Divorce is no longer an uncommon thing in families, and more and more we are being asked how to deal with parents that no longer get along. Seating at the reception, how names are listed in the program, or even just “how do we keep them apart so they don’t fight?” As a child of divorce, with parents that had nothing but disdain for each other at my wedding I offer the following advice.
It’s your wedding not theirs.
My mother decided to send me a letter a few months before my wedding bringing up a rather hurtful subject involving my father. The details aren’t important, what was important was that my mother was starting to feel like she wasn’t getting enough attention as the sole parent that raised me, so she thought lashing out about my father was the way to go. Guess what? It was the worst thing she could have done. After I calmed down I called her and calmly explained that this was my wedding, not hers, and that if she couldn’t be civil for one weekend then I didn’t want her there. You can imagine the tears, but I had to stay strong. You cannot let your parents’ issues with each other determine how you plan your own wedding. They had their wedding day and now is the time to celebrate your new life, not the hurts from theirs.
Your parent’s traditions are not your traditions
Many couples feel like they have to follow the strict traditions of their parents before them. My opinion is that old traditions are great, but it’s fun to start your own traditions too. One new tradition I adore is seating during the ceremony. Tradition holds that there be a bride’s side and a groom’s side, but these days more and more couples are using the tagline “As two families become one we ask that you pick a seat not a side”. Sometimes one side’s family is bigger or smaller than the other and often times it can make the room seem unbalanced, so I say save the seats up front for immediate family and let the rest of your guests sit wherever they wish.
It is my job as your planner to help you create a calm, but fun, environment around you on your big day. One of the ways I can help is to make sure the families that don’t get along are seated appropriately, are kept happy in their respective areas, and don’t feel like one side or the other is receiving special treatment. I often remind parents that they loved each other at one time and now is the time to watch their children start their love stories.
The final, and biggest, piece of advice I can give you when dealing with hostile family members is to remember that your wedding day is just that, yours. You’ve planned for months (or years) and by the time your big day rolls around you should be able to enjoy it and not be stressed that Uncle Bob is going to fight with Aunt Sue in front of everyone. This may sound taboo, but I also believe that if someone is going to cause you grief or pain at your wedding then it’s okay to not invite them. As I explained to my mother long ago, being civil for a weekend has never led to anyone’s death so suck it up and act like an adult for 24 hours.
Don’t let other people make you change your mind on your wedding plans. Most likely they had the wedding of their dreams and now it’s time for you to have yours.