for finding someone to spend the rest of their lives with, you can also do some good work to figure out how best to fit into the puzzle of wedding planning. Take these steps to make sure you and your mom or dad both have an amazing memory of the wedding day.

Talk About the Level of Traditionalism in the Wedding

An older couple at their wedding reception laughing at a table with their friends.

One thing that often happens with second marriages or marriages slightly later in life is that the happy couple are satisfied with a less complex or formal wedding. When your parent shares happy news with you, ask if they’ve thought about whether they are going to elope, have a big church wedding, have an intimate backyard ceremony, or any of a million other options. If they start off thinking they’ll have a small ceremony, listen carefully to figure out if they are going for basically an elopement or if you will be part of the experience. These decisions are up to the couple, but knowing ahead of time can help you manage your own expectations of your participation. If, on the other hand, they want a big, lavish party with many guests, you can mentally note that there may be some hours of prep help in your future.

Discuss Potential Planning Parts You Can Play

Later on as the details begin to crystallize, consider what kind of role you want to play in the planning of the wedding. You can offer to throw a shower if it seems appropriate, or go wedding dress shopping. You can participate in making invitations, creating food for the reception, or even designing bouquets. Try to present the things that sound good to you as options to your parent; if they would love your help, they will tell you, and if they want to stick with a professional that they hire, that’s okay, too!

Discuss Your Participation in the Ceremony

The ceremony can be an odd place for a grown child of the bride or groom. Figure out if it makes sense for you to be a maid of honor, a bridesmaid, or something else. If you’re an only child, there’s a chance that they will consider having you “give them away,” just as a way for you to be a part of it. However, if your parent goes very simple with the ceremony, perhaps with just an officiant and the couple, don’t be offended. It makes sense to fit their needs and wants for this time rather than focusing too fully on whether the ceremony reflects you and your wants.

Get to Know the Spouse-to-Be

A young and old man sitting on a park bench and laughing.

Another great way to make the wedding process a positive experience is to get to know the person your parent is marrying. Sometimes, adult children miss out on getting to know their parent’s new spouse because they simply don’t live close enough for frequent chats. Make some special effort to talk on the phone, get coffee, and in general spend quality time with the spouse-to-be, finding ways to connect. If they aren’t your favorite person in the world, getting to know them will usually make it a little easier to be around them, especially if you have an open mind and think about the role they have in your parent’s life.

Talk About a Way to Make a Special Tradition

If you aren’t really “involved” in the wedding at all, or are involved less than you would like, figure out if there is a special tradition you can start with your parent that is all your own. This can be an early breakfast on Christmas morning or a phone call on Thursday evenings—but the effort to start a tradition can be beneficial since your parent’s life and schedule are probably about to change. This way, even if the wedding isn’t the spot for it, you stay involved with your parent’s life.

With these conversations, you show how much you support and love your parent while also establishing a way that you won’t get left behind in the shuffle of wedding planning. Your parent getting married can be a positive step for them and a new family member for you; put your best foot forward to create positive memories.

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