In an ideal world, all families live happily ever after. In reality? Our lives resemble Modern Family. The world needs an etiquette guide for this modern wedding. What happens if you want your step father to walk you down the aisle? Do you need to include your step sister as a bridesmaid? What happens if you have two Mother of the Brides?
Like with most things etiquette wise, the key is to not offend anyone and to include everyone you can in the celebration. This can take on any number of forms. It may mean having separate celebrations, a strategic seating plan and some carefully worded conversations to make sure all goes well.
First things first. Shopping and making those big decisions on your wedding. Take the people that are relevant to the decision and try to avoid any warring opinions. If you know two family members won’t see eye to eye, we recommend keeping them very, very far apart.
Second things second. If you are naming your parents on the invitations, include any parents who are responsible for hosting the event. Include your mother and her new partner first and then your father and his partner. Do the same for the groom. If this is starting to look like a grocery list of names? We recommend simply using the bride and groom. Then you can write a note in a ceremony booklet for your parents and their contribution.
From there? The bride decides all. The bride is responsible for the decision of
- Who walks her down the aisle
- Who she shares the father daughter dance with
- Who is invited. (Okay perhaps the groom is responsible for that too)
- Who is not invited (Okay, you can ask him for that too.)
- The seating chart (Also maybe the groom should get involved here!)
The seating chart is a big one. Be sensible. Don’t sit two people who don’t get along next to each other. If you know you’re going to create drama by having a certain family member on the bridal table and not another? Have none. Try not to hurt feelings of course, but also do what you need to so you can keep your sanity.
As selfish as it might seem, this is your wedding and what you’re comfortable with should dictate what happens. If you are closer to your step father, then he should be the one to walk you down the aisle. If you’re closer to your uncle, then he should get the honor. You know your family best and along with your partner, you are the only one who can decide what the result for you.
For everyone involved, this might be a touchy subject, particularly when there are still hurt feelings. We recommend speaking to everyone individually as calmly as you can. Don’t do it when your emotions are high. Telling your father you want your step father to walk you down the aisle at your engagement party is probably not your best idea. When there is conflict, ask them to put aside their differences for one day. This is a celebration and those ill feelings may have an impact. Most family members will be willing to do this – or at least try their absolute best to do so!
When there are children involved, we think it’s a nice touch to include them in the ceremony. If either you or your partner have a child from a previous relationship, your wedding is also a big deal for them. You can include them in your vows and invite them to be a direct part of the celebration. An older child could walk their mother down the aisle for example. Another common thing to include is a sand ceremony, where different coloured sand is poured into one container. For us, this inclusion is important. After all, you are also taking them into your family and we think that’s something to remember!
Here’s a list of other ways that you can include family members, be they step siblings or parents! Consider them making a speech, have them witness the signing of your marriage certificate or light a candle in honour of your families coming together as one.