Wedding Etiquette: Wedding Planning with Divorced Parents

Planning a wedding is an exciting time. However, when parents are divorced and either dating new partners or remarried, it can be stressful. Becoming involved in all aspects of the wedding plans, including those festivities typically arranged by others, such as the bridal shower and bachelorette party, will alleviate a considerable amount of tension. If the bride communicates clearly, plans effectively and exhibits an abundance of patience, the wedding will be more enjoyable for everyone.

Planning a Wedding with Divorced Parents

Wedding Guest List

There is no rule that requires the betrothed to invite specific people to their wedding or to any of the other events related to the upcoming nuptials. If there are individuals who would create conflict or disrupt the festivities, they can be excluded from the guest list. This is a special time for the bride and groom and they should share it with whomever they choose. If it is not possible to omit potential trouble-makers from the guest list, then some clever seating arrangements may help avoid conflict.

Pre-Wedding Festivities

Typically, the bride does not get involved in the arrangements for the bridal shower and bachelorette party. However, her involvement will help manage challenges with the divorcee parents and step families. If there are family members who cannot be in the same room, two showers and separate bachelorette parties might be needed to include everyone.

Bridal Party

There are many details to consider when planning the wedding ceremony, including selecting the members of the wedding party. There may be pressure to ask sisters, stepsisters, the groom’s sister or other family members, which can create confusion. The bride needs to be firm about what she wants and communicate her feelings and wishes so her intentions are clear.

Giving the Bride Away

Then there is the matter of choosing who will give the bride away. With a father and stepfather, it might be awkward to choose one over the other if the bride is close to both, and especially if she is closer to her stepdad. Since it’s her day, she should choose the person that she would like to escort her down the aisle, or she could elect to walk down the aisle alone. Alternately, she could decide to have both men escort her, if they have no problem sharing this special moment.

Planning Wedding with Divorced Parents


Wedding Seating Plans

There is an accepted protocol regarding the order in which family members are seated for the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, the guests are divided with the bride’s guests on one side and the groom’s on the other. The first three rows are reserved for family members, such as the grandparents, parents, siblings and their companions or spouses. Typically, the groom’s grandparents are seated first, followed by the bride’s grandparents, then the groom’s parents and then the bride’s mother, who should be the last guest seated.

When there are divorced parents with companions or new families, this seating order and location might be uncomfortable, particularly if the relationships are strained. In this situation, the couple can ignore tradition and seat guests so that they will feel important and comfortable. It would be acceptable to commingle the guests from both sides to avoid problems.

The Reception

Seating at the reception can be tricky. Allowing the parents to each have their own table and sit with other family members with whom they feel at ease will make the event much more enjoyable.

The bride and groom will have to decide how to arrange the wedding dances. If there are parents and stepparents, they will want to make certain no one feels slighted or overshadowed. This is another situation where the couple can choose to abandon tradition and skip the groom/mother and bride/father dances if they will cause hurt feelings.

Planning a wedding when either the bride or groom, or both, have divorced parents can be a challenge. However, with careful planning, the couple can navigate the entire process without a lot of stress. If that seems like too much work, they can always elope and avoid any drama, but that wouldn’t be as much fun.

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Wedding Etiquette: Wedding Planning with Divorced Parents
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Wedding Etiquette: Wedding Planning with Divorced Parents
How to plan your wedding with divorced parents. Learn the proper wedding etiquette when seating divorced parents and other general wedding advice.

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3 Responses

  1. Anna Gutierrez says:

    Hi, I really need help with my situation. I am the mother of the bride. I am divorced from my daughter’s father. Me and my daughter are very close, actually best friends. My divorce was very ugly after 23 years of marriage. My son does not talk to his father but my daughter does. She is going to have him walk her down the aisle. This man has not paid for anything but for a very cheap reception hall. I am helping to plan and have been purchasing things for my daughters wedding. I have been spending many nights and days running around for this wedding, as a mother should be. I sometimes cry because even though I know she appreciates everything I do, I have no idea what my role is or will be on this day. I feel like even though I have put so much thought into this day. He gets to walk her down the aisle. He gets to make a toast. He gets to dance with her. I will be slaving away, making sure everything is running smoothly and on time. I am so exhausted of feeling like this that frankly, I don’t even feel like attending her day anymore. Please help me sort out these feelings.

  2. barb feinberg says:

    who does the divorced father of the bride invite ? ESPECIALLY WHEN HE CANT CONTRIBUTE TO THE WEDDING

  3. Char says:

    Well you seem to be concerned you will not have the appreciation of your efforts. It is your daughters day. He is her dad good bad or ugly. Still her dad. So chill and just go with the flow