You’ve finally done it: You found “the one.” You can’t wait to shout it from the rooftops and plan an amazing wedding to celebrate your love for each other. But, then you remember that your parents can’t be in the same room as one another, and your moment of joy dissipates slightly.
Whether your parents have been divorced for 20 years or six months, it can be tough to plan a wedding with them where everything goes smoothly. However, with a little careful planning and a firm message that there will be no drama, things should go as planned and you won’t feel like you need to elope to get away from the arguing. Here are a few tips on dealing with divorced parents when planning your wedding.
Be Firm Early
In order to avoid embarrassing meltdowns or drunken scenes at your wedding, be sure to be firm with your parents early. Let them know that this is your wedding and that everyone will be civil—or else. By being clear with them from the beginning that this day is about you and your betrothed — and not about years or even decades old arguments — you should hopefully squash any attempts at being disruptive.
In addition to talking to your parents, be sure to talk to other family members who can offer support, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, or close friends of the family. However, be careful not to seek the assistance of those family members who may harbor resentment toward their ex daughter- or son-in-law, as that can just add fuel to the fire.
Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the wedding, but this isn’t necessarily the trend anymore. Couples often fund the wedding themselves but still may seek the help of family, as these shindigs can get pricey. If your parents are going to assist you with the finances of the wedding, you should be clear on who is paying for what.
Dealing with finances and divorced parents can produce a lot of tension quickly, so talk to them separately about what they each would feel comfortable paying for. If and when a parent makes a snide comment about what your other parent is or isn’t paying for, be sure to deal with the issue directly; do not let it slide. Make it known that this behavior won’t be tolerated so that it will hopefully cease to continue.
Invite Whomever You Want
No matter how the marriage ended or how long ago it ended, it still might sting for one parent to see the other in a happy relationship or marriage. Even though everything might have gone all wrong and they’re truly better off without each other, they always pictured this day being spent as a family unit, welcoming a new family member in together. When someone else is now included in this picture, it can cause friction.
Weddings are filled with high emotions, and some of them are appropriate (such as joy), and some of them are inappropriate (such as jealousy). If your dad is re-married or has been coupled with someone for years and this person is a large part of your life, you should not feel as though you need to apologize for inviting them. This is your day and you get to invite anyone you want. However, if one or both of your parents has just recently started dating someone, it might be best to gently ask them to leave their dates behind, particularly if the other parent is still single.
Anything you can do to decrease the amount of tension between your parents is a good thing. There are no right or wrong moves here; it’s really just about what makes you and your future spouse most comfortable.
Seat Them Appropriately
If your parents are able to get along and sit at the same table without too much drama, then go ahead and feel comfortable seating them together at both the ceremony and the reception. However, if you fear the exchange of 20 years of resentment coming across at the dinner table during your first dance, then it might be best to seat them separately.
Tradition dictates that if the parents are divorced, the mother should sit in the front row of the ceremony and the father should sit in the second row. If this sounds like it would fit your needs, then go ahead and make it happen. Put seats between them filled with grandparents or special aunts and uncles if that better suits your situation. Whatever you can do to keep the focus on the celebration is best.
Clue in Your Photographer and Videographer
Family photos are a huge part of the wedding ceremony and reception. You want to capture all of the special moments, and many of those include family members. When dealing with divorced parents at your wedding, you should clue in the photographer or videographer who may automatically assume you would want a picture with the entire family together.
Map out a plan of appropriate photos and get the opinions of your parents, if necessary. Be as detailed as possible with your photographer on how family photos should go down, and you should be in the clear.
Limit the Toasts
Tradition says that the father of the bride should give a toast at the wedding to say thanks to everyone in attendance or to share a few thoughts about the lovely new couple. However, it might be best to let both parents give the toast or neither. You definitely don’t want to be accused of favoring one parent to speak over the other, and you also don’t want to risk them saying anything embarrassing or snide, which can be a mood killer. You know your family best, so your judgment should be trusted above anyone else’s on this aspect of the wedding.
Focus on the Good
Even though your parents being divorced isn’t an ideal situation, be sure to focus on the good during your celebration. This wedding is a celebration of love—a love that you want to share with everyone—and you’ll be amazed at how people will be willing to set aside differences just to be around that. Your family’s history is just that: history. Focus on what your union means for your family’s future. Though it may not be what anyone thought it would be, it also might be better.