The purpose of etiquette is to create codes of behavior that enable people to know what to do and say in social situations. Among social situations, weddings can sometimes be difficult when there are divorced family members involved. It might not be possible to please everyone, but by following some basic guidelines of wedding etiquette for divorced family members it is possible to make appropriate decisions that avoid offending anyone.
- The wedding invitations are the responsibility of those who are hosting the wedding, and this is traditionally the bride's parents. A wedding invitation typically reads: "John and Jane Doe invite you to the celebration of marriage between their daughter..." If John and Jane Doe are no longer married but are still hosting the wedding, their names are listed separately: "John Doe and Jane Doe invite you ..." If the parents are remarried, their names and the names of their respective spouses are listed separately: "Jane and Bob Smith and John and Cindy Doe invite you..." The wording should be similar for the groom. The final decision about how to word the invitations should be based on who is hosting the wedding.
- In the case of divorced parents, the bride's and groom's mothers should be seated in the front pews. If they are remarried, their spouses should be seated with them. The fathers and their new spouses should be seated in the second row during the ceremony. If the divorced parents are comfortable sitting together, it is also appropriate to seat them and any new spouses in the front row together. During the reception, the bride's parents (and any respective spouses) should be seated next to her--with whatever arrangements the families find most comfortable--and similarly with the groom's parents.
Walking Down the Aisle
- Typically, the bride's father walks her down the aisle during the ceremony. If the bride is closer to a stepfather, or if the stepfather assumed the responsibility of raising the bride, the bride may ask her stepfather to walk her down the aisle, although the bride should discuss this with her father to avoid offending him. In some cases, the bride may have both her father and her stepfather walk her down the aisle.
- The bride and groom should discuss photographs in advance with their families to ensure that no complications arise when the big day arrives. There is no required etiquette for wedding photographs, although tradition indicates that the bride's family should be photographed next to her and the groom's family next to him. How the bride's and groom's families choose to arrange themselves--and whether divorced parents are willing to be photographed together--is up to them and their situation.
Toasts and Dances
- The bride's father is traditionally invited to offer a speech, although this might be a challenge if the bride's parents are divorced. If the bride's mother is uncomfortable with being included in the toast, she may offer a toast of her own, or the bride's stepfather may offer a toast. A parents' dance is also a tradition during a reception, although this may be eliminated if it makes the parents uncomfortable. The bride and groom should inform the DJ in advance about the marriages to avoid awkwardness when the parents are announced.
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