Image: Photography by Anna Clark
Let me start off by saying that I don’t have divorced parents, so I cannot really speak from first hand knowledge on this wedding advice post. I have, however, been a wedding coordinator for many couples that have divorced parents and have family members with spouses that have divorced parents, so while it isn’t directly affecting me, it’s something I felt compelled to write about.
I felt compelled to write about this because I thought some of my past clients could help other engaged couples navigate the somewhat tricky territory of planning a wedding with divorced parents. And let’s be honest, a lot of these pieces of advice are useful for dealing with family members and wedding planning in general (listen! be patient! be communicative! etc).
As always, I have to thank my amazing readers and Facebook Fans that came out in droves with responses to my call for help on writing this piece. You guys are rockstars. So here goes…
Tips & Advice for Planning a Wedding with Divorced Parents
To make this a bit easier, I thought I would break it down into a few sections with different topics. Within each topic are advice and experiences from REAL couples in the DC area that planned a wedding with divorced parents.
“Quickly we learned that we weren’t going to please everyone and that at some point I was going to be the middle man to hear the concerns from both sides. I always tried to have understanding in the back of my mind.” – a recent Groom
#1. Consider Foregoing Traditions
Image: Ben & Sophia Photography
Certain wedding traditions can make for awkward situations when you have divorced parents. The father-bride dance, who walks who down the aisle, the “parents table”, and so on. To help alleviate potential stress or hurt feelings here, consider foregoing any of these traditions and just doing ones that make sense for you.
“I had always loved the idea of incorporating photos from parents’ and grandparents’ weddings into the decor. However, we decided to nix this idea in order to avoid any awkwardness. As for logistics — the groom’s dad walked his wife (groom’s step mom) down the aisle and the groom’s Stepdad walked the groom’s mom down the aisle during the processional. We made sure to list both sets of parents in the program & mention them in all speeches.”
“If certain traditions are not important to you, and make it easier – skip them! We skipped announcing the parents when we entered the reception and did the bridal party only because we didn’t want to worry about order, name announcing, etc.”
#2. Take Seating Arrangements into Consideration
Image: Love Life Images
Even adults need space sometimes and even the simple act of seating divorced parents with a “buffer” could help during the reception.
“We were originally going to have a “Parents Table” but we ultimately decided to have each set of parents (both of the groom’s parents are remarried) sit at their own table, surrounded by extended family/friends. We put my parents in the middle table – between the groom’s parents – as an extra buffer to avoid unnecessary drama.”
Image: Sarah Gormley Photography
Listening is one of those things that is crucial to wedding planning no matter the status of your parents. This is important for dealing with vendors, your soon to be spouse, your friends, your wedding party AND your parents.
“Listen to their concerns. Listen to their ideas. Listen to them vent about the other side. I think I realized that the majority of the time, they just wanted to be heard. Make some of your ideas their own if they really have to have a say. We didn’t realize until way too late that one parent wanted to have something to call their own – the ability to say “I planned that part of their wedding, wasn’t it great?” It would’ve been a lot easier if we had talked about it with both sides early on, so that we wouldn’t have been so caught off guard.”
#4. Plan Ahead & Communicate
Image: Sarah Bradshaw Photography
Again, another one that fits universally for wedding planning advice – the earlier you and your spouse can sit down and be on the same page with regards to a “plan”, the better. As a recent groom explained, planning helped to limit surprised and possible hurt feelings.
“Planning helps a lot. It helps to limit surprise interactions and possible hurt feelings. We knew where each parent would sit, how they would be introduced, and the order of family photos among other things. When either side would try to insert themselves differently, we could fall back to “the wedding plan.” Talk to each parent early on in the process to find out their expectations. Be prepared with your plan, but also listen to what they had been thinking, and try to incorporate at least a little of that into your plan.”
Another recent bride in the area found an ally in her brother and found help with talking to him ahead of time to help her guide conversations with her parents.
“Anyway, finding an ally in a sibling is helpful! And framing the conversation to be about family (meeting the new family, reconnecting with other family members) outlines the importance of the wedding weekend: it is not just a party, it is about a life commitment and joining families together.”
And in the end, remember that though it can be stressful and difficult at times, the end goal is marrying the love of your life!
Almost all the couples I talked to mentioned that while it wasn’t easy to plan a wedding with divorced parents, in the end, everyone was happy and enjoyed themselves on the wedding day.
“It seems like the end of the world at the time, but in the end, that is not the part they are going to remember. We had our share of issues, and when I think back to our wedding, all I really remember are the happy parts…”