Wedding Rules for Tricky Family Situations

Divorce is really no ones favorite topic when you’re planning a wedding (or ever for that matter), but with a 50% divorce rate in America, one of the top bride questions we get is about wedding planning with a divorced family. Whether it’s your parents, your partner’s parents or close relatives, you will probably have some sort of tricky family situation that you need to handle with care. So today, we’re digging in! We’ve scoured the web looking for help from the experts about how to handle the sensitive (read awkward/volatile) family situation.

Wedding Etiquette for Divorced Parents Photo by Arthur Elgort by Vogue via.

How do I word my invitations if my parents are divorced?

We could do a whole post about this topic alone! Generally, the invitation wording is determined by who is hosting (or help paying).

If both the bride’s divorced parents are helping (and have been remarried):

Mr. and Mrs. Jim Offelt

Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Pram

request the pleasure of your company

at the marriage of their daughter….

If only one of the bride’s parents is helping, you just include their name.

If you have multiple divorces in both you and your partner’s families, you might just be better off saying:

Together with their parents

Mary Bennett


Jeff Harper

request the pleasure of your company
at their marriage

If both you and your partner’s parents are hosting and are remarried:

Mr. and Mrs. Jim Offelt

Mr. John Olsen
Mr. and Mrs. John Browne
Mr. Jeremy Rice

request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of their children…

For more tricky scenarios and info check out (source for the above).

How should I seat my divorced parents and step parents at the ceremony?

“Except in unusual cases, the bride’s mother is always the last person to be seated before the ceremony, and the first to be ushered out. If parents are on good terms, ushered seating may follow the traditional order: groom’s grandparents, bride’s grandparents, groom’s mother and father, bride’s mother. The bride’s stepfather would accompany the bride’s mother unless he will be the one escorting the bride down the aisle. The bride’s father can sit in the second or third pew with his spouse or relatives after he escorts the bride down the aisle. If the bride’s stepfather will be escorting her, the bride’s father and his companion should be escorted to their seats after the grandparents and before the bride’s mother.

If the bride is close to her stepmother, her stepmother may be seated just after the bride’s grandparents. If a stepparent is controversial, he or she might not be formally ushered in, but be seated early in the pew reserved for his or her spouse. In extreme cases where a parent’s companion would cause a great deal of tension, he or she may be seated with the other guests, or graciously decide not to attend the wedding at all.”

Excerpt from

What if I don’t want my dad to walk me down the aisle?

The decision about who walks you down the aisle is totally yours to make. The role of walking you down the aisle is a big honor, you should choose the person you think deserves it and just because traditionally it’s the bride’s father doesn’t mean that’s the best option in your case. If you’d rather have your stepdad, brother, grandfather or even mother, it’s completely fine.

emrfavs_0087$!600xPhoto by Red Fly Studio

How should I handle reception seating?

Even if your parents are on pretty good terms, it’s generally a good idea to seat them at separate tables, especially if there are stepparents involved. Divide up the most important guests (close friends and family) among the two tables so each parent still feels like they are sitting at a head table.

How should we do the receiving line?

“Divorced parents do not usually stand in a receiving line together. That honor typically goes to the parent who hosts the reception (and the stepparent, if there is one). When divorced parents are friendly and accept each other’s new spouses, or when both sets of parents are hosting the wedding, they may all stand in the receiving line, separated by the groom’s parents to avoid any confusion. If the groom’s parents are divorced and remarried as well, then the bride’s sets of parents should alternate with the groom’s, so no one is standing next to his or her ex. Of course, what’s most important isn’t where everyone stands but how they feel about it. In order to head off misunderstandings, it’s best to talk with all parties early on about what your expectations are.”

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000069420025$!400xPhoto by Austin Gros

What about family pictures?

Inform your photographer of any delicate situations and plan accordingly. Make a list of the types of family pictures you’d like taken and depending on how sensitive the situation is, you might want to avoid any large family photos. You could also discuss the subject with each parent before the wedding so you know what they will be comfortable with.

Two of my family members HATE each other, I am worried they will have a fight at the wedding, what should I do?

Separation is probably your best bet in this case. As much as you can, make sure the two problem family members are as far apart as possible for the entire wedding. I know this is not always easy, but avoiding a blow out at your wedding is worth the extra effort to think through every scenario and try to keep the peace. You should also consider doing a seating plan, which will go along way in avoiding any unwanted tension.

You should also have a heart to heart with each person before the wedding. Try and get them to understand how important the day is to you and that it would mean the world if they could put aside their issues for that one day. It might not work, but it’s worth a try!

wedding etiquette for divorcePhoto by Elizabeth Messina via SMP


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