I believe it started when I was five. That was the age when my wedding daydreaming went into full effect. I spent most of my time zoning out and sitting under my dining room table designing different gowns, carefully selecting which of my fellow playmates would be involved, and pretending that it was finally the “big day.”
Yep, I was one of those girls who spent her entire childhood planning out her wedding. As five has become twenty-two and I’m out of college and planning weddings for a living, this daydreaming has yet to dwindle as the thought of planning my own wedding (and of course other bride’s too) brings me nothing but joy and excitement. However, it wasn’t until the age of twenty-two that I realized that I hadn’t figured it all out. My perfect wedding that I had been planning for about eighteen years would undergo somewhat of a challenge – a challenge that had always been in front of my face, but I had never considered applying to my own wedding planning until I was faced with helping other brides through it at their own events. This challenge is none other than how to deal with my divorced parents on my wedding day.
Whether you have spent years or just minutes thinking about your wedding, I believe that we can all agree that our wedding day should not be focused around our parents’ past marital problems. However, keeping the peace amongst your family will make for a more enjoyable day for you, your fiancé, and even your guests (unless your friends enjoy your family drama). Certain aspects, such as how to seat both at the ceremony and reception, and who will be walking you down the aisle, are concerns to take into consideration when planning your wedding.
I believe the trick is maintaining open and effective communication. If you choose to amend certain traditions, explain how YOU, the bride and groom, feel about it and how this will be the best decision for YOUR wedding. Taking an extra moment to consider how your parents may feel and react is also very important when making this decision. Remember- you may not be able to control your parents, but you can control the decisions for your wedding that will make for a smoother and more enjoyable wedding day.
Many divorced couples are capable of being around each other and a lucky bride or groom won’t have to worry about their seating arrangements throughout both the ceremony and reception. But for divorced parents who refuse to sit together, there are certain amendments that can be made in order to maintain the peace and make sure that everyone is comfortable.
For example, the Mother of the Bride is traditionally escorted down the aisle and seated in the first seat in the first row on the left side. If they’re divorced, she can sit in the first row with her relatives. If the bride chooses to walk down the aisle with her father, he will first escort her and then sit in the second row with his relatives. This arrangement gives both your mother and your father enough space to be able to concentrate and appreciate what is happening right in front of them – your wedding – rather than stressing about their proximity to their ex. This can be especially useful if either of them is remarried or involved with someone else and things between them all are acrimonious.
As for the reception, you may want to consider placing each divorced parents at a separate table (potentially on opposite sides of the room) with their own immediate family and friends. They will act as the hosts at their own tables and will be able to enjoy the reception with the people that they know best. You sit with your wedding party and avoid the drama or tension.
In one of my earlier blogs, I discussed the traditions of the father walking his daughter down the aisle. The meaning behind it has become pretty obsolete; however, many brides view who they choose to walk them down the aisle as an honor. If this is the case, then give it to who you feel has earned it – mom or dad or both. However, remember to really consider this decision and the potential consequences that may come of it. If you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but also want to honor a stepfather or mother by having them walk you down the aisle, consider having both your father and this other person do it if they are friendly enough with each other to pull it off. This way, you get what you want without hurting feelings. Hopefully.
If this all seems too stressful, you may choose to walk yourself down the aisle. This has become extremely common and may be your best decision. The most important part of making this decision is to make sure that you aren’t creating any false expectations. Once you have made this decision, you need to effectively communicate with your father and whomever could potentially be impacted by this decision, to avoid any drama on the day of the wedding. That’s not the time for dad to find out he’s not giving his little girl away.
It is extremely important to remember that this is NOT the perfect time to get back at a parent for past mistakes; no decisions should be made out of spite. Yes, it may be uncomfortable making certain choices and you may need to work with your parents in finding a compromise that makes everyone comfortable. But don’t forget that this is your wedding and you do not want to have any resentment looking back on it.
Communicating with your wedding planner is key to executing this entire production smoothly. With a wedding planner who is aware of all of the family “drama,” including your parent’s divorce, he or she will be looking out for any bumps along the road. Your wedding planner will be prepared to step in if necessary, often without any of your guests even knowing what is happening (sorry to all the guests who enjoy that family drama). The planner will know whom to seat where at rehearsal without any awkward questions. But it’s on YOU to make sure your planner is aware of the parent units’ situation.
There is no “one” correct way to have a wedding. It is your wedding and you can do whatever you want (within good reason). If this means walking yourself down the aisle or skipping or amending a couple of other traditions that will make you feel uncomfortable, that’s okay! There are ways to make yourself happy by not permitting your divorced parent’s hostility towards each other ruin your day.
Your wedding daydreams don’t have to change because of this slight challenge. And you can always tell your parents to suck it up (which is exactly what I plan on doing) and sit together and behave like adults. If that won’t work, I hope that one of the other ideas I’ve offered you above will help.
Liz Cooney, Intern at Weddings in Vieques